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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making poverty a crime

2013-04-24 "Making poverty a crime"
by Jim Hightower [http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/04/24/making-poverty-crime]:
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org
Ebenezer Scrooge, the Dickens character, perfectly personified the nasty rich. For example, when asked to make a charitable donation for people trapped in poverty, Scrooge curled his lip in contempt and snarled: “Are there no prisons?”
Blessedly, our American society has progressed well past such heartless disdain. Unless, of course, you happen to be poor in Ohio. Or Georgia. Or in the nationwide utopia envisioned by Newt Gingrich.
Ohio’s Civil Liberties Union recently issued a report documenting the Scroogian return of debtors’ prisons after finding that municipal courts in that state are jailing poor people unable to pay court fines. Last summer, a suburban Cleveland court threw 45 people in jail because they couldn’t come up with the money for fines they were assessed, and the Sandusky Municipal Court imprisoned 75 down-and-outers for the same “crime.”
Besides the fact that jailing indigents for debts cost the courts way more than the fines they owe, it also violates the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.
But what the hey — on to Georgia, which has enhanced the debtor prison experience by privatizing it.
Say you roll through a stop sign. Uniquely, the Peach Tree State counts that as a criminal offense.
Now, say you can’t pony up the full fine. Suddenly, you’re in the clutches of a for-profit, private probation corporation. It charges probationers a $15 “start-up” fee, a $25 photo fee, and a myriad of other fees — on top of the fine they owe. Fail to pay, go to jail.
Where did this rip-off system come from? A private probation outfit bribed the head of Georgia’s Board of Pardons to get it passed.
And don’t forget Newt! During his failed campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, the former House Speaker said America needs to bring back workhouses for welfare children. Neat, huh? Let’s criminalize poverty. That’ll teach ‘em.

2013-04-04 "ACLU Report Exposes Debtors’ Prison Practices in Ohio; Investigation into Eleven Ohio Counties Finds Seven Are Illegally Jailing People for Inability to Pay Fines" 
Nick Worner, ACLU of Ohio, 216-474-2220
Meghan Groob, ACLU National, 202-715-0830, media@aclu.org
CLEVELAND - April 4 - The U.S. Constitution and Ohio state law prohibit courts from jailing people for being too poor to pay their legal fines, but in several Ohio counties, local courts are doing it anyway. The ACLU of Ohio today released The Outskirts of Hope, a report that chronicles a nearly yearlong investigation into Ohio’s debtors’ prisons and tells the stories of six Ohioans whose lives have been damaged by debtors’ prison practices.
The report can be read here: http://www.acluohio.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/TheOutskirtsOfHope2013_04.pdf
“Being poor is not a crime in this country,” said Rachel Goodman, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “Incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay fines is both unconstitutional and cruel—it takes a tremendous toll on precisely those families already struggling the most.”
The law requires that courts hold hearings to determine defendants’ financial status before jailing them for failure to pay fines, and defendants must be provided with lawyers for these hearings. If a defendant cannot pay, the court must explore options other than jail.
“Supreme Court precedent and Ohio law make clear that local courts and jails should not function as debtors’ prisons,” said Carl Takei, Staff Attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project. “Yet many mayors’ courts and some municipal courts jail people without making any attempt whatsoever to determine whether they can afford to pay their fines.”
Beyond the questions of legality, debtors’ prison practices make no financial sense since courts routinely spend more to jail defendants than they would recover in fines.
“Not only are these courts violating the law, they are actually losing money doing it,” said ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner. “In every case we profiled for The Outskirts of Hope, the county spent more money than it collected to incarcerate people for failure to pay fines. In many cases, it spent more than the defendant owed in the first place.”
“These practices are legally prohibited, morally questionable, and financially unsound. Nevertheless, they appear to be alive and well in Ohio,” added Brickner. “It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.”
In conjunction with the release of The Outskirts of Hope, the ACLU has sent letters to seven Ohio courts, calling for an immediate end to these illegal debtors’ prison practices. In response to a letter sent by the ACLU, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio expressed appreciation for the investigation and indicated interest in meeting to discuss the issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

2013-04-24 "Report: Wealthy Thrive and Poorest Dive as Surge in US Inequality Continues"

"Researcher says the income recovery thus far for a wide swath of US households has not existed”
by Lauren McCauley from "Common Dreams" [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/04/24-3]:
The great wealth divide in the United States has only become more exacerbated since the recession, as national policies have buoyed only the wealthiest Americans while the remainder have been left adrift.
According to a new analysis of Census Bureau data published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center [http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2013/04/wealth_recovery_final.pdf], since the economy officially emerged from the recession in mid-2009, the wealthiest 7 percent of households saw soaring gains of an estimated $5.6 trillion, while the remaining 93 percent—111 million households—saw their overall wealth fall by an estimated $0.6 trillion [http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/04/23/a-rise-in-wealth-for-the-wealthydeclines-for-the-lower-93/].

“It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of the wealth distribution,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and co-author of the report [http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/as-economy-recovers-the-richest-get-richer-study-shows/2013/04/23/fc2146ee-ab81-11e2-b6fd-ba6f5f26d70e_story.html]. “But there has been no recovery for the lower 93, which is nearly everybody.”
Though hailed as a success by many, this pattern of the rich getting richer was predominantly fueled by the stock market rallies during that period.
"Affluent households typically have their assets concentrated in stocks and other financial holdings," the report notes, "while less affluent households typically have their wealth more heavily concentrated in the value of their home," whose market has suffered or, at best, remained flat during that time.
“The income recovery thus far for a wide swath of US households has not existed,” Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Research Center told Huffington Post.
Mijin Cha writing for the Demos weblog, Policy Shop, points out that the Pew report does not even take into account those at the very lowest end of the income spectrum [http://www.policyshop.net/home/2013/4/24/a-recession-for-the-93-percent-good-times-for-the-7-percent.html].
"[T]he Pew report's cutoff for the 93 percentile is a household net worth of $836,033. The average household net worth is just $77,300. For communities of color, the average net household worth drops to just $10,824. If anything, the Pew study doesn't tell the full extent to which the wealthy advanced over the average household, particularly the average household in communities of color," she writes.
Cha adds that the findings demonstrate, "how it is the rich, not the poor, that benefit from government handouts. It was direct government support with taxpayer funds that saved the big banks and, in turn, enriched their shareholders. It's not social safety net programs that are bankrupting our country: it's the rich."
Government policies following the recession drove an even larger gap in wealth disparity as the richest 7 percent's slice of the nation's wealth grew from 56 to 63 percent by 2011.
"The Fed has kept things pretty good for the wealthy," said New York University economist Edward Wolff, of the policies that supported these gains in stock and bond markets [http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pew-wealth-recovery-20130424,0,772761.story].
Reporting on the research, the Washington Post adds [http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/as-economy-recovers-the-richest-get-richer-study-shows/2013/04/23/fc2146ee-ab81-11e2-b6fd-ba6f5f26d70e_story.html]:
[begin excerpt]
The wealthiest Americans were those most likely to own the financial assets that have done well in the recovery. They were 13 times as likely as other households to own government securities or municipal or corporate bonds. They were more than four times as likely to own stock or mutual-fund shares. And while almost two-thirds of households with at least $500,000 in wealth owned a 401(k) or Thrift Savings Plan, only 39 percent of those with less than half a million dollars in net worth owned one of those assets.
[end excerpt]
The report notes that overall American wealth increased by 14 percent between 2009 and 2011—a figure likely touted as evidence of a successful recovery. However, only a scant 13 percent of families, those with a net worth of $500,000 or more, ever saw any growth.
"The findings throw into stark relief the dramatically uneven nature of the recovery," writes Don Lee at the Los Angeles Times [http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pew-wealth-recovery-20130424,0,772761.story].

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ronald Reagan: Fascists in need of "their" President

Ronald Reagan was a classic example of a "puppet", an actor who played his role according to his script, even after he began suffering Alzheimers during 1984. His years as President was marked by complete control over foreign and domestic policies by a "shadow cabinet", unelected, which expanded pre-existing fascist militias across Latin America and Europe, and the expansion of prisons, and the drug war, against captive nations ("minorities") in the USA. Ronald Regan's status as a puppet continues, even beyond death, representing whatever the oligarchy wants him to represent to the "conservatives" of the USA.

President Ronald Reagan's support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine, a history in the current context (1981 to 1989) [link]

Reagan's job glory

The irony is that the legacy of Reagan is "to the Right" of some of Pres. Reagan's official policy stances.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 MXGM Annual Report reveals that 313 Black People were killed in 2012, averaging one every 28 hours

2013-04-08 "For Immediate Release: New Annual Report reveals that 313 Black People were killed in 2012, averaging one every 28 hours" [http://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/]:
Every 28 hours in 2012 someone employed or protected by the US government killed a Black man, woman, or child! This startling fact is revealed in Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes.
“When we started this investigation in early 2012, we knew a serious human rights crisis was confronting the Black community”, says Kali Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). “However, we did not have a clear sense of its true depth until we compiled and examined the annual figures. We have uncovered outrageous rates of extrajudicial killings--rates, that when they are found in countries like Mexico or Brazil, are universally condemned. The same outrage inside the U.S. also demands immediate action.”
Given recent revelations in the case of Floyd et al v New York City that challenge “stop-and-frisk”, our study demonstrates that NYPD violations of human rights are endemic throughout the U.S. For example, racial profiling that singles Black people for looking, driving or behaving “suspiciously” leads to at least 43% of Black peoples’ fatal encounters with police. Only 13% of those who were killed were involved in allegedly violent criminal activity that physically threatened others’ lives. These and many more of the Report’s findings reveal the deadly impact of systemic racism in the U.S.
Akuno further points out, “Operation Ghetto Storm follows the trail of extrajudicial killings to the rise of militarized police forces and their occupation of Black communities. And explores how systemic racism has led to increased militarization and militarization, in turn has exacerbated the human rights crises devastating Black communities.”
He added, “This Report breaks new ground by going beyond reliance on police department press releases and investigating as fully as possible the context and consequences of each killing. This investigative journalism serves as an example of respect for Black life so often neglected in public conversations.”
Arlene Eisen, member of the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee and the author of the Report, explained, "Any one of these people killed could have been my son or your husband or daughter. Regardless of education, class, behavior or dress, nowhere is a Black person safe from potentially-fatal racial profiling, invasive policing, constant surveillance and overriding suspicion.”
Based on a year of research, Eisen concluded, “police departments and government agencies throughout the United States go to great lengths to hide the data on extrajudicial killings, particularly the race of the murder victims. I am quite sure that there were more than 313 Black people killed by the police in 2012. Social movements in the United States must demand this information and must demand an end to these killings.”
Operation Ghetto Storm is issued by the Every 36 Hours Campaign and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and can be downloaded at [www.mxgm.org].

Monopolized Media Censorship

2013-04-09 "Prominent Establishment Journalists Turn Whistleblowers over News Censorship" 

from "Validated Independent News" [http://www.mediafreedominternational.org/2013/04/09/prominent-establishment-journalists-turn-whistleblowers-over-news-censorship/]:
Student Researcher: Brittany Cocilova, Florida Atlantic University
Faculty Advisor: James Tracy, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic Universisity 
Two former establishment journalists are blowing the whistle on their former employers for using censorship and propaganda to satisfy the agendas of domestic and foreign governments.
Instead of working to “print all the news that’s fit to print,” as the New York Times vows to do, Times journalist Daniel Simpson recently came forward claiming the paper is instead printing news that satisfies the agendas of those in power, mainly the US government. Tired of being a pawn, Simpson left the paper and spoke against the Times for its repeated censorship of his foreign policy reporting. Simpson further told reporters about the paper printing false intelligence information to start the war in Iraq.
Amber Lyon, a former CNN reporter, also recently came forward and said CNN censored her in-depth story on the brutality meted out by the Bahrain regime against pro-democracy protesters because the country is a financial backer of the network.
Censorship of critical journalism removes accountability from those in control, and can often result in blame being placed on the reporter for slipshod work.

* Greenwald, Glenn. “Why didn’t CNN’s international arm air its own documentary on Bahrain’s Arab Spring repression?” The Guardian (UK), September 4, 2012. [http://m.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/04/cnn-international-documentary-bahrain-arab-spring-repression?cat=world&type=article]
* J.D. Heyes, “Bombshell: CNN Takes Money from Foreign Dictators to Run Flattering News Stories About Them,” Natural News, October 4, 2012, [http://www.naturalnews.com/037423_CNN_payola_news_stories.html]
* Michael, Krieger, “Former reporter Amber Lyon Exposes Massive Censorship at CNN,” Liberty Blitzkrieg, September 4, 2012, [http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2012/09/04/meet-amber-lyon-former-reporter-exposes-massive-censorship-at-cnn/]
* Abby Martin, “NY Times Peddles War Propaganda/Interview with Daniel Simpson,” September 18, 2012, Breaking the Set, RT, [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CuEqywX1VQ]

2012-08-18 "Pennsylvania law gags doctors to protect oil company profits"
by  L. Christopher Banks from "Validated Independent News" [http://www.mediafreedominternational.org/2012/08/18/pennsylvania-law-gags-doctors-to-protect-oil-company-profits/]:
Student Researcher: Lyndsey Casey, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University
In communities affected by fracking, people understand the environment and their health is at risk. In Pennsylvania, a new state law requires drilling companies to tell doctors what chemicals they are pumping into the ground in order to extract natural gas. Doctors need to identify the chemicals so they can diagnose and treat patients who have been exposed. But there is a catch. Because the companies deem the chemical ingredients they are injecting into people’s backyards to be “proprietary secrets,” the law imposes a gag on doctors, meaning they are forbidden from telling anyone, including their own patients and other health professionals, what chemicals are causing the sickness. Pennsylvania’s landscape is pockmarked with over 5,000 oil and gas drilling wells, with more being added each week. Clusters of people are getting sick around the drilling wells. According to the logic of capitalism, it is more important to protect the “proprietary secrets” of oil and drilling companies than to protect public health.

Liberation news, June 13, 2012 [http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/pennsylvania-law-gags-doctors.html]

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Anti-Fascism: "45 Years after Dr. King, a New Movement for Economic Justice is in the Making"

by John August of "Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions" [http://www.calaborfed.org/index.php/site/page/45_years_after_dr._king_a_new_movement_for_economic_justice_is_in_the_makin]:

Forty-five years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in Memphis, Tenn., we are seeing the resurgence of a movement for economic justice.
Dr. King was in Memphis in April 1968 to support of one of the most significant labor and civil rights struggles of the time: Some 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers went on strike, with picket signs that read, “I am a Man.” The whole world was forced to pay attention to a peaceful yet determined demand that being human means being treated equally, regardless of race or ethnicity. The sanitation workers demanded to be able to make a living wage and be treated with respect at work. Sadly, hatred and resistance to change cost Dr. King his life. His leadership and martyrdom inspired and continue to inspire so many to stand up for racial and economic justice.
Déjà vu all over again
 April 4, 2013: In New York City hundreds of workers in fast food restaurants go on strike. Their demand: $15 an hour. Nearly all fast food workers are relegated to grinding poverty at minimum wage--$7.25 an hour in New York--and they picked April 4 to hold their job action, part of a growing movement among our nation’s poorest workers.
 Alvin Turner, now 78, and Baxter Lynch, 73, were on strike when they were sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968. The two social justice veterans were in New York to encourage a new generation of poor workers to stand up and make the struggle just as they did. In 1968, Turner and Baxter made 65 cents an hour. The $7.25 an hour that fast food workers make today places them in the same position of being too poor to survive, just like the Memphis sanitation workers, 45 years ago.
This story reminds all of us of the deep inequity in our society and underscores the truth--economic injustice is as deep today as any time in modern U.S. history. Here are a few facts:
 * 21 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession of 2008 were low-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created during the “recovery” are low-wage jobs.
 * By contrast, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession were middle-wage jobs, but, only 22 percent of those created during the recovery were these better paying jobs.
 * Since the end of the Great Recession, 43 percent of all jobs created have been in the low-paying industries of food service, retail and employment agencies.
 * Grotesquely, 31 states have introduced “wage suppression” bills; that is, legislation to repeal core wage standard and minimum wage laws.
 (See Low Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality by the National Employment Law Project, 2012 [http://nelp.3cdn.net/8ee4a46a37c86939c0_qjm6bkhe0.pdf])

Something has to give -
 As we remember the passing of Dr. King, it is encouraging--even uplifting-- that a new generation of poor workers has decided to engage in a real struggle. Think of the courage it takes for minimum wage, fast-food workers across New York to walk off their jobs and take a stand. This movement is bound to grow and while many of these workers have a lot to lose, many also recognize that they must risk what little they have if they are to have a chance to stem the tide of raw economic injustice.
Forty-five years later we remember Dr. King, we remember Alvin Turner and Baxter Lynch, and in the future we will remember the fast-food workers who took a stand.