The US assassination of Iranian General Soleimani, leader of the paramilitary wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, puts millions of people at risk from violence, either retaliatory or from wider war. It represents an escalation and expansion of US aggression in the Middle East. On January 3, Trump’s forces used a drone to target and kill Soleimani as he rode in a car at the Iraqi airport, generating a vow of revenge from Iranian leaders. The US rationalized this killing as payback for Iranian attacks on US interests and as prevention of future attacks. Trump cited unproven accounts of impending Iranian actions to justify his decision. This certainly sounds like other US lies to sanction the invasion of Iraq because of their non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and of Afghanistan because they allegedly tolerated Al Qaedas plotting of the 2001 crash into the World Trade Center towers. These are only two recent examples of US pretenses to wage wars, which are really designed to control resources.
Few books are written about workers and by workers. Timothy Sheard’s Lenny Moss mystery series is a welcome change. This series, written by a retired emergency room nurse based his detective, Lenny Moss, on a real life janitor and union steward in a Philadelphia hospital. These books contain all the elements of a good mystery: suspense, developed characters, believable plots. Each mystery takes place within a larger medical framework. Lenny realizes early on in the series that when major crimes arise, he has to notify the police. He and Detective Williams learn to trust and respect each other’s skills.
There have been several egregious and widely publicized anti-Semitic attacks in the US in recent months, Although horrifying, it is not surprising given the general increase in hate crimes in this profoundly racist nation, which includes reported crimes against 2423 blacks, 670 Latinos, and 954 Jews in 2018 (https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/topic-pages/victims), with the largest percentage increases against Jews and Latinos. It must also be kept in mind that reporting of such incidents is entirely voluntary, even by law enforcement, and is thus a gross underestimate.
From the beginning, the credo of the US ruling class has been divide and rule. Not a new idea, but one that has been perfected in this nation. Not only was the enslavement of Africans made possible by driving a wedge of prejudice and circumstance between blacks and poor whites, but another schism was sown between slaves and Native Americans.
On October 24, 130 mechanics and bus and garage workers at the Cinder Bed Road Metro garage in Lorton, Virginia walked out to demand equitable pay and benefits. Like auto and food industry workers, they receive lower wages and higher health insurance costs than other Metro employees performing the same jobs who are part of the same union.
WMATA, or Metro, is the publicly funded transportation system of bus and subway routes serving the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 represents the 8,000 workers who operate out of bus garages, offices, and subway stations. Members earn relatively high wages, health benefits, and pensions compared to other jobs that don’t require advanced education.
I recently read A Tale of Two America’s, a book on social class in the United States. Expecting a familiar data driven account of class based inequalities, I was surprised to discover 36 stories of real life experiences with class, stigma, and racism. Collated by John Freeman, the stories convey the subtle and overt challenges people face as workers and students from all walks of life. They give voice to people many of us don’t know, and capture characters and situations sharply and poignantly.