Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Friday, August 31, 2012

Republican Party declares public programs subsidized by Federal agencies to be abolished

2012-08-31 "GOP Platform Declares Medicaid Unconstitutional" by Ian Millhiser from "Think Progress"
[http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/31/778371/gop-platform-declares-medicaid-unconstitutional/]:
Almost immediately after President Obama took office, many Republican politicians seized upon a distorted vision of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment that would leave America nearly incapable of governing itself. Indeed, top Republicans — including U.S. Senators, governors and members of Congress — have claimed that everything from Social Security to Medicare to federal disaster relief to national child labor laws all violate the Constitution [http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2011/09/pdf/tea_party_constitution.pdf]. A similarly erroneous vision of the Constitution has now infected the GOP’s party platform:
[begin excerpt]
We support the review and examination of all federal agencies to eliminate wasteful spending, operational inefficiencies, or abuse of power to determine whether they are performing functions that are better performed by the States. These functions, as appropriate, should be returned to the States in accordance with the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We affirm that all legislation, rules, and regulations must conform and public servants must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, as originally intended by the Framers. . . . Scores of entrenched federal programs violate the constitutional mandates of federalism by taking money from the States, laundering it through various federal agencies, only to return to the States shrunken grants with mandates attached. We propose wherever feasible to leave resources where they originate: in the homes and neighborhoods of the taxpayers.
[end excerpt]
The GOP platform closely echoes a brief filed by GOP mega attorney Paul Clement on behalf of several Republican elected officials challenging the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court [http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/03/23/450960/scotus-preview-part-iv-the-big-scary/]. According to Clement, because federal revenues are “composed of tax dollars collected from the States’ own residents,” it somehow follows that state governments have a claim on federal revenue. The GOP platform suggests that this claim is so strong that any federal program which grants money to the states is unconstitutional if it also requires the states to comply with certain rules in order to receive that money.
There are many federal programs which fit this description, but the biggest one is Medicaid. Medicaid offers funding to the states to provide health services to the poor. States are free to take this money or to leave it, but they must agree to follow certain rules before they can take the money. In other words, Medicaid is exactly the same kind of grant “with mandates attached” that the GOP finds constitutionally objectionable.
Medicaid also covers more than 62 million Americans, all of whom would lose their health coverage if the GOP’s apparent vision of the Constitution were to prevail.

Anti-Fascism: 2012-08-31 "New York Bakery Workers Fight Closure, Occupy Store"

by Mark Brenner & Theresa Moran from "Labor Notes" [http://labornotes.org/blogs/2012/08/deli-workers-fight-closure-occupy-store]:
Workers occupied a Manhattan bakery after owners announced they were closing the store and opening up in a new location.

Workers at the New York City bakery Hot and Crusty got a jump start on Labor Day this year, storming one of the chain’s Manhattan locations this afternoon—and refusing to leave.
The occupation came 11 days after owners announced they were closing the 63rd Street store. Workers condemned the closure as retaliation for union organizing.
On May 23 a majority of the workers voted to form an independent union, the Hot and Crusty Workers Association.
The mostly immigrant workforce was joined by dozens of activists from Occupy Wall Street and the recently formed Laundry Workers Center, occupying the Upper East Side store for two hours before police ejected the occupiers.
Five protesters were arrested for refusing to leave the store.
During negotiations yesterday the company told the union it was reopening in a nearby location, and promised to rehire the workers and negotiate in good faith, according to Laundry Workers Center organizer Virgilio Aran.
But the company flagged that workers would all be required to document their immigration status, a move Aran described as blatant intimidation. “They’re trying to use immigration as a tactic to scare people,” he said.
The late-May union vote came on the heels of a five month campaign to address years of wage theft, sexual harassment, and abuse.
A Hot and Crusty worker who works at a different location in the small chain reported similar conditions, noting that he was never paid overtime until filing a complaint with the Department of Labor. The worker, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, also said that Hot and Crusty owners are trying to stop the union from growing.
“They told us if we organized they’d fire all the people who work here,” he said.
Supporters have demanded that the store maintain the workforce and honor the union in its new location.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012-08-30 "Facing Grand Jury Intimidation: Fear, Silence and Solidarity"

by Natasha Lennard from "Truthout":
[http://truth-out.org/news/item/11181-facing-grand-jury-intimidation-fear-silence-and-solidarity]:
We've seen some pretty bold anti-authoritarian actions across the country in the last month. Police vehicles were vandalized in San Francisco, Oakland, Illinois and Milwaukee. Anarchist redecorators visited courthouses, police substations, sports car dealerships and more. Banners dropped in New York, Atlanta, Vancouver, Seattle and elsewhere echoed their graffitied sentiments: "Fuck Grand Juries"; "Solidarity with Northwest Anarchists." Boldest of all, however (and the inspiration underpinning this spate), has been the action from a small group of anarchists in the Pacific Northwest: silence.
Two Portland-based activists, Leah-Lynn Plante and Dennison Williams, publicly announced late last month that they had been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury in Seattle and that they would refuse to cooperate. During a grand jury hearing on August 2, Plante did just this - offering her name and birthdate only - and has been summoned to return for another hearing on August 30, where she again intends to say nothing. Meanwhile, it is believed a handful of other activists are fighting to quash subpoenas served to them with the shared intention of noncooperation.
Grand juries are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system. Given their highly secretive nature, few people within - or outside - activist circles know what it means to be called to a grand jury and what it takes to resist.
"Our passion for freedom is stronger than their state prisons," Williams announced in a statement on behalf of himself and Plante about their intention to resist the grand jury, referencing the fact that by merely staying silent, the two could face considerable jail time, despite facing no criminal charges.
The Seattle grand jury subpoenas were served in late July, when the FBI and a Joint Terrorist Task Force conducted a series of raids on activist homes and squats in Portland, Olympia and Seattle with warrants seeking out computers, phones, black clothing and "anarchist literature." The FBI has stated only that the grand jury pertains to "violent crime," but it is believed to relate to property damage in Seattle during this year's May Day protests. The relatively small scale of the property destruction - a handful of spraypainted cars, slashed tires and smashed windows at a downtown Starbucks, Niketown, Wells Fargo and American Apparel store - in comparison to the cost of the police and FBI investigations points to the likelihood that the raids and grand juries have been widely dubbed a witch hunt, understood by commentators and activists alike as an attempt to intimidate, deter and undermine anarchists in the Northwest and beyond.
Will Potter, author of "Green is the New Red," who has long covered the state persecution of environmental activists and anarchists, noted in a recent interview with The Dissenter, "I think what's most indicative of what's going on though is that specific call for agents to seize 'anarchist literature' as some kind of evidence of potential illegal activity." He added that the convening of a grand jury is "especially troubling because grand juries have been used historically against social movements as tools of fishing expeditions, and they're used to seek out information about people's politics and their political associations." [http://truth-out.org/http:/dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/07/31/interview-greenisthenewred-coms-will-potter-on-fbi-raids-grand-juries-political-repression/]
Ironically, however, the purported purpose of a federal grand jury is to act as "a safeguard to the accused from the improper motivations of government"- to protect the accused from prosecutorial overreach [http://peopleslawoffice.com/improper-use-of-federal-grand-jury-michael-deutsch-political-repression/]. A jury of between 16 and 23 civilians hears evidence from a given investigation brought by a prosecutor (the US attorney) in the form of documents, recordings and witnesses, and decides whether there are grounds to move forward with an indictment. However, the grand jury process has been long and regularly used as a form of political repression. According to Heidi Boghosian, director of the National Lawyers Guild (the NLG is a group with a long history of advising grand jury resisters), "abuse of grand juries includes attempts to gather intelligence or information otherwise not easily obtained by the FBI." As such, the grand jury process has been used to probe and intimidate activist groups of various stripes, from the Puerto Rican Independence Movement last century, to black liberationists, environmentalists and anarchists.
For the grand jury resisters themselves, the time during which a grand jury sits (typically 18 months) is a harrowing one. As the NLG's Boghosian explained: "If someone receives a grand jury subpoena and decides not to cooperate, that person may be held in civil contempt. There is a chance that the individual may be jailed or imprisoned for the length of the grand jury in an effort to coerce the person to cooperate."
"It's actually lawful for the prosecution to hold an individual in order to coerce cooperation, but unlawful to hold the person as a form of punishment," said Boghosian. "In addition to facing civil contempt, in some instances a non-cooperator may face criminal contempt charges."
For example, in 2009, Utah-based animal rights activist Jordan Halliday spent jail time for civil contempt and was sentenced to 10 months in prison for criminal contempt for his effusive noncooperation with a grand jury. And many resisters who were not jailed nonetheless recount traumatic experiences.
"I thought I was doomed. I had nightmares, night sweats, turned heavily to drinking and drugs," said a 23-year-old anarchist who refused to cooperate with a grand jury in 2009 in New York, which reportedly convened in regard to the placement of an incendiary device in a metropolitan area believed to be connected to anti-war activism. The young man, who requested to remain anonymous, remembers feeling "helpless," believing that at any point, he could be put in jail for his political silence.
However, he equally recalls the comfort he felt in learning that support committees - people he did not even know - were forming and organizing solidarity actions for him. "People having each other's back - it's one thing we do have," he said.
And indeed, statements and acts of solidarity with the Northwest resisters have been numerous and widespread. "Part of the purpose of grand juries seems to be to isolate people from a network of support, the support that puts them in a stronger place to resist," said Kristian Williams, a member of the Committee Against Political Repression [http://nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com/], which formed in support of the grand jury resisters.
"Solidarity actions and support also communicate to the state that people are paying attention to how the situation is being handled. Knowing that there is public opposition - not just a small group of friends outside a courtroom, but people all around the country - hopefully raises the political cost for the US attorney to continue this repression," he added. Hundreds of people have already put in calls to the US attorney to express opposition to the treatment of Northwest anarchists, while over 350 organizations have signed on to a petition of opposition put out by the Committee Against Political Repression. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, banner drops, graffiti and other acts have been dedicated to the grand jury resisters in the past month. A national day of action has been called for August 30 to coincide with Plante's second hearing.
For the New York-based resister, his act of political silence not only affirmed certain ideas about solidarity, but served as striking proof of personal resolve: "In a strange way, you show yourself something important when you resist a grand jury. The things you say, the things you believe, you find yourself actually acting upon them, even though you know it could cost you a chunk of your life."
"It has a very powerful effect on yourself," he said.
It is a sentiment seemingly understood by the anarchists in the Northwest as they begin their grand jury resistance ordeals. While inviting solidarity and support in their public statement, Plante and Dennison added, "You can show your solidarity by refusing to co-operate with any police force and encouraging your friends and families to do the same."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Republican Party is the vanguard for Christian-Dominionist White-American Nationalists (and anyone else be Damned)

2012-08-29 "As Republican convention emphasizes diversity, racial incidents intrude" by Rosalind S. Helderman and Jon Cohen from "Washington Post" daily newspaper
[http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/as-republican-convention-emphasizes-diversity-racial-incidents-intrude/2012/08/29/b9023a52-f1ec-11e1-892d-bc92fee603a7_story.html]:
TAMPA — From the convention stage here, the Republican Party has tried to highlight its diversity, giving prime speaking slots to Latinos and blacks who have emphasized their party’s economic appeal to all Americans.
But they have delivered those speeches to a convention hall filled overwhelmingly with white faces, an awkward contrast that has been made more uncomfortable this week by a series of racial headaches that have intruded on the party’s efforts to project a new level of inclusiveness.
The tensions come amid a debate within the GOP on how best to lure new voters. The nation’s shifting demographics have caused some Republican leaders to worry not only about the party’s future but about winning in November, particularly in key swing states such as Virginia and Nevada.
“The demographics race we’re losing badly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
On Tuesday, convention organizers ejected two attendees after they reportedly threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman and told her, “This is how we feed animals.” Organizers called the conduct “inexcusable and unacceptable.”
That followed an on-air shouting match between MSNBC host Chris Matthews and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus over whether presidential nominee Mitt Romney was injecting race into the campaign by joking about President Obama’s birth certificate and attacking his record on welfare reform.
“There’s no doubt he did,” Matthews declared.
“Garbage,” Priebus retorted.
And on Wednesday, Yahoo News fired Washington bureau chief David Chalian after a live microphone caught him telling a colleague, before an online event, that Romney and his wife, Ann, were “happy to have a party with black people drowning,” a reference to the RNC’s decision to go ahead with the convention while Hurricane Isaac lashed New Orleans. Chalian later apologized.
By early Wednesday, the conservative Drudge Report featured a block of headlines devoted to issues of race at the convention, most of them critical of liberal news outlets that didn’t air speeches by the GOP’s diverse lineup.
Not all of the race talk has been of the party’s own making. Many Republicans argue that Democrats’ obsession with the issue has forced it to the forefront. They say Democrats have used overtly racial appeals to fire up their base, citing Vice President Biden’s recent charge at a Virginia campaign event attended by hundreds of black voters that the GOP’s approach to financial regulation would“put y’all back in chains.”
Still, the discussions of race this week have highlighted the Republican Party’s continued difficulty in attracting non-white supporters.
Exit polls from 2008 showed that 90 percent of GOP voters were white, a homogeneity that has been consistent for more than 30 years, even as the percentage of the electorate that is white has fallen.
Nonwhite voters favored Obama over Romney by better than three to one in a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll from early August; 74 percent of Latino voters and 90 percent of African Americans backed Obama.
And despite a speaker lineup in Tampa that includes Artur Davis, a black former Democratic congressman; former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice; and Utah congressional candidate Mia Love, who would be the party’s first black congresswoman if she won in November, just 2 percent of convention delegates are black.
That’s according to an analysis by David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Bositis also said that only two members of the 165-member RNC are black and that none of the leaders of the committees responsible for drafting the GOP platform and adopting the convention rules are black.
“This Republican Party base is white, aging and dying off,” he said.
Many Republicans, however, worry about making overt racial appeals to minorities.
“Amongst politicians, amongst people who cover politics, there’s an overwhelming tendency to silo voters,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at a breakfast hosted by The Post and Bloomberg News. “As Republicans, we take on a huge risk if we try to appeal to voters . . . within a mind-set of silos instead of making direct appeals on the issues that they’re actually talking about in their household — not necessarily in their category, but in their household.”
A new Post poll put the difference between the two parties’ perception of minority voters on stark display. Respondents were asked an open-ended question: Why do most black voters so consistently support Democrats?
Though “don’t know” was the top answer for members of both parties, a close second among Republicans was that black voters are dependent on government or seeking a government handout. Democrats more often said that their party addresses issues of poverty.
In Tampa, Republicans have devoted significant time to brainstorming how to expand the party’s appeal to Latinos. At various forums and lectures, they have debated whether the GOP should change its tone in discussing illegal immigration, appeal more directly to religious Latinos on social issues or make a more explicit argument that Republicans can help boost the economic prospects of Latino communities.
“We as a party have got to get it,” said Mel Martinez, a former senator from Florida and a former RNC chairman, speaking at a Tuesday event sponsored by Univision and the National Journal. “We’ve got to get smart about this. We could be relegated to a minority party. . . . We’ve got to find a way to make that connection.”
There has been less discussion of new ways to reach out to black voters, in part out of a recognition that the first African American president has a special relationship with African American voters.
Davis, who in 2008 helped nominate Obama at the Democratic National Convention but became disenchanted with the president’s handling of the economy, said that to reach black voters, Republicans must expand their message beyond limiting government.
“It’s not just enough to go into the black community and say, ‘We want to keep government from taking over your life.’ That doesn’t resonate in a whole lot of the black community, who have come to see government as a salvation and as economic leveler,” he said. “It’s going to take being willing to define conservatism as not just a defense of economic liberty but as a broader way of constructing a society that can promote social mobility.”
Romney adviser Tara Wall said, “We know that a majority of black Americans will vote for President Obama,” but “that doesn’t mean Democrats or President Obama own the black vote or can take every black vote for granted.”
She said Romney’s policies on school choice, social issues and job creation appeal to black families.
“These are some common principles that we share and that we can engage on,” she said. “This is a long-term effort. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Raynard Jackson, a black GOP political consultant, wrote Tuesday on the RootDC Live blog that he is “embarrassed by the lack of diversity” at the convention and frustrated by his party’s empty promises.
“The Republican line is that the overwhelming majority of blacks will vote for Obama because he is African American,” Jackson wrote. “I find this thinking extremely insulting as a black Republican. The reason the majority of blacks will vote for Obama is because Republicans have not given African Americans a reason to vote for Republicans or Romney.”

2012-08-28 "Romney Camp: We’ll Continue Lying, Because It’s Working"

by Jeff Fecke [http://www.care2.com/causes/romney-camp-well-continue-lying-because-its-working.html]:
The campaign of Mitt Romney said bluntly Tuesday that they were going to continue running untruthful ads about President Barack Obama, because the ads are working.
Despite universal agreement among independent fact-checkers that Romney is lying about Obama’s welfare policy, Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse said that wouldn’t deter the campaign.
“Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” Newhouse told BuzzFeed [http://www.buzzfeed.com/bensmith/romney-camp-bets-welfare-attack].
Romney strategist Ashley O’Connor agreed, telling ABC News that the ad was “new information.”
The “new information” in the ad is that Obama plans to eliminate work requirements added to welfare in the 1996 reform law signed by President Bill Clinton. This information is new to voters because it is flatly untrue; the Obama administration is simply not doing what the Romney campaign claims they are doing [http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/08/22/159791065/despite-fact-checks-romney-escalates-welfare-work-requirement-charge].
The Obama administration has offered waivers that would allow states some flexibility in setting rules for welfare. These waivers were requested by both Democratic and Republican governors, who are looking for new ways to move people from welfare to work in a stagnant economy. Bob Haskins, who worked as a Republican staffer for welfare policy during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations, told NPR flatly, “There’s no plausible scenario under which [Obama's policy] really constitutes a serious attack on welfare reform.”
Nevertheless, the Romney campaign has gone ahead with the ads, which claim that Obama has simply eliminated the work requirement for welfare.
The ads’ complete falsity and attack on welfare recipients has made it clear that the Romney campaign is seeking to use race as a wedge issue, in order to peel off enough white votes from Obama to win the election. With Romney cracking birther jokes and ripping the NAACP, it’s become pretty obvious that Romney is trying to stoke the fires of racial resentment in order to oust the country’s first African American president.
Romney is so intent on a racist campaign that he’s willing to flat-out lie to do so. Will it work? That’s up to the American people to decide.

2012-08-29 "Romneyville Occupiers" march to the RNC

Photograph from "Occupy Boston": Romneyville Occupiers march to the RNC photo courtesy James Brownse - glad some Americans are willing to but their feet on the street to say enough nonsense; Stop the War on the Poor


Anarchist-fueled paranoia in Tampa Bay, Florida

2012-08-28 "Peaceful anarchists?" by Jo Piazza from "Current TV"
[http://current.com/groups/news-blog/93883943_rnc-2012-explainer-peaceful-anarchists.htm]:
Protesters took to the streets of downtown Tampa on Monday afternoon in a loosely organized march called Occupy the RNC.
While following a city-mandated "parade route," the group simultaneously chanted against corporate greed, government malfeasance and the Republican National Convention generally.
Protesters ranged from as young as 14 to several men and women in their 80s.
It is worth noting that the approximately 1,800 police officers on the streets of downtown Tampa outnumbered the protesters by about a power of five, making the blocks around the Tampa Bay Times Forum look more like a police state than a convention hub.
Toward the end of the march, a splinter group, referring to themselves as anarchists, made their way to a side street where they regrouped and smoked rolled cigarettes near a row of portable bathrooms while accepting water from Salvation Army volunteers.
Much has been made of the anarchist protestors in Tampa.
A report surfaced days before the convention that anarchist groups had plans to wreak havoc in Tampa by blocking roads, shutting down transit systems and harassing police and pedestrians with eggs filled with acid and balloons full of urine and feces.
The bulletin also warned of a specific group of anarchists from New York City that had plans for blockading bridges.
They don't look that scary in person.
We couldn't help but wonder, what exactly is an anarchist and what are they doing at the Republican National Convention?
This group claimed they just want peace, and, in fact, when confronted by a scrum of counter-protestors — Christian right-wingers that spewed insults and hate speech at them — the anarchists stepped down.
"We will not engage with you," they said. With that, they walked away.
We asked two of them to explain exactly what they came out for in Tampa. Their ideas may not be as fully formed as many protesters' around the country and things may change as this week goes on, but the evidence on Monday showed that this group, at least, was fairly benign in their intentions for violence.
"Anarchism means a system without government. And a lot of people think a system without government would be complete chaos, but I think all governments have done for the world is poison, corrupt and enslave society. ... Our government is taking a giant crap on the Constitution every day," one masked and unnamed anarchist protestor explained above the din of wails from his comrades over the arrival of what they believed was Homeland Security, but was actually a routine drive-by of motorcycle police.
"I am hoping to accomplish peaceful protests like everyone else," he told us, before fleeing down the street.



2012-08-30 "Protests Fizzle During GOP Convention"ABC OTUS News [http://news.yahoo.com/protests-fizzle-during-gop-convention-211101677.html]:
The three dozen chanting anti-GOP protesters hit a lull of silence as they marched through a low-income neighborhood in west Tampa. "What are you guys doing? Taking a nap?" shouted one protester to his cohorts, exhorting them to yell. Another shouted, "You guys are reeeeaaal quiet now!"
Quiet is the right word for protests at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week. They have been unexpectedly muted and even the protesters know it. Thousands of demonstrators had been expected but only hundreds arrived, mostly Green Party supporters, Occupy Wall Street activists, anarchists and union stalwarts.
Only two arrests have been linked to protests so far — one man for carrying a machete, the other for wearing a bandanna in violation of a city ordinance. That's compared to several hundred in St. Paul, Minn., four years ago. Her streets have been so tranquil that Police Chief Jane Castor canceled news conferences because there was no trouble to report.
Activists blame the threat of Hurricane Isaac, the overwhelming police presence, undercover law enforcement infiltration of their ranks and even the ghost-town nature of downtown during the convention week. Some activists worry they have no momentum built for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week, and then the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street next month.
"Unless you have the numbers out on the street, you really can't change anything," said Nick Sabatella, 25, an Occupy Wall Street activist from New Jersey.
The protesters were behind the eight ball even before the convention started. The threat of Hurricane Isaac stopped at least 16 busloads of activists from coming to town because bus operators didn't want their equipment and drivers headed into possible danger. Downpours on Monday put a damper on a kickoff march that drew only several hundred protesters, not the 5,000 marchers that had been anticipated. And rain continued off and on throughout the week.
"Nobody came down because of this weather," said Jeff Smith, a 38-year-old construction worker from New York, who is part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Smith also faulted the protest leaders and the tight security.
"They don't seem to be too organized down here," he said. "Probably because there are cops on every corner."
Groups of officers are stationed on almost every corner of downtown. They are riding around in packs on bicycles and are using helicopters for surveillance.
While many activists praised the police for their restraint and politeness, they said the number of officers on the streets was overkill.
"I'm really sad that every four years there is more of a militarization of the police at these conventions," said Cheri Honkala, the Green Party's vice presidential candidate. "It's a waste of taxpayers' dollars and it really scares me that someday there will be nobody left marching."
The police presence isn't just in uniform.
In "Romneyville," a tent village of protesters about a mile from the convention, the residents are well aware that undercover officers have infiltrated their ranks and that they tend to be among the more aggressive "activists."
"You know how if you go into Macy's around the holidays and somebody tries to shoplift something, and you then realize there are actually no shoppers, that they're all undercover police officers? That's the case here," Honkala said.
Without hard confirmation, they have let their suspected undercover officers stay.
"You can't get rid of people if you can't prove it on the spot," Honkala said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a news conference Thursday that he had expected few arrests as the convention wraps up Thursday night.
"We have trained so hard and so long for this," Buckhorn said. "When this is said and done, this will be the benchmark that every city should strive for."
Castor said her strategy was to approach the protesters, ask what their goals are and then help them reach them. Often, protesters simply wanted to pose in an intersection for the media. She let them if they didn't intend violence. Officers even took leftover food to Romneyville.
"Everyone was to be treated with dignity and respect," Castor said.
The nature of downtown also made it harder for protesters to be heard. Few people live there and many businesses told their workers to stay away during the convention, leaving the streets nearly empty.
"We could protest until we're blue in the face but there weren't people normally around to see that," said Darrell Prince, a 35-year-old political fundraiser from New York who is part of Occupy Wall Street. "Whether it was intelligent design or they were just fortunate, it worked out for the RNC."
On Thursday, 16 protesters, watched by 35 officers, marched from Romneyville to Domino's Pizza to protest corporate-owned businesses. Despite the low numbers, protesters eked out some victories.
As Paul Ryan was in the midst of a speech accepting the vice presidential nomination on the convention floor, he was disrupted by a pink banner and a yelling protester from the feminist group Code Pink. She was escorted out as some in the crowd shouted "U-S-A, U-S-A."
Many Romneyville residents are relocating their impromptu community to Charlotte and the Democratic convention. They are hoping for bigger crowds and more energy, drawing on Occupy activists from cities along the Eastern seaboard.
"Who knows?" Sabattella said. "Maybe it can still happen."


2012-08-29 "Citizens Struggle in the Shadow of the RNC" by Ruth Conniff from "The Progressive"
[http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/29-5]:
Law enforcement officers block a downtown street during a protest on August 27, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. The demonstration was being held just before of the start of the Republican's nominating convention which will hold its first session on August 28. The convention was scheduled to start on August 27 but was pushed back one day as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens to hit the Tampa area. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Everywhere you look, there are flocks of police on bicycles, on horseback, jumping out of trucks in full body armor. Roads are blocked, and downtown Tampa is ringed with high fences, forcing anyone who strays outside the convention compound to walk extra miles to circumnavigate the heavily guarded RNC.
Even local library branches are closed.
"Oh my god, they walled off the county building!" Terrie Weeks, an environmental activist who works at a local law firm, said as she drove through town. "You can't believe how weird this is to a local."
Who is all this security keeping away?
"For weeks, the local news kept warning everyone about violent anarchists," said Mark Skogman, a radio reporter and multimedia specialist who is involved in local politics. "People on the local council were so terrified about these violent anarchists coming in, they were talking about leaving the area. I finally calmed them down."
Overkill is too mild a word to describe the contrast between the heavy security and the protests in Tampa, which have been peaceful, and somewhat muted by the weather.
There is a shantytown called Romneyville at a local park, which was the starting point for a 500-person march demanding an end to foreclosures. There was a beautiful melting ice sculpture in the park that formed the words "middle class."
A group called Progress Florida has a complete "progressive's guide to the RNC" on its website: [www.progressflorida.org].
Darden Rice, Progress Florida's executive director, moderated a panel discussion in St. Petersburg on Monday night titled, "Is This What Democracy Looks Like?"
In the shadow of the RNC, where helicopters buzzed overhead, local activists expressed their disillusionment with both political parties.
People feel powerless in a democracy hijacked by corporate interests and seemingly as inaccessible to ordinary citizens as the Tampa Bay Times Forum where the Republicans are ensconced.
Rice seconded a comment from one activist in attendance about feeling like "a grain of sand trying to fight against the ocean."
Despite the inspiring examples of the massive protests in Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street, activists are not sure where to put their energy in this election year.
Panelist Arun Gupta, a progressive journalist and chronicler of the Occupy movement, spoke for many in the crowd when he talked about the disappointments of the Obama Administration--from continuing the war in Afghanistan, to pursuing policies of assassination and torture, to the coddling of Wall Street bankers and an inadequate rescue effort for the American middle class.
On the other end of the panel, Judithanne Scourfield-McLaughlin, a professor at the University of South Florida who worked for the Gore campaign in 2000, urged progressives to pour their efforts into getting out the vote for Obama.
Scourfield-McLaughlin warned that a Romney-Ryan administration would be a disaster. No one disagreed.
The key problem, she said, is that people who ought to vote for the Democrats don't vote--or, in 2000, that they voted for the Green Party.
Inadvertently illustrating the biggest problem with the Obama campaign, Scourfield-McLaughlin dismissed the failed effort to recall governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin as a distraction from the "real" election.
Talk about out of touch.
The President literally phoned in his support for the Walker recall effort. He deliberately avoided a grassroots fight on the core principles his party is supposed to represent. Yet now his campaign expects activists in Wisconsin to pour their hearts and souls into getting out the vote for him.
The fact that the Democrats are making the same argument they made in 2000--that the left must fall in line and vote for the lesser evil--even if it's true, as almost everyone in the room agreed--shows what a long way we've come from the excitement and optimism of 2008.
People all over the country are hurting. Yet there have been no criminal charges against the bankers who caused the financial crisis--let alone serious bank regulation. Cutting government spending, "entitlement reform," and reducing the deficit are talking points not just for Republicans, but for Obama, too.
No wonder people are discouraged.
But if national politics looks terribly alienating, local activists groups -- including Awake Pinellas, which sponsored the panel in St. Petersburg -- are doing serious, constructive work.
Awake Pinellas is part of a massive citizens' movement in Florida called Awake the State, which grew out of Wisconsin-like protests from Pensacola to Key West opposing Governor Rick Scott and the Republican legislature's program of deep cuts to education and health care.
St. Petersburg is one of a handful of cities where elected officials are now talking openly about raising taxes to protect citizens' quality of life.
Rice credits the local Awake coalition, which includes the SEIU, League of Women Voters, the NAACP and smaller, local groups.
Awake Pinellas launched something called the People's Budget Review to fight a program of austerity on the local level that was choking schools, libraries, and services for the poor.
"We had a lot of workshops on the budget, and packed the room at city council meetings with citizens calling for an alternative," Rice explains.
The result: The Republican mayor who is facing reelection is no longer talking about more budget cuts, and instead the council is debating between raising property taxes and imposing new fees. Cuts to services are off the table.
Packing those meetings gave council members "cover" to talk about how public investment is key to attracting business, how budget cuts hurt the area, and how citizens' quality of life is adversely affected by austerity, Rice says.
"It's not all roses," Rice adds--some regressive fees are being debated.
But slashing public jobs, reducing library hours, and closing polls--all of which were on the table--are now off.
The violent anarchists may be AWOL, but in St. Petersburg at least, citizens are winning battles in the fight to take back their government.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012-08-27 Anarchist Militia in the Military, a Psy-op

Anarcho-Scare of 2012. Just in time for the elections. De-legitimize the Black Panthers and their current supporters. De-legitimize the increasingly militant ex-GI's like Scott Olsen who are sick and tired to the U.S. military's lies. De-legitimize insurrectionary anarchists planning to demonstrate at both conventions.
Serious about what? Forming a weird, elitist, hierarchical armed group? Who gives a shit?   Wanting to overthrow the government isn't the defining point of anarchist politics. regardless, the only evidence they may identify as "anarchists" (at least the only evidence mentioned in this article) is that they "wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol".


2012-08-27 "4 soldiers planned to take over U.S. government and assassinate the president" by "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS", posted at "New York Daily News"
[http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/prosecutor-ga-murder-case-uncovers-terror-plot-4-soldiers-planned-u-s-government-assassinate-president-article-1.1145553]:
 4 Fort Stewart soldiers, Michael Burnett, Isaac Aguigui, Anthony Peden and Christopher Salmon, formed F.E.A.R., an anarchist group plotting to overthrow the federal government. They spent $87,000 stockpiling weapons and killed Michael Roark and his girlfriend, Tiffany York, to protect their dark secret.
U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Peden, 25, left, and Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, 19, are led away in handcuffs after appearing before a magistrate judge at the Long County Sheriffs Office in Ludowici, Ga. Prosecutors say a murder case against the four soldiers in Georgia has revealed they formed an anarchist militia within the U.S. military with plans to overthrow the federal government.

 LUDOWICI, Ga. (AP) — Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
 Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group composed of active duty and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components and was serious enough to kill two people — former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York — by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
 “This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk,” prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a Superior Court judge. “Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”
 One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Army Pfc. Michael Burnett, also gave testimony that backed up many of the assertions made by prosecutors. The 26-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges. He made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against the three other soldiers.
 Prosecutors said the group called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don’t know how many members the militia had.
 Burnett, 26, said he knew the group’s leaders from serving with them at Fort Stewart. He agreed to testify against fellow soldiers Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, identified by prosecutors as the militia’s founder and leader, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.
 All are charged by state authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.
 Prosecutors say Roark, 19, served with the four defendants in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and became involved with the militia. Pauley said the group believed it had been betrayed by Roark, who left the Army two days before he was killed, and decided the ex-soldier and his girlfriend needed to be silenced.
 Burnett testified that on the night of Dec. 4, he and the three other soldiers lured Roark and York to some woods a short distance from the Army post under the guise that they were going target shooting. He said Peden shot Roark’s girlfriend in the head while she was trying to get out of her car. Salmon, he said, made Roark get on his knees and shot him twice in the head. Burnett said Aguigui ordered the killings.
“A loose end is the way Isaac put it,” Burnett said.
 Aguigui’s attorney, Daveniya Fisher, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. Attorneys for Peden and Salmon both declined to comment Monday.
 Also charged in the killings is Salmon’s wife, Heather Salmon. Her attorney, Charles Nester, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
 Pauley said Aguigui funded the militia using $500,000 in insurance and benefit payments from the death of his pregnant wife a year ago. Aguigui was not charged in his wife’s death, but Pauley told the judge her death was “highly suspicious.”
 She said Aguigui used the money to buy $87,000 worth of semiautomatic assault rifles, other guns and bomb components that were recovered from the accused soldiers’ homes and from a storage locker. He also used the insurance payments to buy land for his militia group in Washington state, Pauley said.
 In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself “the nicest cold-blooded murderer you will ever meet.” He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.
 “All members of the group were on active-duty or were former members of the military,” Pauley said. “He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned.”
 The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
 The Army brought charges against the four accused soldiers in connection with the slayings of Roark and York in March, but has yet to act on them. Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said he could not comment immediately on the militia accusations that emerged in civilian court Monday.
 District Attorney Tom Durden said his office has been sharing information with federal authorities, but no charges have been filed in federal court. Jim Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, would not comment on whether a case is pending.


2012-08-28 "Soldier allegedly led militia group that plotted to kill President Obama" by Mike Carter from "The Seattle Times", re-posted at "Detroit Free Press"
[http://www.freep.com/article/20120828/NEWS07/120828049/soldiers-militia-stockpile-assassinate-government?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cs]:
In this Dec. 12, 2011, file photo, U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Peden, 25, left, and Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, 19, are led away in handcuffs after appearing before a judge at the Long County Sheriffs Office in Ludowici, Ga. / Lewis Levine, Associated Press

SEATTLE — A soldier from Chelan County, Wash., suspected of murder in Georgia and accused of being the founder of a militia group that was plotting to kill President Barack Obama and overthrow the U.S. government, purchased 15 firearms, including several semiautomatic assault-style rifles, at a Wenatchee, Wash., gun store in September 2011.
It was that purchase, along with a suspicious relative, that first brought Army Pvt. Isaac Aguigui of Cashmere, Wash., to the attention of local law enforcement, Wenatchee Police Sgt. John Kruse said Tuesday.
The relative, who has asked not to be named, told police that Aguigui’s wife, who was a fellow soldier, and their unborn child had died under suspicious circumstances in July 2011 at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they were stationed. The relative also was concerned that Aguigui had purchased more than a dozen firearms from High Mountain Hunting Supply in Wenatchee.
After checking the report and talking to the gun store, Kruse said police decided they should contact the Army Criminal Investigation Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the FBI in Spokane. Kruse said he spoke with FBI Resident Agent in Charge Frank Harrill about the incident.
“We didn’t do much with this. There had been no crime that we knew of, and it didn’t really involve Wenatchee at all,” he said. Moreover, “people buy multiple guns all the time,” Kruse said.
The department did issue an “officer safety” bulletin alerting police to Aguigui’s whereabouts, the fact that he was under investigation by the Army, and that he had recently purchased numerous firearms.
Kruse said Aguigui returned to Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia shortly thereafter.
Aguigui is among four soldiers based in Georgia who are charged with killing a former comrade, a Washington state native, and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed, plotted a range of anti-government attacks, including bombing a dam in Washington and poisoning the state’s apple crop, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Isabel Pauley, the prosecutor in Long County, near Fort Stewart, said the militia group of active and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components. They allege the group was serious enough to kill two people — former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York — by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
The group allegedly called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don’t know how many members it had.
One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges in a deal to testify against the three other soldiers — Aguigui, identified by prosecutors as the militia’s founder and leader, and Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.
All are charged by Georgia authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.
Aguigui was home-schooled in the Chelan County town of Cashmere, joining the Army after graduation. He married fellow soldier Dierdre Wetzker at Fort Stewart, according to news reports and interviews with family.
Wetzker, 24, died last year at Fort Stewart while pregnant with the couple’s son. According to Orlin Wetzker, her uncle in Ogden, Utah, the family was told by law enforcement officials that she may have been poisoned. A call to Aguigui’s parents’ home in Cashmere was not returned.
The prosecutors in the Georgia homicide case have called Wetzker’s death “highly suspicious,” but no charges have been filed.
According to court testimony, the group used some of the nearly $500,000 in insurance and death benefits to buy more than $87,000 worth of military-grade firearms and land in Washington state.
Orlin Wetzker said he knew nothing of Aguigui’s politics.
Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle, said the bureau was aware of the case but declined to comment further.
Roark, who was born in Kirkland, Wash., and spent part of high school in Marysville, according to The (Everett) Herald, served with the four defendants in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and became involved with the militia. Pauley said the group believed it had been betrayed by Roark, who left the Army two days before he was killed, and decided the ex-soldier and his girlfriend needed to be silenced.
Burnett testified that on the night of Dec. 4, he and the three other soldiers lured Roark and York to some woods a short distance from the Army post under the guise that they were going target shooting. He said Peden shot Roark’s girlfriend in the head while she was trying to get out of her car. Salmon, he said, made Roark get on his knees and shot him twice in the head. Burnett said Aguigui ordered the killings.
“A ’loose end’ is the way Isaac put it,” Burnett said.
Roark’s mother, Tracy Jahr, told KOMO-TV her son died “for standing up for what he knew was right.”
She said her son told her last fall he had met someone with a lot of money.
“My mom’s radar went up just a little bit and I said, ’Well, who is this person? Where is he from? Where does he live? Tell me more about him,’” Jahr told KOMO.
She said the situation eventually prompted him to leave the Army in December. He was killed two days later.
“It’s not real because it can’t possibly be your child that’s been killed. It was devastating. It was devastating,” Jahr said.
Also charged in the killings is Salmon’s wife, Heather Salmon. Her attorney, Charles Nester, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself “the nicest coldblooded murderer you will ever meet.” He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.
“All members of the group were on active duty or were former members of the military,” Pauley said. “He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned.”
The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition-control point, and members talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said.
In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said the Army has dropped its own charges against the four soldiers in the slayings of Roark and York. Military authorities filed charges in March but never acted on them. Fort Stewart officials Monday refused to identify the units the accused soldiers served in and their jobs within those units.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that tracks hate groups in the U.S., said Aguigui’s father, Ed Aguigui, had “no clue” as to the location of the land in Washington state that reportedly was purchased by his son and members of his militia group. “I served my country for 20 years and I honor that, take pride in that,” said Ed Aguigui, a veteran.
According to The Wenatchee World, Isaac Aguigui represented Washington state in the American Legion Boys Nation held in July 2008 in Washington, D.C. The American Legion Boys Nation is a weeklong citizenship and government program in the nation’s capital that is designed to instill in each participant a deep loyalty to America while providing practical insight into the operation of the federal government, officials say.
The newspaper also reports he was among 21 Republicans who gathered in Wenatchee in October 2008 for the third and final presidential debate.
“When Obama outlined his health care plan,” the newspaper reported, “17-year-old Isaac Aguigui of Cashmere said, ’That makes absolutely no sense.’”



2012-08-28 "'Anarchists' accused of murder; broader plot against government" from "CNN"
[http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/28/justice/georgia-soldiers-plot/index.html]:

(CNN) -- This much is clear: Four U.S. Army soldiers based in Georgia are accused of killing two people.
Beyond that, a Georgia prosecutor and federal authorities are offering differing responses to a possible plot by the group to overthrow the government and assassinate President Barack Obama.
"As far as the evidence has shown, the motive for the murders was the overthrow of the government," District Attorney Tom Durden said.
"This wasn't barroom talk," Durden said, describing the men as part of an anarchist militia. "They amassed a good bit of weapons and explosive materials."
A law enforcement official said the men had legally purchased at least 18 rifles and handguns in Washington and Georgia. The official said uncompleted pipe bombs were also found, and were comprised of store-bought materials. No sophisticated military grade-explosives were involved in their construction.
However, several agencies called into the investigation because of the accumulation of weapons -- including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- made scant mention of any alleged assassination plot or government overthrow attempt.
One official described it as a murder case and said no federal charges had been filed.
On Monday, Pfc. Michael Burnett laid out the elaborate plot, telling a southeast Georgia court that he was part of what prosecutors called "an anarchist group and militia."
Dressed in his Army uniform, he spoke in a Long County court about the group of Army soldiers and its role in the December deaths of former soldier Michael Roark and his teenage girlfriend, Tiffany York. Roark, he said, was killed because he took money from the group and planned to leave.
"I don't know how it got to the point where two people got murdered," Burnett said in court.
He talked about how he and three others accused -- Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon -- had begun getting together, "just going out shooting guns, just guy stuff."
"And then Aguigui introduced me to 'the manuscript,' that's what he called it, a book about true patriots," the soldier said.
The four men became part of a group that aimed "to give the government back to the people," according to Burnett, who said that revolution was its goal. They called it FEAR -- Forever Enduring Always Ready -- and spent thousands of dollars buying guns and bomb parts.
The government needed a change, Burnett told the court. "I thought we were the people who would be able to change it."
It is not clear how capable the group was of carrying out the goals Burnett laid out.
Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley said it was "unknown" how many others belonged to the group. She identified Aguigui as the leader of what she described as "an anarchist group and militia" that included active and former troops.
"Defendant Aguigui actively recruited new members at Fort Stewart (in southeast Georgia) and targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned," she said.
At the time of their arrest, group members had plotted a number of "acts of domestic terror," the prosecutor said.
These included "forcibly taking over the ammo control point of Fort Stewart to take the post, bombing vehicles of local and state judicial and political figureheads and federal representatives to include the local department of homeland security, (and plotting) to bomb the fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah."
Days before he died, Roark had been discharged from the army, according to Pauley.
Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend were killed because Aguigui felt the couple was "a loose end," Burnett said.
"Sir, if I could have stopped this from happening, I would have," the soldier told the judge about the couple's killings.
Burnett admitted being at the scene of the crime, including watching as a soldier "checked (York's) pulse and then shot her again."
York's sister, Tiffany, told CNN affiliate WTOC that she hoped York "didn't have to beg, or suffer."
As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Burnett pleaded guilty to manslaughter -- instead of murder, thus avoiding a possible death sentence -- and other charges. He also agreed to testify against the three other soldiers accused in the case.
All four soldiers had also been charged by the military in connection with the two killings. But as their case proceeded through civilian courts, the Army dismissed its charges, according to Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.
The military's Criminal Investigative Division (CID) probe is ongoing, though it is not believed there are any "unknown subjects" -- or people besides those four men -- tied to these crimes, Larson said.
In a statement Monday, Larson insisted that Fort Stewart and its affiliated Hunter Army Airfield do not have "a gang or militia problem."
"Any suspicions of gang activity are actively investigated by CID, (which) recognizes the obvious concerns with the combination of gangs and military-type training," he said. "That is why CID monitors and investigates gang and extremist group association with criminal acts in the Army so closely. We believe the reason we are able to maintain a low gang criminal threat status is because of the awareness of and focus on the threat."
Fort Stewart, about 40 miles southwest of Savannah, is home to the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
Tens of thousands of troops, their dependents, civilian personnel and contractors live and work on the base, which encompasses 280,000 acres and includes parts of five counties, including Long County, which has about 14,500 residents. Hunter Army Airfield is in Savannah but is officially part of the larger Fort Stewart complex.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks what it characterizes as "hate groups" nationwide, spoke to Aguigui's father Monday night.
"I served my country for 20 years and I honor that, take pride in that," Ed Aguigui told the center, according to the center's Hatewatch blog. "I don't know what my son's views are, and where they came from."

Anti-Fascism: People’s Power Assemblies

 A  N A T I O N A L  C A L L 
To Create, Build & Multiply People’s Power Assemblies:
Things are already bad —  and they are about to get a lot worse!
The people must prepare to defend ourselves against the life-threatening and ever-intensifying economic and social misery that Wall Street and its politicians are imposing on us, including endless war.
Contact: [Solidarity Center 55 West 17 Street, #5C, New York, NY 10011] [212.633.6646] [Occupy4jobs.org] [info@occupy4jobs.org]
Click HERE to download PDF flyer for distribution [http://occupy4jobs.org/ppcall_m.pdf]

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, propose to all who are concerned about defending the economic, social and political rights of the 99%, that this period, starting with the conventions of the major parties at the end of the summer, through the elections and into 2013, be dedicated to the convening of People’s Power Assemblies, at the local and regional level, and when ready, at the national level.
Reverend Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said at a rally in Maryland for Trayvon Martin: “The political establishments, both local and national, have proven to be bankrupt; they have done virtually nothing to protect or serve the people. It’s time for the people to organize themselves and to build people’s power.”
He was speaking not only of specific circumstances in Sanford, Fla., that allowed George Zimmerman to walk free for more than 40 days after killing Trayvon Martin, but of the fact that politicians and other officials at every level of government have failed to defend the interests of working people in this country, especially the most affected, most of whom are people of color.
There is a dual crisis at play. One aspect is the crisis of the economic system, which is global. More than merely a crisis of the financial markets, it is of the system of capitalism itself. And it is the workers who suffer acutely, for workers are thrown out of the workplaces, from their homes, and left destitute. From Greece and Spain to Detroit and Los Angeles, the banks’ demand for more and more money is crushing the lives of workers and poor people, especially young people. Funds for weapon systems, however, and continuing or new wars such as in Syria and Iran, are guaranteed.
The other crisis is political. The cold and brutal truth is that no matter who wins the 2012 Presidential Election, cutbacks, wage cuts, and unemployment are going to get 10 times worse in the future. So-called “democracy” as practiced in the U.S. has never been more meaningless than now. The word is little more than a cover for the dictatorship of the big banks.
No major institution or government entity is protecting workers, especially the most disenfranchised, Black, Latino/a, Native and other workers of color who have faced historical oppression. Both political parties go along with cutting back programs that address important social needs. Both are attacking public- and private-sector unions, allowing foreclosures to continue at a rapid pace, closing and privatizing schools, continued destruction of the environment, deporting undocumented immigrants at an unprecedented pace, and sitting back while youth of color face rampant police brutality and a jobless, uncertain future.
What is to be done then? Regardless of what button or lever is chosen in the elections, the primary factor in ensuring change is action and struggle. The eight-hour workday, Social Security, Civil Rights, the right to vote, unionization, Unemployment Insurance — every progressive law or right was won and secured through struggle in the streets. In this period, the Occupy Wall Street movement opened the door, but it’s just the beginning. More is necessary to widen and sustain the rebellion against the 1%’s “take no prisoners” war on the rest of us.
A higher level of organization is called for: a block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, state to state, region to region approach; a national network of People’s Assemblies — assemblies designed to empower at every level, that take up the interests of working people, especially the most disenfranchised, assemblies that defend our rights and fight for real democracy, assemblies where the least of us is made whole by a deepening social contract that puts working people’s needs and rights before the interests of the wealthy, corporations and financial institutions.
Such an organization would be the highest expression of democracy. The People’s Power Assemblies are the vehicles through which we struggle, whether it is defending a home -owner from eviction, occupying a school from being closed, seizing vacant property, fighting against racism, sexism or LGBT oppression.
Let the PPA be what the government has failed to be. Onward.
 Build People’s Power Assemblies!
[signed]
* Rep. Cynthia McKinney, 2008 Green Party Prez Candidate
* Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, Brd. Chair Baltimore SCLC
* Chris Silvera, Secty. Treas., Teamsters L. 808
* Sharon Black, Baltimore Peoples Assembly
* Victor Toro, La Peña del Bronx
* Clarence Thomas, Int’l Longshore & Warehouse Union L. 10
* Larry Holmes, Occupy for Jobs
* Bryan Perlmutter, NC State Univ., SDS
* Walter Smith, Pres., Nat’l Postal Mail Handlers Union, L. 334 Charleston, SC 
* Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs & Services - CLUPJS
* Committee to Stop FBI Repression
* Eddie Oquendo, Nat’l Postal Mail Handlers Union SC L. 334
* Philippine Forum Baynihan Community Center NYC
* Zaina Alsous, UNC Chapel Hill Student Action w/ Workers
* Brenda Stokely, Million Worker March Movement
* Pam Africa, Int’l Concerned Families & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
* Deloyd Parker, Exec. Dir., Shape Center Houston
* Larry Hales, PPA Staff Organizer
* Delbert Jackson, Occupy Houston, Occupy the Hood
* Leon Purnell, Pres., Baltimore SCLC
* Jersey City Peace Movement
* Ramona Africa, MOVE Organization
* John Parker, Steering Com., Soouthern Calif. Immigration Coalition
* Moratorium On  Foreclosures NOW
* Lucy Pagoada, Coordinadora, HondurasUSAResistencia
* Sara Flounders, Int’l Action Center
* MECAWI-Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War & Intervention
* Messiah Rhodes, NYC Unemployed Council
* Teresa Gutierrez, May 1st Coalition; IMA ­
* Parents to Improve School Transportation - PIST
* Puerto Rican Alliance Los Angeles
* Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
* Bob Carter, Founder, Justice for Palestinians 
* Chelsea Coalition on Housing 
* Wisconsin Bail Out The People Movement
* Rev. Luis Barrios, IFCO/Pastors for Peace
* Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Center
* Bishop Filipe Teixeira, OFSJC, Diocese of St Francis of Assisi, CCA, Brockton, MA
* Women’s Fightback Network, Boston
* Rhode Island People’s Assembly
* Ed Childs, Chief Shop Steward, UNITE-HERE L. 26, Boston, MA
* Steve Gillis, Vice President, USW L. 8751 Boston School Bus Union 
* Steve Kirschbaum, USW Organizer & Chair, Grievance Committee, USW L. 8751 
* Brian Shea, Disability Rights Activist, Boston, MA
* Jim Grant, Human Justice Coalition, Wilson, NC

2012-08-28 "The American War on Sidewalk Chalk"

by Julie M. Rodriguez [http://www.care2.com/causes/the-american-war-on-sidewalk-chalk.html]:
We’ve reported on the police arresting protestors for “vandalizing” property with sidewalk chalk in the past – mainly in California. This happened just this summer with members of Occupy LA [http://www.care2.com/causes/police-attack-and-arrest-la-residents-for-using-chalk.html]. And in one 2009 case, 4 animal rights activists passing out leaflets and writing anti-animal cruelty slogans on the ground were actually arrested under terrorism charges [http://www.care2.com/causes/fbi-arrests-4-animal-activists-for-leafleting-protesting-chalking-on-sidewalk.html]!
While these charges are clearly political (chalk, after all, washes off sidewalks harmlessly) – a scary article from Mother Jones reported recently that at least 50 people have been arrested across the US in the last five years for drawing on sidewalks.
Many of these aren’t political protestors. They’re the parents of four and six-year-old children engaging in fun and harmless summer activity. One mom in Richmond, Virginia was arrested and sentenced to 50 hours of community service for letting her child draw on rocks in a local park – and reports that her daughter is now “very nervous around cops” and “very scared of chalk.” [http://moms.today.com/_news/2012/08/06/13145473-chalk-wars-mom-ticketed-for-childs-chalk-drawing-in-public-park?lite]
Another mom was slapped with a $300 fine for letting her six-year-old draw on the stoop outside her Manchester, New York home. And one “family friendly” Denver HOA is trying to enforce a blanket ban on all chalk art – saying some residents have complained that it’s offensive and disturbing [http://denver.cbslocal.com/2012/06/07/sidewalk-chalk-art-against-the-rules-in-stapleton/].
In a case outside of Philadelphia, the police explained their motives for arresting two teenage offenders by citing the “broken window theory.” [http://newtown-pa.patch.com/articles/should-drawing-on-the-sidewalk-be-a-criminal-offense-d3f882b2] The idea is that a building with a broken window or two will attract further vandalism – and possibly a break-in. It might even lead to squatters or arsonists entering the building. By harshly punishing mild acts of vandalism, the police hope to prevent more serious crimes [http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/4465/].
Of course, that raises the question – is chalk art in a public space really vandalism? The dictionary definition of the word states that vandalism is “Action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.” It’s hard to imagine any situation in which chalk could actually damage or destroy a building, sidewalk, or street. Even in the worst case, the chalk easily washes off with a hose or a rainstorm. It’s not in the same realm as spraypaint or a smashed-in window. Should the law treat it the same way as other acts of vandalism that cause more permanent damage?
Chalk lovers shouldn’t despair too much – while this is a troubling trend, it’s also a “crime” that’s largely going unpunished apart from a few unfortunate cases each year. Mother Jones has compiled a helpful map to let readers know if chalk art could be a problem in their area [http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/war-chalk-arrests].
What do you think? Should art or slogans scribbled in chalk be considered graffiti? Or is this a case of law enforcement going too far?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Anti-Fascism in North Carolina: Charlotte City Workers' Demand Basic Workers' Rights!

[http://www.southernworker.org] [actioncenter@organizerweb.org]     
Tell the City of Charlotte and the Democratic National Convention: Support the City Workers’ Demands for Basic Workers’ Rights!
Click HERE [http://southernworker.org/charlotteworkersrights/] to sign the online petition for wokers rights for Charlotte City Workers and to sign and send a message to the Charlotte City Council, the Obama administration, the Democratic National Convention Committee and others, telling them you support the City of Charlotte workers' demands for a city ordinance enacting a City Workers Bill of Rights.
Support the City of Charlotte Workers' Demands for a city ordinance enacting a City Workers Bill of Rights calling for:
* Equal across-the-board raises for all workers, not "merit" raises
* An End to unfair disciplines
* Payroll union dues deduction
* Meet-and-confer with union representatives
* Collective bargaining rights

ATTEND THE SOUTHERN WORKERS' ASSEMBLY, MONDAY SEPT 3, 1-5 PM, Wedgewood Baptist Church, 4800 Wedgewood Dr, Charlotte, NC!
Go to [http://southernworker.org] for more info.
Southern unions, workers organizations, civil/human rights groups, immigrant rights groups, unemployed, young workers, faith and community will gather in a Southern Workers Assembly on September 3, the opening day of the DNC to uplift our on-the-ground actual workers’ rights struggles in the US South and challenge denial of basic human rights and Federal Right-to-work (for less) laws that make it difficult to organize unions for fairness and dignity.

MORE STORIES
[http://www.wcnc.com/news/City-Workers-to-continue-protests-through-DNC-166844766.html]
[http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/21/3468421/city-workers-well-protest-through.html]

2012-08-13 photographs showing the picket line in Charlotte:

 


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968 standing with striking sanitation workers in Memphis, TN demanding basic union rights. Yet, still today, workers in North Carolina are denied the basic right to collective bargaining.  Charlotte City workers have been forced to work 12 hour days 6 or 7 days a week in preparation for the Democratic National Convention and are given harsh disciplines for minor infractions such as running over a curb.   Meanwhile, the City Manager recently gave himself a hefty 2nd raise for the year, totaling over $20,000.
The attack on collective bargaining that was observed this past year in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and beyond was an outgrowth of the unsolved battle against Right-to-work (for less) laws that still plague the US South. Now the Democratic National Convention is being hosted in the least unionized state.  Charlotte is also home of more banks than anywhere outside of New York, this is why organizers are calling it the Wall Street of the South. Yet, this rich city cannot find enough money to give the workers a decent raise or recognize their demands for a City Workers Bill of Rights.
In lead up to DNC, Charlotte City Workers Picket to Demand Fairness and Recognition of Human Rights -
Over the past few weeks in the lead up to the Democratic National Convention, Charlotte city workers have been picketing city council demanding recognition of their basic worker rights. As the City of Charlotte uses its status as host of the DNC to boast that it is a world-class city, the rank-n-file workers that keep the city clean and safe are being denied their basic rights at work. UE local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union has released the below open letter to the Obama Administration, Charlotte City Council and state elected officials to honor and enact a Municipal Workers Bill of Rights ordinance and to follow through on the ruling of United Nation's International Labor Organization ruling to repeal ban on collective bargaining for public employees.
"The hard work we do is vital for this city to function, so we are asking the City Council to address our needs and rights as workers and to establish a system of meet-and-confer with us to discuss how to keep the city running smoothly through the convention," stated Al Locklear, a sanitation worker and President of UE150 chapter of Charlotte City Workers Union.  "When we saw that the city manager received two raises this year totaling over $20,000 yet we hardly didn't get anything, we realized that our hard work is not recognized."
City workers are are campaigning for the adoption of a City Workers Bill of Rights so that they have decent working conditions and be paid a decent wage for their hard work.  UE150 union members are also requesting representation in grievance hearings and also voluntary payroll deduction for workers that choose to join the union.  The United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO) found North Carolina's ban on collective bargaining to be in violation of international labor standards. In that decision the ILO called on the United States government to  promote the establishment of a collective bargaining framework in the public sector in North Carolina  and called specifically for the repeal of NCGS ß 95-98.  The City of Charlotte does have the authority to meet-n-confer with the union and grant other basic union rights such as pay roll deduction, as is done in at least three other cities across the state and for all state employees.
"We are sick and tired of being given 30 day suspensions without pay for minor infractions, this can be devastating to a worker's life" stated Barbara Edgecombe, who is a sanitation worker and Secretary-Treasurer for the City Workers Union chapter of UE150. "Then when we get suspended, we are not even given the basic right to representation to give us a fair chance to defend ourselves on the job."
Charlotte City Workers Union chapter along with the statewide UE150, NC Public Service Workers Union and dozens of other unions and workers organizations from states across the US South will be participating in the Southern Workers Assembly on Monday, September 3 on Labor Day, the opening day of the DNC to continue to raise their demands for recognition of a Workers Bill of Rights.  The Southern Workers Assembly is asking for other national unions to endorse and send support for their efforts to organize the South and build a long-term Southern Labor Alliance.
More information can be found at [http://southernworker.org]


2012-08-24 "Charlotte (N.C.) City Workers: 'We'll Protest Through the DNC'; 'They Want to Run Us to Death!'" by Josh Eidelson [http://www.salon.com/2012/08/24/they_want_to_run_us_to_death/]:
Josh Eidelson is a freelance journalist and a contributor at The American Prospect and In These Times. After receiving his MA in Political Science, he worked as a union organizer for five years.
---
In two weeks, Democrats will gather in Charlotte, N.C., and pledge once more to strengthen the right of workers to join unions and negotiate with their bosses. But the convention's success depends on the work of the city's sanitation workers, who are banned by law from exercising that right. As the party readies its platform pronouncements, those workers are asking for more concrete help.
Wednesday, leaders of a North Carolina union released a letter appealing to President Obama and the Democratic National Committee for support in their efforts to win union rights. "Despite the added work and dangers for Charlotte City workers in preparation for and in the aftermath of the DNC, and the fact that $50 million in federal funding has been allotted to the City of Charlotte to host the DNC," the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 150 wrote, "the City of Charlotte refuses to address the needs and rights of the City workers."
"The workers are working like dogs," said garbage driver Al Locklear, the president of Local 150's Charlotte chapter. "They want to run us to death."
UE says that sanitation workers have been working up to 15 hours a day and up to seven days a week due to pre-convention pressures, inadequate staffing and high turnover. Locklear says the mandatory overtime hours are exacerbating already unsafe conditions: When workers point out potential safety issues with the trucks they're supposed to drive, he alleges, some managers "have told them to take them on out anyway." Locklear charges that many of the trucks, including the one he drives, also lack working air conditioning: "It is hotter on the inside of that truck than it is on the outside." "The longer they work, mistakes are made, more accidents happen," said UE organizer Ashaki Binta.
The restrictions on public workers' union rights in Charlotte are even greater than those signed into law by Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Some reports on Democrats' choice of Charlotte for their convention have mentioned North Carolina's right-to-work law and exceptionally low unionization rate. Fewer have noted that the state is one of only two in the country to ban all levels of government from negotiating any contracts with public employees' unions, regardless of how many workers support the union (some other states restrict which public employees can bargain collectively, or what they can negotiate over, or bar strikes). The ban "really is a slap in the face to public employees here," said MaryBe McMillan, the secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO.
Asked about UE's criticism of Obama, McMillan said, "It would have been helpful if Democratic officials would have been more outspoken about their support for collective bargaining rights for public employees," including North Carolina officials. "Ultimately, though," she added, "I mean, President Obama and the DNC can't change the law here. It's the voters that can do that Š that's really our focus right now with our members."
Before agreeing to hold the convention in Charlotte, said Locklear, national Democrats should have said, "You want us to come down, we recognize unions and you don't. Y'all got to change." "I don't understand people like that," he added. "If they believe in unions and stand for the unions Š [why] they don't say that's wrong." Instead, he said, "It's about money now, regardless who it is."
UE's Binta said that the president and the DNC have a responsibility to back the workers' campaign: "If you're going to meet here in Charlotte, then you should be respecting the rights of the workers who are on the front line of providing for the Democratic National Convention."
In 2010, North Carolina's Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue signed an executive order instituting a procedure for state agencies to "meet and confer" - but not negotiate - with a public sector union. At the same time, Perdue told the News & Observer, "Employers know I'm against collective bargaining." (Perdue's office did not respond to a request for comment.)
In other words, some public sector union members have a venue to raise concerns and make suggestions to management. But they're still barred from having negotiations or contracts. And while some cities have chosen to institute "meet and confer" with their own employees, others have declined to - including Charlotte.
In the absence of collective bargaining, Local 150 members are still using collective action and advocacy to try to improve their conditions. But absent a union contract, Locklear says that disciplinary rules are unreasonably strict, and often enforced selectively as an excuse to fire activists. "Some of the departments are telling them, you better not get in that union - you can lose your job," said Locklear. Workers also say they were told by management that they're not allowed to wear their work uniforms when they appear at City Council to protest about their work conditions.
Overturning North Carolina's collective bargaining ban would require a new state law, a daunting proposition given Perdue's resistance and the Republican control of the state House and Senate.  UE's more immediate goal is to pass a "Municipal Workers Bill of Rights" ordinance through Charlotte's City Council, which would include "meet and confer," staffing and safety standards, higher wages and the option for workers who want to pay union dues to have them deducted automatically from their checks.  Under such an ordinance, said Locklear, workers would at least have the opportunity to "sit down and talk with [management] about what's going on with these trucks" and say, "This is unsafe."
In Wednesday's letter, UE leaders "implore" the Obama administration and Democrats to support such a Bill of Rights for Charlotte workers, as well as the overturning of the state ban. UE members have also been holding weekly vigils outside the City Council chambers, and they plan to raise the issue when the council meets on Monday.
The body has a 9-2 Democratic majority. Binta said UE is "close to having a majority" for a narrower ordinance to require "meet and confer" and dues deduction, both of which Charlotte's city manager has "refused to implement" on his own.  But she said members face "a lot of pressure" from the Chamber of Commerce to oppose even those measures.
Democratic City Council member John Autry told Salon he would support such a bill, because "all work has value, and the people who perform that work are valuable." Reached over email, Democratic Council member Beth Pickering said, "I support the concerns of our public workers," including "meet and confer" and dues deduction, but added that the issues "require serious consideration and in-depth analysis."
In response to Salon's inquiry to the mayor's office regarding the union's safety allegations and proposed Bill of Rights, Charlotte City Attorney Robert Hagemann emailed that the city offers "a fair and competitive compensation and benefits package" and "To the extent that employees will be required to work overtime - and those will be mostly public safety employees - they will be compensated in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act." Hagemann wrote that while bargaining is illegal, the city recognizes "the right of its employees to belong, or not to belong, to a labor union."
Asked whether anti-union laws should have cost Charlotte the chance to host the DNC, the AFL-CIO's McMillan said, "I don't know if I would say Charlotte was the best choice, but from our perspective this convention is giving a lot of union members jobs Š that's also a good thing." She added that the convention could be "an opportunity for us to highlight the struggles of workers in North Carolina."
Locklear was less optimistic: "I know it's going to benefit the city, all this money they're going to be getting. But us workers, what are we going to get? Nothing but work, work, work."

* * * * * * * * * *
AN OPEN LETTER TO:
President Barack Obama
Governor Beverly Purdue and the North Carolina General Assembly
The Democratic National Committee
The North Carolina Democratic Party Committee
The Charlotte Democratic Party Committee
The City of Charlotte

August 22, 2012
Dear National, State, and Local Officials,
As the Democratic National Committee continues its preparation for the National Democratic Party Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, starting September 3, 2012, thousands of public sector workers, first responders, and other public service providers in Charlotte (and throughout the state of North Carolina are being denied basic and fundamental worker's rights.  They are also denied important areas of cooperation by the City of Charlotte administration and management.
Unjust working conditions are part of the daily life of city workers in Charlotte. Unfair disciplinary actions such as 30 day suspensions for minor mistakes or infractions are a regular occurrence which many workers have complained about only to have their concerns ignored by management.  City policies are not uniformly implemented and applied at the whim and biases of supervisors department by department.  Reports of health and safety problems are routinely ignored by management. Wage increases for City workers are kept low or nonexistent while managers and supervisors have been granted thousands of dollars in pay increases and benefits provided by the city.
The Democratic National Convention (DNC) will convene in the City of Charlotte despite the fact that the State of North Carolina has been cited by the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO) for its violations of international labor standards due to North Carolina General Statute 95-98, the law that prohibits the right to collective bargaining for public sector workers in this state.
Despite the added work and dangers for Charlotte City workers in preparation for and in the aftermath of the DNC, and the fact that $50 million in federal funding has been allotted to the City of Charlotte to host the DNC, the City of Charlotte refuses to address the needs and rights of the City workers.
As the largest city in the state of North Carolina, including being a major financial center for the Southern Region, Charlotte's policies and practices on worker rights is an important trendsetter for the entire state.
Moreover, conservative forces in the NC General Assembly recently eliminated the right of payroll dues deduction for members of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the union for teachers and education workers.  The City of Charlotte administration, following this conservative line, has refused to allow payroll dues deduction for it's City workers who belong to unions and worker associations, and to set up a system of meet-and-confer that allows workers and management to meet, discuss, and resolve issues affecting the workers and the services we provide.
The right to clear, just, and fair policies in the workplace, fair and just working conditions, and regular "meet and confer" sessions between workers and their representatives with state and local administrators and managers are clearly a need in the state of North Carolina for public sector workers.  We are calling for the adoption of a "Worker's Bill of Rights" for public sector workers at the local and state levels to recognize, codify, and protect our rights and interests as public employees.
We implore the Obama Administration, the national, state, and local Democratic Party, Governor Purdue, and state elected officials who support fairness and justice, to contact officials in the City of Charlotte and strongly urge them to honor and enact a Municipal Workers Bill of Rights ordinance.
We implore the Obama Administration to call on the State of North Carolina to repeal NCGS 95-98, thereby coming into compliance with international labor standards that the US government is obligated to uphold by its membership in the International Labor Organization of the United Nations.

Sincerely Yours,
Southern Workers Assembly

Al Locklear, president
Charlotte Chapter,
UE Local 150

Richard Petway, president
Municipal Council,
UE Local 150

Angaza Laughinghouse, state-wide president UE Local 150,
The North Carolina Public Service Workers Union
UE Local 150 *

The North Carolina Public Service Workers Union
PO Box 46263
Raleigh, NC 27620
919-580-1009

For more information on the Bill of Rights call 704-241-9856; 203-379-7711
* * * * *

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2011-02-01 "Are America's Public Universities in Danger of Being Privatized?" by Bill Berkowitz
[http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/10402-are-americas-public-universities-in-danger-of-being-privatized]
Fourteen years ago, the president of the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy said that privatization "is now approaching the status of undisputed, conventional wisdom." With public universities facing unprecedented financial difficulties, is privatization coming to a public university in your state?
In a 1997 post-welfare reform speech, Lawrence W. Reed, president of the conservative Midland, Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, touted privatization as the wave of the future: "[Its] superiority ... is now approaching the status of undisputed, conventional wisdom: the private sector exacts a toll from the inefficient for their poor performance, compels the service provider or asset owner to concern himself with the wishes of customers, and spurs a dynamic, never-ending pursuit of excellence - all without any of the political baggage that haunts the public sector as elements of its very nature."
Reed discussed two basic shibboleths of privatization: private corporations have a critical role in bridging the gap between government capacity and needed services during times of government expansion (the Progressive Era of the late 19th Century, the New Deal and the Great Society); and privatization "reduce[s] costs and increase[s] efficiency during periods of reduced government funding," (the Reagan Era, Welfare Reform), as Kristi D. Laguzza-Boosman pointed out in her 2008 paper titled "Does Privatization at the Federal Level Serve the Public Good?"
Laguzza-Boosman also noted that the Bush administration "greatly accelerated the privatization efforts of previous administrations."
These days, in state after state, as Daniel Denvir recently pointed out in "Is American Higher Ed Screwed? Conservatives Try to Privatize College As Tuition Soars," the financial crisis has forced public university systems to re-think how they function: "As in most corners of American life, crisis is the new normal in academia. Investment returns to university endowments have plummeted, state aid is being cut, and critical federal stimulus dollars are running out. Tuition is up, enrollment is being capped, positions are being eliminated, and universities are increasingly relying on part-time adjunct faculty that shuttle from campus to campus in an effort to cobble together a paycheck."
In addition, colleges and universities are contracting out services, naming athletic facilities after big donors, and investing in e-learning as a significant commercial enterprise. Private-public partnerships - with multinational corporations often calling the shots, especially on patent ownership - are endemic. (See "Privatization and Public Universities," an Inside Higher Ed interview with Edward P. St. John of the University of Michigan and Douglas M. Priest of Indiana University, co-editors of the book Privatization and Public Universities.)
Denvir pointed out that politics may be the driver in the next wave of privatization: A mobilized Tea Party movement, Republican control of the House and 29 governorships, and recent GOP victories in November where they "won over 720 new seats in legislatures nationwide" has placed privatization in the forefront of the discussion about how public universities are going to survive.
The financial crisis in many states provides a launching pad for those advocating privatizing America's public universities.
As Naomi Klein argued in her masterful work The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, it often takes a crisis, real or manufactured, to open the door to implementation of long-held conservative ideas. She quoted the late Milton Friedman, a man she described as the "grand guru of the movement for unfettered capitalism and the man credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy," who said that "only a crisis - actual or perceived  - produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is out basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." Today, Friedman's crisis scenario is starting to be played out on the campuses of public universities across the nation.
Universities across the country have been forced to raise tuition and other fees, scuttle academic programs (especially in the humanities), and rethink tenure and performance bonuses. And, as Daniel Denvir pointed out, "the university is being remade to operate according to the principles that guide multinational corporations."
According to Denvir, "The business approach has already taken over much of the politics surrounding secondary education, with charter schools and easy-to-fire, performance-paid teachers touted as a silver bullet. High school reading and math test preparation has nudged aside courses on literature, art or history. The corporate makeover of higher ed has meant less job security for faculty, bigger salary differences between more or less 'valuable' professors, and an attack on the humanities, from literature to philosophy."

Privatizing Welfare: A Cautionary Tale -
With the privatization of America's public universities a distinct possibility, it is worth exploring another area where privatization was touted as the panacea: welfare reform.
Ten years ago, I was asked by the Applied Research Center, a racial justice institute, to investigate the privatization of welfare. In my report, titledProspecting Among the Poor: Welfare Privatization, I wrote: "Privatization, as touted by its supporters, was to be the guiding hand of welfare reform. It was supposed to convert bloated federal and state bureaucracies into streamlined and cost-effective corporate providers of services. Privatizers held that private companies would also administer welfare regulations more stringently and accurately, deliver more timely and efficient services, and only to the 'deserving' poor. At the same time, the private sector would save money for taxpayers. Private companies competing for contracts promised states they would dramatically reduce welfare rolls. Indeed, this is the one area they have been successful. But at what cost, and to whom?"
".... The privatization of welfare services has resulted in numerous examples of the erosion of services. Many programs are seriously under-staffed and there is a woeful lack of public accountability. There are an increasing number of local stories exposing corporate misdeeds under the 'cost of doing business'-the amount of money corporations spend to wine, dine, and pay off principles involved in making decisions about awarding contracts. The public gets what its paying for-poorly run welfare services in the hands of large corporations."
While my original report may seem to some to be dated, in 2006, ten years after The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, AFSCME released a report titled Safety Net for Sale: The Dangers of Privatization. The report pointed out: "In the past decade there has been an aggressive effort to privatize much of this safety net, shifting responsibility for programs to non- government entities. Privatization has been attempted in cash assistance, child welfare services, child support collection, and job training and placement programs. Contractors have included large and small for-profit firms, as well as non-profit organizations.
"The stated goal of privatization has usually been to reduce costs and improve services. The result has often been quite the opposite. The history of privatized social services is replete with cost over-runs and service breakdowns. Meanwhile, critical decisions affecting our society's most vulnerable citizens have increasingly been based on short-term private incentives rather than long-term public interests."
In March 2007, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, "a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy institute committed to improving public policies to better the economic and social conditions of low-and moderate-income Texans," pointed out in an op-ed in the Austin-American Statesman that, "Earlier this week, Texas announced the termination of its contract with Accenture, the private company the state hired to enroll Texans in health care, food stamps, and TANF cash assistance. Although privatization was supposed to save the state money and improve services to families, thousands of the most vulnerable Texans were wrongly denied benefits and the state didn't save a dime. "
A July 2009 article in the Fort Wayne Indiana Journal Gazette, titled "Medicaid problems swell in new system," led with: "Indiana's nearly 2-year-old experiment with a privatized welfare system appears to be failing." The article pointed out that, "The backlog of pending Medicaid applications has ballooned in counties where welfare is handled by private contractors." And, "...the contractors, led by IBM Corp., missed deadlines for processing Medicaid applications at twice the rate of counties that haven't joined the new system."
A Journal Gazette editorial didn't mince words when it concluded: "Enough time has passed in testing this business-model approach to administering vital public services. The results are not encouraging by any corporate measure and uncompassionate by any humane measure."
It is clear from looking at the record that welfare privatization has been a disaster for those in need (also known as customers), and a boon for the companies that received huge contracts (also known as taxpayer money) to deliver services.
At this time, there is no clear trajectory for the privatization of America's public universities. However, you can be sure that masterminds in right-wing thinks tanks are mulling over the prospects. Whether the arena is welfare services or higher education, it doesn't take a prophet to understand that there is a future in corporate profiteering.