To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
August 25, 2017
RE:  Yet again, floods devastate millions of people

  1.  The Houston flood: a sign of things to come
  2.  Environmental racism: the law's delay
  3. Against nuclear brinkmanship over Korea
  4.  Making the police into an occupation army

 The Houston flood: a sign of things to come

(From the Sept. 9, 2017 update put out by DWV, rather than the Aug. 25 version)

Hurricane Harvey pounded Texas and Louisiana, and it has devastated Houston. Had an overage dam or two failed, the results could be even more catastrophic. As it is, over a dozen people have died, many houses have been destroyed, and the recovery is expected to take years.

At the same time, massive flooding was going on in Southern Asia. In  India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, 1200 people have died already. Mumbai, the financial heart of India, has been hit hard, and hundreds of people have died in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam; Nepal is a scene of devastation; and a third of Bangladesh is under water. The homes and crops and supplies of millions of people have been destroyed.

Detroit Workers' Voice expresses its sympathy for the victims of these storms, and salutes the dedication of the many volunteers, including undocumented workers, who helped provide relief in these disasters. A Texas DACA recipient, Alonso Guillen, died as a boat capsized while he and his friends were trying to save people.

We also note that these storms are a sign of things to come. Climate change is a reality, and every year the disasters get worse. Flooding is common in both Houston and South Asia. But the yearly monsoons are becoming worse and worse in South Asia. And similarly, this year's flood in Houston is the third "500-year" flood in three years. That's right, each of the last three years has seen a flood in Houston so intense that, were it not for global warming, it would be expected to occur only once every 500 years. In fact, the University of Wisconsin's Space Science and Engineering Center thinks Harvey caused a 1,000-year flood. Meanwhile the news showed interviews with people in Houston whose home had been destroyed two years in a row, and another couple who had seen their home destroyed in Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, moved to Houston, and now seen their home destroyed again.

One feature of the response to Hurricane Harvey is the lack of adequate preparation. One example concerns evacuation. There has been debate over the decision not to evacuate Houston in the face of Harvey. The reason for this was that when Hurricane Rita struck Texas in 2005, over 100 people died in the evacuation, far exceeding deaths from the hurricane itself. It's been over a decade since then, but apparently there aren't any better evacuation plans. This certainly makes one wonder about the realism of evacuation plans in other cities and for other possible disasters.

The oil and gas industry certainly wasn't well prepared either. At least 10 oil refineries have been forced to shut down because of the flooding, including the largest refinery in the U.S., which is located in Port Arthur. When they did so, they began to burn off excess chemicals, and they will again, when they start up. So they have been emitting heavy, toxic smoke, poisoning nearby neighborboods, and because of environmental racism, the plants were positioned to endanger mainly poor, nonwhite areas. Two ExxonMobil refineries were damaged, and they are spilling poisonous chemicals. The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas exploded, emitting highly toxic smoke. Many more facilities have also released poisons; moreover the companies have refused to say which chemicals were involved, thus further endangering nearby people and first responders. Superfund cleanup sites were also a source of danger, because toxic retention ponds were getting flooded, thus releasing their poisons.

The damage is so extensive that recovery is going to be a protracted process. And that's to say nothing of the problem of what happens if another disaster occurs next year, or the year after. Meanwhile all this will be especially hard on the undocumented workers, who won't be eligible for the various federal emergency and rebuilding benefits. Moreover, the 80,000 DACA recipients in the greater Houston area are threatened by Trmp's cancellation of DACA.

Texas is a market fundamentalist haven, and so only token preparations, if that, have been made for disaster. Trump wants to engrave this negligence into law. Days before Hurricane Harvey hit, on August 15, he rescinded a 2015 executive order by Obama that required infrastructure projects being built with federal money to consider, in their design, the risk of flooding and the effects of climate change. So new homes, bridges, utilities and so on don't have to worry about whether they can withstand the weather. Trump not only would block measures to stop global warming, but would discourage measures to protect against the effects of global warming.

But it's not so easy to protect against the increasing severity of storms. It's not just a matter of building another levee or elevating new buildings a few inches. It's going to require major changes in infrastructure and major changes in how the economy is run. It's going to mean giving up market fundamentalism and deregulation. Those politicians who pay lip-service to the threat of climate change but claim that it can be solved through some market arrangements are living in a fantasy world that isn't that much different from the one inhabited  by the outright climate deniers like Trump.

Hurricane Harvey is one of nature's answers to climate change denial. Harvey and the South Asian floods are a terrifying sign of things to come. No one particular flood or disaster can be said to have come from global warming, but the repeated disasters we are seeing are certainly signs that the climate is changing. It's essential that measures are taken to stop the trend to global warming. And we have already reached the point where, at the same time, measures have to be taken to protect against the climate change that is already here. These measures must be combined with measures to protect the livelihood of working people, who otherwise will be devastated by the coming changes.

-- by Joseph Green, Detroit Workers' Voice

 Environmental racism: the law's delay

A recent article on the website The Intercept details the lack of government support for people who protest environmental racism. It’s very informative for environmental activists because it details the obstructions and delays of government bureaucracies and thus teaches the need for independent organization on the part of activists. The article is written by Sharon Lerner and titled "A Legacy of Environmental Racism: Exxon Mobil Is Still Pumping Toxins into Black Community in Texas 17 Years After Civil Rights Complaint." It was posted on The Intercept on August 13, 2017.
(https://theintercept.com/2017/08/13/exxon-mobil-is-still-pumping-toxins-into-black-community-in-texas-17-years-after-civil-rights-complaint/)

ExxonMobil's giant oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas is located next to the Charlton-Pollard neighborhood of mostly black residents. These people suffer from numerous health problems, some of them minor but some very serious. Many of these ailments can probably be traced back to poisonous chemicals being spewed out of the refinery. Seventeen years ago the residents, roused to action by a local community activist, filed a complaint of environmental racism with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Lerner's article details the long delays that ensued: it took three years for the EPA to even reply to the residents, and even then there was no investigation, no resolution of the problems, and no guidance to the residents about what they could do to pursue the matter. It turns out the residents were lucky to even get a reply: during the Obama administration, the EPA entirely stopped checking the email inbox that received civil rights complaints. Messages and complaints stacked up, and when the EPA finally got around to looking at them, the way they dealt with them was simply to dismiss them. The residents of Charlton-Pollard did get a reply, but no action, and today Exxon Mobil’s refinery continues to spew out noxious chemicals.

The federal government's lack of concern is mirrored, even exceeded, by the state of Texas. The state agency responsible for enforcing the Clean Air Act imposes penalties on companies for less than three percent of illegal pollution releases, and this record is worsening; last year it was fewer than one percent. Last year Exxon Mobil emitted 675,000 pounds of pollutants in unpermitted events; this included the carcinogen benzene as well as other VOCs (volatile organic compounds). This year the state finally got around to fining Exxon a whopping $7,000 for some of these violations, but this is hardly a deterrent to a company valued at $343 billion.

One big problem with environmental enforcement in Texas -- and the same is true everywhere in the U.S. -- is that it’s based on a system of self-reporting. Companies are expected to report their own accidental spills and emissions. This is like expecting a fox to report any missing chickens from the henhouse. Lerner is probably right when she says that ExxonMobil's reports are totally bogus. This shows the importance of independent organization, to monitor and report any spills or illegal emissions. We can't expect the capitalists to volunteer this information, and we can't rely on government agencies to monitor them.

Another point driven home by the experience of Charlton-Pollard residents is the need for proactive monitoring and even testing at sensitive sites. It's pretty clear that the residents are suffering from their close proximity to the refinery, but proving it scientifically is made difficult by the lack of sufficient data. Any site near an industrial area should be tested annually, over a period of years, to determine a baseline and how that changes. This includes water, soil, air, and noise levels. It also includes health testing of nearby residents -- blood tests, etc. Residents near frack wells are always advised, "Make sure you get baseline tests of your water, blood, etc."

Of course this raises the question, who is to pay for all this monitoring and testing? And this shows again the need for independent organization. Activists should demand that government agencies step in proactively and begin doing the job they are supposed to do: protecting the people’s health. Government agencies have failed miserably in Beaumont, Texas, and activists everywhere should take that as a warning.

By Pete Brown, Detroit Workers' Voice <>

Against nuclear brinkmanship over Korea

This month military threats flew thick and fast back and forth between the Trump administration and North Korea. Military exercises, missile tests, bellicose declarations, and stepped-up sanctions followed one after another, although there were also periods of relative outward calm. If military action does break out, war could spread throughout the Korean peninsula; Japan and other nearby countries might be involved; and the US and China might go to war. The immediate threat is to Koreans both North and South. But a wider war and the use of nuclear weapons is possible.

Some commentators say that it is all posturing, and the threats will not lead to war. They say war would be against the rational interests of both sides. But brinkmanship increases the possibility of accidents that go beyond what was originally intended.

Nor is it clear that the Trump administration, which has insisted repeatedly that "all options are open", might not welcome a little war. It might believe that it could keep the conflict limited and win rapidly, while the war atmosphere would strengthen its political position in Washington and foster a racist and chauvinist atmosphere. For Trump, it's commonsense. As he famously said with respect to nuclear weapons, but no doubt believes of all weapons: why have them if you aren't going to use them?

Indeed, the main cause of the present nuclear crisis in Korea is the push by the US government, ever since World War II, to  dictate what goes on in the Korean Peninsula. It's the long arm of American imperialism stretching across the Pacific Ocean to Asia. If the various presidential administrations simply wanted to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of North Korea, they could have taken negotiations more seriously and appealed to the desirability of a denunclearized Korea, North and South. But the US government has had other interests, which it has repeatedly linked to the nuclear issue. The US government has  never even agreed to a final settlement of the Korean war of over half a century ago - there is only an armistice in that war, not a treaty ending it.

The North Korean government stems from the revolutionary movement against the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea before and during World War 2. But the North Korean government developed into a state-capitalist regime with a totally oppressive nature. Its distance from its original popular origins is reflected in its ferocious threats of devastation against other countries and even South Koreans. Whereas in the Vietnam war, the Vietnamese people appealed to working people around the world including the American people, the North Korean regime threatens death and destruction to all.

We need to oppose the dangerous brinkmanship and warmongering of both sides. Living here in the US, we need to pay particular attention to the Trump administration. We need to see Trump's nuclear brinkmanship as part of the overall US imperialist policy.  While it is particularly dangerous that Trump has his hand on the nuclear button, it's not just Trump whose involved. All those supposedly more sane generals and politicians also want to have the entire Korean Peninsula as a base in East Asia. To oppose the war threat, we need to develop a movement here based on the working people, not on the past architects of a US global empire.

And we need to have solidarity with the working people of the world, who suffer from these continual wars. We need solidarity with the Korean people, North and South, which is why while opposing Trump and US imperialism, we also have to realize the ugly nature of the North Korean government as well. Its internal tyranny and military brinkmanship harm the interests of the Korean people and undermine serious efforts to unite the world's working people against the war threat.

We need a movement that is for eliminating imperialist bullying and military actions. It can only be built through a movement of the people, not through relying on either imperialists or tyrants.

No to nuclear brinkmanship!

By Joseph Green, Detroit Workers' Voice <>

  Making the police into an occupation army

A Detroit auto worker posted the following to the D/SWV list:

Friends,  I've just come upon this New York Times article ....I'd like to share it with you! Here are a few of my thoughts...

Since the 1990's federal govt has transferred $5 billion in military weapons and equipment to police departments at all levels. The weapons are called surplus but they are in fine ( working--killing) condition.

There are two very important important points here:

1) this is how the weapons manufacturers and the defense department work hand and glove to keep spending $ billions of our tax dollars to endlessly build more and more  weaponry -- guaranteeing huge profits for these corporations.

2) the transfer of $5 billion in armaments to the state, local and federal police forces are part of a program to turn the police departments into a highly militarized "local army" to be used against the people of America--workers on strike, minorities protesting against police killings and brutality, and  popular demonstrations against hated politicians and their reactionary programs (war, racism, hate and bigotry)!

Your thoughts? <>

The NYT article:

"Trump to Fully Restore Military Surplus Transfers to Police", Adam Goldman, _NYT_, August 27, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/27/us/politics/trump-military-equipment-police.html?action=click&contentCollection=us&module=NextInCollection%C2%AEion=Footer&pgtype=article&version=spotlight&rref=collection%2Fspotlight%2Frace


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Posted on September 15, 2017.
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