Earlier today, a panel from Bangladesh’s High Court ordered the Bangladeshi government to “immediately” seize the property of the owner of the factory building that collapsed last week, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more
The eight-story Rana Plaza collapsed Wednesday morning, trapping thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building.
About 2,500 survivors have been accounted for so far, while at least 350 people have died.
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Mohammed Sohel Rana, the building’s owner and a local politician, was arrested on Sunday, near the Bangladesh border with India, and may face charges of negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to work in unsafe conditions.
If he is found guilty on all counts, Rana could face up to seven years in prison.
The court also asked Bangladesh’s central bank to freeze the assets of the owners of the five garment factories that were in the building, and use that money to help pay for the salaries and other benefits of the workers.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, another community is still coming to terms with another tragic, and entirely preventable, loss.
The small town of West, Texas is still recovering from the devastating fertilizer plant fire and explosion that, two weeks ago, killed 14 people and injured 200 others. And, many of those who survived the explosion in West have lost their homes and all of their possessions.
But, despite all the devastation and loss in West, twelve days after the explosion and there have been zero arrests made of those responsible for the tragedy.
And even worse, thanks to a functional media blackout, we don’t even know the name of the fertilizer plant’s owner or managers. Who made the decisions that led to these deaths in Texas? Who lied to or failed to let the EPA and other agencies know that they were violating their rules?
We have no idea.
Who’s been arrested for these deaths? Nobody.
So, how is it that Bangladesh, a third-world nation, can seize the assets of those responsible for the tragic factory collapse and bring them court in just five days, while here in the United States, we’re still waiting for someone to be held accountable for the West disaster?
It may be because Bangladesh, despite its overwhelming poverty, understands the fact that misbehaving corporations and people in power must be held accountable for their actions. Their negligence can’t go overlooked.
But here in the United States it’s an entirely different story.
In the United States, we have basically two different justice systems. There’s one for corporate executives and rich people, and one for everyone else.
Here in the United States, we hold people like Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning accountable for their actions, but let people like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, who have caused real damage to America, get off with barely a slap on the wrist. Just this week, JP Morgan avoided another court case that could have led to criminal charges by paying a small fine.
Swartz was a political organizer and Internet activist, whose wanted Americans to have access to a free and open internet. As a result of downloading academic journals that he intended to make public, Swartz faced decades in prison, and ultimately took his own life, many say for that very reason.
Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been alleged multiple times to have committed criminal actions, including criminally withholding information from bank regulators. His bank and virtually all of the other big banks forged documents – it’s politely called “robo-signing” – and lied to borrowers and even, in some cases, to their investors. If a little guy did that, he’d be in jail for years for fraud.
But Dimon, Blankfein, and the rest of their Wall Street fat-cat buddies are doing just fine today, continuing to rake in multi-million dollar bonuses or golden-parachute retirements.
In fact, right now, while the hundreds of banksters responsible for the 2008 financial collapse are still sitting pretty on Wall Street, everyday Americans who care about the direction that their country is heading in are being arrested in droves.
Hundreds of people showed up in Dallas last week to protest the George W. Bush Presidential So-Called Library, and three were arrested.
That same day, 32 protestors were arrested and sent to jail in Syracuse, New York after protesting the Obama administration’s drone program.
And countless others have been arrested protesting everything from climate change to nuclear weapons to the failure to close Guantanamo Bay.
While authorities across the nation waste their efforts on throwing peaceful protestors in jail, those who should really be sitting in a 5 by 9 foot cell are continuing to live in the lap of luxury.
This is one of the biggest problems we face in America today. Senator Bernie Sanders says we’ve become an “oligarchy.” If anything, that’s an understatement.
Misbehaving corporations and people in power are allowed to get away with just about anything.
Thanks to court rulings like Citizens United, and the corruptive influence of money in politics, our corporations and corporate executives have become almost untouchable figures in society today, and that needs to change.
No longer can we, as a nation, let Wall Street banksters get away with crashing our economy, and simultaneously get away with worker’s rights abuses and safety violations that kill American citizens.
It’s an incredible irony when “that shining city on the hill” has become Bangladesh. But, in this case, it’s true.
If Bangladesh can hold their corporate fatcats accountable for causing mayhem, death, and destruction, then so can we.
Call your elected officials and ask them to stop letting our fertilizer company owners and banksters and oil companies get away with murder. And tell your media outlets to start reporting on corporate crime as enthusiastically as they report on corporate profits.