Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Zero-Sum Game

What a time to be alive! Will things ever get any better? Are they going to get even worse? Just when We the People  make some inroads in the rights to clean water (see last week's piece on The Lake Erie Bill of Rights and their recent press release, below) corporate interests and paid-off politicians seem to be scheming to throw the measure off the ballot. We can't have ordinary people practicing democracy, can we? 

It seems like we'll never catch a break. Why would anyone--private citizens or corporations--want heavily polluted water? Dirty water can't sustain life and it will clog up factory pipes and fittings. Are capitalists truly that short sighted? It seems like they're using us, like they're playing a game... A  Zero-Sum Game.

 The Zero-Sum Game
by Coast Watcher

Definition of zero-sum: Of, relating to, or being a situation (such as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side

        Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The wildfires currently raging in California have broken all records for size and destruction caused. Firefighters work twenty-four hour shifts combating the blaze. Working and fighting alongside them are men, women and even juvenile inmates from the California state penal system. Where professional firefighters are paid $74,000 yearly and benefits for risking their lives in public service, inmates receive a mere $2 a day, plus an extra dollar if they’re fighting an active fire.

To be eligible as volunteers inmates must not be serving a life sentence or a sentence for arson, sex crimes, kidnapping, gang affiliation or escape attempts. They undergo training in firefighting techniques and field conditions for two weeks before taking a physical exam. Once they pass, they live in one of forty-three low security compounds across the state. They do get some cheap benefits of their own from volunteering to serve. Their compounds allow more freedom than the strict prison regime. The food is better. Families are also allowed to use barbecue pits for their visits and can often spend the night in nearby cabins.

These perks don’t mitigate the fact convict conflagration fighters are poorly paid and risk their lives every time they go out to a blaze. As if that isn’t enough, unlike regular firefighters, their families do not receive compensation for loss of life should the felon firefighter be killed on the job. Once they leave jail none of them can even count their service as a firefighter in their job resumes.

Felons make up to 30% of the Californian fire fighting complement, and the state saves an estimated $80 million a year by employing them. “These are very dangerous jobs,” Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told Newsweek. “Anytime you see prisoners doing work, they don’t have the same kind of job security or right to complain about unsafe conditions. They can’t quit or go work for different jobs. They either do the job as they’re told to do it or they go back to regular prison. This is a captive group of workers being asked to put their lives on the line.”

Zero-Sum game. The State of California takes a great deal from these people, far more than the value of the crimes committed by the felons, many of whom are African-American or Latino, in jail for minor offenses such as marijuana possession. If you think not adequately compensating felon firefighters for their risky work is bad, consider the practice of convict leasing.

The "leasing" of prisoners as labor to private concerns began in the mid nineteenth century, and continued well into the twentieth, particularly in the South. Corporations such as United States Steel and the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company used felon laborers, earning the states that used the practice a lucrative sum of money. Working conditions were the worst in the United States. To quote Matthew J. Mancini, it was “one of the harshest and most exploitative labor systems known in American history.”

The practice was formally outlawed by Alabama, the last state to use it, in 1928, although it persisted in various forms until it was abolished by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 12, 1941. But of course the practice didn’t end there.

Cheap or preferably free labor is the corporate wet dream to end all wet dreams. Influenced by corporate lobbying, in 1979 Congress enacted the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification program. This permits American companies to use prison labor for virtually no cost. The dramatic increase in the American prison population, especially since the introduction of controversial "three strikes" laws across the country, has provided corporate America with a formidable – and largely cost free – labor pool.

Thanks to the Federal Bureau of Prisons UNICOR program, American companies made over $500 million in sales during 2016 alone. Little of that cash ever found its way to the felon workers. California, already profiting from felon firefighters, also made over $232 million in 2017.

"But isn’t this unconstitutional?" you might ask. Unfortunately not.

Although the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, it made an exception – a loophole for “punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” which made prison labor possible.

Zero-Sum game. Corporate America takes a great deal from these people, far more than the value of the crimes committed by the felons, many of whom are minorities in jail for minor offenses such as marijuana possession.

With criminal convictions escalating by the year, the labor pool is growing. An increasingly autocratic and dictatorial government is enacting and enforcing more laws every month, which means the felon labor pool will grow larger yet. Perhaps the ultimate historical example of the Zero Sum game is King Leopold II of Belgium's personal ownership of the Congo.

Dismayed at the gradual erosion of kingly power and authority in 19th century Europe, Leopold sought a means of making money. Money is, of course, power. He persuaded the United States and then all the major nations of western Europe to recognize a huge swath of Central Africa – roughly the same territory as the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo – as his personal property. Named the Congo Free State, it was the world’s only private colony, and Leopold referred to himself as its proprietor.

Leopold’s rule over the African domain lasted for twenty three years (1885-1908) during which time he had near exclusive control of the world’s rubber production. Disguised as a charitable institution, the Free State was run as a brutal business enterprise with the enslaved population of the Congo as its workforce. Leopold made a vast sum of money from the profits. His wealth was estimated at anywhere between $100 and $500 million – at the top end that’s $14 billion by today’s exchange rate. 

Leopold was one of the world's first billionaires. Worse yet, he was one of the world's largest slave owners. Creating that wealth cost ten million Africans their lives – roughly 50% of the Congolese population at that time through summary execution and disease. Failure to make the rubber crop quota was punished by mutilation. The cutting off of hands and ears was a favorite method of punishment for Leopold’s overseers.

Eventually knowledge of conditions in the Congo leaked out to the world. The resulting outcry proved enough to force Leopold to relinquish his control over the country. Will something similar force the United States to reform its penal system to respect human rights?

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. I don’t think he’d be at all impressed by how his Republican party descendants are exploiting more and more Americans for the sake of pure profit. Perhaps the US is a long way from the totally enslaved population and Zero-Sum production value of nineteenth century Congo, but I think the administrations of the previous thirty years have taken a major step in that direction.

Related articles:





Mancini, Matthew J. (1996). One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN9781570030833. p. 1-2.

$1 An Hour To Fight Largest Fire in CA History: Are Prison Firefighting Programs Slave Labor? (video and transcript)

BIO:  Coast Watcher has studied history and notes the patterns of behavior that humans in power seem to repeat. No way do we ever want to create another Congo Free State! Fight back and expose the US for-profit prison complex for what it is--yet another way the super wealthy exploits the labor of the workers.

Lake Erie Bill of Rights Petition Meets Signature Requirements for November 2018 Ballot Access

Discussions continue behind closed doors as Toledoans await decision

August 13, 2018
Markie Miller
Crystal Jankowski
Toledoans for Safe Water
Toledo residents promoting a local initiative, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR), for placement on the November ballot, want  to know how many valid voter signatures are needed.The group turned in petitions bearing 10,500 signatures on August 6. The Lucas County Board of Elections notified the Clerk of Toledo City Council on Friday that at least 6,438 were verified as current voters. But the City is still unable to tell the LEBOR campaigners if that is enough to get LEBOR on the ballot.

On August 1, the group's attorney, Terry Lodge, notified Dale Emch, City Law Director, and Gerald Dedinger, Assistant Clerk of Council, that current Ohio law, as determined twice in recent years by the Ohio Supreme Court, requires submission of 5, 244 verified signatures, using a calculation based on the number of voters in the 2017 municipal election. Mr. Emch advised Mr. Lodge on August 3 via email that "While I don’t disagree with your reading of the Heubner opinion (one of the leading Ohio Supreme Court decisions on the subject), the Law Department will not issue an opinion as to how Section 5 of our Charter should be read in light of that ruling."  

Why can’t the City Law Department issue an opinion? “The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is the strongest effort anywhere in Ohio to break a fixed system and fix a broken lake,” said Bryan Twitchell, one of the campaign leaders. “With the signatures counted, and clear legal precedence, there is no reason for the City’s apparent reticence. Any attempt to delay or prevent this issue going to ballot should be interpreted as a violation of the democratic principle that undergird our society, and an attempt by our representatives to stop we, the people, from acting in our own best interests,” he added.

"The number of verified signatures is the highest for a citywide initiative in recent decades and it is the people’s right to place laws on the ballot by initiative,"observed Mike Ferner of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. "The City should quickly qualify the petition for the November ballot so we can begin a good discussion on it."

Toledoans for Safe Water made every attempt to obtain an answer from city officials prior to the deadline for submission and asserts that there should be no question at this time as to whether or not their initiative has access to the November ballot. The LEBOR amendment would codify rights of nature in the Toledo city charter and enable citizens and the city of Toledo to deny corporate and government entities the right to pollute the Lake Erie ecosystem by establishing stronger environmental standards than those Ohio currently uses.


It's no game--lives are at stake here. We need to keep this dialog going or else we'll let those who exploit us win.
The Revolution Continues has set up an easy way to donate to the cause of keeping it ad-free. We've gone three years without those obnoxious ads (that many news sites have to cover costs). It's been great, but the editor does have to pay for internet, electricity, etc., out of her own pocket. She would like to be able to pay her contributors in the future.

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Power to the people and not the corporations!


A toddler died shortly after she was released from a U.S. immigrant detention facility. Demand justice.
Sign Now

We have all seen the photos and heard the recordings. At the southern border of the United States, thousands of children have experienced incredible trauma and pain as they are ripped from their parents' arms and locked away in detention centers. But now it's just gotten worse. One detained child has died in Dilley, Texas. 

Sign the petition to demand an investigation into this little girl's death now!
Officials aren't releasing the little girl's name, but we know she was a toddler who was locked away in the Dilley South Texas Family Residential Center. She suffered from a respiratory illness, which activists allege she contracted while in detention. The government did ultimately release her from their prison-like facility, but shortly afterwards, she died.

The government is denying that they had anything to do with this child's death, but lawyers say they have witnessed rampant neglect and inadequacies at Dilley. 

We must hold those responsible for this little girl's death accountable. Sign the petition to help us show that the public is watching and we will not allow this cruelty to go unchallenged.
Thank you for all that you do,

Miranda B.
The Care2 Petitions Team
P.S. A little girl has just died after being detained. We cannot sit back and ignore this horror. Will you sign the petition to demand justice?
From Move to Amend:

As Move to Amend continues to work to pass the We the People Amendment, which includes two parts: corporations are NOT people and money is NOT speech, we are also part of a coalition working together to pass the new DISCLOSE Act. 


The new DISCLOSE Act has been introduced in Congress, and it's stronger than ever:
  • It requires secret money groups to report their funders
  • Includes robust follow-the-money rules to reveal contributors hiding behind front groups
  • Requires leaders of corporations, unions, and other groups to “stand by their ads"
The bill is gaining traction in Congress, and with support from Republican members, could help hold back the tide of corruption until the We the People Amendment passes.  

Please sign the DISCLOSE Act petition now! 

The DISCLOSE Act will help put a stop to millionaries and corporations running our "democracy" while Move to Amend passes the We the People Amendment. Help us get there!
In solidarity,
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap
National Director

P.S. We're not letting up one bit in the fight for the We the People Amendment, but in the meantime, before we win, the DISCLOSE Act would help make sure we at least know where the money is coming from. Sign the petition to tell your Congressmembers to support the DISCLOSE Act!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"We Are Not The Enemy..."

This week, we're committing an act of political revolution. We're telling you the truth. It's a heady concept for some, but stay with us. You might learn something useful. You might be inspired to do something to ensure that your own municipality's drinking water is clean and safe, too.

But first, there needs to be some clarification...

"We Are Not The Enemy Of The People" 
or Being a Journalist Is Not A Crime

words and protest photos 
by C. A. Matthews

Contrary to current popular belief, human beings who share information with others through the witnessing of events and reporting of facts are not criminals. No matter what Trump or his sycophants say, performing the functions of a journalist isn't a criminal offense.

Sure, some so-called journos aren't so great at their jobs. Many (if not all) of the highest paid broadcast news hosts on the mainstream networks act like blatant propagandists for the status quo. These propagandists can't seem to get enough of praising the establishment and passing on their version of events. If you watch a certain cable news network, you'll hear that climate change is a hoax in spite of the record heatwave this summer. If you watch another cable news network, you might come to believe we haven't been helping to bomb Yemen for several years since they rarely mention it. (Those millions of Yeminis dying of cholera and from the collateral damage of war are making it all up. It couldn't have started during the Obama administration, either. Oh, and "Russia!")

The vast majority of those who write news articles for print and produce programs for radio/TV/online are honorable. They're just doing their job. We  should cut them some slack. We should give them the respect they deserve since they're doing their best to protect our First Amendment right of free speech. After all, an informed electorate is a free and democratic electorate, right?

The sad thing is, in this day of multi-media conglomerates that own the vast majority of our newspapers, radio and television stations we find CEOs who won't even pay their workers a living wage. Case in point, the employees of the Toledo Blade haven't had a raise in sixteen years.
Sixteen years.  It's not like there's been zero inflation in over a decade and a half. It's not like the cost of housing and fuel haven't gone up. These guys deserve a raise--retroactively.

The Blade's owners, Block Communications--which also owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (the paper that recently fired their editorial cartoonist for his anti-Trump cartooning)--are so cheap they can't even give cost of living increases to their employees. Instead, they're investing their hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly profits in hiring a union-busting law firm just to make life even rougher for their workers. 

(Very nice of the Block family to hire lawyers to scare their employees into submission. I guess that's why they don't even live in Toledo. They'd have to have their servants scrub the eggs and tomatoes off their mansion and yachts constantly. And all the toilet-papering and soaped windows? Don't get me started.)

When former press secretary Sean Spicer announced he was coming to Toledo to promote his newest piece of fiction (or is his book supposed to be factual?) the local union that represents the Blade's workers decided to use his visit as a way to draw attention to their plight. They protested in front of the main branch of the public library where Spicer was speaking. They chalked messages on the sidewalks to let him know the score. Spicer is a symbol of all that is wrong in our country with its horrible treatment of journalists. 

And get this: Kurt Franck, the Blade's top executive, actually sponsored Sean Spicer's visit to the Glass City. A newspaper exec sponsored the "Mr. Fake News" guy himself. What a great way to show how much you care about your employees, Kurt!

It's obvious the 1% don't care about the 99%. The Block family's and Mr. Franck's actions demonstrate their contempt for ordinary Americans. Truly, we are living in an age where civil discourse among the ever-widening chasm between the economic classes is not only improbable, it's seemingly impossible.

Although trying to survive on poverty wages (or none at all for yours truly) is bad, consider the tragic tale of journalist Manuel Duran Ortega. His story is worse. Manuel is the founder of Noticias, a Spanish-language publication in Memphis, Tennessee. He was one of several journalists covering an Occupy ICE protest, and yet he was the only journalist arrested for "disorderly conduct." He was even wearing his press badge at the time. The charges were  dropped by the police, but someone called ICE instead. Manuel, a legal resident, was sent to an ICE detention center far away from his friends and family. 

America has criminalized the profession of journalism, attacked journalists and locked them up without provocation. It has labeled them all as "fakes" and slighted its hardest working practitioners through unfair labor practices and union intimidation. Why does the current administration hold our First Amendment right to free speech in such contempt? Could it be those in charge realize the only way to completely subvert democratic ideals is by shutting down all avenues of free expression--and the first step is by criminalizing the free press?

Support your local journalists whenever you can. Tell them when they're doing a good job, and give them constructive criticism when they need to improve. Make sure they're safe and that they aren't going hungry. We need them now more than ever.  We need brave souls to share vital information with us--not the establishment's empty platitudes it wants to distract us with while it gets up to no good.

Who knows which profession the fascists will criminalize and lock up next--social workers? Public school teachers? Lawyers? Nurses? Scientists? Artists? I.T. wizards? Pastors and priests? Remember, the concentration camps of Nazi Germany were filled with ordinary people just like you and me. What makes anyone immune to illegal imprisonment at the whim of a dictator? Without a free press, how will you know if they're coming for you next?

Our good friend north of the border wonders, "Is the free press dead?"  https://youtu.be/OH_k9M7K6ds

Related articles on the press (and those who give us information):

Someone Is Going To Get Killed--How Trump's Political Climate Threaten Journalists

Arresting Assange will be dire for the mainstream media (although they won't report on him) https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-30/refusing-defend-assange-mainstream-media-exposes-its-true-nature
History in the Making: The Lake Erie Bill of Rights

August 6, 2018, is a date for the history books. The first ever American "Rights of Nature" initiative was presented at One Government Center, Toledo, Ohio. The initiative is expected to be on the November city ballot as a charter amendment.

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) is a citizens' initiative to ensure the more than 11 million human beings who dwell along the shores of Lake Erie will have access to clean, safe drinking water. Under our current system of law, nature is regarded as property, and citizens have no legal standing in court to object to government issued permits and projects that jeopardize the public's health, safety or the quality and integrity of their water supply. LEBOR will change all that by giving the citizens the power to protect Lake Erie from environmental harms.

Toledoans for Safe Water, a grassroots organization, is a group of concerned citizens tired of waiting for government action to protect their drinking water from another toxic algal bloom. Toledoans will never forget the bloom that occurred in the western basin of Lake Erie in August 2014. It shut down all municipal water to a half-million Ohio and Michigan residents for four days. These activists vow it won't happen again.
Volunteers worked hard to gather 10K+ signatures for the LEBOR ballot measure. They gave a press conference before walking the petitions up to the Clerk of Council and then on to the Lucas County Board of Elections for the petition signatures verification process to begin. Their next plan of action includes convincing voters to support the initiative.

For more information and for ways you can help the Lake Erie Bill of Rights  come to pass, check out the Toledoans For Safe Water web site at www.LakeErieAction.org and join them on Facebook at Toledoans For Safe Water.

 Freedom Isn't "Free" -- Somebody's Got To Pay!
The Revolution Continues has set up an easy way to donate to the cause of keeping it ad-free. We've gone three years without those obnoxious ads (that many news sites have to cover costs). It's been great, but the editor does have to pay for internet, electricity, etc., out of her own pocket. She would like to be able to pay her contributors in the future.

Please consider donating a buck, $5, $10 or $100--any amount you can share with us to keep this progressive site going without those awful ads is appreciated. Help us become a strong alternative voice protesting against the corrupt establishment and its paid-off corporate mouthpieces. Give to TRC today. Thank you.

You can donate via Paypal at http://paypal.me/camatthews 

Power to the people and not the corporations!


From Roots Action:

Manuel Duran Ortega―founder of Memphis Noticias, a Spanish-language publication in Memphis, Tennessee―was arrested in April for disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic while covering a local protest.

Duran Ortega was one of several journalists covering the protest, was wearing his press badge, and yet was the only journalist arrested.

Two days later, the Memphis Police Department dropped the charges against him. But instead of releasing Duran Ortega, Memphis officials turned him over to ICE. He was subsequently transferred to a detention center in Louisiana―separated from his family in Memphis.

Manuel Duran Ortega should never have been taken by ICE. click here to help us undo this outrage.

His attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center allege that Duran Ortega was targeted by local police in retaliation for his critical reporting. In a petition to the court, Duran’s attorneys state that:

“Detention of Mr. Duran Ortega is a direct result of Memphis law enforcement officers’ and ICE officers’ illegal and unconstitutional actions in targeting, arresting, detaining, and seeking to deport Mr. Duran Ortega. MPD [Memphis Police Department] unlawfully arrested Mr. Duran Ortega to silence and retaliate against him.”

An attack on journalists is an attack on our First Amendment rights! Sign the petition and demand the immediate release of Memphis journalist Manuel Duran Ortega.

After signing the petition, please share it with your friends.

-- The RootsAction.org Team

From Friends of the Earth:

Every day Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in office, he works to destroy our public lands and waters at the expense of our communities.

He proposed gutting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. He wants to massively ramp up oil and gas drilling off our coasts. And he’s trying to slash protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
All this begs the question: What is Ryan Zinke getting out of destroying our last remaining wild places and the people who depend on them? 

There are 11 investigations into Zinke’s decision-making, misuse of funds, and potential corruption. We can’t continue to allow him to destroy our wild places and communities. We need Congress to kick him out of office before he can do any more harm!

It’s been reported that a foundation established by Zinke and chaired by his wife engaged in a real estate deal with the chairman of dirty energy giant Halliburton -- which is already benefitting from Zinke’s attacks on our public lands.

Zinke’s scandals are remarkably similar to those of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He used taxpayer money to take unnecessary charter flights. He potentially violated the Hatch Act by mixing work and campaign travel. And now, his wife’s foundation is involved in shady dealings with oil executives.

Thanks to Friends of the Earth members like you who pushed your Representatives to pay attention to Pruitt’s scandals, he was forced to step down just a few weeks ago. This shows that when we pressure Congress to hold the Trump administration accountable for its corruption, we can win.

Now, we need to turn up the heat on Zinke. Our wild places, wildlife, and communities across the country are at stake. Zinke is helping his friends in the oil industry by gutting our bedrock protections for healthy communities and public lands. It’s time to hold him accountable.

Some Members of Congress are already working to hold Zinke accountable. Rep. Grijalva introduced an amendment to increase the Inspector General’s budget -- allowing for the hiring of critical staff, but GOP leaders blocked this effort. 

But this isn’t enough. Even many Democrats haven’t made public statements to hold Zinke accountable.

Every day that Congress doesn’t act, Zinke is free to continue destroying our wild places for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. And it’s not just our environment that pays the price. It’s communities like the Alaska Gwich’in, who rely on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its porcupine caribou herd. It’s the people who live in coastal communities that could be devastated by increased drilling. And it’s everyone who could soon live somewhere where they’ll see, hear and smell coal mines and oil wells every day.

It’s time for Congress to step up. They pushed for Pruitt to be fired, and it worked. Now, we need them to do the same with Zinke.

Sign the petition: Tell Congress to stop Zinke from destroying our wild places to benefit Big Oil!

Standing with you,
Nicole Ghio,
Senior fossil fuels program manager,
Friends of the Earth

From Care2 Petitions:

Immigrant Parents Are Being Charged Up to $8/Minute to Call the Children They're Separated From


Over and over again we've seen the Trump administration commit horrific, inhumane acts against refugee children. They've ripped children from their parents, put them in cages, subjected them to horrifying conditions. Now, to add an extra layer of cruelty, the government is charging parents money just to speak to the children they've been separated from. Right now the government is charging immigrant parents as much as $8 per minute to call their children.

These parents, who have often fled horrific conditions in an attempt to find safety for their families, aren't going to have that kind of money easily available.

Per ICE's own rules, detainees should have the right to contact immediate family members via phone for free, but media outlets have discovered that immigrants are being charged to make such calls anyway.

The Texas Tribune has accounts from a Guatemalan mom who could only call her three children after saving up enough money to place the call, as well as a father who was denied a call to his son because he didn't have sufficient funds in his account.

These families should be speedily reunited, and in the meantime, there's no reason to compound the cruelty. Please, sign this petition demanding ICE ensure all phone calls between separated parents and children be free of charge.
Thank you,
Ellen B.
The Care2 Petitions Team
P.S. There have been small victories over the course of this despicable, self-made humanitarian crisis, but we have to keep the pressure on Trump and his cronies. Please sign the petition today and help ensure parents are able to speak to their children as we continue to put the pressure on for full reunification of families.