118,000 people and no drinking water: Flooded Beaumont cannot determine when it will restore water supply
118,000 people and no drinking water: Flooded Beaumont cannot determine when it will restore water supply --The city of Beaumont, Texas, lost its main pump station and its secondary water source. | 31 Aug 2017 | Early Thursday morning, officials of Beaumont, Texas, announced the city lost both the primary and secondary sources for its water supply system. "Due to rising waters of the Neches River caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, the City of Beaumont has lost service from the main pump station," Beaumont fire rescue captain Brad Penisson said in a statement. Located near the Louisiana border on the Gulf Coast, the city of nearly 120,000 residents will be without water until after floodwaters recede and officials can analyze the extent of the damage. "There is no way to determine how long this will take at this time," Penisson said.
'God drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas': French magazine Charlie Hebdo prints controversial cover depicting Harvey victims as white supremacists
'God drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas': French magazine Charlie Hebdo prints controversial cover depicting Harvey victims as white supremacists | 31 Aug 2017 | The cover of the latest edition of satirical French [globalist sociopaths'] magazine Charlie Hebdo depicts Texans who drowned in the flood waters of Tropical Storm Harvey as Nazis, it was reported on Wednesday. 'God Exists! He Drowned All the Neo-Nazis of Texas,' the controversial weekly magazine writes for its cover story. The cartoon on the front page shows a torrential downpour drowning a group of people carrying flags with the Nazi swastikas. Some of the victims on the cover are under water as they do the Nazi salute with their arms outstretched at a 45-degree angle.
We are reaching out to the CoFED community for your support in recruiting a Programs Director. Do you love what CoFED does and want to see us level up? Want to help us grow our work and organizational capacity? We need you! Please join in the effort to share this announcement with family, friends, and colleagues who would be interested and qualified for the position - or consider applying yourself!
CoFED has a deep belief in the power of young people to build a multiracial, multiclass, multicultural movement committed to creating alternatives to a racist and extractive food system that does not serve us as people or the planet. By building food co-ops, our communities can nourish, heal, and provide jobs and livelihoods for ourselves. In the process, which we believe must be led by all of us together, we evolve towards collective liberation. If you’ve been following our work this past year, you’ll know that we’ve been working on exciting projects and accomplished much:
- Launched our inaugural Racial Justice Fellowship
- Organized our biggest, most diverse Summer Co-op Academy to date
- Published our #UnlearningWithCoFED monthly email series, where we’ve been questioning and learning together how co-ops fit into the larger visions of food, racial, economic, gender and climate justice.
- And right around the corner, look out for the release of the Co-op Cultivator Course
Help us power this growth and find the best person to join the CoFED team! Please share this job description with your community! The deadline to apply is September 25th.
Go to the GEO front page
Tens of thousands of people showed that we don’t need capital or governments to get things done. They demonstrated the will of people to take part in comforting each other, re-building, creating and moulding their own futures.
This quote is from a blog called Revolts Now. Libcom readers often see this kind of inspiration in strikes or uprisings, moments when the working class seizes the steering wheel, or stomps on the brakes (pick your metaphor). Revolts Now was talking about the aftermath of the Queensland floods. They write of:
…efforts of communities hit by disaster that do not wait for the state, or allow capital to take the initiative, but instead ‘negotiate with their hands’, rebuilding their own communities and ‘healing themselves’, resulting in communities that are stronger. I call these efforts disaster communism.
We think disaster communism is a useful concept for thinking about climate change. Although it's far from common, we can already identify at least two different meanings of the term. The first meaning is collective, self-organised responses to disaster situations. The second concerns the prospects for an ecological society based on human needs in the face of climate chaos, or to put it another way, the possibility of communism in the Anthropocene.1 We can call this first sense 'disaster communities', and the second 'disaster communisation', and consider both of these as moments of the wider problematic of disaster communism.
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Fourteen miles from Winthrop, in Moltke Township, population 330, one soybean- and wheat-farming family reported its sluggish DSL connection often made it impossible to upload reports to business partners.
Organizers in Winthrop knew they were too small to fund a major internet infrastructure-building project on their own, so they reached out to other neighbors, the town of Gaylord, population 2,305.
And the towns attracted 25 more municipal allies.
Today, in this sparsely populated swath of Minnesota, a grassroots, member-owned cooperative spanning more than 700 square miles and four counties is poised to expand high-speed broadband access—without relying on federal funding. After seven years of development led by local leaders and volunteers, RS Fiber, now in its first phase of construction, is expected to deliver high-speed broadband internet to more than 6,000 rural households by 2021. And unlike companies like Mediacom, the co-op is owned by local customers who have a say in rates and how it’s operated.
Go to the GEO front page
Animal lovers, shelters and organizations sacrifice their safety for all creatures great and small stranded by Harvey
No pet left behind! Animal lovers, shelters and organizations sacrifice their safety for all creatures great and small including dogs, tortoises and snakes stranded by Harvey --Billy Hutson sailed on a tugboat to rescue an abandoned tortoise --A rescued deer was pictured wrapped in a blanket at a local Fire Station | 31 Aug 2017 | From dogs to pet snakes, a deer, an abandoned tortoise, a Texas Longhorn and a leopard gecko, it seems all creatures great and small are being saved from the atrocities of the Hurricane Harvey flood...Billy Hutson is hailed as a local hero after he got on his tugboat and saved a tortoise from the raging water floods. Speaking to Dailymail.com Hutson, who purchased the boat from Craigslist for this occasion, said: 'All I got is a truck and a boat.' When asked about the tortoise, who weighed at least 125 pounds and took two men to lift into the boat, he responded: 'You know that the tortoise can't swim, right? More animals need help. More people need help.'
Chemical plant struck by Harvey likely to explode | 31 Aug 2017 | Crosby fire officials are bracing for an explosion at the Arkema chemical plant in the city where floodwaters have knocked out power and generators needed to keep volatile chemicals stored at the facility cool. All employees of the plant at 18000 Crosby Eastgate Road were evacuated late Tuesday, as were resident from about 300 homes within a mile and a half of the plant. At a press conference Wednesday, Rich Rowe, Arkema's CEO, said that if the volatile organic peroxides stored at the plant get too warm, some sort of explosion is inevitable.
Martial discipline and the cultural sphere
Imperialist crisis, rising fascism, and widespread heroin epidemics
Even the most fleeting look at the conditions we live in has many on the left concerned: internet posts venting about daily anxieties and the recent spread of armed left-wing (or left-leaning) militias, while being drastically different, share a commonality—both reflect the correct understanding that things are getting dangerous. Most liberal and revisionist thinkers will jump through academic and theoretical hoops to cling to the fantasy that life is continuing on as usual. Meanwhile, those of us who have never had the money or the privilege to entertain those illusions must begin looking deeper into the conditions of US imperialism that have created the various battlefields we find ourselves on here, in day-to-day life.
US imperialism is spreading itself thin, facing crisis after crisis, and frantically searching the globe in search of victims and resources. Its reign as top dog since the end of WWI is materially threatened by the rival and ascending imperialist powers of China and Russia, who entangle the reactionary US military in proxy wars. This is the same type of crisis of imperialism that Lenin first brought to light: it is inherent to capitalism that rival capitalist states and blocs of states come into increasingly sharp competition (often violently) for resources, labor, and markets. And what concern us here are the specific effects on the population of a declining imperialist country.
Not unlike the people in other declining imperialist countries, the people in the US are racked with a number of torments and depressions. For the majority of working-class youth there is little relief to be found in the belly of the beast: young working-class Americans use or sell drugs or work dead-end jobs for low wages. Sometimes they do all of this at once. Youth in particular, and the working class in general, experience this despair every day. It has become so commonplace that it seems like the way things have always been.
Heroin addiction has now spread from working-class communities into middle-class and wealthy white suburbs. But this increase in white middle-class drug use does nothing at all to stem the flow of drugs into working-class and oppressed-nations communities. On the contrary, this flood is increasing. This spread across classes is only further evidence of the effects declining US imperialism is having in its own strongholds. (Heroin use has increased fivefold over the past decade, becoming commonplace enough to affect more than 3.8 million Americans.)
Drugs in general, but especially drugs like heroin, have long been used as a fail-safe against rebellious populations, and they have found their place in the capitalist superstructure in US culture. Throughout history we have seen the powers-that-be give us narcotic anesthesia when our hearts cry out for guns and liberation. The dystopian landscape of the US prisonhouse is riddled with the discarded used needles of this hopeless decision.
* * *
Similar issues have plagued others in the past, most notably in the Opium Wars inflicted by England on the Chinese people. China was at that time an underdeveloped and oppressed nation with a declining empire. Widespread addiction to opium had been forced on the Chinese people by England to the point that a majority of the population was left addicted. The trade in opium and enforcement of widespread addiction—a massive tool for profit and oppression—was taken up by Chinese warlords, who then forced the peasantry to abandon food cultivation for opium production, which they heavily taxed to outfit their scattered military bands. These conditions inspired “famine relief,” mostly from religious groups in the US (today this would be the job of NGOs as well). However well intended this charity was, it placed funds directly into the hands of warlords, perpetuating their rule.
In 1936, Edgar Snow, while observing poppy fields outside of Sian, wrote,
“Shensi has long been a noted opium province. During the great Northwest Famine which a few years ago took a toll of 3,000,000 lives, American Red Cross investigators attributed much of the tragedy to the cultivation of poppy, forced upon the peasants by tax-greedy militarists. The best land being devoted to the poppy, in the years of the drought there was a serious shortage of millet, wheat and corn, the staple cereals of the Northwest.”
Many peasants in this situation, robbed of their land, were forced into banditry or were press-ganged as soldiers for corrupt and absentee landlords who had developed into warlords. Opium helped to keep soldiers and even generals in line with colonialism as it swept through the country. These desperate and humiliating conditions inflicted upon the people gave rise to a desire for martial arts, physical culture, and a China that was not weak in the face of such tyrants.
The desire for martial strength was time and time again exploited and squandered by the reactionary nationalists of China, and this process is well under way in the United States. The youth of the US face a familiar desperation, and they too cry out for strength to confront their horrifying material reality. Many oppressed-nations youths find themselves in the imperialist military, duped into service when the only other potential options are low-wage jobs, unemployment, and drugs.
And these same conditions so favorable for dope epidemics are also fertile ground for fascism. Imperialist decline has historically been the soil for the most virulent outbreaks of fascism, and the US fascist movement has seen dramatic growth as a result of the US’s steady decline—the Trump presidency is not a result of anything else. A hungry, deindustrialized people, robbed of a communist party to lead them, are desperate for a break with the neoliberalism represented by the Clintons and the Obamas of the world. This has had an appeal to sections of the US population, particularly those steeped in traditions of settler-colonialism and scapegoat politics, and they reached out for this rupture in the form of a crass orange savior—Donald Trump.
Not everyone who thought Trump represented an appealing rupture with neoliberalism is a fascist. Some who even voted for him have since come to terms with the reality that he is actually just a continuation of US monopoly capitalist interests. Nonetheless, it is crucial to see and understand that the fascists have made use of these contradictions while much of the left scratches its head from its ivory tower while scoffing at the very masses they claim to care for.
The necessity of a decisive rupture with revisionist errors
Capitalism and its ruling classes are expert at suppressing revolution. In times of severe crisis they respond with fascism, but at other times capitalism responds to the threat of popular desire for socialism with revisionism. These are two rotted fruits from the same branch of capitalism. In the socialist countries revisionism is a way for capitalism to restore itself; but we must also see that in not-yet-socialist countries, it is a way for capitalism to derail and prevent socialist revolutions, regardless of their stage of development.
The modern revisionists tend to conjure the ghost of “ultra-leftism” as the number-one threat to the success of the communist movement. In reality, the main threat to the success of the left comes in the form of the default right-opportunism that is the go-to policy of the revisionists, substituting liberalism for Marxism and continuously squandering opportunities to build revolution. In short (even if they say otherwise), they focus exclusively on legalism.
This self-serving cowardice and elitism that calls itself leftism is nothing new. Lenin’s faction of the Social-Democratic Labor Party, the Bolsheviks (later the Communist Party), was born in struggle against a rival faction headed by social democrats (revisionists).
In an interview in 1925 Stalin explains certain conditions a party must undergo to achieve Bolshevization:
“The Party must regard itself not as an appendage of the parliamentary electoral machinery, as the Social-Democratic Party in fact does, and not as a gratuitous supplement to the trade unions, as certain Anarcho-Syndicalist elements sometimes claim it should be, but as the highest form of class association of the proletariat, the function of which is to lead all the other forms of proletarian organizations, from the trade unions to the Party’s group in parliament.”
“The entire work of the Party, particularly if Social-Democratic traditions have not yet been eradicated in it, must be reorganized on new, revolutionary lines, so that every step, every action, taken by the Party should naturally serve to revolutionize the masses, to train and educate the broad masses of the working class in the revolutionary spirit.”
Lenin and Stalin both represented a decisive break with social democracy. Bolshevization was utterly necessary for the party of the proletariat, to combat the ineffective and non-revolutionary nature of social democracy.
Two-line struggle takes place in every revolutionary effort. And just as the struggle against social democracy revealed to the Bolsheviks the new methods and styles of work necessary to march toward victory, today our efforts to abandon and make a decisive break with the useless methods of these modern Mensheviks must also bring us to new methods.
The grotesque liberalism of the revisionists
As the majority consumers of heroin became white middle- and upper-class young people, we have watched as politicians squirmed looking for “humane” methods of treating non–working class users. For our communities, which have been plagued by this poison all along, this comes with a certain sting, since the only thing our people were ever offered was incarceration and overdose. And truthfully, this has not changed—there is still one solution offered for them and another for us. As this process proceeded, this liberal apologism has seeped into leftism, taking the form of analyses that frame everything around individual choices. Motivated by a desire to protect the status quo where they can comfortably continue their casual drug use, and well-supported by their social networks and free from the harshest consequences faced by working-class users and communities, countless petit-bourgeois “leftists” avidly seek out and propagate rationalizations for drug use instead of analyzing the question in class terms, denying the devastating effect it has on working-class individuals and communities.
What are these Mensheviks’ pastimes? The petit-bourgeois youth who make up the majority of the revisionist movement spend their hours in sleek coffeehouses, vegan restaurants, and other cultural venues where working-class youths are not welcome and cannot afford. Working-class youth instead come of age on the basketball courts and in life-and-death street fights.
Culturally, the working class upholds symbols of physical prowess, with sportswear almost ubiquitous in working-class closets. We might not even have our Sunday best, but you can bet that we have track suits, sneakers, gym shorts, and hooded sweatshirts. Even the T-shirt itself was a working-class staple adopted from the military before it was appropriated by other classes. The elitist urban middle class turns its nose up at every bit of proletarian culture (until of course they decide to appropriate it for themselves and then exclude the working class from it). And this produces understandable class hatred toward them, and rural working-class Americans are not wrong when they identify the wealthy sections of urban populations not only as outsiders but as antagonistic ones.
The revisionist legal left parrots these anti-masses notions. They make anti–working class jokes, looking down on the populations of small towns and popular neighborhoods, seeing these masses as crass or irredeemably backward. They pride themselves on a style of dress that increases the visual distance between themselves and the working class. The tireless blaming of smaller-town masses for Trump; the association of enjoying wrestling, football, NASCAR, swap meets, or parking lot car shows with ignorance; and an aversion to martial arts and firearms—these are all rooted in anti-masses sentiment. The fact that leftists have not only failed to bridge this gap but so often actively disdain the idea of making any attempt to, has been extremely useful to right-wing organizers, be they fascists or religious fundamentalists.
The truth is, a large part of the growth of the fascist movement in the US is due to the fact that they have grasped a truth that very few on the left have: culture is a battlefield. In Germany, the Nazis understood this; Nazi playwright Hanns Jost famously said, “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ that’s when I reach for my revolver” (literally “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I take the safety off my Browning”). In our own context, the fascists’ correct understanding that culture is a critical site of struggle—of war—has allowed fascism to spread. The right has both its digital brigades and its street brigades—it has music, movies, and visual arts. But more importantly we see it dominate in areas of martial resources: gun shows, hunting, contact fighting, sports, and so on.
We must understand that fascism has had the opportunity to appeal to and win over some sections of our class because the task of approaching them was deemed unfeasible and thus neglected due to the revisionist disdain for physical activity and emphasis on vain academic pursuits (ortho-Marxist do-nothings being only the most glaring example). Fascists loathe losing a fight, and many times when the numbers are even they will best the fighters of the left. While some self-identified leftists are practicing their Tai Chi, the fascist pursues and recruits among and with violent contact sports and martial arts. Revisionists have abandoned this trench and given fascists free rein. The reality is that sports clubs and martial arts are either explicitly or implicitly misrepresented by liberals to be irredeemably chauvinist. And while there is machismo in these places (surprise! just as there is in the rest of society), this analysis weakens the left both physically and strategically.
Communists should not seek to stand apart from the masses! We should eat where they eat, live where they live, and wear what they wear. It is petit-bourgeois individualism that seeks separation. This is the shape the error takes. It is no wonder at all why the working class has so often lately ignored leftism.
The working class and violence
“I don’t know how radical you are, or how radical I am. I am certainly not radical enough. One can never be radical enough; that is, one must always try to be as radical as reality itself.”—Lenin
Anyone who knows even a small amount of the history of leftism in the US can easily recall times when revolutionary politics succeeded in becoming genuinely appealing to large sections of the working-class masses.
From the Panthers to the Brown Berets, when urban youth forced into despair looked at them, the first thing that caught their attention was their militant appearance. The image of women and men in leather jackets with rifles and military attire made an irresistible promise of the possibility of relief from the grinding hopelessness and powerlessness of life under capitalism and white supremacy. A far cry from the lukewarm bookish internet professor, these revolutionaries meant business, and they looked the part. In spite of some real shortcomings, the revolutionaries of that period left a burning memory on the consciousness of the working class.
While all culture under capitalism (with the only exception being the revolutionary culture of rebellion) is in essence bourgeois propaganda, we must understand that propaganda is designed for a specific purpose: to resonate with a specific demographic to achieve a specific effect. For example, many readers who are not proletarian may not understand the reasons that NASCAR is widely popular: The sport requires daring and endurance, and raw power and complex mechanics are constantly at play. These are appealing to the proletariat because of its relationship to production; because the working class often dares to defy death, on scaffolding or in mines; because it must constantly endure the physical challenges of work; because it requires a level of mechanical knowledge; and most of all it is because it is desperate for the power it is robbed of.
Most appealing to the working class is physical violence. In popular neighborhoods, most serious disputes are solved by violent means, and workers find alien the method of phony compassion that liberal society prefers, a method that insists on using the proxies of the capitalist state to carry out violence that is actually even more severe. A petty crime between workers might be settled with a square go—someone might get hurt or even have to get stitched up—but this is nothing when stacked up against police intervention, with its unrestrained and sadistic brutality, the violence of long incarceration, or even death. Needless to say, the proletariat and the petite bourgeoisie have notably different experiences of and conceptions about the role of violence in life, in the world, and in history. Every working-class person has experienced violence at some point in their life, whether in the streets, at school, at work, or at the hands of the police. The petite bourgeoisie on the other hand can often live full lives into adulthood or old age without ever encountering violence directly. For them violence is an aberration, an unfortunate random circumstance that happened to the wrong person. For us workers, violence is a fact of life that we adapt to or are broken by.
The working class is a class that by its very nature seeks discipline, and has an infinite creative potential for revolutionary violence. The proletariat is without a doubt the toughest class ever to have existed, because it is burdened with the responsibility of ending all classes. It exists to do away with itself, and so it is condemned to win.
Working-class youth have always been attracted to real acts of rebellion. While activists wring their hands and say, “You’re going too far!” and “What about our votes?” the youth of our class are burning cop cars and shutting down cities. Without these youth, activism becomes just another sensible business complete with paid staff doing their best to prove to their ruling-class bosses that they can effectively manage the riffraff. Any future party and every party-building effort must take heed that to lead this class we must take their ideas, ideas that include urban riots and direct physical confrontation. We do not seek to become the party of the petite bourgeoisie! We must stand out starkly against the sea of revisionists in militant contrast as a fighting organization of revolutionary communists. And while street fights and riots alone are not revolution, they are powerful propaganda.
The masses themselves, who belong to no communist party or pre-party formation, have shown the way forward, without prompting, while revisionists hang back, wagging their fingers in disapproval, mesmerized by the idealist illusions that they turn to out of their deep fear of violence, sacrifice, and struggle. They expect to rely on the reactionary police and military for any and all defense, which more than anything shows which class they actually stand with. The black women’s militias that have begun popping up in Dallas and other cities, as just one example among many, continue to prove that the masses already grasp the solution, and in this case they lead the way.
A martial philosophy for the people
“Physical education not only strengthens the body but also enhances our knowledge. There is a saying: Civilize the mind and make savage the body. This is an apt saying. In order to civilize the mind one must first make savage the body. If the body is made savage, then the civilized mind will follow.”—Mao
Mao Zedong’s very first published article was on the topic of physical education. He explained how a strong China would need a tempered people to deal with the turbulence ahead:
“Exercise should be savage and rude. To be able to leap on horseback and to shoot at the same time; to go from battle to battle; to shake the mountains by one’s cries, and the colors of the sky by one’s roars of anger; to have the strength to uproot mountains like Hsiang Yu and the audacity to pierce the mark like Yu Chi—all this is savage and rude and has nothing to do with delicacy. In order to progress in exercise, one must be savage. If one is savage, one will have great vigor and strong muscles and bones. The method of exercise should be rude; then one can apply oneself seriously and it will be easy to exercise. These two things are especially important for beginners.”
We agree with Mao and add that this is just as true for us as it was for the Chinese people of his time. Mao understood this even before he had become a communist, as early as 1917. What lies ahead for the US left, at least in the short term, is a series of fights that we are underprepared for; we, like our class, have been robbed by drugs and liberal ideology, having some of our most valuable resources deprived from us. In the face of these circumstances, we argue that it is high time to embrace martial discipline and physical education as communists. It was this attitude toward discipline and physical strength that allowed the Chinese communists to eradicate drug addiction in China and build the country into the strongest socialist project to date, before capitalism was restored and addiction returned with it in the Deng years.
To teach the masses we must learn from the masses and learn to live as they live and speak as they speak. Liberalism makes itself visible in every revisionist organization, and one of the most severe consequences of this infection of liberal cowardice is that it leads the left to reject physical training and armed self-defense and to condemn proletarian culture in an effort to make itself seem refined, dignified, and acceptable to bourgeois and middle-class culture. Revolutionary communism, which is just reemerging, must bash through these falsehoods in order to pose a real threat to the system. In order to be born, revolutionary communism must attack and beat back revisionism. The two cannot peacefully coexist.
In confronting today’s revisionism, which is a contagion in the US left, our response, like that of the Communist Party of Peru, must be to dynamically apply Maoist principles to our specific conditions. For our collectives this means militarization.
Just as the Bolsheviks before us steeled themselves, becoming professional revolutionaries, we must steel ourselves in military discipline. We must be both politician and soldier. This is the requirement of our time, and we must stop avoiding the matter. We are physically weak against the fascist threat, and revisionism has been the source of this weakness. Although this particular issue has seen improvement in a few cities where Maoists are the best organized among the left, legalism remains one of the main obstacles holding back party-building efforts in the US, leaving the masses few fighting organizations with their interests at heart.
The propaganda victory among the working class that beating fascists in the streets offers cannot be undervalued. Every picture of a bloodied fascist and every trophy ripped away from the enemy inspires more people to cross the line from ideological opposition to physical confrontation. While our strategy always calls upon us to rely on greater numbers, we must also develop better fighters.
Lessons from the KPD
In the post-WWI years Germany was facing a profound imperialist crisis at home—with a failing economy, mass unemployment, and widespread despair. In these conditions fascism and communism contended in bloody street battles. Although fascism would eventually emerge dominant from these conditions, when it in turn was crushed, it was crushed by trained red militaries. The German Communist Party (KPD) led many mass organizations and initiatives against fascism, the most notable being the Red Front and Antifascist Action. The members of these projects were trained in street fighting and in firearms use (which they used many times, for instance to kill notable fascists like Horst Wessel, writer of the Nazis’ national anthem). And it must not be ignored that what the original Antifascist Action had in spades, its mostly anarchist contemporary namesake lacks: military training and a martial viewpoint.
It was seen as a success by the KPD of those days to have overcome its own legalism and drawn stark demarcations between itself and the social democrats. Coordinated strikes and illegal street demonstrations in defiance of police bans were not uncommon. They were taking up confrontations not only with the fascists but with the state itself. The level of violence of these demonstrations combined with the numbers they could draw revealed that the masses themselves had made a breakthrough, led by the communist party. We must learn from their experience and see every demonstration as a training ground for what is to come.
The KPD in their street war against the fascists left no trench vacant; they organized some of their bravest fighters from the local sports clubs in urban industrial slums of Berlin. These were the popular neighborhoods, broken by war and crisis, where the proletariat had little to no social outlets, neighborhoods like Neukölln and Wedding. The KPD would set up sports clubs or make sports fields out of vacant lots in its effort to serve the people.
Even the sections of the working-class youth that were prone to crime came under party influence with the development of hiking clubs, which would often (even without the party’s consent) expropriate camping gear from wealthy hiking/camping clubs. These red youth clubs not only made war against bourgeois youth but were also mobilized in the hundreds when it came to fighting fascism in the streets. Slogans like “[So-and-So] is a fascist and a danger to you workers! Hit him if you see him!” were posted up on the streets where fascists lived, drank, and worked. The German working class, huge sections of which were out of work, was recruited into fighting organizations, and every place became a battlefield, from beer taverns to hiking trails to sports games. Anywhere a fascist tried to act in the popular neighborhoods, the KPD or one of its many self-defense organizations was sure to respond. Even the social-fascist Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) scrambled to form its own (anti-communist) street-fighting units in response to the popularity of the KPD mass organizations.
The Red Front was structured along military lines and was a banned organization offering self-defense for the proletariat, including the unemployed. The Red Front, unlike the Nazi Party, did not enjoy plentiful financial backing from the petite bourgeoisie. A Comintern handbook from 1931 distributed to the German revolutionaries succinctly underlines this point by mentioning that “knives, brass knuckles, oil-soaked rags, axes, bricks, boiling water to pour on the police-beasts raging in the streets of workers’ quarters, simple hand–grenades made of dynamite, to emphasize only the most primitive of the infinite and ubiquitous possibilities[, are all means] for arming the proletariat.”
Using methods similar to those of the people’s war in Peru, the KPD sought to use mass organizations to develop armed and disciplined fighters for self-defense, though unlike the Peruvian revolutionaries the KPD lacked a people’s army as well as the strategy of people’s war, which was only then emerging in China.
The process of reclaiming violence is essential to undertake, and we must start now. To accomplish this work effectively we must smash liberal snobbery and go where the liberals fear to tread.
Many in the US Maoist movement are familiar and comfortable with proletarian environments. They are the same rugged places where most of us were born and the conditions that raised us. Still, somewhere in the process of politicization some of these same comrades have defected culturally, assuming the identity of upwardly mobile student or well-mannered activist—evidence of revisionism in the revolutionary movement. Others, who may be from other class backgrounds, have not yet been proletarianized, and have not yet taken a proletarian class stand, especially in the realm of culture. Many just fear to broach these subjects, and some have good reason for being hesitant to enter some of these spaces. Nonetheless these important trenches of combat must not be neglected any longer. This neglect comes at the expense of our class and our cause. In the worst cases, revisionism has turned former comrades into shills for liberalism, where liberals are in turn shills for fascism. Reclaiming violence means making revolutionary violence available to be utilized by all types of comrades at all levels and all abilities. It means training physically in flexible ways applied to the specific conditions of specific groups. Everyone, regardless of ability, can improve. This is not to do away all at once with the division of violent labor; the science of revolutionary violence is universal, and it must at the same time be applied with great care to the specific. In this process of trial and error we sharpen and broaden our skillsets.
Martial arts, firearms, and sports must be seen as cultural battlefields as well as invaluable tools in our revolutionary toolkit. It is the reactionary nature of the system to exclude those in most need of a resource from that very resource, even when those in need seek it out specifically. This is very apparent with the gendering that goes into sports and combat. While some of the most reactionary imperialist militaries have wised up enough to include women as soldiers, they still make sure that martial culture is coded as masculine. But nothing about the concept of a battlefield implies that we take it as it is and leave it that way. To the contrary, every soldier entering onto a battlefield has the intention and effect of altering what they find there, and culture must be approached in this same way. Martial arts training must be understood in the way we approach any form of education—as revolutionary communists. While reactionaries and many fascists will not take this step of orienting toward and recruiting women and other gender-oppressed people as soldiers, communists have a tradition of doing just this. In this we not only advance the proletarian women’s struggle, but we also advance the proletarian struggle in general by at least doubling our numbers.
Fully pursuing this rupture with the prevailing errors requires opening up work in many new trenches, but it also means applying all relevant lessons to our currently ongoing work.
The KPD sports clubs existed in a time without NGOs or community centers run in the interest of the city’s ruling class. But the bourgeoisie have since better learned to provide certain concessions as a way of attempting to maintain control over the working class. If that means building a rec center or a park in the hood, that is what they will do. We must understand as well as the bourgeoisie do that they offer charity and social programs as a counterrevolutionary measure. The working class is of course correct in fighting like hell to maintain these spaces and keep these concessions from being taken away—and simply put, life would be harder without these hard-earned outlets.
Service programs that operate along revolutionary lines do exist to provide for the working class what this system has denied them, but of course this crucially includes revolutionary politics and guidance in revolutionary violence. Organizations like Serve the People, which has branches in Austin, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Charlotte, Tampa, and Pittsburgh, not only provide goods and services but also exposure to and inclusion within communist methods and objectives. With all of these programs, like those of the Panthers who inspired them, what makes them dangerous to the bourgeoisie is their politics—infinitely more dangerous than free breakfast or diapers offered with a politics of charity.
Nonetheless these programs can undergo a certain form of NGOization if they become nothing but charities. And what’s more, we must not simply view these organizations as charity with revolutionary politics grafted on—revolutionary politics must be an integral part of, and the guiding force of, everything we do, including every decision we make about providing resources.
We must also see that the error of NGOization is not disconnected from the prevailing one in the left, either in form or substance: where petit-bourgeois “leftists” simply want to provide enabling indulgence to drug users in their current state, communists must always seek to provide revolutionary transformation. The working class very correctly bears a certain loathing toward liberal charity with its paternalism and phony sensitivity and compassion. They can see clearly that the mind of the liberal activist is self-centered and focused on whatever good feelings it can generate for itself by “helping others,” all while perpetuating the conditions of oppression and exploitation, not unlike Christian “famine relief” in pre-revolutionary China.
The establishment of dual power is a long process, but it necessarily includes both legal and illegal activity as well as community self-defense. Existing programs don masks and force gentrifying hipsters out of oppressed-nations neighborhoods with the threat of violence in LA. In Austin the organization has offered medics for front-line rally defense, gone into struggles around housing issues, offered entry-level self-defense and de-arrest tactics to the masses in their community, and has refused to ever seek a permit from the ruling class for any action or to disperse when threatened by city bureaucrats. Seeking such a permit would only be paying the enemy to do exactly what we do not accept them doing—policing us and the people.
All service to the people programs, whether or not they are part of the countrywide effort, must pay close attention to the cultural needs and wants of the people. To ignore this is to ignore a major field of ideas and to abandon the mass line method of leading the people. We must struggle to form red fighting gyms and reclaim old ball courts as part of this mass work, fulfilling the needs of the people wherever we find them. And we must go and merge with the masses in all these venues where they already spend time.
When we have taken up these tasks with sincerity and dedication, we will have truly begun building the movement that working-class youth in their masses will unite with.
Who endures wins
Taking up physical culture and establishing it as a trench of combat were integral to the Chinese people’s victory over drug addiction and became a valued weapon in the arsenal of the Chinese communists. When the masses are weakened, they reach out for strength, and this is as elementary as the principle that oppression breeds resistance. Martial arts increased in popularity among the people and took on a class character in response to the feelings of being dominated by a foreign power. In the US, the popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) and other forms of organized fighting has only been increasing.
Part of overcoming drug addiction is physical activity, and antifascism as well is in many cases a physical activity requiring strength of mind and body. A defanged, domesticated left is not only useless—it is a liability. All things take on a new character when wielded by a class; the fascist conception of physical training differs radically from the communist conception. Fascism in all its hyper-reactionary fury seeks to force things backward and drive the worst in humanity to even darker forms. Communism on the other hand is a revolutionary project, always moving forward. Its focus is the creation of a new society without states or classes. This new society is contingent on the emergence of new human beings, new ideas, and new values. We must approach our physical training with this spirit; we must approach humbly, without the toxic vanity that seeks show muscles, which are for the most part useless in combat.
Changes in general, including changes in the composition, culture, and ability of the left, occur through struggle and never through peace or tranquility. According to the Communist Party of Peru,
“We will immediately begin the socialist revolution, and that interval of blood and victory will be one of profound disequilibrium; even after we seize power there will be troubles and tempestuous winds. Thus these types of situations strengthen us; that is, this is how communists are forged, in turbulence and difficulty, never in calm. It is said that he/she wins who endures to the end and we know how to endure to the end because we have the true ideology: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”
We can understand this principle as it applies to physical culture and martial life by seeing how necessity forces us to seek rectification. It quite easy to give up on thinking like a soldier when you have spent so long in revisionist circles avoiding the war. With the exception of some accomplished antifascists, we have a left that is ideologically and physically out of shape, with very few fighters who could hold their own in a street fight. Sometimes comrades must be humbled by their defeats in order to find the determination to struggle for the strength to win. Physical culture in the US left will not fall from the sky! It can and must be consciously sought by communists.
Just as the body is ignored in the liberal conception of drug use in favor of mental gymnastics, the physique of our fighters has also been neglected. What we cannot do without in the conditions that confront us is a physical and thorough antifascist culture.
The mentality of avoiding physical confrontation is hegemonic in the left, and this can be seen in the way the habitual protest activists organize. They have determined the field of combat not to be the popular neighborhoods, where the proletarian masses live, and have instead consciously chosen sites they deem safe, in city centers, well within their comfort zones. These sites exist in activist culture in every US city: the downtown capitol building (for Austin), town squares, and similar sites in other cities—you can bet these will be the location for every toothless liberal and revisionist event. You may ask why they choose to have the same ineffective, docile, ritualistic actions at these sites, and many cannot give an honest answer; the truth is, they do it out of habit. These habits and “traditions” did not just appear out of nowhere, though.
Maoists must struggle to examine these phenomena in class terms, and doing so allows for a few conclusions. These sites become habitual for the NGO, revisionist, and liberal organizations because these organizations in reality see defense as something that should be in the exclusive control of the state. When communists or anarchists organize for self-defense committees to protect their own demonstrations, the revisionist shrieks “ultra-leftism” because they are allergic to the very idea of a fistfight, and they still see violence as the unassailable private property of the state. Their refusal to train physically for combat is nothing short of their insistence that the very system they claim to oppose will in fact protect them. Perhaps it will, since they are its mild-mannered agents, similar to managers on the shop floor and the leadership of yellow unions.
The revisionists’ aversions to self-defense, arms training, and physical culture all stem from their thoroughly revisionist conceptions of legalism, entryism, and electoral cretinism. They have come to see themselves as a part of the system itself: it is their system, and the cops will protect them or carry out only the most superficial acts of repression—the occasional preplanned arrest or sometimes opportunist arrests “caused by” the dreaded “ultra-left.” This thinking has disarmed and disoriented many who show up to these rallies only to wind up wanting more after the tame revisionist actions concluded quietly. This thinking has systematically limited participation to only those masses who are willing to listen to the revisionists while excluding those who are fed up to the point of rebellion—rebellion that, when it occurs, draws forth swarms of revisionists who seek to capitalize off of the people’s struggles. They flock to places like Ferguson, Missouri, which had never seen any interest from any of the major revisionists until the people themselves started burning shit down. The poverty tourists arrive to sell their newspapers and quell the rage of the people, the people who have never once been protected by the police and the system, unlike these activists.
So what does self-defense mean for the rest of us? What does it mean for enemies of the state? It can only mean that we must develop red physical culture. It means that we must contend for ground that has been ceded to the enemy. That we train in both hand-to-hand combat and in weapons. We must take community self-defense seriously. We must walk away from the comfort zone of the legal left, and by extension it means that those who protect them are sure to attack us. It means that we return to our filthy neighborhoods of cramped apartment complexes and organize right there among our class. It means that we choose the field of combat thoughtfully and not out of uninventive and timid habit. We cannot expect a mass antifascist movement to develop its necessarily revolutionary character unless we move away from the state-ordained protest zones. We owe it to the people to become worthy fighters. We owe it to the people of Charlottesville and to our antifascist martyrs (three so far this year; as this article was being written we were just getting news of white-supremacist terrorism against antifascists in Charlottesville.)
Many revisionists would sit in the comfort of their middle-class homes laughing at the fascists who appeared on the scene with helmets and shields; they would accuse the right of pretending. The reality however is that they were not pretending—they used them aggressively against mostly unequipped leftists. While sections of the left were prepared for these confrontations, there has been a lack of effort to prepare the masses for such a battle. In Austin, our shields and sticks have gone blow for blow with the fascist enemy; it is not a costume as some would understand it (although there is a propaganda element of the theatric).
We are to our knowledge the only communist organization in the US that has been specifically targeted by fascists in the absence of a specifically antifascist action—which occurred when they mobilized and imported people into our city to confront this year’s May Day action. They too were not pretending. We must evaluate and understand their reasoning for this—they see us as their main enemy due to our ideology and our effectiveness. This reality has allowed us to improve our work and planning. It has led us to improve our physical skill with fighting, training, and street tactics. We are grateful for this experience, understanding that hardship makes us better revolutionaries. Our conditions are clear and illustrate the need for adopting serious physical education.
The war is not coming—it is here and now. We must take our historic task seriously. We must accumulate forces and steel them in small-scale street battles. We must respond accordingly to the apocalyptic reality that capitalism-imperialism has forced on us. There is no third way, no middle road, and all who refuse to grasp this have in fact chosen a side already—they have chosen the side of business as usual for oppression. We too have chosen our side and we have stood and will stand on the front lines of class struggles in the US. We are at war and we always have been—it is time we behave like soldiers. We are guided by the promise of communism. The world is in chaos, and we must choose either the socialist future or the barbarism of extinction, and this is what it means to live in the age of the strategic offensive.
Go all out for class struggle!
Train to win!
Enter the cultural trenches of combat!
—Red Guards Austin, August 2017Tags: antifaHistorycommunistsdrugsopioid epidemicstalinbolshevikscategory: Essays
Jaw-dropping before-and-after images show WAVES rolling across a Texas highway after Harvey brought worst rainfall in continental US history --Some 19 trillion gallons of rain have now fallen as a result of the hurricane-turned-tropical storm --That's the largest amount of rainfall ever on the continental US - with 51.88in falling in Cedar Bayou, Texas | 30 Aug 2017 | The effects of Tropical Storm Harvey - which brought 19 trillion gallons of rain to the continental US - are made horrifyingly clear in these startling images. This before-and-after sequence shows how a Texas highway was completely submerged by water - so much so that waves can be seen rolling feet above the asphalt. The photos, taken on the I-10 between Houston and Beaumont on Tuesday, are a chilling glimpse of how fragile our hold on this planet is...In Cedar Bayou, Texas, rains reached 51.88 inches Tuesday afternoon.
Arkema chemical plant near Houston is expected to explode or catch fire in coming days ----Houston flood: 'No way to prevent' chemical plant blast or fire | 30 Aug 2017 | A chemical plant near the flooded city of Houston is expected to explode or catch fire in the coming days. During heavy rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, the Arkema plant at Crosby lost refrigeration of chemical compounds which need to be kept cool, and there is no way to prevent a possible fire, the company said..."Materials could now explode and cause a subsequent and intense fire," CEO Richard Rower told Reuters news agency. "The high water that exists on site, and the lack of power, leave us with no way to prevent it."
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt answers reporters' questions during a briefing at the White House June 2, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently delayed federal rules designed to prevent disastrous chemical accidents, including new provisions requiring the industry to share information with first responders. Now toxic fires rage at a chemical plant damaged by Hurricane Harvey, and thousands of pounds of pollution have been released in Texas' petrochemical corridor.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt answers reporters' questions during a briefing at the White House June 2, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
In June, about 10 weeks before explosions and fires would begin erupting at a chemical plant damaged by Hurricane Harvey near Houston, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt placed a 20-month delay on the implementation of rules designed to prevent and contain spills, fires and explosions at chemical plants.
In a public comment filed to the EPA in May, an association of emergency response planning officials asked that at least one portion of the rules be spared the delay and implemented immediately: a section requiring hazardous chemical facilities to coordinate with local first responders and planners in case of an emergency.
"Save for the act of coordination and providing certain information, if it exists, this provision simply and directly requires people to talk to each other," wrote Timothy Gablehouse, president of the National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials, an association of state and local emergency response commissions. "It is fully appropriate for regulated facilities to understand what local responders can and cannot accomplish during an emergency response."
Pruitt delayed implementation of the rules in response to complaints about the rulemaking process filed by chemical companies and industry groups, according to the EPA's filing in the federal register. States with large industrial chemical sectors, including Texas and Louisiana, also requested that compliance dates for the rules be delayed.
The industry complained that the emergency response requirements in particular did not specify limits on the information that emergency planners and first responders could ask for, and the EPA agreed to delay those provisions, despite warnings from Gablehouse and environmental groups.
The decision to delay the rules -- particularly the section on sharing information with emergency planners -- is under intense scrutiny as environmental disasters unfold in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
"It's offensive that they refuse to share information with police and firefighters who have to risk their lives to go into those disaster [areas]," said Gordon Sommers, an attorney at Earthjustice, an environmental group that opposed the delay. "They risk their lives because they don’t know what risks they face … because the industry does not want to share information."
Toxic Fires in Texas
Early Thursday morning, emergency officials reported two explosions and black smoke coming from a chemical facility in Crosby, Texas, about 25 miles outside of Houston.
Arkema, the French company that runs the chemical facility, had warned that fires or explosions could occur at the plant because "unprecedented" flood waters had compromised backup power systems that kept stores of organic peroxide, a hazardous chemical, refrigerated at temperatures that prevent combustion.
Federal authorities warned that the resulting chemical fumes in Crosby are "incredibly dangerous," and smoke from the plant left at least one first responder in need of medical treatment, according to The Washington Post.
In a statement released on Thursday, Arkema officials said that "organic peroxides are extremely flammable" and the company agrees with public officials that the best course of action "is to let the fire burn itself out." Local residents should be aware that the chemicals are stored in "multiple locations" and the threat of "additional explosion" remains.
Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc across the vast petrochemical corridor that dominates Texas' Gulf Coast, releasing millions of pounds of pollutants from refineries and chemical plants. The disaster raises immediate questions about the Trump administration's ongoing effort to gut and delay environmental protections nationwide, including the amendments to the EPA's "Risk Management Program" for accidental releases at chemical plants that Pruitt delayed in June.
Aging Infrastructure and Thousands of Accidents
The EPA began reviewing and updating the rules after several deadly explosions occurred at refineries and chemical facilities under the Obama administration, including an explosion at a chemical facility in West, Texas, that killed 15 people in 2013, according to Sommers. The agency looked at over 2,000 chemical accidents that occurred over a 10-year period and wrote new rules to prevent and contain releases of 160 extremely dangerous chemicals.
"I mean it's inexcusable. People … are facing already all the catastrophe that is inherent in a major flood like this," Sommers said. "It's crazy that on top of that, they are also worried about explosions and chemicals spills and all sorts of chemicals being in the air because there aren't backup systems in place."
Federal law prevents the administration from unilaterally gutting regulations without taking comments from the public, so Pruitt and other federal Trump appointees have been using statutory loopholes to block or delay pending regulations at federal agencies instead of nixing them outright.
From January to mid-July, the administration blocked or delayed at least 45 federal regulations across several departments, many of them designed to reduce air and water pollution, according to the Center for Progressive Reform.
Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, points out that President Trump revoked a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard put in place by President Obama just two weeks before Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas coast.
"If Trump had a smaller baseball cap, he could be an ostrich and stick his head in the sand," Ruch said.
Combined with the chemical rule delay, Ruch said, the Trump administration appears to be dismantling the federal government's role in responding to disasters. Like public infrastructure, the nation's private industrial infrastructure is aging and in disrepair. By setting aside federal regulations, the Trump administration is discouraging investment in new infrastructure.
"We haven't built a [new] refinery in 60 years, so these are really old facilities," Ruch said.
Pruitt has also taken fire for ditching EPA plans to ban a pesticide linked to brain damage in children. Under orders from President Trump, federal agencies must make an effort to slash regulations, forcing the EPA to consider gutting rules that protect children from lead poisoning along with other longstanding protections.
As promised, environmental groups and other watchdogs have filed lawsuits challenging Trump and Pruitt's deregulatory agenda, and courts are starting to place limits on the administration's power. For example, last month, a federal court ruled that the EPA could not delay a rule that limits the amount of climate-warming methane oil and gas drillers can spew into the atmosphere.
In the past month, more than 1,200 people have died amid flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal and India. This year's monsoon season has brought torrential downpours that have submerged wide swaths of South Asia, destroying tens of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals and affecting up to 40 million people. Aid organizations are warning that this is one of the worst regional humanitarian crises in years, with millions of people facing severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood water. Flood victims in southern Nepal say they have lost everything. We speak with Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want. He has worked on climate change issues for over a decade.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: While Houston remains under water after a historic storm, we turn now to look at massive flooding across the globe in South Asia. Over the past month, more than 1,200 people have died amidst flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. This year's monsoon season has brought torrential downpours that have submerged wide swaths of South Asia, destroying tens of thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals, and affecting up to 40 million people. Flood victims in southern Nepal say they have lost everything.
UNKNOWN: If our demands are not fulfilled, what should we do? We have to sleep on the side of the road. We have to die on the side of the road. We have nothing. We don't have a house. Nothing to eat. We don't have food to eat. Everything was swept away by the flood.
AMY GOODMAN: Aid organizations are warning this is one of the worst regional humanitarian crises in years, with millions of people facing severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood water. We go now to London to speak with Asad Rehman, who is Executive Director of War on Want. He has worked on climate issues for over a decade. Asad, welcome back to Democracy Now!. We usually see you at the UN Climate Summit.
Let's take one country, Bangladesh. A third of Bangladesh is under water? Can you talk about how many people have died just in the last few weeks there, and the significance of what is happening now in this region, and its connection to two words you almost never hear. I'm not only talking about Fox, but on MSNBC and CNN, as they cover the devastation in Houston, almost 24 hours a day. And those two words of course "climate change" or "climate chaos" or "climate disruption."
ASAD REHMAN: Well, thank you, Amy, and thank you for the invitation to join you. Yeah, absolutely. When you look at the devastating pictures, of course now what we've seen in the United States, the pictures that are emerging from right across the region in Nepal and India and Bangladesh are absolutely devastating. In Bangladesh, one third of the country is under water. Millions of people are being affected. Hundreds of people have lost their lives, but we're still waiting to see what an accurate count will be.
I spoke to somebody earlier in Bangladesh who told me that there are still communities that are cut off, the similar story as the account that you heard in Nepal. People without food, without access to fresh water. It sounds like a slightly -- how could the flooding mean that the people don't have access to fresh water? But the flooding has meant that fresh water wells are all polluted. People don't have access to fresh water. And of course people are losing their livelihoods and every part of their valuables.
And we're talking about a country where 50 percent of the population is below the poverty line, where the per capita income of Bangladesh is about $1,500. And if you compare that to an average citizen, which is about $55,000 -- and of course there is inequalities in the United States, but we're talking about some of the most poorest and most vulnerable people. And of course Bangladesh is uniquely vulnerable to flooding because of its geography. It is a low-lying basin. But what you have heard continuously is that the monsoon rains are becoming more intense, stronger, and more devastating year upon year.
This is for two reasons. One, as temperatures increase and we are seeing warming across the globe, the glaciers and the snowmelt are swelling rivers as they come through, down through the Himalayas, through Nepal, India, and into Bangladesh, where they go into the sea. At the same time, warming temperatures in the sea means that there's more moisture in the atmosphere, which means more intense and heavier rains.
Now, this is not something new. Climate scientists have been telling us and have predicted what would be happening. That these kind of storms, these intensity of storms, which used to happen every few hundred years, would happen much more regularly, and every decade, and now become literally an annual thing. The problem of course is the ability of people and the government to be able to respond. When you have these floods which wipe away infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads, it is very hard to rebuild. And of course, these are countries which have had and do have flood systems, and those are overwhelmed.
Now if in the United States, which is a country with -- I think it's about $18.5 trillion global GDP every year -- in Bangladesh it's only about $220 billion. So the ability of these poor countries who are most vulnerable to be able to continuously rebuild, to be able to protect their citizens, is of course severely limited. And these impacts are of course not only going to be felt today. They're going to be felt tomorrow and the days and the weeks and the months after, because for many of the people, people who are subsistence farmers, people who rely on their crop to both feed their families and to be able to sell some to be able to survive the year, most of them have lost their crops already.
Much of the food production in one of the most important basins -- the Ganges Basin is one of the bread baskets, the food baskets of the region. And this and the Indus basket have both been impacted severely by climate impacts, and are predicted to get even worse in the coming years.
AMY GOODMAN: The floods come just weeks after researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a report saying soaring temperatures could make parts of South Asia too hot for human survival by 2100. The M.I.T. researchers concluded as many as 1.5 billion people live in areas that could become uninhabitable during summer heat waves within only 83 years, if climate change continues at its current pace. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh would be the worst affected areas.
In 2015, some 3,500 people died in a heat wave that struck India and Pakistan. Asad, as you look at the images of Houston, the U.S.'s fourth-largest city, and you look at what's happening in your region of the world, in South Asia, final thoughts on what you feel needs to happen as President Trump today goes to Texas? The leading climate denier in the United States who has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement?
ASAD REHMAN: As you said, the M.I.T. report simply builds on what climate scientists have already told us -- that South Asia will be one of the most vulnerable regions in the world. And as you said, 1.5 billion people. Scientists are predicting up to 70 percent of the population will be directly impacted by climate impacts. The heat wave that you talked about, that was at 49.5 degrees centigrade. Earlier this year in May, Pakistan recorded a temperature level of 51 degrees centigrade. Now, for the majority of people who have to spend long hours out in the open as farmers, this is simply intolerable. People cannot survive out in the open.
So the implications and the impacts that we're talking about will be absolutely devastating. And they're devastating now, and they're likely to get much, much worse. And of course the economic impacts are also devastating for a region which is one of the poorest regions of the world. Climate scientists have said that just the impacts in terms of GDP will be running in the region of hundreds of billions of dollars.
Now, when I look at the pictures of Houston, I hope that Donald Trump -- I understand he is going to Texas. Maybe probably he would be better going to Paris, Texas, and going there and recognizing that the culpability of him, of the fossil fuel industry that back him, of deliberately turning their back on climate change, on deliberately turning their back on taking action on climate change, is not only culpable for the impacts that are happening in Houston, but happening all around the world. The window closing. Action is needed now. And really, Donald Trump needs to wake up and smell the roses.
AMY GOODMAN: Asad Rehman, I want to thank you for being with us. Executive Director of War on Want. Has worked on climate change issues for over a decade. Speaking to us from London. This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman with Juan González.
Surrounded by Oil Refineries, Port Arthur, Texas, Faces New Environmental Crisis Following Harvey Floods
Six days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the unprecedented storm is continuing to wreak havoc in Texas and parts of Louisiana. The death toll has risen to at least 38, but authorities expect it to grow as the historic floodwaters begin to recede. Early this morning, a pair of explosions rocked a chemical plant 30 miles northeast of Houston, sending thick black smoke into the air. The Harris County Sheriff's Office says one deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes, and nine others drove themselves to the hospital.
Now a tropical depression, Harvey has moved inland, but many parts of Texas remain underwater or under flood watch. On Thursday, the city of Port Arthur, Texas, which is 100 miles east of Houston, was completely underwater. AccuWeather is now projecting the economic impact of Harvey might top $190 billion -- exceeding the economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined. Up to 40,000 homes may been destroyed and 500,000 cars totaled in the storm. According to the Red Cross, more than 32,000 people are in shelters in Texas. We speak with Hilton Kelley, the founder of Community In-Power and Development Association in Port Arthur, Texas. He is a former Hollywood stuntman turned environmental activist. In 2011, he was awarded the Goldman Prize, the world's most prestigious environmental award, for his work battling for communities living near polluting industries in Port Arthur and the Texas Gulf Coast. Port Arthur is home to the largest oil refinery in the nation -- the Saudi-owned Motiva plant, which has been shut down due to flooding.
Please check back later for full transcript.
Researching power structures helps to identify those who wield so much power and to expose their relationships to each other, says researcher Molly Gott. Her organization's database, LittleSis, was created to help grow and support the work of social resistance movements.
(Photo: Courtesy of LittleSis)
Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same. Today's interview is the 69th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
Today we bring you a conversation with Molly Gott, a researcher with the Public Accountability Initiative, which oversees the LittleSis power research database.
Sarah Jaffe: You are one of the people who is starting the new Map the Power project. Start out by telling us a little bit about what this project is and what you aim to do with it.
Molly Gott: It is called LittleSis because we are the opposite of Big Brother. So, instead of the state or governments looking down on you, we are activists, organizers, journalists looking up at the power structure. We specialize in doing what we call our power structure research -- that is, really identifying and understanding the corporations, the super ultra-wealthy people, the elite class that wields a lot of power in our society and in our economy -- and really digging in, understanding the relationships that they have and doing research that can help grow and support social movements.
Map the Power is a project to train folks in how to do that research and to support activists, organizers, and people who are newly politicized and looking to engage in social movements and how to do that power research in a way that supports local organizing across a variety of issues.
Tell us a little bit more about what it is you are doing in these trainings. What is power mapping, for people who don't know?
The key part that we often use to describe what power mapping is [involves] the context of going up the food chain and really understanding who wields power in our society, and thinking beyond traditional targets that oftentimes we think about in organizing, like elected officials. So [we are] looking at above those folks to identify who are the corporations that are donating to those people? Who are the corporations that are massive employers in our society and therefore wield a lot of influence, and how are they all connected to one another?
We have a database called LittleSis.org that is like a Wikipedia-style database where anyone can sign up and add information and search for information on the 1 percent of [the US]. Part of the idea of Map the Power grew out of that work that we had done and training people on how to use that database and the concepts, because so much information is available on the internet that anyone can do this kind of power structure research.
After the Trump election ... we saw that despite the fact that he ran on this quasi-populist agenda, criticizing Wall Street and hedge fund managers and all that, he was really surrounding himself with the very people that he was criticizing. Even at times the more supposedly "moderate" members of the corporate class who hadn't supported him during the election were kind of lining up behind him and excited about things like tax reform and massive rollbacks of regulations and all these things that were going to really intensify income inequality. So, as we were realizing that, we thought one key part of the resistance work and doing that is going to be understanding who those corporate players really are and how we understand their network to organize to diminish their power.
That was part of where the idea for it came from, and at the same time, there were all these people who were looking to engage in organizing and in resistance in a deeper way. So, we also thought there needs to be lots of different kinds of structures to absorb those people and give them roles in our movement; which, for me, is one of the cooler parts of our project, like having archival librarians coming to our trainings and people that are public health researchers or stay-at-home parents who are like, "I can't go to a march, but I can do research for two hours while my kid is napping in the afternoon." So, we're pairing people's skill sets with power research, which most groups don't really have a lot of capacity to do.
Can you tell us about a couple of examples of campaigns that have used LittleSis and this kind of power mapping so people can get a better idea of what it is?
I live in Philly, so we have a crew of folks who are the Map the Power Philly crew that have been doing power structure research about both the local power structure in Philly, and then also ties to Trump in this moment.
The first project that we did was on corporate collaborators of Trump in Philadelphia. We went through and looked at "Who are the key donors to Trump in Philly? Who are people that he had created business relationships for? Who are people that were leading business councils or members of business councils that he was appointing?" to really put those folks on display. We released that set of information ahead of May Day when there were some actions happening in Philly, to bring the focus not just on Pat Toomey, who is our Republican Senator, but also on these corporate villains that are in Philly and didn't really want to be publicly associated with Trump. That was one thing.
Then, the other example of a particular person we have done a lot of work around and worked with other groups around organizing that is happening and that is starting to happen at a bigger scale, also, is billionaire Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone. We've been mapping out all the ways that Blackstone and Schwarzman touches down in the economy, whether as a landlord or as an employer and as a financer of fossil fuel infrastructure and showing that it all leads back to this one guy.
Part of understanding who rules our economy and who is responsible for the inequality that we see right now is pointing that out and really thinking about how we organize to diminish that power.
You sent me the zine that you made to go along with this project. In there, you have a couple of examples of the movements and organizations that understood and valued the role of this kind of research. I wonder if you could talk about that and the role that research like this has played in different movements. I think a lot of people don't really know that history.
I think some of the history that we were really inspired by when putting together this project was about SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the role that their research department played in their strategy, which I didn't really know a lot about at the time. Since then we started putting out some archival research about that department, but there are some really interesting materials in there about the way that the SNCC field team and the SNCC research department worked together.
A good example is this document that the research department put out that was called "The Mississippi Structure" that was this really in-depth look at the question of who has power in Mississippi and tying things back from local struggles that are happening there to the Queen of England and massive banks and looking at particular political figures that are on many power boards, which is what we call them sometimes, and having a really clear understanding of what they were up against in Mississippi beyond just everyday racist folks that they were encountering on the streets.
I think that is a really interesting point right now when we are looking at this resurgence of open white supremacy. You see these reactions -- I forget who it was the other day who was like, "I feel bad picking on these white supremacists because they are the poorest in society." Research like this can actually show that that is not really true.
Yes, I think particularly in the last week it has been interesting because ... Trump's business council shut down, and CEOs are publically distancing themselves from him a little bit since Charlottesville, but at the same time JP Morgan Chase just gave a million dollars to groups saying that they are donating to fight white supremacy, [and] at the same time, the Business Roundtable which CEO Jamie Dimon chairs just launched a massive advertising campaign for tax reform that is supported by the White House and by all the Republican leadership.... The corporate folks play both sides, and it is a little bit more obscured the way their white supremacy manifests. I think that is an important role of research right now.
That is a good point, too. When we think about what movements are, we don't tend to think about people behind computer screens or in libraries, we think of people in the streets. It is really useful to think about other ways that you can contribute and ways for people to target different types of power.
Yes. Some of my thinking around "What is the role of research in our movements?" came about because I was involved in building some of the jail support apparatus in Ferguson and seeing the ways that actually attracted and gave roles in that movement to folks who maybe couldn't do other things and gave them a home to be doing political work. So, I was thinking about the way that research can do that, as well. We have been pushing folks, which has been really fun to be doing research in community more. In Philly, we have research pizza nights where we all just bring our computers and do a bunch of tasks really quickly. It is way more fun than just being by yourself behind a computer screen, for sure.
You mentioned the tax reform issue. We have got plenty of things coming up. There is never any shortage of things coming up here. But are there any particular items on Trump's agenda that you are keeping an eye on to see who is pulling the strings?
The one project that we are doing right now that is related to that is also looking at the corporate beneficiaries and funders and backers of Islamophobia. We have been working with a set of volunteers and a couple other partner groups to look at a list of the most active Islamophobia-promoting groups right now, that are shooting through the roof in terms of activity now that Trump is in office. Really chasing back to "Who are their funders? Who are the key corporate people that don't really publicly want to be associated with Islamophobia but are working behind the scenes to do it?" I think that is one thing that is on our mind.
And, of course, the tax reform stuff, like you said, just because it has so many far-reaching and catastrophic effects in terms of income inequality and the material conditions of folks' lives.
We know, from unfortunate experience, that just exposing people as being supporters of Trump isn't enough. Talk a little bit about the different ways that activists have put pressure on these people.
I think one thing is understanding points of pressure to really hit them where it hurts and understanding what they really care about and where they are making their money. So, thinking about all of the tax loopholes -- like the carried-interest loophole that Wilbur Ross and other private equity billionaires that Trump has surrounded himself with care about -- and putting more energy into those things. That is what some of the groups are working on.
Also, just thinking about the way that research like this can help inform direct action and doing particularly more disruptive direct actions on these folks in a way that helps tell the story of how they are disrupting our lives. So, we have to disrupt them in the same way. Then, also, going into more escalated spaces, like their social clubs like with some of the stuff that the Government Sachs folks were doing around Steve Mnuchin's art gallery on the Upper East Side. I think there is an element of power research that goes into that, of understanding where their social networks are, as well.
How can people take one of these trainings or get involved in doing this work?
We have monthly online trainings and we do in-person trainings for folks, too, and have a variety of ways that people who are doing this research across the country can connect with and support one another. If you go to LittleSis.org/toolkit that is the best place to go. We have an Intro toolkit, postings of past training events, and a sign-up form so you can get more information.
How can people keep up with you?
You can follow LittleSis on Twitter. We are @twittlesis. That is mostly where my work is.
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.
A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents early on October 14, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: John Moore / Getty Images)
The openly anti-immigrant agenda of the Trump administration has led to a drastic increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants, and a looming threat of removal for Dreamers who have spent most of their lives in the U.S. Those policies promise only to further tax the country's immigration detention centers, where watchdog groups and detainees frequently report unsafe conditions. The dangers these detainees face are often revealed through careful reviews of records that document violations of immigrants' human and civil rights. Now the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, better known as ICE, wants permission to destroy those records, which detail immigrant abuses ranging from sexual assaults to wrongful deaths.
A press release from the ACLU indicates that ICE has submitted the new request on recordkeeping to the National Archives and Record Administration, which oversees the handling of federal records. Under the new terms, ICE would be allowed to destroy 11 types of records, "including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody," as well as "regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses." The ACLU report indicates that ICE now wants to destroy records on sexual abuse after 20 years, while those related to solitary confinement would be removed after just three years. In the short term, NARA has greenlit this highly problematic new timescale:
NARA has provisionally approved ICE's proposal and its explanations for doing so are troubling. In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records "do not document significant actions of Federal officials." It's hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody. NARA also posited that in cases of sexual assault, that the "information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention."
As the ACLU points out, these records are critical to ensuring public awareness of a system "that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year."
In March, Mother Jones highlighted a report by federal inspectors who found an Orange County, California detention center provided its inhabitants with "spoiled meat and broken telephones, showers laced with mold," and held immigrants in solitary confinement for 24 hours at a time. A recent article from the Hill notes the dangers at two Georgia detention centers included "threats of force-feeding for participation in hunger strikes, sexual abuse, lack of clean drinking water, lack of adequate access to legal materials or attorneys, and labor for just $1 per day." There have been 10 deaths in detention centers since October 2016 according to the ACLU, and each case is a testament to the need for detailed documentation of how these facilities operate.
"Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information," the organization notes. "ICE shouldn't be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye."
In this excerpt from Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, Andrea J. Ritchie discusses how police often respond to complaints of violence by exacerbating violence against women of color, and the alternatives to calling the police that some anti-violence organizers have developed.
Activists display a sign in honor of Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Alesia Thomas and Dhantel Davis, four Black women who were murdered by police. (Photo: Joe Brusky)
Invisible No More is a timely examination of police violence against Black women, Indigenous women and other women of color. "Thanks to Andrea Ritchie's thorough research and raw storytelling," says Robin D.G. Kelley about the book, "we can finally begin to #SayHerName and end the state's war on women of color once and for all." Get a copy by donating to support Truthout now!
In the following excerpt from Invisible No More, Andrea J. Ritchie discusses how police often respond to complaints of violence by exacerbating violence against women of color, and the alternatives to calling the police that some anti-violence organizers have developed.
The Ann Arbor Alliance for Black Lives initially arose out of a solidarity march with Ferguson in the wake of the murder of Mike Brown in August 2014. Since then it has largely focused on demanding accountability for the killing of Aura Rain Rosser, an artist and mother of three killed by Ann Arbor police three months later. Officers David Ried and Mark Raab responded to a domestic violence call at Aura's house. Claiming that Aura caused them to fear for their safety as she walked toward them from fifteen feet away holding a four-inch knife, officers made no effort to de-escalate the situation or give her an opportunity to drop the knife. Instead, five to ten seconds after arriving, they shot her. The officers and city officials retroactively justified the shooting by saying that Aura "opened her eyes very wide," "appeared to be in a deranged state," and had "a blank stare," echoing the justifications offered by the officers who killed Michelle Cusseaux months earlier, and drawing on historic depictions of Black women as congenitally deranged, superhuman, and posing an inherent threat.
"A People's Retort" to the prosecutor's report in the case draws parallels between justifications offered for Aura's shooting with Darren Wilson's characterization of Mike Brown as a "demon," using racist tropes to transform Aura into a mortal threat rather than a woman in the midst of "an angry dispute with her ex-boyfriend." Local organizer and scholar-activist Austin McCoy notes the multiple dynamics at play in both Aura's death and the state's response: "The crucial difference is that Rosser is black and female. Being black and female in America today means that black women not only die at the hands of the state like men, their suffering is obscured while making their physicality and their psychological state hypervisible. Black women's suffering is unseen by authorities, but the state tries to highlight how they are 'aggressive' and 'hysterical.'"
The organizing around Aura's case highlights a welcome expansion in the movement for police accountability compared to the relative silence around Cherae Williams's case fifteen years earlier. Rosser's image is one of many circulating in cyberspace under the Black Lives Matter hashtag, her death is the motivation for marches drawing thousands, her name is invoked alongside Brown's at rallies, demonstrations, and vigils across the country.
When longtime antiviolence activist Mariame Kaba first read a New York Times article about Tiawanda Moore, she was shocked that she hadn't known earlier about her case, which took place in Chicago, where Kaba was living. Kaba immediately mobilized the Chicago Task Force on Women and Girls to raise awareness about Tiawanda on social media, to campaign for since-deposed prosecutor Anita Alvarez to drop the charges, and to pack the courtroom with supporters throughout Tiawanda's trial. Kaba never forgot the case, later playing a leadership role in the campaign to remove Alvarez as district attorney during the 2016 election under the hashtag #ByeAnita. Kaba's organizing around Tiawanda's case was consistent with Angela Davis's call fifteen years earlier at the 2000 INCITE! conference: to recognize and organize from a place that makes visible survivors' vulnerability to both state and interpersonal violence.
Survived and Punished, cofounded by Kaba, is among the organizations that have taken up the case of Ky Peterson, a Black trans man raped as he walked home from a convenience store in Americus, Georgia, in 2011. Ky defended himself, killing his attacker. Based on prior experiences, he didn't think he would be believed by police, so he concealed the body and hoped for the best. His instincts were right -- when police eventually did get involved, they didn't see Ky as a victim, despite evidence from a rape kit that supported his version of events. Instead police pursued theories involving consensual sex and robbery that ultimately forced Ky to enter a guilty plea in an effort to avoid a lifetime of imprisonment. He was sentenced to twenty years. Chase Strangio of the ACLU concludes, "What this case highlights is how difficult it is for trans people of color to claim the status of victim."
Beyond organizing around individual cases, these realities require us to acknowledge that racial profiling and police violence take place not just in street and traffic stops, but also when police respond to complaints of violence. Community efforts by anti-police brutality and antiviolence groups to document and redress violence should therefore explicitly include police violence that takes place in the context of responses to violence. Additionally, cop-watch groups need to support domestic-violence survivors in safely documenting their own experiences of policing and exposing police violence in these contexts.Truthout Progressive Pick
"Invisible No More deserves a standing ovation." -- Michelle AlexanderClick here now to get the book!
Perhaps most importantly, Black women's and women of color's experiences of police responses to violence demand that we radically rethink our visions of safety, including by ending mandatory arrest policies and developing responses to violence that don't involve the police. Some in the mainstream antiviolence movement have already started down this road. In March 2016, I found myself, to my great surprise, at a gathering convened by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice, Detention, and Prevention to discuss ending mandatory arrest policies in the context of responses to family violence involving girls, which are among the primary drivers of girls' arrest and incarceration. Perhaps if this had been achieved in Kentucky, Gynnya McMillen, who died in custody after being arrested following a dispute with her mother, would still be with us today. In June 2016, the New York City Council Young Women's Initiative recommended the establishment of a task force to consider the repeal of mandatory arrest policies in one of the first cities that adopted them. The initiative also advocated for programs that would empower women to prevent, avoid, and leave violence, including increased access to housing, employment, and health care, and legalizing their immigration status. By investing in the needs of communities and survivors, the goal is to reduce police responses to violence and support alternative approaches to advancing safety of young women and girls.
Some organizations have been laying the groundwork for community-based responses to violence: Communities Against Rape and Abuse and Sista II Sista both wrote powerful pieces in Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology detailing their experiments. Creative Interventions, Gen 5, Harm Free Zones, and the Audre Lorde Project Safe Outside the System Project have all piloted, practiced, and reflected on how we respond to violence without police. Many of the lessons learned are highlighted in the Creative Interventions' Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence, inspiring newer formations, like the Dream Defenders, and others to follow in their footsteps. Ultimately, the experiences described in this chapter, along with countless others, counsel strongly in favor of a critical examination of current approaches to violence against women, and the development and support of alternative, community-based accountability strategies that prioritize safety for survivors; community responsibility for creating, enabling, and eliminating the climates that allow violence to happen; and the transformation of private and public relations of power.
The Critical Resistance-INCITE! statement calls on movements concerned with ending police violence and violence against women to "develop community based responses to violence that do not rely on the criminal legal system AND which have mechanisms that ensure safety and accountability for survivors of domestic and sexual violence." Such responses are essential if we are to move away from reliance on law enforcement -- based approaches to violence; achieve true safety for survivors of domestic violence; and, ultimately, end violence against women of color in all its forms.
Copyright (2017) by Andrea J. Ritchie. Not to reprinted without permission of the publisher, Beacon Press.
Many state budget directors are starting to plan for the next fiscal year -- even as debate over repealing and replacing Obamacare has stalled in Congress.
In such an uncertain environment, responsible budgeting is no easy task.
Congressional Budget Office analysis of the various Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal-and-replace proposals report that all of them would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose health care coverage. Less has been said about the impact of Obamacare changes on individual state budgets or local economies.
As a former Ohio state senator, I have firsthand experience with the complexities of state budgeting.
Of course, most people realize states rely on federal dollars as part of their overall budget. When the federal government takes away funding -- as would happen under an ACA repeal -- states are left with holes that must be filled either by implementing budget cuts or increasing revenues.
At the moment, there is no guarantee that an ACA repeal-and-replace bill will become law. There is also no certainty that Obamacare will remain the law of the land. So, states are left to operate under a worse case scenario as they plan budgets.
What does bracing for the worst mean?
Looming Funding Crisis
A study conducted by the Urban Institute estimated federal health care spending would be reduced by US$926 billion between 2018 and 2026 should a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare pass.
Medicaid, a federal program that provides coverage for some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities, also could have a big impact on a state's bottom line. In all states, Medicaid is paid for with both state and federal funds with the federal government bearing more of the cost.
The ACA called for the federal government to pay for 100 percent of the costs to states that expanded Medicaid to citizens earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That means that in 2017, a family of four earning less than $33,948 would be eligible for coverage. The rule included single childless adults, a departure from previous Medicaid eligibility requirements. Baked into the ACA funding of Medicaid expansion is a scheduled reduction of money from the federal to the state governments from 100 percent to 90 percent by 2020.
Not all states took up the federal government's offer. Nineteen states -- 17 of which had Republican governors -- saw refusal of Medicaid expansion dollars as a way to buck Obamacare. Now, the 31 states that did expand Medicaid stand to lose the most if one of the current Obamacare revamp proposals is implemented. For example, my home state of Ohio could lose up to $3.5 billion in federal funds related to health care. Larger states like California are looking at a loss of as much as $15 billion.
Furthermore, many Medicaid expansion states assumed they would be saving money by including the expansion population. Eliminating this younger -- and presumably healthier -- group from Medicaid is likely to lead to additional costs to states because healthier people help reduce insurance costs overall when included in the risk pool.
Repealing the ACA could also ax the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The center allows states to apply to the federal government for waivers to try new ways to deliver and pay for health care. This process grants states special permission from the federal government to experiment and modify how Medicaid and Medicare is structured in an individual state.
For example, seven states were awarded waivers to pursue integrating care for those who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. These demonstration waivers allowed states to try to replace fee-for-service payments with a "capitated rate." Capitated rates mean providers are paid one rate per person and need to stay within that dollar amount when delivering care to a group of patients. Essentially, it rewards physicians for controlling costs. A straight repeal of the ACA would take away this tool.
So What Are States to Do?
Governors from both parties recognize the gravity of losing significant federal funding for health care. Another report published by the Urban Institute estimates a repeal of the ACA could cost states $1.1 trillion in uncompensated care costs which would amplify the impact of losing federal dollars.
Since a budget shortfall of this magnitude is almost insurmountable, many governors have joined together to express their concerns to Congress. Programs and services provided by state and local governments would probably be reduced or eliminated in order to balance budgets with gaping holes. Some states may choose to increase taxes to raise revenue. In others, a combination of cuts and revenue increases would be needed to even make a dent in the budget shortfall.
Of the 29.8 million people expected to lose insurance, 75 percent will go without coverage as a result of dismantling Medicaid expansion. When health providers are not being paid, they have to reduce staff and services, just like any other business. The health care foundation Commonwealth Fund projects 2.6 million jobs would be lost nationwide as a result of repealing Obamacare.
Job loss leads to less revenue generation and increased demand for social services, further compounding a state's ability to compensate for the loss of federal dollars. Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia lead the pack in estimated job and tax revenue losses should repeal-and-replace take hold.
With so much at stake, some policymakers are starting to attempt to address at least parts of the ACA that need shoring up. Chief among the concerns is federal funding for subsidies that help low-income people pay for co-payments and deductibles, also called cost sharing. While the Trump administration decided to fund the cost sharing payments to insurance companies for August, it is unclear if Trump will authorize continued funding for these subsidies. Yet many health care and insurance experts have recognized that maintaining funding for CSRs would stabilize the insurance market and help states facing increased costs of uncompensated care.
Recently, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to continue the CSRs. Such legislation may gain more traction in light of a recent report out of the Congressional Budget Office that suggests eliminating the CSRs would result in the need for an additional $7 billion from the federal government to fund an increase in Medicaid enrollment. When it becomes more expensive for individuals to purchase coverage on the health insurance exchange, people will likely decide to remain uninsured, resulting in increased uncompensated care. It could also increase Medicaid enrollment in states with expanded Medicaid eligibility. If the federal government chooses to walk away from sharing Medicaid funding with states, individual state governments would be responsible for finding even more money for health care.
Reinsurance is a program to provide dollars to health insurance plans that extend coverage to higher-risk patients to offset the higher costs associated with serving more complex beneficiaries. The concept has also been suggested as another state-level solution to address the uncertain fate of the ACA nationally.
Regardless of what path lawmakers chose, it is clear state and federal officials should work together to ensure policy decisions will not jeopardize individual state budgets. Most states are required to balance their budgets and could risk not meeting their obligations without a solution shaped by state and federal governments alike.
Capri Cafaro is affiliated with the Democratic party as a former elected official and currently a registered Democrat in Ohio.
Twelve Years After Katrina, Hurricane Harvey Pummels Gulf Coast and Its Climate Science-Denying Politicians
The abandoned Press Park housing project in New Orleans, 12 years after Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
As the remnants of Hurricane Harvey (now a tropical storm) continue to flood Houston -- just days before the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -- I visited Shannon Rainey, whose house was built on top of a Superfund site in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Rainey is worried about family members in Houston. She knows all too well how long it can take to get back what is lost in a storm. "I still live with Katrina every day," she told me.
New Orleans remains threatened by bands of rain extending from Harvey, causing many residents with fierce memories of Katrina to remain on edge.
Shannon Rainey in front of her home in Gordon Plaza across from Press Park in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward. (Photo: Julie Dermanksy)
Earlier this month, the city proved it was ill-prepared for hurricane season nearly a year after Baton Rouge's 1,000-year flood. Rain inundated New Orleans, with more than nine inches falling in only three hours, exposing that the city's pump system could not operate at full capacity. The city is still scrambling to make the needed repairs and clean the sewer system's catch basins, which remain clogged in many places.
"This city isn't ready to handle a lot of rain, let alone a hurricane," Rainey said, while glancing across the street at damage caused by Katrina, still there almost 12 years later.
A strip mall in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, left in ruins since Katrina. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
A blighted home covered in graffiti in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
A home damaged by Katrina's floodwaters in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward now overtaken by vines. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu agreed. On August 27 he said residents should remain prepared for possible heavy storms and flash flooding in the middle of the week.
From Rainey's front steps in the Upper Ninth Ward, one can see, and sometimes smell, the blighted remains of Press Park, a housing project abandoned after Hurricane Katrina.
A Press Park housing unit torn open in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Residents nearby complain about the smell that comes from the blighted structures after it rains. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
On August 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was set to re-sample the soil in Gordon Plaza, part of a subdivision the city developed on top of the Agriculture Street landfill in 1981. Rainey was hoping to get the agency to sample the soil under her home, but the EPA cancelled due to Harvey.
The Stench Before the Storm
Bryan Parras, the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Gulf Coast organizer, lives in Houston. He is riding out the storm and monitoring industrial sites as best he can. He has no doubt communities in the Houston area will experience similar hardships as people like Rainey. Before joining the Sierra Club, Parras worked with underserved communities in the area with t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), a community-based activist organization in East Houston that monitors chemical releases and the impacts on fenceline communities.
Bryan Parras, across from Sims Metal Management's Proler Southwest recycling facility, while leading a tour of toxic places in East Houston on June 4, 2016. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
Some of the area's refineries started shutting down operations leading up to Harvey, including ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, and Chevron Phillips Chemical. This process adds to air pollution because it leads to flaring off excess toxic gases, together with natural gas and oxygen, to keep the chemicals from building up to dangerous pressures.
Before the worst of Harvey's rain, Parras drove around industrial sites near fenceline communities on Houston's east side. On August 26, he met with people living next to the Valero Houston Refinery in Manchester who told him the fumes were unbearable. They were trapped, sheltering in place. The air pollution has been affecting Parras too, reaching his home two miles away. "We are being gassed," he lamented. "Noxious toxic gas is in the atmosphere over a wide area."
A flare most likely coming from Texas Petrochemical, now called TCP Group, behind a school in East Houston. (Photo: Bryan Parras)
A flare from a TCP Group petrochemical facility, located behind a school in East Houston, as it starts to shut down before Hurricane Harvey. (Photo: Bryan Parras)
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also shut down its air quality monitors in the Houston area to avoid water and wind damage related to the storm. This move has left refineries on the honor system, according to the Houston Press.
Furthermore, the Houston Press reports that "the federal Environmental Protection Agency even waived certain Clean Air Act fuel requirements for Texas while refineries work to make up for the inevitable shortages in fuel due to Harvey, so companies are operating with even less oversight than usual."
The Valero refinery in Manchester isn't planning to shut down, raising questions about how much air pollution it might release without regulators watching.
A Political Flood of Climate Science Denial
It frustrates Parras that climate change is not a concept most politicians in the area are willing to grasp. Acknowledging that the climate is changing is as far as many politicians in oil- and gas-producing regions will go. They typically stop short of accepting mankind's role, even as their districts feel its effects.
Climate scientist Michael Mann summed up the current storm's climate change connection: "Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human-caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage and a larger storm surge."
Blighted structures in Press Park, a housing project in the Ninth Ward which was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
Parras hopes that Harvey will be the storm that snaps politicians out of their climate-denial status: "At this point, ignoring facts to the detriment of people's lives is what makes them culpable."
Top Texas politicians, including Governor Greg Abbott and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, are in the climate-denier camp, along with President Donald Trump. That's despite 97 percent of climate scientists actively involved in research agreeing that humans are causing climate change. The few scientists who deny climate science are often funded by the oil, gas, and coal industries. The same companies who are paying off climate science-denying scientists also donate to the Political Action Committees (PACs) and politicians pushing disinformation on climate change and stalling action on it.
Senator Cruz urged Trump to keep his promise to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord in May this year, and Senator Cornyn praised the president when he withdrew on June 1.
Unfortunately, the federal government's lack of action on climate change policy will likely get worse. Shortly before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, President Trump signed an executive order reversing an Obama-era requirement which increased flood standards for public infrastructure projects to protect them from the consequences of climate change.
Trump's order equates climate change considerations with slowing down the permitting process for infrastructure projects, namely through environmental reviews.
Extensive development in Houston's 100-year flood plain exemplifies the need to consider climate change in infrastructure planning. Urban planning that doesn't account for climate-related changes, such as greater precipitation, storms, and sea level rise, will undoubtedly exacerbate extreme flooding events.
Because of Harvey, gas prices are expected to spike as production shuts down, and flooding along the heavily industrialized Gulf Coast will inevitably cause damage to oil, gas, and chemical facilities, with spills of hazardous materials to follow.
"America is poised to become a net energy exporter over the next decade. We should not abandon that progress at the cost of weakening our energy renaissance and crippling economic growth," Senator Cruz wrote in a CNN op-ed on May 29. Did Cruz consider that when extreme weather devastates the Gulf Coast, those industries he is trying to promote are crippled as well?
Like other recent extreme weather events, Harvey's rains are exposing the peril of ignoring climate science. Policymakers who support Trump's rollback of climate protections, which arguably were already inadequate, will own a large portion of the blame for the impacts that follow. But, at that point, it could be too late.
Telltale mark left on a boarded-up home which search and rescue workers left after Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)