President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and an easing in economic and travel restrictions on Cuba Wednesday, declaring an end to America’s "outdated approach" to the communist island in a historic shift aimed at ending a half-century of Cold War enmity.
By Les Leopold
Dec 15, 2014 – Why are white cops shooting unarmed black men?
On one level the story is simple: racism. Too many police officers fear people of color in the neighborhoods they patrol, and are likely to over-react with force during encounters. The local courts also engage in discrimination by failing to indict the killers, even when captured on video, as in the brutal police slaying of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY. Both the policing and the court system obviously reflect the polarization of our communities, and our inability to escape the legacy of slavery, more than 150 years after emancipation.
But racism only accounts for part of the story. We also must understand how judicial racism and even police violence are deeply connected to the financialization of the economy and runaway inequality.
It is not by accident that America has become both the most unequal developed nation in the world, and the nation with the largest prison population. We’re number one in police killings, incarceration and inequality—not Russia, not China. Our national self-image so steeped in the idea of freedom has not caught up with these ugly realities.
Racism is has been with us for centuries, but something very new happened in America around 1980 that set the stage for these police killings. Something very big is transforming us into the first democratic police state in human history.
Please look carefully at the chart below, and consider the history of American racism, violence and protest.
From 1920 to around 1980, the American prison population held steady, even as our population grew rapidly. One could easily argue that racism was much more virulent during this period, especially in the Jim Crow South, from the hundreds of lynchings in the 1920s to violent repression of civil rights activists in the 1950s and ’60s. So unless you believe that racism changed for the worse since 1980, then it alone can not possibly account for the explosive rise of the prison population.
Even during the turbulent 1960s with its many demonstrations, and violent inner-city upheavals, the prison population hardly budged. Similarly, Nixon’s infamous war on drugs, launched in June 1971, also did not boost the prison population during the 1970s.
Then something major changed to send the prison population soaring. What happened?
The explosive rise of the American prison population
Most explanations focus on complexities of the shift to mandatory sentencing. Judges were compelled by harsh new sentencing laws to jail even those convicted of minor crimes, and to hand out sentences much longer than appropriate to the infraction. Because of urban housing segregation by race and income, lower income neighborhoods experienced higher crime rates, made even higher by the futile enforcement of drug prohibition. As the police enforcement increased, a disproportionate number of people of color were funneled into prison. Although non-Hispanic blacks form only 13.6 of the U.S. population, they are 39.4 percent of the prison population . The prison population further swelled with bigger backlogs in under-funded courts, bail that cannot be met, and inadequate legal services for the poor.
But the gargantuan climb in our prison population also corresponds with the dramatic rise in inequality. (The chart below compares the incomes of the top 1 percent with the bottom 90%. Note how the gap rises virtually in lockstep with the rise in our prison population.) This uncanny correspondence suggests that we must consider other explanations that explore the links between runaway inequality and runaway incarceration.
The Financialization of the Economy and the Destruction of Good-Paying Industrial Jobs
America adopted draconian conservative economic policies starting in the late 1970s with the advent of the Better Business Climate model. The idea was to cut taxes on the rich and deregulate business, especially Wall Street. That combination was supposed to put money in the hands of the few, who would then heavily invest it in our economy, thereby creating an enormous economic boom. Good jobs and rising incomes for all those willing to work would soon follow. It didn’t happen. Instead these Better Business Climate policies led to runaway inequality, the destruction of middle-income jobs, and wage-stagnation for the vast majority of working people.
By Frank Chapman
National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression
What does this spontaneous uprising of the masses tell us and how does it relate to our historic struggle for community control of the police?
Of course the most obvious place to start is that this mass uprising is the manifestation of a new awakening of the people to the gross racist injustices that exist in our country.
But isn’t it also a break away from the slavish submission to police and government authorities on the question of racist repression? This uprising is an expression of the mistrust created by an unjust and broken criminal justice system. Spontaneous movements by their very nature are not consciously based on an understanding of the necessity of collective resistance to bring about systemic changes.
The present protest arise out of anger and outrage, their initial stages are outbursts characterized more by desperation and disgust than by organized struggle. At least this is how it seemingly jumped off in Ferguson on a hot day in August.
First the revolts that began in Ferguson were clearly the resistance of African Americans to racist repression and its underlying oppression. In fact it is so obvious to so many that the Black people of Ferguson were justly outraged. How else can one explain the mass outpouring of support from all strands of the peoples’ progressive movement in the United States and around the world?
Click on photo for story and more photos
By Tom Hayden
Progressive America Rising via TomHayden.com
Dec. 9, 2014 – Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be engaging in some double speak this week. (Photo: AP, December 2014)Secretary of State John Kerry today called for a congressional authorization of the New War before he didn’t.
Instead Kerry proposed the appearance of an authorization before stripping the idea of real public and congressional accountability. Members of Congress should look carefully at this insult to their constitutional role.
First, Kerry said it was "crystal clear" that the President wants no US troops in combat operations on the ground, but that Congress should not, "preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief to react to changing circumstances."
Second, Kerry said he doesn’t want an open-ended timeline for war but that the authorization should run for three years or longer, safely after the 2016 elections.
Third, Kerry promised no wider war beyond Iraq and Syria, but doesn’t want any constraint on US going after ISIS militarily in other nations.
HOW THIS HAPPENED
This is nothing but an attempt to avoid an embarrassing battlefield defeat during the next two years before handing over the mission of derailing ISIS to the next president. At the same time, it will limit the ability of Congress to question the policy once they have signed on. This is how escalation works.
photo © David Bacon
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE (9/29/14) — For three days during the town fiesta of San Miguel de Allende indigenous dance groups converge here, and dance through the streets from morning until late at night. Costumes celebrate everything from religious symbols to mythologized history to a common bond with the culture of native peoples north of the U.S. border. Almost 40% of San Miguel residents are Otomi and 20% Nahua, but the dances are performed by groups from all over Mexico.
Organizers Who Met With Obama See Meeting as Affirmation That Movement Against Police Violence is Working
By Kevin Gosztola
Dec 2, 2014 – President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder met with seven black and Latino organizers yesterday to discuss police violence in not just Ferguson, Missouri, but throughout the country. Following the meeting, Obama announced some steps his administration would be taking to address some of the issues raised. Organizers who participated in the meeting responded to the announced steps.
Obama announced there would be a task force that will “reach out and listen to law enforcement and community activists and other stakeholders.” After 90 days, a report with “concrete recommendations, including best practices for communities where law enforcement and neighborhoods are working well together” will be provided to Obama.
An executive order regulating the 1033 program, the federal program where military equipment is provided to police departments, will be issued. Obama will also be proposing “new community policing initiatives,” particularly providing “up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement.”
Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists United (MAU), who met with Obama, addressed the proposed measures on a press conference call. The body cams, she noted, would not necessarily save black lives from police brutality or from being denied justice. In the case of the young black man, John Crawford, there was surveillance video of a cop gunning him down as he held an unloaded air rifle in the middle of a Walmart. Authorities still refused to indict the officer. It is possible this happens again in the cases of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, whose deaths at the hands of police were also captured on video.
The movement, according to Yates, is for the abolition of the 1033 program. “It is a form of psychological torture to walk down your street and see Humvees posted on the corner. I do not see a need for those in our city,” she stated. She could not believe that these “checks and balances” on the 1033 program had not been issued yet.
Yates also said that there must be youth voices and black people who are activists in the room when the task force meets with individuals to develop their report. “You have to allow space for the people who are affected by the militarization, by police brutality, to define their oppression so we can actually frame the problem correctly.”
T-Dubb-O, a St. Louis hip-hop artist who was part of the group that met with the president, suggested, “He’s the first African-American president of the United States.” Obama should make this “his own issue and have a speech about it. Come out and open his mouth and use the power and influence that he has in that seat. Tell the rest of America that there is an issue. He’s experienced the same issue that we’re facing today. There is an issue.”
Police move forward towards protesters who were marching downtown after flash bang grenades were deployed in Portland during a Ferguson rally on November 29, 2014. Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian
By Anna Griffin
Protesters who’ve stopped Portland traffic almost daily since a grand jury opted not to indict Darren Wilson began their work back in August. Their goal: to mirror and in some ways build on the Occupy Wall Street movement – but with a more cohesive and ultimately constructive end.
"We’re trying to create something that is going to last," said Teressa Raiford, an organizer of Portland’s Ferguson response rallies. "What you’re seeing is the result of a lot of planning."
Zuccotti Park and the Ferguson, Missouri, street where Wilson shot Michael Brown sit almost 1,000 miles apart. But in terms of their recent impact, they’re practically next-door neighbors.
As they did three years ago, marchers the past week have opted for civil disobedience rather than simply making speeches and rallying in front of Portland civic landmarks. They’ve held "die ins," led police on long, winding marches through downtown, filled Willamette River bridges during rush hour and attempted to seize Interstate 5.
The crowds have included black-clad anarchists and a few Occupy-style protesters in Guy Fawkes masks. The large groups have advocated for a number of causes besides police reform, including a $15 minimum wage, policies to stop gentrification and government disinvestment in multinational corporations. A few of the leading figures in the push to protest the Ferguson decision nationally are the same as Occupy, including Lisa Fithian, who helped put together the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle and was dubbed "Professor Occupy" by Mother Jones magazine.
"It’s similar in that it’s spreading without any central authority, it’s spreading by inspiration, by a compound of desperation and hope with a little bit of euphoria mixed in," said Todd Gitlin, a journalism professor at Columbia University and author of the 2012 book "Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street." "The big changes made by Occupy were at the level of discourse, making the ‘1 percent’ and ‘the 99 percent’ part of everyday language. The quandary for people angry about Ferguson is how to channel this momentary energy into something that makes changes in more than just the conversation"
At the heart of both movements is an overarching distrust of the nation’s political and economic establishment, a sense that the system does not work for everyone.
By Dave Jamieson
Nov 28, 2014 – Dan Schlademan, campaign director of Making Change at Walmart, a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said on a call with reporters Friday that he expects the number of strikers to be in the hundreds by the end of the day, though the group could not provide a specific number of workers who’d submitted strike notices to their bosses.
"All the signs that we’re seeing is that this is going to be the biggest day ever," Schlademan said.
Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Walmart, told HuffPost that the retailer was more concerned with serving its customers than with protests it views as union stunts. According to Buchanan, more than 22 million shoppers came to Walmart stores on Thanksgiving alone this year.
"We’re really focused on our customers," Buchanan said. "We’ve got millions of customers coming in [on Thanksgiving] and Friday, and we’re making sure they have a safe and exciting shopping experience."
In D.C., a crowd estimated at 200 to 400 people assembled outside the Walmart store on H Street Northwest, calling on the retailer to commit to "$15 and full time" — a wage of $15 per hour, the same rate demanded by fast-food strikers, and a full-time schedule for those who want it. One of OUR Walmart’s top criticisms of the retailer is that part-time workers don’t get enough hours.
The protest was large enough to draw the D.C. police, who stood at the store’s doors and dispersed the crowd after about an hour.
“Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons”
–Bernice Johnson Reagon
Anger, dismay and tears spread across America last night with the announcement that Officer Darren Wilson got away with murder in Ferguson, MO. A grand jury decision not to bring him to trial was announced on the same day that 3 Civil Rights martyrs – Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner who were murdered 50 years ago this year in Mississippi – received the Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony with President Obama. Fifty years later, we are still organizing to stop rampant murder of Black people with impunity.
CCDS urges you to join with labor, civil rights, human rights, community and religious organizations who are calling on the U.S. Justice Department to bring federal criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson.
Please join a protest today and send messages/photos to the CCDS Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/CCDSGroup/
“We who believe in freedom cannot rest”