Category Archives: Chris Hedges

And That’s the Way It Is

Charlie LeDuff, Sh*t Show!: The Country’s Collapsing… and the Ratings are Great, Penguin, New York, 2018.

Chris Hedges, America: The Farewell Tour, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018.

Two very different reporters dig deep beneath the mainstream media chatter to find the authentic, arrhythmic heart of America. Charlie LeDuff and Chris Hedges, both former New York Times writers, are resourceful investigators who go their own ways to find stories. Beyond that instinct for truth, and independence from the media pack, they have radically different methods. Read together, their books complement and corroborate each other.

LeDuff gathers anecdotal evidence from “the fringes” of the country, including minorities and the poor, who rarely have a voice or make an appearance in media until some tragedy befalls them. His made-for-TV antics are gutsy and amusing (a la Michael Moore) but his points are deadly serious.

Hedges’ relentless jeremiad reveals the pathologies of America’s failed institutions, the impotence of our corporate political parties, the rise of the Christian fascism and infotainment that brought Trump to power and the concomitant cruelties of word and deed that spread with toxic speed via our electronic networks, degrading our discourse and our sensibilities. Hedges provides the systemic overview and context for LeDuff’s many examples of U.S. social and economic craziness.

After twelve years at the Times, Charlie LeDuff quit the paper and returned to his hometown of Detroit, convinced the elite media were missing the real story of how most Americans – non-celebrities and non-oligarchs – were coping with their increasingly dire economic circumstances.

LeDuff wrote about the urban catastrophe of Detroit for the Detroit Free Press for two years, then took a job at WJBK TV, Detroit’s local Fox affiliate. In 2013 he managed to convince Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes to let him take a three-person film crew around the country to get stories of the “real America,” produced as two- to ten-minute segments available for broadcast by Fox affiliated stations across the country. This series, by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, called “The Americans,” is available to view on youtube.

LeDuff describes his meeting with the wary Ailes in Sh*t Show!

I was proposing something showcasing everyday people who were trying to get by as the country and their way of life disintegrated around them.

’I don’t want you going off and doing stories on Rupert Murdoch’s charities,’ he said, gravely.

What the wizard was telling me was that he didn’t want stories that would cost him money or advertisers or instigate phone calls from the country club or from the Boss himself. These were the same concerns of liberal media executives. In the end, news isn’t really about keeping the public informed or holding the powerful to account. It’s about cash money. The First Amendment is a fine thing, but the Founding Fathers didn’t think to leave the media a revenue stream.

LeDuff’s self-appointed mission was to give voices to usually voiceless people. Careening around the country with his homemade “Official Media ID,” speaking with everyday folk in his own politically incorrect argot, he picked fruit with migrant workers in southern California and interviewed them in Spanish about their circumstances and aspirations. He checked out the grim conditions in the oil fields of North Dakota and the deadly effects of water poisoning in Flint, Michigan, after the state took over that bankrupt city in 2011 and switched its water supply from the Detroit River to the cheaper, ultra-polluted, Flint River.

You could watch the water come from the tap. It didn’t just look like shit; it probably had actual shit in it.

LeDuff checked out Cliven Bundy’s claim in Nevada that he had the right to graze his cattle on public lands at no charge, as a sovereign citizen of the state. Bundy gathered a “citizens’ milita” to defend his rights against federal officials, claiming “I don’t even recognize the United States government as existing.”

Occasionally a performer as well as a witness, LeDuff donned an American flag bathing suit and rode an inflatable banana kayak across the Rio Grande, to observe coyotes and their clients crossing illegally on jet skis. He chronicled the deadly chaos in Detroit’s urban schools, speaking to students and staff as millions of tax dollars were diverted to subsidize a hockey stadium owned by billionaires.

When police killed a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, LeDuff and his crew spent extensive time there, making repeat visits, talking to many individuals about their circumstances, staying long after the demonstrations that attracted most other media, engaging with community leaders and “average residents.”

Among the many different people he spoke with in Ferguson and Flint and the high desert of Nevada, LeDuff noted a common theme: “The government is against me! Tyranny! Rage against the machine!”

Three months after white Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson shot the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, six times, killing him, Ferguson nervously awaited the grand jury decision about whether or not to charge Wilson with murder or manslaughter. Like all major news stories, Ferguson finally became about the coverage itself. LeDuff sets the scene, a la Hunter Thompson:

And so the media, the bicoastal honey babies, descended on Ferguson, Missouri, in the heart of Middle America. They were out of place here: primped, blown dry, ravenous, pushy, self-important. Mix that with a generous helping of while liberal do-gooders, white anarchists, black nationalists, international commentators, local bloggers, and the new class of do-it-yourself internet Hemingways and you had yourself a genuine, world-class goat fuck of discombobulation and vainglory….

Unlike the locals, the media outsiders were hoping for “some good TV. Some flames and gas. Some screaming and looting…” to make their reputations.  When the grand jury refused to indict the shooter, the predictable violence raged. But most media observers left on the run. “Two things were obvious about the police in Ferguson,” according to LeDuff. “They didn’t have a flipping clue, and they didn’t stand a freaking chance.”

LeDuff watched would-be presidential candidates – Cruz, Graham, Huckabee, Bush, et al. – preen and spar in advance of the Iowa caucus, delivering their anti-immigration diatribes near slaughter houses and meat-packing plants full of Latino workers.

It was obvious something was missing among the Republicans. They were not ready for prime time. Unless this was prime time. If it was, then we were in worse trouble than I’d thought.” The candidates weren’t addressing substantive issues like the failing cities, income inequality or climate change. But the media “couldn’t get enough of the man they universally despised. The Orange Oak was a danger to the status quo. And the status quo, of course, was largely composed of those self-important types sitting around the editorial tables, for whom he had no respect…  Just three months into the race, Trump looked like the pick…

The glass was half empty in America. Less than half of American households were now considered middle class, and half the middle-class wealth had evaporated during the Great Recession. Rent was eating half their paychecks…  Economic insecurity was the biggest issue in America… But the lives of struggling white people don’t make good TV. They don’t make good copy.

Through it all, the public’s trust in everything fell to all-time lows…” including the presidential candidates. “As for Congress, one imaginative polling firm found that brussel sprouts, head lice, cockroaches, colonoscopies and gonorrhea were more popular than our elected representatives…. while the public’s trust in [mainstream media] fell to its lowest level in recorded history… Whatever the reason, we had no one to blame but ourselves.

When Chris Hedges interviewed Charlie LeDuff on his RT program, On Contact, the two men covered a lot of common ground. Both had been on Times reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes. But unlike LeDuff’s coming of age on the hardscrabble streets of Detroit, Hedges was formed by his studies at Harvard Divinity School and his many years as a foreign correspondent in Central American, European and Middle Eastern battle zones.

In 2003, as the U.S. war in Iraq began, Hedges gave a commencement address at Rockford College in Illinois. He told the graduates that “… we are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige, power and security.”

His audience booed him. His mic was cut and his talk abruptly stopped. Security guards escorted him off campus. The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial excoriating him for his anti-war stance. The New York Times reprimanded him for compromising the paper’s impartiality and forbade him to discuss the war. He quit the Times soon thereafter.

Hedges had already published his book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (2002), drawing on classical literature and his own experiences, to limn the dark allure of war’s pornographic violence, “filled with the monstrous and the grotesque… War gives us a distorted sense of self. It gives us meaning, it creates a feeling of comradeship and alienation and makes us feel, for perhaps the first time in our lives, that we belong.”

His production of critical commentary remains prodigious. Besides publishing more than a dozen books about the crises of U.S. culture and governance, Hedges writes a weekly column for Truthdig, hosts an interview program on RT, with guests rarely seen on mainstream media, appears often for interviews in print, on-line, on radio and television and gives public speeches. A recent On Contact revealed the surprising political biases and pressures behind the seemingly bland, authoritative entries in Wikipedia, a source many think of as neutral. But it’s not.

In his opening chapter of Farewell Tour, entitled “Decay,” Hedges visits Scranton, Pennsylvania, Rockford, Illinois and Anderson, Indiana, once thriving, now struggling communities, bereft of the companies and unions that used to sustain their prosperous economies. As tax bases shrivel, local, state and federal governments cut vital services, an economic death spiral. Only the lowest wage jobs exist. Some citizens blame immigrants and minorities for their poverty.

The real causes of this blight are not mysterious, though seldom mentioned in U.S. media. Bill Clinton’s NAFTA sent many factories to Mexico, to pay workers three dollars an hour and no benefits instead of the thirty-dollar-an-hour jobs with benefits in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Indiana that allowed workers to support a family in a decent style. There is also the problem, as Hedges notes, of “America’s militarized capitalism, which plows vast sums into a permanent war economy. Upward of half of all federal dollars are spent on the war industry. The Pentagon consumes nearly $600 billion a year..” but when military items hidden in other budgets are counted, “over $1 trillion a year.”

Meanwhile, “the half-dozen corporations that own most of the media have worked overtime to sell to a bewildered public the fiction that we are enjoying a recovery. Employment figures, through a variety of gimmicks, including erasing those who have been unemployed for over a year from unemployment rolls, are a lie, as is nearly every other financial indicator pumped out for the public.”

But government lies and mass media bromides cannot conceal the mounting despair that claims so many lives. “Opiod overdoses are the leading cause of death in this country for those under the age of fifty. Fifty-nine thousand people died in 2016 from overdoses, or 161 people a day. The United States consumes 80 percent of the global opioids.”

Insanely, as Hedges points out, “The $1 trillion the U.S. government has spent since Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs has, by every measure, been a colossal failure.” Between law enforcement and prisons, the U.S. spends about “$76 billion a year” to fight drug crime. But more Americans under 50 “die from overdoses than from heart disease, cancer, suicide, or traffic accidents. The number of deaths from overdoses has quadrupled since 1999.”

The atomization of American culture, the isolation many individuals feel from their communities or from other kindred souls, exacerbated by mass media and internet consumption, also breeds despair. Hedges recites alarming statistics:

One hundred and twenty-one Americans commit suicide daily… The overwhelming majority – 93 of the 121 – are men. Seven out of ten of these men are white and between the ages of forty-five and sixty-five. Around 44,193 Americans commit suicide every year and another 1.1 million Americans attempt suicide annually.

Hedges offers a bracing analysis of how the ruling elites, “terrified by the mobilization of the left in the 1960s,” and impervious to the economic and emotional plight of the growing American underclass, staged a “creeping corporate coup d’etat that today is complete.”

There is only space enough here to highlight a few points from his eloquent, detailed and devastating overview of the U.S. crisis that deserves to be widely read in its entirety. Hedges understands that “Trump is not an anomaly. He is the grotesque visage of a collapsed democracy. Trump and his coterie of billionaires, generals, half-wits, Christian fascists, criminals, racists and moral deviants… embody the moral rot unleashed by unfettered capitalism.”

Hedges wrote an entire book about the dangerous rise of Christian fascism in America. He opines here that:

The merger of the corporatists with the Christian right is the marrying of Gozilla to Frankenstein.

On the surface it appears to be incongruous that the Christian right would rally behind a slick New York real estate developer who is a public serial philanderer and adulterer, has no regard for the truth, is consumed by greed, does not appear to read or know the Bible, routinely defrauds and cheats his investors and contractors, expresses a crude misogyny and an even cruder narcissism, and appears to yearn for despotism. In fact, these are the very characteristics that define many of the leaders of the Christian right.

Hedges indicts the Democratic Party for failing to confront the real reasons for its electoral defeat in 2016. Democrats blamed Russian interference, leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and FBI Director James Comey’s pre-election announcement about Clinton’s private e-mail server.  “It refused to acknowledge the root cause of its defeat, the abandonment of workers, deindustrialization, the wars in the Middle East, and vast social inequality.” The party betrayed the working and middle classes they claimed to represent and “lost credibility among those it has betrayed.” Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer appear unwilling or perhaps unable to confront these realities. Hedges sees this as “ominous, not only for the Democratic Party, but for American democracy.”

The failure of politicians and U.S. media to acknowledge the real nature of American social and global decline, augers a dystopian future.

As deteriorating infrastructure and ongoing layoffs continue to beset the nation’s cities, more dramatic signs of neglect will appear. Garbage will pile up uncollected on curbsides. Power grids will blink on and off. There will not be enough police, firefighters or teachers. Pensions will be slashed or paid sporadically. Decent medical care will be reserved for the rich. Those who die because they cannot afford health care – now 45,000 uninsured people a year – will perish in greater numbers…

The United States has squandered the moral authority the country enjoyed coming out of the Second World War. The CIA has overthrown governments around the globe, whether or not they were democratically elected, to install regimes more complaisant to U.S. corporate interests, no matter how authoritarian those regimes might be. Our many brutal, unnecessary “discretionary conflicts” in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East have turned many peoples of the world against the United States.

The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison inflamed the Muslim world. They fed al Qaeda and later Islamic State with new recruits… The hundreds of thousands of dead, the millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, and the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, have exposed us as state terrorists. We have repeated in the Middle East the widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies, and blundering miscalculations that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

What is to be done?

For Hedges, the answer is clear. We must resist the transparent lies of the corporate state and stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed by it. “We must stop looking for salvation from strong leaders. Strong people, as the civil rights leader Ella Baker said, do not need strong leaders. Politicians, even good politicians, play the game of compromise and are seduced by the privileges of power.”

As Hedges has reason to know, “The power elites attempt to discredit those who resist…” Establishment critics attack Hedges because – despite his strong media presence – he is not singing from the power elite’s hymn book. Reviewers in The Washington Post and The New York Times have disparaged America: The Farewell Tour as “unrelieved in its negativism” and “righteous and self-righteous… addicted to fire and brimstone,” in order to dismiss his views instead of engaging with them.

In his 1863 Russian novel, What is to be done?, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, said the intellectual’s duty was to educate and lead the laboring Russian masses to a socialism that bypassed capitalism. Tolstoy and Lenin both later wrote tracts with the same title to promote their own notions of moral and political responsibility.

Chris Hedges teaches at Princeton and in the New Jersey prison system, sometimes combining students from both institutions in the same classes. That must make for a rich educational experience for all concerned. These interactions may help Hedges to formulate a way forward for the resistance to America’s militant, suicidal late capitalism.

Charlie LeDuff has also identified candidates ripe for an organized rage against the machine. Not Cliven Bundy’s brand of Nativist entitlement, or an intolerance of human differences, but a real anti-capitalist resistance based on mutual respect, a commitment to social justice and a reverence for the planet which has nurtured all our lives. LeDuff returned to Detroit radio in October, broadcasting his No BS News Hour, also available as a podcast.

We can only go forward all together, free of the corporate yoke.

The Art of Healing: Looking Back but Never Conceding Space

Radical — a person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims.
• synonyms: revolutionary · progressive · reformer · revisionist · militant ·
• chemistry: a group of atoms behaving as a unit in a number of compounds.
See also free radical.
• the root or base form of a word.
• mathematics: a quantity forming or expressed as the root of another.

What does it mean to reclaim space? I know there are those who want to reclaim ancient wisdom, or reclaim the commons, reclaim ancestry, reclaim a sense of community, reclaim the city, and reclaim the rural. Reclamation projects abound in theory – water, air, soil, cultures.

Reclaiming is also restorative, as in restorative justice or restorative ecology. That total reclaiming is a type of stewardship, and if done with radical intent – at the root seeking change or foundational purpose – then there is a social justice component. Always. Social justice leads to the rights of nature. Eventually, we have a world where replanting trees is the radical (root) approach to starting back to a reset.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

— Ancient Chinese proverb

That radical approach can be scaled up and spread throughout the communitarian space of humanity. Imagine, while China is full bore capitalist in some sense, but, 60,000 Chinese troops will be deployed to plant trees:

China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plant trees and increase the country’s forest coverage. The move is part of China’s plan to plant at least 32,400 square miles of trees by the end of 2018 to help tackle pollution.

In order to complete the reforestation, a large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army and some of the nation’s armed police force have been withdrawn from their posts on the northern border, The Independent reports.

The majority is to be dispatched to Hebei province encircling Beijing. This area is especially linked with the smog that plagues the country’s capital.

China is currently working to increase its forest coverage from 21 percent of its total landmass to 23 percent by 2020. By the end of this year, however, they hope to replant an area of forest that is roughly the size of Ireland!

This tree planting is such a metaphor of our times, in a world where all ecosystems are failing, all species are threatened, where earthquakes are caused by fracking, where climate chaos is scoffed at, where war is peace in the minds of Americans addicted to Grand Theft Auto.

This piece is on education, in that round about way my essays tend to flow. Yes, education is broken, and, yes, PK12 should be revamped – a Marshall Plan sort of revamping. And, yes, college and trade schools (are there any left?) should be reorganized and re-energized. Yes, this should be tax supported, one hundred percent, from levying and tolling the rockets Tesla’s Elon Musk shoots up, to taxing every box shipped out by Amazon – the tax being put on Bezos’ doorstep. We fully fund wars, US military, spooks, DoD, and every first-class trip made by Trump and cronies, the entire higher end government; i.e., cabinet level deceits, and, well, the reader gets it how a reappropriation of wealth and fraud and waste should take place to fund, err, communities.

But I was just on Yale 360, reading Carl Safina’s piece on how biologists – highly educated at elite schools, both state-funded and private – are going with the philosophy that extinction is part of evolution so saving species should not be a priority of conservationists. Here, more clearly, Safina:

In the early 20th century, a botanist named Robert F. Griggs discovered Katmai’s volcanic “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” In love with the area, he spearheaded efforts to preserve the region’s wonders and wildlife. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson established Katmai National Monument (now Katmai National Park and Preserve), protecting 1,700 square miles, thus ensuring a home for bear cubs born a century later, and making possible my indelible experience that day. As a legacy for Griggs’ proclivity to share his love of living things, George Washington University later established the Robert F. Griggs Chair in Biology.

That chair is now occupied by a young professor whose recent writing probably has Griggs spinning in his grave. He is R. Alexander Pyron. A few months ago, The Washington Post published a “Perspective” piece by Pyron that is an extreme example of a growing minority opinion in the conservation community, one that might be summarized as, “Humans are profoundly altering the planet, so let’s just make peace with the degradation of the natural world.”

Pyron’s essay – with lines such as, “The only reason we should conserve biodiversity is for ourselves, to create a stable future for human beings” and “[T]he impulse to conserve for conservation’s sake has taken on an unthinking, unsupported, unnecessary urgency” – left the impression that it was written in a conservative think tank, perhaps by one of the anti-regulatory zealots now filling posts throughout the Trump administration. Pyron’s sentiments weren’t merely oddly out of keeping with the legacy of the man whose name graces his job title. Much of what Pyron wrote is scientifically inaccurate. And where he stepped out of his field into ethics, what he wrote was conceptually confused.

Ahh, sometimes what I fight for – a more robust and tax-funded education system – gets derailed by the likes of a Pyron. I read his piece, but Carl Safina’s piece is humane, logical and way beyond the wise use and utilitarian attitude of today’s thinker.

I took the plunge and went on a college tour, with a young (19-year-old) woman who is all about science and math. The act of going back to a campus and visiting it as an outsider was both interesting and triggering for me.

So is Education Planting a Tree for Life, the Future?

Neoliberalism is one of the greatest threats to the future of progressive education in the United States. The goal of neoliberal education policies is not to improve education, but rather to increase the profits of private corporations. Profit-driven models for education directly contrast the goals of progressive educators. The goal of progressive education is to educate students to be productive participants in democratic culture and to engage actively in critical citizenship. Such goals are not supported by neoliberal educational policy mainstays such as teaching to the test and standardized testing. Because neoliberal education policy tends to be data-driven it works against the development of a student’s ability to think critically, thereby undermining the formative culture and values necessary for a democratic society. As long as the United States continues to view educational policy and practice through the lens of market-based values, there is little hope that progressive education, with its aim of educating students for critical citizenship and social and economic justice, will survive.

— This excerpt from the book Neoliberalism, Education, Terrorism: Contemporary Dialogues, by Paradigm Publishers, first appeared online at Truthout.

I was just at the land grant college, Oregon State University, in Corvallis. My step-daughter is planning to embark there as a transfer junior from her current Alma mater, Mount Hood Community College. The hopefulness and energy tied to venturing away from home – Estacada, population 3,000 – to a small college town on a campus of 24,383 – was dynamic and pure in a very innocent way. Ironically, the college boasts a total of 30,058 with 4,503 coming from an “e-campus” AKA on-line and another 1,172 students in Bend, Oregon.

The campus tour was all about amenities, and campus life. As I have written a thousand times, campuses are now looking like Club Meds or 24-Hour Fitness joints. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters by Benjamin Ginsberg looks at the gutting of the teaching class from 1985 to 2005. It’s a book looking at all the crackpot departments and staffing decisions at these private and state colleges. Ironically, the past 13 years have seen faculty hit the 76 percent mark across the USA as deemed adjunct, AKA precarious or temporary or vulnerable or job-insecure. Much of that is attributed to the rise of programs and plethora of deans, departments, non-faculty positions, and the like tied to promoting the school, and it’s not a pretty thing. Just do an internet search of “PhDs on Food stamps” or “adjuncts living out of their cars” or “faculty and freeway fliers.”

The cost of education extends way beyond the $1.5 trillion student loan debt. But here, a small college, nothing big time, OSU Beavers, is a place to start the indebtedness. Goldman Sachs vampires love students going to college. Just for in-state fees, one year, going to OSU for those coming from outside the city but in the state is as follows: $26,341 to attend Oregon State University on a full-time basis. This fee is comprised of $10,797 for tuition (note that is 2017-18 — tuition increases are on the horizon for 2018-19!), $11,445 for room and board, $1,551 for books and supplies and $1,651 for other fees, $2,083 for miscellaneous things, and then there’s transportation. That’s 27% more expensive than the national average public four-year tuition. For out of state attendees, make that $29,457 a year for tuition, plus the other fees, adding up to over $45,000 for one year.

This is a crime, and no matter how many scholarships, grants and other decompensations my step-daughter might receive, the idea of putting this big of a tab (or some percentage of it, times four years) onto one’s debit card; i.e., student loan agreements, is appalling. In fact, my student relative wants not just a graduate degree, but a doctorate in physics.

Here, Alan Nasser, great economist and who is never quoted in the MSM:

No, it’s not possible for student debtors to escape financial devastation by declaring bankruptcy. This most fundamental of consumer protections would have been available to student debtors were it not for legislation explicitly designed to withhold a whole range of basic protections from student borrowers. I’m not talking only about bankruptcy protection, but also truth in lending requirements, statutes of limitations, refinancing rights and even state usury laws – Congress has rendered all these protections inapplicable to federally guaranteed student loans. The same legislation also gave collection agencies hitherto unimaginable powers, for example to garnish wages, tax returns, Social Security benefits and -believe it or not- Disability income. Twisting the knife, legislators made the suspension of state-issued professional licenses, termination of public employment and denial of security clearances legitimate measures to enable collection companies to wring financial blood from bankrupt student-loan borrowers. Student loan debt is the most punishable of all forms of debt – most of those draconian measures are unavailable to credit card companies. (Maybe I’m being too harsh. Sallie Mae recently announced that it will after all forgive a debt under either of two conditions: in case the borrower dies or becomes totally disabled.)

Bearing Witness Hurts But Works

It’s almost impossible for me to go anywhere, participate in anything, whether going out to eat, hitting a movie, driving, or taking this innocuous tour without seeing the faults of capitalism; i.e., the predatory, inefficient, shallow, extremely violent psychologically and structurally, this for-profit-at-all-costs world is. New buildings on campus (business college)? My question is why?

This is capitalism, full-bore, getting youth, a female going into STEM, no less, (science technology engineering mathematics), on the hamster wheel of predatory loans, expectations, and a world, or future (one decade out for her, maybe) that has in this casino capitalism tied to empire predicating her future employment opportunities for such a rarefied degree (she wants astrophysics, hinting at wanting to do research and be a professor, yet another pie in the sky).

The tour took us past the football stadium, named Reser Stadium, named after donors Al and Pat Reser, owners of Reser’s Fine Foods. For most of us in the Pacific Northwest, that’s Reser’s potato and macaroni salad fame ( the couple both graduated from Oregon State in 1960, and are major donors to the university and Beavers athletics).

The stadium has a capacity of 45,700 with plans for expansion. It’s always the football team, the season, the homecoming, the chance at a title now, is it not? In fact, the college president at OSU is also an NCAA big-wig.

The debate about exploited college athletes takes up a lot of space, and it is a corollary here tied to the OSU event, since this president is NCAA true and through, from Shaun King of The Intercept:

That very obvious dynamic undergirds a lawsuit filed by former NCAA athlete Lawrence “Poppy” Livers asserting that scholarship students who play sports are employees and deserve pay. The Livers case argues that student-athletes who get scholarships should at least be paid as work-study students for the time they put in.

What the NCAA did in response to the lawsuit is as vile as anything going on in sports right now. I had to see it for myself before I believed it. At the root of its legal argument, the NCAA is relying on one particular case for why NCAA athletes should not be paid. That case is Vanskike v. Peters.

Only there’s an important detail: Daniel Vanskike was a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, and Howard Peters was the Director of the state Department of Corrections. In 1992, Vanskike and his attorneys argued that as a prisoner he should be paid a federal minimum wage for his work. The court, in its decision, cited the 13th Amendment and rejected the claim.

The 13th Amendment is commonly hailed as the law that finally ended slavery in America. But the amendment has an important carve-out: it kept involuntary service legal for those who have been convicted of a crime. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” the amendment says. It’s that phrase — “except as a punishment for crime” — which allows American prisons to force their inmates to do whatever work they want or need them to do.

And yet, how many employees of OSU are coaches, assistant coaches, and all the staff tied to running athletics, and managing games, tickets, sales, promos, etc.?

Edward John “Ed” Ray (born September 10, 1944) is an American economist who became the 19th president of Oregon State University on July 31, 2003. Prior to joining Oregon State, Ray was executive vice president and provost of Ohio State University for the previous six years. As president of OSU, Edward Ray earns a gross salary of $414,377 in 2010. He also serves as chairman of the NCAA’s Executive Committee.

At-Will, Part-Time, Precarious Nation in the Age of Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump-The-Next-King

Yet, as I have written so many times when I was an active faculty from 1983 to 2013 and adjunct union organizer for a stint in Seattle and Washington with SEIU, we are the backbone of education, and education and student outcomes pay the price for treating adjuncts as migrant workers. Here, a report from OSU through AAUP:

Non-tenure track faculty members at Oregon State University often are overworked and underpaid, and they deserve better treatment, officials of the American Association of University Professors chapter at OSU said Wednesday.

Some 68 percent of all OSU faculty members — from instructors to researchers to professional employees — are adjuncts. They work under fixed-term contracts, with none of the job security of tenured professors, and they often earn far less money, AAUP leaders said during a lunchtime presentation to discuss the findings of a campus-wide survey.

“Like much of the rest of the American economy, American universities have come to rely on a large pool of cheap migrant labor,” said philosophy professor Jose-Antonio Orosco, president of the Oregon State chapter of AAUP.

“OSU is not different from these national trends.”

The study, titled “We Power Orange” in reference to an OSU promotional slogan, was conducted last spring. Questionnaires went out to 2,771 non-tenure track faculty members, with 1,262 responding.

Top concerns varied somewhat among instructional, research and professional faculty, but in general the biggest issues were low pay, lack of job security and limited prospects for advancement.

My own battle at just one college1,2,3,4:

But the new normal is to have these huge pimping moments at these colleges, paying college presidents base salaries of half a million a year, as in OSU’s case, but worse is these pampered fools’ housing is paid for, so is a car, trips with families, and, most problematic, cash outs for insurance policies and severance pay in the millions.

Look at this:

1. Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University $1,554,058

2. William McRaven, Chancellor, University of Texas system $1,500,000

3. John Sharp, Chancellor, Texas A&M University system office, $1,280,438

4. W. Kent Fuchs, President, University of Florida, $1,102,862

5. Michael A. McRobbie, President Indiana University system $1,067,074

6. Eric J. Barron, President, Pennsylvania State University at University Park, $1,039,717

7. Michael V. Drake, President, Ohio State University, $1,034,574

8. Michael K. Young, President, Texas A&M at College Station, $1,000,000

9. Jean E. Robillard, Interim President, University of Iowa, $929,045

10. Raymond Watts, President, University of Alabama at Birmingham, $890,000

So, it goes without saying that walking on this campus, Oregon State University, “home of the beavers” (as opposed to the other big Oregon School, “The Ducks”) working as a social worker, with two master’s degrees, at $16 an hour to case manage homeless veterans, I want pikes and heads on those pikes. Proverbially, this entire country, from sleazy Chamber of Commerce corner to Sleazier FIRE (finance insurance real estate) corner, is run by scammers. I used to get the same hourly pay, more or less, as a college English teacher (hours put in grading and regrading drafts and final drafts of student essays and assignments).

The social services are screwed, education is screwed, and this upside-down world of Americans all teary eyed over the shallow prognostications of shallow and infantile thinkers (sic) which are basically entertainers with a big fat Propagandist Tapped Over Their Eyes is also one of the prime slights to any thinking human being.

Did you get that hourly rate above, being paid to me? Living in the Portland, Oregon area? Hmm? This is the best of the best, in terms of which non-profit I am working for. Big name brand.

For veterans who are aging, getting dementia, on the streets, PTSD and all those substance abuse issues.

Daily, I try to find something better, and in that sense, does that make sense, starting a job with a client base, and keeping one eye open for a higher paying job? Is that how the US of Israel works? We can never stay in one place because the pay is obscenely low and the rent and cost of living are obscenely high?

Linked In Is Clueless in Seattle, et al

I abhor social media as much as I despise mainstream media and faux left media. I just linked up with that bizarre thing called, Linked In, a business connection site, with the most despicable narratives, really, of the abusers in Capitalism – all this fawning over the CEOs, the Jeff Bezos types of the world. It’s a Whose Who of people thinking that connecting on this platform is more sophisticated than Facebook.

But it’s the same, or worse, and the people either self-censor or lock-step into the dungeon that is Capitalism. It’s about how to sell oneself, how to make money, how to get a raise, write a cover letter, add points to one’s business profile. Typically, it’s sort of the USA Today version of the Wall Street Journal with some Forbes Magazine thrown in, and how to be a successful manager for icing on the top of the drivel.

You write your profile, try and connect to your connections and other’s connections, for I do not know why, since my job profile is way outside any linear or even seasoned employee’s trajectory.

I see no connections that would help me get an in into the work I really excel at – writing, editing, radical urban planning, radical social work, teaching, organizational change.

In the end, though, I put up the Linked In as part of my unemployment insurance gig, working with a silly class on cognitive behavioral therapy – a class set up for people on food stamps or TANF, to try and get them in 12 sessions to change their thinking. Instead, the class was peopled by white males and females, all of whom had had jobs for years and then got sacked. The instructor said the grant for the course, “Rethinking Job Search,” was geared for chronically “dependent upon welfare folk.”

The course is as bad as it sounds, the teacher terrible and infantile, and the lack of true engagement typical of today’s poverty pimps and quasi-unemployment officers. This class I attended in order to teach the class, but that was an interview from hell, and I eventually stopped going. The push for me to stop attending was when all these white people started waxing Christ and God and the Good Book – really, they yammered on how getting closer to Christianity was what was helping them through unemployment and being sacked at an older age. No matter where you go in this country, it’s the Chronicles of Narnia over and over and over.

The final straw was when the instructor brought up some book written by some former female Facebook executive who faced the death of her bigwig husband, and our teacher said this book was a must read, truly inspirational:

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was on vacation in Mexico in 2015 with her husband and friends when her husband, tech executive Dave Goldberg, passed away unexpectedly of a cardiac arrhythmia.

Sandberg, 47, was left as a single mother of her two children with Goldberg. She writes about recovering from the tragedy and working through the grief in her new book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

I tried to convey to the instructor that this millionaire (several times over) has zero relevance to someone like me, who has been precarious all his life, who has had at-will employment, 11th hour appointments, and who has seen his careers – newspaper journalism, teaching, social work and novel writing gutted by the very people this Sandberg and Goldberg represent. I also reminded her that I was also a social worker with employment specialist as a title helping recovery clients, re-entry clients, homeless clients, clients with physical disabilities and mental challenges and felony records get shitty jobs in shitty warehouses with two-hour one-way bus trips to work at ungodly hours.

This is the magical thinking of middling people, and Option B – finding joy – was really no option for my clients, but forced choices of poverty, food boxes, five to a room, tents in alleyways, rotting teeth, disease at age 50 were/are their only options. Clients with thousands and thousands of dollars owed to legal financial obligations (LFO’s), hospital bills for ER visits, bad credit because of bad policies. No “Finding Joy” in “Option B.”

Nope, I was not about to hear her tell me the crocodile tears of tech executives would inspire, but alas, that is middling America – rooting for the inured K9 dog, sending in money for its surgery, while denying a panhandler a quarter. A book, no less, on Oprah, I am sure, and loving by the M & B Obama clan, I am sure (Michelle gets over $30 million for her November 2018 “memoir“, titled Becoming, another book of inspiration for incarcerated folk).

Triggers Everywhere I Go

I’ll end where I began – OSU. First, I did stop by the Caesar Chavez Cultural Center (Centro Cultural César Chávez)  on campus, near the stadium and Welcome Center, and I talked with a few of the Latinx folk there. In a few minutes, I was being asked why I wasn’t teaching, and that they kept insisting OSU needed teachers like me. You see, this is a daily trigger for me – young people being taught by middlings, and the radicals like me, well, they never see real Marxists and socialists in their classes, as their faculty.

A few minutes explaining my own teaching narrative, my own life, my own perspectives, well, on one hand I felt honored and proud that the four Latinos/as thought of me as that person, that little Che in their moment on that campus. They wondered why I was not teaching anywhere.

Again, we need me’s on campuses throughout the land. Having a Cornel West is great, but in the end, he is still celebrity, limiting in his reach. Young people need older people to teach them how to revolt, rebel, hack the system and learn a narrative that is not in their lives. I teach writing and composition and literature, and they need strong role models and writers and people who have not got the golden ticket or brass ring.

We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and “success,” defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.

— Chris Hedges

I told one of the fellows about Jimmy Santiago Baca, that he’d make a great speaker at OSU, for Poetry Month, April. The fellow asked me where he should get his news, his information, so I listed a lot of alternative sites.

People say what distinguishes us from the animals is that we think. Well, then why the hell don’t we extend some compassion to those under tremendous duress? There’s this whole idea that you work really hard so you can deaden your soul to the universe and enjoy yourself only in ways the Sierra Club will let you. But what about enjoying yourself by getting into the whole melee of poverty and racism and violence and murder and drug addiction? Get in there, roll up your sleeves, and do something! Nobody does it.

— Jimmy Santiago Baca

Yes, a bit of ray of sunshine, the Cultural Center, and the Native American longhouse …. and the campus watch on Nazis and white supremacists coming to town.

Yet, on that campus, the supposed jewel of Oregon, the student newspaper is a joke, coming out once a week, and thin as toilet paper.

Young people have a lot to navigate now, and the conflicting messages like Pyron’s above are overwhelming. I did get to pick up the science magazine, Terra, and in that rag, of course, highlights/features of the science faculty at OSU:

1. Energy Matters looks at public policy around how citizens engage in energy issues
2. Bury It Deep looks at pumping carbon dioxide into underground capture sites
3. Reclaiming Native Space is about cultural identity for Native Americans and engaging in forgotten histories
4. Towing the Line is about 60 years of marine sciences new Newport on the Pacific
5. The Oregon Ocean Acid Test is about citizen scientists working to track water chemistry from Astoria to Gold Beach
6. The Giving Trees is about OSU forestry researchers helping restore forest in Haiti, Lebanon and other troubled spots

I’m a wonky kind of guy with marine biology in my veins and an holistic interest in the sciences tied to climate, ecosystems, energy and sustainability. Good stuff, this magazine, but yet, the underlying issue in all the pieces is the lack of funding, big time, for the projects, and the lack of public engagement, lack of political will and the writing in the rag is still a bit dumb-downed and hopeful. There is no mention of feedback loops, and there is no real discussion of how all these systems have been degraded not by accident but by the policies of capitalism, and corporations worldwide.

The irony is that the carbon sequestration piece on trapping CO2 will not solve climate change. The big irony is that the scientists working on trapping CO2 underground are the same scientists who helped the fossil fuel industry to extract black liquid from geological formations.

The fabric of this magazine is based on spin and media control and messaging, and making OSU look good, AND not giving the public who might pick up a copy of Terra or the students at the school too much of a dismal picture of our world. About giving hope.

Hmm, Option B, again? That hopey dopey thing, uh? Old piece from Derrick Jensen, Beyond Hope:

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they — those in power — cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell — you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

  1. Paul Haeder. Springtime in Amerika – Bump those Adjuncts Until They Hurt, Dissident Voice, March 26, 2014.
  2. American Faculty Association. Adjunct Faculty Dr. Keith Hoeller Files Unfair Labor Practice Complaint Against Green River College and Faculty Union (AFT/NEA), November 3, 2015.
  3. Paul Haeder. Wrapping the ‘Precarious’ and ‘At-will’ labels on 150 million USA Workers, Dissident Voice, January 26, 2014.
  4. AdjunctNation. Washington Pters Allege Union Corruption & Cover Up, Ask NEA President for Trusteeship, February 9, 2013. Note: A long one about Green River Community College where I was sacked for organizing students.

The Punditry of Shithole Thinking

Our capitalist elites have used propaganda, money and the marginalizing of their critics to erase the first three of philosopher John Locke’s elements of the perfect state: liberty, equality and freedom. They exclusively empower the fourth, property. Liberty and freedom in the corporate state mean the liberty and freedom of corporations and the rich to exploit and pillage without government interference or regulatory oversight. And the single most important characteristic of government is its willingness to use force, at home and abroad, to protect the interests of the property classes.

— Chris Hedges, “Corpses of Souls”

Here’s a thought experiment for social workers assisting homeless, recovery (drug, alcohol), re-entry (coming out of prison), and those diagnosed with mental and physical health challenges: Take a college educated “professional,” George, and then a “homeless” person, Julia, and put them in the same tattered clothes, take away phone, ID, money, credit cards, blindfold them, transport them from say Portland, Oregon, and to Toronto, Canada, or Buffalo, NY, and drop them off in an alley in a run-down part of town at 3 am on a Monday. Then challenge them to get back to square “go.”

We know the homeless person, or the former incarcerated person, or the recovering addict will be home — Portland – within 48 hours. The professional, either in FIRE (finance insurance real estate) or any number of elite fields, will tank quickly. Especially if we were to drop that person off outside of town into a homeless camp.

In my field of social work, many employers I talk to would rather have a former inmate, a former felon, who has gotten his or her life back on track, on the job. Really. There are even Harvard (who cares that it’s Ivy League, by the way?) studies to that effect. Of course, the rationale is based on company loyalty; an ex-con would really appreciate his freedoms now; hard work – workaholic – since all that time in the lobotomizing prison system would kick in an obsessiveness toward keeping busy, keeping moving. Then, some employers I talk to think most workers or potential workers are the problem, would steal time, money, goods, and things from the company. So, the felon has already done time, knows the depravity of prison systems, and would stay on the up and up without jeopardizing incarceration. Plus, in the US, companies get a tax break for hiring former felons!

The fields of social work are growing, yet the pay is shrinking, the work conditions are ramped up, the management are bizarre examples of former social workers themselves (very anti worker, very hard on outside-the-box thinkers, and completely blank on what radical social work is and how to even apply the principles of that form of social work). Most non-profits do the dirty work of what a society is looking more and more to not provide for – mental health care for a bigger and bigger share of the USA population; disability services for a larger and larger swath of Americans mentally, psychologically, intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually broken or disabled; financial, employment, education, housing assistance for an ever-growing population of humans who are not able to work and live and transport and find health care for themselves in this New Gilded Age.

The non-profits I have worked for are top-heavy, have very little money put aside or earmarked or grant-provided for the workers; many of the non-profits hire development associates, upper management shills, PR folk, marketing and events coordinators; many are in shining and remodeled digs while casting shadows on the street people they supposedly care about.

Some of us in social services have come from other professions, and like me, many are former teachers. Very few are radical thinkers, and many are just trying to hang on. When you work in an at-will state, where organizing and workplace coordinating is akin to communism, and when you work for people younger and the same age as yourself who once had their lives more or less put together but who are today on the streets, in shelters, in vans on the side of the road, and who have to pay for legal debts – hospital bills, legal financial obligations, debts coming at them via mean-assed debt collectors and repo men —  the idea of Six Degrees of Separation comes cold like melting glaciers as really Only One Degree of Separation.

Manfred Max Neef calls this country, USA — richest, biggest land rip off abusing, military mightiest, vastest financial thieving, culturally insanest — underdeveloping.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.

This short piece – rare for me at DV, LA Progressive,  and other places, since I still believe that concision is not a favorable tool to understanding the complexities of our society and systems thinking – is all tied to really what many Americans WAY WAY before Trump’s family set foot in this country have always believed about Mexico or New Orleans or Dominican Republic or South Africa or Philippines or Afghanistan (just replace a country like Haiti with any number of 120 countries in the world) have said, stated, written and professed undiplomatically and through the Economic Hit Men: They are ALL shitholes.

I have had plenty of people in my 61 years living on this planet, after being in dozens of countries (I have lived and worked in), fellow (sic) Americans (sic) who thought my white skin and my little lists of three college degrees and my male status entitled my fellow Americans to rant on and on about how dirty, backward, primitive, slow-witted, poor, inefficient, shady, criminal this or that country is — countries from which I lived, traveled and worked and those many have not stepped foot in, beyond FOX News and Hollywood propaganda.

That Trump now voices what Americans have believed, and economists have practiced, and our military branches have reflected – America is Great, and the rest of the rabble (well, maybe not Norway or Finland — that’s about it for that pure white race places) are part and particle the shitholes Trump so undiplomatically states the world is.

In reality, though, if we look at the definition of “shit”/”hole,” it all comes back to this warring, militant, earth-killing, global lording over country called the United States of America. Infantilized, lobotomized, one-paycheck/broken bone/auto accident/employment termination/criminal justice involved/foreclosure AWAY from shithole status.

This poor white and now multi-race co-opting country of people who have zero idea how and why its more or less isolated little status among the global actors is set in their minds as “okay . . . Great/Yes We Can/Make It Great Again/Numero Uno” because of the shit we serve up to the rest of the world vis-à-vis military and economic and resource plundering insanity.

While our own country is full of shit-holes– full of systems of penury and debasement and depravity and delusion and destruction and increasing wrath upon its own populations – we see this spasm of protestations from the Liberal Democrats Who Support All Those Democratic Party apparatchiks of regime change and collateral damage carried out on what Bush or Obama see as the “shit hole Iraqis and Afghans and Libyans and Yeminis and Somalis.” Imagine, the democrats crying about Trump and his redneck Americanism.

Which party said we had to bomb them back to the stone age? Which party wrapped up Japanese Americans in barbed wire luxury? Which party helped to wipe out 3 million Vietnamese? Who bombed, razed, illegally mined, economically double-triple tapped the world’s other shit holes? Way-way before two-bit The Apprentice got raves and ratings and millions. It’s Trump who is still on record ranting about the Central Park Five, found to be falsely convicted and held in prison (now released), stating months ago, after the five men were acquitted, found to be innocent and released, that “they are guilty of the rape, man.” His Trump Faulty Towers Corp. paid or two full page ads in the NYT ranting about “their guilty” after they were found innocent.

Again, a reset button is necessary when looking at the big billionaire’s motley mind and fourth grade thinking style: who is he, how did he get here, where did he learn, how did he exist in this country, what is his American soul made of . . . . The who, why, when, what, where and how are questions Americans of all political stripes never ask.

We can tap dance around those “deplorables” voting for George Wallace or Barry Goldwater or George Bush or Donald Trump, or dance around those millionaires who see other shitholes producing other super predators, or two-step into more delusion when Super Rich Hollywood defines You and Me and Success and Failure, or when Amazon dot com comes crashing into your local bricks and mortar, or how the millionaire media or celebrities come into your living rooms via cable or iPhone and kidnap your loved ones, young and old.

Seriously, which shithole shall we concentrate on in the US of A, the engine of shit holes, the Mother of All Shitholes, coming to a neighborhood nearby, or Flint Michigan, or Charlottesville, or Fortune 1000 boardroom or dis-education college faculty and administration?

Who in your group of friends and acquaintances even knows what economics is for? Manfred Max Neef again:

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

I am sorry to say in my years as a journalist, college teacher, union organizer, social worker, environmentalist, urban planner, etc., I have run into more shithole thinkers in this country than all the countries I’ve been to combined, by far. If you want to run into real thugs, real criminals, real depravity, delusional thinking, disgusting thinking, real retrograde philosophy, real illiteracy, real infantilism, come to a town near me – Pacific Northwest, or Texas or Arizona, or anywhere I have done my time in.

Not many anti-Trump people would question the root cause of his shithole role running this shithole country, and the mirror is not large enough for self-reflection: biggest military in the world, biggest land mass stolen from original nations, biggest area cleared of natural ecosystems, biggest group of la-la-land thinkers. Magical thinkers, the lot of us, really.

Let the knee-jerking go on and on as Americans attempt to parse out who they are in that mirror mirror on the wall! Unless you have ended the mythical belief in this country’s prowess and greatness and stopped hiding from this society’s advanced malignant cancer called predatory and consumer capitalism, then you are the Trump in that mirror, without or without the orange glow!

Max-Neef: First of all, we need cultured economists again, who know the history, where they come from, how the ideas originated, who did what, and so on and so on; second, an economics now that understands itself very clearly as a subsystem of a larger system that is finite, the biosphere, hence economic growth as an impossibility; and third, a system that understands that it cannot function without the seriousness of ecosystems. And economists know nothing about ecosystems. They don’t know nothing about thermodynamics, you know, nothing about biodiversity or anything. I mean, they are totally ignorant in that respect. And I don’t see what harm it would do, you know, to an economist to know that if the beasts would disappear, he would disappear as well, because there wouldn’t be food anymore. But he doesn’t know that, you know, that we depend absolutely from nature. But for these economists we have, nature is a subsystem of the economy. I mean, it’s absolutely crazy.

Looking for a Dry Roof from Which to Bray

All it takes for a society to express fear, paranoia, confusion, and a sort of mad country (riffing on mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy) mental disease is a toxic brew of narcissism, propaganda, amnesia, planned and perceived obsolescence and a transnational economic barbarism against the collective masses, and we end up here:

Leaders (sic) in USA, Canada, Mexico, most of Latin America, most of Europe, Australia, Japan, Israel and Middle East are as nasty and ethically/morally arrested developed as any of the lots in power-on thrones-in war rooms at anytime during the development (sic) of “civilization,” so much so that’s it’s hard to tell which tentacle of a Trump-styled sea monster really has hold of our collective frontal lobe.

These are the days, yessiree — anti-intellectualism, nationalism, demagoguery, disparaging one group after another—Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Asians, women, and any and all competitors. These people in America, like Trump, throw low blows and distribute piles of lies and spread their pandemic of white male billionaire disease, and he rises in the polls, by the very people he and the neoliberals and neocons and Christian-Zionists call parasites, or, deplorables. Adversaries are quickly branded “losers” or “flunkies” or “dopes” or “lowlifes.”

I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you’re young and asleep. Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate…I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.
― Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Anyone can postulate just how long it took, really, for humanity – most certainly the hoards of IKEA-loving developed tooled and armed first world and their groomed despots — to succumb to the adage of we are just apes with nuclear bombs (or monkeys with algorithms, surveillance tools, psychological war weapons, and gobs of fossil fuels).

Five decades of collective community abandonment, collective mean styled capitalism, collective delusion; four decades of a collective cult of personality (nothingness), collective imploding of services, public health, welfare, safety; three decades of collective reverse mortgaging education, food systems, public transportation; ten decades of collective see-hear-speak no evil in the midst of massive evil-crimes against humanity/crimes against the globe/crimes against nature/crimes against common sense?

The Humanist: Some people are genuinely afraid.

Chomsky: They are genuinely afraid. The fear is genuine, and you can’t ridicule people’s genuine feelings. In fact you have to sympathize with them, ask where they’re coming from. In this case I think you can understand it. If you’re crushing somebody under your jackboot, you have to have a reason. The reason can’t be “I’m an evil monster.” The reason has to be either “I’m doing it for their good,” which is the usual reason, or else “I’m afraid of them and if I don’t do it they’ll go after me.” That’s a very prevailing attitude. It can be manipulated and cynical, power-hungry political figures working for concentrations of power do it all the time.

Germany, remember, was the most civilized part of the world. It was the peak of Western civilization, the center of the arts, the sciences, and literature. If you wanted to study physics, you went to Germany. Within a few years, it turned into a society of raving maniacs. Why did they destroy the Jews? Out of fear. Because, in their minds, the Jews were going to destroy them. They were defending not only themselves, but the Aryan race against the Jews.

The Humanist: That brings us back to the human animal, apparently a very fearful animal.

Chomsky: Humans are capable of many things. Some of them are horrible, some are wonderful.

The very simple acts of meanness from bureaucracies and the leaders, or so-called leaders, are demonstrative of the scaling up of the barbarity and banality of evil the elite and their minions with their trillions in offshore bank accounts and cachets of diamonds and Great Lakes full of oil have parlayed from this collective lack of empathy. Little Eichmann’s pushing the collective mouse click of despair, and smaller ones with a badge and uniform and pure hatred of blacks-Latinos-gays-demonstrators-people.

In Spokane or Tucson, LA or NYC, the agents of human disposal are hard at work – boulder sized concrete detritus spread out under Interstate 90 in the heart of Spokane so vagabonds or local homeless can’t spread their tents and belongings out of the freezing rain. Three hundred dollar tickets for asking a stranger to spare a dime in El Paso or Ventura – both the panhandlers (sic) and the givers subject to fines, handcuffs, jail.

True, jail, or worse by just imagining (no, this is not a thought experiment) the few of us who fight back, with words, principles, telling off some Gestapo cop with 17-bullet clips on semi-auto German pistols and their three foot batons and their Kevlar vests and their rapid fire 12 gauge shotguns and their reinforced SUV’s and their sixty foot streams of pepper spray and their hydra-headed Tasers and lobbed shock grenades and rubber bullets and bean bag launchers and their noise throwers, flame throwers, tanks, weaponized drones, conveys of armed Humvees and armored command centers.

In Santa Monica you can’t use a public curb to parallel park the old RV or hitched-up trailer. No overnight parking. No living in dignity. No sleeping here, or …? Multi-thousand dollar fines and impounding of those last vestiges of a home before hitting the tarmac with discarded yoga mat.

These fascists, knee-jerking Anglo-Caucasians, pushing over food carts in Atlanta or Albany. All American Flag Wrapped wingnuts swastika-tagging food marts owned by Sikh-Vietnamese-Korean-Punjabi in every town and big city, from Pacific to Atlantic. Those 24-hour ticking time bombs of insults, retrograde reporting, falsifications called Mainline Media, failing not even just the humanity test in falsifying what social injustice is, but rubbing out any semblance of reality, as if each and everyone of them with coiffed hair and sweaty lips is Blanche Dubois and Walter Middy on Steroids-Growth Hormone Replacements Fake Journalist/Person.

In 2014, 64 communities had citywide bans on public camping, up from 40 in 2011. And the number of cities that prohibit sleeping in vehicles jumped from 37 in 2011, to 81 in 2014 and the number of cities that prohibit sitting or lying in public spaces increased from 70 in 2011, to 100 in 2014. Often called “sit/lie” laws, they prohibit the homeless from sitting or lying down on any street, sidewalk, entrance to a story, alley or other public place. This is the age of shitting on thy neighbor and throwing huge chunks of stone in our greasy collective glass houses: more and more cities are passing bans on begging, loitering and sharing or giving food away in public places, which hurts non-profit, community, individual food give-away programs, and pantries or churches who give food to the homeless on the street. The penalties vary by city and law and can include fines or jail time.

Here, read the report on, Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

Hell, I worked for one of Portland’s largest homeless and recovery non-profits, and the dude we called our boss, from one of the top five investment (sic) companies, told us social workers to call the cops if we felt threatened, and he believed anyone leaning up against the bricks of our office should be roused by the cops, as Portland has laws against leaning against buildings (you know, this constant rain 6 months out of the year Mini-Metropolis), so god forbid the poor and homeless might get a few minutes of respite under an overhang.

Poverty pimps – you don’t have to resort to the Urban Dictionary to understand the connotations of that phrase, but here, read!

The term “poverty pimp” is defined as a derogatory label for an individual or group which, to its own benefit, acts as an intermediary on behalf of the poor. Literally, a poverty pimp is an individual or group who solicits for the poor, or it can mean, a welfare system procurer. Poverty pimps gain a higher quality of existence from exploiting the poverty of others.

Under the American system of inter-linked public and private social services the poor get helped but not in any effective way; the big bucks go for overhead. As always, a lot of anti-poverty money is going to people who are not poor. There are whole classes of people who live off the services provided to the poor.

Ahh, the flipped over America – liberals living off the pain of the poor, and the elites, the bankers, the chosen ones in the renter class, legal class, penitentiary class, they make the big bucks on servicing the poor, forcing them to live lives of toil, legal financial obligations killing them, and so many other things coupled with the very idea that a mark is born every second, and a sucker (read poor, forced poor class) is born every nanosecond.

My own work here, at DV, or LA Progressive and a monthly magazine speaks to the shackles poor people trudge around, from a liquor store-gun shop on every corner, to PayDay Loans in every census track, to fence-line communities sucking in the carcinogenic of the hissing, steaming, fogging by-products of the refinery-industrial sized farming industries. Read, my, “Six Degrees of Separation!”

The High Cost of Being Poor,” now eleven years old, from Barbara Ehrenreich, but relevant, by just ramping up the pain and the stats by a factor of five! And this one by Dave Johnson is three years old, good, informed, and yet, keep adding onto the misery these two writers reported — more than half of Americans are near poor, and the one paycheck away from poverty/homelessness /destitution/basement surfing/car sleeping/opiate sucking/booze sucking/suicide is not a story the left-right-in between want to deal with, and those deplorables voting for Trump are most probably not in this huge grouping of Americans working as wage slaves and precarious/temp/ multi-gig fellow citizens who would see the entire shit hit the fan with a bad fall, cancer diagnosis, busted head gasket, death in the family, and jump in the rent even 10 percent.

These purveyors of cultural sickness, country-wide hipsterism, nationwide values – the Mainstream Press – come on hard at us, precarious ones, fellow Americans, or whatever they think we are:

Republicans constantly talk about how good the poor have it. In 2002 the Wall Street Journal called the poor “Lucky Duckies” because they are “the beneficiaries” of the progressive tax system and pay little or no taxes. But the reality is that it just plain sucks to be poor. It’s actually more expensive not having enough money to get by.

Even the pop psychologists who are touted by Alternet and Salon, two pro-Hillary sites, have to weigh in on Trump and our collective psychosis. Here’s one — “Duke Psychiatrist: America Is Having a Nervous Breakdown: Author Allen Frances puts Trump on the couch, and reveals how we might regain our sanity”:

The 20 richest people in America have more wealth than half the country. 20 people have more wealth than half the country. The message is real. The Democratic Party has been remarkably inept in connecting with its natural voters. The Republican Party has sold propaganda very successfully, and Trump is the epitome of someone who is the worst possible messenger for a reasonably important message. He’s a false prophet. Every move he’s made has betrayed the people who voted for him. I think that the hope over the next months will be that his falling popularity, from 45 percent to 35 percent, that we’ll see a gradual erosion of people who realize that he was not the man they thought he was. That the hope they rested in him [was] misplaced, a buyer’s remorse, and he will become more and more isolated in office and as a result, will be able to do less damage.

Shame, blame, recrimination, prejudice, racism, speciesism, genocide. This is the fabric of a society weened on the hind tit of war games, wars, football on Sunday, cults of patriarchy, disaster capitalism, parasitic money making. This is the end line of those fed on Hollywood lies, normalizing murder, fetishes around looking-feeling-tasting-sounding-smelling like some Disney character. Every day in America, more than half the people are tackled by their own fears, their own lost lives, hoping for some cleaning of the slate, massive restart button, personal-national tabula rasa. Lusting after the good old days of slavery, seeding those first nations’ blankets with smallpox days; those glory days of bombing brown people, ripping off the soul of Mexico; those halcyon days where bombs bursting in air is the theme from sea to shining sea.

Everyday I have youth, boy do I have youth, and it’s not just the Trumping of the Worst Presidents on Earth — all 45 — that eats at these 17-to-21 year olds. It’s not the constant bombardment of the gut with the bio-waste of modern (sic) diets eating at the very fabric of their sanity.  They sort of get it that their prostate cancers and breast removals in four or five decades might be tied to the cheese in Cheetos or triple-deck cheeseburgers.

These youth are worn out at age 18. They are gassed and fatigued. Their poverty and their family pedigrees, all of that, with the shit-storm that is America being our CLASS chiseled country, all of that plus the stupidity of industrial education, the plague of low paying job futures, and the absurdity of the heroes/super heroes they adore making the greenbacks they lust after but really know it’s all smoke and mirrors and Hollywood fascism and Pro-Sports elitism and Music Mental Depravity. It’s the daily examples of burned out infrastructure — nothing for youth, except the impending days of wine, vodka, beer consumption when they hit 21. It’s the absurdly lacking public transportation. The clarion call to get hitched up with car loan, over-priced (usury) rentals, and the endless Twitter and SnapChat of more and more expensive pieces of shit smart-dumb phones and sick loan shark level phone and data plans.

Is this the paradise of the blind, the lost generation, the data-info-knowledge fatigue/paralysis generation? Is this the one last thrust of the masses in America to push away those One Percenters and the purveyors of the Christian-Zionist white racist flogging of the other races?

These young people know they have been lied to. They know they are in the same rooms-hallways-corridors-churches-malls-warehouses-classrooms of the great con game impresarios. They know their future is looking like chronic asthma, diabetes, brain fog, loss of motor-bodily-cognitive functions.

Who in their right mind would not BECOME opiate addicted under this shit hole operation, capitalism, and the con men of the last spasm of unfettered capitalism? Which child living under this web and flaming net of exploitation-disparities-abandonment wouldn’t rather choose/enter into the controllers’ house of torture a la Spanish Inquisition? Better to wig out, check out, burn out, veg out. The bastards are high in number, and the body count is rising. Here, Hedges burns it good, in his piece, “How Careerism is a Big Part of Our Social Predicament“:

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

Why do people leave their homelands, and seek the very Turtle Island of many of their own societies’ problems, desperation, despair?  “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” is one way to look at it, coming from poet, Warsan Shire.

There is no land of milk and honey now that the beasts of any nation have been sucker punched and dumped into the shipping canals of the Goldman and Sachs, the countless ones in Fortune 400 circles, by the 20 richest, meanest people on planet earth! Or the richest in America! How good are they? How shapeless are they in their Lost Paradises? And how many levels down the Dantean flaming ladder will they fall? If ever? That is the question, to flail and flog, or not to!

Colonialism only loosens its hold when the knife is at its throat.

— Frantz Fanon

Replace “colonialism” with capitalism, Wall Street, Military-Financial-Big Pharma-Insurance-Ag-Energy-Surveillance-Prison Complex!