The Spark

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

Issue no. 815 — February 4 - 18, 2008

Editorial:
Clinton or Obama?
Who will be the next mouthpiece for big business?

Feb 4, 2008

For the first time in history, the Democratic presidential nominee will be either a woman or a black man, Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama. This is supposed to mean that, in the November elections, the Democrats are an agent of “change.”

People have absolutely every reason to want an end to the Bush years. Abroad, the Bush administration prosecuted the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to strengthen the grip of the U.S. oil companies on the Middle East’s oil and all its fabulous riches. At home, the Bush administration rewarded the same big companies that are slashing jobs, wages and benefits, with enormous tax breaks and subsidies. To pay for this, Bush cut spending on social programs for working people, such as education, health care and old age pensions.

To change course would mean to directly take on the very powerful interests that have benefitted so much from the Bush years: big business and the wealthy.

Can workers really believe either Obama or Clinton will do this? Of course not. The same rogues’ gallery of wealthy people and big corporate interests who backed Bush and his disastrous policies to the hilt now shower money on Clinton and Obama. Hillary Clinton has Rupert Murdoch of Fox News hosting campaign fund raising dinners for her. So are the top executives from the big health insurance companies and Wall Street banks and financial companies. In his corner, Obama has multi-billionaire George Soros, the infamous currency and gold speculator. Washington lobbyists for big business and business’s trial lawyers have also swung onto Obama’s side.

This is not a surprise. Just look at what both candidates say they stand for. Obama claims that he wants to bring Congress together. In other words, he says he wants to unite all those politicians who voted for Bush’s wars and tax cuts for the wealthy. He even appeals to the Republicans by saying that he wants to operate in the mold of Ronald Reagan, the very president who attacked all the gains won by the black and anti-war movements – who openly broke strikes, cut Social Security benefits, etc.

On the other hand, Clinton says that she has experience – and she does. As a Senator she has supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the cuts in social spending. And she did the same when she was First Lady in the Clinton White House.

No, the claims by both candidates that they will bring “change,” at least the changes that working people need, are a complete fairy tale.

Of course, the Republicans always have a chance to retake the White House. If they do, they will continue the same kinds of attacks that have led most working people to hate the Bush presidency.

If the Democrats win, they too will try to serve the interests of the wealthy and big business by essentially picking up where the Bush administration left off. Not only that, but the Democrats could be even more effective at doing it than the Republicans. By posing as supposed agents of “change,” either Obama or Clinton could more easily fool a lot of working people into passively sitting back, waiting and not doing anything to oppose new attacks – at least for a while.

No matter what, the only “change” that working people will get to benefit them is what they themselves fight for and win by organizing in their workplaces and neighborhoods. That’s where we have power. And we don’t have to wait until the election to start doing this.

Pages 2-3

Greed with no limits

Feb 4, 2008

On January 22, BGE and Maryland state officials announced the company’s electric rates would go up about 5 ½% starting in June. Less than a week later, the company said it might sue the state to wring another 386 million dollars from BGE customers. And this comes on top of a 70% increase in electric rates that BGE imposed in just one year!

No wonder why BGE’s parent company, Constellation Energy, announced that its profits increased by over one-third in the fourth quarter of 2007 to almost 260 million dollars.

Yet they still want more.

Clearly no matter how much the power and utility companies make off us, their thirst for money is never satisfied. Their greed has no limits.

Lima, Ohio:
Racist cops kill, then stonewall

Feb 4, 2008

Early in the evening of January 4, a Lima, Ohio SWAT team burst into the home of Tarika Wilson, guns drawn. Moments later, they had killed Ms. Wilson, 26, and shot her 14-month-old son.

Police SAY they were looking to arrest Ms. Wilson’s companion, Anthony Terry, on a drug charge. But they admit that Ms. Wilson was never a suspect. And yet they opened fire on an unarmed woman and her baby. The man they came for wasn’t even there.

Lima is a small industrial town of 38,000 people. 27% of the population is black; but only two of its 77 police officers are black. Black residents have long complained of harassment by white cops on the force, yet nothing had changed.

Then this happened.

This time people reacted immediately. Shortly after the shooting, about 50 neighbors gathered outside the house and shouted obscenities at the cops. The very next day, 300 people gathered at the house and marched to City Hall, two miles away.

People have continued to march on a weekly basis ever since. They demand answers from the city: Why is Ms. Wilson dead? Why did cops shoot her and her baby?

So far, the city has refused to say anything regarding the case. The only thing they’ve done so far has been to suspend one of the police officers at the scene – with pay.

Something smells foul in the city of Lima – and it’s not just from the industry in the area.

Washington DC:
A needless tragedy

Feb 4, 2008

A Southeast Washington, D.C. woman was accused of killing her four daughters, ages 5, 6, 11 and 16. She had killed them eight months before, and had been living with their decomposing bodies ever since.

Mayor Fenty held several press conferences on this incident. He said the D.C. government did not do everything it could to prevent this from happening. Did not do everything it could? The D.C. government did not DO anything. The mayor has fired six D.C. employees so far – offering up scapegoats while D.C. government workers are understaffed, underpaid, undertrained, and totally overwhelmed.

How could these children just disappear for eight months without the schools asking questions, without child protective services asking question?

These four young girls bodies were rotting for eight months. Eight months! And how are they found? By U.S. marshals serving an eviction notice because the mother didn’t pay the rent!

So what’s the message here: You can get away with killing your children, but you better pay the rent!

Oil profits:
Stolen from us

Feb 4, 2008

ExxonMobil announced profits of over 40 billion dollars, the largest profits of any company in history. The three biggest U.S. oil companies made so much profit – ripped from our pockets – it came to ten million dollars every hour of every day, all year long.

Ten million dollars an hour, 87 billion dollars a year – just in profit. What does that mean?

Those profits are equal to more than two million jobs paying $40,000 a year.

Those profits are equal to 14 million people paying for private health insurance.

Instead, a bunch of rapacious executives and investors add to their nauseating wealth in a society filled with misery.

Detroit:
The lies go far beyond Kilpatrick’s affair

Feb 4, 2008

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick appeared on TV to apologize to the people of Detroit for lying in court about an extramarital affair. Of course, no one in their right mind really cares about Kilpatrick’s affairs, especially since he has always presented himself as a “player,” complete with diamond stud earrings!

In fact, Kilpatrick’s so-called confession was little more than a smokescreen for the real reason that he was in court. He was testifying in response to a lawsuit brought against him and the city of Detroit by three Detroit police officers who had been fired for pursuing an “unauthorized” investigation.

The three cops were not simply looking into “wild parties” at the mayoral mansion – they were investigating a potential cover-up of an execution style murder of a woman at a party thrown by the mayor and others linked to her.

Is anyone surprised that the Kilpatrick administration lied about this? Not likely. The jury in the trial found in favor of the cops, awarding them nine million dollars, which Kilpatrick handed over to the city to pay. The jury apparently thought he was lying.

This is an administration that has lied from the beginning about what it has been doing. They told lies when they said there was no money for city workers and took concessions from them; when they said there was no money for neighborhood rec centers or parks and then closed them; when they handed the art museum, the historical museums and the zoo over to private interests.

They then handed over tax money to developers for putting up buildings that stand empty. They found money to hand to General Motors for the Renaissance Center. They even paid for infrastructure changes that GM wanted. They have money to renovate Cobo Hall so that the auto companies can have their auto show there once a year.

Politicians in the city have lied, and long before Kilpatrick came around, but he certainly has brought a new style to it. And a scandal like this does nothing but help him cover up his lies.

Maryland:
Continued robbery by utility giant

Feb 4, 2008

Residential customers of BGE (Baltimore Gas &Electric) have been keenly aware for months that they are getting ripped off by the company and its corporate parent, Constellation Energy. Since deregulation took effect last year, residential electric rates have increased more than 70%!

Now a study of deregulation by the Maryland PSC (Public Service Commission) shows how huge some of the ripoffs have been.

For example, Constellation and its affiliates have been allowed to collect almost a billion dollars in compensation for a projected drop in the value of their power plants even though the estimated value of the plants is now more than ten times what it was just seven years ago! Constellation is also collecting billions of dollars from BGE customers to cover the costs of some day shutting down the two aging nuclear reactors at its Calvert Cliffs power plant. Yet BGE customers can’t get a rate reduction based on the profits from the operation of these reactors. Since deregulation, they claim that Constellation is a legally separate company from BGE, even though in reality they work hand-in-hand!

The newly appointed members of the PSC, with Maryland’s governor behind them, sound like they are going to do something about this great electricity deregulation ripoff that the old PSC approved. But so far, they have only produced a study.

Meanwhile, residential electric customers go on being forced to empty their pockets every month to boost the outrageous profits of the ripoff artists.

“Poor” Detroit School Board gives another handout

Feb 4, 2008

The Detroit Public Schools paid over 320,000 dollars last year to a company that doesn’t seem to exist.

Invoices show that money was paid for a list of different types of classroom teaching materials. The district can’t confirm whether it ever received those materials, though.

The company, “Definitive Concepts Company Inc.,” doesn’t even have an address. Its billing address is a P.O. box. It’s not listed in the phone book, or even with state incorporation records.

This is just the latest example of how money has been funneled out of the school district, impoverishing the education of Detroit’s kids and making someone else rich.

For years now, different interests have fought over the assets of the Detroit Public Schools. When the state took over the district and appointed a school board, or when the city took it back and elected a board, through superintendent after superintendent, it was never about the kids. It has always been about the money: who was going to control it, and whose friends were going to get it.

Sears gutted:
Vulture capitalism exposed

Feb 4, 2008

Financial speculator Edward S. Lampert has been cannibalizing Sears and K-Mart, selling off stores and divisions one by one–and reaping huge profits in the process.

Lampert bought K-Mart after it went into bankruptcy in 2003. In 2005, after writing off its debts, K-Mart then bought Sears by taking out more debt and using Sears itself as collateral for the debt.

Lampert slashed its cost to the bone. For example, Sears cut spending on the upkeep of its stores, to half a billion dollars a year. Target Corp., on the other hand, spends over 4 billion dollars – eight times as much, even though it’s a similar sized company.

The effect on Sears stores has been noticeable, from dirty carpets and floors to bare flourescent lighting, empty aisles and broken fixtures.

In addition, the company has sold stores, including a group of them sold by K-Mart to Home Depot for 250 million dollars in 2004. And the company is now talking about spinning out Sears’ best known brands, like Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances.

Not surprisingly, sales at Sears and K-Mart are declining. But because the bottom line has been good, Wall Street has approved, and their stocks had been doing well – at least until the entire stock market took a dive a few months ago.

This is the way these speculators operate: they buy a company, taking the company itself into debt to finance the purchase. Then they strip it of any assets it has, making big money off those sales, before leaving the company a hollow, debt-ridden shell and moving onto the next company to “strip and flip.”

This is what capitalism has come to. “Investment” isn’t about building up a company, or producing goods to sell; it’s about tearing a company apart, throwing workers into the streets, and making wealth off the guts that remain.

There’s a reason these capitalists are called vultures!

Pages 4-5

Seven billion lost in financial roulette

Feb 4, 2008

The following article appeared as the editorial in the January 31 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group active in France.

Fifty billion Euros played (or 75 billion dollars), 7.5 billion dollars lost in speculative operations by a single individual, without a bank even realizing it! The 75 billion dollars played with by this one trader in a French bank represents one-fifth of the entire state budget of France and the annual salary of some four million workers paid at minimum wage. And still, the directors of Société Generale repeat in order to assure its stockholders that, despite the 7.5 billion lost and another 3 billion that disappeared in other speculative maneuvers, the bank continues to make a profit. The proof: It just bought up a Russian bank!

The trader of the bank who succeeded in his coup by avoiding all the bank's systems of control is perhaps a computer genius. But the economic system in which this is possible is still the same crazy system.

In the enterprises where products and real wealth are created, speed-up is imposed more and more in order to gain a couple of seconds; restructurings are carried out in order to reduce the number of workers on the job; wages are frozen even while prices continue to rise; the exploitation worsens with the claim that we have to go through this is order to stand up to the competition and to globalization. And all this, so that the profits that result can be used in financial speculation where billions can go up in smoke!

As a result, even the government ministers begin to speak about the need for controls and making corporate operations less secretive. But all this business affair demonstrates is that their internal controls or those by the so-called specialists amount to nothing. And yes, the first necessary step would be to reveal all the secret affairs and the bank secrets. It would be to allow the employees of the bank, the unions, and the population to control all the ways by which these funds transfer, accumulate or are squandered!

As it appears, by hurriedly selling off the rotten stocks purchased by the trader, Société Generale could have amplified the stock market crash that took place. If that was of concern only to the stockholders, one could ignore it or even rejoice in it. But the financial crisis could at any time develop into a grave crisis of the economy and of material production itself, despite all the blabber of President Sarkozy or Finance Minister Lagarde, who swear that all is well in France.

An economic crisis means the closing down of companies, massive layoffs and growing misery for those who work. And even if we escape such a crisis again this time, it will be because the government is bailing these banks out with new subsidies and other forms of aid.

When the current financial crisis hit last summer, the central banks, that is to say the governments, had already turned over several hundreds of billions to the financial speculators in order to stop them from going bankrupt. And again, and as always, it is the popular classes and especially the workers, who are being forced by government leaders to foot the bill.

There is no potion that can treat the craziness of this system. The capitalist economy is not only profoundly unjust because it is based on exploitation and designed to enrich the wealthy by impoverishing the poor. It is also an unpredictable economy, ungovernable even by those who profit by it.

That is why in the past, when the Communist Party was really communist, and even before that, when the Socialist Party was really socialist, these two parties stood for the overthrow of the capitalist organization of society. This objective is fully on the order of the day even if these two parties have long ago abandoned that objective.

The Palestine border opens at Gaza :
A break in the wall of Israeli politics

Feb 4, 2008

The blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza imposed by the Israeli government since January 17 was destroyed ten days later. Soldiers of Hamas, the party that has been in power since June of 2007, used explosives to open breeches in the wall that separates Gaza from Egypt near the area of Rafah.

Over 700,000 Palestinians – half of the population – immediately passed into Egypt in order to buy basic food products, fuel and medicine.

Their situation was becoming ever more desperate. Four days before the breach, the only electric power plant stopped functioning, plunging Gaza City into darkness. Only a few cars were still on the road as gas ran out. Fishermen couldn’t go out and shops closed down. The power outages affected water pumping and distribution, which had been rationed in “normal” times. Hospitals were also hit. They could only handle emergencies and only had a few days of fuel left for their generators. The blockade affected food aid distributed by different international organizations, which 80% of Palestinians live on. It was about to be cut off all together due to the lack of gas for trucks and the absence of plastic bags used for deliveries.

The Egyptian government let the Palestinians flow across for two days. Then on January 25, it tried to close the opening in the wall. Hamas responded by opening other passages nearby with a bulldozer. And since then, the population has been continuously going and coming from that part of the Sinai.

By opening these breeches, Hamas gave Israel the response it deserved for imposing the economic blockade of Gaza. At the same time, it undoubtedly reinforced its popularity with the Palestinians. This is the exact opposite of what the Israeli government sought.

The Israeli government is now trying to get out of the embarrassing situation by saying that the Egyptian government has the responsibility to control the situation: “The Egyptians are fully aware of their obligations and they will fulfill them according to the agreements concluded with Israel,” declared Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.

Effectively, the Egyptian government is also under pressure from several sides. On the one side, it made an agreement with Israel to keep the border closed between Egypt and Gaza, thus collaborating on the blockade of the Palestinian territory. On the other hand, it cannot brutally oppose those who live inside Gaza without provoking an angry response from much of the Egyptian population that is in solidarity with the Palestinians. By leaving the border open, in the absence of being able to do anything else, the Egyptian government is obliged to demonstrate the sort of solidarity with the Palestinians that up to now it has reserved only for speeches.

Apart from what one thinks of the politics of Hamas, the breech in the wall of Rafah also opens a breech in the international conspiracy to starve out the Palestinians. All the better for the Palestinians, and too bad for the Israeli government of Olmert and all his accomplices.

An economic system which must be replaced

Feb 4, 2008

The following was the editorial in the January 25 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The U.S. economic system is sick. The other big industrial powers aren't much better off. Prices on the stock markets have fallen sharply. The New York Stock Exchange dropped by 8.8% since the New Year. The Paris exchange lost 9.3%, before losing an additional 5% by mid-day January 21. And unfortunately that doesn't concern only stockholders, who have accumulated enough profit to see them through. It also concerns all working people, for the economic recession that's brewing risks a new fall in purchasing power, new job cuts and an increase in unemployment. The people who govern us put on an optimistic face. But plenty of politicians and economists don't deny the possibility of a grave economic crisis, comparable to that which struck the capitalist world in 1929, and which pushed it toward World War II.

Is it an accident? Certainly not. It's the product of the economic system in which we live. For years, the great capitalist corporations have invested very little in production. They increased their profits by having the same work done by fewer arms and brains, by cutting back on the workforce, by freezing wages. To get their hands on the enormous profits that are extracted, banks and businesses lend money to each other, buy up stakes in companies or in competitors. The system is so secretive and complicated that they themselves don't understand it.

The mortgage loan crisis which came to light in the U.S. last summer illuminated this situation. Contrary to what happened before, the banks no longer lend money to other banks that so greatly need it. The banks don't know if the other banks that want to borrow money will be able to pay it back. On the stock market, speculators sell the stock of companies who might be compromised by the on-going financial crisis. Only the central banks, those of governments or the European Bank, are ready to inject money, whether in Euros or dollars, into circulation. Of course, the money comes from the taxpayers. Each of these interventions, like the latest Bush plan in the U.S., underlines the seriousness of the crisis and thus risks aggravating it. In any case, they"ll present the bill to the working population.

This is the capitalist system of our times. It's a system which the right-wing politicians tell us is the best in the world. It's a system that the parties of the left – the Socialist Party and the Communist Party – accept, telling us that the "market economy"is the only system possible, that is to say, precisely, the capitalist system.

This system can't be reformed, it can't be made more "moral." It is its very logic, the search for individual profit as the motor of the entire society, which is called in question.

The workers movement was born by opposing this system, setting as its goal a society where the economy would work to satisfy the needs of all, and not permit a tiny minority of privileged people to ceaselessly enrich themselves off the workers' backs. Socialism, communism, meant the appropriation by all the workers of the most important means of production and transportation. The Socialist Party and the Communist Party renounced that, because their leaders integrated themselves into the system. But the problem remains the same.

Some think that the ideas which the workers movement had at the beginning at its birth are outdated. It's one way of seeing things ... which only leaves the workers with the option of decrying the endless tragedies brought about by the capitalist system.

But it's the capitalist system which is outdated. And struggling to replace it with an economy functioning in the interest of all would cost us fewer sacrifices than continuing to support it.

Wall Street sets its sights on Social Security
– Again

Feb 4, 2008

The bond rating agency Moody’s has threatened to downgrade U.S. government bonds within a decade if it doesn’t reduce the cost of Social Security and Medicare.

That’s odd, to say the least. Social Security and Medicare both pay for themselves. They each carry surpluses, despite what Bush and Congress keep telling us. So if Moody’s is concerned about government debt, Social Security and Medicare should be the least of its worries.

This is the same agency that gave top “AAA” ratings to bonds backed by subprime mortgages – right before those mortgages collapsed, and those bonds lost their value. So clearly, truth does not enter into Moody’s equations.

Moody’s acts in the interest of the Wall Street brokers who hire them and pay their fees. Wall Street has been salivating over all that Social Security and Medicare money for years, and they were disappointed when Bush couldn’t successfully privatize Social Security a couple years ago.

Now, Moody’s is supplying the next crop of politicians with another excuse to “fix” Social Security and Medicare – by handing hundreds of billions of dollars over to Wall Street financial companies.

Pages 6-7

Federal government “immune” to the claims of Katrina victims

Feb 4, 2008

A federal judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers was “guilty of gross incompetence” for the failure of the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. But he said he could not hold the agency financially liable for any damage because the federal government has legal immunity.

The judge, Stanwood R. Duval, Jr., said he was powerless to rule against the government because the Flood Control Act of 1928 granted legal immunity to the government in the event of a failure of levees. This law was passed immediately after The Great Flood devastated the area around the lower Mississippi and killed thousands – also due to government incompetence and neglect.

A government that had the interests of the population at heart would not have to be taken to court for people to get compensation for the damage that occurred during Katrina. Such a government would have adequately prepared for such a storm. If it failed to protect the population, it would have rushed in to fix the damage it created.

But this government has done nothing but use Katrina as an excuse for its own brand of “urban renewal” in New Orleans – to move out the poor for the benefit of the wealthy.

Fired Freightliner workers still out

Feb 4, 2008

Five Freightliner workers were fired last April. Recently, four of the workers came to meetings at Flint, Detroit, and Chicago to tell others of their case.

The five were leaders of UAW Local 3520's Bargaining Committee at a Freightliner truck plant in Cleveland, North Carolina. Freightliner let their contract run out last March 31 and presented a take-it-or-leave-it offer to the Bargaining Committee. The Committee did not accept it and management proceeded to run the plant as if it were a non-union operation. The Committee then, based on a membership vote, called a strike.

But after several hours on strike, the Local 3520 president broke ranks and, allied with higher-ups in the union, countermanded the Bargaining Committee and ordered the workers back to work, without a vote, without a contract. Obviously the Local president did this with the full support and urging of the UAW International. This created enough confusion to break the strike apart.

Freightliner then fired eleven of the Bargaining Committee who had voted in favor of the strike. The company did offer the Bargaining Committee members “last chance” letters as the price of returning to work.

The Freightliner Five refused to sign and go along with the rotten agreement.

Their story can be found on their website, www.justice4five.com. The long and short of it is that the Bargaining Committee didn’t just collapse, when faced with brazen company attacks. But the top UAW leaders refused to back them up. Never mind that these workers were among the very first to organize for the UAW at Freightliner!

In other words, the UAW International once more took the company’s side against workers and their elected representatives.

It’s up to workers to determine how best to send back some messages of their own.

Support for the Freightliner Five can be mailed to:

Justice4Five

P.O. Box 5144

Statesville, NC 28687.

UAW activist charged with “impeding traffic”
– what a bunch of bull!

Feb 4, 2008

Wendy Thompson, retired president of UAW Local 235, was arrested on January 2 in front of an American Axle plant in Three Rivers, Michigan. She was distributing a newsletter for American Axle workers. The newsletter contained statements by several workers who oppose making concessions to the company when their contract expires on February 24.

The cops charged Thompson with “impeding traffic.” Her real crime was simply publicly opposing concessions.

Veteran activists are familiar with cops who use phony excuses like this one – as soon as a company calls. But when companies call the cops over a piece of paper, it’s a sign that there is wider opposition in the plants.

Page 8

U.S. soldiers who murder at home
– not so easy to turn off a killing machine

Feb 4, 2008

A recent study conducted by the New York Times identified 121cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from these wars.

This number does not even tell the whole murder state-side story, however, since not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail. And it comes in the wake of numerous other reports exposing the high rates of suicide, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, among this generation of war veterans.

This continued violence back home should not come as a total shock. These soldiers were trained and conditioned to be killing machines to carry out these wars.

But human beings can’t just be turned on and then off, like machines. And the proof is that some have come back with the war still raging in them.

And they continue to kill – but this time it is in Las Vegas, or Pierre, South Dakota – instead of Baghdad or Kabul.

Letter from a vet in prison

Feb 4, 2008

The following is a letter The Spark received from a prisoner in Indiana.

Your article in the December issue, “U.S. Military: Thousands of less than honorable discharges” was exceptionally good. However it failed to bring out some other facts about our military and judicial system. For example:

I am a Vietnam vet, well decorated, having served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam with the first Air Cavalry Seventh Division. I came home suffering from PTSD and ended up in prison serving a double life sentence. I have been in prison for 37 years now.

To make a long story short, it was not until the mid 1980s that, due to my wife and her dedication in seeking out the truth, it was discovered that at the time of my discharge from the military, I was, in fact, suffering from chronic PTSD, and everything you said in your article was an accurate description of what I was going through. The self medication, drug addition and alcoholism. It was while suffering from PTSD that I got into a shoot-out with police and, applying my military training, I ended up killing two of them. Please, I am not trying to excuse my actions, merely attempting to point out just how misunderstood the seriousness of the effects of PTSD are. I want to warn our society of what to expect with all the men returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, in hopes that they will receive the medical care and psychological counseling that the Vietnam vets failed to receive.

When it was discovered my crime was done under the effects of PTSD, we filed an appeal with the courts. After waiting five years with no decision, I had to file a writ of habeas corpus, to force the local court to hand down a ruling. The federal court gave them 90 days to rule; on the 90th day they ruled against me – saying I had taken too long to file.

So here I sit, 37 years later, still no justice given to me, forced to spend the rest of my life behind bars merely because the Indiana justice system fails to see just how serious PTSD is. Having served my country faithfully and with honor, having shown I had never been in any trouble whatsoever until my return from Vietnam, all of which has made no difference to our judicial system.

I can’t help but ask what is in store for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Obviously they cannot expect any help from our government, when even local governments demonstrate their lack of concern.

Just like the Vietnam vets, they too will be used up and then tossed to the side – homeless, jobless and yes, no doubt many will turn to crime. Look at the statistics of those Vietnam vets in our prison system now.

Lonnie D. Williams

Giving more to the rich is NOT “stimulus!”

Feb 4, 2008

While the news media and politicians talk endlessly about the so-called economic stimulus program that they say will give most workers a great big $500 or $600, Bush has presented his new budget for 2009. There are no big surprises. The top priority is to stimulate the profits and fortunes of big business and the wealthy, by quietly handing over enormous sums. Top priority: military contractors! Next priority: Wall Street financiers! Top priority to be robbed: workers, the unemployed, and the poor.

Of course, the lion’s share of the budget goes to the military. The new Bush budget proposes 572 billion dollars in regular military expenses, plus, as usual, hundreds of billions more to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is nothing but a great big subsidy to the biggest U.S. companies. Blood money.

Paying interest on the national debt is budgeted at 234 billion – a sum half as large as for the entire military side. Who receives the lion’s share of this interest? The wealthy, of course.

In the face of this enormous spending, the Bush administration has the nerve to claim that “entitlements” – for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – are the budget-breakers! To help push this lie, Social Security payments are included in the Bush budget as an “expense.” But they are actually paid from the separate Social Security trust fund, which is running a large surplus.

Medicare is also no “drain” unless, like Bush, you don’t count the FICA taxes that workers pay in, and the Medicare Part B premiums that retirees pay in.

Bush’s proposal cuts 1.2 billion dollars from Medicaid and begins a five-year program to slash Medicare by 83 billion. If these cuts go through, how many will be sentenced to needless pain and premature death?

With unemployment skyrocketing upward, working people need millions of new jobs, at wages high enough for workers to live decently and buy what their families need. But every billion given to the war profiteers means, for example, 20,000 fewer public school teachers hired, or 10,000 public health doctors not hired.

The kind of economic stimulus budget we need won’t come out of Washington D.C. – until the population leaves it no other choice.