News

Do Solidarity Unions Need to ‘Go Public’?

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 20:47

The post Do Solidarity Unions Need to ‘Go Public’? appeared first on It's Going Down.

In an election-driven, workplace-organizing campaign, going public is a key step. The workers or union try to organize under the boss’s radar for as long as possible, so that they can avoid retaliation and union-busting before they accumulate strength in numbers. Eventually, however, they have to legally file or “petition” for an election, at which point the workers notify the employer of their campaign. The goal of these types of organizing drives is formal recognition from the employer, which in theory compels the employer to sit down with the union and negotiate a contract.

In the IWW, our main model of organizing is the “solidarity union.” A solidarity union consists of a group of workers taking direct action in a workplace to get what they need and want, without regard to formal recognition by the bosses. Instead of relying on legal processes, workers use the power they have at any given moment, seeing as their hands are on the levers of production—and therefore on the boss’s profits. Examples of using that power include work slowdowns or stoppages, refusing certain kinds of unsafe work, confronting the boss with problems as a group, and even strikes.

What is the significance of “going public” in a solidarity unionism campaign? If workers are not seeking legal recognition through an election, what purpose does going public serve? Does it need to happen at all? In this article, we reconsider the pros and cons of going public in the context of the IWW’s distinct and powerful alternative to business union organizing.

Does going public heighten the risk of retaliation?

In the Ellen’s Stardust Diner campaign in NYC, IWW restaurant workers went public in the form of a major story in The New York Times. The reporter contacted the owner for comment, and this was the first he had learned of the union. He said he was shocked that people were unhappy, and that he would gladly sit down with them. This turned out to be a lie. Even though the union had gathered the support of virtually all of the servers, the owner refused to meet with them about their demands. In response, union members held a large demonstration outside of the restaurant, displaying a bright, new banner with their name and logo—Stardust Family United—while singing and chanting noisily, to place public and emotional pressure on the boss to bargain.

Two weeks later, every person at that demonstration was illegally fired.

Sometimes, bosses react in the strongest possible way to finding out that a union is forming in their business: by attempting to eliminate union supporters through firings. This is something we know in the IWW, which is why we cover it at length in our organizer trainings.

Stardusters had gone public because they felt it was the next logical step in their organizing. They had already gathered nearly unanimous support among servers, they were meeting regularly, and had learned to act as a group. Now it was time to simply tell the boss point-blank that they were a union, and that they had demands. In a way, they were following the steps of a recognition campaign, just without the NLRB election. They believed the owner would see their strength and negotiate. But the union’s coming-out party didn’t have that result. Instead, the owner started firing people for union activity and hired a union-busting lawyer.

An IWW campaign in Chicago offers an interesting contrast. At Arrow Messenger, the union of messengers did not go public as a “union” – they did not use “the u-word” – but simply approached the boss with specific demands, initiating direct bargaining sessions between the bosses and the workers. When bargaining did not yield the results they wanted, a quickie strike and a series of prolonged direct actions won them most of their demands, including a commission raise for over one hundred couriers.

The avoidance of word “union” may have made it easier for the bosses to give concessions to the workers, but it did not prevent retaliatory firings in the long run, and the active committee of about 20 workers was picked off one by one. So it’s clear that workers can also be fired in an active campaign that isn’t “public” in the traditional sense. If you’re effective, you’re going to end up with a target on your back, one way or another.

Fortunately, at Stardust as well, despite not one but two rounds of mass firings, workers were able to win on a majority of their demands, by using direct action in the workplace. The owner never sat down with them, but by taking on issues one by one, and coordinating work refusals and other tactics, the workers made multiple gains, including refusing unpaid work, fixing unsafe equipment, and generally improved working conditions. Going public, in retrospect, was not a necessary step for that.

Does going public throw the boss off the scent?

Bosses are used to traditional recognition-focused union drives, and so are the professional union-busting lawyers and consultants they hire. The bosses’ and union-busters’ “playbook” usually does not account for a solidarity union strategy. This means that they come out swinging and missing. “The union will make you pay dues!” Dues are voluntary in the IWW. “The union will ask you to sign an authorization card!” Solidarity unions don’t ask workers to sign auth cards. “The union will bargain away your rights!” The union is just the workers in the shop, making decisions about what they want—not a bureaucracy that makes decisions behind closed doors.

This kind of played-out union-busting script makes the company look incompetent and occasionally ridiculous, because they seem not to understand the union effort. For example, at Whole Foods in Philadelphia, while management focused on fending off an authorization card campaign, the IWW won scheduling rights in multiple departments, pay equity, and better safety equipment – and massively shifted the balance of power on the shop floor. Until the capitalist class wises up to solidarity unionism, we will continue to have this advantage. Going public could be a tactical way to send the boss on a wild goose chase while we are building elsewhere.

Then again, while some of the union-busting messaging may be off the mark, bosses and union-busters still know how to intimidate and harass workers to discourage them from organizing. They don’t just hold captive meetings and distribute anti-union propaganda: they fire, they threaten, they bribe, they mess with people’s schedules, they play nice, they divide and conquer, etc. All in all, union-busting is something we want to minimize where we can, not something we want to invite.

Is going public necessary to win?

Two veterans of the Stardust campaign, who had been fired and went on to take other jobs, took collective action in their workplaces and won. One was working at a hip burger chain restaurant. The chain had recently come under new management, and the new managers tried to force all the staff to sign a harsh new discipline policy. The Stardust vet led a collective refusal, and management backed off. The other Stardust vet was working at a fancy restaurant on the Upper East Side. She and her coworkers noticed that they weren’t being given all of their tips when guests paid by credit card. She led a march on the boss with her fellow servers, and the situation was rectified immediately.

These actions delivered swift justice, and neither resulted in any kind of retaliation. Workers can accomplish more than some expect without the boss even realizing that what they are doing is union activity. For that matter, at Stardust, workers engaged in a march on the boss that won their “tip bucket” back before ever going public. That action didn’t trigger union-busting. Only the New York Times article and banner demo did. Because as we argued in the last section, bosses rarely recognize solidarity unionism for what it is.

On the other hand, some campaigns literally cannot grow beyond a certain point without going public. Consider the Starbucks Workers Union organizing campaign. Without publishing a website declaring the official existence of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, the campaign could have remained isolated to the initial New York store. Going public in a big way allowed the campaign to expand nationally, and it produced a cascade of new organizing leads across the country, in addition to more broadly raising the profile of the IWW.

There are special challenges to organizing a large target, whether one very large worksite, or a chain or franchise with multiple work sites. Underground communication across vast physical distance is difficult. Sometimes going public may be the less-than-ideal yet necessary road to reach out.

Can a solidarity union build a collective identity without going public?

Some might wonder whether it is necessary to go public to solidify the idea of the union in workers’ own minds. Also, going public can provide a psychological boost for workers engaged in organizing. It’s a chance to openly express pride; to feel part of something bigger, with a name and a public face; to explicitly contribute to building and redefining the bigger union movement; to adamantly defy the bosses toe-to-toe; and to feel the relief of not having to work in hiding anymore. While each one of these things is an element of strategically non-public, underground campaigns, it’s going to be somewhat restrained without workers being able to hoist the flag and say, “We are the union!” Going public provides catharsis for an organizing committee, as well as a rocket boost to organizing energy.

Having said that, that boost can be devastatingly temporary, when workplace polarization hits and the boss’s anti-union onslaught begins in force. Too many of our campaigns rely too heavily on the adrenaline rush of going public. Worse still, some organizers believe going public is the move that will save the campaign. In examples like the national Starbucks organizing, as well as at Jimmy Johns, workers in new shops would often go public way before they were ready. Organizers were motivated by a desire to catch the momentum of the high profile campaign, to save a committee from flagging interest, or to give over to the perceived need to “do something.” This last ditch style going public was a recurring recipe for burning out brightly, but losing nonetheless.

There’s also an interesting phenomenon that takes place in a solidarity unionism campaign, where union membership is voluntary. At both Stardust and Arrow, there were moments when workers engaged in really militant action without considering that to be union activity. A worker would say they weren’t interested in joining the union, but they would engage in a work refusal or stoppage because they cared about the issue being fought over, and they wouldn’t even make the connection between the two things. Later on, union committee members would help them draw lessons from their experiences to make that leap.

If a campaign eschews going public, organizers can still generate that feeling of being part of something concrete and special. It falls to the committee to keep impressing upon coworkers that they are the union and the union is them: that the demands they win on the job are what the union is and does—nothing more, nothing less. Solidarity unionism is unionism.

Is it worth going public for the legal protections?

Sometimes workers feel that they will have more legal protections if they go public. After all, as of this writing, it is illegal to fire a worker for organizing in the U.S. But as Wobblies, we know that just because something is illegal doesn’t mean a boss won’t do it. Bosses engage in wage theft and safety violations all the time as well. As we’ve seen, going public can actually drive firings instead of preventing them. The boss hears the union-buster’s cost/benefit analysis of firing away the union, and the price is often deemed worth it.

Stardust workers themselves still debate whether it was the right idea to go public. One of the arguments in favor is that being public allowed them to file ULPs (Unfair Labor Practices) asserting that they were fired for organizing. This line of reasoning is a little bit circular: You go public, causing you to get fired, so you can claim a ULP when you get fired. To be a bit more fair, the idea is that the boss may retaliate against you whether you are public or not, but at least if you are public, you can make your case to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that you were fired for organizing. And it is true that board agents—like bosses and union busters—have trouble comprehending solidarity unionism campaigns. If a solidarity unionism campaign is public, it’s more likely that NLRB bureaucrats will be able to fit the case into their narrow vision of what a union organizing campaign is, and treat firings as illegal.

One final thing about going public and the law: At Stardust, the owner tried to call what he believed was the union’s bluff and force an election. Maybe he didn’t realize the union had majority support. Maybe he thought he could draw the bargaining unit big enough that they would lose the vote. At any rate, because workers weren’t interested in a recognition campaign, they simply quashed the election legally, with the help of their very talented labor lawyer. But note, this is yet another reason why you might not want to go public, especially if you are a minority campaign, which many IWW campaigns are. An election may be forced on you, which you may lose, and that may demoralize the organizing committee and deflate organizing efforts.

Concluding Thoughts

The value of “Going Public” should be considered contextually. Smart organizers don’t go public as a matter of course, as if it’s the next box to check on a list. We’ve attempted here to question the orthodoxy that going public is a necessary stage to every campaign and something you must inevitably build towards. As we say in the 101 training, the question to always ask is, “Given where we are at right now, can we advance the campaign without going public?” Until the answer is a definite “no,” don’t do it.

However, we’ve also tried to question what it means to go public. Any campaign that goes after major gains—whether pay increases, health care, improved working conditions, or even just more control on the job—will eventually find itself in an overt confrontation with the boss. There is no getting around that conflict. But that does not require throwing the “u-word” in the boss’s face.

We in the IWW openly aim to win workers away from the dead end of business unionism. That goal has always been as public as can be. And we all want to see the day where solidarity unionism is a powerful force. But as things stand today, when we consider the value of public IWW branding from the shop level perspective, there are just too many deficits to ignore in favor of always having a big “coming out” party in our campaigns.

Here’s something else worth thinking about. Even business union, recognition-based campaigns delay going public for as long as possible, and they eventually go public because they have to—because they’re petitioning for an election. In the case of a solidarity union campaign, simply telling the boss you are a union doesn’t usually improve your power with respect to him or her. You may get a moment of intimidation out of it… or you may just face an onslaught of retaliation. Sometimes using the u-word with a boss just signals them to hire a union-buster, not to come to the table. Either way, your ability to prevail will depend on the extent to which you can mobilize to take action in solidarity with your coworkers.

This isn’t to say that there is no value, or no meaning, in going public in a solidarity unionism campaign. We just have to think carefully, and be ruthlessly honest, about what that value really is.

Categories: News

What should an anarchist bookfair set out to achieve?

Anarchist News - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 19:19

via on uncertain ground

This piece has been prompted by our experience on the joint South Essex Radical Media / Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 28th October. We went along to this event to talk to people about our grassroots approach to promoting our politics. This year, we produced a special edition of the Stirrer paper to explain our approach and deal briefly with our frustrations with what passes for the anarchist ‘movement’: Here it is…

The London Anarchist Bookfair has grown from humble beginnings to a large, packed event. The question that should be getting asked every year is this – what should the bookfair be trying to achieve? From our experiences of being on a stall, talking to punters and just generally people watching, our impression is that the bookfair seems to be an event put on by anarchists and radicals for the benefit of other anarchists and radicals. On the one hand, it does provide an opportunity for activists to meet, catch up with each other, swap ideas, debate issues and on occasions, start scrapping with each other (more on this later). On the other hand, if you were a non-political person curious enough to attend the event to find out what anarchism is and whether it’s something you’d want to pursue, would you leave any the wiser?

From what we’ve seen of the bookfair over the last few years, the answer to that question is that someone wanting to find out about anarchism would more likely than not be leaving not much the wiser. Granted, with the range of groups and individuals attending and speaking at the bookfair, getting a coherent vision of what anarchism is across to a newcomer is a tough call. That’s partly down to the range of interpretations of what actually constitutes anarchism. We don’t have a problem with that – anarchism is something that should be constantly evolving and trying out different strategies and tactics to see what does and doesn’t work. However, we all could be better at communicating the fluidity of anarchism and how it evolves and develops to newcomers.

For the last two years, the London Anarchist Bookfair has been held in an area of Harringay that so far has escaped the ravages of gentrification and still feels like a community. For the last two years that we’ve been to the bookfair in Harringay, it feels as if it’s an alien presence that has landed in the middle of a neighbourhood but has yet to develop any real connection with it. Given what’s been going on in the area with the Harringay Development Vehicle which is the local (Labour controlled) council offloading housing estates and other assets to Lendlease, a development company, the bookfair should be an ideal opportunity to get local community activists talking to anarchists and vice-versa.

Granted, some activists we know in the area were pulling out the stops to do that and their work deserves to be applauded. Also with some of the talks and film showings, there was a decent effort to put class politics back on the agenda which has to be welcomed. There were some positive signs at this year’s bookfair of a recognition of the need to engage with working class people if we’re ever going to build a movement that will bring about real change. However, walking back down West Green Road to Seven Sisters station on the way home, the disconnect between the attendees at the bookfair and the people out and about on the surrounding streets was only too clear. If the bookfair is going to continue to be located in Harringay, there has to be a concerted effort from the organisers to engage the local community.

You don’t need us to tell you that we’re living in uncertain, unpredictable and increasingly dangerous times. The kind of times when the need for a viable, progressive political alternative is greater than ever before. The kind of times when the varying strands of anarchism that make up the movement need to have a sense of urgency and be pulling out the stops to reach a wider audience. The kind of times when some of the navel gazing that characterises certain strands of anarchism and radicalism needs to be put to one side. The kind of times when an anarchist bookfair should be throwing its doors open to the working class community that surrounds the venue by involving them in organising the event so their voices are heard.

We judge events like the London Anarchist Bookfair on the basis of whether we’d bring along a new, relatively apolitical contact from one of the estates we operate on with BASHA to give them a flavour of what anarchism is about. If we’d brought someone along in the morning and they’d departed by the early afternoon, given what the event was like up until that point, they could well have left with a fairly positive impression. If they’d been around after the early afternoon, they would most likely have been lost to the cause of anarchism for good.

From what we can gather, there was an ongoing confrontation resulting from a number of radical feminists targeting transgender people. From mid-afternoon onwards we kept hearing shouting and heard anecdotal reports of people being verbally abused, shoved and mobbed, and stalls disrupted. Fortunately, our stall was located a fair way from the main locus of the confrontations and we were able to carry on operating but the deterioration in the atmosphere was noticeable. As we’re mainly class struggle and housing activists, albeit with some green tinges, we’re not well versed as to why some radical feminists have such a problem with transgender people and target them in the way they do. We’re doing some reading up on the matter and the more we read, the more baffled we are as to why, given how charged the whole issue is, material that any neutral observer would have seen as provoking confrontations was allowed to be circulated.

If I was a curious newcomer to the bookfair, one not well versed in gender politics, and was a witness to what went on with the confrontations, my reaction would have been ‘what the ***k is going on here?’ and my response would have been to walk out and dismiss the idea of anarchism as a viable political option. Seriously, is this the face the London Anarchist Bookfair collective wants to show to newcomers, particularly new contacts we may want to bring along in the future and especially to anyone from the estates surrounding the bookfair venue? What happened from mid afternoon onwards hasn’t done the movement any favours at a time where we have to be focused on drawing in as many people as possible…

Dave (the editor)

Tags: london anarchist bookfaircategory: Essays
Categories: News

Halloween: US universities warn students against culturally insensitive costumes

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 18:59

Halloween: US universities warn students against culturally insensitive costumes | 31 Oct 2017 | Universities are urging students in search of an attention-grabbing costume this Halloween to pass on sombreros, Native American headdresses and blackface. Those are some of the costumes grabbing the attention of university administrators who are increasingly concerned that certain costumes are becoming flashpoints in campus debates over race and culture. While not outright prohibiting any costume, administrators are using letters, campus forums and advertising campaigns to encourage students to pick outfits that don't offend classmates of colour..."The cultural temperature on this has gotten so high that nothing is appropriate anymore. We are getting to the point where prohibition is the rule," said [CLG Founder] Michael Rectenwald, a professor of Global Liberal Studies at New York University, who has criticised Halloween costume policies.

Categories: News

Inside a Private Prison's $150 Million Deal to Detain Immigrants in New Mexico

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 13:21

Just shy of his third year in the United States, 24-year-old oil pipeline worker Diego Navarro said goodbye to his California friends, when he was swept up in the billion-dollar business of private immigrant detention. Like thousands of immigrants detained since the start of the year, Navarro soon found himself locked up inside a complex run by CoreCivic, the country's second-largest for-profit prison contractor with 84 correctional properties. 

 Diego Cervo / Getty Images)(Photo: Diego Cervo / Getty Images)   Ready to challenge injustice and spark real change? So are we. Support Truthout's mission today by making a tax-deductible donation.

Just shy of his third year in the United States, 24-year-old oil pipeline worker Diego Navarro said goodbye to his California friends. It was early April, and the Oklahoma resident was anxious to return home, having used a break in his work schedule to make the trip west.

Navarro, who entered the US without documentation in 2014, typically worked 10- to 14-hour days as part of the country's petroleum processing machine. But at a stop for gas during the drive back with a friend, Navarro was swept up in the billion-dollar business of private immigrant detention instead.

Navarro remembers pulling up to the station outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, and walking into the bathroom. By the time he walked out, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had surrounded his friend. More agents appeared and approached Navarro, asking both young men for their IDs and accusing them of trafficking drugs.

ICE officials did not address repeated questions about the incident. But Navarro's immigration court records show that after searching the vehicle and finding nothing, the agents arrested the men, alleging they were in the country without authorization.

"I felt humiliated," Navarro said. "I kept saying, 'I didn't do anything wrong.' "

Like thousands of immigrants detained since the start of the year, Navarro soon found himself locked up inside a complex run by CoreCivic, the country's second-largest for-profit prison contractor with 84 correctional properties, according to the company's most recent quarterly earnings report. From federal and state prisons to county jails and community-based halfway houses, CoreCivic's facilities run the gamut of American incarceration.

Business with ICE exploded for the company -- formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America -- in 2014, when there was a surge in Central American asylum seekers arriving at the border. CoreCivic's percentage of total revenue from ICE more than doubled in the two years that followed, rising from 13 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2016, US Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. Stock prices soared after the election of Donald Trump, who vowed during his presidential campaign to deport the entire estimated population of 11 million immigrants without authorization to be in the US

ICE is the primary source of contracts for the private prison giant, whose CEO, Damon Hininger, recently highlighted ramped-up immigration enforcement in the interior of the country under Trump as a harbinger of new demand.

In October 2016, CoreCivic landed one ICE deal in New Mexico by repurposing a federal prison, the 1,129-bed Cibola County Correctional Center, into an ICE detention center.

The facility's new role took shape after inmate deaths involving medical neglect came to light last year, prompting the federal Bureau of Prisons to cancel its contract with CoreCivic as part of a drive to minimize private prisons in its operations. That reliance conversely has grown under ICE, which commenced talks with CoreCivic to adopt Cibola soon after. Heralded as a job savior, the announcement of the new deal came without any mention from local officials about prior inmate deaths at Cibola.

Following his run-in with agents, Navarro would be confined there for seven weeks.

Navarro's experiences, alongside hundreds of detainee transfer records obtained through a public records request, offer a rare glimpse into the expanding apparatus of detention and deportation. It is a system that increasingly is privatized, contracted out and chaotic -- one in which immigrants are arrested, detained and sporadically transferred among facilities, where deportations can be ordered via video conference by judges hundreds of miles away and carried out in the middle of the night.

For CoreCivic, a single facility in the immigrant detention system represents big business. To date, the company has nine dedicated ICE centers and at least three other prisons under contract with US Marshals Service where ICE detainees are held.

Per contracts and billing documents obtained through New Mexico's public records act, CoreCivic will be paid $150 million for detaining immigrants at Cibola over the course of a five-year arrangement with county officials and ICE that amounts to a no-bid contract with the federal government. Agreements between government entities -- whether county, state or federal -- do not entail the competitive open bid process required of private companies seeking government business. In this instance, however, Cibola County serves only as a pass-through payment mechanism for federal funds to flow from ICE to CoreCivic.

In March, ICE began sending millions of dollars to Cibola County, which in turn forwards the money to CoreCivic, as spelled out in an "intergovernmental agreement" between ICE and the county and a subcontract between the county and CoreCivic.

The deal allows Cibola County -- where about 38 percent of households live on less than $25,000 a year, according to American Community Survey statistics -- to retain a miniscule portion of the funds as an administrative fee.

According to the subcontract and county treasurer, the county keeps 50 cents per detainee per day, while CoreCivic, a $3.7 billion company, receives a lump sum fixed payment of $2.5 million monthly, whether zero or 847 detainees are being held. (At 848, ICE pays $55.43 per additional detainee per day.) Documents obtained by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting show daily counts ranging between 268 and 784 detainees over March, April and May. Neither the warden nor ICE responded to multiple requests for the current detainee population.

"Everybody Except for the Detained People Wins"

The setup reflects national trends, according to Mary Small, policy director for the Detention Watch Network, a national watchdog and advocacy organization. She said the pairing of an agreement between government entities alongside a subcontract with a private corporation is "the single most common model in the entire immigration detention system."

"Everybody except for the detained people wins," Small said. "ICE likes it because they don't have to go through a competitive open bid process, which is also the same reason why the private companies like it. The local governments like it because in most cases, they get a small cut of money as the contracting middleman."

With the help of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Navarro secured an unlikely reprieve. Granted release on a $7,500 bond as the case for his removal makes its way through immigration court, Navarro walked out of the detention center in late May. One of 278 "assets," as they're called on company documents, the night before his release, CoreCivic would go on to bill more than $5.3 million over the two months Navarro was locked up.

Seven weeks after ICE agents arrested Navarro at the gas station near Albuquerque, drivers for CoreCivic dropped him off at another one near the prison. He started out again for Oklahoma via Greyhound, feeling thankful for the freedom, however fleeting, few of his peers secure.

An examination of hundreds of documents from the beginning of January through mid-February 2017 shows that at least 185 immigrants were deported from the facility during that time. Immigration court has no corollary role of a public defender, and without appointed counsel to represent them, most people face removal proceedings alone. Others remain trapped in legal limbo, according to pro bono lawyers who visit the Cibola County Correctional Center regularly. Asylum seekers do not qualify to be released on bond, nor do detainees who don't have legal residents to sponsor them.

Navarro did have a sponsor, and his family was able to pay a bail fee that other immigrants typically cannot afford. Prospects are looking up for detainees, though, following an Oct. 2 ruling by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals mandating affordable bonds.

Questionable Deaths Exposed

While the inmates' fates are uncertain, profits for the corporation detaining them are secure -- despite evidence that a series of questionable deaths previously occurred at Cibola, when it was a federal prison under CoreCivic's watch.

In early 2016, an investigative series on medical neglect in private federal prisons, published by The Nation, exposed three Cibola deaths in which reports by federal Bureau of Prisons monitors noted sustained neglect or deficient care. By July 2016, the bureau had canceled its contract with CoreCivic.

Within three months, the new arrangement among Cibola County, ICE and CoreCivic was announced with scant opportunity for debate. Media reports show that county commissioners disclosed the deal just after they approved it -- following closed-session discussions, according to the agenda and minutes. State officials also carried out a crucial role behind closed doors.

New Mexico law required Attorney General Hector Balderas' office, as well as the state's finance and general services departments, to review and approve the agreement between Cibola County and CoreCivic.

According to the statute, "disapproval may be based on any reasonable grounds," including "appropriateness" of the plan and "suitability or qualifications of the proposed contractor."

Asked whether detainee deaths were considered during the contract approval process, a spokesman for Balderas' office said that a deputy attorney general handled the matter and that the office "routinely reviews contracts for legal sufficiency." Not a single report, memo or email was created by the office in reviewing CoreCivic's proposal to detain immigrants at Cibola, based on a public records request made by Reveal.

In contrast, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office recently began a review of immigrant detention conditions in public and private facilities across his state, where the widow of 52-year-old Gerardo Cruz-Sanchez is suing CoreCivic. Denied care at the company's Otay Mesa ICE facility, Cruz-Sanchez -- who had been granted release on a $1,500 cash bail deposit but couldn't afford it -- died of pneumonia, the complaint filed in March alleges. From March to May, three detainees at the Adelanto Detention Facility, operated by another private prison contractor, The GEO Group, died in ICE custody.

"We need a clear understanding of the conditions of detention facilities housing civil immigration detainees," Becerra said in a statement. "As chief law enforcement officer, it is my duty to uphold the law."

ICE and CoreCivic representatives did not respond to requests to visit New Mexico's Cibola facility or to multiple inquiries as to how ICE detainees there are ensured proper medical care.

At CoreCivic's nearby Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico, 53-year-old inmate Anthony Mancini died from coronary artery disease in 2011 after being given cough syrup and Tums to treat his symptoms, alleged a wrongful death lawsuit settled Sept. 6. But that case is not what has landed the prison in the news recently.

Describing the facility as "not profitable," CoreCivic announced that it would close Torrance -- barring new government contracts. The move prompted outcry from local officials who predict a severe economic impact if the facility shuts down fully as planned.

Torrance inmates have been transferred to Cibola, CoreCivic CEO Hininger told investors on the company's most recent quarterly earnings call. But cause for concern over the private vendors and government entities entrusted with detainee care there continues.

After months of inquiries, county officials produced an amendment to their agreement with ICE, which cites plans to ensure adequate on-site health care. However, Correct Care Solutions, the for-profit vendor now providing Cibola's medical care, has been named in two New Mexico lawsuits alleging medical neglect in detainee deaths at two county jails.

And in July, a lawsuit was filed alleging that 50-year-old pretrial detainee Douglas Edmisten bled to death last year at a Cibola County-run jail over the course of seven hours, despite repeated pleas for medical treatment. Two weeks after the lawsuit's filing, the jail's closure was announced by the county manager, who cited unsustainable costs of operation, the Associated Press reported. Commissioners recently finalized a new contract to privately house county prisoners. The vendor? CoreCivic.

Deportations From "Immigrant-Friendly" Albuquerque

The immigrant detention profits made by CoreCivic in Cibola County are of a curious character -- being reaped in a county that is more than one-third Hispanic or Latino and in a state where politicians have been largely critical of ramped-up immigration enforcement and removal initiatives, including the proposed border wall and threatened sanctions on sanctuary cities.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico's biggest city, the City Council passed a resolution in February to affirm the city's "immigrant-friendly" status. A similar resolution at the county level was reaffirmed in August in the face of threats from the Department of Justice to withhold federal funding if local law enforcement doesn't cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Regardless of resolutions or degree of compliance with ICE, deportations take place from Albuquerque, often in the middle of the night, according to data obtained by Reveal through public records requests. And CoreCivic is paid an additional $97,638 per month for regular transports, including runs between the Cibola County ICE facility and the airport tarmac, five days a week.

ICE transport log data, covering January and February, offers a snapshot of 342 deportees flown out of New Mexico, whose criminal histories run counter to Trump's February statement that "for the first time, we're getting gang members out. We're getting drug lords out. We're getting really bad dudes out of this country."

  • In every instance, ICE data indicates the person had no gang involvement.
  • More than 88 percent of the immigrants, 302 people, had no criminal record beyond entering the country without authorization, sometimes repeatedly.
  • Twenty-two people -- about 6 percent of the total -- had serious alleged offenses on their records, ranging from domestic violence to assault, statutory rape, drug dealing and, in one instance, a "terrorist threat."
  • The remaining 18 records list charges including DUI, traffic violations and possession of marijuana or cocaine.
  • 284 detainees, including a pregnant 26-year-old with no criminal history, were deported to Guatemala. The other 58 were flown to Honduras.

For then-Cibola County Manager Tony Boyd, who worked as a training and disciplinary hearing officer for CoreCivic from 1998 to 2003, the choice county leadership faced after the Bureau of Prisons backed out of its CoreCivic contract in the summer of 2016 was clear: economic ruin or the ICE agreement he guided to fruition.

As a federal prison, the correctional center employed 300 people, Boyd said. The property also contributed $24,726 to the 2016 county budget via property taxes, public records show.

"The economic consequences of the closure would have extended far beyond those 300 residents, and would have negatively impacted our schools, our stores, and our community at large," Boyd wrote in an emailed statement. He alluded to the concurrent layoffs of 65 people at Peabody Energy Corp.'s local coal mines, which employ residents of both Cibola and neighboring McKinley County.

"Certainly the county needs to grow and diversify," Boyd wrote. But that prospect would have been "significantly curtailed" if hundreds of families lost their income, he said.

The future for many Cibola County residents is indeed precarious. More than 15 percent of the county's 11,361-strong civilian labor force was unemployed between 2011 and 2015, based on estimates compiled by the American Community Survey.

Boyd said his prior work for CoreCivic had no impact on the deals he finalized with the corporation and the federal government. Regardless, in Cibola County and the broader state of New Mexico, the company's influence is ubiquitous.

Just a few miles away from the immigrant detention center in Cibola is another CoreCivic prison, the 596-bed Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center. Under its contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department, CoreCivic gets $68.20 per prisoner per day for the first 322 inmates. The prison contributed $44,301 in property taxes to Cibola County in 2016.

In the late '90s, CoreCivic campaign contributions began flowing to the coffers of the Democratic and Republican parties in New Mexico. From politicians running for Congress to the governor's office on down, scores of candidates and leadership committees have accepted small-scale CoreCivic contributions since 1996, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. They include Cibola County Democrats Rep. Eliseo Alcon and Sen. Clemente Sanchez; Republican Gov. Susana Martinez; Democratic US Sen. Martin Heinrich; and state House Majority Whip Antonio Maestas, whose website describes the Democrat as being "at the forefront of criminal justice reform in New Mexico."

Different Economic Choices

New Mexico is more reliant on private prisons than any other state. In 2015, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 42 percent of its state prisoners were held in private prisons. The national figure is 8 percent.

"There's something very specific to the political culture in New Mexico, to this partnership between government and for-profit prisons, to the relationship to privatization in that state," said Nicole Porter, advocacy director for The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit think tank dedicated to criminal justice reform.

Heinrich "does not support the private prison industry, but also doesn't leave local communities behind, … to (help) preserve important jobs," a spokesman wrote when asked about the senator's involvement in keeping the Cibola facility open. No other lawmakers responded to requests for comment.

But according to Porter, "other communities around the country are having similar conversations and are making different choices."

In her work, Porter has analyzed prison closures in 22 states, recently focusing on places where innovative economic development projects filled the void created by prison layoffs. Projects underway include a New York prison repurposed as a movie studio, which is expected to create 800 jobs over two years; a prison re-envisioned as a homeless shelter in North Carolina; and a former work camp in Illinois due to become an agricultural development center, which is expected to generate an estimated $124 million in new farm income.

"I hope (New Mexico residents) might be encouraged and look closely at those," Porter said, "because clearly, detention and deportation breaks up families."

Diego Navarro, for his part, said he wants to forge ahead with his life back home in Oklahoma, now that he's out on bond and reunited with his girlfriend and family. But the threat of his deportation back to Mexico looms as his case winds its way through immigration court.

"I just want to keep going forward," he said. "I would like to stay here, but I don't know what's going to happen."

In the meantime, Navarro hopes that for the people of Cibola County, the immigrants whose detention earns the county 50 cents per person per day will not be out of mind, even if they are out of sight.

"I do agree that, yeah, if they want to deport the criminals, OK. But there's good people that just want to work," Navarro said. "We're not here to steal or to rob or to kill. We just want to work."

Categories: News

Alabama Special Election -- a Shot for Democrats?

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 13:20
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Polls suggest Alabama's special election may be the closest US Senate race in the two decades that Republicans have dominated both of the state's Senate seats.

Republicans claimed both seats for the first time in the modern party's history with Jeff Sessions' election in 1996, and have not ceded them since.

In December, Republican Roy Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones for the seat vacated by Sessions after he was confirmed attorney general.

Moore, a former chief justice of the state supreme court, defeated interim senator Luther Strange in a late-September Republican primary. Jones is a former US attorney in Alabama.

Polling since the Republican primary shows Jones trailing Moore by 6 to 11 percentage points in the special election to decide who holds Sessions' vacated seat until the 2020 election.

An Opinion Savvy poll in late September commissioned by Decision Desk HQ showed Jones trailing Moore by about 6 points with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

A poll sponsored by the Alabama-based Raycom News Network had Jones 11 points behind while another by JMC Analytics showed Jones trailing 8 points. Both polls had margins of error between 2 to 4 points.

Even an 11-point loss by Jones would make the special election the closest Senate race since 1996, when Sessions beat Democrat Roger Bedford by 7 percentage points. The next closest was Sessions' reelection when he defeated Democrat Susan D. Parker by roughly 19 points. Since then, no Democrat challenger has come closer than 27 points in races for either Senate seats.

A recent much-discussed Fox News poll put Jones neck-and-neck with Moore. The poll included far more respondents than are likely to vote, however, putting the results in question, AL.com reported. Yet the race remains unexpectedly close in a state Trump won by 28 percentage points in the general election.

No poll so far has Jones winning the seat, but the potential for a competitive race reflects a general Democratic resurgence ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Alabama elected its last Democratic senator, Richard Shelby, in 1992, but Shelby switched parties in 1994 and won as a Republican four years later. Alabama's last Democratic presidential pick was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Southern Democrats began transitioning toward the Republican party following the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Moore also is ahead in fundraising: As of Sept. 30, Moore had raised $2.5 million to Jones' $1.6 million. 

Jones received about 55 percent of his funding from large individual contributions and about 42 percent from small contributions, while Moore's funding includes about 59 percent from large individual contributions and about 40 percent from small donations ($200 or less).

Moore, a political outsider opposed by the mainstream GOP in the September primary, recently formed a new joint fundraising committee with Republican party committees, which is expected to bring an influx of new money, Politico reported.

Categories: News

Media Spreads Bogus Claims About CBD Candy on Halloween

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 13:14
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This Halloween season, some members of the media seem intent on playing a cruel trick on CBD oil users and parents. 

Even after decades of education and growing awareness about the benefits and safety of hemp and cannabis, law enforcement is as eager as ever to spread fear and misinformation and, in some cases, journalists are just as eager to repeat those lies to the public.

While we like to keep things positive here at Ministry of Hemp, and usually prefer to focus on the countless benefits of this miracle crop, sometimes we have to take time to debunk untruths as well.

That's why we want to reassure parents that CBD won't be poisoning their kids this Halloween: we don't believe anyone is putting CBD edibles in your kid's treat bag.

Local News Spreads Misinformation About CBD for Holiday Clicks

Maybe you've seen a story like this one in your local paper, or seen a friend share something similar on social media. Some of these articles are concerned with the dangers of children getting ahold of edibles containing psychoactive cannabis or marijuana, agricultural hemp's close cousin which does make you feel "high." Thanks to the spread of cannabis legalization, edible treats containing marijuana are available legally in many states.

What stood out to us about this particular story, however, was that it's focused on gummy candies infused with CBD oil, a popular supplement made from agricultural hemp which does not make you high. In fact, thousands of people have sought out this nutritional supplement for that very reason: CBD can offer numerous healing benefits, from easing anxiety to reducing inflammation, all while causing very few side effects

While both CBD and marijuana edibles should always be stored out of reach of children, it seemed strange that the media would focus on the form of cannabis that causes relatively little change in the mental state of its users. Then again, since CBD is legal for consumers to buy in all of the U.S., but psychoactive cannabis is still illegal in North Carolina, it would be hard to stir up fear about pot edibles there. And fear means more clicks, and more ad dollars flowing to increasingly cash strapped publishers and TV stations.

What the Media Gets Wrong About CBD Oil

The WRAL story is just one of several like it in the news right now, but we'll highlight a few of the most egregious errors in it anyway, in the hopes of educating our readers and easing any fears they may still have about the safety of hemp and CBD.

  • CBD won't make you high. As stated above, CBD doesn't make people feel high, unlike THC, the related cannabinoid chemical found in marijuana. In fact, WRAL were forced to post a correction after incorrectly implying that Koi CBD Candies, a particular brand of CBD-infused gummy, might contain THC. It does not.

  • CBD is safe in any form. Numerous studies have shown that CBD is safe for humans to consume and that it would be almost impossible to overdose on it. Even psychoactive cannabis is considered safer than alcohol and tobacco, two substances that kids unfortunately get their hands on all too frequently. Our homes are also full of dangerous substances that can be harmful if ingested. WRAL chose to focus on CBD gummies for their story, but even gummy vitamins can be toxic if taken in high doses, especially by kids. 

  • CBD is too expensive to give out randomly to kids. WRAL admits that local police have never found CBD on any school campus, but still tries to suggest that someone might accidentally or maliciously give out a CBD candy at Halloween. But anyone spending $30 for a bag of 20 gummies (the cost of the brand used in this story) isn't going to leave them anywhere kids could find them. By comparison, a 5 pound bag of normal gummy bears costs $10 on Amazon. We're regular CBD users ourselves, so obviously we think it's more than worth the cost, but no one in their right mind is letting such a beneficial and valuable substance go to waste or fall into the wrong hands. 

  • Some children actually do take CBD. Again, we'd never recommend giving CBD to a kid without the advice of a medical professional, but a growing number of children use CBD oil to treat serious medical conditions, particularly epilepsy. For some of these children, CBD has transformed their lives, keeping their seizures at bay and allowing them to interact with the world in ways that were formerly impossible. Unfortunately, much of the medical establishment refuses to accept the evidence that CBD and cannabis can help some otherwise untreatable cases of epilepsy, in part because of the intense stigma around these substances.
Scary Stories About Hemp and CBD Perpetuate the War on Drugs

The WRAL story about CBD, and similar articles in other outlets, are proof that the stigma around cannabis, one of the safest substances on earth, is still alive and well. Additionally, it's evidence that law enforcement officers are just as invested as ever in keeping this baseless fear around, despite the thousands of people imprisoned and countless lives ruined because of the war on this miraculous plant. 

WRAL's reporters interviewed Jason Locklear, an agent at North Carolina's Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, who ominously declared that shops in the region were selling out of CBD-laced lollipops. Notably, not a single police officer interviewed had any proof that these lollipops were ending up in kids' hands, on Halloween or any other day. 

That didn't stop Locklear from declaring, "Anybody in the school system should be alarmed. Parents should be alarmed."

Agent Locklear even suggests employers should be concerned about whether their workers are using CBD to relax or ease their aches and pains!  

If you know about the history of why cannabis and hemp are illegal, then this kind of statement is disappointing, but not surprising. One major reason cannabis remains illegal is that police and prison guards' unions lobby against legalization because the war on drugs is extremely profitable for law enforcement. As more states legalize recreational or medicinal cannabis, and people everywhere discover the benefits of CBD, these unscrupulous cops see their profits slipping away! 

If you want to be scared this Halloween, we suggest going the traditional route: put on a scary movie. We're partial to classics like "The Haunting" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," though of course these films aren't safe for kids either.

Meanwhile, we look forward to the day when cannabis is legal in all its forms, and journalists need to look elsewhere to generate thrills and chills.

Categories: News

Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin: Breaking Through the Political Barriers to Free Education

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 13:13

 Cancillería del Ecuador)Noam Chomsky speaks with Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patiño in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 29, 2015. (Photo: Cancillería del Ecuador)

Driven by neoliberal politics, our current educational system is both a product and a driver of deep social inequities. In this interview, world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin take on the question of who should pay for education -- and how a radical reshaping of our educational system could be undertaken in the US.

 Cancillería del Ecuador)Noam Chomsky speaks with Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patiño in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 29, 2015. (Photo: Cancillería del Ecuador)

This is the third part of a wide-ranging interview series with world-renowned public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin. Read part one here and part two here.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, higher education in the US is a terribly expensive affair, and hundreds of billions are owed in student loans. First, do you think that a system of free higher education can coexist alongside tuition-charging universities? Secondly, what could and should be done about student debt?

Noam Chomsky: The educational system was a highly predictable victim of the neoliberal reaction, guided by the maxim of "private affluence and public squalor." Funding for public education has sharply declined. Tuition has exploded, leading to a plague of unpayable student debt. As higher education is driven to a business model in accord with neoliberal doctrine, administrative bureaucracy has sharply increased at the expense of faculty and students, developments reviewed well by sociologist Benjamin Ginsburg. Cost-cutting dictated by the revered market principles naturally leads to hyper-exploitation of the more vulnerable, creating a new precariat of graduate students and adjuncts surviving on a bare pittance, replacing tenured faculty. All of this happens to be a good disciplinary technique, for obvious reasons.

For those with eyes open, much of what has happened was anticipated by the early '70s, at the point of transition from regulated capitalism to incipient neoliberalism. At the time, there was mounting elite concern about the dangers posed by the democratizing and civilizing effects of 1960s activism, and particularly the role of young people during "the time of troubles." The concerns were forcefully expressed at both ends of the political spectrum.

At the right end of the spectrum, the "Powell memorandum" sent by corporate lobbyist (later Supreme Court Justice) Lewis Powell to the Chamber of Commerce called upon the business community to rise up to defend itself against the assault on freedom led by Ralph Nader, Herbert Marcuse and other miscreants who had taken over the universities, the media and the government. The picture was, of course, ludicrous but it did reflect the perceptions of Powell's audience, desperate about the slight diminution in their overwhelming power. The rhetoric is as interesting as the message, reminiscent of a spoiled three-year-old who has a piece of candy taken away. The memorandum was influential in circles that matter for policy formation.

At the other end of the spectrum, at about the same time, the liberal internationalists of the Trilateral Commission published their lament over "The Crisis of Democracy" that arose in the "terrible" '60s, when previously apathetic and marginalized parts of the population -- the great majority -- began to try to enter the political arena to pursue their interests. That posed an intolerable burden on the state. Accordingly, the Trilateral scholars called for more "moderation in democracy," a return to passivity and obedience. The American rapporteur, Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, reminisced nostalgically about the time when "Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers," so that true democracy flourished.

A particular concern of the Trilateral scholars was the failure of the institutions responsible for "the indoctrination of the young," including the schools and universities. These had to be brought under control, along with the irresponsible media that were (occasionally) departing from subordination to "proper authority" -- a precursor of concerns of the far-right Republican Party today.

There is no economic reason why free education cannot flourish from schools through colleges and university.

The right-liberal spectrum of concerns provided a good indication of what was to come.

The underfunding of public education, from K-12 through colleges and universities, has no plausible economic rationale, and in fact is harmful to the economy because of the losses that ensue. In other countries, rich and poor, education remains substantially free, with educational standards that rank high in global comparisons. Even in the US, higher education was almost free during the economically successful years before the neoliberal reaction -- and it was, of course, a much poorer country then. The GI bill provided free education to huge numbers of people -- white men overwhelmingly -- who would probably never have gone to college, a great benefit to them personally and to the whole society. Tuition at private colleges was far below today's exorbitant costs.

Student debt is structured to be a burden for life. The indebted cannot declare bankruptcy, unlike Trump. Current student debt is estimated to be over $1.45 trillion, [more than] $600 billion more than total credit card debt. Most is unpayable, and should be rescinded. There are ample resources for that simply from waste, including the bloated military and the enormous concentrated private wealth that has accumulated in the financial and general corporate sector under neoliberal policies.

There is no economic reason why free education cannot flourish from schools through colleges and university. The barriers are not economic but rather political decisions, skewed in the predictable direction under conditions of highly unequal wealth and power. Barriers that can be overcome, as often in the past.

Bob, what's your own response to the question I posed above?

Robert Pollin: Student debt in the US has exploded in the past decade. In 2007, total student debt was $112 billion, equal to 0.8 percent of GDP. As of 2016, total student debt was [more than] $1 trillion, equal to 5.6 percent of GDP. Thus, as a share of GDP, student debt has risen approximately seven-fold. As of 2012, nearly 70 percent of students left college carrying student loans, and these loans averaged $26,300.

The rise in student debt reflects a combination of factors. The first is that the private costs of attending college have risen sharply, with public higher education funding having been cut sharply. Average public funding per student was 15 percent lower in 2015 than in 2008, and 20 percent lower than in 1990. The burden of the public funding cuts [has] been worsened by the stagnation of average family incomes. Thus, in 1990, average tuition, fees, room and board amounted to about 18 percent of the median household income. By 2014, this figure had nearly doubled, to 35 percent of median household income.

Despite these sharply rising costs, college enrollments have continued to rise. There are many good reasons for young people to go off to college, open their minds, develop their skills and enjoy themselves. But probably the major attraction is the fact that income disparities have increased sharply between those who go to college versus those who do not. This pattern corresponds with the stagnation of average wages since the early 1970s that we discussed [previously]. The reality under neoliberalism has been that, if you want to have a decent shot at a good-paying job with a chance for promotions and raises over time, the most important first step is to get a college education. The pressures to go to college would be much less intense if working-class jobs provided good pay and opportunities to advance, as was the pattern prior to the onset of neoliberalism.

Virtually all student debt in the US is now held by the federal government. It would therefore be a relatively simple matter to forgive some, if not all of it. This would enable young people to transition much more easily into creating their own households and families. At the same time, if the government is going to enact a major program of student debt forgiveness, it should be at least equally committed to relieving the heavy mortgage debt burdens still carried by tens of millions of non-affluent households in the aftermath of the 2007-09 financial crash and Great Recession. Similarly, the government should also be at least equally committed to both lowering the costs of college education in the first place, and [supporting] better wages and work opportunities for people who do not attend college.

The blueprint for a progressive US that the two of you have sketched out requires that a certain course of political action is carried out ... which includes educating the masses in getting from here to there. How is this to be done, especially given not only the peculiarities of American political culture, but also the balkanization of progressive and left forces in the country?

Chomsky: The answer is both easy and hard. Easy to formulate (and familiar), and hard to execute (also familiar). The answer is education, organization [and] activism as appropriate to circumstances. Not easy, but often successful, and there's no reason why it cannot be now. Popular engagement, though scattered, is at quite a high level, as is enthusiasm and concern. There are also important elements of unity, like the Left Forum, novel and promising. And the movements we've already mentioned. Significant efforts are underway, such as those alluded to briefly [before], and there's no reason why they cannot be extended. While the left is famous for constant splits and internal disputes, I don't think that's more so now than in the past. And the general mood, particularly among young people, seems to me conducive to quite positive changes.

It is not idle romanticism to recognize the potential that can be awakened, or arise independently, in communities that free themselves from indoctrination and passive subordination.

I don't feel that there is anything deep in the political culture that prevents "educating the masses." I'm old enough to recall vividly the high level of culture, general and political, among first-generation working people during the Great Depression. Workers' education was lively and effective, union-based -- mostly the vigorous rising labor movement, reviving from the ashes of the 1920s. I've often seen independent and quite impressive initiatives in working-class and poor and deprived communities today. And there's a long earlier history of lively working-class culture, from the early days of the industrial revolution. The most important radical democratic movement in American history, the populist movement (not today's "populism"), was initiated and led by farmers in Texas and the Midwest, who may have had little formal education but understood very well the nature of their plight at the hands of the powerful banking and commercial sectors, and devised effective means to counter it....

I've been fortunate enough to have seen remarkable examples elsewhere. I recall vividly a visit to an extremely poor, almost inaccessible rural village in southern Colombia, in an area under attack from all sides, where I attended a village meeting that was concerned with protecting their resources, including irreplaceable water supplies, from predatory international mining corporations. And in particular. a young man, with very little formal education, who led a thoughtful and very informed discussion of sophisticated development plans that they intended to implement. I've seen the same in poor villages in West Bengal, with a handful of books in the tiny schoolroom, areas liberated from landlord rule by Communist party militancy. The opportunities and, of course, resources are vastly greater in rich societies like ours.

I don't think it is idle romanticism to recognize the potential that can be awakened, or arise independently, in communities that free themselves from indoctrination and passive subordination. The opportunities I think are there, to be grasped and carried forward.

Pollin: I think it is inevitable that leftist forces in the US would be divided, if not balkanized, to some extent. Among the full range of people who are committed to social and economic equality and ecological [justice] -- i.e. to some variant of a leftist vision of a decent society -- it will always be the case that some will be more focused on egalitarian economic issues, others around the environment and climate change, others on US imperialism, militarism and foreign policy, others on race and gender equality, and still others on sexual identity.

I certainly do not have the formula for how to most effectively knit all these groups together. But I do think we can learn a lot from the major successes out there. The 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign is a first obvious example. Another is the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) that I mentioned [before]. This is a union, fighting first for the well-being of its members, who are overwhelmingly women, with a high proportion being women of color. At the same time, CNA/NNU has been in the forefront of campaigns for single-payer health care and even the Robin Hood Tax on speculative Wall Street trading.

There are other progressive organizations that have proven track records of success. One is the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), which has long been active around both living wage and other worker rights issues, as well as community economic development and environmental justice. A more recently formed coalition is NY Renews, which is comprised of 126 organizations in New York State who have come together to advance a serious program in the state to both dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand good job opportunities. The Washington State Labor Council -- part of the AFL-CIO -- has also been committed and innovative in bringing together coalitions of labor and environmental groups.

The US left needs to learn and build from the achievements and ongoing work of these and similar groups. In fact, as Margaret Thatcher used to say, "there is no alternative" -- if we are serious about successfully advancing a left alternative to the disasters caused by 40 years of neoliberal hegemony.

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Categories: News

Trump Pick for White House Environmental Council Profited from Oil Drilling, Energy Industry Speaking Fees

deSmog - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:58
Kathleen Hartnett White (left) and Donald Trump (right)

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump’s nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), has recently made money from both leases on oil drilling and speaking fees at conferences sponsored by the fossil fuel industry. These new details come from Hartnett White’s financial disclosure, obtained by DeSmog.     

If her nomination is confirmed, Hartnett White will be charged with interagency coordination of science, energy, and environmental policy and with overseeing crucial environmental review processes for new energy and infrastructure projects. The CEQ, a division of the Executive Office of the President, was established in 1969 as part of the landmark National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12256'; [Reuse options] Click here for reuse options! Tags: Trump AdministrationKathleen Hartnett-WhiteKathleen Hartnett Whitecouncil on environmental quality (CEQ)
Categories: News

Manafort surrenders. What has this got to do with Trump?

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:56

Manafort surrenders. What has this got to do with Trump? | 30 Oct 2017 | Former campaign manager to the Trump team, Paul Manafort, has turned himself into the authorities after the long-awaited charges were finally filed on Friday. It is not our place to judge his guilt, but we can ask one question: What has this got to do with Donald Trump and the [alleged] Russian conspiracy? Back in the summer, the media had a frenzy about the FBI raiding Manafort's home searching for evidence of money laundering from his days as a Ukraine spin master and lobbyist. According to the filed charges, they’ve found it. But not one of the charges mentions a single word about Donald trump, his campaign team, his presidential bid, or in fact anything whatsoever that you would expect from an investigation into the aforementioned.

Categories: News

Podesta Group one of the companies mentioned in Manafort indictment - report

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:49

Podesta Group one of the companies mentioned in Manafort indictment - report | 30 Oct 2017 | The Podesta Group, a prominent lobbying and public relations firm, is one of the two unidentified companies mentioned in the grand jury indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Richard Gates, NBC News reported Monday. Manafort and Gates approached "Company A" and "Company B" in 2012 about lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government, according to the indictment that was unsealed Monday. Company A refers to Mercury Public Affairs and Company B refers to the Podesta Group, three sources with knowledge of the investigation told the news outlet.

Categories: News

White House downplays George Papadopoulos's role in Trump campaign

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:42

White House downplays George Papadopoulos's role in Trump campaign | 30 Oct 2017 | White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed George Papadopoulos's role within President Trump's campaign, referring to him as a "volunteer." "He was a volunteer member of an advisory council that met one time," Sanders told reporters Monday afternoon during the White House press briefing. Papadopoulos, who is 30 years old, joined the Trump campaign in early March 2016 as a foreign adviser. The special counsel tasked with investigating [alleged] Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin released a statement which says that Papadopoulos "pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001."

Categories: News

Mueller investigation: Manafort charged with US tax fraud over Ukraine work

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:31

Mueller investigation: Manafort charged with US tax fraud over Ukraine work | 30 Oct 2017 | Donald Trump's former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine. The 12 charges brought against Mr Manafort and one of his business associates, Rick Gates, include conspiracy to launder money. They stem from an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Categories: News

Putin: Someone is harvesting Russian bio samples for obscure purposes

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:22

Putin: Someone is harvesting Russian bio samples for obscure purposes | 31 Oct 2017 | Russian genetic material is being harvested all over the country, purposefully and professionally, President Vladimir Putin has said, possibly hinting at the US Air Force's earlier move to acquire Russian tissue samples..."Images are one thing, but do you know that biological material is being collected all over the country, from different ethnic groups and people living in different geographical regions of the Russian Federation? The question is - why is it being done? It's being done purposefully and professionally. We are a kind of object of great interest," Putin told the Council.

Categories: News

Cadereyta Prison Riot: Chronicle of a Preannounced Massacre

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 06:32

The post Cadereyta Prison Riot: Chronicle of a Preannounced Massacre appeared first on It's Going Down.

Editor’s note: On October 9th, a riot occurred at the Cadereyta Social Reintegration Center (CERESO), a state prison in Nuevo León, Mexico, in which 18 prisoners were killed and more than 30 wounded.

By Miguel María Vidal

Callousness kills better than a R15 to silence the cries of protest…”

That Monday…at night while I checked my notifications, I noticed a few that said “something” was happening at the Cadereyta CERESO. That phrase “something is happening” brought up memories of recent tragic events in Monterrey, for example natural disasters, massacres, and riots like the ones that happened previously at the Apodaca CERESO and Topo Chico Prison. Given the evident spread of this rumor, I decided to turn on the television to see the news, in search of corroborating it and being certain about what was happening. On the news programs – on Monday night and Tuesday morning – the first things I heard were statements from authorities who at that moment said it was just a fight among people deprived of freedom. Hours later I would realize that these initial statements were an attempt to dismiss what was actually occurring. Time, valuable time, that could be used to resolve the situation unfolding inside the CERESO.

Hours later – midday Tuesday – the same authorities indicated that what happened was a riot. Similarly, that there had been three guards held by people deprived of freedom who were asking there be no more transfers to Cadereyta CERESO from other prisons. This request corresponded to the fear, anguish and terror created by the idea that those transfers would lead to a so-called self-government inside the prison. That is in no way an acceptable option, as with it silence, pain, rage, resentment and impotence hang like the Sword of Damocles over the people there deprived of freedom and whose tip extends its threat to their family members.

Police forces storm Cadereyta prison.

All this happened in the midst of a cloud of smoke that split the blue sky and white clouds, like a sign of discontent with what the future might bring and like a cry that was lost in the silence of apathy due to the lack of information of what was happening.

It’s true that violence and aggression were present, but it is also true that they were the last ways of expressing – given the fear that they lived in – a demand that had been ignored time and time again by authorities such as the CERESO administration. In general it’s thought that when a person is deprived of freedom they lose their human rights. It was those people in that situation, who after being categorically denied and threatened, were motivated to take limited actions as the final and only way of requesting a response to their demand. The smoke represents a way of communicating to those beyond the perimeter walls that there exist serious human rights violations. A situation that ideally should not be, as according to the law, basic civil rights are not suspended when a person is deprived of freedom and must be respected and promoted by the penal institution and the people who work for it. According to what the federal constitution says, “All authorities have the obligation to promote, respect, protect and guarantee human rights, which is why the state must prevent, investigate, punish and correct human rights violations.

These unheard voices that protested due to the previously mentioned fear were quickly silenced by R-15s, 9mms, tear gas, and the classic baton, silencing forever the voices of 18 people – but even more – breaking, injuring and bruising not just the people who were repressed, but also their families and Nuevo Leonese society itself, a society that’s stayed silent and said nothing in response to these events. A society that perhaps can’t perceive that it itself is injured, broken, silence and repressed.

The family members of prisoners demand answers from Nuevo León Attorney General Bernardo González Garza (in jacket).

Events that were justified with saying like: “The lives of the kidnapped guards and of those in custody were at risk” “we must use the force of the state” – which is embodied by the police, the guards, the institutional or penitentiary forces, the army and the CERESO administration, who let loose their sublimated or repressed genocidal instincts and picked up a gun and fired, a baton or nightstick and swung. These actions were justified by and rooted in official discourse that supports their violence in the interest of “the common good” and of the important, inviolable, immovable and obtuse “security”. So it is that a complaint, a demand, a silenced cry turns into a massacre and raises questions such as: Who gave the order to fire? Who approved it? Who fired? And with respect to the investigation: What was the chain of custody used to collect the bullet casings? How many casings were found? Does that number match the reported number of bullets fired by police and prison forces? Were casings found only for weapons officially approved for use? Was there an investigation into the trajectory of the bullets? How many deaths were from a bullet to the head and from what distance? How many deaths were from a bullet in the back? How many deaths were from stray bullets? Where are the people whose relatives have requested visits but who still haven’t been located? Relatives who are receiving as answers: “We didn’t find him” “Go look in the University Hospital”, being that, according to reports, the lists of wounded and deceased have been closed.

These and many other questions pierce the mothers, partners, fathers, siblings, children and other relatives with pain and uncertainty. Since early Monday they were at the green gate – which is the first or last door, as the case may be; because from here, no matter the case, the CERESO extends its gray walls, creating victims of those deprived of freedom and their families. Victims who in expressing their anguish and pain, be it peacefully, desperately, with shouts, pushing the gate, or throwing bottles and other objects over the gate, received as replies: “Later we’ll give you the chance to enter” “There is no visiting at the moment, please leave” “Go home”, innumerable answers in this tone, but also giving answers by spraying them with a fire extinguisher (to make it hard to breath and diminish visibility), with tear gas and shots from at least four pepper ball guns, as well as the inevitable pushes, punches, insults and baton strikes.

Riot gear set on fire by protesting family members.

Here it’s worth asking if the revictimization of the families is due to an unusual response to an unusual situation or if it is the very professionalism that the police and prison forces are taught at the University of Security Sciences? Is this the protocol that should be followed for women, children and men who were rightfully asking for information about their relatives inside the prison? These acts show what the words, statements and institutional jargon seek to hide.

Now, is this a mere recounting of events or an effort to show the necrotic relationship that exists at the political and institutional level? A relationship where deciding who can or should die has little relevance, as since they are people deprived of freedom it’s believed that “they have no rights” “they are thugs” “they did society a favor by killing them” “let them kill each other”, statements that are typical not just of most people working in the public security sector, but also of the majority of people in society. A fact that displays their punitive, stigmatizing and discriminatory core. These views are not well-founded but they establish a baseline. And from there the phenomenon of necrosis is created, which justifies, accepts and promotes the killing of those who dare to break the established rules, norms or laws. It dehumanizes those who are imprisoned – without knowing a thing about what it is like to live in that situation – as well as their families and all those who think or say that those deprived of freedom have rights that much be respected.

In such a way, these politics and institutions normalize and applaud the death of my partner, of someone like me, or of the Other. We must ask ourselves, what future lies on the horizon of this thing we call life when the State asks family members to accept a death certificate attributing the death of their relative to natural causes when they were killed by a gunshot?

Categories: News

Solecast: Erin Gallagher on Hacking Public Opinion, Twitter Bots & Cyborgs

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 06:26

The post Solecast: Erin Gallagher on Hacking Public Opinion, Twitter Bots & Cyborgs appeared first on It's Going Down.

On today’s episode I do an in-depth with Erin Gallagher. Erin is a truly independent journalist who has been tracking and studying the phenomena of twitter bots, their human operators (herein referred to as ‘cyborgs’), and “hacking public opinion.” We go in depth on how social media bots engage in dark propaganda campaigns to sway elections and more. We talk about how information cascades through our networks and manipulates public opinion.

We talk about specific cases going back as far as 2012 in places like South Africa, South Korea and Central/South America. We also discuss “Patriotic Programmers” and other actors who are spreading fake news and divisive propaganda with an (often) extreme right wing agenda.

For more information on this subject follow Erin on Twitter or Medium and check out the following articles:

South Korea spy agency admits trying to rig 2012 presidential election 

Sepulveda “How To Hack an Election”

Federal Election Board Denies Bots Exist

Patriotic programmers

I Bought A Bot Army For $100

Erin Gallagher’s Mapping of Fake Antifa Accounts Made With Gephy

Music: Sole & DJ Pain 1 “Teachings Of Ice Cube (Memory Remix)

Categories: News

Right-Wing Hack Claims Oakland Anarchists Linked to ISIS

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:13

The post Right-Wing Hack Claims Oakland Anarchists Linked to ISIS appeared first on It's Going Down.

After Charlottesville, both the far-Right and the State have pushed to link anarchists and antifascists with something that the majority of the population understands to be “bad.” For many, this is ISIS. Discredited far-Right hack Edward Klein in an upcoming book alleges that anarchists from Oakland, CA traveled to Germany to meet with ISIS and Al-Qaeda, but gives no evidence, claiming that the information comes from a July 2017 FBI field report which will be published in his new book, coming out in a few months. Being that anarchists, antifascists, and revolutionaries are fighting and dying in the fight against ISIS alongside the YPG and YPJ, we find this insinuation insulting, and clearly simply a provocation by a washed up troll. Anarchists are just as opposed to the authoritarian Caliphate of ISIS as we are to neo-colonial capitalism, State socialism, or the fascism of the Alt-Right.

By Lynda Carlson

In a new book by right-wing extremist Edward Klein called, “All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump,” Klein alleges that the FBI is claiming that Oakland activists are linked to ISIS, and Al-Qaeda. Edward Klein is a former editor of the New York Times Magazine.

Klein alleges: “A secret FBI investigation of the violent ‘resistance’ movement on college campuses against President Trump has led to an alarming discovery—the collusion between American anarchists and foreign terrorists in the Islamic State and Al qaeda, according to a confidential ‘Informational Report’ by FBI field offices.

‘There is clearly overwhelming evidence that there are growing ties between U.S. radicals and the Islamic State, as well as several [ISIS] offshoots and splinter groups,’ stated the FBI field report, which was delivered to Acting Director Andrew McCabe on July 11, 2017.”

This type of right-wing hysteria is reminiscent of the 60s and 70s when the Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI, including the COINTELPRO program, were out to destroy the Black Panther Party, by any means necessary.

Klein further alleges: “The agents sent by the FBI paid particular attention to a group of anarchists from Oakland, a major port city that lies adjacent to the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, the scene of several violent protests.

‘While there has been military progress in Iraq against the Islamic State, their influence in Europe and throughout the world is clearly growing,’ the report said.

‘Now that the bureau has determined they have followers in the radical U.S. resistance movement in the United States, it is clear there will be additional violence in the attacks on law enforcement and U.S. institutions, including banks.

‘Ties between three key leaders of the Oakland group [names redacted] met in Hamburg with a leader of the AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] and the AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb],’ the report continued. ‘The leader from AQAP is an Egyptian-born male [name redacted] who is known to be in charge of finances and recruiting for the group.

The FBI field report was delivered [according to Klein, which he says will be published in his new book] to Acting Director Andrew McCabe in July.

‘There is evidence from informants that he is helping the Oakland group acquire the weapons they are seeking, primarily bomb making equipment and toxic chemicals and gasses,” according to Edward Klein.

In the background of this right-wing hysteria and the allegations being made by Edward Klein, they come at a time when the Oakland Police Department has recently been rocked by one scandal, after another.

This is also happening at a time when the FBI has been mired in deep controversy because of the actions of the madman residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, recently another large batch of documents pertaining to the assassination of John F. Kennedy have just been released in October, 2017.

Additionally, the allegations being made by Klein are occurring while it appears that the cops across the nation are on track to kill around 1,000 people with gunfire by the end of the year, according to a report by Reuters. Additionally, according to the Washington Post, over 800 people in the U.S. have already been killed by the cops this year.

Figures released by the Guardian (plus images) reveal that around 1,093 people in the U.S. were killed by the cops during 2016, and Mapping Police Violence reveals more details regarding the epidemic of police violence.

Categories: News

Kite Line: Fighting the Mail Ban

It's Goin Down - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 04:37

The post Kite Line: Fighting the Mail Ban appeared first on It's Going Down.

Listen and Download Here

Last April, the Indiana Department of Corrections banned all correspondence to it’s 25,000 prisoners, except that which is handwritten on lined white paper. The official explanation is that this is an attempt to block trafficking of synthetic marijuana which can be applied to paper. But many prisoners and advocates have pointed to a long series of earlier measures targeting correspondence and the mailing of political and religious materials and argue that this is just the latest and most sweeping attempt to isolate prisoners from outside supporters. In particular, prisoners have pointed to the exclusion of Afrocentric and anti-racist materials by mail room censors.

The mail ban policy pushes families, friends, and supporters to use J-Pay, a proprietary pay-only online communications system. Sending emails through J-Pay requires the purchase of expensive digital “stamps,” channeling money to IDOC and its contractors rather than the post office. It is also easier to surveil.

On today’s episode, we share statements from prisoners who’ve been hurt by the mail ban. They reflect on ways that the ban has secluded them from their families, limited their access to reading materials, and pushed them into isolation.

Categories: News

Sexual Harassment

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 04:00
Categories: News

Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Condemns "Indefensible" Whitefish Contract and Calls for PREPA Chief's Firing

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 04:00

Democracy Now! goes to Puerto Rico, where the FBI is investigating the $300 million contract between Puerto Rico's electric power company and the tiny Montana-based company Whitefish, named for the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "It truly is unnerving that people can just swindle, swindle an entire population when they are at their most vulnerable," says San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. We also speak with Vice Mayor Rafael Jaume about the Whitefish contract.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Marcy Wheeler Says Indictments in Russia Probe Further Incriminate Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Truth Out - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 04:00

President Donald Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates surrendered to the FBI, after being indicted on charges that include money laundering, acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine's former pro-Russian government and conspiracy against the United States. The White House said the indictments have nothing to do with the president's 2016 campaign. However, Trump stopped tweeting yesterday after his former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. We speak with Marcy Wheeler, who in a new piece writes, "George Papadopoulos's Indictment is Very, Very Bad News for Attorney General Jeff Sessions."

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

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