The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 1008 — March 28 - April 11, 2016

Editorial:
Shut Donald Trump Down
– Yes, but How?

Mar 28, 2016

Demonstrators have recently protested at Donald Trump rallies, focusing on statements he made, calling for Mexican immigrants to be sent back to Mexico and Muslims prevented from entering the country, among other things. One of the biggest of those demonstrations, at the University of Illinois in Chicago, ended with Trump cancelling his rally, after cops stopped a fight inside. Some of the demonstrators yelled, “we shut Trump down.” Others began to chant for Bernie Sanders.

It’s understandable that students at a university would resent Trump being invited to their campus – he drips reaction when he opens his mouth.

But there is a very big danger in Donald Trump’s campaign that wasn’t “shut down.” He has found a way to touch a segment of the working class, mostly, but not only, white.

The question is, why.

Certainly, there is a profound streak of racism among some white workers, and that often is tied to other reactionary attitudes. But this is not the whole story, not by a long shot.

It’s not just his viciously right wing views that created an audience for Trump. He speaks about the workers’ economic situation, the threat to their Social Security, the bankers who suck blood, insurance companies that drive up medical costs, making health care unaffordable.

But above all, he talks about jobs.

Of course, he didn’t attack the corporations in this country whose drive to rip more work out of fewer workers has destroyed millions of jobs.

Of course not. He denounced free trade agreements that, he says, “suck jobs from this country,” and immigrants who, he says, “take American workers’ jobs.”

In other words, Trump plays on ideas already current in the working class – reactionary ideas cultivated by the unions, who have long made some of the same arguments, justifying their unwillingness to lead a fight against the real cause of job loss.

To put it another way, he plays much the same tune as does Bernie Sanders – who made most of his campaign in Michigan turn around his opposition to “free trade agreements.”

Both Trump and Sanders hide the real causes of unemployment in this country. Both end up blaming workers in other countries. Sanders may say it indirectly, while Trump says it directly. But both drive a wedge into the working class.

Trump, who is viciously worse in his human attitudes, uses his “populist” appeal to reinforce violent anti-immigrant attitudes that have already sometimes been acted on – particularly, but not only, along the Texas-Mexico border. But Sanders’ stance gives Trump legitimacy.

Trump is taking advantage of an opening that exists because no one in this election campaign really speaks to the workers’ concerns. That is the problem.

In this time period, all workers – black, white and of all ethnic backgrounds – are being battered by an economic crisis that continues from year to year, laying workers’ neighborhoods to waste, tearing up jobs, destroying schools, even driving down life expectancy.

And no one really speaks for the working class in terms of its own class interests, offering working class answers to the problem of joblessness.

A working class party would propose, for example, that no company making a profit be allowed to lay off a single worker or cut a single job. That wouldn’t address the whole problem, but it shows there is a different way to approach it, a way that reflects the workers’ own class interests.

The working class needs its own political party.

This is the issue that needs to be addressed – not only to shut down vicious demagogues like Trump, but much more importantly, to let the working class begin to fight for its own interests.

Pages 2-3

Abortion Clinics Rapidly Closing in Liberal States, Too

Mar 28, 2016

Clinics that provide women access to abortion are closing throughout the country. And not just in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, where lawmakers are overtly hostile to women’s reproductive rights and pass laws aimed at severely restricting abortion access. Clinics are shutting down just as fast in more liberal states, too. Exact numbers of clinic closures are hard to come by. But according to the Guardian newspaper, of more than 50 clinics that closed for good in 2014, a little more than half were located in supposedly liberal states, most of them run by Democrats.

Most clinics that provide abortion services are small and independent with very limited financial resources. Yet, they have huge burdens. First of all, many of their patients are poor and cannot afford to pay the full cost of the medical procedure. And even in the 17 states where Medicaid covers abortion, the reimbursement rates are usually so low, clinics lose money on each abortion they perform.

On top of that, clinics have to deal with the very real threat of violence, as well as abortion protestors who block clinic entrances. This means spending much more money on security at every level: construction, security guards, legal costs.

The closures of abortion clinics are a broad consequence of 40 years of anti-abortion policies that have not just stigmatized the procedure, they have isolated it from the rest of medicine.

The single greatest limitation set on abortion was the “opt out” provision. It allowed hospitals and clinics to “opt out” of performing abortions or sterilizations if these medical procedures violated “their moral or religious beliefs.” This was passed in the mid-1970s by Democrats and Republicans alike. Such a limitation has never been set on other medical procedures – at least until a similar “opt-out” was extended to pharmacists whose “moral” standards are violated by dispensing birth control medication.

Abortion is the only medical procedure that takes place almost exclusively in dedicated facilities. This makes them particularly vulnerable to all kinds of pressures, including financial pressures.

The Supreme Court may supposedly have granted women the legal right to choose abortion in 1973. But that right has been denied, torn up and otherwise obliterated ever since – unless a woman has money.

Latasha Harlins Murdered 25 Years Ago

Mar 28, 2016

Twenty-five years ago, Latasha Harlins was killed because of a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. Harlins was 15 years old when she entered a market in South Central Los Angeles in 1991. She had two dollar bills in her hand to pay for the orange juice. When store owner Soon Ja Du saw Harlins putting the bottle into her backpack, she grabbed Harlins' sweater. Harlins broke free in a struggle with Du. Harlins left the bottle on the counter, and turned to walk away. Du pulled her gun and shot Harlins in the back of her head, killing her in the store.

This struggle and the shooting had been recorded on a videotape by the store security camera. The jury found Du guilty of manslaughter. Du faced a possible 16-year prison term.

But Judge Joyce Karlin had the final say and used her power to release Du with no prison term. Judge Karlin said that there were mitigating circumstances. She said “Did Mrs. Du react inappropriately? Absolutely. But was that reaction understandable? I think that it was. This is not a time for rhetoric. It is not a time for revenge. It should be a time for healing.”

A California state appeals court later unanimously upheld Judge Karlin's sentence, confirming that a person found guilty of slaughtering a black person can be freed with no jail time.

Du’s murder of a young black woman, the Judge Karlin’s freeing Du and her reasoning in freeing Du, and the California court system’s backing of Judge Karlin’s decision were all ghastly racist.

In 25 years, nothing has changed in the political and legal system that still exists.

Washington, D.C. Metro:
Unsafe and Unreliable

Mar 28, 2016

The second busiest subway in the country was shut down in the middle of a workweek for 29 hours for system-wide emergency inspections of its third-rail power cables after a series of electrical fires. Two days prior to the closure, there was a track fire similar to the one in January 2015 which caused the death of a passenger. Although the March fire occurred before Metro opened and no one was hurt, the damage was done. There were long delays and dangerous over-crowding on the platforms.

The closure of Metro meant that hundreds of thousands of people who commute to work and school daily on Metro had less than 12 hours to scramble to find another way or just not go in at all. Even though many people who ride Metro thought it should be shut down if it isn’t safe, there is a much bigger question.

Why, after a passenger was killed on Metro, after NTSB recommendations, was the frayed jumper cable problem allowed to continue? It’s been over a year and they still haven’t fixed it?!

In fact, Metro has become increasingly dangerous. Twenty-nine riders were injured in a collision at Woodley Park in 2004, four workers were killed between 2005 and 2007, and 23 passengers were injured in a 2007 derailment at Mount Vernon Square. The worst disaster, so far, was the 2009 Red line crash at Fort Totten: nine people were killed and 52 were hospitalized. All of these incidents involved equipment or infrastructure failures or breakdowns.

Metro is 40-years old. It has serious infrastructure problems: the tracks, third-rail jumper cables, the cars, the notorious escalators, deteriorating platforms and so on. It has gotten so bad that it is a roll of the dice if Metro can get people to work or to the airport on time or even at all.

It didn’t have to come to this. Less money is going into maintenance even as the system ages. The federal share of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) budget has steadily decreased over 20 percent since the mid-1990s.

The Federal and local governments are ruining Metro by not doing what is necessary to keep it up and running safely.

Los Angeles:
Officials Destroy Homes for the Homeless

Mar 28, 2016

The City of Los Angeles has been confiscating and destroying small houses donated to homeless people. These houses were provided by volunteers who raised money for the materials, and built them, themselves. The volunteers say the houses are a temporary relief, until the homeless have a permanent roof over their heads.

Permanent housing – that’s what city officials have promised to the homeless ... in 10 years! The officials say they would need 2 billion dollars for the project, but they also say they don’t have it. It’s a long shot, in other words – coming from a city government that has a long history of doing NOTHING for the homeless.

In the meantime, 30,000 people sleep on the streets in L.A. County any given day, because existing shelters don’t have a place for them. And L.A. city and police officials have been aggressively attacking the homeless, confiscating and destroying their property, including medications and documents; roughing them up; ticketing them; and arresting them.

Homelessness is a big and growing social problem, created by the workings of capitalism. Homelessness has been increasing not only because of high unemployment, but also because of the skyrocketing rents and the fact that existing working-class jobs pay very little. Among the homeless there are many families with children, many even who have a job.

Why can’t this problem be solved? Elvis Summers, one of the volunteers, explained it: “When I can make a house for $1,200, people are going to question why you need $2 billion. ... Homelessness is not complicated. Making money off the homeless is complicated.”

Yes, under capitalism, NOTHING will be done until some capitalist sees a profit in it. And public officials under this system see it as their job to provide the profits for the capitalist class.

Baltimore:
Under Armour Boss Wants One Billion Dollars

Mar 28, 2016

Sagamore Development Company, the development arm of Under Armour boss Kevin Plank, is asking for over a billion dollars in city, state and federal tax breaks to subsidize construction of a new Under Armour headquarters campus surrounded by a small “city within a city” at Port Covington in south Baltimore. The city of Baltimore is being asked to provide about half this money.

This would be the largest single TIF tax break ever from Baltimore City (five times the size of the current biggest one) and one of the largest ever from any city in the country.

Sagamore claims its development project would provide thousands of jobs and eventually millions of dollars of new tax revenues for the city (but not until after 2040). However, past experience shows these promises are virtually never fulfilled – or at least never in ways that benefit ordinary working class people in the city. Rather they are just excuses politicians use to justify huge tax breaks. And these tax breaks guarantee there is not enough money for schools, recreation centers, roads, sewers, water repairs or low-cost housing.

None of the leading candidates for mayor of Baltimore oppose the huge tax breaks Sagamore is requesting. Rather, each one claims they would be the best mayor to negotiate the details of the deal!

In other words, the best mayor Sagamore’s money can buy.

Pages 4-5

Cuba:
Obama
– Sales Rep for U.S. Capitalists

Mar 28, 2016

Barack Obama was the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years. It’s interesting to note that as soon as Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, after overthrowing the Batista dictatorship that the U.S. had supported, Castro went to New York to talk with the U.S. leaders. Not only didn’t they talk to him, but they cut off diplomatic relations and imposed an embargo on the country.

Two years later, the U.S. organized a failed military invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, hoping to overthrow the Castro regime, which had refused to submit to the U.S.. Castro carried out an agrarian reform, nationalized U.S. businesses, and then turned to the USSR to allow Cuba to survive economically.

A half century of the embargo didn’t enable the biggest power in the world to overthrow the Castro regime. So the U.S. made a full reversal of policy in December 2014, when it announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. In 2015, each country reopened embassies, but the economic blockade is still in effect, since the U.S. Congress dominated by Republicans refuses any change.

On the other hand, big U.S. companies didn’t wait for Congress’s OK to invade Cuba. The Castro regime, injured almost immediately by the blockade once aid stopped coming from the USSR, received them with open arms. U.S. capital has started up a tractor factory in Cuba. Others export food products to the island and invest in cell phones, while large hotels are springing up to attract U.S. tourists.

In one year, the U.S. went from the almost total prohibition of direct flights to Cuba to 110 daily flights in the near future.

Raul Castro may have wanted these changes, but above all they’ll benefit big U.S. and European companies. These companies will only exploit Cuban manpower but won’t develop the island. On the contrary, what the Castro regime accomplished in health and education is at risk of being sidelined under the pressure of capitalists for immediate profits.

As for Obama’s cutting remarks to Raul Castro on the subject of democratic freedom during their common press conference, this was above all designed to get the reversal of policy accepted by U.S. reactionaries. If U.S. imperialism was really worried about human rights, it would begin with Guantanamo, which is a U.S. military base on Cuban soil, that Obama promised to dismantle in 2009.

Brussels Terrorist Attack – Barbarism and its Roots

Mar 28, 2016

This article appeared in the March 25th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On March 22 in Brussels, terrorists killed at least 24 and wounded 200. Once more it aroused horror in the midst of Europe, barely four months after the Paris attacks.

Whatever were the motives which animate those who carry out and order these terrorist attacks, these killings can only provoke revolt and disgust. The Islamic State organization which takes credit for them presents the acts of these suicide bombers as heroic. In reality, they’re nothing more than cowardice. For it’s cowardice to organize and carry out these crimes which aim at passengers taking a plane, those who accompany them to the airport, those working there and at a packed subway station at rush hour filled with men, women and children.

Men who kill in this way are the worst enemies of the oppressed and the population in Syria and Iraq, on whom they have imposed their domination. The same evening as the attacks, Syrian refugees in Greece denounced the terrorist attacks with the means at hand, small placards written in English, propped up before the cameras. They recall that it is precisely the horrors of war, including those of the Islamic State, that they’ve fled.

The barbarism of the Brussels attacks didn’t fall from the sky. The great powers, notably the U.S. and the European countries, by all their diplomatic maneuvers, their military interventions and their bombings where they kill blindly, are in great part responsible for the chaos in Syria and Iraq. And more fundamentally, for more than a century, they have made the Middle East the grounds of their rivalries to seize its natural resources, like oil, and all the markets that it represents, beginning with arms sales. For more than a century, the maneuvers of the great powers have torn apart the peoples and driven them against one another. They nourished wars by arming one clan in power against another and by using various militias to service their interests at the moment.

In Iraq and Syria, for five years, the populations have paid with hundreds of thousands of war dead, which devastated their territory. Certainly, they are the victims of Islamic State barbarism, certainly, but above all the victims of the imperialist policy of the great powers. Today, the populations in the capitals of the rich European countries are equally the victims. For an entire region can’t be put to fire and blood without that ricocheting back here, in one manner or another.

For this reason, the Brussels victims and those of November in Paris are indirectly the victims of the policy of the European leaders. It is precisely their policy in the Middle East which contributed to generate the Islamic State monsters and continues to generate others.

The workers can’t let themselves be swept up in the policy of national union that French President Hollande and his Prime Minister Valls are quick to relaunch. Union with whom? With the right wing parties which wreaked desolation in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan? With the left wing parties who also are responsible for the policy of war in this region of the world? With the far right who wants to close all borders, stirring up reactionary and anti-immigrant prejudices?

The workers must not accept any of these leaders who are responsible for the rise of barbarism thousands of miles away, and the recent explosion here, leaders who claim to speak in their name.

Ivory Coast:
Jihadist Criminals ... and What Gives Rise to Them

Mar 28, 2016

This article appeared in the March 18th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On March 13th, there was a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam in Ivory Coast, which killed 15 and wounded 33. In this seaside resort 66 miles from the Ivorian capital, a commando from al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb opened fire on everyone on the beach, before going into the hotels to continue the butchery.

This is the first time Ivory Coast was hit by this type of attack, but it’s not surprising. The development of the situation proves that the Jihadist groups are choosing to attack everywhere in the region and they are succeeding in this. When the French army intervened on January 2013 in Mali, French president François Hollande claimed he was going to eradicate terrorism. These groups were definitely chased out of Mali’s northern cities where they led a reign of terror, but then they targeted areas where the French didn’t go. They aimed at Mali’s south and center, with terrorist attacks in the capital Bamako in November 2015, where 20 people were killed in the Radisson Blue hotel. Then they attacked in the country of Burkina Faso, where they machine gunned the outside cafes of Ouagadougou, the capital, before entrenching themselves in the Hotel Splendid.

Each time, these are places Europeans go which are symbolically taken as targets, places where tourists go, also foreign workers and foreign nationals living abroad. But each time, most of the victims are Africans employed in the hotels and restaurants or simply passing by. The attackers open fire on anyone they meet, showing their scorn of the population, whatever the color of their skin or their religion, with the only goal being to cause a reign of terror. This was the case in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, where the people on the beach fled anywhere they could to escape the bullets, while protecting their children, when they didn’t lose them in the scramble.

The spread of such acts shows the emptiness of Hollande’s claim to end Jihadist terrorism by deploying the French army in Africa. The policy led by the imperialist powers in the world, in the Middle East and in Africa, created the compost in which such groups continually arise. The leaders who carry out this policy, in Paris, Washington and London, foster this situation. Everywhere they create new hotbeds of tension as they defend the profits of their imperialism. They are mortal enemies of the population, just like the Jihadists.

Ivory Coast:
Bullets Against Strikers

Mar 28, 2016

The following appeared in the February 14th issue of Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Power to the Workers), the paper of the African Union of Internationalist Communist Workers. It tells about a strike that occurred in January in the Sucaf-CI sugar mill where two workers were killed by the police. This company is a subsidiary of Somdiaa, one of the biggest French agribusiness companies in Africa. It has subsidiaries in Chad, Cameroun, Congo, Central Africa, Gabon, Togo and the island of Réunion. The French capitalists make profit in Africa with the sweat and also the blood of the workers of these countries, assured that the local authorities will go right along with them.

The Sucaf-CI of Ferké1 and Ferké2, a sugar company located in the north of Ivory Coast, went on strike on January 8th. They are fighting against the casualization of their jobs due to the fact that the boss has turned over certain sectors to contractors, giving rise to deep wage cuts.

According to a worker, “a seasonal driver who got 170,000 CFA francs (equal to $287 a month) now has a wage of 90,000 F as a contractor. A worker paid 85,000 F before now has 60,000 F.” At the same time, they are protesting against terrible working conditions and unpaid overtime work. In fact, many of them work 12 hour days and are only paid for eight hours. They don’t have medical insurance, even in the event of accidents on the jobs.

At the end of the last sugar harvest, the boss congratulated the workers for work well done. That meant that the bosses pocketed more. The workers expected an increase in their pay. But they were really surprised when they saw the boss arrange to cut pay with the aim of increasing still more the stockholders’ profits.

And when the workers demanded their due, the boss, rather than seek to resolve the problem, arranged with the authorities in their service to have the cops come and kill the workers.

The forces of order didn’t hesitate to use their weapons. They shot real bullets, killing two and wounding several. A dozen workers were arrested and thrown in prison.

This example shows clearly to what extent the authorities are on the side of the bosses.

Arizona Primaries:
Another Shining Example of U.S. Democracy ...

Mar 28, 2016

Hundreds of people in Maricopa County, Arizona had to wait in line for several hours to vote in the primaries. The last ballot was not cast until after midnight, more than five hours after the polling stations were closed.

Maricopa County includes Phoenix and is, by far, the largest in Arizona. Only 60 polling stations were open in the county, amounting to one polling station for more than 20,000 voters on average – and even more in minority and working-class neighborhoods, which tend to be more densely populated.

This was no accident. County officials made a conscious decision to reduce the number of ballot stations by more than two thirds, from 200 in 2012 to 60 this year.

In other words, this was just another example of officials trying to suppress voter participation, especially among working-class voters. Just in time for President Obama’s visit to Cuba, where he gave the usual lecture U.S. officials give in other countries, praising the virtues of American-style democracy!

Pages 6-7

Chicago Teachers One-Day Strike

Mar 28, 2016

The Chicago Teachers Union called a one-day strike and rally for April 1st. The union plans to picket schools, then assemble for a big rally downtown, demanding more money for schools. Other unions and community groups are calling people out to join them.

This is the latest step in a long battle. The Chicago Board of Education has been demanding big concessions from the teachers since negotiations began last year. The board first proposed that it end picking up part of the teacher’s pension payments, which would amount to a seven percent pay cut. Then the board thought they might have a deal which would impose a somewhat smaller pay cut. When the teachers’ union rejected that deal, the board threatened to impose the seven percent cut – but then backed off, and instead announced they would make teachers take three unpaid furlough days. This latest one-day strike is the union leadership’s response.

It appears the union is calling for a one-day strike in order to keep within the bounds of the law. Chicago teachers can’t legally go on a real strike until almost the end of the school year.

In other words, “the law” is a trap. It is set up from top to bottom to keep workers from fighting. If teachers strike outside the elaborate legal process, it means facing legal penalties. But meanwhile, the board has refused to pay teachers the raises negotiated in the last contract – and the law does nothing. The board threatened to impose a pay cut, and is in fact imposing a cut with the furlough days – and the law lets them get away with it.

No, the law is not neutral. If teachers stick to these laws, the politicians who wrote them will get an outcome they want. And these politicians have made it abundantly clear that they are determined to go after the schools of working class children and the teachers who work in them.

This one-day strike may let the teachers show their resolve. But everyone knows the mayor and his hand-picked board won’t back off after one day.

If the Chicago teachers are determined to save their schools and their jobs, it will take a determined mobilization. This one-day strike can be a start. But that’s what it is – only a start.

Free Trade Isn’t the Problem. It’s Capitalism

Mar 28, 2016

A lot of politicians running for president this year, especially Trump and Sanders, have made an issue about trade agreements and free trade, saying that this is the reason why there are not enough jobs. Yes, it is true that corporations will move some jobs to wherever they can get the work done more cheaply, sometimes to other countries, or other states. But this is only a small part of the problem.

When politicians tell people that the reason for lack of jobs and low wages is trade agreements, they are not telling the truth. They are covering up for the corporate bosses who are cutting wages and moving work right here inside the country. The auto industry is the perfect example of this. Today, the auto companies are building as many cars and trucks in the U.S. as they were 25 years ago, but with less than half the numbers of workers. Where did all the jobs go? A lot of them were eliminated through speed up. Every year the companies balance out jobs and add this work on the remaining workers. Today every autoworker does twice as much work as they were doing 25 years ago.

Other jobs at Ford, GM and Chrysler were eliminated through outsourcing - moving work to other companies, not in Mexico or China, but to lower wage companies right here in the U.S., in Michigan and the Detroit area. Look at all the work at DTP that used be done by Ford workers, but is now out sourced: Clean-up done by Hydrochem workers, railcars loaded by Autoport; parts delivered by Ceva and Penske; parts sorted by CLI, door panels and IPs built by DMS and Faurecia workers. Thousands of Ford jobs have been lost by speed-up and outsourcing. In fact, many of these jobs are still here, but being done at lower wages.

This is what the corporate strategy is – work people faster for less money. This is the real problem. And this is what the politicians from both parties do their very best to cover up.

Tennis is Full of Sexist Pigs
– Like Everywhere Else

Mar 28, 2016

Raymond Moore declared that women tennis players “ride on the coattails of the men,” and that “If I was a lady player, I’d go down on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.” He put his foot further down his throat by adding that women’s tennis has “very attractive prospects” who are “physically attractive and competitively attractive.”

Serena Williams put this sexist pig in place, this pig who also happens to be the director of the BNP-Paribas tennis open. She pointed out that he is simply wrong – lots of people watch both women’s tennis and men’s. And, by the way, when she played in the U.S. Open last year, tickets for her final game sold out before tickets for the men’s final sold out.

As for his disgusting remark, she reacted: “There’s only one way to interpret that...’Get on your knees,’ which is offensive enough, and ‘thank a man’? We as women have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.” Exactly!

Page 8

Flint Water Report Calls Out Criminal Politicians

Mar 28, 2016

The Flint Water Advisory Task Force appointed by Michigan Governor Snyder issued its report: “The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice.... Flint water customers were needlessly and tragically exposed to toxic levels of lead and other hazards through the mismanagement of their water supply.” Truer words were hardly ever spoken!

The report reserves its harshest criticism for the emergency manager and his boss, Rick Snyder. The emergency manager system put Flint under the control of appointed officials who were not accountable to the local population. But they are by no means solely responsible. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “stubbornly worked to discredit and dismiss others’ attempts to bring the issues of unsafe water, lead contamination, and increased cases of Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease) to light.” The Flint Water Department, the Genesee County Health Department, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency all contributed to the problem through neglect, coverups, incompetence, and underfunding.

The report makes clear that the entire government structure, including Republicans and Democrats at the local, state, and national levels, all contributed to poisoning thousands of children with lead and infecting dozens of people with Legionnaire’s disease that killed at least ten.

And the report makes clear that racism played a big role. “Flint residents, who are majority Black or African American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities.” In other words, as everyone knows, this never would have happened in an affluent, majority white town.

The report also called out the state for approving a new pipeline, the Karegnondi Water Authority, in an area that already had enough water and that could not afford the new construction.

This report is an indictment of everyone involved. And if they were to draw their own conclusions, they would ask for a legal indictment of them all, from Snyder on down, for murder.

Dangerous Lead:
A Dangerous System

Mar 28, 2016

In March, school fountains were turned off in Newark, New Jersey. The water was found to be contaminated with lead, which can do permanent harm to children. Lead poisoning has been found to damage the developing brain.

Two years ago the Newark public school system already knew it had a lead problem and proposed that custodians flush the water fountains every day before school opened. It proposed that cafeteria workers run cold water for two minutes every day before preparing food.

It will surprise no one that the “precautions” didn’t get carried out. In fact, exactly the same problem, with exactly the same solution, failed in the Los Angeles public schools in 2008.

The news about Flint has shown that for 25 years, school systems around the country have known that too much lead has leached into their water systems.

Flint, Michigan may be a much more widespread, costly and dangerous situation than in other school systems, but the problem of lead harming children is a longstanding one.

Politicians at the local level, the state level and the federal level ignore faulty infrastructure of all kinds.

This is one consequence when the politicians give out millions, billions and trillions to the banks, the corporations, the well-connected developers, and so forth. These are the priorities of a system destroying itself from the inside out.

Upper Peninsula, Michigan:
State Prisoners Protest

Mar 28, 2016

On Sunday, March 20th, 1000 out of 1200 prisoners at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the U.P. acted together in protest of a new for-profit prison food vendor – Trinity. The prisoners walked out of the yard 20 minutes early. In a silent protest, they quietly went back to their cells. The next day – on Monday, 1,140 prisoners acted in unison, NOT going to lunch or dinner.

A corrections union rep said, “It is hard to get 1000 people to agree on anything.” These 1000 inmates were SO UPSET about the food quality they agreed to “take one action.”

The State of Michigan immediately met with Trinity and announced it had worked out a solution. By Tuesday, Trinity food service had brought in extra staff. There seemed to be enough workers to prepare the meals correctly.

But prisoners know very well not to trust the state and its promises. It was the prisoners’ own unity – and not promises – that got them a few decent meals.

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