Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The battle between Iran's theocrats and bus drivers continues in earnest in that country. I'm surprised President Bush hasn't noticed since he is a long time champion of workers rights...and the cow jumped over the moon. The following comes from WorldPress.org.
Striking Iranian Bus Drivers Jailed
Niusha Boghrati, Prague, Czech Republic, February 6, 2006
Human Rights Watch condemned the recent incarceration of hundreds of bus drivers in Tehran and called on the Iranian government to release them immediately.
Approximately 500 drivers, bus organization workers and union organizers were arrested by the Iranian police on Jan. 28, and remain in detention.
The detainees were arrested after organizing a strike to protest the imprisoning of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company's director, Mansour Ossanlu, and to demand recognition of union activities by the Iranian authorities.
This was the second time in less than two months that the bus drivers decided to strike. The first strike occurred in early Dec. 2005, organized by Ossanlu. On Dec. 22, shortly after the strike, he was arrested at his home.
The reason for the first strike was the Iranian government's refusal to recognize the bus union's rights. The regime has refused to recognize the legitimacy of such unions.
More than 40 days have passed since Ossanlu's arrest and he remains in the highly notorious Evin prison in Tehran without any official charges being leveled against him or permission to meet with his advocate.
The unhealthy conditions under which Ossanlu is being held, particularly given a serious eye condition that requires immediate medical care, added to the demands of the bus union and resulted in another strike across the city of Tehran during the past week. This strike, however, was crushed by the police through mass arrests.
Trampling on workers' rights
"Iran's new government boasts of representing the interests of working men and women. Their violent crack down on the bus workers' union makes these words ring hollow," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.
Gholamreza Mirzaii, the union's spokesman, stated that their requests are plain and simple:
1. Freedom for all the detainees
2. Freedom for union activities
3. The signing of an authentic agreement between union representatives and the ministry of labor
According to Article 26 of the Iranian constitution, the government is obligated to guarantee freedom of association, "including the right to form and join trade unions."
The most shocking of the violent actions by the Iranian authorities came when the police arrested the wives and children of some union activists, using them as bait to capture the strike organizers. Many of the wives were subject to physical violence during this time, as reported in many media outlets outside of Iran.
"Although we have firmly stated and clarified that our demands and actions are not political, we have suffered from political labels directed at us by the regime. We have been tolerant of all the injustice applied to us, but beating our children and their mothers, and intimidating them is one thing we will no longer stand," Mirzaii said.
The union announced a one-day strike last Friday to protest the detentions.
Mirzaii, who has already been called by the Revolutionary Court of Iran, is in danger of being arrested has said he will start a hunger strike as soon as he is captured.
"I will neither eat nor drink, until the release of all my colleagues," he declared.
Iranian prisons have witnessed a large number of hunger strikes, the most well-known being that of Akbar Ganji, the Iranian journalist who revealed details about a series of murders victimizing journalists and political reformists, directed by Iran's intelligence services about seven years ago. Ganji suffered through a serious health crisis after a long, 80-day hunger strike while imprisoned in Tehran, but his condition has not engendered any flexibility from the judicial system.
Eight other prisoners in Karaj's Rajaee Shahr prison, all jailed on political charges, have also undertaken long hunger strikes, in addition to being subjected to the dreadful conditions inside the prison, according to their spokesman in Amsterdam, Sadgh Naghashkar.
Hadi Ghaemi, the Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch says that there is special concern about Iran in international circles. "There are a lot of worries concerning the possibility that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran might want to take advantage of the situation which has been created by the atomic energy crisis in order to intensify the pressures inside the country towards activists. The case of the bus drivers could be counted as an example of this," Ghaemi said.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Iranian government to stop its persecution of the bus union workers and their families, not to retaliate against the workers, and to guarantee their safe return.
Copyright © 1997-2006 Worldpress.org.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Thirty years is one hell of a long time...The following is from Coastal Post On Line.
Incident at Oglala, 30 Years Later
The Long Struggle of Leonard Peltier
By Joe Allen and Paul D'Amato
Leonard Peltier, one of America's longest-serving political prisoners, turned sixty-one-years-old on September 12, 2005. Peltier has spent nearly thirty years in federal prison, the result of one of the most infamous political frame-ups in modern US history. He was convicted of killing two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Believing he could not receive a fair trial in the US, he fled to Canada. The Canadian government extradited him in 1976, and he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to two life terms in 1977.
Many of today's progressive-minded people will find themselves unfamiliar with the details as well as the significance of the Peltier case. This is a tragedy, given the widespread opposition to the Patriot Act and the heightened fear of political repression by opponents of the Bush administration. The rush of events since 9/11, instead of bringing the Peltier case back into focus, seems to have pushed it further into the margins of political consciousness, where it has unfortunately been for two decades. This is something that needs to be corrected.
Leonard Peltier, a citizen of the Lakota and Anishinabe nations, was an active member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the early 1970s in the upper Midwest, where he was born, and on the West Coast, where he lived and worked off-and-on for several years. AIM was a product of the militant struggles of the 1960s against racism and the Vietnam War (many of its members were Vietnam Veterans). Its most important leaders during the seventies-Dennis Banks and Russell Means-were inspired by the civil rights movement and, more importantly, the Black Panthers. Formed in 1968 by Anishinabe Indian activists in Minneapolis, AIM quickly sprouted chapters across the country, and moved from civil rights to issues of Indian sovereignty and pride.
Two events put AIM on the map. In 1972, on the eve of Richard Nixon's landslide reelection to the presidency, AIM led a nationwide caravan, called the "Trail of Broken Treaties," that culminated in the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters in Washington, DC The BIA had long been a source of hatred for its flagrant embezzlement of funds that were supposed to go to impoverished Native Americans and for its legalizing of the theft of reservation land.
The following year, at the request of its residents, AIM led the armed occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation, the site of the historic massacre of Sioux men, women, and children in 1890. The event marked the coming together of urban Indian radicals with reservation traditionals who resented the corruption and abuse of the BIA-sponsored tribal administration, as well as its denigration of native traditions. During the ensuing seventy-one-day standoff, BIA police, FBI, and US military fired 500,000 rounds of ammunition at the entrenched Indian encampment, killing two AIM members. While the siege provided little in tangible concessions from the federal government, it succeeded in publicizing AIM and generated a surge of popular interest in Native American issues and history. It also resulted in AIM becoming a greater target of ferocious government repression.
The FBI led the attack on AIM as part of its Counter Intelligence Program (COINTEPRO), begun in the mid-1960s under its director J. Edgar Hoover, and used with terrifying effectiveness against the Black Panther Party. COINTELPRO employed many dirty tricks against its targets including wiretapping, assassination, and the use of agents provocateurs-all in coordination with state and local police forces. The goal, according to FBI documents, was to "neutralize" the leadership. AIM members across the country faced constant harassment and frame-ups that drained the organization's resources and, eventually, broke its leadership. One of the AIM members caught up in this dragnet was Leonard Peltier.
During Wounded Knee II, Pine Ridge Tribal Chair Dickie Wilson formed the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (literally and boastfully GOON), paid for with a $62,000 BIA stipend, and launched a reign of terror on AIM and its supporters at Pine Ridge. Not by coincidence, at this time the BIA was interested in using Wilson to sign over a portion of the reservation known to be rich in uranium and molybdenum to the US Forest Service. >From 1973 to 1976, more than sixty AIM members and supporters, many of them traditionals, were murdered without a finger lifted by the state government or the FBI to investigate their deaths. A new generation of rabidly racist and self-proclaimed "Indian fighters" emerged in South Dakota led by William Janklow, who declared: "The only way to deal with the Indian problem in South Dakota is to put a gun to the AIM leaders' heads and pull the trigger." He would eventually become South Dakota's attorney general, governor, and, later, the state's only congressman. (Last year, Janklow finally stepped down from his House seat after he was convicted and sentenced to 100 days in jail for slamming his speeding car into, and killing, a motorcyclist. In addition to his history of racism, Janklow apparently has a long history of reckless driving-thirteen traffic citations since 1990-and the judge in the case could have given Janklow ten years. But witnesses convinced him of Janklow's good character and solid contributions to the community.)
In the desperate and highly charged atmosphere of repression after Wounded Knee II, the traditional leaders on Pine Ridge appealed to AIM for help to defend themselves. Leonard Peltier was among the dozens of AIM members and supporters who went to Pine Ridge. AIM also provided support such as cutting firewood, collecting water, and preparing meals for the many elderly residents who lived in the most remote parts of the reservation. They provided protection from attacks by Wilson's GOONs, which usually took place late at night, making late evening hours a nightmare of gunfire and screams for help. AIM activists, including Peltier, were armed for their own protection as well as that of the residents.
What has now gone down in history as "the incident at Oglala" occurred on June 26, 1975, when two unmarked cars chased a red truck onto the Jumping Bull compound near the village of Oglala. Without identifying themselves, the FBI agents in pursuit of the red pick-up began shooting at it. The FBI later claimed that the agents were in pursuit of an Indian named Jimmy Eagle, for allegedly stealing cowboy boots. When the agents then began firing on the ranch, Peltier and others, who were defending the compound against GOON violence, fired back, not knowing who the men were or what they wanted. Within minutes, more than 150 FBI SWAT team members, Bureau of Indian Affairs police, and GOONs had surrounded the ranch. The quick response has led many to believe that the "incident" was a deliberate provocation by the FBI.
Peltier and others escaped the encirclement. When the FBI occupied the ranch they found AIM member Joe Killsright Stuntz and two FBI agents, Jack Koler and Ron Williams, shot dead at close range. No one has ever been convicted for killing Stuntz.
The largest manhunt in FBI history ensued, eventually resulting in the arrest of three AIM members, Dino Butler, Robert Robideau, and Leonard Peltier, for the murders of Koler and Williams. None of the defendants ever denied being at the Jumping Bull ranch that day or firing in self-defense, but all denied killing the FBI agents. Butler and Robideau were the first arrested and charged, and the first sent to trial while Peltier fought extradition in Canada. Robideau and Butler were tried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the request of the US Department of Justice, who believed that the white working class and lower middle class residents of this small provincial city would easily convict them. On July 16, 1976, to the shock of the government attorneys, the jury found Butler and Robideau not guilty of murder, accepting the argument for self-defense put forward by their famed radical attorney, William Kunstler.
In their humiliation, the FBI was determined to convict Peltier, who was captured by the Mounties on February 6, 1976. To obtain Peltier's extradition, the US government presented to the federal Canadian court affidavits signed by Myrtle Poor Bear, who claimed to be Peltier's lover and to have witnessed Peltier shoot the FBI agents. Though it was later revealed that Poor Bear's testimony was coerced out of her by the FBI, the Canadian court turned Peltier over to the United States.
In March 1977, Peltier went to trial before an all-white jury in North Dakota and a hostile Judge Paul Benson, who refused to allow use of the self-defense argument and ruled repeatedly in favor of the government. The judge and prosecution suppressed all evidence favorable to Peltier. Even though the lead prosecutor, the aptly named Assistant US Attorney Lynn Crooks, failed to produce a single witness who could identify Peltier as the gunman who killed the agents, the jury found Peltier guilty and he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. In the nearly thirty years since Peltier's false conviction, the case against him has continued to unravel. For example, a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in the early 1980s turned up a concealed ballistics report showing that the gun Peltier allegedly used during the incident could not be matched with the bullet casing found near the agents. In 1985, when the Eighth Circuit Court held oral arguments on a motion filed by Peltier for a new trial, Lynn Crooks admitted, "we can't prove who shot those agents." Though the court found that the jury in Peltier's trial might have acquitted him had the FBI not withheld this evidence, they refused to grant him a new trial.
In 2000, when President Clinton announced that he was considering clemency for Peltier, he began making plans for his release. His friends even began planning to build him a new house. But after the FBI mobilized a campaign that included a march of 500 agents in front of the White House, Clinton backed down. Peltier's appeals have been denied more than ten times, and he remains in prison. But his spirit is not broken. Not long after Clinton's betrayal, he wrote:
Since that dark Saturday, I have managed to get up and dust myself off, and begin to lift my spirits once more. I am just as determined now to fight for my freedom as I was on February 6, 1976 when I was first arrested. I will not give up. This is the second time in the span of my incarceration that I made it to the top of the hill and saw that freedom was in view, only to be kicked right back down to the bottom again.
Peltier's experience in prison has been one of constant harassment and hardship. A Leonard Peltier Defense Committee statement aptly noted that, Over the last year, Leonard has suffered the passing of several relatives and been denied many basic human rights. He has been placed in solitary confinement for no reason, denied phone privileges, religious rights, and visitation privileges, and was even unable to write letters to family and friends. Peltier's health has deteriorated in the last year and he has repeatedly been denied adequate medicine. Without reason, Leonard has been moved to several prisons with no concern for his health.
On June 30, Peltier was moved, without notice to his family or his attorneys, to the federal prison at Terre Haute, Indiana, from the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas. And on August 15-despite ailing health-he was moved to the federal prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In 2008, Leonard Peltier comes up for parole, but the FBI and other forces will resist his release tooth and nail. If we are going to get any measure of justice for Leonard Peltier, we will have to be out in front of the White House when the time comes.
To find out more about Leonard Peltier's case, go to www.freepeltier.org/. The best books to read on Leonard Peltier's case are Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, and The Trial of Leonard Peltier by Jim Messerschmidt. Peltier's own book, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, is also excellent.
Joe Allen is a member of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago. Paul D'Amato is associate editor of the ISR.
One of the things made clear by Hurricane Katrina is you can't sit around hoping the government at any level will have your interests at heart...not if you are just a regular person anyway.
The following is from the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition (PHRF). PHRF is working to build a People’s movement – a movement of grassroots persons disproportionately impacted by Hurricane Katrina and the dehumanizing treatment they received from local, state, and federal officials.
By grassroots, "we are referring to those members of our community who are: (1) surviving families of people who perished; (2) surviving families of those who are still missing family members; (3) survivors of the Superdome & Convention Center; (4) survivors of those left on the interstates & the Crescent City Connection; (5) survivors of sexual and law enforcement violence; (6) homeowners in the 9th ward (both upper & lower); (7) renters who are being evicted and; (8) low income displaced people/survivors of the New Orleans and Gulf Coast Region."
New Orleans Residents Confront Governor Blanco
Press Conference and Rally:
Monday Feb 6, 2006 at 2 PM
Sanchez Center, Corner of N. Claiborne and Caffin
New Orleans, LA Lower 9th Ward
Contact: Sakura Kone 917-440-9679 email@example.com
New Orleans Residents Confront Governor Blanco
Express Concerns about Land Grabs and Unfair Rebuild Plan
Residents of the 9th Ward and other low-lying areas plan to confront Governor Blanco during her New Orleans visit today. The Lower 9th Ward Community Council, New Orleans Area Survivor Council, State Representative Charmaine March, Common Ground and The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund are organizing to continue to make the voices of survivors heard in the struggle for a just rebuild.
Those who have returned so far would like their communities to come back and are currently working on a plan to return home that includes residents from severely damaged areas. This plan includes a community-led rebuilding project which has already begun to put homes back together.
“Right now the government is making it very difficult for folks to
return and start rebuilding in this area. We need some basic services like electricity to really get going, and we need to have our
community and our right to return respected”, said Joe Ringo of the
Lower 9th Ward Community Council. “We also need money and believe that Block Grants should be made directly to residents.”
In order to make rebuilding possible, survivors are calling for:
· Construction of Category 5 levees to protect their neighborhoods
· The return of all services immediately including power, clean water and sewage
· An end to the “green zone” plan which would turn African American communities into marshland while lower lying white areas are rebuilt
· The presentation of a more realistic flood map which portrays
normal flooding rather than levee breaches
· Block grants which put real estate under community control, not in the hands of wealthy developers or Washington appointees
· Long and short term housing options with community control,
including secure FEMA trailers
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Thow Me Something Mister!
January 5, 2006
I attended the second line parade in New Orleans a few weeks ago that was unfortunately marred by a shooting at the end. The shooting overshadowed a much bigger story. By the time the second line had turned down Orleans Avenue off of Claiborne, there were at least 10,000 people marching in the street, a solid mass of people--black people--from Claiborne to Broadway. Near the end of the march they were chanting "we're back," "we're back." A cultural event had been turned into a political protest--in quintessentially New Orleans style. Contrast this outpouring to the poor turnout for recent traditional street protests staged in support of levees (100 people showed up for the protest at the Army Corp). What the second line parade did was what every successful social and religious movement in the past has done: adapt their message to the cultural traditions of a community.
We need to make visible the frustration, anger, and sense of abandonment that has immobilized New Orleans. I spoke at an event the other day and someone asked for a show of hands of people who had seen the "devastation." Most raised their hands. I thought to myself, no you have not seen the devastation. All you have seen is empty houses. The real devastation is in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people who lost everything and are far removed from family and community. Day by day they are losing hope. One of the ironies of Katrina is that the evacuation has made poverty and the human pain virtually invisible. We have become victims of the television age in which images dominate content. Television shows pictures of empty houses and then cuts away to images of displaced people living well-fed and comfortably in Houston. Bus seldom does the public see the victim on the foundation slab waiting for the mythical FEMA trailer. They don't see the fear of single mothers contemplating what will happen when the FEMA rent runs out and her children have no food or shelter. This is why Bush can dither on his commitment to build a new levee system; he is being asked to protect empty houses, not people. Put families in these empty houses, as the Vietnamese community has done in New Orleans East, and the moral onus will be on Bush to protect people.
We need to surface the pain, suffering, and frustration of Katrina victims for the public to see. What do we want the world to see on Mardis Gras day? Happy, well-fed people having a good time?. Fine. But we also should let them see a united mass movement of tens of thousands of determined people from all walks of life who believe the federal government has forsaken them. We can do both. I suggest that after the Rex parade, the crowds lining the streets fall in behind in a massive second line with children, costumes, wagons, and protest signs. The march route would loop around Canal and end at the Federal Building where we would stage a protest--no leaders, no speeches, just people taking a stand before the world. To give voice to those still displaced who deserve to come home, people could bring signs that have the names of people who want to come home, e.g. "My Name is Shirley Breaux and I want to come home to New Orleans" (people could post their names on a web site). It would be a beautiful gesture and show the country we know how to both party and politic. All you need is two feet or a few wheels. And you'd still have time to catch the truck parades. This is New Orleans, after all.
Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Southern Institute for Education and Research
"Get em while they're young" should be the new army motto. Students and parents at one Maryland school are not happy about the latest in military recruitment tactics.
The following is from Silver Chips On Line. Silver Chips Online is an independent student newspaper of Montgomery Blair High School (www.mbhs.edu) in Silver Spring, Maryland. Silver Chips Online is run entirely by students, and works closely with print counterpart Silver Chips, which is partially sponsored by The Washington Post, Advanced Media and Fujifilm. Silver Chips Online, Silver Chips, and individual staff members have won numerous awards, many of them at the national level. Student editors make all content decisions. Silver Chips Online is a forum for community expression.
PS - I posted this yesterday, but for some reason it ain't there...so here it is again.--------------------------------------------------
Parents, protesters clash with Army Cinema Van
Recruiting methods questioned
Varun Gulati, Online Managing Editor
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Robert Goethals stood facing rows full of students, behind a poster of soldiers with assault weapons and in front of a woman openly accusing him of misusing student information for recruiting purposes.
After stopping by Gaithersburg and Magruder high schools earlier this week, the U.S. Army Cinema Van, a traveling multimedia theatre, visited Blair yesterday, Feb. 2, attracting around 80 interested students, a group of protesters and criticism.
The van's main attraction was a movie screening area, with several benches for seating and a projector set up to show videos to its visitors. During 5A lunch, shortly after 11:00 a.m., Goethals showed students videos on "American history" and "roller-coaster physics." In between, he asked students to fill in forms with personal data such as their name, date of birth, age, address and phone number, as well as optional information, including e-mail, citizenship status, ethnic background and whether they wish to be contacted.
It was at this point that Blair parent Stacey Gurian-Sherman stood up, drew all attention to herself, and questioned the motives of gathering student information. Goethals, SFC Fox, a van employee and two other personnel assured her that the information was for "accountability," survey purposes and, upon the student's request, recruiting. Goethals told Gurian-Sherman that the van staffers themselves do not do recruit and stated firmly that she was "acting hostile in my truck." Gurian-Sherman pointed out that, as a taxpayer, the truck was hers too. Goethals made an announcement to the students in the van: "I am not going to call you, recruit you, anything."
In a phone interview, Gurian-Sherman said that Goethals was initially defensive. "I think he's used to being somewhat of a bully," she said.
Around 12:30 p.m., about eight protesters arrived at Blair, according to one of the van staffers. WTOP, NBC4 and Univision reporters arrived shortly thereafter. The protesters held flags, signs and posters, chanted "Recruiters Lie, Soldiers Die" and rang cowbells at the University Boulevard-sidewalk adjacent to Blair. A police officer was stationed nearby.
"Passive recruiting in its own messed up way"
Earlier this week, Madeleine Fletcher, a member of the Committee on Recruitment Issues at Blair, posted a message on the PTSA listserv which stated that the van "is used for recruiting purposes and paints a glorified, unrealistic picture of the military."
Fox, in response to Fletcher's statement, said that she was exaggerating. "People coming in here are so anti-military, anti-government - they're going to blow this out of proportion," he said.
The van is "an opportunity for people to get information on army opportunities," according to Kelly Rowe, Baltimore Recruiting Battalion Public Affairs Officer. The videos showed in the van theater are educational but "are all related to the military," he said.
Goethals said that the videos are not related to the military but are "for education." He later stated that the video topics range from genes to the Bill of Rights and "kind of break the ice," adding that the van's purpose is to show the army in a different light. "It's kind of like passive recruiting in its own messed up way," he said.
Gurian-Sherman disapproved of the videos and said that the discussion after each video was not educational. She cited one example where Goethals related the "real rush" from the roller-coaster video to a first-person army experience of the "real rush" of parachuting. "I think that equating the fun and risk of the military with roller coasters was disingenuous," she said, adding that there was a difference between "parachuting for pleasure and parachuting onto oncoming bullets."
Fletcher questioned the context of the video. "Class time should not be taken up for a presentation that is pitched as being of educational value, while really geared to promoting the military." Gurian-Sherman supported Fletcher's concern, calling the presentation "the notion of an educational video on the pretext of marketing."
Fletcher admonished Blair administration for allowing the van of "dubious educational value" to come to Blair. "School administrators are not required to allow these vans to come; federal law only requires same access for all recruiters."
Gurian-Sherman's father, a veteran, helped load wounded soldiers into helicopters during the Korean War. "The sacrifice is formidable. They have a lack of civil liberties," she said. "I think it demeans the military to minimize the risk there is in it."
Fletcher raised a concern in her listserv e-mail that the van offered battle-simulation computer games to students. There was a game station in the back of the van, according to Goethals, but the video games are used at different events, such as NASCAR races and air shows, and have been offered to high-school students only three times in the past, with full approval from the local school board. The games, he said, teach the player to use a 9 mm laser gun to shoot still and moving virtual targets, not humans.
Gurian-Sherman did not believe the recruiting to be passive, as students were required to fill out the form, which read, "The information you voluntarily provide will be used for recruiting purposes only," in small print at the bottom of the card. "For accountability purposes, they just need a headcount," she said. "This is nothing but a slick marketing tool."
The motto of the van was, "Stay in school, stay out of drugs," Goethals asserted.
Gurian-Sherman agreed with the message, but said that the van's methods backfired on its motto. "I think that it's a terrific message, but if you're recruiting people to join the army at 17, you're not telling them to stay in school," she said.
Gurian-Sherman disapproved of the army van as a whole. "They do a disservice to the men and women who put on the uniform," she said.
Additional reporting by Jeff Lautenberger.