The Spark

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

Issue no. 1077 — March 18 - April 1, 2019

Editorial:
Racist Politicians Fuel Racist Violence

Mar 18, 2019

On Friday, March 15, a “white supremacist” Australian man walked into two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch and opened fire on prayer services. Fifty people were killed, and another 50 were injured. This monster was actually so proud of this horrific act that he live-streamed the entire thing to Facebook, Instagram and other websites before the videos were taken down.

The suspect, Brenton Tarrant, 28, had published a 78-page “manifesto” in which he heaped praise on other white supremacists who carried out terrorist massacres around the world, leaving little doubt that he was trying to emulate them. He praised Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who killed 77 people in 2011; and Dylan Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church in 2015, as well as several others who carried out racist attacks in Europe in recent years.

The manifesto also echoed and paid tribute to a number of right-wing politicians who have expressed racist views, including Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, and Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister. He gave special mention to Donald Trump, who, he said, is “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

The politicians he praised are only the tip of a very rotten iceberg. Extreme right-wing racist politicians have been popping up all over Europe, and elsewhere. As Muslim/Middle-Eastern immigration has increased, politicians have blamed this immigration for unemployment and stagnant wages in the European countries. As Viktor Orban has, they drum up fear about a destruction of “white Christian culture” through the increase of multiethnic societies. This rabid language has reached Australia too; after the Christchurch attacks, an Australian senator, Fraser Anning, blamed the attack on the victims – “the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”

Just who the hell are the real dangerous fanatics here? Not the immigrants!

There is a vast humanitarian crisis that has spurred this migration; and it has been created by U.S. and European imperialism, which have devastated so much of the Middle East, from Afghanistan through Iraq to Syria and Yemen, in its never-ending quest to control Middle-Eastern oil and the people of the region.

So, after the U.S. and its allies have murdered millions of lives and destroyed homes and families and whole cities, desperate people without a home try to travel to a place of relative safety and comfort.

It is the same pattern we see played out at the U.S. southern border where the U.S. and its corporations have destroyed so much of the economies of Central America. It’s that destruction that drives the migration.

Trump, of course, is the most visible racist in the world at this time, and he himself has piled on with the same sort of language. He warned that Britain was losing its “culture” and that immigration was changing “the fabric of Europe – and unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was.” He has pounded on the idea that Muslim immigrants are an existential threat, saying “I think Islam hates us.” (Who, exactly, is “us”?) And he has tried to use fear of Islam in his propaganda for a border wall, making up stories about Muslim terrorists hiding in immigrant caravans “flooding over the border.” Trump’s rhetoric, just like all these other politicians, is just as vile as this murderer’s manifesto. And Trump and the U.S. policies bear a direct responsibility for this racist violence.

A longstanding ploy used by the ruling class and its politicians around the world has been to foment fear and hatred between different populations, different groups in the working class. And the worse conditions get for working people – in the U.S., in Europe, in Australia and around the world – the more that ruling class benefits from fomenting that hatred and those divisions.

In the absence of a sustained, unified working class fight for what we need to build a better life, the right-wing poison of these politicians goes unanswered and can more easily find fertile ground.

But the opposite is also true. When the working class begins a united fight to push back the attacks, on the basis of a policy that truly addresses working class interests, these fights can sweep aside the divisions fed so consciously by the representatives of our true enemies.

Pages 2-3

“Fix the Damn Roads” Means You Pay

Mar 18, 2019

During her campaign, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, was best known for her slogan, “Fix the Damn Roads!” Its angry approach struck a note with many workers sick of constant flat tires and other car repairs resulting from pothole-covered roads.

After years of reactionary economic and social policies enacted by Republican Governor Rick Snyder and a Republican-run legislature, it’s not hard to understand workers placing their hopes in the newly elected governor. Whitmer never explained in her campaign how she intended to “Fix the Damn Roads,” but surely a Democrat would come up with some way to make the wealthy pay, right?

It took all of two months after taking office for Whitmer to reveal her hand. She proposes to raise the gasoline tax by 45 cents a gallon by October of 2020. It’s yet another tax that hits workers harder than anyone.

Michigan is one of very few states which impose a sales tax on top of gasoline taxes. Michigan drivers already pay the sixth highest combined taxes on gasoline in the country, according to taxfoundation.org. The added 45 cents a gallon would make Michigan’s rate the highest in the country.

The State of Michigan completely eliminated its Business Tax and property taxes on manufacturing equipment in 2012, not to mention plenty of corporate tax breaks it’s handed out over the years under administrations controlled by both parties. Road fixes could easily be funded by increased business taxes.

Instead, Whitmer makes it abundantly clear she represents the same interests as the Republican who preceded her – those of the corporations and the wealthy. No wonder Michigan’s largest organizations pushing the bosses’ interests are soundly behind her!

Despite the current reactionary political climate, both in Michigan and at the federal level, it would be a mistake if workers fall for the notion that simply replacing Republicans with Democrats will mean our interests will be met. That will take a real fight on the part of the working class and the creation of a party of our own.

Boeing Puts Profit Before Human Life

Mar 18, 2019

On March 10, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed after takeoff and killed 157 people. The pilot couldn’t make it climb properly. Five months earlier, in October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed after takeoff in Indonesia and killed 189 people. The pilot couldn’t make it climb properly. These planes were both the new models of the Boeing 737 Max-8.

Boeing developed the Max-8 in a hurry, to compete for sales against the Airbus A320. According to CBS News, “When it launched in 2016, the 737 Max was U.S. jet-maker Boeing’s best weapon in the war for market share with European rival Airbus.” The company put bigger engines on its old reliable Boeing 737, a model that had been around for 50 years. The new engines saved money on fuel, so planes could fly farther and cheaper. But its low to the ground design in 1968 “proved to be a constraint that engineers modernizing the 737 have had to work around.” Rather than re-designing the whole aircraft, Boeing repositioned the bigger engines toward the front of the plane in order to maintain ground clearance. The bigger and heavier engines changed the plane’s balance: it would not fly the same – there was a tendency to tip the nose up. And that’s why Boeing added the automated control software, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmention system (MCAS) to counteract this tendency.

And then Boeing changed the things that pilots would have to do, in case there was a problem. But they didn’t tell the pilots. One of Boeing’s sales pitches for the Max was that companies would not have the expense of retraining pilots.

And so, 346 people have died.

Yes, there was and is a problem with the engines. Yes, there was and is a problem with the software. Yes, there was and is a problem with insufficient pilot training. But the root cause of the crashes, when it comes down to it, is capitalism’s drive for profits. It is because of the fight between monopolies as to which company, Boeing, or Airbus, will control the lion’s share of the market for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of contracts.

Maybe, for the time being, these flying death traps have been grounded. But Boeing is still producing these planes and is still only talking about changing the software!

It will take a major overhaul, not just of the structure of the 737 Max, but of the very system that puts obscene profit margins before human life.

Boeing Is the Fox Guarding the Hen House!

Mar 18, 2019

After two Boeing 737 Max planes crashed in similar circumstances within five months, the rest of the world quickly grounded these planes. But three days after the crash, the U.S. still had not. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said there was no evidence to justify an action against Boeing’s Max.

Only after President Trump announced the grounding a day later did the acting administrator of the FAA say “we were resolute in our position that we would not take action until we had data to support taking action.”

Data to support taking action? Nearly 350 people are dead! And they were in those planes!

Why did the FAA first act to protect Boeing, instead of passengers? In 2005, the FAA changed its rules to allow airplane manufacturers’ employees to test and certify its planes for the FAA! Boeing now has about 1,000 employees working on FAA assignments.

In other words, the FAA in the U.S. is an arm of Boeing. The fox is guarding the hen house!

U.S. Offensive Against Venezuela Continues

Mar 18, 2019

On February 23, the U.S. government sent trucks filled with food and medicine to the border of Venezuela. U.S. officials pretended that it was doing this for humanitarian purposes, to help relieve the increasingly worsening conditions inside Venezuela.

In reality, it has been the U.S. government itself that has been most responsible for depriving the people in the country of food and medicine by imposing financial and trade sanctions against Venezuela. The trucks were nothing but a Trojan Horse, whose purpose was to provoke a revolt in the Venezuelan military against the Maduro government.

When the revolt failed to take place, the U.S. news media claimed that the Maduro government had burned three of the trucks. “Each of the trucks burned by Maduro carried 20 tons of food & medicine. This is a crime & if international law means anything he must pay a high price for this,” tweeted Senator Marco Rubio, a leading hawk pushing “regime change.” Top Trump administration officials, including John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence chimed in.

This was a lie. These fires were set by an ally of the U.S. government, who was throwing Molotov cocktails at Venezuelan soldiers. Television stations in other countries showed the video footage proving this, the very same day.

In the U.S., it took two weeks for the truth to surface. By that time, much of Venezuela had been hit by a massive electricity blackout. Almost all of Venezuela’s electricity is produced by the Guri Dam hydro electric station. On Thursday, March 7 in the middle of the afternoon, that system failed, affecting 25 million people. In Caracas, the Metro stopped working and tens of thousands had to walk home in the dark.

The near-total blackout continued for several days, paralyzing most of the country. People couldn’t work. Food in refrigerators and freezers had to be cooked immediately, or else it rotted. There were problems with the water supply, tele- communications, public transport, etc. Only gradually over the next week was power restored.

Once again, the U.S. media used the electricity blackout as an excuse to attack the Maduro government. Elliot Abrams, Trump’s special representative for Venezuela, wrote: “The situation there, due to mismanagement, the economic policies and the sheer corruption of this regime, are the cause of those problems.”

No, the primary responsibility rests on the U.S. government. At the very least, U.S. economic and political pressure has caused a dire shortage of equipment and materials that has contributed to the degradation of much of vital Venezuelan infrastructure. Moreover, it is entirely possible that the U.S. used cyberwarfare to sabotage the electric power system, as Maduro has charged.

The U.S. CIA is well known for carrying out cyberattacks, as well as attacks on electricity networks. In 2012 it knocked Syria off the internet when it “bricked” the central router in Syria while installing malware. In 2015, U.S. jets systematically bombed Syrian power plants. These attacks on infrastructure are part of a longstanding policy. Back in 1973, in preparation for the military coup against the Allende government in Chile, the U.S. CIA sabotaged electric power systems, causing widespread blackouts.

The Venezuelan population is paying for this U.S. offensive, with increasingly worse conditions. Since 2013, three million have fled the country. Many are now refugees in Brazil and Colombia.

The U.S. is not trying to overthrow the Maduro government because it is supposedly socialist. On the contrary, more than 70 per cent of the economy is privately owned, with major U.S. companies, including Chevron, Halliburton and Coca-Cola, profiting from production there. This U.S. offensive against Venezuela is part of a larger power shift in Latin America, where right wing governments, such as those in Argentina and Brazil, have been installed. These regimes are more satisfactory to Washington.

For the U.S. government, it is a simple matter of helping U.S. oil companies to gain greater control and profits from Venezuela’s immense oil reserves – the world’s largest.

Pages 4-5

Cannibalizing Sears to Benefit Wall Street

Mar 18, 2019

The following was taken from a SPARK public meeting in Detroit this February:

We live in an era of instability and uncertainty. This is not new, but each year seems to bring more drastic events. The age of the mom and pop grocery store or a bakery on every block, or having relatives living on a farm, is long gone, long wiped out by their bigger competitors and by the banks.

Look back at the last 200 years of capitalism. We have seen the self-serving rich devastate families, whole areas, even countries, even continents. We have seen boom and bust cycles, that close the factories even while people still need the goods. We have seen the banks shut down farms when people are hungry. We have seen world wars, which murdered tens of millions of people, all in the name of profit.

The world depression of the 1930s shook capitalism to its core all over the globe. Tens of millions would die in the name of power and profit. The war showed the international depth of the world crisis. After the war, the U.S. was relatively untouched. Their capitalists were able to sink their teeth into an international explosion of rebuilding markets that was fueled by the world-wide devastation. This expansion, however, had its limits. The capitalists hit a wall, starting with the recessions of the 1970s.

Hitting a Wall

Since the rich had hit a wall in their expansion of new markets, they could only increase profits by squeezing what they already controlled. Fewer workers were made to do more and more work – for less pay and benefits. In the bumpy economic times of the 1970s, and in the recession of 1979-1980, over 20 auto plants closed just here in Detroit. The steel mills of Pittsburgh and Baltimore were shuttered. New plants were built, but with fewer workers, producing faster and faster. Work that used to be done by “the Big Three” [auto companies] was outsourced, some to UAW plants in Detroit for $9 an hour.

Lower wages for workers meant fewer people in the world could afford to buy the capitalists’ products. To increase their profits, they turned away from production and toward finance capital, that is, making money on money. Gambling on the stock market, charging fees and interest, and expanding the use of credit cards are just some of the ways they made a quick buck. Capitalists also turned to raiding and stealing value from existing businesses.

The Looting of Sears

Sears is a classic example of a company that was raided and destroyed. Sears was the original innovative retail company. It was Amazon before Amazon was born. It seemed to be the best capitalism had to offer. Oodles of products churned out by mass production were available for sale. Rural America could buy from their remote farm from the famous Sear’s catalog: clothes, farm equipment, paint, pre-fab houses, even cars.

When people started moving to the cities, Sears was one of the first to build huge stand-alone department stores. They had dazzling displays: corsets, soda fountains, a dentist office, tombstones, tools and tractors. When malls became the thing, they were the first anchor store. When cars became dominant, they sold batteries with a lifetime warranty, tires, car parts, and offered convenient car repair. Their Craftsmen tools had a lifetime warranty. They offered decent reliable appliances: Maytag, Whirlpool, Kenmore. Salespeople were knowledgeable and friendly, and made good wages and commissions. Yes, profit came before everything else, but it seemed like capitalism could work for working people. If you had money to spend, it seemed like a store that represented the possibility of a decent life.

However, Sears felt the crunch as fewer and fewer had money to buy what companies could produce. In the 1980s and 1990s, things began to change. Lifetime warranties were no longer for a lifetime. Kenmore washers were no longer repair-free. Products the working class had come to rely on were no longer as dependable. There were cuts not only in product quality, but cuts to workers in pay, in benefits and pensions. The CEO turned to profit from credit sales and the high-interest Discover cards, the first one to offer a cash-back bonus. The CEO led Sears to sell insurance through Allstate. As early as 1999, 61% of Sears’ operating income was from credit services, not sales and service.

By the 1990s, selling cheap, undependable products had caught on. Walmart, Kmart and Target surpassed Sears in revenue. By 2001, Walmart had revenue five times that of Sears.

This was when the slime ball, Eddie Lampert, made an entrance on the retail stage. He learned the ropes working at Goldman Sachs, famous for arranging financing corporate takeover raids. He used something called a leveraged buyout to purchase Kmart in 2003 for one billion dollars. He paid hardly any of his own cash, saddling Kmart with the debt. He slashed inventory, expenses, labor costs and advertising. Of course, profits went through the roof. Ever find a worker to help you at Kmart?

In 2004 Lampert arranged a leveraged buyout of Sears by the much smaller Kmart. How could that happen? Again, he put out hardly any of the 11-billion-dollar price and saddled Sears with almost all of the debt. He was the new CEO and their banker: Sears had to make the debt payments to him and to his hedge fund. From 2005 to 2012, he also extracted six billion dollars for stock buybacks, enriching stock owners. He squeezed money out of cuts in pay, staff, inventory and building maintenance. Shoppers and staff reported stained carpets, broken windows, new and untrained staff.

The recession of 2008 hurt the sales of the cash cow he had been milking. He started selling off Sears piece by profitable piece. In most cases, he was, or wanted to be, both the seller and the purchaser!

  • In 2014, Lampert sold Land’s End, a popular retail and mail order clothing line, two thirds of it to Lampert himself, and the cash also went to Lampert as a debt payment. So he gets both, the money-making clothing line and the cash.
  • In 2015, Lampert and Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, purchased most of Sears’ valuable real estate. Sears now has to pay rent to these two in addition to making debt payments and paying stockowners, and paying huge CEO fees and bonuses.
  • In 2016, Craftsman tools was sold, and the money went to Lampert, not Sears, to pay the debt he put them in.
  • In 2017-18, Sears listed for sale DieHard Batteries and Kenmore. Lampert wanted to sell it to himself.
  • In 2018, Sears declares bankruptcy. Lampert resigns as CEO so he can appear neutral. “Smaller” shareowners and debtors sue Lampert and his hedge fund for plundering Sears and destroying the value of their Sears stock, and for securing his right for his debt to be paid first. Lampert offers to take Sears out of bankruptcy for over 4 billion dollars if the judge dismisses the shareholders lawsuit, and if the judge lets him purchase it with the money he is owed, which guarantees his debt will be paid first, and which gives him the remaining assets to continue to plunder. This is outrageous, and even the judge blushed, a little, and increased the amount Lampert had to pay, to 5.2 billion dollars. Lampert promised the judge he would keep stores open and save jobs. Of course he did not!

The pension fund, which had most of its funds stolen over the years, held the valuable assets of Kenmore Appliances and DieHard Batteries as collateral. In bankruptcy court in 2019, Lampert wanted the judge to sever that relationship and give the assets to him. The fund is short 1.7 billion dollars. The judge and the U.S. pension board agreed to accept a settlement of less than half. Lampert got to keep Kenmore and Diehard, and the government is liable for the pensions!

It’s a Dead End

This is the world we live in today, where more and more of the economy is ruled by parasitic financiers. The stock market surges higher and higher, but only because investors are chasing the quick buck, not because they are producing more goods. Companies try to sell products with old-fashioned famous brands known for their dependability, but in truth more and more are nothing but an empty rotting shell. As more and more products and companies are consumed, workers are squeezed tighter and tighter by less jobs, lower wages, cuts in health care and pensions, and higher prices.

Look back at the takeover of Chrysler by Cerberus. It had a 7-billion-dollar purchase price, and Cerberus was able to hang Chrysler with 10 billion dollars of debt. The looters kept the difference! No wonder they had no new models for years! That was just one of the takeovers of Chrysler. It was the same story with Daimler. All the cars and trucks have more and more recalls, production is rushed out faster and faster. Carfax announced yesterday that there are 45 million cars and trucks on the road with active recalls.

Vultures Are Everywhere

Today, these vultures are moving into new markets: for example they are purchasing senior assisted-living housing and nursing homes and bloodsucking them. Can you imagine what this means? Cutting staff at a nursing home that already doesn’t have enough workers. Our elders sitting in urine or vomit, no one to help. Doping them so they don’t complain. Or they are cornering the rental market in city after city. When you’re late on your rent, you can imagine having to pay a $50 late fee on a rent of $1,000. But these leeches have no limit to their greed. They are getting away with charging $700 fees on a rent of $1,000.

Understand, no sector is untouched. These corporate raiders are buying whole grocery chains and sucking out all value, forcing them into bankruptcy. They already have been taking over some public schools and prisons. Over 50 percent of all schools in Detroit are for-profit charter schools, run by these money vultures. They cherry pick the students, forcing out anyone who needs any kind of extra help. And if the young students are not generating enough profit, they close the doors in the middle of the school year, throwing out the students and teachers! There is no commitment to our community, our common good. Privatized prisons? Have you seen the pictures of the maggots in the food? Guards’ pay and benefits cut so they’re forced to work double shifts, tense and exhausted? Hospitals, health care? The pharmaceutical companies are taking over. They push profitable dangerous drugs like OxiContin. A drug like insulin that’s been around 100 years? They tweak a tiny aspect of the formula, say it’s a new drug, and raise the price through the roof. Every aspect of our lives is under attack.

When will this end? They are consuming and destroying every good thing we fought to build. All food that we eat will be a poison. All cars and trucks will be life-threatening ticking time bombs. Toys are covered with lead-tainted paint. Water has lead and is full of all kinds of poisonous chemicals.

Understand, the capitalist barons did not give us these things. Our labor created them. Capitalism says it is the most efficient organization of society. But how is it efficient if it can only bring good times when it is rebuilding from a catastrophic world war? How is it efficient if, when faced with a crisis caused by limits on expansion, its solution is to raid and rob its neighbors? How is it efficient to loot, starve and pillage existing businesses? Or to propose to solve the housing crisis by making people homeless? How is it efficient when it turns to death and war as a solution?

Will the working class continue to let the rich destroy everything we have built, and destroy us and the earth in the process? Or will the working class say no, you cannot poison and destroy us and our children, our elders, our planet, we will not let you. Step aside, we are going to take over, get out of our way.

Pages 6-7

International Women Workers Day

Mar 18, 2019

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters for the week of March 11, 2019.

One hundred and ten years ago, garment workers in New York City – most of them women – threw themselves into a militant strike, demanding higher wages and an end to long work days. In the same year, the Socialist Party organized a demonstration demanding the right to vote for women, calling it Women Workers Day.

The strike, which was later commemorated in countries around the world, started in a garment industry sweatshop. Fed up with conditions, a few dozen women at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory walked out. The factory owners violently drove out the rest and locked their doors. Workers from other shops, outraged that the bosses considered them less than their machines, joined the strike. They gathered outside Cooper Union – the very hall where Frederick Douglass had spoken, celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, 46 years before.

A young Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, Clara Lemlich, spoke from the front steps. “I am a working girl, one of those who are on strike against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here for is to decide whether we shall strike or shall not strike.”

Nearly a thousand workers, mostly women, mostly immigrant, voted to strike. So it began. It spread rapidly and would soon be called, “The Uprising of the 20,000.” The strikers faced violence from cops and from gangsters. They faced hunger. Vicious politicians called them criminals and terrorists. Speaking Yiddish, Italian, Ukrainian, German or Hungarian, they often didn’t speak each other’s language.

But their strike spread. They shut down the garment industry and other sweatshops in New York. What started out as “the uprising of the 20,000” became “an insurrection of the 40,000.” Fourteen weeks after it started, the garment bosses gave in. Striking women workers had imposed shorter hours of work and higher pay.

Just months after the end of the strike, Socialist parties in many countries issued a call for an “international women workers day,” a day for women workers around the world to stop work. The very first International Women’s Day was celebrated the next year on March 19, 1911, with strikes by women workers in dozens of countries. Born in the U.S., this working class holiday quickly spread to workers around the world.

Six years later, March 9, women workers in Russia stopped work to demonstrate for an end to World War I, and food for their children. It was the opening battle of a revolution that threw out the czarist regime, wealthy landowners and the capitalist class. Workers began to organize and run their own society.

In none of these struggles did workers win permanently. The bosses still owned and ran the garment industry – and profit was still their focus. On March 25, 1911, the same Triangle Shirtwaist Factory erupted in fire. Its owners had locked all the doors so workers couldn’t walk out. They were trapped in an inferno – 146 people were killed, women, men, young teenage girls, young children.

After the Revolution in Russia, the international capitalist class still owned and controlled the wealth and productive capacity of the rest of the world. And they used it – and their armies – to starve out the Russian revolution.

So long as capitalism endures, one struggle alone can’t bring about lasting change. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake to struggle. It means we have to take every fight as far as it can go, try to spread it, then prepare for the next one.

Our problem today is not too many struggles. Our problem is too few. We’ve forgotten what those women workers in New York and Russia knew in their bones: without struggle, there is no progress.

One struggle won’t change everything wrong today. But one struggle can start to overcome the divisions that keep working people apart. One struggle that begins for wages and shorter hours can spread to other workers, other industries, other countries. One struggle could begin fights that end up finally dismantling the capitalist system.

Plastic:
Don’t be Fooled by the Polluters

Mar 18, 2019

The World Wildlife Federation released another report denouncing the industrial production of plastic and the pollution it creates.

According to the WWF, the world will produce 40% more plastic than it does now by 2030. Already, a large share of the 400 million tons of plastic produced each year pollutes the land and water, threatening many species of animals and whole ecosystems.

For instant, plastic waste floats on top of the ocean, in a veritable “continent of plastic.” Larger marine animals, like turtles or whales, often die from plastic blocking their airways or digestive systems. Even worse, micro-particles of plastic fall into the depths of the ocean. Fish and tiny shrimp eat these plastic particles, confusing them for plankton. Larger fish eat the smaller fish or shrimp – and when people eat fish, we eat the plastic too.

There have been lots of anti-plastic campaigns aimed at consumers, encouraging people not to use too much plastic, or to recycle it. But ordinary consumers don’t decide how much plastic to produce: those decisions are made by big corporations. They produce plastic to sell, to make a profit, and don’t worry about the consequences. They leave it to someone else to develop technologies and infrastructure for recycling – which is always way behind the production of pollution.

And as the former WWF president for France put it, whenever there is a campaign to put in place new rules against pollution, “the companies always say they need more time.”

The big polluters sometimes cynically start campaigns about the environment – but usually just to hide reality. For instance, Nestle announced it was going to start selling Nesquick in recyclable paper, instead of the yellow plastic bottle it used to use. They used this to market their product as the environmental choice, better than its competitors. This manipulation of children’s and parent’s reasonable fears for the future of the earth allowed Nestle to raise the price of their chocolate powder 300 percent!

By telling individuals that it’s up to us to save the environment, the big companies excuse what they do organizing the economy all over the world in an environmentally destructive way. They strike at our morale, by pretending its our fault that the earth is in danger, and that they have no responsibility for the organization of society. They pretend the population chooses what to produce and how to produce it.

In reality, the only way to overcome the enormous environmental problems we face is to take over the big polluting industries and reorganize production to meet the needs of the population, and safeguard the earth for the future.

Page 8

Pay to Play University Scandal

Mar 18, 2019

Some 750 people are being charged with corruption of various kinds to obtain admission for their children into elite colleges, for example, Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California. The charges are against administrators, coaches, at least one exam proctor, and parents of wealth, including heads of corporations and two well-known actresses.

Some of the schemes involved putting in a substitute for their own child taking the important college admissions test called the SAT. Another scheme involved pretending the student was an athlete when they had never played the sport.

A former admissions official from Duke University said, “I wasn’t even a little bit shocked. This has been going on forever. The one percent has always had an advantage ....”

The rich have always been able to buy a place for themselves or their children in elite schools. No matter what kind of students they were, the Bush children were able to go to Yale for generations. No matter what kind of students the Kennedy children were, their father could pay for the best schools in the country. There is even a name for these young people of privilege, the “legacies,” meaning their applications to get into top schools will NOT be turned down.

But is this buying done for the sake of education? Not at all. As the former admissions official put it, “And part of what you get when you go to these schools is contact with those kinds of people [the one percent].” The whole point is not education: it is the chance to become part of the elite – the business and financial elite, with a chance to make fortunes, control companies, make the policies that shape the economy of both the U.S. and the world. Or the political elite – high positions in government, part of the political establishment that rules on behalf of capitalism.

These “students” will be charged with keeping intact a society where millions and billions of dollars go to the one percent, while exploitation, poverty and despair is the future they propose for the vast majority.

Now, that’s the real education scandal.

Chicago Public Schools Guts Nursing for Kids

Mar 18, 2019

Chicago Public Schools employs just 300 nurses for 500 schools – not even a nurse for every building. And the school system has been laying off nurses, instead of hiring. They fill in the gaps using a privatized, for-profit staffing agency.

This private contractor treats nurses as replaceable parts in a machine designed to suck money out of the school system, not provide care. So they shuffle nurses all over the system, as if their human relationships with students didn’t matter. One nurse reported she had worked at 39 different schools!

There are at least 700 CPS students who have chronic conditions requiring ongoing, daily care. For instance, a student with diabetes at Pickard Elementary needs her blood sugar checked three times a day, and needs to receive insulin to stay alive. Nine different nurses worked at the school over a three month period. And there were days when no nurse showed.

A student with a severe condition at Drummond Elementary needs to be relieved with a catheter three times a day. But he is not cared for by a dedicated school nurse. The young man was in the care of four different nurses and several substitutes. Sometimes there were three different nurses in a single day. And on several occasions, when no nurse showed up for the day, his parents found their son with his pants soaked in urine. On top of being mortifying for the student, this can lead to permanent kidney damage.

It is outrageous enough that adults have to endure the indignities of a profit-driven health system. To put children in a system that subjects them to trauma instead of care is nothing short of negligence.

How Google Gets Its Tax Breaks

Mar 18, 2019

Google reaped millions from cities to build its data centers, often securing land and tax breaks secretly, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last May, the city officials of Midlothian, Texas, approved more than 10 million dollars in tax breaks for a huge, mysterious new development, owned by a company called Sharka. After the deal went through, Sharka changed its main address to that of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Google has followed similar back-room deals with officials and politicians of many other cities to build its data centers and offices over more than a decade. Google is now one of the most highly valued and profitable companies of this world. Their yearly revenue reached 116 billion dollars in 2018.

Google, with such secret scheming, grew itself into an internet-age giant. But, the number of jobs this giant company created were dismal. “So Google comes in and pays no taxes for 10 years, and only brings in 40 jobs ...,” one resident of Midlothian wrote to the local newspaper. That's right: we pay the taxes and these companies get richer.

Sterigenics:
Poisoning Chicago’s Suburbs

Mar 18, 2019

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered Sterigenics, a medical supply company, to shut down its sterilizers. The company has been releasing ethylene oxide into the neighborhood in Willowbrook, a working class suburb southwest of Chicago.

Ethylene oxide is a gas that can cause cancer at very low levels, particularly breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. Indeed, cancer levels in one neighborhood near the plant are nine times higher than in the rest of the population – making it one of the most polluted places in the country.

A trade group notes that there are other methods for sterilizing most of the equipment that Sterigenics produces. But, Sterigenics is tied up in a method that saves them money. This plant has been operating for decades – poisoning the 19,000 people who live within a mile of the plant.

To say that the authorities are acting too little and too late is an understatement, in the face of the harm that has been done to the population of the surrounding neighborhoods.