Category Archives: Gulf States

BP ad shows protesters during National Shrimp Festival in Alabama

This was originally posted at al.com

GULF SHORES, Alabama — BP launched its new television advertising campaign this week touting its commitment to the Gulf Coast’s post-oil spill recovery, and a small group of anti-BP protesters are enjoying some extra exposure.

The Alabama Oil Spill Aftermath Coalition held a small demonstration near the site of the 40th annual National Shrimp Festival in October and a few seconds of the popular event are shown in the nationally televised BP ad.

In the minute-long ad’s brief segment showing the Shrimp Festival, crowds line the Gulf Shores beachfront under clear skies. On the beach, beyond the festival grounds, the small group can be seen.

In an email to fuelfix.com, Michele Harmon, who is associated with the coalition, said she noticed cameras panning the scene from the roof of a nearby restaurant.

“I, like the rest of the protesters, assumed they were media filming the crowds at the festival,” Harmon said. “When they panned the cameras our way, we made sure they knew we were there, in hopes of getting media coverage.”

Kim McCuiston of Foley, another organizers of the event, told the Press-Register at the time that the Oct. 15 rally was an attempt to tell people that not enough had been done to clean the Gulf since the spill.

Can’t make this stuff up!

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Filed under Alabama, BP, Environment, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States

Untold story of U.S. slave rebellion retold centuries later

[This article originally appeared on thestar.com]

By Mitch Potter Washington Bureau

DESTREHAN PLANTATION, LA.—A long-lost chapter in American history is being written anew today, as southerners begin to come to terms with the previously untold story of the continent’s largest slave revolt.

And while historians today debate the details, a consensus is forming around just how close New Orleans came to becoming a free black colony precisely 200 years ago when a makeshift army of some 500 slaves, some just a few years out of Africa, rose up in carefully calculated unison with epic consequences.

Here at the pastoral Destrehan Plantation, the aftermath of the January 1811, insurrection was especially brutal — newly unearthed colonial records show the estate was the epicentre for a judicial reckoning, with the white slaveholders ordering as many as 100 ringleaders shot or hanged.

They black rebel leaders then were decapitated, with their heads mounted on stakes in a horrific necklace of retribution stretching 70 kms down the Mississippi, all the way to the gates of what was then America’s most crucial frontier city.“It is one of the most striking moments of amnesia in our national history. What you had in the end were plantation owners sitting down to sumptuous five-course meals as they looked out the window at their own beheaded slaves,” said historian Daniel Rasmussen, who began his investigation as an undergraduate student at Harvard.

“The planters were outnumbered and terrified. They thought of their slaves as sub-human they saw ritual beheading as a prime way to get their message across.

“And what followed this gruesome display was a concerted attempt to write it out of the history books. The southern newspapers suppressed the story, either refusing to publish or delaying for months. Only a few papers much further north published small paragraphs condemning the savagery of the planters.”

Tulane University, the African American Museum in Treme and Destrehan Plantation all are filling in the blanks with the launch of a yearlong look at the 1811 uprising.

But it is Rasmussen’s riveting new book, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, that is turning the most heads, in academia and beyond.

Collating clues from dust-encrusted plantation ledgers, colonial court records, obscure snippets of antebellum correspondence and the oral memory of slave descendents, Rasmussen’s study recreates the intense planning and careful timing that underpinned the audacious bid for freedom involving slaves from a dozen plantations along the river.

Two Asante warriors, Kook and Quamana, likely battle-hardened from wars in Africa, conspired with Charles Deslondes, a mulatto slave-driver of mixed parentage, who Rasmussen describes as “the ultimate sleeper cell.”

All had, in one way or another, been “sold down the river” — a cliché that first conceived to describe the especially horrific nature of slavery at southernmost end of the Mississippi, where extreme violence underpinned the extreme wealth of the lucrative French sugar plantations.

Spiked collars were the norm for the uncooperative — the spikes pointing inward to prevent sleep. Deslondes, working on behalf of his plantation owner, was responsible for administering punishment, including the lash for those who would dare refuse the backbreaking labours of harvesting, beating, boiling and refining the sugar cane.

Haiti was also a factor. The slave revolution of 1791 was, in its own way, a shot heard round the slave world, as French colonial refugees and their slaves washed into New Orleans. It remains unclear whether Deslondes came from Haiti.

Louisiana was vital American territory 200 years ago, but just barely — Napoleon had sold France’s claim to the vast Mississippi watershed to the United States a few years earlier for a paltry $15 million, a gift that would ultimately open the drive to the Pacific. But Louisiana’s French colonial class had nothing but contempt for its new American overseers, who were in January 1811, preoccupied in battles with the Spanish to secure a tract of west Florida. New Orleans was nearly defenceless.

“The attack came at just the right moment — the Americans were fighting the Spanish and with the harvest completed, the French planters were focused on the month-long series of lavish carnival balls and all-night parties leading up to Mardi Gras. And several days of steady rains had turned the road to mud, impeding any counterattack. Their guard was down,” Rasmussen said in an interview with the Toronto Star.

“Scarcely a resident in New Orleans had a musket. The city had a weak detachment of 68 troops.”

The rebels rose first at André Plantation after sunset on Jan. 8, 1811. And within hours, they were on the march to New Orleans. A ragtag army, perhaps, but one that marched in uniform, having seized militia clothing and weapons from plantation armories. Their numbers grew as the march advanced and as rumor of the uprising swept down the river road, the ruling class fled for the safety of the city.

“The planters couldn’t understand it — the idea that the slaves were not just savages, but that this was something planned. You had an army marching in military formation, wearing military uniforms, carrying flags and banners and chanting, “Freedom or death,” said Rasmussen.

New Orleans was on the edge of chaos — not least because its own population was 75 per cent black, awakening the fears of a second front rising up within the town itself. The city would order its taverns closed, imposed a curfew on all black males and summoned able-bodied whites to arms. Simultaneously, fleeing French planters regrouped on the West Bank of the Miscopy upstream from the city.

The two forces, American regulars and French planter militia, ultimately were able to confront the freedom fighters from both sides in a series of pitched battles beyond the city gates in the days that followed. Surviving slaves fled to the swamps and manhunts ensued, with dozens rounded up for the rough justice to come.

In the end, 21 slaves were interviewed by their colonial overseers in a bid to piece together the roots of the conspiracy and assign criminal blame. Elements of the story, says Rasmussen, survive in the oral histories of slave descendents, passed down and told “even to the present day at family reunions.” But the main snippets are to be found, refracted through the writings of the white ruling class, which show extent of fears never before told.

“They were sitting on a powder keg and when it exploded and was put down, everything changed. Instead of a mini-Haiti, Louisiana society became militarized. The revolt pushed this old aristocratic society into the hands of the American government,” said Rasmussen.

“What you see is that the foundations of American power in this part of the deep South were built upon the commitment to restore and uphold slavery. Essentially, the French planters decided to cling to the United States as an ark of safety.”

As for Kook, Quamana, and Charles Deslondes, only now are historians weighing how to elevate them alongside the likes of far better known revolutionaries like Nat Turner and John Brown as major figures in the American struggle for emancipation.

“None of this has ever been taught in American schools and the hope now is that these men who were executed for the strongest ideals will take their rightful place in history,” said Rasmussen.

“They were political revolutionaries, they deserve a place in the national memory and there is a sense now that they are getting it. We need to wrestle with this history if we are ever to truly understand it.”

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Gulf States, Louisiana, New Orleans, Race, racism, slavery, workers

The Florida Legislative Session

by KurtFF8

The following video was produced by the Florida AFL-CIO about the actions that workers took to fight back against the reactionary legislature in Florida.

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Filed under class struggle, Corporations, Florida, Gulf States, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern United States, Students, Tallahassee

BP spill: One year since worst oil spill ever

[originally posted at PSLweb]

April 18, 2011

Deepwater Horizon explosion, April 20, 2010

The writer was part of a delegation that traveled to the Gulf at the onset of the crisis to meet with affected fishermen, workers and activists as part of the Seize BP campaign calling for the seizure of BP’s assets to pay for the cleanup and fully compensate economic losses of those in the region. Demonstrations were held in cities across the country at that time.

One year after causing the worst oil spill in history, BP has claimed 2010 as their “best year in safety performance” in their company’s history, even as workers in the Gulf region continue to suffer from the disaster.

Adding insult to injury, BP executives recently rewarded themselves with “safety bonuses.” BP’s CEO Steve Newman’s bonus last year was $374,062, which is really just a tip since Newman usually rakes in almost $6 million a year. Transocean managers—the owners of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig—received up to two-thirds of the total possible “safety” bonuses.

Role of capitalist state exposed

The explosion on the Deep Horizon off-shore rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast left 11 workers dead, 17 injured and more than 200 million tons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking untold damage on the environment and economies of the Gulf states. The aftermath of the profit-driven catastrophe showed the true power of big oil and exposed the government and state as managers of the interests of the capitalist class.

Millions of gallons of oil poured into the Gulf and hundreds of thousands of gallons of Corexit and other toxic dispersants—banned in 19 countries—were pumped in to conceal it. At the same time, the Obama administration approved dozens of off-shore drilling projects in the early days of the crisis, showing all the more in Obama’s own words that the federal government’s relationship to big oil is indeed “cozy.”

It took BP several attempts to cap the gusher, finally succeeding on July 15—nearly three months later.

CNN just received the “prestigious” Peabody Award for journalism for their comprehensive coverage of the disaster, acting as only one mouthpiece of the apparatus to echo BP’s efforts and the federal government’s endorsement.

BP headquarters in Houma, La., carefully released information on their efforts and promises to deal with the disaster—although the press or public could not walk into BP headquarters to verify that. Again, to show the relationship between big oil and the government, it was not BP’s private security at the gates of their operations headquaters in Louisiana. It was staffed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is pressuring federal officials for $100 million, not to clean up the Gulf disaster or compensate workers and residents, but to speed up the infrastructure to approve more permits for drilling in the Gulf. Already in mid-March, Anglo-Suisse claimed responsibility for another oil spill, while yet more lip service was given to the need for “federal oversight.”

Workers, residents report chronic health effects

The working and oppressed people of Gulf have another story to tell. Exemplified in one man’s story who lives 100 miles from the coast, a recent report showed that he tested as having higher levels of chemicals from BP’s spill than actual clean-up workers.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants were pumped into the Gulf at the time.

The health problems resulting from the spill continue to become apparent while peoples’ pleas for medical care to address the toxic health affects of the spill continue to be ignored by BP and government authorities.

Many of the clean-up workers were fishermen and others who became unemployed during the disaster. These workers lived under appalling conditions and became exposed to toxic oil and chemicals.

“If I wanted to be in prison, I would break the law and go to jail,” explained one clean-up worker when asked to describe the living conditions of the “floating hotels” set-up by BP.

At one point, these workers carried out a strike to demand better housing. Most of them are still waiting for compensation for their claims from BP.

Major health problems are being seen among people exposed to both the oil and the dispersants used in the cleanup. According to Dr. Rodney Soto, a Florida physician, both the oil and the dispersants contain volatile organic compounds that cause an array of negative health problems. (Al-Jazeera)

According to Soto, between five and seven VOCs have been found in his patients who also report symptoms and illnesses including vomiting, kidney damage, lung damage, burning sensations in the nose and throat, skin irritation and liver damage.

Alabama resident Lloyd Pearcey worked on a BP clean-up team for four months. He has chemicals from oil and dispersants in his blood, according to tests conducted by Soto. Pearcey is now battling cancer.

Others who did not work in the cleanup currently have similar medical complications. Even more troubling, others with toxins present in their blood today may present symptoms or illnesses later as a result of the exposure.

As time goes on, there are potentially “tremendous implications in the human immune system, hormonal function, and brain function,” according to Soto.

Untold environmental damage

While BP reports that they have completed clean-up efforts in Mississippi, residents report a strange foamy substance washing up on shore that could very well be connected to dispersants used.

Yet the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state health departments and President Obama have joined the chorus with BP that the beaches and seafood from the Gulf are safe.

“It’s criminal for the government to tell people to eat the contaminated seafood, and that it’s alright for people go to our toxic beaches and swim in the contaminated water,” Dr. Soto said.

The environmental impact continues to be assessed with alarming statistics. One report showed that 60 percent of Louisiana coastal land erosion resulted from the spill. In reality, the extent of the erosion has not been fully calculated, but could be as much as the size of the state of Delaware.

The Gulf Coast shoreline is a fragile and complex ecological system—a system that protects the interior against hurricanes as well as providing a cycle of food for many different species. Thus, oil contamination on the coast kills off microscopic algae, a base food, cutting off nutrients to fish, shrimp, oysters and then larger species, such as birds, land animals and humans.

Toxic dispersants remain in the Gulf of Mexico. It is clear that this was a strategy not to clean up the spill, but to conceal it deep in the sea, impacting deep-sea wildlife for generations to come.

Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia. She presents evidence that the oil is not degrading as expected and is killing life on the sea floor.

Her videos and photographs taken deep below the surface show dead crabs, pale starfish and suffocated tube worms, which are all sea life key to the larger ecological cycle.

The sea life not only suffered from the oil itself; the fire that lasted for days produced a tremendous amount of methane and soot that ultimately will reach the marshes, beaches and barrier islands where other wildlife nest and breed in the Gulf.

No real compensation for the people of the Gulf

BP has assets of $152 billion. If British Petroleum were a nation it would rank 35th richest in the world, if its assets were calculated as gross national product. The Seize BP Campaign demanded that the assets of British Petroleum be seized by the government—the only entity that could carry out such an action.

These demands did not place faith in a government at the service of big oil, but demanded that the funds be placed into a trust that could quickly and easily assist the people of the Gulf and the clean-up efforts and be made available as more damages became uncovered.

This trust would have been administered by the people from the harmed area. The trustees were to include representatives of the fishers, shrimpers, crabbers, unions, small business people and workers in the tourism and recreation industry, local elected officials, clergy, and independent scientists and environmentalists.

Instead of full compensation for the people of the Gulf or the people of the Gulf having a say in their futures, Obama made Kenneth Feinberg trustee for distributing what BP was willing to pay. Feinberg was previously appointed to hand out the billions of taxpayers’ money in the bailout for the banks, insurance companies and their criminal executives. Feinberg holds the purse strings to the escrow fund rather than the people who are most impacted.

BP has been promoting the idea that the tourist industry in the Gulf was not affected by the disaster. In fact, many hotels were booked with clean-up workers and others working on the spill. Yet hotel and tourist industry representatives report that these visitors did not come to the Gulf to enjoy the beaches, eat in the restaurants and participate in one of the largest industries—sport fishing.

Just a month ago, local workers who assisted in the clean-up efforts and are suffering from poor health and other damages to their boats filed suit in New Orleans, naming BP and the other co-owners of Deepwater Horizon as well as the manufacturer of the toxic dispersants. The suit is seeking compensation for bodily harm and unpaid wages.

The White House announced a criminal investigation into BP, Transocean, the well operator contractor, and Halliburton, the second largest company in the world in oil field services, which cemented the rig. We know all too well what the result of a White House-led investigation will be—a slap on the wrist at best.

The oil giants’ drive for profits has resulted in theft of land from indigenous peoples in Louisiana to peoples of the Middle East, untold environmental havoc and millions of deaths from wars and occupations. The BP oil disaster has made all the more clear the need to continue to build a movement to eradicate the private ownership of the earth’s resources, so that the people of the planet can plan and safely extract needed resources without jeopardizing the poorest now and generations to come.

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Filed under class struggle, Corporations, Environment, Environmental Justice, fishing, Florida, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States, Louisiana, Oil

Rally for the Brave People of Egypt, New Orleans, Louisiana

By hastenawait

Signs from yesterday's rally

Hundreds took to the streets of New Orleans yesterday to march in solidarity with the revolutionary peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. A rally was held in front of the steps of the federal building before protesters began winding down the streets of downtown New Orleans.

 Protesters not only challenged dictatorships in other parts of the world and U.S. imperialism – many made the connection between the inspiring struggles going on elswhere and what is happening here in Louisiana, the South and the United States. The signs which read, “New Orleans, walk like an Egyptian,” and “Egypt -1; Tunisia – 1; New Orleans, ?” distilled this popular sentiment. Among others, chants of, “One solution: Revolution!” could be heard echoing through the streets of of the Crescent City.

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, class struggle, Gulf States, Human Rights, Imperialism, Louisiana, Solidarity, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States

The American Prison System

by KurtFF8 (Mike C)

There have been various stories relating the the conditions of the prison system in the United States in the news recently.  From the under reported (yet perhaps most significant) recent Georgia Prisoner’s strike to the high profile solitary confinement of Bradley Manning who gained notoriety for his involvement in leaking a video to Wikileaks.  This attention should be seen as an opportunity to open up space for debate on the very structure of our prisons.

There is also the case of Cornelius Dupree, Jr.who was just freed in Texas after 30 years of being in prison when DNA evidence showed that he was actually innocent.  According to his attorney, Texas has had the most DNA exonerations of any state, and Dallas the most within Texas.  This is of course a disturbing trend that may certainly be seen as yet another case of institutional racism that has a strong tradition (especially in the South, but of course not limited to the South) and seems to be rather obvious in these cases as according to the Innocence Project, almost 60% of those exonerated post-conviction via DNA are African American.

Bradley Manning’s conditions have been highlighted in the international press recently, with an emphasis on his mental health as a result of being in solitary confinement for a long period of time.  The interesting thing about the Manning case is that it is being portrayed in the media as a sort of political imprisonment by the United States, while the majority of cases that activists consider to be clear cases of political imprisonment tend to be portrayed as seen that way only by a small fringe.  Thus the case offers yet another example for the Left to call into question this system.

The most bizarre incident is the Georgia Prisoner’s strike.  I say bizarre because of the relative silence (or at least not much emphasis) by the “mainstream media” on what has been labeled the largest prisoner’s strike in the history of the United States.  For example, if you compare two New York Times articles that came out within a day of each other, you’ll find one long article about the new “problem” of smart phones in prisons (and it does detail the strike).  The NAACP recently claimed that there was violent retaliation against striking prisoners which was certainly anticipated by prisoner rights activists, yet this story got one paragraph in the NYT.

Taking these various stories together, and how they were covered by the media makes for an interesting trend that reveals a small bit of ideology that dominates our conversations here.  The cases of Cornelius Dupree, Jr. and Bradley Manning received more attention than the Georgia prisoner’s strike.  Why is this the case?  One part of the answer can certainly be traced to ideology: when an individual is treated poorly by the system, this is a miscarriage of justice that simply needs to be corrected.  When prisoners from across an entire state come together and challenge the system itself, this calls into question the system itself.  The strike also defied stereotypes of prisons divided along racial lines, when all prisoners of different races worked together to demand better conditions.  This ideological reasoning can at least help us understand why events like the Georgia strike are not emphasized by the media.

There are many problems about the American prison system.  The United States has the largest prison population on Earth (in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of our population); the United States has increasingly allow private corporations to run prisons for profit, which includes free labor from their inmates (which some people rightfully equate to modern day slavery); Racism continues to play an important roll .  And the biggest problem of all: There is not a national debate about this, these issues are not constantly being discussed on CNN every night, we’re not having town hall meetings about it.

This is an important issues, especially in the US South where prison populations seem to be particularly large (For example, New Orleans having the biggest incarceration rate in the World).  It’s time we start reframing these issues and start organizing.

Further reading:

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

YouTube Clip – Angela Davis discusses Prison Industrial Complex

YouTube Clip – Prison Industrial Complex (clip from documentary)

 

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Gulf States, Human Rights, inmates, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, strike, Texas, United States, Wikileaks

Anniversary of Secession: What it means today

By KurtFF8

Today is the anniversary of the declaration of Secession by South Carolina from the United States in 1860.  This lead to the founding of the Confederacy and lead the  nation on a path to a long bloody conflict that cost the lives of countless people on both sides.  What does this anniversary mean for 2010 though?  For the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust: it means it’s time to throw a party.

The Secession Ball

Tonight, the two groups mentioned above will be throwing what they are calling “The Secession Ball” what is according to the website is “Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of South Carolina’s Secession.” They claim to even have the President Pro-Tempore of the SC Senate planning on attending the ball.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans officials condemns slavery and their spokesperson for the event claims that they are not celebrating the war, but instead just the courage of those who decided to sign the secession statement, while the NAACP has planed a march to protest the event tonight.

So if they are not celebrating the war or slavery, why the event?  Many organizations and individuals who attempt to defend things like the foundation of the Confederate States tend to appeal to notions of States’ Rights and of “Heritage” (“not hate”).  But it doesn’t take much to demonstrate how secession and the creation of the Confederacy were explicitly about preserving slavery and that the specific rights sought out in trying to defend “States Rights” in this particular case were the rights of the state to keep Slavery a legal institution.

So the courage to stand up to the Union ought to be seen as the “courage to defend slavery.”

Causes of the Civil War

 

John Brown is often portrayed as "insane" for his radical anti-slavery actions, and was even executed for them

Slavery was the base of the economic power for the Southern elite in the pre-Civil War South.  After decades of complicated power struggles and debates about expanding the institution to new American states, the Southern elite was threatened and to use a phrase Marx used, launched a “Slave owner rebellion.”  As I noted above, they made their reasons for secession quite clear: to preserve slavery.  While other factors, such as “taxes and tariffs,” are sometimes pointed to as causes for the war, these factors existed in so far as they interfered with the source of the wealth that was being harmed: the institution of slavery!

This is of course a long historical debate, but the arguments for Southern Secession tend to be red herrings when it comes to slavery.  Even these groups putting on the “Secession Ball” make sure to note that they are opposed to slavery and the Civil War’s bloody toll.  Yet they defend the event that is noted for its strong defense of slavery and for starting that very war.

States’ Rights

When “States’ Rights” is appealed to as the reason for the South’s actions, what rights those States were looking to protect are often ignored.  This is because it was the right to own slavery by the Southern elite.  Yet the argument over States’ Rights was not resolved at the end of the War.

After the Civil War ended and what is often referred to as “radical reconstruction” was abandoned to an extent, the newer elites in the South instituted “Jim Crow Laws.”  It was the “Jim Crow South” that was responsible for racial segregation that wasn’t to be fully broken until the civil rights movement exploded in the 1960s.  The arguments for maintaining these laws often appealed to the same thing: States’ Rights.

We can also see a similar kind of rhetoric of States’ Rights in the opposition to the moderate attempt at health care reform over the past few years.  It’s rare in the history of the South that these concept is appealed to actually expand the rights of the majority of the people, but instead States’ Rights are often appealed to for the strengthening of the elite.

We need to be clear about the nature of celebrating the Confederacy in any way: It was a reactionary attempt to preserve slavery in the South, and its’ defeat needs to be celebrated, not its’ founding.

 

Further Reading:

150 Years Ago: Marx & Engels on the War Against Slavery

Collection of Marx and Engels writings on the Civil War

Huffington Post Article

Guardian Article

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, confederacy, Demonstration Announcements, Gulf States, Human Rights, Leftists in the U.S. South, Liberalism, slavery, Solidarity, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, State's rights, U.S. Civil War, United States