The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 1054 — April 2 - 16, 2018

Editorial:
The Murder of Stephon Clark
– Legal Lynching

Apr 2, 2018

People in Sacramento have been carrying out protests for two weeks against the murder of Stephon Clark at the hands of the Sacramento police. Four days after the shooting, Black Lives Matter led a march that shut down the local Interstate and blocked basketball fans from entering the Sacramento Kings arena. A week later a protest caused the cancellation of another Kings’ game.

Clark was a 22-year-old father of two children. He was completely unarmed, and standing in his own grandmother’s backyard when one of two cops, directed there by a sheriff’s helicopter, shouted “Show me your hands! Gun!” Within three seconds, the two cops opened a barrage of 20 rounds, with Clark immediately falling to the ground.

The cops now claim they thought he had a gun in his hands. At first, they claimed he had a crowbar in his hands, then a “toolbar,” but video from the cops’ body cameras showed those were lies. The video shows that when other cops showed up, someone shouted “Hey, mute!” No further discussion could be heard. In other words, we have no reason to believe anything they say.

The cops claimed Clark was charging at them, but an independent autopsy, conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu, showed otherwise. Omalu is a former chief medical examiner for San Joaquin Valley County in California and a professor in the UC Davis department of Medical Pathology. Omalu concluded Clark was shot eight times; seven shots hitting him from behind. One to Clark’s thigh hit him in the side, but Omalu concluded that one hit Clark when he was either on the ground or already falling.

Police shootings of young black men in this country have become regular occurrences. In Sacramento alone, this was at least the third such fatal shooting in the last two years. Just recently, a cop in Houston shot and killed another unarmed man, Danny Ray Thomas, who was struggling with the death of his two children at the hands of his wife, walking out in traffic with his pants pulled down around his ankles. When he walked toward the cop, the cop fatally shot him.

A Washington Post study shows a consistent pattern of close to 1,000 fatal shootings in each of the last three years. Certainly, not all the shootings involve black people, but they do so in numbers vastly disproportionate to their share of the population. Not all were unarmed – but many were.

Since the killing of Michael Brown and the series of demonstrations which followed in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the people most commonly affected by violence at the hands of police, primarily poor and working class black people, have paid increased attention to such shootings. With the widespread prevalence of cameras in cellphones, people have begun to capture videos of actions of the police. When video evidence has become available, protests have sometimes forced officials to respond.

Only in rare instances have charges ever been filed, and in even fewer instances have the cops ever been convicted. Anyone paying attention could rattle off the names of many outright killings of young black men at the hands of the cops. They were captured on video for all to see. How many more have occurred out of sight of video cameras?

These killings at the hands of the cops amount to modern legal lynchings. Despite the protests being waged by people in the streets, killer cops can typically count on the backing of police officials, prosecutors, the courts, the U.S. Justice Department and most politicians.

The killings and consistent cover-ups by authorities are the demonstration of what the purpose of the police force is – an instrument to terrorize the poor and working class population, especially the black population, to keep them under control. The authorities aren’t about to “fix” it – these cops are doing what they were meant to do.

Pages 2-3

Murder in the Gaza Strip

Apr 2, 2018

On March 30, the Israeli military opened fire on Palestinians protesting at the border fence surrounding the Gaza Strip, killing at least 15 protestors and wounding more than 1,000. The situation in Gaza seems on the verge of boiling over.

Gaza is a narrow strip of land stuck between Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Its two million residents are mostly either refugees or the descendants of refugees, forced off their land when Israel was founded in 1948 and the years following. Israel, and to a lesser degree Egypt, control the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza.

And since 2014, Israel and Egypt have been squeezing Gaza to the breaking point. Israel has made it harder and harder for people to enter or leave the strip, meaning Gazans cannot go to work in Israel. It lets fewer and fewer trucks go in with supplies. Gaza gets less access to power and water than ever.

As a result of all this, life in Gaza is becoming untenable. More than half of Gazans rely on food aid from the United Nations. Electricity is only on for three to six hours a day. According to official figures, unemployment is 44% and rising. Gaza is on the brink of “total institutional and economic collapse,” according to the UN official responsible for the Middle East peace process.

As their lives and prospects deteriorate, is it any wonder that the Gazans protest? And in response to these protests, Israel offers only brutal killings and threats of more. The Israeli defense minister even tweeted in Arabic: “You go close to the fence, you put your life in danger.” Israel is warning these two million people in an open-air prison not to go near their prison’s walls, or they will face massacre by the most modern weapons!

Behind Israel stands, first of all, U.S. imperialism. Israel is the most reliable U.S. ally in this vital region. By propping up the Israeli regime, economically, militarily, and diplomatically, the U.S. is directly responsible for this human disaster unfolding in Gaza.

Haitian Immigrants Repressed

Apr 2, 2018

The U.S. Coast Guard seized 201 Haitians on broken-down boats near the Bahamas on March 14 and deported them to Haiti the next day.

The Dominican Republic's army deported 2,793 Haitians between March 9 and 16. The Defense Minister said they were undocumented immigrants and the operation was part of border security. Several Haitians had been killed or injured in revenge attacks by Dominican citizens in the border province of Pedernales where a Dominican couple was killed earlier. Paramilitary groups were calling for more retaliation against Haitian immigrants.

The capitalist system shows no mercy for the poor, neither in the Americas nor in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Facebook in the Spotlight

Apr 2, 2018

Facebook, a household name, lost 50 billion dollars in value in one day – the day it was revealed to have allowed the sale/access of the personal information of 50 million people. Cambridge Analytica, a data firm, collected the info under false pretenses and then used it to mine an even wider group of users.

Can anyone really be surprised? In this society, the internet is a venue to sell information for profit. Profit always seeks its highest yield – whether it’s selling merchandise or political elections.

Book Review:
I Can’t Breathe, by Matt Taibbi

Apr 2, 2018

On July 27, 2014, 43-year-old Eric Garner died after New York cop Daniel Pantaleo took him to the ground with an illegal chokehold. The video of this killing was seen around the world. In I Can’t Breathe, Matt Taibbi shows how both Garner and Pantaleo wound up on that street, and why their encounter led to Garner’s murder. He also shows how New York defends and maintains a policy that produces brutality and murder by the police.

Through interviews with Garner’s family, Taibbi shows him as a real person, not a hero or a villain, and certainly not just a victim. Garner was a big man – his friends reported that he would sometimes take a whole pizza, fold it in half, and eat it like a sandwich. He also put all his money into his kids, and wouldn’t even buy himself new sneakers or clothes until his old ones were falling off of him. Supporting his family was what drove him – first to sell drugs, then, after he spent time in prison, to sell loose cigarettes as a seemingly safer option.

But there was a reason Pantaleo attacked Garner – a policy called “broken windows” policing. The idea actually came from a social worker’s experience in a group home, where insisting on cleaning up and some basic rules helped kids. It became the reasonable idea that neighborhoods where broken windows are not fixed will quickly go into decline, but that keeping up small things can help people feel better about where they live.

But in our racist society, this quickly became an excuse to target black men on the streets. These men were themselves the “broken windows.” Police Commissioner William Bratton, hailed as New York’s “supercop,” turned “broken windows” into the infamous “stop and frisk” policy. New York cops stopped “the right people,” meaning black men, especially those who dressed like Garner. They searched them for drugs or any other kind of contraband. They started doing regular strip searches – right on the street, pulling down adults’ pants in public, humiliating them even if they did not arrest them. And they didn’t do this only to young men on the street – police harassed elderly black people coming out of church, and attacked people parked in their own cars.

Especially after expensive new housing went up right across from Tompkins Square Park in Staten Island, where Garner sold his cigarettes, he became a constant target – in part because of his size, and in part because he wore clothes that were falling apart. He was arrested again and again, and the police took any money he had on him, even when he did not have any cigarettes to sell. In fact, the day he was killed, Garner had not even been selling cigarettes – he had just broken up a fight. Like so many others, Garner was caught in a situation where the economic situation drove him to the underground economy, at the same time that a ramped-up policing policy targeted black men on the street – especially enormous black men like Garner.

The second half of Taibbi’s book explores the cover-up that ensued after Garner’s murder. New York needed a cover-up because Ramsey Orta took a cell-phone video of Pantaleo choking Garner to death, as Garner wheezed “I can’t breathe!” It was obvious to everyone who saw the video that Pantaleo had murdered Garner.

Despite this evidence, a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict Pantaleo. While the records of that Grand Jury are sealed, Taibbi makes it clear that the prosecutor, who was supposedly asking for an indictment, instead presented evidence to clear the murdering cop. This whole section reveals clearly how police and prosecutors act together to keep the system sending black men to prison, and to protect police no matter what they do. Taibbi shows the common practice of “testilying,” when cops manufacture evidence to get a conviction – like saying they saw someone “flaunting” their drugs, or that they had their drugs on the center console of their car, visible from the outside – when everyone involved actually knows the police carried out an illegal search.

Taibbi also shows how the supposedly extremely liberal New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, participated in the cover-up from beginning to end, and maintained the policy of “broken windows” policing. De Blasio brought William Bratton back as his police chief – the man responsible for stop and frisk in the first place. He threw activist groups and people like Al Sharpton, who had supported his election, under the bus. And while he made a famous speech about teaching his bi-racial son how to act in front of the police, he also pushed the police to continue all their aggressive strategies. This angered the cops themselves, since they felt like de Blasio was calling them out in public for things he was ordering them to do behind closed doors!

By painting a clear picture of the murder of Eric Garner, I Can’t Breathe provides a chilling indictment of the whole “criminal justice” system and the politicians who maintain it.

Sauce for Goose, Not for Gander

Apr 2, 2018

A new rule for U.S. companies with shares traded on stock markets requires that they report how much their chief executive makes, how much their average worker makes, and the ratio between those amounts.

Marathon Petroleum reports a median worker wage of $21,000, with many of those working part-time at their gas stations. The pay of their chief executive is 935 times as much.

Whirlpool says its median full-time worker in Brazil earns $19,900 a year while its chief executive earns 356 times as much. Kellogg reports a median wage of $40,000, and its chief executive earns 183 times as much.

Even firms where the average pay is much higher, like KKR, an investment firm handling billions of dollars, the ratio remains obscenely huge. At KKR, where median pay is given as $265,000 per year, the big bosses earn more than 400 times as much as the average employee!

These corporate notes show the enormous wealth the workers make for every company while still earning pathetic wages.

Pages 4-5

April 4, 1968:
The End and a Possible Beginning

Apr 2, 2018

The Spark #580, March 30-April 13, 1998:

April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee.

This political murder came at the height of the black movement which stretched back to World War II. At the same time, it was a turning point for that movement. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., laid to rest, once and for all, the hope fostered by black ministers, including King himself, and other professional people that segregation and racism could be overcome by methods of “passive resistance.” King’s assassination proved, as had all the other assassinations which preceded King’s, that the black movement was coming up against a system ready to use whatever violence was necessary to maintain its power.

The black population gave an immediate answer to the assassination of King. Hundreds of cities throughout the country were rocked by revolt. As the cities burned, the National Guard, police and other troops patrolled.

The cry of the black population, which had once been “We Shall Overcome,” by 1968 had become, “Black Power.”

With their raised fists, young black people were expressing their desire to be free of the existing power and to build up a new power independent of the American ruling class, which was both bourgeois and white.

At the same time, the working class, black and white, had once more begun to carry out tough and militant strikes, often going beyond the unions’ apparatuses which had long kept things in check.

For the first time, it seemed as though social revolution might shake the United States, the citadel of imperialism, the one power which had always seemed too powerful to be shaken.

A World-Wide Struggle

This determined struggle in the U.S. found its parallel or its echo in countries around the world.

The Vietnamese people, who had been fighting against foreign domination of their country since before World War II, by 1968 were showing that they could take on forces of the biggest imperialism, the U.S. The Vietnamese carried out an almost 3-month-long siege of the U.S. base at Khe Sanh. During Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, Vietnamese forces overran the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, as well as 36 out of 44 provincial capitals, including the old capital of Hue.

These battles were fought not only by regular military forces, but by large parts of the Vietnamese population, which acted as an unseen army, striking out when American troops least expected to come under attack.

It seemed that, in every country, 1968 marked a high point of struggle. In France, workers carried out a vast general strike in May and June. In Czechoslovakia, a series of student protests and workers’ strikes broke out, aimed at driving out the Soviet army. Demonstrations of solidarity spread into Poland. A series of strikes in Jamaica brought down that government. In Africa, strikes and protests spread through Senegal; and guerilla struggles had begun in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe. Students in Mexico, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, as well as the U.S., carried out a series of protests against the actions of the government of their own country.

Revolution Was Possible

Workers, peasants, young people from every class – in 1968, all these social layers were expressing their anger against a society based on exploitation and kept in place by oppression.

The young saw themselves as a new generation, ready to put aside personal ambition in exchange for the chance to fight for the welfare of humanity. Workers in many countries re-discovered something of their power when they massively took to the streets.

In 1968, the bourgeoisie – American, European and Japanese – did not have the opportunity, as they usually do, to combine their forces to destroy one small country, or to dominate one section of their own working class. Instead, they faced problems from every corner, including even in their own armies.

1968 might have been the year when the working class began the final struggle to toss capitalism on the scrap heap of history forever. 1968 could have been the year which ushered in the work to organize a socialist society.

Instead, 1968 became simply a highpoint of struggle, a chapter in history books.

The chance for revolution in the United States, which the rebellions of 1968 and the demand for black power had made into a possibility, was turned aside.

Repression played a role, of course. But people, in fact, were showing that it was possible to overcome repression.

Reforms also played a role in suppressing this vast mobilization. In this country, the bourgeoisie began to grant a number of concessions to the black population; at the same time, it accepted and even established a layer of black politicians, who stood as a proof that the system was finally responding to the needs of black people. Behind this claim lay the idea that the black population could now turn its future over to the politicians.

But this maneuver did not work because people were so easily “bought off” by crumbs. It worked because there was no revolutionary proletarian party which called on the masses to organize their own power. Certainly, there were militants who said to the black population, “We will destroy this system if it doesn’t give us what we want.” But there was no organization which said to the black workers that unless they were ready to take on the system and destroy it, they would not get and keep what they needed.

Around the world, the situation was similar. No place were there organizations which led struggles with the aim of preparing the laboring people to get rid of capitalism once and for all.

In Vietnam, those who led the struggle wanted essentially only recognition of their right to run their own country within the world-wide capitalist framework.

In no country were there enough people who proposed to the laboring people to set up their own power, to create their own society. But without such people, without the nucleus of a revolutionary party, the massive social struggles which spread throughout the world were eventually contained. The threat to bourgeois order receded.

Sooner or later we will see this same situation again. The ever increasing desperation of vast numbers of people, including in this country, show that a new social explosion is simmering below the surface, waiting to break out.

We need to remember the lessons of 1968, the year when King was killed. Massive social struggles like those which broke out in some countries can quickly bring forth equally massive struggles in other countries. The spreading of social struggles evens the odds.

But the laboring people have to be conscious of the possibilities, ready to take advantage of the opportunities when they appear. For those things to happen, there have to be revolutionary workers’ organizations built up ahead of time.

In the years preceding 1968, activists had written off the working class; they had decided it would never struggle again. They did not do then, what must be done now. They didn’t do the work in advance to create revolutionary groups whose goal is to prepare the working class to take power.

Small though they might be, if such groups really exist in a number of countries, they can make the difference. They can be the factor which turns the next wave of struggles into a successful, world-wide working class revolution, rather than one more memory.

50 Years Ago:
East L.A. Blowouts

Apr 2, 2018

The month of March marked the 50th anniversary of the East L.A. high school walkouts, which the students called “Blowouts.”

In the 1960s, high schools in East Los Angeles were run-down, overcrowded, and had very high drop-out rates. When students and their parents brought their demands for a better education before the Los Angeles school board, the board told them to wait for improvements, like officials and politicians always do. Some young activists, including students and recent graduates of East L.A. high schools, had already been planning actions – a walkout, in particular – when about 200 students at Wilson High School walked out on March 1, 1968, over the administration’s rejection of a proposed play by the school’s drama department.

The activists saw their opportunity, and seized it. They spread the word for a walkout, and on March 5, a Tuesday, students at Garfield High walked out in large numbers. In the next two days, thousands of students at four other high schools in the area – Roosevelt, Lincoln, Wilson and Belmont – walked out also.

In the face of the protests, the authorities showed their stance in no uncertain terms. Police in riot gear attacked teenagers engaged in peaceful protest and beat them savagely – including on the premises of two schools. School authorities threatened the protesters with suspension, expulsion, and taking away college scholarships.

These open attempts at intimidation did not weaken the students’ resolve. By the end of the week there were more than 10,000 students in the streets. Students at two other high schools, majority-white Venice High on the West Side, and majority-black Jefferson High south of Downtown L.A., also walked out in solidarity with mostly Mexican-American East L.A. students. Ten days into the protests, students presented a list of demands to the school board, which included new schools, small class sizes and new libraries, along with demands that specifically targeted racist discrimination against Mexican-American students.

As the authorities turned a deaf ear to the students, repression followed. The DA’s office arrested 13 people on charges of inciting the walkouts, and demanded 66 years in prison for each of the accused! The “Eastside 13” was made of mostly young political activists who had already graduated from high school. But, notably, the 13 also included a 34-year-old teacher, Sal Castro, who had openly supported the walkouts and participated in them.

After intense protests, the 13 were released on bail a few weeks later (two years later an appeals court would drop the charges also) – but the L.A. school board fired Castro anyway, for being “an accused felon”!

Outraged, students, joined by parents, began to picket the school board to get Castro his job back. When the school board turned a deaf ear to the protests once again, a few dozen students occupied the school board offices for an eight-day “sleep-in,” until the board caved in and reinstated Castro as a district teacher.

This immediate win gave the students, and their working-class community in general, a heightened sense of pride and involvement. In the following years, many participants of the Blowouts would go on to participate in the mass movements that marked the time period, including the fight against racism, the anti-war movement and the women’s movement.

Pages 6-7

Teachers Stand Up in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona

Apr 2, 2018

Starting in West Virginia, where more than 30,000 teachers and school employees organized a state-wide strike – winning 5 percent raises – the idea of making a broad fight is starting to spread. A West Virginia teacher said of their recent strike, “We wanted to inspire teachers all across the nation.” A good plan!

After a decade of tax breaks to corporations and cuts to education, teachers are pressuring state lawmakers for more money for education. Organizing on a state-wide level, teachers are protesting and shutting down school systems.

In Kentucky, thousands of teachers called in sick in outrage on Friday, March 30. All the schools in 20 counties were closed. They did this because, late Thursday night, Kentucky legislators had passed a sneak attack on teacher pensions. Angry teachers stormed the state Capitol on Friday, March 30, demanding the Governor not sign that legislation into law.

At roughly the same time, in Oklahoma, legislators rushed through a pay-raise they thought would prevent a planned state-wide teacher strike on April 2. It included the state’s first tax increase in years. The governor has already signed it into law.

Oklahoma politicians claimed teachers would see a 16 percent pay raise. But teachers quickly studied the legislation and did the math. The numbers did not add up! Proposed funding is only 15 percent of what teachers had been demanding!

“We have buildings that are falling apart and text books that need to be taped together,” said a suburban Tulsa teacher. In Oklahoma, 20 percent of schools are only open four days a week, due to cuts. Teachers say they want raises for all state employees. They plan to walk out state-wide on Monday, April 2.

In Arizona, teachers are also ranked low in pay. Thousands of teachers rallied at the state Capitol on March 28, demanding 20 percent raises from state lawmakers. They want schools to be funded roughly as well as they were back in 2007!

It is important that all of these teachers are trying to organize at a state-wide level. The broader the fight, the broader the possibilities. This is true for teachers and public employees, but also for workers in every walk of life. Whether the teachers win or lose is less important than the experience they are gaining in learning how to unite and fight.

One Kentucky teacher summed up today’s situation well. She said the outpouring of angry teachers Friday at the state Capitol reflected the mood of many workers who have seen cuts to wages, pensions and healthcare. “It’s an attack on American workers,” she said. “It’s all over the country.”

Support for these teachers needs to be solid from every worker. And if one day these fights start to be “all over the country” – even better!

The Scheme Behind the Toys "R" Us Bankruptcy

Apr 2, 2018

After filing for bankruptcy in September 2017, Toys “R” Us announced that the company is going to close all of its 730 stores in the United States, and that its stores in Europe and Canada are up for sale. The company has about 1,600 stores worldwide in 38 countries. More than 30,000 workers are threatened with losing their jobs in the U.S. alone.

According to common perception, Toys "R" Us went bankrupt because it could not compete with Amazon. Debt was, however, the real reason behind the bankruptcy.

In 2005, three "private equity" firms, Bain, KKR and Vornado paid 6.6 billion dollars to purchase Toys "R" Us. These private equity firms contributed only $1.3 billion toward this deal and paid the rest, $5.3 billion, by borrowing the money. This is a so-called "leveraged buyout" scheme in the finance industry, where the bought-out company is saddled with the loan, or debt, of the equity firms. Toys "R" Us was drowned in this debt.

Bain, KKR and Vornado charged Toys "R" Us with so-called transaction fees, totaling $362 million, before the ink was dry on the contract.

Whereas Toys "R" Us had $2.2 billion in cash and cash equivalents before the leveraged buyout, by 2017, these cash deposits had collapsed to around $300 million. Over the same period, its long-term debt skyrocketed from $2.3 billion to $5.2 billion. Toys “R” Us was required to pay more than 400 million dollars a year in interest alone on its debts, which was nearly twice the company’s annual net profit.

In spite of generating more than $11 billion in revenues, year after year, and the company’s ability to function and sell a lot of toys, the company was not able to off its debt.

Clearly, it is not competition that has strangled Toys “R” Us. It is Wall Street and its leveraging schemes.

Leveraged Buyouts Ruining Retail Stores

Apr 2, 2018

The retail industry's total leveraged debt skyrocketed to $152 billion in 2017. Not only Toys “R” Us, but other large retailers like Sears and The Bon-Ton may collapse under their heavy leveraged debt.

In leveraging schemes, the private equity firm buys a company by using a significant amount of money (i.e., debt) borrowed from banks, pension funds, and other investment firms.

It is rather common that the private equity pays only 10% of the purchasing price of the company, and the debt used to carry out the purchase can be as high as 90% of the price. Hence, the private equity “leverages” its buyout onto the company it buys, and takes comparatively little or no risk.

The collateral in this debt scheme are the purchased company's assets (e.g., cash in the bank, buildings, machines, land, inventories) and cash flow (e.g., cash generated from sales).

Since the private equity controls this scheme, it recovers part of its investment up-front, at the time of the purchase, by charging high amounts of fees for the "work done" toward the purchase and asking for immediate dividend payments for its investors. The private equity structures the purchasing contract such that it gets the first cut in the case of bankruptcy.

Bloomberg predicts such schemes could cause bankruptcy of many sound and fully functional big companies. There is more money to be made stripping and flipping companies than there is in running them.

Page 8

Big Turnout for “March For Our Lives” Rallies

Apr 2, 2018

It’s estimated that at least two hundred thousand people participated in the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. on March 24. Demonstrators completely filled Pennsylvania Avenue – a very wide street – for at least 10 or 12 blocks, stretching from near the Capitol toward the White House.

The big majority of the demonstrators were women. There were students, teachers, parents and many other people. About 80 percent were white, 10 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic.

The many speakers at the rally were white, black, Hispanic young women and men – and they were all students – no politicians. How refreshing! The calls and chants of “Enough Is Enough!” reverberated throughout the area. Signs people carried included: “NEVER AGAIN!", “Arm Teachers with Resources, Not Guns”, and “No More Silence, End Gun Violence!”

Smaller rallies also took place on March 24 in hundreds of other cities and towns around the U.S. and even in some other countries. Tens of thousands rallied in New York City and Los Angeles, thousands in Chicago and Detroit and hundreds in Baltimore, to name just a few.

Many who participated in these rallies believe that elections and the Democratic Party can be used to change things fundamentally for the better. They will learn that this is an illusion.

The Democrats are very happy to keep pushing this illusion, to say that the only thing to be done now is to vote and then wait for the Democrats to act.

But the students and their supporters are showing that we don’t have to wait. No matter what the outcome of these rallies and the recent walkouts by students at hundreds of schools around the country, the fact that millions of people – and particularly young people – have decided they need to act to change things bodes well for the future.

Stormy Daniels Bullied and Threatened

Apr 2, 2018

The interview of Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, had more than 22 million viewers when it aired on the television program 60 Minutes.

Clifford spoke out in the face of potential penalties contained in a “hush agreement” which may proscribe any public disclosure of a personal intimate affair with Donald Trump in 2006.

The Clifford story was not salacious, nor was it overly dramatic or flashy. It included the bullying she has been subjected to, and also a report of being threatened in a parking lot while her baby was in the backseat of her car. She alleges that she was approached by a man who told her to leave Trump alone because it would be a pity for the child to lose her mom.

According to Clifford, when approached in 2016, just prior to the election, she had no reason not to sign a non-disclosure agreement as presented. She said that in any event, she did not want the details of the relationship to go public, and feared for the safety of herself and her child. She maintained that she is not a victim, and that finally, she wants her own story back and to be free of the lies being told about her, the bullying, and the threats.

Certainly, there has been an interest in her story as it may affect the future of U.S. President Donald Trump both politically and legally. The payment made to Clifford by Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohn may constitute a political contribution that was not reported by either Cohn or Trump during the 2016 elections, which constitutes a violation of U.S. election law.

Perhaps what was most surprising about the interview to many was the reasonableness and directness of Clifford’s testimony. A large majority of viewers indicated that they believed Clifford over Trump. Perhaps most shocking in all of it was the matter of fact way in which we have been socialized to accept bullying and violence against women.

What is normal about open recognition that Trump has a “fixer” who can bully women? What is normal about an “agreement” that contains a million-dollar fine for each incident of disclosure; for just talking about an affair! What is normal about a man, let alone a President, filing a 20 million-dollar countersuit against a woman he had relations with!

The Clifford story is a high publicity reflection of the same old story: that this society not only permits but thrives on the bullying and exploitation of women, and the violence used to support it.

Should the future reveal discrepancies in the Clifford story, the underlying report of bullying and violence, including threats, will still remain credible.

Bottom-Feeder Tactics Against Student Leaders

Apr 2, 2018

Conservative Fox News talk show host Laura Ingraham taunted a Parkland shooting survivor, David Hogg, for “whining” about having some of his college applications rejected. Hogg is one of the most vocal activists in the #Never Again movement.

In response to this bottom-feeder tactic, Hogg urged his more than 630,000 twitter followers to “tweet” away at Ingraham’s top sponsors and call on them to boycott her TV show. And as a result, sponsors like Expedia, Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, and TripAdvisor said they would pull their ads.

Facing the boycott, Ingraham apologized for her personal attack against Hogg. But Hogg rejected her apology, saying he felt the apology was merely an effort to save her advertisers. He spoke about how the movement that has developed in the aftermath of the Parkland shootings is, in fact, having its impact – about how these personal attacks and outright threats of violence against himself and other student activists are proof that the corporate and political powers that be have reason to fear the potential of this movement.

One of his Twitter messages captured his spirit and his intention: “Just got rejected from another college but that’s ok we’re already changing the world....”

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