American Public Favors Class-Warfare, Polling Indicates
January 24, 2014

New polling from USA Today and Pew on income inequality finds that the American public broadly endorses class warfare.

Voters are less persuaded that the government can do something useful to reduce inequality than they are that the government should do something useful. Could frustration mount to a boiling point seized by a class-conscious social movement like it began to in September 2011? Time will tell, but in any case, this evidence of public consciousness embracing class warfare is good news. 

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Re-posting with improved images. 

Educators resist: What Greece’s & Mexico’s teachers have in common
September 17, 2013

I had the opportunity to pass by the Zócalo in Mexico City in the last days of August 2013 and see with my own eyes the occupation of the square and the surrounding streets by the public school teachers of CNTE, the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers. It was impressive to see the — really huge — square of Mexico City having been transformed into a massive tent-city by the public teachers on strike, and it was even more impressive to sense how determined they were in their struggle.

The teachers were resisting to Peña Nieto’s “neoliberalization of education” that would put the — already extremely unequal — Mexican public education system under the orders of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and make it “autonomous”: forced to look for funds from the private sector. At the same time, the President’s reforms promised to establish some kind of “performance controls” for the teachers.

Of course, this indirect privatization of public schools was downplayed by the state-controlled (or vice-versa?) Mexican media, which focused on the “quality controls” finally imposed on the “lazy and privileged” teachers. The teachers on their own turn mobilized, organized marches and bloqueos and — most importantly — occupied the main square of the capital in thousands since the 19th of August 2013. The teachers’ mobilization lasted for three weeks until his highness, the Butcher of Atenco — a.k.a. Enrique Peña Nieto — ordered the police to brutally evict the teachers from the Zócalo, on 14 September 2013.

At the same time, in austerity-stricken Greece, the Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (OLME) announced a national five-day rolling strike starting on the 16th of September 2013. The reasons? As OLME put it in a public announcement:

The situation in public schools is dramatic:

  • There are 16,000 fewer teachers in secondary education meaning a 20% reduction since June 2013.

  • 102 Vocational Education Schools are closing down.

  • 2,500 Vocational Education Teachers are being suspended — just a step before dismissals.

  • In 2009, there was 33% reduction of spending on education which is expected to reach 47% in 2016.

  • There is a compulsory transfer of 5,000 teachers to primary education and administration posts.

  • The government has passed a new law on education without a dialogue establishing a harsh, examination-centered system in all forms/grades of upper secondary education forcing students to seek private tuition outside school and leading to school drop-outs. The government proceeds with:
  • The privatization of a  part of Vocational Education
  • The introduction of apprenticeship as a form of minor/under-age employment replacing education process.

If in Mexico it was the OECD and the country’s ruling elite, in Greece the Troika of foreign lenders (made up of the EU, ECB and IMF) and its servant government decided that — after the civil servants, the [profitable!] state owned enterprises, the national broadcaster etc. — free and public education is also a “luxury” and a “burden” for the state budget and thus has to be cut. Let’s not forget that Greece is one of the very few countries in the EU where education is — until now — free and public and where universities especially are protected from privatization by the country’s constitution itself.

For that reason, free and public education has been threatened by neoliberal reforms several times in the past, always being protected by the country’s strong student movement. What we are witnessing these days is yet another attack on Greece’s free and public education by the neoliberal servant coalition of Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos, who hoped not to be met with resistance by the already socially and economically exhausted Greek society. Yet, this time, it was the Greek teachers who picked up the baton from their Mexican counterparts to fight for free and public education and for their dignity, as they stated in one of the videos they put on YouTube. “I go on strike — and I think we should all do so — because it is the only thing left to do for our dignity…” said one of them.

Full article

Fresh protests spark fears over pending tear gas shipments in TurkeySeptember 13, 2013
All countries should suspend shipments of tear gas, armoured vehicles and other riot control projectile equipment to Turkey until the Turkish authorities can guarantee protesters’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, Amnesty International said. The call comes as police have again abusively used large amounts of tear gas and water cannon to disperse protests – some of them violent – in Istanbul and other cities around the country in the past three days. This new round of demonstrations was sparked when a young protester was killed in unclear circumstances as police responded to a demonstration in the southern province of Hatay early on Tuesday. “The Turkish police’s return to the abusive use of force in response to demonstrations underscores the need for all countries to suspend shipments of tear gas and other riot control projectile equipment and armoured policing vehicles to Turkey, until steps are taken to prevent such deaths and injuries,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.“We’re calling on governments to take a stand and press Turkey to respect the right to peaceful protest and end the abusive use of force.”  New supplies of tear gas According to media reports, the Turkish police authorities have requested an extraordinary order of riot control equipment – including 100,000 canisters of tear gas and more than 100 armoured vehicles. The tear gas may be supplied from Brazil, India, South Korea and the USA, four of its previous suppliers. Some reports have alleged an even larger order has been placed and that the National Police had already bought 150,000 cartridges in 2013 in line with their annual procurement plan.The new supplies will replenish stocks that were greatly depleted or damaged earlier this year when police misused tear gas canisters and other chemical irritants, like pepper spray and water cannon, as well as used plastic bullets in excessive force against peaceful protests that began in late May. Ahmet Atakan’s death At the time of his death in the early hours of Tuesday, Ahmet Atakan had been taking part in a demonstration against – amongst other things – the death of another protester, Abdullah Cömert, after being struck with a tear gas canister fired by police on 3 June. There are still conflicting reports over what led to Atakan’s death – the authorities assert he fell from a building, while some eyewitnesses claim he was also hit with a tear gas canister. An investigation into the death is ongoing. Amnesty International calls on the authorities to ensure that the investigation is prompt, impartial and effective.Ongoing misuse of tear gasIn response to the protests since May, Turkish police and security forces have used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannon in excessive, unwarranted and arbitrary ways to disperse protesters. The Turkish Medical Association has reported that more than 8,000 people were injured at the scene of demonstrations. There is strong evidence linking three of the five earlier deaths connected with the Gezi Park protests to the abusive use of force by the police. According to media reports, Turkish police used 130,000 tear gas cartridges during the first 20 days of the demonstrations. This greatly depleted the 150,000 cartridges budgeted for in the police force’s annual procurement plan. Amnesty International and other organizations reported from the ground how tear gas was misused in confined areas where it poses an increased health risk. “Several months have passed and the Turkish authorities have yet to conduct independent and impartial investigations into the widespread and abusive use of force by police against peaceful protesters in Istanbul and other cities,” said Gardner.“International partners – including in the European Union – must urge the Turkish authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the excessive use of force and ensure that all police are properly trained in how to respond to peaceful protests in line with international standards.”
Full articlePhoto by Jenna Pope

Fresh protests spark fears over pending tear gas shipments in Turkey
September 13, 2013

All countries should suspend shipments of tear gas, armoured vehicles and other riot control projectile equipment to Turkey until the Turkish authorities can guarantee protesters’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, Amnesty International said. 

The call comes as police have again abusively used large amounts of tear gas and water cannon to disperse protests – some of them violent – in Istanbul and other cities around the country in the past three days. This new round of demonstrations was sparked when a young protester was killed in unclear circumstances as police responded to a demonstration in the southern province of Hatay early on Tuesday. 

“The Turkish police’s return to the abusive use of force in response to demonstrations underscores the need for all countries to suspend shipments of tear gas and other riot control projectile equipment and armoured policing vehicles to Turkey, until steps are taken to prevent such deaths and injuries,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.

“We’re calling on governments to take a stand and press Turkey to respect the right to peaceful protest and end the abusive use of force.”  

New supplies of tear gas 
According to media reports, the Turkish police authorities have requested an extraordinary order of riot control equipment – including 100,000 canisters of tear gas and more than 100 armoured vehicles. The tear gas may be supplied from Brazil, India, South Korea and the USA, four of its previous suppliers. Some reports have alleged an even larger order has been placed and that the National Police had already bought 150,000 cartridges in 2013 in line with their annual procurement plan.

The new supplies will replenish stocks that were greatly depleted or damaged earlier this year when police misused tear gas canisters and other chemical irritants, like pepper spray and water cannon, as well as used plastic bullets in excessive force against peaceful protests that began in late May. 

Ahmet Atakan’s death 
At the time of his death in the early hours of Tuesday, Ahmet Atakan had been taking part in a demonstration against – amongst other things – the death of another protester, Abdullah Cömert, after being struck with a tear gas canister fired by police on 3 June. 

There are still conflicting reports over what led to Atakan’s death – the authorities assert he fell from a building, while some eyewitnesses claim he was also hit with a tear gas canister. An investigation into the death is ongoing. Amnesty International calls on the authorities to ensure that the investigation is prompt, impartial and effective.

Ongoing misuse of tear gas
In response to the protests since May, Turkish police and security forces have used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannon in excessive, unwarranted and arbitrary ways to disperse protesters. 

The Turkish Medical Association has reported that more than 8,000 people were injured at the scene of demonstrations. There is strong evidence linking three of the five earlier deaths connected with the Gezi Park protests to the abusive use of force by the police. 

According to media reports, Turkish police used 130,000 tear gas cartridges during the first 20 days of the demonstrations. This greatly depleted the 150,000 cartridges budgeted for in the police force’s annual procurement plan. 

Amnesty International and other organizations reported from the ground how tear gas was misused in confined areas where it poses an increased health risk. 

“Several months have passed and the Turkish authorities have yet to conduct independent and impartial investigations into the widespread and abusive use of force by police against peaceful protesters in Istanbul and other cities,” said Gardner.

“International partners – including in the European Union – must urge the Turkish authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the excessive use of force and ensure that all police are properly trained in how to respond to peaceful protests in line with international standards.”

Full article
Photo by Jenna Pope

Thousands protest Nieto’s education reforms in Mexico, stage encampment in Zocalo
September 2, 2013

Thousands of people have taken to streets of Mexico City to protest against reforms proposed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

On Sunday, scores of students and thousands of teachers staged a demonstration in the capital to condemn reforms in the education sector. 

A separate demonstration was also held in the capital against the president’s plan to open the state-controlled energy sector to foreign investment. 

Riot police fired teargas at masked protesters, who were trying to block the lawmakers from entering the congress. According to the student movement Yo Soy 132, at least six people were arrested during the preotests. 

Around 10,000 teachers have camped in the historic Zocalo square for the past two weeks. A protest, staged last week, forced Mexican congressmen to hold a meeting in a convention center as the congress building had been encircled by teachers. 

The congress has already approved some changes to the constitution in an effort to overhaul the country’s education system. 

On Sunday, the lawmakers were supposed to vote on new rules, which would oblige teachers to take mandatory performance tests to get jobs or promotions. 

In the past two weeks, Mexicans have led several protests which mainly targeted President Nieto’s shake-up of the education system in the country

Source

One part of Nieto’s reforms include union busting the most powerful teachers unions, National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), in the country. Teachers say the president & his administration are blaming teachers for poor academic performance, as he continues to cut budgets for schools, especially in rural, indigenous communities. 

Teachers, along with students & supporters, have blocked major roadways, occupied the Zocalo & have disrupted Congress’ efforts to pass the new education reforms. 

Socialist Kshama Sawant wins 33% - Seattle gives green light to oust Richard Conlin from city hall
August 8, 2013

Seattle voters sent a clear message to an out-of-touch political establishment yesterday that they are fed up with business as usual, and are looking for an alternative to corporate-pandering politicians like Richard Conlin. Kshama Sawant, who was recently written off by The Seattle Times as “too hard left for Seattle,” won a stunning 33% of the vote, a number that will likely rise as late ballots are counted. 

A majority of primary voters voted against 16-year Seattle City Council incumbent, Democrat Richard Conlin, who despite a massive fund-raising advantage and name recognition, received only 49%. Sawant and a second challenger to Conlin, Brian Carver, won the majority of the vote in the City Council Position 2 race. 

“Working people in Seattle have a clear political choice for a change. If you want to fight for an alternative to the status quo, join us in the struggle for a citywide $15/hour minimum wage, a major expansion of public transit by taxing Seattle’s millionaires, increased investment in affordable housing, and implementing rent control,” said Sawant. 

Sawant has earned the endorsements of The Stranger newspaper, four labor unions, and prominent community activists such as Real Change founder Tim Harris. 

Unlike Conlin, Sawant refuses to accept corporate donations. Her grassroots campaign has raised $25,000, predominantly in the form of small donations of $25 or less, and has mobilized over 125 volunteers. “We will make history by raising a grassroots army of over 300 volunteers, and run one of the biggest door knocking campaigns this city has seen to defeat Richard Conlin,” Sawant declared. 

“Conlin has made clear where he stands, with corporations and the elite. By not representing the majority of struggling working people in this city, he has made himself obsolete.” 

Please Support  Campaign: 
1) Donate on-line at www.VoteSawant.org/donate 
2) Like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/VoteSawant 
3) Volunteer at www.votesawant.org/get_involved 
4) Endorse our candidate at www.VoteSawant.org/endorsements 
5) Join Socialist Alternative!

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Exclusive: 4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work

July 28, 2013

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

"I think it’s going to get worse," said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

"If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work," she said. Children, she said, have "nothing better to do than to get on drugs."

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.  

The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

"It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.

"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.

Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they’re only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don’t capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

Full article

I really don’t care for the focus on poor whites in this piece. Although the biggest increase is among whites, people of color have always had a larger guarantee of living in near or at the poverty line.

But the main point is this: “Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent…nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure at 90 percent.”

The Dream Defenders take the fight to the Florida Capitol
July 19, 2013

As Day Two of the occupation of the Florida state Capitol drew to a close on July 17, activists from the Dream Defenders were calling on Gov. Rick Scott to call a special legislative session to examine the criminal justice system, including repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law that protects racist murderers like George Zimmerman. The demonstration continued for a third day as this article was prepared for publication.

The Dream Defenders, an anti-racism group of Black and Brown youths, was founded last year after the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

On July 16, at 10 a.m., Dream Defenders chapters and supporters from all over Florida showed up at the Capitol in Tallahassee, with more than 100 people pouring into the lobby. As they headed toward the governor’s office, they chanted, “Whose world is this? The world is ours! Whose state is this? The state is ours!”

Once they were in the governor’s office, the Dream Defenders read their list of demands. The list was read again every hour, on the hour, during the occupation:

The Dream Defenders demand:
— Fully repeal Stand Your Ground;
— Require law enforcement agencies to develop written policies defining and prohibiting racial profiling;
— Mandate law enforcement training on racial profiling;
— Repeal zero-tolerance policies in schools;
— Issue civil citations for first misdemeanor offenses for minors;
— Promote restorative justice programs for youth.

We call on Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature to pass these policies as the state’s Trayvon Martin Act. Together, we are united in ensuring Trayvon’s unjust death was not for nothing. Our anger in the face of gross injustice has led us to take action, but it is the love of our people, our community that pushes us forward. We will remain here, standing OUR ground, for Trayvon, for justice, until our demands are met.

"We are here today to demand justice for the Trayvon Martin case. We are at the Florida state Capitol, in Rick Scott’s office, and we plan on staying the night to get our demands met," said Daniel Agnew from the Dream Defenders Communications Team.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Activists say their occupation will continue until Rick Scott agrees to speak to the Dream Defenders—not simply to hear them read their demands, but actually have a conversation about race and injustice in Florida.

After the murder of Trayvon, the governor commissioned a special session to discuss the Stand Your Ground. That task force—led by former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who was forced to resign after charges of corruption—issued its findings in February, recommending no change to the law. So far, Rick Scott is saying that his answer to the Dream Defenders’ demands is no.

On Tuesday night, about 20 people stayed overnight. The Capitol police closed the doors to the governor’s office, but didn’t prevent activists from staying in the lobby area of the Capitol. On Wednesday, the number rose to 50.

Across the country, people are showing their solidarity with the occupation by sending food, water, and other necessities. #takeovertuesday and #westillinherewednesday are being used on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets to turn numbers out and spread the word.

According to Regina Joseph, vice president of the Florida State University Dream Defenders:

I am here because Trayvon Martin reminds me of my brother. Trayvon Martin was a child, and yet a jury of six women did not see him as a person. We need to combat this.

A lot of people are just apathetic because this country has been built on 500 years of white supremacy and the exploitation of people, and they think that because of that history, it will always be like that. But it shouldn’t be. The youth and the community members around us have an obligation to make sure that in the future of America, there will never be another moment where we have to come together like this.

Taking a quote from civil rights leader Ella Baker, protesters sang, “Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it;s won.

Visit the Dream Defenders website for updates and information on how to help build solidarity.

As Jamaal Hill, a senior at the University of Florida said, “We need to get together and stay together.”

Source

No justice. No peace.

Hunger strikes spread in 2013 global resistance campaigns – here’s the latest
June 30, 2013

In Occupied Palestine
We recently posted coverage of 170 Eritrean migrants hunger striking in occupied Palestine. Now an additional 230 asylum seekers being held in the Saharonim prison in the south have returned their breakfasts and announced that they are beginning a hunger strike.

More than 1,700 African migrants are jailed in Israel. Most are waiting for their refugee requests to be processed or to file such requests. The migrants can be detained for up to three years without a trial.

At Guantamo Bay
Increasingly brutal tactics are being used in an attempt to break the hunger strike by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, according to fresh testimony from the last British resident still held in the camp. Techniques include making cells “freezing cold” to accentuate the discomfort of those on hunger strike and the introduction of “metal-tipped” feeding tubes, which were forced into inmates’ stomachs twice a day and caused detainees to vomit over themselves.

Although the military initially denied that there was a hunger strike inside Guantanámo, it now concedes that, of the 166 detainees, 104 are on hunger strike and 44 are being force-fed.

In Munich, Germany
Police in Munich moved in early Sunday morning to clear a camp of asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike for a week. Talks broke down late on Saturday night after it emerged the protesters would not be granted residence permits. 

The group, camped out on the city’s central Rindermarkt square, had originally been demanding the right to asylum in Germany but signaled they would be prepared to accept residence permits issued on humanitarian grounds instead. 

When this was not offered to them during negotiations, the group said they would continue the protest. Many said they were prepared to die. 

Doctors had previously warned that many of the protesters were in a critical condition. Forty-four of the protesters were admitted to 12 hospitals, according to city spokesman Stefan Hauf.

In Pontville, Tasmania
The Immigration Department has confirmed a detainee is on a hunger strike at Tasmania’s Pontville Detention Centre, after ABC was contacted by a teenager claiming to be an inmate at the centre.

The 16-year-old from Afghanistan contacted ABC News last night, saying he had been refusing food for four days. He arrived at Christmas Island on a boat seven months ago and has since spent five months in detention at Pontville.

The teenager believes other asylum seekers from the boat have been released and he does not know why he is still in detention.

His condition was very bad and he wanted to draw attention to his case.

In Philadelphia, United States
The fight over public education in Philadelphia escalated last Monday, when two local parents and two school district employees initiated a hunger strike to protest the closure of 23 schools and firing of 3,783 education professionals. The hunger strike is ongoing.

In Nawalparasi, Nepal
Inmates of Parasi prison in Nawalparasi, who began agitating on Friday when they released their seven-point demands, have started a hunger strike today, on Sunday, to apply pressure to the authorities to respond to their demands.

Of the 102 inmates, 78 are on strike. Their demands include: freedom to visit the market, facility of food prepared in the pressure cooker, return of their money stolen by the jail security guard and officials, opportunity to meet their kin on the prison premises freely, and decent food portions. 

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From Global Voices for Justice, a two-part interview with poet Joshua Clover, one of the recently triumphant Davis Dozen. The first part addresses Occupy and philosophy and crisis theory; the second part, on culture and poetry, is above. Clover reads two poems. The second concerns the problem of “how to set fire to fire”; the first contains the following lines: “You know all too well | that the best poetry is not | the least revolution | you know also that poetry | is the best way available to you | to affirm this truth.” Among all else that gets discussed, someone at The Poetry Foundation chose to transcribe the following: 

I take an almost mystical satisfaction from poetry’s strangeness and it’s strange beauty and that satisfaction is important to me and I want to preserve it. But, I don’t think that poetry is a satisfactory revolutionary force. The thing that I’ve been saying for several years now is, listen, it’s a good time for poets to get out in the streets and struggle and it will make their poetry better… don’t figure out what kind of poetry you can write to make the world better, get out into the streets and struggle and your poetry will change for it.

Speaking of The Poetry Foundation, Clover and Juliana Spahr applied for a job there last year; their letter is well worth a read as well. 

Submitted by:  afieryflyingroule

Overcrowding in California state prisons

There’s a real cost to having an economic incentive to incarcerate people. There is a real, human cost to privatization.

There is a real cost to a widening gap between the rich and the rest, forcing many into poverty, forcing many to become houseless.

There is a real cost when houselessness is criminalized. Where do all the new poor go, one wonders. They go to overcrowded jails & prisons for crimes of poverty or they go to a myriad of slums & houseless communities that are growing and expanding in the United States. It’s rare to find a houseless person without a criminal record - not because they are inherently criminal but because being impoverished is systemically criminalized in this country.

And the criminalization isn’t proportional across communities either. Most of the people being criminalized are black & brown & extremely-poor whites. 

See all 18 photos here. 

The Bulgarian uprising largely ignored by the corporate media continues into it’s 8th day
June 23, 2013

For the eighth straight day, tens of thousands of Bulgarians have demonstrated for the government to resign. At least 10,000 people have joined rallies in Sofia nightly since June 14.

On Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed concern over political developments and the rule of law in Bulgaria after protests followed the appointment, since withdrawn, of a media mogul as the country’s national security chief. Though the protests began in reaction to that appointment, they have turned into demonstrations against the Socialist-backed government and politicians in general.

"We demand that the oligarchy resign from political office so that Bulgaria can conform to European Union standards," organizers demanded.

Barroso highlighted the appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski, who lacked experience in security matters, to head of the state agency DANS. The parliament, which had initially approved the appointment, later reversed it unanimously. The European Union has monitored Bulgaria since it joined in 2007 as it works to meeting the bloc’s demands on judicial reform, corruption and organized crime. On Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski’s inaugural trip to Brussels, Barosso said that he urged him to “consult widely on key appointments, especially in the areas of the fight against corruption and organized crime.”

"Some of the recent developments in Bulgaria were not good, and they raised concerns not only in Bulgarian society but among the European partners of Bulgaria," Barroso said. "The candidates chosen should be based on merit, and they should have the highest standards of integrity," he added.

The technocratic prime minister came to power at the head of a Socialist-led government last month after a snap election followed the resignation of the conservative coalition in February. Since then, however, thousands have been demonstrating against corruption and organized crime while the conservatives are boycotting parliament and demanding new elections.

"I will persevere in my efforts to ensure the normalization of the political and public situation in the country," Oresharski pledged, adding that his government took the EU’s recommendations seriously. "We will persevere in our efforts to build the confidence of our partners in the EU," he added.

For his part, Bulgaria’s president praised the protest rallies on Friday, saying that politicians must heed the demonstrators’ demands for reform. “Bulgaria can be proud of this good-natured, democratic protest, which delivers a message to the politicians,” said President Rosen Plevneliev, who holds a largely ceremonial office. “I very much hope they will be heard and that this time the politicians really take responsible, clear and, I would say, brave decisions,” he added.

An opinion poll by Alpha Research published this week found that over 80 percent of Bulgarians support the protests, though respondents split nearly evenly on whether the Cabinet should immediately resign. The poll also found that only 23 percent of respondents approved of the new coalition of the Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party, the lowest level for any government since 1997. About 28 percent of respondents to the June 13-18 survey expressed disapproval.

Protesters have planned further rallies for the weekend.

Source

Global protest grows as citizens lose faith in capitalism, politics and the state
The myriad protests from Istanbul to São Paulo have one thing in common - growing dissent among the young, educated and better-off protesting against the very system that once enriched them. And therein lies the danger for governments.
June 23, 2013

The demonstrations in Brazil began after a small rise in bus fares triggered mass protests. Within days this had become a nationwide movement whose concerns had spread far beyond fares: more than a million people were on the streets shouting about everything from corruption to the cost of living to the amount of money being spent on the World Cup.

In Turkey, it was a similar story. A protest over the future of a city park in Istanbul – violently disrupted by police – snowballed too into something bigger, a wider-ranging political confrontation with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has scarcely been brought to a close by last weekend’s clearing of Gezi Park.

If the recent scenes have seemed familiar, it is because they shared common features: viral, loosely organised with fractured messages and mostly taking place in urban public locations.

Unlike the protest movement of 1968 or even the end of Soviet influence in eastern Europe in 1989, these are movements with few discernible leaders and often conflicting ideologies. Their points of reference are not even necessarily ideological but take inspiration from other protests, including those of the Arab spring and the Occupy movement. The result has seen a wave of social movements – sometimes short-lived – from Wall Street to Tel Aviv and from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, often engaging younger, better educated and wealthier members of society.

What is striking for those who, like myself, have covered these protests is often how discursive and open-ended they are. People go not necessarily to hear a message but to take over a location and discuss their discontents (even if the stunning consequence can be the fall of an autocratic leader such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak).

If the “new protest” can be summed up, it is not in specifics of the complaints but in a wider idea about organisation encapsulated on a banner spotted in Brazil last week: “We are the social network.”

In Brazil the varied banners underlined the difficulty of easy categorization as protesters held aloft signs expressing a range of demands from education reforms to free bus fares while denouncing the billions of public dollars spent on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics two years later.

"It’s sort of a Catch-22," Rodrigues da Cunha, a 63-year-old protester told the Associated Press. "On the one hand we need some sort of leadership, on the other we don’t want this to be compromised by being affiliated with any political party."

As the Economist pointed out last week, while mass movements in Britain, France, Sweden and Turkey have been inspired by a variety of causes, including falling living standards, authoritarian government and worries about immigration, Brazil does not fit the picture, with youth unemployment at a record low and enjoying the biggest leap in living standards in the country’s history.

So what’s going on? An examination of the global Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a loose correlation between the ranking of a country on the trust scale and the likelihood of protests. The trust barometer is a measure of public confidence in institutions compiled by the US firm Edelman, the world’s largest privately owned PR company.

In 2011, at the time the Occupy movement was being born in Zuccoti Park on Wall Street, the UK and the US were both firmly placed at the bottom of the “distrusters” while Brazil topped the “trusters”. By this year Brazil had dropped 30 points on the table, while Spain and Turkey, which have both seen protests this year, were both in the distrusted category.

Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC2’s Newsnight and author of Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, has argued that a key factor, largely driven by new communication technologies, is that people have not only a better understanding of power but are more aware of its abuse, both economically and politically.

Mason believes we are in the midst of a “revolution caused by the near collapse of free-market capitalism combined with an upswing in technical innovation” – but not everyone is so convinced.

What does ring true, however, is his assertion that a driving force from Tahrir Square to Occupy is a redefinition of notions of both what “freedom” means and its relationship to governments that seem ever more distant. It is significant, too, that many recent protests have taken place in the large cities that have been most transformed by neoliberal policies.

Tali Hatuka, an Israeli urban geographer, whose book on the new forms of protest will be published next year, identifies the mass mobilisations against the Iraq war in 2003 as a turning point in how people protest. Hatuka argues that, while previous large public protests had tended to be focused and narrow in their organisation, the Iraq war protests saw demonstrations in 800 cities globally which encompassed and tolerated a wide variety of outlooks.

"Most recently," Hatuka wrote in the journal Geopolitics last year, "this spirit has characterised the Arab spring and New York’s Occupy Wall Street, which were protests based on informal leadership and a multitude of voices."

"Up to the 1990s," she said last week, "protests tended to be organised around a pyramid structure with a centralised leadership. As much effort went into the planning as into the protest itself. And the [impact on the] day after the protest was as significant as the event itself. Now protest is organised more like a network. It is far more informal, the event itself often being immediate."

Hatuka cautions against generalising too much – distinguishing between the events of the Arab spring, where mass protests were able to remove regimes, and protests in western democracies. But she does point to how the new form of protest tends to produce fractured and temporary alliances.

"If you compare what we are seeing today with the civil rights movement in the US – even the movements of 1989 – those were much more cohesive. Now the event itself is the message. The question is whether that is enough."

She suspects it is not, pointing to how present-day activism – from the Iraq war demonstrations onwards – has often failed to deliver concrete results with its impact often fizzling out. Because of this, current forms of protest may be a temporary phenomenon and may be forced to change.

Another key feature of the new protests, argues Saskia Sassen, a sociology professor at Columbia University, New York, is the notion of “occupation” – which has not been confined to the obvious tactics of the Occupy movement. Occupations of different kinds have occurred in Tahrir Square, Cairo, in Gezi Park, Istanbul, and during widespread social protests in Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital, in 2011.

"Occupying is not the same as demonstrating. Many of the [recent] protests made legible the fact that occupying makes novel territory, and thereby a bit of history, using what was previously considered merely ground," Sassen wrote recently. "Whether in Egypt, the US, or elsewhere, it is important that the aim of the occupiers is not to grab power. They were and are, rather, engaged in the work of citizenship, exposing deep flaws and wrongs in their polity and society.

"This is a very peculiar moment," Sassen told the Observer. "This form of protest is very amorphous in comparison with the movements that came before." She argues that one distinguishing factor is that many of the protest movements of the past decade have been defined by the involvement of what she calls "the modest middle class", who have often been beneficiaries of the systems they are protesting against but whose positions have been eroded by neoliberal economic policies that have seen both distribution of wealth and opportunities captured by a narrowing minority. As people have come to feel more distant from government and economic institutions, a large part of the new mass forms of dissent has come to be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate ideas of "citizenship".

"Often what people are saying is that you are the state. I’m a citizen. I’ve done my job. You’re not recognising that."

Sassen’s belief that many of the recent protests are middle-class-driven appeared to be confirmed overtly – in the case of Brazil, at least – by President Dilma Rousseff, when she acknowledged that the new middle classes “want more and have the right to more”.

For an older generation of political theorists, as Sassen admits, not least those from a Marxist background, the current trends have sometimes been puzzling. “I remember talking to [British Marxist historian] Eric Hobsbawm – a dear friend. He asked me: ‘What’s up [with Occupy]?’ I said it is a very interesting movement. But his reply was: ‘If there is no party, then there’s no future.’”

Indeed, it was precisely this concern two years ago that led Malcolm Gladwell – in a controversial essay for the New Yorker, Small change: why the revolution will not be tweeted – to ask a similar question: whether networks of activists modelled on social media and with “weak tie-ins” can sustain themselves in the long run.

"The old pyramid way of organizing protests does have its limitations, but so too do the new ways of organizing," says Hatuka. "Often it does not feel very effective in the long run. People will often go for a day or two and these protests are not necessarily offering an ideological alternative."

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I hope desperately that these are just the first hiccups leading to volcanic eruption that will change humanity forever. Keep dreaming, keep thinking & talking about the type of world you’d like to live in, keep movement building, keep building solidarity, keep engaging, stay active, encourage each other, build community.

We will either erupt into an unprecedented revolutionary period or the slow neo-liberal crawl to hell, creating dystopian security states and powerful oligarchies alongside massive slums will continue to slowly cultivate. I think the first is actually more likely than the latter. This world is unsustainable. This trajectory is unsustainable. We were born in this time & we are the ones who have the responsibility to shape what it will become.