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disaster capitalism

Oroville Dam: Another market driven disaster. Profits before People

By Richard Mellor - Facts For Working People, February 14, 2017

As is always the case, it is after terrible accidents happen that the public finds out details about what caused them. Most of the worst disasters, Katrina for example, are not freaks of nature but market driven disasters.

It appears we might have dodged a bullet here in California as the tallest dam in the US, the 770 foot Oroville dam, was in danger of rupture due to heavy rains. The lake behind the dam was overflowing and the water began to erode a part of the hillside that was a natural (unpaved) spillway. The danger is that if the erosion spread it could cause a rupture in the dam itself spilling billions of gallons of water in a 30-foot high wave downstream. Over the past weekend, evacuation orders were issued to 200,000 residents.

Now it comes to light that as far back as 2005, under Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, environmental groups and some local government officials warned that the dam’s integrity could be jeopardized and “catastrophic flooding” could result if the natural hillside spillway wasn’t reinforced with concrete or huge boulders that we sometime see at these dam sites. This would help protect against erosion when the dam overflowed which is what we are witnessing now.

So were this catastrophe to have occurred (and the dam could still burst) and people killed, what would have been described as an accident is in actuality, a market driven disaster. I say this because what is happening here is nothing new-----it’s about money, the allocation of capital. The only time the working class gets to make a decision about allocation is when they let us vote on bonds and we vote yes to borrow back our own money (with interest) to build a hospital.

The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that cost 11 workers their lives has caused untold damage to the environment. We will never fully know how much damage, we might get a glimpse as Bluefin Tuna and other marine life are washing ashore with two sets of genitals and other deformities. We can be sure the ocean floor is covered with oil and whatever chemicals that they use to help the oil dissipate but this likelihood will not be in a public service announcement during a playoff game.

Cities and civic workers: The union role in building better cities

By Jim Silver - Rabble.Ca, October 5, 2016

Although Carlo Fanelli's book Megacity Malaise: Neoliberalism, Public Services and Labour in Toronto is not about Winnipeg, it offers many insights applicable to Winnipeg and to other Canadian cities. Fanelli is a former Toronto civic employee who looks at civic issues from the point of view of city employees and their unions. His central argument is that the fiscal problems confronting Toronto and all major Canadian cities are not caused by over-spending on civic services nor by excessive union wage demands, although this is what is typically claimed.

The basis of Canadian cities' fiscal problems is in Canada's Constitution, which does not give cities the taxing powers to generate sufficient revenue to do all of the things for which they have responsibility. Cities are forced to over-rely on property taxes, which "is unsustainable in the long run." Property taxes are regressive, and don't grow with the economy, leaving cities in a constant state of fiscal crisis. This is made worse by the fact that federal commitments to civic issues have been sporadic and insufficient to meet cities' needs.

This has been worsened further by the ideological dominance in Canada of neoliberalism. This ideology has driven massive cuts in taxation and in public spending -- by 1999 Ontario's Mike Harris government, for example, had made 99 different tax cuts; by 2013 Stephen Harper's government had cut federal taxes to the lowest rate in 70 years -- followed by the downloading of responsibilities from senior to lower level governments. Cities have borne the brunt of this offloading, and have not had the capacity to generate the revenues needed to deal with it.

Toronto and Winnipeg have responded with a host of policy measures that do not get at the real root of the problem. Like Winnipeg, Toronto has allowed suburban sprawl to grow, on the grounds that more suburban housing will mean more property tax revenue. But this doesn't get at the underlying structural problems, and in fact generates more costs in the longer run. Selling off valuable public assets to the private sector creates profits for private interests, but produces a one-time only injection of cash that is no solution to the underlying problem and that diminishes future revenue flows. The same is the case with privatization and contracting out and the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs).

There is a great deal of evidence that PPPs, to take that example, do not generate the savings that cities claim. Ontario's auditor-general produced a major report on 74 PPPs completed between 2003 and 2014 and found that these cost Ontario some $8 billion more than traditional public financing. Contractors benefit, cities' budgets do not, yet Toronto and Winnipeg continue to make use of PPPs on the largely false grounds that they save public money. The contracting out of city work continues unabated, and any "savings" it produces are typically the result of non-union contractors exploiting vulnerable workers. This is the case with the privatization of Winnipeg's garbage collection service in 2012. The hard work of lifting garbage cans and dumping them into trucks is done by temporary day labourers -- many of them young Aboriginal men -- hired on a day-by-day basis at minimum wage with no benefits. Described in an expose by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network as "Winnipeg's dirty little garbage secret," this exploitative process is how Winnipeg "saves" money via privatization and contracting out

Spending on valuable public services continues to be cut on the largely false grounds that cities have a "spending problem," while the already massive infrastructure deficit balloons ever further. Roads, bridges, underground pipelines and transit services continue to deteriorate, while parks and recreation facilities, libraries and other essential civic services remain underfunded. The urban fiscal crisis grows unabated.

City governments, desperate for solutions and driven by their ideological orientation, point the finger at out-of-control spending and excessive wage demands by civic unions. Many in the right-wing media promote this simplistic and largely false explanation.

Fanelli points to data showing that incomes have stagnated over the past three decades of neoliberal governance. "In Canada's three largest cities the bottom 90 per cent of income-earners made less in 2013 than they did in 1983." Toronto's 2007 Independent Fiscal Review Panel found that the average wage of City of Toronto workers, including overtime, was "less than $40,000 in 2007." Toronto's unionized workers and their unions are not the cause of the city's fiscal problems.

Yet one of the great "successes" of neoliberalism and its adherents has been to redirect the anger of many modest-income earners at civic employees and their unions. Civic employees are seen as being paid too generously, despite their relatively modest earnings. As Fanelli points out, "the vitriol directed at them is intense, often as if they live lavish lives at the expense of non-unionized workers."

Capital Blight News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Capital Blight News #120

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 7, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Capital Blight News #119

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Capital Blight News #118

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 24, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

As Flint Water Crisis "Emergency" Ends, Bigger Heads Need to Roll

By Michele Oberholtzer - Occupy.Com, August 18, 2016

This week, the emergency is officially over following the Flint Water Crisis. One year ago, the city of Flint, Mich., joined the ranks of Sandy Hook, Ferguson and other previously obscure cities that became a metaphor for man-made tragedy. In Flint the trauma came not at the barrel of a gun but through the faucet of a sink, as the infrastructure that was meant to provide life-sustaining water was made toxic through a negligent cost-cutting measure that altered water sources and treatment procedures. Flint entered a Federal State of Emergency to respond to the crisis, and that emergency expired this week.

First, the good news. Reports have showed significant improvements to water quality in a large number of Flint homes. State money amounting to $25 million and additional federal money is under consideration to address the temporary and long-term needs of residents, while charges have been brought against nine past and current state employees for their involvement in the crisis.

However satisfying one's reaction to this might be, the reality is that the water emergency in Flint continues. The ending of the state of emergency and the felony charges have a mollifying effect on the accumulated outrage, but no amount of federal appropriations or scape-goated employees can begin to address the root of the crimes that transgressed human rights in Flint.

Before considering the charges now being brought again Michigan employees, consider the true crimes of the Flint Water Crisis. First, there was the poisoning of the water itself, which involved switching from treated Detroit water to improperly treated water taken out of the industrial and highly polluted Flint River. Second, there was the failure of local and state governments to identify the problem or heed the immediate vocal outcries coming from residents and local businesses for over a year. Third, there was the capitalization of government that started with “emergency management” and ended with single-bottom-line decisions like the water conversion.

The charges brought against these individuals address a small aspect of issue number two: specifically, that government officials destroyed emails with incriminating evidence of lead level tests. Those emails revealed that the information about the low water quality was known and not acted on. According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, “Each of these individuals attempted to bury … information that contradicted their own narrative… and their narrative was ‘there’s nothing wrong with Flint water.'”

There appears to be convincing evidence of a coordinated effort between Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employees (those who received the lead reports) and Department of Environmental Quality employees (those who issued the lead reports) to delete emails that contained alarming and actionable data showing high levels of lead in the blood of Flint residents.

What reason could these people have for deleting emails that contained such alarming information? A person is not guilty of neglect unless s/he fails to act, yet these emails contained new and vital information that the recipients could have conceivably acted on and avoided any need for burying information. The destruction of the emails suggests that either the employees already considered that they had previously ignored information, or knew that they would be unable to correct the problem (since that would involve acknowledging the city's failed water system). Righting this kind of wrong would be terribly expensive, and the whole premise of Flint’s new water system was to cut costs. Delete.

As offensive as the willful neglect of these individuals has been, the fact is that the charges against those people refer to events that took place in July 2015, when the water crisis had already been ongoing for more than a year.

Conspicuously absent are charges against the engineers of the water switchover plan – including Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, the architect of Flint's subverted democracy, and Gov. Rick Snyder – not to mention the premise that these individuals represent government-as-business and profit-over-people. Those pillars will go unshaken regardless of whether a few middlemen take the heat. A recent report by the Water Advisory Task Force placed the responsibility for the crisis on the state (specifically the DHHS). Note: This task force was appointed by Gov. Snyder.

Michigan can lock up the guys who buried the dirt, but people should not be distracted from the individuals who created the mess in the first place. The cognitive leap here, for the Attorney General’s investigation, is not to necessarily uncover hidden actions but to consider the crimes that took place in broad daylight. The decision of Flint leadership to switch from Detroit to Flint water sources was a financial one, made under the guardianship of emergency management. (“Emergency” in this case refers to a financial emergency, not a human one, which only came later). In this crisis, it is clear that decisions to prioritize money over people were not incidental, but rather inherent in the emergency management process.

Much has been said about the destruction to the physical infrastructure of Flint in recent years. But just as important was the destruction to the political infrastructure that began deteriorating not when the water sources were switched, but when emergency management was declared. The checks and balances between government and constituents were dismantled across cities in Michigan, with a direct hierarchy that led all the way to the governor. While a total of nine former state employees spend time awaiting trial, the architects of democratic deconstruction rest easy. Meanwhile, the rest of Michigan dreams of a world where “emergency management” is only used for human crises, not financial ones – in which case it may be about time find an Emergency Governor.

Japan Railway Workers Doro-Chiba: Fight back against forced exposure to radiation! Refuse work while exposed to radiation! Stop “reuse” of contaminated soil

International Labor Solidarity Committee of Doro-Chiba - www.doro-chiba.org, June 2016

  • Fight back against forced exposure to radiation!
  • Refuse work while exposed to radiation!
  • Stop “reuse” of contaminated soil!

In September 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shamelessly lied to win the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo, claiming that the contaminated water leaking from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was “under control” and there had been “no health problems,” nor would there be.

Now all the lies and cover-ups have been exposed. Over 1,000 contaminated water storage tanks already occupy almost all of the space at the nuclear plant site. The $300 million “ice wall” project,

once hyped as the most reliable solution for substantial reduction of contaminated water by preventing groundwater infiltration into the wrecked reactor buildings, has become a fiasco. Far from being a “wall,” it is now derided as a “lace curtain.” As many as 173 child thyroid cancer or suspected cancer cases have appeared in the last five years. The incidence rate in Fukushima ranges to around 50 times that of the general population.

The Abe government is forcing evacuees to move back to villages, towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture that remain heavily contaminated. It is doing this by terminating all compensation payments available for evacuees by 2018. This amounts to economic coercion. The Japanese government has achieved a change to radiation exposure standards from 1mSv/y to 20mSv/y. According to the Japanese government’s post-disaster decontamination target, 20mSv/y is now acceptable. This is 20 times the maximum allowed dose for the general public! Moreover, on July 12th, the Abe government will lift an evacuation order for the bulk of Minamisoma City (designated a “zone in preparation for the lifting of the evacuation order”), which has been in place since the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In accordance with Abe’s plan, on the same day JR East Japan will resume rail services between

Haranomachi Station and Odaka Station, which is about 16km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, on the JR Joban Line.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has raised the level of recyclable conta- minated waste to 8,000Bq/kg, 80 times more than the current norm. It also plans to recycle the waste for use in public works, espe- cially construction for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Even more incredibly, Tokyo Metropolitan Government is planning to build a cross-country course, rowing and canoe-kayak waterway and mountain bike course on a landfill called Central Breakwater Disposal Site, which is the most dangerous hot spot. The site has been a constant dumping ground for highly radioactive waste (8,000Bq/kg to 100,000Bq/kg), such as incinerator bottom ash, incinerated sewage sludge ash and clean water sediment.

The previous governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, cooperated with Prime Minister Abe and helped bring the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, but was then forced to resign over a loan scandal. Inose’s successor, Yoichi Masuzoe, easily won the position with the full support of Abe, but has also now resigned due to yet another financial scandal. The Olympics are intrinsically linked to the interests of only a handful of large capitals and their governments. In order to secure their own survival, they put money first, rather than valuing the lives of ordinary people.

On June 24th, the Abe administration and Shikoku Electric Power Co. trampled on the protesting municipal workers and local residents, and started loading MOX fuel into the No. 3 reactor at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture. Since April
14th and the Kumamoto Earthquake, tremors have continued to affect wide parts of Kyushu. This indicates that the Median Tectonic Line, the largest belt of faults running from central Honshu to Kyushu, has now finally started to move. In spite of a disaster as large as the Kumamoto Earthquake, the Abe administration and Kyushu Electric Power Co. still refuse to shut down Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, the only nuclear power plant operating in the country. And furthermore, they insist on reopening Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in July, which is located on the Median Tectonic Line.

“We care only about today, regardless of what may happen tomorrow.” This is the reality of Japanese imperialism and the Abe administration, which is desperate to survive in the worldwide economic depression.

  • Crush the Abe administration that is rushing to reopen Japan’s nuclear power plants!
  • Follow the example of Doro-Mito and refuse to work in conditions exposed to radiation!
  • Stop radiation-contaminated soil from being used for constructing Olympics-related facilities!

Download a PDF Of this release.

Capital Blight News #111

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 5, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Capital Blight News #110

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 29, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

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