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Archive for November, 2010

DO WE REALLY HAVE A CHOICE?

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On August 9, 2007, Martin Frederick Cotton II was brutally beat to death– and refused medical treatment -by Eureka Police and Humboldt County Sheriff “Correctional Officers” (in the jail).

Since September of 2008, there has been a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Martin Cotton’s baby daughter (through a legal guardian) and by his father, Martin F. Cotton.

 

There is a trial scheduled in the Federal Court in Oakland in front of Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong and a jury WHICH WAS JUST POSTPONED (Dec 15, 2010). There will be at least ten cops exposed and on trial for killing Martin.

Please begin organizing where you live to be there and make sure that it is known what these cops have done, what violence this system inflicts, and we want it to be understood- We will not tolerate intimidation, beatings, and murder by the police!!

 

Redwood Curtain CopWatch will be organizing people to travel to the Bay area to be present at the trial.  If you are in the Bay Area (or anywhere somewhat close), please organize support and presence in your area.   And if you can help folks from Humboldt get there, contact Redwood Curtain CopWatch.

 

http://redwoodcurtaincopwatch.net/node/632

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Foot Care Program for the People who are Experiencing Homelessness
http://www.nursescare.net/homeless_footcare.htm

“The foot care problems for people who are homeless are great and are a major deterrent for one to getting or maintaining a job. The average homeless person stands in lines about 4 hours a day and walks on the average of 35 miles a day usually on cement! If they are able to stay in a center that has no beds available they must sleep upright adding to their increasing their painful foot swelling.

Other problems usually include chronic foot infections, immersion foot (like Trench Foot) caused from being in wet socks & shoes too long, as well as severe calluses, blisters, and ingrown nails from poor (if any) socks and ill fitting shoes. Then of course in the winter there is the excruciatingly painful problem of frostbite….”

“A program sponsored by Nurses Foot Care Services is hoping to eliminate many of these peoples’ foot problems. After screening and treating them for the most immediate problems this group of volunteer nurses and nursing students will be doing intensive education on prevention as well as referrals. These people will be shown how to correctly, wash, rinse, dry, and screen their feet for problems. They will be taught how to file their toenails and pick out correctly fitting socks and shoes. Exercises & diet ideas to decrease their foot swelling will also be taught. They will also be given washable reusable nail files, good clean seamless socks, and shoes as needed.”

This program looks worthwhile for someone who needs shoes, socks, foot medical care, use of a sink and toe nail clippers. However, people experiencing homelessness, like anyone else, know what their feet need; there’s not an educational problem. The problem is that people can’t get what they need if there is no place to rest, to get out of the rain and cold, no place to slip the shoes off, wash socks and feet. This “foot program” is a good example of a group of people really trying to help their sisters and brothers who are not otherwise having their needs met, but most important would be joining the struggle for dignity and justice with and for people living houseless.

As long as every human need is systematically denied to people who are living without shelter, as long as houseless people are prohibited from going in places to get warm and dry, prohibited from using a shower, bathroom or kitchen sink, as long as police continue, throughout the country, to punish and chase houseless people around wherever they are, not let them sit, lie down, or BE ANYWHERE for very long- many of us who are living houseless- of all ages, backgrounds, and educations- will continue to be sick, in pain… and die on the streets.

Defend Homeless People! Take down the “Bathrooms for Customers Only” signs! Speak Out Against Prejudice and Oppression! Join the Struggle for Dignity and Justice!!

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By Christopher Cadelago

Monday, November 8, 2010

The interfaith vigil from the San Diego Rescue Mission to the San Diego County Administration Center was designed to raise awareness of the men, women and children whose lives didn’t have to end on the streets.

Peggy Peattie

The interfaith vigil from the San Diego Rescue Mission to the San Diego County Administration Center was designed to raise awareness of the men, women and children whose lives didn’t have to end on the streets.

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO — Nearly 300 people marched Sunday in a candlelight vigil to remember the homeless who have died on the streets of San Diego the past year.

Fifty of the marchers carried pairs of shoes meant to represent each of the homeless who died from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30. Participants stopped to pray on their way from the San Diego Rescue Mission to the San Diego County Administration Center.

More than 8,500 people in San Diego County were homeless at the beginning of this year, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. That represented a roughly 8 percent increase from the 2009 count of 7,892, said Herb Johnson, president and chief executive of the Rescue Mission.

The interfaith event was designed to raise awareness of the men, women and children whose lives didn’t have to end on the streets. That so many homeless died last year in America’s Finest City “is absolutely unforgivable,” said Johnson.

He then turned his attention to the many homeless people who had gathered along Harbor Drive.

“There’s the shared meaning and understanding that could have been them,” he said. “These efforts give a voice to those who are not heard and those who will never be heard from again.”

The common refrain is that people choose to be homeless because they are unmotivated to work. But many of those living in shelters are employed and can’t afford housing. Others might suffer from mental illnesses, substance abuse or medical issues, said Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project.

Kami Peterson, 45, lost her three-bedroom El Cajon town home before sliding deeper into addiction. Peterson’s drug of choice was meth, she said, but it could have been any number of vices that brought down many of her peers now living at the Rescue Mission.

After leaving treatment last month she was reunited with her 6-year-old daughter, Angel. Each of Peterson’s six children, three of them under the age of 18, has served as motivation for her recovery. “It’s about learning or relearning responsibilities.”

Through she didn’t know Nancy Vega-Wright, 54, who died on the streets, it was impossible not to feel a connection while carrying shoes bearing her name, Peterson said.

The same went for Joseph Christie. The 53-year-old entered the Rescue Mission program after his Bonita home burned down in March. Since, he’s embraced religion, offering a series of prayers as he carried shoes meant to represent the death of 44-year-old Kevin Kline.

“Everyone has their own reasons to be here,” Christie said. “My plan to stay out of trouble … is to tell people about the Lord.”

The interfaith candlelight vigil offered prayers and readings from Zen centers, synagogues and churches. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders proclaimed Sunday as “Homeless Persons Remembrance Day” and the county Board of Supervisors offered a similar proclamation.

Organizers then read the names of the dead. Marcos Rodriguez, a homeless man who declined to give his age, said the ceremony came on the same weekend that an acquaintance had passed away. The man, who was missing an arm and a leg, will be among the first names added to next year’s list. Rodriguez said. “You might not know his name, but he’s in our blessings tonight.”

Since 2001, 668 homeless people have died on the streets, according to the county Medical Examiner’s Office.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/nov/08/san-diego-march-remembers-homeless-who-have-died-s/

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by Paul Kivel

MY FIRST ANSWER TO THE QUESTION POSED IN THE TITLE is that we need both, of course. We need to provide services for those most in need, for those trying to survive, for those barely making it. We need to work for social change so that we create a society in which our institutions and organizations are equitable and just and all people are safe, adequately fed, adequately housed, well educated, able to work at safe, decent jobs, and able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Although the title of this article may be misleading in contrasting social service provision and social change work, the two do not necessarily go together easily and in many instances do not go together at all. There are some groups working for social change that are providing social service; there are many more groups providing social services that are not working for social change. In fact, many social service agencies may be intentionally or inadvertently working to maintain the status quo.

The Economic Pyramid

I want to begin by providing a context for this discussion: the present political/economic system here in the United States. Currently our economic structure looks like the pyramid in Figure One in which 1% of the population controls about 47% of the net financial wealth of the country, and the next 19% of the population controls another 44%. That leaves 80% of the population struggling to gain a share of just 9% of the remaining financial wealth. That majority of 80% doesn’t divide very easily into 9% of resources, which means that many of us spend most of our time trying to get enough money to feed, house, clothe, and otherwise support ourselves and our families.

There are many gradations in the economic pyramid. Among the 80% at the base of the pyramid there is a huge difference in the standard of living between those nearer the top in terms of average income and/or net worth, and those near or on the bottom. There
are a substantial number of people (nearly 20% of the population) who are actually below the bottom of the pyramid with negative
financial wealth, i.e. more debt than assets.

Regardless of these complexities, there is a clear and growing divide between those at the base and those in the top 20% who have substantial assets providing them with security, social and economic benefits, and access to power, resources, education, leisure, and health care. Most of the rest of the population have an increasingly limited ability to achieve these benefits if they have access to them at all.

I will refer to the top 1% as the ruling class because members of this class sit in the positions of power in our society as corporate executives, politicians, policy makers, and funders for political campaigns, policy research, public policy debates and media campaigns. I call them a ruling class because they have the power and money to influence and often to determine the decisions
that affect our lives, including where jobs will be located and what kind of jobs they will be, where toxics are dumped, how much
money is allocated to build schools or prisons and where they will be built, which health care, reproductive rights, civil rights, and
educational issues will be discussed and who defines the terms of these discussions. In other words, when we look at positions of
power in the U.S. we will almost always see members or representatives of the ruling class.

The ruling class does not all sit down together in a room and decide policy. However, members of this class do go to school together, vacation together, live together, socialize together, and share ideas through various newspapers and magazines, conferences, think tanks, spokespeople, and research and advocacy groups. Perhaps most importantly, members of this class sit together on interlocking boards of directors of major corporations and wield great direct power on corporate decisions. They wield almost as great a power on political decisions through lobbying, government appointments, corporate funded research, interpersonal connections, and advisory appointments. The next 19% of the economic pyramid are people who work for the ruling class, whose jobs don’t carry the same power and financial rewards, but whose purpose is to provide the research, skills, expertise, technological development and other resources which the ruling class needs to maintain and justify its monopolization of political and economic power.

The other 80% of the population produces the social wealth that those at the top benefit from. They work in the factories, fields, classrooms, homes, sweatshops, hospitals, restaurants, small businesses, behind the phones, behind the desks, behind the wheel,
and behind the counter, doing the things that keep our society functioning and productive. They are caught up in cycles of
competition, scarcity, violence, and insecurity that those at the top are largely protected from.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
• Where did you grow up on the pyramid, or where was your family of origin on the pyramid?
• Where are you now?
People at the bottom of the pyramid are constantly organizing to gain more power and access to resources. Most of the social change we have witnessed in U.S. history has come from people who are disenfranchised in this system fighting for access to education, jobs, health care, civil rights, reproductive rights, safety, housing, and a safe, clean environment. In our recent history we
can point to the Civil Rights Movement, women’s liberation movements, lesbian and gay liberation movements, disability rights movement, unions, and thousands of local struggles for social change.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
• Are you part of any group which has organized to gain for itself more access to voting rights, jobs, housing, education, or an end to violence or exploitation such as workers, women, people of color, people with disabilities, seniors, youth, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people, or people whose religion is not Christian?
• How have those struggles benefited your life?
• How have those struggles been resisted by the ruling class?
• What is the current state of those movements you have been closest to?

The Buffer Zone

People in the ruling class have always avoided dealing directly with people on the bottom of the pyramid and they have always wanted to keep people from the bottom of the pyramid from organizing for power so that they could maintain the power, control, and most importantly, wealth that they have accumulated. They have created a network of occupations, careers, and professions to mediate for and buffer them from the rest of the population. This buffer zone consists of all the jobs that carry out the agenda of the ruling class without requiring ruling class presence or visibility. Some of the people doing these jobs fall into the 19% section of the pyramid, often performing work that serves the ruling class directly. However, most of the people in the buffer zone have jobs that put them into the top of the bottom 80%. These jobs give them a little more economic security and just enough power to make decisions about other people’s lives—those who have even less than they do. The buffer zone has three primary functions.

The first function is to take care of people on the bottom of the pyramid. If it was a literal free-for-all for that 9% of social wealth allocated to the poor/working/and lower middle classes there would be chaos and many more people would be dying in the streets, instead of dying invisibly in homes, hospitals, prisons, rest homes, homeless shelters, etc. So there are many occupations to sort out which people get how much of the 9%, and to take care of those who aren’t really making it. Social welfare workers, nurses, teachers, counselors, case workers of various sorts, advocates for various groups—these occupations, which are found primarily in the bottom of the pyramid, are performed mostly by women, and are primarily identified as women’s work, taking care of people at the bottom of the pyramid.

The second function of jobs in the buffer zone is to keep hope alive. To keep alive the myth that anyone can make it in this society—that there is a level playing field. These jobs, often the same as the caretaking jobs, determine which people will be the ucky ones to receive jobs and job training, a college education, housing allotments, or health care. These people convince us that if
we just work hard, follow the rules, and don’t challenge the social order or status quo, we too can get ahead and gain a few benefits
from the system. Sometimes getting ahead in this context means getting a job in the buffer zone and becoming one of the people who hands out the benefits.

The final function of jobs in the buffer zone is to maintain the system by controlling those who want to make changes. Because people at the bottom keep fighting for change, people at the top need social mechanisms that keep people in their place in the family, in schools, in the neighborhood, and even overseas in other countries. Police, security guards, prison wardens, soldiers, deans and administrators, immigration officials, and fathers in their role as “the discipline in the family”—these are all traditionally male roles in the buffer zone designed to keep people in their place in the hierarchy. During the last half of the 20th century when multiple groups were demanding—and in some cases getting—critical changes in our social structure such as better access to jobs, education, and health care, the ruling classes needed a new strategy to avoid an all out civil war.

Co-opting social change

This strategy has been to create professions drawn from the groups of people demanding change of the system, creating an atmosphere of “progress,” where hope is kindled, and needs for change are made legitimate, without producing the systematic change which would actually eliminate the injustice or inequality which caused the organizing in the first place. This process separates people in leadership from their communities by offering them jobs providing services to their communities and steering their interests towards the governmental and non-profit bureaucracies that employ them. This process has the effect of creating new groups of professionals providing social services without necessarily producing greater social justice or equality of opportunity.
One example of how this process works can be seen in the Civil Rights Movement, which was a grassroots struggle led by African Americans for full civil rights, for access to power and resources, and for the end of racial discrimination and racist violence. Although legalized segregation was dismantled as a result of those struggles, the broader racial and economic goals of the movement have largely remained unfulfilled. However we now have a larger African American middle class because some opportunities opened up in the buffer zone: in the government, in middle management and academic jobs, and in the non-profit sector.

The issue of racism is now “addressed” in our social institutions by a multiracial group of professionals who work as diversity or multicultural trainers, consultants, advisors, and educators. Although the ruling class is still almost exclusively white and most African Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color remain at the bottom of the economic pyramid, there is the illusion that substantial change has occurred because we have a few very high profile wealthy people of color. Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and others are held up as examples to prove that any person of color can become rich and powerful if they work at it.

The Civil Rights Movement is not the only arena where this process has occurred. Another example is the battered women’s movement, the organizing by battered and formerly battered women for shelter, safety, resources, and an end to male violence. Again, some gains were made in identifying the issue, in improving the response of public institutions to incidents of male violence, and in increasing services to battered women. But systematic, large-scale efforts to mobilize battered women and end male violence have not been attempted. Instead, we have a network of (still largely inadequate) social services to attend to the immediate needs of battered women, and a new network of buffer zone jobs in shelters and advocacy organizations to administer to those needs.

In both of these examples we can see that the roots of racism and male violence are not being addressed. Instead we have new cadres of professionals who administer to the needs of those on the bottom of the pyramid. In fact, in both of these cases we now have more controlling elements—more police, security guards, immigration officials, etc. than ever before—whose role is to reinforce the racial hierarchy and reach into the family lives of poor and working class white people and people of color.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
• Who are you in solidarity with in the pyramid—who would you like to support through the work that you do—people at the top of the pyramid, people in the buffer zone, or people at the bottom?
• What are the historical roots of the work that you do?
• What were your motivations or intentions when you began doing this work?
• Who actually benefits from the work that you do?
• Are there ways through your work, your family role, or your role in the community that you have come to enforce the status quo or train young people for their role in it?

The Role of the Non-profit

A primary vehicle that the ruling class created to stabilize the buffer zone was the non-profit organization. The non-profit tax category was created to give substantial economic benefits to the ruling class while allowing them to fund services for themselves.
Even today, most charitable, tax exempt giving from the ruling class goes to ruling class functions like museums, operas, art galleries, elite universities, private hospitals and family foundations. A second effect of the non-profit sector has been to provide a vehicle for the ruling class to fund (and therefore to control) work in the buffer zone. A large amount of the money donated to non-profits either comes from charitable foundations or from direct donations by members of the ruling class. Non-profits serving the 80% at the pyramid’s base often spend inordinate amounts of time writing proposals, designing programs to meet foundation guidelines, tracking and evaluating programs to satisfy foundations, or soliciting private donations through direct mail appeals, house parties, benefits, and other fundraising techniques.

Much of the work of many non-profits is either developed or presented in such a way as to meet the guidelines and approval of people in or representing the ruling class. Within the last twenty years, due to the massive cutbacks in government support services
and thus the greater dependence of non-profits on nongovernmental funding, this process has been exacerbated.

The ruling class established non-profits to provide social services. Jobs were professionalized historically to co-opt social change. Funders today generally look for non-profit programming that fills gaps in the provision of services, extends outreach to underserved groups, and stresses collaborations which bring together several services providers to use money and other resources more efficiently. It should not be surprising that so much of the work of the buffer zone is social service—keeping hope alive by helping some people get ahead.

How does co-optation work?

The ruling class co-opts the leadership in our communities by providing jobs for some people and aligning their perceived self interest with maintaining the system (maintaining their jobs). Whether they are social welfare workers, police, domestic violence shelter workers, diversity consultants, therapists, or security guards, their jobs and status are dependent on their ability to keep the system functioning and to keep people functioning within the system no matter how illogical, dysfunctional, exploitive, and unjust the system is. The very existence of these jobs serves to convince people that tremendous inequalities of wealth are natural and inevitable and those that work hard will get ahead.

….DOWNLOAD ENTIRE ARTICLE, Continue reading from bottom of page #8

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NOVEMBER 3, 2010

(excerpt)

This letter is a reminder that I am still entitled to the documents requested in my June 2008 Public Records Request and that the HCSD continues to have a legal obligation to preserve documents material to this request until inspection as requested has been completed and all disputes regarding the availability and production of documents have been finally resolved. Please reference the June 2008 Request to be sure that the HCSD preserves what is mandated by law pursuant to my Request.

As a reminder, the purpose of my request is threefold:
1) to permit public scrutiny of the HCSD customs, practices, and procedures material to contact with homeless and/or transient people, people sleeping and/or camping outside, and people sitting on public sidewalks;
2) to permit public scrutiny of the specific actions of HCSD in the Garberville/Redway area in relation to homeless and/or transient people, people sleeping and/or camping outside, and people sitting on public sidewalks, and;
3) to evaluate the need for additional training, guidance, oversight, and monitoring regarding HCSD interactions with homeless and/or transient people, people sleeping and/or camping outside, and people sitting on public sidewalks to prevent the violation of said peoples’ rights (rights established by law, by the California and United States Constitutions, and by international treatises).

Due to the HCSD’s initial and now long-time refusal to comply with the request, and due to the HCSD’s increased and escalated activities related to and against homeless and/or transient people, people sleeping and/or camping outside, and people sitting on public sidewalks, the records that the HCSD is now required to produce responsive to my June 2008 Request have increased exponentially.

To see the letter in its entirety, CLICK HERE

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Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department Refuses to Comply with California Public Records Request

In 2008, while Sheriff’s made nasty raids of houseless peoples’ camps in Southern Humboldt and attacked houseless and travelling people in the day (for “crimes” like sitting under shade trees during record heat) a Southern Humboldt resident made a CA Public Records Request.

Click on the title link above to read some of the background and see the documents.

Because the Sheriff’s Dept. has failed to comply with the request, it has dragged on to now. Now that Humboldt Sheriff’s Officers are doing STREET SWEEPS and CHECKPOINTS FOR LOCAL ID (with none, you’re run out of town or arrested), they are going to have to give up lots more info in response to the request about what they are doing to people. If they don’t give it up soon, it’s going to court.

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