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$799 million a Year. And Striking Teachers Are Greedy?

*"In 2015, Mr. Schwarzman was paid $799"  million. Source
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired.

Most working class people don?t follow the goings on in private equity firms like Blackstone or the parasite that runs it Steven Schwarzman-----but we should.

These firms are basically money managers, they manage the money of large institutional investors and charge a hefty fee for doing so.  Their lives are basically milling around in the cesspool of financial management and moneylending that is much like the swimming pool in the movie The Magic Christian. There has been an ongoing war between these private equity capitalists and other bourgeois over taxes as the compensation an investment manager received is taxed as capital gains as opposed to income which is taxed at twice the rate.

These characters have accumulated massive amounts of money.  Schwarzman is currently worth almost $13 billion dollars and is sought after by heads of state from around the world. He made $786 million in 2017 and John Gray, the man recently promoted to Chief Operating Officer and expected to replace him eventually made, $274 million. When the Obama administration under pressure from competing capitalists appeared to be favorable to increasing taxes on carried interest, Schwarzman described it as ?A war???like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.? Newsweek

After the 2007 crash when this wasteful and inefficient capitalist system was dragged from the edge of the abyss by public funds, Blackstone and Gray in particular were ecstatic. That same year, the money dealers bought another firm of vultures, Equity Office Properties (EOP) for $39 billion and the Hilton hotel chain for $26 billion. EOP, the property of another parasite Sam Zell, worth some $5 billion who apparently spends 1200 hours a year on private jets, held a collection of 580 commercial buildings and by the time the dust had settled, Blackstone made $20 billion in profit.

Schwarzman and Blackstone, like all scavengers, are loathe to look a gift horse in the mouth.  Some five million people had their homes taken from them (foreclosures they call it) during the crash and the banks were laden with bad loans.  Of course, Schwarzman and those like him don?t physically liberate people from their shelter and throw them out on the street; good gracious, he went to Yale, he?s a cultured educated man, they have the state?s security forces, sheriffs or police do it.

Regulators responded to this situation by pushing the banks to tighten lending requirements. Schwarzman, being the egalitarian that he is wanted to help, ??we said, ?Oh my goodness, this could be huge. Nobody is going to be able to borrow, they?re going to need housing,? ? Schwarzman told the Wall Street Journal,  ?So we went out and started to buy houses to rent to people.?  So Blackstone became quite the landlord scooping up some $10 billion worth of homes the moneylenders and their police had taken from those that lived in them. Huge landlords like this traditionally like their victims under one roof like a tower block as single family homes can be scattered and miles apart making servicing them time consuming and expensive, but a good crisis shouldn?t go to waste. A vulture doesn?t pass up a free meal. The firm also lent money to other landlords.

Schwarzman counts among his friends Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg worth some $30 billion, and is very fond of Trump not to mention the Saudi?s. He?s no tight wad when it comes to spending the money he never actually earned. In February 2017 his birthday party in Florida was reported to have cost $7 million.  One of his guests at his birthday party ten years earlier was Cardinal Egan of New York. The Catholic patriarchy knows whose ass to kiss.

When I think of people that support the degenerate racist Trump (Not types like Schwarzman but workers) it makes me so angry. To blame undocumented workers, the poor, welfare recipients or other working class people for the ongoing decline in living standards and quality of life when people like Schwarzman live on this earth, is not simply stupidity, it is plain cowardice. It is like blaming the rape victim rather than the rapist because a victim is seen as powerless and that?s safer than attacking the power or a representative of that power. In that sense it is not these parasitic billionaires as individuals that are the problem, it is the system that produces them and that they defend and propagate. 

Like the hogs and poultry in industrial farming that become psychotic and unrelated to their relatives on a family farm or in the field or back yard, humans lose our humanity in the quagmire of capitalist society.  Insecurity, fear and alienation drive us mad and separate us from our collective historic past. Like flowers in bad soil we begin to wilt and die. Despite their obscene wealth, wealth accumulated off the backs of workers throughout the world, the Schwarzman?s of this world are the most damaged of all living as they doo off the profit of capital. The vicious, competitive environment that is their world destroys them.  Man is born to labor and the bird to fly, the prophet Job is quoted as saying in Judeo/Christian mythology. The US ruling class of which Schwarzman is a dominant figure do no productive labor. They have no real friends as association with other human beings for them is all part of business, bribing, handwringing, building connections everywhere that can ensure the money train stops at their station.

It always fascinates me when workers think that a person that has accumulated $12 billion, or $20 billion like the celebrity Oprah, will actually serve our interests. To accumulate such amounts, and particularly to keep it, one has to be the most ruthless of human beings. In its buying binges, Blackrock has owned many different types of businesses from the Weather Channel to Sea World. What is produced matters not to the capitalist, whether they invest in so-called leisure for the masses or food we need to eat, profit is the determinant, what is produced is incidental.

 "I want war, not a series of skirmishes... I always think about what will kill off the other bidder." Schwarzman said of his business activity. When financial war halts, physical one ensues. Schwarzman, a Jew, is in deals with the Saudis. They don?t let religion or nationality become and obstacle to money making. People die, business must go on.

One business Schwarzman and Blackstone acquired was Sea World. If the reader hasn?t seen it I recommend the movie Blackfish which delves in to this business and also the eventual death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau who was killed by an Orca she worked with in 2010. The film also gives some insight in to Orca?s and their family relationships and habits as well as the brutal treatment the Orca?s received at Sea World.

Obviously concerned with the negative impact Brancheu?s death would have on profits Schwarzman blamed her for violating safety rules (somehow I don?t think the billionaire was on the job every day.) Sea World "had one safety lapse -- interestingly, with a situation where the person involved violated all the safety rules that we had," Schwarzman told the media. The company has since made some half assed excuse for his statement but that?s how they think. Profits over life itself.

Schwarzman?s comments were no accident.  A comment like that alone is enough to destroy any fantasized idea a worker might have about people in his world being decent human beings. It never hurt him anyway. His wealth doubled, and in 2016 he hit a lucky streak making $250 million in five days.  Ain?t life grand?

* I don't think they were talking about safe drinking water for our cities or electricity for Puerto Rico

Source: $799 million a Year. And Striking Teachers Are Greedy?
Barbara Lee Lets Betsy DeVos Have It for Her Indifference About Racism in Schools

"You just don?t care much about civil rights of black and brown children."


Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on Tuesday hammered Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over what she said was a lack of concern for the civil liberties of students of color.

In particular, Lee grilled DeVos about the discrepancies in punishments for the same offenses when they?re conducted by students of color versus when they?re conducted by white students.

?The issue is the differing of punishment by race for the same type of infraction, the disparity there as it relates to suspensions and expulsions,? Lee said. ?For the same infraction, black and brown students are expelled at a much higher rate. That?s what you call racial bias and racism.?

Lee then pivoted to asking DeVos if she could understand why black and brown students were worried about the president?s plan to arm teachers, given that many of them already face significantly greater punishments for the same infractions compared to white students.

When DeVos dodged this question, Lee asked her why she had yet to respond to a letter Lee sent her office all the way back in June about the problems of school segregation ? and DeVos responded by blaming the Senate for slow walking Department of Education appointees.

?Madam Secretary, you just don?t care much about civil rights of black and brown children,? Lee replied in disgust. ?This is horrible.?


Related Stories

Source: Barbara Lee Lets Betsy DeVos Have It for Her Indifference About Racism in Schools
Richard Mellor / Trump?s trade tantrums ? free trade or protectionism?
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Yesterday at 06:22:14 PM »
Trump?s trade tantrums ? free trade or protectionism?

by Michael Roberts

Today, the  finance ministers of the top 20 economies (G20) meet in Buenos Aires,  Argentina, and the big topic for discussion is trade protectionism and the possibility of an outright trade war between the US and other major economics areas, particularly China.

There is a real concern that all the blustering by President Trump is  finally turning into reality and ?The Donald? is now going to honour  his promise to ?make America great again? by introducing a range of  tariffs, quotas and bans on various imports from Europe and Asia into  the US.  Trade protectionism is coming back after decades of ?free  trade? and globalisation.

Up to now, Trump has only imposed tariffs (taxes or enforced price  rises) on steel and aluminium imports.  But he has also pulled the US  out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and demanded a re-negotiation  of the terms of North Atlantic Free Trade Area (NAFTA). But there is  talk of more measures, including action to stop the free exchange of  intellectual property rights by US companies and other countries.

The steel and aluminium tariffs (facilitated by an old GATT loophole,  allowing countries to enact barriers for reasons of ?national security?  (US defence spending consumes 3% of US steel output) are really small  beer on their own.  In 2002 when the US last imposed steel tariffs, the  US produced almost as much steel as today. But now it produces it with a  small fraction of the 2002 workforce. Technology has boosted  productivity and created products that use less steel.  So direct job  gains for US workers are likely to be small, if any.

Back in 2002, President Bush signed into law tariffs for certain  steel products following a spate of mill closures and surging imports.  The net effect on employment in the steel production industry was  minimal. But, according to a Trade Partnership Worldwide study, businesses that consumed steel products shed approximately 200,000 jobs, compared to the 180,000 employed in steel production.

The  pain was born principally by smaller manufacturing firms (smaller than  500 employees), which had limited room to negotiate on prices and  similarly restricted space to pass costs on due to price competition.  The Bush barriers were only in place for a little over a year, but the  impact was immediate as price distortions squeezed end users.

If the impact on the employment figures of effectively raising the  cost of steel was uppermost in Trump?s mind, he should have considered  the potential net loss of jobs in the car industry, the aviation  industry and the countless other manufacturers that depend on cheap  steel as a raw material. These companies are expected to pass on the  extra cost to their customers and suffer the usual consequences ? lower  demand and a profit squeeze.

Moreover, since 2002, US steel mills have moved south and west, where  unions are weak and labour is cheaper.  But now the industry has fewer  workers because it is increasingly automated. The Trump tariffs will not  bring any new jobs and certainly not in the old steel ?smokestack?  regions that looked to him for help. The real hit will be on many  emerging economies.  Canada and Mexico are exempt from the tariffs  because they are part of NAFTA.  But Brazil is a big exporter to the US.   Canada and Brazil account for around one-third of US steel imports,  while China accounts for no more than 3%.  With Canada exempt and China  unimportant, Trump?s ?steel? protectionist move is both weak and  misdirected.

Anyway, Trump?s claimed objective to ?make America great again? by  boosting steel production and other traditional industries means rolling  back the advance of technology to recreate smokestack industries.  It  can?t and won?t happen.  Trump?s claim that American workers have been  losing jobs in traditional ?smokestack? industries because of unfair  trade by other countries is bogus.  The loss of US manufacturing jobs  has been replicated in other advanced capitalist economies over the last  30 years.  This decline is not due to nasty foreigners fixing trade  deals.  It is due to the inexorable attempt of American capital to  reduce its labour costs through mechanisation or through finding new  cheap labour areas overseas to produce.

The rising inequality in incomes is a product of ?capital-bias? in capitalist accumulation and ?globalisation? aimed at counteracting falling profitability in the  advanced capitalist economies. But it is also the result of  ?neo-liberal? policies designed to hold down wages and boost profit  share.  Trump cannot and won?t reverse that ? on the contrary ? with all  his bluster because to do so would threaten the profitability of  America capital.

Nevertheless, it seems that Trump and his new ?protectionist?  advisers are going to launch a series of measures against the imports of  other countries ? particularly against China.  But in the last 20  years, China has moved up the value-added ladder from basic industries  into higher and higher tech products.  Indeed, much of the global flow  of technological innovation is now coming from China, not the US.

Efforts to punish China with tariffs could quicken this trend.  Typically, such businesses are highly adaptable in the face of  restrictions, shifting investment and capacity overseas. And China is  already moving in this direction with a huge rise in outward FDI. China  now ranks second only below the US in terms of outward investment. Its  stock of direct investment assets has been growing 25% annually hitting a  value of $1.3trn (see graph below). Two thirds of this outflow is  directed towards Asia (blue line). China is also pushing aggressively  into ?the belt? countries of its ?one road? project. That?s reflected in  its exports, with sales to these states double those to the US. So any  restrictive measures taken by the Trump administration against China can  only accelerate this reallocation process.

Also, while Trump and his new ?protectionist? advisers want to take  action against China and other ?unfair? trading nations, European and  Asian economies, along with the international agencies, want to hold the  line for ?globalisation? and ?free trade?.  The rest of the world is  still trying to lower barriers. The EU completed free trade agreements  with both Canada and Japan at the end of last year. Meanwhile Japan,  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru, Chile,  Brunei and Singapore ratified a revised TPP without the US.

And what Trump forgets is that now in world capitalism, it is not so  much trade, or even services trade rather than goods trade, that  matters; it is capital flows.  And any full trade war would seriously  threaten US foreign investment just at a time when China is expanding  its overseas flows.
Foreign trade now contributes relatively little to US corporate  profits. Back in the 1940s, foreign subsidiaries of US-based  corporations accounted for only 7% of all US profits ? the same  proportion as exports. Globalisation of US corporate operations and  capital investment has changed that in the last 35 years. In 2016, the  share of domestic profits has shrunk to 48% of total profits, while the  shares of foreign operations and exports have grown to 40% and 12%,  respectively.

Stimulated by Trump?s protectionist talk, the debate in mainstream  economics over whether free trade is better for every country and the  people living in them has also revived.  The longstanding neoclassical  view is based on David Ricardo?s law of comparative advantage.  In his  book On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817),  now over 200 years old, Ricardo argued that, although Portugal could  produce both cloth and wine with less amount of labour than England, both countries would benefit from trade with each other. Because the  comparative advantage for Portugal with England is greater in the  production of wine than in cloth, it would still make sense for Portugal  to produce excess wine and trade that for English cloth. England in  turn would benefit from this trade, because while it still costs the  same to produce cloth, the price for wine would fall considerably.  So  free trade is a win-win situation.

And yet the historical evidence for this ?law? is the opposite.  Over  the last 30 years or so, the world capitalist economies have moved closer to ?free trade? with sharp reductions in tariffs, quotas and  other restrictions ? and many international trade deals.  But economic  growth since the 1980s has been slower than in the 1960s.

Another conclusion of the mainstream theory is that free trade will  eventually lead to harmonisation and equilibrium in trade balances  through the adjustments in international exchange rates and production  costs.  And yet there has been little such harmonisation.  The US has  continually run a goods and services trade deficit over the last 30  years; and so have many supposedly ?comparatively advantaged? emerging  economies.

And as for harmonisation of incomes and employment, inequality of  incomes and wealth between countries and within them has worsened in the  last three decades, while 1.5bn workers globally are still without a  regular job or income.

Free trade has been no great capitalist success.  And now  globalisation seems to have paused or even stopped. World trade  ?openness? (the share of world trade in global GDP) has been declining  since the end of the Great Recession.

This has led to various mainstream voices suggesting that maybe  protectionist policies by individual countries might better for them.  Dani Rodrik has been pushing this line;  reminding us that the US itself protected its domestic industry in the  1870s onwards to get it going; and Germany did similarly in the 1890s,  while Japan and other Asians followed suit in the post-war period.

Rodrik, Stiglitz and other ?leftist? mainstream economists who now  denounce the failure of globalisation really do so from the point of  view that free markets are fine as long as they are really free.  But  they are not and so governments must intervene to reduce monopoly and  other distortions and to control and regulate financial speculation.   And internationally, you need proper and ?fair? agreements on trade to  protect the weaker national economies.  Apart from this being a utopian  aim, this ?alternative? to unbridled ?free trade? is really an admission  that Ricardo?s win-win theory is faulty and disproved, even if there  were fully ?free trade?.

Capitalism does not tend to equilibrium in the process of accumulation.  As Adam Smith put it, in contrast to Ricardo, ?When  a rich man and a poor man deal with one another, both of them will  increase their riches, if they deal prudently, but the rich man?s stock  will increase in a greater proportion than the poor man?s. In like  manner, when a rich and a poor nation engage in trade the rich nation  will have the greatest advantage, and therefore the prohibition of this  commerce is most hurtful to it of the two?. Capitalism does not  grow globally in a smooth and balanced way, but in what Marxists have  called ?uneven and combined development?.  Those firms and countries  with better technological advances will gain at the expense of those who  are behind the curve and there will be no equalisation.

Free trade works for national capitalist states when the  profitability of capital is rising (as it was from the 1980s to 2000)  and everybody can gain from a larger cake (if in differing  proportions).  Then globalisation appears very attractive.  The  strongest capitalist economy (technologically and thus competitively in  price per unit terms) will be the strongest advocate of ?free trade?, as  Britain was from 1850-1870; and the US was from 1945-2000.  Then  globalisation was the mantra of the US and its international agencies,  the World Bank, the OECD and the IMF.

But if profitability starts to fall consistently, then ?free trade?  loses its glamour, especially for the weaker capitalist economies as the  profit cake stops getting larger.  ?Populism? and nationalism rears its  head and mainstream economists opposed to ?free trade? become more  prominent.  That was the situation in the 1870s and 1880s.  That was the  situation in the 1930s Great Depression.  That is the situation since  the early 2000s and especially since the end of the Great Recession.

US capitalism has lost ground relatively, not only to Europe and  Japan, but even more worryingly to the rising economic juggernaut that  is China, where foreign investment is strictly controlled and  subservient to the state sector and to an autocratic Communist elite.   The US is now in the same position as the UK was in the 1880s, only  worse.  Trump is the consequence of that.

Marx and Engels recognised that ?free trade? could drive capital  accumulation globally and so expand economies, as has happened in the  last 170 years.  But they also saw (as is the dual nature of capitalist  accumulation) the other side: rising inequality, a permanently floating  ?reserve army? of unemployed and increased exploitation of labour in the  weaker economies.  And so they recognised that rising industrial  capitalist nations could probably only succeed through protecting their  industries with tariffs and controls and even state support (China is an  extreme example of that).

But is free trade or protectionism better for labour and the working  class?  It depends.  Perhaps the answer is best summed up by Robert  Tressell in famous book, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, written in  1910 in the UK: ?We?ve had Free Trade for the last fifty years and  today most people are living in a condition of more or less abject  poverty, and thousands are literally starving. When we had Protection  things were worse still. Other countries have Protection and yet many of  their people are glad to come here and work for starvation wages. The  only difference between Free Trade and Protection is that under certain  circumstances one might be a little worse that the other, but as  remedies for poverty, neither of them are of  any real use whatever, for  the simple reason that they do not deal with the real causes of  poverty?.

American workers can expect nothing from Trump?s trade tantrums ? indeed it can make things worse.
Source: Trump?s trade tantrums ? free trade or protectionism?
AlterNet / Jared Kushner Condemned for Outrageously Corrupt Real Estate Practices
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:22:11 PM »
Jared Kushner Condemned for Outrageously Corrupt Real Estate Practices

The Housing Rights Initiative did not mince words.


When Jared Kushner was chief executive of Kushner Cos., his family's New York City-based real estate firm, the company "routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds," according to a report by the Associated Press.

Kushner stepped down from his role at Kushner Cos. last year, when he accepted a position as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, but he has recently come under fire for potential conflicts of interest and ethics violations regarding continued involvement with the real estate firm. His top-secret security clearance was downgraded last month amid heightened scrutiny over how his financial holdings may have influenced his actions on behalf of the White House.

The tenant rights watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative, the AP reports, "found the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 2016, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants. Instead, tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-regulated units. Nearly all the permit applications were signed by a Kushner employee, including sometimes the chief operating officer."

"While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature," the AP notes, "they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before he went on to become one of the most trusted advisers to the President of the United States."

Kushner Cos., when reached for comment, blamed the false filings on third parties, claiming that it outsources document preparation. But no matter how the false filings occurred, they provide insight into how the firm was able to purchase three Queens apartment buildings in 2015, quickly conduct renovations, raise the rent, and then sell the buildings for a multimillion-dollar profit just two years later.

Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics chief and current chair of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), compared the revelation to Kushner's troubled attempts to retain security clearance for his government role.

Others, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wondered how, in light of recent reports, Kushner has held on to his post in the Trump administration.

In response to the AP's findings, several commenters labeled Kushner a "slumlord"?far from the first time the accusation has been levied at him.

"It's bare-faced greed," Housing Rights Initiative founder Aaron Carr told the AP. "The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment."


Related Stories

Source: Jared Kushner Condemned for Outrageously Corrupt Real Estate Practices
2008 Financial Collapse All Over Again??  We Need to Understand the Student Loan Speculation Bubble

by: Jason O?Neal, activist FFWP

For those who may have missed it, a major economic indicator emerged regarding student loan debt last week.  Excessive debt, like student loans, has become one of the biggest barriers to current economic growth in the United States.  On Thursday, March 1, 2018, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, appeared before U.S. Congressional representatives.  During this ?meeting? between politicians and their private banking overlords there was discussion of the possibility of reversing federal legislation to allow student loan debt to be discharged through bankruptcy.  A move initially questioned by some lawmakers, as they set interest rates for those loans which allow schools to be federally subsidized, this topic is sure to spark further discussion in the weeks to come. 

            ?Education debt swelled to nearly $1.38 trillion at the end of 2017, with 11 percent of borrowers 90 days or more delinquent, according to the New York Fed. Policymakers have sought ways to keep the student loan problem from swelling out of control but have struggled to come up with solutions.?

It appears the latest investment vehicle for private banking profits is running out of gas.  This is not a surprise for those of us who have been following the developments with student loan debt over the past few years.  Personally, I happen to be one of the more than 40 million Americans who are now in debt to a private capital lender for partially financing the last two years of my college degree.  Ironically, I went to a ?public? university in California which was once a state that offered free education from kindergarten to college. 

As a first-generation college student, and military veteran, my personal story is not unique.  However, there are millions of Americans who received federal financial aid to attend a for-profit university with many ?students? never setting foot in a classroom.  How that is even possible is baffling to me and calls into question the integrity for financing the nation?s higher education system.

Some points I would like considered in relation to the latest developments concerning student debt should be:

a)      how are higher education loans in the U.S. marketed and disbursed? 
b)      Who holds the paper on these debts?  What are their interests?
c)      Exactly who is ultimately financially responsible for repaying them?
d)      And, why is this particular form of debt exempt from ?charge off? as bad debt for those who can no longer afford to pay, especially when one considers the number of bankruptcies declared by the current occupant of the Oval Office? 

Before we explore each of these questions, we must keep in mind how this pending crisis will affect the lives of working families and the poor and we must continue to ask ourselves?Are federal legislators our elected officials or are they just puppets for loan sharks?

Perhaps, you have been one of millions of Americans who have watched a television commercial with an advertisement about finishing your education or getting a college degree.  And, just maybe, you?ve called the toll-free number listed at the bottom of one because it sounded like a good idea.  If you are like me, you responded to an internet ad which asked for your email address and telephone number.  For those readers interested, I have included my own personal story at the end of this article, but for now I will continue to explain the student loan bubble from my own observations and experiences over the last decade.

Everyday, millions of people are on the receiving end of a booster campaign to get them to enroll in college.  Some ads are directly from one of the thousands of brick and mortar universities with an actual faculty.  Unfortunately, most of the professors in these public education institutions are part-time (at least in California) with no benefits.  Another story all together when one considers the amount of federal money being poured into the higher education system of the United States.  But, we must return this conversation to student loans and commercial advertising. 

What many Americans are unaware of is that for-profit schools are also getting checks from the government.  I am not referring to exclusive private or Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, or even Stanford. I am specifically identifying schools like University of Phoenix and Kaplan College, or any other ?college,? which sets up shop in an office park building and sells degrees.  To make matters even more incomprehensible is that many of these schools also have online study programs which are usually just internet ?classes? with fast-paced lesson plans completed in 30 days.

These schools are in fact loan brokers masquerading as education systems and have become so widespread and corrupt that even small corporations are advertising college degrees and professional credentials through specific trade schools.  They also attract international students and receive federal education grant money for ?scholarships.?  Over the past few years they have increasingly targeted low-income households in the poorest areas of the country to market their services and receive money earmarked for financial aid. 

Because many of them aren?t credentialed, or accredited by the Department of Education, most coursework from these schools is not transferrable to another college.  Sadly, many graduates from these types of universities receive no benefit from their ?piece of paper? that says they now have a degree.  New graduates are finding it difficult to pay back their student loans with limited opportunities for employment and a significant number of them saddled with debt to private lenders.

This has become a major problem because over the course of the past two decades enrollment in these for-profit universities has increased by more than 225 percent.  This was according to a 2013 report published by the National Conference of State Legislatures.  States began taking a harder look at these ?diploma mills? after a two-year investigation was concluded by a United States Senate Committee.  The resulting ?Harkin Report? condemned for-profit colleges over costs and practices according to a New York Times article from 2012:

?Students at for-profit colleges make up 13 percent of the nation?s college enrollment, but account for about 47 percent of the defaults on loans. About 96 percent of students at for-profit schools take out loans, compared with about 13 percent at community colleges and 48 percent at four-year public universities.?


?Enrolling students, and getting their federal financial aid, is the heart of the business, and in 2010, the report found, the colleges studied had a total of 32,496 recruiters, compared with 3,512 career-services staff members.

Among the 30 companies, an average of 22.4 percent of revenue went to marketing and recruiting, 19.4 percent to profits and 17.7 percent to instruction.

Their chief executive officers were paid an average of $7.3 million, although Robert S. Silberman, the chief executive of Strayer Education, made $41 million in 2009, including stock options?.

Public outcry was almost nonexistent in the major news media, but demands were made of these schools which have remained exempt from regulation and a series of standards were recommended by the government.  If they wanted to continue to receive federal funds by enrolling students, the for-profit colleges had to provide statistics on registrations and student performance.   Companies, many of them publicly traded on Wall Street, which owned underperforming schools closed them down and funneled resources to prop-up their best schools to keep the billions rolling in from the government coffers.  According to a National Public Radio announcement in 2011, many of the companies controlling the finances of these colleges had already ramped up recruiting efforts which targeted those who could not afford it.  The first wave of customers were military veterans, but know these schools are going after communities of low-income families and students of color. 

?Many of these students drop out before graduating or can't find the types of jobs that will allow them to repay their loans, leaving them with staggering debt.?

In 2014, U.S. News and World Report printed an article which revealed enrollment costs at for-profit universities averaged more than fifteen thousand dollars a year.  A significant markup in price from the national average for community colleges ($3,264) and four-year universities ($8,893).  And, a crippling cost for students, many who are military veterans using their G.I. Bill benefits.  The same article stated the following:

?Nearly 90 percent of 2012 for-profit graduates had student loans?, with the average debt among for-profit college graduates who borrowed reaching nearly $40,000.?

Graduates typically are 20 percent less likely to be hired with their degree, and three times as likely to default on their loan, when compared to nonprofit colleges.  Yet, why has nothing been done to address this issue years later?  Courts all over the United States are handing down decisions in favor of the for-profit schools who don?t want to be held accountable to oversight on budgets, loans issued, graduation rates, or employment statistics for graduates.  State legislatures are scrambling with the threat of regulation over these companies, however, many friendly votes have already been secured through campaign contributions to keep the standards from changing.  This is not a new battle, but it is one that has been fought for the past fifty years as the two cartels of political power and money in the U.S. have always sided with the bankers.  First, the cut funding for schools.  Then, student "consumers" are forced into a loan market.  Finally, this allows private capital to issue loans and collect interest on the debt.

Back in 2012, Time magazine wrote an in-depth piece on regulation of the student loan industry in the United States.  They wrote, ?before 1976, all education loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy. That year, the bankruptcy code was altered so loans made by the government or a non-profit college or university could not be discharged during the first five years of repayment?.  That stayed in place until 1984 when private student loans were excepted from bankruptcy protections.  The scales tipped in favor of the banks again in 2005, when Congress passed a law titled the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.  The law made it so that NO STUDENT LOAN could be charged off through bankruptcy as bad debt, whether it was federal or private.  Student loans are now in the same class of debt as child support and criminal fines.

Taking into consideration the political trend in controlling this speculation market which exists within the student loan industry, it is not a distant leap to the conclusion that the government will try to get the people to agree to another round of taxpayer-funded bailouts for private bankers and their bad education loans.  We saw this in the 2008 home mortgage crisis as Congress voted to give $12.9 trillion dollars in tax money to private banks to cover their financial losses after the economic collapse of the real estate bubble they helped create.  How much longer will the people of this country agree to go along with these concessions to private capital before they say they?ve had enough?

Public universities are not too far behind when it comes to providing funds for their degree programs.  Case in point, I had to finance nearly twenty thousand dollars of my education to supplement my Stafford and Pell Grants provided through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Some of the loans were federally subsidized at a lower interest rate, but the rest were locked in at the going rate.  I went to a university in California where out of the 41,000 students in attendance nearly 40% are on financial aid.

The fact that nearly 43 million Americans are burdened by some form of student loan debt must be connected to the next pending market ?correction.?  It will be a financial crisis similar, if not worse than, the one in 2008.  The ripple effects will spread throughout society.  The history of student loan debt also has much to do with the current assaults on education in the United States.  We have covered the recent West Virginia Teachers' Strike and have discussed how their struggle is linked to the pillaging of state resources by big oil and coal companies who control the courts, legislature, and political bodies in that state.  It is a crisis created by capitalism.  The teacher's fight is also linked to legislation that pushes for charter schools to receive tax money while cuts are made to funding public education systems around the country.  The battle shaping up is also a result of so many states passing ?right to work? laws which attack public sector unions.  Rank and file union members are under the gun and labor leadership is running out of options on how to keep them contained and pacified.

What to do with student loan debt, however, is a simple solution.  Abolish all of it.  One might ask, ?where will the money come from??  But I ask readers to consider this: If the U.S. government can continue to fund a fighter plane which Scientific American has labeled the ?greatest boondoggle in recent military purchasing history? at a price of $1.5 trillion, then there is enough money to forgive student loan debt.  And, if we push the conversation further, the U.S. has spent more than three times that amount on the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sadly, like what is happening in West Virginia, the politicians from both parties refuse to upset their campaign contributors and go after the industries that have taken the tax money in the first place.

My own story?

I came across what is called a ?lead capture? advertisement with some catchy phrase like ?interested in getting a degree??, or something like that, while I was surfing the web back around 2004.  It interested me at the time, but I didn?t really know much about the way student aid worked.

I was a federal law enforcement officer and getting kind of burnt out on my job.  I processed pedestrian and vehicle traffic through a Customs and Border Protection facility in San Diego, CA.  It also happened to be the busiest land-border crossing in the world and, although grossly compensated for my work, I just didn?t want to do it anymore.  I didn?t have a college degree, so I toyed around with the idea of going back to school.  Throughout the next few months, I endured the constant phone calls and junk email letters from those for-profit university representatives.  They were given, and probably purchased, my information from that same internet ad I responded to months before.  They promised easy classes and the convenience of online lecture sessions.  Some even claimed they could get me college credit for skills I picked up while serving in the military.  The catch was they were very expensive.  I remember one guy actually told me that at his school, a name I can?t even remember, a bachelor?s degree was going to cost me about fifty thousand dollars.  But, I didn?t have to worry because I could get loans.  I decided that for a price like that I should try going the ?traditional? route. 

Ultimately in the fall of 2006, I enrolled at my local community college in San Diego.  After taking the proper assessment tests to begin classes, I successfully registered my corresponding veteran benefits, given through the G.I. Bill.  I was getting paid about $700 a month to go to night school.  This was on top of my federal salary, which at the time I was averaging about sixty thousand dollars a year including overtime, and I had benefits.  All initial out of pocket expenses I incurred through enrollment were also reimbursed.  I completed a total of seventeen units over the next three semesters before I had to stop classes.  I was receiving a decent amount of money from my veteran benefits because tuition, fees, and books only ran me about $500 a semester.  Each semester is about four months long, so I made a few thousand dollars a semester.  I had no financial difficulties, so to speak, and I was even able to buy a house in September of 2007.

In all, I cruised on the extra cash for a little more than a year before I had to resign my federal job in January 2008.  I had also decided to stop taking classes until I was earning a more stable income.  Another reason was because my G.I. Bill benefits expired the semester before.  The particular federal program I was entitled to required veterans to enroll in school within ten years of separating from the military.  I had waited more than eight years to go back to school and my time had run out. 

With no job and no income, I took work at the loading dock of the San Diego Convention Center.  I was also receiving supplemental unemployment when there were no trade shows or events in town.   Having trouble keeping up with my house payments I needed a boost and I started working in the local real estate market. 

At the time, the community where I lived, was the epicenter for the entire state of California when it came to the number of homes which were in foreclosure or with delinquent mortgages.  Chula Vista is a town with a population of about a quarter of a million people and, in the early summer of 2008, the old neighborhoods and new housing developments further east had more than 50% of its homes worth less than the loans owed on them.  The financial collapse fueled by speculation in mortgage backed securities happened that September.  It was nearly two months before the 2008 Presidential Election, which saw Democrats return to the White House by the way, and I was only upset that I lost my commission checks.  Memorable moments from those few days, when capitalism wrecked the lives of millions while robbing the citizens of this country out of billions of dollars, was the political theater.  Both the sitting Republican administration?s Secretary of Treasury, Hank Paulsen (a former CEO of Goldman Sachs), and his ?prospective? replacement should the other capitalist political party win, Tim Geithner (President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York), were involved in negotiations between the United States government and private investment banks.  The deal was negotiated by Ben Bernanke, who was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve at that time.  Private banks were to be given federal tax money to make them solvent.  This would be like a gambler going bust and the casino giving them their money back.  Only the money came from the pockets of the housekeepers, cooks, and desk clerks.   

My own class consciousness had not been lifted during that part of my life.  I was unable to see the destructive path cut by capitalism and its need to create markets.  These opportunities are designed to attract investors so banks can generate money by transferring property.  I was oblivious as to how money in an economy is created through loans and promissory notes (debt).  I had my own problems to worry about. 

I had bought a home the year before and needed to make my own house payments.  Because I was only receiving commission, I had already started to rent out two rooms in my house to make just enough money to even do that.  I didn?t understand the danger of negative amortization and interest only loans when the price of a home drops in value.  I had a fixed-rate mortgage, but after I lost my job, I couldn?t make payments and my house lost 25% of its value over the next two years.

After the economic collapse of 2008, and during the Great Recession which followed, I took up bartending to make my way through the next few years.  Eventually short-selling the house in 2010, I returned to renting small apartments or rooms from friends.  Although the house sold for nearly $150 thousand less than my loan, I didn?t have to pay taxes on the charged off amount.  Usually, a homeowner in my situation would have to may income taxes on capital gains, but for a couple of years millions of former homeowners were given a reprieve.  Realizing that I had no real skill set, other than enforcing the law, I decided to return to school to at least complete an associate degree. 

I have explained my personal situation to give readers the opportunity to see what economic conditions I was living under when I decided to return to college.  The second time around, I qualified for financial assistance because I made so little money on payroll that I was considered low-income.  I took it.  I figured if I didn?t make some changes I was going to have to accept that job as the pinnacle of my existence.  An honorable trade in a country which consumes so much alcohol, but not really a job cut-out for a long-term career.  The hospitality industry in food and beverage has such a high turnover that workers have very little chance of unionizing and end up competing with one another.  The drive to provide the best service is fueled by a desire to make more tips that the other guy.  Never mind trying to fight for anything higher than minimum wage.  Also, benefits and retirement are practically unheard of in this line of work, while age and gender are factors which determine longevity and ?appeal.?  Bartending and serving alcohol is an industry which is exceptionally brutal on its female employees who must endure all varieties of sexual harassment.  Not just from intoxicated customers, but also from co-workers and management.

I had saved up enough tip money to re-enroll at the same community college in the fall of 2012.  I was eligible for the Board of Governor?s fee waiver and Cal Grant, which was linked to the FAFSA.  When my financial aid was processed and disbursed, I ended up receiving a few thousand dollars extra every semester for the next three years.  I remember the first time I opened the mailbox and it had check inside for more than two thousand dollars.  That was just a partial payment and I?d get another $800 before the end of the semester. 

It was during this time while I was at community college that I began to learn and understand how the political economy functions and works in the United States.  It was also when I met some influential friends and professors who have been actively engaged in discussing the role of trade union leadership in a new American labor movement.  Many encouraged me to continue my education and to finish my bachelor?s degree.  I would need to complete my lower division courses before I could transfer.  My school had only a 23% graduation rate, with even fewer who successfully moved on to graduate from a four-year school.  I was determined to be one of them.

During my second year in community college, I began writing for the campus paper.  I wrote opinion pieces and stories which focused on financial aid, immigration, and the environment.  I also became aware of some inefficiencies and, at many times, the negligent nature of this system of higher education. 

Public colleges, with limited funding from the state, were and are being overrun by capitalist interests.  To complete building projects, not to mention recreational facilities, schools must rely on local voters to approve the solicitation of capital bonds.  Communities promise away future tax revenue to cover payments and interest on private loans given today for temporary improvement funds to public education systems.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Poway Unified School District in San Diego, they will be forced to pay back almost ten times what was borrowed.

To make matters worse, it was also during my second year that my community college began using the ?financial technology services? of Higher One, a holding company which according to its own website promises to ?streamline the processes of financial aid disbursement.?  Started by three Yale students in 2000, Higher One has grown to dominate the college debit card business.  They have been subject to numerous investigations and penalties for overcharging on students? transactions and they disburse financial aid in increments holding on to students? money sometimes for months.  I remember that every student had to create a customer profile through the school?s website to have Higher One send them their financial aid.  They offered bank accounts and direct deposit services, for a fee of course.  And, at the time I enrolled, Higher One was publicly traded on Wall Street with a presence on hundreds of campuses across the country.  They also had more than 2 million students paying them an average of $49 a year to access financial aid money faster.

When I transferred to a four-year university after my third year, I saw Higher One was used there, too.  My school I.D., used to access the library and administrative services, was in fact a Higher One ?debit card.? 

I spent two years completing a double major, before I graduated last spring and I now live in Phoenix, AZ.  Working for a little more than minimum wage, I have made only one payment to my student aid loans.  Ironically, one of the jobs I recently interviewed for was an admissions counselor for American Intercontinental University and their sister school, Colorado Technical University.  They are an online outfit, with a few branch ?campuses? and are owned by Career Education Corporation.  I was going to have to sell students on the benefits of enrolling in this school, mainly the convenience of taking classes from home.  The average class enrollment period is every five weeks and most of my days were to be spent making telephone calls and sending out emails to prospective students.  To fill the rosters every five weeks we would have to collect and process hundreds of applications.  According to Wikipedia, and something I confirmed during my interview is, AIU receives more than 90% of its funding from the U.S. government, $29 million from the G.I. Bill alone.  I am happy they didn?t call me back for the job, but I am ashamed to admit that I almost considered it.  Where does desperation lead us sometimes?

I have recently been hired by a political consulting group advocating for clean energy initiatives in local government and the state legislature.  After a few paychecks clear, I might start paying for my student loans soon.

To contact author email:

-referenced articles:

Infoshop News / Review: Anarchists Never Surrender by Victor Serge
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Yesterday at 06:32:13 AM »
Review: Anarchists Never Surrender by Victor Serge

This book is a collection of new translations of articles by Victor Serge (1890-1947). Born of Russian anti-Tsarist exiles in Belgium, Serge is of note for his odyssey from anarchism to Bolshevism, then from Trotskyism to some kind of libertarian Marxism.
Source: Review: Anarchists Never Surrender by Victor Serge
AlterNet / Is the #MeToo Movement Leaving Black Muslim Women Behind?
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:32:10 AM »
Is the #MeToo Movement Leaving Black Muslim Women Behind?


Despite the larger movement addressing campus sexual assault, black Muslim women still share their experiences in whispers.

Over the past several years, colleges and universities have been pressured to address an epidemic that has been ignored for some time: the pervasiveness of sexual violence on campus. Studies find that 11.2 percent of all students have experienced rape or sexual assault and college-aged women are three times more likely to be victims of sexual violence. The broader movement around campus sexual assault has called for increased accountability from academic institutions and prompted additional funding into studies such as Columbia?s $2.2 million research project Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation. But the conversations so far have failed to address the complexities of the issue and how sexual assault manifests.

The movement against campus sexual assault has struggled with developing a framework that addresses various causes of sexual violence. Sexual assault is an expression of power, whether through verbal or physical coercion, and can be used to violently express, or reinforce societal biases. This falls in line with hate crimes, which are categorized by motivations of prejudice and violence. Hate crimes are notoriously difficult to accurately track, due to internal biases within law enforcement and judicial branches and lack of reporting, but according to the FBI, anti-Muslim hate crimes showed the sharpest increase, rising 67 percent within one year.

The illusion of peace

Many people remember when the illusion of peace was shattered last Ramadan. On June 18, Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old black Muslim girl, was abducted and murdered in Virginia. Police classified the crime as an act of road rage, not a hate crime. But Nabra's father, Mohmoud Hassanen, noted that his daughter and her friends were all wearing hijabs, making them easily identifiable as Muslims. He told the Guardian?s David Smith he believed his daughter was the victim of an Islamophobic attack. The year before, a Somali woman had a mug smashed in her face at a Minnesota Applebee?s and a bombing took place at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic center, also in Minnesota. Later, police and prosecution released an indictment and update of the case stating Nabra Hassanen had been raped.

In the age of #MeToo and increasingly violent anti-black Islamophobia, it is important to remember the black Muslims whose experiences with sexual assault are erased. Nabra Hassanen was not a college student, but her case is a clear example of how Islamophobia manifests in forms of sexual violence that can be deadly. Given the increased sexualization of black women?s bodies through the Jezebel trope and the additional layer of sexualization that comes from wearing articles like the headscarf, we need to stop seeing black Muslim experiences as inherently existing outside the scope of the conversation.

While the #MeToo hashtag is most often recognized in response to sexual harassment within Hollywood, Tarana Burke originally founded the Me Too movement in 2006. Her aim was to empower young women of color who had been sexually abused, assaulted or exploited, with a focus on those who lacked the class status, resources or even acceptable skin color to have their stories respected.

According to the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, 1 in 5 black women report having been raped in their lifetimes. Black women make up the largest education group in the United States. With 1 in 5 college students likely to be victims of sexual assault (and these numbers may be underreported?the Bureau of Justice Statistics states for every rape reported by a black woman, 15 go unreported), the statistics indicate that a high number of black women may be sexually assaulted on campus.

Currently, there are no statistics taking into account differing rates of sexual violence based on race or religious association. As our society places emphasis on data, our failure to calculate that information suggests the devaluing of certain stories. This highlights how the current framework misses discussing how sexual assault can manifest differently throughout populations.

Similarly, there is no clear data on which campuses have the majority of Muslims and what the racial breakdown is within that. However, according to the Pew Research Center, 20 percent of all Muslims in the United States are black. Of Muslim American families extending three or more generations, 51 percent are black, highlighting the presence of black American Muslim communities. Taking that into account, we can assume, based on the total percentage of the black Muslim population and the rate of black women graduating college, there is a significant number of black Muslim women in higher education.

These women may have experiences with campus sexual assault, but because many people do not always report sexual assault, often believing specific events may not qualify, their stories slip by unnoticed.

The weaponizing of language 

The "weaponizing" of language also precludes black Muslim women from seeking assistance on an administrative level.

On February 10, students at Spelman College, a historically black college, practiced their own World Hijab Day. Shortly after, faculty members sent a concerning letter to the student body, bypassing attempts to hold a conversation with the students who had organized the event. In the letter, faculty members invoked a feminist framework for their pushback while citing Asra Nomani, who has publicly called for government surveillance and profiling of Muslim communities.

The letter is an example of how language is weaponized against Muslims, instead of working with the directly affected populations, and how administrations can make it difficult for Muslim women to seek the support they need.

Not every Muslim woman wears a hijab, but Spelman?s letter shows how the hijab is identified as an expression of gendered Islamophobia through a combination of Orientalism and anti-blackness. Orientalism, defined by Edward Said around 1978, describes the biases projected onto the Middle East, such as the fascination with Muslim women, who are sexualized in veils and painted as passive objects within their own narratives. When it comes to black Muslim women, the history of the hijab in America is complex, but has the additional layer of being read through anti-black expectations of Western femininity, which is essentially designed to be at odds with black womanhood.

Enlarging the discussion

In my brief time on campus, I engaged in several conversations with black Muslims about sexual assault. People do hold these conversations with each other; friends seek comfort with friends?but is that enough? Some students cite concerns about how student groups hold such discussions on larger platforms, noting that students who exist at various intersections essentially have to divide their experiences based on the setting they?re in.

The present framework still focuses on white survivors, despite the hard work and influence of black women around dismantling rape culture. Students organizations are simply not equipped to handle the depth of this issue; centers are unable to provide the necessary data, and many Muslim Student Associations have not been educated in how to discuss sexual assault at all. 

With an entire movement dedicated to addressing campus sexual assault, is it permissible for black Muslims to be reduced to sharing their experiences in whispers in the corners of the student lounge?

If black Muslim women?s unique experiences are not included in the national conversation about sexual assault, we are not tackling sexual assault as a whole. Campus sexual assault does not exist as an individual phenomenon, but is a reflection of rape culture and academic institutions that have allowed this problem to take root.

In order to begin dismantling the scaffolding holding this structure in place, the conversation must account for intersectionality, as scholar Kimberle Crenshaw intended?not as a badge to award yourself or any movement, but as an examination of systems.

DisHonorRoll is made possible through a grant from the Media Consortium.


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Source: Is the #MeToo Movement Leaving Black Muslim Women Behind?
Richard Mellor / Iranian Students Jailed for Democracy Protests
« Last post by Richard Mellor on March 19, 2018, 06:01:15 PM »
Iranian Students Jailed for Democracy Protests

It was the leftist students at Tehran University who stood in  solidarity with the nationwide protests and chanted ?Reformist or  principalist, this story has come to an end!?, a powerful slogan that  challenged party-centric establishment politics and immediately became  popular across the country.
by Sina Zekavat
Reprinted from the Alliance of Midde Eastern Socialists
 March 16, 2018
After a wave of popular protests began in Iran in December and called  for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, the regime immediately  arrested over one hundred leftist student activists in order to prevent  the development of any organic relationship between the working-class  protesters and the university students.  These students were mostly  abducted from their homes at night, were charged with ?endangering  national security,? detained for up to several weeks, partially released  and told to wait for their trials.
In early March, the first set of trials were held and issued the  following verdicts:   A six-year prison sentence and an additional  two-year travel ban for  Leila Hosseinzadeh, a Tehran University  anthropology student and student council representative.    A one-year  prison sentence and an additional two-year travel ban for Sina Rabi?i, a  sociology student at Tehran University.  Other students such as Parisa  Rafi?i, Marzieh Amiri, Zahra Ahmadi  are currently on trial or expect to  be put on trial in April.
On March 11, a gathering by students at Tehran?s Polytechnic  University to protest these verdicts,  was violently attacked by members  of the government?s paramilitary Basij forces  who accused the students  of being ?Zionists? and severely beat them.  Other students at Allameh  Tabataba?i University held a protest and carried the symbolic corpse of a  student on their backs.
The long prison sentence given to Leila Hosseinzadeh seems to be  related to the fact that she is an outspoken socialist feminist and  student leader.
The latest revival of leftist demands and politics among university  students across Iran started  a few years ago in reaction to the  intensified imposition of fees on higher education and university  services/amenities on the one hand, and an increasing use of security  forces on university campuses on the other, by both political parties,  i.e. reformists and principalists.
For a long time the reformists had held a rigid monopoly over campus  politics and mobilization.  But it was during the December 2017 mass  protests that this monopoly was profoundly challenged.  In fact it was  the leftist students at Tehran University who stood in solidarity with  the nationwide protests and chanted ?Reformist or principalist, this  story has come to an end!?, a powerful slogan that challenged  party-centric establishment politics and immediately became popular  across the country.
The student movement in Iran is regaining its independence and centrality in Iran?s domestic as well as foreign politics.  It is of critical importance for other internationalist, progressive  and anti-capitalist student movements across the globe to lend their  support to this student movement and stand in solidarity with organizers  such as Leila Hosseinzadeh and others.
Sina Zekavat
 March 16, 2018
Source: Iranian Students Jailed for Democracy Protests
AlterNet / Facebook Suspends Trump Campaign Data Firm Cambridge Analytica
« Last post by AlterNet on March 19, 2018, 06:01:11 PM »
Facebook Suspends Trump Campaign Data Firm Cambridge Analytica

The company stole information from 50 million Facebook users' profiles.




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Source: Facebook Suspends Trump Campaign Data Firm Cambridge Analytica
AlterNet / Labor Organizes a Congressional Win
« Last post by AlterNet on March 19, 2018, 07:24:07 AM »
Labor Organizes a Congressional Win


Democrat Conor Lamb and organized labor make for a winning combination in a long-time red district.

On Tuesday in Western Pennsylvania, a novice candidate, a 33-year-old Democrat who had never before run for office, upset an experienced politician who President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. all stumped for and who received more than $10 million from dark money groups and the  Republican Party.

Not only that, the rookie did it in a congressional district that was gerrymandered to elect Republicans for life, a district that went for Trump, Mitt Romney and John McCain.

It was stunning.

Democrat Conor Lamb defeated Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania?s 18th District, which had sent a Republican to Congress for the past 15 years.

The shocker resulted from a winning combination. Organized labor worked for the candidate who pledged to work for labor. That candidate, of course, was Conor Lamb.

Lamb did not view unions as boogey men to fear and run from. He saw them as friends to run and win with.

In his victory speech, Lamb acknowledged the role organized labor played in putting him some 600 votes over the top in a district that had gone for Trump by 20 points. Lamb said organized labor ?was the heart and soul? of his campaign and he would not forget it. ?Side by side with us at each step of the way were the men and women in organized labor,? he said.

Lamb?s win illustrates that the manufacturing middle of the country and working-class voters who went for Trump nationwide do not belong to him or to Republicans.

They can be won by labor-supporting Democrats backed by grassroots and union activists despite $10 million in dark money and high-paid political consultants. They can be won by a candidate who workers trust to fight for issues critical to them. They can be won over to a candidate by face-to-face conversations with active and retired members of their own union.

Hundreds of labor union members did that in Western Pennsylvania for Lamb. They went door-to-door, visiting tens of thousands of homes in the 18th District, to urge fellow union members to vote for Lamb. They phone banked. They rallied.

In the week before the election, hundreds of United Steelworkers, United Mine Workers of America and Carpenters attended three rallies for Lamb, including one that featured former Vice President Joe Biden who said Lamb would ?throw himself in front of a train? to protect the working class from Republican-backed plans to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Candidates like Saccone, who ignore, insult or injure blue-collar workers and union members, do so at their peril. Mike Mikus, a Western Pennsylvania political consultant, said, ?What this race shows. . . is that labor is still very relevant and still has a lot of clout and the ability to organize and affect elections.?

Joe DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College, located in the 18th Congressional District in Washington, Pa., said, ?You cannot ignore 25 percent of the constituency, which is labor, and expect to win.?

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, took note of the GOP loss, and urged his fellow Republicans to try to understand and attract Trump?s core supporters. ?We have to better appeal to blue-collar voters. Whatever coalition Donald Trump had, we can?t afford to lose that,? he told The Hill newspaper. ?We talk too much about corporations. We talk too much about abstractions. We should be down there and a lot closer to organized labor.?  

Saccone, who ran in a district dense with labor union members, is about as far away from labor as it?s possible to get. As a state lawmaker, he voted in favor of perversely named right-to-work legislation that assures no right to work but instead ensures employees will work for less money and unions will suffer a financial hit. And Saccone was endorsed by the Pennsylvania Right to Work PAC.

Saccone voted against an infrastructure bill that would have provided jobs. He opposed extending unemployment compensation, which many workers in the 18th District needed during the Great Recession.

Saccone bragged that he was ?Trump before Trump was Trump.? And the President visited the district twice to rally for Saccone. But hugging Trump wasn?t enough to persuade workers in the 18th District that Saccone was their man.

That is because labor, including members of the USW, the UMWA, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Laborers International Union (LIUNA), the pipefitters, the building trades, the painters (IUPAT), the teachers, the carpenters and other unions, in addition to the AFL-CIO, visited or called nearly every one of the more than 80,000 households in the district belonging to union members registered to vote.

Volunteer activists from the Steelworkers contacted every one of the more than 17,000 registered voters who live in USW households in the 18th District.

Those face-to-face interactions between fellow union members were highly effective. They trusted each other in a way not possible when a homeowner is confronted by a stranger at the door with campaign literature.

Even early on, in the chill of January, members of the USW began reporting enthusiasm in the suburban neighborhoods, mill towns and coal communities. More than one told of homeowners who chased them down the sidewalk to get literature and talk about Lamb.  

It was the same enthusiasm that USW volunteers noted when they went door-to-door in deep-red Alabama for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones, who is the son of a Steelworker and worked in a steel mill while in college. Jones won.

The fact that Lamb was a, shall we say, dyed-in-the-wool union supporter helped tremendously. He talked about it at every rally, every Lenten fried fish dinner, every fund raiser.

He told the story of his aunt, who belonged to St. Anne?s parish, south of Pittsburgh in Castle Shannon, where the priest for a decade had been Monsignor Owen Rice, known as Pittsburgh?s labor priest. The monsignor placed in the churchyard a statue of Philip Murray, who was a member of the parish but who also launched the Steelworkers Organizing Committee, which would later become the USW. Murray was the first USW president.

?In western Pennsylvania, it?s no surprise that we put a statue of one of our great labor leaders right there in the churchyard for everyone to see, forever,? he said at an event in January.

Lamb?s priorities are labor?s priorities, including supporting a federal infrastructure bill, pushing legislation to buttress coal miners? underfunded pensions, and defending workers? right to organize and collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts expressed union support for Lamb in the best manner at a rally Sunday in Greene County, located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, bordering West Virginia and Ohio.

?He?s a God-fearing, union-supporting, gun-owning, job-protecting, pension-defending, Social Security-believing, healthcare believing, sending-drug-dealers-to-jail Democrat,? the labor leader said of Lamb, a former federal prosecutor and Marine.

That is the kind of Democrat that workers and organized labor volunteers will gladly spend hundreds of hours walking door-to-door to support. And that block-walking and door-knocking clearly can make the crucial 600-vote difference between winning and losing in a long-time Republican district.



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Source: Labor Organizes a Congressional Win
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