Sep 4, 2017
Hurricane Harvey and the flooding that followed left a trail of devastation in Houston and the surrounding area. As of September 1, dozens had died, more than 42,000 people are in shelters, with 185,000 homes damaged or destroyed, 200,000 customers without power, and several hundred thousand residents without water. Despite an outpouring of assistance from people trying to help, evacuees complain of a shortage of beds and unclean bathrooms.
And more is yet to come. Flooding of sewage systems and subsequent runoff could lead to widespread contamination of private water wells, which are common in the area. The area is home to massive chemical and oil industries, and a busy shipping channel with close to 500 industrial facilities. The Environment Defense Fund tallied reports to Texas state regulators and found damaged refineries and other oil facilities had already released more than two million pounds of hazardous chemicals into the air. The fire at the Arkema chemical plant is just one example.
Whether or not residents can return to their damaged homes, they face these and other exposures. Then comes the task of rebuilding, which will be costly, for which the vast majority of homeowners are unprepared. Robert Hunter, the director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, estimates that only 20% of homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey have coverage from flood insurance. That’s even worse than what occurred in Katrina, for which about half of flooded homes were covered.
Government officials and most of the bosses’ media would have us believe Hurricane Harvey was extraordinary and unforeseen – a natural disaster that couldn’t be avoided. The Houston metropolitan area is home to 6.5 million people, spread out across 600 square miles, much of it suburban. Its transportation system consists largely of freeways which themselves flood during major storms. For these reasons, they say, the politicians could not tell people to evacuate, for fear of causing freeway gridlock and trapped vehicles.
Yes, it’s true, the way the Houston area is designed, or more appropriately its lack of a coherent design, made this a disaster waiting to happen. But it’s false to say it could not be foreseen.
Urban engineers know the problem. Much of the Houston area lies in a floodplain, but that’s not the main problem. Water from rainfall and snowfall doesn’t have to lead to flooding. It can be absorbed into the ground.
Grass in prairies can grow to six to eight feet above ground and even deeper underground, which allows it to soak up huge amounts of water. The growth of cities, however, leads to the covering over of grasslands, parks, and residential lawns with cement. In most of the U.S. only about 1 percent of land is what’s called “hardscape.” In cities, up to 40% of land cannot absorb water. In Houston, it’s even worse. And much of the soil in the area not covered with cement is made up of clay, which also prevents water absorption.
The increasing frequency of large rainfall totals is at least in part an effect of climate change. Scientists have issued clear warnings and are finding the consequences of climate change occurring even sooner than they previously predicted.
If journalists and scientists know about this, so do government officials. Yet they’ve consistently supported the growth of industry and shipping in coastal areas that could be protected for grasslands. They’ve repeatedly opposed environmental regulations that might prevent or reduce the threat of the release of toxins in the event of a flood that might impede corporate profits. They’ve funded the building of freeways to carry people to suburbs where land for homes and industry, especially in Texas, is cheap.
In a rational society, steps could be taken to reduce industrial emissions that lead to global warming.
The government could impose protection of coastal grasslands. Methods of capturing and reusing rainfall, like building large cisterns under open fields and stadiums, could be employed.
In the event of flooding, large numbers of people could be evacuated, but that requires planning and the use of public transportation that could carry many more people out of a flood region in a smaller amount of time. Following Hurricane Harvey, ordinary people jumped in to rescue thousands of people government forces failed to reach.
We live in a society that cannot organize the rescue capacities normal people showed, nor organize the technology available today for the protection of human beings, because corporate profits come before human need. The consequences of Hurricane Harvey for the people of the Houston area show that capitalism is a worn out form of social organization that ought to be thrown out.
Sep 4, 2017
Hurricane Harvey dropped trillions of gallons of water on the Texas Gulf Coast, more than twice as much as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And it was the third so-called “500-year storm” to hit Houston in the last three years.
Calling Harvey a “500-year” storm doesn’t mean these floods can only happen once every 500 years. It means that scientists think the chance of a flood that large happening are 1 in 500 in any given year, according to a system the government developed in 1968 for flood insurance. But just last year, floods in Houston reached such an extreme that the Houston flood control district said they were experiencing a one in 10,000-year rain event. Obviously not, since Harvey was even bigger!
The acceleration of these storms has been going on for decades. In the 1990s there were 30% more of what scientists call “heavy precipitation events” than the average between 1900 and 1960. In the 2000s, there were 40% more. And so far, the 2010s look to have even more.
Warm weather makes storms bigger because warm water evaporates more easily, and warm air can hold more water. Think about a hand dryer in a bathroom – it dries your hands by blowing warm air, which then turns the water on your hands into vapor. Hurricanes pick up water in a similar way. The warmer the water, and the warmer the air, the more water they pick up.
And we are seeing warmer water and air right now than ever before. Last winter, the daily surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico never dropped below 73 degrees – the first time in recorded history that had ever happened. Scientists studying the weather of the Gulf predicted that a huge storm like Harvey was increasingly likely because of these warm temperatures.
And this is not just a problem facing Houston, or even the United States. 2016 was the warmest year on record. The warmest year before that? 2015. The warmest year before that? 2014.
And weather disasters have accelerated around the world. South Asia right now is experiencing an unprecedented level of monsoon rains. These rains have put one third of Bangladesh under water. They caused a high-rise building in Mumbai to collapse, and they have already killed at least 1,200 people. Conversely, drought has spread across large regions of Africa, threatening millions of people with starvation – another consequence of climate change predicted by scientists.
Of course, any of these individual events could happen without the climate warming. Just like any individual person could get lung cancer without smoking. As the cigarette companies insisted for years, no individual case of cancer can be proven to have been caused by smoking. But the enormous accumulation of evidence showed that smoking caused cancer. And the enormous amount of evidence from around the world establishes the link between climate change and the increased frequency of these weather disasters.
A reasonable society would put its resources toward trying to reduce the causes of climate change. Such a society would research and put in place alternative ways of generating electricity and of producing and transporting people and goods. And a reasonable society would put in place every measure it could to protect people from massive storms like Harvey, rising sea levels, and the changing patterns of weather that we can see happening before our eyes.
But we do not live in a reasonable society. In this capitalist society, profit comes first. In fact, the vast majority of pollution that causes climate change is not produced by individuals. Most of this pollution comes from the decisions made by a small number of big companies about how to produce power and all kinds of goods, how to distribute them, what kinds of transportation and heating systems are available, and what types of systems are NOT available, like decent public transportation. These companies profit from the current system and they don’t want it to change. They put their profits before the safety of millions of people.
And the politicians who run this country go along with them. Some like Obama pay lip-service to the threat posed by climate change and enact very limited regulations that every scientist knows are completely insufficient. Others like Trump and the Republicans who run Texas deny the very science that shows what’s happening. Can anyone believe that politics as usual, with either the Democrats or the Republicans in charge, can provide us with any way of avoiding the disasters we all know are coming?
Humanity has the resources and the know-how to deal with climate change. But this will only happen if humanity replaces this willfully blind, outdated, and murderous capitalist system with a collective one, organized to meet the needs of the population, instead of to maximize the profits of a tiny few.
Sep 4, 2017
During the rains of Hurricane Harvey, with power failing throughout the region, Arkema, a chemical company with locations throughout the U.S., sent home most workers from its Crosby, Texas plant. Company officials knew their volatile chemicals, used in manufacturing of plastics, might explode. In fact, officials made residents from more than a mile around the plant evacuate.
When Arkema’s generators failed, there was no way to keep the chemicals as cold as necessary in refrigerated trucks. There was an explosion, and the resulting fire sent black clouds across Crosby, about 30 miles from Houston.
Another explosion on Friday, September 1 also led to a fire in one of Arkema’s 18-wheeler tractor trailers holding the volatile peroxide. More explosions may occur there.
A safety official from Arkema acknowledged the company’s contingency plans for the hurricane were “not enough.”
That is like pretending the company didn’t understand that “volatile” meant explosions and fire were likely.
Arkema not only understood, it had lobbied in Texas and elsewhere for many years against safety regulations. Arkema was cited by Texas environmental officials for a fire involving peroxide in 2006. This company has paid more than a million dollars for various known safety violations in Texas since 2010. And in 2016, Arkema paid almost two million dollars in fines from a lawsuit about contaminated water near one of its plants in New Jersey.
The problem, of course, is not just Arkema, one of more than 500 oil and chemical plants throughout the Houston area, using materials hazardous to their work force and nearby residents.
Arkema is one small example of what it means when companies are not made to plan for predictable hazards involving storms, let alone unpredictable accidents.
And Texas is not alone in lax attitudes toward enforcing what regulations exist to protect the water, air and land we all need to survive.
Sep 4, 2017
The governments of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus are selling citizenship, according to BBC news. The prices of these passports are so high that only the rich can afford them. For example, Malta’s price for one passport is a million dollars.
Many countries including the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, and Australia already have schemes under so-called residency programs or investor visas to sell visas for easier border crossings for the rich.
So others’ misery is a source of profit for these so-called “respectable” governments. Under capitalism, everything has a price and a selling point. For the governments, providing citizenship and visas are like businesses to create revenues.
As for the rich, there are no borders since they easily can pay for such immigration services whether legal or otherwise. These borders are only for the workers and the poor.
Sep 4, 2017
Kushner Companies, the business owned by the family of Trump’s son-in-law Jared, is being investigated for trading visas for investments. Wealthy Chinese investors were told in May that up to 300 people who invested at least 500,000 dollars would receive a green card under the federal EB-5 program.
Kushner himself headed the company until this year, when he stepped down before joining the Trump White House team. His sister now runs the company; and she made liberal use of images of Jared AND his father-in-law Donald Trump to lure investors to the company.
The company issued statements saying it had “fully complied with the rules and regulations” of the EB-5 program. And they might be right! Why would they need to break the law when the law is on their side?
Sep 4, 2017
This article continues our series on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The workers in Petrograd rise up to protect their revolution.
General Kornilov, whom Kerensky had promoted to head of the armed forces, proclaimed himself to be the savior of Holy Russia, hoping to establish a personal dictatorship and put an end to the revolution. And Kerensky, knowing what awaited him, saw no other way out than to appeal to the support of the proletariat of the capital and its organizations, including the Bolshevik Party. Without waiting, the Kronstadt sailors, who had disembarked in Petrograd to confront the fearsome Cossacks of the Savage Division, started by freeing Trotsky and other leaders of the Bolshevik Party from prison. In 48 hours, these leaders would coordinate a general strike and a mobilization of the soviets against the coup d'état. The U.S. journalist Albert Rhys Williams recounts this in his first-hand account Through the Russian Revolution:
“The bourgeoisie backed by the Allies and the General Staff were equally determined that the war should go on. Continuing the war would give three things to the bourgeoisie: (1) It would continue to give them enormous profits out of army contracts. (2) In case of victory it would give them, as their share in the loot, the Straits and Constantinople. (3) It would give them a chance of staving off the ever more insistent demands of the masses for land and factories.
They were following the wisdom of Catherine the Great who said: ‘The way to save our empire from the encroachment of the people is to engage in war and thus substitute national passions for social aspirations.’ Now the social aspirations of the Russian masses were endangering the bourgeois empires of land and capital. But if the war could go on, the day of reckoning with the masses would be postponed. The energies absorbed in carrying on the war could not be used in carrying on the Revolution. ‘On with the war to a victorious end!’ became the rallying cry of the bourgeoisie.
But the Kerensky government no longer could control the soldiers. They no longer responded to the eloquence of this romantic man of words. The bourgeoisie set out to find a Man of the Sword. … ‘Russia must have a strong man who will tolerate no revolutionary nonsense, but who will rule with an iron hand,’ they said. ‘Let us have a Dictator.’
For their Man on Horseback they picked the Cossack General, Kornilov. At the conference in Moscow, he had won the hearts of the bourgeoisie by calling for a policy of blood and iron. On his own initiative he had introduced capital punishment in the army. With machine guns he had destroyed battalions of refractory soldiers and placed their stiffened corpses in rows along the fences. He declared that only drastic medicine of this kind could cure the ills of Russia.
On September 9th [August 27th by our calendar], Kornilov issued a proclamation declaring: ‘Our great country is dying. Under pressure of the Bolshevik majority in the Soviet, the Kerensky government is acting in complete accord with the plans of the German General Staff. Let all who believe in God and the temples pray to the Lord to manifest the miracle of saving our native land.’ He drew 70,000 picked troops from the front. Many of them were Muslims – his Turkoman bodyguard, his Tartar horsemen, and Circassian mountaineers. On the hilts of their swords, the officers swore that when Petrograd was taken, the atheist Socialists would be forced to finish building the great mosque or be shot. With airplanes, British armored cars, and the blood-thirsty Savage Division, he advanced on Petrograd in the name of God and Allah.
But he did not take it.
In the name of the Soviets and the Revolution, the masses rose as one man to the defense of the capital. Kornilov was declared a traitor and an outlaw. Arsenals were opened and guns put in the hands of the workingmen. Red Guards patrolled the streets, trenches were dug, barricades hastily erected. Muslim Socialists rode into the Savage Division and in the name of Marx and Mohammed exhorted the mountaineers not to advance against the Revolution. Their pleas and arguments prevailed. The forces of Kornilov melted away and the ‘Dictator’ was captured without firing a single shot. The bourgeoisie were depressed as the White Hope of the Counter-Revolution went down so easily before the blows of the Revolution.
The proletarians were correspondingly elated. They saw the strength and unity of their forces.
They felt anew the solidarity binding together all sections of the toiling masses. Trench and factory acclaimed one another. Soldiers and workingmen paid special tribute to the sailors for the big part they played in this affair.”
The demonstration had been made: in order to save the revolution, it was necessary to quickly put an end to the power of the bourgeoisie, concentrating power in the hands of the working class and the poor peasants.
Sep 4, 2017
This article continues our series on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. After the attempted overthrow.
General Kornilov’s attempted coup, and its failure due to the mobilization of the proletariat, brought about a considerable increase in the Bolsheviks’ influence. The Bolsheviks had been reduced to a state of semi-illegality since the July Days, either imprisoned like Trotsky or forced into clandestinity like Lenin. But now, they were recognized as the ones who had foreseen the counter-revolutionary danger. They denounced the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary (SR) parties’ policies of compromise toward the forces of the bourgeoisie, which had encouraged the rise of the counter-revolution. The Bolsheviks recognized and expressed the revolutionary aspirations of the masses. The following passage is how Antonov-Ovseyenko, the Bolshevik militant who carried out the military operations of the October insurrection under the leadership of Trotsky, described this period in his memoirs, originally published in Russian:
“These gentlemen [the SRs and Mensheviks representing the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet] had learned nothing. Their churning windmill of words blew only hot air. And they did not even see this. On August 31st, the Petrograd Soviet had adopted a resolution taken out of the Bolshevik program, but they were convinced that it was only a chance event and that they would quickly take hold of the situation. On September 9th, they convoked a plenary session of the Petrograd Soviet, and Chkheidze [the Menshevik president of the Soviet] officially announced the resignation of the Presidium of the Executive Committee, in light of the adoption of a resolution opposed to its political line. Counting on a majority, the bloc of compromisers then proposed to refuse this resignation. They voted by leaving the room. There were 414 votes for the Presidium and its policies of compromise, 519 votes against, and 69 abstentions. The resignation was accepted!
A new leadership was then formed from the bureaus of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Sections of the Soviet. In the Workers’ Section, we had a majority. Since the Soldiers’ Section had not yet carried out a reelection of its bureau, the Mensheviks and the SRs had the majority there. Several days later, new elections took place in the Soldiers’ Section of the Soviet: its bureau also passed into our hands.
The Petrograd Soviet, which had been the main support for the policy of compromise, had become the main support for the struggle against this policy. After Kornilov’s putsch, this took place almost everywhere in the same way.
The VTsIK [All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets] received hundreds of decisions and telegrams from every corner of the country. Almost all of these contained a condemnation of the Provisional Government and a demand to establish a purely socialist power [without the participation of representatives from the bourgeois parties]. In response to Kornilov’s attempted coup, the worker and peasant masses, as well as the mass of soldiers, entered deeply into political action. They feverishly armed themselves, organizing and preparing for the struggle against the reactionary general and his accomplices. And to prepare themselves to fight, they saw our party as the only reliable and self-evident leadership.
In a whole series of provincial and district Soviets, we conquered the majority. On September 6th, the Plenum of the Moscow Soviet adopted the August 31st resolution of the Petrograd Soviet [which called for the transfer of power to the workers and peasants]. The Presidium of the Moscow Executive Committee was ours.
Already at the time of Kornilov’s putsch, in many places power passed into the hands of revolutionary committees formed to defeat the counter-revolution. These committees held onto this power until the general’s revolt was quashed, relying on the workers and soldiers in arms. In fact, this was the realization of Soviet power. It was the regeneration of the Soviets as organs of revolutionary struggle.
Kerensky obviously understood this. On September 4th, he ordered the dissolution of the revolutionary committees, the committees of safety and defense of the revolution, formed ‘with the goal of fighting against Kornilov’s revolt in the cities, the countryside, the railway stations.… From now on, there shall be no more actions outside the framework of the law, and the Provisional Government will combat these.’ However, even the popular Committee of Struggle against the Counter-Revolution, which depended on the Central Executive Committee, refused to submit to this order of Kerensky’s…. And the [Bolshevik] Party took up again its slogan [which it had abandoned when the Soviets were for a time chained to the pro-bourgeois policy of the compromisers]: ‘All power to the Soviets, in the capital and everywhere!’
The influence of our party had increased in an immense and overwhelming manner.”
Sep 4, 2017
A strike paralyzed the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company for nearly two weeks in August. Government-owned, Egypt’s biggest textile mill employs 25,000 workers in the town of Mahalla al-Kubra in the Nile delta.
The strike broke out after management refused to give a 10 percent bonus and 10 percent cost of living adjustment authorized by the government earlier this year – which would hardly have offset the high inflation and the impact of recent austerity measures. The workers also demanded a higher food allowance and due process for promotion, because management is very corrupt.
Supported by the government, management tried a number of ways to frustrate the strike. It accused the strikers of sabotaging the national economy, which the media echoed. It stopped paying wages due. Its security forces tried to re-start production. The 16,000 strikers also faced the presence of armed guards and armored vehicles stationed around the mill to prevent demonstrations from spreading into town.
But faced with the strikers’ determination, management wavered and then had to accept all their demands.
The strike is even more significant because it took place in the same period during which General el-Sisi stepped up repression against his political opposition and against the working class. On May 22, troops intervened violently against a strike at the Tourah Cement Company south of Cairo. Thirty-two workers were thrown in prison for demanding full-time positions.
El-Sisi’s regime has held power since his coup in 2013 and continues to benefit from the political and military support of the big imperialist powers. In turn they count on his regime to assure their dominance in the region.
The textile workers threatened to go back on strike if management goes back on its word. They aren’t relying on promises. They are right to depend on their own force to defend themselves from the regime and the world order which starves them.
Sep 4, 2017
Margaret McCarty has died – Peggy to many people, Mary for many others, and Ms. Peggy or MamaDear to still others. She was first of all a mother, who bore and raised nine children while living in poverty, with all of the problems, heartaches, difficulties and struggles that means. To raise her children meant, as she once put it: “I have a job to do.”
But she had many other jobs in her lifetime: working in the fields, loading at the docks, clerking at a Baltimore drug store, janitorial work at a hospital, then working at and finally running a Child Care center. At the same time, she was one of the organizers of Baltimore’s first welfare rights organization, “Mother Rescuers from Poverty,” intent on giving women like her and their children their rights and self-respect. She explained, “Welfare robs a person of his dignity and his rights. When you apply, automatically everything you say is assumed to be a lie. By the time you get on welfare, you just don’t think much of yourself. And once you get on the rolls there are policies to keep you feeling that way.” Peggy was someone who always refused to “feel that way” about herself.
In 1967, Peggy was one of the organizers of a “Mothers March” in Annapolis, whose aim was to oppose amendments to the welfare legislation that were little more than veiled attempts to prevent people from having what should have been theirs by right. Speaking at the rally, Peggy indicted the “lousy, dirty, conniving brutes who want to take us back to slavery,” and added, “I’m black and I’m beautiful and they ain’t going to take me back.”
She was also an activist who was important for the development of Spark in Baltimore. As the result of her work in Rescuers, she was close to people at the origin of Spark, and with them, in the 1970s, she began to carry out a work toward different workplaces. Most important of these were the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel, where she won respect and affections of the workers she talked to every week, as she distributed the Spark newsletter or sold the paper. She brought many people from among her family and friends to Spark events.
As everyone who knew her can attest, Peggy was musical, with a deep throaty voice. She loved the songs of the Civil Rights movement: “We Are Soldiers in the Army,” and “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” among so many others.
In her later years, Peggy became active in a Baltimore ministry that worked with addicts attempting to break free of that enslavement, and she went into the jails and prisons to address those whom she called, “the lost and hurting.”
For all of the many people who respected her and looked to her, Margaret McCarty was their rock. And we, like so many others, miss her.
Sep 4, 2017
In Los Angeles, there is a shrinking supply of affordable housing, even as the population grows. And this shortage has not been alleviated by the huge construction boom over the last few years, since almost all of this construction is for high-end or luxury apartments – that is, the most profitable for real estate developers, construction companies, banks and other lenders.
This lack of affordable housing has allowed landlords to jack up the rent to record levels, with the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment close to $2,600 per month – which most working families can’t afford. A new study finds that one in six households, or more than half a million households, spent more than half of their income for rent, leaving them little left over to pay for other necessities, like food, health care, transportation, etc.
This lack of affordable housing has also driven a record high increase in homelessness. According to the official count, there were 56,000 homeless last year, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. And, no doubt, this is a severe undercount, as many who are living in their cars or campers, couch surfing, or doubling and tripling up with family and friends were not counted. Still more working people are living in substandard or illegal living spaces, like garages or shacks. And still others are being forced to commute 90 miles or more each way to get to work, that is, at a tremendous cost in both money and time.
So, the very way that various parts of the capitalist class profit off of housing has created a worsening housing crisis for big parts of the working class.
Sep 4, 2017
Some of the more than 600,000 Los Angeles students, who went back to school on August 14, found that the air conditioning in their classrooms was not working – when, in some areas, temperatures reached the 90s.
No wonder some of the broken A/C units were not fixed in time – the workers who could fix them were simply not there. “Based on recommended industry standards,” the L.A. school district has only 31 per cent of the Buildings and Grounds staff it needs, according to a district facilities service director. And that means many L.A. schools will not be properly cleaned and maintained throughout the school year.
In July, the L.A. school board had passed a resolution, ordering district staff to make sure that classrooms are “ready to learn” on the first day of school. But the same school board did not provide the budget for the number of workers needed to make sure classrooms were all clean and air-conditioned by August 14.
In other words, the politicians on the school board did what politicians do – they talked, but they did not act on what they said.
Sep 4, 2017
According to a new report by a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, cleaning the nuclear waste created by a breeder reactor in Idaho will take many more decades than anticipated.
These breeder reactors are designed to convert non-fissionable uranium into fissionable plutonium, creating a plutonium fuel. The federal government presented this as a “wonder fuel” scheme that would solve their two problems in one shot: shortage of uranium as a fuel and need for plutonium for nuclear bombs. The government would pay the costs of such reactors’ development through tax-payer funds, and then transfer the technology to businesses so that the rich would profit from this breeder reactor scheme.
The Idaho reactor went into operation in 1964, and was shut down in 1994. The process was proved to be technologically too complex, very expensive, and excessively unsafe.
It created tons of highly radioactive waste, stored underground at the Idaho National Laboratory. Now, the government tells us that the available technology is not sufficient to clean up this highly dangerous waste.
Disasters are not new to the nuclear industry: A commercial reactor, Fermi, went into operation near Detroit, and suffered a partial core meltdown in 1966. An experimental reactor near the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area experienced fuel core damage in 1959, releasing radioactive iodine into the air and radioactive sodium into the ground water.
Clearly, these reactors and the waste they produce are a threat to life on this planet, now and into the future.
Disaster is guaranteed when profit is allowed to rule over the use of nuclear power and its waste products.
Sep 4, 2017
On August 25th, in a show of thuggish, racist unity, Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Arpaio became notorious for his arrest and brutal treatment of anyone he suspected of being an illegal immigrant in Maricopa County – in other words, anyone with brown skin. He and his deputies would stop and detain people for no other reason than having the “wrong” skin color, and if they couldn’t produce an ID, he would ship them out to the desert, and hold them in what he proudly called concentration camps: tent prisons where temperatures would regularly cross 120 degrees in the summer and dive below freezing in the winter. He set up webcams to humiliate these prisoners publicly – including in the women’s toilets. He provided inadequate food and water, even as the prisoners were broiling in the desert sun. Not surprisingly, people died.
Arpaio was ordered by a federal judge to stop arresting people solely based on the color of their skin. He not only refused, but he openly bragged that he was refusing. Because of this he was convicted of contempt of court for disobeying the court order. He was also voted out of office last year; apparently the voters of the county had had enough.
This is the man that Trump rushed to pardon – even before his sentence was handed down, a sentence that would have been at most six months in jail! Trump rushed to use his very first pardon to exonerate this brutal racist.
And not only that, but Trump made it clear that he agrees with everything Arpaio has done. He said that Arpaio had been treated “unbelievably unfairly,” and that he had been convicted for “doing his job.”
In rushing to defend such a man for such crimes, Trump has signaled what is most important to him: sending a message to his most ardent supporters, his racist, anti-immigrant supporters, that he continues to be their guy.
Trump sees this brutal racism as part of the sheriff’s job! And Trump continues to do his job for his corporate cronies: reinforcing this racist society, all the better to attack every member of the working class.
Sep 4, 2017
On August 25th, a Michigan State Police officer, “pursuing” a young teenager driving a toy car – an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) – aimed his Taser gun out the window of his car and fired. The electric shock and barbed hook of the Taser hit Damon Grimes, the 15-year-old. Seconds later the ATV crashed into a parked truck and Damon Grimes died soon after from blunt-force head injury.
According to a Michigan State Police spokesperson, the entire encounter between the officer “pursuing” and Damon took 49 SECONDS! For a cop to act like that, it is likely that he had been doing it and getting away with it in the past. Only this time, the response of the population brought the situation to light.
The state police officer, Mark Bessner, has had two separate excessive force lawsuits filed against him in three years – both involving Tasers. The officer is on paid leave, suspended for violating a state policy forbidding firing a Taser from a moving vehicle. Following the usual police tactic of dragging things out, the State Police, the Detroit Police and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office all say they are “investigating.”
Hundreds of Damon’s classmates, family, and friends gathered on Detroit’s east side for a candlelight vigil on August 30th. Senior citizens, adults, and children came out to honor him. But what began as a vigil ended up stopping traffic on Gratiot Avenue. When about 20 young people came out on their own ATV’s, a police car charged to the scene. The crowd surged and two men jumped on the squad car. Police made no arrests and backed off.
Mourners chanted, “It’s not right!” and “Power to the people!” Said one speaker, “The only way we gonna be able to beat it is if we organize.”
Yes, neighborhood by neighborhood, determined and relentless organizing is the only thing that CAN change the situation. Let it begin!