Saturday, March 23, 2019

Our lives are expendable

No matter the consequences, Boeing, were trying to cut costs and maximize profits. The Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air  plane crashes had one thing in common - both doomed planes lacked safety features linked to why the pilots were unable to recover from erratic dips after takeoff. In another related incident with another aircraft, an off-duty pilot jumped in to help the flying crew to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system as it experienced difficulties and avoided yet another disaster.

Those safety features, rather than being built in as standard, were charged as extras by Boeing. When accessories are sold as discretionary add-on features, buyers seldom believe that they are vital components for their safety. How wrong that assumption is proving to be.

Last year Boeing spent more than $15 million on its lobbying efforts and has 31 in-house lobbyists and 16 lobbying firms on retainer. It has spent millions on political campaigns for lawmakers from both parties, ensuring bipartisan allegiance.

The recent airline crashes have finally made apparent how the company’s drive for profits places the worth of human life below the size of its corporate dividends. This business imperative is built into capitalism that it requires government legislation to enforce compliance.

Boeing’s business model applies to nearly any other major industry. The health care system is one where pharmaceutical corporations place profit over human lives and insurance companies refuse to cover services that can save lives because it is not profitable. Car manufacturers install sensors to ensure that emission readings are falsified. Gun manufacturers continue lobby to sell automatic rifles of the kind used in deadly mass shootings because they are more profitable than non-automatic weapons. The fossil fuel companies have placed lucrative oil and gas drilling over the future of the human species. The hunger for ever-higher profits is a deadly zero-sum game we are all destined to lose.

From a business perspective, it makes sense why a company’s top executives do all they can to maximize profits, even at the expense of lives. The expenses of any fines or compensation are merely factored into the price. But how does it make sense for us to tolerate such a system?

Rather than naming and supervising its own ‘designated airworthiness representatives’ the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  allow Boeing and other manufacturers to select their own employees to certify the safety of their aircraft. Very much like the fox guarding the hen house.

Capitalism demonstrates its true colours to us every single day. And once in a while, the blood-soaked profits are right before our eyes. "Caveat emptor" (buyer beware) remains everywhere the warning of the mortal threat which hangs over our social system based on capitalism. And we're its collateral damage. 

Boeing were legally able to play Russian Roulette with the lives of passengers and airline crew.

Adapted from here

Putting it up the People

On 23rd of March, just six days before the Government hopes to take Britain out of the EU, there will be a ‘Put It To The People” march to make the calls for another referendum. The Socialist Party will be in attendance, offering our view on the Brexshit issue.

The government of the day’s job is to manage the affairs of the British capitalist class as a whole, and if necessary, to sacrifice some industries in the interests of others. There are dire warnings in the business pages of what will happen to us if Britain leaves the EU. Less mention is made of the trading opportunities that may arise in some other quarters with Brexit. What trading alliances a particular country makes concern only its capitalists not its workers. The Socialist Party has no concern with what is in the best interest of the capitalist class, we can sit back and watch the show. The EU cannot solve capitalism’s built-in contradictions. Neither can it ease the problems of the working class. What is not an issue in the EU is the interests of the working-class. True, there are standardised working conditions within the EU and free movement of workers inside it, but essentially the workers’ position remain unchanged. Instead of working for a purely UK, French or German firm, workers find themselves belonging to a European based one. The motive force of the EU has always been associated with it is economic interest—the drive for profit. The task of the working-class, whether Britain exits or remains will still be to get rid of the system that generates this drive for profit. And in setting about that task the workers of Britain and the EU do hold a common interest. Socialists are still internationalist because socialism as always is a world conception and not a mere European one.

For the Socialist Party there is only one question — capitalism or socialism? In other words, should the workers of the world continue to operate a social system that can only serve the interests of a minority; or establish a system that works in the interests of the whole of mankind. The EU involves changes within a private property society. Socialism involves the abolition of private property in the means of production along with all markets and the profit. The interest of the working class of all lands is to unite to achieve this end. Socialists take no part in the debate; our advice would in any case be ignored by the ruling class, as we are dedicated to the abolition of capitalism, not the solution of its successive recurring problems.

For Free Movement and Open Borders

The United States has the largest arable landmass of any country in the world and is the 177th-most densely populated. The birth rate has been below the rate needed to sustain the population since 1971 and has just hit an all-time low. In a world of more fluid borders, too, where workers were empowered to leave countries and regions where conditions were poor, it would be easier to organize around improving global labor standards. Institutions of the labor Left, such as the Industrial Workers of the World, have a long history of supporting free migration on ideological grounds, as a natural component of global worker solidarity and empowerment. Immigration is not a problem: The hoarding of resources by the comfortable and greedy, in the U.S. and around the world, is the problem. We should seek to abolish the components of a system that is designed to police and punish the poor and working class, and focus our energies on our real enemy.
On January 3, their first day in power, Democrats passed a spending bill that included $1.3 billion in new border fencing, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer touted as “smart, effective border security.” Sen. Kamala Harris has stated, “We can’t have open borders. We need to have border security, all nations do.” Even Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “We must continually modernize our border security measures.” Sanders, Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand briefly seemed to join the call to “abolish ICE” in response to family separations in summer 2018, but when pressed for detail, variously advocated replacing or restructuring the agency. A bill by Reps. Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal to abolish the agency went nowhere.The present debate over whether there should have a physical wall along the border (Trump) or a “smart wall” of high-tech surveillance (Democrats) is simply one of cost-effectiveness, not a real difference of opinion. Forty-two Senate Democrats and Independents (including presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar) and 213 House Democrats gave in to Trump’s threats of a second government shutdown and voted in February for a bill to increase border funding.
When considering immigration enforcement, it’s important to break it down into a concrete series of actions that occur in the real world every day. Policymakers can talk in a general way about “carrots and sticks,” but the stick means the use of military force to stop ordinary people from crossing an imaginary line in the ground. Border militarization drives people to attempt entry at more and more dangerous and remote southern crossings, where many die in agony from intense desert heat. Enforcement means trapping ordinary people in places of profound poverty and instability. Deportation means physically ripping ordinary people away from their families. Detention, surveillance and Kakfaesque immigration bureaucracies psychologically and physically torture thousands every day. This is a system so fundamentally inhumane that no compromise can be made with it. It is a system for the jailing and exiling of humans who dare to try to live in a different place than the one where they were born. The racist and nationalist dimensions of the present immigration system are not detachable features: They are fundamental to the premise of punishing people for their birthplace.
Xenophobic and fearmongering arguments against immigration have become easier to discredit. There are no statistics to support Trump’s assertions that immigrants disproportionately commit crimes. If you believe in human equality, privileging the economic well-being of U.S.-born workers simply because of their birthplace is arbitrary and unjustifiable. But even for those who do seek to privilege US-born workers, the argument that immigration is inherently “bad for the economy” is easily dispensed with. The American Immigration Council estimates that immigrant-led households have $926.9 billion in collective spending power, and immigrant business owners accounted for 20.3 percent of all self-employed U.S. residents in 2015. A 2014 Economic Policy Institute analysis found that immigrants, though 13 percent of the population, accounted for 15 percent of economic productivity.
Whether undocumented and guest workers under the present system actually lower overall wages, and the extent to which they directly compete against native-born workers, continues to be an unsettled question. Some studies have concluded that increased immigration has negative wage impacts for black and Latino men who did not complete high school. In a meta-analysis of studies going back to the 1990s, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that “particularly when measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the overall native wage may be small and close to zero.  However, estimates for subgroups span a wider range.” The research noted that native workers who have comparable skills to immigrants may experience a lowering of wages, hours or employment rates, although “there are still a number of studies that suggest small to zero effects.” There should be skeptism of those commentators who blame immigrants for lower wages rather point to the corporations that set those wages, as well as those who tout restricting immigration as the best way to redress the black-white wealth gap rather than reparations or other forms of investment in black communities. Currently, little effort is made to ensure that anyone has access to wage and labor protections. ICE’s 2018 budget for its enforcement and removal department was $4.8 billion, while the Department of Labor’s 2018 budget for its wage and hour department was $280 million. We spent 20 times the amount chasing unauthorized immigrants than we did chasing unscrupulous employers. What if, rather than putting resources into preventing unauthorized immigrants from entering the workforce, we put resources toward ensuring that labor standards are actually enforced for all workers?
Both the Republicans and the Democrats recognize that temporary guest workers and undocumented laborers are important to a number of industries, as well as services (including domestic labor and elder care), of which politicians, donors and constituents personally avail themselves. In some industries, like harvesting, fishing and summer resort work, immigrants are often the only willing labor available. In the eyes of employers, the chief advantage of immigrant labor is that immigrants are often easier to coerce and control than citizens. The promise of available work encourages a large number of people to immigrate, but Democratic policymakers are wary that appearing to let too many people in will allow political opponents to stoke nativist sentiments. So the United States pays Mexico (through the billion-dollar Merida Initiative) to stop some people before they get to the border, then menaces and detains the subset that U.S. Border Patrol apprehends in the act of crossing, and then sends Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to round up and deport some of those who get through. These brutal policies keep the unofficial workforce stable, at around 8 million over the past 10 years, and keep undocumented and guest workers fearful enough to refrain from availing themselves of workplace protections. Even the most hardline Republican authored immigration bills avoid imposing serious penalties on employers who use undocumented labor, and have included provisions to expand the guest workforce while further cutting off its access to labor protections. Pro-business open borders advocates like the Cato Institute, envisions immigrants serving as a tier of second-class citizen without access to public benefits. To be fair, some immigrants might prefer to be second-class citizens in the United States rather than struggle in their home countries, as libertarian economists frequently point out.
For those who would improve our immigration system, there are two broad possible approaches. The first, bowing to concerns about unfettered migration, is to replace our existing immigration bureaucracies with better, fairer bureaucracies. The 2009 Ray Marshall plan adopted by the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, for example, offered a blueprint for a centralized government commission to assess domestic labor needs and offer visas to fill labor gaps in various sectors. The stated goal was “more rational and flexible flows of foreign workers.” The catch to any such bureaucracy is that, as long as you are restricting where people can live and work, you must enforce those restrictions. The Ray Marshall plan envisioned the continued use of deportation and border policing, as well as the expansion of a biometrically integrated system to keep track of immigrant workers—which represents, in effect, a vast expansion of the surveillance state. Right now, we need to show passports or ID cards at the border; under this new system, we would need our work papers checked (or eyes scanned) anytime we wanted to apply for a new job, and possibly anytime we wanted to enter our workplaces at all. The American Civil Liberties Union is on record opposing the expansion of E-Verify, the existing program to verify work authorization, on the grounds that it “creates a whole new level of intrusive government oversight of daily life—a bureaucratic ‘prove yourself to work’ system that hurts ordinary people.” The Ray Marshall plan proposes amnesty for the current undocumented population but doesn’t acknowledge that, as long as people’s legal work options are restricted, unauthorized migration will inevitably continue, as it did after the 1986 amnesty. If the enforcement system is not dismantled, those new immigrants will live in fear.
Immigration restrictions have devastating human consequences that significantly overshadow the few, highly questionable benefits, and that we should aim to do away with as much of the immigration enforcement system as possible and in no way expand it. If you oppose jailing and deporting people for immigration offenses, you must be in favor of significantly opening up the border, because when negative consequences are reduced, people without authorization will start to move more freely. The Right is well aware that for most of the public, “open borders” triggers a xenophobic fear of invasion.
An easy start is for Democrats to put forward a bill expanding humanitarian categories of immigration relief to encompass people fleeing violence, extreme poverty and natural disasters, and people with long-standing social or family ties to the United States. This is entirely in line with international practice; courts in places like Canada and the EU, for example, routinely use a “balancing test” to decide whether someone is deportable, weighing their immigration offense against other compelling factors in their favor. This approach is so commonsense that many Americans believe it is how our immigration system already works, and that only “criminals” are deported. Migrant-rights groups like Mijente, the Detention Watch Network and United We Dream advocate making long-term shields from deportation—like Temporary Protected Status (TPS), for people from war-torn or disaster-struck countries and Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—into permanent statuses.
The most urgent target for reform is toning down the wildly disproportionate penalties that presently exist for immigration violations. One of these penalties is detention. There should be a complete end to the jailing or civil detention of people for immigration violations alone. Pilot community programs have been shown to be very effective at getting immigrants to show up for court dates, so that is an extremely flimsy excuse for the mass incarceration of immigrants. Deportation is effectively exile, a penalty we impose for no other crime and, in almost all cases, deportation is both cruel and unnecessary.
“Pitting worker against worker is an age-old tactic of the boss to distract us from the real issues, divide us and keep us poor—and we will not fall for it,” read an AFL-CIO immigration policy statement issued in 2017. “The only way to stop the race to the bottom in wages and standards is for working people of all races, religions and immigration status to stand together and demand that corporate power be put in check. This will be done not by deporting immigrants and scapegoating them for the precarious labor market.”

Taken from here

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Hate Media

Robert Mercer, who made his billions as a hedge fund manager, is a major funder—more than $10 million—of Breitbart, the website once run by former White House aide Stephen Bannon. This is what the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization devoted to monitoring and exposing domestic hate groups and extremists, wrote about the site:

“In April of 2016, the SPLC documented Breitbart’s embrace of extremist ideas and racist tropes such as black-on-white crime and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Further analyses showed how under executive chair Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s comment section became a safe space for anti-Semitic language.”

Bannon specifically told Mother Jones magazine that Breitbart was the platform for the alt-right, which has lifted anti-Semitic and white supremacist voices.

It includes the Center for Union Facts ($900,000), a secretive group for corporations and wealthy individuals who oppose unions and who are willing to fund its lies about labor organizations, and the Freedom Partners Action Fund ($2.5 million), which, in turn, has given millions to anti-union groups like the National Right to Work Committee. And the Mercer Foundation gave $100,000 to the State Policy Network, the umbrella group for 100 state-level organizations devoted to destroying labor organizations.

The media mogul Rupert Murdoch made his feelings about labor unions clear 30 years ago when he moved his London newspaper operations overnight to a barbed-wire–enclosed bunker in the neighborhood of Wapping and told unions he’d fire all workers who did not immediately transfer to the new building and use its new technology. When the print unions resisted, Murdoch fired 5,500 printers.

On Fox News, the television network controlled by Murdoch, numerous commentators, including the currently suspended Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro, are openly hostile to labor unions and are viciously anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for advertisers to boycott Fox News unless it fires Carlson and Pirro.

A former senior vice president at Murdoch’s News Corp, Joseph Azam, told National Public Radio this week he left his job in 2017 over the network’s coverage of Muslims, immigrants and race. The NPR story says, “the rhetoric coming from some of his corporate colleagues sickened him: Muslims derided as threats or less than human; immigrants depicted as invaders, dirty or criminal; African-Americans presented as menacing; Jewish figures characterized as playing roles in insidious conspiracies.”

Last weekend, a Muslim news producer, Rashna Farrukh, announced that she quit Fox’s corporate cousin, Sky News Australia, over its coverage of Muslims on the days after the massacre at the two Christchurch mosques. She wrote this in a post for ABC News:

“I compromised my values and beliefs to stand idly by as I watched commentators and pundits instill more and more fear into their viewers. I stood on the other side of the studio doors while they slammed every minority group in the country—mine included—increasing polarization and paranoia among their viewers.”

Billionaires such as Murdoch and Mercer wield immense power. Organizations they stealth-fund are dedicated to dividing and conquering workers. They’re dangerous because they breed, broadcast and promote hate.

The only way to deal with them is with solidarity. Workers must have each other’s backs. They must see each other as brothers and sisters.

America's Exceptionism

  • The U.S. has been the site of exponentially more mass shootings than any other nation. And unlike in New Zealand—where officials took immediate steps to tighten gun control in the wake of its recent tragedy—American politicians won’t do a thing about it. We also own more guns per capita than any other country in the world. In second place is Yemen.
  • The U.S. is essentially alone in the Western world in not guaranteeing health care as a basic human right. It spends much more cash, yet achieves worse health outcomes than its near-peer countries.
  • America is home to some of the starkest income inequality on the globe—right up there with Turkey and South Africa.
  • The U.S. keeps migrant kids in cages at the border, or did until recently. Even more exceptional is that Washington is largely responsible for the very unrest in Central America that generates the refugees, all while American conservatives proudly wear their “Christianity” as badge of honor—but wasn’t Jesus a refugee child? Maybe I read the wrong Bible.
  • America is alone among 41 Western nations in not guaranteeing paid family leave. How’s that for “family values?”
  • As for representative democracy, only the U.S. has an Electoral College. This fun 18th-century gimmick ensures that here in America—in 40 percent of its elections since 2000—the presidential candidate with fewer votes actually won. Furthermore, our peculiar system ensures that a rural Wyoming resident has—proportionally—several times more representative power in Washington than someone who lives in California.
  • Similarly, America counts several non-state “territories”—think Guam, Samoa, Puerto Rico—that don’t even get to vote for the president that it can legally send  to war. But hey, why should we grant them statehood? It’s not as though some of them have higher military enlistment rates than any U.S. state … oh, wait.
  • The U.S. is essentially solo in defining corporations as “people,” and thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, has lifted limits on money in politics. Buying elections is officially as American as apple pie.
  • The USA locks up its own people at the highest rate in the world and is nearly alone among developed nations in maintaining the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. was the only country in the Americas to conduct executions and the only Western democracy to do so. But our friends the Saudis still execute folks, so it’s got to be OK. Dostoyevsky famously claimed that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How are we doing there?

Then there’s the foreign policy of the great American empire:

  • The U.S. spends exponentially more on military defense than anyone else, and more than the next seven competitors (most of which are allies) combined.
  • America’s bloated military is all by itself in dotting the globe with hundreds of foreign military bases—by some estimates more than any country or empire in world history. As for our two biggest rivals,  Russia has 21 (mostly close to home); China has maybe three.
  • Benevolent, peaceful, freedom-loving America is also the world’s top arms dealer—even selling death-dealing weapons to famous human rights abusers.
  • After Syria signed on, the U.S. became the last nation on earth not party to the Paris Climate Accord. Heck, the occupant of the Oval Office doesn’t even believe in man-made climate change.
  • Then there’s the discomfiting fact that the U.S.—along with Russia—won’t even make a “no-first-use” pledge regarding nuclear weapons. And that’s reality, not “Dr. Strangelove.”
  • The U.S. was first and, until recently, alone in flying its drone fleet through sovereign national airspace and executing “terrorists” from the sky at will. I wonder how Washington will respond when other countries cite that American precedent and do the same?
  • Only the U.S. Navy patrols all the world’s oceans in force and expects to maintain superiority everywhere. And only the U.S. boasts near total control of the goings-on in two whole continents—unflinchingly asserting that North and South America fall in its “sphere of influence.” Crimea abuts Russia and the people speak Russian—still, the U.S. denies Moscow any sphere of influence there or anywhere else.