Thursday, October 22, 2020

Profit from Prison

 The US today spends more than $80 billion a year incarcerating 2.3 million people in state and federal prisons, local jails, youth facilities and deportation centers. 

By the middle of October, close to 150,000 inmates and almost 30,000 staff and workers had tested positive to the coronavirus. 1,122 detainees and 42 staff had died according to the Behind Bars Covid Data Project of UCLA.

4,100 prison contractors make a profit off the people locked up. 

An average of 746,000 Americans are held in local jails. Most of whom have not yet been convicted of a crime or are held only for minor offenses.

Many of these voters are jailed simply because they are poor and cannot make bail. Yet in many jails, they are denied the right to vote.—either because officials are confused about their eligibility, or because they have no timely access to registration and absentee ballots, or because they have no access to the voter ID information that many states now require.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The World Socialist Party - The Only Alternative.


“Vote for us and all your problems will be solved.”

Psychology professor Bob Altemeyer and former Nixon White House lawyer John Dean write in their new book, Authoritarian Nightmare,’ that "Even if Donald Trump disappeared tomorrow the millions of people who made him president would be ready to make someone else similar president instead."

They explain that many Trump supporters are submissive, fearful, and longing for a mighty leader who will protect them from life's threats They divide the world into friend and foe, with the latter greatly outnumbering the former."

The World Socialist Party of the United States (WSPUS)  goal is not to create a socialist society for the working class but to encourage the working class to build socialism for itself. 

Using the words of Eugene Debs:

 If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out.

“It is infinitely better to vote for freedom and fail than to vote for slavery and succeed.”

“Better a thousand times that labor is divided fighting for freedom than united in the bonds of slavery.”

"The difference between the Republican and Democratic parties involve no issue, no principle in which the working class have any interest. Between these parties socialists have no choice, no preference. They are one in their opposition to the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery, and every working person who understands the interest of his or her class and the nature of the struggle in which it is involved, will once and for all time sever relations with them both."

"A political party today must stand for labor and the freedom of labor, or it must stand for capital and the exploitation of labor. It cannot possibly stand for both any more than it could for both freedom and slavery."

"We want to see workers demand a party of their own, free from their masters  a party with a backbone and the courage to stand up without apology and proclaim itself a socialist party, confident and proudly holding to the principle of industrial and political solidarity, challenging the whole world of capitalism, contesting the right of capitalists to own industries, to control economic resources and opposing their right of use workers so they can enjoy the fruits of our toil."

Debs explained very clearly that:

 “Now I believe that it is impossible to compromise a principle, and the Socialist Party is committed to a certain principle. To compromise principle is to court death and disaster. It is better to be true to a principle and to stand alone and be able to look yourself in the face without a blush, far better to be in a hopeless minority than to be in a great popular and powerful majority of the unthinking.”

The Democratic Party is the mirror image of the Republican Party minus the inflammatory racial rhetoric of Trump, and it is just as poisonous. It’s political suicide for working people to remain as a subservient political appendage of the Democratic or Republican parties. No sector of the ruling class offers any alternative to austerity and deprivation. The two capitalist parties engage in sham battlesThey agree basically on the economy. 

Larger and larger numbers of people are coming to the conclusion that neither of the presidential candidates, offer any real alternative or any real solutions to the crises of capitalism. Everywhere you can hear people saying that there is no real difference between Trump and Biden.

Working people are looking for an alternative. This is why the World Socialist Party call for No Vote on November 3rd, and for a rejection of both politicians and all their reformist fake phoney promises.

Dirty Air and Baby Deaths

 Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world.

Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies in the womb. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight. Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality. Medical experts have warned for years of the impacts of dirty air on older people and on those with health conditions, but are only beginning to understand the deadly toll on babies in the womb. Babies born with a low birth weight are more susceptible to childhood infections and pneumonia. The lungs of pre-term babies can also not be fully developed.

Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.

Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at UCLA, (University of California, Los Angeles), who was not involved with the study, said the indoor air pollution in cities across India, south-east Asia and Africa was comparable to that of Victorian London.

“This is not the air pollution we see in modern cities in the rich world but that which we had 150 years ago in London and other places, where there were coal fires indoors. Indoor air pollution has not been at the forefront for policymakers, but it should be,” Ritz said. She pointed out that the harm to children went beyond the deaths; reducing air pollution would also lessen harm to survivors. “There is also damage to the brain and other organs from this pollution, so just surviving is not enough – we need to reduce air pollution because of the impact on all these organs too,” she said.

The problem is now compounded by the population density of many developing cities and by outdoor air pollution from vehicles and industry. These factors mean there is now no escape from dirty air, from morning to night, for hundreds of millions of people.

The scientists said there had been little sign of improvement in air pollution over the past 10 years, despite increased warnings over the risks from dirty air in the past five years.

At least 6.7 million deaths globally in 2019 were from long-term exposure to air pollution, a factor raising the risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer and other chronic lung diseases. Air pollution is now the fourth highest cause of death globally, just below smoking and poor diet.

Ltd. - Limited Liability - Unlimited Protection


Limited liability has long been at the very core of their business models..  Limited liability protection for shareholders in joint stock companies was introduced to encourage investments in them. However, it has encouraged irresponsibility, causing much harm while generating profits without responsibility. Columbia Law School’s Professor Katarina Pistor has extended her critique of the legal system to emphasize the implications of such limited liability. Limited liability encourages shareholders not to pay attention to the harm corporations they invest in may do. Instead, as emphasized by Milton Friedman, shareholders should focus on returns to investment, and not be distracted by other considerations, especially the notions of corporate social responsibility and stakeholderism.

Chicago University’s Professor Luigi Zingales has emphasized that companies are not just value-neutral institutional or contractual arrangements. Instead, they have obligations to serve the public good or otherwise benefit society, to reciprocate for privileges provided by the state.

“Historically we know that corporations were born as public institutions with a special privilege granted by the state… Even today, … the privilege of limited liability, especially with respect to tort claims, is an extraordinary privilege granted by the state.”

The limited liability of these companies has allowed them to pursue profits with impunity, and to blatantly violate ethics and moral restraint, with little accountability to other ‘stakeholders’, i.e., with interests in the company’s activities and operations, including their consequences. Limited liability effectively provides a legal guarantee to prospective shareholders intended to encourage investments in joint stock companies. Legal protection thus exempts shareowners from responsibility for the harm their corporations cause. This amounts to a privileged legal exception granted by the state, effectively tantamount to an economic subsidy. Indeed, limited liability has long lay at the heart of the joint stock company. The corporation itself may face liability, but not shareholders who get to keep the profits they get. Shareholders profit without liability even if their companies harm others, cause ecological damage — e.g., water or air pollution, or greenhouse gas emission — and deliberately conceal and deny the dangers and costs of corporate practices which may involve corruption or other abuses, whether legal or otherwise. In effect, shareholders bear virtually ‘no liability’ legally, and have no legal responsibility to other ‘stakeholders’.

Shareholders are shielded from the consequences of the harm — or ‘negative externalities’ — that corporations inflict on others and on nature with the protection of ‘limited liability’. Under this legal dispensation, company shareholders are absolved of liability, regardless of the human and environmental costs caused by their activities, products or services sold.

Those running such limited liability companies have been quite aware of at least some of their ‘negative externalities’, or harm they cause, as such externalities are actually at the core of their profit maximizing strategies. Thus, cost-saving or efficiency considerations typically involve skirting legal regulations, ‘passing on’ or ‘socializing’ costs, minimizing tax exposure, extracting non-renewable valuable resources, otherwise harming the environment, and other ‘socially irresponsible’ conduct.

In case after case of corporate crime, shareholders have been let off the hook: from the 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, which killed hundreds of thousands, to the health consequences of the use of tobacco, asbestos and other toxic and carcinogenic substances. More recently, shareholders of Boeing, responsible for two airplane crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people, made US$43 billion from share repurchases during 2013-2019 when the firm ignored safety standards in order to cut costs. Meanwhile, the families of those who died will be compensated from a US$50 million disaster fund, i.e., about under US$150,000 per victim, much less than 0.2 per cent of the share repurchase gains.

A lawsuit against the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the company believed to have profited most from the US opioid epidemic, is trying to hold beneficiaries of corporate misconduct accountable. Apparently, Purdue hired McKinsey as consultants to “turbocharge” opioid sales, willfully encouraging addiction, knowing it would lead to many deaths. Nevertheless, fearing liability, some family members have reportedly moved much of their money to Switzerland. However, they need not fear as US courts have long protected influential shareholders from the victims of such corporate abuses, a norm unlikely to be reversed by senior judicial appointments in recent years.

Property rights, it is claimed, increase efficiency by ensuring that owners bear the costs of the profit-seeking activities their assets are engaged in. Yet, limited liability protects investors from having to bear the full costs of their consequences while retaining profits so generated. Unsurprisingly, shareholders will defend such privileges and resist efforts requiring them to bear such costs.

‘Command and control’ or top-down regulation is dismissed as ineffective, costly and inefficient by the ideology of shareholder market capitalism. Meanwhile, market deterrents, e.g., via taxation, are opposed as governments are dismissed as incapable of setting optimal tax rates.

Shareholders also try to avoid liability by locating assets in safe havens, and by persuading governments to protect them, even threatening sanctions against those seeking to undermine such protection. But laws that allow investors to do harm with impunity also undermine the very legitimacy of the economic and legal system besides the very conditions for humanity’s survival.

Be Prepared - The Robots Are Coming

 Half of all work tasks will be handled by machines by 2025 in a shift likely to worsen inequality, a World Economic Forum report has forecast. Routine or manual jobs in administration and data processing were most at threat of automation, WEF said.

The think tank said a "robot revolution" would create 97 million jobs worldwide but destroy almost as many, leaving some communities at risk.

WEF said currently around a third of all work tasks were handled by machines, with humans doing the rest, but by 2025 the balance would shift.

Roles that relied on human skills such as advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating and interacting would rise in demand. There would also be a "surge" in demand for workers to fill green economy jobs, and new roles in areas like engineering and cloud computing.

But it said millions of routine or manual jobs would be displaced by technology, affecting the lowest paid, lowest skilled workers the most.

It said millions would need to be re-skilled to cope with the change, while governments would have to provide "stronger safety nets" for displaced workers.

The Forum's research spanned 300 of the world's biggest companies. More than 50% of employers surveyed said they expected to speed up the automation of some roles in their companies, while 43% felt they were likely to cut jobs due to technology.

WEF said the pandemic had sped up the adoption of new technologies as firms looked to cut costs and adopt new ways of working. It warned workers now faced a double threat from "accelerating automation and the fallout from the Covid-19 recession".

"These things have deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008," said Saadia Zahidi, managing director at WEF. "It's a double disruption scenario that presents another hurdle for workers in this difficult time. The window of opportunity for proactive management of this change is closing fast."

By their fruits ye shall know them. 

Biden is like all politicians. His campaign is constructed on the fuehrer principle. Biden loftily invites his supporters to send him suggestions and proposals – but they have no voice in making decisions, shaping policies, selecting officials and naming his cabinet. That is why they will reject all one-man leader organizations and build on the tested foundations of democracy and control from the grass-roots.

The Democratic Party today is like a ship in a storm that has already sprung one bad leak, is on the verge of springing others and never wilt be the same, even if it should succeed in reaching port. This capitalist party has suffered from internal dissension, conflicts and crises because it has appealed to and won the support of diverse and even antagonistic groups. What keeps the Democratic ship afloat? It’s true that the party machine bosses still command but it mostly only due to the devotion and donations of Big Business, a gang which is  just as responsible for the existence of the Republican PartyThe real duty of all workers is not to prop up the Democratic Party , but to to launch an independent socialist party which could emerge at once as a major movement on the American political scene.

Listening to the speeches, messages, resolutions, and platform promises pouring out of the various campaign headquarters nowadays, you might get the impression that nothing is too good for the African American people and other minorities. In that case, you will be surprised when all the shouting is finished and the votes are counted, to find the minorities in pretty much the same position as before. To win equality it is necessary for African-Americans and all the other minorities to change not only the laws, but the whole system.

When they talk about defense of the “national interest” they are not talking about democratic practices, which they violate a thousand times each day. They are talking about defense of the capitalist system – of profits to be coined out of the exploitation of labor. What they want to defend is the “American way of life” that enables them to suck these profits out of the toll of the working people. Racial discrimination and oppression are basic parts of that “way of life” because they divide the workers and thus make it easier for them to be exploited. What the workers need to defend and extend are their democratic rights. To do that they must unite, regardless of color, and fight relentlessly against the reactionary defenders of exploitation and oppression. Politics will have real meaning for the working people only after they have taken it out of the grip of the capitalist enemies of democracy.

One reason why Biden will get a big vote in November is that he is telling the people a considerable number of truths and half-truths about Trump. These are the things a worried people want to hear, the things they know to be true. But it is not enough, therefore, to point an accusing finger at the greedy and evil man who is running the government today.  His individual avarice and lust for power are important factors in the situation, but not the decisive ones.  In the first place, Trump is not acting on his own; they are the representatives and administrators of their class, the capitalist class in his administration. Without the consent of sections of the ruling class, Trump would never dare embark on such a dangerous adventures. America’s problems are not merely some quirk in an individual. The simplistic answer, Get rid of the bad man, put in a good man. and then we won’t have no more to worry about will not bring about any real fundamental solutions to what ails us. There is no need here to enter into the question of Biden’s sincerity. History has taught us to be on guard against capitalist reformism. The reason is that you cannot end misery and anxiety without ending its cause, capitalism. As long as the influence of Biden and the Democrats is able to dissuade the people from replacing capitalism with a socialist system, just so long will the suffering of working people persist. .

Nothing embarrasses the American capitalists so much as the truth about their own revolutionary past. How the present rulers hate to be reminded that the United States was born and grew great as the result of a revolution (and a civil war). How they squirm at the memory that our own ancestors were revolutionaries in a “subversive” movement. The reasons is not hard to find. When American Big Business is reaching out for domination of the world and using all its resources to preserve an outworn and oppressive social system, it is naturally not interested in extolling American revolutions for independence and the establishment of new social systems. That independence struggle was labelled seditious, disloyal and subversive by the forces of “law and order” – and so it was from the viewpoint of the British. American capitalism which came to power by revolution, can, like other outworn systems, only be replaced by the same process. 

Those of us who are the most consistent fighters against the tyranny of Big Business willingly give credit to the revolutionary forerunners of the present ruling class for the struggles they led against tyranny in the past. For us, unlike the apologists of Big Business, the truth about the revolutionary past is not a source of embarrassment to be concealed but of enlightenment and inspiration, providing many rich lessons still applicable in the current struggles against oppression.

 Previous revolutions resulted in the establishment of the rule of a new minority. The coming revolution will for the first time bring power to the representatives of the overwhelming majority of the population. This time around the goal of the revolution is nothing less than the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a class-free society. Our revolution cannot be prevented by red scares and witch hunts.