The Spark

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

Issue no. 773 — April 24 - May 8, 2006

A choice between food or gas
– is no choice

Apr 24, 2006

Gas prices are shooting through the roof. Just when it seems they can’t go any higher, they shoot up again. It costs workers a fortune just to gas up the car to go to work. We are being forced to cut back on necessities.

The prices for heating oil and natural gas have gone up even faster, taking a huge chunk out of every family’s budget.

The oil companies blame these record price increases on what they call “supply and demand.” They claim that oil and gas supplies are shrinking. They blame Hurricane Katrina for cutting oil supplies. They blame political instability in Nigeria and in Venezuela, two big oil producing countries. They say a possible war in Iran, the fourth biggest oil producer in the world, is to blame for market “nervousness” and higher prices.

Meanwhile, they say China and India are burning up more energy every day.

All this is supposed to prove that the oil price increases are the natural workings of the market. Supply and demand.

Horse manure! There is no shortage – other than what the oil companies create.

A few oil companies dominate the entire world market, including oil drilling, extraction, refining and distribution. They are the richest and most powerful corporations in the world. Exxon-Mobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron aren’t just the brand names on gas stations. They exercise a true dictatorship over the world economy. They make and unmake kings, emirs and dictators in oil producing countries. They buy up politicians and spread corruption among government officials. They are behind wars in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. Millions of people are told they are fighting for their country, when they are really dying for the oil companies.

The companies do not reinvest their fabulous profits. They don’t look for alternative sources of energy. They don’t explore or produce more oil. Nor do they build new refineries to meet increasing demand. No, they are shutting down refineries. In this period of economic stagnation, the oil companies just pocket the profits, like capitalists everywhere. And because they are so big and powerful, the oil companies do it on a breathtaking scale.

Exxon-Mobil not only had record sales last year, but also the highest profits of any company in history. Those profits came out of our pockets, lowering our standard of living.

Of course, the oil companies are not the only ones to benefit. Speculators also get in on the action. All kinds of giant companies are overflowing with money. They are always on the hunt for new places to put that money, to extract a higher rate of return. They seize raw materials. They buy up crude oil, and then resell it at a higher price. The product doesn’t even have to move. Money just circulates. As the same oil is bought and sold over and over, the price is forced up.

The oil companies, their stockholders and the speculators are enriched even more. The government too rakes off its share in bigger sales and excise taxes. And we pay the same regressive rate whether we own an old car or a Lexus.

The oil companies and all those who profit from high oil prices know that they are impoverishing working people. They know that they are devastating poor countries. They know that the increase in energy prices hurts the economy as a whole.

They don’t care. They don’t even care if they destroy their own economy. What counts for them is that they make higher profits! What they call a “market economy” is really just the dictatorship of the capitalist corporations. This cannot represent the future of humanity!

Pages 2-3

Illinois schools:
Textbooks as antiques

Apr 24, 2006

Students in public schools throughout Illinois have out-of-date and broken textbooks. This was revealed in a study carried out by The Chicago Tribune. When students from Burbank, a working class suburb near Chicago, visited the Adler Planetarium, they were asked how many moons Jupiter has. They answered 16, which is what their ten-year-old science textbook says. But more than 60 moons are known today. The number is not important, but it shows that these students have missed out on the last ten years worth of developments in science. For example, now we know that many stars besides our sun have planets revolving around them. Nor does their textbook talk about genetic engineering.

At Richards Career Academy High School on Chicago’s South Side, children learn from a 1988 book that the Soviet Union is the big rival of the U.S. and Ronald Reagan is president. In other words, students are being taught “current events” from a book that is 18 years old. Their books leave them unequipped to understand the world around them that they have to live in.

The state of Illinois spends only a miserable $14 per student each year for books. Textbooks today typically cost between $51 and $86 each – at a high profit to the publishing companies – so the state is nowhere near buying one new book for each student a year. What a statement about how little the state of Illinois values the education of students!

It’s left up to local school districts to buy books. With little money given to them, they often turn to the parents.

Some parents can do that. In wealthy New Trier Township on the North Shore, parents spend nearly $400 per child for books. In Elmhurst parents spend $500 for a freshman’s books. But in the poor schools of Chicago, where most of the parents obviously don’t have that type of money, the children make do with old, out-of-date and defective books.

Instead of an equal education for everyone, the reality is that children of the wealthy are well prepared to enter the best colleges and take their place in modern society, while workers’ children are given an inferior education. It’s not surprising that only 7% of Chicago high school freshman complete college. The vast majority are being prepared to be dumped onto the labor market, to face years of unemployment and at best low-paying jobs. This is “equality” of education under capitalism.

Despite the government retreats, the fight against anti-worker laws must continue

Apr 24, 2006

The following is a translation of an article from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the paper of the French revolutionary workers organization.

The law against young workers – the CPE – has been withdrawn by French President Chirac and Prime Minister Villepin. Villepin claimed that despite his good intentions, he “just wasn’t understood.”

In fact, their intention to further legalize job insecurity was well-understood. That’s why thousands of university and high school students, as well as young workers, participated in demonstrations. The CPE was not only an attack on them, it also did nothing to reduce the enormous unemployment in France. The struggle forced the retreat of these politicians, who represent only the interests of the tiny minority who are the bosses. For the moment, the CPE will disappear. But the CNE remains.

The CNE (Contract for New Hires) is just as much an attack on workers as the CPE; it legalizes similar job insecurity. One article in this law allows bosses to start hiring apprentices at age 14, and allowing night shift work starting at age 15. These measures take workers backward by decades, in order to let the bosses pay almost nothing to have the very young sweep their factory floors.

Some of the young people continued to call for demonstrations, even after the CPE was withdrawn. They wanted a demonstration against the CNE – and they were right! They deserve the support of all the workers.

Meanwhile, what are the union federations doing? Their leaders are happily entering into a “dialogue” with the government, pretending to find some solution to youth unemployment. This dialogue will come to nothing.

Youth unemployment is part of general unemployment. The bosses are free to lay off workers, and not only those who are subcontractors or apprentices or temporary hires. The bosses can also lay off “permanent” workers, using the excuse of “restructuring” or relocating or just to increase the value of their stock.

To decrease youth unemployment, as well as not-so-young unemployment, we must prevent the bosses from laying off anyone. We must make them use part of their unheard-of profits to maintain and create jobs, to divide up the work among all workers.

But nobody talks of such a solution, not the left-wing opposition any more than the right-wing political majority. None of the politicians want to interfere with the bosses’ profits. Instead the left-wing politicians propose new tax breaks for the bosses, or they offer special financial breaks to the bosses to pay for hiring more workers.

The retreat of the government over the CPE is not only a success, it is a success that points the way forward. It was the street demonstrations that made the politicians retreat. The mobilization of the students was supported by an overwhelming majority of working people, some of whom also joined in the demonstrations during the national days of action.

Still, the bosses were not hit where it counts the most: in their pockets. Those who claim the crisis is over are mistaking their desire for the reality. The social crisis comes from the class war against the working class carried out relentlessly by the bosses, supported by every French government.

That war can only be stopped when workers enter the struggle in massive numbers, both demonstrating and striking. Workers have a social force which is capable of forcing the bosses and their governments to pull back.

Los Angeles:
The mayor proposes garbage tax hike

Apr 24, 2006

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has proposed raising trash-collection fees from $11 to $28 a month – a 155% increase – within the next four years. While the tax increase is supposed to be for single homes and small apartment buildings, it will certainly affect all renters through increases in rent.

The mayor says the money raised will be used to hire more than one thousand new cops. In other words, this is nothing but a back-door attempt to impose on city residents the same police tax that they turned down not so long ago. A ballot measure to increase the county sales tax in order to hire more cops was rejected in November 2004. The measure was especially unpopular in working-class neighborhoods with a large black population, where random police harassment of residents is an everyday occurrence.

But this proposal is only one part of a major tax increase offensive by city politicians. Two city councilmen are proposing a 1.5-billion-dollar bond measure to repave and repair streets. And the mayor, together with City Council President Eric Garcetti, is planning to put a one-billion-dollar bond measure for housing on the November ballot. The street repair bond measure alone would raise property taxes an average $2,000 over 20 years.

These politicians say the tax increases are necessary for maintaining city services because the city budget is 270 million dollars in the hole.

Wonder why there is such a big gap in the budget? Ask the politicians themselves! They are the ones who hand out all those lucrative contracts and subsidies to big corporations. Not to mention that across-the-board, 15% business tax cut that the same City Council unanimously voted just one and a half years ago!

Blatantly taxing working people to provide breaks to the wealthy

Apr 24, 2006

Under the guise that it has no money, the city of Detroit, like other cities, is instituting a fee for residential garbage pickup – $300 per year. Detroit, though, is being right up front about who’s benefitting from the new tax.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s latest budget includes the elimination of a 3 mil property tax which used to pay for trash pickup, right alongside the new fee, which replaces it. The difference in the fees is that the property tax hits higher on those with high-priced homes, while everyone pays the same fee under the new plan.

For example, Detroit assesses taxes on homes at 50% of their market value. Someone with a home valued at $200,000 would pay the 3 mil tax on $100,000. That comes to around $300. But many Detroit homes have a value of much less than $200,000. The owner of a $60,000 home will pay the same $300, as will the owners of much more expensive homes in neighborhoods like Palmer Park or Indian Village.

Someone with a home valued at one million dollars currently pays $3,000. They get a $2,700 tax break, while poor people make up the difference.

Contrary to what some residents have been led to believe, the new fee does NOT pay for bulk trash pickup, which has been eliminated

Compared to all the attacks, $300 may seem like a little thing, but the substitution of this new tax stands as a symbol. It’s just one part of a much broader policy of giving money to the wealthy while making working people pay more for everything from water to textbooks – even fees for disabled bus riders!

The city has granted tax abatements to people moving into new houses, condos and lofts in Neighborhood Enterprise Zones. An analysis by the Detroit News showed the city is losing over 63 million dollars in taxes each year because of these breaks. The paper says that’s enough to provide 750 firefighters or teachers, fund three years of bulk trash pickup, finance the entire city lighting department for a year, or run the recently shuttered Belle Isle aquarium for 60 years!

Kilpatrick got himself re-elected by playing the city against the suburbs. But look what he is doing in the city – taxing working people and even the very poor to give money to the same wealthy class that he rails against.

Just another proof you can’t trust a politician of either party any further than you can spit!

Detroit high school students walk out over deteriorating schools

Apr 24, 2006

Around 200 students at Mackenzie High School in Detroit staged a walkout on March 29. They were protesting a lack of textbooks, dirty bathrooms, leaking roofs, poor security and mandatory uniforms.

Students at the school often have only one book for every three students. The school’s roofs have leaked, causing damage to some of the school’s few computers. Students passed around flyers showing broken toilets. One student, Tyranna Maclean said, “The bathrooms are terrible – the toilets are over-flooded, the sinks are over-flooded ... And nobody wants to use the bathroom. Security, they come when they want to. There’s no real security at the school.”

Widespread budget cuts in the Detroit Public Schools have created similar conditions at all of the schools. They have removed janitorial staff and replaced them with contractors who come around only once in a while. There are few if any workers on the grounds to fix problems when they arise.

Even the schools considered the best in the Detroit system, the “magnet” schools, are scraping by. The Detroit School of Arts, formerly the School of Fine and Performing Arts, no longer gives performances.

Detroit police broke up the Mackenzie demonstration before it could spread to other schools. They took 32 students into custody, charging one of the students with inciting a riot, which is a felony, and eight others with disorderly conduct.

Police also ticketed parents of some of the students, threatening them with fines of up to $250.

The school’s principal, Bernard Bonam, had the nerve to blame the students. He said the problems with the bathrooms and lockers were a result of vandalism.

The students and their parents from the Mackenzie High expressed what they thought about his disgusting attitude, the penalties and the rotten conditions. They demonstrated at a meeting of the newly elected school board. More power to them!

Pages 4-5

Letter from a participant in the Chicago demonstrations

Apr 24, 2006

Starting around June 2005, some of my friends began talking about attacks on immigrants. Some relatives began talking about getting together to protest and possibly miss a day of work for immigrant rights. One relative heard about it at his workplace in a far northern suburb. The first time I heard about it was when this relative brought it up at a club meeting of people from my hometown.

Also, there was the beginning of discussion on La Ley and La Que Buena (two Spanish radio stations). At first, this discussion began from people calling them and asking if it was true that attacks on immigrants were coming up, and if it was a good idea to miss a day of work, if it would have any impact on the lawmakers. At first, El Chokolate, a talk show host on La Ley, thought it was a good idea. El Pistolero, another talk show host on La Que Buena, was reserved at first. He said we need to know all the facts, we need to know what’s really behind the reforms the politicians are talking about, before we take any action.

When it got close to the time of the first march last summer, El Chokolate was calling on the leaders of the club federations to join and really build up the march. At one point, another relative asked if our club was participating and we discussed it at the club. Some people in the leadership of the club weren’t too enthusiastic, but the president of the club came and some other people from the club also came. Out of 10 active members of the club, four came to the first march. Out of the 200-250 people around the club, around 80 came to the first march. At work, on third shift, no one came to the first march. Afterwards, everyone was asking about it, if I went, how it was, and were happy about it.

The first march was on Ashland and 43rd, a Mexican area. It was on the radio, and people heard from neighbors, co-workers and friends. Some people came in groups from their clubs, but most people were not organized in groups. A lot of people had signs, the most common signs were “we are not terrorists, we are workers,” “We are all America,” “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” “immigrants have rights.” A small chain of Mexican restaurants called La Kermes provided people with materials to make their own signs.

From the beginning, many people called in to the radio, including the clubs and Centro Sin Fronteras (the No-Borders Center) led by Emma Lozano.

At the end of the first march, El Pistolero, El Chokolate, Emma Lozano, and a few aldermen with Spanish names from immigrant neighborhoods, and Luis Gutierrez, a Puerto Rican Congressman from mostly Mexican neighborhoods spoke. Some people I spoke to said, “the Democrats are trying to use this, they’re taking advantage of this.” Other people said, “it’s good that they come, so we’re not alone.”

After the first march, people were very excited, especially those who attended and those who wanted to go but couldn’t for one reason or another. They said it’s a very good thing that a lot of people came. However, that march got very little attention in the English media because it was entirely in a Mexican area. People at the first march raised this question about why the march wasn’t downtown.

In August, there was a second march, which was smaller, but it went downtown to the Daley center.

Before the third march, there was a little bit more buildup. There were 40 buses available just from Aurora (a far suburb) paid for by La Quinta de los Reyes, a different restaurant chain. A lot of people called in to the radio, but a lot of people don’t listen to the radio so they heard from friends, etc.

Many people came from my club and from the suburbs, who hadn’t been before. Out of the 10 active members of the club, six came.

This third march was much bigger. The march completely filled a wide street for at least two miles. Some police and organizers tried to make people march only in the center of the street and not on the sidewalks, but there were too many people.

People were chanting more angrily, in English and Spanish. There were also a lot of young people, even some who looked like they were in gangs. They were marching and not causing any problems, which was commented on by many people. There were also some young black people in the march, from high schools that are mixed that sent everyone. At least one high school sent everyone, and many high schools let people go if they wanted.

Another friend works in a factory where a group of people asked permission, but the owner said no, they couldn’t miss work for it. The foreman then said, “if you want to go, just leave, and I’m sure you won’t get in trouble,” so he left with around 25 people. Other people got permission from small shops to go. Some workers got in trouble for coming. My cousin said at his factory they wanted to go, but they were afraid. Some people took off without permission, but others didn’t want to go. Later, the boss said he would have given them permission.

Some big politicians, including Blagojevich, Daley, Gutierrez and others spoke. There were signs saying “support Kennedy-McCain,” but there were not many like that. When people were chanting, they were calling for amnesty, not a guest worker program.

People who participated were impressed by the strength of the march. Everyone was happy that it was such a huge march, that they took the time to participate. People who didn’t go regretted that they missed it. I didn’t hear anyone who was against it.

The divisions the bosses try to impose on the working class

Apr 24, 2006

On April 9 and 10, more than a million people took to the streets in Washington, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities protesting HR 4437, the House-passed anti-immigration bill, which would criminalize not just undocumented immigrants, but anyone who helped them.

Much of the business community quietly encouraged these demonstrations. Some business organizations even took credit for helping to build them. “We didn’t expect when they all started to be this successful and to get that many people involved,” said Angelo Amador, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “You always push that threat and say, ?Well, we’re going to hold you accountable, we’re going to tell everybody,’ and one out of 10 times it works out. This time it did.

For months, business lobbyists and trade groups had been pushing for the “moderate” alternative to HR 4437. “Lobbyists representing small and big business and trade groups... had been staking out the U.S. Senate night and day” (New York Times, April 15) to get an immigration “reform” bill passed.

According to the New York Times, some trade groups vowed to withhold campaign contributions from any politician who continued to support the anti-immigrant HR 4437 because “that will severely harm or destroy the industry.” Instead, John Gay, the co-chairman of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which represents thousands of companies, big and small, in the hotel, service and trade industries, said that their members must “contact their senators and let them know that the compromise that was struck [in the Senate] is alive and well, and is a good deal that should be supported.”

Of course, these companies are supporting immigration “reform,” like the Senate “compromise” bill, because it is a good deal – for the U.S. bosses. U.S. bosses in many industries, including farming, garment, food manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, construction, janitorial services, hotels and restaurants already depend to a great extent on “undocumented immigrants” to do their work. Immigration “reform” would legalize the situation making what these companies do perfectly legal.

For the workers, though, it would be a different story. Sure, these companies and politicians hold out the hope that what they call immigration “reform” will bring more rights for immigrants, eventually legal residency, and for some, much later, citizenship. But under the terms of the Senate bill, many of them will never be legalized, much less citizens. Moreover, what the bill’s supporters don’t say is that for those who are “legalized,” these workers will still have few, if any legal rights for the next ten years.

This would leave immigrant workers living under a form of indentured servitude. They would be practically “owned” by their boss. If they dared stand up to demand something better, the bosses could not only fire them, but also have them deported.

The bosses are already taking advantage of “undocumented” workers. Even when big companies don’t directly hire “undocumented” immigrants, they outsource part of the work to companies that do. Thus, the bosses pressure workers who earn a bit more to either accept less, or to be replaced by someone who will accept less. And several big companies – such as Delphi, the giant auto parts maker that is trying to drastically force down its workers’ wages and benefits – undoubtedly want direct access to this most vulnerable section of the working class.

The use of more desperate, vulnerable labor to drive down the wages and working conditions of all workers is nothing new. Capitalists have always been on the hunt to take advantage of fresh sources of desperate and vulnerable workers. In the past, part of that workforce came from people forced out of the countryside, whether they were sharecroppers, farm hands or small family farmers and ranchers. For hundreds of years, this supply of labor from the countryside was supplemented by the labor of millions of slaves, who had been ripped out of Africa. Later, there were constant new waves of immigrants, who were so desperate they braved long and unsafe voyages over the sea and tried to survive in a strange land in miserable hovels.

The immigrants were discriminated against, hounded, segregated and persecuted – while the violence against black people left a 450-year history of deprivation and bitterness.

The history of the U.S. working class is a history of divisions and workers used against each other, with the lowest paying jobs reserved for the most recent immigrants and the greatest unemployment permanently reserved for the black population. But at critical times, both immigrant and native-born workers, black and white, all organized together, fought for higher wages, shorter working hours and better working conditions. In so doing, they built large and powerful unions.

Today, immigrants have demonstrated their anger against this society that criminalizes them. What a tragedy if their anger were to be harnessed only to push through a law that serves the interests of the bosses.

Full legal rights for immigrants!

Apr 24, 2006

There is no protection for any worker when part of the working class is considered “illegal.”

So long as immigrants are classified as “illegal,” the bosses have a weapon to use against them if they decide to fight to improve their situation – and thus a weapon to use against the rest of the working class.

When one part of the working class can’t fight for better wages, everyone’s wages are at risk.

Full legal rights for immigrants! This should be the demand of every worker.

Immigrants shouldn’t have to ask for “amnesty” – they did nothing wrong! The bosses and their government are the criminals.

Immigration raids:
What can be expected for the future

Apr 24, 2006

On April 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detained nearly 1,200 workers in 26 states who worked for pallet maker IFCO for alleged immigration violations. They also arrested seven company managers, accusing them of conspiring to harbor “illegal” immigrants, charges that can carry long prison terms.

The timing for such a large-scale immigration raid was hardly an accident. Congress is set to once again take up immigration reform. The raids are meant to assure the Republican Party’s extreme right-wing base that so far has blocked all but the most repressive immigration laws.

At the same time, the Bush administration was sending a message to immigrants mobilizing to pressure Congress for legalization of undocumented immigrants that they better accept whatever rotten reform that Congress and the Bush administration settle on. That is, the Bush administration is threatening those who have been demonstrating that they better stop their mobilization after a new law is passed – or face much greater repression.

In other words, the raids are one more indication that whatever new immigration reforms are enacted will not be in the interests of the immigrant workers.

May 1:
Get their feet off the brakes!

Apr 24, 2006

After the unexpectedly large demonstrations for immigrant rights, a sentiment for a national immigrant strike on Monday, May 1 began to develop. A demonstration of the strength of immigrant workers in this society made sense to many.

But not to many of those who were given places of leadership in calling the first demonstrations.

SEIU District 82 Director Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigration Coalition (NCIC), first voiced concern over those who might be fired for missing a day of work, and later said that his coalition would not take part in any work stoppages on May 1.

Radio disk jockeys such as the nationally syndicated “El Piolin,” who had promoted the first demonstrations, or El Pistolero in Chicago, backed off and urged students and listeners not to jeopardize their “children’s education” by boycotting a day of school. Some told workers that a May Day strike would give a bad “public impression.”

Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony, one of many in the Catholic Church who supported the first demonstrations, said, “Go to work. Go to school. Then join ... at a major rally afterward.”

How fitting if May Day – wiped out of American memory but honored and celebrated as International Workers’ Day around the world – were returned to American soil through the memories and struggles of the newest immigrants?

Those who think it would not be so good – the Cardinal Mahonys, the SEIU directors and “Coalition” presidents, the newly cautious DJs – have taken their places in the game. If left to these sorts of leaders, there will be no place for the movement to go but to be channeled into the dead ends already prepared for it by the bourgeoisie.

To stop that from happening, there need to be people who can expose the plans of the bosses in this complex game, and who can propose ways for immigrant workers to organize for themselves.

A May Day in that tradition would be far better than listening once again to the bosses’ spokespersons who claim that workers’ hopes must wait on the bosses’ laws, and on the McCains and Kennedys who write these laws.

Pages 6-7

Politicians play games with rate hikes

Apr 24, 2006

Leading Democrats in Maryland claimed they are opposed to the 72% electric rate hike BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric Company) wants starting July 1. But the state legislature – controlled in both houses by the Democrats – adjourned recently without taking any action to prevent the hike. They handed it over to Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, to deal with.

Now the Democrats have gone home, congratulating themselves. Since the governor is likely to do whatever BGE wants, he will face the angry voters in November. The Democrats are hoping that voters will forget all about the legislative session when they could have voted against the rate increases – but didn’t.

Voters will have monthly utility bills reminding them of these political games.

Bankrupt companies have Ford equipment?

Apr 24, 2006

Ford Motor Co. is asking U.S. lawmakers to change bankruptcy law so that it can recover its equipment and inventory held by supplier companies, if those companies file for bankruptcy.

Let’s get this straight. How did Ford equipment get into these companies? Did the companies steal it? Did it grow legs and walk?

No – it’s merely part of the fiction about “separate” companies. When big companies like Ford and GM spin off companies, intending to cut workers’ wages and benefits, they are stuck with the unpleasant fact that most of the “spun off” equipment was in fact paid for by the parent company and integrated in that company’s original production.

Caught in a trap of their own making, Ford has deployed its lawyers – trying to have its cake and eat it, too.

Wall Street understands GM’s game

Apr 24, 2006

General Motors did everything it could to show a “loss” on its books for the first quarter of 2006. But Wall Street understood the message and bid GM stock up ten%!

Two facts buried in tall tales about GM’s “problems” told the real story:







“Bankrupt” Delphi provides luxury cruises

Apr 24, 2006

Delphi Corporation is in bankruptcy proceedings. CEO Steve Miller declared he could not afford to pay $68 an hour (a lie) for workers to mow lawns (another lie).

But he could afford to send more than 200 dealers and salespeople on a week-long Caribbean cruise last month, on the Caribbean Princess cruise ship with $3,000 staterooms, several pools, and a golf course, with stops at St. Thomas, St. Maarten and the Princess Cays islands.

Cruise directors estimated the cost for such a trip at about a million dollars.

Of course, to Miller – whose “bankrupt” company brings in about 28 billion dollars yearly in sales, and to whom Delphi paid 3.87 million dollars compensation in 2005, and who expects to personally pick up 35 million in stock bonuses after Delphi restructures – to Miller, what’s a million-dollar cruise or two?

Bob King’s fun house mirror of reality

Apr 24, 2006

Speaking to an automotive conference in Detroit, Bob King, the UAW’s vice president for organizing, said: “We have made a conscious choice to put aside the adversarial approach. We believe adversarial relationships drive manufacturing jobs out of the country.”

How would the top UAW leadership know? It’s been close to 22 years since the UAW carried out a strike that shut down an entire auto company. And in militant strikes like Caterpillar in 1992 and Accuride in 1998, the top UAW leadership attacked the strikers at critical junctures – cutting off strike pay, decertifying union locals, and other dirty tricks. They left the strikers to twist in the wind, helping the companies to defeat them thoroughly.

Some locals have been willing to fight. But top UAW leadership has not had an adversarial approach for decades. And what has been the result of their NON-adversarial approach? The loss of two thirds of UAW represented jobs since 1979!

Workers can’t keep their jobs – or their wages and benefits – if they don’t fight for them.

Page 8

The costs of war

Apr 24, 2006

April 29th is set for a demonstration in New York City against the war in Iraq, called by a coalition of organizations. It isn’t the first demonstration and it shouldn’t be the last. We have an obligation to express our opposition to this rotten war.

The war in Iraq has cost the lives of close to 2,400 U.S. troops, according to the Department of Defense as of the end of April. An added 17,549 soldiers are considered wounded in action during this war. More than 200 additional coalition troops are dead in Iraq and almost 300 more U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war.

These numbers are undoubtedly low, because they are official and the administration wants support for its wars. So U.S. soldiers treated outside VA or military hospitals don’t count among the wounded. In addition, a psychiatrist seeing those returning from Iraq estimated that one in six soldiers was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, that is, the neurological and psychological problems arising from a constant situation of war and being part of an occupying army. The cost of such problems will be borne not only by soldiers’ families but by all of society, as was seen in the problems of returning soldiers from previous wars.

There are no neat clean wars.

But the cost for the people of Iraq has been even higher: their country, their homes and their families have been bombed by the most powerful armed force in existence.

The official figures for Iraqi casualties are 20 people per day dying the first year of the war; an average of 31 people per day dying the second year of the war; an average of 36 people per day dying the third year of the war. And these are only the official figures. Reality is much worse. Furthermore, as the attacks by sectarian militias on civilians spread, the count of the dead, tortured and wounded will rise.

What cannot be measured is the cost of the anger and humiliation felt by the Iraqis who survive. It doesn’t count the cost of a whole generation of children destroyed; it doesn’t count human misery. A city of five million people, Baghdad, has electricity only for three to four hours per day – even when the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

Then there is the financial cost inside this country, a cost made up of much more than the 300 BILLION dollars that Congress has already authorized directly for the war and occupation.

Real problems right here at home remain unsolved and unfunded. For example, 300 billion dollars would have paid average salaries for more than six million additional teachers. Not only are public schools in crisis, our bridges and roads are falling apart. Older and younger people need health care they cannot pay for. Hundreds of thousands of Katrina survivors have not been helped to rebuild their destroyed homes, nor is there a plan to help the Gulf coast survive future hurricanes.

After the fall of the “wall” in 1989, some politicians claimed there would be a peace dividend. Instead we see more spending on warfare, with the United States accounting for almost half of the world’s total military spending. For 2006, the U.S. budget included more than 440 billion dollars for the Department of Defense, NOT including what was spent on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Four hundred billion dollars is the equivalent, for example, of two million new homes, each costing $200,000. Cities and towns all need new housing.

It is not just the families of U.S. soldiers who have every reason to demonstrate on April 29. Everyone does.


Rummy and the Generals:
A falling-out among friends

Apr 24, 2006

Six generals have now publicly called for the removal of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Everyone has cited his handling of the war in Iraq as the major reason.

Rumsfeld responded by saying that the generals don’t like change – his reorganization of the military. And besides, he pointed out, there’s only six of them calling for his head, out of thousands of retired generals. The rest, he insisted, support his decisions. The generals responded by bringing out the person who has always spoken for them in Congress: U.S. Representative John Murtha.

Murtha declared that he was not surprised that six retired generals had called for Rumsfeld’s removal or resignation, and said there were a lot more who felt the same way. “I’ve been speaking for a lot of people in the military who are afraid to come forward and speak themselves,” he said.

Murtha, a Democrat with longstanding ties to the military, himself actively pushed for the Iraq invasion before it happened. He has been known as one of the biggest war hawks in Congress. Yet last November, he called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq within six months. His call, and his criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the war, were then widely seen as speaking for a large number of officers in the active military.

In their opposition to Rumsfeld and Bush’s war in Iraq, though, the military did NOT oppose the Iraq war itself. Their beef is not with the invasion and the war, but with the way it has been carried out. John Batiste, the most recent general to speak out, wrote in the Washington Post: “We went to war with the wrong war plan,” and, “We must complete what we started in Iraq.”

The generals’ concern is that the mess in Iraq has “broken” the U.S. military – making it more difficult to send the military into other places around the world. Murtha said that the war in Iraq has made it impossible to consider using troops to invade Iran – an option that HE believes should be on the table.

Murtha and the generals might be fighting Bush and Rumsfeld – but only because they disagree as to how the U.S. can most effectively be the cop of the world.

Whether it follows Rumsfeld’s policy or that of the generals – that “Cop of the World” is still our enemy, leading attacks on us and on the rest of the world’s populations every day.

Hands covered with blood?
Heckuva Job, Rummy!

Apr 24, 2006

After the latest calls for Rumsfeld's ouster, Bush supported Rummy, saying, "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I"m the decider, and I decide what is best, and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense."

Bush is the "decider," alright – and he decides that hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq is just fine by him.