Posts Tagged 'Racism'

The waste, inequity of filling jails with those who can’t make bail

One of the authors is a member of SF Taxpayers for Public Safety, which organizes against construction of a new jail in San Francisco when the seismically-unsafe Hall of Justice is torn down.  Its research shows  the present system already has  sufficient capacity even after closing the Hall of Justice jails, because of the success of alternatives to incarceration.  Almost 75% of SF jail inmates have not been convicted of anything, they are awaiting trial, and large proportion, probably half, are in jail because they cannot afford bail. Like mass incarceration across the nation, blacks and latins are hugely over-represented.  For instance, the proportion of blacks in SF jails is ten times their proportion in the general population.  For more information on SF Jails, see  http://tinyurl.com/m9af8qx .

SF Chronicle, October 2, 2014

The waste, inequity of filling jails with those who can’t make bail

By Jeff Adachi and Naneen Karraker

On-line version: http://tinyurl.com/kwv86n2

You may think jail is a place for convicted criminals. You would be wrong. In San Francisco, 85 percent of the roughly 1,300 inmates in county jail haven’t been convicted of anything. That’s more than 1,000 men and women. They are there not because they have been found guilty but because they simply cannot afford bail.

Despite our progressive reputation, California uses an ineffective, costly and outdated system to determine who stays in jail and who is released.

Earlier this year, San Francisco Superior Court judges raised the standard bail amounts for numerous crimes. The bail for contempt of court, for instance, jumped from $10,000 to $20,000.

These higher bails ensure that a poor person charged with even a minor crime will remain in jail, which costs taxpayers $140 per day, while a wealthy person will be able to afford to get out regardless of the severity of his or her charges. Being in custody means an increased likelihood of conviction. It means wearing jail garb instead of a suit in front of the jury. It means accepting a plea bargain just to get out to save your job or care for your children.

The use of bail also exacerbates racial disparities in the system. A recent report released by San Francisco’s Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice cites a finding that the average bail for Latinos is more than $50,000, compared with $28,000 for whites. A recent study of 40 of the largest U.S. counties that found that, among those in jail because they could not afford bail, 27 percent were white, 36 percent African American and 44 percent Latino.

Non-monetary forms of pretrial release such as own-recognizance release or supervised pretrial release are underutilized in San Francisco because the Pretrial Diversion Project just doesn’t get enough support. With adequate funding, the program could hire the staff needed to make sure all people arrested are screened, their cases are presented to the court, and they are supervised to make sure they appear for hearings.

Non-monetary release isn’t simply fairer than the money bail system; it’s also more cost-effective.

Evaluations of pretrial services in five Northern California counties found that their return-to-court rates were higher than the national average for release on bail. San Francisco topped the list at a 97 percent return rate for non-monetary pretrial release as compared with an 82 percent return rate for those who put up bail.

While monetary bail is not going to vanish as a pretrial release option, we need to be smarter about it. Several states have passed laws shifting the pretrial release process from a cash-based one to a risk-based one. A Maryland law requiring courts to use a risk-assessment tool to determine pretrial release options resulted in a 3 to 4 percent increase in the number of people released in the first year. While not a huge increase, it is a step in the right direction. We could do the same in California right now.

 

Jeff Adachi is the San Francisco public defender. Naneen Karraker is a member of San Francisco Taxpayers for Public Safety. She has worked for over 40 years on criminal justice matters locally, statewide and regionally, including pretrial release options, alternatives to incarceration and youth violence prevention.

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Andy Lopez case: Sonoma DA used pro-police expert witness to justify not charging deputy who shot Andy

The Sonoma, California DA who refused to charge the deputy who murdered Andy Lopez used a pro-police expert witness to justify her decision.  The deputy has a history of violence and lying.

UPDATE: to get an idea of the atmosphere of intimidation in Santa Rosa about the Andy Lopez case, the July 11 2014 “Stop Mass Incarceration Bay Area” email list, (stopmassincarcerationbayarea@gmail.com), reports: “Three of Andy’s Youth, ages 13 and 14, were roughed up by the police after leaving the Tuesday rally. The activists in Santa Rosa have been working on get the facts of the story organized. I have been working through last night and this morning to see if lawyers can file a complaint against “sexual assault”. The behavior of the SR police was Extremely inappropriate. As the 3 young women begged the cops for a female officer to search them – the were told to “spread your legs. Spread your legs wide” followed by the officer kicking their legs out to a wide stance. The MALE office then ran his hands over the girls and into their pockets as they protested pleading to not be hurt and for a woman officer. If the plan goes right – There will be a press release tomorrow morning and they will file a claim with the City.”

SF Chronicle, Friday, July 11, 2014

Expert witness in toy-gun case has history of siding with police

Bob Egelko

Called on to investigate the fatal shooting of a toy-gun carrying 13-year-old boy by a sheriff’s deputy, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch chose a consultant she described as “an independent, outside expert on human performance in high-stress encounters, such as officer-involved shootings.”

One quality of William Lewinski that Ravitch didn’t mention was his reliability to side with police.

Lewinski, whose website describes him as “one of the nation’s foremost authorities on reaction times and shooting dynamics,” divides his time between training police officers, researching their conduct and testifying on their behalf, usually to dispute accusations of wrongful shootings.

Since 1990, he has testified for police in more than 75 cases in the United States and several in Canada and Great Britain. The Police Firearms Officers Association in Britain honored him in 2009 with its first life-member award for his “commitment to firearms officers in the U.K.,” particularly two he helped to exonerate of murder charges.

One courtroom adversary, Pasadena attorney John C. Burton, who has clashed with Lewinski in two police-shooting cases, describes him as “an uncredentialed police expert who will say whatever they need to justify the situation.”

Had to keep firing

In the Sonoma County case, Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot Andy Lopez seven times on Oct. 22 as the teenager walked near his Santa Rosa home, carrying a plastic AK-47 rifle, its distinctive orange tip removed by a friend.

In his 14-page report, Lewinski found Gelhaus’ explanation supportable “to a high degree of scientific certainty.”

The rifle, he wrote, looked like the real thing from a distance, and Gelhaus had good reason to think his life was in danger when the boy started to turn toward him after being told to drop his gun. “From a behavioral science perspective and an action/reaction paradigm,” Lewinsky said, Gelhaus couldn’t wait until the gun was pointed at him, but had to fire, and keep firing, until the perceived threat was removed.

Lewinski said he reviewed statements by other witnesses, but interviewed only Gelhaus.

Likewise, he interviewed only one person – former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle – before testifying at Mehserle’s murder trial for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant on an Oakland transit platform in January 2009.

Brought in as an expert witness on police psychology, Lewinski wasn’t allowed to say whether he thought the shooting was justified. But he told the jury in 2010 that factors such as “inattentional blindness” and “muscle memory”can cause an officer under stress like Mehserle to mistake his gun for a Taser, carried on the opposite hip, and to perceive that his captive may be armed and dangerous, even though he was lying face down with another officer kneeling on his shoulder.

The jury acquitted Mehserle of murder and convicted him of involuntary manslaughter. Lewinski also testified for Mehserle last month before a federal jury in San Francisco that found the officer had not violated Grant’s civil rights.

Weighed against other evidence in the two cases, Lewinski’s opinions don’t appear to be extreme. While protesters in Sonoma County continue to demand criminal charges against Gelhaus, they haven’t come up with evidence to contradict Lewinski’s conclusion that the officer thought Andy Lopez was carrying a real gun.

Stacking the deck?

The question that’s now being raised is whether Ravitch, the district attorney, was trying to stack the deck with her choice of consultants.

“He’s an opportunist who will say whatever is expedient to get the cop off, so why in the world would any reputable district attorney’s office rely on someone like him?”asked Oakland attorney Michael Haddad, who tangled with Lewinski over a 2000 police shooting in Oakland. Haddad is president of the National Police Accountability Project, a group of lawyers who sue police, often with the aid of their own experts.

Ravitch responded to an inquiry by listing Lewinski’s academic credentials.

Lewinski didn’t respond to requests for comment, but he’s replied to similar criticisms in the past, most recently after an office that reviews complaints against police in British Columbia said it would stop using him as an expert consultant. One official said Lewinski’s reports seemed biased.

“The science I share in the context of my work is held in the highest regard by top experts in the legal, academic and criminal justice communities worldwide, “Lewinski said in an August 2013 e-mail quoted by CBC News.

Pioneered the field

A native of Canada, Lewinski earned a doctorate from Union Institute, taking his courses online. He then pioneered – or, his critics would say, invented – the field of police psychology, founding a research center now called the Force Science Institute at the University of Minnesota at Mankato, where Lewinski was also a professor for 28 years.

Asked at last month’s Mehserle trial about the fees he charges as an expert witness, Lewinski did not give an exact figure, but said the payments include $475 an hour that goes to the institute.

He regularly testifies that police are justified in opening fire as soon as they perceive a potential threat and can’t wait until they see a gun pointed at them. If Gelhaus, in the Santa Rosa case, had waited until Andy Lopez had fully turned toward him, Lewinski wrote, “he could be shot at multiple times before he could respond.”

‘Shoot-first doctrine’

Lewinski’s shoot-first doctrine led to what he described as a major victory in the case of Anthony Dwain Lee, a Hollywood actor who was fatally shot in the back by a Los Angeles police officer at a Halloween party in 2000 after showing up in costume and pulling out a real-looking toy gun. After Lewinski’s research on reaction times showed that the officer could have been acting in self-defense, he said on his website, the family’s $100 million suit against the officer and the Los Angeles Police Department was settled for $225,000.

But there have also been defeats, like the case of Willie Wilkins, an undercover Oakland police officer shot to death by fellow officers as he tried to arrest a suspect in 2001.

Lewinski, hired as an expert by the city in a damage suit by Wilkins’ family, cast doubt on the testimony of other officers who claimed to have heard Wilkins identify himself before he was shot. Stress, he asserted, may have confused them or clouded their memories. Haddad, the family’s lawyer, challenged Lewinski at a lengthy deposition and said the witness wound up admitting that his confusion-under-stress theory would apply equally to the officers who fired the fatal shots.

The city settled the suit for $3.5 million.

Lewinski is “charming,” Haddad said in a recent interview, but “his opinions can be pretty flaky.”

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: begelko@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @egelko

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SF Chronicle, Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New accusations against Santa Rosa deputy who shot boy

Henry K. Lee

SANTA ROSA — The Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy after mistaking the youth’s replica gun for an assault rifle has a history of excessive force and questionable judgment, the teenager’s family said Tuesday in an amended lawsuit.

Deputy Erick Gelhaus had been involved in several controversial incidents long before he encountered and shot dead eighth-grader Andy Lopez in October, the suit said.

In 1996, Gelhaus pointed his gun at a woman “carrying her young son” after she had called for help in connection with a dispute with a neighbor, the suit said. “He chased her around her vehicle, causing her great fear and anxiety,” the complaint said.

Around that same year, Gelhaus and his partner were accused of falsifying police reports in a domestic violence matter, the suit said. The other deputy, whose name wasn’t released, was fired, according to the suit.

The suit also cites an incident in August, two months before the teenager was killed, in which Gelhaus allegedly pulled a gun on motorist Jeffrey Westbrook two times during a traffic stop on Highway 101 in Cotati. Westbrook told The Chronicle that the interaction troubled him so much that he recalled asking the deputy at one point, “Sir, is there something wrong with you?”

Sheriff’s officials “were long aware of the propensity of defendant Gelhaus to recklessly draw his firearm and to use excessive force,” said the suit, which the family first filed in November. The new allegations were added to the suit Tuesday.

Sheriff’s officials have not responded to the fresh allegations in court.

On Oct. 22, Gelhaus and a deputy he was training pulled up behind Andy, who was holding what turned out to be a replica AK-47 pellet gun in his left hand near his home outside Santa Rosa. A witness heard Gelhaus yell at the boy twice to drop the weapon, police said. Gelhaus has told investigators that he fired when the boy turned and the barrel of the rifle rose toward the deputies, he said.

An attorney for Gelhaus has said that the deputy “absolutely believed it was a real AK-47 and absolutely feared for his life.”

Gelhaus, an Iraq War veteran and frequent contributor to law enforcement magazines and online forums in which he promotes officer safety, “instructed and advised others on the use of questionable tactics, including recommendations as to how an officer must respond to justify shooting a kid with a toy gun,” the suit said.

After shooting the boy, Gelhaus deleted his online comments “in an effort to conceal his beliefs,” the suit said.

Gelhaus had not previously not fired on anyone in his 24 years with the Sheriff’s Office, where he has served as a field training officer for new recruits and trains colleagues to shoot at the department’s gun range. But the suit cites an incident in 1995 in which he accidentally shot himself in the leg while on duty, reportedly while holstering a gun.

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Mandela’s Greatness May Be Assured, but Not His Legacy

TruthOut, December 12, 2013

Mandela’s Greatness May Be Assured, but Not His Legacy

Read the original on-line at  http://tinyurl.com/kcjzl3n

by JOHN PILGER

John Pilger recalls an interview with Nelson Mandela in the 1990s, painting a portrait of a leader whose African National Congress had been in struggle and exile for so long, they were willing to collude with forces that had been the people’s enemy.

  (See John Pilger’s 50 minute documentary ” Apartheid Did Not Die” at http://tinyurl.com/mm5axvq )

When I reported from South Africa in the 1960s, the Nazi admirer Johannes Vorster occupied the prime minister’s residence in Cape Town. Thirty years later, as I waited at the gates, it was as if the guards had not changed. White Afrikaners checked my ID with the confidence of men in secure work. One carried a copy of Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. “It’s very eenspirational,” he said.

Mandela had just had his afternoon nap and looked sleepy; his shoelaces were untied. Wearing a bright gold shirt, he meandered into the room. “Welcome back,” said the first president of a democratic South Africa, beaming. “You must understand that to have been banned from my country is a great honour.” The sheer grace and charm of the man made you feel good. He chuckled about his elevation to sainthood. “That’s not the job I applied for,” he said drily.

Still, he was well used to deferential interviews and I was ticked off several times – “you completely forgot what I said” and “I have already explained that matter to you”. In brooking no criticism of the African National Congress (ANC), he revealed something of why millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his “legacy”.

I had asked him why the pledges he and the ANC had given on his release from prison in 1990 had not been kept. The liberation government, Mandela had promised, would take over the apartheid economy, including the banks – and “a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable”.  Once in power, the party’s official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC’s politics were Thatcherite.

“You can put any label on it if you like,” he replied. “ …but, for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy.”

“That’s the opposite of what you said in 1994.”

“You have to appreciate that every process incorporates a change.”

Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this “process” had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela’s release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid.

Around the same time, Mandela was conducting his own secret negotiations. In 1982, he had been moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, where he could receive and entertain people. The apartheid regime’s aim was to split the ANC between the “moderates” they could “do business with” (Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Oliver Tambo) and those in the frontline townships who led the United Democratic Front (UDF). On 5 July, 1989, Mandela was spirited out of prison to meet P.W. Botha, the white minority president known as the Groot Krokodil (Big Crocodile). Mandela was delighted that Botha poured the tea.

With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face.  During the 1980s, the Botha regime had offered black businessmen generous loans, allowing them set up companies outside the Bantustans. A new black bourgeoisie emerged quickly, along with a rampant cronyism. ANC chieftains moved into mansions in “golf and country estates”.  As disparities between white and black narrowed, they widened between black and black.

The familiar refrain that the new wealth would “trickle down” and “create jobs” was lost in dodgy merger deals and “restructuring” that cost jobs. For foreign companies, a black face on the board often ensured that nothing had changed. In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum, “South Africa is in the hands of international capital.”

In the townships, people felt little change and were subjected to apartheid-era evictions; some expressed nostalgia for the “order” of the old regime.  The post-apartheid achievements in de-segregating daily life in South Africa, including schools, were  undercut by the extremes and corruption of a “neoliberalism” to which the ANC devoted itself.  This led directly to state crimes such as the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012, which evoked the infamous Sharpeville massacre more than half a century earlier. Both had been protests about injustice.

Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid.  He saw this as part of “reconciliation”. Perhaps he and his beloved ANC had been in struggle and exile for so long they were willing to accept and collude with the forces that had been the people’s enemy. There were those who genuinely wanted radical change, including a few in the South African Communist Party, but it was the powerful influence of mission Christianity that may have left the most indelible mark. White liberals at home and abroad warmed to this, often ignoring or welcoming Mandela’s reluctance to spell out a coherent vision, as Amilcar Cabral and Pandit Nehru had done.

Ironically, Mandela seemed to change in retirement, alerting the world to the post 9/11 dangers of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. His description of Blair as “Bush’s foreign minister” was mischievously timed; Thabo Mbeki, his successor, was about to arrive in London to meet Blair. I wonder what he would make of the recent “pilgrimage” to his cell on Robben Island by Barack Obama, the unrelenting jailer of Guantanamo.

Mandela seemed unfailingly gracious. When my interview with him was over, he patted me on the arm as if to say I was forgiven for contradicting him. We walked to his silver Mercedes, which consumed his small grey head among a bevy of white men with huge arms and wires in their ears. One of them gave an order in Afrikaans and he was gone.

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John Pilger is an Australian-born, London-based journalist, filmmaker and author. For his foreign and war reporting, ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to the Middle East, he has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism. For his documentary films, he won a British Academy Award and an American Emmy. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. His most recent film, Utopia, will be released in British theaters on November 15, 2013, and will open in Australia in January 2014.

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How the ANC’s Faustian pact sold out South Africa’s poorest

This article is written by Ronnie Kasrils, who was interviewed on Democracy Now on Thursday, December 12. See the Democracy Now interview at http://tinyurl.com/l3jm6gt . “A founder of the armed wing of the African National Congress, Kasrils worked closely with Mandela after first meeting him in 1962. Kasrils was a leading anti-apartheid underground activist, and on the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress from 1987 to 2007. He was also a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party from December 1986 to 2007.”

Guardian (UK), June 23, 2013

How the ANC’s Faustian pact sold out South Africa’s poorest

Read the Guardian article on-line at http://tinyurl.com/m9dv85s

In the early 1990s, we in the leadership of the ANC made a serious error. Our people still paying the price

Lonmin mineworkers pay their respects to Mpuzeni Ngxande, one of the 34 miners killed by police on 16 August near the Marikana mine. ‘The Sharpeville massacre in 1960 prompted me to join the ANC. I found Marikana even more distressing: a democratic South Africa was meant to end such barbarity.’ Photograph: Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images

South Africa’s young people today are known as the Born Free generation. They enjoy the dignity of being born into a democratic society with the right to vote and choose who will govern. But modern South Africa is not a perfect society. Full equality – social and economic – does not exist, and control of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of a few, so new challenges and frustrations arise. Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle like myself are frequently asked whether, in the light of such disappointment, the sacrifice was worth it. While my answer is yes, I must confess to grave misgivings: I believe we should be doing far better.

There have been impressive achievements since the attainment of freedom in 1994: in building houses, crèches, schools, roads and infrastructure; the provision of water and electricity to millions; free education and healthcare; increases in pensions and social grants; financial and banking stability; and slow but steady economic growth (until the 2008 crisis at any rate). These gains, however, have been offset by a breakdown in service delivery, resulting in violent protests by poor and marginalised communities; gross inadequacies and inequities in the education and health sectors; a ferocious rise in unemployment; endemic police brutality and torture; unseemly power struggles within the ruling party that have grown far worse since the ousting of Mbeki in 2008; an alarming tendency to secrecy and authoritarianism in government; the meddling with the judiciary; and threats to the media and freedom of expression. Even Nelson Mandela’s privacy and dignity are violated for the sake of a cheap photo opportunity by the ANC’s top echelon.

Most shameful and shocking of all, the events of Bloody Thursday – 16 August 2012 – when police massacred 34 striking miners at Marikana mine, owned by the London-based Lonmin company. The Sharpeville massacre in 1960 prompted me to join the ANC. I found Marikana even more distressing: a democratic South Africa was meant to bring an end to such barbarity. And yet the president and his ministers, locked into a culture of cover-up. Incredibly, the South African Communist party, my party of over 50 years, did not condemn the police either.

South Africa’s liberation struggle reached a high point but not its zenith when we overcame apartheid rule. Back then, our hopes were high for our country given its modern industrial economy, strategic mineral resources (not only gold and diamonds), and a working class and organized trade union movement with a rich tradition of struggle. But that optimism overlooked the tenacity of the international capitalist system. From 1991 to 1996 the battle for the ANC’s soul got under way, and was eventually lost to corporate power: we were entrapped by the neoliberal economy – or, as some today cry out, we “sold our people down the river”.

What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option; that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalizing South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals. To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption – and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out. The ANC leadership needed to remain true to its commitment of serving the people. This would have given it the hegemony it required not only over the entrenched capitalist class but over emergent elitists, many of whom would seek wealth through black economic empowerment, corrupt practices and selling political influence.

To break apartheid rule through negotiation, rather than a bloody civil war, seemed then an option too good to be ignored. However, at that time, the balance of power was with the ANC, and conditions were favorable for more radical change at the negotiating table than we ultimately accepted. It is by no means certain that the old order, apart from isolated rightist extremists, had the will or capability to resort to the bloody repression envisaged by Mandela’s leadership. If we had held our nerve, we could have pressed forward without making the concessions we did.

It was a dire error on my part to focus on my own responsibilities and leave the economic issues to the ANC’s experts. However, at the time, most of us never quite knew what was happening with the top-level economic discussions. As  Sampie Terreblanche has revealed in his critique, Lost in Transformation, by late 1993 big business strategies – hatched in 1991 at the mining mogul Harry Oppenheimer‘s Johannesburg residence – were crystallizing in secret late-night discussions at the Development Bank of South Africa. Present were South Africa’s mineral and energy leaders, the bosses of US and British companies with a presence in South Africa – and young ANC economists schooled in western economics. They were reporting to Mandela, and were either outwitted or frightened into submission by hints of the dire consequences for South Africa should an ANC government prevail with what were considered ruinous economic policies.

All means to eradicate poverty, which was Mandela’s and the ANC’s sworn promise to the “poorest of the poor”, were lost in the process. Nationalisation of the mines and heights of the economy as envisaged by the Freedom charter was abandoned. The ANC accepted responsibility for a vast apartheid-era debt, which should have been cancelled. A wealth tax on the super-rich to fund developmental projects was set aside, and domestic and international corporations, enriched by apartheid, were excused from any financial reparations. Extremely tight budgetary obligations were instituted that would tie the hands of any future governments; obligations to implement a free-trade policy and abolish all forms of tariff protection in keeping with neo-liberal free trade fundamentals were accepted. Big corporations were allowed to shift their main listings abroad. In Terreblanche’s opinion, these ANC concessions constituted “treacherous decisions that [will] haunt South Africa for generations to come”.

An ANC-Communist party leadership eager to assume political office (myself no less than others) readily accepted this devil’s pact, only to be damned in the process. It has bequeathed an economy so tied in to the neoliberal global formula and market fundamentalism that there is very little room to alleviate the plight of most of our people.

Little wonder that their patience is running out; that their anguished protests increase as they wrestle with deteriorating conditions of life; that those in power have no solutions. The scraps are left go to the emergent black elite; corruption has taken root as the greedy and ambitious fight like dogs over a bone.

In South Africa in 2008 the poorest 50% received only 7.8% of total income. While 83% of white South Africans were among the top 20% of income receivers in 2008, only 11% of our black population were. These statistics conceal unmitigated human suffering. Little wonder that the country has seen such an enormous rise in civil protest.

A descent into darkness must be curtailed. I do not believe the ANC alliance is beyond hope. There are countless good people in the ranks. But a revitalization and renewal from top to bottom is urgently required. The ANC’s soul needs to be restored; its traditional values and culture of service reinstated. The pact with the devil needs to be broken.

At present the impoverished majority do not see any hope other than the ruling party, although the ANC’s ability to hold those allegiances is deteriorating. The effective parliamentary opposition reflects big business interests of various stripes, and while a strong parliamentary opposition is vital to keep the ANC on its toes, most voters want socialist policies, not measures inclined to serve big business interests, more privatization and neoliberal economics.

This does not mean it is only up to the ANC, SACP and Cosatu to rescue the country from crises. There are countless patriots and comrades in existing and emerging organised formations who are vital to the process. Then there are the legal avenues and institutions such as the public protector’s office and human rights commission that – including the ultimate appeal to the constitutional court – can test, expose and challenge injustice and the infringement of rights. The strategies and tactics of the grassroots – trade unions, civic and community organisations, women’s and youth groups – signpost the way ahead with their non-violent and dignified but militant action.

The space and freedom to express one’s views, won through decades of struggle, are available and need to be developed. We look to the Born Frees as the future torchbearers.

This is an edited extract from the new introduction to his autobiography, Armed and Dangerous

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Undocumented Immigrants Reply to Obama’s SF Speech on Immigration

ASPIRE Press Statement, November 25, 2013
(ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented youth organization in the nation.)

Asian-Pacific-Islander Undocumented Immigrants
Respond to Obama’s SF Speech on Immigration Reform

(Read SF Chronicle article on Obama’s SF speech on immigration reform: http://tinyurl.com/m8lhtvk )

San Francisco – Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), the nation’s first undocumented Asian immigrant organization, asked President Obama today at his speech on immigration reform in San Francisco’s Chinatown to stop deportations.

Ju Hong, an ASPIRE member, spoke out during the President’s speech. He asked, “Mr. President, please use your executive authority to halt [deportations]. We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, you have the power to stop deportations.” Members in the crowd joined ASPIRE and SF Dream Team members, who were next to Hong, in chanting, “Yes, you can. Stop the deportations!” Mr. Obama replied, “Actually, I don’t, and that’s why we’re here.”

As the Obama administration approaches almost 2 million deportations, ASPIRE requests the following from President Obama:

“Explain your legal analysis for why you, as the chief executive, do not have the authority to stop deportations today. An average of 1,100 immigrants are deported every day under your administration. How can you support immigration reform while at the same time brutally enforcing our broken immigration system at the rate and speed that you do? You referred to the holidays in your speech. Isn’t this the perfect time to finally exercise your executive powers to halt deportations and keep our families together? And won’t that put much needed pressure on the House to pass real immigration reform? We respectfully await your prompt response.”

The President has broad discretion in law enforcement in general and in immigration law enforcement in particular. This discretion includes: the power to choose whether to bring enforcement actions against specific individuals or categories of people, and the power to interpret existing laws and regulations. The President also has the authority to end or modify existing enforcement programs, including Operation Streamline and Secure Communities. Both are merely programs created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are not required by law. Executive power made possible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which can be expanded more broadly to protect families.

“As an undocumented immigrant, my power comes through my voice. President Obama, you have the executive power to stop the pain in our communities. You said you are just following the law. But as you have acknowledged, our immigration laws are broken. The law also does not require you to deport 400,000 a year. You cannot support us while deporting thousands of our community members every day. We don’t need any more speeches. We need you to take real action,” says Ju Hong, ASPIRE member.

“An executive order from President Obama is the catalyst for immigration reform. As ASPIRE, we have organized countless lobby visits in Washington D.C. and throughout California to try and fix our broken immigration system. We also have hosted townhalls supporting just and humane reform, and put ourselves at risk engaging in civil disobedience. But the suffering of our communities who are facing deportation and languishing in detention centers continues unabated. So we are using our voices to tell you directly what our community needs and what you can do today,” May Liang, campaign organizer and member of ASPIRE.

# # #

ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented youth organization in the nation. We started with a few young people looking for help with their undocumented status at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. ASPIRE has grown to an organization of 50+ members in the last 5 years. We educate people about immigration reform, advocate for more just policies on immigration, and mobilize undocumented youth and allies for actions to push for fair and inclusive immigration.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aspiredreamers Twitter: @Aspiredreamers

Read about the Dignity Campaign, which advocates for real immigration reform: http://dignitycampaign.org/

Read the Dignity Campaign’s analysis of the failings of SB-744, the Senate’s “comprehensive immigration reform” that Obama advocates: http://tinyurl.com/lf69qta

Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is “Capitulating” on Social Security?

Firedoglake, Wednesday, December 19, 2010

Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is “Capitulating” on Social Security?

By: Jane Hamsher

Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is “capitulating” to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security benefits.

And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from?

Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security benefits since the time he took office.  FDL reported on February 12, 2009 that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute.

The birth of the now-ubiquitous “catfood” meme came on February 18, 2009 with this FDL headline:

“Hedge Fund Billionaire Pete Peterson Key Speaker At Obama “Fiscal Responsibility Summit,” Will Tell Us All Why Little Old Ladies Must Eat Cat Food”

As I wrote in August of 2010, Peterson’s keynote spot was the worst kept secret in town; I knew about it because I had been on a conference call with about 40 representatives of various DC interest groups, many of whom had received written notice from the White House that Peterson was scheduled to headline the event. But nobody wanted to go on the record for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the administration in its early days.

After FDL broke the news, Peterson was “disinvited” from the summit. Both he and the White House denied everything, but Robert Kuttner subsequently confirmed in the Washington Post that Peterson had, in fact, been scheduled as the keynote speaker that day.

The administration backed off its immediate plans for reforming Social Security. The New York Times reported that they were “running into opposition from his party’s left” who are “vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees.” But NYT columnist David Brooks reported that shortly after the summit, “four senior members of the administration” called him to say that Obama “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security.”

Undeterred, the White House began telling journalists off the record that they were interested in “establishing an independent commission (outside the congressional committee structure) to look at creating a specific reform plan.”

In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official commission to make recommendations about the nation’s deficit was defeated by the Senate on a bipartisan vote — 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.

After the Senate defeat, on February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating what subsequently became known as the “Catfood Commission” anyway.

Unlike Bill Clinton’s Danforth Commission, which ended in deadlock, Obama set this commission up in such a way that it was stacked with deficit hawks who largely agreed on what needed to be done: 12 of the 18 members were to be appointed by Senate and House leaders in each party, and 6 would be appointed by the President. This virtually guaranteed that Social Security privatization fetishist Paul Ryan would be on the commission, as would Gregg and Conrad.

Among the President’s six appointments:

  • As Bowles’ Republican Co-Chair, the President appointed loose cannon Alan Simpson, the former rich kid GOP Senator from Wyoming once famously said that those who were complaining that Social Security needed protection were “people who live in gated communities and drive their Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount.”
  •  David M. Cote, the Republican CEO of defense contractor Honeywell

The composition of the Commission was conveniently stacked with 14 of the 18 members committed deficit hawks looking to start balancing the federal budget on the backs of old people.

And who supplied the staff to the commission? Why, Pete Peterson.

Are we to believe that the President was blissfully ignorant of the agendas of the people he appointed to this commission, created with the goal of bypassing Congressional process?

With the exception of a few public dog and pony shows, the Commission conducted its deliberations in secret.  But on June 16 of 2010, Alex Lawson of Social Security Works blew a hole in that secrecy on the front page of FDL when he caught Alan Simpson on live streaming video as he was exiting a meeting of the Catfood Commission.   In real time, Alex got Alan Simpson to say what everyone in the room was thinking but wouldn’t say publicly. Simpson told Alex that the commission was “really working on solvency”:

“We’re trying to take care of the lesser people in society and do that in a way without getting into all the flash words you love dig up, like cutting Social Security, which is bullshit. We’re not cutting anything, we’re trying to make it solvent.”

The Catfood Commission ultimately failed it is mission, due in no small part to the work of people like Alex, Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson of Social Security Works who have consistently been out there informing and uniting interest groups and educating the public to the fact that, yes, the White House has an agenda of cutting Social Security benefits.

I don’t know why Obama wants to cut Social Security benefits. I do know that Obama has been honest about it from the start. In January of 2009, even before he took office, he told the Washington Post that he believed Social Security was a broken system and that “entitlement reform” was something he wanted to achieve during his tenure in office:

“Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices–particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare – should be made on his watch. “We’ve kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road,” he said.”

Perhaps Obama wants to do what Bill Clinton couldn’t do.  It’s clear the oligarch class has decided that this is what must happen, and that in order to be considered a “serious” person, this is what a President must do.  Perhaps Obama simply wants to be considered a “serious person” by those in the ruling class.

But it’s clear that he did not arrive at the decision to “reform” Social Security and cut benefits because he is a poor negotiator, or because of Republican arm twisting.  It defies all logic and reason to look at his actions over the years and think that the President is now “capitulating” on Social Security.

The President has been very forthcoming about the fact that cutting Social Security benefits is something he wants to do.  When he said during the debate that he didn’t differ from Mitt Romney on entitlement reform, he meant it.   It’s time for people to remove the rose-colored glasses and stop projecting their own feelings on to the man.  It’s time to take him at his word.

Short link to this posting:  http://wp.me/p3xLR-u5

Here’s Real History in the Making: Fighting to Save SF City College

Here’s Real “History in the Making”:
The People Fight Back to Save City College
Friday, January 11, 9–10:30 AM
SF City College, Ocean Campus
Between Diego Rivera Theater & Visual Arts Bldg.
MUNI # 9X, 9AX, 9BX, 29, 36, 43, 49, 54, and K
Balboa Park BART 3 blocks away on Geneva
See map of campus: http://tinyurl.com/aoq7yp6

Contact:
Allan Fisher, afisher800@gmail.com
Wendy Kaufmyn ,(510) 714-8687, kaufmyn@aol.com

628x471

Students cross Phelan Avenue at the main campus of S.F. City College, which is under fire by the accrediting commission. Photo: Megan Farmer, The Chronicle / SF

City College of San Francisco students, staff, teachers and department chairs will picket and boycott the interim chancellor’s welcome address which traditionally kicks off the new semester. Instead of listening to Dr. Thelma Scott-Skillman’s speech, “History in the Making”, City College’s community will make its own history by conducting a press conference and rally addressing the people of San Francisco.

The people of San Francisco overwhelmingly showed a vote of confidence in CCSF by passing Proposition A, a parcel tax specifically dedicated to offset budget cuts, prevent worker layoffs, maintain essential classes, programs and student support services. However, the district is intending to use the funds for other purposes, namely paying high-priced consultants and bolstering reserves.

During this event people will be asked to sign a Pledge of Resistance stating their intention to take drastic action if the district doesn’t spend Proposition A funds (or reserves) as intended.

“San Francisco voters sent a clear message of affirmation for City College’s mission to serve the whole community,” said Leslie Simon, instructor in Women’s Studies and former department chair. “We denounce the district’s downsizing our mission, downsizing our college and limiting student accessibility.”

Allan Fisher, ESL instructor, insisted that, “The administration has failed to promote student enrollment, thereby creating a ‘budget crisis’. Meanwhile they are spending excessive amounts on administrative salaries, high paid consultants and lucrative interim administrative positions.”

Wendy Kaufmyn, Engineering instructor of 29 years, said, “ We need to remain steadfast in our commitment to the California Master Plan and its vision of free education for all and to AB1725, legislation which encourages an administrative role by department chairs elected by their peers.”

We accept the accreditation commission’s legitimate suggestions, we will not accept the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges undermining of mission of our community college. We demand a commitment to the California Master Plan and its vision of free education for all, and to AB1725, encouraging an administrative role by peer-elected department chairs.

Speakers at the action will denounce:

* how Proposition A funds are not being used as the voters intended for classes, programs, and student services, and to prevent layoffs

* the limiting of student accessibility through the downsizing of CCSF

* the narrowing of CCSF’s mission to serve the whole community

* the failure of the administration to effectively promote student enrollment, thereby creating a “budget crisis”

* the administration efforts to limit democratic culture and institute an authoritarian, top-down business model for CCSF

* the dismantling of the Department Chair structure, and the negative impact on the “diversity departments”

* the excessive spending on administrative salaries and high paid consultants

* the unilateral take-backs (an additional 9% salary cut from employees on top 2.85%) after six years of employee pay freezes and concessions

* the district proposals to limit or terminate health benefits and pro-rata pay for part-time employees

* the use of CCSF funds for lucrative interim administrative hiring positions

* the mantra of productivity expressed by the administration under the name “enrollment management” that negatively impacts educational quality

* the chronic misrepresentation of CCSF in the media

* the taking away of power from the elected local Board of Trustees

Short Link to this posting:   http://wp.me/p3xLR-tW


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