Trump: adding ignorant insult to Puerto Rico’s injuries

October 2, 2017 at 12:42 pm (climate change, environment, Human rights, Latin America, posted by JD, tragedy, Trump, United States)

Comment: Danny Katch

Left: Trump on the golf course; right: Flooding in Puerto Rico

PUERTO RICO is facing a triple disaster that includes the worst the world has to offer in the early 21st century.

An unprecedented sequence of powerful hurricanes fueled by climate change. An infrastructure that was already degraded by years of debt and austerity imposed by hedge fund vultures and colonial overlords in Washington. And now a White House inhabited by a racist modern-day Nero who fiddles on Twitter while 3.4 million U.S. citizens drown.

Millions of people–with and without family on the island–are condemning Trump’s response and scrambling to mobilize help, which the richest and most powerful government in the world should already have been providing.

But we need to make sure that, even as people do whatever they can during the immediate life-threatening crisis, we’re building political alternatives to disaster number four, already on the horizon: The long-term plans in government and on Wall Street to take advantage of this crisis to permanently steal Puerto Rico’s remaining resources from its people.

Hurricane Maria–which struck Puerto Rico head-on less than two weeks after the Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc, knocking out power to 1 million people–has caused a stunning amount of damage in Puerto Rico.

According to FEMA’s update on September 30, only one hospital on the island is fully operational, 59 are partially operational, and four are closed. Just 10 percent of the island has cell phone service, less than half the island has drinking water, and only nine out of 52 wastewater treatment plants are operational.

And, of course, the entire electrical grid is still down, forcing the island to rely on fuel-based generators. Fuel is being rotated to make sure the functioning hospitals have continuous power. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Houston was left to drown under Harvey

August 30, 2017 at 6:04 pm (climate change, environment, Migrants, posted by JD, profiteers, Trump, United States)


Above: the cynicism and opportunitsm of Trump’s visit to Houston

From: https://socialistworker.org
Politicians cannot feign surprise at the disaster they literally paved the way for, explains Seth Uzman.

STORMS ARE natural, but what happens in response to them is not. Flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which smashed into the Gulf Coast on August 25, has left at least nine people dead, thousands in need of rescue on rooftops or in boats, hundreds of thousands more without power and tens of thousands in need of shelter.

Yet characterizations of the carnage by the National Weather Service as “historic,” “unprecedented” or “beyond anything experienced” should not be conflated with the spurious claim that the devastation wrought by Harvey is “unpreventable” or “unexpected.”

The outcry by advocates, experts and activists against the unplanned, for-profit development of cities like Houston has been consistently ignored by city officials, leaving millions–especially the poor and people of color–in the fourth-largest city in the U.S. in a death trap.

“Houston is the fourth-largest city, but it’s the only city that does not have zoning,” Dr. Robert Bullard, a Houston resident and a professor who studies environmental racism, told Democracy Now! on August 29. “[As a result], communities of color and poor communities have been unofficially zoned as compatible with pollution…We call that environmental injustice and environmental racism. It is that plain, and it’s just that simple.”

The image of elderly people in a nursing home sitting in waist-deep water is a shocking illustration of how the most vulnerable segments of the population are struggling to deal with the effects of Harvey. Thankfully, all of those people have been rescued and brought to safety.

But, as Dr. Bullard points out, the nightmare for tens of thousands of the city’s poorest residents living in close proximity to Houston’s vast petrochemical industry is just beginning. They are literally being gassed by and steeped in the toxic materials unleashed by the floodwaters that have damaged the oil refineries and chemical manufacturers that surround their homes and neighborhoods.

The choices facing people in these neighborhoods are gut-wrenching. Should you and your family stay as toxic floodwaters rise all around you? If you decide to go, where do you go?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE CHOICES confronting Houston’s undocumented population are equally terrifying.

Just hours before Harvey made landfall (and exactly one week before the state’s notorious “show me your papers” bill known as SB 4 is set to take effect), Customs and Border Patrol officials announced they would maintain their checkpoints to verify immigration status as people fled north, evacuating ahead of the approaching destruction.

Although Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, bowing to the ensuing public criticism, announced that those fleeing would have access to shelters regardless of their immigration status, the overall message to the undocumented was clear: drown or get deported. Read the rest of this entry »

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Letter to the Telegraph: “The fire would not have occurred under the London Building Acts and bylaws.”

June 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm (engineering, environment, history, law, London, posted by JD)

  Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

The Daily Telegraph Letters to the Editor, 16 June 2017

SIR – The construction of buildings in London was controlled between 1667 and 1985 by the London Building Acts and associated construction bylaws.

These were administered by district surveyors, appointed by the superintending architect to the Greater London Council but independent as statutory officers who not only helped write the acts but also had the final say over any forms of construction. Many sections of the bylaws included the phrase “to the satisfaction of the district surveyor”.

The 28 district surveyors (all highly experienced construction professionals, usually both chartered engineers and chartered surveyors), working with the GLC’s buildings regulation department, ensured that all buildings built in the old London County Council area were safely built.

The old maxim in the service was: first, make sure it does not fall down; secondly, make sure it does not burn down; and thirdly, use your common sense for all other matters.

This excellent service was abolished in 1985 and replaced with the inferior National Building Regulations system. The London district surveyors were not responsible to any council and so could always do what they saw fit, free from political or financial pressure.

The fire at Grenfell Tower would not have happened  under the London Building Acts and bylaws. Proper fire breaks in the cladding would have been insisted on and, more importantly, enforced. Controlling fire-spread was the foundation of the  of the 1667 Act for the Rebuilding of London and its basics were still in place when I stood down as district surveyor for Chelsea in 1983.

No combustible materials would have been allowed on the outside of a building, no cavities in cladding allowed to create vertical fire or air pathways. Vertical and horizontal fire breaks were the foundation of the protection principles.

A building would have been regularly inspected by the respected London Building Regulations Department of the GLC and if found wanting, the owners, whoever they were, would have been prosecuted.

My former district surveyor colleagues will not be surprised that this disaster happened. Whenever politicians and accountants are in ultimate control of complex building matters, in place of experienced construction professionals who do not have to answer to them, we will see more disasters like this one.

Terence Jenkins
Tring, Hertfordshire

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Grenfell Action Group: “All our warnings fell on deaf ears”

June 14, 2017 at 10:41 pm (class, environment, Human rights, London, posted by JD, privatisation, Tory scum, tragedy, workers)

It is becoming apparent that the residents of Grenfell Tower had made repeated representations to the (Tory) Council and the so-called Tenant Management Committee, about their fears over the safety of the building. But these were poor working class people, isolated within a prosperous borough. They were ignored, as the Grenfell Action Group’s blog demonstrates:

Posted on by

Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon (5am) to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities. Our heartfelt and sincere condolences to all who have perished, to the injured, to those who are bereaved or are still searching for missing loved ones.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.

ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time. Below is a list of links to previous blogs we posted on this site trying to warn the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who own this property, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation who supposedly manage all social housing in RBKC on the Council’s behalf:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/fire-safety-scandal-at-lancaster-west/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/kctmo-playing-with-fire/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/more-on-fire-safety/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/another-fire-safety-scandal/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/kctmo-feeling-the-heat/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/why-are-we-waiting/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/grenfell-tower-from-bad-to-worse/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/more-trouble-at-grenfell-tower/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/the-disempowered-of-grenfell-tower/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/tmo-still-asleep-at-the-wheel

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Trump repudiates science and the future of humanity

June 2, 2017 at 8:49 am (Asshole, climate change, environment, populism, posted by JD, Republican Party, Trump, United States)


 Q: How can you tell when he’s lying? A: His lips move

Bill McKibben is eloquent on Trump’s disgusting move.

People say, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. We should be so lucky. President Trump has a hammer, but all he’ll use it for is to smash things that others have built, as the world looks on in wonder and in fear.

That is Trump. He has nothing to offer himself. He’s an empty vessel, his only skill being to market ugly tasteless buildings. All he wants to do is smash things up and piss people off – no doubt to console himself for the fact that intelligent people, no matter how rich and selfish, will not go near him.

The latest, most troubling example is his decision to obliterate the Paris climate accord: After nearly 200 years of scientific inquiry and over 20 years of patient diplomacy that united every nation save Syria and Nicaragua, we had this afternoon’s big game-show Rose Garden reveal: Count us out.

It’s a stupid and reckless decision — our nation’s dumbest act since launching the war in Iraq. But it’s not stupid and reckless in the normal way. Instead, it amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilizing forces on our planet: diplomacy and science. It undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming, but it also undercuts our civilization itself, since that civilization rests in large measure on those two forces.

Trump doesn’t do diplomacy, which requires intelligence, thought, knowledge, experience, the ability to see and understand points of view not one’s own. Trump knows nothing but brute force and insults, because he is that stupid and empty.

The reason Paris is a series of voluntary agreements and not a real treaty is because the world had long since understood that no binding document would ever get two-thirds of the vote in our oil-soaked Senate. And that’s despite the fact that the agreement asks very little of us: President Barack Obama’s mild shift away from coal-fired power and toward higher-mileage cars would have satisfied our obligations.

Those changes, and similar ones agreed to by other nations, would not have ended global warming. They were too small. But the hope of Paris was that the treaty would send such a strong signal to the world’s governments, and its capital markets, that the targets would become a floor and not a ceiling; that shaken into action by the accord, we would start moving much faster toward renewable energy, maybe even fast enough to begin catching up with the physics of global warming. There are signs that this has been happening: The plummeting price of solar energy just this spring persuaded India to forgo a huge planned expansion of coal plants in favor of more solar panel arrays to catch the sun. China is shutting coal mines as fast as it can build wind turbines.

And that’s precisely the moment President Trump chose to make his move, a bid to undercut our best hope for a workable future in a bizarre attempt to restore the past.

The past in which there were more coal mines – as if coal mines were inherently desirable and good things, source of careers as enviable as any other.

And so we will resist. As the federal government reneges on its commitments, the rest of us will double down on ours. Already cities and states are committing to 100 percent renewable energy. Atlanta was the latest to take the step. We will make sure that every leader who hesitates and waffles on climate will be seen as another Donald Trump, and we will make sure that history will judge that name with the contempt it deserves. Not just because he didn’t take climate change seriously, but also because he didn’t take civilization seriously.

I wish Kathy Griffin had waited two days.

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Brexit and the environment: the Telegraph gives the game away

April 16, 2017 at 12:48 pm (Beyond parody, climate change, environment, Europe, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, profiteers, Tory scum)

 A man with vote leave EU badges.  Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

After Brexit, Britain can be free of the EU’s restrictive green targets 

Editorial, Daily Telegraph 15 April 2017

Government sources say that the Tories will scrap the EU’s green energy targets when legislation is repatriated to Britain. This is excellent news and one of the very best reasons to have supported Brexit.

Leaving the EU must result in a more competitive economy – it would be ridiculous to swap Brussels bureaucracy for Westminster meddling.

The targets are absurd: 15 per cent of energy must be met by renewable sources by 2020, excluding even nuclear. The only way to accomplish this is via public subsidy, which, it is estimated, will cost the average household an extra £100 per year.

Renewable energy will be part of the future mix, for sure, but let it serve human need, not green ideology. Why rob the consumers only to provide them with technology that is often inefficient and unreliable?

If the Government scraps the target then it will be a victory for our campaign to cut EU red tape. That said, there is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.

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Unite’s Trident dilemma

March 29, 2016 at 4:10 pm (engineering, environment, Guest post, science, Trident, Unite the union, workers)

By Pat Corcoran

The Unite report of its recent conference for members in the defence sector is at: http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/unpatriotic-government-policy-putting-defence-jobs-at-risk/  McCluskey says that his speech is not a nationalist rant. Which is the roundabout way of saying: it is a bit of a nationalist rant.

The book of conference motions for the 2016 Unite policy conference has just been published. There are 13 pages of motions about Trident renewal, ranging from full support to outright opposition. Most motions take the latter position. Unsurprisingly, the motion from the Aerospace and Shipbuilding National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) does not. What that motion calls for is for Rule 2 to be upheld. Rule 2 of the Unite Rulebook is a commitment to protect members’ jobs and communities. As the motion puts it: “We are not a political party, we are a trade union.”

In fairness, Unite does face a genuine dilemma: Around 7,000 people in Barrow-in-Furness work for BAE Systems Maritime, with up to 10,000 more working for its suppliers. The firm is currently building seven nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines and planning the Successor programme to replace the aging Vanguard-class submarines, which carry nuclear missiles, ensuring jobs for 30 years. The industry is responsible for around one in ten jobs in the  area and if the supply chain is taken into account it’s probably nearer one in five.

In addition, Unite has a long established tradition of respecting the wishes of its directly effected sectors when it comes to key industrial issues.

McCluskey and the overwhelming majority of the Unite EC would genuinely like to see nuclear disarmament, but they face a real dilemma: surely the first duty of a trade union is to defend the jobs of its members? The Aerospace and Shipbuilding NISC has a point about Unite not being a political party.

There is only one way to resolve this dilemma: Unite must commission an expert report into how to replace Trident-related jobs and put serious resources (ie financial resources) into coming up with a detailed, practical alternative jobs plan, just as the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards did in the 1970’s. Corbyn could also be offered support for abolishing Trident so long as assurances are forthcoming regarding a future Labour government safeguarding jobs. Sadly, there is no sign at the moment that McCluskey and the United Left majority on the EC are minded to adopt such a strategy.

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The Volkswagan emissions scandal

September 24, 2015 at 7:43 pm (capitalism, corruption, crime, engineering, environment, posted by JD, United States)

From The World Socialist website:

 

The scandal at Volkswagen (VW) over the manipulation of emissions readings from its autos in the US has plunged the firm into a major crisis. The company, which along with Toyota is the world’s largest auto producer, faces the threat of up to $18 billion in fines, along with massive costs related to the recall of almost half a million vehicles and huge compensation claims. The US Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation and a congressional committee has announced plans for a hearing on the scandal.

VW has already acknowledged that accusations by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are valid. It has admitted that it deliberately deceived American customers and government authorities.

“Let’s be clear: our company was dishonest,” said VW’s American head Michael Horn at the unveiling of the new Passat model in New York. “We totally screwed up.”

In a calculated manner, VW broke the law in order to manipulate emissions readings. In diesel models sold in the US, the company installed specially developed software to enable the vehicles to determine when they were being tested and automatically switch to a mode that reduced the emission of pollutants. After the test, the cars automatically switched back to the normal mode, increasing their release of poisonous oxides between 10- and 40-fold.

VW used the low emissions test rates as a selling point for the US market, where diesel cars comprise just one percent of total sales, a far lower percentage than in Europe. Many US buyers decided to purchase a diesel car from VW or Audi because, in contrast to hybrid vehicles from Asian producers, which have low emission rates but are cumbersome, the German models were considered both environmentally friendly and sporty.

The ultimate scale of the scandal is not yet known. The suspicion is that VW manipulated emissions figures not only in the US, but also in other markets. Germany, Switzerland, France and South Korea have all announced investigations into diesel vehicle manipulation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pushing back the tide

February 15, 2014 at 9:18 am (environment, Rosie B)

European and UK policies towards land management increase the likelihood of flooding, according to George Monbiot:-

The story begins with a group of visionary farmers at Pontbren, in the headwaters of Britain’s longest river, the Severn. In the 1990s they realised that the usual hill-farming strategy – loading the land with more and bigger sheep, grubbing up the trees and hedges, digging more drains – wasn’t working. It made no economic sense, the animals had nowhere to shelter, and the farmers were breaking their backs to wreck their own land.

So they devised something beautiful. They began planting shelter belts of trees along the contours. They stopped draining the wettest ground and built ponds to catch the water instead. They cut and chipped some of the wood they grew to make bedding for their animals, which meant that they no longer spent a fortune buying straw. Then they used the composted bedding, in a perfect closed loop, to cultivate more trees.

One day a government consultant was walking over their fields during a rainstorm. He noticed something that fascinated him. The water flashing off the land suddenly disappeared when it reached the belts of trees the farmers had planted. This prompted a major research programme, which produced the following astonishing results: water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass. The roots of the trees provide channels down which the water flows, deep into the ground. The soil there becomes a sponge, a reservoir which sucks up water and then releases it slowly. In the pastures, by contrast, the small sharp hooves of the sheep puddle the ground, making it almost impermeable, a hard pan off which the rain gushes.

One of the research papers estimates that – even though only 5% of the Pontbren land has been reforested – if all the farmers in the catchment did the same thing, flooding peaks downstream would be reduced by about 29%. Full reforestation would reduce the peaks by about 50%. For the residents of Shrewsbury, Gloucester and the other towns ravaged by endless Severn floods, that means – more or less – problem solved.

Somerset

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Acting for Active Transport

October 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm (Cycling, environment, Rosie B)

Hundreds of people will gather outside the St Andrews House government offices at  1.00-1.30pm on Weds 30 October to call on Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP, the man in charge of the 2014/15 Scottish budget, to double investment in walking and cycling.  Be there!!

The event is organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, an umbrella body for over 60 Scottish organisations including environment, community, faith and international development groups, trades unions, student unions, and of course transport and cycling groups such as Spokes, Transform and Pedal on Parliament.

FREE PIC- On Your Bike Campaign EM 01_4

A similar SCCS event two years ago marked the turning point in a successful campaign by Spokes and many other organisations to reverse severe active travel cuts which the government had included in the draft 2012/13 budget.

This year the draft budget for 14/15 does include a welcome rise in active travel investment but it is nowhere near adequate to meet the government’s ambition of 10% of all trips in Scotland to be by bike in 2020.  There is growing cycle use in Edinburgh, but, for Scotland as a whole, only 1% of all trips are by bike (around 2% of work trips).  Furthermore, under the draft budget, cycling investment peaks in 14/15 and starts to fall back again in 15/16.

Location:
outside St Andrews House
Regent Road
EH1 3DG Edinburgh
United Kingdom

Date:
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Time:
1 – 1.30pm

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