The Spark

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

Issue no. 958 — March 3 - 17, 2014

Extreme Weather
– and Very Extreme Job Cuts

Mar 3, 2014

The winter of 2013-14 has brought apparently never ending snow, ice storms and record cold temperatures in much of the country. It also brought real paralysis. Streets, highways and sidewalks often weren’t plowed or salted. Many places ran out of salt altogether. So many giant potholes weren’t repaired, big stretches of roads and highways are crumbling. In the South, all it took was a couple of inches of snow that turned to ice for hundreds of thousands of motorists to be stranded in their cars for up to 36 hours.

In many cases, public services practically collapsed.

So did the service provided by private utilities. Millions of people, including in parts of Kansas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, lost electricity for long stretches of time. And weeks after the snowstorms hit, the utilities still did not have power back on for tens of thousands of households.

It became risky and dangerous just to try to get to work, pick up the kids at school or go to the store. With large stretches of ice, many people fell, often breaking bones. For those most vulnerable, those who couldn’t get out because they are old or sick or poor, it was even more dangerous. People die when streets are unpassable and ambulances are blocked. People die when water lines break and firefighters don’t have water to fight fires. People freeze to death in their own homes when they are shut in without electricity or gas. Homeless people freeze to death on the streets or in their cars.

In many ways, the winter of 2013-14 is a repeat of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Public services disappear when the public needs them most. But that’s because those services aren’t there during “ordinary” times.

Politicians of both parties have constantly slashed budgets and drained them of money and resources in order to provide big businesses and banks with ever more tax breaks and subsidies of all sorts. Today, entire departments are little more than empty shells. The work that all those people did is simply not done. Vital infrastructure, including roads and bridges, are not maintained, let alone built up and modernized. Streets, bridges, sidewalks, public lighting are left to fall apart, especially in working class neighborhoods and communities. So are water and sewer systems.

It’s not one bit different with private utility companies. More and more of their budgets and resources are used to provide fat profits, dividends and interest payments to big shareholders and the banks. Almost nothing is left for actually repairing or maintaining all the necessary lines and equipment for electricity, gas and water. No wonder so many systems break so often, setting off countless outages ... in so-called “normal” times, not to speak of “extreme” weather.

From Obama to every governor, mayor and county executive, every Republican and Democrat, it is the same story. They all blame the “extreme” weather. Yes, the weather is bad. But what’s really “extreme” is the length to which the capitalist class and its political flunkies go to cut the cost of labor, by attacking jobs, along with the vital services that the laid off workers used to provide. It is a self-reinforcing cycle of worsening joblessness and ruin.

Working people have every reason to demand that everyone’s needs be met, that vital public services be brought back and expanded. Millions of people must be put back to work, including all the experienced workers, who had been tossed aside, along with millions more young workers who have been either shut out of the job market, or slave away in temporary jobs that pay next to nothing.

But we won’t get that just by asking. Working people will have to take on the capitalist class, along with its political lackeys. Until the working class organizes its forces to impose its needs on the capitalist class, the capitalists will go on destroying our livelihoods, along with the cities and towns we live in.

Pages 2-3

Detroit Bankruptcy “Offer” Is More Like a Threat!

Mar 3, 2014

Detroit’s emergency dictator Kevyn Orr released his “proposal” for solving the city’s bankruptcy. General city retirees would receive 74 percent of the pensions they were promised, under the plan. That’s if – and it’s a big if – they go along with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal for the State of Michigan, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), and charitable foundations to pitch in money to the pensions fund, and do so “in a timely manner.”

If they dare to resist and drag things out, Orr threatens they will only receive 68 percent of what they were expecting.

If they don’t knuckle under, we’re told, the city will be forced to sell off the DIA’s art collection to pay its debts, the water department will get a worse deal over its management from the suburbs, and the street lights will stay off for even longer. City residents will be deprived of billions and billions of dollars in city services.

Even if they do accept the plan, all it calls for is for the state and charitable foundations to put in about 700 million dollars. Street lights are out all over the city, and all residents are getting are promises from the new mayor, Mike Duggan, that the city will meet national lighting standards by the end of NEXT year. Meanwhile, the city is already in the process of cutting whole departments and farming out the work.

It’s part of a big game Orr, Snyder, and all the media pundits are playing to make people think city workers have to go along with this “Grand Bargain.”

According to them, city workers should be grateful; after all they are being offered “more” than the banks, since the pension fund would get 25 cents on the dollar for what it’s owed and the banks would “only” get 22 cents.

Poppycock! Comparing 24,000 pensioners to a small handful of huge banks is like comparing apples and oranges. City retirees worked for the city their whole lives and gave up wages to earn their pensions. They’re not making profits off of high-interest loans. Some of the banks, incidentally, are getting 100 percent of what the city “owes” them, because their debt is considered “secured.”

City retirees are being told to expect to live in poverty. As it is, their pension benefits are already a big reduction from what they were making while they were working.

Cuts to retiree pensions and cuts to city services are not the only two choices. The banks who benefitted from predatory lending and the corporations, stadium owners, and real estate developers who received huge tax breaks created the city’s financial crisis. Get the money from them!

Washington, D.C.:
The City that Avoids Responsibility

Mar 3, 2014

A Southeast D.C. man was killed while crossing the Sousa Bridge after the big storm a couple weeks ago. Joseph Brown was walking in the street because the sidewalk was buried under more than a foot of snow and ice. He was struck by a pickup truck that was unable to stop because of the ice on the bridge. He died of his injuries in the hospital three days later.

And what did the city do?

Did they promise to clear the sidewalks from now on to prevent such unnecessary deaths?


They gave the man who died a citation for not using the “available” sidewalk!

The city’s solution to snow on city sidewalks: don’t remove the snow, just issue jaywalking tickets.

Big Money Trumps Charges of Rape at U of Michigan

Mar 3, 2014

In December 2013, University of Michigan’s starting kicker, Brendan Gibbons, was removed from the team for “violating the university’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy” four years earlier when a woman told police that Gibbons raped her at a frat party in 2009.

A teammate, Taylor Lewan, threatened to rape the woman himself if she pressed charges against Gibbons. The university has taken no action against Lewan.

Why did the university wait so long to act? All the information was there four years ago. While Gibbons was an eligible, productive member of the hugely money-making football team, nothing was done. But now that Gibbons is done playing for the university, they kicked him out.

President Mary Sue Coleman claimed that “athletics had no role in the Gibbons case.” She’s right. Money did. Lots of money.

A Disaster Everywhere!

Mar 3, 2014

Suddenly, with Michigan’s “Education Achievement Authority” set to expand to include schools beyond Detroit next year, officials in the rest of the state are discovering what a disaster it has been.

Currently, the EAA includes 15 schools in Detroit. There is no cap on the number of schools it could eventually swallow up, and there is no process in place for the schools to exit the Authority and return to their public school districts. It’s a potential bottomless pit into which schools will disappear. So now state representatives are putting together legislation to cap that number and to include an “exit strategy” for the schools.

Since the EAA was set up by the governor a year ago, it has been a disaster. Students are left alone to work out their lessons on computers – when they have computers! – while Teach for America staffers sit and watch them. Numerous reports of physical abuse have surfaced. Recent test results show the schools are performing worse than before the EAA took them over.

Enrollment in the EAA schools has declined by almost 25 percent in just over a year. State senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood from the nearby city of Taylor points out that “according to the governor’s own metric, the EAA should be dissolved, not expanded across the state.”

No wonder these state representatives are so concerned! But where were they when this dumping ground was set up to swallow Detroit schools? Students, parents and teachers in these schools could have told them what a disaster the EAA is. In fact, they WERE talking about it. But these reps weren’t listening when it wasn’t touching their kids!

Los Angeles:
Schools without Libraries

Mar 3, 2014

About half of the 600 elementary and middle schools in Los Angeles Unified School District have no trained librarians or library aides. As a result, these schools have either been using volunteers and other school workers to staff their libraries – or have shut down their libraries altogether!

This is one result of deep budget cuts and massive layoffs in LAUSD in recent years. The school board has simply stopped paying for librarians in elementary and middle schools!

In affluent areas, parents can raise money to hire librarians and keep the libraries open – so this kind of cut only hurts schools in working-class neighborhoods. And that’s exactly where students need school libraries, because there are fewer books in their homes.

In what kind of a society do schools deny their students access to books? In capitalist society, where public officials work to help the capitalist class get richer – by depriving the children of the working class even basic education today.

Men We Reaped:
Book Review

Mar 3, 2014

Men We Reaped, a new memoir by Jesmyn Ward, shares with readers a glimpse of working class black life in her home town of DeLisle, Mississippi – an hour away from New Orleans, Louisiana.

From the year 2000 through 2004, the author lost to violent death five young men she had grown up with. She tells the story of her own life as inseparable from the lives of her family members and friends who died so young.

The author grew up happily but poor, within the protection of a tight-knit family network, with deep roots in the area, stretching back generations.

The author was born in 1977. The older adults in her family shared stories with her of how fear of the Ku Klux Klan in an earlier era and in a later era – the Black Movement of the 1960s – influenced their lives.

The author and her generation grew up and lived during the rise of drugs and imprisonment that came as the Black Movement receded. The author describes the slow creep over time, as “Death spreads, eating away at the root of our community like a fungus.”

She “escaped” educationally because her mother worked as a maid for wealthy white families. A means was arranged for the author – but not her three siblings – to get a better education. She attended a private school on a “scholarship,” funded by families her mother worked for. She was the only black girl at her all-white private school for most of her education.

But she could not “escape” the pain inflicted on her family and friends.

The author’s writing is so gripping that the book is difficult to put down. She carefully builds toward the book’s powerful conclusions on the role played by racism – and in reality, class oppression – in the deaths of her young friends and family members.

This is a book that gives voice to those who are often voiceless in this society. Men We Reaped is available in libraries, in e-book and as an audio book.

Pages 4-5

Ukraine and its Self-Proclaimed Saviors

Mar 3, 2014

After these articles were written, on March 2 the Ukrainian crisis escalated when Russian troops took control of the Crimean Peninsula, which has historical and military ties to Russia. The article, “The Risk of Partition, and What It Would Mean,” explains the underlying situation and its enormous dangers.

All the following articles are translated from issue 2378 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The thousands of demonstrators, who have revolted in Kiev and have paid the price in blood, have forced Yanukovych to flee and to fall from power. We can only rejoice in the fall of this corrupt president, capable of shooting down his own people.

But is the Ukrainian population now on the road to democracy? If the population wants to end the reign of the crooks who have been in power since the country became independent, it can’t count on those political forces that are mobilized right now.

Ten years ago the population overthrew the Yanukovych government in what was called “the Orange Revolution.” The population placed its hopes in the opposition parties and was sorely disappointed, to the point that Yanukovych returned to power!

To topple a dictator is one thing, but now the opposing forces face each other. Only the political forces that are organized and know what they want can weigh on this situation. People who want to fight without thinking about the direction they want to take are doomed to serve the maneuvers of others.

And in Ukraine, it is obvious that the politicians who fight for power don’t represent the interests of the ordinary people. One group pushes for close ties with the European Union, while the others emphasize nationalism. But, whether they are pro-European or pro-Russian, all of them will govern in the interests of the richest people who dominate the economy, the famous oligarchs who have made their fortunes by monopolizing the old state businesses or sponging off of them, by taking advantage of their connections to the government.

Tymoshenko or Klitschko, the two most famous opposition leaders, will only perpetuate the reign of the oligarchs. Klitschko, known for his boxing talents, is a rich businessman, son-in-law of a Ukrainian ex-president known for cruelty and corruption.

When Yulia Tymoshenko headed the main opposition party, the Western journalists presented her as “the incarnation of the democratic dream!” Far from it. She was born and raised among the highest levels of the bureaucracy, to the point that she was nicknamed the “princess of gas.” Crowned the richest woman in Ukraine, she has already twice been Prime Minister. And she governed like her predecessors, displaying a level of greed just as extreme as Yanukovych.

While the population has nothing to hope for from these people, the Western governments and Putin are counting on them to quickly stabilize the situation. Despite their differences and their rivalries, the great powers are in a hurry to end the mobilization of the population and replace the Yanukovych government with a new one.

But the situation could escape their control. The extreme right has reinforced its position during these three months of mobilization. Armed groups of the extreme right held Maidan, the central square in Kiev, for weeks. Some of these openly invoke Nazism, rest on nationalism, and organize against Russian-language speakers, Jews, the Roma, and minorities in general.

They are now taking advantage of the power vacuum to take over police stations and town halls and declare themselves the defenders of order. They set one part of the population against the other based on their language or their religion. And, at the risk of dividing Ukraine, they could lead the population to a bloody impasse. The speed that Yugoslavia divided and plunged into the appalling cycle of ethnic cleansing shows what could happen. Once this process is launched by the demagogues, it’s very difficult to stop.

The future is not written, but it will belong to the political forces that are organized. The population and the workers are faced with the possibility of the return to power of people whose politics resemble those of Yanukovych as much as one drop of water resembles another, and with the menace of the nationalist and extreme right forces. In this situation, the population and the workers have no other choice but to organize, to gather themselves together and to impose their own policy. The fall of Yanukovych, like that of Ben Ali in Tunisia or of Mubarak in Egypt, shows that when a population is determined to oppose a corrupt government, it has the means to do so. If the workers are determined and organized, they have the power to put forth their own demands against the oligarchs and the great powers and to impose them on the political life of the country.

The Risk of Partition, and What It Would Mean

Mar 3, 2014

After the installation of the new government in Kiev, the media discovered that Ukraine was more than its capital. Initially, they depicted this “revolution” as a mobilization of the whole population against the old regime. Now it’s clear that not only is there no unanimity among the population, but the situation could lead to a partition of the country.

In the Ukrainian-speaking West, there is massive support for the right and far-right opposition of “Maidan” (named for the square in the center of Kiev where the protestors gathered). The authorities in this region have been swept by the ultra-nationalists, or they have submitted to them. Svoboda, the party of the extreme right, gained close to 40 percent of the vote in these provinces and feels strong enough to try to ban communist organizations. On the night of February 20, extreme right commandos succeeded in taking over the headquarters of the police and other organs of repression in Lvov and seven other cities in the west of the country, and seized the weapons they found.

By contrast, in the industrial, Russian-speaking East, the attitude of the majority of the population remains wary, if not hostile, toward the forces that control the capital. And the authorities in this part of the country take the same stance. In the city of Kharkov which is close to Russia, an anti-Maidan Ukrainian Front is being formed. This is the second biggest city in the country and capital of the soviet Ukraine after 1917, with a million and a half inhabitants and a lot of industry. The local authorities in the region of Donetsk, with its steel mills and mines, threaten to secede.

The south of the country is equally uneasy with the new government in Kiev, especially in the Crimean peninsula, where the majority of the population is Russian. Khrushchev attached this peninsula to the Ukraine in 1954, which was just an administrative move within the Soviet Union. But the USSR has disappeared, and its administrative borders have become borders between countries. And this changes many things.

The division of Ukraine in two parts, more or less opposed to each other in language, in level of economic development, and increasingly by the demagogy of unprincipled politicians in each camp, presents great dangers. The repeated warnings by Obama and his European counterparts against Putin’s temptation to play the east of the country against the nationalist government in Kiev show that the Western leaders take the threat of a divided Ukraine seriously. For years, they have pushed to separate Ukraine from Russia and have heavily supported those forces which are also pushing in that direction. Now they are disturbed by the possibility of a conflict that they have helped start and that, if it gets out of their control, could ravage that part of Europe.

Nothing says that the situation will get to that point. But one thing is certain: If Ukraine splits in two, the West will bear a heavy responsibility for a separation that, in light of the circumstances, won’t be friendly. Though it was presented as a civilized divorce without animosity, the division of Czechoslovakia in 1992 was a reactionary development: the Slovak leaders wanted their own state to control, and the Czech leaders wanted to get rid of the less developed Slovakia that hampered their integration into the imperialist market. During that same time period there was another division of a country, which went much worse: the division of Yugoslavia. This was provoked by the rival ambitions of the bureaucrats of the country, fueled by the rivalries between the great powers of Europe. The result was a war that lasted many years, with millions of people left homeless, hundreds of thousands killed, a ditch of blood dug between populations by their leaders and their disgusting policies of ethnic cleansing.

A partition of Ukraine would present the risk of another Yugoslavia, but ten times worse because the country is bigger and more populous. Without recalling the pogroms of Tsarism, Ukrainian history gives plenty of tragic examples. During World War II, Ukrainian nationalists allied with the Nazis in their hunt for Jews, Poles, Russians, and communists. During the same period, Stalin organized murderous deportations of whole peoples. After the dissolution of the USSR, bloody conflicts shook the Caucasus and the Asian regions of the ex-USSR for a quarter of a century.

Of course, nothing is certain. But the game of the great powers and Russia in the ex-USSR, and the maneuvers of the Ukrainian politicians who play on the nationalism of one group against another, all create a time bomb ticking in the heart of Ukraine, in the population and among people who are neighbors.

When Everything Moves

Mar 3, 2014

At the end of November 2013, a few hundred students contested the power of President Yanukovych in the streets, and the riot police could not break their struggle. That was enough for the movement to engage many more people from all social groups and regions of the country in just a few weeks.

Certainly, in the grand square of Kiev, there were more students, middle class people, small business people, rural laborers, and the poor than workers from the big companies in the capital or from the East. But the fact is that a few tens of thousands of people gathered together and protested, at the risk of their lives, to say “no!” to a corrupt government that killed to protect the tycoons who pillage the economy, the oligarchs....

To the extent that we can judge from afar, one actor, and an important one, remains absent from the scene: the working class. Many different forces have emerged in Ukraine, including a reinforced extreme right. But as often happens when a population begins to mobilize, the working class has not appeared. No force, no known organization has addressed the working class in these events....

Even so, the nature of events, by breaking the routine, makes a political awakening of the Ukrainian working class possible in a way that was not true before.

If the mobilization continues, the movement could help the working class to understand and mobilize to defend its interests against the old government and against the new one which is supported by the West, the right, and the extreme right.

From a distance, we cannot say if and how this could happen. But we can say that events are not going in the right direction....

The party of the extreme right, Svoboda, ally of the new government, wants to ban political strikes. If they do this, will it provoke the workers to react to defend their rights? If so, the new government and its Western masters will inevitably push back, using the crisis into which the country is plunged as an excuse....

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to make predictions in this case. The only thing that we can say is that because of the popular mobilization in Ukraine, there is a chance for the working class to become conscious of its forces and its interests. In any case, this is the only chance for the workers to escape the fate reserved for them by the rich and the politicians.

Pages 6-7

Exxon CEO:
NO Fracking in My Neighborhood!

Mar 3, 2014

A lawsuit against a water utility is going forward in a small town in Texas near Dallas. The town has many multi-million-dollar residences in an area where the company XTO Energy drills hundreds of wells each year to look for shale suitable for fracking.

XTO has been owned by Exxon Mobil Corp since 2009. And who is one of the lead plaintiffs against the 15-story water tower under construction in the town? The CEO of Exxon Mobil!

Fracking is the future proposed for everybody else – but not if the water tower spoils his multi-million-dollar view!

Letting People Die

Mar 3, 2014

GM is recalling more than 1.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches that cause airbags not to deploy in crashes. At least 13 people have died as a result of this problem. GM has known about it since 2004, after receiving a report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a vehicle losing power after an ignition key moved out of place in a new Cobalt. GM replicated this problem in testing – ten years ago! They opted not to fix the problem.

GM initially tried to justify their decision not to recall by claiming most deaths were at high speeds and that some involved alcohol. Now they are saying it’s due to heavy keys. The NHTSA had told GM that keys were found in the wrong position, meaning the keys were able to slip on their own and thus prevent airbag deployment in these crashes.

According to documents GM submitted to the NHTSA, GM claimed that “after consideration of the lead time required, cost and effectiveness of each of the solutions,” GM decided not to recall the cars involved. So the cheapest solution for GM was to ignore the problem, letting people die. Recalling the cars would not be “cost-effective!”

Who are the Real Criminals?

Mar 3, 2014

Three activists called the “Transform Now: Plowshares,” an 84-year-old nun and two men, aged 65 and 58, were sentenced to jail terms of three years, five years and five years for the crime of “sabotage and destruction of government property.”

In July of 2012, these three pacifists entered a nuclear weapons facility from the woods surrounding it, cutting through barbed wire. Then they committed the “crime” of throwing blood on the walls of the facility and writing biblical quotations.

For these actions, under a provision of a law against terrorism, the government plans to keep Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed in jail.

Said Walli to the judge, “I was acting in support of the rule of law with my actions.” These activists had pointed out during the trial that it was the United States that was the “terrorist” in the matter, with enough nuclear weapons to wipe all forms of life off the planet several times over. The three argued as part of their defense that the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons goes against international treaties.

The three are part of a tradition of pacifists protesting at nuclear facilities since the original “Plowshares” action in 1980 involving Philip and Daniel Berrigan. At an earlier trial, Berrigan had said, “Some property has no right to exist.”

Which is the crime? To protest nuclear weapons or to imprison those who protest?

Kellogg’s Pushes Two Tier

Mar 3, 2014

Union workers in Memphis, Tennessee have pulled together and continue to protest after being locked out by Kellogg’s Cereal in October 2013. This workforce of 226 voted NO on Kellogg’s “offer” for a new two-tier wage and benefits plan.

The New York Times reports workers do not want to undermine living standards for the next generation. “We have a good quality of life,” said a man with 28 years’ seniority. “Why should we agree to changes so our kids can’t have the same quality of life?”

Workers report that prior to the lock out, they had been required to work 7 days a week and up to 40 or 50 days in a row. Hiring more workers was clearly on the agenda. But the company’s proposal for how to hire new workers was met with a resounding no.

Kellogg’s “offer” said current workers would continue to make $28 an hour while all new hires would get lower pay and benefits. In addition, the company demanded the right for up to 100 percent of the workforce to be at Tier 2. Current workers understood the incentive would be there to push them out.

The Memphis factory produces Frosted Flakes, so workers have taken to wearing T-shirts with a picture of Tony the Tiger – locked behind prison bars.

Workers have organized and won local community support and financial help for their cause.

This use of two tier to attack Kellogg’s workers follows on the heels of attacks on union workers in the auto industry, at Caterpillar, and at Boeing.

Kellogg’s may complain that cereal sales are down, but as one worker put it, “They’re making a lot of money hand over fist.” In 2013, the company gave shareholders more than 600 million dollars in dividends. During this lock out, Kellogg’s board just okayed a 1.5 billion dollar stock buyback to hand more cash to shareholders.

On top of that, the CEO of Kellogg’s got a 90% raise in 2011. He gets 6.6 million dollars a year.

Workers say they hope the National Labor Relations Board will declare the lockout illegal. This is NOT where their hopes lie. In this David vs. Goliath fight – as in all struggles – the only hope for workers is to rely on our own forces, our own momentum, and our own creativity – and all those other workers facing the same drive of the bosses to lower everyone’s wage.

Page 8

50 Years Ago:
The Emergence of Muhammad Ali

Mar 3, 2014

Fifty years ago, a young boxer named Cassius Clay challenged champion Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. Liston was a heavy favorite; Vegas odds against Clay were 8-1. The much heavier Liston had knocked out former champ Floyd Patterson in his two most recent fights.

Clay already was rubbing many white reporters and racists in the population the wrong way with his outspoken, confident, and brash style outside the ring. He referred to his own boxing style as “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Despite the odds against him, Clay employed graceful boxing finesse, dancing at a distance and causing Liston to mostly swing wildly and miss. By the third round, Clay had badly cut Liston’s left eye open, and at the start of Round 7, Liston was not able to answer the bell.

Right after his crushing victory, Clay announced that he joined The Nation of Islam and had changed his name to Muhammad Ali. After that, the racists came out of the woodwork to attack him. And many whites rooted for Ali to lose every fight.

But Ali was a hero to black people, both here and around the world, and to others moved by the struggles for equality being waged by the black population.

Unlike others who had made a name for themselves, Ali used his fame to champion black people’s cause. When in 1966 he refused to be drafted into the Army in opposition to the Vietnam War, he spoke to a whole generation. Many never forgot his statement that “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me Nigger.” The following year he added, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn't have to draft me, I'd join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We've been in jail for 400 years."

Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in April 1967 for refusing the draft. He never wavered in his stance, though, saying, “Those who want to take it and start a series of auction-type bouts not only do me a disservice, but actually disgrace themselves ... Sports fans and fair-minded people throughout America would never accept such a title holder.”

Ali’s stance, personally and politically, inspired millions of others to say, we’re not fighting a war overseas, we’re fighting for ourselves.

Murder Is Murder

Mar 3, 2014

In a trial in Jacksonville, Florida that should have been simple, resulting in conviction on all charges, once again a jury could not find the way to convict a white man of killing a young black man.

The jury convicted Michael Dunn of lesser charges, attempted murder for shooting into a car against three of its occupants. But it could not agree to convict him of murder for killing Jordan Davis, the young black man in the car whom he shot three times.

At the trial, Dunn claimed he was in fear of HIS life, that he saw a shotgun in the hands of the teen he shot, and that’s why he reached into his glove compartment, pulled out a gun and emptied ten rounds into a vehicle pulling away from him.

No one else saw the gun. No shots were fired from it. The police didn’t find it. Dunn himself never mentioned this imaginary gun for months – neither to the police nor to his fiancée.

His lawyer said only that there COULD have been a gun in the car, but in any case what mattered is that Dunn THOUGHT he saw a gun.

What absolute, foul nonsense. With that kind of “excuse,” anyone could kill anyone else and get away with it.

To be more exact: In this country, in the 21st century, any white racist can still kill a young black man and get away with it. Lynching hasn’t gone away, it’s just taken another form.

In a phone call from jail before the trial, Dunn complained: “I’m the victim here. I’m the victor, but I was the victim too.”

“The victor”? What kind of man considers himself a “victor” because he killed someone?

It’s true that Dunn was convicted of lesser charges because he continued to fire at the car after his first burst of gunfire killed the one young man.

And since then, some of the jurors say they all agreed that Dunn was wrong, that he never should have shot at all. But that jury could not convince itself that the life of a young black man mattered enough to convict his murderer of murder. And this verdict, like others before it, puts a target on the back of every young black man still alive.