The Spark

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

Issue no. 955 — January 20 - February 3, 2014

Editorial:
Congress Wages War on the Working Class

Jan 20, 2014

More than a million workers were cut off of extended unemployment benefits on December 28th. Many more will be impacted in months to come as regular unemployment benefits run out. The U.S. Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did this. They let the Extended Unemployment Compensation program lapse. They just let it time out, while making political speeches between their holiday vacations.

Some Congressmen even had the audacity to argue that the extension of benefits encourages workers to lay back and shop for the best paying jobs. As if anyone can lay back on an average of $300.00 a week! (Some states pay much less.) And feed a family and keep a roof over your head? Ridiculous.

Of course, even government advisors point out the obvious: workers are not going back to work because there are not enough jobs. Those who do utilize extended benefits on average only stay off work one week longer than those who do not. The extensions have been in effect in one form or another since the 2008 crisis.

Regardless of the debate in Congress, regardless of the political games that may even result in extended benefits being made available again (after weeks of missed checks), it is obvious that Congress, on behalf of the rich, is waging a war on the working class.

And why not? These wealthy politicians are themselves millionaires, at least half of them, according to a recent report. They are living the good life. They wine and dine with the upper class while carrying out capitalism’s political policies.

These so-called representatives, Republican and Democrat, are used to passing laws that constitute an attack on the working class. They are in agreement to cut benefits for the working and poor while calling it “balancing the budget.”

They just cut 5 billion dollars in funding from food stamp programs with 6 billion more in cuts to follow. One out of every three children in the U.S. relies on the SNAP (food stamp) program. Authorities like the American Academy of Pediatrics have taken official positions against these cuts as a threat to child health in the U.S. But who in Congress is listening?

For the wealthy, the crisis that began in 2008 is over. Wall Street made record profits in 2013 from a reduced national workforce. Six of the largest U.S. banks just reported 76 BILLION DOLLARS in earnings in 2013, just 6 billion short of their all-time high in 2006. They brag that they intend to break all records in 2014.

For them, unemployment and poverty are part of the system. For them, unemployment is an acceptable part of capitalism – a way to keep wages down to the minimum. They took the money and ran. They have managed to transfer unimaginable amounts of wealth from the working class into their bank vaults – driving down wages while eliminating jobs.

The rich and their politicians, both Democrat and Republican, are becoming more and more callous. Even if a few politicians cry crocodile tears about it, they will continue to put the burden of the crisis on us unless we fight back.

The only times workers have moved forward in their struggle for a better life were the times they organized independently and fought massively for their own interests. Workers gained rights from sit-down strikes and marches and protests to gain Social Security and public education and an end to racism, but never by waiting on politicians.

Want a job, a house, a better life? We’ll have to take it back from those who stole it – the banks, the bosses and Wall Street. We will have to fight for it – fight for jobs and make the capitalists pay a good wage. Make them provide food and shelter for those temporarily out of work.

Take it out of their profits, their assets, their stocks, their bonds – we don’t care where they get it, just not from us. Make them pay the cost of the crisis that they created!

Pages 2-3

Israel:
Sharon – A Life Written in Letters of Blood

Jan 20, 2014

This article is from the January 17th, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

After the death of Ariel Sharon on January 11th, the same lies that were uttered when the warlike brute first went into a deep coma eight years ago resurfaced again almost word for word. “The man of courage and peace” celebrated by Bush, Chirac, and Blair remained “the man who knew how to turn toward a dialogue with the Palestinians” (to quote the French President Hollande) or who “took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace,” according to the British Prime Minister Cameron.

The Palestinians, who have long had to endure the violence of the Israeli ruling class, had an entirely opposite view of Sharon.

A Series of Crimes

Already in 1953, Sharon led Unit 101, which specialized in murderous operations such as the massacre in the village of Qibya that resulted in the deaths of 69 Palestinians. In the 1970s, Sharon violently attacked Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 100. Around the same time, he expelled thousands of Bedouins from the Rafah region on the Egyptian border, destroying their homes and blocking their wells.

Next came the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, promoted and led by Sharon when he served as Minister of Defense in the government of Menachem Begin. This war, which cost the lives of more than 15,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, remains fixed in the memories of many by the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, two Palestinian camps. These massacres were carried out by the Phalangists, a militia of the Lebanese far right, under the watch of the Israeli Army. At the time, the U.S. mediator Philip Habib had harsh words to say about Sharon, declaring that he was “a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians” and adding, “I had promised Arafat that his people [staying in Beirut] would not be harmed. Sharon, however, ignored this commitment entirely. Sharon's word is worth nothing.” Even in Israel, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against Sharon’s policies.

At the end of 2000, Sharon staged a provocative visit to a Muslim holy site in Jerusalem. The Palestinian revolt that followed marked the beginning of the Second Intifada. Presenting himself as a remedy for the terrorism that he had himself unleashed, he was elected in the 2001 legislative elections. He then started a war in the Palestinian territories, with the siege of Jenin and of the compound in Ramallah where the Palestinian leader Arafat was holed up for months on end. Many Palestinian towns were bombed. The Israeli government continued to build walls and fences of all sorts, such as the infamous “Separation Barrier” that today cuts off the entire West Bank.

The Retreat from the Gaza Strip: Nothing Close to a Gesture of Peace

Sharon’s decision to pull settlers from the Gaza Strip in no way contradicted his earlier policies. Indeed, Israeli leaders had expected such a retreat for a long time, since the situation in Gaza was untenable for the Israeli Army and it was becoming absurd to station more soldiers there than there were settlers to protect. However, none of the previous governments had the political courage to start such an evacuation, especially not the Labor Party governments. Who better than a right-wing nationalist leader like Sharon to make the settlers accept such a decision with minimal conflict?

But the occupation of the West Bank continued. Day after day, existing Jewish settlements expanded and new ones appeared, absorbing Palestinian land. Settlers raided fields or stole them outright in order to build connecting roads reserved only for Israelis. About 8,500 settlers were evacuated from the Gaza Strip and certain settlements in the Jenin region, while the population of settlers in the West Bank grew by 15,800 at the same time.

A Man of “Peace,” Thanks to the Labor Party

The evacuation of the Gaza Strip would certainly not have been enough to confer the image of a man of peace on Sharon if the left had not uncritically supported the policy and helped him build a so-called “centrist” party to replace the right-wing Likud.

This is how a right-wing general with a bloody past came to be presented as a supporter of a peaceful future for the peoples of the Middle East, Israeli as well as Palestinian. A deception of the highest order!

Murdered by a Cold System

Jan 20, 2014

Three young children died in a house fire in Hammond, Indiana, and their father was badly burned while saving the other two children in the family. The fire was probably started by a propane space heater that this family was using because they had no gas, electricity, or heat.

The parents of these children met while working together at Walmart, but more recently, the dad worked odd jobs and couldn’t bring in enough to afford utilities. So the family was left with a deadly choice: freeze in the bitter cold, or risk using dangerous space heaters.

This is the result of a system where heat and housing are produced for profit, and where workers who can’t afford them are faced with these kinds of deadly choices. These children’s deaths, and countless others like them every single winter, show that this system has got to go.

For Wisconsin Millionaires, a Politician in Every Pocket

Jan 20, 2014

Multimillionaire Wisconsin businessman Michael Eisenga wants to cut his child support payments. So he decided to change the law.

Eisenga and his lawyer wrote line-by-line instructions to the staff of a Wisconsin State Representative, to whom he’s given thousands of dollars, to write a law capping the amount of income used to calculate child support at $150,000. In 2010, Eisenga made $1.2 million, so the new law would allow him to pay a tiny percentage of his income to support his kids.

You’re not safe from these guys’ greed, even if one of them is your father!

Poverty Causes Diabetes Emergencies

Jan 20, 2014

According to a new study in California, poor people with diabetes are much more likely to go to the hospital for dangerously low blood sugar at the end of the month. The researchers think this is because millions of people rely on government benefits that come at the beginning of the month, and they run out of money by the end of the month. On top of that, rent and other bills are usually due at the end of the month, leaving low-wage workers and people who rely on government benefits without enough for food.

Of course, running out of food each month can have many other serious health consequences too. It can even contribute to obesity, since the cheapest food is usually the least healthy.

Like health care, shelter, and clean water, regular access to food should be a human right. After all, we need to eat to live!

Detroit Plans More Handouts to Billionaire Ilitches

Jan 20, 2014

The city of Detroit is planning to hand over to billionaires Mike and Marion Ilitch 37 properties in the area where a new hockey arena will be built, according to the Detroit News. The land giveaway, still to be approved by the city council, is part of a 650 million “development” plan for the area, which also includes 450 million dollars in state and city tax breaks to the Ilitches for building the arena there.

The area of the development also happens to stretch all the way from Detroit’s current entertainment district to the Motor City Casino and Hotel, owned by none other than Marion Ilitch, and will provide parking, restaurants, and other entertainment to patrons of the casino.

The city is keeping details of the development plan hush-hush from residents in the area. Somehow, however, land speculators seem to know enough about the plan that they are buying up properties in the area, expecting to make a fast buck when the plan comes to fruition, according to the News.

The city and state have plenty of money to hand to land speculators, contractors, and billionaire sports team and casino owners like the Ilitches. At the same time, state and local politicians and the media howl about supposedly “greedy” city workers fighting to stop cuts to their pensions and retiree health care. It’s Robin Hood in reverse: Taking from city workers’ meager retirement income to give to the filthy rich!

Pitting the DIA against Detroit Retirees

Jan 20, 2014

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and a federal mediator announced a plan to “save” the Detroit Institute of Arts and City of Detroit retiree pensions. Nine foundations would put up 330 million dollars, and the state would add 350 million dollars.

But the money doesn’t come without strings attached. The DIA would have to come up with 100 million dollars of its own money to make it happen; money the art museum, of course, doesn’t currently have. In addition, the city-owned museum would be turned over to a non-profit organization.

The implied threat in the “grand bargain” is that if the DIA doesn’t fork over the dough, the choice is between city worker pensions and the DIA’s art.

This is how the politicians, the judges and the media frame the question. None mentions the handouts taken from city tax rolls by corporations such as GM, Ford, and Compuware and real estate developers like Dan Gilbert, Max Fisher, and Al Taubman or the crooked loan swindles carried out by the banks against the city.

Hands off retiree pensions AND the DIA art! Make the corporations and the banks pay!

Pages 4-5

The Rape of Public Education:
Corporate Takeover of Neighborhood Schools

Jan 20, 2014

The following article was excerpted from a presentation made in a public meeting in Detroit in November.

For the last 20 years, we have been repeatedly told our schools are in crisis and are failing the children, that too many children are practically illiterate and will be unable to get a job when they graduate.

The “solution” – pushed by the federal government under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama – is to get rid of the unions and teacher tenure so “bad teachers” can be fired; to “hold teachers accountable” through lots of high stakes testing; to have a “no excuses” doctrine of high expectations for all students, and last, to give parents of students who attend these terrible, failing neighborhood schools a choice by providing competition for the public schools – that is, charter schools.

It’s true that many school systems are failing the children. Most working class parents know their children receive an inadequate education.

And it’s absolutely necessary for schools to start with “high expectations” for every student. But in order for that to happen, we have to look at what prevents that today – what has really created this “crisis” in the schools.

Starving the Schools for Money

First of all, money plays a very big role in education. Children who come from families where money is tight often arrive at school without the background needed to learn. Poverty and racism, which are the direct results of living in this class society, are the basic causes of educational illiteracy. Blaming, firing and replacing teachers will not make poverty go away!

There is an answer to that: organize the school systems so that a greater share of the resources go into the schools where the students are most in need.

The states do exactly the opposite – the most money goes to schools serving the children of the wealthy. And this outrage is getting worse. Today most states are starving the schools in the cities and rural areas where poverty is rampant. Here in Michigan, Governor Snyder has cut more than a billion dollars over the last two years, and is working to defund public schools of another 825 million dollars this year.

“School Reform” – the Growth of Charter Schools

So-called “reformers” push charter schools – to give parents a so-called “choice.”

A little history: The first charter school started in Minnesota in 1991. Many of the early ones were run by universities, or were started up by a small group of innovative teachers. They seemed great; they appeared to foster real alternatives. But now, twenty years later, what do we see? 9,000 charters nationwide, with 90% of them now for profit, either directly or indirectly. Even in a so-called “non-profit,” you can see a fancy CEO overseeing small numbers of students, making $400,000 a year. Charter school chains are sprouting up everywhere like McDonalds.

In 20 years, Michigan’s charter schools grew from none, to holding nearly 9% of all students in the state! And the state continues to authorize even more. The governor says this is providing “choice.” In fact, a large majority of students were forced to go to the charters when their neighborhood schools were closed. They had no choice.

Charter schools are their own school district, with no elected school board, so there is no control over them. They don’t have to follow the state curriculum or rules established for the public schools. What laws there are can be ignored, because there’s little oversight. No curriculum means students can use a 6th grade textbook in a 9th grade class, if they use a textbook at all. More and more charters just park students in front of computers.

Study after study has revealed that, on average, the best charters are doing no better than their comparable neighborhood public schools. Charters are doing much worse – despite the fact that charters can “cherry-pick” their students, and many push out the so-called “troublemakers” or students with low test scores. Nonetheless, the politicians in both parties push the growth of charter schools.

Poor pay, minimal benefits and harder working conditions cause charters to have an average 20% teacher turnover rate; of course, in some schools it’s much higher. This is devastating to the youth who need stability and adults they can count on.

“Teach for America”

Who do these charter schools hire? Many times they are staffed exclusively or in the majority by young people fresh out of college, with just five weeks of teacher training, sent in by the so-called “Teach for America.”

Teach for America? It may have started out to assist public education by assigning young, idealistic college graduates to teach in high shortage areas like math and science in poverty-stricken inner cities. Though they were not trained at all as teachers, supposedly these young people were better than a new substitute teacher each day.

In fact, “Teach for America” was always a bad idea. If there weren’t enough trained teachers, money should have been put into recruiting them and training them – not into putting a poor imitation of a teacher in schools serving inner-city children!

It’s not only charters that use these untrained “TFAers.” States or mayors took control of “failing” inner city school boards all over the country, kicked out older unionized teachers and replaced them with non-union TFAers. They were used not to just fill vacant positions, but to replace laid-off union teachers in public schools.

TFA has grown so big and important, that in the bill to re-open the government during the shut-down, a clause was slipped in to extend the legal definition of five-week trained TFAers as “highly qualified” teachers.

TFA and the Millionaires behind “School Reform”

TFA, along with the rest of so-called “education reform”, has been pushed and funded by some of the wealthiest right-wingers in the country, whose concern is anything but education.

The Koch Brothers, Sam Walton, Bill Gates and Michigan’s own DeVos family give billions of dollars of grant money to Teach for America, to charters or to school privatization legislation. Bill Gates alone threw two billion dollars into the push for TFA, more charters, high stakes testing, and no tenure.

One of the many ways the Koch Brothers use their enormous wealth is to try and buy school board and other elections all over the country. For example, they financed the recent governor’s election in Wisconsin, and supported four TFAers running in the last school election in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Denver, Seattle and many other cities.

But above all, their push has been for “high-stakes testing,” pretending that tests will be used to improve education for the children.

High-Stakes Testing – in Place of Real Education

Tests have been pushed as a way to get rid of teachers who have tenure and to close schools, sending the children instead to charter schools – which, by the way, are not required to test in many states!

The result has been constant testing, and preparation for tests – to the exclusion of much else that provides real education. It benefits only the test companies and the test prep suppliers like Pearson & Rupert Murdoch. It harasses the teachers and traumatizes the youth.

For example, in Pittsburgh, there were 270 standardized tests given to K-12 students this past year. There are 33 required tests in 4th grade alone. New laws say no one is exempt from these tests, even Special Ed or English as a Second Language students. Obama’s “Race to the Top” says even kindergartners must be tested to see if they’re on their way to becoming “college ready.”

Of course test scores are lower in high poverty areas. But to pretend that coaching children how to take the tests will give them an education is a lie.

Look at what the reformers do when they do give tests. To raise scores in an area plagued by parents working two jobs, homelessness, violence, drugs, alcohol and all the killing effects of poverty, one of the big charter chains called Klein is using behavioral psychology to raise test scores. If a student does not do their homework, for example, they are publicly ridiculed and made to stand through lunch. Children are bullied, humiliated, beaten down, and pushed out if they don’t perform. This national trend is aptly called nothing more than a school-to-prison pipeline.

All over the country, students are told they must miss recess or music class to make up for their low achievement on certain tests. Schools cancel elective classes to mandate two hours of math and two hours of English, the only scores which “count.” But this is junk science.

It’s well known that children’s minds retain knowledge better if the student has physical outlets such as recess or gym, and that children are more engaged if offered music and art.

But all this is being tossed aside in the new high-stakes testing regime.

The EAA and the Destruction of Valuable Neighborhood Schools

Detroit’s new EAA (Education Achievement Authority) was set up for 15 schools that were graded as persistently failing, based on the tests.

Despite widespread poverty, despite the state’s starvation tactics, despite a lack of adequate resources and supplies, schools that actually taught and offered hope to youth still had managed to survive. In one old-fashioned neighborhood public high school, Detroit’s poor young people had a national award winning chess team, a robotics program, partnerships with two universities, a drama club, an award winning choir and dance team, a band, sports teams, AP and honor classes, and provided a safe environment. Millions of dollars in college scholarships were awarded to students from this school. Students came from other neighborhoods because of the school’s reputation. Yet a large percentage of its students could not achieve the state defined “pass” score on the Michigan Merit Exam. Year after year, the school was given an F grade! It was called “persistently low achieving.” Its innovative principal was forced to resign. Twice, half of the teachers were fired, and teachers who were fired at other so-called “failing” schools were shifted over into it. Programs were in disarray. Finally all the teachers were fired. This school, along with 14 others, was given to the EAA.

Today, it is staffed by the inexperienced TFAers, the programs are gone, and students sit behind a computer to learn. This is criminal!

Thousands of schools just like it all over the country have been closed in the name of “reform.”

The reformers have wrecked the hopes of city youth, in order to give contracts to their friends. If we want real reform, we must fight this killing starvation of public education. If we want real reform, we must fight for more funding, more resources to provide smaller class sizes, more elective programs to enrich learning, less testing, and extensive early childhood education. And no excuses!

How can you say there are failing students when society has failed them? How can we accept to put up with a society where over half of our young people live in poverty, and it’s getting worse every day? How can we accept the school-to-prison pipeline? How can we allow only a minority to get access to a real education and a hope of a future?

We say this is “the rape of public education.” The rapists say the victims brought it on themselves. We say these criminals are destroying our very lives. We need to destroy their plans for us.

Pages 6-7

West Virginia Chemical Spill

Jan 20, 2014

On January 9, inspectors discovered that 7,500 gallons of MCHM, a chemical used to process coal, had leaked into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia. Some 300,000 people were left without water for drinking, bathing, or other uses for five days or more, and at least 200 people visited emergency rooms after drinking the poisoned water.

Freedom Industries stored the MCHM in a tank from 1938 that was put together with rivets, instead of the more modern method of welding. These old tanks are “just an accident waiting to happen,” said one storage tank company manager. The tank that leaked was surrounded by a retaining wall supposed to catch any liquid that leaked, but that wall wasn’t maintained either, and it allowed the chemical to flow into the Elk River.

The government is as much to blame as the company. There are lots of laws on the books that are supposed to prevent an accident like this, including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, but they weren’t enforced. Inspectors had been on the site recently, but they had only been there to check air quality, not the quality of the tanks. The state of West Virginia had no response plan for the release of a chemical like this, even though the area around Charleston has so many chemical plants and tanks that it’s called “Chemical Valley.”

This is not the first accident to happen in Chemical Valley in recent years. In 2008, a Bayer Cropscience pesticide explosion killed two workers and injured eight others. In 2010, a DuPont plant released a nerve gas used in World War I three times, killing another worker. Each time, government regulators found the company cut corners to save money, but nothing changed.

It’s obvious that dangerous chemicals need to be stored safely, away from the water people need, and we have the technology to do so. But the corporations will continue to endanger our lives to save a few bucks, and the politicians will continue to let them do so, until we hold them to account.

Boeing Machinists Pushed to Give Concessions

Jan 20, 2014

In a bitter and narrow vote, workers in the Machinists union at Boeing’s main production facilities in Washington State’s Puget Sound region agreed to an eight-year contract extension.

It was, as they say, an offer that the Boeing workers couldn’t refuse. In return for giving up their traditional pension plan, Boeing promised the workers that it wouldn’t move production of its new airplane, the 777X, somewhere else, as it had been threatening to do.

So, workers were supposed to choose between either losing their pensions or losing their jobs. But in reality, the new agreement takes away both.

Certainly, Boeing provided the workers no job guarantees. On the contrary, the agreement gives Boeing the green light to outsource what it wants. The agreement says: “Boeing may contract or outsource certain 777X wing fabrication and assembly work packages in whole or part.” And no doubt, Boeing will use the threat of outsourcing to force Boeing workers to agree to big productivity increases and speed-up, thus eliminating lots of jobs.

Not only that, everyone expects Boeing to come back with demands for new concessions when it announces plans to build new versions of its airplanes, the 737 and 757. Boeing will pull the same kind of extortion racket as it just did, again ... and again.

If the history of the last 40 years of workers’ retreat proves anything, it is that by agreeing to concessions, you don’t save jobs. No, you lose still more jobs.

The only way workers can stop this massacre is for our fights to spread and to grow.

Washington Gas:
Leaking Gas, But Not Profits!

Jan 20, 2014

Researchers found nearly 6,000 leaks in Washington Gas's underground natural gas pipes, including 12 manholes with enough methane pressure to explode.

In the last 30 years Washington Gas has replaced fewer than half of its cast iron pipes, some of which date back to the early 1900s. These corrode over time. So what about plans to replace the rest?

Since the company has cut 38 percent of its workers since 2001 while executive compensation has rocketed to 16 million dollars per year, we can guess they are going to make any such plans!

Fiat Buys Chrysler
– Retirees Stiffed Again

Jan 20, 2014

Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne and the UAW-VEBA Trust made a surprise announcement on New Year’s Day. The VEBA, which provides health care for about 60,000 Chrysler hourly retirees, would sell its entire stock in Chrysler to Fiat for the bargain price of $4.3 billion.

Somehow, Fiat’s 2009 agreement to pay $6 billion to the VEBA disappeared.

No happy new year for the retirees. The VEBA, $3 billion underfunded, already picks their pockets every month, and this deal means the pickpockets will be back for more, sooner.

In the 2007 contract with Chrysler, the UAW first agreed to become the administrator for retiree health-care benefits. But Chrysler provided less than half of the money needed to keep paying the promised benefits! Retirees were falsely told that this would mean no changes for them, and the new fund would be “good for 80 years.”

It wasn’t good for 80 months. On Jan. 1, 2010, the new VEBA took over and immediately shifted costs onto retirees. Chrysler had paid all premiums – now retirees had to pay monthly premiums. Chrysler had covered all medical costs – now retirees had to pay co-pays on services. Chrysler had provided dental and vision coverage – now retirees were on their own.

And since then, every year on January 1, the premiums and the co-pays and charges go up.

The government guaranteed Chrysler’s survival and helped it thrive. But the workers whose years of labor built up Chrysler are left with shrinking resources and broken promises.

Page 8

Franklin McCain:
A Young Man Who Made a Difference

Jan 20, 2014

Franklin McCain, one of the four college students to sit-in to integrate a Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, died on Jan. 13.

McCain was only a freshman when he decided to act. As he put it, he was “too angry to be afraid.” He and three friends at his college took an enormous risk to attempt the integration of a store in Greensboro, North Carolina at that time. It was common not only for white racists to attempt to terrorize or beat or even murder black people, but it was also common that the law looked the other way.

That’s why McCain recalled the civil rights era in this way: “If I were lucky, I would go to jail for a long, long time. If I were not quite so lucky, I would come back to my campus, but in a pine box.”

Still, McCain and thousands of others decided in the 1950s and 60s that they had had enough of the racism that permeated every aspect of life in the United States. Sit-ins, marches, protests and voter registration drives required enormous bravery. Black people came forward and stood up and took the risks.

Today, the site of the Woolworth’s is a museum to the U.S. civil rights movement. Much changed thanks to what that generation did.

Yet U.S. society is as segregated as ever. Black workers are hit by unemployment and poverty at even higher rates than white workers. Stupid racist attitudes persist, supported by the so-called justice system.

It will take a new generation coming forward to fight again for this society to change, and to make it permanent.

Baltimore:
Tyrone West Died at the Hands of Police

Jan 20, 2014

The Baltimore State’s Attorney on December 19 finally reported on the death of Tyrone Antonio West, age 44. The report confirms that West died on July 18 after nine police maced and beat him with batons following a traffic stop. However, the long-delayed autopsy report dares to claim that the police did nothing wrong. Essentially, because he “resisted,” the report excuses the police for beating him to death!

Family members had to protest every week for five months just to get the city to release this report. Now the city hopes to sweep this travesty under the rug with this ridiculous report!

Orange County, California:
Cops Get Away with Murder

Jan 20, 2014

An Orange County jury acquitted two police officers who beat Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill man, to death in Fullerton, California in July 2011.

This verdict is simply outrageous. A surveillance video shows Thomas, confronted by several cops, sitting on the curb. Then one of the cops puts on gloves, tells him he’ll punch him, and grabs his arm. When Thomas, shirtless and unarmed, tries to walk away, six cops pile up on him and begin to beat him brutally.

Thomas’s desperate cries for help did not stop the cops’ violent binge. Suffering broken bones and brain injuries, Thomas died five days later.

When authorities refused to bring charges against the cops, Fullerton residents protested in the streets and packed city council meetings in outrage. Under pressure, the Fullerton police chief resigned. In June 2012, voters recalled three city council members, who had defended the murderous cops, by two-to-one margins.

When charges were finally brought after all this public outcry, it was against only two of the cops. And the trial was held in Santa Ana, not Fullerton: like so many times before, authorities were protecting police brutality under the guise of a “fair trial.” But the trial was anything but fair. The cops’ attorneys portrayed Thomas, the victim, as a drug abuser and a “potentially” violent man – as if any of this was relevant when several cops had him pinned down and under control.

“Legal experts” tried to explain away the senseless “not guilty” verdict by saying courts are “reluctant to question cops’ decisions during confrontations.” Kelly Thomas’s father Ron, himself a former sheriff’s deputy, put it in plain English: “Police officers everywhere can beat us, kill us, whatever they want, but it has been proven right here today they’ll get away with it.

Only if we let them!

A “Crime” to Make Possible a Better World

Jan 20, 2014

On the night of March 8, 1971, eight activists broke into the FBI office in a suburb of Philadelphia and stole thousands of pages of documents showing how the FBI was spying on U.S. citizens.

The burglary disclosed a huge effort by the FBI against civil rights and anti-Viet Nam war activists, to disrupt these movements and threaten those who participated. The documents included an attempt by FBI Director Hoover to blackmail Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The mystery of who the eight people were is solved in a new book called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, written by a former reporter for the Washington Post.

The name of this earlier effort at spying was COINTELPRO, which stood for “counter-intelligence program.” In the “land of free speech,” the FBI was spying on and attempting to disrupt the efforts of many thousands of protesters. One message found by the so-called “burglars” stated that FBI agents should interview, i.e., harass, activists so that “it will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.”

Whether or not activists felt harassed or paranoid, the publishing of some of these documents by the Post and the New York Times showed how far Hoover was prepared to go against black people and anti-war protesters. The attorney general at that time called the editors to try to insist the information about COINTELPRO not appear in the papers.

When thousands, even millions, are active against the government’s policies, it is harder for the police or other repressive agencies to act against them. And, it gives courage to many other people who would otherwise not have done anything.