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Litter in, or litter out

28 August  2011

LITTER IN, OR LITTER OUT

Elsa Crumpley

In addition to all the catastrophes, natural and man-made, that threaten life on Earth, we must add the increasing danger from THE PLASTIC BAG.  Its usefulness cannot be denied.  But its threat to life becomes ever more apparent.  It is not bio-degradable; in 1000 years, it can only add to the pile of litter on Earth.  In addition, it kills marine animals and leeches toxic chemicals.  It becomes necessary to find a solution to the problem, or cease its use.

 

Ever since the first child died from lack of air playing with a plastic bag over its head,  we have become  aware of the danger, which cannot be dealt with merely as a warning.   Many cities have already banned the plastic bag for shopping use.  Schools were alerted to the need to adapt the curriculum to the needs.  The California Dept of Education issued a new environmental curriculum.

 

The new curriculum was developed with input from interested groups.  Responding to objections from the American Chemical Council to negative emphasis on the bags, the new curriculum included much positive emphasis suggested  by the Council.  Educators were outraged.  Since when does industry write our texts?

 

Recent years have seen occasional interference by business in school texts, and teachers and parents are outraged.  Education must remain public,in the hands of the Department of Education, in the public interest and under public control.  California Watch, a state investigative reporting team helps to keep education under public control.

 

With the new school year under way,   parents, retailers and schools are beginning to act by using nonplastic bags  and reuseable containers in packing lunches.  The aim is less waste, less garbage, environmental controls. And no plastic bags.

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Elsa Crumpley: Must learn from events of last century

Opinion: Friday January 21, 2011

Must learn from events of last century
Elsa Crumpley – My Word
RECENT EVENTS in Tucson, Ariz., recall for me some of the most terrifying events in my life.
From 1932 to 1936, as I attended Brooklyn College in New York, students learned current history from the live world developments resulting from World War 1 and the Depression that followed. We watched, and we worried.
Germany, having lost the war suffered demands and restrictions imposed by the loss, which brought a complete breakdown to its economy and the basic needs of the people could not be satisfied. The government was inadequate to find a proper solution
The years that followed saw the rise of the fascist movement brought about by Adolf HItler, who built his power by manipulation unsubstantiated fears, thus generating hatred prevailing in Germany
Acceptance of the lies and misrepresentations enabled Nazi control of thinking and actions of the public to bring about domination of fascist leadership of the country. The big factor in achieving this control lay in active pursuit of anti-Semitism and anti-labor publicity and activity.
Ever-increasing activity and violence in the 1930s by Hitler’s Nationalist Socialist Party destroyed freedom of thought in Germany, and more than 6 million Jews lost their lives. Hitler’s party achieved power, and fascist control and fear led to a loss of democracy and to World War 2.
There is no doubt that the campaign was brought about by a constant repetition of lies and abuse and destructive activity that forced acceptance by the people. Democratic elements who objected were suppressed.
Increasing political activity in our country has become abusive and violently dangerous. It is unacceptable. An atmosphere of hatred and intolerance has led to violence that we do not tolerate.
The longer the lies and insults are allowed to continue, the closer we get to losing democratic control, making way for special interests to increase power.
When active elements and the media concentrate on negative and destructive tactics, a neutral balance is destroyed and we lose sight of truth and democratic power.
Above all, we must maintain an atmosphere of courtesy and respect, a willingness to listen to others, accept different opinions and make joint decisions.
Our strength lies in democratic control and decisions. Let us strengthen the power of the United Nations. Let us assert our will and determination to maintain a strong democracy through individual and joint action.
Let us learn by experience of the world’s people.

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Elsa Crumpley: Language Grows

Opinion: Monday April 18, 2011

Language Grows
SOME THOUGHTS on language, provoked y the April 12 letter, “Use words correctly:”
With worldwide immigration in constant motion, it is no wonder that grammatical use of any language gets lost in distortion and misuse.
But language grows. IT becomes enriched with usages brought by immigrants, cultural growth, a desired twist of meaning, new technologies, and new social needs.
Enrichment also derives in usage of words applied in difference contexts beyond original use, for lack of appropriate words in the new situation.
Thus, inn the sentence, “The election of Barack Obama created an impact felt by all members of the population,” the word “impact” conveys the tremendous significance of the event in the meaningful way as desired without actual physical contact.
In this way, a language grows in words and meanings beyond their original use. Over time, a language becomes enriched far beyond its beginnings. Words gain new powerful meanings. In search and in writing, we learn to express more sensitive thoughts, accurate descriptions, and colorful speech, applying the old words to define new situations extending the original meanings to new usages.
Poetry, literature and music are products representing an everlasting tribute to our creative abilities in the use of language. Let us use our language to promote our most powerful and sensitive thoughts toward the grown of a positive contribution to the development of our species.
Elsa Crumpley
Oakland

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Securing OUR Community: ICE’s New Attack on Bay Area Immigrants

In a climate of political backwardness, undocumented immigrants and their advocates are often accused of manipulating language. We are told that we should say “illegal immigrant,” rather than “undocumented immigrant”. Yet in the legal realm, this is backward and void. Asserting that someone, including many of our neighbors and community members here in the Bay Area who are not properly documented, are guilty of a crime ignores their presumption of innocence. This involves all sorts of extraneous factors, such as potential refugee status, amnesty status, undocumented but legal ancestors, lost paperwork, and a number of other factors which affect an undocumented person’s legal status.

Yet in a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program, known as Securing Communities (S-Comm), ICE has itself nefariously used a legally void and undefined term – “criminal alien” – to deport many of our nation’s residents, including many here in the Bay Area. S-Comm is billed as a program to deport “criminal aliens” who have committed egregious offenses. S-Comm involves requesting that local law enforcement transfer anyone deemed “deportable” to ICE to await possible deportation when police submit finger prints for criminal background checks, which also go through immigration background checks. But law enforcement officials, judges, elected officials, and community leaders have instead found that ICE is using the Secure Communities program as part of a growing trend to engage in mass deportations of residents who have often committed no criminal offenses – or even worse, residents who are themselves victims or eyewitnesses of criminal activity. Furthermore, ICE’s program avoids accountability and oversight, violates privacy rights of citizens and undocumented workers, and severely hampers effective police conduct.

In a new report titled “Restoring Community,” the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) and a National Community Advisory Commission has put together an extensive collection of facts and testimonies from law enforcement and community leaders regarding the devastating effects of ICE’s new program. The full report, as well as a run-down of the report prepared by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, can be found at http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/

Rather than targeting those who have committed serious crimes, data from ICE itself reveals that S-Comm deportations have overwhelmingly been of individuals who have committed no criminal offenses or have committed misdemeanors, including traffic offenses. Furthermore, data collected by NDLON and civil liberties advocates have found that time and again, many of those deported as a result of S-Comm are themselves victims of violent crimes, including domestic abuse. In addition, law enforcement officials from throughout the country claim that S-Comm has had a negative effect on community policing methods. Immigrant communities, including witnesses and victims of crimes, are more afraid to interact with police, fearing an arbitrary deportation as a result of the program. Furthermore, law enforcement officials nationwide believe that ICE is a distraction for police departments who care to focus on more serious crimes.

Other serious problems with S-Comm include entangling ICE with the criminal justice system, which creates a “two-tiered system of justice” for its targets, in which both – the criminal justice system and the immigration system – are overwhelmingly stacked against the defendant, preventing individuals accused of any crime from properly defending themselves in court. Furthermore, data from ICE’s deportation suggests that the program incentivizes racial profiling, and follows a long trend of using the criminal justice system to attack immigrants in the midst of the war on drugs and the war on terrorism. Large numbers of immigrants swept up in S-Comm related deportations across the country committed no serious offenses, strongly suggesting the presence of racial profiling.

Moreover, the limits of the program have been vague, allowing ICE to “go rogue”. Time and again, ICE officials have lied to elected officials and judges over the scope and nature of the program, and the legal limits of S-Comm have come under scrutiny. On a related point, privacy advocates like Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation have noted that the FBI has used S-Comm to “accumulate a massive store of personal and biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike”

S-Comm has hit home to the Bay Area, one of the most diverse areas on the planet and home to millions of immigrants themselves. There is no reason for Bay Area residents concerned about their safety, human dignity, or privacy rights to put any faith in ICE’s new program.

Indeed, Bay Area leaders have been taking a stand against the program. Bay Area Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) has demanded an investigation of the S-Comm program, accusing federal immigration officials of lying about whether or not local counties and states have the right to opt out of the devastating program. “It is inescapable that the [Department of Homeland Security] was not honest with the local governments or with me” said Lofgren. Both San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have defended the rights of Bay Area citizens and non-citizens by attempting to opt out of the program – only to have federal immigration officials give mixed responses as to the legality of opting out. Although the program was billed as “voluntary,” Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)-obtained documents reveal that ICE officials knew it was involuntary long before.

Lofgren and county governments are not alone. San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey also condemned the draconian nature of the program and its exploitation of police departments:

This fear of the arbitrary use of immigration laws is only reinforced when you have a high-ranking ICE official telling law enforcement, “If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” This is a quote from James Pendergraph, the former executive director of the ICE Office of State and Local Coordination, who was speaking in 2008 to the Police Foundation’s national conference on immigration issues…My main criticism of Secure Communities is that it casts too wide a net and scoops up the fingerprints of everyone not born in the United States whether or not they pose a criminal risk (6).

Hennessey also claims that out of opposition to the misleading and dangerous program, he does not recommend immigrants caught with minor violations for deportation. His sentiments as a law enforcement official are echoed throughout the Bay Area. San Mateo County demanded clarification about opting out, and Sonoma County representatives were also “upset” about misleading information from ICE. Marin County’s Juvenile Probation Office was “quite agitated about S-Comm being ‘forced’ on them”. NDLON claims that despite S-Comm being mandated by federal officials through deception, the program’s officially “voluntary” method is an important legal means of fighting back against this draconian legislation. As per the tenth amendment, it is illegal for federal immigration officials to require state and local police to do be distracted from serious police work with the dirty job of rounding up innocent Bay Area residents for deportation.

The opposition to S-Comm from local leaders, law enforcement, our elected officials, and our community has been strong and vocal, and has sent a clear message to those at ICE who seek to harass and deport members of our community. But the fight is still uphill. The number of annual deportations from the United States in 2010 has skyrocketed to 400,000, up from only 20,000 in 1980. With the conflation of immigration violations with the criminal justice system, under the auspices of solving drug problems or fighting terrorism, we have seen a drastic increase in deportations and harassment of undocumented immigrants.

Immigrants-rights advocates continue to be accused of manipulating language for our defense of our communities. But S-Comm proves that it is deportation officials from the federal government, not immigrants-rights advocates, that have been deceptive and manipulative with words for their own purposes. As such, we must unite as a community and remain strong against ICE’s new harassment program. Only through continuing to organize as a community against this heinous attack on Bay Area citizens and non-citizens alike can we reverse this disturbing trend.

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Run-Down of NDLON “Secure Communities” Report

The National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) and a National Community Advisory Commission has put together an extensive report detailing the “Secure Communities” program (“S-Comm”) of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which brutally cracks down on immigrants with deleterious effects on local communities. In their August 2011 report, “Restoring Community,” NDLON summarizes some of the most blatant problems with S-Comm as well as meaningful recommendations to fix these problems, citing the opinions of community leaders, academics, judges, and law enforcement officials. The following is a run-down of this report prepared by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center.

The full report can be found here: http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/

The premise of S-Comm is simple. When local law enforcement submits fingerprints from individuals for criminal background checks, they are automatically searched against immigration databases. If ICE decides that an individual may be “deportable,” it requests that local police detain an individual and transfer him to ICE for possible deportation (2). The program was originally voluntary, but after pressure from local communities against it, it was made mandatory.

NDLON points out a number of serious issues with police-ICE entanglement. S-Comm results in diminished trust in law enforcement in target communities, making effective community policing techniques impossible. NDLON quotes Ron Hampton of Black Law Enforcement in America, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) ‘Secure Communities’ program is incompatible

with community policing” (4). Because S-Comm turns every police encounter into a risk of deportation for immigrants, immigrant eye witnesses and victims become afraid to come forward. NDLON points out that this risk is not hypothetical, as S-Comm has resulted in numerous victims of violent crimes being recommended for deportation upon calling the police (4). NDLON quotes New York District Attorney Rob Morgenthau on this issue:

When immigrants perceive the local police force as merely an arm of the federal immigration authority, they become reluctant to report criminal activity for fear of being turned over to federal officials. That’s why during the 35 years I was district attorney in Manhattan, I made it a policy never to turn over names of individuals involved with the criminal justice system to immigration authorities until after they were convicted of a serious crime (9).

These aspects of S-Comm thereby compromise public safety. Furthermore, S-Comm has a “dragnet” effect, resulting in the arrest and deportation of individuals with minor or no criminal convictions. According to ICE’s own numbers, one third of immigrants arrested have never been convicted of anything, and nearly sixty percent have either been convicted of nothing or are guilty of misdemeanors such as traffic offenses. This aspect of the S-Comm program was heavily criticized by Sheriff of San Francisco Michael Hennessey:

This fear of the arbitrary use of immigration laws is only reinforced when you have a high-ranking ICE official telling law enforcement, “If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” This is a quote from James Pendergraph, the former executive director of the ICE Office of State and Local Coordination, who was speaking in 2008 to the Police Foundation’s national conference on immigration issues…My main criticism of Secure Communities is that it casts too wide a net and scoops up the fingerprints of everyone not born in the United States whether or not they pose a criminal risk (6).

NDLON also points out that S-Comm results in distracting police officers from serious crimes. For example, Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County, Illinois, writes ““I view Secure Communities as a distraction…[T]he program has diverted my department from more serious law enforcement responsibilities” (8). That is, in addition to potentially deporting victims and eye-witnesses, S-Comm distracts law enforcement from serious crimes altogether! Finally, NDLON points out that S-Comm “incentivizes racial profiling,” pointing to an excerpt from the Rights Working Group’s 2010 report, Faces of Racial Profiling. The report points to “abnormally high rates of non-criminal deportations under Secure Communities,” from ICE data, strongly suggesting that S-Comm is not “prioritizing criminal aliens for enforcement action based on their threat to public safety” but rather deporting individuals for minor offenses and even drawing in U.S. citizens for enforcement actions—further evidence that this ICE initiative is encouraging racial profiling.” (10).

“Restoring Community” also discusses injustice in the immigration and criminal justice systems. S-Comm exacerbates many aspects of discrimination amidst a climate of anti-immigrant laws which have caused a skyrocketing level of deportations in recent years. From twenty thousand deportations in 1980, the level of annual deportations has grown to four hundred thousand deportations in 2010. By entangling law enforcement with immigration, S-Comm creates a “two-tiered system of justice” for targeted immigrants, “in which non-citizens are routinely denied bail, jailed for longer periods, and disqualified from alternative release programs” in addition to well-documented biases against defendants in the criminal justice system (14). NDLON quotes director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild Dan Kesselbrenner, about this disadvantage: “By leveraging their considerable resources against the criminal justice system and “criminal aliens,” ICE subverts its purpose. Interjecting immigration enforcement into the criminal justice system undercuts people’s attempts to represent themselves effectively in their criminal case” (15). Furthermore, according to Kesselbrenner, ICE and S-Comm have invented a legally undefined and vague term, “criminal alien,” allowing ICE to net and harass a number of citizens through the criminal justice system. Another means of using the criminal justice system to harass individuals over suspected immigration offenses has been to use the “war on drugs” and “war on terror” to simultaneously target immigrant communities. From anti-drug laws that limit means to challenge deportation, to the PATRIOT Act which allows the state to detain immigrants and hold them without charge indefinitely, S-Comm is part of a trend of using law enforcement and the criminal justice system to harass immigrants.

NDLON also argues that ICE has “gone rogue” through S-Comm, which exacerbates ICE’s historical secrecy and lack of accountability with “new levels of deception” (25). NDLON writes, “On July 11, 2011 a federal district judge concluded that “[t]here is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities.”20 Numerous reports confirm that ICE misled local, state, and federal government officials about S-Comm’s scope and ostensibly compulsory nature” (25). Indeed, through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, internal documents from ICE reveal a lack of clarity in defining the scope or the nature of S-Comm in its entirety. NDLON reports, “Despite the program’s vast scope, not a single statute or regulation specifically defines its parameters. Indeed, ICE appears to be inventing legal authority as it goes along—and, as with the opt-out controversy—repeatedly changing its mind along the way” (28). Indeed, a number of documents obtained through FOIA suggest that ICE officials have been lying to public officials throughout the country regarding the scope of the program (26). Finally, NDLON quotes Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation regarding S-Comm’s effect on privacy rights. Exploiting the lack of defined scope of the program, Lynch reveals.

It now appears that the FBI is using [S-Comm] to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike. Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation … have exposed the concerted efforts of the FBI and DHS to build a massive database of personal and biometric information…the FOIA documents show for the first time how FBI has taken advantage of the DHS Secure Communities program and both DHS and the State Department’s civil biometric data collection programs to build out this $1 billion database (30).

NDLON documents that one area of strength for local communities opposed to S-Comm is the voluntary nature of ICE holds, or forty-eight hour detention holds of arrested immigrants requested by ICE. Because ICE is a federal agency, the tenth amendment prohibits ICE from using local law enforcement to detain individuals over immigration enforcement. Thus, many Sheriffs have refused to perform ICE holds on those charged with minor offenses. NDLON claims that such “hold campaigns constitute a key form of resistance available to localities concerned about the dangers of police-ICE mergers” (33).

“Restoring Community” concludes with a series of powerful personal accounts of those affected by the S-Comm program. In addition to documenting the real-life sentiments of those families torn apart and threatened with deportation by the program, these accounts also include those of victims of violent crimes and abuse who were threatened with deportation. In addition, the report includes a number of additional resources and citations for further critiques of the S-Comm program.

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Report: From Hiroshima to Fukishima to California

The San Jose Peace and Justice Center commemorated the sixty-sixth anniversary of the tragic nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Friday, August 11th, at the Joyce Ellington Library in San Jose with the “From Hiroshima to Fukishima to California” anti-nuclear event, part of the Center’s “no-nuke summer”. After a moment of silence for the victims of Hiroshima, San Jose Peace and Justice Center President Sharat Lin commented on contemporary developments regarding nuclear weapons. Lin pointed out that even supervised nuclear power is not safe, as the world witnessed during the Fukushima disaster after Japan’s recent earthquake; that a recent Global Zero report estimates that nuclear powers will spend one trillion dollars on nuclear weapons developments within the next decade; and that, unlike during the Cold War, now nuclear powers – specifically the United States and Israel – -have threatened to use nuclear weapons for a first strike. Lin also noted that there was little reasoning for the nuclear weapons used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as Japan had already approached the USSR during World War II to surrender.

The first speaker, Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Cares, discussed contemporary nuclear weapons research, especially at Lawrence Livermore Labs in Berkeley. Tri-Valley Cares functions, among other purposes, as a watchdog for the Lab. Kelly commented that even under the Obama Administration, the United States was moving in “the wrong direction,” as the 2012 nuclear weapons budget is significantly larger than the nuclear weapons budgets under George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. She noted that Livermore Labs was one of two locations in the United States that had designed every nuclear weapon the United States has used, and that of the 1.2 billion dollar budget requests at Lawrence Livermore Labs, 89% were for nuclear weapons, while 0.06% were alloted for alternative energies. In addition, the Lab’s nuclear waste has had serious health effects on employees of the labs, as well as local residents and the environment, which Tri-Valley Cares has mobilized to clean up.

Ed Ehmke of the Pacific Life Community (PLC) spoke next, primarily discussing civil disobedience and the assembly of nuclear weapons at Building 181 at the Lockheed Martin facility in Sunnyvale. Ehmke promoted the PLC’s monthly vigils outside the facility every fourth Friday, and pointed out the long history of jailing anti-nuclear activists. Lockheed Martin, along with a myriad of other corporations, says Ehmke, assembles nuclear warheads for the Trident Missile, capable of causing an explosion roughly the size of “3800 Nagasakis” or 475 kilotons. The vast majority of Lockheed Martin’s business is for the United States government, while the remaining twenty percent involves exporting military equiptment; Lockheed Martin has not manufactured a commercial airplane since 1983. Ehmke also suggested that the government has provided poor and unsafe security at nuclear assembly sites, which have been penetrated by non-violent peace activists in the past.

The final speaker, Barbara George of Women’s Energy Matters, discussed several aspects of nuclear power and local control of utilities. George discussed the successful implementation of a government energy-purchasing authority in Marin as an alternative to the PG&E monopoly, and previous attempts by PG&E to prevent locals from retaking control over energy distribution. She noted that San Jose is currently looking to follow in Marin’s footsteps in doing so. George also spoke about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) failure to address earthquakes during emergency planning for nuclear power facilities, and that due to the size and intersection of earthquake fault lines in California, an earthquake could have devastating Fukushima-style consequences for Californians. George also pointed to a recent Guardian report that suggested that government officials were collaborating with nuclear power companies in order to head off anticipated criticism from anti-nuclear activists. Finally, George suggested drafting anti-nuclear city and county resolutions for residents to promote.

Some thirty people were in attendance for the event. The event was sponsored by Code Pink (San Jose), the Green Party of Santa Clara County, the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, our developing world, South Bay Mobilization, Veterans for Peace (Chapter 101), and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (San Jose).

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Benefit Concert for Cafe Guancasco

Cafe Guancasco, an 8 member musical and political group of Honduras, and its audience were brutally attacked by the Honduran government. Government agents released teargas onto the stage and into the crowd as well as destroying and stealing musical equipment rented by Cafe Guancasco. The damages caused by the government cost over $30,000. The government attack seems to be caused by Cafe Guancasco’s involvement with the National People’s Resistant Front which works against the current Honduran government.

In order to help Cafe Guancasco pay the rental company from which they rented their musical equipment, Pavel Nunez, a member of Cafe Guancasco has been touring the U.S. San Jose Peace and Justice hosted the San Jose event on Sunday, June 12th, 2011 from 6pm to 9pm in the Mission City Coffee Roasting Co. on the Alameda. Many other local artists performed to set the stage for the main event, Cafe Guancasco’s Pavel Nunez. Pavel captivated the audience with his words and catchy melodies. He spoke of Cafe Guancasco’s message that they tell through their music and his hopes for people to hear the story and support them.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=219881961369317

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Cuba from the other side

By Karen Lee Wald, Board member, San Jose Peace & Justice Center

First posted on Truthdig at http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/print/cuba_from_the_other_side_20110408/


bolender

I first learned of Keith Bolender’s book “Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba” when the author reached out to me after reading an article I’d written on Luis Posada Carriles in The Rag blog. The article, “The Puppies That Got Away,” was based on an interview with a woman who almost became a victim, along with three children she was caring for, in one of the hotels Posada’s thugs bombed in 1997. The title came from the coded message used by one of Posada’s hired killers in an earlier bombing that destroyed a passenger plane in flight, killing all aboard. The telephone message was “A bus with 73 dogs went over a cliff and all perished.”

Bolender thought I might be interested in his book, an oral history, like mine, taken from many of the survivors of the 50-plus years of terrorism against Cuba waged by the United States and Cuba’s former ruling class.

I was.

I thought it would be helpful if people who are always hearing and reading about the “repression of dissidents” in Cuba and jump to their defense could also hear the other side: what happened to the thousands of people whose lives were affected by the actions of terrorists from inside and outside the country. I thought it would put a human face on the statistics regarding the material and human damage caused by counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries who are euphemistically called “dissidents” or “anti-Castro militants.”

“Voices From the Other Side” does this. But it also does a great deal more.

As expected, the first chapter gives an overview of the multiple forms of terrorism carried out against Cuba in what Bolender calls “the unknown war.”

He talks about “the bombs have that destroyed department stores, hotel lobbies, theatres, famous restaurants and bars—people’s lives.” He talks about the first airline bombing in the history of the Western Hemisphere, and also reminds readers of “the explosion aboard a ship in Havana Harbor, killing and injuring hundreds.” He tells readers about the 1960s attacks on defenseless rural villages and homes, of “teenagers tortured and murdered for teaching farmers to read and write.” He reminds us of the biological terrorism (the dengue fever epidemic) “that caused the deaths of more than 100 children.” And he adds new elements for those of us used to thinking of terrorism solely as shooting and bombing by referring to the “psychological horror that drove thousands of parents to willingly send their children to an unknown fate in a foreign country” (Operation Peter Pan).

This kind of overview has been done before by authors such as Jane Franklin. What Bolender adds here is the lifelong effect terrorist activities have had on the survivors—those left with hearing loss, stitched-up wounds and such, but, even worse, lifelong emotional scars. Survivors who tell of being nervous and jumpy 20, 30 or more years after being in a room where a bomb went off. And the other kinds of “survivors”: mothers and fathers who for decades mourn the needless deaths of their children; siblings and children of those who were cut up, castrated and lynched by “anti-Castro militants,” or went screaming to their fiery deaths in an airplane that was already in pieces before it crashed into the sea.

I want these stories to be in the hands of those well-meaning people who ask, “Why does the Castro government repress dissidents?” I want these people to understand what terrorists have done that makes Cubans today so unable to give them the free rein they demand to carry out their actions.

Bolender explains in the very beginning:

Since the earliest days of the revolution, Cuba has been fighting its own war on terrorism. The victims have been overwhelmingly innocent civilians. The accused have been primarily Cuban-American counter-revolutionaries—many allegedly trained, financed and supported by various American government agencies.

And he explains that throughout the island of Cuba “it is hard not to find someone who doesn’t have a story to tell of a relative or friend who has been a victim of terrorism. The personal toll has been calculated at 3,478 dead and 2,099 injured.” This, of course, is something few on the outside realize, and he talks about why we don’t hear or read about it, about the political/ideological justification for so much cruelty. But he also talks about the real reasons—acknowledged by numerous U.S. administrations—for U.S.-backed and -financed terrorist acts against the island, information that is every bit as important as the humanization of the victims.

Preceded by a well-researched and evocative introduction by Noam Chomsky dealing with the history of and reasons for U.S. policy toward this upstart island nation that would dare to remain outside the grasp of U.S. hegemony, Bolender goes on to give readers a better understanding of Washington’s Machiavellian policies toward Cuba.

He starts off simply, with the well-known fact that “[s]ince the earliest days of Fidel’s victory, America has obsessed over this relatively insignificant third-world country, determined to eliminate the radically different social-economic order” that Castro’s revolution brought about. He describes the various excuses Washington has used since the earliest days of the Republic to justify its attempts to maintain dominance over the island nation.

“America at various times has portrayed Cuba as a helpless woman, a defenceless baby, a child in need of direction, an incompetent freedom fighter, an ignorant farmer, an ignoble ingrate, an ill-bred revolutionary, a viral communist” during the two centuries of the Monroe Doctrine. This history in and of itself is useful for those not already familiar with it.

Where the history gets more interesting is when this researcher uses quotes from U.S. leaders to show both why and how Washington attempted to get rid of Fidel’s revolution:

Richard Nixon, who, Bolender notes, “was one of the first to promote the theme of preventing the revolution from infecting others,” commented in 1962 on the need to “eradicate this cancer in our own hemisphere.” Nixon’s comment reminded me of an explanation offered years ago by a Cuban-American friend of mine, Tony Llanso: “The Cuban Revolution is like crab grass growing in your back yard. You have to pick crab grass because it spreads.”

But it was one particular “how” that I found intriguing. Bolender shows the vicious cycle of increasing repressive measures by the U.S. as Cuba increased its reforms on behalf of the poor majority of its citizens. This quickly—and intentionally—escalated to terrorism on the part of the United States against its tiny but audacious neighbor. And here Bolender is worth quoting at length:

As the rhetoric increased, terrorist acts were formulated and carried out. In partial response to the terror and other hostilities, the revolution became increasingly radicalized.

From the start, policy makers knew terrorism would put a strain politically and economically on the nascent Cuban government, forcing it to use precious resources to protect itself and its citizens. It was to be part of the overarching strategy of making things so bad that the Cubans might rise up and overthrow their government. Terrorism was the dirty piece of the scheme, along with the economic embargo, international isolation and unrelenting approbation.

American officials estimated millions would be spent to develop internal security systems, and State Department officials expected the Cuban government to increase internal surveillance in an attempt to prevent further acts of terrorism. These systems, which restricted civil rights, became easy targets for critics.|

And as most of us have seen, this has been a very successful tactic. Bolender goes on:

CIA officials admitted early on in the war of terrorism that the goal was not the military defeat of Fidel Castro, but to force the regime into applying increased amount of civil restrictions, with the resultant pressures on the Cuban public. This was outlined in a May 1961 agency report stating the objective was to “plan, implement and sustain a program of covert actions designed to exploit the economic, political and psychological vulnerabilities of the Castro regime. It is neither expected nor argued that the successful execution of this covert program will in itself result in the overthrow of the Castro regime,” only to accelerate the “moral and physical disintegration of the Castro government.” The CIA acknowledged that in response to the terrorist acts the government would be “stepping up internal security controls and defense capabilities.” It was not projected the acts of terror would directly result in Castro’s downfall, (although that was a policy aim) but only to promote the sense of vulnerability among the [populace] and compel the government into increasingly radical steps in order to ensure national security.

Bolender’s book constantly uses direct U.S. sources for his analysis that the terrorism and other aggressive measures against Cuba were designed, at least in part, to force the Cuban government into a “state of siege mentality” that would simultaneously alienate part of the Cuban population, weaken liberal support abroad and serve as an easy target for most U.S. attempts to demonize the Cuban government.

“Former [CIA] Director Richard Helms,” Bolender tells us, “confirmed American strategy when he testified before the United States Senate in 1978; ‘We had task forces that were striking at Cuba constantly. We were attempting to blow up power plants. We were attempting to ruin sugar mills. We were attempting to do all kinds of things in this period. This was a matter of American government policy.’ ”

Most of us who’ve followed Cuba closely have long known the U.S. government did those things. What is more interesting is the “why.”

American experts were hoping the terrorist war would drive the Cuban government to increasingly restrictive security measures; implicit in this was to prove how incapable the regime leaders were. These terrorist acts would not be publicized, recognized nor acknowledged outside of Cuba, so national security policies were portrayed as paranoia, totalitarian and evidence of the repressiveness of Fidel’s regime. To this day the unknown war remains that way. …

Here Bolender delves into the psychological warfare aspect of U.S. policy—and its effects:

“In the early years Cuban officials faced the problem where they couldn’t tell which citizens supported the revolution, and which were inclined to assist the terrorist organizations or to commit terrorist acts. Everyone was treated as a potential threat. The consequence, besides the enormous amount of economic resources diverted to combat this war […] is a society that in the majority has accepted certain civil restrictions in order to ensure domestic security. It is the way the Cuban government has tried to identify the terrorists and to keep its citizens protected. It is the way the government has fought its war on terror.”

Bolender reiterates that while the focus of his book is on the victims and their stories, he also wants to show “how these acts of terror changed the psyche of the young revolutionary government, struggling to maintain itself in the face of the destructive actions of its former citizens, directed and financed by the most powerful nation in the world. Traumatized by these acts, this small island nation took drastic steps in the face of constant acts of violence. Those reactions to the terrorists, and the measures taken to protect the Cuban people, continue to influence national government policies to this day, and have greatly shaped how Cuba is perceived to the outside world. It is the price that has been paid by a society under siege for almost 50 years. A siege in part the result of the hundreds of acts of terrorism.”

His analysis goes on to explain that “[t]he key element of Cuban policy against terrorism has been the need of unity for the sake of security, manifesting in a demand for social and political conformity. The consequence has been extensive surveillance systems, arrests for political crimes, a low tolerance for organized criticism or public displays of opposition, suppression of dissidents seen to have accepted material or financial aid from the United States, cases of institutionalized pettiness, travel restrictions, a state controlled press and the rejection of a more pluralistic society.”

And we’ve all seen the effectiveness of the tactic that forced Cuba into this position—it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. The tight control the Cuban government has adopted as a means of survival, Bolender tells us, does in fact destroy much of its liberal support abroad.

The Canadian author still has hope, however. “The termination of American hostility, including the absolute guarantee of the end to any further terrorist attacks from counter-revolutionary exile organizations,” he believes, could “offer the Cuban government the chance to breathe, to manoeuvre without a knife at its throat, as Fidel Castro once remarked, and to attempt to develop Cuban society that was hoped for.”

Put in this context, Bolender’s book achieves far more than the important goal of putting a human face on the victims of terrorist acts and an understanding of why so many of the Cuban people hate the traitors within their midst who work hand in glove with those from Washington, Miami and New Jersey who fund and carry out these actions. It gives us a new understanding of the psychological warfare the U.S. has been carrying out parallel to its economic and military war.

This is a book that should be in every library and on every progressive bookshelf. I urge people to buy it, read it, pass it on to others.

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Reconstruction of Society is the Real Issue

by Fred Hirsch — Delivered at a panel, “The Impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Issues of Freedom, Peace, Equality, Education and Social and Economic Justice” on February 15, 2011 at San Jose State University.

I’ve been asked to speak on Dr. King’s impact on freedom, peace, equality, education and social justice.  The subject is too large for me to grasp.  The mind of the man himself was too deep to grasp.  His thoughts and words flowed from a seemingly inexhaustible well by a mind filled with encyclopedic detail of his inherited, remembered and living history, illustrated in brilliant verbal colors with metaphors and parables from the world’s religions, mostly from the Bible, so familiar and held so close for both comfort and counsel in the unending struggle against racism and specifically for freedom of peace, equality, education and social and economic justice in our nation.  Dr. King was an oracle, not just of what was narrowly labeled as the Civil Rights Movement, but what was known by the organizers and people on the streets, in the churches, workplaces and communities, as the Freedom Movement or, simply, the Movement.

King was a founder of a shared and collective leadership group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which was linked organically to other Movement organizations, NAACP, CORE, SNCC, and other organizations, churches and unions.

Dr. King’s link to unions had to do with the overarching long-term struggle of workers for social and economic justice, despite the 1960s institutional gradualism of AFL-CIO leadership in confronting segregation in federation unions, negativity toward mass action in the streets, and refusal to oppose U.S. Foreign policy.  Dr. King worked with leaders within the AFL-CIO such as A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Walter Reuther, and others to end overt traits of racism within the AFL-CIO itself and to bring many unions, and the federation into sync with the Freedom Movement.

Stewart Acuff, until just recently, Organizing Director of the AFL-CIO, was an example of Dr. King’s influence.  Acuff would not have been suited to that job but for his experience in the Freedom Movement, and anti-war activity.  He did 25 years of community and union organizing with poor people of color in the South, work that was inspired by Dr. King and the Movement.  Acuff organized and led actions in Atlanta, Georgia which successfully ran Republican House Speaker and strategy superstar, Newt Gingrich, out of Congress in 1998.

Acuff says Dr. King,”was a trade unionist. He believed in our movement and struggled for our movement. He knew and he preached that civil rights were inadequate without economic rights…”  Dr. King knew that our economic system allows a few to have too much power and wealth and workers to have too little, so he believed that we have a responsibility to struggle to push down wealth and power from those who have too much to those who have too little. That is why he was a trade unionist.” I don’t think  Dr. King’s impact on the labor movement has  been equaled by any other person in the last half-century.  I’m certain that, without the changes wrought in the labor movement due to Dr. King’s presence on the planet, an anti-war civil rights activist like Stewart Acuff could never have become Organizing Director of the thirteen-million member AFL-CIO.

Another leader who had great impact in labor was A. Phillip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  Randolph led the struggle inside the AFL-CIO to eliminate racist barriers in union apprenticeship programs, all segregation and the very existence of Jim Crow unions.  He was confronted in a 1959 convention by George Meany, long time President of the AFL-CIO.  Meany asked: “Who the hell appointed you guardian of all the Negroes in America?”  Supported within the federation and, and from outside by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, Randolph prevailed and Jim Crow was booted out of the AFL-CIO.

Forty-two years ago Dr. King told  Teamster Local 815 in Los Angeles: “…The struggle against poverty is not involved solely with color or racial discrimination but with elementary economic justice…” Dr. King was a decisive force, both on the picket line and in the public arena, supporting strikers at Scripto Inc. in Atlanta in 1964.

He was gunned down, assassinated, In Memphis, Tennessee, backing the struggle of AFSCME Local 1733 sanitation workers during a 64 day strike where he said the workers are “tied together in a single garment of destiny.”  He told them “If one Black person suffers, if one Black person is down, we’re all down. It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive slave wages.” His strategy in Memphis was non-violent, unified Labor and community action.

In 1961 Dr. King told an AFL-CIO convention that “When the Negro wins, labor wins…Those who in the second half of the 19th century could not tolerate organized labor have had a rebirth of power and seek to regain the despotism of that era while retaining the wealth and privileges of the 20th century. Their target is labor, liberals and the Negro people.”  That thrust for “despotism” hasn’t quit in Washington, but today Dr. King’s target list, starting with African-Americans and labor would undoubtedly embrace immigrants who suffer economic servitude, discrimination, ghettoization, scapegoating, and law enforcement profiling on the auction block of corporate power.  Immigrants live with the litany of Jim Crow abuses and violations of human rights against which Dr. King and the Movement fought so steadfastly.  Without Dr. King’s imprint on history and his courageous legacy of daring to struggle, organized labor, despite all it faces, would today not be dedicated conceptually to social and economic justice and inclusion of all workers.  King also told that 1961 convention: “The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement… Together we can bring about the day when there will be no separate identification of Negroes and labor.” Were he still with us, he’d surely, with all the power he could draw upon, include immigrant workers.

With all that, there was a vast gulf between the pro-war misleadership of George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO and Dr. King’s drive for peace and non-violent action.  Dr. King saw so-called “War on Poverty” funds shifted to bombs falling on Vietnamese children, women and men.  He had to be fully conscious that the careers of two great forerunners, W.E.B. Dubois and Paul Robeson crashed when they took on the “Cold War,” yet he fearlessly spoke out, even risking the unity of the Freedom Movement, to state his truth about the U.S. War in South East Asia.  He said: “…It is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor.”  He was “…increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor,,.”  That statistic about the cost of killing people above killing poverty is probably heightened today.  To find the actual figures, Google the National Priorities Project.

Dr. King said that people “…ask and write me, ‘So what about Vietnam?’  They ask if our nation isn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted.  Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

We’re in a different time with different wars. Now we have to learn to fight effectively against sharply increased poverty and continued oppression in the ghettos and barrios of our nation.  Still, with over 850 military bases around the world, we remain the “greatest purveyor of violence” on the planet.

When Dr. King’s voice indicated the potential power to draw people together into a single struggle against what he called “the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation,” he shook the nests of the rulers of the roost in the U.S. power elite, especially and most importantly that entity President Dwight Eisenhower identified as “the military industrial complex.”

Dr. King may have sealed his fate when the “triplets” felt threatened by the truth of his words that, “We must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.”  Today, as Dr. King did during Vietnam, we need to denounce the current wars and make our dissent visible and large on the streets, in political action campaigns, and in mobilizing at the ballot box – as Dr. King would do

In 1966, against thrown rocks, racist catcalls and death threats, Dr. King and the SCLC took the Movement to the streets of Chicago.  That brought Jesse Jackson into national leadership.  Jackson was at Dr. King’s side in Memphis when bullets silenced his articulate and resounding calls to struggle.

Through the years Jesse Jackson has echoed Dr. King’s ringing voice loud and clear against “the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation.”

Five and a half years ago, at an AFL-CIO Convention, Jesse Jackson brought the more than 1500 delegates from every corner of our country to their feet with a rousing denunciation of today’s wars and occupations. His voice, a thundering echo of his leader and mentor, rang out to “Honor the soldiers…And bring them home. Bring them home.  Bring them home!”  His last line was all but drowned out by the roar of applause: “To a job when they get home!”

Later that day, July 24, 2005, following two years of methodical organizing in the unions, by U.S. Labor Against the War, those 1500 delegates voted, all but unanimously, to demand an end to the Iraq War and the rapid return of the troops.  It was the first time in its 118 year history that the Federation voted to oppose an ongoing war. This could not have come about without the leadership of Dr. King, the Freedom Movement, the focus on “the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation” and consistent anti-war work within the trade union movement.

The AFL-CIO and the AFL before it, often called “the House of Labor” was once the exclusive structure of skilled, white, male workers.  Under pressure from the struggles of the African-American people and immigrant workers of all colors and countries, that has changed remarkably.  Even with its present numerical weakness and, I think, less than visionary leadership, the “House of Labor” has struggled to open its doors to all workers.  It is still our most dependable poverty program, and potentially is a great, and necessary ally of all people who struggle for freedom, peace, equality and social and economic justice.

Dr. King’s leadership gave inspiration and was a model for the most dynamic labor movement development of the 1960s, the rebirth of organizing in agriculture.  When the most exploited of all workers raised their voices in the fields led by Cesar Chavez.  They had the potential to breathe new militancy into the labor movement and by doing so, usher in an era of basic change for our nation.

One week after Dr. King’s assassination, the Farm Workers’ newspaper, “El Malcriado” headlined the question, “Who Killed King?”  Their analysis was not too different from statements about the recent gun assault in Tucson Arizona: the: “trigger man.. acted out the feelings of our racist society.  He acted for every Klansman who ever wore a hood.  He acted for every cop who ever raised a billy club needlessly.  He acted for every judge who ever ruled to maintain the nationwide standard of racial… ethnic and economic inequality before the law.  He acted for every member of Congress who ever allowed this nation to withhold the natural rights of a man because he was poor or black or brown.

“He acted for every employer who ever drew a penny of profit by exploiting the group differences between men.  He acted for every newspaper, movie company, T.V. Mogul and educator that allowed racism to permeate our society, whether by design or default.

“King’s killer acted for every man whose courage weakened when another said ‘nigger’ or ‘greaser’ or ‘flip’ or ‘kike’ and he failed to say ‘NO!’

“Those who never challenged the racist institutions such as the draft and the war killed King, just as surely as if they had raised the gun.

“Racism, subtle or strong, direct or passive, taints the past and present of America.

“Whether or not the trigger man is brought to justice, we know who the killer is.

“Our King is dead.  Our King of Peace is dead.  Long live our King.”

Dr. King’s spirit still lives in our unions and communities, in the streets and in the voting booths.  It’s for us to make thrive again to confront and change our government from one which he said, shows “hostility to the poor,” appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity” while providing “poverty funds with miserliness.” Dr. King addressed our “systemic flaws of racism, poverty, militarism and materialism” and minced no words in identifying that system as “capitalism.”

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned a power-pregnant idea which I believe we need to consider, discuss, savor, envision and embrace.  He said no less than: “Reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

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The End of an Era: The Eighteen-Year Court Case between Ecuador and Chevron

 

Damage done by oil-drilling in the Oriente.
Scientists survey damage done by oil-drilling in the Oriente.

 For decades in the 1900s, Texaco (now under Chevron) extracted oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon. The environmental and social consequences of this enterprise include thousands of open toxic waste pits, over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and elevated cancer/miscarriage rates with deaths in the thousands. Much of the region, known as the Oriente, has been left destitute and Chevron’s actions in the area have been repeatedly cited as human rights abuses by Amnesty International. While the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon sued for the environmental damages in 1993, the Ecuador Chevron lawsuit is ongoing and is now the largest environmental lawsuit in the world with damages totaling up to $113 billion. A decision is expected in the next few months.

A Look Back

The nature of the long-winded lawsuit lies in a series of controversies over ownership of damage. Chevron initially claimed to have completed liability work in the 1998, work which exempted it from future damage costs. Completed liability work however would not have released Chevron from individual claims, which will be paid if Ecuador wins the lawsuit[i]. More currently, two Chevron employees are being held under criminal indictment for fraud related to false certification documents for the purported 1990s clean-up. Recent evidence indicates that less than 1% of Texaco sites were actually cleaned-up and much of it was done in careless ways.[ii]

Throughout the case’s sixteen-year history, Chevron repeatedly brought up accusations of corruption in the Ecuadorian legal system. Many of these were proven unfounded but did serve to greatly delay decisions. Most notably, in 2009, Chevron accused Ecuadorian officials of being involved in a bribery scheme, based on a series of possibly incriminating tapes turned in by concerned citizens. However, investigations into the two citizens who illegally recorded the conversations found one to be a long-time Chevron employee and the other a convicted felon and prominent marijuana drug trafficker. A myriad of other claims over unfair trials and corruption color the case.

The Case Today

A recent, 2010 court decision allowed Chevron access to raw footage of the documentary, “Crude”, which followed Ecuador’s efforts for over three years. While this decision has been condemned by groups advocating first amendment rights, including The New York Times, certain statements made by the plaintiffs, possibly taken out of context, will likely aid follow-up suits in favor of Chevron. In other related suits, the New York Supreme Court is considering Chevron’s claim that all possible damages should Ecuador lose the case, are the responsibility of Ecuador’s leading oil company, Petroecuador, which took over drilling in the country after Texaco.

As of December 17th 2010, the original case dating back to 1993 has been closed and a decision is expected in the next few months. Ecuador’s ongoing campaign is supported by Amnesty International, Al Gore, Amazon Watch and many others. Because appeals are expected to follow a decision in favor of either side, take advantage of this time to take action.

Take Action

Visit: http://chevrontoxico.com/ to write to Chevron and to find out more.