The Spark

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

Issue no. 940 — May 27 - June 10, 2013

Editorial:
Stop These Endless Wars

May 27, 2013

In a big speech on May 23, President Barack Obama proclaimed that he was ending the 12-year-old U.S. war on terror.

“War on terror” – that’s what they call the U.S. imperial wars against a multitude of peoples around the world. Those wars aren’t ending.

The U.S. still has more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. That is close to twice as many U.S. troops as in 2009, when Obama first took office. Obama promises to pull all U.S. troops out ... but in 19 more months! Meanwhile, Obama’s own military commanders demand that they keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan for many more years.

No, the horrific, 12-year-old U.S. war in Afghanistan is far from over.

Neither is the other big U.S. war: Iraq.

Sure, Obama claims that the U.S. pulled all its troops out at the end of 2011. But those troops were replaced by thousands of U.S. advisors, trainers and other agents. They are supplemented by tens of thousands of mercenaries and private contractors. And they are directed from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which is so massive, it is more like a small city.

Those U.S. forces are supposed to secure Iraq’s rich oil fields for the profit of U.S. oil companies. Meanwhile, the civil war that the U.S. provoked in Iraq continues to rage, with daily bombings and terrorist attacks that target the Iraqi population.

The U.S. military may be slowly drawing down some of its troops from its ongoing wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. It also may be trying to avoid going into Syria. But the U.S. warmongers are not ending their military adventures. Not at all.

In fact, they are expanding. More U.S. troops, along with more war planes, drones, ships and other military resources, are being shifted into the Asia-Pacific region, the big U.S. troop “pivot.”

The U.S. military presence in the Pacific region is already massive, with 320,000 U.S. military personnel and 11 aircraft carriers. Trade and investment in this region by U.S. corporations and banks have been growing by leaps and bounds, in order to exploit and profit from the plentiful cheap labor and abundant resources. And where U.S. investment goes, U.S. troops go.

The worsening economic crisis has heated up competition in this region. The U.S. capitalists will use what that bigger force represents to dictate their terms against their competitors: the old European powers, Japan, China, and even South Korea.

The U.S. “war on terror” that began 12 years ago was never about protecting the U.S. population against “terrorists.” The U.S. government used the 9/11 terrorist attacks that caused thousands of deaths in this country as an excuse to unleash U.S. wars for oil and domination.

Now, there is a new U.S. troop build-up. Just like Bush, Obama follows the dictates of the big U.S. corporations, banks and weapons manufacturers in their drive for greater profits at the expense of the peoples around the world.

U.S. workers have no interest in supporting any of it. Attacks on workers in other countries are attacks on workers here.

End all U.S. wars – now!

Pages 2-3

Chicago:
Mayor Rahm Puts Arenas over Retiree Health

May 27, 2013

Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to eliminate the health care subsidy of 30,000 retired city workers after January 1, throwing 109 million dollars in costs onto them in the years ahead.

At the same time, Emanuel wants to give 125 million dollars in city money to a DePaul basketball arena at McCormick Place.

His priorities couldn’t be clearer.

California:
Big Business Evades Taxes

May 27, 2013

Michael Dell, the billionaire computer tycoon, has saved himself more than one million dollars a year in state property taxes on a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica, California, that he bought in 2006.

According to California’s property tax code, a property may be considered NOT to have changed legal ownership if the buyer of the property is a company which does not have a majority owner!

Dell declared that the hotel had “not changed ownership,” because it had been bought by a partnership made up of him, his wife, and two of his investment advisors, none of whom owned more than 50 per cent of the hotel. That way, property taxes were based on the hotel’s 1999 value of 86 million dollars – instead of the 200 million dollars Dell paid for it.

Dell is certainly not alone. Big corporations, which own large swaths of land in California, have been using this loophole for more than 30 years, evading hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

How many more such “legal loopholes” are there? This is a rare occasion where the public is getting to see, in some detail, how state politicians have been shoveling billions of dollars to Big Business. That’s how the politicians, themselves, have been creating budget deficits, which they then use as an excuse to cut public services!

U.S. Bridges Falling Down, Falling Down...

May 27, 2013

The Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River 60 miles north of Seattle collapsed on May 23, landing three people and their cars in the river. This is certainly not the first bridge failure. Everyone remembers the 2007 rush-hour collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, killing 13 people and injuring hundreds more.

In 1989 there were three major bridge collapses: the Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland, California, killing 42 people; the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco and Oakland, California, killing one person; and the Hatchie River Bridge in Covington, Tennessee, killing eight people.

President Obama, in his State of the Union Address this year, urged repairs of the “nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.” But words are cheap.

The Seattle bridge was not even deemed “structurally deficient.” It was classified as “functionally obsolete.” A truck with a supposedly oversized load may have hit some of the trusses while crossing the bridge, leading to its collapse. Having a low clearance is exactly why the bridge was obsolete and ultimately led to its demise.

Over a quarter of this country’s bridges were classified as “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient” in 2012. One-third of the existing bridges have exceeded their 50-year design life.

The bridges in this country are as broken and deficient as the capitalist system itself, which appears incapable of solving this problem, even with millions of people out of work. What’s it going to take to fix the bridges?

Maybe some politicians in Washington will get some first-hand experience on one of the city’s bridges – with 77 percent of them classified as deficient!

Kicked Out of Public Housing

May 27, 2013

In his 2014 budget proposal, President Obama wants to allow housing authorities all over the country to kick people out of public and subsidized private housing (Section 8) after five years, even if they still qualify for assistance. Today, public housing residents can stay in their homes so long as their income is less than half the median income in their area.

The administration claims this time limit will encourage residents to become self-sufficient and allow more of the eight and a half million people on waiting lists to move into public housing. But how are public housing residents supposed to become self-sufficient when they find themselves out on the street? How are they supposed to afford more expensive housing when so many people are unemployed or under-employed?

The government should not be kicking people out of public housing, but rather building more public housing – and making more decent-paying jobs available for everyone!

2012 CEO Pay Increases:
Pushing 10 Million

May 27, 2013

Pay for all U.S. workers rose by only 1.6 percent last year on a median wage of $39,900. If that’s not enough to feel bad about, consider that the median CEO pay went up by 6.5 percent; equal to a whopping 9.7 MILLION DOLLAR increase per CEO per year!

While we are still floundering in you-know-what, these bosses are happy as pigs in “mud”.

Apple Skips Town on the IRS

May 27, 2013

Apple, the most profitable high tech company in the world, avoids paying billions in taxes by claiming to be officially located in Ireland and other places outside the U.S.

Congress is holding hearings where they talk about tax avoidance (being careful to say Apple hasn’t broken any laws) and bemoan the fact that the U.S. government should have gotten taxes on 74 billion dollars for the years between 2009 and 2012.

Apple’s chief executive, Timothy Cook, said Apple had no choice because the tax codes in the U.S. are “so complicated.” As if the corporate legal beagles have trouble figuring out a tax code! And politicians, Republicans and Democrats, agreed! So the whole thing flipped around to focus on the “need for corporate tax reform” – in other words, lower taxes for corporations!

So let the games go on, Mr. Congressmen: Keep pretending to go after Apple. Maybe if you ask them nice, they’ll give you an iPad!

Hospitalized Children Denied Nutrition

May 27, 2013

Every year about 120,000 premature babies in the U.S. and 370,000 other children and adults need parenteral nutrition (PN), sometimes for months or more. Parenteral nutrition usually contains 20 common vitamins and minerals – like calcium, zinc, phosphorous and vitamin A – specially formulated for intravenous injection. Yet in the last two years more than 15 infants and children have died and many, many more have been crippled by bone disease, eye problems, heart failure, liver failure, stunted growth and various infections due to an acute shortage of these drugs.

This shortage does not exist in Europe, South America or Asia. Why in the U.S.? Because the five drug companies here that make 80 percent of these generic drugs have all reduced or stopped their production entirely, claiming they can’t make enough profit on them! And the government has neither forced them to produce the drugs, nor allowed imports from countries where these drugs are available and of higher quality than here in the U.S.!

For its very survival, the working class must end this system where the bosses and their government put profits before our lives and the lives of our children.

Detroit:
Emergency Dictator Wants to Make Workers Pay

May 27, 2013

“The situation is severe. It’s worse than we originally thought. It ain’t good.” So says Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency financial dictator. Yet he puts the city’s debt at 15 billion dollars, the same amount everyone has known about for some time now.

Orr went on to say, “This is truly a financial emergency and we need to move with speed because frankly, we can’t be here in the same position next year.” This is nothing but propaganda aimed at convincing the city’s population, which practically has nothing left to give, to pay the banks and other creditors the money the city owes. Orr and the creditors hope to avoid, at all costs, a bankruptcy in which the creditors might stand to lose.

He says the city’s problems are caused by “mismanagement.” If he really meant what he says, he would force corporations that got big tax breaks, and the banks that made predatory loans to the city, to pay the money back.

Instead, Orr openly points to his powers to “reject, modify, or terminate” collective bargaining agreements to make clear that he expects further concessions from city workers – in addition to those they have already given. His report leaves those concessions vague, but makes clear enough that he will likely cut pensions, make both active and retired workers pay a greater share of health care costs, and lay off more city workers based on a “City-wide evaluation system” that will supposedly identify “high-performing” individuals.

Clearly Orr still hopes to make city workers pay for the city’s debts. Workers have given up too much already. It’s time to make the corporations and the banks clean up their own financial mess!

Pages 4-5

France:
Auto Bosses Give in

May 27, 2013

The following is translated from the May 24th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On May 17th, the strikers of the PSA (Peugeot) factory in Aulnay, a Paris suburb, voted to suspend their strike which began January 17th. They asked the two unions involved in the strike, the CGT and CFDT, to sign an agreement ending the strike.

According to the agreement, four workers fired for a “serious offense,” in reality for striking, are back and have the right to all payments the strikers are getting. Management also agreed not to fire three union delegates against whom they were pressing charges.

Management’s Retreat

In the course of the four months of the strike, the PSA bosses and their hired agents filed dozens of legal complaints, which they decided to drop. Further, the strikers, who feared that they would be discriminated against in applying for a severance plan, got written guarantees on transfers to other plants. The strikers won money to cover some of the time they were on strike. Those who leave PSA before May 31st will get $26,000. This is added to the severance agreement, which depends on seniority, but is about $52,000 for a worker with 10 years who earned $2,600 a month. On average, the strikers leaving PSA will get about $78,000.

Further, the strike allowed all PSA workers in the country to receive higher unemployment benefits than management had offered before the strike, as well as early out provisions.

Winning all these things made the non-striking union members of the SIA, CFTC and FO mad, those unions who up to then said that the best thing was to accept the layoffs and do nothing.

An Active and Democratic Strike

Certainly, it wasn’t possible for the strikes to prevent the factory from closing, even if they never stopped denouncing the havoc that represented. That was impossible for 200 or even 500 strikers, given the combined power of the Peugeot family and the Socialist Party in power nationally, which did all it could for the company, including using the CRS (the national tactical police)! That would have required a different relation of forces, which mobilized not only all the Aulnay workers, but at least those of PSA throughout the country.

But the main acquisitions of the strike weren’t limited to the improvement in the severance agreement and the May 17th agreement.

For four months, the strikers held their heads high. While so many workers are being laid off without defending themselves collectively, the PSA strikers waged a ceaseless war against the Peugeot family. With the support of many non-strikers, they paralyzed production at Aulnay. They organized demonstrations, alone and with other workers (Goodyear, Virgin, Presstalis ...) and visited other factories (PSA at Saint-Ouen and Poissy, Renault at Flins and Cléon, Lear, Geodis, Faurecia, Air France, etc.). They called for all the workers of the country to support a ban on layoffs. They financed their strike by receiving some $1,040,000, thanks to the solidarity of tens of thousands of workers, which allowed them to hold out. They had many actions, announced in advance or by surprise, against PSA, the national bosses’ association and the government, all of whom were angry at being challenged.

Further, from beginning to end, this strike was led in a democratic manner, consciously, by the workers themselves. Meeting daily, sometimes twice a day, in general assemblies, they made decisions. A strike committee was set up at the beginning of the strike, following the struggle committee that had existed after the July 2012 announcement that the factory would close. It was open to all strikers and met almost daily to discuss everything, from sandwiches and meals to collections, the actions to be carried out and many problems raised by the strike.

The Fight Continues

On May 21st, the strikers came together to demonstrate on the shop floor, showing that, even if the strike was suspended, the fight continues. And they decided to get together in a week for a new general assembly – because it was necessary to be mobilized so that PSA would keep its commitment.

A section of the strikers will leave the factory in the days to come. Others are going to remain several months in Aulnay, where they count on continuing to fight at the side of their work mates, to get the least bad conditions to leave on when the plant closes on December 31, 2013. Those who remain will then transfer to other PSA factories, in Poissy, Saint-Ouen, etc. Still others are going to try to get hired at the Paris bus and subway system, the national railroad or the Paris Airport.

Everyone learned many things in this struggle – on a militant level, on a human level, on a political level. The ties that unite them aren’t about to be dissolved. All maintain an immense pride in this four-month strike. All remain determined to pursue ceaselessly the workers’ struggle against the limitless greed of the bosses.

Bangladesh:
Blood on U.S. Bosses’ Hands

May 27, 2013

More than eleven hundred dead, more than a thousand injured and dozens missing: This is the latest toll of the garment factory building collapse on April 24th in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The simple fact that for weeks after the catastrophe the bosses were incapable of saying how many workers were missing showed that in their eyes they were only bodies to exploit.

This is naked, criminal – and everyday – exploitation, such as found in the majority of poor countries, like Pakistan, Cambodia, Ivory Coast and Haiti. But it isn’t only a scandal of the poor countries, corrupt governments, and particularly revolting bosses. It touches all of us.

For if the assassins – the building’s owner and bosses who refused to evacuate their factory – are in Bangladesh, the people behind the assassinations are here. Their names are Benetton, Casino, J. C. Penney, Walmart.... They consciously encourage these abuses by demanding ever lower prices from their contractors.

They know that the profit margins they get are made by the super-exploitation of the workers, thanks to contractors who subcontract to still worse slave drivers. They say they have nothing to do with it, but they gladly pocket the money! It is one and the same murderous chain.

To blame workers who buy a T-shirt for a few dollars rather than a higher price makes no sense. Who imposes low wages and an impoverished retirement here in this country, which force people to count every dollar they spend? Who decides to go and exploit the misery of the world for their profit? The same big bosses! They are the ones with blood on their hands.

The big stockholders of the multinational corporations try to gain on both counts: by exploiting workers here and there. The barbarous and criminal exploitation of the workers of the poor countries and the ravages of finance, unemployment, and misery in the so-called developed countries are the two sides of the same system of exploitation.

The exploited of Asia, Africa and Latin America aren’t “unfair competitors” and still less enemies; they are our brothers and sisters in exploitation, who very often have to leave their country of misery to get hired here, on other assembly lines. The same destiny ties us, for we are all exploited, victims of the same exploiters.

In a country like Bangladesh, in the garment industry alone there are four to five million workers. The worst capitalist sweatshops have moved from Chicago, Lyon France and Manchester England to Shanghai, Dhaka and Mumbai, but in reality, the working class has never been so numerous. And today, as yesterday, the working class makes society run.

In Bangladesh, since the April 24th tragedy, gigantic demonstrations have forced the bosses to promise wage increases and factory safety. But in fact the workers have been fighting for these improvements for years. Workers’ strikes and confrontations with the police have increased with the growth of garment factories. Their battle to call to account the well-established exploiters who pay starvation wages has only begun.

The workers of the poor countries are in many respects the wretched of capitalism, but they won’t always remain such. They also form a force of millions of men and women capable of rising up and revolting. Their revolt is ours; their battle is ours.

Poland 1943:
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

May 27, 2013

Seventy years ago, from April 19th to May 10th, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto rose up. The Jewish population, which was penned up there by the Nazis, found the resources to rebel against the barbarism of which it was the victim.

In the month of April 1943, the ghetto had existed for almost four years. In September 1939, 360,000 Polish Jews were brought together. The population was crammed into a 2,200 by 650 yard rectangle, isolated from the rest of the city by a wall of eight feet in height. This was nine times the population density outside the walls. Many died of hunger, disease, the lack of health care, privations and forced labor, before suffering mass deportations toward death camps.

The Nazi regime, which knew that these conditions would stimulate revolt, supported itself on the underlying divisions in the Polish population. It encouraged anti-Semitism, which corrupted the relations between Jews and the majority Catholic Polish population, attempting to remove any support for the Jews. Inside the ghetto, the Nazis supported themselves on a Jewish Council, run by the richest men, to manage social life. Corruption reigned. Members of the police were recruited among the richest layers. Those who were part of these institutions had the illusion of being protected, up to the moment when they were exterminated.

During 1942, 310,000 men, women and children were deported to death camps. The order for the definitive liquidation of the ghetto population was given on August 5th.

Inside the ghetto, there were Zionist, Communist and Socialist (Bund) political movements. They set up a coordinating committee to organize the resistance army. Arms passed secretly into the ghetto, proving that outside support existed despite everything.

When the revolt broke out in 1943, there were no more than 40,000 people in the ghetto. Despite the German army sending tanks and armored cars and the destruction of buildings sheltering the insurgents, battles raged for days. In the end, there only remained 500 to 700 fighters, who took refuge in the sewers, with the army exterminating almost all of them. But during several more weeks, isolated fighters pursued the struggle until death.

The revolt was carried out by very young people, whose courage and tenacity surprised the German soldiers. Above all, it was carried out by militants the exact opposite of the office holders, with their illusions which led them to compromise with the occupation army. These militants, tied to the poorer part of the population, often defended socialist ideals, despite their differences.

In the worst of conditions, in the midst of world war, against the implacable apparatus of the German army and the Nazi power, the memory of the Warsaw ghetto fighters continues to testify that revolt is always better than submission. And when today Israeli officials use it to justify the crimes of their own army of occupation in Palestine, they insult the memory of the ghetto rebels.

Pages 6-7

L.A. Teachers’ Union on the Wrong Side

May 27, 2013

In the face of the open attack on teachers by politicians and billionaires, you would think that the L.A. teachers’ union, UTLA, would have thrown its support behind the fifth-grade teacher who also happens to be a UTLA representative at her school, and not Antonio Sanchez, the candidate backed by those billionaires. But UTLA leaders issued a “dual endorsement” for both candidates, without giving any money to either one. And then, on election night, they showed their true preference – by appearing at the Sanchez headquarters!

UTLA leaders explained their support for Sanchez by saying that he was likely to run for higher office and “support teacher-friendly legislation.” That’s the same old, lame excuse union leaders use for supporting politicians. Today it’s the supposedly union-friendly Democratic Party, which controls both the California legislature and the Governor’s office, that’s leading the attack on teachers and other public workers!

In the face of the massive attack on teachers – and on public education in general – teachers definitely can’t rely on their present union leaders. Teachers can rely only on their own ability to organize their own forces, together with the active participation of the working-class communities that depend on public schools.

L.A. School Board Election:
Another Defeat for Billionaires

May 27, 2013

Fifth-grade teacher Monica Ratliff won a seat on the Los Angeles school board – against an opponent who had raised about 50 times as much money as Ratliff had.

Ratliff’s opponent, Antonio Sanchez, had raised more than 2.2 million dollars – an unusually high amount for a school board race – thanks to some very generous donations, including from billionaires Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg. Sanchez also had the electoral machine of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa campaigning for him.

The billionaires put so much money and campaign effort behind Sanchez because he was a staunch supporter of L.A. schools superintendent John Deasy, who has launched an open attack on teachers’ job protections such as tenure and seniority rules in layoffs. Deasy wants to reduce the district’s teacher payroll – which is exactly what the billionaire bosses have set their eyes on, in L.A. and everywhere else.

The low turnout for this election may prohibit sweeping conclusions. However, one thing can be said: for the second time in two months, voters in L.A. voted against a candidate backed by billionaires who claim to be “education reformers.”

These billionaires might think they’re fooling people with their talk about education “reform,” but from DC to LA, voters are showing they’re on to their games.

Congress Plans Food Stamp Cuts

May 27, 2013

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee approved 20 billion dollars in cuts to food stamps as part of a new five-year farm bill. The politicians plan to use the savings from the food stamp cuts to maintain federal subsidies for crop insurance.

These outrageous cuts will take food out of the mouths of poor people, for whom food stamps are the biggest form of federal government support following cuts to so many other social programs. Most of the “savings” will go to big corporate farms and to the insurance companies that provide crop insurance.

One of the biggest supporters of the bill, Representative Stephen Fischer smugly stated, “We have to remember there is not a big printing press in Washington that continually prints money over and over. This is other people’s money that Washington is appropriating and spending.” By “other people’s money,” Fischer apparently means “his,” since he received $70,000 in direct payments and an unknown amount of crop insurance subsidies last year alone for his farm in Tennessee, and a total of 3.5 million from 1999 to 2012.

A politician’s hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to justifying robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

Chicago:
School Board Closes Schools

May 27, 2013

On May 22nd, Chicago’s Board of Education, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, voted to close 49 schools. The Board decided to leave four open, as a small concession to the many protests against the closings. Parents, students and teachers demonstrated at the various hearings held at schools to be closed. Also, there were protest marches through black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides the weekend before the Board’s decision, followed by a Monday rally downtown.

Despite the Board’s lack of support for these schools, they were anchors for the neighborhoods, where parents and neighbors could keep an eye on the kids and keep in touch with the schools. Now with the closings, kids will have to go to more distant schools, traversing unfamiliar neighborhoods with potential for gang violence.

These closings are part of Rahm’s attempt to undermine public education, supported by the Obama Administration that he formerly served. The Chicago Board of Education opened more than 100 charter schools in recent years, often in closed public schools. They are often run by so-called non-profits, which in fact line their managers’ and cronies’ pockets.

These schools will be closed, but the organized resistance to the closing could be the start of a continuing fight for decent schools in all neighborhoods, especially the poorest.

Holding Buena Vista Schools Hostage

May 27, 2013

The State of Michigan has been holding the children and the employees of the Buena Vista school district hostage.

They went so far as to shut the school down, and to refuse to pay teachers while railing on about how the school district owed the state money. Then, within the very week that surpluses were announced for the State of Michigan, they “found” the money to reopen the school.

It turned out the state owed the district just as much as the district owed the state! But after listing all of the places where they “found” the money, the state superintendent referred to the new “deficit elimination plan” as being “largely dependent on staff reductions.”

Looks like that was what it was about from the beginning: holding the district hostage in order to suck money into the pockets of the state bureaucrats’ boss “friends!”

Page 8

Oklahoma Tornado = Profit System Disaster

May 27, 2013

A Force 5 tornado, the strongest on the weather scale, devastated the Oklahoma town of Moore on May 20. Schools directly in the path were in session. There was nowhere safe to hide.

Twenty-four were killed, including ten children and two infants. Estimated damage was more than two billion dollars.

How could they be so unprepared and unprotected? This was neither unexpected nor a freak. A Force 5 hit Moore before, in 1999. Moore and many other communities are in “Tornado Alley,” that part of the U.S. commonly hit by tornadoes.

The science is precise. A week in advance, the weather service predicted very severe weather, and issued regular warnings and updates.

The science of building safe and strong tornado-resistant structures is also precise. All the necessary engineering was developed long ago.

We know what to do, and how to do it. We know what to expect when certain weather conditions form.

Yet the schoolchildren and other victims got nothing from the modern science and engineering. Their warnings were at the last minute. Their buildings were blown apart like matchsticks. They were provided with no place to go.

This is how things happen in a capitalist society. Social needs and provision for social emergencies come last. Profitability – making money – comes first.

That’s why ordinary school districts and communities in Tornado Alley have been cut off from the money necessary to build secure structures, safe schools and shelters. That’s why no measures to protect a community as a whole are in place, regardless of what warnings are issued. It’s far more important to divert funds to bail out criminal bankers, for example!

The wealthy do take measures to protect themselves. A real estate developer in Oklahoma explained to a reporter that all his custom homes have basement shelters. But for the average home buyer, it drives the price too high. “We think the market ought to drive what people put in their houses,” said the developer.

Yes, under capitalism, the market drives. The flow of money decides who will enjoy the benefits of science and engineering. The flow of money decides who is to be sacrificed, like those in Moore, Oklahoma, and people caught in so many other places where the money flows away.

Sexual Harassment and Rape in the U.S. Military

May 27, 2013

According to a report released by the Pentagon earlier this month, there are 70 sexual assaults in the military every day – that is, three every hour. The report added that 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012.

More women soldiers are raped by their “fellow” soldiers than die in combat. And then after they are raped, they are often blamed for the assault – and if they dare to report the rape, they are punished, sometimes accused of adultery.

A recent documentary, The Invisible War, brought to light the enormous problem of sexual assault and rape in the U.S. military. Sexual assault and rape in the military are in no way a new phenomenon. Several years ago there was a movie about the Vietnam War showing a brutal rape of a Vietnamese woman by U.S. soldiers. During World War II, U.S. soldiers raped women in countries like France even as they supposedly “liberated” their nation.

No, this is not new for the military, this is normal. It is a reflection of what war is and of the status of women in this society. All armies and all wars have targeted women. The saying about rape and pillage in war is not just cliché, it is reality. Men come into the military with sexist attitudes. And those attitudes get reinforced, encouraged and glorified.

In his commencement address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, President Obama said, “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong.” Obama can preach all he wants. But when the director of the sexual assault prevention program for the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Krusinski, was himself detained for sexually assaulting a woman not far from the Pentagon, it shows that this behavior is not from a few bad individuals. It is far more pervasive and entrenched within this militarized society.

Victims of Drone Warfare

May 27, 2013

A former Air Force pilot who operated drones for five years, Brandon Bryant, spoke out on NPR’s Morning Edition about his experiences operating drones. He described targeting and killing people he thinks were civilians, or at least not a threat. He describes bombing a man running away, and when the smoke cleared saw the man get his leg blown off and bled to death. He also describes killing a child in a drone strike. After this shot Bryant said, “I didn’t feel distraught like I felt my first shot. I felt numb because this is the reality of war. That good guys can die, bad guys can die, and innocence can die as well.”

Brandon Bryant quit the program. He is in college in Montana on the GI Bill. But he is homeless and suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Certainly, the primary victims are those who are the objects of U.S. wars. But just as certainly, second are the soldiers themselves, who, once conscious, cannot escape the horrors they have inflicted on others, however remote the trigger.