Spring Rising Protest Leaves Much to be Desired

Mock coffins placed outside of various buildings including the Senate and the AIPAC office.

Mock coffins placed outside of various buildings including the Senate and the AIPAC office.

Thursday marked the 11th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. It was marked by reports of all kinds of American successes in the Muslim world, such as ISIS gaining a foothold in Libya and a terrorist attack at a museum in Tunisia. I can’t help but be reminded of the triumphant look on President Bush’s face as he stood in front of that “Mission Accomplished” banner. We sure did it! The Arab world finally has “freedom.”

People across the country took to the streets to make their voices heard yesterday. Hundreds of people took to the streets of Washington DC as part of the Spring Rising events. Spring Rising describes itself as an “anti-war intervention” against America’s state of endless war. Cindy Sheehan, David Swanson, Ray McGovern, and others were present to speak at yesterday’s rally. There was even a speaker from Richmond. They covered everything from systematic racism to the havoc wreaked on foreign lands by the Pentagon and their terrorist buddies…. excuse me, I mean their “appropriately vetted” opposition group buddies.

It was definitely a good march, the speakers were great, and they were very mature and respectful towards each other. I was surprised by this considering a lot of them were from various Leninist groups that often compete and disagree. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, to which I used to belong, had multiple members speak. Carl Dix, one of the heads of the Revolutionary Communist Party, also spoke. With all due respect to Mr. Dix, and I sincerely mean respect, he didn’t say anything that the RCP hasn’t been saying for the past 8 years. It was all the same cut-and-paste rhetoric. To his eternal credit, I don’t remember him mentioning RCP Chairman Bob Avakian once though. Maybe the RCP is making progress in that department. The PSL/ANSWER speakers also used the same tired talking points, but in fairness the ruling class is doing the same damn thing it was doing since before I was born. So why write new material? The International Action Center, a Workers World Party front group, was also represented. Their speaker also represented FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together). WWP is also a part of FIST along with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back).

So there were four Leninist factions represented either directly or through their front groups. To the armchair Bolshevik, this is reason to celebrate. To someone who actually knows what it’s like on the inside of one of these groups, it is reason to be confused. While it’s highly believable that two of these groups could get their heads together, to believe four of them, including the Avakian cult, could be civil is just impossible.

I would like to know who knocked their heads together and forced them to play nice! This was an ANSWER-dominated event, and I have never seen anyone representing a party besides the PSL speak at such events. I’m sure it has happened before, but it isn’t often. It was mentioned that CODEPINK played a big role in making the protest happen, including getting the sound system. It is also worth mentioning that Spring Rising appears to be a Cindy Sheehan project considering that SpringRising.org redirects to Cindy Sheehan’s website. CODEPINK and/or Sheehan definitely deserve applause for forcing the factions play nice together. I can only imagine how the conversations at those organizing meetings went.

Again, to be fair, it was a great rally and the speakers were very good.

Something does bother me though. Why is it that PSL/ANSWER people (and others) keep doing various Palestinian liberation chants in Spanish? Palestinians don’t speak Spanish. It’s like they have an awkward fetish for Latin America. If they are trying to highlight Hispanic-Palestinian solidarity, then it gets even more awkward considering their hero Fidel Castro said Israel “has a right to exist as a Jewish state.” And then there is the Israeli investment in the Cuban citrus industry. This isn’t to say the two states have been entirely chummy throughout history. There has been more hostility than partnership.

While it is definitely important to have an anti-war presence in the streets, the anti-war left should put more effort into opposing the war in the workplaces and campuses. Wildcat strikes by workers and students would shake the system more than any weekend street demonstration. If thousands of students and thousands (or at least hundreds) of workers walked out to protest another barbaric war, then the rulers of this country would be hit right in the wallet and would realize that regular people aren’t going to stand for it. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. I’ve tried it; I would know just how hard it is. Such actions have happened before in American history, and they can certainly happen again. Just don’t expect your modern Leninist outfit to try. These days they are either reformists in disguise or revolutionary newspaper companies. Do I have any right to talk? No, but someone needs to say it.

Real organizing knows no boundaries. Real organizing transcends ideological dogmas and stiff little groups. The people themselves must revive real grassroots organizing. By the people, I mean all of us. The people at yesterday’s protest, the person reading this, myself, my neighbor, our co-workers, everyone. Only then will our opposition to the endless wars be taken seriously.

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NH Politicians Mock 4th-Graders

Fourth graders from the Lincoln H. Akerman School in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire recently learned a very hard truth on a trip to watch the state legislature.

The fourth graders took time in class to write a bill that would make the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor. They were even able to get a sponsor to introduce the bill into the state legislature. After clearing a House of Representatives committee, the fourth graders’ bill was “debated” on the House floor by politicians in possession of the same level of maturity as a third grade class.

Warren Groen (R-Rochester) made the most notable comments on the bill.

“It grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor-sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds, to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood,” he said.

In all fairness, he can’t help it. Some people are born with obsessive, one-track minds and need a lot of professional help. Perhaps he is the David Icke of New Hampshire. Icke connects everything to aliens, and Groen connects everything to abortion.

Principal Mark Deblois reported that parents are now complaining that their 9-year-olds are now asking them what Planned Parenthood is. Isn’t it the civic duty of every parent to explain abortion and the reasons women get abortions to their 9-year-old children?

“The gallery is open to the public, and there are children in the gallery every day,” an unrepentant Groen said. “I don’t know if we should limit free speech or limit the attendance in the gallery. It seems either one would be bad for transparency in government.”

Groen definitely deserves kudos for his desire to be open about how awful American politicians and governments are. That is what he meant, isn’t it?

John Burt (R-Goffstown) also took part in ridiculing and insulting the school kids.

“Bottom line, if we keep bringing more of these bills, and bills, and bills forward that really I think we shouldn’t have in front of us, we’ll be picking a state hot dog next.”

The bill was defeated by a vote of 133 to 160.

“Obviously, they were disappointed that their bill didn’t pass, but it was just the manner in which they say the bill was debated, when they saw people stand up and say these just appalling things,” Deblois told ABC 9. “That [the abortion reference] was probably less than the gentlemen who stood up and made jokes. That was almost more upsetting to them because they understood those references. ‘Why didn’t they take us seriously? Why were people laughing?'”

If you would expect these politicians to use more professional means of keeping bills that they find “silly” off of the docket, then you would be mistaken. These kids only recently learned that the Easter Bunny isn’t real, and now they were hit with this cold, hard truth before they even had time to recover. American “democracy” is a sham, children are not valued under our current system, and politicians don’t really work for the people.

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Ontario Police Union Officials Investigated

The Ontario Provincial Police Association has come under the fire of fraud allegations recently. The police union’s chief administrative officer Karl Walsh was fired this weekend. Walsh, former president Jim Christie, and vice president Martin Bain are being investigated for fraud, theft, breach of trust, and money laundering.

The RCMP obtained a search warrant and raided the union office on March 6th in search of financial, travel, and communications documents.

An RCMP affidavit states that the three officials “have organized various schemes, some of which include companies for which they hold hidden beneficial ownership that have been set up in order to obtain exclusive rights for services required by the OPPA. These services pertain but are not limited to the travel and investment needs of the OPPA.”

The three police union officials under investigation hold half of the shares of First Response Travel Group and used their positions to push their members to use the company for their travel needs. They made $400,000 off of this. The shares of First Response were held in trust via an offshore investment scheme. The company was established just last year.

An investment consulting firm has also been charging the police union monthly fees of $5,000, which, not so coincidentally, went to the three men in question.

Other suspicious happenings include the use of union funds to purchase condos in the Bahamas under Walsh’s name, and questionable travel expenses billed to the union amounting to over $100,000 in excess of the three men’s salaries. The officials were paid out $144,000 for the fake travel expenses in 2014 and $100,000 in 2013.

To make things more interesting, these men are also acting cops for the Ontario Provincial Police. Christie is a detective-sergeant and the other two officers are constables.  No charges have been filed against any of the three at this point in the investigation.

The average Canadian must feel very safe knowing that men of such reputable character are “protecting” them.

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The Myth of the Skills Gap

toolsThe Huffington Post recently published America’s ten millionth hit piece about young people in yet another attempt at the character assassination of an entire generation. In this piece, they perpetuate the myth (lie) of the “skills gap” and deride Millennials for being “among the least skilled” in the world. They cite a study conducted by the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Let’s take a look at their study. First, it claims that young Americans are significantly less literate than those in other countries despite being highly educated when compared to other generations. How one can be both very educated and illiterate at the same time is confusing. The description of the survey that the Huffington Post linked to fails to define exactly what they mean by literacy. They cannot possibly mean reading and writing skills. According to the CIA World Factbook, the US has a 99 percent literacy rate among adults.

Japan, according to the hit piece, is ranked first in literacy. According to the CIA World Factbook, Japan also has a 99 percent literacy rate. Finland, which placed second in the world according to the hit piece, has a 100 percent literacy rate according to the CIA facts. Is 99 greater than 100? Perhaps the Huffington Post and the people at ETS are the ones lacking in math and literacy skills.

The study they cited looks at people ages 16 to 34. It’s fair to say that a 16-year-old would have fewer skills than someone in their 20s or 30s simply because 16 is not old enough to have completed, and in some instances even begin, a training program. Also, many people in their 30s are still unsure exactly what generation they count as, and some were surprised to learn that they are “Millennials” too. Whether the character assassins working in media realize it or not, there is a difference in culture (for lack of a better word) and worldview between people in their 20s and people in their 30s.

The article also states that Millennials forced companies to make technology easier to use because they are so unskilled. By those standards, the older generations forced McDonald’s to make hamburgers better and quicker to cook because they are impatient. The fact of the matter is that nobody forces companies to do anything. They made technology easier to use so their gadgets could be mass produced and sold to millions of people. That is what businesses do. You can’t market a complicated gadget anymore than you can market a horrible burger.

In all fairness, what can we really expect from a publication narcissistically named after its Baby Boomer owner? Or does the narcissism label only apply to Millennials?

The “skills gap” has become a popular and convenient lie among the wealthy and has been constantly echoed by their bought-and-paid-for politicians and media mouthpieces. This lie is used to demonize unemployed Americans, especially young ones. It is used as an excuse for the private sector to hire less people, or no people, and squeeze more labor out of fewer workers. That is one of the tried-and-true ways of making a profit. The skills gap myth is used to justify labeling the creation of part-time jobs for low-pay as a “recovery.”

Those who have nothing but disdain for young people bemoan how so many of them opted to go to college instead of trade school, but this stereotype is simply that. The talking point that there are plenty of jobs in the trades is a lie. Take Minnesota for example. The state has a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, but thousands of Minnesotans employed in the trades lost their jobs in December and January.

If skilled workers really were in demand, then there would be a rise in wages for tradesmen.  That is how supply and demand works. If something is in demand, people will pay more for it. Sadly, wages in manufacturing have been stagnant.  Studies from Wisconsin and Illinois show that wages for welders have gone down over the past ten years and there are thousands more unemployed welders than there are welding jobs.

According to GenMet CEO Eric Isbister, a skilled worker is someone with the required skills and zero “union-type” experiences. They must also be willing to start at $10 an hour, which is below the industry average for many skilled workers. Amazon hires unskilled people to work at its warehouses for $11.50 an hour. A shift manager at McDonald’s can make up to $14 an hour.

“That’s not a skills mismatch or even a labor shortage problem in any meaningful sense,” Marc Levine, professor of history and economic development at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, said. “That’s an effort to secure cheap and docile labor.”

“National data on wages, hours, the ‘job gap’ (the ratio of job seekers to available openings), and the skills requirements of projected job openings reveal no evidence of a skills mismatch in national labor markets,” Levine said.

When asked to list problems with today’s workforce, employers cite character issues such as motivation and punctuality over technical training and education. The positions they claim to have the most trouble filling include low-skill or no-skill jobs such as office support, sales representative, and laborer.

As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, 73 percent of retail managers who responded to a recent survey are crying about how they can’t find qualified people for their jobs. It is funny considering the primary workforce for the retail industry used to be those with a high school diploma and nothing else. Why are they so concerned about finding skilled workers all of the sudden?

Boeing provides more evidence that there is no skills gap. The company once threatened to relocate production of its 777X plane from Everett, Washington to another state if the union didn’t cave to the company’s demands. If there is a skills shortage, then Boeing would be very hesitant to do this because skilled workers would be hard to find.

When Kia set up a plant in Georgia for the production of its new Optima, the company required its employees to go through training courses. Public money was used to build the Kia training center because the company refused to hire any of the thousands of skilled and trained workers already residing in Georgia. The reason was that these workers, who had previously worked for Ford and GM before the plants closed, had been members of the United Automobile Workers union.

The employers themselves have not helped in solving their imaginary problem. The amount of available apprenticeships has fallen 40 percent since 2008. The wealthy business owners now expect the taxpayers and the workers themselves to foot the bill for the required training, and so we have done just that. More than $18 billion in federal funds have been invested in training programs since Obama took office in 2008. Even Republicans like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have invested millions in job training programs, and yet those peddling the myth of a “skills gap” have grown louder.

The so-called “skills gap” is a convenient excuse for the employing class to drive down our wages by keeping so many educated and skilled workers unemployed or underemployed. It is an excuse for outsourcing American jobs to countries with cheaper labor and less protection for their workers. It is an attempt to deflect the blame for the financial woes of American workers off of Wall Street and onto the workers themselves. It is a way to bust unions without even having to look at the members. It is the latest weapon in the arsenal of those seeking the continued demonization, criminalization, and third-class treatment of young people. It is an excuse to make unprecedented profits by squeezing more labor out of fewer workers.

I must fight the urge to refer to this as an artificial crisis or problem because even that phrase gives the myth too much credit. The only problem is capitalism and the only crisis is the growing power of the wealthy.

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Garbage Man Sentenced to Jail for Picking up Trash Early

A sanitation worker in Sandy Springs, Georgia has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for starting work two hours early.

Kevin McGill had only been working for the sanitation contractor for a few months when he was cited for violating a city ordinance preventing trash pickup before 7 a.m. McGill has opted to serve his time on the weekends, so he will not be able to spend time with his wife and kids for the next 14 weekends.

“The solicitor said it’s automatic jail time. He didn’t want to hear nothing I had to say. I said it’s my first time,” McGill said.

Chief prosecutor Bill Riley sought the maximum sentence for McGill even though it was his first time in court for this. Riley claims that 911 received calls over early trash pickup.

“Give him a warning,” said Kimberly Bandoh, McGill’s lawyer. “I mean he’s the employee. He’s not the employer. Sentencing him to jail is doing what?”

It is worth noting that, like at any other workplace, McGill’s bosses probably pressured and intimidated him and his colleagues into starting early and getting as much work done as possible. McGill, like any other responsible adult, felt it more important to keep his job than to risk what he thought was only a minor infraction.

Riley claims he tried slapping the company on the wrist with a petty fine, but the government has since found it more profitable to send workers to jail.

Clearly taking serious action against his employing company for its illegal policies and practices would be off limits in a country whose “business is business” and corporations are considered people. So, naturally, the working-class pays the price. As long as they show up for work, the bosses won’t care if their workers go to jail, and nothing will change. When McGill isn’t making profits for his employer, he will be making money for bureaucrats and security companies running the jails.

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US Declares Venezuela a Threat, Sanctions Officials

In the worst dispute between the United States and Venezuela since President Maduro took office in 2013, President Obama signed an executive order declaring Venezuela a threat to American national security. The executive order also imposed sanctions on seven of Venezuela’s top officials.

“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a public statement.

The sanctions are not aimed at the Venezuelan energy industry or other sectors of the economy. The US is Venezuela’s top trading partner. Clearly the Obama administration is aiming for regime change in Venezuela without any blowback on the US economy. In other words, they are laying the foundation for another crisis down the road.

Our Streets is begging to know when an executive order will be signed to end the reign of terror by American officials who violate the human rights of other Americans. Also, when will serious action be taken against corruption in the US? See, for example, the cases of Puckett (no charges) and Davis.

American workers would do well to realize that their own government cares little about them and would rather invest its time and energy into meddling in the affairs of other countries instead of fixing the multitude of domestic problems.

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Global Divestment Day Sees Worldwide Action Against Fossil Fuels

Close to 300 activists rallied in Washington DC’s DuPont Circle last night as part of a Global Divestment Day action against the fossil fuel industry. Activists from colleges and local environmentalist organizations across the DC metro area were present.

The activists brought a giant carbon bubble, and held signs stating that climate change is a moral issue. Local universities, businesses, and churches were encouraged to divest from dirty energy companies. One speaker made the argument that if divestment worked against apartheid South Africa, it can work against the companies causing climate change, polluting our water, and slowly making our air unbreathable.

400 actions took place across the world yesterday. Students organized flash mobs and sit-ins in France, Nepal, Japan, Britain, the US, Ukraine, and the Philippines. There were also rallies in Sydney, Australia, Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England. Australians are being encouraged to remove their money from banks that finance coal mining.

Over 180 institutions have already pledged to divest from companies that push dirty energy.

This comes on the heels of state legislatures, like the one in Virginia, passing legislation that would lessen the state’s oversight over rates charged by utility companies. Utility companies such as Dominion Power, which naturally stand behind their dangerous products, now have an opportunity to charge poor and working-class people more for their not-so-green services.

In the short-term, it is important to push for green alternatives to delay the end of humanity, but in the long-run the environment and the well-being of humanity will always be threatened by capitalism. Capitalism requires expansion, and the expansion of industries will increase the emissions of pollutants even if these industries pollute less. Consumption of environmentally-friendly products will only delay the destruction of the Earth because the astronomical rate of consumption by first world countries is what lead us to environmental catastrophe in the first place. The chaos of capitalism and consumerism must go, and in its place we must establish a society based on cooperation and community.

The international solidarity of Global Divestment Day is great, but we need to take it to the next level and bring business-as-usual in all industries and localities to a screeching halt. We need to further integrate the struggle to stop the destruction of the environment with the struggles against the exploitation of workers, struggles against poverty, and the anti-war movement.    

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