The Spark

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

Issue no. 1081 — May 13 - 27, 2019

Tariff Wars Are Waged for Profit

May 13, 2019

The U.S. is engaged in what seems to be an escalating trade war with China. Last Friday, after trade talks stalled between representatives of the two countries, Donald Trump declared a hike in tariffs, from 10 percent to 25 percent, on over 250 billion dollars worth of goods from China – almost a third of all U.S. imports from China.

The U.S., the largest economic and military power in the world, is clearly in a position to bully. China, for its part, cannot afford to let itself be bullied too far. It threatened to increase tariffs on a great many U.S. goods that it imports. Clearly, Trump would dearly love a “victory;” a “deal” to brag about for the next election. But he is also willing to create a “no-deal” scenario to bolster his tough guy image.

Perhaps a deal that saves face for both sides can be struck. But a deal that benefits the U.S. ruling class will NOT benefit the rest of us. There’s nothing in these deals, nor in these tariff wars, for the working class.

And even if an agreement gets made this time, there may very well come a day when one or both of these countries barrel ahead into a true trade war.

Experts point out that this would be an absurd and destructive move – it could lead to a complete strangling of world trade and a collapse of the world economy.

But logic did not stop nations around the world from throwing up tariff walls that mired the world economy in the depths of a Great Depression – one that it didn’t get out of until after tens of millions of people were killed in World War II.

This is what happens when sections of the capitalist class, with their own interests, and depending on their own national states, try to force more for themselves out of a worldwide economy that is completely and totally integrated.

For example, many of the Chinese goods being taxed are not finished consumer goods; they are parts going into goods manufactured in the U.S. Sometimes they are parts that will go into bigger parts, moving from plant to plant and from country to country as they get assembled. The whole manufacturing chain is a tightly woven web across the globe.

And the working class that produces all of these goods, truly IS one class, on the scale of the world. We are the ones who suffer when the capitalists lose; and we are also the ones who suffer when they win. Our interests and Chinese workers’ interests are the same; and they run counter to those of Chinese or U.S. rulers.

The working class of all countries produces all the goods; all the necessities of daily life, be it steel or clothing or machines or computers. Together, the U.S. and China make up 40 percent of all of the trade in the entire world. If these two huge sections of the world working class would come together to produce for human need, not for profit, we could provide for the needs of the world, and at much lower costs.

The workers of the world have become accustomed to a parasitic caste of capitalists, traders, and bankers: the super-rich, the billionaires, all calling the shots and living off of the labor we provide, off the wealth we produce. If these capitalist parasites were swept away, the world would be a far better place.

Impossible? Only if the working class – to its own disadvantage and impoverishment – continues to labor to produce wealth for this parasitic class.

Pages 2-3

Fewer Homes for the Disabled

May 13, 2019

In California, board-and-care homes are closing at an alarming rate. These closures drastically affect thousands of low-income Californians with serious mental illness. Since 2012, San Francisco has lost more than a third of licensed residential facilities that serve people under 60, and more than a quarter of those serving older clients. Los Angeles lost more than 200 beds for low-income people with serious mental illness in 2018 alone.

The main reason is money. The house prices and rents are skyrocketing in both cities, making them affordable only to upper middle classes and rich.

Compared to these skyrocketing housing prices, operating the board-and-care homes looks like a huge financial loss to their owners and therefore not “smart.” Owners of licensed board-and-care homes receive a government-set monthly rent of $1058 from tenants to pay for housing, 24-hour-care and three daily meals. The tenants cover that cost with their monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks, a combination of federal and state funds for people with serious mental illness.

By comparison, the average apartment rent is nearing $2,400 in Los Angeles and about $3,600 in San Francisco. So owners of the board-and-care homes are either selling their properties or renting them to high income people.

Larry Mateo closed five board-and-care homes he operated in San Francisco in 2018. Now one is for sale and two others are being rented to young people who can pay the high rents. Mateo said: “That’s an easy no-brainer decision. I don’t have payroll, I don’t have to go buy groceries, I don't have to deal with clientele. There were residents, however, who initially refused to leave. Some said, ‘I have no place to go. I love this place.’ We had to call the sheriff to move them out because they just didn’t want to move. I’m not sure if it was part of their mental illness, but they didn’t want to adapt to change. They said, ‘This is my home. Why are you moving me out?’”

A brutal outcome of this capitalist society in which profit trumps everything else.

Polluters Go On and On

May 13, 2019

The worst polluters in the U.S. are coal-fired utility plants, according to a recent environmental study. Coal ash is a waste product from burning coal at power plants. Power plants push it into dumps. Then poisonous metals, such as arsenic, lead and mercury, leak from the dumps into nearby rivers, streams, lakes and wells.

These poisons enter the waterways at levels far above what the Clean Water Act of 1973 allows. The population also breathes poisonous air coming out of coal-fired utility chimneystacks, far beyond what the Clean Air Act of 1963 allows.

One example in the environmental report concerned a coal-fired power plant in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It showed nearby groundwater contamination 100 times higher than the amount considered safe for molybdenum. At such high levels, this metal can damage kidneys and liver. The State of Maryland actually sued the plant’s owners six years ago, collecting a two million dollar fine. Yet this coal ash dump remains one of the worst sites for pollution in the country.

Utilities, like other industries, ignore government agencies and regulations as much as they can. Clean water and air are essential to life on this planet. Do we continue to let industry pollute while we re-elect their mouthpiece politicians? Or do we organize to take control of these vital decisions out of their hands?

Legionnaire Disease Up In Michigan

May 13, 2019

Legionnaire’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia. It is on the rise nationally. A notable case is the state of Michigan. In 2018, the number of confirmed cases in Michigan rose to 633, a 67-percent jump from 2017. Thirty-two people died.

Legionnaire’s bacteria live in improperly-maintained water systems. During the Flint water crisis that started in 2014, Legionnaire’s disease killed 12 people.

In 2014, the state-appointed city manager of Flint cancelled an essential treatment for the city water lines. Lead poisoning of the entire city’s water supply resulted – and bacterial contamination as well. Ten of the 12 deaths were linked to stays at a hospital in the city.

Legionnaire’s is another canary in the coal mine, signaling the dangers of cutting off funds for public welfare. The disease is easily controllable if water systems and central air conditioning systems are properly maintained.

But it takes money, and all the money is being drained into the bank accounts of the already-too-wealthy. The federal government showers the wealthy with tax breaks, tax credits, and 1001 ways for the rich to get richer. The states and the cities do the same. Less and less money is put toward the actual basic needs of society.

So, money has to go back into the system for the public welfare.

And it’s not only in Flint. Diagnosed Legionnaire cases in 2018 were in 51 of Michigan’s 83 counties. Nationally, 7,500 cases were diagnosed in 2017, over five times more than in 2002.

The wealthy and their government cannot be allowed to refuse to fund public health and safety. They are pushing infrastructure to higher levels of danger everywhere.

TANF Lets States Swallow Child Support

May 13, 2019

“Temporary Assistance for Needy Families,” or TANF, replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, thanks to Bill Clinton’s monstrous campaign to “end welfare as we know it.” One well-known part of this program is the requirement that recipients work at least 30 hours a week to receive their payments – and have a 5-year lifetime limit.

Less well-known is that to receive TANF assistance, single parents receiving child support must hand over their rights to those child support payments to the state. When a state collects child support on behalf of a TANF recipient, it has the right to KEEP the money to reimburse itself and the federal government for the TANF money.

Only four states pass through to the parent more than 75% of the child support they collect. Many of the other states pass through only pitiful amounts, $50 to $200. HALF of the states have chosen not to pass ANY child support money to the parent at all!

For example, in California, only the first $50 of child support goes to the children of low-income families that receive public assistance. In one case, a maintenance worker had paid $600 from his wages for child support for each pay period. But California took $550 as a public assistance repayment and gave the family only $50 – with utter disregard for the survival of the kids.

The states treat these collections as government revenues, taking the money away from low income working class families. And then, of course, the states provide tax cuts and inflated contract payments to the rich and their businesses.

Thus, the U.S. is consciously pushing low income families and their kids further into poverty, just to serve the rich better.

Abortion and Child Rape

May 13, 2019

A new legal ban on abortion – just passed in Georgia – goes even further than previous attacks on women’s rights to decisions over our bodies. The new law not only bans abortion at 5 or 6 weeks but also grants full legal “personhood rights” to fertilized eggs at 5 or 6 weeks.

The decades-long reactionary strategy of incremental attacks and restrictions on abortion has now reached its final goal: full legal “personhood” rights for embryos.

If this new law in Georgia stands, what does it mean on a practical level? Backers of this law argue that embryos will now count as legal dependents on tax returns! They say embryos will count as “persons” in the next U.S. census! Will the next step be to put the date of conception on birth certificates?

With “personhood” starting so early, any miscarriage could now lead to a murder investigation for girls and women in Georgia. This law also criminalizes doctors and healthcare workers who assist with abortion. This law makes it illegal for a woman to go to another state for an abortion and illegal for someone to help a woman to do so.

Seven states have passed laws banning abortion – at 5 or 6 weeks. Abortion bans passed in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio...

A case in Ohio of an 11-year-old girl who was raped by an adult man and became pregnant brings home the horror of these laws. The current ban on abortion in Ohio could force this child to give birth to her rapist’s baby!

These monstrous attempts by politicians to control women and their bodies cannot be accepted as final and binding. Righteous anger and the mobilization of women were at the beginning of many a revolution. It needs to happen again!

Pages 4-5

Victim of Financial Sharks

May 13, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

An international conference on biodiversity was held in Paris from April 29 to May 3. Its final report was the work of thousands of scientists. They warn that thousands of living species are disappearing today. This is the sixth major wave of extinction since the earth formed.

But this one is different from the last wave of extinction 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs and thousands of other species died out. This time there is no collision with a giant asteroid. There is no rise in volcanic eruptions. This time the die-off is the result of human activities affecting the environment.

Ecosystems are damaged and species are wiped out by the cutting down of forests, the overuse of natural resources, cities sprawling ever larger, widespread use of pesticides, pollution of all kinds, and the spread of invasive species both native and imported. Global warming results, and worsens these menaces. Between half a million to a million plant and animal species out of only eight million could vanish in the near future.

In a quarter century, nearly a third of the wild vertebrates (creatures with backbones) will die off. Humans are also products of nature and we get our means of subsistence from nature. We could be threatened too.

These alarming findings lead scientists to beg governments to take some practical emergency measures. The scientists hope the conference will result in better policies. But just as with global warming, trying to preserve biodiversity runs up against a powerful obstacle.

All economic and social life is dominated by big capitalist groups driven by profit. Companies like Shell, Total, Rio Tinto (mining), Glencore, Nestlé and Colgate-Palmolive are ready to destroy forests, and to pollute rivers and groundwater in order to extract crude oil or minerals or to produce soy or palm oil at the lowest cost. When they are not allowed to pollute in Europe, they ravage Africa and Asia. When the Chinese government outlaws melting down and re-molding plastic inside China, the capitalists just send their recycling work to weaker Thailand or Malaysia.

A significant part of pollution is the result of under-development, under-industrialization. Without other sources of energy, millions of women chop wood for cooking. How can anyone preserve zones for rhinoceros and elephants when right nearby, women and men die of hunger and war?

The guilt of human activities in the destruction of life leads some political currents to say the human population is too high, or that people should stop farming animals to eat meat, and more generally that people need to drastically reduce our consumption. But even if the question of the impact of our modes of production and consumption is valid, trying to deal with them through individual choices doesn’t solve the problems. This lets the economic system off the hook, that is, capitalism.

Are there too many people? But it’s by raising the standard of living for everyone and providing education to women that the birth rate goes down. Do people need to consume less? But what does this mean in a society where one percent of the people own as much as the poorer half of humanity owns? To control the impact of human activities on nature, we have to decide collectively what to produce and under what conditions.

This requires expropriating the sharks of finance, industry, and agri-business, who have all the power today. By making production rational and taking all accumulated understanding into account, people would have a chance to stop this wave of extinction. We could then repair and rebuild what human activity has destroyed while spurred by profit.

Arctic Sea Ice:
Pompeo Reflects Capitalism

May 13, 2019

Confronted by the rapid melting of ice in the Arctic, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the new business opportunities opening up. “The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance,” he said, noting the oil and other resources under the sea. He went on to note that: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.”

Pompeo conveniently left out the fact that melting sea ice is already causing sea levels to rise, threatening coastal cities, and even whole island countries. He didn’t bring up the ways that the same climate change causing the melting ice also threatens farming across huge parts of the globe, or how it is already causing bigger, more destructive storms and droughts. He forgot to mention that it threatens a huge share of the world’s life, which of course also threatens human beings, who depend on that life in countless ways.

While not all businesspeople and government officials are as crass and shortsighted as Pompeo and the rest of Trump’s cronies, his views accurately reflect the way this system approaches the environmental catastrophe it is creating. Businesses seek to make a buck off catastrophe, not to avert it. And no one does anything serious to check the vast destruction wrought by this unchecked pursuit of profit before all else.

In any rational society, the melting of sea ice would be one more obvious warning that we had better reorganize the ways in which we produce and distribute the things we need.

U.S. Imperialism Strangles the Venezuelan Economy

May 13, 2019

In Venezuela, a U.S.-backed military uprising aimed at overthrowing President Nicolas Maduro fizzled out in a few hours on April 30. Juan Guaidó, the extreme-right-wing opposition politician backed by the U.S. government, stood outside a Venezuelan air force base in Caracas surrounded by a few dozen soldiers and some supporters, and proclaimed that it was the “final phase” of the military overthrow.

In fact, Guaidó found little support or enthusiasm for his “final phase.” Only a few troops and one senior official, Maduro’s intelligence chief, Christopher Figueroa, joined the opposition.

By the end of the day, senior Trump administration officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and foreign policy advisor John Bolton, were lashing out at their usual “favorite targets,” blaming the governments of Russia and Cuba for continuing economic relations with Venezuela. They also blamed top Venezuelan military officers and said they backpedaled on their promises to support a coup.

Unsuccessful in their coup attempt, Pompeo, Bolton and others blustered, saying that the Trump administration “will simply not rule out” military action in Venezuela. The Pentagon’s Joint Staff and Southern Command reported that they had given the White House an array of military options, including preparations for joint military operations with other South American countries against Venezuela, even another military coup. In passing, they also threatened a military blockade of Cuba.

These military threats are not new. And we don’t know when or how a more open military intervention may occur.

But meanwhile, the U.S. government has continued a very real economic war against the Venezuelan government and the people of Venezuela. In fact, they boast about the damage being done. Just six days before the U.S.-sponsored coup attempt, the U.S. State Department published, then retracted a fact sheet spelling out some of the different forms of sanctions and embargoes that the U.S. government has imposed. It bragged that the U.S. government had gotten various international organizations to help the U.S. gang up against Venezuela, and that “roughly $3.2 billion of Venezuela’s {assets} overseas are frozen.”

Venezuela’s oil production, which the entire economy depends on, has been cut by more than half in less than a year. Recently, 25 oil tankers filled with 12 million barrels of oil have been stranded off the coast of Venezuela for lack of buyers, despite the fact that it was offering a 25 per cent discount on the oil.

This economic war has had a devastating impact on the Venezuelan population. Unofficial estimates are that 40,000 people have already died from 2017 to 2018 from lack of food, lack of clean water, and lack of medicines. Those dying are the most vulnerable parts of the population, especially the poor, the elderly and the very young. Another 300,000 people are said to be at risk because of lack of medical care and medicine. All this is a direct result of the economic sanctions and embargo.

The U.S. strategy is to punish the population until it supports a dictator of the U.S.’s choice to run Venezuela. It is no mistake – it is deliberate terrorism.

Gaid Salah Tries to Block the Movement

May 13, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

On Saturday, May 4, the head of the Algerian Army, Gaid Salah, arrested three powerful people, representing the group that the population has been denouncing: Said Bouteflika, younger brother of the overthrown former president, and two old bosses of the repressive apparatus, Mohamed Mediene and Athmane Tartag.

Said Bouteflika was considered the strong man of the regime and is particularly hated across the country. He was the target of many slogans in the big demonstrations, calling for his arrest. General Mediene, called Toufik, has been the head of the secret services for 25 years. Gaid Salah has been accusing him for weeks of conspiring against the army. General Tartag, called Bachir, was at the head of the security services before he resigned his post the day before President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down, on April 2. All three are incarcerated and charged with attacking the authority of the army and plotting against the authority of the state. The day after the eleventh Friday of massive popular mobilization, on the eve of Ramadan, the head of the army carried out a coup against the Bouteflika clan.

The Man to Restore Order

For weeks, Gaid Salah has denounced the schemes of a “gang” at the top of the state apparatus, accusing them of wanting to disorganize the protests, compromise the “constitutional transition,” and cover up the illegal activities of a number of oligarchs. The head of the army has also called for the arrest of many businessmen known to be close to the Bouteflika clan, including a billionaire at the head of the giant agricultural company Cevital. Suspected of being close to General Toufik, he has also been in prison since April 22. The old prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, and the old chief of police, Abdelghani Hamel, are under investigation by the prosecutor for corruption.

Putting on this show of justice is a way for Gaid Salah to make people forget that he was a pillar of the system, a loyal supporter of Bouteflika up to the last moment, before pushing for his resignation under the pressure of the street. So if this general is now posing as a part of the movement, it is only to save his own head.

At the same time, Gaid Salah wants to avoid anything that would upset the “road map” decided on when Bouteflika stepped down, including the holding of a presidential election as soon as possible. Acting as a responsible politician of a state in the service of the possessing class, the new strong man of the regime wants to channel the popular revolt and prevent it from radicalizing.

The Mobilization Does Not Weaken

This is not to say that the demonstrators, who remained very numerous in Algiers and other cities on May 3, were duped by this operation “clean hands.” That day, many slogans and signs were clearly directed against the head of the army: “Down With Gaid Salah!” “Gaid Salah, Dirty Chameleon, Don’t Underestimate the People!” The mobilized population continues to reject the terms of the election scheduled for the coming July 4. The population refuses to negotiate with the symbols of the system, and continues to demand the exit of the “2 B” (Chief of State Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui). Everywhere across the country, demonstrators denounce the attempts to divide the movement, even as some politicians play on anti-Kabyle racism (the Kabyle are a minority population that speaks their own language), and others on Kabyle regionalism. With high morale and determination, the demonstrators chant in the streets: “We will not stop, We will come out during Ramadan.” The discussions turn around the ways people can organize themselves. Demonstrate during the day or two hours before the breaking of the fast and organize conferences and debates in the evening? Demonstrate every evening after the breaking of the fast, or hold sit-ins? In any case, many people are determined to keep the movement going in the month to come. The population remains mobilized, and has decided not to make a truce and to maintain the pressure, to say “Down with the system!”

Pages 6-7

100,000 Deaths a Year – Stop the Carnage!

May 13, 2019

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’S workplace newsletters for the week of May 6, 2019.

Over 5,000 workers died in this country from “accidents” suffered on the job. Almost 95,000 more died from occupational illnesses. Another three and a half million workers were injured or made ill from conditions in their workplaces. All of this in just one year, 2017.

Those figures come from state and federal occupational safety offices – offices which often bend over backwards to exonerate employers.

Many people in Detroit remember when a construction worker fell seven floors to his death in 2017. He was working on a super project – Little Caesar’s Arena – whose contractors were pushing hard to get the arena done within the deadline.

The county coroner ruled that the death was the result of an industrial accident. The inspector for MIOSHA (the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration) also ruled the death an industrial accident. But the heads of MIOSHA over-ruled both their own inspector and the coroner. They called it a “suicide”!

MIOSHA heads also accused their inspector of “insubordination” and drove him to retire. Then they destroyed all his notes about the worker’s fall.

So a 46-year-old electrician’s death goes into the records for 2017 not as an industrial accident, for which the employer is liable, but as the suicide of a single individual, whose widow can’t get workers compensation death benefits.

How many other rulings like that cover the truth about industrial accidents?

In fact, the only people who really can uncover the truth are the people who go to work every day in the workplaces of the whole country.

We are there when the “accidents” happen. We see what happens and how it happens. We know what the conditions are. We’ve seen supervisors push someone to keep working despite the lack of safeguards. We know about the demands to work faster – demands that inevitably lead to more injuries and illnesses.

We know what could be done to prevent “accidents” – these “accidents” which aren’t really accidental. They result from the cold-blooded calculations employers make – will it cost more to pay for safety, or to pay the fine when a worker dies?

So who can stop the carnage? Not the companies – their chase for profit brings it on.

What about OSHA? Even if every OSHA inspector did an exceptional job, they couldn’t begin to touch the problem. How could they? In 2017, there were just over 1,800 federal and state inspectors to cover 9,000,000 workplaces. That’s 5,000 workplaces for each inspector. If each inspector visited one workplace a day, 365 days a year, it would take them over 13 years just to visit every workplace just one time!

Those few inspectors can’t begin to do what the many millions of us who are in all the workplaces every day can do easily.

All of us together make everything run. We do the work, we know what’s safe, what’s not safe. We are in the middle of production, in the offices, in the field. Inspectors are workers too – the ones who study fumes in the air, chemicals in the water. Researchers who study PFAS in the groundwater and soil are workers too. So are the technicians who record this information. Bring ourselves together all over the country, and we could organize work so everyone could go home every night still healthy and sound in bodies and minds.

We would throw profit out as the basis for calculating safety. We would use a healthy body as our standard. We would suppress all conditions that interfered with every worker’s health and safety.

Does it sound like a pipe dream? Well, of course it is, so long as profit is king. So long as capitalism runs the show.

To have safe and healthy conditions at work – just like so many other things – requires us to work together to take on this system and its damned profit. It requires us to run the show!

Who better than us to run things? Who better than the workers who produce everything, record everything, ship everything, build everything, analyze everything, deliver everything?

Uber Strike:
A Mobilization of All Workers Is Needed

May 13, 2019

Uber and Lyft drivers organized a day of strikes in 10 cities in the U.S. on May 8. Drivers in a few other countries, such as Britain and Australia, also walked out. The participation was generally low, however, varying between a few dozen in most of the cities and a few hundred, for example in San Francisco.

The low participation rate is not a surprise, given the difficulty of reaching out to a work force in which drivers work on their own and make their own schedule; and given the fact that we have not seen a mass mobilization of workers in any industry for a long time. But this fact does not diminish the importance of the issues the drivers are trying to raise.

Uber and Lyft hire drivers as “independent contractors,” which means drivers have to pay for their cars, as well as insurance, maintenance and gas. But the money Uber and Lyft pay drivers – 60 cents per mile in Los Angeles, for example – is simply not enough to meet all these expenses and to live on. So one of the main demands of the drivers is to be recognized as employees by the companies.

This is a big problem faced by the entire working class today. In the 10 years between 2006 and 2016, 94 percent of the new jobs were filled by workers who were on-call, worked for contracting companies or temp agencies, or were hired as independent contractors. Experts estimate that one third of all workers, and half of young workers, in the U.S. have such jobs today. And for many of these workers, this kind of job is their primary source of income.

It’s one way the capitalist class increases the level of exploitation of the working class, resulting in huge profits for big companies and a lowering of the living standard of the working class. Workers can turn the tide only through a mass mobilization, in which Uber and Lyft drivers can find their rightful place.

Page 8

White Supremacist Cops in Virginia

May 13, 2019

Virginia cop Daniel Morley was an open member of white supremacist organizations for the last decade. He identified publicly as the "pledge coordinator" for new recruits to a white nationalist group involved in organizing the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Still, last year a Richmond-area public high school hired him as a school resource officer.

Morley's friend Robert Stamm was already a neo-Nazi with a huge racist tattoo on his neck seven years ago when hired as a prison guard in Virginia. Then he was hired by the Virginia Capitol Police which patrols protests in Richmond.

These two cops were fired after protestors publicized their racist affiliations, but the institutional leaderships which gave them guns and badges remain in power. Capitalism has always relied on prejudiced police to maintain this racist society.

Again, Innocent Men in Prison

May 13, 2019

In early May, Baltimore Circuit Court set free two brothers who had each spent 24 years in prison for a murder they did not commit. They thanked the lawyer from the State’s Attorney’s Office who had worked on their case. Yet the very same office sent them to prison in the first place.

Their case is the sixth time in the last few years that men have walked out of prison after years spent inside for a crime they did not commit. The work of freeing innocent men is a project of the University of Baltimore law students.

These law students, working for free, are part of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. This project, serving prisoners in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., has freed 33 men, who served 600 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Given this society with one law for those with money and another for those without, there are hundreds more men in prisons all over the country, who are innocent.

Sandra Bland’s Video

May 13, 2019

Dallas TV station WFAA released a video taken by Sandra Bland on her cellphone showing a Texas state trooper viciously harassing and threatening her prior to her arrest in 2015. A nonprofit journalism organization called Investigation Network obtained the video.

At the time, the state trooper, Brian Encina, claimed he stopped Bland for failure to use a turn signal when she pulled over to allow his vehicle to pass her as he closely tailed her. He eventually violently threw her to the ground, slamming her head so hard she complained to a bystander she couldn’t hear. Encina ordered the bystander to leave, and arrested Bland and took her to jail. Three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell, with the police claiming she hanged herself.

Bland’s video, which her family was never shown, shows Encina standing inside Bland’s open car door and ordering her out of the car. Bland simply responds by asking why she is being apprehended. Encina then points his taser gun at her and yells, “Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!” She responds by asking “All this for a failure to signal?”

Bland’s video proves Encina lied when he told a grand jury that he simply demanded Bland get out of the car to conduct the “traffic stop” more safely and that he “feared for his own safety.” His immediately aggressive behavior makes it clear that this was less a traffic violation and more about Bland daring to be defiant about being ordered out of her car and filming the interaction.

A grand jury at the time actually indicted Encina for perjury but prosecutors dropped the charges in exchange for Encina agreeing to never work in law enforcement again.

Bland’s family is rightfully demanding Encina be put in jail.

This is just one of many incidents that happened to be caught on video showing racist cops harassing black people for no legitimate reason. Often these incidents have ended in the death of the victim and the cops walking away scot-free.

Racism is not simply a problem for the black population. When the cops can do this to one person, they can do it to us all. All workers have an interest in fighting against every one of these injustices, every time they rear their ugly heads.

Where Did “Chinese Hackers” Learn Their Tricks?

May 13, 2019

As part of his justification for increasing tariffs on China, Donald Trump points to the refusal of the Chinese government to crack down on the theft of intellectual property – the supposed threat to American people, corporations, and even the U.S. military from Chinese hackers. The bosses’ media and other politicians have promoted this same narrative.

Part of the picture they paint is that Chinese hackers stole some of the computer code they’ve used in their hacking tools. In an interesting twist, though, researchers from the computer security firm Symantec found that Chinese intelligence agents obtained some of their hacking tools by capturing malware used by the U.S. National Security Agency to break into the networks of other countries and attack “adversaries” infrastructure.

What’s wrong with this picture?

In other words, the politicians and the media try to convince American workers that rogue foreign enemies are a threat to our security, but in fact, the supposedly “evil” Chinese hackers are simply pointing the weapons the NSA first used against them back in the direction from whence they came.

The usual story always did beg the question, of whether or not the U.S. is as capable as the Chinese of carrying out cyberwarfare. Of course they are, they’ve been doing it all along.