Tag Archives: social justice

Workers Burn While Unions Find Their Ass

Make sure you find your local and stick yourself there.

Of course by now nearly everyone from your wingnut uncle Walter who lives in a trailer in the middle Ozarks to the brain-dead hipster in Greenwich Village knows that the Hostess company has filed for bankruptcy and basically screwed workers out of nearly everything.  Of course anyone with half a brain who’s been around long enough to know the lyrics to a famous Nazareth song about being pissed off and ready to fuck some shit up pretty quick, knows this old story about corporate meltdowns and workers getting the boot with nothing more than their last paycheck.  Its old hat these days.

So why the whining and hand-wringing going on among so many in the leftward blogosphere about “What Really Happened to Hostess”.  I mean really, Black Commentator had a piece a bit back, written by someone on the front lines in St. Louis, telling sordid tales of long active racism within the company’s management, about the company’s anti-union tactics and other misdeeds also so typical of the American worker story today.  We noticed other stories, well written that popped out right away telling the whole story for what it was.

So now again, why now all the Johnny Come Latelies?

Possibly we’d say because the unions have had to wake up from their trance and figure out that they just lost their ass again.   Oh wait, I forget myself; that’s right, the unions that the workers at Hostess were a member of weren’t part of the other fight [name one in your community or Local] because you know, the other unions have their own battles and hey, tough luck there kid.

Or something like that.  I know, how naive of me to imagine that possibly unions might be able to climb over their proverbial, imaginary fences that divide them and reach out and work with each other on a meaningful basis.  Of course that might also mean that the AFL-CIO drop their absolutely offensive “Save the Middle Class” campaign and stop trying to convince their rank and file that they are some kind of bourgeois Third Estate that the worker/proletariat must serve and that they must not soil themselves with fighting their battles.

I mean, have you seen teachers, fire fighters, police officers, janitors, hotel workers, meat packers, millwrights or the candle stick maker, the butcher and the baker for that matter all stand together in solidarity when one of them gets threatened by the plutocracy?  No, neither have I.

It seems high time they did.

Classism is a construct and tool of the elites, whether of tyranny by capitalism or whatever other means.  One will not find a donut in a shit pile and you won’t find democracy or justice within the oppression of classism, racism or any other construct made to divide one group against another, which only benefits those outside the struggle for crumbs.

Despite all the hand-wringing and analysis and the “OMG!” going on about the unholy greediness of the plutocrat class, the fact is you’d have to not only live under a rock, but possibly be living under a rock under Uncle Walter’s trailer and be deaf and dumb as a stump to not know that this has been going on with plutocrats for a pretty long time.  It seems at some point we can conclude that the capitalist class really sucks at creativity no?  They keep playing that old song of rape and pillage and many of us hold our hands to our ears and say, “I can’t believe it! I didn’t know they knew that tune!”

But with a regularity you can set your watch by, the liberals and left end of the spectrum here in the Land of the Not-So-Free acts with shocked and stunned surprise when they find out that a capitalist is greedy and selfish.  This happens so often that one might begin to think that a large portion of our society really wants to believe that capitalism really works.  Like the wife of the cheating husband who promises to be good next time, a large sector of Americans continue to sit at home alone, tears streaming down their faces not believing he did it again!  What happened, they think and then they ruminate on husbands misdeeds.  Well sweetheart, that works for the first time around.  Remember the old saying, “Fool me once…don’t get fooled again.” Oh wait that was the Bush II version, anyway, you know what I’m talking about; stop being a damned sucker.

Without solidarity — you know unity, without workers coming together from all sectors and standing up when any sector is threatened — as a unified act of power — nothing will change.  The plutocracy will not stop until every single worker in this country is reduced to the newly cherished and celebrated “entrepreneur” who struggles for whatever he/she can pinch out of the economy, with little hope of a pension or even basic protections such as worker’s comp or the added luxury of health insurance.  Don’t believe this? Look around at skilled jobs in the “private sector” among the working classes, besides the low hanging fruit of the Wal-Marts of the world.

You will see auto mechanics, trades people, sales professionals, temp workers, computer techs, service workers, maintenance workers, those in the building trades — all often working under the ubiquitous “independent contractor”, temp worker status or as the much maligned and marginalized non-voting/non-citizen resident worker.  A part of the new worker frame, found more and more tolerable as the standard among the young, the world many happily escape with a union retirement just one jump before the ax.

All the while though, the major business unions seem to be doing what?  Wisconsin was ready for a major general strike that would have shut down the whole state and showed workers where their power was, but the major unions bargained that power away with the Democrats who wanted a chance to grab power — and couldn’t do that competently.  For whatever the incompetence or compliance the Democrats demonstrated, the fact is that workers lost and large labor unions cemented their traditional bond with the Democratic party — you pay us to organize our people (not all workers mind you, just the select middle class) and we’ll deliver when you need them or hold them back when you ask.

Now again, a major company falls off the edge and throws its workers off the cliff and although the struggles of the workers at Hostess and the poor management of the company was no secret, the larger unions couldn’t find a way to get there and help the workers out.   Maybe run a picket, a campaign.  What did they do, clear their throats before their party overlords and ask permission that was denied?  Or did they more accurately, realize that they probably couldn’t even get their rank and file anywhere since they can’t even get them most of them to come to a meeting.

Now Michigan is about to turn, as one Facebook commenter aptly stated, “Right to Freeload”.  Unbelievable, historically the last bastion of the rust belt.  First Wisconsin last year, now St. Louis and Michigan in a matter of months.  In some ways its no surprise as the unions sat on their hands for thirty years, have ignored the job of educating their rank and file about the labor struggle and had the audacity to even (under the leadership of Lane Kirkland most notably) let Reagan and Carter before that negotiate rust-belt jobs away in the name of “competition” and some other capitalist tripe about impending globalism sold to the workers as meaningful economic theory for worker prosperity.

St. Louis needs another factory to leave that area like capitalism needs another ethical black  hole.  But hey, who cares? Anyone who had lived in the Mid-West knows damn well that workers there cannot afford to lose a job; the city like most of the rust belt was hollowed out long ago.  But let’s go ahead and talk theory; how and who was screwed over and especially how the Republicans are big bad meanies.  There are people going hungry on the streets, losing their homes — not just houses they bought, but apartments they rent.  There are people whose last paycheck was last week, last month, last year and they know all too well what it is to “struggle” in the “free market”.  Oh and by the way, let’s ask Warren Buckets-O-Money what he thinks.

Nothing like being one of those workers and having a member or a lackey of the plutocrat class tell you about how “liberals” need to stop “programs” because you know, what poor folks don’t have is ambition.  Because finding the ambition to make it to the next week is just small stuff; no worries.  Homelessness is a myth of course; it only happens to the drunks down by the river, in a tent, on your street corner with a cardboard sign.  Because we all know what their problem is and they stand as examples of what a “poor work ethic” will do to you too — until of course your company closes and you are thrown out in the street with the paper recycling; a commodity used up, disposed of and gone.

As I write this, a worker tells me tonight that he has worked for a week and a half, after being unemployed for months, his hands rough and nicked from the metal roofing he works with open in frustration before me, “I work for two days, get out for one day to heal myself and then go back to do it all again to make him [owner of the company] more money!” he then goes on, “Then what do I have? Two days of work, a prescription I can’t pay for a hospital bill that I’ll never be able to pay and if I don’t show up, I’m out with nothing.  I work to make him money and wear myself to the ground.”

He said that he told the hospital staff, “Insurance?! I have no insurance, I don’t even have workman’s comp! I’ll have to pay all my taxes myself, I can’t even get unemployment!”  The woman behind the counter quietly says, “Its too bad you don’t have a friend who has a prescription with Wal-Mart where you can get your prescriptions for a few dollars.”

Well I know that fact to be untrue.  I have a Wal-Mart card and I know that only a few commonly used drugs that are cheaply produced on the generic level are offered to Wal-Mart customers at ridiculously low prices and it wouldn’t surprise me if they receive a grant from the government or from the manufacturers to distribute some drugs cheaply through Wal-Mart.

Whoops, now we’re off on the healthcare system, but frankly, its all related.  As wages among workers stagnate with the least organized going first, all workers will face the multitudinous ways in which the capitalist system screws them over.  If they get paid, its so little that they can barely meet their most basic needs, but, a lifeline is woven inside the thicket of human commodification that helps to keep the workers on the thread and also appearing just saved enough for the masses to ignore.

Ignore at their peril as all worker’s wages are inextricably tied together and one lead weight over the side of the ship pulls the whole vessel further to collapse.  So long has this gone on and so gradual has the shift been (although it is disputable as to how gradual it is now, but that’s another discussion) that most of the workers in this country believe the shift to be minimal, to be an isolated event. “Keep calm and carry on” as they traditionally say in Britain with a stiff upper lip supposedly, carry that burden and shut up, keep up the faith, the one speaks first loses so the game goes.

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So Lab Rats are Smarter Than Libertarians

Lab rat works to free captive where no obvious capital incentive exists.

Empathy: the one human emotion that makes Ayn Rand roll in her grave and gives all Free Staters and other Libertarians the willies — except when their own necks are on the line and they could use a hand.  It is well known that Ayn Rand had no problem living off the empathy of those who came before her and struggled for her right to receive social security and Medicare benefits in her old age.  Regardless though, Libertarians continue to preach that the way to peace is just to be a self centered prick and not bother to worry about the consequences of your actions on others, or to stop and help others.

Of course, according to this study, proof exists that lab rats are smarter than Libertarians, since they’ve apparently figured out that helping out your friends and neighbors and even sharing your booty is a good thing for your own future welfare; we all need each other and more than likely sometime down the line you will need others to give a damn about you when you and be willing to work to make your life — and in turn their life, better.  What a concept! Sounds like socialism!

Let’s take that thought a little further down the road of Logic and Plain Simple Thinking (deserves capitalization since its so under-rated these days), cut a little with Occam’s Razor and viola! We come across this excellent animation from Upworthy, made by Roman Krznaric on the power of empathy as a force for human change.  A very good animation and talk on the power of human empathy; what it means and how has a natural human emotion, we all have the ability to harness this to make positive social change and work toward peace, locally and globally.

Enjoy:

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Wal-Mart Actions Around New Hampshire

Protesters in Manchester on South Willow Street on Black Friday.

Actions against the employment practices of Wal-Mart happened in three locations in the state this past Friday after Thanksgiving — known as “Black Friday”.

Activists from Occupy NH, Occupy Seacoast, the I.W.W. union and Occupy North Country set up protests, handed out flyers and in one instance, reportedly clashed with local police.

In Manchester participant Mark Provost said, “People were generally positive, honking their horns, waving their fists in solidarity, the jig is up, people know what is going on.”

In Somersworth, NH

In Somersworth Occupy the Seacoast held a protest outside the store in the morning, according to David Holt, “9 put of 10 people that reacted to us when we were outside were positive, gave us the thumbs up or honked and waved in support.”  David said that the group also went inside Wal-Mart with their signs, “We walked thru the Walmart with our signs and the management tried to herd us out, they called the police but we were gone before they showed up.”

When they were outside David said, “One cop pulled over in a cruiser and rolled down the window and we weren’t sure what he would say but he said he was behind us 100%.” Of the numbers of people in Occupy David said, “We had a wide range of people that had never come to an occupy event before, one of the people event printed up pamphlets and handed them out about what Walmart does.”

Some reported that an individual had a clash with the police in Littleton, but that person has asked not to speak to the press, so no further information is available at this time.

More about the action in Somersworth from the Foster’s Daily Democrat: Demonstrators in Somersworth Call for Changes at Wal-Mart

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DSA Statement: Reject the Fiscal Cliff

Reject the Fiscal Cliff, Tax the Rich,

Invest in Infrastructure and Services

A statement of the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America

November 20, 2012

DSA rejects the “fiscal cliff” hysteria of the corporate establishment and the pressure for a “Grand Bargain” that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. While unemployment remains high and economic growth slow, the government should not impose austerity measures that reduce essential programs that benefit the middle and working classes and that further shred the safety net for the most vulnerable. Rather, government policy should prioritize investments in job creation, public education and healthcare reform, while raising essential revenues by taxing the large corporations and wealthiest citizens who can afford to pay.

Immediately after the election, Wall Street-backed foundations such as Third Way and the Concord Coalition organized a “Campaign to Fix the Debt” to spin the election results as a mandate for a “bi-partisan” focus on reducing the deficit as the highest national priority. For decades the billionaire Pete Peterson has funded groups that claim that the universal entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the nation and that their future growth must thus be drastically trimmed.  These neoliberals scored an initial success in 2011 when the Simpson-Bowles Congressional Commission put to a vote a long-term “budget compromise” that would have instituted three times as much in budget cuts than in tax increases. But despite President Obama’s evident willingness to reach such a one-sided compromise, Tea Party insistence on no tax increases, even on the wealthiest, scuttled the deal. The “resolution” of this manufactured, alleged “budget crisis” was to postpone a decision on further deficit reduction until the end of 2012, hence the contrived “fiscal cliff.”

What is the fiscal cliff? If Congress makes no changes to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Bush tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2013. In addition, automatic cuts of $55 billion each in annual defense and “discretionary domestic” spending will begin. These tax increases and spending cuts, combined with the expiration of the FICA payroll tax cut and the end of extended unemployment benefits, will create a significant fiscal drag on the economy. The annual budget deficit will fall from over $1 trillion in 2012 to $500 billion dollars in 2013; and the resulting drop in aggregate demand from this combination of spending cuts and increases in taxes would almost definitely cause a double-dip recession.

Like other progressive groups, DSA rejects the notion that some “unified” fiscal cliff must be addressed in the lame-duck session of Congress. It is in fact a “fiscal obstacle course” that Congress should address without panic early in 2013, while heeding the election results. A progressive solution would include restoring all automatic domestic cuts, while making more strategic and deeper cuts in defense procurement spending. The revenue for expanding domestic social welfare spending can be raised by ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% and corporate tax-giveaways, while instituting a modest financial transaction tax on stock and bond transactions. In addition, Congress should restore the tradition of not requiring a separate authorization vote every time the current debt ceiling is crossed. Requiring such a vote provides the right with endless opportunities to blackmail the Congress into counter-productive budget slashing.

Specifically, DSA advocates that Congress pass legislation to:

1. Restore all the automatic cuts to the domestic discretionary budget. These cuts would deny WIC nutrition to 750,000 mothers and children, eliminate Title I funding for 1.8 million low-income school children and would deny 734,000 households home heating assistance. In addition, it would cut financing of all federal regulatory agencies by 10%.

2. Reauthorize federal funding of extended unemployment insurance. Otherwise, on January 1, 1.5 million unemployed workers and their dependents will lose their unemployment benefits.

3. Restore the improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Credit that have reduced the tax burden on the middle and working classes. To preserve the purchasing power that would be lost by an end to the 2% FICA payroll tax cut, reintroduce the 2009 Recovery Act refundable tax credit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families earning under $110,000.

4. Abolish the Bush tax cuts on the top 2% and tax capital gains and stock dividends at the same rate as earned income. Increase effective corporate taxation through the elimination of corporate tax loopholes and corporate “tax expenditures.”  These reforms would yield $275 billion in additional annual revenue. In addition, instituting a “Robin Hood Tax” could net another $300 billion in annual revenues. (This financial transaction tax is a small sales tax, for example 0.25%, charged on all trading in stocks, currencies and debt instruments such as bonds, derivatives, futures and options.)

5. Make major cuts in our bloated defense budget, while creating a public jobs program that trains the unemployed to rebuild infrastructure, creates an alternative energy grid and expands mass transit.

6. Extend and strengthen Social Security for future generations, funding enhancements by progressively lifting the cap on earned income subject to the FICA tax and extending it to income derived from capital.

7. Progressively extend and strengthen Medicare/Medicaid, until it covers U.S. residents of all ages, while installing effective cost controls.

DSA welcomes and will work with broad national and local coalitions that are forming to fight cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; to preserve programs that benefit the working poor and most vulnerable; to promote greater investment in public education and healthcare and to raise revenues by taxing the rich and corporations.  We also support Tavis Smiley’s and DSA National Honorary Chair Cornel West’s call for President Obama to convene a White House conference on poverty.

DSA will bring to these coalitions the educational perspective of our GET UP (Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power) and The Other America is Our America (TOA) projects. GET UP analyzes the neoliberal capitalist roots of the Great Recession and advances social market economic alternatives. TOA demystifies the history of anti-poverty policy and argues for a new, true war on poverty. We can only stop the corporate drive for austerity if we educate, agitate and organize. DSA will join those in the streets resisting the bi-partisan effort to thwart the needs of the very constituencies that just re-elected our president.

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The Hand That Feeds You

If you live in America and shop for your food, services and other goods in the mainstream market, then you have probably been served or helped by a low-wage worker.  If you don’t work in the low-wage world, then more than likely you have the convenience of not having to consider the sacrifice that these people make to serve your needs.

From the retail worker checking out your goods on a weekend or late in an evening, checking out your last minute the holiday eve, the person who is there to punch in the amount of your fuel at the last minute before rushing to your relative’s house for a day of relaxation and celebration. The person who hands you your sliced deli meats after you get out of work, the one who hands you a cappuccino.  Get the point?

While you, middle class person that you are, have put in your time in a regular schedule, the same shift every week, the same pay that allows you to purchase a house, a new car, finance for the kids college, yes that gives you some semblance of a future to hope for a sanity for today based on some measure of predictability, there exists an entire economy of people toiling and struggling to make ends meet, who end up on the bottom of the social ladder to serve your interests, who have no ability to negotiate anything; if they want the job they will be on the job when appointed to do so — mostly in service to your desires.

Its awfully convenient to be able to run into the toy-store two hours before official Christmas Eve to get that last toy, to rush into the convenience or grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine or something you forgot for the dinner celebration.  Its awfully convenient that someone will serve you fried eggs at 3 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday after a long night of partying with your friends, or who will be there in the brisk am on Christmas day to make sure the gas pumps are on so you can drive out of town.

Its all awfully convenient.  But at what price? Most people assume that with the degree of labor or sacrifice given, the employee has room to negotiate and bargain for better wages and working conditions; that the employee who works on a holiday, a late-night or on weekends has chosen to do so, thus we can believe in our minds that there really was no sacrifice at all.

But the fact is that more and more unskilled work is unregulated by an agency of the worker.  Bereft of union representation and the power of organization amongst themselves, most low-wage workers toil in silent rage that soon stifles down to surrender and a sense of complete powerlessness.

Nothing reminds a low-wage worker more of their position in our current economic system than the snotty, hurried middle class shopper who will complain and threaten one’s job over an imagined slight or trivial inconvenience.  Nothing reminds a low-wage worker more of their economic position than the sneer of their peers and others when one mentions working at a retail establishment or the old “You want fries with that?”.  Because of course, no one wants to be a servant and no one wants to be on the end of the social ladder.

It never really is a surprise to anyone either that jobs open to women who don’t have a college education are predominantly in the retail and service industries that pay pitifully low wages.  While non-college educated men can still regularly count on trade work which often has some level of social respect (construction) and/or union representation, most female dominant jobs do not offer union representation, good wages, benefits or even a modicum of social respect.  Instead, women and all too often, people of color of both sexes, ex-felons (even if their felony was non-violent or minor) or those with disabilities are relegated to work that often does not take into account their full potential, nor give them a chance to realize their full potential to contribute to society.  Next time you assume your convenience store clerk has maximized all their opportunities and has reached their apex, think again.

Which is why workers on all levels must stand up to support the fair representation of low-wage workers, so that hopefully the term ‘low-wage’ is one reserved for the history books and not as a relegation to poverty for millions of Americans in this country.  Which is why all middle class people, who have good jobs, who have the ability to make change in their lives and to assist change in others’ lives must step up to do so.

The following demands should be made and the middle class must be willing to step up and make clear that they can and will make the sacrifice necessary to see to it that workers are treated fairly — and more importantly, will help to demand that the plutocracy that has arisen out of the hierarchy of work in our society be gone forever!

People should demand the following as the very basic of worker’s justice:

1.  That workers be allowed the day off on major and religious holidays to spend time with their families and in their communities.

2.  That all workers be granted health insurance and life insurance benefits.

3.  That workers with families be given a regular weekly schedule that is predictable and allows them to adjust their family lives around their work.

4.  That workers be given affordable childcare — paid either by meaningful state/federal subsidies and/or with a tax on the employer.

5.  That doling out jobs and positions by gender or race identification cease immediately.

6.  That wages be pegged to a basic needs tested standard of living measure.

As a worker, especially if you do better than a low-wage worker who serves your needs:

1. Be aware of the sacrifice made economically for your low prices — that it all too often comes from the worker, not the company owners.

2. Chose to consume less and to shop during reasonable times of the day – be the proof that worker’s don’t need to occupy a store at times when most people are at home with their families.

3.  Break down human commodification by treating all workers as your equal.  No one has more value as a person than you.  Recognize your privilege.

4.  Speak out about worker justice that you understand; make an effort to learn more.

5. Support worker actions for justice.

6.  Learn to shop before holidays; spend time at home with your family and share this value with your family and friends.  Stay home on large marketed shopping days such as “Black Friday” or the day after New Year’s, do not shop stores that make their employees work on holidays or long nights or weekends.

For more reading on this topic:

Improving the Situation for Low-Wage Workers…

One in Four Workers Will be in Low-Wage Jobs…

Low Paying Jobs are Here to Stay

Down and Out

Sustainable Scheduling

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Argentine Ship Taken by Billionaire Hedgefunder for Debts Unpaid

ap la libertad jef 121026 wblog Billionaire Holds Navy Ship Hostage

So for those who laugh and scoff at the idea that the plutocrat class could/would actually hold a country hostage for repayment of debt, look at the case involving Argentina and a hedge-fund billionaire who lent them a bit.

Unlike when governments lend to other governments and have their citizenry to hold them accountable, plutocrats have no responsibility to any citizenry, no promise of the public or national welfare to uphold, no balance of global power to consider.  Nope, its all about the dollar.

We can have no doubt that chief and probably only motivator behind the billionaire’s personal loan was the prospect of making a buck.  Problems coming rushing into the minds of those concerned with democratic representation.  First off, the question rises, who let the dogs out? What country has allowed the privileged to amass so much money, at such little cost to hold that they now have enough to hold countries and their assets ransom for the sake of profit.

This is the ultimate nightmare unfolding; plutocrats running local, national and international policy and framing the paradigms that we all exist within, to their liking.  This is the monster that unfettered capitalism has unleashed and this is the proof to the argument that arises time and time again that money knows no ethics, no love, no boundaries, no humanity.  It is up to governments, run by the people to act as the counter balance to human greed and avarice, something is obviously seriously broken in this country.

More at ABC News

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British Unions Shut Down London With Strikes – Over 700,000 March

Image from Washington Post online slideshow

Nearly 800,000 union workers in Britain converged in London on yesterday to demand that the government end its austerity measures.  Similar to other unrest in Spain, Portugal and Greece and across the Atlantic in the US last year, Britian’s workers demand an end to the distribution re arrangement policies dubbed “austerity measures” by the press and politicians.

In favor of the conglomeration of capital among elite global finance and banking interests worldwide, government worldwide have proposed cutting public social safety nets.  The obvious effort to turn the world’s workers into pools of low-wage labor has met with resistance across America and Europe and now Brit workers take their turn to be heard.  In the rally labor leaders call for a general strike.  In addition, as Real News reports, London and other EU countries have November 14th in their sights for a continent wide day of action against austerity.

The Real News has posted a video and report:

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Cops Gone Wild

Infamous lover of pepper spraying entrapped, protesting women, NYC police supervisor, Tony Baloney seen in action.

 

In the Raw Story report about the Crown Heights police brutality issue, a video is embedded below the story that discloses a series of questionable police practices throughout the country.

Exposed in these videos are a series of obvious police abuses of power throughout the country.  A police frisking of news crews, police frisking and holding of two African-American men who are detained and threatened by police who state they will “make stuff up” to put the two arrestees at fault:

Another case of outrageous abuse involving an arrestee in Pennsylvannia, Robert Leone who is still as far as we know, serving time for crimes that seem overwhelmingly fabricated by a state police department and many actors, including the treating hospital and the Pennsylvannia jail system in participating in covering up the outrageously cruel actions of the officers involved in brutally beating Robert Leone:

More information is disclosed here on on a blog hosted by Amy Browne. Unfortunately the Facebook page for Robert Leone does not show up on a search and the link goes to nowhere.  But, the videos contained here also link to many other videos of police misconduct throughout the country. Updates to Robert’s Leone’s story will be posted when we can find them.

There is no doubt that the proliferation of small, portable video recording technology has increased the exposure of police misconduct.  The exposure of the historic Rodney King beating at first led to an all-white jury acquitting all officers involved in Rodney King’s horrific beat-down.  Not until the people in L.A.’s African American community used the only force they had in response — angry rioting, did the greater community demand justice for what many still wish to believe was an isolated and rare instance of police brutality.

But as technology increasingly improves and no longer does one need to hope for the presence of someone with a hulking video camera to be present at the scene, illegal police activity hits the spotlight ever more frequently.  In an era of increased paranoia, fed by a government intent on justifying police repression, people seem all too anxious to pick up the phone and report ‘suspicious’ behavior, all too often arising from assumptions based on long-held social prejudices.

While this site cannot possibly spend the time highlighting all instances of police brutality (and many sites exist that do that — which we will link to as we find them), we will attempt to draw attention to this issue and its larger social ramifications.

Especially important to note is the increased militarization of local police forces in the name of the ‘drug war’ when in fact proof exists time and time again that tanks, high powered assault weaponry and battering rams often are excessive, unnecessary and provoke police departments to act more like small guerilla armies than protectors of the law.  The implications of this trend are disturbing, when put up against the ease with which law enforcement officers cross the line of humane justice and into the realm of fascist enforcers of control and suppression. This is issue that should concern every citizen in this country.

Many progressives in New Hampshire have expressed concern that the efforts of some groups, particularly Cop Block in Manchester, NH and their libertarian supporters, draws attention from the real issues of police brutality in a misguided effort to create instances of police brutality by unnecessary escalation and provocation.  There exist enough cases of police over-use of authority that purposeful martyrdom not only trivializes real abuse cases, but draws attention from the broader, more important issues of racism, socio-economic stratification and increasing public xenophobia fed by the military-industrial complex and the media.

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NYC Homeless Man Beaten by Cops

On October 16th, news broke nationally that a young man sleeping in a community center in the Crown Heights section of New York City was awakened by police and subsequently abused for almost five minutes for not complying with the cops’ demands that he submit to arrest.  The man repeatedly told the police he was allowed to be at the community center and had the permission of the center’s director, which one would think the cops would have notified to confirm and at least waited until the director came to the center to confirm.  But instead the cops acted on what appears to have been an anonymous ‘tip’ that someone was sleeping at the center without authority, thus trespassing.

How many times have people called cops asking for action on a particular issue only to have them say that they can’t act on ‘anonymous tips’, which on the whole seem to protect our rights and keep revenge seekers and busy-bodies from driving the cops all over on trivial, meaningless errands. Its still unclear why the cops felt that whoever called in had enough weight and authority for them to act by not only entering the center in the middle of the night, but to consider that person’s word of more value than a live individual or the community director, so much more weight that violating this individual’s right to safety and health was of secondary importance?

In the story as reported in Raw Story, you can see the senseless beat-down that this young man had to endure by these thugs in uniform.  Further down is the Crown Heights community coming forward to demand justice. I’m heartened to see the Jewish community coming together with the African-American community on this and I hope this is a trend we will see more of; police brutality is an issue that effects us all and we all need to be equally concerned and dilligent in calling out instances of its occurance. Far too often brutality in the African American community is over looked, despite overwhelming evidence. Let’s hope that will become more and more a feature of the past.

Raw Story: New York Police Brutally Beat Man for Sleeping at Synagogue

UPDATE: Charges have been dropped

From New York Daily News:

Brooklyn prosecutors have dropped all charges against a Jewish man videotaped getting pummeled by two cops at a Crown Heights synagogue.

Ehud Halevy, 21, was sleeping in the back room of the ALIYA youth center on East New York Ave. Oct. 8 when he was confronted by two police officers. After an argument about evacuating the premises — which the shirtless man refused to do — he was punched repeatedly by Officer Luis Vega.

A tape depicting the beatdown has gone viral and elicited angry responses from the Jewish community and elected officials, with many calling for the cops to be fired.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had called the video “disturbing.”

“We believe the police fabricated the police report that they submitted and have failed to publicly acknowledge what really happened that night,” said ALIYA director Moishe Feiglin. He said Halevy was there with permission.

“After review of all available evidence, I have decided to dismiss the charges against Ehud Halevy,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced Monday afternoon.

Halevy was facing up to seven years in prison for the assault rap. He was also charged with resisting arrest, trespass, harassment and marijuana possessions.

The DA’s decision means the case is now closed.

A petition on change.com asking Hynes to drop the charges garnered nearly 90,000 signatures.

“Justice was done here,” said Halevy’s lawyer Norman Siegel. “There was no legal basis for the criminal charges and the dramatic video was extremely helpful.”

He said his client “was very pleased.”

The charges will be officially dismissed Wednesday.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky as to have a whole unified community come together and put up such an immediate fuss that embarrasses the local department so much they can’t move fast to put the ‘incident’ out of public view.  Most victims of police brutality aren’t so lucky, often members of communities that the public has been trained to see as inhuman and in need of constant ‘correction’.

Even though Halevy and his attorney may be pleased with the outcome, nowhere in the Daily News story is any mention of punishment of the cops who obviously went way over board.  Some disciplinary action seems called for at the very least. It is disturbing that police officers who demonstrated an obvious lack of judgment and restraint still possess the power to restrain individuals without question and with deadly force.

It is distressing to say the least when a party that suffers under the weight of institutional wrong doing backs off when their personal wrong gets set right.  They forget is seems that the rest of the community needs them and their story to push for broad improvements in the institution that wronged them.  Dismissing the charges only amounts to an effort to move the stain out of the public view as soon as possible.

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Damn Well About Time: UN Groups to Monitor Elections

Its damn well about time.  The ACLU and the NAACP have requested that election monitoring groups from the UN come in and monitor areas where minority vote suppression has been witnessed.  Of course the wingnuttia is having the predictable hissy fit about it, stamping their feet claiming that the UN can’t watch them because well, because they aren’t American.

Which is the point.  We want objective, fair and reasonable observation which can only come from a group completely removed from the rampant corruption coming out of the conservative even some of the moderate sides of the political landscape here.

You’d think that after all their crying and whining about ‘rampant’ election fraud, they’d welcome an outside source to monitor for such activities.  But no, apparently the wingnuts don’t like others looking over their shoulders.  I’d suggest they calm down because the best way oftentimes to find guilt is to find the one that resists the light of day the most.

 

 International monitors at US polling spots draw criticism from voter fraud groups

Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.

For more reading look here.  Thanks Daily Kos for sending out the clarion call about this.

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