Speak Out Event – Sunday 10-26-14

The U.S.A

Cops Of The World

From Iraq to Syria to Sudan, from Haiti to Venezuela to Columbia – U.S. troops, weapons, and money are used to enforce their system of domination and exploitation. And at home in the U.S., the cops are armed with the same weapons used against working people all over, from Ferguson to New York to Oakland. Come to a presentation and discussion – the U.S.A., Cops of the World.

6:30pm – Sunday – October 26

Niebyl Proctor Library

6501 Telegraph Ave. Oakland

$3 donation suggested

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In Iraq, The Worst Terrorist Is The U.S. Military

Last week President Obama made an address calling for military intervention in Iraq and Syria against the group known as ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant. Like a comic book story, Obama painted a picture of ISIL as an evil force causing death and destruction. The United States military is therefore called upon to save the day from this evil. But the world is not a comic book, and in fact the United States government and its military have brought far more death and destruction to the region than ISIL. And now Obama is calling for more.

The U.S. has carried out two wars against Iraq in 1991 and in 2003. These wars have resulted in the death of nearly a million people. And between the wars, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iraq depriving the country of medical supplies and crippling the economy. Over half a million children were estimated to have died of malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical care. Who is responsible for the biggest body count in Iraq? Not ISIS, not Al-Qaeda, not Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party. No, the biggest killer is the United States.

The U.S. has not only inflicted violence on the Iraqi people. It has destroyed the economic and social infrastructure. In the 1970’s Iraqi people did not have political freedom, but they had access to health care, education, and a standard of living that rivaled the most advanced countries in the world. Today Iraq is a country of blackouts, broken streets, and hospitals that can’t even provide anesthetics to do surgery. The water and soil have been poisoned by U.S. military ammunition, which uses depleted uranium.  Children are born with birth defects and an epidemic of cancer plagues the country.

The gruesome video of ISIL beheading the reporter James Foley was horrifying. But how does ISIL compare to the regime the U.S. put in place after the invasion? The government of Nuri Al-Maliki supported by the U.S. carried out between twelve and 20 executions daily. Victims of Al-Maliki’s government included young people under the age of 18. In Maliki’s prisons, accused opponents of the regime were subjected to torture and rape. The Obama administration did not lift a finger against this government until recently. Under pressure from the Obama administration, Nuri Al-Maliki was forced to step down only because he had failed to control ISIL and stop the uprising.

So what is really going on? In 2003, the U.S. military overthrew Saddam Hussein, and then formed a government balancing Shi’a Islamic political parties like Al-Maliki’s Dawa Party against Sunni tribal leaders. These forces were pitted against the Kurdish minority in Iraq. In other words, the U.S. orchestrated the ethnic and religious conflict that is causing so much violence now.

But this divide and conquer system is unraveling. Under the impact of the civil war in Syria, the Sunni tribes of Iraq are rising up. There is no doubt that the uprising is being conducted under the banner of Sunni Islam, and these forces are carrying out horrible atrocities against religious minorities and the Shi’a who they see as complicit with the U.S. occupation. But it is not clear who the supposed ISIL fighters are. It is likely many of them are former members of the Ba’ath Party army that served Saddam Hussein. Now they have rallied to ISIL simply as a means to regain control of Iraq.

People around the world are right to be horrified by the gruesome violence, and the murder of journalists like James Foley. It is this deep concern and fear that the Obama administration is playing to with their comic book story of good vs. evil. But this is an insult to our intelligence and a dishonor to Foley. He opposed the U.S. war on the Middle East and was captured while trying to report the truth about it.

We need to understand that the biggest terrorist in the Middle East is the U.S. military that has murdered more than a million people, shattered the whole of Iraqi society, and laid the foundations for a brutal civil war. Knowing this, how could anyone believe that the U.S. military will return to Iraq to stop the ongoing violence? In the coming weeks as the U.S. military mobilizes to inflict more destruction we should say NO to U.S. violence against the people of Iraq and the Middle East!

 

Climate Change? No! We Need a System Change!

There have been five major extinction events on earth where most of the larger plant and animal species were wiped out. The last extinction killed the dinosaurs. An asteroid crashing into earth and drastically changing the climate caused that extinction. Now we are living in what could be the sixth extinction. But this time, our species would be the cause of disaster as well as a victim.

Scientists have been documenting and alerting us to the dangers of climate change for decades. But those who are in control of society, politically and economically, have refused to act. And each year the situation has gotten worse. Severe weather is just the tip of the iceberg. Rivers are drying up; oceans are becoming more acidic; sea levels are rising; grasslands are turning into deserts – the ecology of the planet is in crisis.

Scientists explain that ongoing carbon emissions into the atmosphere are causing this worldwide change in climate patterns that threaten another extinction event. It’s true that carbon emissions are the immediate source of this situation. But the real problem is what is behind this climate change.

Capitalism – A Deadly System

This drastic climate change is just one outcome of this deadly system known as capitalism, where the only goal is profit. This economic system is what’s driving us down a path of mass extinction. And as long as the corporations and the politicians who serve them are left in charge, they will keep heading us in the same direction. Their system puts profits before all else, – the environment and those who do the work to produce those profits.

This disregard for the environment is nothing new. Rivers, lakes, oceans and the air have been dumping grounds for the poisons produced by their industries. Entire mountaintops are being blown up to get at coal, one of the deadliest polluting fuels.

Trying to regulate this destruction is not enough. We have seen laws imposed when people mobilized a large enough opposition. But, as the movements subside and the pressure is reduced, the laws are not enforced or they’re overturned. Or corporations just break the laws and risk the fines because their profits are so huge.

As a result, this system of capitalism has led to the misery of billions of people and destroyed vast areas of the earth. If we are to have a future, we must put a stop to the system that is destroying us.

We Must Look to Ourselves

People around the world know that something is deeply wrong. Our schools, our cities, our lives and our planet are being torn apart. We are working harder for less. We can’t hope for change or look to the politicians with their false promises.

We can’t leave our future in the hands of those who have put humanity on the endangered species list. They will continue to pollute and ravage the planet to get the profits that await them, even if it means destroying the precious possibility of humans and other species to live on the earth.

Our lives and our planet are worth more than their system of production and pollution for profit. It is in the interests of the majority of people to stop this environmental destruction. It’s up to us to change it. The challenge we face today is one that will decide the fate of humanity.

We need a society that is organized to meet human needs, that develops scientific knowledge to understand the world and how we can live well. Working people make this society run, and together we can organize a society that truly puts our needs and the needs of the planet above all else – a truly socialist society. Only when we remove the drive for profit and put the needs of humanity front and center, will we be able to tackle the problem of climate change. Society will then be organized recognizing that our needs include a healthy planet.

That society is possible. It is the only possibility for our species to avoid extinction, and to provide all human beings with healthy, fulfilling lives. Either capitalism will lead to the extinction of our species, or we will carry out the extinction of capitalism. The choice is ours.

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Labor Day – When the Workers Used Their Power

For those of us who have jobs, Labor Day means a day off work, or possibly overtime. Some union officials may organize a picnic or a parade. But, it has little or nothing to do with dealing with the situation facing us as workers.
Eighty years ago, in the early months of 1934, workers in the U.S. faced desperate times. The Depression, starting with the stock market crash of 1929, had gone on for five years. Not only were tens of millions unemployed and many homeless, but at the same time the employers were piling extra work on those who still had jobs. Prices of necessities were rising while wage cuts remained in force. Employers acted as if workers had no rights they were obliged to respect.
By Labor Day 1934 US workers had shown that they could start to turn things around for the better. In the spring and summer of 1934 thousands of longshoremen in San Francisco, teamsters in Minneapolis and autoworkers in Toledo, Ohio showed that workers could successfully unite and organize. These workers organized and carried out mass strikes, prevented strikebreaking, and police attacks and defied the National Guard and the courts. These militant strikes won important concessions from the bosses, including higher wages, shorter hours and recognition and respect for themselves as workers and for the new fighting unions they had built.
Key to these victories was the fact the workers themselves controlled their struggles. They selected their leaders from their own rank and file, people whose determination and skill they had come to trust. In Minneapolis, the teamsters (truckers and warehouse workers) had mass meetings every night led by an elected strike committee of 100 rank and file teamster workers. Everyone active in the strike participated in making important decisions. The inclusive democratic way in which the teamsters organized their strike unleashed tremendous creativity, sustained the workers’ courage and insured mass participation in the strike.
The teamsters in Minneapolis organized mass picketing, rallies and marches and also published a daily newspaper to answer the propaganda of the bosses and expose the tricks of the bosses’ politicians. The teamsters used their newspaper to explain the goals of their strike and to explain how winning the strike would benefit all workers. A victory would show the bosses that they could no longer take workers for granted. In Minneapolis and the other big strikes in 1934, working people in the surrounding areas supported the strikers. They joined picket lines and held mass marches that brought tens of thousands into the streets. Sometimes other workers even went on strike in solidarity.
By Labor Day 1934, workers everywhere in the US could see that at last someone was fighting back. The successful strikes of 1934 inspired workers throughout the country to build even larger and bolder mass movements. These massive strikes included factory sit-downs, where workers stayed inside and occupied the factories, paralyzing the most profitable and powerful industries. Thanks to these struggles, workers in the 1930s won important gains, not only higher wages and better conditions on the job but also government programs such as Unemployment Insurance and Social Security. If we have lost most of these gains over the last decades it is because we forgot we had to fight to keep them.
This past Labor Day we didn’t have much to celebrate. Our wages, benefits and working conditions have been under attack for decades. Our basic social services like schools, transportation and social programs are being dismantled. Today, like in 1934, it is more and more obvious that the employers and their politicians will continue to try to make us pay the cost of the crisis of their system. But like those who fought back in 1934, we are the ones who make this society run and we have the power to bring it to a stop.
It’s up to us whether Labor Day next year will be any different. We can learn from the struggles of the past and like the workers of 1934 use our power to begin to turn things around.

Ferguson – People Are Right To Resist!

On Saturday, August 9, an all-too familiar incident took place in Missouri. Another unarmed young African-American man was murdered in cold blood by a cop. Most of us had never heard of Ferguson but soon it was on the lips of people – both in the U.S. and around the world.

An African American man murdered by a cop, is not a new story. It followed the same script as the murder of other young African-American men like Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford and many others in the Bay Area and around the country. The cop murders an unarmed man. The cop is put on leave, continues to get paid and often leaves town. After dragging out an investigation, no charges are filed. This time, in Ferguson, the cop might be charged. Even if he is, this is not justice. Michael Brown is dead.

Now, after years of repeating the official line on these murders, the mainstream media says there is a  pattern. From 2006 to 2012, at least two African-Americans were killed by a cop each week. Other studies say the rate is higher. This is not news. The cops are used to subjugate and terrorize people.

What was Michael Brown’s crime? Walking in the street! We can only imagine the exchange between this white cop and a young African-American man – ordering him to get off the street. And when Michael Brown didn’t bow down to his authority, the cop shot him at least six times.

The outrage didn’t stop there. Michael Brown was left to die in the street with no medical aid. And his body was left there for at least four hours! This was an official lynching – just like the bodies of young Black men hanging from a tree for all to see some decades ago – with the same racist message.

People took to the streets and were met with the same force that Michael Brown faced. Day after day police forces from the area and the National Guard were mobilized against the population, turning Ferguson into a war zone. The invading forces, outfitted with high-tech battle gear, moved in with massive weaponry. They terrorized those in the streets and in their homes, with armored vehicles, flash grenades, tear gas, bean bag guns, sound cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

This show of force was not enough to cause people to quietly retreat. The rage that exists across this society erupted in this small town. The crisis that is daily life for so many – the poverty, the unemployment, the foreclosures, the drugs, the hopelessness that dominates so many lives burst out on the streets of Ferguson.

Ferguson is not alone. Cities like Detroit, New Orleans, and Oakland are symbols of the crisis this system has imposed on so many. And the racism of this society means that the impact of the crisis hits African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other minority groups the hardest. The cops and the prisons exist to enforce these conditions.

So, it should come as no surprise that we would see a rebellion like we have seen in Ferguson. It is long overdue. And it has resonated across the nation – giving voice to those who have suffered under this system for too long. And it has shaken the authority of those who maintain this order.

The officials who run this society for the 1% have rushed in to quell the unrest. They claimed “outsiders” were responsible for the explosion in the streets. Who are the majority of cops, the state police, National Guard and FBI? They are the outsiders. They tried to blame Michael Brown, claiming he had taken some cigars from a store and had small traces of marijuana in his blood. Eric Holder, Obama’s Attorney General, flew in, assuring that an investigation will be held.

We don’t need their investigation. This murder is an indictment of their whole system – a system that values the wealth of a few over the well being of the majority, a murderous system that doesn’t value life.

People’s refusal to quietly accept this murder is a step toward finding a solution. The solution lies with us, the working class, taking action to defend our rights and our lives, to rise above the racism that is pushed on us and unite our forces – in the streets, on the job and throughout the society.

Our Planet or Their Profits

Last month the Richmond city council approved a billion dollar project for Chevron’s Richmond facility to refine dirtier and higher sulfur containing crude oil, which is more toxic than regular oil. This is barely two years after the 2012 fire which sent black fumes into the air and 15,000 people to local hospitals. That was the third major explosion over twelve years.

After the explosion, Chevron was charged with willful neglect by Cal-OSHA for having known in advance that the plant’s equipment needed repairs. Leaks that needed permanent fixes were just clamped shut all over the plant. Chevron, one of the world’s most profitable companies, pulled in 71 billion dollars in profit the year of the explosion. Of course they could have afforded the repairs and safety maintenance, but Chevron made a clear and conscious choice to put profits first.

Chevron has made the argument that their expansion project is about job creation versus the environment, saying that if they were denied the right to expand production, then new jobs that Richmond desperately needs won’t be created. Everything about how we make a living is phrased as do it their way or kiss our jobs goodbye. If we voice concern about conditions at work they tell us we’re even lucky to have a job at all – implying that we must simply accept our conditions.

In return for the expansion Chevron promises to upgrade plant safety, as if they need to be paid off in order to operate a safe plant. One of the promises they made was to fix corroded pipes. As if that were a concession! They also promised to give $90 million over ten years for special projects in Richmond. Some money will go for education resources and student scholarships, Chevron will also give some land to the city for the development of solar panels.

What does Richmond need? This money will go to a few programs, but an expansion of the refineries means more health problems for the community.

Richmond has double the child asthma rates compared to Marin across the bay. As one resident said, “Don’t give our kids backpacks and ice cream and then give them asthma and cancer.” What does it mean to create jobs or send kids to college if we all get sick?

This isn’t just about the Chevron Richmond oil refinery. This is part of a much larger problem that we are facing. The warnings become more desperate, environmental disasters more catastrophic, and the signs much clearer. But capitalism continues to press forward in finding newer and more dangerous ways to exploit the environment and make the problems even worse.

Capitalism is based on the extraction of maximum profits, with complete disregard for the environment Rivers are drying up, oceans are becoming more acidic, sea levels are rising, and what’s left of forests are dying on a massive scale – our planet is in crisis. But the corporations maintain their destructive practices.

The system we live in, that we are taught and trained to believe is the only way to live, is pushing our species down a path of extinction and taking the whole planet with us. As long as the corporations and the politicians who serve them are left in charge, they will keep pushing us in the same direction.

Around the world, people are taking up the struggle against global climate change. From Peru to India to the United States, groups of people have begun to protest the pollution of the planet. This past Saturday in Richmond, hundreds of people gathered to voice their anger and to say that Chevron has no right to bargain with our lives and our planet. Of course, it is not just Chevron. Their system which values profit over life is the root of the problem. It’s up to us to say, our lives and our planet are worth more than their profits. And it’s up to us to change their system, because it is our planet and our future at stake.

Stop the Murder in Gaza! End The Occupation!

In the last weeks, Israeli bombs and guns killed nearly a thousand people in the Gaza strip. The list of atrocities keeps expanding. Hospitals and schools are being blown up. Nearly one child per hour was killed during the height of the attacks. People taking refuge in a United Nations facility were bombed. Are we supposed to accept that this mass slaughter is an act of self-defense by Israel? Only those who are blind and deaf to the suffering of ordinary people could believe such a thing.

How did this latest round of violence start? It supposedly began with the murder of three Israeli teenagers. The murders were carried out by two Palestinians. These men kidnapped the teenagers who were hitchhiking in the occupied territories. The teenagers were able to call the police who listened as the panicking kidnappers shot them. This was without a doubt a horrific tragedy, but what came next was cold-blooded political manipulation.

In the following days, the Israeli intelligence agency, Shin Bet, placed a gag order on the Israeli media, censoring the facts as they emerged. Then, Israeli politicians, knowing that the teenagers had been killed, called for a massive manhunt and rescue mission. They told the teens’ parents that they were possibly still alive and brought the boys’ mothers before the United Nations to call for international support. Meanwhile, the Israeli Minister of Defense called for village after village in Gaza to be flattened in revenge. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned all Palestinians, saying “They are not like us. We sanctify life, they sanctify death!”

The Israeli public, manipulated by the politicians was overtaken by a horrific racist attitude. Tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated calling for revenge. And, in an act of unspeakable violence, six Israeli men captured and murdered a 16-year old Palestinian boy, forcing him to drink gasoline and burning his body. By that time, the politicians had done their work. The murder of children was used to launch an even greater atrocity in Gaza.

As of July 28th, 1058 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured. More than 1,134 Palestinian homes have been torn down. There have been nearly 100 schools destroyed and three hospitals. More than 100,000 people have fled their homes, looking for shelter. Imagine if this sort of destruction took place in the Bay Area. Gaza is smaller than San Jose with twice as many people!

This is not the first time that the Palestinians have suffered military assault. For half a century the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been occupied by the Israeli military. Israel controls every aspect of daily life from the borders, to the water supply, to the power supply. A blockade has been imposed, depriving Gaza of food, medicine, and building materials. Israel measures the food sent into Gaza, keeping 1.8 million people barely alive. In addition, every day the Palestinians face military violence including invasions in 2006, 2009, and 2012.

Some Palestinian groups have responded to Israeli violence with improvised rockets fired across the border into Israeli towns. These attacks have resulted in the death of 26 people since 2004. More than ten times as many people died in automobile accidents in Israel just last year. This is hardly a threat to the existence of the state of Israel as American and Israeli politicians claim.

The blood of Palestinians and innocent Israelis is not only on the hands of the Israeli government. The U.S. has supported Israel militarily and politically since its founding. In 1948 the state of Israel was established, displacing 750,000 Palestinians and seizing 78 percent of the land of Palestine. The U.S. has supported Israel in return for Israel’s support of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

The oppression of the Palestinian people is a historic crime just like slavery in the American South, apartheid in South Africa, the genocide of the Native Americans, or the oppression of Jews in Europe. But this crime is taking place in front of our eyes, not in the history books.

It is up to us to say loud and clear – END U.S. SUPPORT FOR THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE NOW!

All Out For Palestine!

There are two protests being called in the Bay Area this week against Israel’s latest assault on the people of Palestine. Please join others in demonstrating your opposition to this slaughter.

Look for members of Speak Out Now at the following demonstrations:

 

Thursday July 24
4:00pm Downtown Oakland
Ron Dellums Federal Building
1301 Clay Street, Oakland, California 94612

 

For more info on this demonstration, visit:
http://www.iacenter.org/actions/gaza-immigrant072314/

 

Saturday, July 26, 2014
1:00pm San Francisco
Justin Herman Plaza
Embarcadero BART Station
San Francisco, California

 

For more info on this demonstration, visit:
http://www.answercoalition.org/sf/events/end-israeli-colonial.html

 

Israel receives $4 billion in military aid from the United States each year. The bullets and the bombs that kill Palestinian men, women and children are bought and paid for by American tax dollars. More than 200 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 1,500 have been wounded from Israeli bombs and missiles. This has to end!

Israel’s latest attack on the people of Palestine has been one more act of brutal violence by an occupying power. In order to maintain its military occupation of the Palestinian people, Israel is willing to kill families with children, blow up homes and schools, and make life intolerable for 1.5 million people. This has nothing to do with the rockets that were fired from Gaza. There can be no real peace until Israel ends its occupation of the Palestinian people.