The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Issue no. 1082 — May 27 - June 10, 2019

New Anti-Abortion Laws:
Dragging Women back to the Dark Ages

May 27, 2019

Just about every week Republican-controlled state governments have put a new, extreme anti-abortion bill on the table. Eight states have already passed anti-abortion laws this year, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas and Utah, with more on the way. This is a major national campaign of the Republican Party.

These bills are sadistic and vicious. In Alabama, the law says doctors can be sentenced to a 99-year prison term. In Georgia, the law says women should be treated as criminals and prosecuted, as does the most recent bill now being considered in Louisiana. In Texas, a bill is now being debated that considers all abortions to be murder, making any woman found guilty eligible for the death penalty.

Republicans claim that these laws are “pro-life.” But in reality they will be used to destroy life–the lives of women, doctors and health care providers. Republicans say they are for “small government.” What a joke! They want the politicians, bureaucrats, courts and police to impose themselves on the most private and difficult decision a woman can make–to turn a doctor’s visit into a matter of state. As for those laws which make exceptions for rape and incest, they still leave it up to cops or politicians to judge, blaming the victim in order to impose ultimate control.

Certainly, for all kinds of reasons, some oppose abortion. That is their right. But don’t try to impose it on others. Don’t let the government decide for women what they should and shouldn’t do.

These newest laws have yet to go into effect. But they have two immediate goals. First, Republicans have written them in a way to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions. Now that they have Brett Kavanaugh on the bench, they are pressing the issue. But even if they don’t get exactly what they want from the Supreme Court, the politicians aim to use the abortion issue in order to mobilize the Republican electorate for the 2020 elections.

In other words, they are destroying the lives of women in order to gain greater political power and further their own ambitions. At a time when working peoples’ living standards are being ground down for the profit of the capitalist class, with the help of both political parties, abortion is a perfect issue for the Republicans to use to distract and divide the population and the workforce against itself. After all, women make up more than half the population and the workforce.

Don’t look to the Democrats as a protection. This is because the Democrats have worked with the Republicans repeatedly to limit a woman’s right to choose, starting with the Hyde Amendment in 1976, which deprives women of federal money to pay for an abortion, an attack aimed directly at women from the working class. On top of that, the Democrats demobilize people by telling people to look to the elections, to the politicians and judges to protect them.

That is a trap. No politicians or judges granted the most basic rights that women have. Women have had to fight for those rights themselves. Women have carried out these fights in the women’s movement, as well as in other battles of the working class, including the fight against racist oppression. This has been true since the time of slavery.

The problem is that in capitalist society, no rights, no gains are permanent. The capitalists run this society for their own profit, including profit from the exploitation of women workers, who are half the workforce. On top their paid jobs, women return home to raise future generations and take care of the family. All this is unpaid labor that the capitalist class also profits greatly from.

The attacks against women are part of the capitalists’ war against the working class, a war that is dragging us back to conditions like in the Dark Ages. Nobody’s rights are safe until the working class finally does away with capitalism all together.

Pages 2-3

California Makes Sick Teachers Pay for Their Substitutes

May 27, 2019

When Heather Burns, a fifth-grade teacher in San Francisco, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, she was in for a bad surprise. Once she used up her paid sick days (10 days a year), California law required that Burns pay for her own substitute while out on extended sick leave–which amounted to half of Burns’ pay, deducted from her paycheck!

Faced with the danger of losing her home, Burns went back to work before fully recovering, against the advice of her doctor.

Burns’ case is not unique. In fact, she contacted a radio station with her story after reading in the news about another San Francisco teacher going through the same ordeal.

California teachers do not qualify for the state disability insurance, because they don’t pay into it. They’re just completely left out.

State Senator Connie Leyva promised to change the law to include teachers–but then added that teachers would have to wait, because things were “a little more complicated than we thought.” And a spokesperson for CTA, a teachers’ union, explained that changing the law would pose a problem for the “already cash-strapped” California school districts!

“You have to wait,” and “There is no money for that.” Sound familiar?

But perhaps the most revealing comment came from a San Francisco school district spokesperson who, trying to defend the district, said that no employers in this country, public or private, paid employees their full wages while on extended sick leave.

No, they don’t. And that’s the capitalist system’s ultimate message to working people: You better not get seriously ill because, if you do, you may lose everything you have and end up in the street with your family.

Taking Away Health Care for Millions

May 27, 2019

One in five rural hospitals in the U.S. is in danger of closing, thanks to low reimbursement rates, says a recent study. Private insurance companies deny individuals, but they also don’t pay the amounts submitted by doctors and hospitals. Even worse, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act pay even lower reimbursement rates than do private insurers.

In the past nine years, at least 100 hospitals have closed in rural parts of the country. The numbers closing impact some of the poorer states, like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and a dozen other states. The study says a third of rural hospitals cannot make ends meet, threatening to close and leave entire areas without a nearby hospital. This leaves patients at risk in emergencies, when they have to travel farther away to find care.

Congress sets the rules for how much reimbursement goes to hospitals and doctors from Medicare and Medicaid - and those two programs account for almost 60% of patients in hospitals. Sometimes doctors refuse to take patients because the doctors’ bills are not paid back.

What kind of society, what kind of politicians create a situation in which only those who have money are assured of the health care they need? A society only for profit.

Trump Cuts Rural Working Class Jobs

May 27, 2019

The Trump administration is planning to close the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center program. Nine centers will be closed, and 16 more transferred from the Forest Service to the Labor Department, to be either closed or privatized.

This means that up to 1,100 employees will lose their jobs, and more than 3,000 youths, many from working class backgrounds, who had been trained in the program each year will lose the chance to gain that experience and training.

Not only will this further endanger the forests–and their surrounding communities–at a time when the threat of wildfires is ever increasing thanks to climate change. But it will also be an economic blow to rural communities in states including Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina–states with a lot of Trump supporters, supporters he’s supposedly pledged to help.

Surprise, surprise, Trump is no different from any other politician who claims to be “for the people”–promising help but destroying lives.

What’s a promise when there’s money to be handed to private interests?

One Billionaire for 400 Students:
Problem Solved?!

May 27, 2019

National news was all abuzz with the surprise announcement made by billionaire Robert F. Smith at Morehouse College’s graduation ceremonies. His family pledged to pay the full college debt of 40 million dollars for the entire 2018 graduating class. So on that day, 400 young people could heave a sigh of (debt) relief.

That left about 44 million present and former college students still in debt for 1.57 trillion dollars.

Today, higher education costs are more than four and a half times more expensive than they were 30 years ago.

Public grants for college and university students have disappeared.

Instead, student loans have replaced mortgages as the new money-making scam for both banks and the federal government. Students take out huge loans–not only to cover skyrocketing tuition costs, but also higher costs of living in expensive housing.

And then, when and IF they graduate, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, they are still not likely to find good-paying jobs.

No, the massive problem of student debt cannot be solved with individual acts of philanthropy. It can only be solved with a complete reorganizing of the priorities of this society, one of which would be to make education, and life, affordable after school.

Tubman versus Jackson on $20 Bill

May 27, 2019

Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently announced that a plan to put a likeness of Harriet Tubman on $20 bills starting in 2020 would be delayed until at least 2028!

Tubman was the slave who escaped to the North from a Maryland Eastern Shore plantation and then repeatedly returned to plantation territory to help hundreds of slaves escape to the North. She was an abolitionist who helped John Brown plan his raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia–an action that Brown hoped would lead to a revolutionary uprising of the slaves that would end the whole slavery system.

Is the Trump administration’s decision a surprise? No.

In 2016, Trump said during his campaign that he was opposed to the Tubman plan. He said Andrew Jackson–whose likeness is now on $20 bills–was a great man who was a hero of his. Jackson was a wealthy slave-holding president of the U.S. who is perhaps best known for brutally driving all Native Americans out of the Eastern U.S.

Racist slave owner versus a leader of slave revolts? Who do you think the rich and powerful bosses of this society and their political flunkies choose to identify with? Of course, it is Jackson, a man who was a leader of their system, a defender of their wealth, who put his boot on the necks of people they enslaved, as well as workers, women–to protect and expand what today are their fortunes.

Capitalism in this country was built on capital accumulated from slavery–and is now accumulated from the exploitation of what Karl Marx called “wage-slaves”–that is, from us, the workers of the world. And disgusting as this is, the bosses have no intention of having it any other way.

“Celebrating” the Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote

May 27, 2019

2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in this country with the passage of the tenth amendment.

What an irony that 100 years later, women’s most basic right to control their own bodies is under attack, all over again.

This is how our reactionary, capitalist society says “happy anniversary!”

Pages 4-5

Trump Sends His Gunboats

May 27, 2019

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

Since the beginning of May, the U.S. government has made a series of threats directed against Iran. President Trump began by reinforcing the banning of trade with this country. Beginning on May 1, the U.S. banned the purchase of Iranian oil by the last few countries that it had allowed to do so.

As a result, Iran is running short of foreign currency and has an increasingly difficult time buying the products it needs on the world market. For the Iranian population, this has meant growing unemployment, an increasingly rapid inflation in prices, and severe shortages.

Iran has demanded that the European Union honor the commitments it made as part of the Iran nuclear deal, which has so far been revoked only by the U.S. They are asking for help in loosening the noose that Trump is tightening. The choir of imperialist democracies, represented by a meeting of European foreign ministers on May 13, narrowly advises Iran to bend its knee to the U.S. They are troubled by the possibility that war could arrive “by accident.” But it would be no accident—it has been well prepared by U.S. imperialism and its gunboat politics.

Invoking Iranian threats to U.S. interests without naming any specifics, Trump sent the aircraft carrier Lincoln and its accompanying fleet to the Persian Gulf, along with B-52 bombers.

On Sunday, May 12, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced that four tankers had come under attack in the Gulf. The affair seemed minor, but it was immediately exploited politically as these U.S. allies let it be understood that Iran was implicated. The U.S. government increased its forces again, sending another warship, this time with Marines ready to land. The U.S. also sent a battery of anti-missile defenses and let it be known that it had 120,000 troops on a war footing, ready to be sent at a moment’s notice.

On Trump’s part, this cannot be dismissed as just bluster. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has repeatedly used Iran as a bogeyman. For the U.S. right, attacking this country supports the Israeli right-wing and the fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. And in attacking this Islamist regime, the U.S. strengthens its alliance with Saudi Arabia, a dictatorship even more reactionary than that of the Iranian mullahs. It also serves the short term interests of the U.S. and Saudi oil companies, which can take over the oil sales that Iran used to make. But it also affirms, with arms if necessary, that the U.S. remains the policeman of the world, and that no country can resist it, not North Korea, nor Venezuela, nor tomorrow China. Finally, to mobilize against Iran justifies the business of arms sales and all the profits that flow from it.

U.S. Arms Saudi Arabia to Kill Yemeni Civilians

May 27, 2019

On May 24, the Trump Administration invoked a “state of emergency” with Iran to complete the sale of 8 billion dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. These weapons include bombs, parts for military aircraft, and anti-tank missiles. While he cited no recent specific Iranian actions in justifying this move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote that “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad.”

In selling these weapons, the U.S. is reinforcing its support for the Saudi regime in its ongoing struggle against Iran for power and influence across the Middle East.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. worked with Iran to help stabilize Syria and Iraq, over Saudi objections. At that time, the U.S. was concerned about Saudi support for ISIS and other radical Islamist groups. Now the Trump administration calculates that supporting the Saudis to the hilt will pay off for U.S. imperialism.

To them, it is not a problem that Saudi Arabia wants these weapons for its war in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels. Saudi planes–built in the U.S.–have bombed homes, markets, hospitals, schools, and mosques, killing hundreds of civilians. An April 2018 attack on a wedding killed 22 people. A strike last August hit a school bus, killing and wounding dozens of children. And since 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies have imposed a blockade of Yemen that has caused a serious shortage of medical supplies and food, creating a famine in the country. Now more U.S.-made weapons will help murder children and starve a whole population.

This arms deal illustrates once again that U.S. imperialism is the real force behind the “malign activity” that has kept the whole Middle East in a constant state of war for decades. To the U.S., Yemeni deaths are simply “collateral damage!”

Saudi Arabia’s Brutal Dictatorship

May 27, 2019

Saudi Arabia has been a close U.S. ally since the U.S., Britain and France helped create the country at the end of World War I. And ever since that time, Saudi Arabia has been one of the most reactionary countries on the planet, ruled by a brutal monarchy that maintains its power with ruthless repression and killings.

Inside this fundamentalist country ruled by Sharia law, adult women must get permission from a “male guardian” to travel abroad, get a passport, marry, or even work or go to the doctor. In June of 2018, the Saudi regime finally allowed women to get drivers’ licenses, but it arrested thirteen of the women’s rights advocates who had pushed for this right, holding them without charging them with a crime. The country even pushed for the death penalty for one woman activist, Israa al-Ghomgham, charging her with the “crimes” of “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” and “providing moral support to rioters.” And the country might follow through on this threat: it executed 37 people on April 23, publicly pinning one of the bodies to a pole as warning.

The Saudi economy relies on a system that blurs the line between wage labor and slavery. More than 12 million migrant workers fill more than 80 percent of the private sector jobs. These workers’ residency permits are controlled by “sponsoring” bosses, many of whom confiscate their workers’ passports. Migrant workers report all kinds of abuses, including forced labor and stolen wages. Migrant workers who leave their bosses without consent can even face imprisonment and deportation.

But as long as U.S. imperialism can use Saudi Arabia to enforce its domination over this vital region, it couldn’t care less what happens to the people who actually live there.

Kids in Cages Die in Custody

May 27, 2019

CBS News just reported that six migrant children have died in the past eight months, either in U.S. immigration custody or soon after release. Before that, one child had died in custody since 2010.

The federal government just confirmed that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died back on September 29 at a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

Five children from Guatemala have died: Jakelin, age 7, died Dec. 8; Filipe, age 8, died Dec. 24; Juan, age 16, died April 30; Wilmer, age 2, died May 14. All died at Texas hospitals—getting care too late. Carlos, age 16, was found dead on May 20 in detention in Texas.

A pediatrician explained that identifying signs that a child is in danger requires medical skill. “Kids are robust: They hang on to the last minute. And then ... they just fall off a cliff. They can look pretty OK, and then suddenly they’re not.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no child be placed in detention, as it is unsafe.

Rural border patrol stations, where these children are being detained, are bare-bones. Spanish-speaking migrants call them hieleras (ice boxes) for year-round frigid temperatures and perreras (dog kennels) for their cramped conditions and horrible food.

An advocate active for decades explained these “facilities” are intentionally nasty and ugly. “They’re designed to be problematic and not safe,” to deter border crossing.

While the number of migrants is down today compared to the era of the 2000s, most migrants then were single men and today many are families with children. The detainees are legal immigrants, seeking political asylum from gang violence in Central America. Federal rules say kids must be placed at a stable facility within 72 hours. But when recent deaths were looked at, children were held much longer.

Kids are dying at the border, ground up by a detention system unfit for dogs. This should have never happened in the first place, but it must end now!

Baltimore Hacked by NSA Cyber-weapon

May 27, 2019

On the morning of May 7, thousands of Baltimore City Government computer systems were widely disabled in a cyber-attack. Within a few hours one computer screen after another froze up and displayed the computer hackers’ ransom demand. They wanted 3 Bitcoins (about $17,600 right now) to free up each computer network, or 13 Bitcoins for freeing up all the city’s systems—about $100,000 in all.

The hackers’ message read: “We’ve watching you for days and we’ve worked on your systems to gain full access to your company and bypass all of your protections.” The note said if the ransom wasn’t paid in four days, the price would go up. After ten days, the city wouldn’t be able to get any of its data back. The note warned against contacting the FBI, and that attempts to use anti-virus software to stop or roll back the computer virus would cause damage to the data. “Don’t ask for more times or somethings like that.... We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!”

As a result of this attack, most city services shut down: No emails, no real estate sales transactions, no payments of water bills, parking or traffic tickets, no online communication about impounded cars, no health alerts, etc.

On May 25, with most city computers still down, the news media reported that secret informants had told them the malware used to attack the computers was originally developed by NSA (the National Security Administration) as a weapon it calls EternalBlue that it uses against targets in foreign countries. It exploits a weakness in Microsoft Windows operating systems to rapidly spread viruses in hacked computers.

But in 2017, an unidentified group of hackers calling themselves the “Shadow Brokers” dumped the EternalBlue cyber-weapon code online where it has since been used by state-sponsored attackers in North Korea, Russia and China. It was picked up by private hackers since then and is being widely used to extort ransom payments all over the world, now particularly from cities in the U.S., including Allentown, Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia. This is because many municipal computers use older Microsoft operating systems that have not been properly updated with a patch that protects them from EternalBlue and other malware. And Microsoft has not explained the importance of this patch because this would have required the company to reveal the sordid history of this particular malware.

So EternalBlue has caused billions of dollars of damage to hundreds of computer systems. Using Atlanta as a guide, one computer security expert says that it will probably cost Baltimore hundreds of thousands of dollars and take at least six months to get most of its systems back up and running.

This is far from the first time in history that a weapon developed by the U.S. or some other imperialist government has ended up being used against the country that developed it—just look at the use of chemical weapons today, for example.

But the almost universal use of similar computer systems throughout the world has now created incredibly costly threats that are being carried out for both military and criminal objectives in times of both peace and war.

Pages 6-7

Rotting Infrastructure, Rotten Capitalist System

May 27, 2019

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’S workplace newsletters for the week of May 20, 2019.

Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer “met” last week with Donald Trump for the second time to talk about the country’s decrepit infrastructure. The meeting ended after three minutes, with Trump walking out and both sides trying to score political points and explain why nothing was accomplished.

It was just “government as usual,” in a country where government as usual has presided over the rotting away of roads, bridges, dams, levees, public buildings, VA facilities, the postal service, public transit, schools, waterways, parks, solid waste and wastewater facilities, etc.

The infrastructure has been starved for money. To deal with it, the Pelosi-Trump twins say they want to spend two trillion dollars. Two trillion sounds like a lot of money. But that’s two trillion over ten years! Just a drop of water in a rain barrel.

Roads, bridges, dams, public buildings, transit, waterways, wastewater facilities and all the rest are rotting today because the system is rotten. This government, which is drowning in money, doesn’t spend it on the needs of the population. It spends it to increase the profits and wealth of the capitalist class.

When the biggest banks of this country dug themselves into a hole with crazy speculation, the government first under Bush, then Obama, found trillions of dollars—13 or 14 trillion in one year—to set them back up in business again, so they could start speculating all over again.

When the wealthiest people wanted still more of the country’s wealth, Trump gave them another few trillion from the taxes we pay.

And what about the wars, which have burnt up many trillions of dollars, wreaking destruction and death—including to U.S. soldiers—so multinational corporations could continue to exploit working people of the whole world.

Imagine what would happen if the money government throws away on non-productive uses were spent instead on the rotting roads, bridges, schools, dams, VA facilities, water facilities, etc.

Yes, our lives would be more comfortable—not to mention safer and healthier.

But see what else would happen. Tens of millions of people would be put to work putting in the repairs and replacements. They could be paid a wage that allows a family to live well. Why not? Trillions of dollars are going to waste today, being spent in ways that do not benefit the population. There’s no reason the unemployed can’t have a decent paying job to do productive work. And there’s no reason that their work couldn’t be organized at a reasonable speed, and their hours of work set at a reasonable level.

What a benefit it would be for the whole population if young people coming out of school could find such a job—if such jobs were there for older people who today aren’t hired because they no longer can work at break-neck speed.

What a benefit for the whole population it would be if these jobs paid a comfortable income, for work done at a reasonable pace, without overtime hours. It would set a standard across the whole work force.

In a system where government served the needs of the population, that’s exactly what would happen. But today, government serves the capitalist class, no matter which party leads it. That’s exactly why such jobs won’t be set up. The Pelosi-Trump infrastructure plan—if it ever comes into being—will be set up first of all to pay more profits into the accounts of big business.

For us to have decent paying jobs and public services that serve the public, a political system that serves primarily the needs of the capitalists will have to be torn up and thrown away.

The only force strong enough to do that resides in the working class—when it is organized and fighting together collectively for the interests of all working people.

To meet all the problems in this society, it’s exactly the same. Working people can count only on ourselves, on all of us—black, white, Latino, immigrant. We have the forces, when we act together, to impose solutions the population needs.

Page 8

Detroit Residents Sold a Bill of Goods by the Ilitches

May 27, 2019

Resident activists from the 50-block area of Detroit known as “The District Detroit” spoke out about broken promises for “development” of the district by the family of the late Mike Ilitch. The Ilitch family are the owners of Little Caesars pizza, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers. In 2014, the city of Detroit and the State of Michigan awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to the Ilitch family enterprise for the construction of Little Caesars Arena (LCA), for the Red Wings to play hockey in.

At the time the city announced awarding the money for the LCA construction, in order to win support from residents of Detroit, the website for “District Detroit” carried attractive artist renderings of developments the Ilitches promised to put up to benefit the community. They referred to five new neighborhoods with names like “Cass Park Village” and “Wildcat Corner,” complete with outdoor cafes and small shops. They predicted 184 new apartments would be available by the time the LCA opened.

None of these developments have actually been built.

In May 2017 the Ilitch organization did announce plans for development of the old Eddystone Hotel, the United Artists building and four other vacant buildings that would create 686 residential units. Two years later, that construction has barely begun.

The Ilitches currently control 24 vacant buildings and 46 vacant lots. Residents of the district complain the Ilitches basically act as absentee landlords. The Ilitch group, for example, bought up three apartment buildings on Henry Street, where low-income residents for years paid $300-$400 a month in rent with no lease. Shortly after the Ilitch group purchased the buildings, one building was permanently closed after a roof partially collapsed. The city has also issued nearly two dozen blight violations on the two others for things like rodent infestations, failure to inspect for lead paint and other dangerous conditions.

Residents of the area and others around the city fail to see much benefit from all the parking lots and garages and see it as a benefit to others outside the city.

“The walkable neighborhood with active restaurants and retail around the arena with year-round activities has not materialized because (the Ilitch organization) doesn’t want it to,” Richard Etue, a member of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee recently said. The city set up the committee at the time the deal was announced, supposedly to give residents some say in the direction of the district’s development.

It’s clear that all the promises made to the public to win support for handing hundreds of millions of dollars to a family of billionaires were just lies. It’s just one more example of how things work under capitalism.

What the Ilitches Got and Where It Came From

May 27, 2019

The city of Detroit gave the Ilitches 324 million dollars for the construction of Little Caesars Arena. Since the city technically owns the LCA, the Ilitches no longer pay property taxes on it like they did on the Joe Louis Arena. They were, however, given the rights to all the revenue from the arena, including parking, food and beverage sales, souvenirs, TV and radio broadcasting contracts, fees for luxury suites, and naming rights.

They were promised another 74 million dollars if they could show they brought in another 200 million dollars in investment to the area. The Detroit Downtown Development Authority recently announced the Ilitches met that goal. They did so with the construction of two parking garages and a headquarters for Little Caesars pizza, plus an office for Google, none of which the residents of the area expect to see much benefit from.

Much of the money the city paid for the LCA construction even came out of money supposedly intended for the Detroit Public Schools. The city sold 250 million dollars in bonds. The money to repay the bonds will come from Tax Increment Funds, or TIFs. TIF money comes out of property taxes collected from the area. Property taxes generally go to funding the public schools, and require voters to approve through a millage election. So in 2012, the city asked voters to approve a millage which it advertised as needed to improve Detroit’s public schools.

So, the Ilitches get hundreds of millions, a new arena for the hockey team to play in, the profits from all sales and concessions from the arena, a new corporate headquarters, and an office for Google. The city residents got parking lots and underfunded schools. Not much of a deal!

California PG&E Cuts Power

May 27, 2019

California’s largest utility provider, PG&E, has recently announced its plan to cut power on the windiest of days during wildfire season, leaving millions of Californians without power. This is how PG&E is planning to prevent deadly fires caused by its equipment and power lines again and again.

California’s fire investigators have determined more than a week ago that PG&E’s transmission lines were responsible for the deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record in California, a blaze that killed 85 people in Butte County last year, destroying nearly 19,000 buildings, burning 153,000 acres, and causing damages in excess of $16 billion.

PG&E admitted they were responsible for the fire. The company previously reported more than 16,000 sections of its high-voltage lines fell, mainly due to equipment failures, between 2013 and 2017, i.e., one downed line every three hours.

The PG&E power transmission lines that caused these fires were built in 1921, close to 100 years ago. Although California allocated money to upgrade these very old lines between 2007 and 2017, PG&E did not spend it.

And now, PG&E proposes not to fix and maintain the lines–but instead, just cut the power when the wind kicks up!

This is what passes for an infrastructure solution these days? We’re being taken back to a dark age, both figuratively and literally!

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