Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Dangerous Streamlining: Emergencies, Militarisation and Civil Liberties

Be wary of anyone insistent on using the word “streamline” in the context of policy and planning.  It suggests a suspicion of sound procedure, due process and keen scrutiny.  The streamliner hates accountability, attacks the world of red tape and suggests that barriers be removed.  Cut the tape; free the decision maker.

The streamline obsessives tend to see themselves as reformers and pruners of unnecessary waste and delay.  In Australian extradition law, for instance, the paring back of protections has been relentless.  The enthusiastic embrace of the “no evidence” model of extradition procedure was an example of such crude thinking. It was noted with some concern by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in 2001.

The members took a keen interest in the comments of Professor Ned Aughterson: “There has been a trend towards streamlining the extradition process so as to facilitate extradition.  This has been at the expense of individual rights.  That is exemplified by the general abolition of the requirement to establish a prima facie case and the allocation of responsibility for the protection of individual rights to the executive.”

Aughterson would, in turn, cite the observations of Professor Ivan Shearer that, since the 1980s, Australia had witnessed “a substantial shift away from judicial review of the extradition process towards the exercise of unreviewable executive discretion.”  Another scoring effort for the streamliners, refusing to admit those fustian judges to the party.

In 2011, the Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Bill made its parliamentary debut.  Political representatives were all praise for eliminating obstacles to a process they regarded as obsolete, cobwebbed by the passage of time.  (A stale approach to the liberty of the subject has that effect.)  The premise: that technology and the extent of travel had dramatically changed.  “There was no internet in 1988 and mobile phones were a new commodity,” reflected Labor Senator Kim Carr, then Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research in his second reading speech.  He also suggested that “extraditing a person can be cumbersome and take several months to finalise, even if a person has consented to their extradition.”  Better, then, to let the person waive the process, albeit subject to a modicum of safeguards.  Better still, have the person prosecuted in Australia.

With this tendency in mind, we come to another instance of streamline wonkiness that does more than sneeze at civil liberties: the Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill 2020.  Again, the streamliners are out in force.  The proposed bill has measures, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, “that will enhance Defence’s capacity to provide assistance in relation to natural disasters and other emergencies.”  It supplements the existing Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) policy by “streamlining the process for calling out members of the ADF reserves” under the existing legislation and provides “ADF members, other Defence personnel and members of foreign forces with similar immunities to State and Territory emergency services personnel in certain cases while performing duties to support civil emergency and disaster preparedness, recovery and response”.  Such immunity will apply when the service is provided “in good faith”.

The granting of such immunities, notably to institutions vested with powers to wound and kill, should cause shuddering in the community.  It effectively nullifies any enforceable right of redress in instances of harm.  It is also a statement of exclusion: judges and their scrutiny will not be needed.  The protectors know best.

Alex Hawke, the Assistant Defence Minister, gave a few tips in his second reading speech of the bill on what is in store.  He praised the defence forces as critical in responding to bushfire emergencies and the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bill would “enhance” the ability of such personnel “to respond to natural disasters and other civil emergencies.”  The bill promises “more flexible service operations for reservists”.  It will also permit “the Governor-General to act on the advice of the Minister for Defence, after consultation with the Prime Minister, in all circumstances and not just for reasons of urgency.” Broadness in executive power is the enemy of liberty.

Human rights activist and advocate Kellie Tranter finds much room for concern, having a keen interest in the problems behind militarising climate change responses and, for that matter, the dangers involved in the deployment of military personnel in areas of civilian concern.  “Defence forces used in a civilian context should not be normalised,” she suggests, with good reason, in a briefing paper on the Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies Bill.  She points out that this latest proposed amendment lacks definitional scope.  “Other emergencies” is simply not defined.  The Defence Assistance to the Civil Community policy is already wide in application, seemingly decided by those in the Department of Defence.  “It is not inconceivable to see the normalisation of military forces on the steets responding to public order issues that should be dealt with by police, for example protests.”

There is much to be concerned about.  Such yardsticks as “good faith” are imprecise and feathery.  The “grossly inadequate” Human Rights Statement “does not address public rights that may well be infringed under these provisions.”  The proposed immunities would also extend to “foreign military and police forces”, suggesting more than a cheerful nod of approval to those nuclear armed allies across the pond.  “The use of a foreign army or militarised police force should not be allowed at all, and certainly not without the safeguard of citizens’ rights of access to courts.”

Under the cover of stealth and reliable apathy, powers have been vested in Australia’s military and ministerial authorities with scant debate and even less scrutiny.  As law academic Michael Head points out with noticeable alarm, powers calling out the Australian Defence Force to deal with, for instance, “domestic violence”, or likely dangers to “declared infrastructure” are left undefined.  Vagueness bedevils the legislation, passed ostensibly to protect the populace against terrorist attacks.  “Once deployed, military personnel can exercise extraordinary powers over civilians, overturning basic legal and democratic rights.”

The trend is not being arrested.   Australia’s defence forces, unlike the current prime minister, envisage a future of climate change chaos and a pressing need for readiness.  The Department of Defence, in a recent update, also worries about the “long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic”, which has “deeply altered the economic trajectory of the region and the world with implications for Australia’s prosperity and security.”  We have been warned.

The post Dangerous Streamlining: Emergencies, Militarisation and Civil Liberties first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A “Persistent Eye in the Sky” Coming to a City Near You?

“Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we’re looking at, and we can see everything.” That same persistent eye in the sky may soon be deployed over U.S. cities.

At the time he made that comment about surveillance drones over Afghanistan, Maj. General James Poss was the Air Force’s top intelligence officer. He was preparing to leave the Pentagon, and move over to the Federal Aviation Administration. His job was to begin executing the plan to allow those same surveillance drones to fly over American cities.

This plan was ordered by Congress in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. It directed the Departments of Defense and Transportation to “develop a plan for providing expanded access to the national airspace for unmanned aircraft systems of the Department of Defense.” Gen. Poss was one of nearly two dozen ex-military officers who, starting in 2010, were put into positions at the FAA to oversee drone integration research. With little public scrutiny, the plan has been moving forward ever since.

If you’re thinking that this is a partisan issue, think again. This plan has been enacted and expanded under Presidents and Congresses of both parties. If you’re uncomfortable with a President Biden having the ability to track the movements of every Tea Party or Q-Anon supporter, you should be. Just as we should all be concerned about a President Trump tracking…well, everybody else.

Along with civil liberties, a major concern must be safety. The military and the drone manufacturers, principally General Atomics, are arguing that the technology has advanced far enough that flying 79-ft. wingspan, six-ton drones over populated areas and alongside commercial air traffic is safe. We have one response: self-driving cars. Self-driving cars present a technological problem that is an order of magnitude simpler than aircraft flying hundreds of miles per hour in three dimensions. Yet they still can’t keep these cars from plowing into stationary objects like firetrucks (or people) at 60 mph in two dimensions. Are we really comfortable with pilotless aircraft operating in the same airspace as the 747 at 30,000 feet that is bringing your children home for Christmas? These drones have a troubled history of crashing and unfortunately, the process for determining whether these drones are now truly safe has been compromised by having the military, which wants this approval, largely in charge of the testing.

Which brings us to San Diego. Last October, General Atomics announced that they would be flying their biggest, most advanced surveillance drone yet, the SkyGuardian, over the City of San Diego sometime this summer. The stated purpose was to demonstrate potential commercial applications of large drones over American cities. In this case, the drone would be used to survey the city’s infrastructure.

But when General Atomics first began preparing for the flight, the goal was a very different one: Back in 2017, military technology analysts were predicting that by 2025, drones similar to those used in Afghanistan and Iraq would be hovering above U.S. cities, relaying high-resolution video of the movement of every citizen to police departments (and who knows who else). When there was public pushback to this police department drone use—even a pro-industry reporter called the idea “dystopian”—General Atomics changed the purpose of the flight from providing data to the police to “mapping critical infrastructure” in the San Diego region.

The FAA, which is responsible for granting permission to General Atomics, has kept the process secret. When the Voice of San Diego asked for more information, the FAA refused on the grounds that this supposed commercial demonstration was actually “military.” The Voice of San Diego is now suing to get answers and the ACLU has also expressed concern about the flight. Amid the scrutiny, General Atomics quietly announced that the flight was cancelled, but this is certain to be a small hiccup in their long-term plan.

In fact, General Atomics’ drones are already being used domestically. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flies Predators over parts of the U.S.- Mexico and U.S.-Canadian borders. Recently, CBP has expanded their reach, using these drones to assist police in Minneapolis, San Antonio and Detroit in the wake of protests against police brutality. Deeply concerned, members of Congress wrote to federal agencies denouncing the chilling effect of government surveillance on law-abiding Americans and demanding an immediate end to surveilling peaceful protests.

The concerns of these members of Congress should be echoed by the general public. What are the possible effects on our civil liberties from having high-tech surveillance platforms circling over millions of Americans, gathering information about our every move? We know from past experience that every government surveillance technology that can be abused has been abused. Allowing this powerful technology to be taken from overseas wars and turned inward on American citizens isn’t something that should happen without a robust public debate. The implications for civil liberties are too profound.

The post A “Persistent Eye in the Sky” Coming to a City Near You? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reject Militarism on the Anniversary of 9/11

Nineteen years after more than 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, there remains a bipartisan commitment to fight an endless “war on terrorism,” instigate regime change coups, increase military spending, enhance US nuclear weapons, deport undocumented residents, curtail civil liberties, and militarize the police.

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the US have obscured “The Other 9/11,” the US attack on Chilean democracy in the US-backed coup on September 11, 1973. The two 9/11s are connected by what the CIA calls “blowback.” The CIA first used the term in describing the unintended negative consequences of the US and UK sponsored coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. The September 11, 2001 attacks were blowback from decades of US intervention in the Middle East. That doesn’t justify the terrorism, but it does explain it. If we want peace and security for our nation, we should respect the peace and security of other nations.

Contrary to Trump’s lies about ending the endless wars, his administration has escalated the “Long War” in the Middle East and North Africa with increased troop deployments, drone strikes, and Special Operations.

Trump is also morphing the War on Terror abroad into a war against dissent at home. He encourages and uses law enforcement to attack nonviolent protesters, calling them “thugs” and “antifa terrorists.” He encourages white racist vigilante militias that show up armed to menace Black Lives Matter demonstrators and to intimidate local and state governments in armed protests against climate action (Oregon) and COVID-19 public health measures (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin).

Trump encourages these actions with statements that amplify paranoid far-right fantasies that call climate change and COVID-19 hoaxes perpetrated by secret elite conspiracies. Trump has instructed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and Border Patrol to violate immigration laws and subject immigrants and asylum seekers to unspeakable brutality, including separating children from their parents and internment in concentration camps where COVID-19 is running rampant. He stokes racial fears and civil strife to justify authoritarian rule. He calls the news media “fake,” the elections “rigged,” and promotes conspiracy fantasies on Twitter. Trump is sowing confusion and demoralization so people will not be able to resist repression by sections of law enforcement and the racist militias should Trump decide to resist a peaceful transfer of power. The ultimate blowback against US coups and wars abroad against democracy threatens to be a coup against democracy at home.

End the Wars on Terrorism Abroad and Dissent at Home

One of my first steps as President would be to end the wars on “terrorism” abroad and at home. Neither major party calls for ending the endless wars against “terror” abroad even though the top priority in the official National Security Strategy of the United States has changed to “Great Power Competition” with the goal of preventing the emergence of strong regional powers in Eurasia, namely China, Iran, and Russia. This New Cold War, like the War on Terrorism, is about the profits of US-based global corporations abroad, not the security of the people of the United States at home.

The nuclear modernization program initiated under Obama and continued under Trump with bipartisan support has destabilized the nuclear balance of terror and kicked off a new nuclear arms race. The nuclear threat, coupled with inaction by the great powers on the climate emergency and the proliferation of disinformation propagated by state actors on all sides that makes it difficult for publics to come to agreement on what to demand of their governments, has prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move their Doomsday Clock the closest it has ever been to midnight.

I would end the saber rattling against Russia, China, and Iran in the Great Power Competition strategy and focus on diplomacy. We need to partner with other major powers to address our common problems, notably nuclear arms, climate, and cyberwar.

I would also end the bipartisan repression of dissent at home. With Trump’s encouragement, law enforcement is using militaristic tactics to suppress peaceful protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Both major parties are united in suppressing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and publishers like Julian Assange, whose real crimes in the eyes of the National Security State is that they exposed its secret wrongdoings.

The US should speak out against violations of human rights and democracy wherever they occur, but that should not preclude also working with authoritarian governments to resolve life-or-death global issues like climate change and nuclear arms. War and threats of war are the most powerful destroyers of civil liberties, democracy, and human rights. Military threats, economic sanctions, and covert meddling in the politics of other countries only reinforces the nationalist rationalizations of authoritarian governments for repression at home in order to ward off threats from abroad.

The most powerful way to promote human rights is to set a good example. If the US wants its advocacy of human rights to be credible and effective, it must set the right example at home, where police killings of Black people are seen on social media around the world.  A country where there is mass incarceration in the largest prison system in the history of the world, and from where the US military is deployed in some 800 foreign military bases for its endless wars, making the US the nation that the world’s people consider the biggest threat to peace.

The Other 9/11: Chile

Thirty years before the United States’ 9/11, the CIA orchestrated the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist government of Chile on September 11, 1973.

It is a tragic coincidence of the US bloody intervention history in Latin America that President Salvador Allende was overthrown and pushed to suicide on the same date that decades later would affect US soil by a terrorist attack. The same feelings that American felt of being violated by the first foreign attack since Pearl Harbor were felt in Chile that September 11 in 1973. The sin of Salvador Allende in the eyes of Nixon, Kissinger, and CIA Director Richard Helms was to advance deep socialist reforms that would create a more equal society, a just distribution of incomes, real freedom of expression, and a truly democratic framework that could allow, finally, the participation and voices of all sectors, specially the impoverished workers of Chile.

Sound familiar? These are exactly the challenges that the US faces today, problems that have riddled the US throughout its history and become worse in the Trump era – the authoritarian duopoly of Republicans and Democrats, voter suppression, third party suppression, deep inequality from coast to coast, and chronic poverty. It is the same kind of repression that Chile suffers today under the conservative millionaire Sebastián Piñera when people again advance the same reforms that Allende worked for and paid for with his life. It is the same social, economic, and political oppression that the two countries share on this anniversary of 9/11.

Aid, Not Arms – Make Friends, Not Enemies

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the Green Party of the United States warned against the danger that the two major parties and the corporate media would turn this horrific crime into a rationale for destructive wars abroad and political repression at home.

Instead of treating the 9/11 attackers as criminals to be brought to justice, the US used the attacks as a pretext for a long series of regime change wars in the Middle East and North Africa. The foreign policy leadership of the Bush administration had already written about the need for a “new Pearl Harbor” in order to provide the pretext for an invasion of Iraq to seize its oil fields. They wasted little time in getting started after 9/11.

The Authorization To Use Military Force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks passed Congress on September 18 with only one dissenting vote. The US invasion of Afghanistan started on October 1. The AUMF legislation is still the legal basis for today’s endless wars.

The Patriot Act, which gave the federal government broad new intrusive surveillance and investigatory powers that weakened civil liberties, was overwhelmingly voted through Congress by October 25.

The Bush administration, joined by the Democratic amen corner led by Senator Joe Biden, lied about weapons of mass destruction and about Iraq’s alleged role in 9/11 to start a second war in Iraq by March 2003.

After 19 years, US combat troops are now engaged in 14 wars. At least 37 million people, and as many as 59 million people, have been displaced by these wars, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

The annual observation of 9/11 has been turned by politicians into a militaristic celebration of American power that is used to garner public support for US military spending and imperial aggression abroad. Right after 9/11, the world was united in its grief for our country. It was a moment that should have been used to build peace based on mutual cooperation and respect.

Let us remember 9/11 this year by demanding that the US withdraw from its endless wars, prioritize diplomacy to resolve conflicts, end arms sales to belligerents, and provide humanitarian aid for war refugees, including reopening immigration to the US from these countries.

Let’s turn the US into the world’s humanitarian superpower instead of its global military empire. Providing aid instead of arms is the best way to promote peace and security. It is time for the US to make friends instead of enemies.

The post Reject Militarism on the Anniversary of 9/11 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

COVID-19 Crisis Failure, People Must Save Themselves and the Economy

Positive COVID-19 Test (Shutterstock)

The US is at a moment of truth. This week, Congress has to face up to a pandemic that is out of control and an economy that is collapsing. The Republican’s and Democrat’s proposals show they will fail this test. The people will need to protect themselves and lead from below.

The pandemic is worsening with more than 60,000 new cases and approximately 1,000 new deaths daily. Deaths, now over 158,000, are spiking across the sunbelt and increasing across the Midwest. By Election Day, the US could have 250,000 deaths making COVID-19 the third largest killer after cancer and heart disease.

The economy shrank at a record 32.9% annual pace in the second quarter, the largest since records were first kept in 1947. Jobless claims increased for the second week in a row with 1.4 million new people seeking unemployment benefits and continuing claims have risen to 17.06 million. More than 35 million people have lost their jobs since March.

In the face of these depression-era numbers, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are planning enough spending to rebuild the economy. President Trump, who has botched the response to the pandemic, is unable to lead but seems willing to sign anything that passes Congress.

Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, at a drive thru distribution in downtown Pittsburgh, 10 April, 2020 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.)

Republican HEALS Act Will Spread the Virus, Deepen Economic Collapse

The Republican Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act seeks to push people back to work and reopen schools even if it is not safe to do so. Their proposals to cut unemployment benefits are designed to make workers desperate so they will work in conditions that put their health at risk. A large portion of school funding is restricted to schools that physically reopen forcing unsafe schools. Here are some of the details of the bill:

Health care: The inadequacy of for-profit healthcare has been magnified by the pandemic. The loss of jobs resulted in millions of people losing their health insurance on top of almost 30 million people who were already uninsured. Republicans do not include a funding increase for Medicaid, which 70 million people rely on. The National Governor’s Association reports states are experiencing budget shortfalls ranging between 5 and 20 percent. The Republicans do not provide any funding to state and local governments to make up for this loss of income. Without new funding, states will have to cut Medicaid eligibility, reduce benefits, or reduce payments to providers at a time when the economy and virus mean more people need it.

Food: The Census reports 26 million people do not have adequate food. Food banks are reporting shortages and 14 million children are going hungry but the Republicans did not extend funding for food assistance programs. The Republicans did not extend either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamps, or the Pandemic EBT program, a benefit for households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals, which ended in June. In contrast, they did propose a 100 percent deduction on business meals through the end of 2020.

Housing: The eviction moratorium expired last week. It protected an estimated 12 million renters in federally-backed properties. The HEALS Act does nothing to prevent evictions from restarting. There are 110 million Americans who live in rental households. Twenty percent of them, 23 million people, are at risk of eviction by September 30 according to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. With the cut in unemployment benefits, the Census Bureau estimates 24 million people will be unable to pay next month’s rent, including 45 percent of Black and Latinx households.

Worker safety: As workers are being forced back to work, the HEALS Act cuts their ability to sue at a time when worker-safety is at its greatest risk in a century.  Senator McConnell calls this a “red line” that must be in the final bill. His proposal would preempt the few state workplace safety laws that exist and supersede such federal worker safeguards as the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, among others. The Republican proposal would erect almost insurmountable obstacles to lawsuits by workers who become infected at their workplaces and limit damages. To be immune, employers would merely have to show they were  “exploring options” to comply with federal law, or they found the risk of harm to health could not be “reduced or eliminated by reasonably modifying policies, practices, or procedures.” A worker whose lawyer issues a demand letter and settlement offer would find themselves potentially facing litigation by the employer against them. If employers sue workers, there is no limit to punitive damages. These provisions would be retroactive to December 1, 2019, and remain in effect at least until October 1, 2024.

Student debt: The HEALS Act doesn’t extend the interest-free payment pause on federal student loans or halt debt collection on government-held student debt, two forms of relief in the original CARES ACT. Without extending the relief Congress first granted to student loan borrowers through the CARES Act, 40 million people are likely to have to resume payments on September 30, 2020 at a time when there are Depression-like levels of unemployment.

Business support: The Act provides $100 billion more for the problematic Paycheck Protection Program, which has been rife with corruption as members of Congress and the administration as well as their friends, families, and donors got payouts. Big businesses got loans even though the program was intended for small businesses, making small business owners furious. Black and minority businesses were denied loans. Money is needed for main street businesses but PPP needs major changes rather than just pouring more money into the failed program.

The bill also includes $1.75 billion for the FBI building. This was added at the insistence of the Trump administration because the president’s hotel is across the street from the FBI. Without funding to refurbish the building, the FBI could move to Virginia or Maryland, leaving the current building to be torn down and likely replaced with a hotel that would compete with Trump’s hotel.

Military spending: Nearly $30 billion in the HEALS Act would be allocated in a brazen giveaway to the military. The bill includes billions for the Pentagon including $686 million for F-35 stealth fighters, $650 million for A-10 ground attack airplane wing replacements, $1.4 billion for four expeditionary medical ships, and $720 million for C-130J transport aircraft, $375 million for armored vehicles, $360 million for missile defense, and $283 million for Apache helicopters. This is reportedly being added to make up for money taken from the Pentagon for the border wall and comes after Congress recently passed a record military spending bill.

Paramedics taking a patient into an Emergency Room at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The Democrats Fail To Use Their Power

The Democrats control the House of Representatives. Nothing can pass the Senate without Democratic Party support. The Senate Republicans are divided and Trump is desperate to sign a bill. Polls show Republicans could lose the Senate so they need to pass a good bill. The political alignment favors the Democratic Party but it still isn’t doing what is needed.

The Democrats passed the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act in May, a $3 trillion proposal compared to the $1 trillion HEALS Act. Two months ago this may have been adequate but now that figure needs to be increased as more jobs have been lost, state and city governments have lost income, and the cost of treating the virus has increased with more cases.

A “red line” for the Democrats should be funding state and local government with at least $1 trillion to continue basic services. More than 20 million people work for state and local governments such as firefighters, teachers, police, sanitation workers, and transportation workers. The Economic Policy Institute estimates 5.3 million jobs will be lost without state and local funding. President Trump and the Republicans do not want another massive increase in job loss, so the Democrats are in a strong position to make this demand.

The decrease in unemployment benefits should be another unacceptable “red line” as this will further shrink the economy. The Economic Policy Institute finds the loss of the extra $600 of unemployment benefits, which people are currently spending on basic needs, will result in the loss of an additional 3.4 million jobs.

One area where the Democrats can build on some agreement is the $1,200 COVID-19 relief payment to individuals. These payments are too small. A good COVID-19 relief package would increase payments to $2,000 per person monthly for the duration of the pandemic and recession for households earning under $150,000 as suggested by Sen. Bernie Sanders. This would slow the economic collapse and ease suffering.

It is essential to extend the moratorium on evictions not just for federally-subsidized housing, but the federal government should also cover rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the crises. Otherwise, millions of families will lose their homes in an election year, which should be politically unpalatable for both parties.

Health workers give people free Covid-19 tests in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26 (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

We Need a Plan

What is missing from both the Republican and Democratic bills is a strategy to control and stop the pandemic. The virus is 7 months old and still spreading rapidly. President Trump has failed to lead so Congress must do so. The bill should include a massive investment in making rapid testing available across the country. Every business and school should have rapid testing capability before they reopen. This should be combined with hiring 500,000 public health tracers so those who have been exposed to COVID-19 can be tracked to prevent further spread of the virus.

Everyone wants to restart the economy but this must be done safely. In addition to testing and tracing, workplaces and schools must be safe. School districts should decide whether to restart or continue web-based learning and should be supported by the federal government whatever they choose. Hundreds of thousands of tutors who can do one-on-one teaching to support web-based learning are needed. With high unemployment, especially among recent graduates and college students, there are people available to take on this task.

Congress should authorize OSHA to rapidly enact stringent standards for workplaces to reopen, along with funding for necessary safeguards. There should be increased funding for OSHA workplace inspections and investigations of inadequate safety. Employers who meet the standards for a safe workplace should have legal protection from frivolous lawsuits but employees should also have the right to sue if workplaces do not meet safety standards. This approach protects both workers and employers and will reduce the spread of the virus.

Neither party handled healthcare well even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has magnified the failure of for-profit healthcare. To stop the spread of the virus, Congress needs to break away from its privatized approach to healthcare. With the widespread job loss, 5.4 million workers lost their health insurance as did millions more family members. This is the largest decline in health insurance coverage in US history. The rapid response to this healthcare crisis should be the expansion of Medicare to everyone in the United States. Ideological opposition to publicly funded healthcare should not block this essential step. The long term failure of our healthcare system and widening health disparities demonstrate why we need a community-controlled, public, universal healthcare system.

Workers strike over safety (Yahoo Finance)

he People Must Rule, and Protect Ourselves

Congress and the President are unlikely to enact the laws needed to confront the pandemic and economic collapse. As a result, both will worsen. We will have to take action to protect ourselves and build popular power to win our demands.

We need to organize mutual aid to people meet people’s basic needs, such as for food and housing. Many cities have vacant buildings owned by the local and federal governments. As homelessness rises, these should be taken over to house people. We discuss the practical steps for taking over homes with Cheri Honkala this week on Clearing The FOG, (available as a podcast on Monday).

We build popular power by taking the streets as people have been doing for over two months now across the country, only buying essentials, refusing to pay rent or debt payments, blocking evictions and by building in our workplaces for a general strike.

Our actions must not be about which presidential candidate from the two parties of the millionaires to elect. Only one serious presidential campaign is right on COVID-19 and the economy, the Green candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. Our actions need to be about building a people’s movement that grows in power before and after the November elections. No matter who is elected, the people will need to resist, create new systems and rule from below.

The Marginalist Counter-Revolution, Science and Medical Social Management

By the time Alfred Marshall became prominent, the theory of capitalism formulated in Marx’s Capital had become a theoretical pillar of organised working class politics in Europe. Remarkably the so-called “marginalist revolution”, of which Marshall became a leading figure, coincides roughly with the abolition of slavery in Brazil (1886) and a major economic depression.1  Thus the shift from economics, for the allocation of surplus to that of managing scarcity is not a purely theoretical development. Following later scholars like Eric Williams, who argued that the “surplus” for industrialisation in Europe — that which had to be allocated through struggle or Adam Smith’s “invisible (whip) hand”– was derived from slavery and would now under the terms of marginalism become a “scarcity” of resources that theoretically had to be shared with liberated slaves and organising industrial labour.2

One of the objectives of political struggle in the 19th century was to appropriate the wealth held by the Church and the State and subject it to community/popular control. This meant also a struggle to find forms of governance adequate to this task. The opposition of marginalism, closely linked to progressivism and the emergence of “science” as religion (Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer), was a denial that the economic relationships between classes could be defined in any way, which would permit popular/communal control.3  Marginalism not only rejected the existence of a surplus to be allocated but also the idea that social benefit could be measured and therefore allocated through communal/popular governance. Since every economic relationship was reduced to implicit contracts between individuals there was no way to create scientifically reliable economic knowledge of classes, only tentatively for individuals, so-called methodological individualism.

What came to be social policy at the outbreak of WWI was, in fact, a denial that there was anything social at all. The entire history of the State’s promotion of adventurers, who in turn bought or leased the instruments of the State for the creation of monopoly wealth, was reduced to a footnote at best. Marginalism was conceived to explain — apologetics — what, in fact, had led to its creation as an ideology to counter democratic economic forces.

This is important in order to understand how the US religious doctrine of “free enterprise” was concocted and how the marketing strategy of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) became the dominant ideology of the end of the 20th century and the formal unquestioned dogma of the 21st. What is often alternatively called “neo-liberal” and “neo-conservative” is better understood if one looks at the history of the Roman Catholic Church. The 18th and 19th centuries were something like the Reformation, culminating in Marxism — itself a spectrum as broad as that between Lutheranism and Calvinism. The 20th century began the “Counter-Reformation”. Despite the successes of the October Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Cuban Revolution, the effect of this counter-revolution was to isolate these revolutions from the rest of the Church. In 1989, the Russian Revolution was no longer merely isolated but largely defeated — not surprisingly with a Polish pope in the van. The bullet in the neck was the NATO war against Yugoslavia.

The Counter-Reformation had two principal effects in Christendom. One was that it defeated the Reformation in the core Catholic dominions. In the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, for example, there was no Reformation. In the rest of the realms, the political content of the Reformation was purged. Luther and Calvin sided with the State and preserved their own versions of clericalism, inheriting, but not abandoning, the economic wealth and privilege established by centuries of Church theft.

The three great revolutions of the 20th century and to a far lesser extent the failed Mexican Revolution were the first to successfully transfer the socially generated wealth that had been appropriated by the Church and the corporate class (whether aristocratic or plutocratic) to a political structure based on popular/communal ownership and forced, for a brief period, the “Capitalist Church” to share at least symbolically some of its hoarded loot to provide facilities called “public” (as opposed to popular) and create a veneer of reform. The Church did the same thing in the Counter-Reformation — terrorising with the Inquisition and extending educational access through schools for the working class and poor and allowing local languages and some minor concessions to national preference in the clergy. From 1949 until 1989 the strategy was fierce repression and selective gradual openings:  social democracy in Western Europe (except Spain and Portugal, of course) on the “front” and death squads everywhere else.

1989 put an end to the biggest competitive alternative system and restored Russia to Orthodoxy if not to Catholicism. Since then the entire veneer of social democracy has been scraped away in the Western front-line states.  Seventy-odd years of pacification reduced the forces of class struggle — meaning those who supported popular/communal control of social wealth rather than corporate monopoly of the State — to less than a shadow of their former selves.

Nowhere, and at no time, has this become more evident than in 2020 when not a single political party of the “class struggle” tradition was able or willing to respond to the coup de grace against public space, social wealth and humanism that was administered in March past. The conspicuous silence at the massive theft that was orchestrated — untold trillions — while the bulk of the Western population was under house arrest — is beyond shameful.4 This was not an act to restrain a viral pandemic but an act culminating in the final expropriation, not only of the last scraps of social democracy but of the entire public space in which such struggles took place but also could take place. In Portugal, the quality might be called “Salazar light”, not the “new normal” but the “Estado Novissimo“.5

What we hear, for example, from the curia in Brussels, with its quasi-dual pontificate comprising the German Chancellor and her former rival now the president of the European Commission or the World Economic Forum, is something comparable — but, of course, on a global scale — a homily like that delivered by Martin Luther in support of the violent suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt. (Here I am only talking about those who are members of the “Left”.)

The Counter-Revolution/Counter-Reformation, whose spokespersons convene in the conclaves at Davos, has clear objectives. The euphemism is the great “reset”.6 What is described euphemistically as “growth” has always meant growth in power and control. By declaring an end to public space — anywhere — they are returning us to the closed world whose creation and maintenance was the objective of the Roman papacy. (I republished the bull Unaam Sanctam earlier this year for a reason!7  I do not want to repeat here everything I have tried to describe elsewhere. 8  At this writing the conclave in Brussels is deciding what to do with the residue of Christendom in the Western Empire.

Habemus Reset!

Somewhere I read in a history of China that at least the Confucians were amazed at the Roman Catholic Church’s organizational power and wondered that there was nothing equivalent to it in China. The Rockefeller Foundation was so concerned about China that it started very early (ca. 1914) to fund and train Chinese physicians in the Rockefeller model of industrial medicine and social engineering.9

The West compensates for its relatively small population with an extraordinary level of violence and organization. It was that “catholic” organisational capacity that shut down the West and its dependencies in March — and including the Shrine in Fatima, defies the strength of the Holy Virgin.

(What we have been told is the 18 months in the race to a “vaccine” should probably be seen as a planning parameter — adopted at least as early as 2015 — in the pacification program for which the vaccine is both a decoy and a weapon, by no means a toy.)

  1. For a discussion of the so-called “marginalist revolution” see, for example, Nuno Martins, “Interpreting the capitalist order before and after the marginalist revolution”, Cambridge Journal of Economics 2015, 39, 1109-1127.
  2. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, and Gerald Horne, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, reviewed by this author.
  3. What most people understand as “Darwinism” is actually “social Darwinism” as taught by Herbert Spencer et al. Charles Darwin did not consistently argue for the “survival of the fittest”. Rather he suggested that species’ variations could explain why some members of a species proliferated in an environment or survived changes in the environment. Unlike Spencer and vulgar Darwinists, Darwin claimed no teleology or interest in nature that could predict or promote any species or variation thereof. For a brief discussion of the difference between Darwin and vulgar Darwinism, see Morse Peckham, “Darwinism and Darwinisticism” in The Triumph of Romanticism (1970) pp. 176-201.
  4. While it is a matter of record that the US Federal Reserve gave away some USD 4 trillion on a single day at the beginning of the so-called pandemic, with no questions asked, both the US regime and its vassals in Brussels feel that any assistance to Europe’s SME sector must be endlessly debated and so structured that only the administering banks profit from it.
  5. For example, under Salazar’s Estado Novo that ended by revolution in 1974, three persons meeting in public spaces; e.g., on the street, constituted a “demonstration” requiring police authorisation. For those old enough to remember, the similarity to masks and social distancing is hard to overlook.
  6. World Economic Forum: The Great Reset; see also here:
  7. There is One God, One Faith, and One ChurchDissident Voice, May 2020.
  8. See my Dissident Voice articles this year if interested.  See, among others, “Re-Orientation”, 3 February 2020, and “The First Circle”, 24 April 2020.
  9. E. Richard Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men, Medicine and Capitalism in America. It is just a coincidence that it was also a man named Gates, Frederick T, a Baptist preacher and not a physician, who initiated the tradition of plutocrats using medical institutions to design society in their particular interests. Rockefeller money turned the Peking Union Medical College from a missionary endeavour into a scientific medical school. Rockefeller money also seeded the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, now under the patronage of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, where it hosts such exciting séances like Event 201.

Revolution Is Inevitable and Necessary

None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Bk. II, Ch. 5; source: Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Hamburger Ausgabe, Bd. 6 (Romane und Novellen I), dtv Verlag, München, 1982, p. 397 (II.5).

I keep plotting a revolution no one else seems to be interested in having. So be it. I’ll have my solitary revolution. There will be no pink hats, guillotines, or marches, just me and a bitter jaded middle finger saluting towards the firmaments in utter rejection of most what this society represents. Although I hold no lasting contempt for anyone in this society because I understand we all have fallen into cultural traps and have done things that we believed we had to do so that we could be accepted, or just to be allowed to sleep indoors somewhere and be fed; we’ve had to commodify and sell out pieces of ourselves to serve the desires of those in a system of power who sanction and control the flow of money backed by military forces and institutions of incarceration, and this way of being was set into motion a long time ago, but it doesn’t have to continue if that’s not what we really desire, but for right now it’s close to all we know.

So, it does seem a revolution of sorts is inevitable due to inequality reaching grotesque heights of avarice where there is no longer any excuse for the wealthy to hide behind in order to explain why it is they have so much and others have so little. However, this just emphasizes the point that this population is largely not wise enough yet to create a revolution worth having, because a more enlightened culture would have taken a stand a long time ago before things became an emergency. Every second we acquiesce to power and don’t push for something radically better we compound an already grim situation. Globally there seems to be a majority who don’t understand what it is to be free, they merely fight to be better treated servants. So it’s highly likely their coming revolution will be a flailing inchoate attempt at something marginally better than what is here now and won’t set out to correct much, if any, of the underlying structural problems.

Consequently, the odds are the revolution we’ll end up with will circle directly back to where we are now or worse in no time at all. But my critiques and frustrations are mine, not a concern for the coming revolution. I must remember it’s their revolution, not mine. I’m not invited to theirs — well, that’s not entirely true.  I just have to ignore most of what I believe to be true, then I’m invited. As things are, I have only a single pathetic pity party scheduled as an event to prove my revolution ever existed, but I should be appreciative of what I have and cease bemoaning what I do not.

So this is where I will make my stand. The beginning and likely end of my revolution of one. In reality my revolution is simply a rough translation through the English language describing my light of truth within, which I’ve gone to great pains to keep safe, dry, and burning from a clean source of fuel. Probably all done in futility except to selfishly inoculate my own mind from the lurking darkness of the culture cave; still, a lingering desire remains to light a path out for others to follow who have become stuck watching dark Platonic shadows flicker across the walls.

With that said, here’s the path I’m lighting with argumentation and I believe it to be a solid one.  We, as in the we consisting of the global middle/lower classes of the entire planet, aka the 99%, are not a free people now nor have ever truly been free while living in the bounds of a social hierarchy. While many a winsome word has been applied to parchment declaring this or that people free, unfortunately soon thereafter the founding document is handed over to record keepers to energize the narratives of posterity while the same ole domination and ownership-driven society meters out the same ole grind. The reward and punishment operant conditioning culture is uniformly applied and chosen specifically to keep people compliant, reactive, and rutted into perpetual business as usual subservience to authoritative forces.

Constitutions supply grandiose ideas which are undermined by underlying conditional legislature where the original words are made into feckless futile notions that allows the ruling authority to do all the draconian bullshit they’ve always done with prettier sounding words. The powers that be couch authoritarian ideas in language that sometimes sounds reasonable on the surface but ultimately leads people to a deleterious state of believing they are free when they are nothing close to any working definition of freedom. Freedom is a condition which is now only possible within our own minds, but our physical bodies are fodder for the whims of a class of people who clearly believe themselves superior to just about everyone else.

Those causing the most damage are simply playing out a cultural role that’s a legacy of deceit passed down from one generation to the next, and each falling prey to traps of chasing after things; endless shiny carrots on shiny sticks. And not just chasing, but lusting, demanding, an obsessive hedonistic pursuit wanting total ego domination at any macabre cost. Pure obsession with the chase. While irony sits on many of their own bookshelves as Melville’s whale tale of wisdom lies fallow and ignored serving only as bookcase filler to give guests the impression they’re well read.

The ego-driven mind thinks primarily in the language of temporal imperatives. Short term must do this, must do that kind of thinking where all thought is disseminated through a lens of self importance with agendas to accomplish to validate that self importance. And if it thinks itself important enough it will eventually see itself as messianic. After they have assumed role of savior it’s just logically congruent that the ruling class allocate all the resources they desire for themselves so they can help all the people they will eventually save, and they need deep pockets to be the inspiration for the entire world.

Over time the ruling class creates rules and cultural dogmas that they claim are for the good of the people, but oddly enough their beliefs always result in making them richer and giving them more power. What an odd purported symbiosis they have dreamed up. The surest sign of being under an authoritarian power is when they make it really difficult to live independent of them. They demand you be hooked up to their electrical grid, pay taxes to live on the land, and hooked into the public water system. Total forced dependency on their system and it is barely noticed yet subtly removing choice and creating an artificial cage. Creating dependency is the best way to control people, and tyranny is then accepted under the umbrella of the common good, so the messianic ones can provide shelter from the storm while, of course, the common person sacrifices most of their free will in the process in a Faustian bargain which is the default role we are thrust into in this world of imperial forces.

Social hierarchies hold their grip on power in increasingly sophisticated ways. They’ve mostly advanced past public executions to keep people in line. They’ve learned it’s far more effective to manipulate minds into believing all are equals and free, and stoke the fear response towards something external that threatens that equality and freedom. It’s become understood by hierarchy that if the ruling power is perceived as the threat they are far more likely to be ousted from that power, so the engines of power must diffuse the blame of their actions lest they be held responsible for the tyranny they impose.

So semi-plausible sounding fears are brought to the forefront so they can provide you with adequate safety, which gives them the power to deprive you of the liberty they are telling you they are protecting, since you know they care so much about you. The gas-lighting of the masses creates reactionary conditioning that puts people in a state where they no longer trust their own mind and become prone to believing all the fears power claims are real. And fear is then used as a prod to move the human animal in a chosen direction power wishes.

Revolution of a real kind, one where our relationship to power radically changes, will be a series of progressions in pulling our minds out of this culture trap. Change will come in relation to how well we come to understand the implications of centralized power and ultimately integrate that knowledge into how we live. Further, how well we learn to work together cooperatively in a voluntary manner will correlate  directly to how likely it is our species survives past the next hundred years. But curing ourselves of  these brutal mental afflictions is not an easy path to traverse. However, I’ll argue a radical change is needed if we want to once again have human lives worth living with real choice and agency over our own mind, body, and time.

Orwellian Lockstep and a Loaded Syringe

Some years ago, the then vice-president of Monsanto Robert T Fraley asked, “Why do people doubt science”. He posed the question partly because he had difficulty in believing that some people had valid concerns about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture.

Critics were questioning the science behind GM technology and the impacts of GMOs because they could see how science is used, corrupted and manipulated by powerful corporations to serve their own ends. And it was also because they regard these conglomerates as largely unaccountable and unregulated.

We need look no further than the current coronavirus issue to understand how vested interests are set to profit by spinning the crisis a certain way and how questionable science is being used to pursue policies that are essentially illogical or ‘unscientific’. Politicians refer to ‘science’ and expect the public to defer to the authority of science without questioning the legitimacy of scientific modelling or data.

Although this legitimacy is being questioned on various levels, arguments challenging the official line are being sidelined. Governments, the police and the corporate media have become the arbiters of truth even if ‘the truth’ does not correspond with expert opinion or rational thought which challenges the mainstream narrative.

For instance, testing for coronavirus could be flawed (producing a majority of ‘false positives’) and the processes involved in determining death rates could be inflating the numbers: for example, dying ‘with’ coronavirus’ is different to dying ‘due to’ coronavirus: a serious distinction given that up to 98 per cent of people (according to official sources) who may be dying with it have at least one serious life-threatening condition. Moreover, the case-fatality ratio could be so low as to make the lockdown response appear wholly disproportionate. Yet we are asked to accept statistics at face value – and by implication, the policies based on them.

Indeed, documentary maker and author David Cayley addresses this last point by saying that modern society is hyper-scientific but radically unscientific as it has no standard against which it can measure or assess what it has done: that we must at all costs ‘save lives’ is not questioned, but this makes it very easy to start a stampede. Making an entire country go home and stay home has immense, incalculable costs in terms of well-being and livelihoods. Cayley argues that this itself has created a pervasive sense of panic and crisis and is largely a result of the measures taken against the pandemic and not of the pandemic itself.

He argues that the declaration by the World Health Organization that a pandemic (at the time based on a suspected 150 deaths globally) was now officially in progress did not change anyone’s health status, but it dramatically changed the public atmosphere. Moreover, the measures mandated have involved a remarkable curtailing of civil liberty.

One of the hallmarks of the current situation, he stresses, is that some think that ‘science’ knows more than it does and therefore they – especially politicians – know more than they do. Although certain epidemiologists may say frankly that there is very little sturdy evidence to base policies on, this has not prevented politicians from acting as if everything they say or do is based on solid science.

The current paradigm – with its rhetoric of physical distancing, flattening the curve and saving lives – could be difficult to escape from. Cayley says either we call it off soon and face the possibility that it was all misguided (referring to the policies adopted in Sweden to make his point), or we extend it and create harms that may be worse than the casualties we may have averted.

The lockdown may not be merited if we were to genuinely adopt a knowledge-based approach. For instance, if we look at early projections by Neil Ferguson of Imperial College in the UK, he had grossly overstated the number of possible deaths resulting from the coronavirus and has now backtracked substantially. Ferguson has a chequered track record, which led UK newspaper The Telegraph to run a piece entitled ‘How accurate was the science that led to lockdown?’ The article outlines Ferguson’s previous flawed predictions about infectious diseases and a number of experts raise serious questions about the modelling that led to lockdown in the UK.

It is worth noting that the lockdown policies we now see are remarkably similar to the disturbing Orwellian ‘Lock Step’ future scenario that was set out in 2010 by the Rockefeller Foundation report ‘Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development’. The report foresaw a future situation where freedoms are curtailed and draconian high-tech surveillance measures are rolled out under the ongoing pretexts of impending pandemics. Is this the type of technology use we can expect to see as hundreds of millions are marginalized and pushed into joblessness?

Instead of encouraging more diverse, informed and objective opinions in the mainstream, we too often see money and power forcing the issue, not least in the form of Bill Gates who tells the world ‘normality’ may not return for another 18 months – until he and his close associates in the pharmaceuticals industry find a vaccine and we are all vaccinated.

US attorney Robert F Kennedy Jr says that top Trump advisor Stephen Fauci has made the reckless choice to fast track vaccines, partially funded by Gates, without critical animal studies. Gates is so worried about the danger of adverse events that he says vaccines shouldn’t be distributed until governments agree to indemnity against lawsuits.

But this should come as little surprise. Kennedy notes that the Gates Foundation and its global vaccine agenda already has much to answer for. For example, Indian doctors blame the Gates Foundation for paralysing 490,000 children. And in 2009, the Gates Foundation funded tests of experimental vaccines, developed by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) and Merck, on 23,000 girls. About 1,200 suffered severe side effects and seven died. Indian government investigations charged that Gates-funded researchers committed pervasive ethical violations.

Kennedy adds that in 2010 the Gates Foundation funded a trial of GSK’s experimental malaria vaccine, killing 151 African infants and causing serious adverse effects to 1,048 of the 5,949 children. In 2002, Gates’ operatives forcibly vaccinated thousands of African children against meningitis. Approximately 50 of the 500 children vaccinated developed paralysis.

Bill Gates committed $10 billion to the WHO in 2010. In 2014, Kenya’s Catholic Doctors Association accused the WHO of chemically sterilising millions of unwilling Kenyan women with a  ‘tetanus’ vaccine campaign. Independent labs found a sterility formula in every vaccine tested.

Instead of prioritising projects that are proven to curb infectious diseases and improve health — clean water, hygiene, nutrition and economic development — the Gates Foundation spends only about $650 million of its $5 billion budget on these areas.

Despite all of this, Gates appears on prime-time TV news shows in the US and the UK pushing his undemocratic and unaccountable pro-big pharma vaccination and surveillance agendas and is afforded deference by presenters who dare not mention any of what Kennedy outlines. Quite the opposite – he is treated like royalty.

In the meantime, an open Letter from Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, to Angela Merkel has called for an urgent reassessment of Germany’s lockdown. Dr Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University, argues that we have made such decisions on the basis of unreliable data. In addition, numerous articles have recently appeared online which present the views of dozens of experts who question policies and the data being cited about the coronavirus.

While it is not the intention to dismiss the dangers of Covid-19, responses to those dangers must be proportionate to actual risks. And perspective is everything.

Millions die each year due to unnecessary conflicts, malnutrition and hunger, a range of preventative diseases (often far outweighing the apparent impact of Covid-19), environmental pollution and economic plunder which deprives poor countries of their natural wealth. Neoliberal reforms have pushed millions of farmers and poor people in India and elsewhere to the brink of joblessness and despair, while our food is being contaminated with toxic chemicals and the global ecosystem faces an apocalyptic breakdown.

Much of the above is being driven by an inherently predatory economic system and facilitated by those who now say they want to ‘save lives’ by implementing devastating lockdowns. Yet, for the media and the political class, the public’s attention should not be allowed to dwell on such things.

And that has easily been taken care of.

In the UK, the population is constantly subjected via their TV screens to clap for NHS workers, support the NHS and to stay home and save lives on the basis of questionable data and policies. It’s emotive stuff taking place under a ruling Conservative Party that has cut thousands of hospital beds, frozen staff pay and demonised junior doctors.

As people passively accept the stripping of their fundamental rights, Lionel Shriver, writing in The Spectator, says that the supine capitulation to a de facto police state has been one of the most depressing spectacles he has ever witnessed.

It’s a point of view that will resonate with many.

In the meantime, Bill Gates awaits as the saviour of humanity — with a loaded syringe.

Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order

On 12 March, British PM Boris Johnson informed the public that families would continue to “lose loved ones before their time” as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

He added:

We’ve all got to be clear, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation.

In a report, the Imperial College had warned of modelling that suggested over 500,000 would die from the virus in the UK. The lead author of the report, epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, has since revised the estimate downward to a maximum of 20,000 if current ‘lockdown’ measures work. Johnson seems to have based his statement on Ferguson’s original figures.

Before addressing the belief that a lockdown will help the UK, it might be useful to turn to an ongoing public health crisis that receives scant media and government attention – because context is everything and responses that are proportionate to crises are important.

The silent public health crisis

In a new 29-page open letter to Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason spends 11 pages documenting the spiralling rates of disease that she says (supported by numerous research studies cited) are largely the result of exposure to health-damaging agrochemicals, not least the world’s most widely used weedkiller – glyphosate.

The amount of glyphosate-based herbicides sprayed by UK farmers on crops has gone from 226,762 kg in 1990 to 2,240,408 kg in 2016, a 10-fold increase. Mason discusses links between multiple pesticide residues (including glyphosate) in food and steady increases in the number of cancers both in the UK and worldwide as well as allergic diseases, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, obesity and many other conditions.

Mason is at pains to stress that agrochemicals are a major contributory factor (or actual cause) for the spikes in these diseases and conditions. She says this is the real public health crisis affecting the UK (and the US). Each year, she argues, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.

Of course, it would be unwise to lay all the blame at the door of the agrochemicals sector: we are subjected each day to a cocktail of toxic chemicals via household goods, food processing practices and food additives and environmental pollution. Yet there seems to be a serious lack of action to interfere with corporate practices and profits on the part of public bodies, so much so that a report by the Corporate Europe Observatory said in 2014 that the then outgoing European Commission had become a willing servant of a corporate agenda.

In a 2017 report, Hilal Elver, UN Special rapporteur on the right to food, and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes Baskut Tuncak were severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

The authors said that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning.  They concluded that it is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.

At the time, Elver said that, in order to tackle this issue, the power of the corporations must be addressed.

While there is currently much talk of the coronavirus placing immense strain on the NHS, Mason highlights that the health service is already creaking and that due to weakened immune systems brought about by the contaminated food we eat, any new virus could spell disaster for public health.

But do we see a ‘lockdown’ on the activities of the global agrochemical conglomerates? Not at all. As Mason has highlighted in her numerous reports, we see governments and public health bodies working hand in glove with the agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacturers to ensure ‘business as usual’. So, it might seem strange to many that the UK government is seemingly going out of its way (by stripping people of their freedoms) under the guise of a public health crisis but is all too willing to oversee a massive, ongoing one caused by the chemical pollution of our bodies.

Mason’s emphasis on an ongoing public health crisis brought about by poisoned crops and food is but part of a wider story. And it must be stated that it is a ‘silent’ crisis because the mainstream media and various official reports in the UK have consistently ignored or downplayed the role of pesticides in fuelling this situation.

Systemic immiseration

Another part of the health crisis story involves ongoing austerity measures.

The current Conservative administration in the UK is carrying out policies that it says will protect the general population and older people in particular. This is in stark contrast to its record over the previous decade which demonstrates contempt for the most vulnerable in society.

In 2019, a leading UN poverty expert compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”.

In another 2019 report, it was claimed that more than 130,000 deaths in the UK since 2012 could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts.

Over the past 10 years in the UK, there has been rising food poverty and increasing reliance on food banks, while the five richest families are now worth more than the poorest 20% and about a third of Britain’s population lives in poverty.

Almost 18 million cannot afford adequate housing conditions; 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities; one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in winter; and four million children and adults are not properly fed (Britain’s population is estimated at 63 to 64 million). Welfare cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands below the poverty line since 2012, including more than 300,000 children.

In the wake of a lockdown, we can only speculate about how a devastated economy might be exploited to further this ‘austerity’ agenda. With bailouts being promised to companies and many workers receiving public money to see them through the current crisis, this will need to be clawed back from somewhere. Will that be the excuse for defunding the NHS and handing it over to private healthcare companies with health insurance firms in tow? Are we to see a further deepening of the austerity agenda, let alone an extension of the surveillance state given the current lockdown measures which may not be fully rolled back?

The need for the current lockdown and the eradication of our freedoms has been questioned by some, not least Lord J. Sumption, former Supreme Court Justice. He has questioned the legitimacy of Boris Johnson’s press conference/statement to deprive people of their liberty and has said:

There is a difference between law and official instructions. It is the difference between a democracy and a police state.

Journalist Peter Hitchens says a newspaper headline for what Sumption says might be – ‘Former Supreme Court justice says Johnson measures lead towards police state’ or ‘TOP JUDGE WARNS OF POLICE STATE’.

But, as Hitchens implies, such headlines do not appear. Indeed, where is the questioning in the mainstream media or among politicians about any of this? To date, there have been a few isolated voices, with Hitchens himself being one.

In his recent articles, Hitchens has questioned the need for the stripping of the public’s rights and freedoms under the pretext of a perceived coronavirus pandemic. He has referred to esteemed scientists who question the need for and efficacy of ‘social distancing’ and keeping the public under virtual ‘house arrest’.

An open Letter from Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, to Angela Merkel calls for an urgent reassessment of Germany’s lockdown response to Covid-19. Then there is Dr Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University. He argues that we have made such decisions on the basis of unreliable data. These two scientists are not alone. On the OffGuardian website, two articles have appeared which present the views of 22 experts who question policies and/or the data that is being cited about the coronavirus.

Shift in balance of power

Professor Michel Chossudovsky has looked at who could ultimately benefit from current events and concludes that certain pharmaceutical companies could be (are already) major beneficiaries as they receive lavish funding to develop vaccines. He asks whether we can trust the main actors behind what could amount to a multi-billion dollar global (compulsory) vaccination (surveillance) project.

The issue of increased government surveillance has also been prominent in various analyses of the ongoing situation, not least in pushing the world further towards cashless societies (under the pretext that cash passes on viruses) whereby our every transaction is digitally monitored and a person’s virtual money could be declared null and void if a government so decides. Many discussions have implicated the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in this – an entity that for some time has been promoting the roll-out of global vaccine programmes and a global ‘war on cash’.

For instance, financial journalist Norbert Haring notes that the Gates Foundation and US state-financial interests had an early pivotal role in pushing for the 2016 demonestisation policy with the aim of pushing India further towards a cashless society. However, the policy caused immense damage to the economy and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions in India who rely on cash in their everyday activities.

But that does not matter to those who roll out such policies. What matters is securing control over global payments and the ability to monitor and block them. Control food you control people. Control digital payments (and remove cash), you can control and monitor everything a country and its citizens do and pay for.

India has now also implemented a lockdown on its population and tens of millions of migrant workers have been returning to their villages. If there is a risk of corona virus infection, masses of people congregating in close proximity then returning to the countryside does not bode well.

Indeed, the impact of lockdowns and social isolation could have more harm than the effects of the coronavirus itself in terms of hunger, depression, suicides and the overall deterioration of the health of older people who are having operations delayed and who are stuck indoors with little social interaction or physical movement.

If current events show us anything, it is that fear is a powerful weapon for securing hegemony. Any government can manipulate fear about certain things while conveniently ignoring real dangers that a population faces. In a recent article, author and researcher Robert J Burrowes says:

… if we were seriously concerned about our world, the gravest and longest-standing health crisis on the planet is the one that starves to death 100,000 people each day. No panic about that, of course. And no action either.

And, of course, each day we live with the very real danger of dying a horrific death because of the thousands of nuclear missiles that hang over our heads. But this is not up for discussion. The media and politicians say nothing. Fear perception can be deliberately managed, while Walter Lippmann’s concept of the ‘bewildered herd’ cowers on cue and demands the government to further strip its rights under the guise of safety.

Does the discussion thus far mean that those who question the mainstream narrative surrounding the coronavirus are in denial of potential dangers and deaths that have been attributed to the virus? Not at all. But perspective and proportionate responses are everything and healthy debate should still take place, especially when our fundamental freedoms are at stake.

Unfortunately, many of those who would ordinarily question power and authority have meekly fallen into line: those in the UK who would not usually accept anything at face value that Boris Johnson or his ministers say, are now all too easily willing to accept the data and the government narrative. This is perplexing as both the government and the mainstream media have serious trust deficits (putting it mildly) if we look at their false narratives in numerous areas, including chemical attacks in Syria, ‘Russian aggression’, baseless smear campaigns directed at Jeremy Corbyn and WMDs in Iraq.

What will emerge from current events is anyone’s guess. Some authors like economist and geopolitical analyst Peter Koenig have presented disturbing scenarios for a future authoritarian world order under the control of powerful state-corporate partners. Whatever the eventual outcome, financial institutions, pharmaceuticals companies and large corporations will capitalise on current events to extend their profits, control and influence.

Major corporations are already in line for massive bailouts despite them having kept workers’ wages low and lining the pockets of top executives and shareholders by spending zero-interest money on stock buy backs. And World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded:

Countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong.  For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, this seems like an ideal opportunity for Western capital to further open up and loot economies abroad. In effect, the coronavirus provides cover for the further entrenchment of dependency and dispossession. Global conglomerates will be able to hollow out the remnants of nation state sovereignty, while ordinary people’s rights and ability to organise and challenge the corporate hijack of economies and livelihoods will be undermined by the intensified, globalised system of surveillance that beckons.

Reflections on Elijah Cummings

There aren’t many politicians in America who deserve the praise that Elijah Cummings had earned over the years. He was respected by all in Congress, and by many of his Republican rivals. He was a fighter for civil right all his life, and represented the most economically exploited citizens of Baltimore, first as a member of the State House of Delegates and then in the US Congress. Yes, he did represent part of Baltimore City that is ‘rat-infested’, as President Trump liked to equate all of Baltimore (at least where black Americans lived) and by extension Mr. Cummings himself. Donald Trump has a lifetime history of racism.

In 2016 I ran against Mr. Cummings for Congress as a Green Party candidate. I garnered only 3%, but it was the largest vote for the Green Party in the Baltimore area for a candidate for the House of Representatives. I did not run against Mr. Cummings because I thought his politics was too right-wing. In fact, every time as a constituent when I called his office to voice my concern over an issue I knew I would be speaking to one who supported my views. The problem I had with Congressman Cummings is that he stopped long ago from representing the people of the 7th Congressional District and nearly exclusively represented and advocated for the Democratic Party, often at the expense of me and other constituents.

Cummings signed on to sponsorship of Medicare for All. Yet he never advocated for it and instead, supported the Affordable Care Act, which put the nail in the Medicare for All coffin.

He opposed President Bush’s bailout of the banks but to preserve the prestige of the newly elected president Obama, and based on false promises from Obama, supported a new set of bailouts for the banks. Who but his constituents who were most affected, and whose lives were destroyed by the banking industry, were betrayed by Congressman Cummings?

Elijah Cummings’s death has certainly left a hole, a void, in Congress that will be difficult to fill. And it is very likely that his replacement, before an actual election, will be another sycophant of the Democratic Party. What is needed is the Old Cummings, the one who fought an establishment, not the one who lived the remaining years serving it.

An Aperspectival View of the Culture War

Each stage in the history of the civil rights movement has had a specific theme and focus. In the 19th century it was race and gender, in the 20th it was race, gender, gay, bi, trans, queer, in the 21st it is all of them +.

One could say that these are ideas whose time has come, but what kind of society lets members of its own species become slaves, servants and second-class citizens in the first place? How does a society become more civilized when it just waits for solutions to come about in their own time?

If it has taken this long for these smaller, minor civil issues to be resolved, does that mean that the larger ones, that affect us all, will take even longer?

A revolution is only revolutionary if its supporters are enterprising enough to provide an alternative to the system they are rebelling against. It doesn’t matter whether it’s gay rights, affirmative action, or gender parity when it’s the exact same system with the same problems.

I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and for a long time I believed that racism and sexism had been abolished during the civil rights era of the previous decades. That once we had made it through we could not or would not go back. But it seems that knowing history isn’t enough to prevent it from repeating, as if humanity is realizing a perverse desire to go a few more rounds before the pyrrhic victory is declared. Because if humans can’t disagree about something, they have nothing to do.

Up until now we have been in conflict with each other, but we are beginning to realize that our little identity groups are insignificant compared with the bigger picture issues (global socio-economics, climate change, black budgets, criminal enterprises) that make our little factions seem a lot more harmonious than they did before.

It is concerning, but also cathartic, that we are referring to the free exchange of ideas as a war. Concerning because there are people, large numbers of them on both sides, who are very passionate about their ideas and are ready to defend them, violently if necessary, but cathartic because these ideas have always been there, in potentia, and are finally now being expressed.

Historically they have found form as arguments, protests, movements and demonstrations and for a while it looked like we were making some progress, but now it seems that we are fighting for them all over again and not one at a time, but all at once. Fortunately, it is unlikely to ever become a fighting war because of its basis in culture and the intellect.

In culture, people live their ideology, whereas in politics they merely pay tribute to it once in a while. We’ve had political wars, they involve the logistics of people and materiel, while culture wars are fought primarily with words, the casualties are ideas and beliefs, that depending on the outcome, may never be rehabilitated.

That’s not to say that the culture war is not political, identity politics has infiltrated many areas of policy, science and the humanities, but at root these are still social and cultural ideas that are being bandied about. Only laws and policies make them political, which is what has focused the discussion on freedom of speech. Both sides accusing the other of putting limits on this most fundamental requirement of successful communication. But both of these assertions cannot be true. They cannot be true because the whole thing is illogical. It’s not just a freedom of speech issue, a civil, sexist, racist or even a classist one, it’s a human rights issue and human rights transcends logic and rationality to occupy the broader category of integral-aperspectival or ‘vision-logic’.

As its name implies, vision-logic sees the bigger picture rather than looking over here, (Right) or over there, (Left). It is a higher-order, holistic, almost holographic system of ideas. Therefore, from an integral-aperspectival point of view there is no culture war. It’s not racism or sexism that are the problem, they’re not even real because they have no basis in logic. They are ideas that can only be held by equally illogical people.

But many of us have not made it this far yet. We’re still trapped in the old dualist paradigm and the only reason the culture war has lasted this long is because no one can stop watching. It is new territory, equivalent to finding a tunnel to the unconscious outside of the psychologist’s office. Every new development is a new discovery and the ‘so-called’ authorities, our self-appointed guides through this treacherous terrain, have no idea how to deal with it either. But instead of meeting the challenge and following the tunnel where it leads, they have applied policies that restrict the outcome of events rather than letting them unfold naturally.

Just as things were starting to get really real, the frontier was moved, and in order to stave off conflict and possible violence, these policies have limited access into the shadowy world of the unconscious preventing us from giving it a name. Or perhaps this is part of the plan; to make the unconscious, where no one is necessarily safe from criticism, a no-person’s land guarded by taboo terms and arbitrary rules. While this may be possible for a little while, the archetypes and psychological contents are sure to find their way out one way or another like a repressed emotion, which goes on to make an even bigger scene.

Despite all the shadows and shades that have been cast over that particular part of the psycho-sociological terrain, the sounds can still be heard. There is no silencing it, and apart from all the laws that are imposed, the law of the shadow land, or Intellectual Dark Web, is free speech and freedom of expression.

It’s a well-known fact that people become more conservative as they age, that is if they have anything to lose, and many of those people who call themselves revolutionaries now, may end up resenting their teachers, politicians and acquaintances for indulging their utopian ideas about the way the world should be, rather than the way it is. They’re wonderful ideas, of course, but if one is not prepared to dedicate their lives to them, what good is a liberal education?

Whether consciously or not, people are beginning to realize that far from fair, life is in fact arbitrary and what gives it meaning is us. It’s not rich people’s fault, or men’s fault or white people’s fault, but rich, white, men. We could all consider ourselves oppressed and under-privileged in some way, even a few of us white males, which is exactly what we are saying. We were promised something that we cannot have—just like everybody else. What we must do is work together to change the power structure that has enslaved us all.

Race, gender, class and sexuality are not all we’re made of, just as our bodies are not all we’re made of. We must find ways to integrate these aspects and move on to what we do after the fighting is over, what life is really about. If it’s equality and human rights we want, we can work towards that, if it’s fairness, that’s another matter and we are just going to end up disappointed, while feeding everyone else the red pill in the process.