Category Archives: Activism

Kevin Zeese: His Last Words For The Movement And Carrying On

As I wrote last week, Kevin Zeese died unexpectedly in his sleep, likely from a heart attack, early in the morning on September 6. He had not shown signs of illness and was working until the end.

Many of you know Kevin from Popular Resistance, from his writing and podcast Clearing the FOG. He had a deep knowledge of history and the issues. He often spoke of his time working for Ralph Nader in 2004 when he wrote policy briefs as a “PhD in public policy.” Kevin understood how political power works.

Kevin’s work in activism spanned more than 40 years. He worked on political campaigns during high school in Queens, New York and protested the Vietnam War. When radical lawyers Ramsey Clark and William Kunstler spoke at SUNY Buffalo, where he was studying political science, Kevin was inspired to join the civil rights movement. He went to Boston to be a marshal for an anti-racism march and was attacked with others by police on horseback.

During law school at George Washington University, Kevin’s favorite class was on legal activism. He describes the experience in Americans Who Tell the Truth:

We created a group SEXCE (Students for the Examination of Contraceptive Effectiveness) and got legislation introduced in Congress, got the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to correct their advertising, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to start a rulemaking process to correct their labeling. It was pretty amazing to see all of that come out of one law school course on Legal Activism.’ Through this project, Zeese says he ‘learned guerilla law and legal judo’—how to leverage the law with minimum cost and maximum impact.

Kevin’s first internship was with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) answering letters from prisoners. He said this gave him a deep understanding of the destructive impact the War on Drugs has on people and their families. After law school, Kevin worked as legal counsel for NORML and then as executive director. He was working to legalize marijuana when Reagan was president and popular opinion strongly supported the Drug War. Kevin sued the Drug Enforcement Agency three times over the reclassification of medical marijuana and won, but each time the decision was overturned on appeal.

During this time, Joe Biden was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee who worked with the racist head of the Dixiecrats, Strom Thurmond, to push for a ‘drug czar’ (Reagan vetoed that) and for more severe punishments. Kevin called Biden the architect of the drug war and mass incarceration.

After NORML, Kevin created the Drug Policy Foundation, which later became the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Alliance of Reform Organizations, which brought all of the groups working on various aspects of the Drug War together as one movement. Kevin understood early on that popular power required building a movement of movements to be effective. He often worked to create unity and collaboration among people and organizations.

Arnold Trebach (left) and young Kevin Zeese (right) who founded the Drug Policy Foundation.

In his later years, Kevin’s advocacy work expanded to include peace, economic justice, election integrity, single payer health care and much more. He often recognized issues as important before they were popular and had the courage to take them on even when they were controversial. He had a moral clarity that was unwavering and told the truth even when it was not what people wanted to hear.

Kevin also saw the potential in people and wasn’t afraid to tell them. He touched the lives of and mentored countless people throughout his career. Kevin was the person many people turned to for guidance and assistance, whether it was helping them figure out what they want to do in life or what to do in a time of crisis or advice on strategy. People felt safe when Kevin was around because of his calm steadiness and he always seemed to know what to do. He was a gentle giant who looked out for everyone. He also had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh.

The weekend before his death, Kevin participated in an online rally about how to build power for the changes we need before and after the coming election. He spoke to us about what we must do (video and transcription):

Power to the people! We have the power to change if we stay united. We have incredible opportunity now. We see the movement’s growing, especially after the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention. The conventions showed us that those parties do not represent the people and that our power is not in elections. Our power is in building people power — and we see that happening.

We need to build power, so that in 2021 people can rule from below. So that we can call general strikes. So we can stop business as usual. That is the only way change will occur. It will not come from Joe Biden or Donald Trump. It will come from the people.

We also have to understand — and it’s often very hard for people to understand — that the only path to success is failure. We fail and fail and fail until we win. But every time we try, we build the movement. And we get stronger. We can never tell how close we are to success. It’s like we’re banging on a wall, pounding and pounding, and it’s not until that wall begins to crack and we start to see the light come through that we realize we’re getting close to that breakthrough moment when change can occur.

We see the 2020s as a decade of transformation. The movements have been growing since Occupy in 2011,  then the Black Lives Matter movement, Fight For 15 — all during the Obama era – and now the growing of the movements during the Trump era. We see the 2020s as a decade of social transformation. In order to have that transformation, we need to be organized and educated . . . It’s normal for us to not always be on a linear path to success. It’s a jagged path. We move up and down, we get stronger.

We all know that Donald Trump is terrible. The worst president of my life! His overt racism; his open support for violent white supremacists; his mishandling of the COVID-19 virus, causing more than 180,000 deaths so far and probably more than 200,000 by the time of the election; his poor response to the economic collapse. He’s leading us into another Great Depression, and he constantly puts in place laws for the wealthy — while poverty, homelessness, debt and joblessness increase.

But Biden is no better. And I mean no better. For 47 years he’s been wrong on every important issue. When I was in college going to an anti-racism demonstration in Boston in favor of school integration, at that time Biden opposed school integration. Then I worked on ending mass incarceration, ending the drug war, while Biden was passing laws to escalate the drug war, passing laws for mandatory sentencing to increase mass incarceration. He’s the architect of mass incarceration!

Later in his career Biden became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and led in not just voting for the Iraq War, but in the effort to make the Iraq War happen. As chair of Foreign Relations, he put in place massive military budgets, bloated corrupt budgets, while leading us into war after war. When it came to student bankruptcy, he led the effort to make it so students can’t get rid of student debt even in bankruptcy. Now he’s even calling for cutting Social Security when we should be doubling or even tripling Social Security payments.

So I’m going to vote against Trump by voting for what I believe in. There are more alternatives than the two parties. I’ll be voting for the Green [Party] candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker, because I’m going to be voting for Medicare For All. I’m going to be voting for community control of the police, for the eco-socialist Green New Deal, for ending the wealth divide and ending the never-ending wars.

We all have the power to vote for what we believe in, for candidates [who] reflect the movement. There are many more choices than a few corrupt candidates of the millionaires. And we need to use what little power we have in the elections to send a message of what we are for, to show that those who speak for movement issues get the movement’s support. After we vote, we must build people power, so that people can rule from below.

We must build people power, so that no matter who’s in office, we can stop the government from operating. We can make the country ungovernable. We can put in place general strikes, so that our demands are heard and met. That is how we will win.

We have a lot to build on. . . . There have been over 900 wildcat strikes since March. The labor movement is growing. The climate justice movement is growing. The anti-racist movement is growing. The anti-inequality movement is growing. We have a lot to build on. The One Percent cannot defeat the 99%. So let’s not underestimate ourselves.

An online tribute to Kevin Zeese will be held on Saturday, September 19 at 3:00 pm Eastern/12 noon Pacific. Simultaneous translation will be provided in English and Spanish. It will be live streamed on Facebook and YouTube. Register at bit.ly/KevinZeese.

We created a Kevin Zeese Emerging Activists Fund to continue Kevin’s legacy by sponsoring young activists and front line grassroots organizations that work for economic, racial and environmental justice and peace. We can best honor Kevin by continuing to support new movement leaders and visionaries who recognize injustice before the rest of us do and have the courage to address it.

Americans Who Tell the Truth writes:

Zeese sees one of his most important jobs as empowering people because ‘what we’re working on will not be resolved in my lifetime. Part of my job is to help others become their own powerful force that will continue the work after we’re gone…Economic democracy and system-wide political change are multi-decade challenges.

Now, more than ever, you are Popular Resistance. Kevin is gone but the work continues and so we need to carry on. Popular Resistance was created in part to inform about what people are doing to stop the machine (resistance) and create the new world (build alternative systems). If you see articles or have a press release from your local group on resistance, constructive programs or movement strategy, please share it with us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni.

Listen to my interview with Ralph Nader about Kevin Zeese’s life and legacy plus our final interview of Elias Tchen with the Qiao Collective on Clearing the FOG (available on Monday).

The post Kevin Zeese: His Last Words For The Movement And Carrying On first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Kevin Zeese: His Last Words For The Movement And Carrying On

As I wrote last week, Kevin Zeese died unexpectedly in his sleep, likely from a heart attack, early in the morning on September 6. He had not shown signs of illness and was working until the end.

Many of you know Kevin from Popular Resistance, from his writing and podcast Clearing the FOG. He had a deep knowledge of history and the issues. He often spoke of his time working for Ralph Nader in 2004 when he wrote policy briefs as a “PhD in public policy.” Kevin understood how political power works.

Kevin’s work in activism spanned more than 40 years. He worked on political campaigns during high school in Queens, New York and protested the Vietnam War. When radical lawyers Ramsey Clark and William Kunstler spoke at SUNY Buffalo, where he was studying political science, Kevin was inspired to join the civil rights movement. He went to Boston to be a marshal for an anti-racism march and was attacked with others by police on horseback.

During law school at George Washington University, Kevin’s favorite class was on legal activism. He describes the experience in Americans Who Tell the Truth:

We created a group SEXCE (Students for the Examination of Contraceptive Effectiveness) and got legislation introduced in Congress, got the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to correct their advertising, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to start a rulemaking process to correct their labeling. It was pretty amazing to see all of that come out of one law school course on Legal Activism.’ Through this project, Zeese says he ‘learned guerilla law and legal judo’—how to leverage the law with minimum cost and maximum impact.

Kevin’s first internship was with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) answering letters from prisoners. He said this gave him a deep understanding of the destructive impact the War on Drugs has on people and their families. After law school, Kevin worked as legal counsel for NORML and then as executive director. He was working to legalize marijuana when Reagan was president and popular opinion strongly supported the Drug War. Kevin sued the Drug Enforcement Agency three times over the reclassification of medical marijuana and won, but each time the decision was overturned on appeal.

During this time, Joe Biden was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee who worked with the racist head of the Dixiecrats, Strom Thurmond, to push for a ‘drug czar’ (Reagan vetoed that) and for more severe punishments. Kevin called Biden the architect of the drug war and mass incarceration.

After NORML, Kevin created the Drug Policy Foundation, which later became the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Alliance of Reform Organizations, which brought all of the groups working on various aspects of the Drug War together as one movement. Kevin understood early on that popular power required building a movement of movements to be effective. He often worked to create unity and collaboration among people and organizations.

Arnold Trebach (left) and young Kevin Zeese (right) who founded the Drug Policy Foundation.

In his later years, Kevin’s advocacy work expanded to include peace, economic justice, election integrity, single payer health care and much more. He often recognized issues as important before they were popular and had the courage to take them on even when they were controversial. He had a moral clarity that was unwavering and told the truth even when it was not what people wanted to hear.

Kevin also saw the potential in people and wasn’t afraid to tell them. He touched the lives of and mentored countless people throughout his career. Kevin was the person many people turned to for guidance and assistance, whether it was helping them figure out what they want to do in life or what to do in a time of crisis or advice on strategy. People felt safe when Kevin was around because of his calm steadiness and he always seemed to know what to do. He was a gentle giant who looked out for everyone. He also had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh.

The weekend before his death, Kevin participated in an online rally about how to build power for the changes we need before and after the coming election. He spoke to us about what we must do (video and transcription):

Power to the people! We have the power to change if we stay united. We have incredible opportunity now. We see the movement’s growing, especially after the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention. The conventions showed us that those parties do not represent the people and that our power is not in elections. Our power is in building people power — and we see that happening.

We need to build power, so that in 2021 people can rule from below. So that we can call general strikes. So we can stop business as usual. That is the only way change will occur. It will not come from Joe Biden or Donald Trump. It will come from the people.

We also have to understand — and it’s often very hard for people to understand — that the only path to success is failure. We fail and fail and fail until we win. But every time we try, we build the movement. And we get stronger. We can never tell how close we are to success. It’s like we’re banging on a wall, pounding and pounding, and it’s not until that wall begins to crack and we start to see the light come through that we realize we’re getting close to that breakthrough moment when change can occur.

We see the 2020s as a decade of transformation. The movements have been growing since Occupy in 2011,  then the Black Lives Matter movement, Fight For 15 — all during the Obama era – and now the growing of the movements during the Trump era. We see the 2020s as a decade of social transformation. In order to have that transformation, we need to be organized and educated . . . It’s normal for us to not always be on a linear path to success. It’s a jagged path. We move up and down, we get stronger.

We all know that Donald Trump is terrible. The worst president of my life! His overt racism; his open support for violent white supremacists; his mishandling of the COVID-19 virus, causing more than 180,000 deaths so far and probably more than 200,000 by the time of the election; his poor response to the economic collapse. He’s leading us into another Great Depression, and he constantly puts in place laws for the wealthy — while poverty, homelessness, debt and joblessness increase.

But Biden is no better. And I mean no better. For 47 years he’s been wrong on every important issue. When I was in college going to an anti-racism demonstration in Boston in favor of school integration, at that time Biden opposed school integration. Then I worked on ending mass incarceration, ending the drug war, while Biden was passing laws to escalate the drug war, passing laws for mandatory sentencing to increase mass incarceration. He’s the architect of mass incarceration!

Later in his career Biden became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and led in not just voting for the Iraq War, but in the effort to make the Iraq War happen. As chair of Foreign Relations, he put in place massive military budgets, bloated corrupt budgets, while leading us into war after war. When it came to student bankruptcy, he led the effort to make it so students can’t get rid of student debt even in bankruptcy. Now he’s even calling for cutting Social Security when we should be doubling or even tripling Social Security payments.

So I’m going to vote against Trump by voting for what I believe in. There are more alternatives than the two parties. I’ll be voting for the Green [Party] candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker, because I’m going to be voting for Medicare For All. I’m going to be voting for community control of the police, for the eco-socialist Green New Deal, for ending the wealth divide and ending the never-ending wars.

We all have the power to vote for what we believe in, for candidates [who] reflect the movement. There are many more choices than a few corrupt candidates of the millionaires. And we need to use what little power we have in the elections to send a message of what we are for, to show that those who speak for movement issues get the movement’s support. After we vote, we must build people power, so that people can rule from below.

We must build people power, so that no matter who’s in office, we can stop the government from operating. We can make the country ungovernable. We can put in place general strikes, so that our demands are heard and met. That is how we will win.

We have a lot to build on. . . . There have been over 900 wildcat strikes since March. The labor movement is growing. The climate justice movement is growing. The anti-racist movement is growing. The anti-inequality movement is growing. We have a lot to build on. The One Percent cannot defeat the 99%. So let’s not underestimate ourselves.

An online tribute to Kevin Zeese will be held on Saturday, September 19 at 3:00 pm Eastern/12 noon Pacific. Simultaneous translation will be provided in English and Spanish. It will be live streamed on Facebook and YouTube. Register at bit.ly/KevinZeese.

We created a Kevin Zeese Emerging Activists Fund to continue Kevin’s legacy by sponsoring young activists and front line grassroots organizations that work for economic, racial and environmental justice and peace. We can best honor Kevin by continuing to support new movement leaders and visionaries who recognize injustice before the rest of us do and have the courage to address it.

Americans Who Tell the Truth writes:

Zeese sees one of his most important jobs as empowering people because ‘what we’re working on will not be resolved in my lifetime. Part of my job is to help others become their own powerful force that will continue the work after we’re gone…Economic democracy and system-wide political change are multi-decade challenges.

Now, more than ever, you are Popular Resistance. Kevin is gone but the work continues and so we need to carry on. Popular Resistance was created in part to inform about what people are doing to stop the machine (resistance) and create the new world (build alternative systems). If you see articles or have a press release from your local group on resistance, constructive programs or movement strategy, please share it with us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni.

Listen to my interview with Ralph Nader about Kevin Zeese’s life and legacy plus our final interview of Elias Tchen with the Qiao Collective on Clearing the FOG (available on Monday).

The post Kevin Zeese: His Last Words For The Movement And Carrying On first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Absolute And Arbitrary Power”: Killing Extinction Rebellion And Julian Assange

The use and misuse of George Orwell’s truth-telling is so widespread that we can easily miss his intended meaning. For example, with perfect (Orwellian) irony, the BBC has a statue of Orwell outside Broadcasting House, bearing the inscription:

‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’

Fine words, but suitably ambiguous: the BBC might argue that it is merely exercising its ‘liberty’ in endlessly channelling the worldview of powerful interests – crass propaganda that many people certainly ‘do not want to hear’.

Orwell’s real intention is made clearer in this second comment:

‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’

In this line attributed to him (although there is some debate about where it originated), Orwell was talking about power – real journalism challenges the powerful. And this is the essential difference between the vital work of WikiLeaks and the propaganda role performed by state-corporate media like the BBC every day on virtually every issue.

On September 6, the Mail on Sunday ran two editorials, side by side. The first was titled, ‘A sinister, shameful attack on free speech’. It decried the Extinction Rebellion action last Friday to blockade three newspaper printing presses owned by Rupert Murdoch’s UK News. The second editorial, as we will see below, was a feeble call not to send Julian Assange to the US, on the eve of his crucial extradition hearing in London.

Extinction Rebellion’s protest, lasting just a few hours, temporarily prevented the distribution of Murdoch newspapers, such as the Sun and The Times, as well as other titles printed by Murdoch’s presses, including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph.

The Mail on Sunday editorial predictably condemned the protesters’ supposed attempt at ‘censorship’, declaring it:

‘a throwback to the very worst years of trade union militancy, which came close to strangling a free press and which was only defeated by the determined action of Rupert Murdoch.’

The paper fumed:

‘The newspaper blockade was a shameful and dangerous attempt to crush free speech, and it should never be repeated.’

This was the propaganda message that was repeated across much of the ‘mainstream media’, epitomised by the empty rhetoric of Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

‘A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change. It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.’

Johnson’s comments could have been pure satire penned by Chris Morris, Mark Steel or the late Jeremy Hardy. Closer to the grubby truth, a different Johnson – Samuel – described the ‘free press’ as ‘Scribbling on the backs of advertisements’.

As Media Lens has repeatedly demonstrated over the past 20 years, it is the state-corporate media, including BBC News, that has endlessly ‘limited the public’s access to news’ by denying the public the full truth about climate breakdown, UK/US warmongering, including wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the arming of Saudi Arabia and complicity in that brutal regime’s destruction of Yemen, UK government support for the apartheid state of Israel even as it crushes the Palestinian people, the insidious prising open of the NHS to private interests, and numerous other issues of public importance.

When has the mythical ‘free press’ ever fully and properly held to account Boris Johnson or any of his predecessors in 10 Downing Street? Who can forget that Tony Blair, steeped in the blood of so many Iraqis, is still held in esteem as an elder statesman whose views are sought out by ‘mainstream’ news outlets, including BBC News and the Guardian? As John Pilger said recently:

‘Always contrast Julian Assange with Tony Blair. One will be fighting for his life in court on 7 Sept for the “crime” of exposing war crimes while the other evades justice for the paramount crime of Iraq.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has presided over a national public health disaster with soaring rates of mortality during the coronavirus pandemic, had the affront to tweet a photograph of himself with a clutch of right-wing papers under his arm, declaring:

‘Totally outrageous that Extinction Rebellion are trying to suppress free speech by blockading newspapers. They must be dealt with by the full force of the law.’

It is Hancock himself, together with government colleagues and advisers – not least Johnson and his protector, Dominic Cummings – who should ‘be dealt with by the full force of the law’. As Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, said of Boris Johnson in May:

‘you dropped the ball, Prime Minister. That was criminal. And you know it.’

Extinction Rebellion (XR) explained succinctly via Twitter their reason for their ‘totally outrageous’ action:

‘Dear Newsagents, we are sorry for disruption caused to your business this morning. Dear Mr. Murdoch, we are absolutely not sorry for continuing to disrupt your agenda this morning.  @rupertmurdoch #FreeTheTruth #ExtinctionRebellion #TellTheTruth

An article on the XR website, simply titled, ‘We do not have a free press’, said:

‘We are in an emergency of unprecedented scale and the papers we have targeted are not reflecting the scale and urgency of what is happening to our planet.’

One of the XR protesters was ‘Steve’, a former journalist for 25 years who had worked for the Sun, Daily Mail, the Telegraph and The Times. He was filmed on location during the protest. He explained that he was participating, in part, because he is worried about the lack of a future for his children. And a major reason for how we got to this point is that journalists are:

‘stuck inside a toxic system where they don’t have any choice but to tell the stories that these newspapers want to be told.’

He continued:

‘Every person who works on News International or a Mail newspaper knows what story is or isn’t acceptable for their bosses. And their bosses know that because they know what’s acceptable to Murdoch or Rothermere or the other billionaires that run 70 per cent of our media’.

Steve said he left that system because he ‘couldn’t bear the way it worked’.

The most recent report by the independent Media Reform Coalition on UK media ownership, published in 2019, revealed the scale of the problem of extremely concentrated media ownership. Just three companies – Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach (publisher of the Mirror titles) dominate 83 per cent of the national newspaper market (up from 71 per cent in 2015). When online readers are included, just five companies – News UK, Daily Mail Group, Reach, Guardian and Telegraph – dominate nearly 80 per cent of the market.

As we noted of XR’s worthy action:

‘Before anyone denounces this as an attack on the “free press” – there is no free press. There is a billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, ad-dependent corporate press that has knowingly suppressed the truth of climate collapse and the need for action to protect corporate profits.’

Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South, indicated her support too:

‘A tiny number of billionaires own vast swathes of our press. Their papers relentlessly campaign for right-wing politics, promoting the interests of the ruling class and scapegoating minorities. A free press is vital to democracy, but too much of our press isn’t free at all.’

By contrast, Labour leader Keir Starmer once again demonstrated his establishment credentials as ‘a safe pair of hands’ by condemning XR’s protest. Craig Murray commented:

‘At a time when the government is mooting designating Extinction Rebellion as Serious Organised Crime, right wing bequiffed muppet Keir Starmer was piously condemning the group, stating: “The free press is the cornerstone of democracy and we must do all we can to protect it.”’

Starmer had also commented:

‘Denying people the chance to read what they choose is wrong and does nothing to tackle climate change.’

But denying people the chance to read what they would choose – the corporate-unfriendly truth – on climate change is exactly what the corporate media, misleadingly termed ‘mainstream media’, is all about.

Media activist and lecturer Justin Schlosberg made a number of cogent observations on ‘press freedom’ in a Twitter thread (beginning here):

‘9 times out of 10 when people in Britain talk about protecting press freedom what they really mean is protecting press power’.

He pointed out the ‘giant myth’ promulgated by corporate media, forever trying to resist any attempt to curb their power; namely that:

‘Britain’s mainstream [sic] press is a vital pillar of our democracy, covering a diversity of perspectives and upholding professional standards of journalism…the reality is closer to the exact inverse of such claims. More than 10 million people voted for a socialist party at the last election (13 million in 2017) and polls have consistently shown that majority of British public oppose austerity’.

Schlosberg continued:

‘The “diversity” of our national press [… ] covers the political spectrum from liberal/centre to hard right and has overwhelmingly backed austerity economics for the best part of the last 4 decades… [moreover] the UK press enjoys an unrivalled international reputation for producing a diatribe of fake, racist and misogynistic hate speech over anything that can be called journalism’.

He rightly concluded:

‘ironically one of the greatest threats to democracy is a press that continues to weave myths in support of its vested interests, and a BBC that continues to uncritically absorb them.’

Assange In The US Crosshairs

Alongside the Mail on Sunday’s billionaire-owned, extremist right-wing attack on climate activists highlighting a non-existent ‘free press’, the paper had an editorial that touched briefly on the danger to all journalists should WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange be extradited from the UK to the US:

‘the charges against Mr Assange, using the American Espionage Act, might be used against legitimate journalists in this country’.

The implication was that Assange is not to be regarded as a ‘legitimate journalist’. Indeed, the billionaire Rothermere-owned viewspaper – a more accurate description than ‘newspaper’ – made clear its antipathy towards him:

‘Mr Assange’s revelations of leaked material caused grave embarrassment to Washington and are alleged to have done material damage too.’

The term ‘embarrassment’ refers to the exposure of US criminal actions threatening the great rogue state’s ability to commit similar crimes in future: not embarrassing (Washington is without shame), but potentially limiting.

The Mail on Sunday continued:

‘Mr Assange has been a spectacular nuisance during his time in this country, lawlessly jumping bail and wasting police time by taking refuge in embassy of Ecuador. The Mail on Sunday disapproves of much of what he has done, but we must also ask if his current treatment is fair, right or just.’

The insinuations and subtle smears embedded in these few lines have been repeatedly demolished (see this extensive analysis, for example). And there was no mention that Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, as well as numerous doctors, health experts and human rights organisations, have strongly condemned the UK’s appalling abuse of Assange and demanded his immediate release.

Melzer has accused the British government of torturing Assange:

‘the primary purpose of torture is not necessarily interrogation, but very often torture is used to intimidate others, as a show to the public what happens if you don’t comply with the government. That is the purpose of what has been done to Julian Assange. It is not to punish or coerce him, but to silence him and to do so in broad daylight, making visible to the entire world that those who expose the misconduct of the powerful no longer enjoy the protection of the law, but essentially will be annihilated. It is a show of absolute and arbitrary power’.

Melzer also spoke about the price he will pay for challenging the powerful:

‘I am under no illusions that my UN career is probably over. Having openly confronted two P5-States (UN security council members) the way I have, I am very unlikely to be approved by them for another high-level position. I have been told, that my uncompromising engagement in this case comes at a political price.’

This is the reality of the increasingly authoritarian world we are living in.

The weak defence of Assange now being seen in even right-wing media, such as the Mail on Sunday, indicates a real fear that any journalist could in future be targeted by the US government for publishing material that might anger Washington.

In an interview this week, Barry Pollack, Julian Assange’s US lawyer, warned of the ‘very dangerous’ precedent that could be set in motion with Assange’s extradition to the US:

‘The position that the U.S. is taking is a very dangerous one. The position the U.S. is taking is that they have jurisdiction all over the world and can pursue criminal charges against any journalist anywhere on the planet, whether they’re a U.S. citizen or not. But if they’re not a U.S. citizen, not only can the U.S. pursue charges against them but that person has no defense under the First Amendment.’

In stark contrast to the weak protestations of the Mail on Sunday and the rest of the establishment media, Noam Chomsky pointed out the simple truth in a recent interview on RT (note the dearth of Chomsky interviews on BBC News, and consider why his views are not sought after):

‘Julian Assange committed the crime of letting the general population know things that they have a right to know and that powerful states don’t want them to know.’

Likewise, John Pilger issued a strong warning:

‘This week, one of the most important struggles for freedom in my lifetime nears its end. Julian Assange who exposed the crimes of great power faces burial alive in Trump’s America unless he wins his extradition case. Whose side are you on?’

Pilger recommended an excellent in-depth piece by Jonathan Cook, a former Guardian/Observer journalist, in which Cook observed:

‘For years, journalists cheered Assange’s abuse. Now they’ve paved his path to a US gulag.’

Peter Oborne is a rare example of a right-leaning journalist who has spoken out strongly in defence of Assange. Oborne wrote last week in Press Gazette that:

‘Future generations of journalists will not forgive us if we do not fight extradition.’

He set out the following scenario:

‘Let’s imagine a foreign dissident was being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison charged with supposed espionage offences by the Chinese authorities.

‘And that his real offence was revealing crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party – including publishing video footage of atrocities carried out by Chinese troops.

‘To put it another way, that his real offence was committing the crime of journalism.

‘Let us further suppose the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said this dissident showed “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture” and that the Chinese were putting pressure on the UK authorities to extradite this individual where he could face up to 175 years in prison.

‘The outrage from the British press would be deafening.’

Oborne continued:

‘There is one crucial difference. It is the US trying to extradite the co-founder of Wikileaks.

‘Yet there has been scarcely a word in the mainstream British media in his defence.’

In fact, as we have repeatedly highlighted, Assange has been the subject of a propaganda blitz by the UK media, attacking and smearing him, over and over again, often in the pages of the ‘liberal’ Guardian.

At the time of writing, neither ITV political editor Robert Peston nor BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg appear to have reported the Assange extradition case. They have not even tweeted about it once, even though they are both very active on Twitter. In fact, the last time Peston so much as mentioned Assange on his Twitter feed was 2017. Kuenssberg’s record is even worse; her Twitter silence extends all the way back to 2014. These high-profile journalists are supposedly prime exemplars of the very best ‘high-quality’ UK news broadcasters, maintaining the values of a ‘free press’, holding politicians to account and keeping the public informed.

On September 7, John Pilger gave an address outside the Old Bailey in London, just before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing began there. His words were a powerful rebuke to those so-called ‘journalists’ that have maintained a cowardly silence, or worse. The ‘official truth-tellers’ of the media – the stenographers who collaborate with those in power, helping to sell their wars – are, Pilger says, ‘Vichy journalists’.

He continued:

‘It is said that whatever happens to Julian Assange in the next three weeks will diminish if not destroy freedom of the press in the West. But which press? The Guardian? The BBC, The New York Times, the Jeff Bezos Washington Post?

‘No, the journalists in these organizations can breathe freely. The Judases on the Guardian who flirted with Julian, exploited his landmark work, made their pile then betrayed him, have nothing to fear. They are safe because they are needed.

‘Freedom of the press now rests with the honorable few: the exceptions, the dissidents on the internet who belong to no club, who are neither rich nor laden with Pulitzers, but produce fine, disobedient, moral journalism – those like Julian Assange.’

The post "Absolute And Arbitrary Power": Killing Extinction Rebellion And Julian Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Lucius Walker:  10 Years Later His Legacy Continues

Photo by Bill Hackwell

It is hard to believe that it has been ten years ago today since Reverend Lucius Walker suddenly died  leaving an enormous emptiness and gap in the movement of solidarity with Cuba and other just causes that in many ways we are still recovering from. I still miss him dearly. We remember Lucius for his bold and charismatic leadership whose ideas influenced and guided many progressives around the world while being a constant thorn in the side of the United States government.

He was a key figure in the struggle to return Elian Gonzalez home and before his death he was increasing his involvement in the struggle to free the Cuban 5.

Walker’s solidarity work did not start with Cuba. In August 1988, he was wounded while on a river boat traveling to the Bluefields region on the East coast of Nicaragua that was attacked by Contras. Two people were killed.  Commenting on the event Walker said he had come “face to face with the terrorism of our own government” and blamed President Ronald Reagan for the deaths that day. It was a turning point and led to his founding of Pastors for Peace, a project of IFCO, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization where Walker was the Executive Director. Along with its caravans to Cuba, that continues to this day, IFCO also organized humanitarian aid caravans to Chiapas Mexico and Central American.

It was the beginning of the nineties when many progressives in the United States starting hearing about this African American Baptist Minister in Brooklyn who was challenging the US blockade on Cuba, not just with words but with concrete actions. His project was about bringing humanitarian aid to Cuba without asking the US government for a license, telling them in no uncertain terms that they could not choose who our friends are and that instead of their policy of hate we were going to establish People to People diplomacy with the people of the island.

Lucius was more than a symbol in the movement but more of a magnet for many who were attracted to a new idea and vision of solidarity work. It was all about extending a hand to the Cuban people, challenging an immoral and unjust law to show the Cuban people they were not alone and that there were many in the US who oppose the blockade. We knew the humanitarian aid we were using as a battering ram against the blockade would not solve the problems the Cuban people faced but we were acting in defiance of the most powerful country on earth trying to strangle a neighboring country that had done nothing against us.

The Cuba caravans went to cities and towns all over the US where people organized events to gather aid and many hopped on the buses that became a symbol of the caravan to Cuba coming to town.  The caravans met up at the border with Mexico or Canada and then crossed them with a peaceful but in your face defiance of the blockade. We went through civil disobedience training and shared intense days in anticipation of a confrontation with US authorities but always guided by Lucius’s calm confidence who once said “We act not just in defiance of our government, but in obedience to our conscience.” We were entwined in a social project for social justice, peace and friendship that were experiences that no one who participated in it will ever forget. The thousands of people who over the years joined a caravan came from a wide range of backgrounds and political views and one did not have to be religious to come on board.

Over the years the caravans continued to grow with each one having its focus and characteristics. In 1993, 300 people participated with 100 tons of aid — including medicines, medical  and educational material, and a yellow bus that US Treasury officials seized at the Laredo border with Mexico because, “Fidel Castro might take a liking to it and use it as a military vehicle.”

When the bus was confiscated Lucius, along with 13 caravanistas who were on board when it was seized, decided to stay on the bus and to fast until it was released. This started a hunger strike in the sweltering Texas sun that lasted for 23 days while an emergency response network pressured Washington. Demonstrations were held in 20 cities, thousands of calls and faxes went to Washington, and a solidarity fast was held in front of the US Interests Section in Havana causing US government to relent. When the little yellow school bus finally arrived it was met by Fidel and the students of the school that was to receive it.

Lucius, whose ashes rest in Havana as he wished, remains beloved by the Cuban people for his permanent solidarity, the right of Cubans to self-determination, his steadfast activism against his country’s government blockade against this Caribbean nation, and here for those who knew him and worked with him he continues to be an example of how to be.

The post Lucius Walker:  10 Years Later His Legacy Continues first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Flag; a Violent MAGA Family; a Brick through the Window!

I’ll get to the punch line soon, since this is part two of a two-part mini-horror story of a neighbor’s 41-year-old MAGA son, the actual son’s 63-year-old MAGA-mean mom, and alas, the 41-year-old son’s 39-year-old brother. And then the lot of them under the roof of a 63-year-old stepfather who has “US Navy retired” on his Facebook account, as well as every single post about on-line Texas Hold’em. [Part One! Your Right Ends with My Right to Might]

The offending sign:

They are not what David Graeber said, “We Are the 99 Percent.” They are making three retirements, getting social security (times two), government (tax payer funded) Medicare, free VA, and they sold a house (obscene inflated price) in California, and have come to Oregon because this coast is almost “We Are the 99 Percent White” homeland of Sundown Laws. Their house on our street is the largest and newest built right on the dunes overlooking the bay. Cheap compared to Simi Valley. They banked the rest for their glorious days as racists on the coast of Oregon.

You know, criticize students, teachers, journalists, local elected officials, the road department, Portland in general, Democrats, anyone with a green button on, and, well, not exactly connoisseurs of our incredible Hatfield Marine Sciences Center.  For them, spending money at a spendy restaurant in Newport, chipping in a $7 tip, and lording over some subservient waiter is their way of “rubbing elbows with the poor people.”

I know the types because I have talked with others around here — Californians from Orange County, Semi Valley and the like. The ones who for decades have cursed the Mexicans, the Guatemalans, the African Americans, the Koreans, the Armenians, the Sikhs, the Indians, the Chinese, and on and on and on. You know, in places named Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, those all-American English proper nouns.

The single thread I have attempted to help students understand is that we are as individuals what we individually… do, say, eat, drink, watch, read, dream, hope for, act upon, see, smell, hear, hold true, protect, believe, perform, learn, value, preserve, who we valorize, what we consume, build, and write. Collectively, well, one can imagine as a society or culture or nation that we might also have  all of these “what we …” to reflect upon whether we are good people or bad people, takers or leavers, kind or cruel, pacific or warring, COLLECTIVELY.

Ways of Thinking - Feudalism is very much alive

More on the MAGA deplorables in a moment.

Having lived in some interesting places – Bisbee, Tucson, Sierra Vista, El Paso, Albuquerque, Spokane, Seattle, Portland,  Vancouver, and then many other places in foreign lands —  I understand the concept of those who have and those who have nothing or barely nothing.

I understand (know closely) those in crisis, those with bad families, those who have been abandoned by the most important people who should have been there for them – mother, father, sister, brother, uncles and aunts, extended families. I know the directionless mindset of young people who join gangs, use drugs, commit violence,  and are on a war-path toward self-destruction. I know the deep thread of trauma inflicted upon people, and how that stays for life, an ever-lasting series of lamentations, self-analyses, and self-doubts and self-loathing, to just name a few.

It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to know bad hombres when you see them. It doesn’t take the niece or the sister of a Trump Character to know the lack of worth and the insult to humanity a guy like him reflects.

Did Hitler have adverse childhood experiences? Does it matter? Trump? Cheney? Bush? Kissinger? Milton Friedman? Colin Powell? Madeline Albright? Obama? Clinton? Biden? Every single billionaire and every single millionaire?

You know, I have a neighbor here, next door, from Arizona. Husband and wife. They hate Glendale, hate the republican Red State politics, hate the criminal ex-pardoned-sheriff Joe. They are here, and alas, they bought a lot, and built on it a manufactured home. The kind that comes in two parts. You know it from the long line of cars on the freeways with “extra wide load” pilot cars sandwiching them. A nice one with a foundation and it looks like a from-the-ground-up-with-footings house.

The deal is they (no one) can get a traditional mortgage for a trailer or park home or manufactured home. But, that billionaire Warren Buffet made some cool billions by financing mobile homes, using a balloon payment system, and his scheme (one of thousands) caused many (millions) to pay exorbitant fees, interest rates, and many-many homes were repossessed, like yesterday’s Pontiac Grand Am. Then, old Warren inflicts another layer of making money — on the used (repossessed) manufactured home market. This is the scheme of misanthropes, those that make the Forbes 1000 List, those that end up on Obama’s economic transition team. Or Trump’s. Or Biden’s.

The neighbors are nice, but alas, they are voting for Biden-Harris, and even that action conjures up fears, so much so they are afraid to put out a legal, everyday “Vote for Harris-Biden 2020” yard sign. Other neighbors want that same sign up, but fear retaliation.

I know many people living in many countries, including many in Europe, and they are sort of looking at this country from a telephoto lens, and really have not idea how bad, how messed up, how fearful, how spineless Americans are. Sure, they want USA to bomb Iran, bomb North Korea, bomb Venezuela, bomb China, bomb Russia, bomb liberals or bomb MAGA’s, but in reality, this country is all show and all bravado with a few tens of millions of psychopaths with guns running around (driving big trucks) with the red-white-and-blue dangling near the tailpipe.

Show up here on the coast a dark-skinned Italian, Frenchman, Greek, Spaniard, well, you get the picture. A deep swarthy tan, even for a so-called white man or woman, well, that’s a suspect epidermis. REALLY.

I used to work outside a lot, ride a bike for 50 miles in a day, and had dark black hair and a goatee. Sure, the hair on my arms bleached out, but still, in Idaho, in 2001 when I first ended up in the Pacific Northwest, from El Paso, one day in Idaho, while taking guests around, I was asked if I was a Heb – Jewish? Asked if I was an Arab? And asked if I was a Mexican?  I am not kidding. First, you have to deal with the fact being any of those – Jewish, Arab and Mexican – I still think is legal. But then, the undertone, the very concept of questioning who I am, based on nationality (or maybe ethnicity, because you can be any racial member in all three camps – Arab, Jewish and Mexican.

File:American corporate flag.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Deplorables 2001. Deplorables in 1980 bombing innocents in Central America. Deplorables rah-rah Bush and Nixon and Bombing them All Back to the Stone Age. And, those who work for these deplorables, well, some can call them Eichmann’s or Little Eichmann’s like Ward Churchill called many of those working in the World Trade Center. People who work for the masters, the paymasters, the schemers, the grifters, the snake oil salesmen, the high risk loan sharks, PayDay loan sharks, all those used car salesmen who eat the potato salad at the Sunday School brunch, and on Monday, sell another car with saw dust inside the transmission casing or hawk an SUV that once floated around NOL after Hurricane Katrina. Faulty air bags, faked VW emissions, cracks in the O-ring for the NASA Space Shuttle, fissures in the metal containing the nuclear rods at Three Mile Island. You know, all those people, who, unfortunately, have been lumped into “We Are the 99.”

We can say they were duped by the money, made a Faustian Bargain, drank the Kool-Aid, were bought out or sold out. Brainwashed by Capitalism … or greed. Sell their mothers down the river, because something bad in their lives turned them. Excuse/ excuse/ excuse.

I can’t go there now, or even years ago when the slogan began, We Are the 99.” I was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police during Occupy Wall Street. Many of those in the “99” ended up on the message boards and comments sections telling us that we deserved to be pepper sprayed, or what did we expect, or that there are other ways to make our point other than marching peacefully.

So, yeah, no, not part of any “We Are the 99.” Closet racists? Misogynists? Believers in the lie that all faculty at colleges and universities are elitists?

I was not brought up in privilege – my old man was an airman in USAF and then got into the Army as a Warrant Officer. Yes, I got to live overseas, travel overseas, be with relatives in Scotland, England, Ireland and Germany, but we are not talking about anything past lower-middle class. [Of course, there are plenty of psychological studies and cognitive theses on how Americans conflate their abilities, inflate  their actual economic standing, and frame their own narratives around the bastards of the world. Imagine, dirt poor people in Appalachia relating to silver-spooned, poor-hating, accent-mocking, disabilities-deriding, excon-slamming Trump or Bush or Nixon or Reagan.]

Did I strike gold? Well, I was in that time period in 1975 when a state college education was dirt cheap, and the state university in Tucson was progressive, made tons of allowances letting dudes like me major in science, English, journalism – all at the same time, semester to semester. Electives were anthropology [got to do the Garbage Project, garbology, with William Rathje];  marine biology [got to be a diver in Sea of Cortez with incredible professors who had a slew of marine species named after them]; poetry and creative writing [got to be a hanger on at the University of Arizona Poetry Center and all the writers who came through to the university];  journalism [got to get paid reporting for the then daily Wildcat newspaper, a wholly independent newspaper not under the thumb of the journalism department]. We broke stories on the veterinarian school paying for dogs (stolen) for ghastly experiments with ballistics; and broke the story on the football coach scamming refunding unused airline vouchers for his own slush fund. I even got to take a special topics class with W. Eugene Smith, the photographer. We got the Center for Creative Photography and the Ansel Adams slides. I did a first-person series on homelessness in Tucson, and I learned community journalism working on the lab paper, The Tombstone Epitaph. I got to party with Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, and even had beers several times with Lee Marvin. I got the chance to ride my motorcycle as an extra in C.C. & Company, with Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. And, much-much more by the time I was 20 years old.

A measure of an adult is not the size of his or her bank account, for sure, and alas, 43 years later, I am still lower-middle class, having had a life of part-time gigs threaded into a multi-variant quilt. Some of my friends are/were tenured professors, semi-successful novelists, and a millionaire or two here and there.

The bulk of my life has been teaching in places like El Paso and Las Cruces and Tucson, Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver.

The measure of some can be grasped through the quality of their living, their life philosophy and for some, an education inside and outside the hallowed walls of university life. I took education by the horns, got the paid TA-ship for one master’s (in English) and got another almost free ride getting another master’s in urban and regional planning. Learning is and was something you can do outside of a college, but a good college and good students and a vibrant campus and community life, no one can replace. They can bullshit you into thinking everything taught and learned in school is easily learned in the real world, but the problem is the real world is not our house, and the real world is the paymaster. A real education is life-long learning, a community of service learning, and one where curriculum is morphed, special projects encouraged, across disciples are the norm, and the liberal arts the foundation.

As many have said, I should/could write many books on my life and on what I have seen in so many other people’s lives.

Amazon.com : ACAB Anti Cop Stop Police Brutality Protest Statement Garden Flag for Outdoor House Porch Welcome Holiday Decoration, Fit Chritmas/Birthday/Happy New, 3x5ft : Garden & Outdoor

I take radical action seriously, and I know – knew from an early age – the system is rigged for the rich, and that in this country, at least, the majority of people are colonized and co-opted by the complex forces of capitalism as it plays out as predatory, penury, parasitic, usury, sociopathic and ablaze with the profits privatized and all the external costs to us, society, and to the environment, socialized. A society that doesn’t do a drum beat around the tenets of something like War is a Racket and one that has no grasp of that the same fellow, General Smedley Butler, thwarting a military coup against FDR by a group of businessmen, none of whom got “hook-line-and-sinkered” for the crime, well, that society is delusional and infantilized.

I have studied human nature, have been in developing countries, under developed countries and what might be termed as third world countries. I understand the overt corruption of a place like Mexico, where cops-politicians-rich-narcos have laid siege on the people, on the indigenous ones, on teachers and land reformers and environmental defenders. The duplicity, the complete global thuggery of the USA – all those systems of exported extortion, pollution, hostage taking, maiming, theft, fraud, and grifting, again, make the narcos look like school bullies. Right, tales of a few tens of millions Economic Hit Men, thanks John Perkins!

There is something totally hardened by the Yankee and Rebel  –

In 1923, the British novelist D.H. Lawrence offered a grim assessment of America and Americans: “All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Lawrence’s observations of the American character did not draw upon deep wells of direct personal experience. When he wrote those lines, he had only been living in the United States for a bit more than a year and had spent much of that time among artists and the literati. But he was neither the first nor the last to make such an observation. Nearly 50 years ago, surveying both the wreckage of the 1960s and centuries of archives, the brilliant historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that “Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.”

The general strike that didn't happen: a report on the activity of the IWW in Wisconsin

Here, David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. He was one of several who helped coin the “We Are the Ninety-Nine Percent.”

Well, one of the things that I discovered in researching my book is that the kind of debt crisis we’re experiencing now, being a real debt crisis, which is a debt crisis that affects ordinary people, debts between the very wealthy or between governments can always be renegotiated and always have been throughout world history. They’re not anything set in stone. It’s, generally speaking, when you have debts owed by the poor to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred obligation, more important than anything else. The idea of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable. In the past, though, there have been mechanisms, when things get to a point of real social crisis, that have always existed. And they vary by the period of history. In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms. [Counterpunch]

Now how is Graber’s untimely death Sept. 3, 2020 related to the misanthropes across the street who not only exhibit the middling middle class from California hatred of Muslims, hatred of liberals, hatred of education, hatred of book learning, hatred of the arts, hatred of discourse, hatred of debate, hatred of countervailing beliefs, hatred of evolution, hatred of most sciences, hatred of multiculturalism, hatred of youth/color/polyglots/indigenous people.

Every week there is a new yard gnome, a new seasonal flag up – you name the Hallmark celebration, this family puts them all up, during those “correct” calendar spans. They wear sports team clothes, they shop at Walmart, they plant plastic flowers, they have a yippy little dog, they don’t own a bicycle, kayak, canoe, anything to at least prove they are part of the walking species. They don’t walk. Both have hobbled gaits, and at 63 they seem and act like dinosaurs from an Archie Bunker episode.

What takes the cake is that they, as I said in the first part, took down a smallish placard/sign from our property, at our front door. The son did the stealing, age 41, and the mother the next day out and out told me “my son would never do that.”

This is America, the nation of liars and thieves and infants. So, the sign was gone, I caught him in the act, I tried to stop him with my words, and he slinked into his mother’s house at 10:40 pm. All the lights were out.

You see, they were looking at this sign, and not only were they bubbling over with rage, they were talking about it. Somehow, this sign represents everything they are against. Steal a sign from the neighbors.

Ahh, but that just was part one. Now, two days later, we get a bang on the door. Nothing like having to utilize your 2nd amendment rights. Startled, well, I thought maybe this guy was back on a rampage. I saw a Sheriff deputy.

Well, this same boy, at 7 pm, according to two witnesses, threw a large garden cement paving stone into my passenger side window. The witness called the cops. The cop asked if I wanted to report this as a crime. The cop photographed the interior, the paving stone, and then took the stone. He also called for back-up. He told me a neighbor and visitor witnessed the brick being thrown through my window. Of course, on the little Metro, I had the same sign on the back window.

This is it for America, in a nutshell. This is not Covid-19 stir crazy. This fellow has a history of booze and 24-hour drinking at mom’s place. I found this out later. The other son also has issues with going off the wagon. This is the reality of these Trumpies, 39, 41 and two 63-year-olds. Big screen TV I can see every time I go outside. The talking heads of the 24/7 Hate TV, Big Brother Hannity and Fox and Friends Hate TV stars.

But you see, these deplorables were deplorables way before this greasy man got into the White House. Seething against the Latinos and Blacks. Seething against the wildfires (blaming the democrats for those). Seething against the high cost of living, and seething that they were passed up on the time line the day they were born.

Trauma informed care means understanding where people are in their addictions, their mental crises and their involvement in the criminal injustice system. Not about blame or expecting people to meet some “normal” level of functioning, but meeting them there at the trauma and going from here to be an inspiring and helpful case manager.

But when the shoe is on the other foot – the neighbor committing an act of violence (yes, a brick or rock through a car window right outside your home is a symbolic threat to a person’s body) or the politician thieving or the president raping – well, the victim cannot always be so holistic and understanding of those perpetrators’ childhood, juvenile, teen, young and old adult traumas as rationales for bad behavior.

One brick, a few hundred dollars later, then cops who give citations but do not take people to jail because of Covid-19. Guys that are white met by white cops. Lies, excuses, etc. The deputy said this perpetrator was saying, “Come on, aren’t you guys part of the blue lives matter? Come on, what I did was for you.”

There you have it. Me threading the needle, since I know for sure policing has been a giant racist and punishment and sadistic thing in US society. I know if the perp had been a dark person, a BIPOC, then, one backtalk move, and that person would be in cuffs.

Instead, the deputy said this guy was all over the place, was trying to coddle up to the cops, and that he was smelling of booze and that his job was to disarm the individual’s uneven demeanor by de-escalating things.

And, the bottom line is I am told to exercise my 2nd amendment rights, have the gun/guns ready, “and, if any trouble happens on the property, wink wink …,” well, those are the words of cops.

Oh, and they recommended to get a no-stalking order filed at the court, so a judge can meet with me via phone to determine if this one guy, the 41-year-old, will be hit with a court order to stay away from me. For each member of the family, we’d have to file individual stalking orders.

This is America, the hard, cold shallow/sallow America. The California Here You Come America. The Fox News America. The seething white racist America. The Americans who hate welfare while they scoop up all the welfare from their mercenary service (sic) in the US Navy, while getting social security, while getting Medicare and VA benefits, and maybe this fellow, the 41-year-old, he too is on government assistance – unemployment and possibly developmentally disabled before age 18?

I have friends all over the world who think the United States is something completely than it is. They consume so much Holly-dirt, and they maybe smart and read the elites and Ivy League mostly white books on this or that angle in America. Their take on things – because the Ivy Leaguers and Elite Coastal Lizards – have no real sense of how bad the country is, how tough the soul of the white nation is, how quickly the nation of immigrants will turn into a nation of haters.

The paperwork for the no stalking order is absurdly long. Then, the conference courtroom swearing in. All the other no-stalking cases up first – violent spouse or ex-boyfriend. Nothing like listening to all these cases of violence, threats, etc. to get a person re-traumatized. That’s what was on the docket — my case and then women who were in fear for their lives because of violent ex-spouses and ex-boyfriends.

So, get this – in the USA, now, I have a temporary no-stalking order, and the guy will be served soon, which means, you guessed it, more escalation of his testosterone, etc. More of the MAGA might makes right stupidity? That’s one possible scenario. The order goes to a level, according to the judge,  of this fellow not being allowed in my field of vision, which makes it, err, problematic for him, since the house’s stoop overlooks the same road we share.

All the nonsense like –

You will have the opportunity to ask the judge to stop the stalker from:

Following or monitoring you,
Threatening you,
Talking or writing to you (by mail, phone, text, email, or social media),
Interfering with or damaging your property,
Coming near you in public or on private property, and
Showing up at your work, home, school, or daycare facility.

Someone may be stalking you when they:

Follow you,
Conduct surveillance on you,
Appear uninvited at your home, work, or school,
Makes unwanted phone calls or sends unwanted emails or texts,
Leave objects for you,
Vandalizes your property, or
Hurt your pet.

Like I said, I have had an interesting life. Worked as a police reporter and was even threatened as a newspaper journalist by both Sheriff deputies and a local policeman in Bisbee, Las Cruces and El Paso. For publishing too much on the PD/Sheriff. Got to hang out in Chihuahua City and on a couple of ranchos outside the city with some mean hombres – both college educated (MBA and JD) in the USA, but then, also politicos with ties to the cocaine trade. Been in small towns in the south, and up north in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah and Arizona.

The Euro’s and Aussies and Kiwis know nothing about how warped and dysfunctional this country under white banking and war rule is. Imagine, that defective set of genes then moving into 1990 and the 2000s. Complete monsters like Zuckerberg and Bezos, the entire Fortune 5000 captains of industry, the sports team owners, Hollywood, from sea to shining sea.

The MAGA thing is real, not just some kneejerk against the orange monster/menace/accused pedophile/accused rapist. Yet, there are so many Americans willing to give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, so many Ellen’s and Karen’s giving Bush Baby the benefit of the doubt. This is the caliber of both sides of the political manure pile.

You’re 77 and Joe Biden and, bam, the slippage, big time. Then the felon, the grifter, the complete imbecile, Trump, 74. Two accused rapists, two rotten men, and one, Biden, living some fabled set of lies, the plagiarist in the Senate and VP. Then the habitual thief, Trump, lying as a tool, incompetent, and believe it or not, dumber than dirt, making Bush Junior look like Stephen Hawkins.

One hundred and fifty-one, the two of them, combined imbecility and lies and entitlement. Both racists, both lovers of the exceptionalism that is the huge American lie. Imagine, having five leaders, 30 years old each, running for president? Imagine that. “Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for holding the presidency. To serve as president, one must: be a natural-born U.S. citizen of the United States; be at least 35 years old; resident of the US for at least 14 years.”

This is the quality of MAGA, and many of them are old, Christians, sure, and they in any other time in history would not let their daughters come home with a greasy man like Trump for a date, let alone for candidacy for son-in-law. Not exactly all-American virtuous guy. No Norman Rockwell guy. No Norman Vincent Peele kinda dude.

Yet, their televangelists and pulpit punchers are all degenerates, and the country – little do the Euro visitor knows this – is steeped in magical thinking, protective angels, strong belief in papa in the head office guiding the poor and even educated people on what to think, say, mouth, and hear around what it means to be American.

So it goes, these neighbors, the quasi-restraining order (for a stranger, no less – not even work related). People of two generations hating blacks, hating gays, hating people with disabilities, hating the environment, hating hating and more hating.

A rock through the window, and what’s next? What will happen when the Black Lives Matter signs go up? When will they bring out their guns and ammo? When oh when will that restraining order come to the rescue? After two more pavers are thrown into our vehicles’ windows? Gunshots over the house, threw the window or at us?

This is the Trump-Land, and the same scum were there during Clinton (I went to a gun show in Texas and they were selling embossed bullseye targets with Chelsea, Bill and Hillary faces on them. Nixon? Democratic Convention in Chicago? School busing? How many are dead in Ohio? Black Panthers? Which red-baiting McCarthyite went on to, well, advise Mister Queens New York?

Flag for the Black Panthers (Black Panther Party) : vexillology

This is how the sausage was made in America with that secret ingredient always back into the ground up mix–

400–500 years ago, Europe’s unwanted social outcasts and religious extremists began relocating to Virginia and Massachusetts. Grateful crowns back in London, Amsterdam and Strasbourg rejoiced as their most ungovernable and unwanted subjects self-exiled to the new world. There, waste people and pilgrims set about recreating the same intolerance they sought to flee. Puritan Christianity was so intolerant that they were unable to coexist anywhere – neither with their own kind back in the old world, nor with the natives of the new.

These first settlers thought the Inquisition ended too soon and eagerly sought to reproduce it – burning heretics and accused witches, perpetuating the cruel and unusual medieval tortures discarded by their European forebears, and forcing abused wives to wear the scarlet letter. Women and children had no rights; men were vicious tyrants. Colonial promoter Richard Hakluyt back in England neatly summarized the first settlers’ goals in 1585: “The ends of their voyage are these: to plant Christian religion; to trafficke; and to conquer.”  Abel Cohen

Great Debate: Should it be a crime to burn the American Flag? – The Crimson

Oh, those in the One Percent and then the others, in that 19 Percent Group

U.S. has highest level of income inequality among G7 countries

I’ll go with Michael Parenti on this accord — the richest 85 families own as much wealth as the lower 50 percent of the world? Bullshit. Those misanthropes own a hell of a lot more than anything the 3.5 billion people on earth might collectively “have.” No comparison:

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population— whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.— can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down? Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities? especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc. We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are. — Michael Parenti 

And so I get a rock through my car window, get to go to court to file a no stalking order, and await yet more American mean as cuss reactions as the Black Lives Matter and Ecosocialist signs go up . . .  Of course, after I have to purchase and install closed circuit surveillance cameras. Yep, MAGA Mutts for Trump 4.0.

What does it mean if the US flag is upside down? - Quora

The post A Flag; a Violent MAGA Family; a Brick through the Window! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

No Going Back: It’s All Got to Change

It’s been a weird time, the last six months, and so it continues; perhaps it always was.  It’s certainly been an unjust violent mess in varying degrees of severity, for as long as most can remember. With selfishness, division and pleasure firmly in the driving seat, and the planet beautiful, slowly choking to death under the weight of human greed and stupidity.

After Covid-19 erupted, widespread lockdowns like a blunderbuss were enforced in many countries, and for a brief interlude hush descended on towns and cities across the world. Whole populations from Europe to New Zealand and most points in between were forced to desist from ‘going out’ and socializing, made to curtail their habitual shopping urges and change their work patterns. A strange and uncertain time, aggravating pre-existing anxieties, triggering depression, threatening economic meltdown.

A rare space opened, is still available, creating the opportunity to reflect on how life was and is being lived, individually and collectively; an opportunity to redefine what is important, and for those so inclined, to ponder life after the virus. A feeling of post-pandemic hope circulated among the hopeful. Could, will, ‘things’ change for the good at last?  Would corporate governments emerge with a new attitude towards public services, ‘key workers’ – who had suddenly become heroes – the environment and national health care systems (where they exist, and where they don’t with a recognition that they should), refugees and migrant workers.

Will the many acts of community kindness foster lasting social responsibility, can the pause in consumerism, manufacturing, and travel, ignite a major shift in political and social attitudes, leading to a change in policies and collective behavior rooted in environmental and social responsibility? Many hope for such a long overdue bonanza, but as countries tentatively begin to emerge from the shadow of Covid the political rhetoric and corporate talk is depressingly predictable.

Saddled with huge national debt, the prospect of an economic ‘slump’, or ‘slowdown’ and mass unemployment, anxious politicians lacking vision, and business leaders (understandably) concerned with survival and profit, repeatedly, and desperately talk about getting back to ‘normal’; re-starting the economy – the very economy that has polluted the air, the oceans and the land – and speedy recoveries. It is predictable lunacy; no, no, no, not business as chuffing usual, many cry. This is a chance to think outside the existing foul paradigm, to creatively re-imagine how life could be. If we are to face the most pressing issues of the day, there must be real change.

The term ‘new normal’ is routinely bandied around by politicians, business leaders and commentators these days; it’s often used to describe the changes to working methods – Zoom meetings for example, education bubbles in schools, one-way systems and hand sanitation in shops, face coverings on public transport. Cautionary health care measures, but nothing of substance; nothing that will save the planet, mitigate the ecological vandalism being perpetrated by humanity; create social justice, end violent conflict, racism and starvation; banish malnutrition, reform education, offer justice and support to migrants, and house the homeless in every land – for example.

We do not need a ‘new normal’, referring as it does to the old, decrepit, inadequate, poisoning ‘normal’ that has cast a cloak of misery and insecurity everywhere it is found, and it’s found everywhere.  99.9% of people around the world, and the natural environment require revolutionary change. Fundamental socio-economic change, true and lasting shifts in attitudes and behavior, not simply Covid-19 enforced adjustments encased in the existing structures and values – manipulations of an inadequate socio-economic model, which needs dismantling. As author Phillip Pullman put it: “It’s all got to change. If we come out of this crisis with all the rickety, flyblown, worm-eaten old structures still intact, our descendants will not forgive us. Nor should they. We must burn out the old corruption and establish a better way of living together.” And if you take a walk through a shopping area, an industrial site or office island, it’s clear; the old is dying before our very eyes, not due to the pandemic, but because it is devoid of vitality, totally and utterly. It’s finished, let it go, and let’s turn our attention to re-imagining society and the systems under which we all live; allow the transition into the new to creatively and harmoniously take place.

Save Our Planet (S.O.P.)

For months Covid-19 has stolen the headlines and dominated mainstream media programs, but within a burgeoning list of interconnected crises, of which the current pandemic is one, it is the complex environmental emergency that screams out as the single greatest issue facing humanity. And if humanity is to rise to this greatest of challenges, wholesale change is needed. Under lockdown the environment appeared to be given a respite, the air somewhat cleaner, rivers lighter, but, perhaps surprisingly, greenhouse gas emissions have been barely affected. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) expects this year’s annual emissions to be reduced by just 6-8%. This, they make clear, will have no measurable impact on carbon concentrations, or climate warming. In fact, 2020 is on track to be hottest year on record, on the back of subsequent hot years. According to the UK Met Office, a 10% drop is needed “to have a noticeable effect on the rising CO2 concentrations, but even then concentrations would still be rising.”

The principle cause of the environmental catastrophe is consumerism, insatiable ignorant human consumption of stuff, most of it unnecessary, and, crucially, animal-based food produce, and if we are to Save Our Planet (S.O.P.) and provide a viable world in which our children and grandchildren can live and grow, radical changes in our modes of living are needed, alternative values encouraged. Changes that move humanity in a new direction completely, that negate totally the urge, tempting or inevitable as it may appear to many to be, to resurrect the terminally sick economy and pursue the Growth Genie. Rooted in endless consumption, greed and competition such obsessive behavior has, in addition to strengthening nationalism and division, pushed the planet into critical care and, if we continue to be hypnotized by the pursuit of transient pleasures, will lead, if we are not already there, to irreparable climatic disorder and chronic ecological disease – and soon.

Returning to ‘normal’ means re-igniting the consumer-based economy, encouraging consumerism and affirming negative, habitual patterns of behavior. That’s what the politicians and the corporate voices are concerned about, and, while they may include the words ‘green’ or ‘alternative’, ‘renewable’, or ‘eco’, in their rousing duplicitous rhetoric, their principle goal is not salvaging the environment, changing behavior and encouraging simplicity of living; it is generating profit, perpetuating ‘growth’. And the way that’s achieved is by populations consuming, irresponsibly and in excess. An economic system based and reliant upon limitless consumption, in all its facets, including animal agriculture, is completely incompatible with the health of the planet, and the well-being of people.

Instead of excess, simplicity and sufficiency need to be the goals; responsible consumerism, in which goods and services are bought based on need, and choices/decisions are determined by the impact on the natural world. This requires personal effort and worldwide education. National public education programs, run by governments in collaboration with environmental groups, are needed to make people aware of the impact of their behavior on the environment, including animal agriculture; cutting out all animal food produce is the single most significant step individuals can take to help reduce their impact on the environment.

Changes in behavior are essential, but governments, long-term political policies and corporations have the biggest impact; while the rhetoric from some in office may be resonant, it is difficult to see any politicians within the current crop who have the breadth of vision and the will to enact the radical measures needed if the environmental emergency is to be overcome. All are married to the existing structures and appear to believe in the pervasive socio-economic ideology. Intense public pressure then, like the actions undertaken by Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, the Schools Strike for Climate and others, is crucial and must be applied, consistently and forcefully if, and it is a loud and deeply troubling if, the needed actions to Save Our Planet and heal our societies – for the two are inextricably linked – are to take place within the time frame required.

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Eviction Abolition: The Time Is Now

It’s the beginning of the month. Do you know your neighbors?

I have several questions for you. Can you imagine a society where the prospect of a forced eviction is considered completely barbaric, and is virtually or entirely unheard of in practice? Can you imagine the United States becoming one of those societies? And have you joined a local community group that is considering these questions where you live?

I’m a founding member of a new network I and others are working on expanding here in Portland, called Portland Emergency Eviction Response, which is basically a rapid response team to go participate in eviction defense actions, activated by text message, in the tradition of the telephone trees of the twentieth century, or the tin horns of the nineteenth century.

I’d like to give you my answers to the questions I posed above.

Can I imagine a society where the class war is not carried out in such vicious ways, with millions of renters across the country getting evicted every year, with the disruption, dislocation, destruction and chaos that ensues in community after community, year in and year out?

Yes, that’s easy. Many countries in the world already don’t allow this feudal practice. I travel in them and perform in them regularly, and have done so for most of my adult life. There are many ways landlords can seek restitution aside from the forced eviction of tenants.

Can I imagine the US becoming one of those societies, where eviction doesn’t happen?

Although it is currently a more unequal place than it has been since the Age of the Robber Barons, this fact is not only a curse for so many struggling in poverty, but it’s also an opportunity. As bad as the housing crisis was for both homeowners and renters before the pandemic hit, it is exponentially worse now, particularly since the federal government has been unable to take any meaningful action since the end of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — although the new move by the Centers for Disease Control to ban evictions for anyone making less than $99,000 until the end of the year at least kicks the can down the road until then, when the past rent will suddenly come due for tens of millions of people who will have avoided eviction until then.  The patchwork of state and local eviction suspensions is now, finally, largely supplanted by a nationwide ban.  But one which, like almost all the other temporary eviction bans, does nothing to address the underlying problems that existed prior to the pandemic, or the divisions that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  So unless further, major action is taken, everything now comes crashing down at the beginning of 2021, instead of this month.

With the situation being as bad as it is, a lot of people are realizing that the capitalist system and the ever-increasing cost of housing that has been the situation for a long time now, but much more so since the last financial crisis, is untenable. People are no longer going along with the program. Landlords seeking to evict tenants, from New York to California, have faced spontaneous and angry gatherings of their neighbors, that have caused them to back off and go away. This is how it starts.

Even a criminally unequal society still requires a certain degree of the consent of the governed in order to function. Police brutality alone won’t work – not when the people being evicted increasingly include members of the extended families of cops across the country, just as they increasingly include so many other segments of society, with Black and brown people being disproportionately impacted everywhere. People are spontaneously reacting against this madness when they’re confronted by it. Increasingly, clearly, the consent of the governed is being withdrawn.

This is why the time is now. This is why people who have been involved with every other political movement that has ever existed in my lifetime are back out in the streets today. All those folks involved with the global justice movement, Occupy Wall Street, the climate justice movement, and so on, also believe that Black lives matter, and that now is the time to fight back against institutional racism, and all the other institutions that perpetuate it, such as the police, and also the venture capitalists and their facilitators in the state legislatures across the country that allow for the kind of ethnic cleansing that has taken place in cities like Portland, where more than half of the Black population here has been priced out of the city since I moved into it.

I have seen the same thing happen in every city I have lived in in this country, and I’m not the only one who is sick and tired of it. Being sick and tired is becoming widespread. There are only so many times one can experience this pattern before you’ve had enough – moving into a diverse neighborhood, only to see it get whiter and whiter, until only the most recent newcomers with six-figure incomes can afford to live in it anymore, and the vast majority of Black and brown residents, along with the vast majority of professional artists and so many others, are once again forced out. The ranks of those who are fed up with this shit is growing fast.

Which brings me to my third question – have you joined a neighborhood network of some kind?

Spontaneous outpourings by neighbors are essential, but we can’t depend on that alone to end something like the phenomenon of forced eviction. Forced eviction was banned in Chicago during the last Great Depression in no small part because people organized eviction defense squads. Somewhat more recently in New York City, many squats and other buildings were saved through similar kinds of mobilizing – even during the very authoritarian Giuliani administration in that city. In the UK, eviction defense actions in Glasgow were essential to fueling a successful rent strike and ultimately a nationwide rent freeze, a century ago.

History is full of such examples. Although for the bigger ones you sometimes have to go back a ways to find them, this is because of the confluence of circumstances people were facing at those times – which bear so much similarity to today. Sudden economic crashes on top of an already terribly divided, stratified society, met by incompetent political leadership.

Changing the world always seems impossible at first, I hear. The obstacles always seem insurmountable at the outset. Getting started is the hardest part. But once one eviction has been prevented, and then another, momentum can build very quickly.

Those of us who are working on the initiative we’re calling Portland Emergency Eviction Response are looking at this basic approach: if you are facing eviction in the city of Portland and for whatever reason(s) you have decided you want to try to stay in your home and resist this eviction order, contact us, so we can be in touch well before the cops actually show up. When the police do eventually show up, which they tend to do on their own time, you tell us, and we activate the text mob. But first, if you’re in Portland, you need to sign up, to this or another such initiative. If you do, you’ll meet some of the best people you’ve ever met, while you’re defending someone’s home together.

Go to artistsforrentcontrol.org and scroll down to the bottom of the screen to sign up. Another world is possible, and another Portland is possible.

The post Eviction Abolition: The Time Is Now first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Protect The Vote And End Privatization Of The Postal Service

As we warned earlier in the year, the US Postal Service is failing due to a long term effort to weaken it plus the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic, recession and intentional efforts by the Trump administration to suppress the vote.

Members of Congress and state leaders are starting to take notice because of the magnitude of the crisis and public outcry, particularly over valid concerns that mail-in voting will be disrupted. Now is the time to not only protect the vote but to end privatization and selling off of the US Postal Service and expand it as a critical public institution that provides high-quality jobs and services to all communities, rich and poor, urban and rural, across the country.

March in 2014 to save the Post Office

The Long Push to Dismantle and Privatize the Post Office

The Post Office is mandated in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7). It is a critical service and a public good that has been provided to all people. With the passage of the 1981 budget, the US Postal Service was required to be self-funded from its revenues alone without support through taxes, which it was able to achieve until the pandemic. In fact, for more than 200 years, it has been solvent despite being the target of big banks and profiteers.

Ellen Brown describes the long history of the plan to dismantle and privatize the US Postal Service (USPS) going back to 1910 when the Postal Savings Bank Act was passed to provide a safer alternative for people after the banking crash of 1907. The big banks were upset by the competition from a postal bank. In 1966, the postal banks were dismantled after a series of laws were passed, beginning in the New Deal Era, which strengthened the private banks and gave them an advantage over postal banks.

Profiteers searching for more public entities to loot, as they have done with water, education, healthcare, and more have long viewed the Post Office as a fertile field for making money if they could weaken it enough so it would fail. A serious step in this direction was taken in 2006 with the so-called ‘Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act‘ (PAEA).

The PAEA was sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats. It passed in the House with the full support of the Democrats (including Congressman Bernie Sanders, one Democrat abstained). Most of the Republicans supported it; twenty voted against it. It then went to the Senate where it passed with unanimous consent (a procedure used when Senators do not want to be held accountable for their vote).

A requirement of the PAEA is that the Postal Service must pre-fund all of its retirement funds including health benefits for the next 75 years (for people who have not been born yet). No business is required to go to this extreme and two-thirds of Fortune 1,000 businesses don’t pre-fund retirement at all. This costs the USPS over $5.5 billion each year. It is a way to “fatten the cow” for its eventual sell-off to private corporations.

One of the first impacts of the PAEA was that 65,000 postal workers lost their jobs in 2009. The USPS is one of the largest employers of African Americans in the US. This continued throughout the Obama administration as almost half of the postal processing plants were shuttered, local post offices had their hours reduced by 25 to 75% and 3,700 post offices were closed. The move to end Saturday mail delivery was attempted and stopped. A total of 150,000 postal workers lost their jobs under Obama and those who remained had their wages cut.

Under Obama, mail sorting and trucking were sub-contracted to private entities that pay their workers less. Activists began to protest in 2013 by delivering petitions and occupying post offices. In Berkeley, CA, people occupied the main post office for 33 days to prevent the historic New Deal Era building from being sold. This was part of a year-long successful campaign that gained tremendous public support, media attention, and support by local and state elected officials.

In 2015, A Grand Alliance to Save the Post Office, created by the four postal worker unions and other organizations, including Popular Resistance, formed under the leadership of APWU President Mark Dimondstein (Listen to our interview with him on Clearing the FOG in April). The Alliance lobbied Congress to repeal the 2006 PAEA and to stop the sell-off to private corporations.

The Alliance successfully organized to stop Staples from being allowed to provide USPS services. The campaign used protests outside Staples’ stores, a boycott of Staples, and a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. A judge ruled in favor of the USPS in November of 2016 and Staples was ordered to shut down its postal services by March 2017. If Staples had been allowed to continue, it would have led to the closing of more post offices and the loss of more jobs.

Mailboxes being removed in Oregon

The Future of the Post Office is Uncertain

The US Postal Service has continued to face the same struggles throughout the Trump administration. Despite a majority in the House and enough Senators to have power over the passage of any legislation in the Senate, the Democrats did not take steps to save the post office until it threatened their re-election in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic and recession created an emergency situation for the Post Office. The closing of businesses and record bankruptcies has meant a sharp decline in the quantity of mail. Postmaster General Megan Brennan started putting out the warning early in the year that the situation is dire and that the USPS could run out of funds during the summer. The Postal Service board of governors asked Congress for a $75 billion rescue package that would provide $25 billion in immediate funds and the rest as credit and financing for modernization projects.

Instead, the CARES Act, passed in late March, provided a measly $10 billion, which has been held up by the Trump administration and used to pressure the board of governors to elect Louis DeJoy as the new Postmaster General in June. On March 30, President Trump said on FOX if there was a high voter turnout “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Trump was explaining why he opposed more money being spent to help states conduct the 2020 election during the pandemic.

The Democrats offered $25 billion in aid and relief of the yearly $5.5 billion in retirement funds in their House version of the bill but did not use their power in the Senate to demand relief for the USPS. Meanwhile, Amazon received tens of millions of dollars in support of its private delivery providers through the Payroll Protection Program for small businesses.

A new Institute for Policy Studies report found that when cuts are made to the USPS, it is rural communities that are hit the hardest. Rural residents rely on the postal service for medication deliveries, bill paying (because they often do not have internet access), and voting (because many don’t have polling places). Private delivery companies like Amazon and FedEx won’t deliver to rural areas and use the USPS to do it for them instead.

Under the new Postmaster General DeJoy, changes have been made that are slowing down mail service and delaying the delivery of medications and other necessities. Almost 700 mail sorting machines were removed and people showed photos on social media of blue mail receptacles being taken away in trucks. On Friday night, top executives in the Postal Service were fired or reassigned. This sparked a large ‘noise demonstration‘ early Saturday morning outside Louis DeJoy’s home in Washington, DC.

President Trump made it clear last week that his actions are intended to suppress the vote in the November election. There is a large push for universal mail-in voting because of the pandemic. People are reluctant to vote in person and states are having trouble finding people willing to work the polls. Although President Trump requested an absentee ballot for himself in Florida, he said that mail-in voting is subject to fraud and can only be trusted in Republican states. He denied a request for emergency aid for universal mail-in voting saying, “They want $3.5bn for something that will turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically.”

States are reporting that they’ve received letters from the Postal Service saying they will not be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in a timely manner. AP News reports 46 states plus Washington, DC are impacted by this and millions of voters will be disenfranchised if action is not taken.

This has gotten the Democrat’s attention and they are now planning to hold an emergency meeting on Monday. They have also scheduled a hearing for when they return to work in September to bring Louis DeJoy in for questioning. Some members of Congress are calling for DeJoy to resign.

Protest outside Louis DeJoy’s house in Washington, DC

Fight Back

It is important to acknowledge that while lawmakers are upset now with the attack on the US Postal Service, this is likely because it is an election year. The Post Office is the most popular government institution so this stance is not only favorable to voters but it also protects the election. Both major parties are responsible for the situation that exists today and, after the election, they will likely return to their previous apathetic positions.

Saving the post office requires a popular movement with a vision of what needs to happen and mobilization to support that vision. The protest at DeJoy’s house was a good one, but it is the bipartisan Postal Service board of governors who have the power to remove Dejoy and Congress that has the power to provide financial support.

The steps that are required to save the US Postal Service over the short term include:

  1. Immediate appropriation and release of $75 billion in pandemic relief funds and credit.
  2. Provision of funds for universal mail-in voting.
  3. Repeal of the 2006 PAEA requirement to pre-fund 75 years of retirement benefits (in fact if those funds are allowed to be used by the USPS, it likely won’t need the pandemic relief).

Then, over the longer term, steps include:

  1. Reopening and modernizing postal offices, especially in rural areas, and reinstating normal operating hours.
  2. Rehiring postal workers at all levels and providing pay increases.
  3. Prohibiting private contracting of postal services and policies that give advantages to private corporations such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS.
  4. Expanding postal services to include more financial services, especially for the 28% of people who are underserved by banks.
  5. The return of the Postal Savings Bank to provide direct banking services, including loans, throughout the country.

We wrote about future possibilities for the USPS in 2013, “Don’t Shrink the US Postal Service; Expand it.”

A Grand Alliance to Save the Postal Service is holding a meeting on Tuesday that we will attend and report back actions. For now, you can join the US Mail Not for Sale campaign here. And you can contact your members of Congress (look up their websites) and the members of the USPS board of governors, see below:

Reversal

Another Mother for Peace (Poster Credit: Lorraine Schneider, 1966)

With survival at stake, can weapon makers change course?

Today, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima, should be a day for quiet introspection. I recall a summer morning following the U.S. 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq when the segment of the Chicago River flowing past the headquarters of the world’s second largest defense contractor, Boeing, turned the rich, red color of blood.  At the water’s edge, Chicago activists, long accustomed to the river being dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day turned the river red to symbolize the bloodshed caused by Boeing products. On the bridge outside of Boeing’s entrance, activists held placards urging Boeing to stop making weapons.

This summer, orders for Boeing’s commercial jets have cratered during the pandemic, but the company’s revenue from weapon-making contracts remains steady. David Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO, recently expressed confidence the U.S. government will support defense industries no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Both presidential candidates appear “globally oriented,” he said, “and interested in the defense of our country.”

Investors should ask how Boeing’s contract to deliver 1,000 SLAM- ER weapons (Standoff Land Attack Missiles-Expanded Response) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia “defends” the United States.

Here are excerpts from Jeffrey Stern’s account of a missile’s impact on the town of Arhab in a remote area of Yemen. In this case, the missile was manufactured by Raytheon:

Now, as Fahd walked into the hut, a weapon about the length of a compact car was wobbling gracelessly down through the air toward him, losing altitude and unspooling an arming wire that connected it to the jet until, once it had extended a few feet, the wire ran out and ripped from the bomb.

Then it was as if the weapon woke up. A thermal battery was activated. Three fins on the rear extended all the way and locked in place. The bomb stabilized in the air. A guidance-control unit on the nose locked onto a laser reflection — invisible to the naked eye but meaningful to the bomb — sparkling on the rocks Fahd walked over.

At the well, at the moment of impact, a series of events happened almost instantaneously. The nose of the weapon hit rock, tripping a fuse in its tail section that detonated the equivalent of 200 pounds of TNT. When a bomb like this explodes, the shell fractures into several thousand pieces, becoming a jigsaw puzzle of steel shards flying through the air at up to eight times the speed of sound. Steel moving that fast doesn’t just kill people; it rearranges them. It removes appendages from torsos; it disassembles bodies and redistributes their parts.

Fahd had just stepped into the stone shelter and registered only a sudden brightness. He heard nothing. He was picked up, pierced with shrapnel, spun around and then slammed into the back wall, both of his arms shattering — the explosion so forceful that it excised seconds from his memory. Metal had bit into leg, trunk, jaw, eye; one piece entered his back and exited his chest, leaving a hole that air and liquid began to fill, collapsing his lungs. By the time he woke up, crumpled against stone, he was suffocating. Somehow he had survived, but he was killing himself with every breath, and he was bleeding badly. But he wasn’t even aware of any of these things, because his brain had been taken over by pain that seemed to come from another world.

In 2019, the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen observed “the continued supply of weapons to parties involved in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population.”

These experts say “the conduct of hostilities by the parties to the conflict, including by airstrikes and shelling, may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

A year and a half ago, were it not for a presidential veto, both houses of the U.S. Congress would have enacted a law banning weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Another end-user of Boeing’s weapons is the Israeli Defense Force.

The company has provided Israel with AH-64 Apache helicopters, F-15 fighter jetsHellfire missiles (produced with Lockheed Martin), MK-84 2000-lb bombs, MK-82 500-lb bombs, and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) kits that turn bombs into “smart” GPS-equipped guided bombs. Boeing’s Harpoon sea-to-sea missile system is installed on the upgraded 4.5 Sa’ar missile ships of the Israeli Navy.

Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems, and Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The human rights community, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and United Nations commissions, ruled these attacks to be human rights violations and at times war crimes.

I lived with a family in Gaza during the final days of the 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” bombing. Abu Yusuf, Umm Yusuf, and their two small children, Yusuf and Shahid, welcomed Audrey Stewart and me to stay with them. Once every 11 minutes from 11 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. and again from 3:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m., we heard an ear-splitting blast. Normally, I wouldn’t have known the difference between the sound of a Hellfire Missile exploding and that of a 500 lb. bomb dropped from an F-15, but soon I could tell the difference. Little Yusuf and Shahid taught us to distinguish one gut-wrenching sound from the other. They had been cringing under the bombs for 18 days and nights.

I don’t see how the sale of weapons to governments which use them against civilian populations, against people like Fahad, in Arhab or Abu Yusuf and his family in Gaza, defends people in the U.S.

Boeing’s vast resources for scientific know-how, skillful engineering, and creative innovation could, however, help defend the U.S. against the greatest threat we  now face, environmental climate catastrophe. Writing for The New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben predicts “a century of crises, many of them more dangerous than what we’re living through right now.” The main question, he says, is whether human beings can hold the alarming rise in temperature “to a point where we can at great expense and suffering, deal with those crises coherently, or whether they will overwhelm the coping abilities of our civilization.”

“A rise of one degree doesn’t sound like an extraordinary change,” McKibben writes, “but it is: each second, the carbon and methane we’ve emitted trap heat equivalent to the explosion of three Hiroshima-sized bombs.”

Boeing’s engineers, scientists, designers and marketers could help turn the tide of human actions destroying our earth. Their expertise could truly “defend” people.

There’s a lesson to be learned from the river flowing outside of Boeing’s headquarters. It actually flows backwards. Long ago, brilliant engineers designed a way for the river to reverse its course. In doing so, they saved Chicago from sewage contamination of its drinking water supply – Lake Michigan. This action was hailed as one of the great engineering wonders of the world.

The City’s sewers discharged human and industrial wastes directly to its rivers, which in turn flowed into the lake. A particularly heavy rainstorm in 1885 caused sewage to be flushed into the lake beyond the clean water intakes. The resulting typhoid, cholera, and dysentery epidemics killed an estimated 12 percent of Chicago’s 750,000 residents, and raised a public outcry to find a permanent solution to the city’s water supply and sewage disposal crisis.”

The Sanitary and Ship Canal was constructed at an estimated cost of over $70,000,000. After its completion, in 1900, waterborne disease rates quickly and dramatically improved, and its water supply system was soon regarded as being one of the safest in the world. With its water source made safe and dependable by the canals, Chicago and the region grew and prospered rapidly.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to dye the Chicago River red or green. We need to protect the river and all wildlife dependent on it. But, we must continually confront Boeing and other weapon manufacturers, and insist they not destroy lives, homes and infrastructures in other lands. We must urge Boeing, like the river, to reverse course and participate, with dignity and humility, in the pursuit of human survival.

What’s Going on in Portland?

My best effort to describe the current precipice we’re on in 2,000 words.

I have been a resident of Portland, Oregon since 2007. So I have been hearing from more people than usual lately, all asking the same question: what’s going on in Portland?

Portland Federal Court House Protest

I find myself struggling to give any kind of an answer to this question. As with any substantive answer to a question, so much depends on how broad an effort we want to make in putting it into a sensible context, in terms of both time and space. So I thought I’d make a little stab at that, for what it’s worth. But to answer the two really simple questions that are, I think, what most people are looking for: is Portland under martial law? I’d say more like a little test run at this point. And is there are a revolution going on there? No, at least not yet, but time speeds up at such historical junctures, so you never know what’s around the corner.

The US is more stratified economically than ever since the Age of the Robber Barons, and that’s well before the pandemic. We have 4% of the world’s population but something like a quarter of the world’s prisoners, most of them people of color, even though the country overall has a white majority. We’re experiencing an out-of-control pandemic with health care systems collapsing under the strain from New York to Louisiana, which is also overwhelmingly impacting people of color. As this is all happening, a veto-proof super-majority made up of both ruling parties has just passed an even bigger military budget than the record military budget of last year, nearly as big as the rest of the world’s military budgets put together. They could agree on that, but whether they can agree on a strategy to prevent the 28 million evictions all the business press is predicting will be coming in the next two or three months is an open question. And most of the country’s cities are too busy spending close to half of a typical budget on their police force, while increasing numbers of their populations move into their cars and tents.

Putting Portland into some relevant, pre-pandemic context: it’s the biggest city in a state with a long history of institutional racism, that was founded as a white homeland. It didn’t develop much of a Black community until the labor shortage during World War 2, around the time so many of the cheap, wooden, now extremely over-priced apartment complexes around town were built. The city of Portland has lost most of its Black population since 2000, according to census data. A recent headline announced that the average Black family in the US could not afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Portland at the market rate, like the one I write from now. Portland is the most rent-burdened city in the US and has a deeply, institutionally racist police department, that has actual bona fide Nazis in it, and this police department has in some years held the national record for killing the most Black people per capita of all police departments in the country. Lining every major road you will find hundreds of people living in tents, their misery in plain view to passersby. Somewhat less visible are the many car-dwellers also lining every major road in the city.

Portland, like Minneapolis, being a majority-white metropolis with a long history of white supremacist organizing, also has a strong history of antifascist resistance as well, which has frequently taken the form of physical confrontations on the streets, in which the police generally act in support of the white supremacists, while attempting to maintain a fig leaf of neutrality to satisfy the press and the liberals.

Despite the dire situation in terms of basic human rights in the United States, with the food banks busier than ever, tens of millions unemployed, the press talking about 1 in 4 children suffering food insecurity, decreasing lifespans, etc., you won’t generally find widespread opposition to this situation expressed in the streets of cities across the country. Lots of people killing themselves and killing each other, and getting involved with political campaigns, but when it comes to large-scale street protest or campaigns of civil disobedience in the US over the past several decades, they have been focused mainly on things other than what we might call “bread and butter” issues. In the most rent-burdened city in the country, you will rarely find a tenants rights protest with more than a few dozen people at it. The ethnic cleansing of the city – losing more than half of the city’s Black population – elicits barely a peep in terms of protests at City Hall or in the state capital. Equality of condition, otherwise known as human rights, is of no consequence, it seems. But, true to the ideals we grow up with in the textbooks, clear-cut examples that someone has been discriminated against in the process of attempting to pursue their basic human rights may give rise to fairly large-scale civil disobedience — for example, when someone is killed just for being Black and on their way home from work, or bombed just for being Iraqi while hiding in a bomb shelter, or killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like for going to a suburban high school or elementary school when a mass murderer decides to pay a visit. Blatant racial discrimination, blatant imperialism of the sort that involves the military, or other forms of “senseless killing,” gets response.

People or entire countries that are perceived to have been given a “fair chance” but who failed to make a go of it elicit less sympathy. If you’ve been priced out of San Francisco and you had to move to Portland, that’s just how things work. If you were involved with the drug trade or burglarizing a suburban home when you were killed, you shouldn’t have gotten involved with crime in the first place. If you were actively resisting the occupying army rather than hiding in a bomb shelter, you’ll find much less solidarity from the progressives of the west.

Some exceptions to the theme in recent decades in terms of large-scale civil disobedience have included the uprising in Indian country in 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement, Occupy Wall Street, and the global justice movement (known by some as the anti-globalization movement) of the late 1990’s – though the main emphasis of that movement was about global trade being fair for everyone, especially in the Global South, with the quality of life of the struggling working class in the north often seeming like an afterthought.

In my more hopeful moments, I think that what sometimes appears to be getting off the ground now is a movement that is – under the pressure of all the fissures exposed by the pandemic and the government’s inadequate response to it, both in terms of the public health emergency and the economic crisis it presents — really trying to come face to face with the basic inability of our long-standing capitalist system to ever be the framework within which we might solve any of these basic problems – police brutality, institutional racism, war, society-wide health care, or pretty much anything else good. The “bad apples” theory of reality is officially out the window, the structural problems too big to wrap up in a flag. This was particularly true in first several weeks following the murder of George Floyd, and then once again, at least here in Portland, since Oregon Public Broadcasting officially broke the story that it’s not just local cops tear-gassing everyone, but also federal agents, and they’re randomly abducting people from the sidewalks in the middle of the night as well.

When I look around me over the past two months, especially on a good day, what I see is all the energy and all the numbers that we ever had on the streets under the banners of Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, protests against ICE’s child abductions, and the youth climate and anti-massacre movements of recent years, put together. And probably most of the people who actually participated in those movements, from the looks of the crowds, with a particular emphasis on Black Lives Matter. And lots of these people, along with much of the press and many mainstream politicians, are openly questioning the bad apple theory, and looking at racism the way Black Lives Matter does, as a deeply institutional, fundamental, foundational question in the US. This then leads sensible people to ask the same questions others have been asking for so long – if Black lives matter, then what about affordable housing, given that the lack of it affects Black people so disproportionately. If Black lives matter, then what about the minimum wage, which so many Black workers are perpetually stuck at. What about state funding of education for state schools, rather than funding them with local taxes, thus ensuring apartheid in education? So many questions are being asked more loudly than they have been in a very long time.

Of course, as all of this is happening, so is Trump and his march to fascism, with all his popular support and all the specially-appointed, acting heads of his departments, accountable to no one but him, such as the the Homeland Security guy in charge of the surge of federal agents across the country occurring now. And as impressive as it is to see many thousands of Portlanders pouring out into the streets day after day lately, when I think of the sorts of mass movements that have managed to topple dictators, even relatively unpopular dictators, they have involved sustained crowds of hundreds of thousands or millions of people in the streets, not for a day or a few days, but for months. And even then, victory is far from guaranteed. But these were the kinds of crowds that led to Ben Ali fleeing Tunisia and Mubarak fleeing Egypt. This is the kind of crowd that saw the overturning of the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002.

This sort of movement may be right around the corner, I’m not making any predictions. The last time this country has seen any kind of sustained movement on that kind of scale, with that kind of militancy, was in the 1930’s. We’ll know it’s here when there are so many people marching in Portland that we shut down all the bridges and all the highways at the same time, not just one or two – and we do that day after day, and the same thing is happening in all the other major cities across the country. When the police are quitting their jobs, some of them are joining us, and their departments are being disbanded anyway. When armies of citizens are taking control of the fancy hotels, filling them with people in need of housing, and staffing them with people who can provide for their needs and help them recover from the trauma of the lives they had to live under capitalism.

What a more likely future could involve is the outpouring of opposition to the presence of federal agents that is coming from more liberal quarters waters down the more radical voices that had been coming to the fore, and this whole thing somehow gets turned into another tool for use by both the Democratic and Republican party elites. As righteous and altogether good is the idea of kicking the police out of the police stations and taking them over, as was done for a time in Minneapolis and Seattle, the ongoing street battles night after night to that aim in the center of Portland are causing massive, long-lasting trauma to a whole lot of people, and can easily play into Trump’s fascist takeover agenda, amplified by Fox and Friends. On the other hand, actually having the kind of movement that might cause the emptying out of the police stations to occur could also put a big damper on the fascist takeover plans, as well, if it were to succeed and spread.

It’s a precipice, the stakes are very high, and as exhilarating as the current moment is, I’m not feeling especially optimistic. But you don’t win if you don’t try.