RSS Feed

Notes from the US

Economics

What some even inside the United States are seeing as a global movement was first manifested in New York from mid September as ‘Occupy Wall Street’. Within a few days, similar protests (at the greed and corruption of the 1% at the expense of the 99%) took place in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Knoxville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other north American cities. The website Occupy Together, the effective clearing house for the movement, at press time claimed parallel actions in 1,324 cities.

The State and its élite obviously took it seriously – after a week or so of ignoring, then attempts at ridicule. Increasingly large numbers of people have been arrested and abused. On October 1st (when the disproportionately high number of more than 700 demonstrators was arrested) and 5th police tactics were particularly appalling. These included mass beating, confiscation of equipment, deception about routes for marches, taunting and other forms of violence. Videos posted online show police pepper-spraying groups of young women, for example, while they were surrounded by a police netting.

Despite the mass arrests, the camp continues… the views of one protester, ‘Jason’: “People are realising that we are all one and that is our governments that work against us to keep everyone down. That’s how the one percent gets away with it, is by dividing us up and people not realising that we are all one and that’s what this movement is about.”

At the same time increasing numbers of trade unions are officially supporting the movement – the SEIU 1199 healthcare workers and Transport Workers Union members in New York City (attorneys for whom attempted to obtain a temporary federal restraining order to prevent the police from commandeering buses operated by its members to ferry protesters who had been arrested) are just two.

Tony Murphy, of Bail Out the People Movement said: “We’re here to say that the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg has to keep their hands off ‘Occupy Wall Street’… If they want to arrest somebody, they should go down to Wall Street, down to the Stock Exchange and arrest the people who are busy clearing out elderly people from their homes, hurting people’s pensions. These are the people who are really hurting people and should be arrested.”

In a related but separate development, on 8 October an agent provocateur, Patrick Howley, Assistant Editor of the right wing ‘American Spectator’ publication, admitted to deliberately infiltrating a group of activists in order to discredit their movement by running through the lobby of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, provoking guards to use their pepper spray and make arrests. The protest was at a display in the museum of the drone weapons of mass destruction used by US terrorists.

  • Poverty

At the same time as the Occupy movement (which is organised along horizontal and non-partisan lines) was gaining momentum, major reports were published revealing just how stark is the (economic) inequality around which the 99%-1% split the occupiers are organising. According to US Census Bureau data, yet more Americans fell below the poverty line in 2010. The nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1% last year, from 14.3% in 2009 – its highest level since 1993. 2010 also marked the third year in a row in which the rate has increased. Now some 46.2 million people are considered to be in need. What’s more, real median household income last year was US$50,000 (£32,000), a 2.3% decline. The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire also revealed that the number of children living in poverty in the United States has climbed to 15.7 million, an increase of 2.6 million since the beginning of the recession in 2007. Nearly one in four children under the age of six now lives in poverty. The largest such group is Latino – some 6.1 million Latino children are poor (35%), compared with 5 million white children and 4.4 million black children.

Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate remains 9.1%. Over 14 million people are unemployed; another 8.8 million are working part-time, but seeking full-time work. The unemployment rate for African-American men jumped by one percentage point in August to 18%. That for African-American teenagers rose all of 7.3% to 46.5%.

  • Environment

The Government Accountability Office published a report in September advising that the US government has lost nearly three tons of nuclear material that it had shipped overseas. Almost 6,000 pounds of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium cannot now be traced. This is enough to make dozens of nuclear weapons. Then, the National Weather Service reported that Texas experienced the hottest summer in US history this year. Its average of 86.8 degrees from June to August beat Oklahoma’s record of 85.2 set in 1934. That state averaged 86.5 degrees itself this year. The heat has produced the severest drought in Texas since the 1950s and the single driest year since 1895 resulting in an estimated US$5.2 (£3.4) billion in damage from crop losses and massive wildfires.

  • Racism

Also in the South, a federal judge in September upheld key portions of Alabama’s racist ‘immigration law’. Chief US District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn backed provisions that would require police to arrest anyone they suspect of being in the country without legal status; prevent courts from enforcing contracts involving undocumented immigrants; and allow state schools to determine the immigration status of enrolled pupils. Small wonder that in Alabama many Latino pupils have actually stopped attending classes since the ruling. At the end of September, for example, almost 2,000 Latino students (about 5%) were absent. Similarly, immigrant rights advocates report many pregnant women are now afraid to go to hospital and victims of crimes won’t call for help.

The ‘Culture of Cruelty’ study from the Arizona humanitarian group, No More Deaths, cites 30,000 cases of human rights abuses in short-term immigration detention between 2008 and 2011… border agents denying food and water to detainees, deliberately separating families, and forcing immigrants to sign removal orders. The report concluded that these abuses meet the international definition of torture.

If you can’t torture them, just kill them: newly released documents show the FBI keeps people on its ‘terrorism watch list’ even if/when they are cleared of terrorism-related crimes. The FBI’s database includes over 400,000 names. Indeed, Wired Magazine reported recently that it had uncovered FBI training materials asserting that “‘mainstream’ US Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathisers, Islamic charity amounts to a ‘funding mechanism for combat’ and that the Prophet Mohammed was a ‘cult leader’”. A graph presented to FBI agents suggests that the more ‘devout’ a Muslim, the higher the likelihood for him or her to be ‘violent’.

It’s easy if you have power: the Obama administration, it’s been revealed, keeps a ‘kill list’ of US citizens who are ‘authorised’ for killing or capture abroad. According to Reuters, a secret panel of government officials decides who can be slain or captured; it then informs the president of its decision. It was this panel (an offshoot of the White House’s National Security Council) which was behind the decision to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in a CIA drone attack in Yemen last month without trial or even formal case against him.

Death and cruelty are popular, too: in a recent Republican presidential debate. The CNN’s moderator asked the candidates whether someone who chose to have no medical insurance but contracted a serious illness should be left to die. Gratuitous cheers of “Yeah!” filled the hall. Similarly, Governor Rick Perry was asked about his repeated use of the death penalty in Texas; before he could answer, the audience erupted into sustained applause.

And at government level: WikiLeaks cables show US officials vigorously defended the use of cluster bombs around the world despite the fact that 62 countries have signed an international treaty banning their use, development, and production. In the same vein, the Obama administration has now announced plans to sell US$53 (£34) million worth of military equipment to Bahrain just months after the Gulf state brutally cracked down on Shi’ite protesters. Obama is also building a ring of drone sites from which to target alleged ‘militants’ in Somalia and Yemen. And Libya: Human Rights Watch last month published hundreds of documents indicating collusion between Ghaddafi and the extraordinary rendition program carried out by the CIA and the MI6 in Britain after the 9/11 attacks.

Ever playing the victim, Leon Panetta, US ‘Defense’ Secretary, announced on the ten year commemoration of 9/11 (no such for the war on Afghanistan a month later): “To this day… we pledge to never forget the enemy that made this happen, why we fight them, and why we will never stop fighting them.”

The biter appears to have been bitten: in the first week of October it appeared as though US drone computer systems have been infected by a virus. In the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones every keystroke of the terrorists flying them over Afghanistan and other war zones is being logged.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US government has obtained a secret court order forcing Google and the Internet Service Provider, Sonic.net, to hand over information in the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum and disclose every address of those he corresponded with since 2009. Appelbaum has been charged with no crime.

Louis Further

References:
Bail Out the People Movement: http://bailoutpeople.org/
Carsey Institute: www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/
Human Rights Watch: www.hrw.org/
No More Deaths: www.nomoredeaths.org/
Occupy Together: www.occupytogether.org/

like this article


This article originally appeared in the November edition of Freedom newspaper see here
Freedom newspaper can be purchased directly from our shop or available at any good radical bookshop/social centre.

Freedom Bookshop
Angel Alley
84b Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
Alternatively take out a yearly subscription and have the paper delivered to you.

Freedom newspaper:

Share