July 15, 2015

Dear Obama: Really want to do good by visiting a federal prison?

Your trip to the El Reno, Oklahoma, prison is nice, but ...

If you want to go "long," beyond battling the worst effects of the War on Drugs (and addressing federal laws on marijuana might be better than a PR trip courtesy of Vice, anyway)

Go to the Coleman Unit in Florida.

Address what the early 1970s version of the National Security State you love so much today did wrong then with COINTELPRO.

And free Leonard Peltier.


Peltier's own artwork is funding his release efforts.

For more on why Peltier should be freed, and how COINTELPRO arguably sabotaged the American Indian Movement more than any other vehicle of the 1960s and early 1970s civil rights movement, "The Unquiet Grave" is a must read. Peter Matthiessen's classic "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" is good, but, as my review of it notes, he sometimes looks at AIM's leadership through rose-colored glasses.

Otherwise, your actions right now continue to be symbolic. You've done very few pardons, and you blame a Bush holdover for this, even though you took more than five years to replace him. And, your commutations are limited to only first-time nonviolent offenders.

Beyond that, freeing Peltier might continue the discussion on improve relations between different tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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