Category Archives: Classism

The Killing Fields of American Health Care

And all the devils are here.
Hell is empty,

The Tempest (I.ii.)

American health care is being crushed under the iron heel of a cabal of ruthless and merciless robber barons. Indeed, this primitive and backward system continues to be a source of horrendous suffering, as the health insurance companies, hospital executives, and pharmaceutical companies repeatedly place their insatiable lust for profit over the lives of their fellow Americans. And the health care oligarchs should be proud of what they have achieved: For they have created a health care system that is unrivaled in the industrialized world for its degradation and barbarity.

As economic inequality grows in America, so too does inequality of health care. Writing for The Harvard Gazette, David Cecere points out that tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to a lack of health insurance. Unsurprisingly, life expectancy is directly proportional to income in the United States, as evidenced by the fact that Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota has a life expectancy of 47 for men and 52 for women. This inequality continues unabated as pharmaceutical CEOs rake in unprecedented profits.

According to a Johns Hopkins study, more than 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. This is inextricably linked with the fact that hospitals prioritize profit-making over patient care. Consequently, administrators are forcing physicians, and residents in particular, to work extremely exploitative and unsafe hours. Obamacare, which should really be called the Unaffordable Care Act, caused premiums and deductibles to go up, and failed to address the problem of health care either being tied to one’s job or to a fluctuating salary if the patient is an independent contractor.

Two thirds of all bankruptcies filed in the United States are medical bankruptcies, and over half a million American families file for bankruptcy each year as a result of medical bills they cannot pay. Indeed, this vitally important institution is in thrall to the forces of privatization, and this has transformed what was once a healing profession into a machinery of oppression and mass murder.

Pharmaceutical Totalitarianism

While unnecessary drugs and medical procedures are sometimes prescribed so that a doctor can milk a good insurance plan, vitally important drugs and procedures are even more likely to be inaccessible should a patient’s insurance be inadequate. For example, the cost of insulin has become prohibitively expensive for a growing number of Americans, leading many diabetics to resort to rationing which has resulted in premature death. As Ralph Nader writes in “Big Pharma: Gouges, Casualties, and the Congressional Remedy:”

In 2017, the U.S. consumers spent $333.4 billion on prescription drugs.

There are no price controls on drugs in the U.S. as there are in most countries in the world. Senator Bernie Sanders just took a bus tour to a Canadian pharmacy where insulin cost patients one tenth of what it costs them in the U.S.

The price of an EpiPen, made by Mylan, has also skyrocketed, and EpiPens are indispensable in warding off severe allergic reactions that can lead to anaphylactic shock and death. In “Life-Saving Allergy Treatment is Becoming Too Expensive for Families to Afford,” published in 2016, Laurel Raymond points out that “Over the past nine years, since Mylan bought the rights to the EpiPen, the price for the easy-to-use injectors has quintupled — increasing about 450 percent, from around $50 for one injector to $600 for a pack of two.”

The growing unaffordability of the device has resulted in patients carrying around expired EpiPens and resorting to dangerous jerry-rigged alternatives. The prices for anti-epileptic drugs have likewise soared, also putting patients’ lives at risk.

Prior authorizations (PAs), where health insurance companies place significant obstacles in place to get a drug or procedure approved, have led to needless suffering and death. Discussing the results of a survey where 1,000 physicians were asked about their experience with PA, Andis Robeznieks writes in “1 in 4 Doctors Say Prior Authorization Has Led to a Serious Adverse Event:”

More than nine in 10 respondents said PA had a significant or somewhat negative clinical impact, with 28 percent reporting that prior authorization had led to a serious adverse event such as a death, hospitalization, disability or permanent bodily damage, or other life-threatening event for a patient in their care.

Few realize that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not engaged in impartial third party testing of drugs, and that the pharmaceutical companies are simply supplying the FDA with their invariably fudged statistics. Incredibly, the FDA admits this on their own website, stating that the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) “doesn’t actually test drugs itself, although it does conduct limited research in the areas of drug quality, safety, and effectiveness standards.”

There are growing conflicts of interests, where MDs that sit on FDA panels receive monetary payments from the companies that make the very drugs they are charged with evaluating. The payments are doled out after the drugs are approved, allowing the officials to get away with not disclosing conflicts of interest before the drug is placed under review.

Acknowledging the disastrous consequences that have ensued due to the absence of a responsible regulatory body, Donald W. Light writes in Risky Drugs: Why The FDA Cannot be Trusted, published with Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics:

Every week, about 53,000 excess hospitalizations and about 2400 excess deaths occur in the United States among people taking properly prescribed drugs to be healthier. One in every five drugs approved ends up causing serious harm, while one in ten provide substantial benefit compared to existing, established drugs. This is the opposite of what people want or expect from the FDA.

Prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death.

Physicians are increasingly being fed manipulated data, and duped into believing that new drugs always do what their manufacturers claim that they do. This degradation of regulatory constraints imposed on industry is rooted in the fact that the firefighter has become a pyromaniac.

This corruption has had a deleterious impact on the doctor-patient relationship. In “Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs,” published with The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, the authors caution that “industry has commercialized the role of physicians and undermined their position as independent, trusted advisers to patients.” The pharmaceutical companies are also frequently testing new drugs against placebos, which is unethical as it leaves clinicians with no meaningful benchmarks.

There is competition between the different drug companies to be the first to get their drugs to market, and the FDA is expected to dutifully rubber-stamp new drugs of which very little is known. Commenting on the FDA’s new role as a poodle for the pharmaceutical companies, Caroline Chen writes in “FDA Repays Industry by Rushing Risky Drugs to Market:”

The FDA is increasingly green-lighting expensive drugs despite dangerous or little-known side effects and inconclusive evidence that they curb or cure disease. Once widely assailed for moving slowly, today the FDA reviews and approves drugs faster than any other regulatory agency in the world.

Clinicians have also been bribed into prescribing drugs which they might otherwise not have prescribed, as transpired with Nuplazid, manufactured by Acadia Pharmaceuticals. Chen writes, “The top five prescribers of Nuplazid in Medicare, the government’s health program for the elderly, all received payments from Acadia.” Nuplazid, a drug designed to treat Parkinson’s, has been associated with thousands of adverse side effects and over eight hundred deaths.

Vioxx is a particularly chilling example of the horrors that can unfold amidst the growing collusion between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry. Whistleblower David Graham, MD, who is a senior researcher within the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, has confirmed that Merck knew that Vioxx posed a significant risk of heart disease. Testifying before the US Senate Committee on Finance on November 18, 2004, he said:

Prior to approval of Vioxx, a study was performed by Merck named 090. This study found nearly a 7-fold increase in heart attack risk with low dose Vioxx. The labeling at approval said nothing about heart attack risks.

In an article published with The New England Journal of Medicine, Eric Topol, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic posits that 160,000 heart attacks and strokes were caused by Vioxx. Internal Merck memos reveal that the company sought to conceal these dangers from physicians. Vioxx led to the deaths of around 55,000 Americans and netted $11 billion for Merck, which spent over a hundred million a year marketing the drug. Interviewed on PBS, Dr. Graham said that “FDA is an institution that has become a factory for the approval of new drugs and safety is not a consideration.”

The New Opium Wars

Along with suicides, a significant factor contributing to the decline of American life expectancy has been the opioid crisis, and it is likely that the history of opioid addiction was deliberately withheld from medical students and trainees, thereby making them malleable to the machinations of industry. Many have forgotten that there was a terrible opioid epidemic that ravaged the US in the later part of the 19th century, and which began with the Civil War, as doctors had little knowledge of how to treat pain aside from opioids and amputation, and the military technologies of the day far surpassed 19th century medical knowledge. Yet even before the birth of Christ, there were physicians that understood the dangers of opium-based drugs. Diagoras of Cyprus (3rd century BC) and the Greek physician Erasistratus (304 BC-250 BC) both understood that opium use was fraught with danger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”

There is also a connection between the overprescribing of opioids, illicit opioid use, and heroin, as four out of five heroin users used prescription opioids prior to starting heroin. Under the spell of the pharmaceutical companies, American doctors wrote over 240 million opioid prescriptions each year from 2009 to 2014. Even in 2017, after the carnage was obvious to all but the most insouciant, American physicians still wrote over 190 million opioid prescriptions.

Health insurance companies have also contributed to the crisis. As Linda Girgis, MD, points out in “Calling Responsible Parties to Task for their Role in the Opioid Epidemic,” insurance companies often refuse to cover alternative treatments for pain, such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractics and Lidoderm patches.

The breakdown in checks and balances has been total and absolute, and the regulator and the regulated are now intertwined like two knavish devils waltzing in hell. Dr. Curtis Wright, the FDA official that oversaw the testing of OxyContin, a drug manufactured by Purdue Pharma and which played a significant role in the opioid crisis, later went on to work for that very company.

Taking absurdity to new heights, drug companies are even permitted to fund continuing medical education courses that teach doctors how to prescribe opioids. Indeed, this is emblematic of how the American oligarchy has developed a hostility, not only to the humanities, but also towards science.

The complete degradation of credibility within the FDA has its roots in the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), which was passed in 1992, and authorized the FDA to collect fees directly from pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of financing the review process for new drugs. Cognizant of the fact that there is presently no impartial political body that can curb their unscrupulous designs, drug companies have vigorously lobbied Congress to protect their interests. Groups such as the Pain Care Forum receive funding and support from pharmaceutical companies, and spend millions of dollars lobbying congress to keep opioid regulatory measures lax.

So corrupt has the FDA become, that the FDA approved the Sanofi-Aventis drug Ketek, even when the FDA was aware of the fact that the data supplied by Sanofi-Aventis was fraudulent and based on a study that never even happened. The FDA was later forced to remove the drug after four cases of death due to Ketek-induced liver failure. Accutane, Rezulin, Selacryn, Diethylstilbestrol (DES), and Meridia are some of the other “wonder drugs” that the FDA has shamelessly unleashed on an unsuspecting public, and which later had to be recalled after inflicting grievous bodily harm and death.

Psychiatry and the War on Thoughtcrime

Another source of obscene profits for the pharmaceutical industry has been psychotropic drugs, and the complicity of the FDA and mainstream psychiatry with the push to enslave Americans to these dangerous and highly addictive substances is irrefutable. This is yet another example of how science is being degraded by the quackery of the drug companies and their paid “experts.”

The fondness of mainstream psychiatry for pseudoscience is matched only by its hostility towards informed consent, and this has resulted in a forging of alliances with deeply reactionary and anti-democratic forces. Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Council for Mental Hygiene on June 18th, 1940, British military psychiatrist J. R. Rees openly espoused totalitarian tactics, and called for psychiatrists to infiltrate every aspect of society. Undoubtedly, he would be pleased with the reign of terror unleashed by psychotropic drugs on Americans today, and the particularly devastating toll these drugs have taken on children, soldiers and veterans.

In “Psychiatric Drugs are False Prophets with Big Profits: Psychiatry Has Been Hijacked,” by psychiatrist Robert Berezin, the author bemoans the demise of ethics in his profession:

The real source of human suffering is not, nor ever has been, the brain. The issues are in the person, the human being, in the context of damage to the play of consciousness, created by deprivation and abuse in the formation of our character. My life’s work has taught me that the art, the science, the discipline, and the wisdom of psychotherapy attends to this damage. There are no miracles and no shortcuts, as drugs, like the other somatic therapies, always promise. Never mind the harm done. We have repeated the same mistakes over and over again, and we are doing so today. It doesn’t seem to matter that the chemical imbalance theory has been discredited. It doesn’t seem to matter that the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry and its influence peddling in academic psychiatry has been exposed as financially and scientifically corrupted and manipulated. The drug companies have engaged in study suppression, falsification, strategic marketing, and financial incentives.

In “10 Reasons Why Psychiatry Lives On—Obvious, Dark, and Darkest,” psychologist Bruce Levine writes that the demonic power of psychiatry continues to grow despite the fact that “numerous studies have found that so-called ‘antipsychotics’—especially in the long-term—are essentially pro-psychotics; and that so-called ‘antidepressants’—especially in the long-term—are essentially pro-depressants.” Levine also warns that psychiatry has become a tool which can be used to suppress dissent:

Psychiatry maintains the societal status quo by its attributions that emotional suffering is caused by defects in individual biochemistry and genetics rather than by trauma and societal defects created by the ruling elite. Psychiatry covers up the reality that the root of much of what is commonly labeled as “mental illness” is a dehumanizing society—one orchestrated to meet only the needs of the wealthy and powerful and not designed to meet the needs of everybody else for autonomy, meaningfulness, and genuine community.

While the mass media has been unable to conceal the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from the opioid epidemic, they are less enthusiastic about covering psychosis, homicidal ideation, and suicidality triggered by Prozac, Paxil, and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Indeed, dozens of school shootings have been carried out by young people, either on, or suffering withdrawal from, psychiatric drugs.

Ominously, the virus of privatized health care is spreading to Europe, and in 2018 English doctors wrote over 70 million prescriptions for antidepressants. Andreas Lubitz, the German pilot who on March 24, 2015, intentionally crashed his airplane en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf into the Alps killing everyone on board, was taking mirtazapine along with a number of other psychotropic drugs. Geert Michels, the driver of the vehicle in the Sierre bus tragedy, who drove his bus into a wall in a tunnel in Switzerland killing 28 people, 22 of whom were children, had traces of Paxil in his system.

Pharmaceutical chemist and whistleblower Shane Ellison, who has worked for Eli Lilly, has acknowledged that psychiatrists are inventing diseases so as to expand the clientele of the drug companies. In a 1993 letter to the editor of the New York Times, distinguished psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote, “Since most antidepressants are highly toxic and frequently used in successful suicide attempts, their widespread availability probably increases the overall suicide rate, much as the availability of guns increases the murder rate.” According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), there are over seven million American children (from toddler to the age of 17) on psychiatric drugs.

There used to be a time when we gave American youth literature, history, math, science, music, art and a sense of community. Now we tell our sons and daughters that they have “learning disabilities” and get them addicted to drugs that can cause brain damage. Every child’s mind is sacred. It is our duty to protect the liberty, sanctity, and inviolability of their souls.

There is a distinct possibility that the most intelligent and creative children are frequently the ones being medicated. As the brightest students are often the ones who shout out the answer before raising their hand, there is a real danger that these students will be diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or any number of imaginary diseases and placed on mind-altering drugs. Many of these vulnerable patients, betrayed by their doctors in the cruelest possible manner, go on to take their own lives.

Even dermatologists, who delight in arm-twisting patients with inferior insurance into being medical models without their consent, are still engaged in the legitimate science of studying and treating skin cancers. What would possess a physician to abandon, not only science, but all traces of human morality and ethics? As Voltaire once wrote in Questions sur les miracles: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Once a child has been labeled as “mentally ill” it is difficult to escape the crosshairs of the inquisitors. Indeed, it is not unusual for such a youth to be seized by Child Protective Services should their parents resist having their son or daughter placed on psychotropic drugs. This underscores the authoritarianism that is inseparable from the cult of psychiatry. Moreover, the technology now exists through the use of a digital pill for psychiatrists to easily coerce patients to take their “medication.”

Allied with a gang of zealots who are more than happy to peddle their poisons, the pharmaceutical companies have long since abandoned all considerations except that of profit-making. Harriet Fraad writes in The Guardian that “Every major company selling anti-psychotics – Bristol Meyers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca – has either settled investigations for healthcare fraud or is currently being investigated for it.” Should a patient attempt to stop their psychoactive drugs and suffer terrible withdrawal symptoms, Iago, now armed with a white coat and a stethoscope, will simply whisper in their victim’s ear that this is because their disease has returned.

In addition to fomenting totalitarianization, the psychiatrization of the culture is inextricably linked with the hysteria of liberal fundamentalists who believe that their ideological adversaries are not only “racist,” “homophobic,” and “sexist” – but also mentally ill. Hence, a dubious love triangle has formed between avaricious drug companies, whose lust for profit is insatiable; psychiatrists, who have autocratic tendencies and are hostile to both due process and habeas corpus; and liberals, who believe that we are living in a utopia, and who take offense with those that do not share this worldview.

In a passage that could have been taken from a government edict issued by the totalitarian regime in Orwell’s 1984, the Australian mental health organization, WayAhead, states on their website that “It is not uncommon for a person with a mental illness to deny they are ill or that they need help.” We are also informed that someone may have a serious mental illness if they “have thoughts which are not in tune with reality.” And whose reality would that be?

As the late Thomas Szasz, who authored over thirty books on psychiatry, wrote in the introduction to Psychiatry: The Science of Lies:

Because there are no objective methods for detecting the presence or establishing the absence of mental diseases, and because psychiatric diagnoses are stigmatizing labels with the potential for causing far-reaching personal injury to the stigmatized person, the “mental patient’s” inability to prove his “psychiatric innocence” makes psychiatry one of the greatest dangers to liberty and responsibility in the modern world.

Prescribing medicines that aren’t real medicines, to treat diseases which aren’t real diseases, the thought police thrive precisely in this environment of lawlessness and unaccountable government that has emerged following the attacks of September 11th. Indeed, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the revival of the Espionage Act, and the RESPONSE Act all serve to empower the cult of psychiatry.

Gog and Magog: Barbarism Abroad and Barbarism at Home

As a child I used to think of drug dealers as vampires that would strike suddenly, waylaying innocent passersby in the dead of night. It is no small irony that the most diabolical drug dealers would turn out to be psychiatrists that prescribe psychotropic drugs and physicians that overprescribe opioids. This scourge of amorality is tied to the dismantling of the humanities, without which medical ethics cannot survive.

Overspecialization, a military-style hierarchy, and subjecting residents to such exploitative working conditions that they frequently suffer from sleep deprivation over prolonged periods of time, also contribute to inculcating these impressionable young minds with blind obedience. In this way are sentient human beings transformed into mindless unthinking automatons.

Like its cousin, the military industrial complex, the medical industrial complex has repeatedly demonstrated a total disregard for human life, and makes tens of billions of dollars off of death, misery and suffering. This slow motion coup d’état which has been unfolding inexorably since the 1980s, and which has resulted in the health care oligarchs being able to acquire a stranglehold over our health care system, has transformed a once respectable profession into a cruel and brutal machine that repeatedly harms instead of heals. As American health care has degenerated into a depraved and wicked business, it would seem that primum non nocere has been usurped by caveat emptor.

Do Something to Change the System or Face the Consequences

It is the worst of times. It is the best of times.

My dear American cousins, looking down from a country that stretches across the top of your map it seems you are living through a tale of two ever more divided classes.

It is about as bad a time as has ever been if you’re a mother with three children from Honduras who is desperately trying to escape an abusive husband and start a new life in the United States.

But it is a very good time indeed if you’re an American billionaire with hundreds of millions of capital gains you seek to shelter from taxes.

If you’re a 23-year-old recent university graduate with over $50,000 in student loans, your job is mind-numbingly soul destroying, pays $11 per hour and requires a car you cannot afford, the future seems bleak indeed.

But if you’re a White nationalist business owner who refuses to serve gay or transgendered people and supports a law, similar to the Israeli nation state law, proclaiming the USA to be a Christian country, you feel very hopeful.

If you’re a supporter of a woman’s right to choose an abortion, a feeling of dread overcomes you every time the Supreme Court is mentioned.

If you understand science and have read the latest reports about climate change you feel we may be living through the beginning of a mass extinction.

But if you believe the Bible as interpreted by Reverend (fill in the blank) is the literal word of God you are enthusiastic about a president who is appointing good people as judges.

If you desire to make America great again, and don’t like immigrants, your country seems headed in the right direction.

But if you have diabetes and your wife suffers from hypertension and your employer just announced your co-pay and deductible will double, you are absolutely scared of what tomorrow might bring.

If you’re a gun-loving, citizens’ militia member, Trump supporting, impeachment-hating man who dreams of fighting in the next U.S. civil war, you’re excited to be alive and hopeful of becoming the next Stonewall Jackson.

What should an outsider, a non-American, make of this state of your affairs and should we care?

I’ve visited all your states except Hawaii. One of my grandfathers was American. One of my uncles fought for you in World War II. I’ve counted many Vietnam War draft dodgers as friends, had more than a few American professors and even possess a U.S. Social Security card because of working on ships that visited Washington and Alaska, so of course I care.

Like most Canadians who read newspapers, websites, listen to the radio and watch TV, it is impossible to ignore your news and I must be frank: You’ve got me worried. You’ve got a lot of us worried. What happens in the United States does not ever stay in the United States.

My partner and I were in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, and dined with an American couple on the day after Donald Trump was elected president. If we had known they were Republicans the dinner may never have happened, but I’m glad it did. We had a great discussion. They seemed as surprised as us that Trump had won. They seemed as worried as us about what would happen next. They seemed like genuinely nice people.

This is what gives me hope. I believe in the goodness and intelligence of ordinary people. I believe that if all the facts are presented to them and a fair debate amongst all points of view is held, they will make the right decisions. I believe in democracy.

I wouldn’t presume to interfere in the internal affairs of another country — a principle that should be in the UN Charter (oh, that’s right, it is Article 2.4) — but would offer these thoughts for you to consider.

The evils you do unto others is often visited upon you. One could argue that disregard for truth, ignoring the law, racism, misogyny, environmental catastrophe and “making America great again” are all blowbacks from what has been done in your name to others.

While he enables much of the bad stuff that worries the world, Donald Trump did not cause it. Rather, he is the product of a system that says greed is good, which was built on the foundation of slavery, racism, patriarchy and ecological destruction.

This point is critical. If you do not understand it and then do something to change the system, most people in your country, mine, and all the others, are truly in for the worst of times.

Bank Report Reveals Where Ruling Class Lives

While clearly not intended as a tool for the subversion of capitalism, the 2019 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report provides a fascinating glimpse at the inequality that the neoliberal era has produced, who has benefitted and those who have been left behind.

According to the tenth edition of the report, recently released, “The bottom half of wealth holders collectively accounted for less than 1% of total global wealth in mid-2019, while the richest 10% own 82% of global wealth and the top 1%  alone own 45%.” (Note that this a study about wealth and not income. It measure assets [housing, stocks, bonds etc.] minus debts.)

Further evidence of the incredible inequality generated by neoliberal capitalism:

  • North America and Europe together account for 57% of total household wealth, but contain only 17% of the world adult population;
  • 2.9 billion people, 57% of all adults,  have wealth below $10,000 US in 2019. Of course many of these have more debts than assets;
  • Average wealth per adult in Africa is $6,488 while that figure for North America (which seems to be defined as Canada and the USA) is $417,694. For India it is $14,569 while in Latin America the average wealth is $22,502;
  • Average wealth in “socialist” China has grown more rapidly than elsewhere over the past two decades to $58,544. (It seems government intervention in the economy is good for wealth creation);
  • The share of total global wealth owned by millionaires (47 million or 0.9% of adults) has grown from 34% in 2000 to 44% today;
  • About 40% of millionaires reside in the USA and more than half of the 1.1 million who achieved that status in the past year live in the land of Trump. The U.S. growth of millionaires exceeded that of the next nine countries combined (Japan, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, India, Spain, Canada and Switzerland);
  • Australia lost 124,000 millionaires over the past year, primarily due to declining real estate prices;
  • The wealth of 41 million of the millionaires was between 1 and 5 million dollars. Another 3.7 million are worth between 5 million and 10 million, and almost exactly 2 million adults now have wealth above 10 million. Of these, 1.8 million have assets in the 10–50 million range, leaving 168,030 with a  net worth above 50 million;
  • Of these 168,030 members of the capitalist ruling class, 80,510 (48%) live in the USA. China has 18,130 (11%) , Germany 6,800 (4%), the UK 4,640, India 4,460, France 3,700, Canada (3,530), Japan 3,350, Russia 3,120 and Hong Kong 3,100.

The importance of knowing where rich people are and might be popping up next is what has produced this annual “most comprehensive and up-to date survey of household wealth”.

In ancient Greece people would consult the oracles in order to choose the fruitful path, but today the most common source of such divination is the wisdom of the dollar and its associated deities. Rather than seek advice from experts at interpreting the various Hellenic gods, we consult those who specialize in illuminating where “the money” has been and is going. The ancient oracles could be found at shrines to the various gods; the modern version of these advice givers reside in universities, think tanks, mutual fund companies, brokerages, banks and the ever-present business media. The offerings of those seeking the guidance of today’s financial gods support a multi-billion dollar information and advice industry.

This seems “rational” behavior only because we live in an economic system that distributes power on a one-dollar-one-vote basis. To divine where the dollars are is to learn where best to seek the power that comes from them. In other words, the rich get richer and those who want to catch the crumbs as they fall off the banquet table need to be present at the court of King Capital.

Like the royal courts of feudal Europe that moved around its realm from castle to castle, money, in the form of capital, travels around its planetary realm from country to country, city to city, economic sector to economic sector, searching for the highest profit. This movement of capital creates real estate and other booms in favored locations then financial crises when the wealthy decide it is time to move on.

According to supporters, capitalism is supposed to be all about competition. The system is supposed to reward merit. Winners and losers are legitimate because everyone has an equal chance to succeed. But this is clearly not true in the actual world as described by the Credit Suisse report.

How can the 2.9 billion adults who own less than $10,000 in net assets compete fairly against 47 million millionaires, let alone the 168,030  who own $50 million or more?

The system is rigged. In a neoliberal capitalist competition to buy the most profitable companies, processes, patents, ideas, and anything else that can be made “property” the winners will always be those with the most money.

This report illustrates the pyramid of capitalist wealth and the peculiar property of money that guarantees most of it floats to the top.

The only way for billions of people, most countries and entire continents to escape the inevitable “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is by using the power of collectivity (call it government, socialism or mutual aid) to counter the power of one-dollar-one-vote capitalism.

A Poor Perspective on the UBI

Of late there has been a lot of ink spilled over the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).  Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has made it the center of his campaign.  Before going too far, it should be noted that there are legitimate questions to be answered with such a revolutionary proposal and many details to be worked out.  Some plans are generous and others much less so.  And there is the very real fear that a UBI could be used as a tool of the State to track and control the population.  But as important as these issues are they are not my primary focus.  The money is irrelevant for the time being since whenever the government really wants to do something they always find the money.  As for whether it is possible, we need remember that history is full of things that were impossible up until the moment they became inevitable.

What is missing is the perspective of the Poor.  The people for whom a job is simply something they do to pay the rent, not a central part of their identity.  It has not escaped notice that most of the people writing these articles, especially those against a UBI, are Professional Class (or to use a Marxist term Bourgeoisie). They are professionals who are valued for their skills and paid accordingly.  The Rich and the Professional Classes both fear that a UBI will be a disincentive to work.  But I can say clearly that work is a disincentive to work.  People who talk about the “Nobility and Dignity” of a job have never been the “monkeys who work the cash register.”

Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal is $1,000 a month, adding up to $12,000 a year.  I have survived off this this amount (this is not an endorsement of Yang’s plan nor his candidacy). It isn’t easy and many sacrifices must be made, but if I’m going to do it, I would rather take a UBI check than rent my life away to some petty tyrant for $10 an hour. This also dovetails into the idea that even many proponents of a UBI have stated: It should not be so high that someone can live comfortably off of it.  With these simple words those comfortable Professional Class writers have stated that the Poor do not deserve the comforts of life without selling off so many of their waking hours. This is nothing more than a restatement of Arthur Young’s words from 1771: “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept as poor as possible, or they will never be industrious.”

It has taken about three centuries of browbeating, brainwashing, shaming, abuse, and outright theft to get us to accept wage labor. And it has not really taken hold too deeply. When the money was good we were more willing to accept it. However since neoliberalism has become dominant, the “job creators” have kept more money to themselves. The people, especially the Poor and Working Classes, who hold full time jobs and still cannot get by are beginning to say out loud what we subconsciously have always known: No one gets ahead by working. That’s why the Rich make most of their money off of their investments. In those three centuries, we have allowed the Rich to build a Work Society where all our social relations are based around jobs and employment. This serves the Rich and their needs before anyone else, rather than society as a whole. We see it everyday when professions like corporate lawyers and hedge fund managers earn so much more money than farmers or teachers.

But for their insatiable greed for profits, the Rich are destroying the very Work Society they created. Labor is one of the bigger expenses in any business, and where owners try to cut costs whenever possible. While the Professional Classes like to downplay the impact of automation, “unskilled” workers can see its impact with every self-checkout station. But there is a bigger factor in the decay of the Work Society.  Long-term careers (and the pensions that come with them) are falling by the wayside, being replaced by the “gig economy” and temp work which does not allow for the formation of social bonds like those careers once did. As the Work Society breaks down, some of the Rich realize they must do something to prevent a lot of desperate people with a lot of time on their hands from thinking about how society could be run better.  So they came up with their stopgap: the UBI, to keep the people pacified. It is a gamble on their part to keep their privilege, and like all gambling it is not guaranteed to go their way.

We can turn this to our advantage. Once jobs and income are divorced, if we no longer need to depend on their paltry wages to survive, if they want their jobs filled, we can demand several things, including: they pay well enough to make people actually want to work for them, and treat their employees like human beings. I have known poor people who stated when a UBI is passed so many businesses will close overnight because none of the employees would show up the next day. While I doubt things will be that drastic, it illustrates why they don’t want the UBI to be too high or too comfortable so that we will continue to be industrious, as everyone but an idiot knows.

Looking beyond those short term goals, however, we all know there is so much more to life than work. Not wasting the best parts of our lives at a job will also free us to ask questions, the serious deep questions we need to be asking ourselves now. As late capitalism is destroying the planet in our constant need for production and consumption, we can ask: Can we live without consumerism and planned obsolescence? How do we live without the tyranny of the boss? We can begin to think about what exactly we were put on Earth to do with our lives. Lives that are not relegated to evenings and weekends.

Think of all the people we met over the years. There’s that guy who plays guitar in the bars a few evenings a week and on Saturdays. The woman who is a gifted painter. The armchair historian who can answer any question one may have about the Napoleonic Wars.  The little old lady (who still works to cover the gap in her Social Security) who is always crocheting cool little things on her break. We’ve all met these people, they’ve been working alongside us for years for the same crap wages we got.

Many years ago I met an artist who managed to eke out a living selling his stone sculptures. It was not luxurious, but he was happy. When the topic of jobs came up he gave me the best wisdom I ever received: “You don’t want to spend your life doing someone else’s work, do you?” A UBI is not a perfect solution, and there is still much to be worked out. But it is the first stepping stone. So when the UBI comes, I will gladly take advantage of it. And I won’t be the only one.

A Poor Perspective on the UBI

Of late there has been a lot of ink spilled over the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).  Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has made it the center of his campaign.  Before going too far, it should be noted that there are legitimate questions to be answered with such a revolutionary proposal and many details to be worked out.  Some plans are generous and others much less so.  And there is the very real fear that a UBI could be used as a tool of the State to track and control the population.  But as important as these issues are they are not my primary focus.  The money is irrelevant for the time being since whenever the government really wants to do something they always find the money.  As for whether it is possible, we need remember that history is full of things that were impossible up until the moment they became inevitable.

What is missing is the perspective of the Poor.  The people for whom a job is simply something they do to pay the rent, not a central part of their identity.  It has not escaped notice that most of the people writing these articles, especially those against a UBI, are Professional Class (or to use a Marxist term Bourgeoisie). They are professionals who are valued for their skills and paid accordingly.  The Rich and the Professional Classes both fear that a UBI will be a disincentive to work.  But I can say clearly that work is a disincentive to work.  People who talk about the “Nobility and Dignity” of a job have never been the “monkeys who work the cash register.”

Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal is $1,000 a month, adding up to $12,000 a year.  I have survived off this this amount (this is not an endorsement of Yang’s plan nor his candidacy). It isn’t easy and many sacrifices must be made, but if I’m going to do it, I would rather take a UBI check than rent my life away to some petty tyrant for $10 an hour. This also dovetails into the idea that even many proponents of a UBI have stated: It should not be so high that someone can live comfortably off of it.  With these simple words those comfortable Professional Class writers have stated that the Poor do not deserve the comforts of life without selling off so many of their waking hours. This is nothing more than a restatement of Arthur Young’s words from 1771: “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept as poor as possible, or they will never be industrious.”

It has taken about three centuries of browbeating, brainwashing, shaming, abuse, and outright theft to get us to accept wage labor. And it has not really taken hold too deeply. When the money was good we were more willing to accept it. However since neoliberalism has become dominant, the “job creators” have kept more money to themselves. The people, especially the Poor and Working Classes, who hold full time jobs and still cannot get by are beginning to say out loud what we subconsciously have always known: No one gets ahead by working. That’s why the Rich make most of their money off of their investments. In those three centuries, we have allowed the Rich to build a Work Society where all our social relations are based around jobs and employment. This serves the Rich and their needs before anyone else, rather than society as a whole. We see it everyday when professions like corporate lawyers and hedge fund managers earn so much more money than farmers or teachers.

But for their insatiable greed for profits, the Rich are destroying the very Work Society they created. Labor is one of the bigger expenses in any business, and where owners try to cut costs whenever possible. While the Professional Classes like to downplay the impact of automation, “unskilled” workers can see its impact with every self-checkout station. But there is a bigger factor in the decay of the Work Society.  Long-term careers (and the pensions that come with them) are falling by the wayside, being replaced by the “gig economy” and temp work which does not allow for the formation of social bonds like those careers once did. As the Work Society breaks down, some of the Rich realize they must do something to prevent a lot of desperate people with a lot of time on their hands from thinking about how society could be run better.  So they came up with their stopgap: the UBI, to keep the people pacified. It is a gamble on their part to keep their privilege, and like all gambling it is not guaranteed to go their way.

We can turn this to our advantage. Once jobs and income are divorced, if we no longer need to depend on their paltry wages to survive, if they want their jobs filled, we can demand several things, including: they pay well enough to make people actually want to work for them, and treat their employees like human beings. I have known poor people who stated when a UBI is passed so many businesses will close overnight because none of the employees would show up the next day. While I doubt things will be that drastic, it illustrates why they don’t want the UBI to be too high or too comfortable so that we will continue to be industrious, as everyone but an idiot knows.

Looking beyond those short term goals, however, we all know there is so much more to life than work. Not wasting the best parts of our lives at a job will also free us to ask questions, the serious deep questions we need to be asking ourselves now. As late capitalism is destroying the planet in our constant need for production and consumption, we can ask: Can we live without consumerism and planned obsolescence? How do we live without the tyranny of the boss? We can begin to think about what exactly we were put on Earth to do with our lives. Lives that are not relegated to evenings and weekends.

Think of all the people we met over the years. There’s that guy who plays guitar in the bars a few evenings a week and on Saturdays. The woman who is a gifted painter. The armchair historian who can answer any question one may have about the Napoleonic Wars.  The little old lady (who still works to cover the gap in her Social Security) who is always crocheting cool little things on her break. We’ve all met these people, they’ve been working alongside us for years for the same crap wages we got.

Many years ago I met an artist who managed to eke out a living selling his stone sculptures. It was not luxurious, but he was happy. When the topic of jobs came up he gave me the best wisdom I ever received: “You don’t want to spend your life doing someone else’s work, do you?” A UBI is not a perfect solution, and there is still much to be worked out. But it is the first stepping stone. So when the UBI comes, I will gladly take advantage of it. And I won’t be the only one.

No Class

In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
— Mao, On Practice, 1937

That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence.
— Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, March 6, 2007

I think that most of the confusion in this respect has been the product of a failure to develop a class analysis of these changes. From a class perspective, it is clear that what we are seeing is the growth of various movements in the fascist genre (whether prefascism, protofascism, classical fascism, postfascism, neofascism, neoliberal fascism, ur-fascism, peripheral fascism, white supremacism, or national populism—you can take your pick). Fascist-type movements share certain definite class-based characteristics or tendencies. Although it is common in liberal discourse to approach such movements at the level of appearance, in terms of their ideological characteristics, such an idealist methodology only throws a veil over the underlying reality.
— John Bellamy Foster, Interview, Monthly Review, September 2019

The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.
— Michael Parenti, Interview with Jason Miller, 2016

When environmentalism unfolds within a system of heightened inequality and inadequate democratization, it does so unequally and autocratically. The result is not a “saved” climate, but rather enhanced revenue streams for corporations.
— Maximillian Forte, Climate Propaganda for Corporate Profit: Bell Canada

John Bellamy Foster noted that it was a lack of class analysis that has stifled left discourse over the last twenty years. And I have noted that when one does engage in class analysis the first response, very often, is to be called a conspiracy theorist. Now, this is largely because any class dissection will tend to unearth connections that have been hidden, consciously, by Capital — that those hidden forces and histories are experienced by the liberal left and faux left as somehow impossible. Class analysis means that the non-marxist liberal left is going to be faced with the malevolence of the ruling class, and in the U.S. certainly, the ruling class tends to be adored, secretly or otherwise, by the bourgeoisie.

When the U.S.S.R. dissolved the West intensified its propaganda onslaught immediately. And a good part of this propaganda was focused on the denial of class. On the right, the FOX News right, “class warfare” became a term of derision and also humour. And among liberal and educated bourgeoisie the avoidance of class was the result of a focus on, and validations of, rights for marginalized groups — even if that meant inventing new groups on occasion. Class was conspicuously missing in most identity rights discourse.

And the climate discourse, which was suddenly visible in mainstream media early 2000s, there was almost never a mention of class. Hence the new appropriation of that discourse by open racist eugenicists like “Sir” David Attenborough, and billionaire investors and publishers. Even by royalty. By 2015 or so there was what Denis Rancourt called the institutionalisation of a climate ethos. I have even seen of late self-identified leftists suggesting the “Greta” phenomenon was the working class finding its voice. (No, I’m not making that up). I have also seen many leftists — many of whom I have known for years — simply hysterical around the subject of this teenager. Her greatest appeal is to middle aged white men. I have no real explanation for that. But then these same men quote, often, everyone from Guy McPherson (who I think needs a padded cell, frankly) to Bill McKibben — an apologist for militarism and wealth… here ….

Gosh kids, let’s rely on big Wall Street money.  That’s a gall darn good idea. What an unctuous fuck he is.

The Attenborough and Greta (and Jane Goodall) video was absent content, really. Terms like *tipping points* were used several times but not identified. And they were not identified because they don’t have to be. This is the near religious end of the climate spectrum. I hear people angrily denounce someone as a “denier”. This is the tone reserved for all apostates. For heretics.

Now before continuing I find it very interesting that those predicting the most dire effects of climate change, those who say we’re dead in twenty years or thirty — they are still publishing books, still marketing those books. It’s still a business. I guess I might expect climate Sadhus to appear — naked mendicants, covered in dirt and dried mud, hair matted, living off alms. Or like preachers standing on the street corner, a sort of eco Asa Hawks, Bible in hand (or climate bible in hand) offering spiritual solace to the multitude. But instead we get TED talks and more rather expensive books.

I want to make clear, the planet is getting warmer. It’s already happening. To say otherwise is irrational. That does not mean there are not many questions left answered, and increasingly undiscussed. Nor that alarmism isn’t in full swing (fear and sex pretty much form the basis of all advertising). There is very little serious adult debate about what must be accounted the most serious subject, or one of two most serious subjects, in contemporary life. The other would be the global rise of fascism. And neither of these topics is given a serious public discussion. The entertainment apparatus is, at this point, ill-equipped to handle anything serious.

I do not consider the side show carnival of Greta and the Prince of Monaco, Arnold and Barack, and eugenicist scum like David Attenborough (as an Brit friend of mine referred to him, “that old racist tosspot”) as serious. The Green New Deal is western Capital laying claim to a new market. And Attenborough and Goodall both are members of the anti immigration (Malthusian) group Population Matters. This has been exhaustively catalogued by Cory Morningstar, but then she is now being smeared as a “conspiracy theorist”. And this is, again, because class figures rather prominently in her writings.

This reminds me of my Wall Street days, I mean all the new markets, the high yield markets, different convertible markets — this is how they all start.
— Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, 2015.

Now, the bourgeoisie is perfectly happy to let the ruling class lead and be the decision makers. It is startling, really, how indigenous activists from the global south are so conspicuously missing in all this. So invisible in media. And to complain of this means one is met with just a myriad of apologetics about Greta and this carnival. And the paternalism that demands nobody ‘beat up’ on the teenager. There was never such outrage at criticism of Rachel Corrie. And amid all the young girl propaganda props (Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ, Bana Alabed, Park Yeon-mi, et al) the only constant is that PR firms are doing a lot of business. But the new investment in Green technology (sic) will really only result in — as it always does — a further growth in unemployed labor and an uptick in low end minimum wage service work. This is straight out of Capital, the general law of capitalist accumulation.

But if a surplus labouring popUlation is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus-population becomes, conversely, the lever of capitalistic accumulation, nay, a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost.
— Karl Marx, Capital. Volume I: The Process of Production of Capital, September 14, 1867

And it is not even that, really. The ruling class set in motion an environmental program sometime around the year 2000. But the Rockefeller group, remember, founded the Club of Rome in 1968. The aim was to plan for resource depletion and limits to growth. It had a decided eugenicist bent. They issued a report in 1991, and formed a think tank in 2001. Among the members are Al Gore, Maurice Strong, The Dalai Lama, and Robert Muller of all people. And dozens more including Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, George Soros, and Bill Clinton. You get the idea.

The point is that the current explosion of climate awareness is brought to you, at least partly, by the captains of western capital. And it is very white and very worried about birth rates in dark skinned countries. So the question becomes, in the midst of a real crises of pollution, and a warming planet, what and who is one to believe and where is one to turn? My first response is NOT to the people who helped create the problem in the first place.

In fact, class itself is something of a verboten word. In the mainstream media, in political life, and in academia, the use of the term “class” has long been frowned upon. You make your listeners uneasy (“Is the speaker a Marxist?”). If you talk about class exploitation and class inequity, you will likely not get far in your journalism career or in political life or in academia (especially in fields like political science and economics).

So instead of working class, we hear of “working families” or “blue collar” and “white collar employees”. Instead of lower class we hear of “inner city poor” and “low-income elderly.” Instead of the capitalist owning class, we hear of the “more affluent” or the “upper quintile’.
— Michael Parenti, “Class Warfare Indeed”, Common Dreams, 2011

There is a new religious tenor to climate discussions. And it reflects (among other things) a reductive world view. Global issues and forces and global relations on both a macro and micro level are being simplified. The template resembles a cartoon more than anything else. ‘Our demise is immanent’ is something I have read or heard at least a dozen times. People are enjoying the coming apocalypse. If they really believed that the end is nigh, they would be behaving very differently. But for many on the left the decades of marginalization has left them emotionally raw and psychologically battered. It’s so seductive to just give in to the coming apocalypse. And additionally there is a clear pleasure to be found in taking on the role of excommunicating climate Angel — come to smite the deniers with the sword of eco-piety.

Still, there are genuine and committed ecologists and activists working on preserving nature and protecting the wild. Many are from indigenous peoples in South America, Central America, Asia and Africa. They are all but invisible in mainstream media. And increasingly they are being murdered. (See Berta Caceres). One hundred and sixty four activists were murdered last year, with thirty in the Philippines alone. Twenty-six in Colombia. None of this is front page news. Why? Why is a blond teenager now nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (usually reserved for war criminals) meeting with Obama and the Pope while the defenders of Nature in poor countries remain nameless and anonymous? The answer is because white people care about white people. And because Western capital sees those poor countries as places to exploit, burden with debt, and de-populate. The ruling elite, including those backing the Extinction Rebellion and Green New Deal, are on the side of those who murdered Caceres. Look at big mining in the global south, enormously polluting, destructive of land and community and people. A just very cursory glance at who runs this mega mining concerns is illuminating. Who sits on the board of Newmont Goldcorp, for example. While based in Colorado, its primary mining operations are in Ghana, Suriname, and Peru. Well, one is Gregory H. Boyce, who also sits on the board of directors for Monsanto and Marathon Oil. Or Rene Meldori, former executive director for DeBeers. Or take the infamous Barrick Gold, on whose advisory board sits Newt Gingrich, former secretary of defense William Cohen, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg former German defense minister, and Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada. But it’s better than that…here is a bit of background from Jeff St. Clair… and here is more.

Or what about Rio Tinto, where Jean-Sébastien Jacques holds an advisory position, after leaving Tata Steel (TISCO) in India. Just surf the web and read the bios. There is a deep connection with big oil, with coal, and with nearly every other massively polluting industrial enterprise around the world. Teck is another huge mining company. It is based in Canada. I suggest reading the first article on this page….

The concern over water scarcity does not breed environmental strategies for reduction, only new ways to extract and plunder during the coming scarcity. For that is the logic of all capitalism.  There is an enormous land grab going on in Africa, for example.

When the fog that fascism creates in all countries clears away, behind it one sees an all-too-familiar figure. This character is, of course, neither marvellous nor mysterious, he brings no new religion and certainly no golden age. He comes neither from the ranks of the youth nor from the mass of the petty bourgeoisie, even if he is an expert at deceiving both these groups. He is the counter-revolutionary capitalist, the born enemy of all class-conscious workers. Fascism is nothing but a modern form of the bourgeois capitalist counter-revolution wearing a popular mask.
— Arthur Rosenberg, Fascism as Mass Movement, 1934

And here

Those billionaire donors are not subsidizing Amazonian tribes fighting for their own survival and the survival of the rain forest. They are not subsidizing activists in the Philippines or in Africa. And they are never once mentioning the U.S. military and its role in despoiling the planet. (just look at AFRICOM, which saw an exponential growth in bases and troops under Obama). But here — two links for general perusal — and here.

(Hat tip to Jacob Levich for some of this).

The land grab is going to be enforced is the message here. These donors are investing. And alongside their investment runs the spectre of global fascism. Read these links and then consider if a state of emergency is not in the works. Of course, the bourgeoisie, the white bourgeoisie, are begging for such an emergency. The climate fear and its cultish response amid the liberal and leftish is resulting in a willingness, even a desire for, their own servitude. This is where someone is going to say, oh, conspiracy theory. But is it? Read those links. Consider the unthinking reflexive adoration of Greta and the kids. And then consider the history of capitalism, of neo-liberalism. Consider just the history over the last thirty years. Greta is not anti-capitalist. She has carefully never said capitalism is a system destroying the planet.

There is a critical pollution of land and water globally. Not just plastics, but Depleted Uranium and all the waste of military and digital technology. And from pesticides and various other industrial and agricultural chemicals. How many participants in any of the climate meetings were without brand new smart phones? I don’t believe in our extinction. I do believe life is going to change, and to mitigate the suffering that comes from that change one must reject the advice of billionaires and celebrities. Change must stop being spearheaded by WHITE privilege and the western white ruling class.

Pollution is the most urgent crises I believe. Pollution from mining of ores, and rare earth minerals (leaving pollutants such as chromium, asbestos, arsenic, and cadmium) is on a scale hard to even imagine. Or the recycling of lead-based batteries, an under the radar but massive industry that pollutes with lead oxide and sulphuric acid. Tanneries have always been an infernal and accursed industry, and pollute with chromium and soda ash, as well as large amounts of solid waste, all of which is usually contaminated with chromium. Lead smelting, which is centered in the poorest countries and which releases iron, limestone, pyrite and zinc. This is not even to touch on pesticides, or the dye industry. And then we come to the military. In particular the U.S. military. The levels of pollution are nearly Biblical in dimension and scale.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others. In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone. U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government. Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.
— Whitney Webb, Eco Watch, May 2017

Contemporary capitalism is coercive at every level. The privilege of white westerners is stunningly absent from all critiques I see relating to climate change. David Attenborough has a far larger carbon footprint (to the power of ten) than a Somali sheep herder. And yet that herder is being subtly cast as a threat to global survival. The new focus on global warming (and the de-emphasizing of pollution) is the real threat to survival. For the new green capitalists the intention is to further plunder. The new corporate Green raiders want to privatize nature.

Across the world, ‘green grabbing’ – the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends – is an emerging process of deep and growing significance. The vigorous debate on ‘land grabbing’ already highlights instances where ‘green’ credentials are called upon to justify appropriations of land for food or fuel – as where large tracts of land are acquired not just for ‘more efficient farming’ or ‘food security’, but also to ‘alleviate pressure on forests’. In other cases, however, environmental green agendas are the core drivers and goals of grabs – whether linked to biodiversity conservation, biocarbon sequestration, biofuels, ecosystem services, ecotourism or ‘offsets’ related to any and all of these. In some cases these involve the wholesale alienation of land, and in others the restructuring of rules and authority in the access, use and management of resources that may have profoundly alienating effects. Green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment – whether for parks, forest reserves or to halt assumed destructive local practices.
— James Fairhead, Melissa Leach & Ian Scoones, “Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature?”, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2012

When is a contract ‘voluntary’? The answer is, probably never.
— Jairus Banaji, Theory as History, March 22, 2010

There will never be environmentally friendly Capitalism. That is like creating de-hydrated water. The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.

In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.
— Jay Taber, Heart of Darkness, SI2, 2017

The Global Witness report said much of the persecution of land and environmental defenders is being driven by demand for the land and raw materials needed for products that consumers utilise every day, from food to mobile phones and jewelry. Also recording a high number of environment and land-related fatalities were Colombia with 24 deaths, India with 23, and Brazil at 20. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, a boom in private and foreign investment has seen large swaths of land handed out to plantation, mining and hydropower companies, ushering in a wave of forced and violent evictions, particularly in indigenous areas, the report said. This has stirred fears of a return to the large-scale violence the country suffered 30 years ago. The report said Guatemala saw the sharpest increase in the percentage of murders with a five-fold rise. At least 16 people defending their land and the environment were killed there in 2018.
— Al Jazeera, 2019

In the Philippines nine farmers were murdered, likely ordered by the landowners of the sugar cane plantations. Not much has changed since colonialism. Global Witness notes that mining is the industry which has caused or ordered the most killings of indigenous activists. In Africa, in particular, mining corporations hire expensive private security firms (American, Israeli, or British) to keep the local population outside of not just the mine, but the area *around* the outside of the mine. Acacia Mining (a subsidiary of Barrick Gold) is notorious for beatings and rape, and for contamination from the massive mine at North Mara, Tanzania.

Here is a report from The Guardian‘s Jonathan Watts from this year…

The nearest general hospital in Tarime was treating five to eight cases of gunshot wounds from the mine every week from around 2010 to 2014, according to Dr Mark Nega, a former district medical officer. “I saw so many people shot and killed. Some had gunshot wounds in the back. I think they were trying to run away but they were shot from behind.” Such killings were initially played down or denied. Journalists who tried to investigate found themselves harassed by police, or believed their stories had been spiked following pressure from state authorities.

After pressure from activists and lawyers, Acacia acknowledged 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2017. Of these, six died in confrontations with police at the mine.

International watchdog groups say at least 22 were killings by guards and police during the same period. Tanzanian opposition politicians have claimed 300 people have been killed since 1999.

For such a high number of violations to have occurred outside a conflict zone in a business context is shocking and exceptional,” said Anneke van Woudenberg, the executive director of Raid, a UK corporate watchdog.

Class analysis is not conspiracy theory. Full stop. Class exists and is part of the hierarchical system of global capitalism. The so labeled *Climate Change* crisis — as it exists on the level of Green New Deal or Extinction Rebellion — has very little to do with protecting Nature. Global warming is a fact that humanity will have to adjust to and learn to live with. So much of the rhetoric and identifications that exist in the Greta narrative are driven by a subterranean belief in technology to fix any problem. Global warming can’t be fixed. Nature and planetary life move slowly. It is western narcissism that demands things happen NOW. The planet is warming and the consequences will require change. Critical changes that must take place, especially regards pesticides and contaminated land. Of that I am sure. And changes in packaging, which means in many respect, changes in how we eat. The incursion of technology into nearly every waking moment of the daily life of the Westerner has conditioned a populace, one that doesn’t read, to see the acceleration of everything as natural. But it’s not. Nature is slow. It is patient. Nature doesn’t care about us. But humanity will have to care about Nature. And capitalism is not compatible with the direction those changes and care must take. War is always partly a war on Nature. But as I have said before, equality is the real green. The United States has erased the voice of the working class and the poor. But it is exactly those voices that have to be heard. The techno/scientific clergy are of a class, too. The bourgeois academic and researcher are stamped by their class just as much as everyone else. I think that should be remembered.

Class analysis!

Shame of a Nation: The 1% Rules, the 99% Lets Them!

  1. There has never been more access to food – domestic and imported – yet hunger is an ongoing problem everywhere. In the U.S. alone, 16.5 million children go to bed hungry and 20% of community college students are experiencing “food insecurity.”
  2. Never have there been more communications technologies, yet it is harder to get through to people personally than fifty years ago.
  3. Never have people been able to use their right to free speech so unencumbered, yet a torrent of lies are now spread so freely and are often unchallenged.
  4. Never have there been higher corporate profits, yet staggering amounts of poverty and near poverty remain along with stagnant wages.
  5. Never have there been more medicines to alleviate pain, yet far too many of these pain killers have caused massive fatalities and addictions.
  6. Never has there been more liquid corporate capital piled up, yet corporate investment is proportionately lower than before. Instead, CEO’s have burned over 7 trillion dollars in unproductive stock buybacks in the past decade.
  7. Never have there been more exercise outlets, exercise machines and apps, yet obesity is still rampant.
  8. Never have there been more tax breaks for big businesses, yet big businesses use so little of the windfalls for productive investments, good jobs and shoring up pensions.
  9. Never has there been more free access to information, yet so little retained knowledge.
  10. Never have there been more impressive muckraking film documentaries and books that expose corporate and government crimes, yet this media attention produces less impact and reform.
  11. Never have there been more ongoing impeachable offenses and statutory violations by a president, yet the opposing Party in Congress have been reluctant to move on the many articles of impeachment. Remember how fast the unified House of Republicans moved to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice?
  12. Never have there been more trainers, sports physicians, protective equipment and guards for professional athletes, yet there are far more injuries and days lost by players than was the case sixty years ago. Now there are helmets, gloves, pads, cushioned walls, better shoes etc. Why?
  13. Never has there been more to read, yet there are so few readers reading. Historically, we have gone from illiteracy to literacy to aliteracy!
  14. Never before has technology made it so easy for heads of government to meet, yet fewer international treaties are made. (Eg. Cyber, water, environment, consumer, labor etc.)
  15. Never has there been such an outrageous corporate crime wave, yet law enforcement budgets have decreased! The more big CEO’s are paid, the worse is their management. (Eg. The big banks twelve years ago, General Electric for years.)
  16. Never before have there been so many wrongful injuries, yet the court budgets are becoming tighter and the law of torts is being restricted. Without the defense of and use of our civil justice system, wrongful injury cases cannot go to court with a trial by jury.
  17. Never before has there been more corporate fraud, yet agencies tasked with bringing this fraud to justice have smaller budgets and more limitations. The budget of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a third of one day’s worth of health care billing fraud, which is estimated this year to be $350 billion, according to Harvard’s national expert on the subject, Professor Malcolm Sparrow. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been straitjacketed by the evil corporate crime abettor Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House Chief of Staff for corrupt Donald.
  18. Never has the drug industry accumulated more profits and government subsidies, yet so many patients cannot begin to afford lifesaving medicines.
  19. Never have the under-taxed super-rich been so rich, yet on average give a smaller proportion of their money to “good works.” Actually, middle and lower income people give more proportionally than do the ultra-wealthy.

I could go on and on. Pick up the pace, readers. Senator Elizabeth Warren has correctly called for “big structural changes.”

Labor Day 2019

We celebrate Labor Day by honoring workers — especially the forgotten workers. Stay-at-home mothers who home school their children are often forgotten. Others who are forgotten are those who work in school cafeterias, those who empty bedpans in nursing homes, and ordinary local guys, like my plumber. He is smart, honest and he never overcharges. These are just ordinary people. Most have no degrees — no fancy pieces of paper to frame and hang on their walls. These are the “good guys”. They keep our country and homes running. They are the real backbone of the economy.

There are also many others. Can anyone celebrate Labor Day without thinking about farm labor? If you are too old to remember it, or too young to have ever heard of it, now is the time to crank up your computer and watch “Harvest of Shame,” the amazing documentary made by Edward R. Murrow.

There is no labor more important for our existence and survival than farm labor. Often those who work in the field are the most overworked and underpaid. In Vermont we should be sensitive to the plight of workers on dairy farms. Often they live in substandard housing. They live in fear of exposure if they lack the “right” papers. In Bennington we depend on the workers from the Caribbean Islands who harvest the apple crop every year.

One of our nation’s greatest scandals is the treatment of child farm workers who never seem to have the legal protections necessary. In California, who is looking out for the kids? They often are exposed to dangerous chemicals while working long hours in the blazing sun.

Any examination of the labor force must also include those who are overpaid — corporate CEOs. Corporations have the right to compensate administrators any way and in any amount the board determines — but, the unfair distribution of wealth is taking a toll on the unity of our country. It is unpatriotic. Voters need to speak up and protest the exploitation of workers, which is necessary to provide the CEOs with such obscene compensation packages. This widespread policy of excessive pay for corporate CEOs can be easily fixed by changing the tax code. Place a one hundred percent tax on all income above $100,000 — or a one hundred percent tax on all income that is more than five times the minimum wage. Of course members of Congress are not willing to do that. It is obvious why. We know whose side they are on. A simple change in the tax code could eliminate poverty and provide health care to everyone.

The most outrageous compensation scheme is often in the so-called “nonprofits.” Of all those, the health care business is no doubt the worse. It is the most dangerous because it is, in part, responsible for lack of universal access to quality health care, which can lead to death. The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet — but it is far from the best. Quality of health care in Thailand and many other countries is far superior — so much so that many Americans have become medical tourists. Patients will do anything to avoid the “assembly line,” dehumanized health care in the United States. Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand is one of the world’s best. See this:

Compare the hospital in Thailand to our local hospital which made nationwide news in a 60 Minutes Expose. Remember the ‘Ronald Comeau’ case a few years ago. Quality of local health care has not improved. If we don’t want the plug pulled prematurely, maybe we all need medic alert bracelets engraved with “Don’t Pull the Plug”.

Think back to the good old days when we were patients. Then we became customers. Now we are just algorithms. Has your doctor made eye contact with you lately, or is your doctor focused on a computer screen during the entire length of your annual visit? This is not always the doctor’s fault. They did not design the electronic record system, but maybe they could fix it if they organized and at least tried. There are increasing numbers of patients who have no doctor at all. Many good doctors have left. It is time to change the law and allow doctors from Cuba to come to the U.S.A.

Not all doctors are overpaid. Some are underpaid. The problem is that too much of the money goes to the top and too little to real health care providers at the bottom of the wage scale. This has resulted in a loss of quality in health care and puts patients at risk.

Take a good look at the following numbers from IRS Form 990 reports. Can they be justified?

• Vermont Hospital CEO pay – 2016
• University of Vermont Medical Center: $2,186,275
• Dartmouth-Hitchcock: $1,494,669
• Southwestern Vermont Medical Center: $620,368
• Porter Medical Center: $612,877
• Rutland Regional Medical Center: $565,038
• Central Vermont Medical Center: $503,385
• Gifford Medical Center: $470,574
• Copley Hospital: $435,524
• North Country Hospital: $417,940
• Brattleboro Memorial Hospital: $390,731
• Northwestern Medical Center: $378,272
• Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center: $374,660
• Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital: $350,764
• Springfield Hospital: $264,563
• Grace Cottage Hospital: $124,800

Just one more fact: Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO, Dr. Joanne M. Conroy compensation is being kept secret.