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CI: #FreeMLK

January 21, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Housing, Intersectionality, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.


by nancy a heitzeg

In anticipation of the National Holiday bearing his name,  Ferguson Action announced their intention to #ReclaimMLK; “Unfortunately, Dr. King’s legacy has been clouded by efforts to soften, sanitize, and commercialize it. Impulses to remove Dr. King from the movement that elevated him must end. We resist efforts to reduce a long history marred with the blood of countless women and men into iconic images of men in suits behind pulpits .”

The Radical King was a tactical genius in the implementation of targeted direct action campaigns, a civil disobedient – a breaker of unjust laws who expected – no wanted – to go to jail, and at times,  as Joy James reminds us, a political prisoner. Often lost in the discussion is this: that famous letter from Birmingham was written from jailThe Radical King was a democratic socialist, an intersectional analyst who linked white supremacy and capitalism, a critic of war and U.S. imperialism, and a proponent of a revolution of values. Who knows — had he lived long enough, he may well have found himself an advocate too for prison abolition.

But what does it mean to #ReclaimKing at this moment? 2015 is not 1965. Ferguson is not Birmingham; Staten Island is not Selma. The Radical King must be fully embraced with a complete and nuanced understanding of his time and context as well as our own.

No, the legacy of King and the Civil Rights Movement can no longer be sanitized, but it cannot be uncritically, causally reclaimed either. In embracing the full complexity, we must not adhere only to the metaphor, but also the hard realities.  Protest is essential, but it cannot be mere performance and it is never, by itself, enough.  We must develop the long-haul strategies that make for success; that take into account the systems of power which we are engaging.  We must not be naive; if power is confronted, it will strike back. This is part of the turf, however vengeful and unjust it may seem.  This was the brilliance of King and the CRM:  the strategies anticipated and, in fact, relied on excessive responses that revealed the contradictions between legal “justice” and the violence that is inflicted by the state.

The radical vision demands so much more of us. It demands a lifetime commitment and a willingness to risk – everything if need be – with the expectation of the powerful backlash.  This must be factored into our work – not because we are martyrs, but because we are savvy and delusion free.  The test will be how we can walk into the center of the storms in our own era, stand through them, and see our way to the other side.

Last week I was in downtown Oakland, in the midst of 96 hours of MLK Weekend Action, and as usual, the movement there said it/did best. A coterie of marchers appeared and delivered this chant – not a call to reclaim and then repossess – but this:


Read that Letter again with this in mind.


Revelations: “Nature is on Our Side..”

August 10, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Consumer Rights, Eco-Justice, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality, What People are Doing to Change the World

Dr Vandana Shiva, Rights of Nature and Earth Democracy



Revelations: Das Kapital

June 22, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Eco-Justice, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality

Ezra Pound’s Proposition

by Robert Hass

from Vol. 36 No. 5


3gdam“Beauty is sexuality, and sexuality

is the fertility of the earth and the fertility

Of the earth is economics. Though he is no recommendation

For poets on the subject of finance,

I thought of him in the thick heat

Of the Bangkok night. Not more than fourteen, she saunters up to you

Outside the Shangri-la Hotel

And says, in plausible English,

“How about a party, big guy?”


Here is more or less how it works:

The World Bank arranges the credit and the dam

Floods three hundred villages, and the villagers find their way

To the city where their daughters melt into the teeming streets,

And the dam’s great turbine, beautifully tooled

In Lund or Dresden or Detriot, financed

by Lazard Freres in Paris or the Morgan Bank in New York,

enabled by judicious gifts from Bechtel of San Fransisco

or Halliburton in Houston to the local political elite,

Spun by the force of rushing water,

Have become hives of shimmering silver

And, down river, they throw that bluish throb of light

Across her cheekbones and her lovely skin.”




Securing Wages Earned Against Theft

February 26, 2014 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, What People are Doing to Change the World, Workers' Rights

From NY Labor and Employer Lawyer Shirley Lin:

The article describes the key provisions of New York Assembly Bill 8045 (2013), legislation drafted by AALDEF, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, NMASS, Legal Aid, and UJC.

The anti-wage-theft proposal was designed based upon challenges advocates faced collecting from small businesses in particular. The bill:

  1. expands New York’s mechanic’s lien law to provide a “wage lien” for workers from any industry upon employer’s personal and real property;
  2. creates a new, more easily-attainable ground for attaching defendant employers’ assets pre-judgment in New York’s civil procedure law, in wage cases — a standard virtually identical to Connecticut’s more relaxed pre-judgment attachment standard;
  3. amends the Business Corporations Law to facilitate holding major corporate shareholders liable for unpaid wages; and
  4. creates a remedy similar to BCL Sec. 630 as applied to LLCs to hold members accountable for wage claims.

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(h/t: Shirley Lin)

ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate is Delayed for Another Year Until 2016

February 19, 2014 By: seeta Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, 2016 Election, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Tax Policy, Workers' Rights

From NYT:

The “employer mandate,” which was originally supposed to take effect last month, had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, and now the administration says that employers with 50 to 99 employees will not have to comply until 2016 — allowing Democrats to placate business concerns and pushing the issue well beyond this year’s midterm elections.

In addition, the administration said the requirement would be put into effect gradually for employers with 100 or more employees. Employers in this category will need to offer coverage to 70 percent of full-time employees in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016 and later years, or they will be subject to tax penalties.

“Today’s final regulations phase in the standards to ensure that larger employers either offer quality affordable coverage or make an employer responsibility payment starting in 2015,” said Mark J. Mazur, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy. The purpose of the penalty, he said, is to help offset the cost to taxpayers of providing coverage or subsidies to people who cannot get affordable health insurance at work.

Under the law, employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are generally exempt from the requirement to offer coverage.

The administration described the new policy as a form of “transition relief” to help employers adjust to requirements of the 2010 health care law.

Disabled groups press Obama on minimum wage order

February 09, 2014 By: seeta Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Workers' Rights

From USA Today:

The executive action by Obama, who is pressing Congress to pass a minimum wage hike that would cover all workers, could potentially affect tens of thousands of low-wage earners who do janitorial, dish-washing and other tasks for the federal government through contractors.

It remains uncertain whether the executive order will address the issue of disabled workers under a government program that dates to 1938 and allows employers to pay some subminimum wages — sometimes for a fraction of the prevailing minimum wage.


Under Section 14 (c), employers can obtain special minimum-wage certificates from the Labor Department. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers, many of whom would have difficulty finding work in the mainstream job market, according to their abilities. For example, if an employee produces 50% of what a non-disabled person produces, then he or she receives 50% of what that person is paid.

About 95% of roughly 420,000 workers employed under 14(c), worked in segregated work environments known as sheltered workshops, performing basic manual work that often pays by the piece. (Advocacy groups estimate fewer than 50,000 work for government contractors.)

Companies participating in the program also receive preference when it comes to federal contract awards and can receive Medicaid funds to pay for support services for the employees. Some states also provide funding to sheltered workshops

CI: Poverty as a Prison

January 08, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Poverty as a Prison
by nancy a heitzeg

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
                                                                            ~Anatole France, The Red Lily, 1894

Before the War on Drugs became our national fixation, there was a short-lived, halfheartedly implemented War on Poverty. Would that the same amount of resources and political will been expended here. But hyper-individualism, rampant capitalism, and a political discourse that persistently racializes poverty and stigmatizes governmental assistance continue to stand in the way.

We are left instead with the War on the Poor.

The gaps between rich and poor grow, while Congress slashes $ 1 billion from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), refuses to extend meager Unemployment Insurance (UI) to millions out of work, and an increase in the minimum wage ( which would still fall far short of Living Wage) remains contentious.

Our national failure to provide any meaningful economic opportunities for tens of millions of Americans is doubly bitter when poverty and homelessness — a realm of little to no choice – is then reframed as exactly choice, the result of some failure of “personal responsibility”.

The reality of course is that over-whelming majority of the 47 million officially poor are there because of structure and policy — low wages, lack of affordable housing, a shrinking social safety net, a decimated public education system, a host of conservative and neo-liberal “reforms – not because of flawed personal choices.

The reality is that poverty per se is a sort of prison, where choice is heavily constrained, surveillance is endless, “social services” are characterized by red-tape, condescension and increased overlap with the criminal justice system, where survival shapes daily life, and Right Now is the key consideration.

If this were not challenge enough, poverty itself is additionally criminalized via a host of federal, state and local laws, Not that this is new – but the cumulative effect of these laws in the context of the prison industrial complex, a collapsed job market, and a government bent on “privatization” is a particularly toxic mix at this moment.


Government for Good: Impact of Governmental Programs on Poverty

January 06, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, 2016 Election, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Government for Good, Intersectionality


50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag, New York Times

Mapping Poverty In America – Interactive Graphic

 To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate.

But looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans..

The more important driver of the still-high poverty rate, researchers said, is the poor state of the labor market for low-wage workers and spiraling inequality. Over the last 30 years, growth has generally failed to translate into income gains for workers — even as the American labor force has become better educated and more skilled. About 40 percent of low-wage workers have attended or completed college, and 80 percent have completed high school…

But with real incomes for a vast number of middle-class and low-wage workers in decline, safety-net programs have become more instrumental in keeping families’ heads above water.The earned-income tax credit, for instance, has increased employment among single mothers and kept six million Americans above the poverty line in 2011. Food stamps, formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, kept four million Americans out of poverty in 2011.

Above all, the government has proved most successful in aiding the elderly through the New Deal-era Social Security program and the creation of Medicare in the 1960s. The poverty rate among older Americans fell to just 9 percent in 2012 from 35 percent in 1959.

black line Capture