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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays

Commentaries by the award-winning journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays
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Feb 14, 2010
Corporate Supremacy --Still! The recent Supreme Court decision on corporate personhood, The Citizen's United case, has evoked considerable comment, and even some indignation: "Corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on politicians?!" - "outrageous!" Really? While people have every right to be outraged, we should inform our outrage, for, in truth, corporate interests have owned the political process -- and politicians -- for the better part of a century. In the classic history book, The Robber Barons, by Matthew Josephson (Harcourt: 1969), one encounters scenes of major industrialists buying politicians outright with satchels of money - on the floor of State Senates!! The buying is not so overt now, but politicians are still being bought like hot dogs. What is a modern congressional, presidential or judicial campaign today - but a race for the money? For the man (or woman) who gets money can buy media - and the media decides races. In a real sense, all the court did was open up the spigot for more dough from corporate coffers. In essence, the court said, it's not enough to rent politicians; now you can own them. And they will own them. And where will much of this money go, but into the pockets of corporate media? And what is this but a corporate media stimulus package? What makes this case remarkable isn't so much the result (for this was politically predictable), but the court's reliance on precedent that actually wasn't precedential. For, in the case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co. (1886), used as the foundation for the principle of corporate personhood, that principle appears nowhere - but the court clerk wrote it into the head notes of the case, which is not legally part of the case - and 124 years later an error became law, which became precedent, which guides decisions today, which favors corporate wealth and power over democracy. In the 1880's, during the age of the captains of industry who came to be known as the "robber barons", multi-millionaire Andrew Carnegie, threatened with legal action to restrain his corporate excesses, remarked: "What do I care about the law? Ain't I got the power?" (Josephson 15) Thanks to the Supreme Court, they've got even more. (c) 2010 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Feb 7, 2010
Paying The Costs: SF8 As the once front page story of the San Francisco 8 case winds down, bills are becoming due. The San Francisco 8 refers to 8 former members of the Black Panther Party, charged with involvement in a 1971 homicide. There is little doubt now that the case was initiated more for political reasons than legal ones. The San Francisco District Attorney's office thought so little of the case that it declined to prosecute. California's attorney general opted to try it instead. Almost from day one, the case began unraveling. A few guys took plea bargains to relatively minor charges, resulting in probation. Within months, charges against 5 of the men were dismissed. Only one still has charges pending. The men - Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Henry Jones, Jalil Muntaqim, Richard O' Neal, Harold Taylor, and Francisco Torres - now middle aged and older, stood firm with each other, and refused to flip on each other. Some of them were tortured back in 1973, when charges were originally dismissed. (One man, John Bowman, died before trial) Why this case? Initially, it is the extraordinary resources and papers made available to local jurisdictions by the federal government in the aftermath of 9/11; secondly, California's Attorney General (Edmund 'Jerry" Brown) was anxious to run for governor, and thought this case would prove the right vehicle. But what was sensational in 1971 loses some of it's punch in 2007. The newest headlines from the case isn't what the cash strapped stated wants to hear. San Francisco's Public Defenders office has filed for $2 million in reimbursements owed by the City for its defenses of the men. They are seeking that sum because the State, not San Francisco County, took up the prosecution of the 36 year old case. (c) 2010 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Feb 6, 2010
Black History Month-undefined-
Jan 28, 2010
Howard Zinn, Master Historian It should surprise no one when a man, nearly 90, dies. It is as natural as moonlight, as regular as a rainbow after a summer shower. And yet, the passing of Howard Zinn surprises. He was a few months shy of 90, true, but he was still a bright eyed and brilliant lecturer, whose sense of humor gave a wondrous sparkle to his speeches and humanized his writing. He is perhaps best known for his masterwork, A People's History of the United States; 1492 - Present, (Harper Collins, 1980/2003. which sold millions of copies. Zinn was an adherent of the 'history from below' school of history, and wrote from the perspective of the bottoms of societies, not the top. He wrote about Black slaves fighting for freedom, Native folks fighting for sovereignty, poor white workers fighting for the right to unionize, women fighting for the right to work and vote, soldiers, gay folks, prisoners, and students struggling to learn about the history of their country. And while Zinn was indeed a brilliant, ground-breaking historian, he didn't write about the poor from a scholars distance; he grew up desperately poor in New York, joined the Air Force during World War II, and became a bombardier. Like many young service members, he read incessantly. When he left the service, he used the G. I. Bill to study at Columbia where he earned his Ph.D. And while he earned an advanced degree, he learned things he hadn't planned on when he taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, for his teaching took place during the eruption of the Civil Rights movement, and student protests against the U.S. apartheid system of segregation. Spelman, a Black women's college, had its share of activists, who, when they tried to leaflet, were stopped, threatened and prevented from leafleting by the cops. Zinn, teaching legal history and constitutional law to many of these students, learned that what the law books and cases said meant nothing in the real-life world of Georgian apartheid. In his 1990 book, Declarations of Independence, Zinn wrote: The law was plain. A series of Supreme Court decisions made the right to distribute leaflets on a public street absolute. It would be hard to find something in the Bill of Rights that was more clear cut than this. I told my students this. But I knew immediately that I must tell them something else; that the law didn't much matter. If they began handing out leaflets on Peachtree street and a white policeman (all police were white in Atlanta at the time), came along and said "Move!" what could they do? Cite the relevant Supreme Court cases to the policeman. {p.198} This was Atlanta: 1961, and the Movement taught Zinn many realities about America. Howard Zinn. Historian. Activist. Playwright. Prodigious writer. Father of the People's History movement. Friend. --(c) 1/28/10 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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