The Spark

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

Issue no. 1086 — August 5 - 19, 2019

Editorial:
We Are All One Class – the Working Class, All One Race – the Human Race

Aug 5, 2019

Twenty people are dead, massacred in an El Paso, Texas Walmart; twenty-six more were wounded. (These were the casualty figures Sunday noon, August 4. They will get worse.)

The people killed weren’t all Mexican-Americans or Mexicans who crossed the border to do their weekly shopping – but they were all victims of a young man angered by what he called the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

A so-called “manifesto” was posted on an extreme-right on-line forum just before the gunman struck, apparently by the gunman or someone close to him.

It described the weapon and ammunition which was about to be used in the Walmart shooting. And it analyzed their capacity to cause maximum damage to human flesh – in cold, technical terms, as though the shooting were simply a “test” to see which gun and which ammunition could produce the most terrifying result.

With the same cold, technical language, the killer discussed the purpose of his carnage: he intended to “provide” Hispanic people with “the right incentive ... to return to their home countries.”

That’s terrorism, outright terrorism: inflict horrifying casualties to “give them an incentive to leave.” It’s the moral ethic of the gangster.

It’s also the moral ethic with which Trump approached the migrant crisis. On the 3rd of July he said it: “If illegal immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the detention centers, just tell them not to come.”

The location of the massacre in El Paso was not an accident. El Paso is the port of entry which the Trump administration has turned into a hell-hole for migrants, fleeing desperate situations in their own countries.

But El Paso is also the place where Americans of Mexican descent have lived for generations. It is connected by the “Bridge of the Americas” with the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez. Dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people go back and forth every day. It’s an area where families have lived on both sides of the border for generations, with a grandparent in El Paso, parents in Ciudad Juárez, and adult children in both places. It’s a place where Americans of Mexican descent have married Americans whose ancestors came from someplace else – which finally is the issue that most outraged the man who killed those 20 people.

In internet posts, he denounced “race-mixing,” which, according to him, foretells the “replacement of the white race.”

These are not the ideas of just one crazy guy. They are the unscientific ideas that float every day on extreme-right, on-line forums around the world. The white man who killed 50 Muslims in New Zealand repeated them. So did the white man who killed 77 teenagers in Norway – as well as the white man who killed six Muslims in Quebec, and the white man who killed nine black people in a church in South Carolina.

These men may all be white, but that’s not what links them. What they have in common is their commitment to terrorism and to racist ideology. Today, they may seem to be a few crazy people, but behind them there is money making sure these ideas circulate around the world.

Trump sits in the White House today. The racism didn’t start with him. Nor did the violence. But occupying the presidency, he gives legitimacy to these vile ideas.

Behind Trump is the capitalist class. If they were really horrified by him, they would have dumped him long ago. No, the poison he spews can be useful in the future for dividing the working class. It’s why they keep him.

The violence these “crazy” guys have created should be a warning to us. We’re going to face it in the future, carried out by more than a few crazies. We need to begin organizing ourselves today, figuring out how to deal with it.

The working class – no matter where we come from, no matter what our nationality is – we are one class. We have the capacity to deal with the problems we will face. No matter what our “race” is, we are all one race: the human race. That is OUR manifesto.

Pages 2-3

Ten Years of Deepening Economic Crisis

Aug 5, 2019

Over the last month, several U.S. government agencies have issued reports indicating that storm clouds are gathering over the U.S. economy. At the end of July, the U.S. Commerce Department said that Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the broadest measure of the economy, had slowed markedly, with both business investment and residential construction dropping. The U.S. Federal Reserve also reported that U.S. manufacturing production is now in an official “recession,” that is, industrial production has dropped steadily for more than six months.

Given these worsening conditions, on July 31, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced that it was cutting its short term interest rate for the first time in ten years. Thus, the bankers who run the Federal Reserve admitted they were speeding up the printing of money, in order to encourage more lending and speculation in an effort to safeguard the profits of the big banks and financial companies.

The Supposed Economic Recovery

About a month ago, the news media had boasted that the current recovery had become the longest recovery in history, it had lasted more than a decade – a record! Of course, what they didn’t say is that even according to their own statistics, it was also the weakest and worst expansion on record – with the economy growing at half the rate than it did during previous expansions, which themselves were not strong at all.

No, over the last 10 years, the only real recovery has been in corporate profits and the wealth of the capitalist class. And they gained that wealth at the expense of the working class and society as a whole, leaving the rest of society in ashes.

After 10 years, the job situation has not improved, despite what their lying unemployment statistics say. Sure, there has been some hiring. But the level of hiring has been so weak, millions of workers dropped out of the labor force and therefore are no longer counted in government statistics as unemployed. In a truer picture of the economy, the government admits that the labor force participation rate has been stuck at its worst level in more than four decades, that is, before the mass of women workers began to enter the labor force in big numbers.

For those workers with jobs, wages and benefits have not improved at all. For the last 10 years, government officials, the news media and economists kept on telling workers to be patient, promising that they would eventually get that raise. But it never happened and the capitalists laughed all the way to the bank.

We are told that during periods of economic growth, governments take advantage of swelling tax revenues to improve infrastructure, invest in education and fund research. At the same time, companies plow profits into new products and expand markets. But none of that happened over the past decade. Companies didn’t invest. And neither did the public sector. The government just handed out tax cuts and subsidies while companies handed out dividends, and repurchased shares from big owners.

Record Amounts of Debt

So, along with corporate profits, the only thing that really grew through this entire decade was debt.

To pay for necessities, such as cars, childcare, education, housing and health care, working people, who were already tapped out because their household income was so low, went into record amounts of household debt. Today, overall household debt stands at close to 14 trillion dollars, more than half the size of the entire economy. It is about one trillion dollars higher than it was in 2008, the last peak, which was hit just when the entire financial system collapsed. Today, some of that debt is going bad. About 71 million households, or close to one-third of all those holding debt, are behind in their payments and face collection.

Over the last decade, the debt held by the federal government more than doubled, from 10 trillion to 22 trillion dollars. Today, the federal debt totals more than the entire GDP, that is, the entire U.S. economy, and it is now growing at a rate of more than a trillion dollars per year. Along with the trillions of dollars in debt bought up by the Federal Reserve, much of that debt was taken to bail out the banks and finance companies from the crisis that they themselves brought about in their mad rush to increase their profits.

Added to that, there is corporate debt, which has grown to about nine trillion dollars, or about half of GDP, as companies often take on more debt in order to increase their payouts to their biggest stockholders, or in order to carry out financial speculation, that is, to bet on financial markets.

Taken together, all that debt represents a bubble – a very unstable bubble – that is much bigger than the debt bubble that collapsed 10 years ago and is many times larger than the entire U.S. economy. All it would take is a shock somewhere that could puncture that bubble and cause a worse collapse than a decade ago, to further deepen an economic depression that the capitalist system cannot get out of.

Making the Poor Disappear

Aug 5, 2019

The current administration plans to change how the consumer price index (CPI) is used to count the number of people living in poverty. This change would cut the number of people counted as “poor,” and therefore cut the number eligible for the few benefits that remain.

But EVERY administration has played with statistics, manipulating the number of people considered poor. For example, in 1950 the poverty level was considered half the average income for the population. In the present, the figures of “poor” have been cut in half by defining poverty as one quarter of the average income.

Bill Clinton said his administration would “end welfare as we know it.” Yes, welfare benefits were cut. But poverty did not go away.

During Obama’s administration,40% of children were considered to be living in poverty and about 12% of seniors qualified for low-income assistance. That means millions were living in poverty while both the state and federal governments cut social services.

The Trump administration follows a long tradition of manipulating statistics on poverty for political gain.

Chicago Schools:
More Empty Promises

Aug 5, 2019

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, under pressure from the Teachers Union, promised to add “at least” 200 social workers and 250 school nurses to the public schools. She also promised to hire additional case managers – the staff who coordinate special education for students in the schools. Of course, this has been a scandal for years: Chicago Public Schools handed much of the nursing duties in the schools over to a private operator, while it has cut back continuously on librarians, social workers and other school workers.

The union points out that Lightfoot would not write those staffing commitments into the new contract, which is under negotiation right now. And she hasn’t said whether those new hires would be fully licensed and working for the school system, or if they’d be brought on through private contractors.

Teachers and those involved in Chicago schools have plenty of experience with this kind of promise. Last July, CPS chief Janice Jackson, under the weight of a state investigation into the districts’ Special Education Services, promised to hire 150 social workers and 94 case managers. It remains unclear if even half of those positions are filled more than a year later. In the run up to the teachers’ strike in 2012, Rahm Emanuel hired about 500 art, music, science and library teachers ... only to lay them off again at the end of the year, once the contract was settled.

Lightfoot, like her predecessors, wants to make a show of helping the students of the working class. But at the same time, she does not want to put the money into the school system. It would take real money – money that would have to come from the wealthy and the corporations – to give any substance to her empty promises.

Pages 4-5

The Return of the Ebola Virus

Aug 5, 2019

The following article is translated from Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (The Power of the Workers), the journal of the Union Africaine des Travailleurs Communistes Internationalistes, the revolutionary workers group active among African workers.

This disease has caused the death of 1,700 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo since last summer. The recent Ebola death of someone in Goma, the second biggest city in the country, led the World Health Organization to classify it as a current epidemic at the level of a “world health emergency.” This city situated by Lake Kivu is an important crossroads in the region because it is close to the borders with Rwanda and Uganda. As a result, there is a big risk that the virus could circulate into the interiors of these three countries and spread even further.

The Ugandan authorities have begun a sort of hunt for the man on the pretext of putting their hands on the people who might have crossed paths with this contaminated person.

Remember that during an earlier wave of this epidemic that hit between 2014 and 2016, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were hit hard, with at least 11,300 deaths and untold more uncounted. In these three countries, enormous military forces were deployed around the villages infected with the virus, to impose a quarantine on populations that are already miserable in normal times. People in these villages were banned from going to go to work in their fields, or from exchanging products with the neighboring villages. In many places the result of this was to make people die of famine, in the end as much as from the Ebola fever. The aid promised by local dictators as well as the great powers was never seen in the villages hit by the epidemic.

Today in the region of Goma, many people who have a fever are not saying it, out of fear of being put in the treatment centers that have the reputation of being centers of death, deprived of even the minimum resources.

The dismay and suffering of the population do not at all impede capitalist exploitation. The soil and the sub-soil of this region produce enormous riches, for example the tin ore extracted by Alphamin, a rich U.S.-South African company.

It is true that science has not yet reached the point of discovering an effective treatment against this deadly disease that hits the populations of a number of African countries. An experimental vaccine exists, but the available quantity of doses is totally insufficient to confront the current epidemic.

The experts of the emergency committee that met in Geneva publicized the deception of the big powers about financing aid to confront Ebola. Research into treatments for this disease stagnates due to a lack of resources.

As for the capitalists who control the pharmaceutical industry and the production of vaccines, they are only interested in what can make them a profit. From their point of view, the African populations are too poor to be able to pay for the necessary treatments for this grave illness, as for many other less grave illnesses that nonetheless continue to kill.

Refugee Workers in Turkey

Aug 5, 2019

The following article was translated from the July 12 issue of Das Rote Tuch, published by the German group Bund Revolutionaerer Arbeiter (Revolutionary Workers Union).

In Turkey’s nut plantations, where hazelnuts for Nutella and other corporate food products are grown, Syrian refugees are exploited under the worst kind of conditions. The refugees are paid very low wages; and they are blackmailed and robbed by human traffickers, who call themselves “labor brokers.” Labor laws? Missing in action. Even child labor is an everyday occurrence on the plantations.

After the European Union did everything in its power to keep refugees in Turkey (and later also in Libya), these refugees have fallen into the hands of human traffickers – who in turn are doing the dirty work for big brands like Nestle, Ferrero and Godiva.

This is how big corporations profit off the misery of refugees, who are stranded outside the walls of “Fortress Europe.”

Rich Farmers Are Trump’s Real Beneficiaries

Aug 5, 2019

Trump says that he is planning to bail out the farms that won’t be able to sell their farm products to China because of the trade war Trump is waging against China. Soybean farmers in the U.S. cannot sell their crop because of the tariffs imposed on soybeans by China, in retaliation for the tariffs Trump placed on Chinese products. Trump’s farm bailout could reach 28 billion dollars in total. But the farms with annual revenues of several million dollars and above will likely be the main recipients of this handout.

Current federal crop support programs already include low cost crop insurance that covers farm losses in the trade war and steers billions in subsidies to agribusiness. The bailout payments are based on acreage in production, and therefore the largest share goes to the biggest farms.

Most U.S. farms are small, accounting for 89 percent of all farms, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The value of agricultural output from these small farms is less than 26 percent of total production. That is, the contribution of the big majority of farms to the overall agricultural economy is small, because most farms are small in acreage.

The large farms, those with annual cash income of one million dollars or more, account for only 2.8 percent of all farms. These large farms put out 40 percent of total agricultural production. These large farms are also highly industrialized, therefore capable of producing more farm products per acre than the small farms. So, the owners of large farms will take the lion’s share.

One such owner is Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who received 1.6 million dollars through government handouts from 1995 to 2017. Grassley applied for a share of the first 12-billion-dollar government bailout announced last year. He will be applying for a piece of the additional 16-billion-dollar bailout Trump announced later.

So, these hand-outs will enrich these already rich “farmers” through our tax money. Thus, whatever happens, trade war or not, the real winners are the rich, the true beneficiaries of Trump’s policies and of this capitalist system.

Guatemala:
The Next Migrant Prison Camp?

Aug 5, 2019

The Trump administration announced at the end of July that it had reached a deal with Guatemala to stop the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing Honduras and El Salvador from applying for asylum in the U.S. They are to be sent to Guatemala, a so-called “safe third country,” to apply for asylum there.

But no one who knows anything about Guatemala would call it a “safe third country.” More people have been fleeing Guatemala itself than anywhere else in Central America!

In fact, Trump is continuing a long-standing U.S. policy of using Central American police and militaries to control these populations. From the 1970s through the mid-1990s, the Guatemalan military – funded, directed, and trained by the U.S. – murdered 200,000 people to protect the interests of U.S. corporations and the Guatemalan business class. This kept a tiny wealthy class linked to the U.S. in power, and kept the bulk of the population in poverty.

The gangs which brutalize the population came out of this civil war, and are linked top to bottom with the police and the army. Now the corrupt Guatemalan state is again carrying out increasing repression against its own population. According to the human rights group Global Witness, Guatemala last year saw the biggest increase in murders of people defending their land from takeover and pollution by mining and plantation companies.

Yet even this Guatemalan government did not want to sign Trump’s deal because it feared the consequences of having tens of thousands more desperate people in their country. Trump had to use the weight of U.S. power to force Guatemala into it, threatening them with high tariffs, a travel ban, and high taxes on money sent back to Guatemala by immigrants living in the U.S.

With this cynical deal, Trump wants to play to his base, to make it seem like he is “protecting” people in the U.S. from these desperate migrants, who are in fact fleeing the consequences of U.S. imperialism. But if the U.S. actually starts sending hundreds of thousands of migrants to Guatemala, the consequence can only be even more brutal concentration camps to mirror those on the U.S.-Mexico border today.

France:
Heat Wave in a Renault Factory

Aug 5, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

It was dangerously hot in the Paris area on July 24 and 25. Inside the Renault factory in Flins west of Paris, it measured over 109 degrees.

It was hotter near the skylights and tin roofs, near the big presses where workers work on metal, and on the assembly lines. The pace of work had already been dangerous when it was three dozen degrees cooler!

Twenty workers fell out one after another. Some had to be evacuated by first responders. In the Paint department on night shift, workers had to stop working for a shift to get management to shut down one of the two production lines and make breaks longer.

Nothing of vital necessity to society is made in auto assembly plants. Customers can just as well wait a few more days to get the newest model. But management refused to stop production on the afternoon and night shifts, as union activists demanded. Many workers remembered the snowstorms that had blocked supply deliveries and forced management to cancel some shifts for some workers. Now, though, management only gave out bottles of water – hot room temperature water!

At a meeting of the Social and Economic Committee at the height of the heat wave, the foremen went manic and refused to stop production. Some union people walked out of the meeting.

Except for strenuous indoor activity, the labor law doesn’t set a temperature level above which it would be illegal to make people work. But bosses are supposed to provide ways to cool down. Union officials put out an alert about the serious and imminent danger of the heat, and contacted government inspectors.

Workers in the Press shop decided collectively to leave work two hours earlier. Many others on afternoon or night shift did not come to work at all. The bosses eventually had to be satisfied with barely meeting a third of their production target.

While the government was warning even healthy young people to go out as little as possible, not to move too much, and to stay well hydrated, the auto bosses’ desire for profit stayed red hot.

Brazil:
Attacking the Indians and Their Forest

Aug 5, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Emyra, the head of the Wayapi people in Brazil, was murdered by a band of gold miners on July 23. They also occupied the village and kicked out the inhabitants. Even though police were sent to investigate, many view the crime as a consequence of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s policy of treating Indians as parasites who block the modern and profitable exploitation of natural resources.

The Wayapi live in the mountains at the northern border of Brazil’s state of Amapá. The region has lots of gold and attracts gold prospectors called garimpeiros, desperate people ready to do anything in the hope of striking gold. They bring the Indians violence, prostitution, deadly measles outbreaks, and pollution of the rivers with mercury. They take over territory by terrorizing and hunting the Indians, killing those who resist or who might resist.

But the prospectors are only the first wave of colonizers. Once an area is cleared of its Indians and the gold veins are exhausted, then the serious operators show up. Loggers cut down and haul away valuable lumber, clearing the native forest and making room for cattle ranching or soybean and sugar cane plantations. For these agribusiness capitalists and gold diggers, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

The process of expropriating and exterminating Indian survivors of the Portuguese Conquest of Brazil has gone on since the rubber boom of the late 1800s. Soldiers during the dictatorship of the generals facilitated it by building a highway across the Amazon rainforest. The return to civilian government in 1985 and the coming to power of the Workers Party in 2002 did not stop it. Far from opposing deforestation, Workers Party President Lula went so far as to call the Amazon sugar cane plantation landlords heroes.

Today Bolsonaro only adds his cynical frankness to this policy. The few institutions said to protect the Indians have never protected them or their land from the intrusions of capitalist predators.

Pages 6-7

The People of Puerto Rico Push the Governor OUT!

Aug 5, 2019

Wednesday night, July 24, there was dancing in the streets of Puerto Rico. The governor had resigned!

The same governor, who had declared on Sunday he would NOT resign, was forced to resign three days later. And those dancing in the streets were the ones who had forced him out. People mobilizing in the streets of San Juan had driven him from office.

The protests may have been sparked off by a ton of chat messages between arrogant politicians. But those chat messages were only the spark.

The tinder for the bonfire that erupted all through the country was the colonial situation that Puerto Rican people have been living under for decades. Prices are higher than in the U.S., but wages are lower. An island blessed with natural running springs everywhere found its waters polluted by industries that came from the U.S. mainland. Policies imposed on its Caribbean colony by the U.S. government in the 1930s allowed U.S. companies to set up businesses in Puerto Rico, but pay no taxes at all for the next eight decades. When that policy was changed, requiring them to pay a small tax, many companies took that tax-free accumulated wealth and ran to Asia, sending Puerto Rico’s economy into a tailspin.

The result was skyrocketing unemployment and growing government debt. Debt was used as the pretext for a bankruptcy plan imposed on Puerto Rico by the U.S. government on behalf of Wall Street banks. A “federal oversight board” was imposed on Puerto Rico. It demanded that Puerto Rico’s government impose austerity policies on the population to pay the banks. Puerto Rico’s politicians obeyed their imperial masters. Services were cut, schools were cut, medical care was cut. The population’s standard of living, which was already low, was driven lower.

And then Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in September 2017. It was the strongest, most destructive hurricane ever to hit this part of the Caribbean. It hit a country whose emergency services had already been stripped to the bone.

The governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. have done almost nothing to help the population to recover. It took more than one year to get most electrical service back. There are still some pockets without service. Many people still don’t have clean running water. Public lighting remains sparse – except in tourist areas. Hospitals are starved for doctors and other staff.

To the extent there has been any recovery, it came from the people, who helped themselves and their neighbors rebuild. They were the ones who exposed the corruption in the so-called “rebuilding program.”

So, yes, people of Puerto Rico had every reason to rise up, every reason to revolt.

They have every reason to keep their revolt going. The problems didn’t stem from just one governor. They stem from a political system that keeps Puerto Rico controlled like a colony. The U.S. “federal oversight board” decided not to spend money to repair the hurricane’s damage – so that U.S. banks could keep getting their money. That’s colonialism, no matter what they call it.

The problems of Puerto Rico – just like the problems we face – stem from a capitalist system run by a very tiny class of exploiters who increase their wealth by driving down the standard of living of working people everywhere. The same U.S. banks that created the mortgage crisis, devastating whole sections of U.S. cities, are draining Puerto Rico of all its wealth. The same U.S. banks work out schemes with politicians to drain money from state workers’ pension funds here.

The people of Puerto Rico have begun a revolt. On the day after the governor resigned, people were in the streets, saying they wouldn’t stop there.

And what about us? Our lives are held hostage to the same system. We should cheer when we see the Puerto Rican people revolt. They are our brothers and sisters. We are all working people, no matter what country or what part of the world we come from.

They started a fight that could spread. We could join them. We could be part of it. Why sit on the sidelines any longer?

California’s Contaminated Water

Aug 5, 2019

As many as 1,000 district water systems in California are at a high risk of failure in delivering potable water, according to the California State Water Resources Control Board. That is, one out of every three California districts gets contaminated water. Already, more than 300 public water systems in the state are out of compliance with federal drinking water safety standards, and one million Californians are exposed to unsafe drinking water.

Mostly low-income working-class communities resting on thin budgets are served with such hazardous water by the State of California and its cities. One example is Willowbrook, located in South Los Angeles. For more than a year in this working-class community, discolored water has regularly gushed from faucets in hundreds of homes. L.A. County officials have admitted that the discoloration of the water comes from high levels of manganese in old pipes. But the officials say there is nothing to worry about; and they dismiss the discoloration as a secondary, aesthetic issue.

In the meantime Willowbrook’s contaminated water has been coating kitchen sinks and bathroom tubs with silt, clogging washing machines and boilers, causing costly replacements, and inflicting people with diseases like hives and stomach problems. No, this is obviously much more harmful than a mere “eye sore,” as the officials would want us to believe!

One in four residents of Willowbrook survive on poverty-level incomes. But they spend more money on drinking water than many families do in a wealthy community like Beverly Hills, only 20 miles away.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has allocated 130 million dollars annually in the budget he signed in June, to supposedly help distressed water systems in the state. But Willowbrook alone needs 14 million dollars just to carry out repairs, and upgrading the system will require much more. Since there are 1,000 more districts in need of upgrades in the state, the 130 million dollars is laughable.

California politicians brag about the state constituting the fifth-largest economy in the world. It’s not that they don’t have the money to make sure all residents of California get clean water – they are just not interested in delivering it, especially to working-class Californians.

Page 8

Global Warming Is Man-Made

Aug 5, 2019

As news of Greenland’s ice melting faster than ever hit the air waves, newly-released data confirmed the opinion that most climate scientists have held for decades: the current warming of the earth is driven by human activity.

Three groups of scientists looked into periods of heating (and cooling) over the last 2,000 years. Since temperature records exist only for the past 200 years or so, the researchers derived their temperature data from other sources, such as tree rings, glacier ice caps, lake and ocean sediments and cave deposits, as well as historical documents.

Fed into computers, the data revealed a very clear difference between the present warming trend and past ones: this time around, the temperature increase is happening everywhere on the planet at the same time, while in past periods of warming or cooling, the changes were regional.

The researchers were also able to link previous temperature changes to certain natural events, such as big volcano eruptions. There is no such natural event to point to this time. Instead, the present warming trend goes hand in hand with an increasing amount of carbon dioxide gas in the earth’s atmosphere, due to burning more and more fossil fuels for energy.

Today, as global warming melts the massive ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica faster and faster, so does mounting scientific evidence melt any remaining doubts that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming.

So it is much more clear today what the driving force behind the “global warming skepticism” always was: big capital’s callous, relentless pursuit of profit. Look how still today, decisions made in corporate boardrooms go toward increasing carbon emissions even more – while governments continue arguing about “which country’s” capitalists should reduce carbon emissions first.

The human cost of global warming – the uprooting, and further impoverishment, of hundreds of millions of people due to a rise of sea level, for example – is too steep to ignore (just look at the scope, and depth, of the already existing migrant/refugee crises around the globe). One more reason why humanity cannot afford to leave our future in the hands of capitalists.

Power Goes Out in Michigan

Aug 5, 2019

On July 19 and 20, storms with gusts of up to 70-mile-per-hour winds swept through Michigan. Utility companies DTE and Consumers Energy reported 800,000 customers without power in the state – well over a million people. Heat indices topped 110 degrees in some blackout-affected areas.

It took more than two days to get about 570,000 customers back on line with projections that the remaining 230,000 customers would have power restored in five days, by the end of Wednesday.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, which is supposed to regulate the utilities, apologized for them, citing “the weekend’s extraordinary storms.” But for ordinary people, there was nothing “extraordinary” about the utility’s and the Commission’s utter lack of proper maintenance of the power grid that everyone depends on. It is the utter lack of regular maintenance on tree trimming that resulted in nearly 5,000 downed power lines, mostly from falling limbs and trees.

Management’s policies are written to supply shareholders with profit: paying the yearly dividend. For DTE, paying nearly a dollar a share to the owners of 183 million common-stock shares; for Consumers Energy, paying $1.42 per share to the owners of 284 million shares. So the shareholding interests are blocking what workers need, and what workers would be able to do.

Like everywhere in this society, the people who do the work, do not make the decisions of how to organize the work. But if workers’ knowledge and their ability to fix the problems was not blocked, that could drastically change the outcome of storms and high winds. It can change the outcome of how all of society functions.

New Rules Restrict Women’s Health

Aug 5, 2019

In order to attack Planned Parenthood for sometimes recommending abortion, the Trump administration instituted new Title X rules that would end funding for any clinics referring women for abortion. The clinics are not doing the abortions, just the referrals.

Yet, thanks in part to women’s health clinics that help poorer women with birth control, abortion rates have been declining for 40 years.

The new rules, instituted in July, mean that numerous health problems won’t get addressed. In the past, Title X-funded clinics could provide free testing and free medications. Now, a Pap test to check for cervical cancer may cost $264. A mammogram to check for breast cancer may cost $160. A test for sexually transmitted diseases costs $100.

Even worse, the rules restrict access to birth control devices, which could stop unwanted pregnancies. When publicly funded clinics cannot offer them, the cost approaches $1,000. The three-month arm implant Nexplanon can cost up to $1,300 for women not covered by insurance.

A study from 2010 found that family planning clinics stopped millions of unintended pregnancies and thousands of cases of sexually transmitted diseases.

Without help from these clinics, it’s clear that unwanted children and unwanted diseases are going to increase under the new rules.

We should organize to fight these draconian changes, which negatively impact all working people.