Why Bradley Manning Matters

US private Bradley Manning finally learned of his fate on Wednesday after standing trial on charges from espionage to aiding the enemy. He was exonerated on aiding the enemy—which carries a sentence of life in prison—but was found guilty of stealing and spying.

Even though Manning will not receive an exact sentence of life behind bars, because he was convicted on at least 17 different charges, he is likely to spend a great portion of his life trapped behind a government run reformatory facility, or just prison.

Manning was hailed as a hero leading up to his trial. Dr. Cornel West called him this generation’s “John Brown without the violence,” while others simply named Manning a traitor.

But for many, including me, Manning’s trial represents a dangerous turn in America. In the name of transparency, we’ve always had great independent researchers and investigative journalists to expose truth and honesty.

Think about cases such as Watergate, or most recently, Glenn Greenwald’s expose of how the United States government is spying on Americans. From simple news shows like 20/20 or Primetime, this is how we usually find out what’s going on behind the scenes.

It’s our way of peeking behind a layered secret curtain that we wouldn’t have access to without individuals poking and prodding for information that the public needs to hear or see.

While Manning isn’t an investigative journalist or researcher, he did something that exposed the truth about our government: They aren’t very truthful. In leaking over 700,000 documents to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, Manning did something that many people label as heroic. But this case represents where journalism is headed in America. Better yet, he characterizes how the government views truth.

Recently, I spoke with Bruce Dixon, the senior managing editor of the Black Agenda Report, about the Obama Administration’s war on journalism. During our interview, or conversation, Mr. Dixon strongly suggested that Manning and Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the National Security Agency information to Glenn Greenwald, gives us strong indicators of how President Obama views investigative journalism.

In fact, Dixon directly told me that investigative journalism and reporting are dead sports, and it is due in part because of the disdain that the Obama administration has for them.

Need more proof? Under President Obama’s stewardship, the United States government has charged eight people under the Espionage Act, a number that doubles all previous presidents combined.

In addition, former State Department freelancer Stephen Kim was charged under the act for giving confidential documents on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen. Rosen was lambasted by the administration as he was tagged a “co-conspirator” with Kim.

In the end, most Americans should show a little outrage over how the government treated Manning. He was reportedly tortured, which is an entirely different article, but because of his action, we have a better understanding of how the government views whistleblowers.

The men and women who decide to side with honesty and integrity have been clothed with the unfair label of traitor.

The next time you read or see a small story about where the local diner buys its meat for that delicious beef steak, or where your favorite clothing store has its clothes made, remember that it probably came from the efforts of a journalist trying to expose some form of the truth.

Without them, how would we know if Richard Nixon was a crook or not?

-JH

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Time To Cut Cornel and Tavis Some Slack

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Photo courtesy of Newsone.com

When trying to come up with words or phrases to describe the behavior of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, many usually say that both are “haters” or just “bitter.” Those two words wear on Smiley and West like a cheap suit because of their relentless attacks on President Obama.

Since West was denied a pair of inauguration tickets in 2008, and Smiley saw Obama turn down his invitation to appear at one of Smiley’s corporate sanctioned events, both men have gone after Obama with certain ferocity.

In the beginning, some dismissed West and Smiley’s criticism as talk of bitter men who have been denied access to Obama’s inner circle. Because Obama failed to fully embrace them, some suspected that Smiley and West were covered in salt.

Formerly, I was included in that some. Yet since what most, if not all, of what Smiley and West have said about the president is true, I am no longer in their category of opponents.

As many black Americans grappled with the exoneration of George Zimmerman, President Obama attempted to encapsulate the rage that many black folk have with America’s legal system.

While the speech was widely accepted and praised, Smiley and West panned it. Smiley said that it was “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid,” and West called Obama a “global George Zimmerman.”

But what many missed behind the biting words of Smiley and West was this: Obama’s words lacked substance. Sure, many black men have been unfairly profiled when walking into a department store or simply entering an elevator. Car doors have been firmly locked shut and women dig their nails into their purses if a black man walks by. Yet there is not a single piece of policy that we can point to by the Obama White House to attempt to combat the major issues impacting black and brown communities.

Since his time in the White House, Obama has done nothing to seriously address the crib to prison pipeline for black men, unfair drug laws in this country that send a disproportionate amount of black men to prison, and have tried to keep black men in prison under the crack-to-powder cocaine difference.

In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act which reduced the crack-to-powder disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-1. Still an unfair difference, but many saw this as “progress.”

Any new offenders would be subjected to the rules under the new act and not the old rule. Many sitting in prison were excited that the new act would apply to them as well. But the Obama Administration is fighting in court to make sure that millions of black and brown men remain locked behind the walls to serve the terms of the original sentences.

Now, how in the world does that correlate to substance? It doesn’t, which is why getting beyond the words and phrases used by Smiley and West is so important.

I will even go so far as to state that I’m not asking you to agree or disagree with them, I’m simply proposing that you review the information presented and arrive at your own conclusion.

Cornel West and Tavis Smiley may have personal vendettas against President Obama for tickets an failed appearances, but the argument that both men have presented against Obama far outweighs any criticism they have received because of their so-called “hate.”

It is finally time to cut both men a huge amount of slack.

-JH

How To Truly Find Justice For Trayvon

Scale_of_justice_2_newYesterday across the country, many Americans took to hot pavements to walk in support of justice for Trayvon Martin.

The young teenager’s death, along with the acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing Martin, was proof for many that justice works for anyone without black as the color of their skin.

Why would a jury allow a grown man to walk away with murder when he admitted to killing Martin? If recorded tapes and evidence suggest that Zimmerman willfully followed Martin, why was he allowed to exit the courthouse without handcuffs?

It’s as simple as the pull of a trigger in the name of self-defense. Legally speaking, Zimmerman was warranted in killing Martin because he felt as if Martin was close to taking his life.

Because of that, a jury of Zimmerman’s peers found him not guilty of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter. Zimmerman’s exoneration is where we stand, a man guilty of killing of another human being, but clear of murder.

It’s something that is so ambiguous, it leaves many with an unsettled spirit. There is no clarity in watching Zimmerman smile as he shook hands with his attorneys after learning he would be a free man. For some, there is only anger and distrust of an already biased legal system.

So that’s why many decided to don “Justice for Trayvon” t-shirts, and declare that Martin’s death will not be in vein.

But how do we define that last sentence? What can the collective of Martin supporters do to make sure there is true justice for Martin’s death?

The first thing is to make sure there is enough political support to alter Florida’s wrongheaded “Stand Your Ground” law. No, the Zimmerman defense team didn’t use it as a defense, but the law altered the language of self-defense in the jury instructions.

While marches and vigils operate in supportive symbolism, it doesn’t do much to alter policy. The stark political reality for black Americans, especially here in Florida, is that the politicians who have the power to change the language of the law will not show up to march “for the cause.”

No diss to the politicians who showed up to support and speak in the name of equal justice, but as long as the majority in power turns the other cheek, each step in a line of marches may be for naught.

Which is also why boycotting the state of Florida may have the right spirit, it just has misguided direction. By attempting to show support for repealing “Stand Your Ground,” many entertainers are choosing to stay away from the gunshine state. Boycotting Florida will take money out of the pockets of the people the boycott is meant to support.

Any concert that’s held anywhere in America has to have workers to support it. Those workers are usually black and of the working or lower class, especially at Orlando’s Amway Arena, so a financial boycott will only serve as a means to hurt the people who are already struggling economically.

Not to mention, from what I’ve read and seen, there is no grand scheme behind this entertainment blackout. There is only anger and emotion, something that usually serves as a detriment if the emotion is not pointed in a specific direction.

Instead of a boycott, I suggest the entertainers who are spitting mad at Florida direct any potential money gained from a concert here to start a new minority political arm/political action committee.

In fact, of the top 10 political action committees of 2012, not a single one was connected to a minority cause. Taking it a step further, there were zero minority funded political action committees in the top 20.

If we are serious about changing bad legislation in the country, then we have to play the rules of the game we’re in. A bad law is a bad law, but in order to change it, we need to have enough money to influence making sure more bad laws aren’t created.

One of the big reasons why Florida, along with other states, has so many bad pieces of legislation is because the ones we elect to craft them aren’t actually reading the bills that come before them. If it has a Republican or Democratic stamp, many act as a blank proxy to pass a bill that is supported by a Republican or Democrat PAC.

So why aren’t we talking about getting serious about playing the political money game?

Lastly, there is no true minority driven legislation in this nation. Dr. Julianne Malveaux, an American economist, stated something that many of use have shouted for years: America needs an urban policy.

As we watch the slow economic decay of Detroit by way of bankruptcy, which was ruled unconstitutional by Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, it proves that urban centers across this country are in serious peril.

The unemployment rate in Detroit is almost 20 percent, and there are enough abandoned homes in the city to make it look like a zombie apocalypse just occurred.

We need to start to drive the political conversation of what’s happening in cities like Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, Birmingham and other areas where minorities continue to feel the brunt.

I would even go so far to suggest that marchers should move toward pressuring Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to create a policy to aid in the economic stabilization of Parramore.

In the past, we’ve allowed potential movements to track backwards and turn into moments. There is enough energy and emotion behind the movement to find justice for young Trayvon Martin to truly create change with substance in this nation.

We just have to make sure it’s properly directed.

-JH