Surprise, Surprise

The official number of jobs added to the economy in the month of June was recently released and the people in the news and government are shocked. It turns out that there were hardly any new jobs added to the economy, unemployment is up and the recession seems to be getting worse.

Actually the recession is only getting worse for working people. What they don’t connect to the lower jobs numbers are the increases in productivity and profits for corporations. While it has become more difficult for us to find work it is becoming easier for businesses to make huge profits. Big surprise!

Yellowstone No Longer Yellow!

On Saturday July 2nd a pipeline running through Montana burst spilling oil into the Yellowstone river. Exxon, the company that owns and operates the pipeline, immediately stated that they had closed the leak in minutes, that very little oil had leaked into the river and that the spill would be contained to a small area.

In the days that followed we have learned that everything the company first told us was a lie. Actually the it took almost an hour to close the leak. Hundreds of barrels of oil leaked into the river. Due to the river being flooded, the oil has spread far down the river and into the surrounding land. Does anyone think that Exxon will take some of the record profits that they made in 2010 and 2011 to quickly clean up the spill? We have a better chance they will rename the park to Slimeystone!

Roads in Oakland

For those of us who live or drive through Oakland the state of the roads is well known. There are potholes big enough that they can cause damage to cars. Oakland will send crews to fill over 1500 potholes in the coming months. The city will “fix” these holes even though the city admits the roads need to be repaved.

Unfortunately for us, rather than repave the roads now, when they are due, Oakland is planning to repave them in 50 years! What are those $80.00 parking tickets paying for?

Prisoners Go On Strike

Prisoners in Pelican Bay state Prison have organized a hunger strike to protest the brutal conditions they face. Pelican Bay State Prison is home to Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit, a special wing of the prison designed to isolate and punish prisoners who are seen as dangerous or difficult. Prisoners in the SHU are kept alone in their cells for 23 hours per day, and deprived of reading material or access to education or recreational programs.

Prisoners in the SHU are guarded by snipers with orders to shoot to kill anyone who is suspected of attempting to escape or causing major problems. Prisoners are routinely subjected to beatings during cell searches. They are also regularly hog-tied for hours at a time, shot with rubber or wooden bullets and tasers, and otherwise abused by sadistic prison guards.

This brutal treatment is made worse by the overcrowding of the prisons. Pelican Bay for example has over 3,000 prisoners. This is 150 percent of the capacity of the prison. Other California prisons are similarly overcrowded Access to education and basic necessities like food, health care, and clothing are restricted and inadequate.

Last week on July 1st prisoners revolted against this inhuman treatment. Starting in Pelican Bay, prisoners began a hunger strike against the conditions they face. They demand access to programs and resources, and an end to brutal treatment in the Security Housing Unit. The strike spread to 6,600 inmates in 13 prisons in California. Prisoners have sent their demands in a letter to the Governor signed by 4000 striking prisoners.

The response of the prison authorities has been brutal. Prisoners on strike are even more isolated and harassed. All mail to striking prisoners is being cut off. However, the strike is spreading across the state. Prisoners across the state have taken inspiration from the Pelican Bay Prisoners. As the strike spreads, the prisoners have a greater chance of forcing the prison authorities to accept the strikers’ demands.

The prisoners’ strike shows us that even in the worst conditions, people can find a way to organize and confront the authorities with their demands.