The Spark

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

Issue no. 1062 — August 6 - 20, 2018

Janus Ruling:
The Supreme Court Attacks the Working Class

Aug 6, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered an attack against the unions and finally, on the entire working class. The ruling came down in late June and is referred to as the Janus decision.

Under the guise of expanding workers’ rights to free speech, the court ruled that workers in unionized public workplaces cannot be required to pay agency fees to support the costs of union bargaining even if they benefit from bargaining by the union.

It is a move to erode union membership and the unions’ ability to finance their activities.

Of course, the ruling represents the growing strength of the conservative political right wing. But it goes far beyond a partisan move by right-wing Republicans to deprive Democrats of the considerable support and funding they get from the unions. For the entire class of employers, the Janus decision will serve to remove barriers that are in the way of the bosses’ drive to take wages and benefits even lower.

From their perspective, what is most in the way is the remaining organization of workers, and especially the public sector unions.

State and local employees, teachers at the forefront, have remained organized in unions at an estimated rate of around 35 percent, while in the private sector, union representation has fallen to less than 7 percent.

Right to Work legislation over the last period has laid the groundwork for the Janus ruling. In a slightly different way, the Right to Work rules interfere with dues collection by unions. The Janus decision applies to public sector workers only, but in every state.

For decades, the labor environment in the U.S. was structured so as to give workers some rights and protections in exchange for contracts which restricted and controlled fights and strikes in the workplace.

Labor law enacted 80 years ago, based on the Wagner Act and successive rulings, gave workers the right to have their organizations recognized legally, and it prevented some of the worst and most arbitrary tactics of the bosses against organizing attempts.

These laws were enacted following periods of strike actions by workers that organized the very unions themselves: the bosses saw a benefit in establishing a legal framework that constrained further strike movements in return for ceding somewhat better conditions of daily life under capitalism. This was the tradeoff. Finally, this made the unions useful for the bosses by providing, effectively, “labor peace.”

While the period of organizing unions may have coincided with higher wages and expanded benefits, it came at a price. For decades, the working class has failed to organize itself as a class to fight for its own interests. A divided working class has accepted the limits placed upon it without experiencing and learning from struggles of its own, especially in the public sector. For the most part, only older workers in manufacturing or mining can remember strike fights. For decades, we have lived with rules from bosses and bureaucrats that define the limits of what labor can and cannot do.

But today, with decisions like Janus, the bosses show they are ready to tear up the previous framework, with its controls and guarantees, grievance hearings and appeals.

Perhaps they have decided that unions are no longer necessary or useful for them in a period when the working class appears to have accepted reduced wages and benefits, going down, down the road to levels seen in the underdeveloped countries.

Will the working class find a way to hold the line against the attacks that are surely coming? Will it shrug off the constraints that have been placed upon it and fight back in wave after wave of strikes and public protest? Will it fight to defend the current unions and revitalize them?

Certainly, there is the potential and the power in the working class to overcome today’s divisions and to reverse the tide of concessions that have washed over us. To do that, we need our own fighting organizations, with a class policy to move beyond the confines of the bosses’ profit system.

Pages 2-3

Immigrant Doctor Fought for Flint Children

Aug 6, 2018

Starting in 2014, criminal negligence by state officials poisoned the entire city water supply of Flint, Michigan, with lead.

Lead is poisonous to everyone, and especially poisonous to children. It gets into their growing brains and can’t be taken out.

The city-wide poisoning went on for over a year. Even today it is not completely fixed.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is an Iraqi pediatrician working in Flint. Her research in September 2015 was the “last domino” in many months of public outcry, before officials would stop denying they had a problem.

Dr. Mona’s parents moved out of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, to England where she was born, then to the U.S. She could imagine a government poisoning a city – Saddam had done that. She could imagine a government lying and covering up its crimes Saddam had done that.

Dr. Mona used her political experience to stand up and help defend the children of Flint. She is an example of how the working class can benefit from experiences shared across borders.

As she says, “When you work together with others, you can accomplish and change so much more.”

Book Review:
What the Eyes Don’t See

Aug 6, 2018

A new page-turner book is out. It’s about Dr. Mona, a pediatrician, who – with the help of her friends – got state officials to admit there was a lead-in-the-water problem in Flint, Michigan in 2015.

“What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City” is Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s life story. It is gripping. It is one of the many stories that need to be told about the Flint Water Crisis.

“The eyes don’t see what the mind doesn’t know,” is a quote Dr. Mona uses. She is both a doctor and a teacher of medical students. In her teacher role, she stresses the importance of a knowledge of science, history, racism, and class oppression – in order to understand the world around you. Dr. Mona put that philosophy into practice. The moment she learned that authorities were lying about the water being safe in Flint, Michigan, she knew she had to act.

The story of her fight to expose the truth is part scientific detective story and part organizing handbook. The book makes it clear that a losing fight – the fight in Washington, D.C. against lead poisoning of water in the early 2000's – helped lay the foundation for success at exposing the truth in Flint. It also shows that ordinary people were amazing in their strategies to prove Flint had a water crisis and that immediate action was needed.

Dr. Mona also explains that a tradition of working class fight began in 1937 in Flint with the Flint Sit-Down Strike. Habits of resistance from then continue to today. Dr. Mona’s hope is that being organized today will wrench enough money out of greedy hands so Flint’s children who were hurt by the water can be supported and build resilience. It is a very interesting book to read.

Florida Woman Dies
– Denied Ambulance Service

Aug 6, 2018

Four Florida paramedics have been accused of racial profiling and failing to provide due medical care to Crystle Galloway on July 4th. Galloway’s mother told a reporter that the paramedics assumed the family could not afford the cost of the ambulance.

Galloway had given birth by Caesarean section a few days earlier. Her mother, Nicole Black, called 911 after finding her daughter collapsed in the bath. The ambulance crew, after they arrived, kept asking Black over and over, “Do you want to go to the hospital? Do you want to go to the hospital?” Black kept telling them yes and begging for help.

Black said the paramedics spent 12 minutes urging her to drive her daughter to the hospital herself, while her daughter lay on the ground in the fetal position. The paramedics then placed Galloway in her mother’s car and she drove her to the hospital. Galloway later slipped into a coma and died five days later.

Hillsborough County officials have already accepted responsibility and said, “We did in fact fail to provide good care to this woman.”

Being black and poor prevented Galloway from receiving proper health care, which could have saved her life.

Don’t Drink the Water

Aug 6, 2018

Drinking water has high amounts of lead in nearly one-third of the public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, officials reported in June.

Drinking even small amounts of lead can do life-long damage to the brain, especially in children. No amount of lead is considered safe. But so far, the drinking water system has not been replaced or repaired.

Montgomery County is the wealthiest and largest school system in the state. In other counties, which have also reported school drinking fountains that contain lead, less money is made available to spend on repairs. Baltimore City has also had the problem for decades and pays for drinking water rather than replacing old lead pipes.

Another example of infrastructure not repaired – but this one with deadly consequences for children.

The U.S. Healthcare System is Killing Mothers

Aug 6, 2018

A woman giving birth in the United States is three times more likely to die than a woman in Britain or Canada. In fact, the maternal death rate in the U.S. is the highest of any developed country, and higher than in many poor countries. And it has been increasing.

Every year in this richest country in the world, 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 60 percent of these deaths are preventable. And for every woman who dies, 70 nearly die. That adds up to over 50,000 women a year who can lose their uterus, get long-term kidney problems, have heart attacks, or have brain damage from all the blood they’ve lost.

Part of the problem is the disjointed and disorganized medical system in the U.S. This means that standardized best practices are followed in some places, but not in others. For instance, Britain standardized its approach to treating pre-eclampsia, a type of high blood pressure that occurs only during pregnancy or right after childbirth. As a result, pre-eclampsia deaths declined so much that only two women died of this between 2012 and 2014. Meanwhile, in the U.S., pre-eclampsia kills 50 to 70 women a year.

Another part of the problem is that over the last decade and half, there has been a big focus on improving the health of babies and fetuses, but not mothers. Women are routinely discharged from birth with information on how to breast-feed and what to do if their newborn is sick, but not how to take care of their own health.

And of course, poverty, the lack of affordable health care before, during, and after pregnancy, and the pressure on many women to return to work right away don’t help.

There is an easy answer to this crisis of women’s health: organize the medical system, on the scale of the country, to make sure each person gets the care they need. Standardize the best practices and make them available to everyone. Make sure all women have access to enough time off during and after pregnancy to take care of themselves and their children.

But in this system, in a thousand ways, the profits of bosses, hospitals, medical equipment and drug makers, and insurance companies come before the lives of women. The consequences are deadly.

Profiteering from the Desperately Ill

Aug 6, 2018

The Service Employees International Union has sponsored an initiative, called Proposition 8, on the California ballot for the November election. It is a proposal to cap profits at 15 percent for kidney dialysis, a procedure to eliminate toxins from the blood.

Proposition 8 is a response to the killing rates of profit charged, especially by two big companies, DaVita and Fresenius. Together they dominate the dialysis market in the U.S., with about 70 percent of the market share.

DaVita and Fresenius, which reported a combined profit of more than 4 billion dollars in 2017, did not waste any time launching a “No on 8” campaign. The two companies have already spent 8 million dollars to defeat Prop 8 three months before the vote. They say that if Prop 8 passes, dialysis clinics will shut down, which in turn will harm patients. An obvious attempt at blackmail, no doubt.

The problem is, dialysis is no ordinary business. In fact, in any society that respects human life, dialysis should not be treated as a business at all. Dialysis patients are people with kidney failure, who must have their blood cleaned by a dialysis machine three times a week ... or else they will die.

But these dialysis companies act exactly like they don’t care about human life. They short-staff their clinics and push their workers to treat patients faster – which increases the risk of infections and can be life-threatening for patients if complications arise.

Faced with patient complaints, the public health agencies of eight states have mandated minimum staffing levels for dialysis clinics. In California, however, neither the state’s health agency nor the legislature has enacted such rules. For these elected politicians – the vast majority of whom are Democrats – and for the companies they represent, profits are apparently more sacred than human life.

Pages 4-5

The Ortega Regime Confronts Widespread Revolt

Aug 6, 2018

Since mid-April, retirees, students, mothers and workers have taken to the streets of Nicaragua to protest against the regime of Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. Over the last three months, human rights groups estimate that as many as 450 people have been killed. More than 2,800 have been injured, according to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights. And thousands of protesters have been imprisoned, often undergoing torture.

These protests broke out after the Ortega regime cut Social Security benefits and increased Social Security taxes, a measure that had actually been mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Ortega government tried to repress the protests. But it hastily withdrew the benefit cuts and tax increases after the protests continued.

But neither repression, nor concessions quelled the protests. They spread from the capital of Managua to cities and neighborhoods throughout the country. Often, it was the repression that actually spread the movement. On May 30, for example, during a Mothers’ Day demonstration that featured the parents and relatives of people already killed by the police, paramilitary forces and police opened fire into the crowd, killing 18 more people. In response, individual neighborhoods across Managua and the cities of Masaya, Esteli, Diriamba and Leon erected barricades to keep out police and paramilitaries, leading to more battles.

These protests have targeted the Ortega regime, which has been in power since 2007, and in many ways, appears no different than that of a typical strongman dictatorship. Ortega, his wife, children, along with some supporters, have amassed control over key government institutions and paramilitary forces, as well as television stations and other big companies. They rule over a country in which a tiny Nicaraguan bourgeoisie, that is, a dozen Nicaraguan families, control financial institutions or companies with earnings of at least one billion dollars. Most importantly, Ortega has opened the country up to big capital from outside the country. He has offered big tax breaks to foreign investors, and carved out free trade zones where companies have erected maquiladoras that produce for such international companies as the Gap, Levis, Target, Walmart and J.C. Penney.

Of course, the exploitation of the working class and peasantry has been so savage, that living standards are the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, besides Haiti. It is this underlying poverty, misery and slum-like conditions, amidst extreme wealth and corruption that has fueled the movement.

Once the revolts erupted, the extreme right-wing politicians and businessmen tried to take the head of a political opposition that calls for the removal of the Ortega regime. But so far, the U.S. government has treaded lightly. The U.S. government waited more than two months before it formally condemned the Ortega regime for “brutalizing” its own people. The U.S. government followed up with some symbolic sanctions and small cuts in military aid. Rather than confront Ortega directly, the U.S. government has been using the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States to mediate some kind of political settlement to the crisis.

As one former U.S. official explained to the Los Angeles Times (July 30), “Washington gave Ortega a pass because over the years he had shrewdly struck deals with the private sector, Catholic Church and non-Sandinista political parties.” Moreover, as that official pointed out, up until now, the Ortega regime has managed to keep order – which is unique in this region. Unlike the so-called Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Nicaragua had been relatively stable under Ortega, and was not generally a source of migrants fleeing toward the United States.

Today, besieged on all fronts, Ortega has resorted to the complaint that he is the victim of an “imperialist conspiracy.” No. Ortega has not been the symbol of defiance of U.S. imperialism for many, many decades. The man who was part of a revolutionary overthrow of a U.S.-sponsored dictator, Anastasio Somoza, back in 1979, has long ago made himself a guarantor of that same order. Over the last decades, Ortega allied himself with some of the same U.S.-sponsored Contra forces that had violently opposed him and the Sandinistas in the 1980s. He has also strongly supported the Catholic Church’s demand that all abortions, without exception, be legally banned, along with harsh prison sentences for women and doctors.

Ortega is part of a system that has made the entire region a powder keg, a powder keg that is exploding. The question is whether the masses of workers, peasants, poor and oppressed can take control of their own revolt, spread it, and impose their own rule against the dictators and imperialists who feed off of them.

Fires in Greece:
Criminal Cutbacks

Aug 6, 2018

The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The fires which ravaged the east coast of Greece’s Attica region caused at least 93 deaths in July, with 25 people missing, dozens more injured, and much ruin.

Europe’s current heat wave plus powerful winds early on might have contributed to the fires’ destructiveness. So could unregulated construction without permits. But these don’t fully explain the tragedy.

A representative of the Greek Firefighters’ Federation told the press that budget cuts by a number of administrations caused almost one third of their firefighting vehicles to be out of commission. Over 250 are too old and rundown to salvage and over 250 more need parts they can’t afford.

Greece had very destructive fires in 2009, and 77 people died in fires in 2007. Firefighting units are understaffed and lack planes and helicopters. This policy is the fruit of both right-wing and left-wing governments in recent years. Cuts have increased in ferocity since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008 and when bankers ordered austerity.

In other words, even if these fires were fueled by the weather and other factors, the extent of the damage is mostly the result of budget cuts pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank, and the European Union, all serving the big banks.

U.S. World Order Imposed for Profit

Aug 6, 2018

The leading news organizations, with their rich owners behind them, have been claiming that the Trump administration is threatening to disrupt and even destroy the “world order of peace and prosperity” that the U.S. has led since the end of World War II. They claim this world order is “a benign empire, held together by ... respect rather than force.” This is how the New York Times put it recently, with the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS and NBC saying similar things.

BENIGN empire?!

This world order led by the U.S. since World War II is in fact a system of imperialist domination designed to facilitate, enforce and protect the exploitation of the natural resources and the human labor of the entire world by big U.S. corporations and banks. This system has allowed big banks and corporations to amass super profits at the expense of the world’s workers and farmers, reducing billions of them to poverty, homelessness, starvation and degradation.

Trump absolutely supports this system, as has every president. They’ve all represented the same corporate interests, with whatever violence against the world’s population they felt was necessary. In fact, Trump’s loud chest-thumping only threatens to pull the mask off this brutal world order for all to see what it truly is.

Highlights of the “Benign Empire”

Aug 6, 2018

A brief sampling of the U.S. wars fought to impose “The World Order” that we are told equals peace and prosperity today:

Syria (1949) - The State Department under President Truman instigates an overthrow of the government to force quick approval for the building of a U.S. corporation’s oil pipeline.

Korea (1950-53) - U.S. forces bomb and invade the peninsula to prop up its puppet dictator in the South. Millions of Korean people die.

Iran (1953) - The CIA under President Eisenhower engineers the overthrow of nationalist leader Mossadegh, who was attempting to end the strangle-hold of big British and American oil companies on the country’s economy. The U.S. installs the Shah as dictator. He and his son brutally rule the country for 26 years.

Cuba (1960-present) - A nationalist revolution led by Fidel Castro topples Batista, a dictator who ensured Cuba’s riches flowed to U.S. corporations. The new government tries to build an economy that keeps more of Cuba’s resources for the Cuban population. The U.S. begins a systematic campaign of attempted invasions and embargoes to reassert its dominance.

Vietnam (1955-75) - After the defeat of French military forces largely paid for by the U.S., the U.S. then engineers the division of the country and props up a puppet government in the South to protect U.S. corporate interests. Armed popular opposition grows, and the U.S. sends hundreds of thousands of troops to try to quell the growing rebellion. They destroy much of the country and kill millions of Vietnamese people both North and South in retaliation for the population’s show of defiance.

Chile (1973) - Under the Richard Nixon administration, the CIA engineers the overthrow of the Allende government – which dared to impose limits on U.S. corporate profits – by the Chilean military. Chilean General Pinochet takes power and brings down a reign of terror on much of the population. Thousands are rounded up, imprisoned, tortured and killed.

Iraq (1990-present) - To punish Saddam Hussein for daring to act without U.S. approval, President George Bush, Sr. sends hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops with air and sea support to destroy much of the Iraqi army. The U.S. then regularly bombs the country for a dozen years, including under President Clinton. Iraqi food, water treatment and medical facilities and supplies are destroyed and embargoed. Over one million people – and possibly twice this number – die as a result, particularly children, old people and the sick. In 2003, under President George Bush, Jr., U.S. forces bomb and invade the whole country, supposedly looking for “weapons of mass destruction.” None are ever found. President Barack Obama and then President Trump continue the occupation of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are killed by U.S. and Iraqi forces in the fighting.

Afghanistan (2001-the present) - Under the pretense of a fight against terrorism, the Bush, Jr. and Obama administrations deploy hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to invade and occupy the country, killing hundreds of thousands of Afghanis. The occupation continues under President Trump.

Libya (2011) - Under Obama, the U.S. helps to engineer the toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi. The country is plunged into chaos that continues to this day.

Syria (2014-present) - 11,200 U.S. air strikes are carried out under Presidents Obama and Trump. U.S. attempts to destabilize the Assad regime help foster civil war, which provides an opening for ISIS. The U.S. goes to war against ISIS and continues to maneuver to retain influence. Hundreds of thousands are killed and half the population is displaced in a continuing war for domination of the region.

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Money Out, But Where Is Money In?

Aug 6, 2018

Tradepoint Atlantic, developer of the old Sparrows Point property, wants 150 million dollars from Baltimore County taxpayers. It is asking officials for a TIF, which stands for tax increment financing, a tax deal by which the company gets money from the county to pay for roads and water and sewer upgrades, and pays the money back over 30 years as it collects rent from the tenants.

Tradepoint and its tenant Amazon already got deals, that is, tax money, from Baltimore County when they arrived to do business on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel mills. Tradepoint Atlantic got 20 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation to use on upgrading the port at Sparrows Point. And Amazon got two million dollars as an incentive from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority, along with $200,000 from Baltimore County.

Does a TIF benefit the people of Baltimore County, or just the companies demanding a handout? TIFs have been used in other counties and in Baltimore City. When the city council asked for information on how well the city was doing after providing the TIFs, there was no information available. If TIFs were helping fund communities so well, the politicians would be bragging about the facts.

The two candidates for county executive think it’s a great idea. It is, but only for Tradepoint and other companies like it.

Follow the Money

Aug 6, 2018

Teachers all over the state of Maryland – and in other states – have recently received an email at work from the “My Pay, My Say” campaign.

This campaign contacts public workers, like those in government offices and school systems, urging them to leave unions.

It accelerated after the Janus decision, just brought in by the Supreme Court, that allows workers in agency shops to stop paying what are called “agency fees” if they choose not to be union members.

Previous law required that workers who declined union status would still be covered by the unions’ collective bargaining agreements. So these workers were required to pay as much as 80% of regular union dues.

Now that they are no longer required to pay, workers could decide to quit the unions, in order to avoid any fee.

How did this “My Say, My Pay” campaign get into email servers all over state school systems? Was hacking involved? Did administrators in the school systems give away the email addresses?

Even more interesting is that one foundation supporting the campaign, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, belongs to Dick and Betsy DeVos. DeVos, the current U.S. Secretary of Education, has made clear her opposition to unions, to teachers and to public schools.

Maybe the Mackinac Center needs a new name, like the Anti-Worker Center? That would be truth in advertising!

Oil Giants Poison Africa

Aug 6, 2018

The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

According to an official Dutch report, the fuel sold in Africa has very high levels of chemicals that are dangerous to human health.

Oil brokers even have a term for this: “African quality,” which refers to low-quality petroleum products. These products have sulfur levels 200 to 1000 times higher than what is normally authorized in Europe, along with manganese and benzene, highly carcinogenic substances, and other chemicals that are banned in most of the world.

This scandal was already denounced in September of 2016 by a Swiss NGO, Public Eye. It is today confirmed by the Dutch Inspection for the Human Environment, that investigated the cargo of 44 tankers heading for West Africa. The toxic mix was made in the port refineries of cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or Anvers, where a big part of the petroleum products destined for Africa are produced. Or maybe it was made in the open sea, to be more discreet.

The big oil companies like Shell and Total, along with the big European oil brokers like Glencore or Trafiura that export very toxic fuels, willingly poison the big African cities, which are the most polluted in the world mostly because of the fine particulates emitted by vehicles. These fuels also interfere with the functioning of catalytic converters and filters. The health consequences are catastrophic. In Accra, Ghana, for example, respiratory problems are one of the main causes of hospitalizations and doctor visits.

Before July of 2017, many African countries were trying to reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in fuel. But only Ghana actually did so, because the others gave in to the pressure of the oil giants.

These companies are not ready to abandon the super-profits they make from selling this hypertoxic fuel.

Jerome Johnson:
Wrongfully Imprisoned for 30 Years

Aug 6, 2018

On July 1, 50-year-old Jerome Johnson stepped out of the Baltimore courthouse a free man. He was exonerated – a fancy word for “not guilty” – of the murder charge for which he had spent 30 years in prison.

Eighteen years ago, the person who did commit the murder not only admitted it. He also said Johnson wasn’t even there.

Five years ago, a lawyer who believed Johnson was innocent, as he had always declared, took up his case. She turned for help to the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, a group of lawyers and law students who work for free to exonerate innocent prisoners.

When Johnson left prison, the Baltimore state’s attorney spoke to the press of the “years taken away from an innocent man.”

But why did Johnson spend all those years in prison? Because he couldn’t afford a lawyer who could investigate, the way the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project could do. If he had money, he would never have spent years in jail.

Multiple similar cases show the justice system’s disregard for the lives of thousands of men who have been incarcerated above all because they were poor. It’s yet more proof of a legal system designed to incarcerate poor people.

Small wonder the slogan is heard, “no justice, no peace!” The fight for justice means an end to a system that provides justice only to those who can afford to hire good lawyers.

Trump’s Tax Cuts Bite Taxpayers

Aug 6, 2018

The news is in: tax receipts from corporations are down, down lower than they have been as part of the federal budget since World War II.

In fact, corporate tax receipts are down by one third from what they were a year ago. What nice news if you are a business or corporation!

Of course tax receipts from businesses and corporations have NEVER been a big part of the federal government’s receipts. Taxpayers, like you and me, have provided about half of all government receipts for most of the history of income tax collection.

While taxpayers have to pay taxes, corporations have record profits – 25 billion dollars a DAY. And thanks to the new tax cuts starting January 1, 2018, they will have to pay less than ever on all that profit.

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California Wildfires:
a Result of Global Warming

Aug 6, 2018

Combined with ever-increasing temperatures and bone-dry vegetation, the fires in northern California have destroyed more than 10,000 homes and killed more than 40 people since last October. The largest, the Carr Fire near Redding, still burns. It has already torched more than 121,000 acres, an area larger than Denver, since igniting on July 23. State officials said more than 13,000 firefighters are on duty fighting 16 large fires that have burned a total of 320,000 acres and displaced more than 32,000 residents.

This is unprecedented in California history. Fire seasons in general have grown longer and more destructive in recent decades. With 113-degree temperatures, the northern Sacramento Valley was experiencing the hottest July on record when the Carr Fire swept into the city of Redding.

The link between ever-rising temperatures and tinder-dry vegetation caused by hot weather is becoming impossible to ignore, according to experts who study climate and wildfires. “The regional temperatures in the western U.S. have increased by 2 degrees since the 1970s. You’re seeing the effect of climate change,” explained Jennifer Balch, director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

So global warming, caused by human, industrial and commercial activity, is taking its toll on nature and humans. Preventing global warming and fighting against its deadly and destructive effects will require a collaborative human effort. Capitalism under which we all currently live is a social straitjacket, since its sole, selfish and narrow purpose is extracting ever-increasing profits from workers to serve a few filthy rich individuals. Capitalism cannot find solutions to such social and natural disasters.

For $1 an Hour, Prisoners Fight Fires

Aug 6, 2018

On the front lines of the fierce wildfires ravaging northern California, prison inmates work alongside professional firefighters.

These 3,700 men and women, even some juvenile offenders, make up about a third of California’s wildfire-fighting personnel. Following training, they work an average of 10 million hours each year.

Last October, more than 1,700 inmate-firefighters fought wildfires, working shifts of up to 72 hours straight. Last year, two inmates died while fighting fires.

But, the inmate-firefighters are low-cost to the state: only $2 a day, plus $1 an hour when they fight fires. The California budget for firefighting is already 100 million dollars a year. Despite its wealth, the state stiffs some of its firefighters.

One woman inmate-firefighter, La’Sonya Edwards, told The New York Times that “The pay is ridiculous. There are some days we are worn down to the core. And this isn’t that different from slave conditions. We need to get paid more for what we do.”

She’s right!

Are There Any Connections?

Aug 6, 2018

Wild fires are raging out of control in California and have destroyed at least 10,000 homes. The out of control burning is at least partly due to prolonged record heat. San Diego hit 115 degrees, and a Los Angeles suburb broke 118. In July, Death Valley recorded the hottest month anywhere, ever, with the average temperature, day and night, above 108.

So what idiot would propose to make the world even hotter by encouraging auto companies to sell cars that burn more fuel and emit more greenhouse gases?

You got it! The U.S. president!

From Stolen Children to Family Jail

Aug 6, 2018

On Thursday, August 2, about 50 fathers at a jail for immigrants in South Texas, disingenuously called Karnes County Residential Center, protested and started a hunger strike, according to an immigrant rights group. They are protesting that, after having finally been reunited with their children, they are now being held indefinitely, with no indication of when they might be released or deported.

More than 500 families are in these jails. They don’t know what will happen to them, and they don’t know when their cases might be decided. The government is denying them access to asylum officers, which are like lawyers for people applying for asylum, and it is not telling them what’s going on.

One Honduran man described the hopelessness of their situation: “my son cries every day, he doesn’t want to eat, he’s very worried, and he’s only six years old. What worries me is that we are restrained from our freedom as human beings.”

Another father reported that he had agreed to sign deportation papers and to give up his asylum request in order to be with his son again. He said that ICE told him he would be reunited with his son at the airport when he was deported to Guatemala. But after spending time in 5 different ICE jails and being separated from his son for eight weeks – they are still in a detention facility, with no end in sight.

ICE denies there is a hunger strike and claims that the detention facilities are “more like a summer camp.” After all the pictures and videos that have leaked out, this statement is utterly ridiculous. It is another example of the Trump administration flaunting its bold brutality to score political points with its reactionary base. These immigrant families are being put through an unending ordeal, all in order to help Trump’s popularity ratings and reinforce the anti-human and nationalist attitudes among a section of the population.

Been Shopping Lately?

Aug 6, 2018

Rush into grocery store; forget half of what wanted; wait in check out line; pull out credit card.

Just a normal day for most working people.

Unless you happen to be the current U.S. president, who recently told a rally of supporters that you have to pull out a photo ID at the grocery store.

Hmmm, did this guy EVER buy any groceries?