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Imagining a New Social Order: Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin in Conversation

Interview by C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, November 19, 2017

We live in an age of illegitimate neoliberal hegemony and soaring political uncertainty. The evidence is all around: citizen disillusionment over mainstream political parties and the traditional conservative-liberal divide, massive inequality, the rise of the "alt-right," and growing resistance to Trumpism and financial capitalism. 

Yes, the present age is full of contradictions of every type and variety, and this is something that makes the goals and aims of the left for the reordering of society along the lines of a true democratic polity and in accordance with the vision of a socialist reorganization of the economy more challenging than ever before.

In this context, the interview below, with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, which appeared originally in Truthout in three separate parts, seeks to provide theoretical and practical guidance to the most pressing social, economic and political issues facing the United States today. It is part of an effort to help the left reimagine an alternative but realistic social order in an age when the old order is dying but the new has yet to be born.

Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and laureate professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Robert Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. These two thinkers are pathbreakers in the quest to envision a humane and equitable society, and their words can provide a helpful framework as we strive -- within an oppressive system and under a repressive government -- to fathom new ways of living together in the world.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, the rise of Donald Trump has unleashed a rather unprecedented wave of social resistance in the US. Do you think the conditions are ripe for a mass progressive/socialist movement in this country that can begin to reframe the major policy issues affecting the majority of people, and perhaps even challenge and potentially change the fundamental structures of the US political economy?

Noam Chomsky: There is indeed a wave of social resistance, more significant than in the recent past -- though I'd hesitate about calling it "unprecedented." Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the fact that in the domain of policy formation and implementation, the right is ascendant, in fact some of its harshest and most destructive elements [are rising].

It’s Time for Disaster Communism

By Rahula Janowski - The Indypendent, October 13, 2017

The fires here are still uncontained. Over 8,000 people have already lost everything and while I pray that no one else loses their home or is harmed in the fires, that looks unlikely. Where are all these people supposed to go? There is no affordable housing here in the Bay area.

It’s time for some disaster communism, disaster socialism, some disaster anarchism. We know the speculators are drooling and champing at the bit right now. There are so many ways for them to make a profit from a tragedy. If we move forward in an individualist way, in a capitalist way, each family’s loss and struggle will be theirs alone. It will be horrific. It will not end well for anyone except those for whom things always end well, those who can use money to wipe their butts but never have a dime to spare.

What if we took a different route?

What if we expropriated every housing unit in San Francisco that is currently unoccupied for all but two vacation weeks a year and housed people whose homes in from Santa Rosa were incinerated? What if every illegal Airbnb unit was handed over to displaced families? What if law enforcement came under immense public pressure to ignore property laws and refused to evict squatters?

The 600-foot Millennial Tower in San Francisco has made headlines as it slowly sinks and leans by the centimeter against the skyline. The minuscule tilt has sent wealthy condo owners dialing their attorneys. But maybe, for those displaced, life in a leaning tower will be better than a shelter, a chance to experience a little lopsided luxury for a while?  

What if we socialized our housing or, at a minimum, all our unoccupied housing?

The possibilities are endless and it’s time. It’s time to shift gears. I mean, it’s been time. If the bankers, developers, landlords, the capitalists who have done so much harm already can see this crisis as an opportunity, maybe we should too — a chance to build a new world from the ashes of the old.

Time for Disaster Socialism

By Nato Green - San Francisco Examiner, October 15, 2017

The fires are not contained. The bodies haven’t been found. It’s time to talk about politics …

During and in the immediate aftermath of tragedies, we are told it’s not the time for politics. As a nation, we love the spectacle of what author Teju Cole called “the white-savior industrial complex,” in which justice is replaced by a “big emotional experience that validates privilege.” While we take a respite from breathing this week, let’s try justice instead.

On the West Coast, our historically unprecedented drought was followed by historically unprecedented fires. The South and the Caribbean are being ravaged by historically unprecedented hurricanes. It’s either God’s wrath for squandering a perfectly good planet, or our own squandering a perfectly good planet — and it’s becoming uninhabitable.

Try as they might, politicians did not summon fires, storms or earthquakes. However, our craven politics certainly increased the likelihood that these calamities would occur and be horrendous. Politics ensured the inadequacy of the disaster response and, we may confidently anticipate, utter neglect of the effort necessary to rebuild and restore people and lands so traumatized or to mitigate further disasters.

Scientists told us this was coming, and we didn’t listen, because driving was too fun and the beef too delicious. We know what happens next. It’s what Naomi Klein called “disaster capitalism.” Corporations made fortunes ignoring the risks and now will make another fortune on the back end. Capitalism is a protection racket. While we heal and grieve, savvy businessmen seek to use our collective anguish to further privatize and profit and deregulate in the name of recovery. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, the Louisiana legislature handed the public school system to the charter school industry, with predictably wretched results for students.

The market can’t be allowed to lead the response to the fires, because the market is the problem. We knew that impending climate change meant these related cataclysms. Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t want to ban oil drilling or fracking. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that half of the increase in forest fires is from climate change. Yet, just last year, Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, a bipartisan bill to improve inspection of power lines and address higher risk of wildfires because of neglected power lines next to dead trees. Reports have suggested that PG&E power lines were the probable spark of the fires, which spread so ferociously because California is getting hotter and drier.

Fixing, regulating and preventing are a known and ongoing cost, whereas betting against worst-case scenarios is lucrative business for a quarterly return.

In Santa Rosa, more than 2,800 homes have been destroyed in a region with insufficient affordable housing; the city was trying to figure out how to build another 5,000 units. In one rental listing in Santa Rosa, the landlord hiked the rent more than 30 percent immediately after the fire started. Left to its own devices, will the market build the housing needed by the people affected? Or will it build for rich future residents and let those who lost everything fend for themselves?

We need a People’s Fire Recovery Plan, a “disaster socialism” to answer disaster capitalism. The people and land affected by the fires need to get whatever help they need, regardless of cost. The crisis is an occasion to demand what we needed last week — aggressive regulatory oversight to protect public health and safety, adequate funding of public services for first, second and third responders, physical and mental health care. Burning down a lot of real estate means there’s plenty of space to rebuild affordable housing and public transit. We need urban planning that prepares for more ecological adversity.

The old Industrial Workers of the World union song “Solidarity Forever” had a fitting lyric: “We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.” In 2017 California, we are learning the hard way that the Wobblies meant literal ashes. Get ready for the birthing.

Left And Right Have Nothing In Common On NAFTA

By Stephanie Basile - Popular Resistance, October 11, 2017

Contrary to popular belief.

Washington, DC – Today, the fourth round of renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are taking place in Washington, DC. Protests are planned at multiple locations around DC, including a petition delivery of over 360,000 signatures to Congress demanding the elimination of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). United under the threat from continually expanding corporate power, the fight against NAFTA has brought together a cross-section of social movements, including unions, community groups, land reform movements, environmentalists, food safety groups, and internet rights organizations.

NAFTA, in effect since 1994, is an agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico. There has been much written about the original deal that need not be repeated here, but suffice it to say that local economies have been eviscerated under a deal that expands the rights of corporate profits at the expense of working people in all three countries. Renegotiations of NAFTA began this past August, with each session rotating to take place in each of the three member countries.

Today’s negotiations are largely focused on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows corporations to sue local governments in secret tribunals. What this translates to is taxpayers literally paying corporations for any unrealized profits due to such basic protections as clean water ordinances or other common sense legislation. Over the years, lawsuits brought by corporations against governments have forced taxpayers to pay billions of dollars to these corporations.

While most of these cases have been settled with little public scrutiny, the ISDS has had some notable moments in the spotlight, such as when UPS sued Canada for $156 million due to unfair competition from the Canadian Post Office, or John Oliver’s memorable 2015 segment critiquing the absurdity of the ISDS system.

President Trump’s presidential campaign made much fanfare over his opposition to free trade, and the media largely accepted the premise that his opposition to free trade would logically result in more jobs and better working conditions for US workers. Furthermore, the reporting on free trade often conflated Trump’s position with the leftist position, saying that they are both “anti-globalization.”

Clearly, the language used to discuss trade poorly captures its reality. The terms “free trade” and “globalization” conjure up ideas of multiculturalism and unity across borders. However, those ideas are not reflected in the actual policies that have been pursued by both major political parties over the last 30 years. Innocuous terms like “free trade” and “globalization” have become synonymous with global capitalism, a capitalism that is supported by international structures that work to greatly expand corporate power while limiting the rights of workers, consumers, and residents who are most affected by those very policies.

The debate is often framed as US corporations and US workers vs foreign corporations and foreign workers, giving the idea that a worker somehow has more in common with a corporation of their home country than with a fellow worker of another country. This allows Trump to favor corporations and pretend as though he’s favoring workers. The media seems to mostly accept this framework in its coverage of trade deals. The media also conflates global capitalism with openness and tolerance, as if the arrival of Coca-Cola in your country obviously leads to democracy.

Instead, the leftist position sees workers around the world, both in the US and abroad, sharing the same interests with each other, and being in opposition to corporate interests, whether that corporation is in the US or abroad. The dominant narrative that the far right and far left share similar positions on trade is wrong and it sorely misses the substance of the left’s critique. At its core, a leftist approach to the trade debate centers working and marginalized people in its analysis, regardless of what country they live in. The right’s pursuit to push US corporate interests at the expense of workers and the environment is in direct contrast to the left’s goals, of which protecting workers’ rights and the environment are fundamental.

Leftists understand the limitations of adopting the typical “Buy American” theme, including strategic errors both in its failure to address the problem of declining wages and working conditions, and in its more insidious implications in fueling xenophobia. If working standards are declining all over the world, products could be made in the US and still be made under sub-par working conditions. Leftists support organizing and pushing standards up for workers all over the world, as a means to improve conditions everywhere, including the US. As for what Trump wants for workers, when he announced plans to renegotiate NAFTA during his “Made in America” week this past July, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen went on Democracy Now to point out that what little we know of the re-negotiations is so vague as to be impossible to tell what it would actually mean for workers and the environment.

The leftist analysis sees that those with power at the top are breaking down borders for the purpose of more aggressively exploiting the people, land, and resources around the world, not for any interest in lofty multicultural goals. Money, goods, and intellectual property flow freely across borders, while the people at the whim of such corporate power face increasing restrictions in their movement, facing resistance in the form of both restrictive laws and the rise in xenophobic violence.

Leftists seek to go to the roots of the problem by critiquing the political and economic structures that work to further enrich a tiny ruling elite at the expense of everyone else. A leftist approach that prioritizes people at the grassroots level requires building an international working-class movement in which working and oppressed people across all countries challenge corporate power everywhere.

The Corporate Assault on Science

By Murray Dobbin - CounterPunch, October 6, 2017

The fact that science is the foundation for civilization and democracy should be self-evident. Regrettably that connection seems often to escape our collective consciousness. We tend to think of science narrowly as restricted to hi-tech, laboratories and the development of electric cars or travel to Mars. But everything we do collectively from Medicare to fighting climate change to designing social programs, building infrastructure and tax policy we take for granted is rooted in evidence, that is, science.

The advent of right-wing populist hostility towards evidence and now extended by so-called alternate facts, threatens to take us down the dystopian road of the irrational. The spread of this trend in the US – highlighted by the election of Trump as president and the inability of US culture to cope with gun violence – is as much a threat to the future of the human race as is climate change.

The trend started in earnest in the 1990’s and it took a long time for scientists themselves to step up and defend their ground. An unprecedented and overt attack on public science by Stephen Harper forced the traditionally a-political science community to take a public stand for evidence-based policy. In the summer of 2012 hundreds of demonstrators marched from an Ottawa science conference to Parliament Hill under the banner the ‘Death of Evidence’.   Many were working scientists wearing their lab coats. Last April there was the world-wide Global March for Science in 600 cities coinciding with Earth Day.

The fight back for science and by scientists is one of the bright spots in the resistance against the rise of irrationalism. But there is another dark corner that has not had as much light shone on it and that is the pernicious corruption of science and scientists.

A recent book gives us a major resource for understanding and exposing the sinister trade in lies and obfuscation that results in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths every year. Corporate Ties that Bind: An Examination of Corporate Manipulation and Vested Interests in Public Health is a 450 page, 24 chapter compendium by an   international group of scientists about how corporations routinely set out to undermine public interest science – and how they have found hundreds of scientists eager to do their bidding.

Those who consider themselves informed citizens know of course that science is often corrupted with the tobacco industry being the poster child for deadly science fraud. But even the most disillusioned will have their breath taken away by the accounts in this book. One of the most compelling chapters is authored by Canadian Kathleen Ruff (a friend) who led the successful fight against asbestos in Canada.

Ruff documents how the strategy of the tobacco industry was adopted by virtually every other dirty industry eager to hide their toxic products. The advice received by the industry from the infamous Hill and Knowlton was “…not to challenge scientific evidence but instead to seize and control it. …declare the value of scientific skepticism…creating an appearance of scientific controversy.” It was a brilliant strategy and is still being used today.

Appetite for Destruction: Trump’s War on the Environment

By Joshua Frank - CounterPunch, October 6, 2017

From the senseless slaughter in Las Vegas to the horrific impacts of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, to Trump’s boisterous threats against North Korea and unfolding strife within the White House — it’s easy to get lost in the world’s madness and the nefarious mind of Prez Trump. It’s a dangerous vortex, no doubt, but Trump’s twitter storm and paper towel tossing photo ops are little more than a distraction from his administration’s unfettered assault on the environment.

This past week, Team Trump quietly denied protection for 25 species that are on the verge of extinction, including the Pacific walrus and black-backed woodpecker. The reason, of course, is that science doesn’t mean jack shit to the corporate barons ruling our government.

“Denying protection for these 25 species despite the imminent threat of climate change and ongoing habitat destruction is typical of the Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

This is only Trump’s latest violation of our country’s endangered species. In June, Trump stripped protections for Yellowstone’s imperiled grizzly bear.

Under the noses of the environmental community, as Steve Horn and I recently reported, the Trump admin is also moving forward with new regulations that would allow certain liquid natural gas (LNG) exports in the US to skirt environmental reviews, a literal wet dream of America’s fracking empire. In many cases, Trump’s war on the environment and appetite for fossil fuels is shared by the so-called opposition in the Washington. The push for expediting LNG exports, for example, is largely spearheaded by former Clinton campaign employees.

Then there’s Trump’s overt destruction of the EPA, typically the last stopgap against environmental plunder. Indeed, Trump’s defanging the EPA is one campaign promise he’s managed to uphold. The EPA employs a mere 14,000 people, but Trump is doing his best to shrink that number substantially. Not only is there a current hiring freeze in place, it was reported last June that the EPA was planning to offer buyouts to more than 1,200 employees. Buyout is short for forced retirement. In September a wave of these forced retirements swept the EPA and at least 362 employees accepted Trump’s buyout last month.  The EPA hasn’t been this small and impotent since the Reagan era.

It’s all by design. Trump, with help from Congress, is hoping to slash the agency’s budget by 31% next year. EPA administrator Scott Pruit, who infamously denied the existence of climate change, is carrying out Trump’s mission to scrub all science from the EPA’s toolbox. But what’s better than banning science research at the agency? How about getting rid of the EPA altogether, one employee at a time. Sadly, Trump is carrying on with a trend President Obama set into motion. During his second term, the Obama admin paid more than $11 million to buyout 436 EPA employees. Shrinking the government is a bipartisan affair.

However, if Trump and Pruitt have their way, they’ll take Obama’s move a step further and scrap Superfund cleanup funds along with eliminating 50 other EPA programs. Also on the chopping block is the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which works to protect our most environmentally impacted poor, minority communities.

Of course, we also have Trump signing an executive order to expand offshore drilling, wanting to back out of the Paris climate deal, as well as a push to open up oil exploration in ANWAR. He also hopes to scrap Obama’s climate regulations. And Trump, along with Secretary of the Interior Zinke, are working to reduce the size of nearly half of our National Monuments. To top it off they are also seeking to open these wild lands to oil and gas development. Nothing is sacred.

No doubt President Trump is a daily, almost hourly, train wreck — but his antics are coming at a very real cost to the environment and those species and people most impacted by its destruction.

Dirty Energy Dominance: Dependent on Denial

By Janet Redman, et. al. - Oil Change International, October 2017

A new report by Oil Change International reveals that U.S. taxpayers continue to foot the bill for more than $20 billion in fossil fuel subsidies each year. The analysis outlines tax incentives, credits, low royalty rates, and other government measures benefiting the oil, gas, and coal sectors.

While the majority of Americans want stronger U.S. action on climate change, policies at the state and federal level continue to underwrite the ongoing exploration and production of fossil fuels. Every dollar spent subsidizing this industry takes us further away from achieving internationally agreed emissions goals, and maintaining a stable climate.

Key findings include:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies have been defended by a Congress influenced by $350 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures by the fossil fuel industry – which equates to a 8,200% return on investment.
  • The cost of annual federal fossil fuel production subsidies is equivalent to the projected 2018 budget cuts from Trump’s proposals to slash 10 public programs and services that benefit some of the nation’s most vulnerable children and families.
  • Government giveaways in the form of permanent tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry – one of which is over a century old – are seven times larger than those to the renewable energy sector.

The report recommends that climate champions in Congress, statehouses, and governors’ residences concerned about using taxpayer dollars wisely can push back on Trump’s fossil fuel agenda by taking the following actions:

  • Immediately repeal existing tax breaks for fossil fuel exploration and production, and halt efforts to extend and expand tax credits for unconventional fossil fuel production technologies, like carbon capture and storage and enhanced oil recovery.
  • Champion broader legislation that ends investment in fossil fuel expansion, and funds a just transition for industry-dependent workers and communities, while supporting a clean, renewable energy economy.
  • Break the cycle of dirty energy money, particularly by elected officials at all levels of government pledging to refuse campaign donations and other forms of support from the oil, gas, and coal industries.

Download PDF Here.

What caused the Eagle Creek fire?

By Hanna Eid, Samantha Clarke and Ben Riley - Socialist Worker, September 12, 2017

AS A fire raged through Oregon's Eagle Creek last week and workers struggled to save people stranded in the popular hiking destination, the media were busy placing blame on anyone they could--including a 15-year-old boy--rather than the conditions that laid the basis for the devastation.

On Saturday, September 2, the Eagle Creek fire was reported in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, about 45 miles from Portland, Oregon. By the next morning, the fire had grown to over 3,000 acres and began to move west through the gorge toward the 2.3 million-person Portland metropolitan area.

Over the next three days, temperatures soared into the mid-90s, and winds began to gust, fanning the flames of the once-tame blaze into a 31,000-acre force of nature, capable of threatening the massive population in its path.

The effects from the fire began to be felt by Portland residents on Monday, as smoke filled the air and ash began to rain from the sky. "It's so hard to breathe" became a common sentiment of frustration from people all over the city. Many compared the thick layer of ash coating everything in sight to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, which spread ash all the way around the globe.

On Tuesday, as the air quality worsened--reaching peaks deemed "very unhealthy" by the afternoon--and the fire drew closer, the city posted evacuation notices for many residents in Portland's eastern suburbs, and set up emergency shelters for displaced residents.

The fire joins others sweeping across Oregon, as well as Montana, California and Idaho, in one of the hottest, driest summers on record. The five hottest summers in Oregon history have all been within the last 13 years, causing the easy and rapid spread of forest fires, whether from human or natural causes.

The annual budget for fire suppression hit $1 billion for the first time in 2000, and only 15 years later hit $2 billion in 2015. The fires have continued to grow bigger and more frequent, even as we spend more money to suppress them.

Yet when both liberal and conservative media outlets chimed in about the Eagle Creek fire, their narrative was focused on retribution and personal accountability. An especially grotesque account from CNN villainized teenagers who were accused of using fireworks that ignited the fire.

But blaming kids for a fire of this magnitude is a misdirection of what is otherwise rightful frustration and anger with unsafe conditions, poor air quality and the destruction of both public and private land.

To prevent devastation like this in the future, we need to address the real causes of this massive fire as well as the others: climate change, the logging industry and the root of both--capitalism.

Report Back from Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

By Redneck Revolt - It's Going Down, September 12, 2017

Houston’s political economy and geography needs to be understood if we are to understand the social impact of Hurricane Harvey. Houston is a “boomtown”, leading in petrochemical, technology, medicine and shipping; in the abstract, certain economic trends such as recession have sometimes not affected Houston as greatly, multinational capital continues to pour into the city, while it’s being pulled out of older Midwestern states, all as a part of a slow but very noticeable process. However, this doesn’t prevent Houston’s prosperity from being concentrated in one class; with some of the cheapest housing and lowest wages, calls for Houston to be emptied as “uninhabitable” leaves locals wondering where else even those who are making decent wages could afford to go. In a lot of places, the water has nowhere to go, and neither does the poverty.

Houston is also a city with a long history of white supremacy since its inception. It is one of America’s most segregated cities. There are well over a hundred languages spoken in Houston homes. Houston is the home to the first private prison, meant to house immigrant detainees, a model which replicated across Texas, the nation, and whole prison industry. It is a vast, sprawling metropolis (the area size as cities twice its population size) and is a driving city with poor public transportation, which despite expansions in recent years, routinely fails the black and brown poor that use them the most. This means that in these neighborhoods, the poorest grow up sometimes never leaving their neighborhood, maybe sometimes for work if they are lucky, or jail if they are not. These are often “food deserts” in these areas, and also as a city known for it’s great “job creation” track record, these jobs don’t reach out to these places.

We were all safe as the storm passed, and although there were scares and close calls, the storm managed to mostly spare the local from impact. We were in constant contact as the storm came, making sure each other were safe. We had decided as a local upon our recent founding that we would be growing BASH (Bayou Action Street Health, a local street medic collective) alongside Houston Redneck Revolt as somewhat of a sister organization, therefore working through BASH made a lot of sense for us. We are a little over a month old, however we have quickly grown on each other. We knew we could count on being able to support BASH, while we figured out what role Redneck Revolt would be able to play in this.

We began our efforts before Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi. Before we were able to leave our houses, we had begun gathering contacts from inside and outside of town, and consolidating local efforts between groups on social media. Members of Redneck Revolt made a Facebook group that is sympathetic to our politics and contained most of Houston’s heavy lifters in terms of organizers, and that continues to be pretty effective as a center for information with quality control. We tried our best to network rescue efforts early on as well, sometimes with people we did not know, in order to circulate information, as all emergency lines were busy. Some also began doing very careful navigation of the streets in order to try to provide care on the ground in places that had not experienced flooding but might have some people walking around. Overall, Houston Redneck Revolt did not participate directly in a rescue experience, however we did our best to support others in this.

As relief volunteers began coming in from out of town in the middle of the week, we immediately got into food and supply distribution as well as housing members of other organizations. Members of Redneck Revolt from outside the city in outlying rural areas came into town, and committed to staying for a long period. We attended conference calls and had to have a lot of conversations very quickly on political questions, and which alliances we would build. We jumped right into prepping hot meals for hundreds of people, and directed supplies to shelters that were being neglected by the cross and tried to stay as knowledgeable as possible. Groups we did this alongside of, and with the help of, were Black Women’s Defense League, Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, Red Guards Austin, Revolutionary Association of Houston, and the Serve the Peoplenetwork, and several others.

Special Report: How Decentralized Mutual Aid Networks Are Helping Houston Recover from Harvey

By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzáles - Democracy Now, September 12, 2017

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show in Houston, Texas, two weeks after Hurricane Harvey caused historic flooding and left residents to coordinate with each other to rescue thousands of people who were left stranded when officials were overwhelmed. Now that volunteer spirit of mutual aid has continued in the storm’s aftermath.

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz joins us now with a report from her home town of Houston on how—some of the many Houstonians who formed decentralized networks to clean out flooded homes, feed thousands who lost everything, and offer much-needed counseling.

Welcome back, Renée. Why don’t you set up this piece for us?

RENÉE FELTZ: Thanks, Amy. It’s great to be back in New York. Like many people who live in Houston, in the Gulf Coast, I feel like I’m going through a bit of PTSD. I did have a good time. It was good to see people down there. But it’s a long-term recovery situation. And part of what I was happy to see and excited about was the fact that people that helped each other, neighbor to neighbor, are now helping each other in the long-term relief. And so, we spoke with a woman named Mary McGaha, and she’s going to introduce us, in this video, to her home that was destroyed. And then we’ll meet some of the volunteers that are helping to clean it out. We’ll also meet people helping to serve meals and to do counseling.

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