Archive for April 2012

"Backdoor" threat to Social Security

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, of North Dakota, head of the Senate Budget Committee, would raise full retirement eligibility for Social Security to age 69, under legislation based on the Simpson/Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission report. “It’s a backdoor attempt to reduce Social Security benefits,” said Don Owens, of Social Security Works, in Washington. “Not too many businesses are hiring 68 and 69 year old workers.”

Obama Fails to Spend Funds on Hardest Hit Homeowners

More than $7 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Fund money set aside for hardest hit homeowners, disproportionately Blacks and Latinos, was allow to sit in President Obama’s Treasury Department, unspent, for two years. The administration managed to spend only 3 percent of the $7.6 billion allocated. However, South Carolina writer and activist Kevin Alexander Gray doesn’t think the malfeasance will hurt Obama with Blacks at the polls. “As long as they have someone that cosmetically looks like them in the White House,” and “as long as Black people are not organized to make coherent demands of the system, he doesn’t have to worry,” said Gray.

African Americans Have Right to Self-Determination

Based on Article One of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the U.S. is a party, “African Americans have the right to determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development,” said Dr. Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Boyle spoke on the subject to a Chicago meeting of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities.

U.S. “On the Defensive” in Africa

The rise of China, India, Brazil and other countries has made the U.S. desperate to maintain its domination of Africa, said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. Because “Africans are capable of playing the China card,” they don’t necessarily have to buckle under to “the U.S., France or the other imperialist countries.”

Chicago March Against NATO Wins Endorsements

May 20 demonstrations against the summit meeting of NATO heads of state, in Chicago, has been endorsed by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow-Push, three major service employees international unions, the Chicago teachers, and a nurses union, said Chris Gavreau, spokesperson for the United National Anti-War Coalition. “This march is going to be the major Spring action against war and austerity,” she said.

Tear Down U.S. Prison Gulag

It’s a counterinsurgency before there is an insurgency.” That’s how Los Angeles activist Clyde Young views America’s incarceration of 2.4 million people, most of them Black and Latino. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network plans actions in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area on April 19, a National Day of Resistance to Mass Incarceration. Statutes like Florida’s Stand Your Grand Law encourage racist vigilantism, said Young. “They’re nothing but new forms of lynch laws, where any citizen…can shoot a person down on the street, and be exonerated.” In Atlanta, activist Joey Johnson said George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, was “acting out a larger, racist societal project. It requires a deeper, systemic change if we’re going to get to the root of it, and not constantly be dealing with the phenomenon.”

Occupy Harlem to Rally for “All the Trayvons”

It’s essential for us to build a united front against racist killings,” said Dr. William Sales, an organizer of Occupy Harlem’s rally and march, April 21. “We have to move against what has emerged as a New Jim Crow. It’s really a form of terrorism that is more associated with the Old Jim Crow than with law enforcement,” said Sales, an associate professor of African Studies at Seton Hall University. For information, call 646.812.5188.

Justice Wanted: Plan Needed

What appears to be an escalation of terror against Black people, is also routine practice,” said Kali Akuno, of the U.S. Human Rights Network, in Atlanta. Akuno is circulating a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice, which includes a data base on recent racist killings of Blacks. Young people “are being force fed this narrative that we have somehow magically emerged into some kind of post-racial society.” Instead, said Akuno, Blacks must “organize into formations that exercise power to create the kind of society that you want.”

Housing Settlement Almost Worthless to Underwater Homeowners

Activist David Hungerford led angry members of the Coalition to Save Our Homes to New Jersey’s state capital in Trenton, to demand reductions in mortgage principals. The $25 billion settlement between the nation’s state attorney generals and the big banks “broadly speaking, does almost nothing” for homeowners that are “underwater” to the tune of $700 billion. The top state law enforcement officers “talk with the people who perpetrated predatory lending, but they won’t talk to the victims,” said Hungerford.

Black Teachers Pushed Out in Denver

African American teachers are being “pushed, en mass to retirement, fired, put on disciplinary hearing or on leave” in the Denver public schools, because of the Obama administration’s so-called “turnaround” program, said Cozette Hammock-West, a retired teacher with the Alliance of Neighborhood Organizations for Justice for African Americans. Black educators are replaced by “young white teachers, most of them from the Teach for America program, where they are not even trained to teach.”

A U.S. Chapter for ILPS

On May 19, in Chicago, the International League of People’s Struggle, representing 200 organizations, worldwide, will welcome its newly organized U.S. chapter. “It’s not only people in those countries that are being invaded and bombed by the United States” that need solidarity, said Bill Doar, a vice-chairman of ILPS. “We, too, need international solidarity to fight against the power of Wall Street and U.S. corporations.” ILPS delegates will also take part in mass demonstrations against the NATO summit meeting in the city.

A Real Socialist for President

Stephan Durham, who’s seeking the presidential nomination on the Peace and Freedom Party line, says he is THE socialist candidate in the race. “Capitalism is addicted to war,” said the Freedom Socialist Party member. “Fundamental change” is needed in the U.S., “so that the world will have a chance to breathe.”

Blacks Disappearing From California University Campuses

Even at African American Studies classes at UC Berkeley, it is now rare that Black students are a majority of the class,” said Yvette Felarca, one of the protesters that briefly occupied the Registrar’s office. African American enrollment has dropped to 3 percent since passage of Proposition 2009, the referendum that outlawed affirmative action in state higher education in 1996. A federal appeals court recently upheld the ban. George Washington, a lawyer for Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), calls the law “a direct attack on the political rights of Black and Latino people. Every other citizen of the state of California can say they want a special admissions program” – except racial and ethnic minorities.

Look at Dick and Jane. See Their Privileges

Dick and Jane,” the old picture book primer, taught post-World War Two Americans that lily white suburban lives were the ones “that need to be protected from criminal Others like Trayvon Martin when they enter into gated communities,” said scholar and activist Sikivu Hutchinson. “This whole paradigm was really constructed upon the Othering of African Americans and other families of color.”

Occupy the Justice Department

The U.S. criminal justice system will be put on trial, on April 24, when demonstrators “Occupy” the U.S. Justice Department, in Washington.Benjamin Woods, of Students Against Mass Incarceration, hopes to put “prison abolition back on the table, as opposed to just prison ‘reform’ and ‘stop these brutalities.’” The Howard University doctoral candidate said the questions must be posed: “What is an alternative to prison? How can we transform society so that prisons are no longer necessary?”

California Prisoners Take Torture Case to the UN

Peter Schey, of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, has filed petitions asking the United Nations to intervene in California’s draconian prison solitary confinement practices. “The majority are placed in solitary confinement” – for years and even decades – “based on mere gang membership or association with gangs,” said Schey. His clients want the UN to issue a report stating that California’s policies “constitute torture in violation of international law.”

The Rich, and Their Children, Get Richer

The Senate should pass a bill that would restore taxes on inherited wealth to levels that would raise half a trillion dollars over the next ten years, said Tim Sullivan, of United for a Fair Economy, part of Americans for a Fair Estate Tax. “The concentrated wealth we are seeing right now is at epidemic proportions, the worst it has been since before the Great Depression, and the Estate Tax is near its weakest level since it was put into place 100 years ago,” said Sullivan.

U.S. Hands Off Mali!

The Tuareg rebellion that has cut the West African nation of Mali in two is the result of colonial boundaries and decisions that “left out a nomadic people without any kind of land base of their own,” said Anna Edwards, of Defenders of Freedom, Justice and Equality, in Richmond, Virginia. The “destabilization of Libya” by the U.S. and NATO left thousands of Malian Tuaregs jobless. Peace activists should demand that the U.S. not intervene in the conflict, said Ms. Edwards, who has visited Mali several times. “The bulk of U.S. aid to Mali is implemented through AFRICOM, and the desire to find a base on African soil.”

Cholera Deaths Up in Haiti

The return of the rainy season has brought an increase in deaths from cholera, which has killed 7,000 Haitians and sickened half a million since its introduction by MINUSTAH, the United Nations military occupation force. The UN has the responsibility to commit the resources to control the disease “because they brought it there, but they’re still denying it,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington. “This is the rainy season, and once again they’re not prepared for it. I think they just don’t care enough.”

Green Party Black Caucus Endorses Roseanne Barr

Based largely on name recognition and a nod from former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party’s Black Caucus has thrown its support to celebrity Roseanne Barr for president. “The reality is, to break through the mainstream media, a person has to have that type of recognition,” said Black Caucus spokesman Thomas Muhammad. “The more attention she gets, the more attention the party gets, and that’s the reality of politics.” The heads-up from McKinney, the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, was key, said Muhammad. “It was very critical because, without that, some of our party members were going to look elsewhere.”

UNAC Says “No” to Intervention or Sanctions Against Syria and Iran

“We need an anti-war movement that is really against all U.S. wars – that simple,” said Sara Flaunders, of the International Action Center, at the Stamford, Connecticut, conference of UNAC, the United National Anti-War Coalition. “How does any U.S. official lecture any other country on prisoners, on human rights, or on democracy? This country has the largest prison population in the world.”

Margaret Kimberley at UNAC: Choose Peace or Obama

“You cannot be anti-war and pro-Obama,” said Margaret Kimberley, editor and senior columnist for Black Agenda Report. “The United States, France and the UK conspired to bring down a sovereign nation’s government, kill its leader, spread a race war and lynch law, and divide Libya into weak fiefdoms incapable of stopping their collaborators from turning over their resources to NATO and the G-8 countries,” said Kimberley. “These people will not be happy until the people of the world accept their rule without protest.”

Glen Ford at UNAC: U.S. Society is Organized Around Racial Oppression

“One out of every eight prison inmates on the planet is an African American,” said Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda report. “That statistic alone serves to illuminate” that the U.S. is “a society that is largely organized around race and racial oppression. That’s what the Black American Gulag means.”

Nellie Bailey at UNAC: Obama A “Servant of the 1%”

In 2007, “when the U.S. imperialists introduced Barack Obama to us,” many “comrades and activists” succumbed to “our blind spot” and decided, “this is our man – when, in fact, Obama is a servant of the 1%,” said Nellie Bailey, Black Agenda Report editor and director of the Harlem Tenants Council. But resistance to Obama continues among African Americans, “and will not roll over to his disdain and disrespect.”

Bruce Dixon at UNAC: The “Bipartisan” Prison State

“The prison state is very much a bi-partisan thing,” said Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report managing editor. Corporations and their philanthropic arms, like the United Way, “present a lot of opportunities for hijacking and containing the anti-prison movement within the universe bound by the two political parties.” The movement “against mass incarceration has to be led, in large part, by the formerly incarcerated, themselves.”

April 19: Day of National Resistance Against Mass Incarceration

The Trayvon Martin killing is reminiscent of the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision, that Black have no rights that whites are bound to respect, said Carl Dix, of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Dix urged folks to “go from your anger around the injustice at the murder of Trayvon Martin, to anger around all of the abuse that the criminal injustice system is bringing down on Black and brown people.”

Minneapolis Demo for Trayvon

“As long as we can come together to show that we’re not going to stand for it, were going in the right direction,” said Sam Ndely, a student organizer of a protest that drew 5500 demonstrators to the University of Minnesota.

A “Second Phase” for Occupy?

The newly launched National Occupy Washington campaign of public education and direct action hopes to launch a “second phase” of the Occupy Wall Street movement, said organizer Kevin Zeese. “This is our view of the American Spring.” Preventive detention legislation is “a sign of the elite becoming afraid, and starting to put in place the powers they need to control the people. The only response we have is to get more active.”

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