Evening Blues Preview 4-30-15
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and guitarist "Magic Sam" Maghett.
Here are some stories from tonight's post:
Marches in New York, Boston, Ferguson and Washington, while authorities in Baltimore back down after holding people for days without charge
Protests over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray spread across the US overnight as the city at the centre of the storm used national guard troops to help maintain a curfew and authorities were forced into an apparent backdown after holding suspected rioters for days without charge.
Gray died last weekend in Baltimore with a severed spine after apparently being injured in police custody.
Baltimore on Monday had been the scene of widespread rioting and destruction but on Wednesday night the protests, while large, were mostly good-natured. ...
Also on Wednesday, after a flurry of legal challenges, more than 100 people were freed from police custody, having been been held since Monday under what amounted to a suspension by Hogan of the writ of habeas corpus – the right to be released from an arrest made without lawful cause.
Natalie Finegar, the deputy district public defender in Baltimore City, told the Guardian that after 82 habeas corpus petitions were filed to the attorney general’s office, a decision was made to release those who were yet to have charges read against them.
Finegar said the decision to hold so many “without any respect for due process” could “further shake the confidence in the criminal justice system for those arrested”. She said many of those detained had complained of the harsh conditions in jail. Some said they went 18 hours without food and later were given inedible pieces of bread.
Accepting and soliciting bribes. Diverting public funds for personal profit. Lying about the number of students. These are just a few examples of the fraud and malfeasance committed by charter school officials—cheating communities out of millions dollars that were supposed to go to education, a new report finds.
The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse (pdf) was released Tuesday by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).
It concludes that, in 15 states alone—a third of states with charter schools—such waste cost more than $200 million. ...
However, the report warns, "The number of instances of serious fraud uncovered by whistleblowers, reporters, and investigations suggests that the fraud problem extends well beyond the cases we know about. According to standard forensic auditing methodologies, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout the country suggest that federal, state, and local governments stand to lose more than $1.4 billion in 2015."
"The vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud," the report adds.
The world’s biggest economy ground to a standstill in the first quarter of 2015 wracked by massive job losses in the oil sector, falling personal consumption, weak exports and droopy fixed investment. Real gross domestic product (GDP), the value of the production of goods and services in the US, increased at an abysmal annual rate of just 0.2 percent in Q1 ’15 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis demonstrating conclusively that 6 years of zero rates and Large-Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP)– which have enriched stock speculators, inflated the largest asset-price bubble in history, and exacerbated inequality to levels not seen since the Gilded Age– have done nothing to improve the real economy, boost demand or reduce unemployment. As the BEA data illustrates, the US economy is basically DOA, a victim of criminal congressional negligence and Central Bank chicanery. ...
The economy is in the shitter. Consumers aren’t spending because the crap-ass jobs they landed after the crisis pay half as much as the jobs they lost when Wall Street blew up the financial system. Personal savings are up and spending is down because households face an uncertain future where pensions are being trimmed and Social Security is under attack. Also, spending is impacted by the historic low (employment) participation rate which indicates that joblessness is much higher than the government’s phony numbers suggest. When workers are unemployed they don’t spend, activity drops, and the economy tanks. It’s that simple. Today’s data just confirms what most people already know, that the economy stinks and that they’re being ripped off by a voracious oligarchy that’s stacked the deck in their favor.
The US economy is stuck in the mud because our bought-and-paid-for congress has relinquished all authority and handed over the management of the economy to the industry-controlled Federal Reserve. Whereas our current budget deficits are in the range of 2 percent per annum, the government should be spending a lot more to compensate for the slowdown in private sector spending and investment. In the past, the congress and president would initiate sensible Keynesian fiscal stimulus programs to keep the economy sputtering along while households repaired their balance sheets or businesses struggled with weak demand. Those tried-and-true remedies have been jettisoned for the new monetarist orthodoxy that requires that all the nation’s wealth be filtered through the Wall Street casino so that the pampered thieves who destroyed the country with their mortgage-securities-Ponzi-scam be further rewarded for their insatiable greed.
This is an interesting examination of both Bernie's record and the internal politics of the party that he has chosen to run for nomination in. I heartily recommend reading the whole thing. The author makes some excellent points and it would be good to go into this election clear-eyed about the choices.
So, Bernie Sanders made his call. He is going to run for President of the United States and he is going to do so as a Democrat. Even if he wins the nomination, one can be quite certain that the reactionary forces of US capitalism will oppose him in every way they can. Additionally, and more insidiously, so will a fair number of liberal champions of US capitalism to his right in the Democratic Party. Yet, he has made his claim and it is one he will have to live with, no matter what price he ends up paying. Given the nature of national electoral politics in the United States, his chances of winning the party nomination are small, much less the presidency itself.
Who is Bernie Sanders and what does he stand for? Now that he is a candidate, it’s fair to assume that his biography will be dissected across the media spectrum. To much of the US population, he is still the most radical politician from the Left they have ever seen. This is especially true for anyone who came of age politically since Ronald Reagan’s first term in the White House. What interests me more is the gradual transition he has made politically from socialist (more or less) to social democrat and from that to liberal Democrat. ...
[Discussion of Bernie's record at link above. - js]
In a recent interview I conducted with Left progressive authors William Grover and Joseph Peschek regarding their book The Unsustainable Presidency, I asked them if Sanders could actually move the US leftward and institute policies for working people and other disenfranchised. The key part of their answer was “(No.) He would be among the first to admit that. Indeed, in an interview last week he did just that: “We can elect the best in the world to be president, but that person will get swallowed up unless there is an unprecedented level of activism at the grassroots level.” The question I have for Mr. Sanders is this: How does he expect to create radical change in the US if this radical grassroots activism he correctly states is needed is hijacked by the Democratic Party–a political entity that is owned lock, stock and barrel by the very same banks and corporations he claims to oppose. After all, it’s been many years since the progressive George McGovern was the Democratic candidate for President. It’s been almost as long since the conservative wing of that party formed the Democratic Leadership Council and changed their rules so that no one with politics like McGovern’s would ever be their nominee again. Ask Bill Clinton about that. After all he was the first candidate chosen by that council to win the White House. His wife may be the next. There are those who say Sanders will “at least move the discussion leftward.” That is not enough. Conversations are meaningless without bold, concrete action. The Democratic Party has proven over the past six and a half years that not only is it incapable of bold action in favor of the vast majority of working people in this country, it is barely capable of concrete action. How else does one explain the disastrous austerity policies taking place in the United States?
The majority of Vermonters still like Bernie Sanders. In fact, he wins election with a substantial majority every time he runs. After all, as the summary above of his voting record suggests, Bernie Sanders is if nothing else a shrewd politician. Like his colleague currently in the White House, Sanders campaigns on progressive and populist themes. Unlike Mr. Obama, however, Sanders usually sticks to his positions on issues relating to labor, veterans, children, corporate cheats, and certain social issues (marriage equality, for example.) However, when it comes to matters of war and peace, his record is at best a mixed bag and, more likely, representative of his ideas on how the United States can maintain its imperial role forever (or at least for a long, long time.) Remember, all US wars involve a defense of the capitalist economy and, consequently, a belief in that economy’s superiority. Bernie Sanders actions make it clear he shares that belief. ...
He’s more of an ally than a foe, isn’t he? My answer to these challenges is that I’m not sure. So called progressive politicians who do not draw the link between corporate America’s wars and its attack on social security, health care, the minimum wage, forty- hour work week, and other issues working people consider important are doing us a disservice. The wars fought by the US military are ultimately fought for one reason only–to maintain and expand the power of corporate America at the expense of workers and the poor around the world. ...
After all is said and done, the question here is not whether Bernie Sanders is the progressive savior so many people want him to be. Instead, it is whether or not such a politician can even exist in the United States. I am one of the first to admit that Sanders’ record on labor, veterans, and most civil liberties issues is mostly decent, especially for someone who is part of the ruling elite (even if he doesn’t see himself that way.) However, this fact is probably irrelevant. The system in place in the Executive Branch is implacable and essentially without redemption.