At Selma President Obama Calls Out Republican Attempts To Take Away Your Right To Vote


And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.

How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We’ve endured war, and fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

The president gave a remarkable and far-reaching speech. Make no mistake about it. President Obama was calling out both the Republican attempts at the state level to suppress the vote, and the congressional Republican foot-dragging on the Voting Rights Act.

Voting rights isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. All Americans should be standing together to demand that voter suppression tactics must stop. It was a disgrace when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and it is even more shameful that Republicans in Congress have not restored the law.

The Voting Rights Act does have bipartisan support in Congress. The question is, are Republican leaders in Congress brave enough to allow a vote on restoring the law? President Obama delivered a stirring speech. Today is more than a day to mark the history and courage of fifty years ago. It is also a day to demand a rare bit of courage from Congress. It is time for Congress to do the right thing and restore the Voting Rights Act.

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Behind the US jobs report: Low wages and persistent mass unemployment


The US economy created 295,000 new jobs in February, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released Friday. The percentage of the population officially unemployed shrank by 0.2 percentage points to 5.5 percent.

The report sent tremors throughout Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 1.5 percent. Investors fear that any slacking of the jobs crisis could lead the Federal Reserve to scale back on its policy of ultra-low interest rates that has formed the basis of financial speculation in recent years.

Media outlets have celebrated the jobs report as a sign of the US economy’s growing strength. However, some have been confused with the question, voiced by the New York Times, “So Why Aren’t Wages Rising More?”

Behind the headline figures of February’s report lie two underreported facts. First, the fall in the official unemployment rate is largely fictional. Second, new jobs are concentrated in lower-paying sectors, while the overall wages of workers throughout the economy are under sustained attack.

While February was the 60th straight month of job growth in the private sector, it was also the 11th straight month in a row that the labor participation rate—a more accurate measure of unemployment—remained below 63 percent. The figure fell 0.1 percentage points to 62.8 in February, the lowest level since 1978. The contrast between the extremely low labor participation rate and the ostensibly recovering official unemployment rate arises from the fact that millions of unaccounted laborers in the official statistics cannot find suitable work.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of the drop in the jobless rate was due to workers leaving the workforce, not workers finding jobs. In February the number of people reported as being unemployed shrank by 274,000. Of those, 178,000 left the work force and 96,000 gained jobs.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), there were 5,970,000 unemployed workers missing from the official statistics in this month’s job report. Were they to be added to the unemployment rate, it would stand at 9 percent. These missing workers “are people who would be either working or looking for work if job opportunities were significantly stronger.” The EPI notes that more than half of these missing workers are in their prime age of working, between the ages of 25 and 54.

There are several signs that the jobs market is entering a renewed downturn. The number of Americans who filed new claims for unemployment benefits rose sharply last week, by 7,000, to a seasonally adjusted 320,000.

Meanwhile, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the consultancy firm that tracks mass layoffs, reported yesterday that US employers announced 103,620 planned layoffs in the first two months of 2015, up nearly 20 percent from the same period last year.

As for wages, they remained stagnant for non-supervisory and production workers, the bulk of the workforce. Wages for all workers rose slightly, by $0.03.

One commentator on National Public Radio noted, “We’re adding most of our jobs at or slightly above minimum wage, and as long as that’s the case, you’re not going to get a whole lot of upward pressure on wages.”

A report released last April by the National Employment Law Project, “The Low-Wage Recovery,” found that unlike previous recessions and post-recession recoveries, the current “recovery” has been dominated by low-wage growth. The authors wrote, “We find that low-wage job creation was not simply a characteristic of the first phase of the recovery, but rather a pattern that has persisted for more than four years now. Deep into the recovery, job growth is still heavily concentrated in lower-wage industries.”

The largest industry to gain workers in February was in “food services and drinking places,” which saw 59,000 new jobs, or about a fifth of all gains. Professional and business services increased by 51,000 jobs, retail by 31,000, construction by 29,000 and health care by 24,000. Part-time workers stood unchanged at 6.6 million people.

The Obama administration’s “recovery,” characterized by high stock prices for the rich, stagnating or declining wages for the majority, and long-term unemployment, is not a policy accident. Starting with the bailout of the auto companies, which cut in half the wages for new hires, the administration has led the charge in “wage restructuring” and “downsizing” in order to make American workers more easily exploitable. Meanwhile, the bailout of the banks and Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program have ensured record profits and stock prices for the super-rich.

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US orders 7,700 children deported without court hearings


More than 7,700 immigrant children have been ordered deported over the past 18 months without ever appearing in court, according to statistics released by the federal government recently and reported by the Los Angeles Times Friday.

The Times account was based on data supplied by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which processes data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies.

Legal proceedings had been brought against 62,363 children over the past 18 months. In at least 7,706 cases, the children were ordered deported after they failed to make a court appearance. No figures were available on how many of these children were even aware of their hearings—they range in ages from toddlers to adolescents. But 94 percent of those ordered deported had no attorney to represent them.

Attorneys and advocates for the undocumented children said that many of these hearings are held without any notice given to those facing deportation. This problem has been exacerbated by an Obama order that immigration judges fast track such hearings, holding them within 21 days of ICE seeking a deportation order. With children scattered across the country, in detention facilities, foster care or staying with relatives, the fast-track hearing process makes timely notice extremely difficult.

ICE has not reported the total number of children deported in its efforts to combat the “surge” of refugees from Central America that began in late 2013. The agency reported that 1,901 unaccompanied children were deported during fiscal year 2014 (October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014), but some of these may have been detained earlier. ICE has not released figures on child deportations over the past five months.

The fact that deportations of unaccompanied children take place at all is outrageous. That the numbers are in the thousands, if not higher, demonstrates the brutality of the crackdown on Central American migrants conducted by the US government, in direct contradiction to the public pretense of sympathy adopted by President Obama.

The Obama administration has carried on a two-faced policy on immigration ever since taking office in January 2009. Obama claimed to advocate a more tolerant approach to undocumented immigrants and to support measures for their legalization and citizenship. But his government has deported more immigrants than any previous administration, more than two million men, women and children. Deportations are being carried out at nine times the rate of 20 years ago.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement began the latest crackdown at the end of 2013, when Central American women and children began arriving at the US southern border in much larger numbers than previously. The numbers swelled during the summer of 2014, leading to the detention of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The vast majority of the women and children were fleeing gang violence and military death squads in their home countries, as well as desperate poverty, conditions that are byproducts of a long history of oppression by American imperialism and its local henchmen in the wealthy oligarchies that rule Central America.

At the high point of the crisis, Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, declared that the mass jailing of mothers and children was intended as a deterrent against the continued flight of refugees. In other words, he effectively conceded that the administration policy was deliberately punitive, and in violation of due process norms.

Last month a federal judge in Washington DC ordered the administration to stop the jailing of children, whether accompanying their parents or alone. The Department of Homeland Security is considering whether to appeal.

In another federal courtroom, in Seattle, Washington, the American Civil Liberties Union has brought suit seeking the appointment of defense counsel for all children facing immigration or deportation hearings.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, are all unnamed, in view of their ages, but their descriptions in the court filing suggest the dimensions of the social crisis in Central America from which they have fled. As detailed in the court documents, the plaintiffs include:

* A three-year-old boy conceived when his mother was raped when she was only 15 years old. After she faced continuing threats from her rapist, his mother fled El Salvador and left her son in the care of his aunt. However, because his family continued to fear for his safety in El Salvador, he was brought to the border in Texas, taken into custody by the government, and put into deportation proceedings.

* A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.

* A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.

* A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.

* A 16-year-old boy born in Mexico who has lived here since he was a year old, and has had lawful status since June 2010.

* A 16-year-old boy with limited communication skills and special education issues who escaped brutal violence exacted on his family in Honduras, and who has lived in Southern California since he was eight years old.

* A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent resident father in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit charges numerous agencies of the federal government with violating the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, as well as provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge. Such a fair hearing is impossible for a child deprived of both parental support and legal counsel.

This is the brutal reality of US immigration policy, behind the play-acting and stage-managed conflicts in Washington. President Obama and congressional Republicans engaged in such a mock battle over the past two weeks over funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which the Republicans had delayed in an effort to force the White House to abandon the executive order issued by Obama last November, providing limited work authorization for about four million undocumented immigrants.

The fight ended, as the WSWS predicted, with full funding for the DHS, one of key agencies of the emerging American police state, and with Obama’s immigration order unchanged. With only a few exceptions, corporate America supports the Obama policy, which makes available a supply of cheap labor for agribusiness, construction and other industries, while maintaining the overall framework of brutal police repression of undocumented workers.

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Justice Department report on Ferguson police: An indictment of American capitalism


The US Justice Department released a report on Wednesday documenting systematic and wanton brutality, violence and outright criminality on the part of police in Ferguson, Missouri, carried out in violation of the legally protected constitutional rights of the city’s population.

The report found that the Ferguson police—the department responsible for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August—engaged in “stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The report documented numerous examples of egregious abuse at the hands of the police. It noted that in one incident, police sicced a dog on a fourteen-year-old boy, then “struck him while he was on the ground, one of them putting a boot on the side of his head.” The officers were “laughing about the incident afterward.”

The report also found that the city operates what one judge likened to a “debtors’ prison,” issuing vast numbers of arrest warrants and throwing the poor in jail in order to force them to pay traffic tickets. It notes that, for the city’s poor and low-income residents, “Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay, and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.”

The conditions described are a devastating indictment of the American economic and political system. The actions of the police in America are much more in line with what would be expected in an economically backward dictatorship than a major industrial power, one that declares itself to be a role model of democratic rule for the whole world.

Obama responded to the Ferguson report on Friday with his typical admixture of cynicism and deceit. Calling the police practice in Ferguson “oppressive and abusive,” Obama declared that “it turns out” that protestors against police violence in the city “weren’t just making it up.” He added, however, that the abuse revealed was “not typical.”

“The overwhelming number of law enforcement officers have a really hard, dangerous job and they do it well,” Obama said in South Carolina. “They do it fairly, and they do it heroically.”

Obama’s paeans to the “heroic” police in America notwithstanding, the actions detailed in the Ferguson report are not an aberration. Indeed, the Justice Department itself found similar misconduct in reports on police in Albuquerque and Cleveland over the past year.

In the past two years alone, there have been nearly two thousand police killings in the US. All over the country, people in poor and working-class communities live in fear of the police, who are given legal immunity to harass and brutalize the population in service of the ruling elite.

Obama’s comments followed earlier remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder in announcing the report. Holder declared that the findings showed that the concerns of demonstrators “were all too real.” As he put it, “Some of those protesters were right.”

A serious reporter, if such a thing existed in the White House press corps, would have asked Holder: “If the protestors were in fact right, why did you go to Ferguson during the height of the police crackdown against peaceful protestors against the killing of Brown and stage a photo op where you embraced Ron Johnson, who was coordinating the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators?”

This was, after all, the same White House that worked with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to mobilize the National Guard against protestors, and sent over a hundred FBI agents to spy on those involved.

The White House combined its empty acknowledgment that protesters “were right” with its absolute defense of the decision not to bring charges against Darren Wilson for gunning down Brown in broad daylight. Obama made it a point Friday of explicitly defending the decision of the Justice Department not to charge Wilson—which followed a sham grand jury proceeding last year—as if the actions of the killer cop were not entirely of a piece with the outrageous conditions described in the Ferguson report released the very same day.

The criminality of the police in the US is of a piece with the operation of the state as a whole, and of the corporate and financial aristocracy that runs the country. As for the response of the Obama administration, it follows a definite playbook. Whenever the criminality of the American state comes bubbling to the surface and is revealed before the public, Obama admits the crimes while making sure that the people responsible for them go unpunished and acting as if the White House itself had no hand in the matter.

In May 2013, Obama gave a speech in which he declared, “I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any US citizen—with a drone or with a shotgun—without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over US soil.”

This was after the president had already carried out the drone murders of multiple American citizens, and only two months after Holder had declared the right of the president to carry out drone assassinations “within the territory of the United States.”

Then there is the question of the government’s complicity in torture. In August of last year, Obama declared that over the past decade and a half, “We tortured some folks… We did some things that were contrary to our values.” And yet, none of the torturers, whose activities were exhaustively documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released last year, have been punished. Only a few months later, the corporate-controlled media now acts as if the report never existed.

The same pattern is evident in numerous revelations of outright criminality on the part of the banks and financial speculators. The US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ 2011 report on the Wall Street crash proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that individual executives at major banks, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and others, have committed crimes mandating prison sentences. The Senate turned over the report to the Justice Department, but no one was charged, much less prosecuted.

In all of these scandals, the entire political establishment works to ensure that no one will be held accountable. In relation to the Ferguson report, despite its damning revelations, it concludes with only a few empty and toothless proposals for “reform.”

No one can be held accountable because all of these great crimes are part of an even greater criminal conspiracy by the financial oligarchy to keep the great mass of the population in poverty and subjection.

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uTorrent Quietly Installs Cryptocurrency Miner, Users Complain


Many users of the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent are complaining about it silently installing a cryptocurrency miner with a recent update. The Epic Scale tool, which slows down host computers, is reportedly being installed without consent and for some is particularly hard to remove.

utorrent-logo-newWith well over 150 million active users a month uTorrent is by far the most used BitTorrent client around.

The application brings in revenue through in-app advertising and also presents users with “offers” to try out third-party software when installed or updated.

These offers are usually not placed on users’ machines without consent, but this week many users began complaining about a “rogue” offer being silently installed.

The complaints mention the Epic Scale tool, a piece of software that generates revenue through cryptocurrency mining. To do so, it uses the host computer’s CPU cycles.

Epic Scale was flagged by many anti-virus vendors (update: not anymore). However, it has been included with uTorrent for several weeks already, without any significant complaints. However, starting this week many users reported that the software was installed without any notification.

“This is pure bloatware, just updated my uTorrent. There was no notification about the software it just installed,” Aiziag complains.

“Got this installed quietly when upgraded U-Torrent. When I arrived home this evening my PC was running at full tilt and practically blowing steam. I felt like it was going to catch fire,” Daniel adds.

The issue was also brought up at the uTorrent forums, but the initial thread was deleted by a moderator. Meanwhile, many more complaints started pouring in, mostly on the freefixer website.

“Just updated uTorrent and it didn’t tell me anything about that total f*cked up ‘Epic Scale’ trash, which constantly keeps popping up with ‘Could not connect to server’,” Simon writes.

“Noticed the laptop was ‘laggy’ and then I saw the mysterious E in the taskbar. Blamed the kids again but then I saw the Utorrent update comments and bingo, me too,” Ian notes.

The sudden increase in complaints over the past two days suggests that something went wrong with the install and update process. Several users specifically say that they were vigilant, but instead of a popup asking for permission the Epic Scale offer was added silently.

“When I updated uTorrent today, an offer to install Baidu Av just popped up. I declined. I wasn’t told nothing about Epic Scale! I was alert, this software was simply installed quietly, without even a single checkbox. I wasn’t given a chance to decline,” Marcos writes.

The Epic Scale team says that it’s investigating the issue. Despite being grilled by an angry mob, they’re offering assistance and a $20 Amazon gift card to affected users who provide additional details.

“I recognize many of you are reporting a silent install. We are going to address this with all our distribution partners and determine what’s going on,” Epic Scale’s Alexander writes.

TF reached out to uTorrent’s parent company BitTorrent for further details but they have yet to reply. However, in a new forum post a customer support manager denies that there are any issues.

“We design our software to ensure that partner software downloads don’t occur without approval by the user. But given your report, we’ve also double-checked this particular offer, and have determined that it cannot be installed without user

Given the unusual surge of reports about silent installs, however, it might be that something went wrong, at least for some.

Update: The silent install appears to happen selectively, and not on all machines. BitTorrent is known to vary its offers based on user location and other variables. TF had confirmation from various sides and with screenshots of every step of the install process where the software was reportedly installed even though no Epic Scale screen appeared. In one case, the opt-out screen was eventually shown after several re-installs.

Update: BitTorrent Inc. informs TF that they are not aware of any problems.

“In terms of user complaints in our forums, we always take these claims seriously. We highly value our users, they are a passionate and tech savvy group. In the last 24 hours we have received less than a dozen inquiries out of several million offers.”

“We have reviewed the issue closely and can confirm there is no silent install happening. We are continuing to look at the issue. But this is most likely these users accepted the offer during install.”

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.@gop @reince GOP leaders to skip Selma event


Scores of U.S. lawmakers are converging on tiny Selma, Alabama, for a large commemoration of a civil rights anniversary. But their ranks don’t include a single member of House Republican leadership — a point that isn’t lost on congressional black leaders.

None of the top leaders — House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was once thought likely to attend to atone for reports that he once spoke before a white supremacist group — will be in Selma for the three-day event that commemorates the 1965 march and the violence that protesters faced at the hands of white police officers. A number of rank-and-file Republicans have been aggressively lobbying their colleagues to attend, and several black lawmakers concurred.

“It is very disappointing that not a single Republican leader sees the value in participating in this 50th commemoration of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. I had hoped that some of the leadership would attend, but apparently none of them will,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina. “The Republicans always talk about trying to change their brand and be more appealing to minority folks and be in touch with the interests of African-Americans. This is very disappointing.”

Former CBC Chair Marsha Fudge (D-Ohio) agreed.

“Not only do they have an opportunity to participate in something that is historic in this country, but certainly they’ve lost an opportunity to show the American people that they care,” she said. “Their loss.”


Merle Haggard – It’s ‘Almost Criminal’ What They Do To Our President

A Merle Haggard quote has been circulating social media over the last two days, almost as if it appeared in response to the incredible disrespect shown to President Obama by Republicans in Congress and foreign leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. The quote is from a 2010 Rolling Stone interview. Patrick Doyle spoke with music legend Merle Haggard, who was attending the 33rd Kennedy Center Honors. Haggard was invited to the White House to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Doyle asked Merle Haggard about President Obama, and the traditional ‘stone-country’ singer-songwriter said he enjoyed meeting Obama and found the President to be quite different from what he had seen in the media. That’s when Haggard interestingly added:

It’s really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he’s doing certain things that he’s not. It’s just a big old political game that I don’t want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I’m sure some of it’s true and some of it’s not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be.

Doyle asked, ‘What’s the biggest lie out there about Obama?’

He’s not conceited. He’s very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help. I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.

When Doyle asked if Haggard talked to the President much, the interview took a much lighter tone:

I told him, “You and I have something in common: our wives are both taller than we are.” And he said “No! She’s got on 3-inch heels! And she is not that tall!” He was like me. He grabbed that real quick.