The Spark

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

Issue no. 828 — August 25 - September 8, 2008

An election bought and paid for by the capitalists

Aug 25, 2008

The Democratic and Republican conventions are upon us. As usual, they will provide a platform for the top politicians to proclaim how much they represent our interests.

While we face falling living standards, cuts in social programs and the consequences of the wars that the U.S. military is fighting, the conventions themselves are awash in money, privilege and luxury.

It is all paid for by a veritable “Who’s Who” of American capitalism. These include 146 of the biggest companies, and some of the richest people in the country. Among the big corporate sponsors for the Democratic convention are AT&T, ConocoPhillips, Staples, Level 3 Communications, Comcast Cable, Lockheed-Martin, Molson-Coors and Union Pacific. The Republicans have Cargil, Koch, Wells Fargo, US Bank and Waste Management paying for them.

There are 40 companies giving at least a million dollars to both the Democratic and Republican conventions. These include Qwest Communications, which came out of the break-up of AT&T, United Healthcare, one of the biggest health insurance companies, Xcel Energy, the owner of big nuclear power plants, Medtronic, a maker of medical equipment and Eli Lilly, the giant pharmaceutical company.

Obviously, these companies are not just paying for advertising during the convention media circuses or for top executives and political operatives to hobnob during the 400 lavish parties, balls and concerts connected to the conventions. These companies are picking up the tab for an important event for their friends in the Democratic and Republican political apparatuses who in every way possible represent the capitalists’ interests in the government.

The same people take advantage of all the loopholes in the election laws to contribute massively to the campaigns of Obama and McCain.

The total amount of money raised by the Obama candidacy has already approached 337 million dollars. Obama says his campaign depends on small contributions from large numbers of ordinary people. And in fact, it is true, a lot of people have given him their money, just as the unions have. Nonetheless, the bulk of his campaign money comes from millionaires, billionaires and those tied to them. These include partners at major law firms that represent big business, executives who work in Wall Street (Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup), big real estate developers, and the entertainment conglomerates (Time-Warner, Disney, Fox).

So far McCain has raised less: “only” 122 million dollars. But as McCain rises in the polls, he is narrowing the gap. Among his major backers are “Woody” Johnson, the head of the Johnson & Johnson Company, big oilmen such as Robert Mosbacher and John Hess, FedEx chairman Fred Smith, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, and Cisco CEO John Chambers. Major executives at Wellpoint, Pfizer, Bank of America and Travelers Companies have also lined up behind his candidacy.

Finally, the corporations and the wealthy class that controls them funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into supposedly independent political advocacy groups, often times anonymously.

The result is that literally over a billion dollars has already been spent on the presidential campaign alone. All that money is going to assure that, no matter whether a Republican or Democrat wins, the real winners will be the capitalist class. No matter who takes office, they will represent the interests of the capitalist class, and the capitalists know it.

Workers need to prepare for the next administration, no matter who heads it, Obama or McCain.

Pages 2-3

Holiday Pay

Aug 25, 2008

Workers make everything needed for day-to-day life. We transport everything. We’re the essential part of all services. The society couldn’t exist a week, a day, an hour without our labor.

Yet not everyone who labors is paid holiday pay for Labor Day. Why? Because while we make everything, we do not RUN this society.

45 years ago:
The March on Washington

Aug 25, 2008

Forty-five years ago, on August 28, 1963, over a quarter million people marched in Washington D.C. Textbooks often depict Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as the rally’s chief message, speaking of the moral impact it had in getting Congress to grant rights to the black population.

1963 marked 100 years since Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. It was 95 years since the 14th Amendment to the Constitution had been passed, granting citizenship to everyone born or naturalized and forbidding any state from depriving any citizen of their legal rights. And it was 87 years since the 15th Amendment had been passed, forbidding anyone from denying someone the right to vote because of “race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

Nonetheless, in 1963 legalized Jim Crow ruled the South, and the lives of most black Americans were still dominated by poverty and racist oppression – and not just in the South. The black population had been mobilizing for several decades, protesting the denial of rights – with few results, and a great deal of their blood shed.

In May 1963, a rebellion broke out in Birmingham, Alabama, after the fire-bombing of the movement’s headquarters there. It was quickly followed by rebellions in Savannah, Georgia, and unrest in the streets of other Southern cities.

President Kennedy quickly moved to present a “Civil Rights” bill to Congress. It was nothing but a delaying tactic, since it contained nothing that was not already in the 14th and 15th Amendments. Even so, it languished in Congress.

King may have spoken of his “dream,” but the black population was living the American nightmare. As the summer dawned, the Klan, garbed in the uniforms of Southern sheriffs, attacked civil rights workers, and racist mobs in the North attacked black people on the streets. When demonstrations in St. Augustine, Florida and Cleveland, Ohio were attacked by cops, small revolts broke out. The summer became more tense, with demonstrations becoming more militant, many carrying the slogan “Freedom NOW.”

Finally, the Civil Rights bill was pushed through Congress in July of 1964, as a way to calm down the growing storm. On July 2, Johnson signed the bill.

The black population would not be placated with a meaningless symbol. Only 16 days after the bill was passed, an angry rebellion broke out in Harlem, spreading quickly to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, then onto neighboring cities in New Jersey, moving further south to Philadelphia.

The stage was being set for the big rebellion in Watts in 1965. That was quickly followed by riots in Cleveland in 1966 and Detroit and Newark in 1967, riots which engulfed large numbers of smaller cities in the same regions. By the summer of 1968, hundreds of U.S. cities had been struck by rebellion. There was hardly a city left in the U.S. where black people had not stood up against the police and army, sending the message: “We are here, and we will fight.” As the rebellions progressed, they spread not only nationwide but also into the army, infecting it, including in Viet Nam.

The rights granted in 1863, and restated 101 years later finally began to be respected – not because of what was written in the law. Those laws and amendments never softened the heart of any Southern racist – nor, for that matter, the heart of any Northern politician who sent in police to attack black demonstrators.

What ended legal segregation in the South and began to break down the much more difficult institutionalized racism of the North was the willingness of the black population to stand together and fight back. What turned the tide was the unstoppable march of the great urban rebellions of the 1960s.

The ruling class didn’t listen to moral sermons. It responded to the enormous change in the relationship of forces, a change imposed on it by the rebellion of the black population in the mid to late 1960s.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention

Aug 25, 2008

The two Conventions – Democratic and Republican – will take place almost exactly forty years after the 1968 Democratic Convention, which was strongly marked by the war in Viet Nam.

In April 1968, the U.S. had been rocked by massive uprisings in more than 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The year 1968 also saw an escalation of the war in Viet Nam and the massive protests in cities throughout the U.S.

When anti-war groups asked for permits to demonstrate in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention, Chicago police officials locked down the city, refusing to allow any protests whatsoever. When opponents of the war demonstrated anyway, the police violently attacked, injuring hundreds, arresting thousands.

It was a virtual war in the streets of Chicago, carried out by heavily armed police, attempting to stifle all protest against the war.

But the massive and bloody police intervention could not keep the war from influencing the elections that year. The Democratic Party, which had pursued the war, lost the presidency.

Richard Nixon was elected on the basis of his “plan to end the war.” But he showed that his only plan was to step it up, extending the war in Viet Nam further into Laos and Cambodia. He also soon engaged his administration in the corruption running rampant through the repressive U.S. state apparatus. Spying, assassination and drug dealing – nothing was out of bounds in the U.S. effort to defend and fund its wars in South East Asia and Latin America. And little, apparently, was out of bounds for Nixon.

There may not be the same level of protests this year at the conventions, but that doesn’t mean that history – in somewhat modified form – won’t repeat itself.

Who does NOT pay

Aug 25, 2008

A new study just done by the Government Accountability Office holds no surprises: Most corporations avoid paying income taxes.

Looking at more than a million corporations from 1998 to 2005, the study found that two out of three paid no federal taxes some time in that period. For larger-sized corporations, the study found one out of every four corporations paid no federal taxes.

Corporations supposedly pay a 35% tax rate, which for all their income should have meant 875 billion dollars paid in federal taxes over the eight years. Instead, corporations paid much less, only 307 billion dollars over the period studied. Corporate financial officers and accountants certainly find lots of ways to lower the corporate tax bill.

If only we had creative accountants, and friends in Congress to write us tax exemptions, we too could have a 65% reduction in our tax bills!

Subsidies to business paid by workers

Aug 25, 2008

Mayor Daley said,“It’s a crisis,” with respect to the next city budget, saying the city will be 420 million dollars in the hole. Blaming the recession for reduced tax revenues, Daley said, “It’s going to take some tough decisions.” Either the unions agree to big concessions or the city will lay off one to two thousand workers – that’s Daley’s proposal.

The recession is real enough, but that hasn’t led the city of Chicago to reduce its fantastic giveaways to big corporations. Just last June it provided another 20 million dollars subsidy for the Block 37 super subway station in downtown Chicago. This is after the total cost to government had risen to 320 million.

The city just agreed to spend 158 million dollars in contracts to big companies for the testing, recruiting and hiring of city employees. This includes 40 million dollars to Aon Consulting, 20 million to accounting giant Ernst & Young and 20 million to Valtera Corp.

And the city continues to subsidize all kinds of wealthy developers. There is 52 million dollars to Target and Aldi for construction at Wilson Yard. There is another 51 million dollars for Walton Street Capital to turn the old Main Post Office into condos and a hotel. According to the Civic Federation, a business group, more than half the property taxes the city would collect goes directly to business in subsidies.

Daley has the nerve to say there is no money and to demand that city workers accept concessions or face layoffs. No! If he needs 420 million dollars, he can get it from the gifts he gives to big business. And there is plenty more that could be used to expand needed programs and hire more workers, giving them a decent wage.

Pages 4-5

The war between Russia and Georgia

Aug 25, 2008

Georgia became independent after the 1991 break-up of the USSR into its component republics. Everywhere local potentates used nationalism, even micro-nationalism, to establish their power.

The area in which the Ossetian people lived was divided into two parts. One, North Ossetia, was attached to the current Russian Federation. The other, South Ossetia, with 70,000 inhabitants, was attached to Georgia. But the people of South Ossetia immediately declared their independence from Georgia. Georgia refused to accede to the population’s wishes.

In 1992, after an armed conflict with Georgia, the South Ossetians voted in a referendum for their independence. Starting in 2002, Russia gave them a Russian passport and stationed 1,000 of its own soldiers there. In November 2006, the South Ossetians again voted for independence and they finally also voted to join North Ossetia. Georgia did not agree to this arrangement.

When the president of Georgia, Sakashvili, who was elected in 2004, invaded South Ossetia this summer, his aim was to bring it back inside Georgia. But he probably had another reason. Faced with strong opposition in Georgia itself, perhaps he counted on welding the rest of Georgia together around this military offensive.

There are other situations like this in the ex-USSR. The Republic of Abkhazia with 200,000 inhabitants proclaimed its independence from Georgia in 1992. Armed conflict with Georgia in 1992 and 1993 ended in the victory of the Abkhazians, supported militarily by Russia. Some 200,000 Georgians were expelled from the country. Since 1994, 3,000 Russian soldiers have been stationed in Abkhazia.

Lost in all this are the interests of the population, who are ground up by the political calculations of the local politicians or by those of the Georgian, Russian and Western leaders.

Soldiers but also civilians – men, women and children – are dead from the battles or as a result of bombing. Their leaders invoke patriotism for Georgia, Russia or Ossetia to justify their appetite for power and wealth. But the dead are also victims of the leaders of the big Western powers, who view these people only as pawns on the political chessboard.

A renewed “Cold War”

Aug 25, 2008

The war in the Caucasus began when Georgia attempted forcibly to reestablish its authority over the small secessionist province of South Ossetia and Russia strongly intervened to stop it. But the roots of this attack by Georgia are part and parcel of the “Cold War,” which the Western imperialisms have never stopped waging.

When NATO was established in 1949, its founders pretended its aim was to prevent the expansion of “communism.” In reality, it was Western imperialism that was expanding. NATO was an open military pact aimed at surrounding the Soviet Union, while pacifying areas in Europe where the population was still mobilized.

The Soviet Union broke apart in 1991. But NATO still exists. Moreover, it has gotten bigger, for U.S. imperialism, with the participation of its European satellites, moved to bring into NATO countries that until recently had been part of the Soviet bloc. Until quite recently these territories made up Russia’s buffer zone. A part of the ex-USSR’s former territories are being brought into a military organization which is by nature hostile to Russia. Russia could hardly be expected to like this move.

When Georgia’s leaders invaded South Ossetia, the U.S. was preparing to incorporate Georgia into NATO. Georgia had already sent some of its own troops to fight with the U.S. in Iraq. Apparently Georgia’s leaders thought it could invade South Ossetia without paying any consequences. Maybe they expected Western leaders to intervene on their side. After all, the region is an important passageway for oil and natural gas lines going to the West. But when Russia responded, U.S. leaders contented themselves with hostile declarations toward Russia – so far, anyway. And Georgia was forced to bring back its troops from Iraq.

The rapidity with which this incident blew up shows that the “Cold War” could easily heat up again, because Western imperialism, with its tentacles spread around the globe, is still looking to impose its rule more strongly on the peoples of the world.

Musharraf’s resignation

Aug 25, 2008

Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, finally decided to resign. He had been in power since the coup d’etat of 1999.

He made this decision after several weeks of confrontation with the new government coalition that came together after the opposition’s victory in last February’s legislative elections, and after the U.S., whose faithful ally he had been, broke with him. The announcement of his resignation led to demonstrations of rejoicing in most cities, especially by supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party, the party of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in November 2007.

The government may have changed, but Pakistan will continue to suffer from a serious economic crisis. And it will remain an essential pawn in the policy that Washington pursues in this part of the world, especially toward Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan. Under pressure from the U.S., the new Pakistani government is carrying on a vast month-long offensive along the border in an attempt to destroy the bases of the Afghan Islamist militias.

For 40 years, every leader of the Pakistani state, whether they were civilian or military, acted in agreement with U.S. policy in the region. The U.S. used every one of them to control a region that is vital for its strategy. In the early years, U.S. imperialism was in part responsible for the development, especially in Afghanistan, of Islamist organizations, using them to attack the Soviet Union at its edges.

Today, the U.S. fears the growing hold of these same Islamist organizations over the region and attempts to organize other military forces against them.

The explosive situation in Pakistan will continue.

U.S. escalating its “hidden” war on Afghanistan

Aug 25, 2008

On August 21, a U.S.-led air strike in a village called Azizabad in western Afghanistan killed 95 civilians. According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, among the dead were 50 children under the age of 15-years-old. The rest of those killed were women. U.S. bombs also completely destroyed 15 houses, and damaged many others.

A couple of days later, Afghan troops showed up at the village, supposedly to hand out food and clothes. But their presence only aroused greater anger in the people in the village. The people shouted at the soldiers, “We don’t need your food, we don’t need your clothes. We want our children. We want our relatives. Can you give it to us? You cannot, so go away.” They also called for U.S. troops to get out of their country immediately. They threw rocks at the Afghan troops, who then opened fire and wounded eight more people, including one child critically.

Thus, one atrocity was heaped on another. Increasingly, it is happening all across the country. On July 6, for example, a U.S. air strike in eastern Afghanistan killed 27 people in a wedding party – most of them women and children, including the bride. And it is happening more, as the U.S. moves quickly to escalate its war in Afghanistan. In the first six months of the year, the U.S. doubled its bombing of Afghanistan compared to the previous year. In June alone, the U.S. dropped and launched 646 bombs and missiles. At the same time, the U.S. and its allies in NATO have been moving more troops into Afghanistan. There are already roughly 70,000 U.S. and NATO troops fighting there, a jump of more than 25,000 in the past 18 months.

The U.S. justifies this escalation by the growing strength of the insurgency, the Taliban, al Qaeda or whatever group the U.S. claims is operating there. But of course, the main victims of the U.S. war and occupations have been civilians, like those of Azizabad and other cities and towns all across the country. Even the United Nations, which has been working closely with the U.S. in Afghanistan, has been forced to admit this.

So, as reactionary and repressive as the Taliban are, an increasing number of Afghan people have joined or supported them and other insurgent groups. Because to many Afghan people, anything is better than the U.S. military, which has killed and destroyed so much since it first invaded the country almost seven years ago.

Due to this increasing support, the attacks against U.S. and allied troops have increased substantially. August 19 marked the bloodiest day for the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, with 10 elite French soldiers killed and 21 wounded in a sustained assault by the Taliban outside Kabul, the capital. Separately, a U.S. base in the eastern province of Khost, Camp Salerno, was attacked by insurgents in what military experts called one of the most complex operations yet. The attack included a back-up fighting force that tried to breach defenses to the airport at the base. Although the U.S. troops were able to beat back the offensive, three U.S. soldiers were badly wounded.

Here in the U.S., until recently the war in Afghanistan had been overshadowed by Iraq. Afghanistan, smoldering in the background, was known as the “forgotten war.” No more. By early August, the number of U.S. troops killed since the U.S. invasion of October 1, 2001 had surpassed 500, a deadly milestone. And in both June and July, the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan was higher than the number killed in Iraq.

These numbers are guaranteed to grow quickly, especially if the U.S. politicians and heads of the U.S. military have their way. The head of the U.S. Central Command, Admiral Mullen, says that he wants 10,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a proposal which has the strong support of both U.S. candidates for president, Obama and McCain.

The politicians and generals want to use the people of this country to impose even greater U.S. control over central Asia, its vast resources, its wealth and its peoples. The working population of this country has no interest in these wars. They only isolate us from laboring people around the globe – and drain the resources we need here.

Stop the U.S. war in Afghanistan, end the barbaric bombing of the country and its people, get all U.S. troops out now!

Our Social Security money in Iraq

Aug 25, 2008

The politicians, Republican and Democrat, all want us to believe that Social Security is running out of money. Not true. Next year, Social Security is projected to run a surplus of over 100 BILLION dollars.

Rather than either cut Social Security taxes or use that money for retirees, the politicians are using the surplus to help pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s our retirement money they are blowing up in those wars!

Pages 6-7

Some workers protest Chrysler plans

Aug 25, 2008

On June 30, Chrysler announced it would cut 2400 jobs from its St. Louis plants. A minivan plant would be closed by October 31, and a shift would be cut from the truck plant.

On August 14, about 400 workers from Chrysler’s plants in St. Louis – minivan assembly, truck assembly, and parts plants – traveled 600 miles to Chrysler’s Michigan headquarters in Auburn Hills to protest.

The St. Louis workers were certainly right to begin to fight back. And the fight will need to expand across the whole workforce if Chrysler is to be stopped. The attack is not on St. Louis alone. It is part of the general attack carried out by Chrysler’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management.

Cerberus’s plan from the start has been to sell off Chrysler in whatever way would turn a quick buck – whether as a whole or in pieces. At the moment, Cerberus’s plans are delayed because of the frozen financial credit markets – no company can borrow any billions to buy anything! But the plan moves forward as Chrysler signs up companies like Nissan, Chery, Tata, and Volkswagen for joint ventures.

Chrysler’s planned cuts, to total 29,000 hourly and salary workers, and its completed sales of 500 million dollars worth of property, and its plans to sell more assets worth one billion, also point in the same direction. One major newspaper claims that Chrysler has eliminated over one million units of yearly production capacity. What does that say about a company that, up to now, sold just over two million units a year? One thing is sure: Chrysler’s sales weren’t down that much.

Under the pretext of a bad economy, Cerberus is hastening to junk Chrysler’s productive capacity in favor of the quickest buck they can make. It’s not a special plan – Ford and GM have their own versions – but Cerberus is furthest along.

One way or another, every Chrysler worker is threatened by Cerberus’s plans. And every worker in the auto industry is threatened by similar plans. Exactly here lies workers’ ability to protect themselves: in their numbers, their large numbers. Workers can react, and make every automotive wheel stop cold.

Every plan can be changed, once workers begin to protect their own interests in the plants and products they have built and the wealth they have created.

It does not matter what city, state or country we work in. Bringing our forces together, we can stop being picked off one by one, the way the big bosses are doing us now.

The housing crisis:
Tenants evicted

Aug 25, 2008

More and more renters are being evicted, even though they are paid up in their rent. Often their security deposit isn’t returned to them.

It’s a scam – and another fallout of the mortgage crisis. As the owners of apartment buildings lose their buildings to foreclosure, tenants are pushed aside.

The Chicago Reporter examined the evictions of thousands of people in apartment buildings made up of two to six units. It found that many of the tenants weren’t given the notice required by law before being evicted, and they often didn’t have the chance to challenge their eviction in court.

Why should tenants be evicted from buildings because the owner fell behind in mortgage payments? Why should people lose their house and have their belongings thrown on the street because Wall Street speculators drove up prices, creating a collapse of the housing market and mortgages that couldn’t be paid?

This society that protects the property of bankers and wealthy investors and kicks renters out into the street is showing its viciousness more than ever.

Page 8

19th century work conditions in the 21st century

Aug 25, 2008

In the largest immigration raid in U.S. history, hundreds of immigration officials swept in and arrested 389 people at an Iowa kosher meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors. Most were charged with document fraud and sentenced to five months in prison; when they’re released, the government plans to deport them.

After the arrests, people in the community began protesting. Fifty-seven children came forward, testifying that they had been employed at the plant. Some were as young as 13. They had worked the night shift at the plant, for as long as 17 hours at a time, working with sharp knives at close quarters, cutting meat and poultry – and often themselves and others.

Most workers at the plant are paid $6 to $7 an hour. Many workers have lost fingers and hands. Many are undocumented – with the full knowledge of the company, which brings them into town, using their lack of legal status to control them, threatening to deport them. This fear of deportation torpedoed a union organizing drive a couple years ago.

These terrible working conditions have been known by U.S. authorities for years. Articles have been written about them in national papers. And yet, it was an immigration raid that was carried out in May, not a Labor Department raid. The workers working under these conditions were the ones arrested – not the owners and managers of the company.

More than half of Postville’s 2500 residents are Hispanic; more than one-tenth of them were arrested in the raid and await deportation. Some children were arrested in the raid, though their charges were dropped and they were released.

Many more children, though, have been left homeless, as their parents remain in jail awaiting deportation.

The town of Postville has been torn apart in these raids; in response, those left behind have been organizing protests, caring for the children left abandoned after the raid, and publicizing the conditions in this plant.

It was only after the demonstrations and publicity that Iowa state labor investigators “discovered” – almost three months after the raid, and years after the conditions in the plant were first reported – that Agriprocessors had committed multiple child labor law violations. Even now, the agency has only issued a report in which it recommended that the state attorney general bring charges against the company. But no charges have been filed yet.

It’s clear what the government thinks is truly illegal and worthy of arrest at these workplaces: holding false documents is; endangering the lives of children is not.

Using Katrina to change the face of New Orleans

Aug 25, 2008

Three years after the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina breached the levees in New Orleans, the city is being rebuilt, but in a very different way than it stood before.

While the population in wealthier areas of the city like Lakewood is 30% less than before Katrina, the population in lower income areas like the Lower Ninth Ward and Holy Cross is down 65 to 89%. Overall, the city’s black population has declined. And the number of elderly residents is down, with 50% fewer retired workers receiving Social Security benefits.

Fewer poor, black and working class people have come back to New Orleans because the wealthy and their politicians have made conscious decisions to remove the housing, transportation, and schools needed for them to return.

There is less affordable housing available since most of the homes in lower-income areas have not been rebuilt. And in the face of this housing shortage, the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is destroying 4,500 public housing units, promising to replace them – sometime in the future – with “mixed-income” rental homes that will be unaffordable to many displaced residents. The housing shortage is likely to get worse, since FEMA also decided to get rid of its formaldehyde-laced trailers, without replacing them.

Families that do return to New Orleans face a declining school system. When school started in September of 2006, more than a year after the hurricane, the schools had too few buses and textbooks, no hot lunches, and facilities were run-down. There were 106 unfilled teacher positions.

Since that time, changes to the school system have created a divide between students from more well-off areas and those from poorer areas. The best schools in the traditional school system, the magnet schools, allowed to selectively admit students, located mainly in the better off areas, were restarted. The rest were turned over to a new school district, which turned many of them into charter schools run by private companies. Those schools are definitely not better off than they were before Katrina.

The government may not have planned the flooding in order to move out poor and black residents, but the wealthy class has certainly taken advantage of it. By excluding the poor and black population, the very people to whom New Orleans owes its culture and traditions, the wealthy are gentrifying New Orleans. This same gentrification has been happening in every major city in the country. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed simply increased the speed at which it occurred in New Orleans.

What’s the big hurry?

Aug 25, 2008

On January 1, relatively cheap inhalers doctors most often prescribe for asthma will be banned. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which banned them, says the gas they use destroys the ozone layer.

The EPA has hardly been in a rush to reduce the main causes of ozone destruction. And these inhalers contribute only 1/10 of one% to that destruction.

So what’s the big hurry? If the EPA had waited only two more years, asthma sufferers could have replaced the current low-cost inhalers with newer ones, which will become available then in generic, that is, low-cost, versions.

Oh, so that’s it – the EPA was rushing to give the four big drug companies time to make big bucks off the new inhalers before they have to switch to generics.

We should have known!