Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Washington's Middle East friends want more weapons

These misogynists, long time friends of the US Congress and the folks in the Pentagon, are coming to the US for more guns
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Like Facts For Working People's Facebook Page at:

The Gulf Cooperation Council is a US proxy group aimed at preserving and maintaining the dictatorial Arab regimes of the Middle East that support US capitalism’s plunder of the region’s resources. This is the gang the US media is referring to when it announces to the US populace that the US is leading a “coalition” in the region.

The group met last Thursday to discuss the situation in Yemen and included the folks in the picture, the Saudi foreign minister, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE. All of these family run states are despotic regimes but they allow the US to plant bases on their soil, or sand if you will.  The Bahrain ruling family slaughtered protesters demanding democratic rights and an end to religious discrimination during an uprising in 2011.  Even doctors that were found treating injured protesters were imprisoned. The Bahraini monarchy committed these atrocities as 15,000 US troops sat and watched. Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet that protects the global energy industry’s oil profits in the region.  The Bahraini ruling family has been in power for around 200 years with the support of British and US capitalism.

The Saudi’s acting on the behalf of their friends in Washington and the Pentagon, have been one of the staunchest supporters of Sunni religious extremists and many people believe sections of the Saudi royal family were involved in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  After all, many of the attackers on the planes were Saudi’s and if my memory serves me right, none were Iraqi’s.

The Saudi’s and the GCC with the support of the US have been bombing Yemen including using cluster bombs which are banned by most countries but not the US.  The US supplied the Saudi’s, (beheading people and publicly flogging women is on of their favorite pastimes) with $28 billion in weapons of mass destruction in the past period in the form of fighter jets so they were desperate for a place to test them out. However, the invasion backfired to the point that the UN called on the sorties to cease as more and more civilians were being killed.

This coalition of thieves is demanding more weapons from the US that they claim they need to deal with Iranian aggression; “Iranian’ aggression” is a term the mass media is fond of these days as it covers for the Wall Street aggression that is responsible for the assault on US workers and the middle class at home. And a bigger threat than Iran to the misogynistic bunch that run the states that make up this phony coalition is the potential of revolts from below, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain which have considerable Shia populations (a majority in Bahrain) that suffer religious discrimination.  Many of the smaller Gulf states also import foreign workers from Nepal, Bangladesh and other poverty stricken regions to do the work. There have been numerous cases of young women from the Philippines laboring as servants under near slave like conditions working for rich Saudi’s and facing terrible physical abuse.

The US defense industry is very pleased with the turn of events as the US supplies most of the worlds’ weapons of mass destruction. In the Middle East it supplies weapons to all sides ensuring of course that its Zionist proxies “maintain a military advantage”.

So the men in the image above are coming to Washington to beg the Obama administration for more weapons and are tying it to their support for the Iran/US nuclear deal. “These countries are in the most vulnerable geographical areas, and I think they have a legitimate concern about Iran” says Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, adding that if the US sells more weapons of mass destruction to these Sheiks with a 7th Century mindset, “….we must make sure that Israel’s qualitative military edge is kept.”

The Zionist regime uses US bulldozers made by Caterpillar in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and US planes and weaponry to drive them in to submission in Gaza and to control them as prisoners in their own homes in the occupied territories. What a great deal the arms business is for some. Iran of course has invaded no one in recent memory and is surrounded by US military installations and Washington’s flunkies in the region. The average Iranian has not forgotten that the US, at the behest of the British that controlled Iranian oil production, overthrew the Democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and installed the murderous Shah in his place.

One should not be surprised at the hatred many Arabs, Muslims and others feel for the US regime and its proxies worldwide.  The US has an agreement with Israel, on of the worst human rights abuser in the region, to defend it no matter what, “Current (US) law mandates that the US uphold Israel’s military edge over its neighbors” the Wall Street Journal reports.  What could be better for any investor in weapons manufacture than supplying both sides of a conflict?

US support for the Zionists mind you has little to do with the US ruling class fondness for Jews. Israel is the most reliable and stable ally that US capitalism can depend on to help maintain its plunder of the region’s resources. As the Arab spring showed, the revolutionary potential of the Arab working class is too great a threat and the Arab regimes too unstable.

This disastrous foreign policy, disastrous for the millions it maims and kills but also for US workers at home as we have to pay for it through declining living standards, lack of social services and a miserable future for our youth, is the root of the growth of religious fanaticism and the rise of extremely unstable and maniacal groups like ISIS. Both ISIS and the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia arose out of US intervention in these societies.

It is hard to imagine the affect of 20 years of war has had on the consciousness and mental health of the mostly Arab and Muslim population of the Middle East.  I recall my mother telling me about the Blitz when London was bombed and how terrifying it was as the doodlebugs were sent over, small flying bombs that could be heard before their engines cut out and everyone waited terrified not knowing where they would actually land.  That war lasted 5 years or so, most Iraqi’s have grown up knowing nothing else as have Palestinians.

US intervention and presence in the Middle East has been a disaster. Iraq is worse off than ever despite over one million deaths and a US taxpayer bill of trillions. The people that discuss and determine the political and social direction society travels in; the fate of the lives of millions of people and the health of the planet’s ecosystem, are representatives of that parasitic and historically bankrupt class that has its hands on the levers of society, the bankers and financiers, the feudal monarchists and compliant dictators whose myopic short term view, the rapacious quest for profits and the accumulation of capital is the sole determinant of their actions.

There is no guarantee that humans have a future on this planet.  We certainly do not if capitalism is not overthrown and that task falls to a united international movement of workers across borders.  The working class and our organizations have been set back in the Middle East and other former colonies of western powers due to the intervention of the imperialist countries, especially US imperialism. But we have had set backs here in the US as well. 

The US capitalist class is a powerful and a skillful manipulator.  It is a crass and vulgar class, a decaying class with nuclear weapons.  Engels pointed out that the US capitalist class differed from its British colleagues for example in one major way.  The British and European bourgeois fought a centuries old intellectual struggle, a war of ideas against the decaying feudal aristocracy; they had to defend their ideas against an organized ruling class.  For the US colonial bourgeois it was simply a matter of wiping out a few million native people and building some infrastructure, there was no ruling class here as such.

They are a violent bunch and will, if they feel the need, use nuclear weapons against their own people.  The US bourgeois and it’s Democratic Party are the only nation and political party to use nuclear weapons on civilian populations.

The only solution in the Middle East is for the working class to enter the scene in a major way, take control of the production of its major resources and for the formation of a federation of democratic socialist states.  And despite the US losing much of its manufacturing base capitalists seek cheaper labor power and more lucrative environments for profit taking which has undermined the industrial working class in the US, sending the so-called free market and capitalism in to the history books will not be successful without the US working class settling accounts with US capitalism.

There is no other way out that I can see other than society needing new managers.

Business cycles, unit roots and animal spirits

The Golden Age of capitalism, when the major economies grew at over 4% real GDP a year and there was relatively moderate inflation and no significant fluctuation in employment i.e slumps, lasted just a short time – from about the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

After that, the major capitalist economies experienced a series of regular and recurrent slumps starting with the first simultaneous post-war international recession in 1974-5, the deep ‘double-dip’ recession of 1980-2, the industrial slump of 1990-2, the mild but global recession of 2001 and finally the Great Recession of 2008-9, the deepest and longest lasting slump since the 1930s Great Depression.

Mainstream macroeconomics did not see these recessions coming and even after they arrived, economists failed to consider their causes or even accept that what mainstream economics used to call ‘business cycles’ were back.

The Great Recession has forced the mainstream to consider causes and explanations more carefully. Keynesians continue to revive the view that slumps are due to sudden collapses in ‘effective demand’ and/or changes in ‘animal spirits’ (the psychological temper or confidence of entrepreneurs about the future). As the Great Recession has morphed into a Long Depression, where there is no recovery to previous trend growth in output, investment or incomes, Keynesian theory has dredged up the ideas of the pre-war Keynesian Alvin Hansen who proposed that the immediate post-war capitalist economies would enter ‘secular stagnation’ due to a slowdown in population growth and chronic weak demand (he was wrong).

The doyens of modern Keynesian economics, Paul Krugman and Larry Summers, now hold that the major economies (or at least the US) are in a permanent liquidity trap, where even with interest rates near zero, business investment won’t pick up enough to restore full employment (not that capitalism has ever achieved that except maybe in those few ‘golden’ years of the 1960s). This stagnation can only be broken by government intervention and/or investment.

The still dominant neoclassical school of economics denies that such stagnation exists or is endogenous to the capitalist economic system. For this school, the Great Recession was a particularly large ‘shock’ to an otherwise steady development of output, investment and employment. But it was temporary – Ben Bernanke in his new blog is determined to provide the reasons why it is temporary (see my post, These economists reckon the issue is due to either bad monetary policy (Bernanke) or the lack of control over banks and credit, causing financial crises (Rogoff, – not a problem of the lack of demand or ‘secular stagnation’. So the answer is not more government investment and government borrowing but financial stability and solid monetary policy.

As Brad de Long put it in a recent post (, “Summers and Krugman now believe that more expansionary fiscal policies could accomplish a great deal of good. In contrast, Rogoff still believes that attempting to cure an overhang of bad underwater private debt via issuing mountains of government debt currently judged safe is too dangerous–for when the private debt was issued it too was regarded as safe.”

The concept of the nature of modern capitalist economies as ones that have an equilibrium growth path that sometimes is knocked off kilter by random events and then returns to equilibrium has led to a whole research programme on ‘business cycles’ based on dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models that purport to consider the impact of various ‘shocks’ on a model capitalist economy – shocks like changes in the attitudes of investors or consumers and policies of governments (‘representative agents’).

Unfortunately, DSGE models have signally failed to offer any clear explanation of what is happening in modern capitalist economies, let along provide a guide to predicting future downturns in the ‘business cycle’ – see my post,

Recently, two top-line economists, Roger Farmer (Keynesian) and John Cochrane (neoclassical) have tried to feel their way to a compromise position between whether capitalist economies can stay locked in below-trend growth after a slump or not.

And it’s all about what is called unit roots. Unit roots are a statistical phenomenon where, say, when there is a collapse in output or unemployment, this may be only temporary and output or unemployment will start to return towards its previous trend, but not all the way. This contrasts with ‘stationary’ phenomena where the shock is eventually corrected and the previous trend is re-established and a ‘random walk’ where the trend remains at a new (lower) level permanently. The graph is from John Cochrane’s blog post (
unit roots
Roger Farmer has been arguing that economies can suffer a slump in demand and thus in output, investment and employment that can move an economy from one equilibrium trend to another lower one which is where it settles – and this change is due to a chronic weakness in demand not to changes in long-term supply-side factors like productivity or population growth, as neoclassical growth theory reckons (

Farmer reckons that there are both transitory and permanent elements in the business cycle, so output or unemployment can exhibit movements close to unit roots. Actually, a unit root description of a business cycle that does not return to the previous trend is very close to my own schematic characterisation of a depression as taking the form of a square root – see my post,

Farmer reckons that business cycles are caused by changes in ‘animal spirits’: “My answer is that aggregate demand, driven by animal spirits, is pulling the economy from one inefficient equilibrium to another.” So “If permanent movements in the unemployment rate are caused by shifts in aggregate demand, as I believe, we can and should be reacting against these shifts by steering the economy back to the socially optimal unemployment rate.”

So Farmer reckons, as the business cycle is a unit root, it does not self-correct and governments must intervene to smooth out the fluctuations and get unemployment down. John Cochrane is not convinced of the need for government intervention, of course, but he does recognise that there can be a chronic or permanent element in changes in unemployment and it may not be totally self-correcting. A unit root is a good compromise, it seems.

Good news, eh! Keynesian and neoclassical economics have moved to a compromise in theory that capitalist economies do fluctuate (due to ‘shocks’ in demand or supply) and may not always return to previous trends. And something exogenous (government) may have to act to correct it.
The fact that neither neoclassical non-intervention policies nor Keynesian policies of macro-management had any effect in stopping the reappearance of the ‘business cycle’ from the 1970s onwards or controlling them appears to have escaped both Farmer and Cochrane. Instead, they continue to debate the nature of the ‘shocks’ to the system.

There is little doubt that capitalist economies are not ‘self-correcting’ and a level of unemployment or real GDP growth that existed before a major slump may well not return after the recession ends – indeed the current slow crawl of ‘recovery’ since the trough of the Great Recession in 2009 proves that with a vengeance.

And there is new evidence of that theoretically. A new working paper by Daron Acemoglu, Ufuk Akcigit, and William Kerr looks at the pattern of how economic disturbances propagate throughout the industrial and regional network ( They examine several types of disturbances such as changes in Chinese imports, government spending and productivity. Some of these ‘shocks’ propagate upstream through the value chain, from retailers to suppliers. They call these demand shocks. Others move in the opposite direction, and they call these supply shocks.

Keynesian blogger, Noah Smith is very excited at this research. As he puts it: “the implication is that the rosy picture of the economy as a smoothly functioning machine isn’t necessarily an accurate one. The tinker-toy web of suppliers and customers and regional economies in Acemoglu et al.’s paper is a fragile thing, easily disturbed by the winds of randomness”.

The authors of the paper conclude: “Quantitatively, the network-based propagation is larger than the direct e§ects of the shocks, sometimes by several-fold. We also show quantitatively large effects from the geographic network, capturing the fact that the local propagation of a shock to an industry will fall more heavily on other industries that tend to collocate with it across local markets. Our results suggest that the transmission of various different types of shocks through economic networks and industry interlinkages could have Örst-order implications for the macroeconomy.”

Also, Smith concludes that “one of the biggest and longest-lasting economic debates is whether government spending can affect the real economy. Lucas and others (the neoclassicals) have claimed that it can’t. But in Acemoglu et al.’s model, it absolutely can, since the government is part — a very big, very important part — of the network of buyers and sellers.”

But all the paper confirms, by using bottom-up input-output connections, is that the collapse or bankruptcy of a large firm or bank or sharp change in trade can trigger a crisis by cascading through an economy. This shows how slumps can start but suggests that they are due to random events. That does not explain the recurrent nature of slumps and so explains nothing.

Smith claims that the paper “would solve the problem of what causes recessions. Currently, we have very little idea of what tips economies from boom over to bust — there is usually no big obvious change in productivity, technology or government policy at the beginning of a recession. If the economy is a fragile complex system, it might only take a small shock to send the whole thing into convulsions.”

So the cause of recessions is random shocks that multiply. That is no more an explanation than that proffered by Nassim Taleb in his book, Black Swan, or by the heads of the American banks during the financial crisis, that it was a chance in a billion (

In none of these current debates is there any mention of the role of profit in the ‘business cycle’ in what is essentially a profit-making system of production. Business cycles are back according to macroeconomics – rather belatedly. But it’s random or it’s not random; it’s demand or it’s not demand; it’s monetary or it’s not monetary. Mainstream theory remains in a fog of confusion.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Life on earth.

by Sean O'Torain.

We on this blog explain that capitalism threatens life on earth. One way it does so is by the threat of nuclear war. There are between 16,000 and 19,000 nuclear warheads in existence. There are mad lunatic war criminals in charge of the capitalist governments and militaries worldwide. Capitalism works behind the backs of its own ruling classes and pushes them into situations which are not even in their own interests. See the wars and catastrophes of the last hundred years. We print below an article from the Wall Street Journal which shows how these people think. Capitalism and this crazed capitalist class which sits in power must be overthrown. It is steering the world towards the edge of a precipice with its eyes shut.
The Threat to Melt the Electric Grid
An electromagnetic-pulse attack from North Korea or another U.S. enemy would cause staggering devastation.
April 30, 2015 7:33 p.m. ET

The Pentagon is moving the headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) back into Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colo., a decade after having largely vacated the site.

Why the return? Because the enormous bunker in the hollowed-out mountain, built to survive a Cold War-era nuclear conflict, can also resist an electromagnetic-pulse attack, or EMP. America’s military planners recognize the growing threat from an EMP attack by bad actors around the world, in particular North Korea and Iran.

An EMP strike, most likely from the detonation of a nuclear weapon in space, would destroy unprotected military and civilian electronics nationwide, blacking out the electric grid and other critical infrastructure for months or years. The staggering human cost of such a catastrophic attack is not difficult to imagine.

The primary headquarters for Norad, which provides early warning and command and control for the defense of the U.S. against nuclear attack, has for a decade been at nearby Peterson Air Force Base. Critical Norad operations are being moved back into Cheyenne Mountain, and the Pentagon recently awarded a $700 million contract to  Raytheon  to upgrade electronics through 2020.

At an April 7 Pentagon news conference, Norad Commander Adm. William Gortney noted that Norad is going back underground “because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain’s built. It’s EMP-hardened.” He explained that North Korea now has mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, the KN-08, armed with nuclear warheads, that can strike the U.S. While the KN-08 is inaccurate, it could be used to launch a high-altitude nuclear EMP attack.

Adm. Gortney reassured those at the news conference that the U.S. can defend itself from a nuclear-missile threat from North Korea—or from Iran “if we get our assessment wrong,” he said, referring to the current nuclear negotiations. U.S. missile defense, he said, is “able to defend the nation against both those particular threats today.”

That is true as far as it goes—but only if an attack on the U.S. comes from the northern skies. Former senior Reagan administration officials warn that the U.S. is unprepared to cope with nuclear EMP strikes from North Korea and Iran if their missiles’ trajectory takes a southern route. 

We are among those former Reagan officials. We joined William Graham (President Reagan’s science adviser and subsequent chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission) and Fritz Ermarth(a former chairman of the National Intelligence Council) in warning in  Newsmax in February that Iran should be regarded as already having nuclear missiles capable of making an EMP attack against the U.S. Iran and North Korea have successfully orbited satellites on south-polar trajectories that appear to practice evading U.S. missile defenses, and at optimum altitudes to make a surprise EMP attack.

The U.S. has no ballistic-missile early-warning radars or ground-based interceptors facing south and would be blind to a nuclear warhead orbited as a satellite from a southern trajectory. The missile defense plans were oriented during the Cold War for a northern strike from the Soviet Union, and they have not been adapted for the changing threats.

The Pentagon was wise to move Norad communications back into Cheyenne Mountain and to take measures elsewhere to survive an EMP attack. But how are the American people to survive? In the event of a yearlong nationwide blackout, tens of millions of Americans would perish from starvation and societal chaos, according to members of the Congressional EMP Commission, which published its last unclassified report in 2008. 

Yet President Obama has not acted on the EMP Commission’s draft executive order to protect national infrastructure that is essential to provide for the common defense. Hardening the national electric grid would cost a few billion dollars, a trivial amount compared with the loss of electricity and lives following an EMP attack. The U.S. also should deploy one of its existing transportable radars in the Philippines to help the ground-based interceptors at California’s Vandenberg Air Force defend the country against an attack from the south. 

Congress also has failed to act on the plans of its own EMP commission to protect the electric grid and other civilian infrastructure that depends on a viable electric grid—such as communications, transportation, banking—that are essential to the economy. In recent years, the GRID Act, the Shield Act, and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act have gained bipartisan and even unanimous support in the House, yet they died in the Senate. 

States are not waiting for Washington to act. Maine and Virginia have enacted legislation and undertaken serious studies to consider how to deal with an EMP attack. Florida’s governor and emergency manager are considering executive action to harden their portion of the grid. Colorado legislators are holding hearings on legislation to protect their citizens. Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York have initiatives in various stages to deal with an EMP attack.

When ancient Rome could no longer protect its empire from barbarians, cities tried to protect themselves by building walls. Now Washington, unable or unwilling to protect its people, is making it necessary for states to build their own defenses against the electromagnetic-pulse barbarians of the 21st century. 

Amb. Cooper is the former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Mr. Pry is executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and served in the EMP Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the Central Intelligence 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Seamus Milne on Austerity at the Glasgow Mayday Celebrations

The above speaker is Seamus Milne speaking at the Glasgow Mayday celebrations. It's on the Scottish TUC You Tube channel (Trade Union Congress) and the trade unions in Britain are supporting the Labor Party. in the election.  Having been in the US for 42 years I am not so familiar with British politics but I am aware that Miliband and the Labor Party also has an austerity program but perhaps not as severe. The Scottish Nationalists (SNP) is also a capitalist party and will also not shy away from savaging Scottish workers. There is also much discussion among socialists and leftists, particularly Scots, over support for the SNP.  We see the gradual shift to the right of Syriza in Greece under pressure from European and global capital.  The only response to this is a European wide workers' movement and whether or not those within Syriza that support this strategy will win that battle remains to be seen. There is an article on Syriza published today on Truthout.

In Britain, there is also an ongoing debate between many leftists and socialists over whether or not the Labor Party is completely finished and that a vote for Labor is not much different than a vote for the Conservatives.  The famous Clause 4 of the Labor Party program that a group I was once a member of and since expelled defended so resiliently when it was in the Labor Part, was removed from the party program during the Blair years as the party weakened the union presence, changed the emblem from the red flag of the worker to the rose and became a sort of Democrats lite.  Although, the union bloc vote in the Labor Party has not been completely eliminated. Clause 4 was the clause for public ownership of the dominant sectors of industry and means of production. Even as it is, my guess is the Labor Party cannot be compared to the Democrats here that is a bought and paid for Wall Street organ.

Left and socialist parties of various stripes are running candidates independent of Labor and there are some attempts at coalition building between progressive forces. We have written on this blog of the scourge of sectarianism and ultra leftism still harming the interests of the working  class both in Britain and throughout the world including the US.

Listening to Seamus Milne who is a writer for the Guardian newspaper, I was reminded of Bernie Sanders' here in the US, the so-called socialist who is running for president as a Democrat. Sanders is fond of making grand statements about what is wrong, something most of us are well aware of, but offers no alternative and now offers his candidacy as a Democrat, the party that millions of workers have given up on and correctly so.  Were Sanders to openly condemn the Democratic Party for its role, explain that a party owned by Wall Street can never serve our interests and call for and campaign around an alternative based on the unions, community organizations, and other working class formations as well as representatives of small community based businesses,  his candidacy might mean something more substantial, especially if a program offering demands that speak to the needs of working people is the alternative.

As I said, I am not qualified to say whether or not a vote for the Labor party is a wasted vote.  We are sharing this video for our reader's interest. 

Richard Mellor

'Lord of the Flies' comes to Baltimore

We reprint this powerful description of his hometown from CNN writer John Blake.  It is in actuality a description of the decay and despair that the so-called free market has fostered on workers and the poor it has abandoned. Blake’s description could fit practically any urban center in the US or equally ravaged smaller towns or rural communities like West Virginia.  The decline of union jobs, industry and consequently opportunity has decimated entire communities as capital finds cheaper labor and more lucrative opportunities for profit-making in Asia and other parts of the world. The disgusting incarceration rate of black and brown men in particular is capitalism’s safety valve, locking young people away and heading off the potential danger of youth becoming politicized and a threat to the status quo. Meanwhile,  as a the number of billionaires swell, trillions of dollars are spent on wars of occupation and plunder offering the military or jail as an alternative.

Both parties of Wall Street, Democrats and Republicans, have orchestrated this decline. For the black workers and youth, the black middle class whose ranks grew in the aftermath of the heroic civil rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s act as a buffer zone holding back the revolutionary potential of the black workers encouraging them to  “work within the system, look at me, I made it”. This false view of history always leads to blaming the individual for conditions that are not of their own making.

'Lord of the Flies' comes to Baltimore
By John Blake, CNN
Updated 9:04 AM ET, Mon May 4, 2015

Baltimore, Maryland (CNN)
He was a quiet man who once stood watch on his front porch, just three blocks away from where a riot erupted in West Baltimore this week.

We called him "Mr. Shields" because no one dared use his first name. He'd step onto his porch at night in plaid shorts and black knit dress socks to watch the Baltimore Orioles play on his portable television set.

He was a steelworker, but he looked debonair: thin mustache always trimmed; wavy salt-and-pepper hair touched up with pomade; cocoa brown skin. He sat like a sentry, watching not just the games but the neighborhood as well.

I knew Mr. Shields' routine because I was his neighbor. I grew up in the West Baltimore community that was rocked this week by protests over the death of a young black man in police custody.

It's surreal to see your old neighborhood go up in flames as commentators try to explain the rage with various complex racial and legal theories. But when I returned to my home this week, the rage made sense to me. There were no more Mr. Shields -- the older black men were gone.

I asked 28-year-old Zachary Lewis about the absence of older men. He stood by a makeshift memorial placed at the spot where Freddie Gray, the man whose death ignited the riots, was arrested.  "This is old here," he said, pointing to himself. "There ain't no more 'Old Heads' anymore, where you been? They got big numbers or they in pine boxes." In street syntax, that meant long prison sentences or death.

We hear about the absence of black men from families, but what happens when they disappear from an entire community? West Baltimore delivered the answer to that question this week.
It's no accident that one of the most enduring images from the riot was a young mother spanking her son as she dragged him away from the protests. Where were the men in his life?
As I walked through my old streets, it was filled with nothing but black young women, children and teenage boys. It was as if an alien spaceship had come in the night and spirited all the older black men away.

Castaways waiting for rescue
I've read and written about big issues like the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses -- what some call "The New Jim Crow." To see it in person, though, is spooky. I felt like "The Lord of the Flies" had taken over my old neighborhood.

"The Lord of the Flies" was a novel written in 1954 by the English author William Golding. It describes what happens to a group of upper-class English schoolboys when their plane crash-lands on a deserted island and all the adults are killed. The kids try to build a society of their own, but with no adult guidance, they descend into tribalism and savagery.
William Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the Washington Post, once invoked the book's title in a column to describe what was happening to young black men in inner cities across America. He said that without the civilizing influence of older men to guide them, young black men never develop an internal moral compass. They become castaways. I read Raspberry's essay after college and kept it for years. It spoke so well to what I saw in the 1980s when the crack epidemic first hit my neighborhood.

I heard Raspberry's voice again this week when I talked to a 27-year-old black man named Juan Grant. He knew Gray, whose death in police custody lit the fuse in Baltimore. Grant stood no more than a foot from me, but as he talked, he yelled at me in frustration, spittle coming from his mouth. He said Gray's death had convinced him and his friends to stop "ripping and running" the streets. They wanted boys to respect them as men.

But they didn't know how to get that respect because their fathers had never been around. He described their dilemma with a bitter laugh:
"It's men learning on the job trying to teach young men how to be men."

Raspberry wrote his column 28 years ago. Now there are even more castaways like Grant in West Baltimore. Yet here's the twist: They don't just feel abandoned by indifferent white people; many feel ignored by the city's black political leaders.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is black, but I found nothing but disdain for her in West Baltimore. People kept complaining that she called protesters "thugs."

Left:  Before the Inner Harbor in Baltimore became a haven for tourists, it was a haven for a burgeoning black middle class in the city.

"She turned on her own people, calling us thugs," a 16-year-old high school student named Malik said as he waited at a bus stop next to Mondawmin Mall, a flashpoint for the riots. "Pretty sure she ain't perfect. She made some mistakes in her life. I'm pretty sure she did."
He doesn't think any of the city's leader's care about him.

"They talk about 'We the future,' but they killing us," he said.
Now this is the part of the discussion about Baltimore that some conservatives tend to love. Their refrain: It's all about individual behavior; there's a culture of poverty that Big Government programs won't help; Oh God, not Al Sharpton again; just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

My own experiences tell me it's not all about individual effort.

What is a working man?
Choices, someone once said, are constrained by circumstances. And the circumstances that drove young black men like Grant to the streets this week are getting grimmer.

Take Mr. Shields, for example. The reason I saw so many working-class men like Mr. Shields in my neighborhood was because there were blue-collar jobs for them. Before the Inner Harbor in Baltimore became a haven for tourists, it was a haven for a burgeoning black middle class in my city.

Mr. Shields worked as a steel rigger at Sparrows Point in the inner harbor. Other black men worked at the Domino Sugar plant. My father was a merchant marine who sailed out of the harbor. These were well-paying jobs with strong unions that fought for good benefits and united black, brown and white working-class people.
 Left: The old Domino Sugar factory on the Baltimore harbor. Men like Walter Boyd raised families working there.

They helped men like Walter Boyd, 76, who sat on his front porch in West Baltimore this week like he was a reincarnation of Mr. Shields -- an impassive Sphinx surveying his domain. He was one of the few older black men I saw around. He had a box of chicken wings attached to his walker along with ice water. Boyd had raised three children working at Domino Sugar.

"Best job I ever had," he said. "You didn't get fired. You fired yourself. As long as you came to work and worked, you had a job. It was hard work but I had it made because I knew how to work."

Boyd's son, Robert, had just stopped by to cut his father's hair. He chuckled at his father's reference to hard work. Growing up, he said, his father kept him busy to keep him out of trouble. He'd take him to the country in the summer to work in the tobacco fields. He remembers watching his father plow a field one day, sweat pouring down his face, when another man turned to him and said with admiration: "That's a working man."

"There was something about the way he said that that let me know that's the way you supposed to be if you wanted respect," said Robert Boyd, who is a truck driver and pastor of the Beacon of Truth Church and Ministries in West Baltimore.

Yet boys don't respect men who don't have jobs. And many of those blue-collar jobs that built the black middle class in Baltimore are gone. Even the neighborhood businesses that I remember from youth -- an ice cream factory and a milk company behind my house -- were shuttered when I returned.

Unlike Walter Boyd, the old men I did see in my neighborhood this week were broken-down, unshaven. I thought to myself: If you want to destroy a people, first break their men.

"Now we as men are fearful when we walk through a group of boys," Robert Boyd said. "When we were boys, when we walked through a group of men, we felt secure. Something is wrong."

Taking the city from away from us
Something else was missing when I returned: places for kids to play or meet the men who could mentor them. Baltimore is a sports-crazy town. I grew up playing Little League baseball, running around the track at the high school across the street from my home, and playing tennis at public courts scattered through West Baltimore. There were public swimming pools, pickup basketball games, and plenty of recreation centers. On some days, I barely ate because I spent so much time outside playing sports.

Yet when I returned to my old playing fields, they were overgrown with weeds or barred with locked gates. I heard the same story from residents. The city had closed the pools, removed the basketball goals and, as recently as 2013, closed 20 recreation centers. I didn't see any kids playing baseball or football in the streets.

"They've taken the city away from us. We have nowhere to go and nothing to do," says Grant, the young man who wants to be a role model.
Left: Men like the author's father were merchant marines and sailed from Baltimore's harbor.

The sports venues weren't just for the kids; they were for adults. It's where men mentored kids by becoming their coaches. The tracks and pools were places where families gathered. The school's playing fields were open to everyone in the community.

I practically lived on the playing fields at Frederick Douglass High School, which became a focal point for the riots. When I talked to Walter Boyd and his son, I did so across the street from Douglass' track, which was ringed with locked gates.

"I used to do my walking there," Robert Boyd said, pointing to the track. "Not just I, but older cats and younger cats would just walk. That's when you saw community -- younger, older people. You see people and say, 'How you doing.' They don't want you on the track now."

The youth aren't missing just recreation centers and tracks; the jobs programs are gone as well.  When I grew up in West Baltimore in the late 1970s and early 1980s, virtually all of my friends worked. The city offered various jobs programs for youths -- Summer Corps, Youth Corps, Manpower. Some jobs were as simple as sweeping the streets, but we didn't mind. It was like a rite of passage into adulthood. You didn't have to ask your parents for money. I still remember the envy I felt when my friends took their first Summer Corps checks to Mondawmin Mall to buy new tennis shoes.

I hear people talk about welfare queens and the "culture of poverty." But most of the kids I grew up with weren't even content to join a jobs program. They hustled for other work. One of the most coveted jobs was riding on the milk trucks during their morning deliveries. At sunrise virtually every day, a crowd of boys would gather outside the loading dock at the Cloverdale milk company. They stood around like the day laborers who hang out today around Home Depot. They wanted a milk driver to stop and say hop on. They'd help deliver the milk, and the driver would give them a couple extra bucks.

I still remember the rejection one morning when I woke up early and joined that crowd. One by one I saw all my friends picked up until I was the only one left. Nobody stopped for me. I was too skinny to pick up a milk crate. I went home and threw myself on my bed in despair. I would never be cool like my friends.

My interest in journalism also was nurtured by these jobs programs. I interned at the Baltimore Sun and Afro-American newspapers while I was in high school. I participated in journalism getaways for promising inner-city students. I couldn't afford any of it, but if you're reading this now, it's because somebody somewhere was willing to pay money to give me a chance.

Today, few of those programs exist. The Rev. Jamal Bryant, a popular Baptist minister in Baltimore, said the city has even closed a quarter of its public libraries.

"All of those programs are housed in the Smithsonian Institution," he says of the youth jobs programs. "They are no longer in evidence or thriving today."

Yet there is one institution the city seems to find money to invest in, some residents say: law enforcement. Funding for public schools, libraries, jobs programs and recreation centers may lag, but the budget for jails and police never seems to run dry, Walter Boyd and others say. Some wonder if it's deliberate.

"If you don't invest in them now, you're just going to have to build more prisons," Boyd says about kids in West Baltimore. "And that just seems like that's what the plan is. They won't educate you. But they'll incarcerate you in a minute."

A bittersweet reunion
I ended my return by going back to the house where I grew up. I rang the doorbell, but a guy washing his car on the street told me the old woman who lived there wouldn't answer the door because she was "skittish." Bars seemed to cover every window; other homes were boarded up, and those that weren't looked so dilapidated that it seemed as if the residents didn't care anymore.

And they don't, because so few are owners now.

I ran into one person who was still there from my childhood. I knocked on his door and a big smile flashed across his face. He had not seen me since high school, but he remembered. We all called him "Herb." He was one of the few homeowners left.

We sat down on his porch and talked about old times. He said nobody sat on the porches and talked to each other anymore. Of the 38 homes on our block, only seven were owned by their occupants. When his house was recently burglarized, he said it took three calls to 911 and 55 minutes for the police to show up.

"I could be mutilated and lying on the street," he said, "and nobody would help or call the police."

I said goodbye and left. As I got in my car, I looked at him standing at his door, still smiling as he waved at me. I also looked at Mr. Shields' old porch as I drove away. The paint was peeling and the front looked disheveled. He never would have allowed that.

This was my home. This was my family. These were my friends. But they were ghosts now. There were few men looking out for the neighborhood any longer.

What's left are boys trying to figure out how to be men -- and how to avoid getting "big numbers" or ending up in "pine boxes."

The original article has a video with it and can be found here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Mayday victory for Freddy Gray

Freddy Gray, kidnapped, tortured, murdered by the Police
by FFWP Admin

Thank you and congratulations to all the protesters, youth and workers who forced the state to take action against the Baltimore cops that participated in the murder of Freddy Gray. This activity is what forced Baltimore’s top prosecutor to file charges against all six cops who were involved in illegally kidnapping and imprisoning Freddy Gray, in the process breaking his neck and killing him. This is a major victory. 

This has to be the message from all working people, trade union members, African Americans and specially oppressed minorities in this country. Thank you and congratulations to the young people and not so young people who took to the streets in Baltimore, Ferguson and throughout this country over the past period. All working people gain from this victory.

This is also a blow against the increased militarization and brutalization of mostly black and brown people by the US state apparatus that has intensified since the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 and the Occupy Movement that followed and is directed against all workers.  US capitalism is bogged down in predatory wars and occupations throughout the world and is forced to cut living standards of all workers at home in order to pay for the plunder of weaker nations backed up by military might.

Thank you also to the majority of the people in this country who did not take to the streets but who knew that the cops had killed Freddy Gray and this was not right. The decision of the Baltimore and national elite who so far appear to be backing the prosecutor in her decision to prosecute the cops, took into account this widespread feeling across the country, that these cops killing young African American males and also young and not so young people was wrong.

This US ruling class became worried that the whole country would explode, that things might get beyond their control.  They are well aware of the anger that simmers beneath the surface of US society. So while celebrating this action against these six cops we must have no illusions in the justice system or state representatives.  The prosecution only came about because of the protests and the fear of the so called authorities of what would happen if they came out and announced they were letting them off. Their fear of a generalized movement developing is real.

Marilyn Mosby
Neither the state or its prosecutors can be depended upon to protect working people and the specially oppressed minorities. Despite Marilyn Mosby, the prosecutor saying that  "no one is above the law," we know that is not true and that the decision to file charges, even if it comes from a woman or person of color, does not change the nature of the system.

It is only mass pressure from below that can bring this about. This is what Baltimore showed. It was not the African American preachers and politicians and their whining for calm that won this victory. It was the protesters who defied the cops and the illegal curfew, in reality defied the martial law, who won this victory. 

The cops in Baltimore and the so-called Fraternal Order of Police, had a special law written for them. This allows them ten days before they comment on any incident in which their members are involved. In other words ten days to get a story concocted and agreed to. The head of this cop organization. Gene Ryan, has stated that none of the six cops now charged were responsible for Freddy gray's death. This is incredible.

So if it was not the cops who murdered Freddy Gray who did?  One of their members has been found to have lied that Freddy Gray had a switchblade knife and this was why he was arrested. But it was not a switchblade knife; it was a legal knife. These cops are liars. The so-called, Fraternal order of Police is is perpetuating these lies. There was no justification for stopping him or arresting him

There needs to be a discussion opened up on cop’s organizations. Are they unions or are they not unions?  Engels the great socialist leader said the state was armed bodies of men whose purpose it is to defend capital and private property (not our right to a home unfortunately). Today we would also say women. Is this still not true?

If it is so then should they be allowed to have a union as most workers understand the term?  Perhaps the solution is that they are allowed to have a union but with certain restrictions. They can never be used to break strikes. They can never be used to impose a curfew or martial law. They have to give up all their military vehicles. The members of the cops have to live in the areas in which they work. They have to wear body cameras at all times.

There are undoubtedly other restrictions that should be imposed. But perhaps this will help to initiate a discussion on this topic. The one thing is certain, the cops and state apparatus cannot be allowed to carry on as they are. The so-called cops unions cannot be allowed to continue as they are, more like a mafia sworn to silence than a union. 

In the last analysis, public safety cannot be under the control of the capitalist state apparatus.  Public safety can only be genuine public safety if these bodies are composed of workers that live in the community, are elected by members of the community and not sworn to uphold laws made by politicians who represent the material and financial interests of the 1%.

Thank you again to all who stood up to the cops who murdered Freddy Gray, who defied the illegal curfew, in reality martial law. This is a victory for all working people and youth, for all specially oppressed minorities and women.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and free speech.

Facts For Working People congratulates the writers below that have refused to support awarding Charlie Hebdo a free speech award.  The statement from the writers below eloquently describes why they do not support the decision of the US writers group, PEN to give the award. FFWP does not support the right of Nazis to free speech.  FFWP does not support the capitalist state denying the Nazis the right to free speech but the organized working class doing so.

Muslims in France are around 10% of the population a and by some accounts 40% of the prison population.  They are, as the statement says, victims of French colonialism. FFWP stands with the signatories below.  And thanks to Glenn Greenwald for his contributions to the struggle for democracy and freedom.  FFWP Admin

145 PEN Writers (Thus Far) Have Objected to the Charlie Hebdo Award – Not Just 6

Featured photo - 145 PEN Writers (Thus Far) Have Objected to the Charlie Hebdo Award – Not Just 6

Contrary to media accounts claiming that only 6 PEN members have objected to the group’s decision to bestow Charlie Hebdo with an award, the actual number is currently 145 PEN members (6 writers scheduled to be table heads at this year’s event have withdrawn, and the list includes writers who have served as table heads at prior events). Below is the letter drafted by several of the objecting writers, along with the current full list of signatories:
* * * * *

April 26, 2015
In March it was announced that the PEN Literary Gala, to be held May 5th 2015, would honor the magazine Charlie Hebdo with the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award in response to the January 7 attacks that claimed the lives of many members of its editorial staff.

It is clear and inarguable that the murder of a dozen people in the Charlie Hebdo offices is sickening and tragic. What is neither clear nor inarguable is the decision to confer an award for courageous freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo, or what criteria, exactly were used to make that decision.

We do not believe in censoring expression. An expression of views, however disagreeable, is certainly not to be answered by violence or murder. However, there is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding
such expression.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were characterized as satire and “equal opportunity offense,” and the magazine seems to be entirely sincere in its anarchic expressions of principled disdain toward organized religion. But in an unequal society, equal opportunity offence does not have an equal effect.

Power and prestige are elements that must be recognized in considering almost any form of discourse, including satire. The inequities between the person holding the pen and the subject fixed on paper by that pen cannot, and must not, be ignored.

To the section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized, a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering.

Our concern is that, by bestowing the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award on Charlie Hebdo, PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression, but also valorizing selectivelyoffensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.

In our view, PEN America could have chosen to confer its PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award upon any of a number of journalists and whistleblowers who have risked, and sometimes lost, their freedom (and even their lives) in service of the greater good.

PEN is an essential organization in the global battle for freedom of expression. It is therefore particularly disheartening to see that PEN America has chosen to honor the work and mission of Charlie Hebdo above those who not only exemplify the principles of free expression, but whose
courage, even when provocative or discomfiting, has also been fastidiously exercised for the good of humanity.

We the undersigned, as writers, thinkers, and members of PEN, therefore respectfully wish to disassociate ourselves from PEN America’s decision to give the 2015 Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.

Chris Abani
Leslie Absher
Elizabeth Adams
Gabeba Baderoon
Deborah Baker
Russell Banks
Susan Bell
Naomi Benaron
Helen Benedict
Cara Benson
Charles Ramírez Berg
Susan Bernofksy
Eric Bogosian
Donald Breckenridge
Ami Sands Brodoff
Karen Brown Brooks
Janet Burroway
Helene Cardona
Peter Carey
Bryn Chancellor
Carmela Ciuraru
Patricia Clark
Tony Cohan
Teju Cole
Michael Cunningham
Emily M. Danforth
Tod Davies
Siddhartha Deb
Junot Díaz
Erin Edmison
Brent Hayes Edwards
Brian T. Edwards
Deborah Eisenberg
Hedi El Kholti
Trey Ellis
Eve Ensler
Elizabeth Enslin
Barbara Epler
Jennifer Cody Epstein
Ali Eteraz
Percival Everett
Marlon L. Fick
Boris Fishman
Stona Fitch
Peter H. Fogtdal
Seánan Forbes
Ashley Ford
Linda Nemec Foster
Lauren Francis-Sharma
Ru Freeman
Nell Freudenberger
Molly Friedrich
Joshua Furst
Gretchen Gerzina
Keith Gessen
Francisco Goldman
Conner Habib
Jessica Hagedorn
Katheryn Harrison
Jonathan T. Hine Jr.
Edward Hoagland
Laura Hoffmann
Nancy Horan
Marya Hornbacher
Sandra Hunter
Megan Hustad
Randa Jarrar
T. Geronimo Johnson
John Keahey
Uzma Aslam Khan
Dave King
Gilbert King
Robert Spencer Knotts
Ruth Ellen Kocher
Nancy Kricorian
Amitava Kumar
Rachel Kushner
Amy Lawless
Zachary Lazar
Jonathan Lee
Katherine Leiner
Ted Lewin
Ed Lin
Michael Lindgren
Julie Livingston
Craig Lucas
Ann Malaspina
Charlotte Mandell
C. M. Mayo
Patrick McGrath
Clarissa McNair
Deena Metzger
Thais Miller
Kyle Minor
Rick Moody
Skye Moody
Lorrie Moore
Dolan Morgan
James McGrath Morris
Idra Novey
Stephen O’Connor
Joyce Carol Oates
Peter Orner
Michael Ondaatje
Raj Patel
Chris Pavone
Francine Prose
Marcus Rediker
Adam Rex
Clay Risen
Roxana Robinson
David Roediger
Paul Rome
Mark Rotella
Gina Ruiz
Steven Schroeder
Sarah Schulman
Taiye Selasi
Danzy Senna
Kamila Shamsie
Jeff Sharlet
Wallace Shawn
Matthew Shenoda
Nancy Shiffrin
Russell Shorto
Charles Simic
Tom Sleigh
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Alexis M. Smith
Jill Smolowe
Linda Spalding
Scott Spencer
Emily Gray Tedrowe
Roy A. Teel Jr.
Michael Thomas
Ted Thompson
Kathleen Tolan
Joanne Turnbull
Chase Twichell
Padma Venkatraman
Jasmine Dreame Wagner
Eliot Weinberger
Jon Wiener
G. K. Wuori
Dave Zirin