The Environmental Collapse Reaches American Shores

Are we witnessing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina unfold once more? The similarities are uncanny. From the apish and irresponsible behavior of the United States leadership to the poor, mostly non-white demographic of those affected. It is clear that the ultra-wealthy elites of the world are happy to hide in their mansions while the working class is left to die.

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Everywhere you look it seems the pillars of modern civilization are collapsing. Climate change is causing mass chaos the world round. The same rising temperatures that instigated the recent record-breaking droughts in places like Syria, California, South Africa and Brazil have now begun to manifest themselves in the worst Hurricane season in recent memory.

Hurricane Harvey is the wettest Tropical Storm to hit the United States in history. Leaving behind up to $200 Billion dollars in damages, it is clear that some regions of Texas will simply never recover. Hurricane Irma, one of the largest and most powerful storms ever recorded left a path of destruction through the entire Caribbean before making landfall in Florida.

While the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean were still recovering from these mega storms, Hurricane Maria has left in its wake a completely destroyed Puerto Rico. The entire island remains without power more than a week after the hurricane made landfall. The estimated economic destruction will set the US colony back 26 years.
To put it in perspective, the Great Recession of 2007-09 decreased the per capita GDP of the United States by 9 percent. Maria will decrease the per capita GDP of Puerto Rico by 21 percent— a cumulative $180 billion in lost economic output.

Millions of people remain without food and water. In some areas, morgues are literally overflowing with dead bodies. The lack of electricity means that the elderly and others who depend on modern medical technology, are dying en masse.

As President Trump flounders, lashing out at mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz on twitter, the death toll is expected to sky rocket into the hundreds.

“If we don’t solve the logistics, we are going to see something close to a genocide,” she said at a press conference.

“We are dying here. I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics … for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles,”

“So Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”

“This is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water,” Trump said, excusing his administration’s inaction in an attempt to save face while Americans die. The ‘big water’ never seemed an obstacle when Trump threatened genocide against the people of Korea, more than 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. So why is it an obstacle when our people are dying in our own backyard?

Are we witnessing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina unfold once more? The similarities are uncanny. From the apish and irresponsible behavior of the United States leadership to the poor, mostly non-white demographic of those affected. It is clear that the ultra-wealthy elites of the world are happy to hide in their mansions while the working class is left to die. The responsibility of climate change and global warming can be completely levied to just a handful of mega corporations, yet it is the most oppressed and poor people of the global south that are faced with the most dire consequences of the Anthropocene. For how long will people allow capitalism to destroy the environment, poison our atmosphere and destroy the homes and lives of the working people of the world? For how long will the top 1 percent escape justice for their crimes against humanity?

New Slaves: Mass Incarceration in the United States of America

By: Eugene Dabsfreedom

There is a disturbing problem in the United States criminal justice system. International human rights laws dictate that the aim of all penal systems should be that of rehabilitation, yet the number of people in prison in the United States has quadrupled since 1980. Despite making up only 5% of the global population, the USA incarcerates almost 25% of the world’s prison population. The skyrocketing rates at which we imprison our citizens cannot be separated from the problem’s roots in slavery and racial discrimination if we are to create a truly just legal system for the future.

As of 2013, more Than 2 million people are imprisoned in the United States. If you broaden the definition of correctional supervision to include those on probation and house arrest the figure balloons to nearly 7 million.  Even at the height of Stalin’s reign, official Soviet archives indicate that there was only 1.6 million people in the Gulags, a per capita rate only slightly higher than our own. (History of Stalin’s Gulag)

The root of our modern criminal justice system is in slavery. Despite outlawing slavery, the 13th amendment makes an exception for use as penal punishment. This lead to harsh racial discrimination throughout reconstruction and the Jim Crowe era that kept black Americans second class citizens all the way up until the civil rights movement.  Miraculously, the mass movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and others gave all US citizens full equality in the eyes of the law, no matter their religion, ethnicity or beliefs. Sadly, I fear that if Dr King had lived to see what was to come at the end of the 20th century, he would be quite disappointed that his dream had not been actualized. Beginning as early as 1968, aides in the Nixon administration have testified that the war on drugs was devised specifically as a way of neutralizing the threat of “blacks and hippies” that the government perceived in the Leftist Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam war movements.

The war on drugs caused the number of people in prison to rise out of control. The harmful effects of marijuana were deliberately exaggerated. Despite being chemically the same drug, powdered cocaine and crack cocaine were given different sentences, with the lesser being given to cocaine, the more expensive and traditionally White person drug.  Throughout the war on drugs, black people have been incarcerated at a rate 10 times higher than whites, despite using drugs at the same rate. (ACLU)

In the Reagan, Bush and Clinton eras, the number of people in prison eventually surpassed 2 million people as the turn of the millennia approached. The Crime bill of 1994 and Clinton’s “3-strikes you’re out” policy meant thousands of completely non-violent drug offenders in the United States have life sentences.

But all is not lost. The problems of mass incarceration are being brought to the forefront for the first time. Marijuana is being fully recreationally legalized in numerous states in a domino effect that is likely to culminate in the nationwide legalization of cannabis, medical or otherwise. After that, it is reasonable to assume that we will follow in the footsteps of more progressive nations that have fully decriminalized, though not fully legalized, all narcotic drugs. The question remains: Will we allow a multi-billion dollar industry to spring up out of seeming thin air, making mostly white people rich, while millions of black Americans are in prison for cultivating the exact same plant? If we are to create a more perfect society, with equality and justice for all, then the answer to this question must be no. In the majority of states, those who have been convicted of a felony lose their right to vote permanently. How can we call ourselves a true democracy when we relegate so much of our population to second-class citizenship in the name of archaic and draconian laws of a bygone era?

Workplace Dynamics in the NBA: A Lesson For Every Fan

By: Slumpito Andreddti

The New Year has finally arrived, the weather has reached its cold wintry nadir and as happens every year, mid-June the National Basketball Association has started to heat up. For millions of NBA fanboys like myself, the six month period which begins with the highly anticipated Christmas Day games between the leading league heavyweights and ends with the NBA finals in mid-June, is the best half of the year. No longer will we have to struggle through the ugly adolescent phase of the season, wincing at each team’s growing pains as the rookies and newly acquired players struggle to find their place in the pecking order. After December 25th, team chemistry will start to form, rivalries will start to boil and bubble and personalities will start clashing. For the NBA fan, this means that there will be a constant source entertainment, be it from LeBron’s latest chase-down block,  Draymond Green’s constant temper tantrums or Swaggy P’s wildly inconsistent play. All of this is a much-needed cushion to rest our heads on after toiling and slogging for crumbs, be it at work or school. While the average viewer is well versed in the nuances of the game, be it Steph Curry’s pure stroke from distance or Kyrie Irving’s immaculate dexterity with the ball, we could learn considerably from the workplace dynamics between the players and the owners.

The labor interests of NBA players are represented by the NBA Players Association, the oldest labor union of the four major sporting leagues in the US and Canada. The NBAPA was formed in 1954 through the initiative of Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, and was officially recognized by the league in 1964 after threatening to go on strike before the first televised All-Star game. Through the efforts of the Players Association, NBA players have earned many workplace victories, such as a minimum salary for all players ($543,471), a solid pension plan, and revenue sharing deal where the players collect 50% of all the money brought in by the league. The revenue sharing clause is actually a downgrade from years past, where players collected 57% of the revenue brought in by the league. This is especially unfair, considering that the league would be worthless without the labor of the players; nobody would want to watch empty arenas with glib rich dudes living out their fantasies (really the only things the owners provide). However, behavior like this is to be expected from the owners; they didn’t get rich by being generous, they did so by leveraging their wealth to add to their already enormous fortunes.

All of the above is a huge contrast to the working conditions of the average NBA viewer or moreover, the average American worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unionization rate in the American workforce stands at 11%, a stark contrast to the 1950’s, where 35% of the workforce was in a union. When Americans who came up during World War 2 and the 1950’s fondly reminisce about the abundance of well-paying jobs, jobs that allowed a single earner (usually the husband ) to provide for the entire family, this was the result of union militancy during the Depression and the early 1940’s. In fact, a study by the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute has shown a link between the decrease in unionization in the American workforce and wage stagnation. This isn’t to say that the 1950’s were perfect; discrimination against African-Americans was legal and socially encouraged throughout much of the country, it was still taboo for women to assert themselves as equals in society, homosexuality and sodomy were still illegal, which forced countless LGBTQ Americans to live in the shadows. However, it is still possible to take the lessons from the past as well as the present and apply them to the future. After years of dormancy, there has been a resurgence of militancy in the US labor movement, be it the Fight for $15 movement led by fast food workers throughout the country, National Nurses United union, which has been active fighting for the working conditions of nurses as well as showing solidarity with other struggles, airport workers in Chicago fighting for better wages and the Chicago Teachers Union, which has been nationally prominent since their strike in 2012. All of this points to a deep human desire to have a dignified existence, to be more than obedient workers subject to the beck and call of the boss, to have a say in how the fruits reaped by their hard work are distributed. There’s a common feeling of hopelessness and despair among those who belong to my generation, commonly known as the Millennial generation. This has to do with lots uncertainty, highlighted by this study that predicts Millennials will be the first generation to earn less than their parents. To combat this hopelessness, our generation will have to buck the cliche “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” spiel that has been force fed to us for countless years and look to NBA players and striking fast food workers for inspiration for being militant in our demands in the workplace.

While negotiating for higher wages and better working conditions could be a good start, the next logical step in removing the hierarchy between bosses and workers would be in removing the bosses altogether and having workplaces managed by those who labor in them. This might sound far-fetched in most cases, with most workers struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives, but the NBA is one organization where this could be possible. The average player makes $2.5 million a year, enough money to cushion them for unemployment compared to the average American. If all players past and present pooled their resources to create a parallel league with the coordination of the NBAPA, there could be a league organized by players and for players, democratically managed and without the dependence on old rich guys living out their fantasies vicariously through their employees. Obviously, something this drastic could not happen easily; there are billions of dollars at stake for NBA owners, network television companies, basketball gear manufacturers, sports drinks manufacturers and so on. Furthermore, with millions of dollars on the line, many players would be tempted to break solidarity and not give up their status for an uncertain future. Yet the fact remains that the NBA is a highly profitable entity solely because of the high-flying athletic brilliance of its players. If the players maintain true solidarity and set up a better league, this could provide inspiration for millions of NBA fans throughout America if not the world to take an active role in demanding how their labor is used.

Originally Published Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Collapse of the Third Way

With Trump now at the head of the executive branch, Democrats are left to pick up the ashes of their party. Democrats managed to lose an unprecedented amount of elections nationwide under Obama, ceding over 900 state legislature seats, 14 senators, 69 House seats, and 9 governorships since 2009. The Democratic Party may go down in history as one of the most inept political parties of our time, repeatedly failing to propose left-wing policies or even form solid political strategies.

Continue reading “The Collapse of the Third Way”