Teachers March For the Future in California — Along the Prison Town Road by David Bacon

Down Prison Road

Tuesday 27 April 2010

by: David Bacon, t r u t h o u t | Report

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: tricky ™, seantoyer)

Chowchilla, California – High in the mountains overlooking Bakersfield and the south end of the San Joaquin Valley is a piece of California’s past, the California Correctional Institution, or as inmates know it, Tehachapi.

It was one of the state’s first big prisons, built at the height of the Great Depression in 1933 to contain the unraveling social fabric of Hoovervilles, high unemployment, a vast influx of Dust Bowl refugees, and left-wing political movements spreading like wildfire.

The penitentiary spreads across 1,650 acres of a remote desert valley. Designed for 2,785 inmates, it now holds 5,806 – 200% of an already inhumane standard. And while it was built as the original California Institute for Women, today its only inhabitants are men.

Jazzman Art Pepper, son of a Los Angeles longshoreman, lived in its cells for four and a half years in the 1950s. Like Pepper, today’s prison inmates are mostly there because of drugs. Pepper would have recognized them for another reason. Tehachapi’s inmates are almost all Black and Latino, like the rest of California’s prisoners, and have been since the prison system began. And poor.

While Tehachapi was mentioned in “The Maltese Falcon,” people like Hammett’s middle-class grifters don’t normally wind up there. Having no money is practically a requirement for residence.

When teachers and home-care workers rallied down below in Bakersfield on March 5, and kicked off the March for California’s Future, few had more than a vague idea of the kind of presence Tehachapi and its fellow institutions would cast over them as they walked up the San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento. They then spent 48 days in a traveling protest over the extreme budget cuts that have cost the jobs of thousands of California teachers, and threaten those of thousands of other public workers.

Teachers, students and public workers walk through the southern San Joaquin during their 260-mile, 48-day march from Bakersfield to Sacramento.Teachers, students and public workers walk through the southern San Joaquin during their 260-mile, 48-day march from Bakersfield to Sacramento. The march protested cuts to education and social services, and was initiated by the California Federation of Teachers. (Photo: © David Bacon)

But while its participants may not have intended it, the March for California’s Future became a march through California’s prison towns. The explosive growth of communities based on incarceration also offers a vision of what California could become. It’s not the vision of the marchers, clearly, who want social change that makes prisons a lower priority than schools. But it is surely a vision of what life will become without that change – California’s prison future.

In their first week on the road, the hardy group, drawn mostly from the state’s schools, walked by Kern Valley State Prison and North Kern State Prison in Delano, the first holding 5,013 inmates, and the second 5,390.

Delano was the birthplace of the United Farm Workers in 1965. Marchers celebrated the strike, started by Filipinos that September and joined by the Mexicans led by Cesar Chavez two weeks later. A year afterwards, in 1966, the first great farm workers’ march left Delano for Sacramento, writing the grape strike into the nation’s history books, and pulling together a union that eventually overcame the state’s corporate growers in the seat of their power.

The symbolism of those past events, and the profound effect they had on California’s future, wasn’t lost on today’s marchers. “I think about what those marches did for the farm workers, in terms of insisting on basic human dignity,” recalls marcher Jim Miller, a San Diego community college teacher. “So I think in that sense, we’ve chosen the perfect place to do this. Access to affordable education is a civil right. The purpose of this march is to make that more evident to the public.”

For years the UFW was headquartered at the Forty Acres outside of town, before it moved its offices into the mountains above Bakersfield, just a few miles from Tehachapi prison. The union still keeps its original hall on Garces Highway, but just a couple of miles away are the two new prisons, built in the 1990s.

Every day in Delano 3,176 people go to work in the prisons. Almost as many of the town’s families now depend on prison jobs as those supported by year-round field labor. Thousands of former farm workers now guard other Latinos and blacks – inmates just as poor, but mostly from the urban centers of Los Angeles or San Jose rather than the rural communities of the Central Valley.

Delano’s population is 49,359. The two prisons hold more than 10,000 people. A third, smaller prison run by the city, the Delano Community Correctional Facility, contracts with the state to house an additional 600 inmates. Almost none can vote, so they’re no threat to the political establishment that profits from their presence. But they do count when it’s time to calculate Delano’s population, and therefore its share of state revenue. At the same time, although hundreds of prisoners may come from Compton, for instance, one of California’s poorest cities in heavily black and Latino south central Los Angeles, Compton can’t claim them as residents in calculating its piece of the state pie.

Prison-building places poor communities in competition with each other, and Delano gains an advantage from housing Compton’s lost souls. But it’s competition over a pie that’s shrinking quickly.

The Kern Valley State Prison and North Kern State Prison have a combined annual budget of $294 million. By comparison, the town’s 2010 General Fund was a tenth of that, and the budget of its public schools a twentieth. Delano’s median family income is just over $29,000, with almost 30% of its residents living below the poverty line.

Wasco State Prison is just up the highway, incarcerating 5,989 people, and employing 1,688, at an annual cost of $201 million. Wasco’s population is 25,665. Across the wide valley to the west are two more prisons. Avenal State Prison holds 6,577 people, with a staff of 1,517 and an annual budget of $144 million. To the north, Pleasant Valley State Prison houses 5,188 inmates and 1,388 guards, spending $195 million every year. These are even smaller towns. In the 2000 census Avenal boasted a population of 15,689, but had counted the 7,062 inmates at that time as residents. The census count in Coalinga, home of the Pleasant Valley prison, was 11,668.

In nearby McFarland, marcher Jenn Lasker, a continuation schoolteacher from Watsonville, talked to a fellow teacher about to lose her job. “She worked three jobs to put herself through school,” Lasker reported. “She’s in her second year, which means that on the first day of next year she’d have had tenure and couldn’t have been laid off. So she’s being laid off this year instead. Her family’s lived in McFarland for five generations – her father’s been a custodian for the district there for 23 years. Without a job there won’t be anything to keep her in the community where she grew up. The closest place to look for work is Bakersfield, where they just issued 200 pink slips, and many highly qualified teachers are fighting for the same job.”

That McFarland teacher is the victim of cuts in the state’s education budget. Another $18 billion will be sliced from it this year. California is one of only three states with a requirement that two-thirds of the legislature approve any budget. Even more important, any tax increase takes a two-thirds vote as well. So even though urban Democrats have had a majority for years in both chambers of the legislature, a solid Republican bloc can keep the state in a continual economic crisis until Democrats agree to slash spending. With huge deficits from declining tax revenues, and a recession boosting state unemployment over 12.5%, a budgetary crisis is not difficult to create.

Nowhere is unemployment higher than in California’s rural counties, often twice as high as on the coast. Small agricultural towns like Delano and McFarland are filled with workers who can’t find jobs, while at the same time budget cuts reduce the social services for unemployed families, and shower teachers in the local schools with pink slips.

When marchers talk about the state’s future, some of them remember a time when, at least for some residents, the system had a more functional social contract. “I view myself as a legacy of the California system when it worked,” remembers marcher Gavin Riley, a retired teacher from a district on the border of Los Angeles and Orange County. “I went to school in the 1950s when our school system was ranked as one of the best in the nation. When it was my time to go to college, the state university was free.

“The theory back then was that if we had an educated electorate, they’d be more productive, more supportive of the state. People wouldn’t get in trouble. I think that worked, at least for me. They gave me a free education, and I came back and worked my entire life teaching in our schools. I think I’ve more than returned the investment. But we’ve kind of lost track of that. At one time we were a selfless society in California. We seem to have become more selfish. That’s unfortunate, because we’re losing track of the dream.”

For Maria S. the dream is harder to attain than ever. She came from Mexico to Bakersfield as a teenager, and after a terrible accident, has lived in a wheelchair ever since. Nevertheless, she got her GED at adult school while working, and then an AA degree at Bakersfield College. But when it came time to move on to California State University in Bakersfield, the free education given to Riley wasn’t even a memory. Instead, she found that budget cuts had produced a tuition fee of $1,700 for each quarter. “With a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, I’ll be the first in my family to achieve a higher education,” she says. “But I still haven’t been able to raise the funds, so I’m not going to school this winter. Tuition has become so high I can’t afford it. As an immigrant, I have to pay more, and I get no financial aid.”

Immigration reform would certainly help solve some of her problems, but as a federal issue, it’s not really in the direct purview of the marchers, even though they’re sympathetic. But the money question is. The state’s universities won’t get more funding and tuition won’t move back toward where it was in the ’50s without political change in Sacramento.

Of course, even those good memories of the 1950s are only shared by some of the state’s residents. That was also the period of Cold War loyalty oaths, when many teachers refused to denounce their coworkers for left-wing ideas, and were fired. Jazz musicians like Art Pepper went to jail, in part because they took drugs, but also because most were black artists in a black community patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department like an occupying army. And before the Delano grape strike, growers brought in contract bracero workers from Mexico every year, sending them back across the border once the work was done.

The San Joaquin Valley has its bitter racial memories. Just north of Delano and McFarland, marchers came upon Allensworth, a town founded in 1908 by African-Americans, in the period before World War I when lynchings were common and the Klan rode high in the South. Colonel Allen Allensworth founded a utopian community in response, in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, taking to heart Booker T. Washington’s advice to meet racism by building independence and self-sufficiency. Its streets were named for Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

The colony failed, and for years the tiny settlement it left behind lay stranded next to Highway 99. Reacting to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ed Pope, a surveyor for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, began a campaign that led in 1976 to a state park re-creating the African-American utopia.

Last year the park was closed by budget cuts. More African-Americans now live in just one of the prisons near Allensworth than ever lived in the town itself. Meanwhile, most of the 120 families residing next to the state park are Mexican immigrants, sleeping in trailers. They have no sure source of water (which helped doom the utopia long ago), and no store or gas station.

As marchers headed up the road, they passed the prison that became a national symbol for abuse of inmates – California State Prison in Corcoran (5,544 inmates, 2,322 staff, $270 million budget). A 1996 “Los Angeles Times” article by Mark Arax stated that guards there had shot and killed more inmates than in any other prison nationwide. In addition, they’d staged fights between inmates, called “gladiator days.” “60 Minutes” even showed a video of an inmate killed by guards in 1994. Finally, eight guards and supervisors were indicted, but were acquitted in 2000.

Corcoran has a second prison as well, the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (7,628 inmates, 1,786 staff, $230 million budget.) Despite the jobs in the two facilities, however, Corcoran, like most Valley towns, has much higher unemployment than the state’s average – 19%. The general fund budget for the Corcoran schools last year was $29 million – like Delano, a twentieth of the budgets of its two prisons. The penetentiaries are giant behemoths in towns like Corcoran, with spending that dwarfs schools or city services. Yet for all the promise of jobs, they don’t make much of a dent in the joblessness endemic to rural California.

Going by prison after prison was especially heart wrenching for Irene Gonzalez, who joined the march, not as a teacher but as a worker in the criminal justice system. She looks at the institutions, and knows not just who they house but the people who work there. She doesn’t see them as enemies, or people sucking up budget dollars that should really go elsewhere.

“In the probation department in Los Angeles, where I work, we service the community in rehabilitating minors and adults, and a lot of our services are being cut, too,” she explains. “We used to give referrals, and could provide help in getting jobs or developing reading skills. But with the cuts we can’t do that any longer.”

She predicts a social explosion if the state’s priorities aren’t changed. “It should not cost us an arm and a leg to send our kids through college, or to go there ourselves. What they’re going to have is more people living on the streets,” she says. “These legislators say they’re against crime, but then they take away people’s jobs and homes. What do they expect?” She’s the angriest of the marchers. “It’s time for us to start standing up and fighting back,” she vows. “We’re going to make sure you hear us, and hear us loud.”

Chowchilla, which marchers passed a few days later, is also the site of two prisons, Valley State Prison for Women (3,810 inmates, 1,058 staff and $125 million budget) and the Central California Women’s Facility (3,918 inmates, 1,208 staff, and $153 million budget). It’s one of the main towns in the district of Assemblyman Tom Berryhill. Tom and his brother Bill represent adjacent districts in the State Assembly.

Tom, a fourth-generation farmer, lives in Modesto, home of the Gallo wine empire. Not surprisingly, he’s a law and order advocate, campaigning for the rights of crime victims and for speedier application of the death penalty. Last year the California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force named him “Legislator of the Year”.

His brother Bill, from Stockton and Ceres to the north, sits on the board of the Allied Grape Growers. Both inherited their membership in the political class here from their father, legendary Republican legislator Clare Berryhill. For the Berryhills, prison construction is an economic development strategy, and they point to its role in creating local jobs.

Bill Berryhill bemoans that Stockton’s schools have just sent out 192 layoff notices. But turning reality on its head, the budget cuts demanded by the Berryhills and their colleagues are not responsible, they say. The culprits are taxes and regulations on business. “While the state flirts with tax increases, our agricultural, trucking and educational sectors continue to decline,” he fumes.

One of their allies is state Senator Jeff Denham, whose district not only includes a large chunk of the San Joaquin Valley but stretches across the mountains to the neighboring Salinas Valley, fondly referred to by agribusiness as “the nation’s salad bowl.” The valley is also home to one of the state’s most famous prisons, Soledad, where George Jackson wrote “Soledad Brother” in 1970. It is actually two prisons, the Salinas Valley State Prison and the Correctional Training Facility. Together, they house 11,552 people, employ 3,195 guards and other personnel, and spend a combined budget of $327 million.

Denham gets an A+ rating from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, architects of the tax-cutting policy that is driving the state into astronomical debt, and a 100% perfect score from the California Taxpayers Association. Neither association is worried about the tax burden of prisons, however.

Behind these legislators is the most extreme element of the state’s Republican Party, the California Republican Assembly. They only gave the Berryhills 67 percent ratings. Abel Maldonado, a Republican who voted to break the Republican-engineered budget deadlock last session, got 22 percent, lower than some Democrats. The Stanislaus County GOP, an active participant in the Assembly and part of the Berryhills’ base, lists its principles as “smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, strong national security, respect for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, the importance of family and the exceptionalism of America.” It doesn’t specifically mention prisons. It doesn’t have to – support for them is just assumed.

The San Joaquin Valley finally ends in the great delta, drained and turned into farmland by Chinese contract laborers 150 years ago. At the confluence of the rivers flowing out of the San Joaquin Valley to the south, and the Sacramento Valley to the north, is Sacramento, the state capital. This was the marchers’ goal. The California Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the march’s main organizers, brought out over seven thousand union members and community activists. who marched down the Mall to confront the legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a huge rally April 21.

Before marchers got there, though, they passed two juvenile prisons in Stockton (estimated: 815 inmates, 960 staff and a budget of $132 million.) Just east of the Capitol is the prison made famous by Johnny Cash – Folsom State Prison. This also is a double institution, with a total of 7,676 inmates, 2,716 staff and a combined budget of $310 million. Deuel Vocational Institute to the west in Tracy rounds out the total San Joaquin Valley prison count. It has 3,748 inmates, 1,393 staff, and spends $189 million every year.

There are other prisons to the east and north, on the coast, and in rural areas throughout the state. But the total count for the San Joaquin Valley alone gives a prison population of 67,059 human beings incarcerated in 13 institutions, guarded by another 21,215 human beings, at a cost of $2.4 billion.

No wonder there’s no free education anymore at state universities for Maria S. or anyone else.

The problem with California’s future isn’t just a bad voting system in Sacramento. That could be fixed by an initiative that the marchers, along with teachers unions, students, other labor organizations and community groups are putting on the ballot next November. If they win, budgets and tax increases will be adopted by simple majority vote, rather than two-thirds. It will be easier to pass AB 560, a proposal by state Assemblyman Alberto Torrico to charge oil companies a royalty for the petroleum they pull from under California’s soil. California is the only oil-producing state that doesn’t charge the oil giants for what they take.

But giving more power to Democrats, and a better system for arriving at a budget deal, still won’t reverse the state’s priorities. California spends enormous sums jailing people, while finding few alternatives to incarceration, and slashing money for the education that might open other doors to the state’s youth, especially its poorest. Democrats vote for prisons too.

“We’ve seen boarded-up homes everywhere,” says Gavin Riley, describing the marchers’ journey up the valley’s prison road. “Coming into Fresno we walked through a Skid Row area where people were living in cardboard and wood shacks underneath a freeway, sleeping on the sidewalks. We’ve seen farms where the land is fallow and the trees have been allowed to die. About the only thing we’ve seen great growth in is prisons. We’ve walked by beautiful, wonderful prisons. I look at that and say, what a waste, not only of land but of people. I can’t help but think that California, a state that’s now down near the bottom in what it spends on education, is far and away the biggest spender on prisons. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to connect the dots.”

Poem for April 27: Ebon Dooley

[Ebon Dooley, born Leo T Hale, was a giant of the black arts movement in Chicago.  His published poetic output was small, but his influence within the arts community vastly exceeded his publications.  He moved to Atlanta where he was for 35 years director of the independent radio station WRFG.  He died in 2006.  His obituary in the Atlanta Progressive News is here.  The People’s Tribune carried an obituary which said in part:

Ebon Dooley, an activist, poet and revolutionary, . . .was born Leo Thomas Hale, the oldest child of Leo and Beatrice Hale of the small farming community of

Ebon Dooley

Milan, Tennessee. Son of a school-teacher and the grandchild of middle-class farmers, he went to Nashville’s Fisk University on an early entrant scholarship. Ebon’s activism might be said to have begun with his work as managing editor of the Fisk literary magazine and newspaper (which included Nikki Giovanni as a freshman reporter). He went on to further activism when, as a regional honors scholar, he entered Columbia Law School in 1963. In New York he saw two very different sides of the larger world, as a law school management trainee at Manufacturers’ Hanover Trust and as a member of the Law Students’ Civil Rights Research Council and volunteer for the Harlem community action project of Har-you-act. At the first Black Power conference in Newark, he was impressed by the Chicago delegation; unable to get a large enough scholarship to go on to graduate school in business after his 1967 graduation from Columbia, he went to Chicago as a VISTA legal volunteer.

Abdul Alkalimat wrote an appreciation of Dooley from which the following excerpt comes:

“The heart of Ebon’s Chicago experience was the OBAC (Oh-bah-see) Writers Workshop (Organization for Black American Culture), founded in 1967. It included future luminaries such as Johari Amini (Jewel Latimore), Haki Madhubuti (Don. L. Lee), and Carolyn Rodgers. The young writers were entertained regularly by Gwendolyn Brooks, whom Ebon acknowledges as one of his greatest influences. The Writers Workshop developed an aesthetic manifesto that was based on both artistic and social awareness. It particularly focused on the need to free black literature from the aesthetic criteria established for traditional Western works.. .”

The Mighty John Hancock Building or
The bigger they are the harder they fall

by Ebon Dooley

it was a normal day
in the Loop . . .

the sun was morning warm
and bounced spring sparkles
from neon billboards
above Michigan Avenue.
yellow cabhorns honked
and warned mini-skirted mannequins
away from curbs
and changing amber lights.

it was a tuesday scene
and rather quiet
for near/noon traffic sounds.
(the sharp fast sound of
high heels; and dull/worn
rubber soles
dragging on ruffled concrete)

lunch hour crowds
crowded the street.
(window shopping on the
Northern Slope) crowding
around Big John.
like millions of pink/plumb
beneath Big John
when it happened. . . .

when the mighty Hancock
roared in pain
and sprawled
down the “magnificent mile”
when smoldering powder/smells
mingled in the air
with dust and bricks
and steel and glass and
concrete balls of fire

when burning bricks
crushed crowded corners;
and silver spears of glass
shattered spines
and pinned pink bellies
to the pavement

When Big Bad John Hancock
and crumbled concrete
floated in pools of blood
it was a quiet day . . . .

it was a quiet day
when it happened . . . .

[From Nommo: A Literary Legacy of Black Chicago 1967-1987, An OBAC Anthology edited by Carole A Parks.  From http://underground-library.org/?tag=nommo The OBAC (Organization of Black American Culture) workshop was founded in 1967, initiating the greatest collective force in Chicago literary history. OBAC (Oh-bah-see) referred to Oba, the Yoruba word for king. Workshops ran from 1967-1994 and readings were staged as recently as 2007; “art for the sake of black empowerment was the principle.”]

Poem for April 26: Sterling Plumpp

Still Born Song by Sterling Plumpp

Sterling Plumpp

task is to solve my voice’s finger
tips’ extensions
for its daily languages
Where blues
is the negotiator of my songs

My diurnal moans
are survival kit
carsons exploring new
territory my voice finds
in Bessie Smith’s pig
foot and empty
bed again and again

there are no speed
limits in linguistic
voyages for self
expression of selves
lost no walkie
talkies surveying hiding
places for patrolmen with radar
guns aimed at pocket
billiards of your imagination

I come here
bound in chain
linked hostility

but weaving

language over avenues
of a thousand years
my memory has taught
seasons the geography of absent foot

Sterling Plumpp retired from teaching in 2001 to continue his writing.

my life I have
had border war
zones with authority

I am a power
forward pass in celestial
discourses with authority
where Jerry Rice argues
for slants over middle
of the road potions

And Karl
Marx drives in
side Lois
Lanes with is lef
hand finger
roll mastery over part
time lies the master
advertises as obedience

I sit naming names of nights
in their dark ward
robes of mystery in
side Hawkins’  The Midnight Tenor Man
Blues Sage  hawking  pains on boulevards of melodious
journeys through windows
of the soul Where the Middle Passage
rests in some black mother’s prayers
for delivery of her brown paper
bag of dry
bones with her still
born song’s name in it     No
body knows the troubles
I see coming down yonder’s wall

The Auction Block
club was
not about civic pride or neighbor
hood improvement    It was a gossip
column of marching thieves
ballads some
times sweep and clean house
boy’s ears for it   And Some
times I feel like a mother
less child cooked for it
Ornate With Smoke, copyright 1997 Third World Press.

[Tarvis Williams writes, in “Sterling Plumpp: A Biography” :

Sterling Plumpp was born in Clinton, Mississippi, on January 30, 1940.  He was reared by his maternal grandparents, Mattie and Victor Emmanuel.  They were sharecroppers, and Plumpp and his brother worked the fields with their grandparents (“The Characters” 1).  He and his family lived about ten miles from school, and there were no buses for them to ride.  Therefore, they did not start school until they were eight or nine years old, when they were able to walk the distance.  As a young boy, Plumpp never attended school a full year (Black Rituals 107-8).Black Rituals by Sterling Plumpp

At the age of fifteen he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he completed grammar and high school (Black Rituals 108).  Plumpp graduated as class valedictorian in 1960 (“The Characters” 2).  Later, he spent two horrible years at St. Benedict’s College.  He quit school and joined the Army, where he spent two learning years .  When he went to Chicago in the fall of 1962, he got a job in the main post office at Canal and Van Buren . . . read more here. ]

The Cause of Environmental Destruction? Capitalism, Says Bolivia’s Evo Morales

[Every battle being waged today is profoundly a cultural battle, as much because it is for a reorientation of thinking and imagination as it is because the revolutionary forces at play demand a cultural/creative/artistic expression.  This is as true about the environmental movement, and one of the most profound cultural challenges comes in the form of indigenous peoples of the world.  Often these challenges are absorbed by media players who find pleasure in deflecting them toward some mythic or romantic abstraction of what they really are.  It’s refreshing to hear the challenge in this article pushing the social envelope toward a cooperative society on a higher level than we have ever been able to achieve.]

Published on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by Environment News Service (ENS)

Morales: ‘The Central Enemy of Mother Earth is Capitalism’

Bolivian President Blames Capitalism for Global Warming

Bolivian President Evo Morales addresses indigenous, environmental and civil society delegates. 'We all have the ethics and the moral right to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism,' he said. (Photo courtesy ABI)

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia – Bolivian President Evo Morales said capitalism is to blame for global warming and the accelerated deterioration of the planetary ecosystem in a speech today opening an international conference on climate change and the “rights of Mother Earth.”

More than 20,000 indigenous, environmental and civil society delegates from 129 countries were in attendance as President Morales welcomed them to the conference at a soccer stadium in the village of Tiquipaya on the outskirts of the city of Cochabamba.

“The main cause of the destruction of the planet Earth is capitalism and in the towns where we have lived, where we respected this Mother Earth, we all have the ethics and the moral right to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism,” said Morales, who is Bolivia’s first fully indigenous head of state in the 470 years since the Spanish invasion.

Morales is the leader of a political party called Movimiento al Socialismo, the Movement for Socialism, which aims to give more power to the country’s indigenous and poor communities by means of land reforms and redistribution of wealth from natural resources such as gas.

“The capitalist system looks to obtain the maximum possible gain, promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet,” said Morales. “Capitalism is the source of asymmetries and imbalance in the world.”

The Bolivian president called this conference in the wake of what he considered to be failed United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

Those talks produced a weak political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord, instead of a strong, legally-binding set of limits on greenhouse gas emissions to take effect at the end of 2012, as Bolivia and many other countries had hoped.

Named “World Hero of Mother Earth” by the United Nations General Assembly last October, today, President Morales warned of dire consequences if a strong legally-binding agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions is not reached. . .   To read the rest of this article click this link from Common Dreams.

May Day Rallies Focus on Immigration Issues

From the Washington Independent comes this assessment of the national rallies that have become an annual event on May Day. (The Chicago May Day rally and march is listed at the bottom of this page.)

Organizers Prepare for May 1 Immigration Rallies

Poster for the 2009 immigrants rights May Day march

By Julissa Treviño 4/16/10 12:18 PM

Several pro-immigrant grassroots organizations today announced plans for major demonstrations across the country on May 1 that will focus on immigrant workers’ rights and comprehensive immigration reform. Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Milwaukee are among the cities that expect large rallies.

May 1 has long been a day for immigration protests, starting in Los Angeles more than 10 years ago, according to Maria Elena Durazo of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Organizations participating in the rallies, including Service Employees International Union (the largest union for immigrant workers), Mexican-American Coalition for Immigration Reform and Center for Community Change, expect this year’s demonstrations to bring together thousands of protesters like in previous years, especially when the stakes are so high.

During a conference call this morning, organizers pointed out that Arizona’s Senate bill 1070, recent immigration raids in Phoenix and Tucson and the 287 (g) program are just some examples of what’s heating up the immigration debate.

From a Center for Community Change press release today:

The grassroots organizations are escalating because President Obama has yet to deliver on his promise to move immigration reform, the Senate has yet to deliver on its promise to produce a bill, and DHS has yet to deliver on its promise to focus on arresting bad actors instead of terrorizing ordinary immigrants. The time for making promises has run out.  The time for concrete action has arrived.  We demand action from the President, Congress and DHS by May 1:

  • Sens. Schumer and Graham must introduce a bill
  • Congress and the President must pass comprehensive immigration in 2010
  • The President must end rogue enforcement at ICE and enact policies that keep families united


Meanwhile Fox News projects a large Chicago demonstration, especially given the furor over Arizona’s draconian new laws:

Furor Over Arizona Immigration Law Grows; Chicago Activists Plan Protest

Updated: Monday, 26 Apr 2010, 9:43 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 26 Apr 2010, 7:33 PM CDT

Associated Press

The furor over Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants grew Monday as opponents used refried beans to smear swastikas on the state Capitol, civil rights leaders demanded a boycott of the state, and the Obama administration weighed a possible legal challenge.

In Chicago on May 1, thousands of people are expected to gather at Union Park to protest the law.

Nationally, activists are also planning a legal challenge, hoping to block the law from taking effect by arguing that it encroaches on the federal government’s authority to regulate immigration and violates people’s constitutional rights by giving police too much power.

The measure — set to take effect in late July or early August — would make it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally. It directs state and local police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal.

“If you look or sound foreign, you are going to be subjected to never-ending requests for police to confirm your identity and to confirm your citizenship,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which is exploring legal action.


A number of organizations including Jobs With Justice, ICIRR, Road to Detroit-Chicago are organizing for a march from Union Park into the loop on May Day.  Here is the information from the Jobs With Justice site:

Join Chicago Jobs with Justice and the Labor Committee on Immigrant Worker Rights for a day of action on May 1st!


1:00 P.M. • Union Park
1501 W. Randolph


Call (312) 738-6161 to find out more or send an email to susanh@jwj.org!

Poem for April 25: Carolyn Rodgers

[A pioneer in the Black Arts movement and a stalwart Chicago poet, Carolyn Rodgers passed away April 20.  She was 69. Here is a brief excerpt from the Los Angeles Times obituary:

“Her work always positions black women in particular as strong and not as victims but as survivors,” said Quraysh Ali Lansana, director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he is also an associate professor of English.

Rodgers also wrote short stories and was an accomplished critic and essayist who produced well-regarded explorations of the new wave of African American poetry in publications like Negro Digest/Black World.

Rodgers was born in Chicago in 1940 and grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Her father was a welder, her mother a homemaker and both were readers who encouraged in their children an early love of books.


Carolyn Rodgers, photo in L.A. Times

by Carolyn M. Rodgers

in the august of your life
you come barefoot to me
the blisters of events
having worn through to the
soles of your shoes.
it is not the time
this is not the time
there is no such time
to tell you
that some pains ease away
on the ebb & toll of
there is no such dream that
can not fail, nor is hope our
only conquest.
we can stand boldly in burdening places (like earth here)
in our blunderings, our bloomings
our palms, flattened upward or pressed,
an unyielding down.

from The Heart As Ever Green (Garden City: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978). Copyright © 1978 by Carolyn M. Rodgers.

Automation & Robotics News April 25, from Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–April 25, 2010

Highlights: Automation around the world: India, Angola, Japan, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Automation Census, Cocaine-hunting robochopper, X-37B Robot Space Plane, 2 female androids, Important book: Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, and more

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm

#  Chinese robot chef can’t walk, but it can wok
Tim Hornyak Wed Apr 14 2010
Students at China’s Yangzhou and Shanghai Jiaotong universities are developing a cooking robot that can whip up 300 kinds of Chinese dishes. Chefs are not pleased.

#   Robovie R3 robot wants to hold your hand
Tim Hornyak, Wed Apr 21 2010
New humanoid robot is designed to help the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks. Cheaper than earlier versions, it still costs as much as a sports car.

#  Man Is No Match For World’s Fastest Pick-and-Place Robot
By Kyle VanHemert, 04/20/10
Even armed with a Wiimote, the BotJunkie junkies couldn’t shake the 300-cycle-per-minute Adept Quattro, the world’s fastest-pick and-place robot. Watch this video and imagine how quickly it could fill up one of those state quarter maps.

#  German Fembot AILA Has No Mouth to Feed Bratwurst To
By Kat Hannaford, 04/23/10
As the glamor shots illustrate, fembot AILA is pretty tasty. Curvy in all the right places, big eyes not seen since Zooey Deschanel, and a modern haircut that shows she’s got an awesome music collection. Shame she has no legs.

#  The Roboplant Is Coming For You(r Contaminated River)
By Mark Wilson, 04/09/10
The roboplant will not rest until it walks to the nearest source of polluted water, sips from it and tops off its microbial fuel cells.

# Smart factory’s cheap chassis: Rockwell helps keep cost of India’s Tata Nano low
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – John Schmid – April 18, 2010
AP By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel Tata Motors last month inaugurated its $417 million intelligent automation factory, where it builds the Nano. … How do they do it? In Tata’s case, a crucial element is a $417 million “smart factory” in the state of Gujarat that uses intelligent-automation hardware, software and services supplied by Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. “That plant in India is using the latest technology,” says Keith Nosbusch, chief executive of Rockwell. “The myth of these emerging countries is that they do it by cheap labor and abysmal working standards and terrible plants and abusive environments,” Nosbusch said. “These are high-tech facilities, as high-tech as they are in the U.S. And the people are very happy to be working in them.” Tata’s technology goes beyond robotics, the craze of the 1980s. While the Gujarat plant remains in ramp-up phase, it already manages every sensor, microchip and motor control. It predicts bottlenecks and breakdowns on the factory floor before they happen. It has the capacity to seamlessly order parts from its suppliers – such as seats for the Nano from the Indian subsidiary of Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. – the instant it receives a custom new car order from a dealer.

#  Yokohama’s Cherry Blossom Symposium Showcases Clinical Lab Automation Breakthroughs
April 16 2010
Third-generation total laboratory automation (TLA) solutions now used by Japanese clinical labs Your Dark Daily editor is writing this e-briefing from the 7th Cherry Blossom Symposium in Japan, where it is already Saturday—one day ahead of you readers in North America! The second day of this International Conference of Clinical Laboratory Automation and Robotics is now unfolding. Yesterday’s opening sessions were chock-full of innovation, insights, and new developments in clinical laboratory automation and robotics. Representing 12 nations, a sizeable crowd of 260 pathologists, clinical biochemists, laboratory scientists, and in vitro diagnostics (IVD) vendors is in attendance. The scope and scale of medical laboratory automation was obvious from the 17 speakers who made presentations yesterday. In many of these clinical pathology laboratories, total laboratory automation (TLA) is a given. A number of presenters discussed the design and function of their clinical lab’s third generation of total laboratory automation. One common theme is the use of automated solutions to further integrate operational flow, starting at pre-analytical and flowing specimens into the analytical stage and then post-analytical steps.

#  Angola: Higher Education Ministry runs debate about automation, robotics
4/13/10 Luanda – The foment of the Angolan Society of Automation and Robotics will be discussed at a workshop on April 20, in Luanda, sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology. According to a press release that reached Angop Monday, the meeting will tackle such topics as “General policies on scientific research and Angola’s technological development”, and “Progress of engineering in Angola and new national reconstruction challenges”. “Automation and robotics in Angola’s sustainable development – Agostinho Neto University’s Vision” and “Automation in Angola’s oil industry-Utilised techniques” as well as “Importance of automation in the development of agile systems of production” are also topics under discussion at the event.

#  Angola: Automation and Robotics Enables Society’s Wellbeing
AllAfrica.com – Apr 21, 2010
Luanda — The Angolan secretary of state of Science and Technology, João Teta, defended this Tuesday in Luanda the need to invest in automation and robotics

#  Automation Census – How Many Robots, Vending Machines, Self Service Kiosks, ATMs
There were 8.6 million robots at the end of 2008. There are probably about 11 million robots now (start of Q2 2010). Automation goes beyond robots and below I discuss vending machines, self service kiosks, ATMS and more….
Process changes and other Job Impacts
There is concern that robots and automation displace human jobs
Better and more robots and artificial intelligence are not the only ways for humans to lose jobs
Going down the list of jobs and looking at how many people have different jobs which are the jobs that are safe from displacement ? Even if a class of jobs is not completely eliminated could demand be severely reduced ?
23.3 million jobs in the USA for office administration and support. (New business systems that require fewer people. Web 2.0 companies only need a handful of people or one person to do what took hundreds only a few years ago).
14.3 million jobs in the USA for sales and related work. (Automation and new sales processes)
11.3 million jobs in food preparation and serving. (Improved frozen meals, more elaborate food vending machines)
10.1 million jobs in production. (Automation and process re-engineering, shifts of jobs to other places – jobs still done by people but they are other people, better additive manufacturing and printable electronics and components)
9.6 million jobs in transportation and material moving. (more local production : high rise farming, rapid prototyping and manufacturing systems)
8.3 million jobs in education, training and library. (online learning, MIT recordings of the best professors.)
6.9 million healthcare practitioners and technical. (Biomarker tracking with cheap devices to catch and treat diseases early or in the developing stages. Keep people healthier and avoiding the need for more costly and people intensive intervention).
6.7 million jobs in construction and extraction (pre-fab buildings and panels).
6.0 million Management. Re-engineering to flatten organizations and take out layers of management. Web 2.0’ing a business. Reinvent it where a lot fewer people are needed.
5.4 million Installation, Maintenance, and Repair. Redesign things where the quality is better and it does not break or does not need service or is simple to install.

#  Automation Anywhere Announces 70% Growth and Record Year
Newswire Today (press release) – Apr 17, 2010
Automation Anywhere, a global leader in automation software, today announced record numbers as the company continues to grow in both business process …

#  Worker deficit spurs automation
Global Sources – Apr 12, 2010
Prohibitive costs limit adoption to tier 1 enterprises, but local governments are doling out subsidies to encourage more factories to upgrade. Raising compensation and benefits to retain or entice workers is not the only approach China suppliers are taking to maintain output levels amid a still challenging labor situation. Many are also turning to automation. Swimwear makers that produce their own fabrics, for instance, are replacing manual knitting machines with computerized units. In addition to boosting efficiency, the advanced equipment minimizes the need to retain a large workforce.
Procuring computerized flat-knitting machines allowed Jiaxing Mengdi to cut two-thirds of its workforce.

#  A robot journalist
ZDNet (blog) – Chris Jablonski – Apr 16, 2010
Move over citizen journalism, the next phase for media could be largely automated with minimal human intervention. A robot developed by researchers at the Intelligent Systems Informatics Lab (ISI) at Tokyo University can execute primitive journalistic tasks by autonomously exploring its environment, detecting changes in its surroundings, determining what is relevant, and then taking pictures with its on board camera. It can even query nearby people and perform internet searches to further its understanding. As Singularity Hub reports, if something appears newsworthy, the robot will write a short article and publish it to the web.

#  Cocaine-hunting robot chopper in 60kg bust seizure
By Lewis Page • 12th April 2010 12:47 GMT
An unmanned kill-chopper operating from a US Navy warship has notched up its first drug bust while still in testing, according to reports. The “Fire Scout” robocopter was engaged in sea trials aboard the US frigate McInerney earlier this month when its mothership detected a possible “go-fast” drug-smuggling speedboat on radar, according to Aviation Week. … Makers Northrop intend the droid chopper both for US Naval and Coastguard service. Two can be carried in the same space as a light maritime manned helicopter, which offers the attraction of continuous airborne presence from ships which are normally single-aircraft only such as frigates like the McInerney and US Coastguard cutters.

#  Hoosier robot killers? Indiana’s connections to drone warfare
by Fran Quigley
April 18, 2010
Unmanned drone technologies have changed the course of human warfare and are being developed in more than 40 countries. Purdue University and several Indiana businesses are involved in their development and testing….But this is no schoolboy experiment, and the small flying cylinder is no model airplane. It is the Voyeur UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a “drone.” According to the Web site of its manufacturer, West Lafayette-based Lite Machines, Inc., the Voyeur is designed to allow military and law enforcement to conduct surveillance and “human or non-human target acquisition.” The Voyeur can travel as far as 50 miles in the air and can hover over and/or touch its target….”Last year, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more pilots to operate unmanned vehicles than it did pilots for traditional fighter planes.”Lite Machines is based in the Purdue Research Park, which promotes the fact that the company has received a $10.5 million contract from the U.S. Navy. The multi-million dollar military investment for a small company in Tippecanoe County represents part of a $4 billion annual Department of Defense budget for UAV technology, a highly secretive world of warcraft that is being eagerly embraced by U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Last year, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more pilots to operate unmanned vehicles than it did pilots for traditional fighter planes….The drones are operated remotely by computer and video display, often by Air Force personnel in Nevada or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) staff in Virginia, even when the drone is flying several thousand miles away. The lack of an onboard pilot eliminates direct risk to U.S. personnel and is part of a movement toward robot-izing military missions chronicled in Brookings Institution senior fellow P.W. Singer’s widely acclaimed book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

#  SEC installs power automation system from China
Saudi Gazette – Joe Avancena – Apr 21, 2010
DAMMAM – China’s first electric power automation system has been successfully commissioned at the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) facilities …

#  Albany-based firm acquires wind turbine monitoring capability
April 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm by Kevin Harrigan
MSE Power Systems Inc., an Albany-based electrical engineering firm, has purchased ADMS Wind SCADA and wind turbine monitoring technology from Second Wind Systems Inc. of Somerville, Mass.  Details of the deal weren’t immediately available. MSE’s parent company, CG Automation, is headquartered in India. ADMS Wind SCADA allows for universal feedback and control of wind turbines according to the Second Wind Web site,  while the monitoring equipment will register turbine performance. Unreliability has been one of the most plaguing issues of wind power.

#  Secretive X-37B Robot Space Plane Moves to Launch Pad
By SPACE.com Staff, posted: 21 April 2010
An unmanned rocket rolled out to its seaside launch pad in Florida today carrying a secretive robotic X-37B space plane for the United States Air Force ahead of a planned Thursday launch. The Air Force plans to launch the X-37B space plane on a demonstration flight that could last months. Liftoff is set for Thursday night between 7:52 p.m. and 8:01 p.m. EDT (2352-0001 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. [X-37B spacecraft photos.] The robotic X-37B space plane looks like a miniature space shuttle and even has a small payload like NASA’s orbiters. It weighs about 11,000 pounds and is just over 29 feet in length. It stands slightly more than 9 1/2 feet in height and has a wingspan just over 14 feet across. But unlike its bigger space shuttle brethren, the X-37B is designed to fly unmanned and remain in orbit for up to 270 days. NASA shuttle missions typically carry up to seven astronauts and last around two weeks….Payton said the X-37B is designed to re-enter and land autonomously, without any direction from mission controllers after starting its descent from orbit. The mini-shuttle is expected to land at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at the end of its debut test flight, he added. The X-37B was built by Boeing’s Phantom Works division in Seal Beach, Calif. The Air Force has already ordered a second Orbital Test Vehicle, but whether it launches in 2011 as planned hinges on the performance of the upcoming test flight, Air Force officials said.

#  Adept Technology Announces Receipt of $2.9M Order From Global Leader in Consumer Electronics
Order for Vision Guided Robotics Will Enable Increased Productivity
PLEASANTON, Calif., Apr 20, 2010 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) — Adept Technology, Inc., a leading provider of intelligent vision-guided robotics and global robotics services, today announced it has received a $2.9 million order for high-precision robots from a major global leader in consumer electronics. The order is expected to be fulfilled and recognized as revenue over the next two quarters. The company selected Adept as its automation partner to provide high-speed vision-guided robot systems for complex, precision handling operations after conducting a thorough investigation of potential suppliers. Adept has been serving the consumer electronics and information technology industry with high-precision mechanisms and controls in both standard and cleanroom configurations for over 20 years. “The high-speed vision-guided robot systems will be installed in the highly competitive manufacturing environment of Southeast Asia,” said Hai Chang, Managing Director of Asia Operations for Adept Technology. “Southeast Asian manufacturing output has rebounded more rapidly than in the U.S. and Europe, particularly in the semiconductor and electronics sectors. China has driven much of the general recovery in Asia, with much higher IT spending than in 2009. We are pleased to have this opportunity to continue serving these leading companies in the consumer electronics sector.”

#  cynomy demolition robot concept: remote-controlled destruction
Technabob (blog) – Apr 22, 2010
One of the best things about robots is that they’re not alive, which means choosing between a robot and a human to perform a risky task is a no-brainer.

#  South Korea Developing Underwater Search-and-Rescue Robot Crawlers
Popular Science – Jeremy Hsu – Apr 19, 2010
The government announced today that it would spend about $18 million (20 billion won) over the next five years to create its creepy-crawly robot.

#  Robot-run recycling system sorts up to six types of plastics
Plastics Today – Matt Defosse – Apr 20, 2010
Laser equipped and robot run, this recycling system can sort up to six types of plastics. One of the main inhibitors for increased recycling of plastics

#  Geminoid F: More Video and Photos of the Female Android
Erico Guizzo // Tue, April 20, 2010
Geminoid F, the female android recently unveiled by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist at Osaka University and ATR famous for his ultra-realistic humanlike androids, generated a lot of interest. Several people wrote me asking for more details and also more images. So here’s some good news. I got some exclusive photos and video of Geminoid F, courtesy of Osaka University, ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, and Kokoro Company.

#  How Recycling Robots Could Help Us Clean the Planet
POSTED BY: Antonio Espingardeiro // Wed, April 21, 2010
Dustbot, a garbage-collecting robot created by the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna’s CRIM Lab. At the current rate of global population growth and consumption of resources, it appears clear to me where we’re going to end: in a waste-covered Earth like that depicted in the movie WALL-E…. Recycling is a very promising area for robotics. Over the next few decades I imagine a future where waste-collecting robots will be moving through air, land, and water, reaching difficult areas to help us cleaning our environment. Picture WALL-E but before the whole planet becomes a landfill. In fact, there are already some recycling bot prototypes roaming around. One example is Dustbot, a robot developed at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna’s CRIM Lab, in Pisa, Italy. Led by Prof. Paolo Dario, the laboratory created a robot designed specifically to collect garbage at people’s homes.