The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Issue no. 844 — April 20 - May 4, 2009

Editorial:
Behind the Attack on Auto Workers
– Every Worker Is a Target

Apr 20, 2009

April 30 – the deadline Obama gave Chrysler workers – looms like a date with the executioner. Not far behind it is May 30, when GM workers face the same knife.

In theory, Obama, like Bush before him, was demanding that the auto companies change the way that they do business, that they “restructure,” and that all “stakeholders” make sacrifices.

But behind the rhetoric of “shared sacrifice” and “hard choices” by the companies stands this reality: the auto workers, and essentially only them, are the ones being asked to sacrifice.

The bondholders – which are the biggest banks in the country, the ones that already got government bailouts – will be given warrants allowing them to tap into the auto companies’ profit stream year after year. GM’s CEO Wagoner, who supposedly was booted out, left with 23 million dollars and some change, plus a pension of $68,900 a year. Cerberus, which already drained billions out of Chrysler, will be allowed to walk away, free from all the debts it ran up, putting them on Chrysler’s back.

But auto workers are being asked for sacrifices that effectively will cut their pay and benefits in half, that will eliminate part of their medical coverage. Auto retirees are threatened with possible losses in their pensions and the sure loss of their medical coverage in a few years.

This scam is being pushed through by Obama’s threat to force the companies into bankruptcy (on April 30 for Chrysler and May 30 for GM) if the workers don’t give up even more than they’ve already ceded back to the companies over the past four years.

“It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to make even more,” Obama dared to say. A week later he added: “I cannot pretend there isn’t more difficulty to come. But I am confident that if we all do our part, then this restructuring as painful as it will be, will mark not an end, but a new beginning.”

Which “we” is he talking about, this millionaire politician who pretends that “we all” have sacrifices to make?

The only sacrifices being demanded are from the workers – and not just from auto workers, but from every worker in this country.

Have no illusions about that. If auto workers go down, every worker will come under attack. Many already have been attacked, of course. But it will get worse. If auto wages are driven down from $29 an hour to $14 an hour, then people today making $14 will be driven down to minimum wage. If auto workers see their health care cut down to minimum coverage, those who have minimum coverage will have none.

And leave no doubt about it – the auto workers’ relatively complete health care coverage is in the middle of the bulls-eye. Obama’s chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, has said, and repeated and repeated again that the auto companies must “get rid of a health care cost structure that’s outdated.” (On “Face the Nation,” March 1, for example.) In other words, it’s “outdated” that a worker should get health care that’s more or less adequate – not as good as Congress gets, and certainly not what a millionaire former investment banker like Emanuel gets, but more or less adequate. That idea, according to Obama’s chief, is “outdated.”

No, what’s outdated is this idea that the wealthy should get more and more, while the workers let themselves be pushed down into the mud.

There is no reason for auto workers – or for any other worker – to make a single sacrifice.

Workers didn’t wreck the auto companies. The capitalists who own all those companies did.

Workers didn’t wreck the economy speculating – GMAC did, driving up housing prices. Workers didn’t drain auto company profits into convoluted financial schemes – Cerberus did. Workers didn’t hide money in offshore banks – GM did. Workers didn’t give out more money to investors than the companies made – Ford and GM did. The capitalist class did. Make them pay!

For us – not one more sacrifice. Not one more concession. Not from auto workers, not from any worker.

Pages 2-3

The PBGC Has Gambled Away Our Pensions

Apr 20, 2009

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is supposed to be insuring the pensions of 44 million workers. But last year the PBGC hopped on board the crazy speculation bandwagon – only to lose a big chunk of that money.

The PBGC officials won’t say how much they lost – so you know that number can’t be good!

Instead of requiring employers to pay adequate insurance premiums, the PBGC switched its investments to riskier investments than it is supposed to hold. And they did this right BEFORE the financial markets collapsed last year.

The government has told us we have nothing to worry about with our pensions – that they’ve got it all covered.

But now, quietly, they let the biggest corporations get away with stripping yet another safety net that millions of people thought they could rely on.

Bank Profits:
All a Mirage

Apr 20, 2009

Several big investment banks are reporting profits for the first time in months. Stock prices are rebounding – markets jumped over 25% in March. Politicians and the banks are practically telling us the economy has turned a corner.

Not in the real world where we live. There, the situation has only gotten worse. Foreclosures jumped 44% in March to reach a new record high. Pre-closure filings also jumped up. People are still losing their homes in record number. New housing construction dropped sharply in March, after rising briefly in February. Industrial production is at a ten-year low. Commercial real estate is plunging, and credit card losses are jumping up.

Unemployment continued to rise, from 8.1% in February to 8.5% in March. Michigan is at 12.6%. And of course, that’s the official unemployment rate, which is fewer than half the real jobless rate.

For the banks, though, things ARE getting better. For one thing, they’ve been allowed to create their own reality. “Creative accounting” plays a big role in the profits these institutions are reporting. Goldman Sachs, which reported a first quarter profit of 1.8 billion dollars, conveniently ignored December, when it lost over a billion dollars.

Citigroup’s reported profits of 1.6 billion dollars in the first quarter are based on what’s called a “credit value adjustment,” which basically allowed it to report 2.7 billion in LOST value as gains. JP Morgan added 638 million to its revenues in the same way; Bank of America is expected to use the same trick when it makes its profit announcement.

Thanks to changes made in the accounting rules for their “toxic” securities, the banks no longer have to mark down the full value of the assets they can’t sell; instead, they have only to subtract a portion of that value. Thanks to that trick, Citigroup inflated its profit figures by 413 million dollars in the first quarter.

No wonder analysts have been talking about a “great whitewash” producing “junk income”!

And, of course, things have gotten better for the banks because the government has handed them trillions of dollars in bailout money. They took this money and poured it right back into speculation! Big banks are buying smaller banks. Big speculators are buying up bank stock. They’re doing the same thing that created this mess, all over again!

The banks are receiving trillions in fictional money from the government, and they’re creating fictional profits out of thin air. But underneath, they’re grinding down real people and the real economy beneath the weight of this fictional bubble.

Not Nearly Enough Food Safety

Apr 20, 2009

In California and Florida, some of the big agricultural growers are actually paying government officials to inspect their crops – and not officials of the FDA.

Are they worried about some forty thousand of us who end up in the hospital from food poisoning? No, they are worried about their profits – and they even say it! Two years ago, the spinach growers suffered one hundred million dollars in losses when E-coli had spread through the food chain.

It’s obvious the FDA doesn’t inspect or verify the sanitary condition of the food chain. It can’t – it’s been starved of funds for at least 30 years. Newspapers reported last week that the FDA currently has 1,307 inspectors – that means 26 inspectors per state. Twenty-six inspectors could not even inspect all the food establishments in one single major city. And the FDA is not only responsible for groceries and restaurants, it is responsible for production, storage and distribution of all food in the United States except meat.

Over a five year period, from 2002 to 2007, fewer than one% of all establishments were inspected even once.

So now growers pay someone else to inspect their operations. The next time they sicken thousands of people and get sued, they’ll be able to whip out the inspection clearance they paid for.

Taxes:
Steal from the Poor to Give to the Rich

Apr 20, 2009

April 15th has come and gone – painfully for many of us. But for the richest people, Tax Day is just another day like any other.

Figures just released by the Congressional Budget Office show what we have all known: For decades, the rich have been getting richer at the expense of the rest of us. The average income of the top one% of taxpayers more than doubled (after compensating for inflation) during the 20 years from 1986 to 2006. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate paid by this top one% was cut by about one third.

The gap between the income and taxes of the top one% is even bigger if all the other taxes we pay are taken into account: Social Security tax increases, state and local sales taxes, real estate taxes, water and sewer fees, car registration fees, fines – all of which weigh much more heavily on the unemployed and working class layers of the population.

Under both Democrats and Republicans the tax laws certainly have been used to redistribute wealth – taking from the working population to give to the wealthy.

Not a Good Time for Surgery

Apr 20, 2009

Dean Health, a Madison, Wisconsin health care provider, recently announced it planned to “immediately” lay off 90 employees.

They weren’t kidding! Shortly afterward, the only nurse attending a surgical operation was pulled out mid-stream and told by a manager that she was laid off!

When you go for an operation, better ask if they plan any layoffs that day!

Obama Protects Those Behind the Torture

Apr 20, 2009

Facing a deadline in a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration released four secret legal memos written by Bush administration lawyers authorizing the use of torture.

The documents made explicit that the Bush administration approved the systematic use of torture methods by the CIA, including waterboarding, the slamming of detainees into walls and prolonged sleep deprivation. Obama condemned the Bush policies as “a dark and painful chapter in our history.” But then he quickly added he intended NOT to pursue an investigation: “Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

In protecting the lawyers Obama thus protected those who gave the orders to torture: Bush and Cheney. This refusal to hold anyone to account was in keeping with the stance Obama had earlier taken on torture. With a lot of fanfare, he announced in January that he had ordered the closing of Guantanamo and of the CIA’s secret prisons, the halting of military commission trials, and the restriction of CIA interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, which was taken to mean an end of torture.

But later, behind the scenes, in testimony to Congress, Obama’s solicitor general and his CIA director revealed that the U.S. would continue to use “extraordinary rendition,” that is, the transfer of prisoners, including U.S. citizens, to other countries where military regimes regularly employ torture. Furthermore, according to CIA director Leon Panetta, if the approved army interrogation techniques were not “sufficient,” other methods, i.e. torture, could be used. Prisoners would continue to be held “indefinitely” without charges.

Prosecuting Bush and Cheney might have set a nasty precedent when the nefarious activities of the Obama administration come to light a few years from now.

What’s a Bank to Do?

Apr 20, 2009

All through last year, the Federal Reserve cut its interest rates to the banks. In December, the prime rate fell to 3.2% – that’s the rate the banks have to pay to borrow from the Fed.

So of course banks lowered their interest rates to consumers, right? Oh nooooo, not on your life. Citibank, JP Morgan and Bank of America all quickly raised their highest credit card rates to just under 30%!

These are the same banks that had just received trillions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers, directly or indirectly. Obviously, their raging thirst for more money has no limit!

Pages 4-5

Cuba and the U.S.:
End the Embargo!

Apr 20, 2009

A White House communiqué announced that Cubans living in the United States would be able to visit family members in Cuba and transfer money there with few limitations.

Obama’s decision follows up on a report issued in February by Republican Senator Richard Lugar, which said the 47-year embargo had failed and invited the new administration to open diplomatic and commercial relations with the Castro regime.

There were mixed responses to Obama’s decision. Those who want to lift the embargo saw it as an encouraging sign. On the other hand, the most fiercely anti-Castro Cubans in the U.S. think that it would lead to an influx of capital to Cuba which would further consolidate the Cuban regime which they have dreamed of destroying for more than fifty years!

In reality, it was more of a publicity stunt than a real change. It left in place the embargo, which makes the daily lives of Cubans miserable. And it was directed more to other Latin American leaders that Obama met soon after he announced the change. The big majority of them, with the exception of Uribe from Columbia, want an end to the Cuban embargo. It was a way to mark the new U.S. administration off from the previous one.

The fact remains that the measures taken by Obama are very modest. They favor Cubans living in the U.S. much more than those on the island, who continue to suffer the consequences of the U.S. embargo, which makes the lives of the Cuban population and especially its poorest layers ever more difficult.

Some fifty years ago, U.S. leaders established this embargo. They expected that it would cause the Castro regime, which dared defy U.S. domination, to give up. But the Castro regime didn’t give in, and despite the difficulties, it even succeeded in establishing and maintaining a certain number of social conquests, especially in the areas of education and health, which the majority of other countries of Latin American still don’t enjoy.

It’s outrageous that this embargo, imposed by the giant U.S. imperialism to demonstrate its power, remains in force today. End the embargo!

2009, Year of Darwin

Apr 20, 2009

2009 is both the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. A double reason to celebrate a decisive step in the progress of knowledge over religious reaction.

In 1809 when Darwin was born, “public opinion” in the western countries agreed that the biblical creation story explained the creation of the earth and the living beings that inhabit it. The church maintained that the earth was six thousand years old. While the majority of naturalists and other “scholars” believed that God was the great architect of the earth and all things, there were some whose observations, particularly of fossils, led them to call in question the dogma of creation and the immutability of species.

The Birth of the Idea of Evolution

Among those who today are called evolutionists, but were called then “transformationists,” was Buffon, born a hundred years before Darwin. In the 1700s, he defended the idea that the earth and living beings had been transformed over the course of time. He worked to show that the earth was much older than the professors of theology presumed, and this assertion caused him no end of trouble.

Lamarck, one of Buffon’s disciples, later elaborated this idea of transformation. And in 1809 Lamarck set out his theory that species, under the pressure of the environment, transform themselves in order to be better adapted to their surroundings, and that they transmit these transformations to their descendants. He was the first to formulate an explanation of transformations in relationship to the environment.

Opposed to the “transformationists” were those who thought that all species remained as they had been created and reproduced identically, “fixed” through time. Cuvier was one of the most famous. When Darwin was born, Cuvier was a prominent 40-year-old professor who specialized in paleontology, the study of fossils. Some of the fossils he studied showed that species different from modern species had existed earlier. To explain this, Cuvier put forward his “theory of catastrophes,” that the earth had experienced catastrophes, of which the flood was the most recent. In the course of these catastrophes, some species disappeared, to be replaced by others that came from other places. The biblical legend was saved, all the animals were the product of the creation and only those saved by Noah survived.

Darwin’s Contributions

Throughout the early nineteenth century, the theories of those who thought everything remained fixed clashed with those of the “transformationists”. What Darwin contributed and what soon allowed him to settle, prove and convince was an impressive quantity of observations and facts – thousands of specimens of plants, animals and fossils gathered during his five year trip around the world aboard the Beagle.

Darwin was 22 when he left on his three-masted ship, sent out to chart the coasts of South America. He was the son of a doctor and had spent three years studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh before abandoning his studies, lacking a real calling. Then he studied theology at Cambridge and became an Anglican pastor, in order, he said, to have time to devote to his passion for natural history. It was a bit of an accident that he had the chance to sail with the Beagle as a naturalist while still a believer in the “natural theology” taught at Cambridge, which held that the marvelous harmony of the world and nature could only be explained by a “divine design.”

The long voyage around the world and above all his many discoveries ended up bringing him to question all that. He had brought The Principles of Geology on board with him. This was a book published by Charles Lyell, a geologist who opposed catastrophism and for whom the earth, far from having been created in a time marked by catastrophes, was formed and transformed over the course of time by the continual and progressive effects of natural causes like erosion and volcanic eruptions. A stopover by the Beagle at the volcanic islands of Cape Verde quickly convinced Darwin that Lyell’s analysis was correct.

Later, in Brazil and Argentina, Darwin noted fossils of extinct mammals that resembled modern species. They led him to the idea of a kinship between these animals and to the idea of transformation, an evolution over the course of time.

There was also the stop in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin observed that from one island to the next, the form and the size of the beaks of finches were different, at the same time that the food available on each island was also different. Later, after his return to England, his specimens were studied by an eminent ornithologist, a bird specialist. Darwin came to understand that the finches were different species and that these species had been transformed. These finches, he explained, all came from a root species. On each island they underwent modifications, including in the shape of their beak; thus the form best adapted to the available food resources was selected. In this way, a new species was formed.

An Earthshaking Publication

In 1842, six years after his return, Darwin composed the first manuscript of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, asserting his idea of a slow evolution of living beings over time and explaining the mechanism of this evolution: the appearance of new characteristics (no one knew anything then about genetics or mutations) and the natural selection of those characteristics that offered, to the individuals who carried them, an advantage for survival and reproduction. He also asserted the unity of the living world, the links of descent between extinct species and living species and the links that all species have with each other in a great evolutionary tree with roots in the first forms of life.

While Darwin composed his first manuscript in 1842, he didn’t decide to publish his book until 17 years later and then only because another naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, was reaching the same conclusions. Wallace’s work threatened to take the credit for his ideas away from Darwin.

Darwin dreaded the scandal his book was sure to produce among religious people and he was not wrong! Even though in his 1859 book Darwin didn’t say a word about the origin of humanity – he waited until 1871 to do this – his whole reasoning implied that the human species doesn’t escape this line of descent, this kinship with all other living beings. The reasoning also implied that the origin of humanity had nothing to do with a great divine organizer. As for Darwin – he explained in his autobiography that he had escaped the dogmas of the Bible and given up his faith.

Today, 150 years later, the evolution of the earth, of life, and of the different species is accepted by everyone, at least by everyone who has access to culture and knowledge. Certainly, and even in countries with the most advanced knowledge, there are still reactionaries who challenge evolution and defend “creationism” or some other divine “design.”

But evolution is an indisputable fact, proved many times over by the discoveries of genetics and documented by a much larger array of fossils, as well as a much wider examination of the millions of species that inhabit or have inhabited this earth.

Much of what science has learned of DNA, for example, or of the mutation of viruses, is solidly based in Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution. Modern biological research is grounded in Darwin.

France:
Continental Tire Workers Fight Against a Plant Closing

Apr 20, 2009

The following article is based on reports appearing in Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary organization of that name in France.

On March 31, 550 French tire workers from a town north of Paris drove in a convoy of over 100 cars to a tire factory 300 miles away located in Lorraine, in eastern France near the German border. The convoy took toll roads, but none of the cars paid any tolls. When the workers arrived in Lorraine, they were joined by several hundred workers from another tire factory. Together, they held a protest against the decision by management to close the factory north of Paris by 2010.

The workers from both plants are employed by Continental, the fifth largest auto parts maker in the world. Early last year, the Continental bosses had imposed big concessions, including an increase in work hours with no increase in pay with the promise that it would allow the bosses to keep the plant open. But a few months later, management cut production, and proceeded to lay off several hundred temporary workers. There were also temporary plant closings, which meant a further drop in income for the tire workers still on the job.

The March 11 announcement that the company was closing the plant completely was the last straw. Hundreds of workers left work and began milling around in front of the plant. Two hundred workers blocked a nearby intersection. They then went back inside the plant and organized a general meeting of the entire workforce.

The next day, workers confronted the plant manager. After some eggs were thrown at him, the boss quickly fled. The workers then left the plant and demonstrated in the town, where they were joined by many other workers. Many towns had already been hit hard by plant closings and high unemployment.

The following days, no workers in the tire plant worked. Instead, the workers went to daily meetings, in which they decided to demand no layoffs and the continuation of the payment of their wages. The workers also elected a committee to organize their struggle.

The workers soon began to take action. On March 19, 1000 tire workers, along with their families, went to other plants located near their factory. They soon gathered 15,000 workers and their families to demonstrate in a town that had only 45,000 people. It was the biggest demonstration in that town’s history.

On March 23, the workers went back to work, after management agreed to pay for the days the workers were on strike. However, the workers produced few tires. Then, there were more demonstrations. On March 25, over 1,000 workers traveled to Paris to demonstrate in front of the Presidential palace, where workers set tires on fire.

After the March 31 demonstration in Lorraine, the workers decided to make plans to charter a train to Continental’s German headquarters to demonstrate during a stockholders’ meeting – where they plan on joining up with not only workers from Lorraine, but workers from German plants as well.

After about a month of struggle, the Continental tire workers are trying to increase their strength by mobilizing workers from other plants, while at the same time pressuring the French government.

Pages 6-7

Workers’ Comp:
Cheating Injured Workers

Apr 20, 2009

California workers’ compensation insurance was so underfunded that the state’s Insurance Rating Bureau was forced to recommend an increase in insurance premiums paid by employers.

Bosses rushed to protest, but they did not mention that workers’ comp premiums that businesses pay in California have dropped 65% in the last six years!

This is thanks to California’s workers’ comp “reforms” passed in 1993, 1997 and 2004. The last one in 2004 was proposed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and passed by a Democratic legislature. Since then, this bipartisan law has saved California businesses an estimated 15 billion dollars every year!

Workers have paid the price – in money, pain and suffering. This “reform” not only lowered the premiums for bosses, it also drove down the number of claims, making it more difficult for injured workers to get their work-related injuries and illnesses recognized.

Not only employers but also pharmaceutical and other health care corporations, insurance companies, lawyers have all richly profited from California’s workers’ comp “reform” – at the expense of injured workers!

Across the U.S., state politicians have been chopping into workers’ comp programs in similar ways. To name just a few examples – in Arkansas, workers’ comp payments have dropped 63% since 1996; Louisiana wants to drop workers’ comp premiums by 17.4%, after dropping them already 8.6 last year and 15.8% in 2007; Utah is in the process of lowering the current 5.5% premium tax for employers to 1.25% by 2013.

Workers’ comp is the oldest social insurance program in the U.S., introduced in some states about a century ago. It provides workers medical care and some money for some injuries suffered on the job – to be funded by taxing employers. In return, workers give up their right to sue their bosses. The results, as every worker knows, have been rather one-sided, in favor of the bosses.

Not a big surprise in a society that’s run by the bosses and their politicians.

Movie Review:
Frozen River

Apr 20, 2009

Frozen River, which was in movie theaters last fall, is now out on DVD. In its own way, it is a kind of war movie. The trenches are not in Iraq, but in places like the dollar-store where Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) works part-time as a clerk, struggling to put food on the table for her family.

The story takes place in upstate New York at the Canadian border where the Mohawk reservation straddles the St. Lawrence River. The landscape is gray, snow-covered and dotted with trailers and discount stores.

The movie opens with a close-up of Ray, who has just discovered that her gambler of a husband has taken off with the down payment for their double-wide. It is a week before Christmas. The camera shows every crease in Ray’s face – reminiscent of Dorothea Lange’s photos of a Depression-era mother.

Ray has two sons, 15-year-old T.J. (Charlie McDermott) and 5-year-old Ricky (James Reilly). The meager wage she gets clerking at the Yankee Dollar Store does not go very far.

She tries to get a promotion at work. But the store manager, who looks like a snotty-nosed kid, gives the promotion to her always late but much younger and prettier co-worker.

Ray is humiliated in a real estate office and hounded by creditors threatening to repo the big-screen TV in her shabby living room. She digs through the couch cushions looking for loose change to give her boys lunch money. Dinner is popcorn and Tang.

Not the least of her problems is T.J. who offers to quit school and take a job. As de facto head of the household while she is working, he cooks up a telemarketing scam and almost burns down the trailer when he uses his father’s blowtorch to unfreeze the pipes.

Ray develops a relationship of necessity with Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a sad, single mother with a reputation for smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Canada. They meet when Ray visits the bingo parlor on the Mohawk reservation looking for her husband and catches Lila stealing the car he left behind. Lila is as desperate as Ray. Her daughter was taken from her at birth by her mother-in-law.

Ray and Lila become smugglers who drive across the frozen St. Lawrence River for meetings with a gun-toting Québécois. He hands over illegal immigrants from China and Pakistan who hide in her trunk while Ray drives them over the ice to a remote motel on the other side of the border. At each stop, cash is exchanged and haggled over.

Racism is a fact of life. The state police have a double standard for Native people and white people; a white driver is much less likely to be stopped and questioned. Lila makes no secret of her resentment toward white folk. Ray has her own qualms. What if the Pakistanis she is carrying across the border are terrorists?

Even though this film takes place in a unique location with a unique set of circumstances, it will feel familiar to many working class people in many ways.

Page 8

Anti-Women Law Proposed in Afghanistan

Apr 20, 2009

Hamid Karzai, Afghan president, supported a new law that would destroy whatever small amounts of moral, physical or material independence the women from the Shiite minority have kept for themselves.

In fact, such a law would touch all women in Afghanistan, turning them into victims for the sake of Karzai’s election campaign. The next presidential elections are in August and Hamid Karzai, supported by all the imperialists, expects to win again.

This law would force women to put up with rape by their husbands. They could not leave their homes without a “legitimate reason,” decided by their husbands, of course. Under this law, women would not be allowed to study, to travel or to conduct business. Women would not be allowed to go to a doctor without permission from their husband. Men could take a bride as young as 9 years of age.

This “New Law on the Family in Afghanistan” is proposed to overcome Karzai’s lack of popularity among many religious Afghanis. It shows in advance what support he is seeking for the government he expects to run: the most reactionary ideas possible – repeating the vicious moral and physical violence that was exercised against women during the rule of the Taliban up until 2001.

The law is disgusting,” said Obama, followed by Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and the secretary general of NATO. But that doesn’t mean any of them will stop supporting their puppet government nor stop sending troops to prop it up. Obama even proposed that his European allies send more troops, with the aim, supposedly says Obama, of preventing the return of “the barbarism of the Taliban.”

No, they want only the barbarism of a government they directly control!

Supreme Court Decides Against Mumia Abu-Jamal

Apr 20, 2009

The Supreme Court just refused to give a favorable decision to the appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lawyers who had asked for a new trial. Thus, the highest court definitively ratified the denial of justice that has victimized this black journalist and activist for 27 years.

The basis of this latest appeal was the fact the prosecutor excluded almost all black potential jurors during the 1982 trial. The result was that the jury which pronounced the death sentence was made up of ten white and only two black jurors. Obviously, the racism couldn’t be clearer. Nonetheless the Supreme Court turned a blind eye. This was the last issue on which Mumia could have hoped to get a new trial. The courts had already denied him a new trial despite all the new evidence found showing his innocence.

The Supreme Court, however, still has to decide on the appeal by the Philadelphia prosecutor demanding the Supreme Court reverse the Appeals Court which suspended the death sentence. If the Supreme Court sustains the Appeals Court, a new jury would be selected, but only to decide whether the penalty should be life in prison or death. If the Supreme Court overturns the decision of the Appeals Court, Mumia will be condemned to death.

In other words, at best Mumia is facing life in prison.

A number of organizations and clergyman are now asking Barack Obama to pardon Mumia with complete right on their side. From beginning to end this was a complete frame-up of a political activist who had embarrassed the Philadelphia police by shining a light on its repressive actions.

During the election campaign, asked if he had taken a position on the case, Obama responded, “You know, I haven’t, only because the details of this event I’ve never studied. You know, I’m vaguely familiar with the fact that there’s been a controversy around it. So let me just lay out a very clear principle. In my mind, if somebody killed a police officer, they deserve the death penalty, uh, or life in prison. And that’s my view. And that’s part of the reason why I received the endorsement of the National Association of Police Officers.” And we should add, the endorsement of Michael Smerconish, the right-wing radio talk host who has been pushing for Mumia to be put to death for years.

It’s obvious that getting Obama to pardon Mumia will require that this case is more widely publicized, that those people who understand what a judicial farce it was bring all the pressure to bear. Those who want to prevent the legal assassination of Mumia Abu-Jamal must double, redouble, and redouble again efforts to enforce his freedom.

How to Support Troops?
Jobs!

Apr 20, 2009

While every politician in the country blabs about support for the troops, what do the troops get if they come back without injury? One in nine of them is unemployed.

Currently there are 170,000 troops in the two wars. And currently there are 170,000 vets who cannot find work. A coincidence of numbers perhaps – but a reminder of what the job situation is that drove so many of the troops to volunteer in the first place.

Afghanistan and Pakistan:
The U.S. in Another Quagmire

Apr 20, 2009

On April 13, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, signed a measure that will allow Islamic militants to set up Islamic courts administering religious law in the Swat Valley. The measure appears to put the central government’s stamp of approval on a deal the local government agreed to in February after months of fighting. The Pakistani Army had been unable to subdue insurgents who seemed to have gained support in the area from Pakistani peasants.

This deal shows that insurgents, apparently linked with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, have spread their control outside of the tribal areas of Pakistan into more developed areas, most importantly the large Punjab region of Pakistan. The Swat Valley is just 100 miles from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.

This is the background to Obama’s decision to fire more missiles into Pakistan and send more troops into Afghanistan – not because he opposed the extension of reactionary Sharia law, but because he was reinforcing the Pakistani regime which has supported the landlords against the peasants.

A very small number of wealthy landlords have long dominated Pakistan’s rural areas and its politics. Living in luxury off the labor of millions of landless peasants, the landlords and their regime offer little education and no health care to the population. When peasants are cheated or victimized by their landlords, they have little legal recourse. Courts are either non-existent or corrupt and controlled by the landlords. And the situation of the peasants in Pakistan has gotten worse as the world economy deteriorates.

Some of the biggest landlords, who were also often government officials, appear to have fled the region in recent months, including 43 who were reportedly put on a “most wanted” list distributed by insurgents.

This is what Obama props up by sending in more U.S. troops, enlarging the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan, creating a still bigger disaster.

As in Iraq, what the U.S. does to try to bring the situation under its control only inflames the local population.

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