The Spark

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

Issue no. 812 — December 17, 2007 - January 7, 2008

Impatient to put 2007 behind us!

Dec 17, 2007

The balance sheet for the year 2007 is grim – at least for the working people of this country.

By the end of this year, nearly two million households will be expected to have lost their homes. Some, of course, lost them for the usual reasons in a society organized around the chase for profit: big medical bills ate up family income; unemployment shrank family income; divorce or separation or death meant that the surviving partners didn’t have enough income to keep up the payments.

But powering onto the scene this year, a new danger pushed all those “ordinary” reasons aside. People are losing their homes in a mortgage scam run by the very biggest financial institutions in the country: Citigroup and its associated Citi National Bank, Merrill Lynch & Company, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, among others.

These schemers, through massive speculation, created a housing bubble. Now that it’s collapsing, credit markets are collapsing and so is employment in the construction industry. So is employment in the auto industry. So is employment in retail and government services, as well as those basic industries that supply heavy goods production.

The wealthy people who own capital are freezing up their own capital markets today. Not trusting each other nor their own system, they are hoarding their money – creating a disaster for almost the whole of society.

A disaster for nearly everyone – except for that very tiny minority at the top of the economic ladder. The wealthiest one% of the population enjoyed as much income last year as the bottom 56%. This is the greatest share of income taken by the very wealthy since 1928 and 1929, just before the speculative crash that plunged society into the depths of the Great Depression.

Bush, trying to justify his policies, says that the growing concentration of wealth is not new, that the gap has been growing for more than 25 years. That’s true – one of the few true things Bush ever uttered.

But if the gap has been growing for a long time, this does not make it natural nor normal.

That many people sacrifice more and more for the benefit of the few is not normal – and it reflects this abnormally long time when the working class has not struggled. The last widespread struggles of the working class played out at the end of the 1970s. Here or there, there have been workers who carried out fights since then, sometimes even tough ones, sometimes ones that succeeded. But overall, the working class has let itself be driven backwards for 25 or even 30 years.

One of the worst retreats was the 2007 contract pushed through by the auto companies, with the support of the union leadership. This somewhat protected section of the working class let wages for the next generation of workers be cut in half. They agreed that there be no regular medical coverage and no real pension for the next generation. They agreed to tear up the guarantee of lifetime medical coverage for those already retired, and for themselves when they retire.

It’s obvious that these concessions are not the end of the line – neither for auto workers themselves, nor for workers in all those other industries that set their wages in relationship to what auto pays.

There were workers in auto who organized trying to stop this backward slide – enough to be heard more loudly than at any time over the last half century in auto, but not enough to stop it. Not yet.

So what can the working class anticipate, coming into 2008? Just this: Nothing will improve until the working class begins to battle for improvements.

Workers made these kinds of fights in the past. Were they more intelligent than this generation? No. More oppressed? No. More angry? No. Maybe just more impatient.

So, here’s one vow for the new year – let it be the one when working people not only express their impatience, but act on it.

Pages 2-3

New Jersey death penalty ban:
It’s about time!

Dec 17, 2007

The New Jersey state legislature voted to repeal the death penalty on December 13. Governor Jon S. Corzine is expected to sign the bill as early as Monday December 16.

In repealing the death penalty, New Jersey became the first state to do so since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Thirteen other states have banned the death penalty for decades, or have never allowed it, going back to Michigan, which had banned it in 1846, even before Michigan became a state.

Congratulations to the New Jersey legislature for finally coming out of the Dark Ages by banning such a barbaric practice. Now maybe the remaining 36 states will catch up!

Winter storms:
A few private interests freeze millions

Dec 17, 2007

On Monday, December 10, a large storm of ice and snow started in Oklahoma and moved through the central Midwest. Thirty-two people were killed in the storm. At least a million homes and businesses lost power as ice-coated trees crashed onto power lines, and other power lines weighed down by ice collapsed.

Four days later, the disaster area was still a disaster. At least 748,000 homes and businesses were still without power! A city administrator in Missouri said, “there are mountains and mountains of brush and limbs” to clear away.

A spokeswoman for the Public Service Company of Oklahoma said, “It looks like a war zone out there.”

An ice storm, even a large one, is not unusual in the Great Plains in winter! How then does it create a “war zone?”

The “war zone” was not a creation of nature but of man – specifically, the energy companies that own and operate the power systems on which we all depend.

Their war is against us, to extract from us the most money possible, to deliver large returns to the shareholders of the energy companies.

This means that funds for preventive tree trimming and removal are cut to the bare minimum – “shareholder return” is a far higher priority! It means that spare parts and equipment aren’t kept ready. It means that only the bare minimum of workers are hired to keep the power grid patched up with spit and baling wire, instead of being kept up in a condition to withstand bad weather.

And as far as keeping enough trained labor on the rolls, ready for just such regularly occurring “emergencies” – well, forget that! People can just stay cold, hungry and trapped until the companies’ skeleton crews get around to them. It wasn’t nature that made these decisions – only greedy capitalists.

How to get away with murder
– be a Chicago cop

Dec 17, 2007

Cops in Chicago are given free rein to shoot and kill people and are almost never held accountable. This is the conclusion of an investigative report published recently by the Chicago Tribune. More than 100 people were killed by the Chicago police over the past decade. In 12 cases the person had been shot in the back. Yet the county prosecutor over the last decade never once charged a cop with shooting a civilian while on duty.

Instead of putting killer cops on trial, the county prosecutor was busy bringing people who survived police shootings to trial. The Tribune found that in 12 cases, the charges against the person shot were dropped or the trial acquitted them. So if the people who were killed were innocent of any crime, what does that say about the police?

Some of the families of those killed went to court, charging the cops and the city that employed them with wrongful death. The city of Chicago was forced to pay out 59 million dollars in settlements to these families, thus admitting police and city responsibility.

The Tribune gave the story of 20-year-old paraplegic Cornelius Ware. In 2003, cops in an unmarked police car pulled him over for running a stop sign. The cops drew their guns and told him to get out. Ware’s mother yelled from the sidewalk, “He can’t walk! He’s paralyzed!” But a cop fired five shots anyway, then reloaded and shot again. As Ware lay dying, police supervisors quickly cleared the cop of any wrongdoing. However, when Ware’s family brought suit, a trial jury sided with them and the city of Chicago had to pay 5.3 million dollars for this officially sanctioned murder.

Those millions of dollars paid out for “wrongful death” are – right now – the only real indictment of cops who murder. That is, until the population holds the police to account.

The “greatest democracy in the world” and torture

Dec 17, 2007

In 2005 the CIA destroyed two videotapes of forced interrogations of supposed Al-Qaida members carried out in 2002. For two years no one who knew said anything about it – now suddenly, it’s come to light. And the politicians rushed to appear shocked.

“I think we have to draw a bright line and say,‘No torture – abide by the Geneva Conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,’ and then try to make sure we implement that,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate. John McCain, a Republican presidential candidate, said, “There will be skepticism and cynicism all over the world about how we treat prisoners and whether we practice torture or not.”

What B.S.! If this affair puts new light on the brutal methods used by the state apparatus, these methods have been known for a long time, including by those who claim to be naive and pretend to be indignant today.

In fact, the terrorist attacks of September 11 gave the U.S. government a favorable climate to impose wholesale attacks on civil liberties. These attacks were incorporated into the PATRIOT Act, voted for by Democrats as well as Republicans. The reinforcement of the rule of arbitrary power and the free rein given to the intelligence services only encouraged the practice of torture in the shadows.

The Washington Post reported that in 2002 and 2003 the CIA organized 30 meetings with Democrats and Republicans of the Congressional Intelligence Committees to explain the strong-arm methods used against so-called “enemy combatants.” Current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did not denounce the practices. With only some formal objections, no one else did either.

The strong-arm methods in question consist of depriving prisoners of sleep, submitting them to near-drowning, leaving them for a long time in painful positions, humiliating them and submitting them to extreme temperatures. These methods were given a tacit OK by the silence of the members of Congress who knew about them. It’s obvious such methods are torture – and just as obvious, as any authority on intelligence has always explained, information obtained in this way is almost always false.

Last July, undoubtedly to cover itself, the Bush Administration issued an order prohibiting the CIA from torturing suspects and the use of, “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.” But it also authorized secret detention – where the CIA was sure to use whatever methods it wanted.

The Administration didn’t get Congress to approve outright legalization for these methods, but that didn’t prevent Congress from officially encouraging them. And shutting up.

All this is surprising only to those who believe that the leaders of this so-called democracy are more respectful of civil liberties and human dignity than are brutal dictators. This clearly isn’t the case.

Miami, Florida:
Jury squashes FBI frame-up

Dec 17, 2007

The trial of seven Miami workers accused of plotting to bomb the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago ended in the acquittal of one and a hung jury for the rest. The government’s case against the six construction workers and a small contractor was an obvious set-up. All were struggling to survive in Miami’s poor Liberty City neighborhood, when they were arrested and charged in June 2006. The workers had gone along with the contractor’s plan to try to con two government informants posing as Al Qaeda representatives out of $50,000 dollars they promised.

But no actual plans were ever drawn up and no money was ever paid to the defendants. The contractor even pawned a camera he was given to take pictures of potential target buildings in order to buy food for his family. The bugged warehouse where the defendants met with the supposed Al Qaeda agents and did martial arts training was paid for by the FBI. An informant also suggested the plan to bomb FBI offices in Miami. As one of the defense attorneys said in his closing statement, “The case was written, produced and directed by the FBI.”

Ever since 9/11, the government has organized imagined terrorist plots in the U.S. in order to justify its wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and to justify its blatant violation of rights in this country.

The Liberty City 7 were just one more group of people lured into one of these imagined plots – so imaginary that another jury has seen through government manipulation. There are terrorist plots in this country all right – carried out by the U.S. government against us and against other people.

Bulking up profits on steroids

Dec 17, 2007

After former Senator George Mitchell released his report on the use of steroids in baseball, commissioner Bud Selig promised to clean up the sport, for the“integrity of the game” and the sake of the nation’s kids.

George Bush urged “those in the public spotlight, particularly athletes, to understand that when they violate their bodies, they’re sending a terrible signal to America’s young.”

Yes, the same signal team owners – who by the way included both Selig and Bush not so long ago – had sent to earlier generations of players. Bulk up or get out!

This is the league that would do anything to put fans in the seats, including juicing the ball to increase offensive production.

When bulked up players started belting out homers at a record pace no one said a word, even though everyone knew what was going on. No one uttered a peep even after a reporter found a bottle of the steroid androstenedione in Mark McGwire’s locker. And when Paul Lo Duca was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers when he stopped using steroids, everyone knew why and said nothing.

The wrong message is being sent to America’s youth alright – by all those hypocrites who are uttering moralistic claptrap today.

Pages 4-5

Victorious strike at Turk Telekom

Dec 17, 2007

On November 29, after a strike of 44 days, the 25,600 workers at the telecommunications company Turk Telecom won the majority of their demands.

At the beginning of 2005, Turk Telekom was privatized. The company that bought it, officially the Oger company, belongs to the Lebanese Hariri family, which is associated with Saudi Arabian capital. The new boss didn’t wait long to go on the offensive. Almost 10,000 workers were transferred to subcontracting companies, losing the majority of their rights and benefits.

As a result, contractual protections and wages were changed, increasing the divisions between the different job classifications and even inside the same classification. The boss pushed the workers to withdraw from the union, which functions in Turkey like the U.S. system: requiring the union to have more than 50% support of the workers to be recognized. Finally, workers who quit the union got a $1,205 a month wage, while whose who stayed in the union continued to receive the usual $1,175 monthly wage.

The union leadership had to call a strike, demanding the end to this process of de-unionization and wage discrimination and the end of the new flexibility measures. The press then undertook a big campaign against this movement, saying that even the phones of government ministers would be cut off and TV channels would have to stop broadcasting.

Nonetheless, the workers stopped work for 44 days beginning in mid-October. The 10,000 who worked for subcontractors didn’t have the right to join in and so continued to work, for example repairing phone outages. During all this time, the press and the police exercised pressure. First, 42 workers and union members were arrested, then 12 more, then seven more in different cities like Istanbul, Diyarbakir and Tunceli. They were accused of sabotage. Four others were fired.

Despite the passive attitude of the union leaders, who hadn’t really prepared the workers for the strike, the workers mobilized themselves to defend it, while every day the TV channels accused them of sabotage. The consequences of the strike began to be felt. Finally, a subcontracting company accidentally dug up the fiber optic cables supplying the stock exchange, paralyzing it for an entire day. Decidedly, the matter became serious!

It took this interruption of the stock exchange for the government to intervene, putting pressure on the boss to accept the majority of the strikers’ demands. According to the signed agreement, the workers won a 10% pay raise for the first year and 6.5% for the second year. And the boss agreed to end wage discrimination and to recognize the right of all workers, even future new-hires, to maintain union affiliation. Furthermore, the company agreed to rehire the fired workers and to pay everyone an exceptional bonus.

The agreement was signed by the union without consulting the workers. But the strike the workers themselves carried out remains a success for them. So much the worse for the boss, his pocketbook and even the Stock Exchange.

The imaginary Iranian nuclear threat

Dec 17, 2007

Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. The program it did have was stopped in fall 2003 and has not been restarted. This is the conclusion of the National Intelligence Estimate made public on December 3rd by 16 U.S. spy agencies.

This information was first delivered to the Bush Administration four months ago. It was well known when the U.S. pushed other political leaders to take sanctions against Iran. In other words, Bush was lying when he accused Iran of threatening the Middle East with a “nuclear holocaust” which could lead to “World War III.”

Remember what was said about the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that Iraq was supposed to have. Several years after the start of the war, investigators finally proved that the Bush administration knew perfectly well that such weapons existed only in the propaganda used to justify the U.S. war. And, as has come out since, the top Democrats knew the same thing, while pretending to believe the threat of WMD’s.

This report was not released now by accident. With less than a year before the presidential election, the publication of this report could profit Bush’s opponents, among Democrats as well as among Republicans, who want to appear less warlike to win the votes of people opposed to the wars. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provoke more and more opposition in the U.S. Even parts of the military hierarchy don’t want to extend the conflict to other Middle East countries.

On the other hand, the publication of this report could be a pretext for lowering the rhetoric about Iran a little. And, in fact, the Bush administration has been talking to the Iranian government to use its influence to stabilize the situation in Iraq.

Whatever the reason for publishing this report now, it only confirms one thing: all these claims about weapons of mass destruction and terrorist threats come from people who lie just as easily as they breathe.

Ford workers near St. Peterburg, “Our vote is a strike”

Dec 17, 2007

On the eve of the Russian parliamentary elections in early December, one of the popular Russian newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda, had a headline, “Has a new Russian strike wave begun with Ford?”

The strike was for wage increases, but also against management’s imposition of discipline. There had been a one day strike at the plant in February that won 14 to 20% wage increases and more holidays. For the last few months, when people talked about social struggles, first of all they spoke about the Ford workers, even if the media didn’t give them much coverage.

Contrary to the lies of the Russian press, the Ford Vsevolozhsk workers employed in this “modern” factory, don’t get “modern” wages. Average wages are about $860 a month. Management’s promise to raise the average wage by $50 in 2008 didn’t make the strikers back down. The strike, which began with 300 workers, spread to 700 who were demanding a “Western” wage of $1,500 a month, from a factory that bragged it respected “Western” standards.

At the Ford gates, in response to accusations from some of the media and the government, the strikers carried signs proclaiming, “Our choice is for the strike,” a play on the words “choice” and “vote” in Russian, which mean the same thing. Also, “Going on strike isn’t extremism” – an accusation made by government officials against anyone who stirs things up – “it’s exercising our rights!”

In any case, right now other workers are using their rights. The St Petersburg postal workers are preparing for a strike. Workers of GOuP TEK in the energy sector are on strike. On November 28, the railroad workers announced they would have a national strike, while workers on the St Petersburg docks, the main port of the country, were on strike for the second week.

At the time we write, the union leader of the Ford workers at the Vsevolozhsk plant claimed the four-week strike was over, since the company agreed to the workers’ demands. Management also said the strike was over, but it denied there was any agreement. The Ford workers have yet to be heard from.

The outlawing of cluster bombs:
Words that mean nothing

Dec 17, 2007

An international conference held to outlaw cluster bombs recently ended in Vienna. These explosives, which are launched from airplanes or helicopters, break up into clusters of small bomblets that explode in the air, releasing thousands of lethal projectiles. But up to 30% of these cluster bomblets do not explode, in effect becoming little land mines, scattered over wide areas. Not only do these unexploded bomblets remain active, sometimes for decades, ready to explode with the tiniest disturbance. They are also designed to appear like nothing dangerous. Often children, attracted by their bright colors, pick them up to play, only to have them explode in their hands, killing or injuring everyone around..

During three days, representatives from some 38 governments blah, blah, blahed, only to agree on a treaty that would outlaw the use of such weapons – sometime in the vague, far-off future. And the United States, where many of these weapons are produced, didn’t even bother to send a representative to attend the conference.

The countries that were present, voted for the project, hoping for “a treaty that is not too constraining” for their own weapons manufacturers. Some want exemptions; others want a period of transition; still others want special treatment. The French government, for example, claims that the type of cluster bombs made in France are more moral than those from other countries, because they include a system of self-destruction. Of course, humanitarian organizations denounce these self-destructive mechanisms as being completely ineffective. On the other hand, all of the countries present were in agreement to, “make the effort to assist victims, to provide compensation” and supposedly “to educate potential victims”.

The major powers, who disperse these bombs by the millions over conflict zones, dare to present themselves as the protectors of civilian populations who live under constant threat for many long years after the military conflicts have ended. In fact, the big powers only add a very grievous insult to the vast amount of injuries and deaths they have caused.

Attacks on women on the rise

Dec 17, 2007

At least 40 women have been murdered this year by religious vigilantes in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, according to the city’s police chief. The real figure is likely to be much higher. A copy of a police file from Basra, revealed last month, showed the details of more than 50 such murders in the previous five months alone.

Notes found on many of the victims’ bodies said that the women had been killed for not observing religious law. Some of the women were killed because they were not covering their heads. Others were murdered for wearing make-up. Still others simply because they worked. And such murders are not limited to Basra. In Baghdad, three female teachers have been murdered in recent months.

Baghdad and Basra, Iraq’s two largest cities, have long been known as two of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East. Until a few years ago, women wore modern clothing, went freely to school and work, and participated in the life of the society in these cities. But all that has changed dramatically since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Gangs who call themselves “religious police” have appeared in the streets, harassing women for not observing religious laws and threatening them with violence. The government denies any link to these religious gangs, but it has not prosecuted most of the crimes against women.

This U.S.-backed government is dominated by politicians who belong to religious fundamentalist parties, which in turn run armed militias. The new Iraqi constitution, written by the U.S. for Iraq, says that no law can contradict the rulings of Islam – which these thugs interpret to mean all the interdictions on women. Recently, the Iraqi government told female police officers to turn in their guns – widely seen as a move toward pushing women out of the police force, and out of government jobs altogether.

If religious fundamentalists are doing the dirty work, taking Iraq back to the Middle Ages, they owe their positions to the U.S. military occupation.

Pages 6-7

Empty schools still full of books and records

Dec 17, 2007

Five months after the Detroit school board closed them, 33 schools still contain textbooks, office equipment, and even student records. None of these perfectly usable – and important – items followed the students to their new schools. They just continue to rot and rust in the abandoned buildings.

The school board claimed that the school closings were necessary to HELP better educate the students. But it couldn’t even be bothered to move books the students can use, and records of the students’ progress?!

Clearly the students aren’t first on their minds. Or second or third or even tenth!

CSX derailments:
Three strikes and it should be out

Dec 17, 2007

CSX has had three train derailments in Baltimore in the last two weeks, all potentially dangerous. The first derailment came when 12 cars jumped the track near M&T football stadium and nearby residential communities. Three of the cars carried hazardous chemicals: a flammable resin solution and tetrachlorethylene, a chemical used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing.

The second derailment was in the industrial neighborhood of Locust Point, where one car carrying motor oil derailed and flipped on its side.

The third derailment was in a freight yard off Pulaski Highway which has heavy industrial traffic. Two derailed cars carried highly flammable ethanol, used as a fuel additive.

CSX spokesmen claimed there were no spills, injuries or bad effects. This time!

That’s hardly encouraging to all those people living and working near CSX tracks which wind through the city. Nor is it encouraging to hear Mayor Dixon and Congressman Cummings ask CSX to “limit” rail traffic – but only during games at the stadium!

It’s clear – a company that cannot prevent derailments should be deprived of the right to transport dangerous chemicals anywhere there are people. Period!

Derailment in Washington DC

Dec 17, 2007

In November, eight CSX coal cars derailed on a bridge over the Anacostia River. This one was caused by a brake failure. Part of the bridge collapsed, sending six cars into the river, where 600 tons of coal were dumped.

During the week-long cleanup, questions were raised about why and how the coal cars escaped from the CSX yard, and the safety of the bridge which had widespread corrosion.

The CSX bosses who run a sloppy operation and DC politicians who don’t keep up the infrastructure of bridges – what a double whammy of irresponsibility!

What wins higher wages... and what doesn’t

Dec 17, 2007

For years, union leaders argued that being in a union guaranteed higher wages. In fact, it was always more complicated than that. But at least that’s what all the statistics showed.

Now even the statistics are pointing to something different.

In the last quarter of 2006, wage increases for union workers turned out to be less than those for non-union workers. In 2007, it got worse. The average wage and benefit increase for non-union workers was about 3% while for union workers only 2%.

On average, workers in unions still earn more than those not in unions. But that gap is closing, as the wages of union workers drop to those of those of non-union workers.

Because what wins higher wages are the workers joining together in common struggle in order to impose the workers’ interests on the bosses. And the fact that for a very long time, the union leaders have given up on that struggle in favor of “cooperation” and “partnership” with bosses everywhere, is bearing very bitter fruit.

Page 8

Are times so bad that jobs in Iraq look good?

Dec 17, 2007

The Army held a job fair in Warren, Michigan, just outside Detroit. They offered civilian contract jobs paying $136,000 to $212,000 a year.

Of course, the jobs are in Iraq and require 12-hour days, seven days a week for a year.

Still, six hundred people showed up to apply. The long hours didn’t bother one worker who came from 60 miles away to apply. He said, “I’m already doing that at Delphi!”

Marceilos Davis, a Detroit resident who works two jobs to bring home $50,000 said, “That’s a no-brainer. The neighborhood I live in, it’s no different than Iraq. I’m not scared.”

How far has the working class been pulled down that the chance to get killed appears like an opportunity?

Mortgage Crisis:
Thousands of desperate homeowners line up

Dec 17, 2007

On December 13, about 4,500 desperate homeowners flooded into an enormous ballroom inside Detroit’s Cobo Hall, hoping to stave off foreclosure. Carrying bags and briefcases filled with mortgage documents and correspondence, they waited in long lines to plead their case before a representative from the mortgage company or banks.

These same mortgage companies and banks have profited enormously by steering working people into crooked subprime mortgages, trumpeting low introductory teaser rates, while hiding and lying about the rate hikes, outrageous fees and penalties. Financial companies fed the housing bubble, which has now begun to burst, leaving millions of people across the country with negative equity, and thus at risk of losing their homes.

The Detroit area has been especially hard hit, with more than 70,000 filings in the metropolitan area.

After the Cobo Hall event, the news media carried some feel-good stories. A couple mortgage companies agreed to lower a few homeowners’ mortgage payments, stop several foreclosure proceedings or rescind the date of a Sheriff’s sale.

But almost none of the 4,500 desperate homeowners, who lined up at Cobo Hall in Detroit, will get relief from the mortgage companies and banks. The entire event, set up by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and the banks, was only a spectacle. And floor shows like this won’t stop the tidal wave of foreclosures.

The big banks are not going to let anything call in question the values of the securities based on these mortgages which they sold. And the mortgage companies and banks, which profited so much from the housing bubble, are today covering their losses by throwing people out of their homes, reselling the homes, and creating new mortgages.

This is true not just for Michigan, but the entire country.

At the same time, no government agency is doing anything to interfere with or reduce the profits of the big financial companies behind the foreclosure crisis.

On the contrary, the U.S. government has intervened massively – in order to bail out the same big mortgage companies and banks which profited from all the crooked sub-prime mortgages. For example, it was revealed at the end of November that the government-sponsored Federal Home Loan Bank in Atlanta provided 51 billion dollars in financing to Countrywide Financial, one of the biggest specialists in those tricky mortgages that milked homeowners. If Countrywide Financial goes bankrupt, the taxpayer will foot the bill. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two other government-sponsored companies, are losing money because they bought tens of billions of dollars in subprime mortgages from the mortgage companies and banks, that is, took them off their hands. If either Freddie or Fannie go bankrupt, they too would be bailed out by taxpayers.

The big U.S. banks are getting constant financial support from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has loaned them tens of billions of dollars at very low interest rates which the banks then lend back out at much higher interest rates. The U.S. Federal Reserve has also “injected” tens of billions of dollars into the financial system at least four times since August. All of these loans and “injections” come with a cost. Either the money came from the U.S. Treasury, that is, the U.S. taxpayer. Or else, the Federal Reserve simply created the money, thus contributing to higher inflation, which is paid for by the consumer. In both cases, ordinary people foot the bill.

Total outrage. Instead of thousands of people lining up to plead and beg the mortgage companies and banks to save them, tens and hundreds of thousands of people should be confronting the banks and politicians, demanding that the foreclosures stop, demanding that the outrageous variable mortgage rates be stopped.

People have a right to stay in their homes. Let the banks and mortgage companies pay for the mortgage crisis that they themselves created.

U.S. military:
Thousands of less than honorable discharges

Dec 17, 2007

At least 28,000 troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have been discharged early from the military for supposed “pre-existing” personality disorders.

It’s a pack of bureaucratic lies. If soldiers really did have such serious problems, then why did the military induct them, hand them a gun and tell them to go to war?

In fact, after having served year after year in the hellish war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, a big proportion of U.S. troops are coming down with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As the medical profession explains it, they are self-medicating themselves with drugs and alcohol, numbing themselves to the war’s reality. Others begin to just not give a damn and flagrantly flaunt military discipline. They stop showing up for duty, or show up for duty drunk or high, don’t salute, etc.

Officials don’t want to keep these soldiers in the military, on the front lines, because it can only further destroy discipline. But at the same time, they don’t want to send these soldiers home with a full honorable discharge and VA benefits for PTSD. That would open the flood gates for tens of thousands of soldiers also wanting out. So, the military is kicking thousands of soldiers out with less than honorable discharges, which not only takes away their veterans benefits, but makes it harder to get a decent job on the outside.

This is the war inside the war, the war inside the U.S. military. More and more, the U.S. military is breaking down, because the soldiers are less and less ready to fight. At the very least, this is what puts up a block to the politicians who want to open up new wars – such as against Iran. And it is what can begin to force the politicians and generals to bring the troops home and end their most recent dirty wars.