Daily Archives: December 31, 2011
On this day, December 30th, in 1936 — 75 years ago today — hundreds of workers at the General Motors factories in Flint, Michigan, took over the facilities and occupied them for 44 days. My uncle was one of them.
The workers couldn’t take the abuse from the corporation any longer. Their working conditions, the slave wages, no vacation, no health care, no overtime — it was do as you’re told or get tossed onto the curb.
So on the day before New Year’s Eve, emboldened by the recent re-election of Franklin Roosevelt, they sat down on the job and refused to leave.
They began their Occupation in the dead of winter. GM cut off the heat and water to the buildings. The police tried to raid the factories several times, to no avail. Even the National Guard was called in.
But the workers held their ground, and after 44 days, the corporation gave in and recognized the UAW as the representative of the workers. It was a monumental historical moment as no other major company had ever been brought to its knees by their employees. Workers were given a raise to a dollar an hour — and successful strikes and occupations spread like wildfire across the country. Finally, the working class would be able to do things like own their own homes, send their children to college, have time off and see a doctor without having to worry about paying. In Flint, Michigan, on this day in 1936, the middle class was born.
But 75 years later, the owners and elites have regained all power and control. I can think of no better way for us to honor the original Occupiers than by all of us participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement in whatever form that takes in each of our towns. We need direct action all winter long if we are to prevail. You can start your own Occupy group in your neighborhood or school or with just your friends. Speak out against economic injustice at every chance you get. Stop the bank from evicting the family down the block. Move your checking and credit card to a community bank or credit union. Place a sign in your yard — and get your neighbors to do it also — that says, “WE ARE THE 99%.” (You can download signs here and here.)
Do something, anything, but don’t remain silent. Not now. This is the moment. It won’t come again.
75 years ago today, in Flint, Michigan, the people said they’d had enough and occupied the factories until they won. What is stopping us now? The rich have one plan: bleed everyone dry. Can anyone, in good conscience, be a bystander to this?
My uncle wasn’t, and because of what he and others did, I got to grow up without having to worry about a roof over my heads or medical bills or a decent life. And all that was provided by my dad who built spark plugs on a GM assembly line.
Let’s each of us double our efforts to raise a ruckus, Occupy Everywhere, and get creative as we throw a major nonviolent wrench into this system of Greed. Let’s make the politicians running for office in 2012 quake in their boots if they refuse to tax the rich, regulate Wall Street and do whatever we the people tell them to do.
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
It took two stolen US Presidential elections and the prospect of another one coming up in 2012.
For years the Democratic Party and even much of the left press has reacted with scorn for those who’ve reported on it.
But the imperial fraud that has utterly corrupted our electoral process seems finally to be dawning on a broadening core of the American electorate—if it can still be called that.
The shift is highlighted by three major developments:
1. The NAACP goes to the United Nations
In early December, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the largest civil rights organization in America, announced that it was petitioning the United Nations over the orchestrated GOP attack on black and Latino voters.
In its landmark report entitled Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America, the NAACP directly takes on the new Jim Crow tactics passed in fourteen states that are designed to keep minorities from voting in 2012.
The report analyzes 25 laws that target black, minority and poor voters “unfairly and unnecessarily restrict[ing] the right to vote.” It notes “…a coordinated assault on voting rights.”
The Free Press has been reporting on this coordinated assault since the 2000 election, including the heroic struggle of voters in Ohio to postpone the enactment of the draconian House Bill 194 that was the most restrictive voting rights law passed in the United States. (See Voting rights activists fight back against new Republican Jim Crow attack in Ohio)
The NAACP points out that this most recent wave of voter repression is a reaction to the “…historic participation of people of color in the 2008 presidential election and substantial minority population growth according to the 2010 consensus….”
It should be no surprise that the states of the old Confederacy – Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina – are in the forefront of repressing black voters. Three other Jim Crow states with the greatest increase in Latino population – South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee – also implemented drastic measures to restrict minority voting.
The report documents that a long-standing tactic under fire since the 1860s – the disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions – is back in vogue. This has been coupled with “severe restrictions” on persons conducting voter registration drives and reducing opportunities for early voting and the use of absentee ballots complete these template legislative acts.
Most of these new Jim Crow tactics were initially drafted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive and conservative corporate policy group whose founder, according to the NAACP, is on record in favor of reducing the voting population in order to increase their own “leverage.”
The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that the 25 laws passed in these 14 states could prevent as many as 5 million voters from voting, a number easily exceeding the margin of victory in numerous presidential elections.
Ohio’s HB 194, which awaits a 2012 referendum vote, would disenfranchise an estimated 900,000 in one of our nation’s key battleground states.
An important statistic in all the legislation is that 25 % of African Americans lack a state photo identification, as do 15% of Latinos, but by comparison, only 8% of white voters. Other significant Democratic constituents – the elderly of all races and college students – would be disproportionately impacted.
Ohio voters have just repealed a draconian anti-labor law passed by the GOP-dominated legislature and the state’s far-right governor John Kasich. Whether they will do the same to this massive disenfranchisement remains to be seen. But the fact that it’s on a state ballot marks a major leap forward. Ohio activists are also drafting a constitutional amendment that includes revamping the registration, voting and vote count procedures.(Can we transform labor’s Buckeye victory into a new era of election protection?)
2. The Justice Department awakens
On Friday, December 23, 2011, the U.S. Justice Department called South Carolina’s new voter ID law discriminatory. The finding was based in part on the fact that minorities were almost 20% more likely than whites to be without state-issued photo IDs required for voting. Unlike Ohio, South Carolina remains under the 1965 Voting Rights Act and requires federal pre-approval to any changes in voting laws that may harm minority voters.
The Republican governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley denounced the Justice Department decision as “outrageous” and vowed to do everything in her power to overturn the decision and uphold the integrity of state’s rights under the 10th Amendment.
The US Supreme Court has upheld the requirement of photo ID for voting. Undoubtedly the attempt by US Attorney General Eric Holder to challenge this will go to the most thoroughly corporate-dominated Court in recent memory. The depth of the commitment of the Obama Administration to the issue also remains in doubt.
3. The EAC finally finds that voting machines are programmed to be partisan
Another federal agency revealed another type of problem in Ohio. On December 22, 2011, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) issued a formal investigative report on Election Systems & Software (ED&D) DS200 Precinct County optical scanners. The EAC found “three substantial anomalies”:
• Intermittent screen freezes, system lock-ups and shutdowns that prevent the voting system from operating in the manner in which it was designed
• Failure to log all normal and abnormal voting system events
• Skewing of the ballot resulting in a negative effect on system accuracy
The EAC ruled that the ballot scanners made by ES&S electronic voting machine firm failed 10% of the time to read the votes correctly. Ohio is one of 13 states that requires EAC certification before voting machines can be used in elections. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in 2010 that the voting machines in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County had failed during testing for the 2010 gubernatorial election. Cleveland uses the same Republican-connected ES&S ballot scanners—the DS200 opti-scan system. Ohio’s Mahoning County, home of the Democratic enclave of Youngstown, also uses the DS200s. The same opti-scan system is also used in the key battleground states of Florida, Illionois, Indiana, New York, and Wisconsin.
Voting rights activists fear a repeat of the well-documented vote switching that occurred in Mahoning County in the 2004 presidential election when county election officials admitted that 31 of their machines switched Kerry votes to Bush.
But a flood of articles about these realities—including coverage in the New York Times—seems to indicate the theft of our elections has finally taken a leap into the mainstream of the American mind. Whether that leads to concrete reforms before another presidential election is stolen remains to be seen. But after more than a decade of ignorance and contempt, it’s about time something gets done to restore a semblance of democracy to the nation that claims to be the world’s oldest.
Ron Paul’s Constitutional Hood
If the character of those whom we attract is any sign of who we really are, then it just got a little uglier for Ron Paul.
“Everybody, all of us back in the 80?s and 90?s, felt Ron Paul was, you know, unusual in that he had actually been a Congressman, that he was one of us and now, of course, that he has this broad demographic–broad base of support,” Mr. Black said on his broadcast yesterday.
Mr. Black is a former Klansman and member of the American Nazi Party who founded the “white nationalist” website Stormfront in 1995. He donated to Mr. Paul in 2007 and has been photographed with the candidate. Mr. Paul has vocal supporters in Stormfront’s online forum. Mr. Black has repeatedly said he doesn’t currently think Mr. Paul is a “white nationalist.”
In addition to Black, Paul has also drawn the endorsement of David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard, anti-semite and all around pile of scum who finds Paul’s anti-Israel shtick appealing.
“So, I would vote for Ron Paul at this moment because he’s one of the few candidates who have policies in this regard and this realm that I wholeheartedly support, and that’s why I’d vote for him.”
Is Paul bothered by the fact that avowed racists endorse him? Apparently not. His take is that people like Black and Duke are endorsing his policies as opposed to Paul endorsing what the racists say. True but would a true non-bigot not be alarmed (or, at the least, concerned) that racist hatemongers are attracted to their policies? Not Ron Paul.
Then there’s gay activist Dan Savage’s take on Paul’s bigotry as he compares it to Rick Santorum’s.
Ron is older than my father, far less toxic than Santorum, and, as he isn’t beloved of religious conservatives, he isn’t out there stoking the hatreds of our social and political enemies. And Ron may not like gay people, and may not want to hang out with us or use our toilets, but he’s content to leave us the fuck alone and recognizes that gay citizens are entitled to the same rights as all other citizens. Santorum, on the other hand, believes that his bigotry must be given the force of law. That’s an important difference.
Fair enough but one can make the argument that Paul’s real interest in this matter has nothing to do with individual’s rights and everything to do with states’ rights. A Dish reader explains:
Essentially, Paul has no interest in leaving anybody alone. He only wants to get rid of one government scared into submission by oppressive douchebags and replace it with 50 governments scared into submission by oppressive douchebags.
You can run from your past but hiding is another matter…