News and Views

Patrick Jones “spent the last 12 years contesting a sentence that ultimately killed him,” one of his former lawyers said.
April 5, 2020, 8:35 AM EDT
By Rich Schapiro

In the months before the coronavirus infiltrated the U.S., a 49-year-old inmate began drafting a letter inside the walls of a federal prison in Louisiana.

The man, Patrick Jones, had been locked up for nearly 13 years on a nonviolent drug charge. He hadn’t seen his youngest son, then 16, since the boy was a toddler.

Patrick Jones contracted coronavirus at a low-security prison in Oakdale, La.Courtesy of the Jones Family

Patrick Jones contracted coronavirus at a low-security prison in Oakdale, La. Courtesy of the Jones Family

“I feel that my conviction and sentence was also a punishment that my child has had to endure also and there are no words for how remorseful I am,” Jones wrote to U.S. District Judge Alan Albright in a letter dated Oct. 15. “Years of ‘I am sorry’ don’t seem to justify the absence of a father or the chance of having purpose in life by raising my child.”

Jones was arrested in 2007 after cops found 19 grams of crack and 21 grams of powder cocaine inside the apartment he shared with his wife in Temple, Texas. His wife testified against him and was spared a prison sentence.

Jones wasn’t so fortunate. He was ultimately ordered to spend 27 years behind bars, in part because he lived within 1,000 feet of a junior college and already had a long rap sheet, mostly burglaries that he committed when he was a teenager living on the streets.

He was now writing the judge in the hope of receiving a sentence reduction through the newly signed First Step Act, which offered relief to some inmates convicted of nonviolent drug crimes.

“My child having his own experience of raising his own child would validate my life experience and give meaning to my existence in this world, because 83582-180 has no meaning,” he wrote, referring to his federal inmate number.

“It is just a number to be forgotten in time. But Mr. Patrick Estell Jones is a very good person. Caring, hard working, free and clean of drugs and a lot smarter now, with a balanced outlook on life.” .. Click here to read the full article.


 Kazimir Malevich, Children on the Grass, 1908 (Pushkin Museum State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow).

Kazimir Malevich, Children on the Grass, 1908 (Pushkin Museum State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow).

Kazimir Malevich, Children on the Grass, 1908 (Pushkin Museum State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow).

In Light of the Global Pandemic, Focus Attention on the People.

International Assembly of the Peoples and Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

[https://www.thetricontinental.org/declaration-covid19/]

SARS-CoV-2 or COVID19, now declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation, has begun to wreak havoc in large parts of the world, with other parts waiting in anticipation. We are in a real struggle, which needs total mobilisation; a struggle that needs to put life before profit. We will only win this struggle – as China has already done – if our people are united and disciplined, if governments earn our respect by their actions, and if we act in solidarity across the globe.

Global debt is at $250 trillion, with corporate debt already enormous. On the other hand, there are trillions of dollars swirling around stock markets and in tax havens. As economic activity contracts, corporations will line up for bailouts; this is not the best use of precious human resources in this time. In the midst of this, that financial markets remain open is a failure of imagination. The drop in the value of stocks – in the markets from the Hang Seng to Wall Street – is merely a way to intensify global social anxiety, since the health of the stock market has come to be seen – erroneously – as an indicator of economic health in general. .. Click here to read the full article.


Welfare rights advocates are urging the state to install emergency water stations and distribute sanitizing products in Detroit and Flint to aid vulnerable residents without running water amid the national coronavirus outbreak. The People’s Water Board Coalition on Friday said it’s awaiting action from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to a letter asking the governor to pull together resources, including the National Guard, to set up water stations and provide bleach and other cleaning supplies.

The group further warned it is “deeply concerned” that Detroit’s water department will be unable to carry out a water restoration plan for homes in the city that have burst pipes, lead contamination and plumbing worries after having been shut off over nonpayment for weeks to years. .. Click here to view the rest of the article on The Detroit News.


Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein worries that the Coronavirus pandemic will provide another opportunity for neoliberal elites to impose more of their right wing agenda on a citizenry scared and confused by this mysterious and dangerous disease. Klein of course is expanding on her award winning Shock Doctrine Naomi The Shock Doctrine. Klein showed how corporate elites worldwide have repeatedly and brutally used “the public’s disorientation following a collective shock — wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters — to push through radical pro-corporate measures.”

Klein is surely correct to be concerned. President Trump proposed temporary cuts in the payroll tax as afiscal stimulus. This act would in effect partially defund Social Security, forcing Democrats to choose between a tax increase or reductions in or means testing the program. Turning Social Security into a means tested program would undermine its popularity and probably destroy it, a long time goal of conservative epublicans and neolibereal Democrats. Fortunately enough politicians smelled the rat and this idea does not seem to have gone far. If elites do not always get what they want, it is also the case that crisis does provide opportunities for progressive activism. Social Security itself was born out of the economic and political turmoil of the thirties. In the context of the Covid19 epidemic Medicare for All has become more widely discussed than at any point in its development. Articulating the positive contribution to everyone’s health and fending off some of its more devious opponents is especially important now. .. Click here to read the rest of the alternet.org article.


Coronavirus and the 2020 election: A collapsing economy is a disaster for the incumbent

Here’s what political scientists have learned about how the economy influences presidential elections.

Is the cratering economy going to damage President Donald Trump’s chances of reelection? It’s a complicated question with no simple answer, but the signs point to yes.

We don’t yet know how badly the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic will harm the US economy. It seems likely, though, that widespread “social distancing” that has led to school and event cancellations and work-from-home edicts will devastate demand for services like restaurants, taxis, flights, hotels, etc., and make some in-person services difficult to perform in the first place (who wants to go to a yoga class right now?).

Click here for the Vox.com post.


Open, nonviolent revolt against the oligarchic state is our only hope. (Photo: Mr. Fish)

Open, nonviolent revolt against the oligarchic state is our only hope. (Photo: Mr. Fish)

Class: The Little Word the Elites Want You to Forget

The culture wars give the oligarchs, both Democrats and Republicans, the cover to continue the pillage.

Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Karl Marx grounded their philosophies in the understanding that there is a natural antagonism between the rich and the rest of us. The interests of the rich are not our interests. The truths of the rich are not our truths. The lives of the rich are not our lives. Great wealth not only breeds contempt for those who do not have it but it empowers oligarchs to pay armies of lawyers, publicists, politicians, judges, academics and journalists to censure and control public debate and stifle dissent. Neoliberalism, deindustrialization, the destruction of labor unions, slashing and even eliminating the taxes of the rich and corporations, free trade, globalization, the surveillance state, endless war and austerity—the ideologies or tools used by the oligarchs to further their own interests — are presented to the public as natural law, the mechanisms for social and economic progress, even as the oligarchs dynamite the foundations of a liberal democracy and exacerbate a climate crisis that threatens to extinguish human life.

Click here for the Commondreams.com post.


How Tenants Expanded Renter Protections to 8 Million Families

ACCE Board President, Sasha Graham, after speaking at Governor Nesom’s signing of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019. Photo by San Francisco Chronicle, Scott Strazzante

One week ago today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (Assembly Bill 1482) into law as the largest expansion of tenant protections in recent history. The bill will provide protections to 8 million tenants who previously had none by capping rent increases at 5% plus inflation and stopping unfair evictions. This is an incredible victory for the tenant’s rights’ movement, but it did not happen overnight, by magic, or merely by the goodwill of politicians. It happened because of years of tenant organizing.

This victory was both years in the making and the result of an exciting broad-based coalition and the work of literally hundreds of organizations and thousands of tenant activists, including people like me. This campaign was led by grassroots community organizations in low-income communities of color and, also garnered the active engagement of labor, seniors, environmental groups and even segments of the business community. .. Click here to view the full article.


john-legend billboard

John Legend

Stepping Up to Fight America’s Shame!

Young people have stepped up to shut down police abuse, and that is allowing the nation to stand up taller in a myriad of ways. Police abuse is part of America’s Shame! Grammy-winning entertainer John Legend is one of many who have stepped up to support #BlackLivesMatter. Do your part to end this piece of America’s Shame. CLICK HERE for a Washington Post blog post on what white people can do to support Black Lives Matter.

Protestors hold signs at a rally in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday, March 17, 2009. Advocates of a single-payer health care system rallyed outside a Burlington building where a White House-organized forum is scheduled. About 125 people waving signs and chanting have gathered outside the Davis Center of the University of Vermont campus to promote their cause.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Protestors hold signs at a rally in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday, March 17, 2009. Advocates of a single-payer health care system rallyed outside a Burlington. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Health Care For All!

Labor leader says health care for all urgently needed to end corporate criminality in the for profit health care system. Lawrence J. Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union and Member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, says despite Obamacare, staggering annual increases in health insurance premium costs are still with us. Single payer health care, or Medicare For All, is the only system which will end “this catastrophic crisis for working people.” The skyrocketing costs of health insurance and health care treatment are pushing working American families well past the breaking point. There is a limit to what working people can afford to pay for what should be a human right. Click HERE to read his full statement.

OakCouncilProtest2

Protestors at Oakland City Council

Oakland City Council Secretly Warned Luxury Apartment Deal Is Illegal But Approves It Anyway

For five months, Oakland’s City Council has ignored the city attorney’s ruling that it would be illegal to sell an acre of public land to a wealthy developer for a luxury apartment complex, according to the East Bay Express. The Council approved the deal anyway.

CLICK HERE to read how the Council and Mayor Libby Schaaf dismissed a state law requiring priority for affordable housing on public land. City Attorney Barbara Parker gave her opinion to Council members in a closed-door session that city officials have never made public. The Council approved the deal in two votes, despite loud public protests against the Lake Merritt area plan that shut down a Council meeting back in May.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Exposes How Corporate Dictatorship Works

elizabeth-warren-630x4201

A Washington Post video of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s exposé of the megabank Citigroup, one of Wall St. biggest taxpayer bailout beneficiaries, is helpful in understanding three things:

1 – How wealthy and powerful corporations use their money and power to create a corporate dictatorship, where elected officials gladly do their bidding.

2 – How substantial majorities in both major parties are captives of the corporate dictatorship. They act as if they believe that what’s best for corporations is also best for workers.

3 – Why workers need a class party of their own, one that unlike either major party will speak up loudly and fight for policies that are good for the workers that our national corporate dictatorship is waging war on.

As California’s Drought Intensifies, Will Water Flow To The Richest And The Most Powerful?

California’s three-year drought is creating conflicts over who gets water. Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency in January 2014 after the state had its lowest recorded rainfall ever. Even if there’s normal rainfall this season, competition for increasingly scarce water is likely to increase water theft, escalate conflicts, drive up prices and shortchange low income working families.

As one analyst wrote, “Numerous companies are poised to take advantage of the water crisis. Instead of protecting existing water supplies, implementing stricter regulations, and coming up with novel ways to capture rainwater, or desalinizing seawater, the corporate agenda is ready, like a snake coiled, to make trillions off your thirst.” Among the developments:

  • NASA satellite studies show California groundwater levels at record lows, particularly in the Central Valley because of increased groundwater pumping to support agriculture.
  • As rural and small town wells go dry, low income working families can’t afford to drill deeper to get their water back. Like the Detroit residents whose water has been shut off, many are dependent on the kindness of family, friends, and even strangers.
  • Farmers are paying record high prices for water from the state and federal water projects and face increased competition from heavy corporate water users. This hurts small farmers much worse than agribusiness corporate farms.
  • The Nestle Corp., one of the biggest multinational vendors of bottled water, lobbied at the World Water Forum in 2000 to stop water from being declared a universal right, even though people can’t live without it.
  • Water theft is increasing throughout California.

Read more here.

Two Detroits, Separate and Unequal: A Journey Across A City Divided

The “Grand Bargain” plan that brought Detroit out of bankruptcy is seen by many residents as almost certain to guarantee the continuation of two Detroits, a first-class downtown surrounded by a few wealthy neighborhoods and an increasingly uninhabitable, mostly poor and minority rest of the city.

This story explores what led to Detroit becoming, in its words: “a blueprint for the creation of a ‘self-acknowledged, self-defined second-class city,’ one where the state guarantees only the most basic services to most of its inhabitants: ‘some police,’ ‘some fire protection,’ and ‘a bulldozer department’ to raze abandoned houses, while the remaining essential services will be available only on a private basis for those who can pay.

“That Detroit is a more than 80% African American metropolis makes the idea of its rise from bankruptcy with second-class status all the more problematic. As (Wayne State Law Professor Peter) Hammer explains, the plan for Detroit bears an eerie back-to-the-future resemblance to the famed Kerner Commission report of 1968, issued by a presidentially appointed panel in the wake of the urban rebellions that were then sweeping the country. Its findings were that the nation was moving toward two societies: black and white, separate and unequal.

“‘That was viewed as a call to action, as unacceptable in 1968,’ comments Hammer. Nearly a half-century later, he adds, it’s portrayed as progress.” Read the whole story here.

DetroitWaterProtest

Detroit Shuts Off Water to Poor Folks Again, Ignores U.N. Declaration That Water is a Human Right. Flint Ignores Toxic Lead in Its Drinking Water.

Michigan’s “screw the poor and reward the big financiers” forces are at it again in the low-income sections of Detroit and Flint. In early July Detroit began it’s third wave of crackdowns on families that owe $150 or more and are 2 months or more behind on their water bills.

The city estimates that 21,000 residential accounts are delinquent. A crackdown last year brought United Nations observers to Detroit to declare that Detroit was violating the human right to water by shutting the tap on people too poor to pay. Detroit’s poverty rate is estimated it 39%. Read more at Voice of Detroit.

Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley reported last year that, “. . . in some fashion or another, the water department will be monetized for the benefit of Detroit . . . For the benefit of Detroit does not mean for the city’s inhabitants, but for its creditors.”

In Flint, which has been pumping polluted water from the Flint River, there are continuing complaints of disgusting tap water that sickens people, despite city assurances that the water is safe. The ACLU of Michigan says Flint uses inaccurate testing methods that almost guarantee the worst water pollution will not be detected.

Read the ACLU’s investigation HERE. And see an earlier Associated Press story headlined, “I Don’t Even Let My Dogs Drink This Water”

Police killings poster

America’s Shame! Young people have stepped up to shut down police abuse, and that is allowing the nation to stand up taller in a myriad of ways. Grammy-winning entertainer John Legend – and many others – has stepped up to support #BlackLivesMatter. Do your part to end this practice of America’s Shame. See the Washington Post blog on what white people can do to support Black Lives Matter.

Two California Regulators Fired After Oil Industry Complains

Talk about corporations controlling government! It’s come to light that back in 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown fired two state regulators of California’s oil industry who were just trying to make the oil industry follow state laws. As the website capitalandmain.com reports, they were fired “for pissing off the oil industry.” CLICK HERE to read about it.

PAIN, an “All Lives Matter” poem

by Maureen D. Taylor, Chairperson, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

Maureen Taylor

I live in Detroit, a full time zone apart

Why does this latest death so affect my heart?

Little slices of Motown are choked off every day

Bankruptcy, no water, too many tragedies to say.

No work, less hope, police brutality now and then

Something about Trayvon, Michael, and Eric create a frightening trend.

It might look like the color thing is the over-riding theme

It is the historical brush that paints over the American dream.

A deeper look reveals that color is just the front door

That takes us to protecting and serving the 1% for sure.

The police are supposed to protect and serve, and these officers did not do.

For these residents and others were murdered by a lawless crew.

What these names and all the others share as each one died

Is their working class connection to which each soul is forever tied.

They come from communities of courage where working families strive

The salt of the earth, the nation’s blood, now life forever denied.

The legacy this country ignores, the haves and the have-nots exist

We grasp this fact soon, or peace and tranquility will be constantly missed.

I expect more pain, more tears until we unite on the basis of class

When that moment arrives, we can stop being kicked in the ass.

I live in Detroit, under attack,  dictators in charge of my nights and days

But the sleeping giant is awaking up as we enter the future’s next phase.

All of this misery stops, the 1% is out of luck

As we get smarter, we save the world, and force these corporate pirates to ask, WTF!!!

It ain’t gonna stop unless we better understand the world

So we must demand freedom and unity for every little boy and girl.  We do!!!

…”You get what you organize to take…”

Click Here to see a video of Maureen Taylor discussing the plight of Detroit at Netroots Nation.

43 Mexican Students Dead – and Undead

The Week That Was from Latin America and Caribbean Photo Gallery

Mexico’s bloody history has buried many seeds of resistance, which have sprouted in all sorts of creative grassroots-led alternatives that envision a better life. Charlotte María Sáenz explores the seeds of resistance sprouting around the 43 Mexican students who were attacked by Mexican police Sept. 26 and turned over to a terrorist drug gang. Mexican authorities say the students were killed and their bodies burned to ashes. But their parents, who live in participatory assemblies of grassroots indigenous communities and make decisions collectively, are insisting on their own reality.  Read the story here.

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