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(en) Britain, Freedom* #7215 - Notes from the US by Louis Further

Date Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:51:51 +0300


Environment ---- In Montana in early July, an oil pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil ruptured beneath the famous Yellowstone River leaking as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil. Although the company originally claimed that the spill affected only 10 miles of the river, a distance of 150 miles was soon revealed as accurate. ---- In May officials had expressed concern that the integrity of the line could be at risk as the Yellowstone River started to rise; as a result it was temporarily shut down in May. A year ago the Department of Transportation also notified Exxon Mobil of seven potential safety violations and other faults. ---- In mid July over a hundred environmental activists held a lively protest (five people were arrested) in the office of Montana governor Brian Schweitzer against several polluting projects across the state. In particular Schweitzer was pressed to stop the building of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline and of Exxon Mobil’s megaload shipments to the Alberta Tar Sands.

At about the same time, another oil company, BP, was pressing the federal government to put an end to its process of compensating those affected by last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The reason? To date, less than a quarter of the US$20 (£12.6) billion fund has been disbursed; so it must not be needed.

Labour

Public trade unions in Wisconsin filed a new lawsuit in early July against Republican governor, Scott Walker’s, anti-collective bargaining law. Two chapters of the AFL-CIO in Madison allege that the law is unconstitutional because it leaves public employees such as police and firefighters out. In so doing it violates their rights to equal protection. At the same time opponents of the law point out that public workers could lose their jobs to prisoners from the state because of the threatened changes to collective bargaining practices. Prisoners have previously been used for certain projects; now there is greater flexibility in assigning them to jobs which were previously reserved for unionised employees.

A study of executive pay in July in the United States has found the median pay for CEOs at the 200 large US companies in 2010 averaged US$10.8 (£6.8) million, an increase of 23% from 2009. While CEOs earned an average of US$207,690 (£130,453) per WEEK last year, the typical American worker took home just US$725 (£455) per week at the end of 2010, a slight increase from a year earlier. The Chief Executive Officer of Viacom, Philippe Dauman, was the highest paid CEO making US$84.5 (£53) million last year.

Meanwhile the official unemployment rate in the US has risen to 9.2% in June with that for African Americans getting on for double, at 16.2%. In the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the unemployment rate for black males is now 34%.

Media

The rabid, poorly-informed, destructive, racist, darling of the right, Glenn Beck, is off the air. Beck hosted his final TV show on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox ‘News’ in early July. He now plans to launch his own ‘internet broadcast’. An advertising boycott was launched after one typical Beck pronouncement, “The President, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

In a positive step to combat prejudice the governor of California, Jerry Brown, signed into law in mid July a measure mandating the inclusion of materials highlighting the achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the state’s social science education.

Others fighting racism include 15,000 people who gathered recently in Georgia to protest a new immigration law there. In common with other such laws throughout the country, it aims to crack down on undocumented immigrants by legalising 15-year prison sentences and US$250,000 (£157,000) fines for individuals who use false identification to secure a job.

You can get away with it, though: although the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced that the Justice Department will launch a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two prisoners killed in CIA custody, including one who died at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, no criminal probes will occur in 99 other cases of alleged torture, abuse and murder reviewed by federal prosecutors.

If it’s not the CIA, it’s the FBI: one of Ernest Hemingway’s closest friends revealed earlier this month that he now believes that the writer may after all have been driven to commit suicide 50 years ago because he was under intense FBI surveillance. In the New York Times, A.E. Hotchner wrote that the FBI’s surveillance of Hemingway, “…substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.” Hemingway had told Hotchner in 1960 that federal agents were following him, had bugged his phone and intercepted his post. His friend dismissed these allegations at the time. Now, after reading once-secret FBI documents, Hotchner believes Hemingway was right and was indeed singled out because of his links to Cuba and efforts to establish an anti-fascist spy network… the Crook Factory.

Guns

Indicative of a common thought pattern in the United States is the lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in opposition to new rules which limit the sale of semi-automatic rifles near the Mexican Border: over 70% of weapons recovered in Mexico since the upsurge of drug-related violence in the country five years ago were sold from and by (dealers in) the United States resulting in the deaths of 40,000 people throughout that period. The rationale of the NRA and its supporters is that freedom is threatened if anyone attempts to prevent such trade. And that if you keep your nose clean, you’ll come to no harm – so it won’t matter anyway. And of course that if we don’t sell them, someone else will.

Towards the end of the month the Pentagon – as part of its new technology ‘strategy’ – officially declared that the internet is now an operational theatre of war. Deputy ‘Defense’ Secretary William Lynn announced “…the United States reserves the right, under the laws of armed conflict, to respond to serious cyber-attacks with a proportional and justified military response at the time and place of its choosing.”
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* Anarchist journal
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