Dakota Indians and their supporters commemorated the largest mass execution in US history at a ceremony Dec. 26 in Mankato, Minn. On that day in 1862, a public hanging was held of 38 Dakota men, for crimes allegedly committed in that year's US-Dakota War—the execution order personally signed by President Abraham Lincoln. A new monument was dedicated as part of the ceremony at the town's old hanging ground, now called Reconciliation Park. Participants included a group of some 50 Dakota horseback riders and supporters who left South Dakota three weeks ago for Mankato. One organizer of the ride, Peter Lengkeek, told the crowd: "In 1862, those 38 were hung as criminals. They died because they were protecting the children, the women, our way of life. And for that I am ever thankful."
It never fails. Every time something ghastly happens, from the Wisconsin Sikh temple massacre to the Oslo terror attacks to the Fort Hood Shootings to (d'oh!) 9-11, lugubrious conspiranoids have got to descend like ravenous vultures with bogus theories about how it was a "false flag" job perpetrated by a "Manchurian Candidate." The horrific bloodletting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., is, alas, no exception. And in this case, the theory has simply no basis in reality—it isn't even a distortion, contortion, embellishment or obfuscation—it is a simple invention, straight up. Yet animated partisans are plastering posts about it on my Facebook wall right and left—seemingly in all earnestness. Big ups to Talking Points Memo for rising to the tiresome ocassion of shooting down this jive:
The 22nd annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), brought several thousand activists to the Army's Fort Benning base in Columbus, Georgia, for a series of events from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18. One demonstrator, Robert Norman Chantal of Americus, Georgia, was arrested when he climbed over the base's fence during the concluding event, a symbolic funeral march, on Nov. 18. He was released later on his own recognizance, according to a Fort Benning representative. Chantal, who faces a possible six-month sentence, will be tried in a US District Court on Jan. 9.
A UC Berkeley research field in the adjoining municipality of Albany that had been planted with winter greens in October by Occupy activists was ploughed under at the order of university authorities Nov. 16. The field, known as the Gill Tract, was occupied on Earth Day, April 22, and dubbed by activists "Occupy the Farm," with a vision of developing it as a community agro-ecology project. Crops planted then were similarly destroyed by UC, and nine arrested in a May 14 raid by UC police. But activists re-took the site in October, holding a punpkin-carving festival and planting the new crops. UC issued a letter upon razing the crops to the Albany city council calling the occupation a "threat to academic freedom." The contrasts a more conciliatory open letter issued in May pledging open "debate and dialogue" about the future of the site. In recent years, the field has largely been off-limits to the public, though local activist groups have repeatedly asked the university to open up the space to community residents. (Berkeley Patch, Nov. 18; Berkeleyside, Nov. 16; UC Berkeley News Center, May 18; Berkeleyside, May 14; IndyBay, April 24)
In a landslide victory, Montana voters approved an initiative on Nov. 7 Election Day stating "that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings." The initiative directly challenges the US Supreme Court's now infamous Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money for campaign groups know as "Super PACs" and "shadow money" organizations. Initiative 166 will likely win by 75% according to a projeciton by the Billings Gazette. The initiative states:
Jonathan Martin on Politico called the obvious on the eve of the elections: "The GOP coalition is undergirded by a shrinking population of older white conservative men from the countryside, while the Democrats rely on an ascendant bloc of minorities, moderate women and culturally tolerant young voters in cities and suburbs. This is why, in every election, since 1992, Democrats have either won the White House or fallen a single state short of the presidency." And he quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "If we lose this election there is only one explanation—demographics." In the actual event, Romney won 59% of the white vote, according to exit polls, a whopping twenty-point margin over Obama. "If only white people had voted on Tuesday, Mitt Romney would have carried every state except for Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and New Hampshire," Jon Wiener writes in The Nation. "Even in the deepest blue states, white voters went for Romney: 53 percent in California, 52 percent in New York, 55 percent in Pennsylvania. Liberals hoped that whites who opposed Obama in 2008 would learn toleration and acceptance of racial difference after four years with a black president in the White House. But what happened was the opposite: Romney won 4 percent more of the white vote in 2012 than John McCain won in 2008."
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled (PDF) Oct. 16 that it will keep Montana's campaign contribution limits in place for the duration of the election season, extending a stay on a lower court decision. The appeals court ruled that changing the finance rules less than one month before election day and after absentee voting has already started would prove unfair to candidates who have followed these rules throughout the present campaign cycle. The court also held that because Montana's campaign contribution limits are among the lowest in the country, removing that limit as a matter of free speech pursuant to the 2010 US Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission would drastically alter the playing field. American Tradition Partnership, one of the groups challenging the law, said that while the ruling is a setback, it intends to continue challenging the law and expects to "prevail in the end."
Mara Salvatrucha, the Salvadoran street gang that got its start in the heart of Los Angeles' Koreatown, has been officially designated by federal authorities as a "transnational criminal organization." MS-13, as it's also known, "is being targeted for its involvement in serious transnational criminal activities, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, racketeering, blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses," the US Department of the Treasury stated. That means the federal government can use "economic sanctions" against the gang, which has also established a foothold in El Salvador. The designation gives the Treasury Department the power to freeze any financial assets from the gang or its members and prohibits financial institutions from engaging in any transactions with members of the group.