Houston’s public housing residents are the worst hit by toxic flooding

Levels of E. coli tested in one development are 135 times above the amount considered safe

Floodwaters in two Houston-area neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Harvey have been contaminated with bacteria and toxins — and the highest levels of contamination were found in a low-income neighborhood built next to a slow-moving river that is known to have been polluted for decades.

A New York Times investigation discovered E. coli levels at four times the amount considered safe in “water flowing down Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor.”

“There’s pretty clearly sewage contamination, and it’s more concentrated inside the home than outside the home,” Lauren Stadler, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University who participated in the Times’ research said. “It suggests to me that conditions inside the home are more ideal for bacteria to grow and concentrate. It’s warmer and the water has stagnated for days and days. I know some kids were playing in the floodwater outside those places. That’s concerning to me.”

Though the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have risen concerns about contaminated floodwaters, none of the results of samples they have taken have been made public so far, the Times reported.

The Times elaborated on medical warnings:

Dr. Beau Briese, an emergency room physician at Houston Methodist Hospital, said he had seen a doubling in the number of cases of cellulitis — reddened skin infections — since the storm. He said it was a more modest increase than he had expected, and that the infections had been successfully treated with antibiotics.

Dr. David Persse, the chief medical officer of Houston, said residents caring for children, the elderly and those with immune disorders should try to keep them out of homes until they have been cleaned.

In the Clayton Homes public housing development, which is alongside the Buffalo Bayou, levels of E. coli were measured at a shocking 135 times higher than what’s considered safe, the Times reported. The water also included elevated levels of “lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in sediment from the floodwaters in the kitchen.”

The Buffalo Bayou has been polluted for years, and it’s been reported that minority residents have suffered the most from the consequences.

“Here it’s normal to see industrial flares from front porches, and to wake up to paint particles from the nearby scrap metal shredding facility floating into homes,” Houston Public Media reported regarding neighborhoods along the bayou.

“I wanted you to come through here because you’re going to see one of the shredding facilities that shreds cars into tiny tiny little pieces of metal. It comes into this community here, and they don’t like it,” said Juan Parras, a community activist who led TEJAS, or Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, in 2011.

Parras said the facility should have never been built. The Ashby high rise was heavily protested in the more affluent parts of town, Houston Public Media reported.

“And there was a lot of complaints, you know, the citizens obviously didn’t want it. And at the same time they were building this,” Parras said. “And sometimes it gets real real high, you know, just a pile of cars here. And so we call it our Ashby high rise. But even though we protested, you know, we got it anyway.

In 2012, environmentalists called for strengthening the Clean Water Act, which helps regulate pollution control, the same law that President Donald Trump’s administration has already proposed rolling back.

 

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay
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Climate chaos and the capitalist system

Hurricane Irma barreled into Florida over the weekend as a Category 4 hurricane after leaving a trail of destruction on islands and island chains in the Atlantic. Less than two weeks before, Harvey caused a catastrophe in Houston and along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.

In both cases, it’s obvious how the priorities of capitalism made these natural disasters so much worse. But what can be done about it? Below is a speech, edited for publication, by Paul Fleckenstein given last week–before Irma reached Florida–at a meeting of an International Socialist Organization chapter at the University of Vermont.

Hurricanes Katia (left), Irma (center) and Jose (right) all visible in a satellite image

Hurricanes Katia (left), Irma (center) and Jose (right) all visible in a satellite image

WE ALL witnessed two catastrophic storm events in the past two weeks, and a third, Hurricane Irma, is heading through the Caribbean toward southwestern Florida, where I used to live.

The weather catastrophe that got the least attention in the U.S. was the extreme rainfall in South Asia over the last several weeks as a result of the worst monsoons in decades. One-third of Bangladesh is underwater, and there are over 1,400 reported deaths in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. And this is just the beginning. Millions face a longer-term crisis of hunger and lack of access to drinkable water.

In the U.S., Hurricane Harvey produced record rainfall in Houston (50 inches), caused more than 60 deaths, flooded 100,000 homes and forced 100,000s of people to flee floodwaters.

As Houston resident and SW contributor Folko Mueller wrote, “It will take weeks, if not months, for the city to recover. We can only guess how long it may take individuals to heal from the emotional and psychological distress caused by having lost loved ones or their homes.”

The Houston area is home to 30 percent of the oil refinery capacity in U.S., along with a heavy concentration of chemical plants. There were massive toxic releases from industrial plants into air and water–even by the standards of industry self-reporting, which means systematic underreporting.

Explosions rocked the Arkema plant in the Houston suburbs that produces stock chemicals for manufacturing. It will be many years before we know the full magnitude and effects of this and other releases that took place during the disaster.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

TO UNDERSTAND and learn from this crisis in Houston, we need to begin with the fact that Houston is a prime example of capitalism in the 21st century.

It’s a city, like others, built around extreme wealth disparities–with immigrants, people of color and the working class as a whole often relegated to the most environmentally dangerous areas. It has its own cancer alley along the Houston Ship Channel, which was, of course, swamped by Harvey.

The area is home to oil refineries owned by all the giant energy firms, from ExxonMobil, Shell and Marathon on down. Houston was the global capital of the oil industry in the 20th century and is still that, which means its elite had an outsized responsibility for global warming.

A city without zoning, Houston has been left to real-estate capital as a super-profit center. Because of the unrestricted development, wetlands and prairie that provide natural storm buffers were paved over with impermeable surfaces. Quick profits were made from building in low-lying areas.

A similar dynamic took place in South Asia with “land reclamations”–filling in wetlands to build mega-cities. As SW contributor Navine Murshid pointed out, the word itself “speaks to the entitlement that capitalist developers feel with respect to the earth.”

Houston had an estimated 600,000 undocumented workers running key sectors of the city’s economy before Harvey, and immigrant labor will be critical to rebuilding. Yet Texas’ anti-immigrant law SB 4, which deputizes state, county, city and campus law enforcement officers as immigration agents, was supposed kick in during the middle of the disaster, scaring many immigrants away from seeking aid.

The city has been devastated by hurricanes before. A ProPublica article published last year found that it was a matter of time before disaster struck–meanwhile, 80 percent of homes flooded by Harvey don’t have flood insurance.

Even for capitalists, there is a carelessness about the making of Houston that is remarkable. One-third of U.S. oil-refining capacity was shut down during the Harvey crisis, and half of all capacity is located in this region that is vulnerable to storms. These are the plants and facilities that send fracked natural gas and refined oil products around the U.S. and the world.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE PHYSICS of severe weather today is pretty simple. A warmer atmosphere holds more water and more energy, providing the fuel for bigger and more intense storms. More severe storms are a certainty as a result of man-made climate change.

And the trend of superstorms, extreme heat events and droughts–of extreme weather events in general–is going in the wrong direction, toward greater instability and extremes. Harvey, therefore, gives us a sobering glimpse of the future.

Naomi Klein, the left-wing author, is right that now is the time to talk about climate change–and after Harvey and Houston, it is necessarily a time to talk about capitalism.

I want to sketch out a basic Marxist understanding of the capitalist roots of the climate crisis. For everyone dedicated to fighting against climate change, Marxism is a great starting point, beginning with the contributions of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the 19th century.

As Marx observed in the mid-19th century: “Man lives on nature–means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.”

Marx and Engels noted that this unity with nature is ripped apart by capitalism through a “metabolic rift”–a separation that deepened and further developed under capitalism, where a small minority of the population controls all major aspects of the economy.

Capitalists are driven by competition to single-mindedly seek more profits. The free market imposes the drive to accumulate on individual capitalists, which results in a focus on short-term gains that ignores long-term effects of production. As Engels wrote:

As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers…

The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions. What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertilizer for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees–what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock!”

At the heart of capitalism is wage labor. Workers are compelled by the need for work to survive to carry out the labor that drives the system–including its most destructive operations, like the drilling platforms or the chemical factories.

In fact, the workers who do this particular work often best recognize the ecological consequences involved–and, unfortunately, experience many of the most dangerous ones. It makes perfect sense that the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union spawned a radical labor leader like the late Tony Mazzocchi.

For Marx, the alternative to capitalism’s destructive system was a democratically planned economy: socialism–by which he meant “the associated producers rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature.”

Capitalism is driven by the perpetual need to produce more profit, or it snowballs into recession and crisis. So it isn’t enough for scientists to develop new technologies that could create a sustainable world. They have to be put to use, and under capitalism, they won’t be unless it is profitable to do so.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IF WE need a radical reorganization of society, then environmentalists must set their sights not just on changes within the capitalist system, but ultimately on the abolition of capitalism itself. To avoid ecological catastrophe, we need a society based not on competition and undirected growth, but on cooperation, economic democracy and long-term sustainability.

Marx offers a compelling vision of such a society in the final pages of his three volume work Capital: “Even an entire society, a nation or all simultaneously existing societies taken together are not owners of the earth, they are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations.”

Is it possible to reform the current system to achieve this goal? Why can’t oil and chemical corporations at least be regulated so they are not toxic polluters? They should be regulated–but environmentalist and author Fred Magdoff explained why we can’t count on this under the existing system in an interview with SW:

The companies fight against regulations, and if they see that they’re going to pass, they try to get them watered down. And then, if they actually go into effect, the companies try to make sure they aren’t very well enforced. So even if the regulations exist and are meaningful–which is rare–the industry finds ways to get around them.

Often, the fines for violations aren’t very much. You could have a good regulation, and a company violates the regulation, and they pay a thousand-dollar fine or a ten-thousand-dollar fine. For them, what’s the difference?

This is part of why reforms can’t be counted on to save the planet: At the end of the day, capitalist corporations and the pro-business parties running the government will prioritize profits over anything that would reduce them, even by a small amount.

This isn’t only true about the U.S. government under Trump. Barack Obama came into office in 2009 promising radical steps to address climate change. Instead, under his presidency, the U.S. ramped up fossil fuel extraction and processing to deliver cheap energy to U.S. manufacturing so it could better compete globally–and to turn the U.S. into a net oil and gas exporter.

Obama helped undermined the Copenhagen climate change summit less than a year into office, ran cover for BP after the company’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and bragged to oil company executives about laying enough pipelines to ring the planet.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FOR SOCIALISTS, there are at least two sides of this fight that we have to take up.

One is the struggle for justice in the aftermath of “natural” disasters. The establishment will take advantage of every crisis to further its agenda of privatization, accumulation and gentrification, furthering the oppression of people of color and the working class.

Naomi Klein called this the “Shock Doctrine,” and it played out in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with mass permanent displacement of African American workers–many of whom ended up in Houston–privatization of the schools and the abolition of the teachers union, although unions are reorganizing today.

We want rebuilding to guard against future floods and disasters–and to take place on the basis of racial justice and equal rights for all, including for all immigrants, regardless of legal status.

Second, we have to fight against fossil fuel extraction and for renewable energy alternatives–which means both protesting pipeline construction and joining with struggles that improve and expand public transportation.

But as we struggle for these short-term measures now, we have to raise the question of capitalism and need for socialism at the same time with everyone we organize with. Our project is for reform and revolution.

If we are organizing with institutions and people where raising the need for a socialist alternative can’t be done, then we are probably organizing in the wrong place–and likely an ineffective place as well.

Meetings and campaigns involving Democratic Party politicians are a prime example. Another is the behind-the-scenes strategies to persuade university committees that claim to be considering fossil-fuel divestment. Their loyalty, at the end of the day, is to business interests–unless they feel the pressure of a struggle that will expose them.

There is certainly no simple answer here. But a socialist strategy that prioritizes mass, democratic organizing; free and open discussion and debate on the way forward; and dedicated struggle for immediate gains, without sacrificing a commitment to the bigger goals, has the most promise.

And if we can build up the politics of socialism and socialist organization among wider layers of people involved in these struggles, that will open the possibility of the system change that we need to find our way out of climate disasters.

There is widespread understanding of the urgency for action now to stop climate change. We don’t have endless generations. CO2 levels will continue to climb despite the scientific consensus that this will have catastrophic consequences for the planet.

But the technology does exist to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as does the science that can be put to use in mitigating the impacts of past carbon emissions–if the system’s priorities were radically changed.

Anyone who thinks we need system change needs to be dedicated to all the struggles for change today–and to arm themselves with the contributions of Marxism toward understanding the roots of the crisis and the alternative to it.

Our struggle for socialism is literally a struggle for the future of the planet.

https://socialistworker.org/2017/09/11/climate-chaos-and-the-capitalist-system

Everyone’s a Socialist After a Natural Disaster

Ted Cruz’s hypocrisy won’t stop government from helping in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but Texas will be needing help for a long time.

The Houston flood disaster: A social crime of the American oligarchy

29 August 2017

The world is looking on in shock as Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the United States, is engulfed by flood waters. At least nine people are dead, a figure that will no doubt rise in the coming days. Thousands remain stranded, awaiting rescue. Tens of thousands have been forced to take shelter in emergency accommodations. Some of the worst rain is yet to come.

The catastrophic flooding engulfing Houston and southeast Texas is spreading to cities as far away as Dallas and Austin and threatening to once again overwhelm New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurried evacuations are being organized in cities throughout the region, as well as previously unaffected neighborhoods in Houston, where residents are being forced to abandon their homes as officials release water from overwhelmed and endangered reservoirs.

Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, an even larger and more populous metropolitan area is being turned into a scene of indescribable suffering. The countless examples of human solidarity among the victims, overwhelmingly working class and of all races, contrast starkly with the indifference and incompetence of the government and political establishment.

Like Katrina, Hurricane Harvey has lifted the lid on the ugly reality of American society, exposing colossal levels of social inequality, pervasive poverty and ruling class criminality. Behind the mindless media commentary, generally favorable to the White House and the right-wing Republican governor of Texas, and the pro-forma statements of politicians, one senses nervousness and fear that this latest demonstration of the failure of American capitalism will trigger an eruption of social indignation.

But the authorities cannot conceal their complacency and indifference. In a disgusting performance, President Donald Trump gave a press conference Monday in which he combined lavish praise for the official response to the flood disaster, calling it “incredible to watch” and a display of “cooperation and love,” with bathos about “one American family” that “hurts together and endures together.”

Reciting his scripted remarks as though he were reading the phonebook, Trump offered no proposals to relieve the suffering of the victims or provide them with money to rebuild their lives. He evaded a question about his proposal to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including steep cuts to the Federal Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long on Monday gave himself and the government a blanket amnesty for their dereliction, declaring, “You could not forecast this up. You could not dream this forecast up.”

The Wall Street Journal sounded the same theme in an editorial posted Monday. “Immunity from nature’s fury,” the newspaper wrote, “is an illusion that humans cultivate until we are forced to confront that fury again. We forget the damage that storms and earthquakes can do.”

This renunciation of any responsibility for the unfolding disaster in Houston was combined with praise for the massive accumulation of wealth among the uppermost layers of society, declaring that “Complex societies can better cope with the damage if they have a reservoir of accumulated wealth” among “private sources.” Thus, according to the leading mouthpiece of Wall Street, the answer to the unfolding tragedy in Texas is the further enrichment of the financial oligarchy!

Such claims that catastrophic events like the Texas flood are inevitable “natural disasters,” and nothing can be done either to forestall, contain or manage them, are self-serving lies.

Houston is the most frequently flooded urban area in the country. Officials at the federal, state and local level were repeatedly warned by scientists and weather experts that the license given to real estate developers and speculators to pave over wetlands, as well as the government’s refusal to build proper flood defenses, was setting the city up for an unprecedented flood disaster. These warnings were ignored.

This is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages, and the United States is the richest country in the world. Four hundred years ago, the Dutch figured out how to build cities situated below sea level. The US is, moreover, home to some of the most advanced research and engineering institutes in the world. Yet supposedly no one could have anticipated or planned for the flooding of a major city on the Gulf of Mexico?

What has been done in the 12 years since Katrina to prevent more hurricane disasters? Nothing! Or, more accurately, less than nothing, because Katrina was seized on as an opportunity to treat New Orleans as virgin territory for the privatization of public assets and establishment of a free market paradise for big business, to be replicated across the country. The most overt example of this plundering operation was the dismantling of the public school system in favor of private, for-profit charter schools.

Catastrophes such as the Texas flood are social crimes, committed by a financial aristocracy that has spent the past half-century plundering the country and neglecting its social infrastructure, while accumulating unimaginable sums of personal wealth. According to the corporate-controlled media and the entire political establishment—Democrats no less than Republicans—there is no money to build up flood defenses or rebuild crumbling bridges, roads and water systems, modernize and expand public transport or provide decent schools and housing for the population.

But there are trillions of dollars stashed away in the bank accounts and stock portfolios of the rich and the super-rich. Hundreds of billions are squandered every year on the instruments of war.

The country staggers from one preventable disaster to another: Katrina in 2005, the BP oil spill in 2010, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and now Harvey. In between are countless floods, tornadoes, fires and other events that wreak havoc on working class and poor families, who are left to fend for themselves by a ruling elite drowning in its own excess.

Just as in the feudal era, when the development of society required the expropriation of the landed aristocracy, so today society must seize control of its own resources from the modern aristocracy of finance and corporate wealth. The barbarians of today, who hoard society’s wealth and say nothing can be done to address poverty, disease, war or repression, must go the way of all ruling classes that stand in the way of social progress.

It is not that society cannot afford the type of social investment needed to prevent or minimize the impact of events such as Hurricane Harvey. What society cannot afford is the rich.

It is to the working class—united across all racial, national and ethnic lines, both in the US and internationally—that the task falls of removing this monstrous obstacle to progress from the historical scene. The capitalist parasites must be expropriated, their wealth used to meet social needs, and their stranglehold over the means of production shattered to allow the rational, planned and humane development of economic and social life on the basis of socialist ownership and democratic control of industry, finance and the planet’s natural resources.

Barry Grey

WSWS

The Republican debate and the degradation of US politics

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27 February 2016

The appearance of the Republican presidential candidates Thursday night in Houston, Texas was described by CNN as a debate. But there was no actual debating, in the sense of a discussion of issues or the offering of contrasting political programs. Instead, viewers were confronted with a repulsive display of the degraded state of official politics in the United States.

The three leading candidates—billionaire demagogue Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas—engaged in a barrage of name-calling, mudslinging, insinuation and insult that marked a new low in an already dismal series of such political freak shows.

Rubio set the tone with a series of prepared attacks on Trump’s business career, baiting him as an employer who hired illegal immigrants despite the real estate mogul’s current posture as the arch-hater of immigrants. (Trump advocates deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants). None of the candidates criticized Trump’s fascistic proposals to bar Muslims from entering the US or his support for waterboarding and other forms of torture.

Trump responded in kind, insult for insult, and generally fell back on boasting of his personal wealth as the ultimate answer to all criticism. From there, the “debate” descended even further into the realm of reality television, with simulated rage, threats and bombast pitched to the most backward and demoralized elements in American society.

Not only the candidates, but the CNN moderator, the reactionary pro-war hack Wolf Blitzer, and the audience, which responded to the verbal brawl with shrieks and catcalls, contributed to the demeaning spectacle.

American bourgeois politics has never been particularly edifying. However, Thursday’s spectacle marked a new low, a fact that was acknowledged even by some veteran media commentators. Bob Schieffer of CBS observed, “I thought things couldn’t get lower than they’d already reached in this campaign. I mean, the political discourse, but last night it went even below where I thought it could possibly go. I mean, no discussion of the issues, but people arguing, screaming, hollering. It was like kids out behind the barn rather than a political debate.”

The degraded character of Thursday’s event did not stop the media from treating it seriously afterwards, hailing Rubio’s performance as a stunning political comeback. This was a prearranged narrative. The Republican Party establishment is belatedly trying to check Trump’s momentum after his surge to frontrunner status, winning three of the first four contests and leading in most polls for 15 more statewide primaries and caucuses in the coming week.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who pulled out of the presidential race in the fall after failing to attract support in the polls, told a charity fundraising event in Washington Thursday night that Trump’s lead in the primaries and polling meant, “My party has gone batshit crazy.”

But the endorsement of Trump Friday by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who dropped out of the presidential campaign just over two weeks ago, is a signal that the “Stop Trump” movement is getting little traction. Trump is expected to sweep the Super Tuesday contests and is now favored to clinch the nomination before the end of March.

The level of discourse continued downwards in the 24 hours after the debate. Rubio accused Trump of being a “con artist” and suggested that he had wet his pants during the debate. Trump called Rubio a “nervous Nellie,” a “lightweight” and a “choker.”

Trump also threatened the media at a press conference, declaring that if he became president, “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money… So that when the New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money…”

One of the three, Trump, Rubio or Cruz, will likely become the Republican presidential nominee and potentially the next US president. The background of each of these individuals testifies to the decline in the caliber, even by American political standards, of the personnel advanced by the US corporate-financial elite to fill its most important government position.

Trump is, as he endlessly proclaims, a billionaire, who made his fortune servicing the personal needs of the wealthy through hotels, luxury apartments, resorts and casinos. After a series of financial near-disasters, including four corporate bankruptcies, he cemented his position, both monetarily and as a celebrity, through “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV programs, in which Trump as CEO hired high-level assistants from a list of applicants. It was there that he perfected the bullying, blowhard persona that is currently on display at campaign rallies and debates.

Cruz and Rubio are both first-generation Cuban-Americans who took slightly different paths. Rubio graduated from the University of Miami law school and went straight into local Republican politics, dominated by the fascistic anti-Castro exile milieu. He moved up from city commissioner to state representative before being chosen as House Speaker under then-Governor Jeb Bush.

Cruz came from a Texas milieu of ultra-right Christian fundamentalism and went straight to the highest levels of the Republican Party in Washington. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist before working on the House Republican effort to impeach President Bill Clinton. Soon after, he participated in the Bush campaign’s efforts to halt vote-counting in Florida in the 2000 elections, which led to the Supreme Court’s notorious Bush v. Gore decision handing the White House to the loser of the popular vote. Denied a leading position in the Bush administration, he moved back to Texas to become solicitor general.

Both Rubio in 2010 and Cruz in 2012 were elected to the US Senate as challengers to the candidates favored by the Republican Party establishment. Both had the backing of the ultra-right Tea Party faction. The two first-term senators began planning presidential bids almost as soon as they arrived in Washington DC. They have each raised tens of millions in campaign funds from hedge fund investors and other billionaires.

Even by the meager standards of American two-party politics, the 2016 presidential campaign has been a demonstration of the staggering decay in the intellectual and moral level of the political representatives of the American ruling elite. This is true of the Democrats as well as the Republicans, although it takes somewhat different forms given the different roles the rival parties play in manipulating popular sentiments and allowing a narrow financial aristocracy to rule over a complex mass society of more than 330 million people.

The process has gone furthest in the Republican Party, which over the past four decades has become the main repository for what is most foul, bigoted and backward in American life. This was acknowledged in a remarkable column published in the Washington Post Friday by Robert Kagan, the neoconservative who was one of the leading apologists for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the war crimes committed by the Bush administration. Kagan now declares that “the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

“Trump is no fluke,” Kagan writes. “Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker.” He described Trump as “tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed.”

Kagan voices the mounting concern in ruling circles, Republican and Democratic alike, that the two-party system is fracturing and the reactionary, militaristic and authoritarian views advanced by Trump, all too openly and crudely, will provoke popular revulsion and completely discredit the entire political structure.

Kagan is wrong is stating that Trump is simply the Frankenstein creation of the Republican Party. He is, rather, a particularly naked expression of the criminality, parasitism, backwardness and moral degradation of the financial aristocracy that presides over American society and runs the political system and media.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/27/pers-f27.html

Obama administration prepares raids on Central American immigrants

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By Patrick Martin
28 December 2015

The US Department of Homeland Security is preparing to unleash widespread raids on Central American immigrants, mainly women and children, once the new year begins, according to unnamed Obama administration officials who spoke with the press last week.

It would be the first ever program of mass deportations to target Central American refugees specifically. Most are women and children who have sought to escape gang attacks, drug-related violence and brutality by US-backed security services in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Raids are expected in Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles and the Washington, DC area, which have the largest concentrations of Central American immigrants. Other cities are likely to be targeted as well.

The DHS has begun adding capacity to handle increased detentions during the raids, since those arrested will be held in federal facilities in the days preceding their deportation. The agency recently opened two new “shelters”—actually detention centers—in Texas, one with 700 beds and the other with 300 beds. A third, 400-bed facility is being readied in California as well.

The Washington Post first reported the mass deportation plan on December 24, noting that hundreds of immigrants facing current deportation orders would be targeted for arrest and returned to the countries from which they have fled.

According to the Post, “The ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge… The adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported. The number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.”

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen issued a statement in response to thePost report reiterating that it was DHS policy to focus on individuals “who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.” The reference to “border security” amounts to targeting anyone who crosses the border without US government permission, including women and small children fleeing violence, rape and the threat of death.

A follow-up report in the Wall Street Journal confirmed that the campaign of repression will begin early in 2016, once it receives the expected final approval by the Obama administration. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was said to be pushing hard for the decision.

“Starting early next month, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS unit, plans to start rounding up hundreds of families that entered the US illegally and who have ignored a final order to leave the country,” the Journal reported.

According to the press accounts, there are two immediate factors behind the new campaign. First is the series of court defeats for the Obama administration over the brutal conditions in which Central American women and children have been held at recently opened camps in Arizona and Texas.

A federal district judge in August ordered DHS to begin discharging women and children who have been detained in violation of a consent decree issued during the Clinton administration barring the imprisonment of children, whether held with or without adult companions. The Obama administration is complying with the order pending appeal, but apparently intends to rearrest those released and deport them as soon as possible.

The second factor is the sharp increase in the number of new refugees from Central America crossing the US border in Texas and Arizona during October and November, up 173 percent from the same period a year ago. While the overall refugee flow does not yet compare to the summer of 2014, when tens of thousands crossed the border each month, the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America topped 5,000 a month for October and November, reaching half the level of 2014.

More significant than these factors, however, is the political context in which the decision has been made to unleash sharply increased repression against Central American refugees. The Obama administration has been under fire from right-wing critics in both the Republican and Democratic parties over its plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to the United States in the coming year. A measure aimed at banning Syrian refugees won overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives earlier this month.

On December 15, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered Texas National Guard troops to remain at the Mexico border, extending a deployment ordered by his predecessor Rick Perry during the refugee influx in the summer of 2014. Both Perry and Abbott are Republicans.

Billionaire Donald Trump has forged a significant lead in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination based on racist diatribes against immigrants and refugees, first smearing Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, then denouncing Syrian refugees as likely terrorists, finally calling for a ban on any Muslim entering the US.

The DHS move against Central American refugees is a green light to Trump and other ultra-right anti-immigrant forces, and Trump quickly embraced the proposed raids as a triumph for his campaign. Immigrant rights groups, for their part, pointed out that it made no sense to proclaim sympathy for Syrian refugees fleeing violence and brutality, while locking up and deporting Central American refugees seeking to escape similar conditions.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley all issued for-the-record statements opposing the planned escalation of repression against Central American immigrants. But Clinton has previously demanded in 2014 that the unaccompanied migrant children from Central America “should be sent home.” All the Democrats are jointly responsible for the atrocious record of the Obama administration, which has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other in American history.

According to a report released earlier this month, during the 2015 fiscal year (October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015), the ICE deported 235,413 people and the Border Patrol apprehended 337, 117 people nationwide. Both figures, while staggering in terms of mass repression and individual suffering, were actually the lowest since Obama entered the White House in 2009.

The Obama administration has a cumulative deportation total of nearly 3 million people, plus several million more who were “returned”—detained and forced back across the southern border. Those figures alone make nonsense of the claims that the Democratic Party represents any alternative to the anti-immigrant racism of the Republicans, spearheaded by Trump.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/12/28/immi-d28.html