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Larry Stafford

Why Justice for Botham Jean Is Impossible

I’ve been thinking about Amber Guyger's conviction for the murder of Botham Jean, and seeing different perspectives on the timeline. Lately, I’ve been seeking to understand more about what some call an abolitionist framework around the criminal legal system. To put it simply, abolitionists view that the caging of human beings is not a solution to safety, or a way to solve problems when there are breakdowns in human relations. In fact, the prison, or carceral, system we currently have is not one that actually makes things better for people: It is more like an opioid pain medication that fails to address the root cause of pain, while creating dependency, and making our society sicker. I understand that when a white person, especially a police officer, takes a Black life, we all want justice. Under the rules of our current system, the guilty verdict in this case seems fair in my view. However, when I see the calls for a harsher sentence and the celebration of a system that many of us have agreed does not work for its stated purpose, and one that many of us acknowledge is inhumane, I have to pause and reflect. The carceral system is not something I could ever celebrate or expect to bring me peace. And by watching the discussions we have online surrounding the conclusion of this case, I’ve also learned that nuance and humaneness are not traits this system produces in abundance.

Larry Stafford is executive director of Progressive Maryland, part of the People's Action network of grassroots groups, and a leader in the movements for Black Liberation and Democratic Socialism.

Trump Launches Bid To Privatize Medicare

Trump attacks Democrats’ health care plans and pledges to protect Medicare during political speech to Florida retirees. WaPo: "President Trump blasted his potential Democratic presidential rivals in a highly political speech here Thursday, telling a group of senior citizens that “maniac” Democrats would rip away their health care, decimate their retirement accounts and prioritize undocumented immigrants over U.S. citizens. 'All of the Democrat plans would devastate our health care system,' Trump said during a visit to The Villages, where he signed an executive order designed to expand the private-sector version of Medicare that Republicans favor. While directing changes to the federal insurance program for older Americans was the specific mission of Thursday’s official visit, Trump’s broader goal was to portray himself as the defender of popular aspects of the nation’s health-care system and vilify Democrats as socialists determined to tear them down."

WH Wants To End Food Aid To 3m People

House lawmakers argue proposed change to food stamps would harm veterans. Stars and Stripes: "Veterans could be disproportionately harmed by potential changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, a group of Democratic House lawmakers argued Wednesday. President Donald Trump’s administration is proposing changes to SNAP that would result in an estimated 3 million people losing food assistance — a savings of $2.5 billion each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thirty-nine lawmakers signed onto a letter Wednesday to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, arguing the veterans on SNAP could be negatively affected. They pleaded with Perdue to withdraw the proposal. 'USDA should be doing more to increase SNAP participation for veterans who experience food insecurity, rather than proposing new restrictions that worsen hunger among those who have made great sacrifices for our country,' they wrote. Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., orchestrated the letter. He serves as chairman for the subcommittee on economic opportunity, which is part of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. It was also signed by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the full committee."

Trump Pressures Allies To Investigate Political Rivals

Trump's smoking texts. Politico: "President Donald Trump is bending the machinations of the U.S. government toward taking down Joe Biden. Senate and House Republicans are helping him by sticking by his side. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. Trump's administration is browbeating U.S. allies - Australia, Italy, Ukraine, the United Kingdom - to investigate the origins of the Mueller probe. The only difference of opinion noew is not over the facts, really. Republicans say there’s nothing to see here; it’s just Trump trying to root out corruption. And Democrats say his own words are evidence that the president is deeply unfit for office and deserves to be impeached. A number of stories dropped Thursday night that confirm this thesis, including a batch of text messages that look damning for the administration. President Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the matter. Two of President Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals, three people briefed on the effort said. The drafting of the statement marks new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after the July 25 call between the two leaders."

Trump Pressured Xi To Investigate Warren, Biden

Warren slams president for selling out people of Hong Kong 'behind closed doors'. Common Dreams: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren demanded the full transcript of President Donald Trump's June phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping following reports Thursday night that Trump raised the Massachusetts senator's 'political prospects' during the conversation and vowed to stay silent on the ongoing anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong. 'Trump can say what he wants about me, but it's outrageous that any president would sell out the people of Hong Kong behind closed doors,' Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted Thursday. "The public must see the transcript of Trump's call with Xi. And we need a leader who will stand up for our values." Warren's tweet came shortly after CNN reported that Trump invoked both Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden during a June 18 call with Xi. 'Trump raised Biden's political prospects as well as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who by then had started rising in the polls,' CNN reported, citing two anonymous individuals familiar with the conversation. 'In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.' 'The White House record of that call,' according to CNN, 'was later stored in the highly secured electronic system used to house a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine's [resident and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint that's led Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Trump.' CNN's story was published just hours after Trump publicly asked China to investigate Biden and his son Hunter."

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