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Closing Statement At Summit County Ohio State Meeting

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Bob Fitrakis On WVKO Radio Columbus Series Audio 2012 Archive, Youtube Bonus at end

Fight Back Podcast Nov. 11, 2012
Bill Baker talking about Charter passing against fracking in MANSFIELD, OH 1.03 BILL OF RIGHTS ARTICLE 1

Fight Back Podcast November 24, 2012
Naked Short Selling, Brown Saddle Films, Christina Copeland
The Wall Street Conspiracy – Trailer The Naked Truth: Investing in` the Stock Play of a Lifetime Hardcover – February 15, 2008 by Mark Faulk (Author)

Fight Back WVKO Podcast November 17, 2012
Bill Baker Charter amendment in Mansfield Against Article 1 sec. 1.03 Bill Of Rights Anti-Fracking activist. Home Rule by Existing Ohio Law

Fight Back WVKO Podcast November 10, 2012
Karl Rove Melt Down, Election Summary, Jim Hettle
and Mary Beth Bryan Working on documentary incl. Romney

Fight Back WVKO Podcast November 03, 2012
Jill Stein Green Party Presidential candidate, Command Central
Voting Intricacies

Fight Back WVKO Podcast, October 27, 2012 Romney Family investments in voting machines

Fight Back WVKO Podcast, October 06, 2012
Special Guest Ass’t Professor Of Economics, Dr. Fadel Kaboub from Denison University

Fight Back WVKO Podcast, September 29, 2012
Brian Clash live. Terri Jameson Domestic Relations Juvenile court candidate.40:45> Gerry Bello Sept. 27, 2012 Free Press Article, “Vote counting company tied to Romney”

Fight Back WVKO Podcast, October 13, 2012
Cheri Honkala, VP Candidate For The U.S. Green Party 2012

Fight Back WVKO Podcast October 20, 2012
Kelly Nyks, “Split, A Deeper Divide“, Gerry Bello, Political analysis (31:37), John Wellington Innis, Edited Version, “Free For All” (34:25), Discussion of Michael Connell, (52:04), ‘Point Of Sale’ (POS) attack. Romney and voting machines.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast Sept. 15, 2012
Michael Alwood standing in for Peter Navarro Film Producer, official site “Death By China” Free on youtubeKnow Drones 47:58 Nick Mottern.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast Setp. 8, 2012 Bob talks to Senior Editor of the Columbus Free Press, Harvey Wasserman about Husted, Ohio SOS, bans Sunday voting and voter suppression.

Fight Back, WVKO Podcast Sept. 1, 2012 (Starts 11:12) Tom Over, live at the republican convention.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast Aug. 18, 2012 (Starts 8:20) Elections and Voting, Wisconsin Guests (Dennis Kern, John Washburn) Ohio Dem. Dennis Liberman removed from office (by Jon Husted Ohio SOS) for promoting weekend voting.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast Aug 11, 2012 Fighting The War Party, Richard Ehrbar III (L) – Candidate for Congress, Ohio District 3, Bob’s Opposition candidate.

FightBack WVKO Podcast August 4, 2012 (starts at 6:25)
Columbus City Council Mis-Representation, Reflex, Carpet Baggers, Hiroshima, Nagasaki memorial 62nd, No Drones, 51:47: Dave agin’ Obama and dems, Obama agenda, Workers and voting rights.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast July 14, 2012 (Starts 9:30) (Starts 9:43) Re-examining Lucasville, OH longest prison uprising in U.S. Ben Turk Redbird prison abolition. Live call from prison, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) | Justice for Lucasville Lucasville Five.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast July 21, 2012 (Starts 7:43) Prison Industrial Complex Derrick Jones and Natural, movie “The Great Incarcerator”

Fight Back WVKO Podcast July 28 2012 (starts 7:20) Dell Perry, local Musician, Producer, Then (38.50)  R.P Ericksen author “The Left Has Always Been Right”.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast May 19, 2012 Front Street with host Charles Traylor,

Fight Back WVKO Podcast May 26, 2012 Rob Kall, Chief editor OpedNews.com, (21:12) NATO Summit, Chicago coverage from Freepress Photographer, Christopher Coston.  COINTELPRO worldwide campaign fighting U.S. policy opposition. Trayvon Martin discussion caller. Bob Bennett, Wally O’Dell (Diebold) mention. Infoshop Event.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast June 6, 2012 Sean Gilbow, 1851 centerDonald Goldmacher, Bay Area Activist “Heist, The Movie” Public Employees, School Districts for profit.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast June 9, 2012 Dr. Bob and Cliff Arnebeck, Richard Charnin, Scott Walker Recall (WI), Pattern: Exit Polls adjusted to match “outcome”. Harvey Wasserman calls in. Barbara With, Sheila Parks.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast June 23, 2012 Dr. Bob, Michael Alwood and Cliff Arnebeck, Campaign For America’s Future, Van Jones about Obama’s knowledge of election rigging. Judith, Texas Strike Force, WI robocalls, Michael Connell deposition, death (42:20). After Conf. Posse to Crossroads, 43:30. Letter from Bob Bauer, Jill Simpson and Don Seigelman, Max Cleland, Georgia election corruption. Rove fired from Whitehouse, 2007.

Fight Back WVKO Podcast May 12, 2012 Fascism, Corporatism, Socialism, Trotsky, Michael Alwood, Steve

Fight Back WVKO Podcast May 5, 2012 Bill Baker, Frack Free Ohio, Preferred Fluids, TX, President Speaking in Columbus

Fight Back WVKO Podcast July 7, 2012 Bob, Michael Alwood, AEP, Global Warming, Weather Mods, Full Spectrum Dominance, Nick Mottern: KnowDrones

BONUS:

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Franklin County Prosecutor candidates weigh in on police-involved shootings, diversion programs, equal protection

by Steve Palm-Houser
SEPTEMBER 20, 2016

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On September 14, two candidates for Franklin County Prosecutor answered questions about how they would respond to officer-involved shootings, if elected. As the candidates’ forum at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church proceeded, only one mile away 13-year-old Tyre King was pursued and shot multiple times by Columbus police. He was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and pronounced dead a few minutes after the candidates’ forum ended.

Adrienne Hood spoke at the beginning of the forum. Her son Henry Green was killed by Columbus police on June 6. “It’s unfortunate that the person who can give me the justice that my son deserves is not here,” she said, indicating the empty chair reserved for Ron O’Brien, the incumbent County Prosecutor candidate. O’Brien has not responded to demands by Green’s family to indict the officers who shot him and appoint an independent prosecutor to oversee the case.

Diversion programs

People’s Justice Project organizer Tammy Alsaada posed the first question to Democratic candidate Zach Klein and Green Party candidate Bob Fitrakis. “Would you keep families together by expanding diversion programs for youth, for addiction, and for mental health issues in underserved and overlooked communities?” she asked. “And how would you help keep people out of the system and get the treatment they need?”

“Yes,” Zach Klein said. “I’m a firm believer that the cycle of incarceration breeds a cycle of poverty, which breeds a cycle of incarceration. I think we need to be aggressive in expanding our diversion program to ensure that there is treatment” for drug addiction and mental health issues. “We also need a diversion program that recognizes when some people turn to crime to make ends meet. It may be a small number of people, but there are people who lack opportunity. Jail is for people that we’re afraid of, not for people we don’t know what to do with.”

There is currently “no rhyme or reason or policy directive out of the prosecutor’s office for who is eligible for diversion,” Klein said. “It’s all at the whim of whether the prosecutor knows the defense attorney. That’s not fair, open, or transparent.”

Bob Fitrakis also responded “yes” to Alsaada’s question. “As prosecutor I will not arrest anyone for drug possession,” he said. “It’s a medical problem, and that’s how it will be handled.” Instead, he would go after the people involved in heavy drug trafficking. “Many of these are connected with legitimate businesses. The people who fueled the crack epidemic in this town in the 1990’s were Southern Air Transport. They were bringing heroin and other drugs into this country. Instead of going after someone with ten balloons in their stomach, let’s go after the large aircraft that are coming in by the planeload, contaminating these communities.”

Fitrakis cited the recently revealed admission by Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman that the War on Drugs was started not to curb drug use, but to marginalize blacks and the hippies who opposed the Vietnam War. “This has been a systematic campaign against the poor community, against the black community,” he said. “We need to redefine the problem.”

Equal protection under the law

“Research shows that mass incarceration disproportionately affects low-income people, and people of color,” said Jasmine Ayres, field director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. “We need more information to make evidence-based decisions on policies and practices. For example, black people in Franklin County are 3.8 times more likely to be in jail than whites.

“Will you collect and share demographic data — including race, gender, and income level — on who is charged, what they are charged with, what plea is offered, and what bail is recommended? And how would you set alternative metrics to evaluate your staff?”

“Will I comply with the open records law? Yes,” Bob Fitrakis responded. “There needs to be full transparency. For many years, before the Free Press went after the judges, they were double-bonding people. The bondsmen were running the court until they were exposed.

“I’m going to remove the jump-out boys,” he said, referring to plainclothes police officers who patrol so-called “crime hot-spots,” a code word for neighborhoods with many poor, black, and Latino residents. “They post white police, walking around with money, pretending they’re on drugs, acting like bait. They should be removed or charged criminally, because they’re causing the violence. They need to get off the streets.”

Fitrakis recalled teaching police officers about the U.S. Constitution in 1980. “They weren’t really receptive to it, but we were able to work out certain things,” he said. “We should pay our police well, and we should make sure they know our fundamental principles.”

Zach Klein responded, “Yes, as someone who’s running for prosecutor, trying to get that information that you seek. It doesn’t exist. We should have an open, transparent system in the prosecutor’s office that uses the best practices and technology, that’s not only available, but easy to understand.

“In 2014, which is the last year this data was available, there were 12,000 criminal filings in Franklin County. 190 went to trial. Think about the 11,810 cases that never went to trial, that fall squarely within the programs and opportunities that you’re talking about. But outside of knowing they didn’t go to trial, we don’t know anything about the defendants, the pleas, or the cases.

“Having an open and transparent prosecutor’s office restores the community’s faith in the criminal justice system,” Klein said. “We need to have a prosecutor’s office that is outward-facing, that is engaged in the community, that doesn’t just go home to the suburbs, that looks like the community,” Klein said. “What do I know about Ron O’Brien’s office? Four percent of his lawyers are African American. I think that’s abysmal. We need to have a more aggressive approach to recruiting African American, Latino, LGBT, and female lawyers.”

Trying juveniles as adults

“Youth should not be tried as adults. Research shows that if you send youth to adult prison, they are more likely to re-offend. They are more likely to be sexually abused,” said Candice Williams-Bethea, a grassroots educator with the People’s Justice Project. “How will you handle the practice of trying minors in adult court? And how will you use developmentally-informed decision making appropriate to youth?

“Those statistics are real, which is why any prosecutor should be careful about charging any juvenile as an adult, or as a juvenile,” Zach Klein responded. “A prosecutor’s office should be working with faith and community leaders to play quarterback on this issue and others, to give juvenile offenders a chance to pull themselves out of the cycle. A proactive prosecutor will bring the parties together with a mentor program that can give kids an opportunity to make a difference, not just treat them like a number.”

“I’m not charging any juvenile as an adult if I am prosecutor,” said Bob Fitrakis. “Social science states the obvious: the amount of lawbreaking between affluent suburban white kids and inner-city kids is about the same. The only difference is who gets charged, who gets a record, and who ends up doing time and being profiled for the rest of their lives.”

As an attorney, Fitrakis sees “more justice when I go to mayor’s court in Worthington, Grandview, and Hilliard, when youth are charged with a minor misdemeanor because they’re good boys and girls and about to go off to a private school.” For the same offense a young person in Columbus might be given a first degree misdemeanor or a felony charge, he said. “That must end in the prosecutor’s office.”

Independent prosecutor for police-involved shootings

“Recently the Supreme Court of Ohio acknowledged the bias of the grand jury process when it comes to indicting police,” said Aramis Malachi-Ture Sundiata, statewide organizing director for the People’s Justice Project. “Will you appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate all police-involved shootings in Franklin County? And if not, how will you handle police-involved shootings?”

“If you appoint an independent prosecutor, who do you hold accountable?” Zach Klein responded. “When I am prosecutor, I want you to hold me accountable for decisions I make, not only in police-involved shootings, but in any issue of crime.”

Klein cited Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who lost a re-election campaign when he failed to indict police officers in the killing of Tamir Rice. “He was held accountable and got fired,” Klein said. “If we appoint independent prosecutors, I’m afraid that we might lose the accountability. You can’t vote an independent prosecutor out of office.”

“I have no problem with an independent prosecutor,” Bob Fitrakis said. “I just don’t think it goes far enough. I believe that there needs to be an independent civilian review board, with subpoena power, that is elected from the area commissions, and that is responsible in these shooting cases.

“Part of the problem is the tremendous hold the FOP has on elected officials,” Fitrakis said. “That has to stop. We need not only an independent prosecutor; we need a civilian review board with an auditor. We need real citizens from the high-crime neighborhoods. We should be able to elect people from those communities, because they’re the victims.”

At a Columbus City Council candidates’ forum last fall, Zach Klein went on record as opposing a civilian review board with subpoena power.

Both candidates agreed to meet with the groups who held the candidates forum’ 100 days after the election.

For each of the questions posed, the audience applause was consistently louder and longer for Bob Fitrakis than for Zach Klein.

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What Really Happened at Jill Stein’s Green Party “Wrong City” Rally

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

SEPTEMBER 5, 2016

Jill Stein raising her fist at the podium

So the corporate media indulged itself with the idea that Green Party candidate Jill Stein flew to the “wrong city” for a Friday rally at Capital University in central Ohio. Her lateness was in the headline, lead and conclusion of every mainstream article about the September 2 event.

As usual, they ignored the real story.

Jill originally had a speech scheduled in Cincinnati, which was moved, although the tickets weren’t. So she was in Covington, Kentucky about a half-hour before the scheduled noon start of her talk at Capital, where Harvey is in his thirteenth year of teaching (primarily UC200: Cultural and Ethnic Diversity).

No big deal. Jill hopped into a Lyft and headed north. Estimated time of arrival: about 2:30.

Compare this to when Hillary Clinton appeared in Columbus on July 31, 2016 at Ft. Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, arrived two hours late, and a dozen people had fainted in the heat in the meantime. Although the Dispatch reported on it, the article did not emphasize her lateness in the headline or lead. Buried in the middle of the article, it read: “Several in the Ft. Hayes crowd had to be treated by paramedics as they waited on the newly-anointed Democratic nominees, who were about two hours late – in part because they stopped for Grandpa’s Cheese Barn along Interstate 71 near Ashland.”

Meanwhile, Harvey told Jill’s crowd of about 100 (many of them his students) that she was on her way and took orders for pizza. Since the local media craves the details, here they are: seven cheese pies, seven with onions, peppers and mushrooms, and one vegan (for Harvey, Suzanne and two other takers) with tofu and no cheese. (Total price: $220, Harvey’s most memorable campaign donation).

We then opened the mic. Among others, long-time Green Party activist Anita Rios spoke. So did Bob, Ohio Green Party Co-Chair, candidate for Franklin County prosecutor, a professor at Columbus State Community College, and Editor of the Columbus Free Press/www.freepress.org. Bob and Harvey have co-authored seven books on election protection, dating back to the 2004 theft of the presidency by George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

At one o’clock we switched over to Harvey’s iPhone. One of Harvey’s students hooked us up to the PA and we played the Jill Stein campaign theme song, followed by a good long session from the Grateful Dead.

It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon on the large lawn at a lovely liberal arts college. People sat, talked and stretched out. Thanks to the modern miracles of the telephone, texting, email and social media, the crowd grew by half.

A klatch of about a dozen libertarians hovered in the background wearing Gary Johnson t-shirts. We asked them if it was true that Johnson, who advocates legalization of pot, had promised not to smoke it while in the White House. We told them that was a mistake.

When Jill arrived she was greeted by Capital’s much-loved President Beth Paul. Back in 2008, the school hosted an appearance from candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin. George H.W. Bush and other presidents, ex-presidents and candidates—-including Barack Obama—-have appeared here.

When Bob finally introduced her, we had a rested, happy crowd of enthusiastic students, locals and Green Party volunteers. Jill spoke of the Green New Deal and her plan to put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work to create a clean energy economy by 2030. She asked the student crowd how many had taken out student loans and more than half raised their hands. The crowd roared approval when she announced she would cancel all student loan debt, which affects 43 million Americans.

What should have been the lead was Stein’s call to cut the U.S. military spending in half. She pointed out that our nation has 900 military bases all over the world. Other than the U.S., all the other nations on the planet combined have only 30 military bases outside their borders.

We took questions after Jill’s speech, then a group photo, and a long selfie line. A good time was had by all.

By the time Jill hopped in Anita’s car to head to Cleveland for her next gig, this time just a half-hour late, the media had filed its story, but obviously missed an excellent rally.

The media are also misrepresenting Stein’s official ballot status:   A Dispatch article Monday, September 5, said:   “Green Party nominee Jill Stein is on track to make it in at least half [of the state ballots].” At the time the Dispatch published this AP report, Stein was already on the ballot in 41 states and likely to end up on at least 45 states, or 95 percent of the states. Only in South Dakota is she not on the ballot by name or as a write-in, and in only three states is she certified as a write-in only – Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia.

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Green-Socialist Dream in Houston

Bob Fitrakis and Philena Farley

Ohio Green Party delegates Bob Fitrakis and Philena Farley at the Green Party national presidential nominating convention

More than a few have wondered why the Green Party headed for Houston in August to nominate Jill Stein for President. I heard a few press observers note that maybe it was because Houston is one of the hottest and most polluted cities in the nation – perhaps more in need of Stein’s proposed Green New Deal than any other major U.S. city.

The reality is that the national Greens chose Houston because the state Party there practices thoroughgoing grassroots democracy. Simply put, Houston’s state Green Party had the best proposal. The Ohio Greens had proposed Toledo and were a finalist, with a vision of the Cleveland fascistic Republican convention contrasted with adecentralized democratic meeting in the city that is, for all practical purposes, a suburb of Detroit.

Prior to the Saturday, August 6 nominating convention, there were no major questions outstanding. Stein was the presumptive nominee, had chosen her Vice President, and her platform was clear. This is despite the fact in the past few months, Stein had offered Bernie Sanders to be the Green Party presidential nominee (with Stein as VP), and offered former Ohio State Senator, Sanders supporter, and renegade Democrat Nina Turner a spot as her running mate.

There was also talk of Cornel West as a VP candidate. But in the end, Stein turned to a stalwart human rights activist with ties to the Black Lives Matter movement to balance the ticket and reach out to the Party’s growing minority base, Ajamu Baraka.

The two most fiery calls to action during Stein’s nomination process were from the always eloquent Cornel West and YahNe Ndgo. Ndgo, as if conjuring up the spirit of “criticism/self-criticism” from the 1970s, appealed far more to the primarily white 200 or so Green Party delegates than the numerous Bernie-or-Bust observers, who broke into frequent chants of “Jill! Not Hill!”

There was some tension in Stein’s nominating process when presidential hopeful Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry immediately objected to the Alabama delegation casting their votes, because she claimed she had not been invited to that state. Moyowasifza-Curry has argued vigorously for the Green Party becoming a minority-led vehicle to advance issues of concern to people of color.

Although there were frequent procedural objections from the floor by Moyowasifza-Curry, Stein easily won the nomination. The platform that, among other things, calls for reparations for African Americans, passed with little debate and only one dissenting vote.

The Ecological Economics amendment placed the Green Party firmly on the record as a Left eco-socialist party, reading in part: “…The Green Party seeks to build an alternative economic system based on ecology and decentralization of power, an alternative that rejects both the capitalist system that maintains private ownership over almost all production as well as the state-socialist system that assumes control over industries without democratic, local decision making…” and “…“addresses the economic inequalities, social inequalities, and productivism of both capitalism and state socialism and emphasizes grassroots democracy in the workplace.”

The platform also included the Green Party’s commitment to election integrity, calling for the end to all privately-owned proprietary computer codes in the U.S. electronic voting process.

A highlight of the convention was a livestream by Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain. He spoke to the crowd about movements like the Green Party and how they keep American politics “honest.” He repeated his assertion that asking people to vote between Trump and Clinton is like asking people to choose between “cholera and gonorrhea.” Both Assange and West argued that the legendary “triangulation” of the Clintons, while they govern from the corporate center, is fanning the flames of right-wing takeovers to hold the Left at bay.

Stein asserted that all the fears of a Trump presidency – naked oligarchies, endless wars – actually occurred during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Stein also pointed out, along with West, that the current U.S. mass incarceration state that has disproportionately arrested blacks and Latinos was fueled on the federal level by the policies of Bill Clinton.

The key unanswered question from the convention is how many of the Berners will bolt from the preference of their leader and dedicate their energy and enthusiasm to the Stein campaign. Reports are already coming in of record small donations to the Stein campaign. In a press conference following her nomination, Stein said she had raised more money in the last three weeks than in the first year and half of her campaign.

Will the long sought-after, post-60s dream of an eco-socialist alliance, with state and local elected officials finally breakthrough in 2016?

Bob Fitrakis, Co-Chair of the Ohio Green Party, was an alternative delegate to the 2016 national Green Party convention and is the Federal Election Commissioner of the Green Shadow Cabinet. 

Connie And Cornel

Nathan Lane and Jill

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Conference on the PUCO carbon-nuke bailout in Ohio

Join us at the conference on the PUCO carbon-nuke bailout in Ohio
Sunday
April 12, 2015
1-5:30PM
STOP THE CARBON-NUKE BAILOUTS!!!
CrbnFreeNucFree
Win a Carbon/Nuke Free Ohio
Move to Renewables and Efficiency
Mini Conference – SUNDAY APRIL 12, 2015, 1-5:30pm
Free and open to the public
Columbus State Community College Center for Teaching and Learning Innovation
339 Cleveland Avenue at the southwest corner of Grove Street
Parking is in the lot by the building.

AGENDA
1:10 pm: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog with Beyond Nuclear in Takoma Park, MD. Topic: Davis-Besse nuclear reactor, a threat to Ohio and the Great Lakes.
1:50 pm: Carolyn Harding, Organizer with Radioactive Waste Alert and the Columbus Community Bill of Rights. Topic: Challenging fracking in Columbus and Ohio – from injection wells to community rights.
2: 30 pm: Break
2:45 pm: Ned Ford, Veteran Ohio energy activist and consultant. Topic: EPA’s Clean Power Plan; Ohio’s Senate Bill 310; the big picture on Clean Energy in Ohio and what the PUCO, EPA and the Governor are wrong about.
3: 25 pm Neil Waggoner, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club Coal Campaign. Topic: Stopping coal and Davis-Besse bailouts at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the PUCO decision on AEP.
BREAKOUT
4: 05 pm Breakout with small group brainstorming on ideas for carrying our energy work forward and uniting the work of the various organizations.
4:50 pm Report back from small groups
5:15 pm Closing remarks
——————–
MONDAY APRIL 13, 2015 – Day of Action to Stop FirstEnergy Bailouts
11:00 am: Morning rally at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio offices, 180 East Broad Street
Lunchtime presentation [Time/Place TBD]. Bailout overview and planning future actions
Phoning the PUCO and Governor Kasich’s office, handwriting letters to the governor.

Participating organizations: Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Public Citizen, Columbus Free Press, Columbus State Social Science Department

RSVP: solartopia@gmail.com

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Free Press Second Saturday Salon, Saturday March 14, 2015

Join us at the March
Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday
March 14, 2015
6:30 – 11 PM

March Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, March 14, 6:30-11pm @ 1021 E. Broad St.
Free. No RSVP necessary.
Socialize and network with progressive friends for hors-d’oeuvres, drink, art and music. Showing “Maestra” [Teacher] about Cuban literacy program and music by Solartopia.
colsfreepress@gmail.com, (614) 253-2571.

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To Cuba With Love

by Bob Fitrakis
FEBRUARY 21, 2015

Americans In Cuba With Love

“…Cuba’s voice is a voice that must be heard in the United States of America. Yet it has not been heard. It must now be heard because the United States is too powerful, its responsibilities to the world and to itself are too great, for its people not to be able to listen to every voice of the hungry world.” ~ C. Wright Mills, Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba, 1960.

Mills’ words are unfortunately still true today. Cuban people remain hungry and we have not heard their voices because the U.S. has silenced them for more than 50 years by imposing a brutal “blockade” that we call an “embargo.” If any ship in the world goes to a Cuban port, they may not enter a U.S. port for six months. Any company that trades with Cuba is banned from the U.S. market. If any product uses any materials, pieces or parts from Cuba, it is not allowed to be sold in the United States.

Cuba’s crime? Being the only nation in the western hemisphere with the cojones to resist the world’s only “megapower.”

It appears that President Barack Obama however, in the aftermath of a thrashing by the Republican Party in the midterm Congressional elections, suddenly heard the whispers of his own conscience and the Cuban people. On December 17, he announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the largest island in the Caribbean.

The action is largely symbolic, but did make it a bit easier for U.S. citizens to go to Cuba. You can now take an 80 minute-flight directly from the United States, receive an official visa and have a Cuban stamp on your passport. No more sneaking through Mexico or Canada, though you still cannot visit as a tourist.

We visited as educators and journalists with the folks from Code Pink.

Senator John McCain recently called Code Pink “low-life scum” for recently attempting a citizens’ arrest of Henry Kissinger for war crimes. The Code Pink organizers spurned in the U.S., sought affection elsewhere when they sent a delegation of 150 people “To Cuba with Love” from February 8-15, 2015. I was part of that “largest group to visit Cuba from the United States.” Code Pink director Medea Benjamin saw the trip as the “move toward world peace” and a “powerful solidarity message” to the Cuban people.

Because Cuba exists in part in a strange 1950s time warp thanks to the embargo that began in 1961 and continues to this day. The city of Havana seems frozen in time, like a 1950s postcard faded and frayed at the edges. The city of Havana’s architecture varies from crumbling but still stunning Spanish Colonial mansions to brightly colored stucco haciendas to huge art deco and art nouveau apartment buildings with each unit sporting its own balcony. In the rural areas, Cuba appears more Amish and pre-industrial with farmers using oxen and horse-drawn plows.

Cuban native Jesus Noguera Ravelo invited a small Code Pink group to his home in Havana, where he answered questions about life in Cuba and its future. He insisted that there has been more change in the last ten years than in the previous thirty.

Revalo had originally aspired to be a diplomat and majored in international studies. He was working on his Masters when he realized that, rather than stamping visas all day, he should be using his fluency in English to share the Cuban experience with English speaking visitors as a tour guide.

Tourism has been either the first or second leading industry in Cuba since the early 1990s. A key point is that Canada never broke diplomatic ties with Cuba and the rest of the English speaking world now has normal relations with the country.

The entire Code Pink group was greeted at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP) by its President Ricardo Alarcon, who served for 30 years as Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) and was President of the National Assembly of People’s Power from 1993 to 2013. He expressed hope that the Code Pink visit would be an “exchange of knowledge.”

While the head of ICAP was encouraged by the restoration of diplomatic ties after President Kennedy broke them off 55 years ago, he called the remaining embargo of Cuba continuing “economic warfare.” He called Obama’s decision “very positive.”

Alarcon questioned the logic of Cuba remaining one of four countries on the U.S. list of governments that sponsor terrorism, along with Iran, Sudan and Syria. That’s right – North Korea isn’t on the list nor was Libya when the U.S. and NATO attacked it in 2011. He pointed out the irony of the United States torturing people at Guantanamo while labeling Cuba a terrorist state.

He also mentioned the hypocrisy of any demand by the U.S. for Cuba to restore fundamental human rights. The point was well made, since the U.S. is the world’s largest surveillance state and tortured both the guilty and innocent on Cuban soil at Guantanamo. Most Cubans we talked with conceded that there were problems in Cuba, but wondered why a country they associated with torture and the open shooting of blacks on the streets of major U.S. cities would be so concerned about Cuban human rights instead of putting their own house in order.

Alarcon also noted that the U.S. retains great relations with many countries that do not recognize fundamental human rights, especially rights of women. He proudly pointed out that Cuba’s Parliament is 48.8 percent female and the governments of the local provinces elected 46 percent women. Currently the U.S. Congress had 19.4 percent women.

Alarcon also reminded the delegates that since 2003, Cuban mothers and fathers receive one year paid maternity/paternity leave. The U.S. government has no law requiring paid leave for new parents.

Cuba, after being abandoned by the Soviet Union in 1991 is transitioning away from its old Soviet-style model of state planning of economy used in the 60s, 70s and 80s. In the new economy, the country – having survived the “Special Period” of the 1990s when the Soviet Union withdrew support – some 440,000 workers are now self-employed. Revalo is now one of the so-called self-employed Cubans. Virtually all Cubans worked for the state government until the Special Period.

Alarcon noted “we should not be afraid of capitalists. This time it won’t be like when Columbus came.” He emphatically stated, “Cuba is not for sale. You must get the approval of the government, which will say yes or no” to capital investment in the country.

Our tour guide Betty, who works for the same co-op travel agency as Jesus, told us we need to remember that “most Cubans owned nothing in 1959 when the nationalization of property occurred. Fidel recognizes we have made mistakes. Here we are now without any model, without anybody to look to, working out our problems.”

Ravelo said that one of the country’s major changes was moving from sugar-only agriculture to diversified organic farming “because they had to.” Without financial credits from the Soviet Union and a guaranteed market for the sugar exports, Cuba could no longer employ the industrial strength model of heavy herbicides and pesticides.

When asked why there was not better internet service in Cuba and whether it had to do with an authoritarian government, Alarcon answered that it was “because the U.S. does not permit us” to get internet service and it has to go through Canada which never broke relations with Cuba.

Alarcon offered a question to the delegates: “Why did your government make it so hard to come to Cuba? We invite you to come and make up your own mind. Why does your government stop people from coming and making up their own mind? One state cannot dictate to another state.”

He also suggested that one day the people of the U.S. may not be under the control of a “plutocracy” but it may “take some time” and that “we don’t want to impose a social revolution on the United States.”

The Code Pink delegates listened to the Cuban people, shared knowledge and ideas, and agreed to take their words back to the people of the United States. Their key request is that the U.S. government end the blockade. The second request is to remove Cuba from the state-sponsored terrorist list. The third request is to stop torturing detainees at Guantanamo and return that land to the Cuban people.

As C. Wright Mills stated, “If we do not listen to them, if we do not hear them well, we face all the perils of ignorance—and with these, the perils of dangerous mistakes.”