Category Archives: Economy/Economics

US and China “Trade” War?

It is very popular these days to talk and write about the “trade war” between the United States and China. But is there really one raging? Or is what we are witnessing simply a clash of political and ideological systems: one being extremely successful and optimistic, the other depressing, full of dark cynicism and nihilism?

In the past, the West used to produce almost everything. While colonizing the entire planet (one should just look at the map of the globe between the two world wars), Europe and later the United States, Canada and Australia kept plundering all the continents of natural resources, holding hundreds of millions of human beings in what could be easily described as ‘forced labor’, often bordering on slavery.

Under such conditions, it was very easy to be ‘number one’, to reign without competition, and to toss around huge amounts of cash for the sole purpose of indoctrinating local and overseas ‘subjects’ on topics such as the ‘glory’ of capitalism, colonialism (open and hidden), and Western-style ‘democracy’.

It is essential to point out that in the recent past, the global Western dictatorship (and that included the ‘economic system) used to have absolutely no competition. Systems that were created to challenge it were smashed with the most brutal, sadistic methods. One only needs to recall invasions from the West to the young Soviet Union with the consequent genocide and famines. Or other genocides in Indochina, which was fighting its wars for independence, first against France, later against the United States.

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Times changed. But Western tactics haven’t.

There are now many new systems in numerous corners of the world. These systems, some Communist, others socialist or even populist, are ready to defend their citizens and to use natural resources to feed the people, and to educate, house and cure them.

No matter how popular these systems are at home, the West finds ways to demonize them, using its well-established propaganda machinery. First, to smear them and then, if they resist, to directly liquidate them.

As before, during the colonial era, no competition has been permitted. Disobedience is punishable by death.

Naturally, the Western system has not been built on excellence, hard work and creativity, only. It was constructed on fear, oppression and brutal force. For centuries, it has clearly been a monopoly.

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Only the toughest countries, like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or Cuba, have managed to survive, defending their own cultures and advancing their philosophies.

To the West, China has proven to be an extremely tough adversary.

With its political, economic, and social systems, it has managed to construct a forward-looking, optimistic and extraordinarily productive society. Its scientific research is now second to none. Its culture is thriving. Together with its closest ally, Russia, China excels in many essential fields.

That is precisely what irks, even horrifies, the West.

For decades and centuries, Europe and the United States have not been ready to tolerate any major country which would set up its own set of rules and goals.

China refuses to accept the diktat from abroad. It now appears to be self-sufficient, ideologically, politically, economically and intellectually. Where it is not fully self-sufficient, it can rely on its friends and allies. Those allies are increasingly located outside the Western sphere.

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Is China really competing with the West? Yes and no. And often not consciously.

It is a giant; still the most populous nation on earth. It is building, determinedly, its socialist motherland (applying “socialism with the Chinese characteristics” model). It is trying to construct a global system which has roots in the thousands of years of its history (BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, often nicknamed the “New Silk Road”).

Its highly talented and hardworking, as well as increasingly educated population, is producing at a higher pace and often at higher quality than the countries in Europe or the United States. As it produces, it also naturally trades.

This is where the ‘problem’ arises. The West, particularly the United States, is not used to a country that creates things for the sake and benefit of its people. For centuries, Asian, African and Latin American people were ordered what and how to produce, where and for how much to sell the produce. Or else!

Of course, the West has never consulted anyone. It has been producing what it (and its corporations) desired. It was forcing countries all over the world to buy its products. If they refused, they got invaded, or their fragile governments (often semi-colonies, anyway) overthrown.

The most ‘terrible’ thing that China is doing is: it is producing what is good for China, and for its citizens.

That is, in the eyes of the West, unforgiveable!

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In the process, China ‘competes’ but fairly.  It produces a lot, cheaply, and increasingly well. The same can be said about Russia.

These two countries are not competing maliciously. If they were to decide to, they could sink the US economy, or perhaps the economy of the entire West, within a week.

But they don’t even think about it.

However, as said above, to just work hard, invent new and better products, advance scientific research, and use the gains to improve the lives of ordinary people (there will be no extreme poverty in China by the end of 2020) is seen as the arch-crime in London and Washington.

Why? Because the Chinese and Russian systems appear to be much better, or at least simply better, than those which are reigning in the West and its colonies. And because they are working for the people not for corporations or for the colonial powers.

And the demagogues in the West – in its mass media outlets and academia – are horrified that perhaps soon the world will wake up and see the reality which is actually already happening slowly but surely.

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To portray China as an evil country is essential for the hegemony of the West. There is nothing so terrifying to London and Washington as the combination of these words: “Socialism/ Communism, Asian, success”. The West invents new and newer ‘opposition movements’, it then supports them and finances them, just in order to then point fingers and bark: “China is fighting back, and it is violating human rights”, when it defends itself and its citizens. This tactic is clear right now in both the northwest of the country and in Hong Kong.

Not everything that China builds is excellent. Europe is still producing better cars, shoes and fragrances, and the United States, better airplanes. But the progress that China has registered during the last two decades is remarkable. Were it to be football, it is China 2: West 1.

Most likely, unless there is real war, in ten years China will catch up in many fields; catch up, and surpass the West. Side by side with Russia.

It could have been excellent news for the entire world. China is sharing its achievements, even with the poorest of the poor countries in Africa or with Laos in Asia.

The only problem is the West feels that it has to rule. It is unrepentant, observing the world from a clearly fundamentalist view. It cannot help it: it is absolutely, religiously convinced that it has to give orders to every man and woman, in every corner of the globe.

It is a tick, fanatical. Lately, anyone who travels to Europe or the United States will testify: what is taking place there is not good, even for the ordinary citizens. Western governments and corporations are now robbing even their own citizens. The standard of living is nose-diving.

China, with just a fraction of the wealth, is building a much more egalitarian society, although you would never guess so if you exclusively relied on Western statistics.

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So, “trade war” slogans are an attempt to convince the local and global public that “China is unfair”, that it is “taking advantage” of the West. President Trump is “defending” the United States against the Chinese ‘Commies’. But the more he “defends them”, the poorer they get. Strange, isn’t it?

While the Chinese people, Russian people, even Laotian people, are, ‘miraculously’, getting richer and richer. They are getting more and more optimistic.

For decades, the West used to preach ‘free trade’, and competition. That is, when it was in charge, or let’s say, ‘the only kid on the block’.

In the name of competition and free trade, dozens of governments got overthrown, and millions of people killed.

And now?

What is China supposed to do? Frankly, what?

Should it curb its production or perhaps close scientific labs? Should it consult the US President or perhaps British Prime Minister before it makes any essential economic decision? Should it control the exchange rate of RMB in accordance with the wishes of the economic tsars in Washington? That would be thoroughly ridiculous considering that (socialist/Communist) China will soon become the biggest economy in the world, or maybe it already is.

There is all that abstract talk, but nothing concrete suggested. Or is it like that on purpose?

Could it be that the West does not want to improve relations with Beijing?

On September 7, 2019, AP reported:

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow compared trade talks with China on Friday to the U.S. standoff with Russia during the Cold War…

“The stakes are so high, we have to get it right, and if that takes a decade, so be it,” he said.  Kudlow emphasized that it took the United States decades to get the results it wanted with Russia. He noted that he worked in the Reagan administration: “I remember President Reagan waging a similar fight against the Soviet Union.”

Precisely! The war against the Soviet Union was hardly a war for economic survival of the United States. It was an ideological battle which the United States unfortunately won, because it utilized both propaganda and economic terror (the arms race and other means).

Now, China is next on the list, and the White House is not even trying to hide it.

But China is savvy. It is beginning to understand the game. And it is ready, by all means, to defend the system which has pulled almost all its citizens out of misery, and which could, one day soon, do the same for the rest of the world.

*  First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Framing Houses, Framing Lives

“You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.”

— Michael Crawford, writer

One might think a profile of a former Oceanlake school, Taft elementary youth and a teen who dropped out of Taft High School (Lincoln City, Oregon) who now, 21 years later, works hard as a carpenter might not be the stuff of legends.

In fact, speaking with 37-year-old Justin Marical is like a breath of fresh air along with bursts of déjà vu.

He’s scrappy, he’s gone through ups and downs as a framer and construction worker, and he faces the struggle of being a quasi-step-dad to four children and a biological father to his 16-year-old boy who lives in Sedona.

We meet in Waldport, as I shadow him building his specialty now — high-end sheds or office spaces on people’s properties. We cover a lot of ground while he’s putting up siding on the 200-square-foot shed at a house on Bay Street.

He does the work from dawn to dusk, leaving no detail unfinished for this craftsman-like gig before he heads to the next job.

His business — JM Sheds — is going on 12 years, and his life is representative of a lot of young American men’s lives: dropping out of high school after 10th grade, getting sent to an aunt and uncle’s farm to be home schooled, getting a GED and learning a trade to survive.

Add to his formative years a biological father who ended up leaving the family with Justin at the tender age of six.

“I don’t know what the true effects of the divorce on me are, but I am sure I was hurt, yet at the time I wasn’t aware of anything.”

Justin says the Central Coast is a great area for which to grow up, or at least it was when he was younger, although he admits he did “slack off in school” and stopped going to Taft.

“I really wasn’t in any trouble, but I did ditch school, and did smoke a bit and got stoned.”

However, a safety net appeared: he was sent to an uncle and aunt on their 500-acre apple, pear, and cherry farm in Yakima. This really set the foundation for the young Justin’s life and where he is now.

“My uncle worked hard and recently retired well off. That farm was everything to him and to my aunt.”

We talk about the uncle’s hidden but brilliant plan for the young Justin. He had three cousins on the farm, and his uncle bought a bunch of lumber and put Justin to work with a challenge — make a playhouse for the younger girl.

The project was a full-on micro house — eight-by-eight, full-height walls, a roof, windows and a door, all finished in cedar shingles.

It was an after-school project, which Justin did on his own.

“I realized I had just built a building on my own. I totally remembered what my dad did as a framer. All that stuff stuck with me.”

That playhouse 20 years ago set Justin off into a world of construction, and this shed and micro-home business. Thus far, he’s built about a hundred sheds and office spaces.

Justin’s worked for Highline Homes in Salem, keeping busy as a commercial framer. Justin soon realized he could be his own boss, set his own schedule and make more money. Before shed making as a business enterprise, he worked in full home-building construction, but the jobs dried up during the 2008 recession.

“I could have quit and done something else after the jobs dried up. Instead, I built sheds, utilizing my construction skills.”

Justin reminds himself while speaking to me that building sheds got him his first home, got him a nice truck and trailer, and has helped to support his significant other, Emily, and her four children.

All of these skills he learned came from job sites his father, albeit as a divorced dad, took him on. He learned to do grunt work, observed the intricacies of a job site, and picked up vital carpentry skills that got him that golden prize — a complete, cool playhouse built by his own two hands.

It’s clear that once he starts a job, Justin is like a Tasmanian devil: “Once I get that job in front of me, I can’t stop.”

This is one work ethic that is a win-win for his clients who put down several thousand dollars for a nice outbuilding that not only serves as office or studio space, but enhances any property’s value.

“I knew early on I wanted to be a framer, to be in construction.” Luckily for Justin, his Yakima uncle instilled in him to shoot higher — be your own boss, work smarter not harder, and don’t make a living just doing grunt work for someone else.

 

In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building an emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.”

–Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men

Justin and I talk about the failing school system, how tough it is to work with young men today to motivate them, and what it means to be a man in this world where sometimes the headlines and book titles can be off-putting: “Adam’s Curse: A Future without Men;” “The Y Chromosome is Disappearing — So What will Happen to Men?” “Do We Need Men?” “Are Men Going Extinct — Some Experts Give Men Five Million Years.”

While his biological dad always worked and even took the young Justin to job sites, expecting the 8-year-old to throw in as a laborer, Justin is conflicted by some of his relationships with men.

I wish I had listened to the advice of men when I was younger. You know, listened to my buddies’ dads. If I had, I’d be in a lot better place.

He lists off more savings, sticking to one thing and not frittering from job to job, better investment strategies, and making a plan as some of those mentor men’s tips he let go by the wayside. He labored hard in his 20s, framing, but it was working for Friday nights to come around in order to hit the bars and find parties.

This is where a simple story about a plain 10-by-20-foot shed turns into a deeper conversation about the meaning of life, and the meaning of what it takes to raise children — boys in particular — to help them make it in life with a sense of dignity, respect and work ethic.

We talk about Michael Crawford’s book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work — Two of this philosopher’s words resonate when I speak to Justin —

• Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement.

• Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right.

While Justin has upped his game with a nice website with amazing photographs of his craftsmanship encouraged by his spouse, Emily, he looks at the value of his skills translated into what young men and women might gain by working with their hands and brains.

A few years ago, Justin was hiring others to help with the shed projects. He could get one of these 10-by-20 sheds up in two days with that help. “I ended up shaking hands, developing quotes and running around getting materials. I wanted to put hands on projects. I had friends and their families who depended on me.”

Have Tools, Will Travel

Now he’s going at these projects alone, putting five or six days into the solo work. This gives him a lot of time to think what he might be doing to not only help his spouse’s two boys, 13 and 16, but to serve his community.

We talk about the housing crisis, about veterans who are homeless, about families not finding any affordable housing. The other crisis — PK12 education — might be the interconnected salvation for a county and state that face colluding forces that tear at the fabric of communities, down to the family level.

Justin drills down into the truancy issues of these two boys, and discusses how young men want to mimic gang-like behavior or even associate themselves with miscreants or wannabe gang-bangers while also skirting doing an honest, hard day’s work. Justin laments what he sees as young men and boys demonstrating a complete lack of respect for their elders, parents.

We both agree that having boys and girls building things, and planning, designing and following through on projects like building greenhouses, sheds, chicken coops would go a long way in the right direction to enable our youth to bring both meaning and skills to their young lives.

Justin and I talk while he puts up a shed, and he asks me about my work in education, about a writing project I am engrossed in to virtually explode the myths that tinkering with public education will make it better. “I have had these questions rolling around my head for a long time, but meeting you, I see what needs to be done.”

Hands-on, no more classrooms. Then, teachers that are inspired, inspiring and with multiple disciplines. We talk about getting youth to raise vegetables, chickens, orchards (permaculture). We talk about youth figuring out how to plan, draft, carry out and finish a building project, like a tiny home for needy people within their own community. We talk about teach-ins — having members of the community come to schools on a monthly or weekly basis instructing youth on their myriad avocations, skills and professions in these elegant round-table community engagements.

Justin wants to figure himself into this mix, working his magic as a builder to mentor and instruct youth on building something that is permanent, things that they can look at with pride.

“Not many young people are learning a trade. With that lack of hands on skill set, they are not getting any sense of accomplishment.”

Answers for Life

In his busy schedule working on this job on our coast, dealing with intermittent rain deluges and sunny breaks in the weather, Justin seriously pondered these questions I raised:

1. What does it mean to be a young man in America today?

For Justin, he sees struggle for young men, and confusion. “They have no solid ground to stand on as males.” He believes that too much screen time, too many other distractions and general parental lack of discipline add to the struggle. Justin isn’t thrilled with the economy getting Balkanized with fewer and fewer small businesses and apprenticeship opportunities.

2. Is there much difference from when you were 17, 20 years ago, then what it is to be 17 today in the USA?

3. How can we motivate young men to follow through, have a work ethic and care about doing honest work and living authentically?

We both believe that the education system — where youth spend 200 days a year, eight hours a day in the “system” — needs overhauling. Justin would like to have a part of educating, working with both disadvantaged youth and others on valuing their minds, bodies and creative spirits doing things with their hands. The “doing and making of things” he emphasized, and Justin means anything from skills working with engines, farming, building, crafting and engineering.

4. One word to describe your work ethic?

Obsessed.

5. Is building a shed creative work? If so, explain.

Just watching Justin go into a project, I can see he is thinking a mile a minute, putting the pieces together in his head. The craft involves architectonics and design and aesthetics.

6. If you weren’t building sheds and framing, what would you be doing?

He tried his hand at logging, and while working like a mule on big construction sites taught him the value of hard work and refining skills, Justin seems to be at place designing, marketing and organizing construction projects, from inception to completion.

7. What do you like about the Central Coast of Oregon?

He impresses upon me that the places on the coast still are and feel like small towns with people willing to get to know neighbors and customers. Just on one job site, all the neighbors around the project site talked with him. More than a half dozen drive-by neighbors looked at his project as it was being put up.

8. Define success.

He sees self-sufficiency and having the flexibility to be his own boss. Justin considers himself “homeless” in that he has no apartment or house mortgage, and he lives on the road, sometimes in his big truck while completing projects. His significant other of 10 years is a safe harbor from the constant dislocation, yet Justin says with all the tools, the trailer and his truck and his skills, he can virtually go anywhere and do his trade.

9. Define failure.

“Simply, being my own man.” Justin emphasizes the person in that statement. He thinks that if he was doing things to cut corners or to scam or rip-off people, he’d be a failure. Do unto others as you would have people do unto you.

190906_oct_carpenterIMGP1814.jpg

We end on a complicated note: More and more companies like Amazon and the like have kits for both sheds, tiny homes and other building types. “I am told by some that, ‘Hey, your shed is $2,000 more than what I saw at Costco for a kit.’ Well, I laugh and tell them good luck with putting up that product by yourself.”

With Justin working here in Waldport, he’s stayed at a local resort for days, he’s been to restaurants, shopped at the locally-owned Ray’s Market for groceries, put gas in his truck at the local Chevron, and purchased construction items at the locally-owned lumber yard and hardware store.

That multiplier effect is not the only value-added service JM Sheds provides the Coast. We get to see a hometown kid done good, pounding and sawing away, on site, with all the personal touches you can’t get from a kit sent to you from Amazon or IKEA.

The Orwellian Apex: Dissecting Trump’s UN Speech

There are liars in the world and then there’s Donald Trump. A first rate unapologetic gaslighting manipulator of language who takes deception to the heights of hypocrisy. Bending and looping definitions at will where words themselves start to lack all meaning. It’s not surprising that the world is in its present state when a bucket of highly condensed lies is splashed onto the public by every sycophantic corporate media outlet and the rebuttals, like this one you’re reading now, are given little if any coverage. It’s a mouse squeak responding to a thunderous roar of media channel distribution.

Everyone knows politicians openly lie and wildly misrepresent what few half truths they reference, yet somehow a captured populace who has become deathly ill with Stockholm Syndrome has not lost faith in the system itself. Despite election after election of the same behaviors, the same patterns of power seeking from elites, the same wars for resources being fought, the same handouts for the rich and rampant inequality; despite all this the populace still somehow has faith that capitalism works and the US is force for good in the world.

The average American believes their government isn’t completely corrupt and that their politician of the moment is better than the other guy and will change everything if they are patient just a little longer. They at least believe their candidate will hopefully lie less than Trump, and on that point they’re probably right to some degree, but these politicians are all stooges for banking cartels, neoliberal corporations, and display a jingoistic allegiance for nation-states and are open liars who can be easily debunked if the people could just briefly not succumb to conforming around the given status quo argumentation. Politicians don’t debate ideas, rather they commonly simply take up the Pee Wee Herman debate tactic espousing an “I know you are but what am I” stratagem. Public debate for all politicians within this deeply broken system has nothing to do with truth, but rather attempting to frame and contextualize arguments so they sound moderately better than their opponents as they speak to the known indoctrinated beliefs already installed in the public dialogue.

Trump isn’t so different from every other politician.  He just lies with more ferocity and an open disdain for truth. He couches his arguments of ideological conformity in being a good patriot, and a good patriot is loyal to their country and stands by it no matter what kind of horrors they unleash upon the world. Within the notion of blind patriotism is the same tactic taken up by dogmatic organized religions for centuries who claim to be mouthpieces for god and to speak against their word is to blaspheme god herself. Likewise, Trump, like nearly every other US leader continually attempts to associate America with liberty, democracy, and bold individualism, and thus to be a patriot means to support these underlying beliefs, so if one should speak against the actions of America equates to be against these poorly defined values that sound really good, but have come to mean nothing to the point they hit the ear like shallow platitudes.

Trump’s UN speech delivered on September 24th, 2019 is such an affront to truth that hearing the mangling of the definition of words nearly drives one to madness. The rhetoric is an assault on the English language and what words actually mean, and when politicians are able to steal language from us they have stolen the ability for the public to speak to one another where real dialogue can be had and actual truth can be found.

And while we are all quite aware there are always lies baked into this kind of propaganda, I thought it still worthwhile to rend this Orwellian nightmare of drivel down and unpack some of these lies, though truly a lengthy book could be written breaking down the volume of lies contained within this single speech. Such is the power of a lie that dispelling them requires far more effort and time than telling one. So without further ado, let’s strip this emperor of his semantic clothes and expose this dingus brained twitter twat for what he really is, a naked liar.

I thought I’d start here:

DT: “Like those who met us before, our time is one of great contests, high stakes, and clear choices. The essential divide that runs all around the world and throughout history is once again thrown into stark relief.  It is the divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others and those people and nations who want only to rule themselves.” 

The “divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others” – This is an “Are you friggin’ serious?” line spoken as if the US hasn’t been at the center of this kind of activity since its very inception. I suppose Manifest Destiny was really just a genocide to spread the word of god and not a power grab for resources and land? I suppose all the countries the US has attacked without provocation, the forced regime changes enacted by our intelligence agencies, or the feigned false flags and manufactured reasons for military intervention so that we may occupy places we have no right to be for decades was not the US believing it was “destined to rule over others” but instead just the US protecting the world in acts of bomb dropping benevolence. Sure.

DT: “I have the immense privilege of addressing you today as the elected leader of a nation that prizes liberty, independence, and self-government above all.

The immense privilege of an elected leader who didn’t receive the majority of votes in a faux democracy.

And a country that prizes liberty so much by having the world’s largest prison population which is actually understated, and where people who might try to be independently choosing what they put into their own bodies and having control over their own consciousness are arrested and thrown in prison en masse, and especially so if your skin color is something other than creamy white. A place where you are free to tirelessly work for your employer and the only consequence for not doing so is that you go without a roof over your head, and you and your family will be unable to get healthcare without being in a lifetime of debt, and your access to food potentially threatened if you don’t complete those TPS reports with the proper cover sheet. But remember your country prizes liberty above all else! God Bless the USA!

I must admit I have a morbid curiosity to know what Trump’s working definition of liberty is. I’d love to know even more what the hell the slave owning genocidal scribes of the founding documents of America meant by it, because it sure does seem like their definition of liberty is freedom for the elite class and subservient never ending work for everyone else. It’s the classic standard setup in western civilization since the get go, but now the difference is we say the word liberty instead of openly stating slave, serf, or indentured servant. Progress in modernity is measured by the positivity of the words chosen by those in power.

DT: “The United States, after having spent over two and a half trillion dollars since my election to completely rebuild our great military, is also, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. Hopefully, it will never have to use this power.

Yeah, let’s all hope our military won’t ever have to use that military power to say drop bombs with drones. Like, it would be a real shame if they used them to kill farmers in Afghanistan a couple weeks ago instead of ostensible ISIS targets, which usually amounts to armed people who don’t want US occupation in their country. Because you know, no one would ever join an extremist group after having a foreign military kill their friends and family who were doing nothing but farming. That surely doesn’t drive people to take up whatever arms they can find against an occupying force. Good thing all our divinely blessed weapons are there unused to make sure none of that happens. And good thing if such an event were to occur it would just be an isolated incident in a single country and not something that happens across the entire middle east in an ongoing immoral war that’s over 17 years old now.

And thank god we used two and half trillion dollars to strengthen our god fearing military, who is in no way or form an oppressive force in the world or the world’s largest polluter while the planet is in an ecological emergency. But, yes, well spent taxpayer dollars to bring supposed peace to our world.

DT: “Americans know that in a world where others seek conquest and domination, our nation must be strong in wealth, in might, and in spirit. That is why the United States vigorously defends the traditions and customs that have made us who we are.”

Yes, it’s just those others that seek conquest and domination, not the kind-hearted Mr Trump and the US empire with 800 military bases, which is just for safety and security for good folk like he, Mr Trump, who would describe himself and the US just like a good natured Dickensian character would – “Soft-hearted me! Hard-working me! Clean-living, thrifty and kind as can be!” How pure of heart we are, what noble intent, it’s a shame the corrupting domination seeking world around us forces our hand so much into warfare.

DT: “Looking around and all over this large, magnificent planet, the truth is plain to see: If you want freedom, take pride in your country. If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation. Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first.”

A “magnificent planet” Trump glibly speaks about while encouraging US corporations who can’t seem to destroy it fast enough so long as there are profit incentives for them to do so, which the government won’t lift a finger to impede since more important things like the almighty GDP and forever inflating the financial markets, which primarily benefit the rich, are continually prioritized over protecting this magnificence.

He also equates jingoism with peace, since there seems to be a pretty good history in place that backs up the premise that peace and “loving your nation” go hand in hand. For instance, NAZIs loved their leaders and nation above all, and they were well known for their peaceful attitudes.

And I’m also glad Trump has a handle on what a “wise leader does” and he defines as one who puts the interests of the people first. Yup, billionaires are commonly known for doing just that.

DT: “Last month, African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment reached their lowest rates ever recorded. We are marshaling our nation’s vast energy abundance, and the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. Wages are rising, incomes are soaring, and 2.5 million Americans have been lifted out of poverty in less than three years.”

Being the number one producer of oil should not be a thing any compassionate citizen of Earth should take pride in while carbon emissions directly contribute to a rapidly warming planet. And boasting about the economy while rising healthcare and housing costs do more than enough to negate the pathetic rises to income the working class has seen. There aren’t enough living wage jobs available to support the population and the debt is at levels where it can never be paid back. But sure, Donnie, boast about how wonderful the economy is. And to assert that you lifted people out of poverty when the threshold for being in poverty is $12,500 for a single person makes this talking point no great accomplishment. Further there is no way to accurately assess how many have been thrown into poverty in that time either.

But the rich are richer than ever and hoarding at rates not seen since just before the market crash of 1929. The rising tide does not lift all boats, rather it tends to drown those who cannot afford boats.

DT:  paraphrasing “…A bunch of horse-shit on how China is ripping us off”.

Never detailing how American companies have been benefiting from abusing Chinese labor for decades. Trump’s crusade is never to condemn US companies for profiteering off unsavory labor conditions which corporations go to great pains to arrange so they don’t have to pay labor here, and even if factories are brought back to America they’ll see to it they automate or shift production to another country they can exploit before paying good salaries to American workers. The impetus here seems to put a ceiling on growing Chinese economic power rather than to help Americans as he claims. This is a common tactic in all actions of ruling power, which is to couch their arguments in ideas of security, helping the common American, or building up the nation-state when what they are really doing is what Trump makes claims others are doing, giving ever more power to elites just like him through unscrupulous methods.

DT: “The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation. We desire peace, cooperation, and mutual gain with all. But I will never fail to defend America’s interests.

The non-Orwellian translation – If the rest of the world doesn’t economically surrender their resources in the manner the US wants, you’ll talk to our bombs instead of our predatory capitalists in expensive suits.

DT: “With that goal in mind, my administration is also pursuing the hope of a brighter future in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban has chosen to continue their savage attacks. And we will continue to work with our coalition of Afghan partners to stamp out terrorism, and we will never stop working to make peace a reality.

Fighting “terrorism” while actively giving people good reason to be violent against you because of immoral US occupation in their country and killing innocent people in droves is a never ending fight and a spiral of pain. This strategy is reminiscent of the CIA’s strategy in Vietnam called the Phoenix Program where the basic idea is to cause chaos where the people can never organize or have control of their own government. US foreign policy is pure bullshit and the war on terrorism is 100% a ruse to rule over the middle east with military might and done under the guise of peace while their true intent is, and always has been, control of oil resources in the region.

DT: “One of the most serious challenges our countries face is the specter of socialism.  It’s the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies….In the last century, socialism and communism killed 100 million people.

There is perhaps no lie bigger than the continual blathering around the spurious dangers of socialism/communism and the supposed 100 million deaths attributed to these economic system alone. No one seems to think about it, they just hear red baiting repeatedly and over time have developed a negative association with the words, and now when people like Trump just mention the words it causes a visceral reaction that flies right past the thinking mind, which is exactly what was intended.

It should be noted, first of all, that capitalists hate socialism/communism because it reduces capitalists’ ability to commodify everything they see and takes power away from the almighty dollar which is the source of all power for the US and other nation states. Money buys the means of production, it funds weapons companies, it buys media, it buys lobbyists, super pacs, essentially a political voice, it controls everything. Money commands leverage over all and controls human behavior in extremely authoritarian ways.

Yet capitalism is supposedly responsible for no deaths, as if Hitler, Stalin, and Mao weren’t all using currency and being financed in some capacity by capitalist currency.  Some of that money came from American investors even. As if all the wars and military apparatus America has manufactured and sold to others weren’t done under capitalism. As if all the dangerous working conditions billions of people have been exposed to weren’t done under capitalism, all the black lung disease, exposure to chemicals, and cheaply made products that killed people so that the producer could save a buck in production costs weren’t somehow done under capitalism. As if the entire eroding planetary ecology which threatens every last person on the planet wasn’t done in the name of capitalist dollars. And does capitalism not always allow for primitive accumulation of resources and always inevitably end in authoritarianism time and time again? So then, if we are blindly going to assign a death count to an ‘ism then there is no more dangerous ‘ism than capitalism.

Further, Stalin and Hitler were communist and socialist like America is a democracy. It’s something they say while doing something that is very different. America has elements of a democracy but is not one, as again Trump himself didn’t come to power through democracy. He came to power through the leverage of financial resources and an electoral college where he didn’t have to accrue the most votes. In no way, shape or form is that a democracy. And the same can be said for NAZI Germany and Stalinist Russia with their claims of socialism and communism.  They had some elements of those things they claimed were so, but what they delivered was something quite different from what they promised their people and used all kinds of capitalist practices while doling out their ostensible communism and socialism. What all these things have in common is they are run like top down hierarchies who made use of centralized systems of power.

And what socialism and communism really amount to is sharing things instead of everyone buying something through a capitalist entity. People share things all the time peacefully, and aboriginal cultures lived in relative peace for thousands of years without a common currency at all. In our society people within their own families, inside their churches, their work places etc. commonly share things without problems. When people go to work their is a communal printer, a communal computer server, a common kitchen space and so on. Sharing public spaces and human cooperation without the use of “free” markets and money does not directly equate to dictators and warfare.

Problems arise when leverage over others is used to force them into activities. The threat of losing your home or the threat of violence from the state are things capitalist America does consistently to force behavior just like every other major power throughout the history of western civilization. This is the essence of authoritarianism.

Trump has a knack of saying everyone else is the problem without ever considering that he is no better than the worst of what he speaks to. All the lies Trump tells there is a continual dismissal of nuance, while a reductionist and simplistic narrative of choice is adhered right over top of the truth.

DT: “Events in Venezuela remind us all that socialism and communism are not about justice, they are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor, and they are certainly not about the good of the nation.  Socialism and communism are about one thing only: power for the ruling class.”

Today, I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country.

Sadly, as we see in Venezuela, the death toll continues in this country. These totalitarian ideologies, combined with modern technology, have the power to excise [exercise] new and disturbing forms of suppression and domination.

This comment is rife with epic amounts of misrepresentation and outright lying by a billionaire who has done nothing but seek out more power for the ruling class. Money is power and massive accumulations of it to use as leverage over others is the very definition of power seeking. And Trump points to Venezuela and Cuba as examples of power seeking? What power do they command exactly? What massive armies do they control? Who are they allowed to place sanctions on?

It seems to me that US sanctions and the power the US has on the global stage to enforce such sanctions is what is making Venezuela struggle economically. Venezuela attempting to do what was best for their country and use their oil resources without the financial hegemony of the petrodollar is what led to these sanctions.

And Trump’s comment that America will never be a socialist country shows his dictatorial fervor, even if the people in America overwhelmingly want some socialist policies so that hospitals and insurance companies can’t price gouge them to live and have medical treatment. The dear leader refuses to accept the will of the people because it would impede capitalist profiteering. This demagogue refuses the will of the people despite evidence that socialist policies can work in the system like they do in Canada, the UK, Norway, and Sweden. Oh, the horrors of those countries! And they aren’t perfect places. They are just generally a lot better in some critical ways than ra ra capitalist America.

DT: “As we defend American values, we affirm the right of all people to live in dignity. For this reason, my administration is working with other nations to stop criminalizing of homosexuality, and we stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people who live in countries that punish, jail, or execute individuals based upon sexual orientation…Guided by these principles, my administration launched the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiatives.….Yesterday, I was also pleased to host leaders for a discussion about an ironclad American commitment: protecting religious leaders and also protecting religious freedom..

Trump seems to care so much about the rights of LGBTQ people, religious freedom, and women’s rights as he continues to be best buddies with Saudi Arabia who is one of the worst offenders of criminalizing homosexuality, denying religious freedoms and women’s rights. There is nothing this man says that doesn’t have a direct contradiction built in, which is a pretty good clue that he’s a say-anything charlatan and a pathological liar.

DT: “My fellow leaders, the path to peace and progress, and freedom and justice, and a better world for all humanity, begins at home.

I couldn’t agree more. And being that this system will never get any better than it is now is why we need to overthrow the likes of moneyed totalitarians such as Trump and the powers that be and replace them with a coalition of independent communities where the local people of each area work together cooperatively employing  anarcho-communism while exercising a dialectical participatory democracy through each small community so that the rule of the centralized power and maniacal oligarchs finally comes to an end.

What was provided here was but a small amount of the bullshit packed into his speech. The lies are layered and injected with tacit antecedent lies leading to conclusions that are lies. What’s special about Trump is that the lies have become so bold and brash in orientation that he doesn’t seem to mind how egregious the fibs have become. His speech is laden with empty platitudes and populist rhetoric people want to hear while leading down a trail to all the nefarious acts he speaks negatively of, pointing a finger at everyone else and projecting the horrors of the hegemonic US empire onto the very people and governments the US exploits and abuses, while fostering a nation-state that is fundamentally worse than the most power seeking governments ever to exist. It’s not just that bad, it’s worse than what I’m even stating here, which is why many Americans remain incredulous. They can’t believe someone in power could lie to this degree, but those in power can, and they do, and they will continue to until the people wise up.

Comparative Political Leadership: Gandhi vs. Contemporary Leaders

On 2 October 2019, it will be the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi in Gujarat, India. I would like to reflect on the visionary leadership that Gandhi offered the world, briefly comparing it with some national leaders of today, and to invite you to emulate Gandhi’s leadership.

While Gandhi is best remembered for being the mastermind and leader of the decades-long nonviolent struggle to liberate colonial India from British occupation, his extraordinary political, economic, social, ecological, religious and moral leadership are virtually unknown, despite the enormous legacy he left subsequent generations who choose to learn from what he taught.

While touching on Gandhi’s legacy in each of these regards, I would particularly like to highlight Gandhi’s staggering legacy in four of these fields by briefly comparing his approach to politics, economics, society and the environment with the approach of contemporary political leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Xi Jinping (China), Emmanuel Macron (France), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Narendra Modi (India), Binjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Mohammad bin Salman (Saudi Arabia), Boris Johnson (UK) and Donald Trump (USA).

Before doing so, let me offer a little basic background on Gandhi so that the foundational framework he was using to guide his thinking and behaviour is clear.

Gandhi in Brief

In order to develop his understanding of the human individual and human society, as well as his approach to conflict, Gandhi engaged in ongoing research throughout his life. He read avidly and widely, as well as keenly observing the behaviour of those around him in many social contexts in three different countries (India, England and South Africa). Shaped also by the influence of his mother and his Hindu religion, this led to Gandhi’s unique understanding of the human individual and his approach to the world at large.

For a fuller elaboration of the points about Gandhi discussed below and the precise references, see relevant chapters and sections on Gandhi in The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach.

Gandhi’s conception of the human individual and human nature

In order to understand Gandhi generally, it is imperative to comprehend his conceptions of the human individual and human nature simply because these are the foundation of his entire philosophy.

Gandhi attached enormous importance to individual responsibility. He also had a very positive view of human nature. Gandhi believed that humans could respond to ‘the call of the spirit’ and rise above selfishness and violence. Moreover, this was necessary in their quest for self-realization. Self-realization, as the Gandhian scholar Professor Arne Naess explains it, ‘involves realizing oneself as an autonomous, fully responsible person’.

In Gandhi’s view, this quest is an individual one that relies on nonviolence, self-reliance, and the search for truth. ‘To find Truth completely is to realize oneself and one’s destiny.’ But what should guide this search? According to Gandhi, it can only be the individual conscience: The ‘inner voice’ must always be ‘the final arbiter when there is a conflict of duty’. And in his view, ‘the voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth or the Inner Voice or “the still small Voice” mean one and the same thing.’

This point is centrally important, because the usual descriptions of Gandhian nonviolence stress its morality, humility and sacrifice while neglecting the fundamental norm ‘that you should follow your inner voice whatever the consequences’ and ‘even at the risk of being misunderstood’.

The point, of course, is that creation of the nonviolent society which Gandhi envisioned required the reconstruction of the personal, social, economic and political life of each individual. ‘We shall get nothing by asking; we shall have to take what we want, and we need the requisite strength for the effort.’ Consequently, the individual required increased power-from-within through the development of personal identity, self-reliance and fearlessness.

So what is fearlessness? For Gandhi, it means freedom from all external fear, including the fear of dispossession, ridicule, disease, bodily injury and death. In his view, progress toward the goal of fearlessness requires ‘determined and constant endeavour’. But why is fearlessness so important? Because a person who is fearless is unbowed by the punitive power of others and that makes them powerful agents of change.

Gandhi’s approach to society and political economy

Gandhi’s conception of society is based on a rejection of both capitalism and socialism.

In relation to capitalism, he rejected the competitive market and private property, with their emphasis on individual competitiveness and material progress and their consequent greed and exploitation of the weak. He also rejected the major institutions of capitalism, including its parliamentary system of democracy (which denied sovereignty to the people), its judicial system (which exacerbated conflict and perpetuated elite power), and its educational system (which divorced education from life and work).

In relation to socialism, he rejected its conception of conflict in terms of class war, its claim that state ownership and centralization are conducive to the common welfare, its emphasis on material progress, and its reliance on violent means.

The Gandhian vision of future society is based on a decentralized network of self-reliant and self-governing communities using property held in trust, with a weak central apparatus to perform residual functions. His vision stresses the importance of individuals being able to satisfy their personal needs through their own efforts – including ‘bread labor’ – in cooperation with others and in harmony with nature.

For Gandhi, this horizontal framework is necessary in order to liberate the exploiter and exploited alike from the shackles of exploitative structures. This is vitally important because, in his view, ‘exploitation is the essence of violence.’ Self-reliance and interdependence must be built into the structure in order to enhance the capacity for self-regeneration and self defense and to eliminate the potential for structural violence inherent in any dependency relationship.

This social vision was clearly evident in Gandhi’s ‘constructive program’, which was intended to restructure the moral, political, social and economic life of those participating in it. The constructive program was designed to satisfy the needs of each individual member of society and was centrally concerned with the needs for self-esteem, security, and justice. The program entailed many elements, some of which are outlined below in order to illustrate this point.

A crucial feature of the constructive program was the campaign for communal unity. This was intended to encourage reciprocal recognition of the identity of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of other religions. According to Gandhi, all people should have the same regard for other faiths as they have for their own.

The campaign to liberate women was intended to secure self esteem, security, and justice for those most systematically oppressed by India’s patriarchal society. ‘Woman has been suppressed under custom and law for which man was responsible… In a plan of life based on nonviolence, woman has as much right to shape her own destiny as man.’

The campaign for the removal of untouchability was meant to restore self-esteem, dignity, and justice to the Harijans (Gandhi’s term for those without caste) in Hindu society. Similarly, the constructive program was concerned with recognizing the needs of indigenous peoples and lepers throughout India. ‘Our country is so vast… one realizes how difficult it is to make good our claim to be one nation, unless every unit has a living consciousness of being one with every other.’

The khadi (handspun/handwoven cloth) and village industries programs were intended to make the villages largely self-reliant and Indians proud of their identity after centuries of oppression and exploitation under British imperial rule. Khadi, Gandhi argued, ‘is the symbol of unity of Indian humanity, of its economic freedom and equality.’ The struggle for economic equality was aimed at securing distributive justice for all. It meant ‘leveling down’ the rich, who owned the bulk of the nation’s wealth, while raising the living standards of ‘the semi-starved’ peasant millions.

Thus, Gandhi stressed the centrality of the individual and the importance of creating a society that satisfied individual human needs. ‘The individual is the one supreme consideration’; individuals are superior to the system they propound. In fact: ‘If the individual ceases to count, what is left of society?… No society can possibly be built on a denial of individual freedom.’

According to Gandhi, then, the foundation of this nonviolent society can only be the nonviolent individual: No one need wait for anyone else before adopting the nonviolent way of life. Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved, or because others do not yet share it, is an attitude that only hinders progress.

So how is this nonviolent society to come into being? For Gandhi, the aim is not to destroy the old society now with the hope of building the new one later. In his view, it requires a complete and ongoing restructuring of the existing social order using nonviolent means. And while it might not be possible to achieve it, ‘we must bear it in mind and work unceasingly to near it’.

The political means for achieving this societal outcome entailed three essential elements: personal nonviolence as a way of life, constructive work to create new sets of political, social, economic and ecological relationships, and nonviolent resistance to direct and structural violence.

Gandhi, the nonviolent conflict strategist

So what did nonviolence mean to Gandhi?

According to Gandhi: ‘Ahimsa [nonviolence] means not to hurt any living creature by thought, word or deed.’ The individual, humanity, and other life forms are one: ‘I believe in the essential unity of [humanity] and for that matter of all that lives.’

Given Gandhi’s understanding that conflict is built into structures and not into people, and that violence could not resolve conflict (although it could destroy the people in conflict and/or the issues at stake) his religious/moral belief in the sanctity of all life compelled him to seek a way to address conflict without the use of violence. Moreover, despite his original training as a lawyer in England and his subsequent practice as a lawyer in South Africa, Gandhi soon rejected the law as a means of dealing with conflict too, preferring to mediate between conflicting parties in search of a mutually acceptable outcome.

According to Gandhi, British imperialism and the Indian caste system were both examples of structures that were perpetuated, in large part, as a result of people performing particular roles within them. The essence of Gandhi’s approach was to identify approaches to conflict that preserved the people while systematically demolishing the evil structure. Moreover, because he saw conflict as a perennial condition, his discussions about future society are particularly concerned with how to manage conflict and how to create new social arrangements free of structural violence.

More importantly, according to Gandhi conflict is both positive and desirable. It is an important means to greater human unity. Professor Johan Galtung explains this point: ‘far from separating two parties, a conflict should unite them, precisely because they have their incompatibility in common.’ More fundamentally, Gandhi believed that conflict should remind antagonists of the deeper, perhaps transcendental, unity of life, because in his view humans are related by a bond that is deeper and more profound than the bonds of social relationship.

So how is conflict to be resolved? In essence, the Gandhian approach to conflict recognizes the importance of resolving all three corners of what Galtung calls the ‘conflict triangle’: the attitude, the behavior, and the goal incompatibility itself. The Gandhian method of conflict resolution is called ‘satyagraha’, which means ‘a relentless search for truth and a determination to reach truth’, it is somewhat simplistically but more widely known (and practiced) in English as ‘nonviolent action’ (or equivalent names). While the perpetrator of violence assumes knowledge of the truth and makes a life-or-death judgment on that basis, satyagraha, according to Gandhi, excludes the use of violence precisely because no one is capable of knowing the absolute truth. Satyagraha, then, was Gandhi’s attempt to evolve a theory of politics and conflict resolution that could accommodate his moral system.

It is for this reason then that ‘Satyagraha is not a set of techniques’. This is because the actions cannot be detached from the norms of nonviolence that govern attitudes and behavior. Therefore, an action or campaign that avoids the use of physical violence but that ignores the attitudinal and behavioral norms characteristic of satyagraha cannot be classified as Gandhian nonviolence. Moreover, the lack of success of many actions and campaigns is often directly attributable to a failure to apply these fundamental norms to their practice of ‘nonviolent action’ (by whatever name it is given locally). To reiterate: ‘Satyagraha is not a set of techniques’.

But Gandhi was not just committed to nonviolence; he was committed to strategy as well. Because he was a shrewd political analyst and not naive enough to believe that such qualities as truth, conviction and courage, nor factors such as numbers mobilized, would yield the necessary outcomes in conflict, he knew that strategy, too, was imperative.

Consequently, for example, he set out to develop a framework for applying nonviolence in such a way that desirable outcomes were built into the means of struggle. ‘They say “Means are after all means”. I would say “means are after all everything”. As the means so the end.’

Gandhi the ecologist

According to Karl Marx, the crisis of civilization was created by the production relations of capitalism; for Gandhi, it was created by the process of industrialization itself. This process both stimulated and was fueled by the unrestrained growth of individual wants. The remedy, according to Gandhi, lay in individuals transforming themselves and, through this transformation, founding a just social order.

He argued that social transformation, no matter how profound, would be neither adequate nor lasting if individuals themselves were not transformed. A part of this strategy was ‘the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants’. Gandhi did not begrudge people a reasonable degree of physical well-being, but he made a clear distinction between needs and wants. ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every [person’s] need but not for every [person’s] greed.’

But, as with everything else in Gandhi’s worldview, he did not just advocate this simple material lifestyle; he lived it, making and wearing his own khadi, and progressively reducing his personal possessions.

Contemporary Political Leaders

While contemporary national leaders obviously display a wide variety of styles, it is immediately evident that individuals such as Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Xi Jinping (China), Emmanuel Macron (France), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Narendra Modi (India), Binjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Mohammad bin Salman (Saudi Arabia), Boris Johnson (UK) and Donald Trump (USA) might be readily identified as representative of virtually all of them.

And whatever one might say about each of these leaders, it is clear from both their words and behaviour that none of them regards the human individual and their conscience as the foundation on which their national societies or even global society should be built. On the contrary, individuals are destroyed, one way or another, so that society is not inconvenienced more than minimally by any semblance of ‘individuality’ or individual conscience.

Moreover, while in some countries there are clearly articulated doctrines about reducing inequality and, in a few cases, some effort to achieve this, there is little or no concerted effort to restructure their national societies and economies so that inequality is eliminated; on the contrary, the wealth of the few is celebrated and defended by law. None of these leaders wears a local equivalent of khadi to express their solidarity with those less privileged and model a lifestyle that all can (sustainably) share.

The oppression of certain social groups, such as women, indigenous peoples, racial and religious minorities, particular castes or classes, those of particular sexual and identity orientations or with disabilities, remains widespread, if not endemic, in each of these societies with considerably less than full effort put into redressing these forms of discrimination.

Not one of these leaders could profess an ecological worldview (and national policies that reflected a deep commitment to environmental sustainability) or the simplicity of material lifestyle that Gandhi lived (and invited others to emulate).

And not one of them could pretend that killing fellow human beings was abhorrent to them with each of these countries and their leaders content to spend vast national resources on military violence rather than even explore the possibility of adopting the strategically superior (when properly understood and implemented) strategy of nonviolent defense that Gandhi advocated. ‘I have always advised and insisted on nonviolent defence. But I recognize that it has to be learnt like violent defence. It requires a different training.’

For just a taste of the discriminatory, destructive and violent policies of contemporary political leaders, see ‘Equality Reserved: Saudi Arabia and the Convention to End All Discrimination against Women’, ‘156 Fourth World Nations suffered Genocide since 1945: The Indigenous Uyghurs Case’, ‘Weaponizing Space Is the New Bad Idea Coming From Washington D.C.’ and ‘Report Shows Corporations and Bolsonaro Teaming Up to Destroy the Amazon’. But for further evidence of the support of contemporary political leaders for violence and exploitation in all of their forms, just consult any progressive news outlet.

As an aside, it is important to acknowledge that the world has had or still does have some national leaders with at least some of Gandhi’s credentials. It also has many community leaders who display at least some of these credentials too, which is why there are so many social movements working to end violence, inequality, exploitation and ecological destruction in their many forms.

Was Gandhi realistic? Was he right?

But even if you concede that Gandhi was a visionary, you might still ask ‘Was Gandhi realistic?’ Surely it is asking too much for modern political leaders to live simply and nurture ecological sustainability, to work energetically against all forms of inequality and discrimination, and to deal with conflicts without violence, for example. Especially in a world where corporations are so powerful and drive so much of the inequality, violence and ecological destruction that takes place.

Of course, ‘Was Gandhi realistic?’ is the wrong question. With human beings now on the brink of precipitating our own extinction the more appropriate question is ‘Was Gandhi right?’

And if he was, then we should be attempting to emulate him, however imperfect our attempts may be. Moreover, we should be endeavouring to improve on his efforts because no-one could credibly suggest that Gandhi’s legacy has had the impact that India, or the world, needs.

Can we improve on Gandhi?

Of course, we can. As Gandhi himself would want us to do: ‘If we are to make progress, we must not repeat history but make new history. We must add to the inheritance left by our ancestors.’

One key area in which I would improve on Gandhi is an outcome of doing decades of research to understand the fundamental cause of violence in human society: the dysfunctional parenting and teaching models we are using which inflict virtually endless ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence on children and adolescents.

This cause must be addressed if we are to have any chance of eliminating the staggering and unending violence, in all of its forms, from our families, communities and societies while empowering all individuals to deal fearlessly and nonviolently with conflict.

Hence, I would encourage people to consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘ which will require them to learn the art of nisteling.

For those who need to heal emotionally themselves in order to be able to engage with children in this way, see ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

There are several vitally important reasons why a radical reorientation of our parenting and teaching models is necessary as part of any strategy to end human violence. One reason is that the emotional damage inflicted on children leaves them unconsciously terrified and virtually powerless to deal with reality; that is, to respond powerfully to (rather than retreat into delusion about) political, military, economic, social and ecological circumstances. As casual observation confirms, most individuals in industrialized societies become little more than mindlessly obedient consumers under the existing parenting and teaching models. This is as far as it can get from Gandhi’s aspiration to generate individuals who are fearless.

Moreover, at their worst, these parenting and teaching models generate vast numbers of people who are literally insane: an accurate description of most of the political leaders mentioned earlier but particularly those who pull the strings of these leaders.

Another reason that a radical reorientation of our parenting and teaching models is necessary is so that we produce a far greater number of people of conscience who can think, plan and act strategically in response to our interrelated existential crises. Too few people have these capacities. Consequently, most activism, and certainly that activism on issues vital to human survival, lacks the necessary strategic orientation, which is explained in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

A fourth reason that transformed parenting and teaching approaches are necessary is that it will open up a corner of the ‘conflict square’ that Gandhi (and Galtung) do not discuss: the feelings, particularly fear, that shape all conflicts (that is, the other three corners of the ‘conflict square’: attitude, behaviour and goal incompatibility) and then hold them in place. Fear and other suppressed feelings are central to any conflict and these must be heard if conflict is to be resolved completely. But, more fundamentally, conflict is much less likely to emerge (and then become ‘frozen’) if fear and other feelings are not present at the beginning. Imagine how much easier it would be to deal with any situation or conflict if the various parties involved just weren’t scared (whether of the process and/or certain possible outcomes).

Anyway, separately from the above, if you share Gandhi’s understanding that the Earth cannot sustain the massive overconsumption that is now destroying our biosphere, consider participating in a project that he inspired: ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

And consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation below)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Despite the now overwhelming odds against human survival, can we get humanity back on track? Gandhi would still be optimistic: ‘A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.’

Are you one of those ‘determined spirits’?

Will the IMF, FED, Negative Interest and Digital Money Kill the Western Economy?

The IMF, has been instrumental in helping destroying the economy of a myriad of countries, notably, and to start with, the new Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Greece, Ukraine and lately Argentina, to mention just a few. Madame Christine Lagarde, as chief of the IMF had a heavy hand in the annihilation of at least the last three mentioned. She is now taking over the Presidency of the European Central Bank (ECB). There, she expects to complete the job that Mario Draghi had started but was not quite able to finish: Further bleeding the economy of Europe, especially southern Europe into anemia.

Let’s see what we may have in store to come.

Negative interest, we have it already. It’s the latest banking fraud stealing money from depositors to give to large borrowers. It’s a reverse cross-subsidy, the poor financing the rich. That’s the essence. It’s a new form of moving money from the bottom to the top. Now, a Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage. It provides mortgages to home owners for a negative rate of 0.5%. The bank pays borrowers to take some money off their books. Of course, as usual, only relatively well-off people can become home owners and benefit from this reverse cross-subsidy. It is a token gesture, duping the public at large into believing that they are benefitting from the new banking stint. The bulk of such operations serve large corporations.

The borrower pays back less than the full loan amount. Switzerland may soon go into the direction of Denmark. Bank deposits with central banks pay negative interest almost everywhere in the western world, except in the US – yet. It’s only a question of time until the average consumer will have to reimburse the banks for their central bank deposit expenses, meaning, the customers are getting negative interest on their deposits. That’s inflation camouflage. A sheer fraud, but all made legal by a system that runs amok, that does not follow any ethics or legal standards. A totally deregulated western private banking system, compliments of the 1990s Clinton Administration, and, of course, his handlers. As Professor Michael Hudson calls it, financial barbarism. We are haplessly enslaved in this aberrant ever more abusive private  fiat money banking shenaniganism.

RT’s Max Keiser recently interviewed Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker.org. Denninger told Keiser:

Negative yielding bond is forced inflationary instrument: you buy it, you’re guaranteed inflation in the amount of a negative yield.

He blasted the tool as plain “theft” by any government that issues these bonds, which is done in an effort to nominally expand a country’s GDP.

If the government is issuing more in sovereign debt their GDP is expanding in nominal terms. If you have negative interest rates on those government bonds, you’re creating excess space for the government to run the fiscal deficit […] in excess of GDP expansion. Nobody in any civilized nation should allow this to happen because it is theft, on the scale of that differential, from everybody in the economy,

To make sure the little saver doesn’t think about depositing his savings under his mattress or in a hole in the ground instead of bringing it to the bank, money will be digitized and cash will disappear. Madame Lagarde has already more than hinted at that, when she gave a pre-departure speech at the IMF – explaining on how she sees the future of monetary banking. The future, according to her, being no more than 15 to 20 years away, is a no-cash society. Just enough time for the elder generations, those that may still feel an instinct of rejection and have some consciousness about personal privacy, those that may resist money digitization, may have died out. The young, up-and-coming age groups may be brainwashed enough to find a cashless society so cool.

Since Madame Lagarde is moving to head the ECB in Frankfurt, it is fair to assume that Europe will be one of the largest test grounds for digitized money; i.e., towards a cashless society. In fact, it is already a test ground. Many department stores and other shops in Nordic countries — Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland — do no longer accept cash, only electronic money. In Denmark already up of 80% of all monetary transactions are made digitally.

Imagine, for your chewing gum wrapper, pack of cigarette, or candy bar, you swipe a card in front of an electronic eye, and bingo, you have paid, not touching any money – “that’s mega cool!”.  That’s what the young people may think, oblivious to leaving a trail of personal data behind, among them their bank account details, their GPS-geared location, what they are shopping, a pattern of data that is in ten years-time expected to amount to about 70,000 points of information about an individual’s characteristics, emotions, preferences, photos, personal contacts… what Cambridge Analytica in the superb documentary “The Great Hack” revealed as already today on average 5,000 points of data per citizen. The system will know you inside out better than you know yourself. And you will be exposed to algorithms that know exactly how to influence every action, every move of yours. Cool!

That, combined with face recognition which is advancing rapidly around the globe, will be super cool.

A horrendous trial on how an entire country, India, with the world’s second largest population, may react to demonization, was introduced in 2016 by President Modi, bending to the pressure of the western financial system, with support of the IMF and implementation funding by USAID. It amounted in a disastrous and cruel demonetization, invalidating almost over-night the most popular 100 Rupee (Rs) bank note, replacing it with a 200 Rs note which in most places, especially in rural towns, where banks are scarce, was not available. Never mind that less than half of the Indian population has a bank account, where the bank note exchange transactions had to be carried out.

The sudden disappearance of the most popular bank note – more than 80% of all monetary cash transactions in India took place in 100 Rs notes – was a proxy to digitization of money. Countless people starved to death especially in rural areas, because their 100 Rs were declared worthless and became unacceptable to buy food.

The 340,000 citizens of Iceland have already a fully digitized e-ID, now moving towards a mobile ID; i.e., accessible through your smart phone uniting every possible data that belongs to you, from medical records to insurance policies, all the way to dog, cat and car registrations. You name it. Most say they trust their government and are not unhappy with their divulging their most intimate data. Many have no or little idea, though, to what extent the private sector is involved in setting up such a hermetic countrywide data bank for the government. Even if the regulator is within the government and you trust your government, how much can you trust the profit-oriented private sector in protecting your data?

The surveillance state that you, among other clandestine intrusions into your privacy, will allow by willy-nilly accepting digitization of money, and eventually digitization of your entire private data, pales Orwell’s imagination of “1984”. Every citizen is registered in every western “security agency’s” electronic data bank, and, of course, those of the empire and Middle East affiliate, Israel, CIA, NSA, FBI, Mossad, and so on.  No escaping anymore.

It just so happens that you, dear citizen, are oblivious to all of what is going on behind your back, since your attention will be captured by massive marketing and directed towards the nefarious machinations of the corporate elite-ruled, globalized world, making you an eternal and ever-more intense consumer. You must spend the last penny of your income on trendy stuff, all those fashion things that will be pumped non-stop day-in-day-out into your brain, what’s left of it, by propaganda on television, radio, electronic cartoon-like billboards, internet, and that at every turn you take. And let’s not forget sports events.  They increase every year and are the most direct deviation tactic take-over from the Roman Empire.

The most aberrant trends will be cool, like shredded jeans, for which you pay a premium, body-paintings called tattoos, footballer hair styles, because they are fashionable and your looks are key to fit into a standardized, globalized society that has seized thinking for itself, no more interest in politics, in what your non-democratically elected representatives decide for you. It’s what Noam Chomsky calls the marginalization of the populace.

You are made to believe that you are living in a democracy where you can do what you want, shop what you want, watch what you want, and even when the elections or occasional referenda are offered to request your opinions, you are cheated into believing your choice is free. Of course, it is not. It is all programmed. Algorithms drawing on your profile of 70,000 points of information on emotions, desires and dreams, will clandestinely help the ‘system’ to enslave, cheat and master you, and you won’t even notice.

That’s where we are headed, largely thanks to digitalization of money – but not only, because surveillance will also follow all your steps on internet, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp – and many more of those especially created marketing tools, implanted in societies’ social media, that make life and communication so much easier.

And there is more to digital money. Much more. In 2014, the unelected European Commission (EC) has put on its books of regulations, following a similar decree in the US, the rule that an overextended bankrupt too-big-to-fail private bank will no longer be rescued by the state, by your tax money – which used to be called a “bail-out”. Instead, there will be “bail-ins”, meaning that the bank will seize your deposits, your savings and sanitize itself with money stolen from you. You have no choice. There will be no ‘run on the banks’  because there is no cash to withdraw. We have seen signs of this when Greece collapsed after 2010, and cash machines spitting out no more than 20 € per day, if at all. For many Greek citizens, especially the poorer class living from day to day, this meant often cruel starvation.

Bail-ins are little talked about, but they happen already today and ever more so. In 2014, the Austrian bank Hypo Alpe Adria – the Heta Asset Resolution AG, was given green light by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA), to refinance itself by a so-called “haircut” of an average 54%, meaning, stealing 54% of depositors’ money.

But the first and largest “haircut” test took place in Cyprus, when in 2013 the Bank of Cyprus depositors lost about 47.5% in a “haircut” to bail out their bank. Of course, the big sharks were forewarned, so they could withdraw their money in time and transfer it abroad.1

It could get worse. The state, tax authority, an institution, a corporation says you owe them money which you deny, possibly for a good reason, but they have access to your bank account and just seize the amount they pretend is their due. You are powerless against these tyrannical monsters and may have to hire expensive legal service to get your stolen money back if at all. Because the “system” is run by the “system”. And once that level has been reached, a form of Full Spectrum Dominance, a key target of the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century), there is hardly any escaping. That has all happened already, in front of our publicity-blinded eyes, little spoken about, the trend is growing and this even without necessarily a digitized world.

Is it that the kind of society you want?

Then there are the rather prominent gurus who bet on gold and bitcoins to replace the faltering dollar, like a last-ditch solution. None of them is any more viable than the fiat dollar. Gold is highly volatile due to its vulnerability for manipulation – as it is largely controlled by the BIS (Bank for International Settlement, in Basle, Switzerland, also called the central bank of all central banks, and yes, the same bank that helped the FED finance Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union.  (So you see where this bank is coming from.) It is entirely privately owned and largely controlled by the Rothschild clan. And as an associated side note — few people talk about it — there is in excess of 100 times more paper gold in circulation than you could ever cash in, if you needed it. It is another one of those bank-invented ‘derivative’ bubbles that will explode and serve to enrich them when the time is ripe.

Bitcoins, the most prominent of some 3,000 to 4,000 cryptocurrencies flooding the world, is totally unreliable. A year after it was created in 2008 allegedly by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin’s value in 2009 was US$ 0.08, It gradually rose and eventually jumped in December 2017 briefly above US$ 20,000, but dropped within a year to about US$ 3,500. Today bitcoin is hovering around US$ 9,500 (August/September 2019). Bitcoin – along with other cryptocurrencies – is highly speculative, lends itself to Mafia-type money-laundering and other fraudulent transactions. It is about equivalent to fiat money and certainly inept to be the backing for a monetary system.

And let’s not forget, the latest Facebook initiative — a cryptocurrency, the Libra, to be launched in 2020 out of Geneva, Switzerland – is expected to dominate within a few years 70% to 80% of the international money market. You see, the same clan that has been manipulating and cheating you with the dollar, is now ‘banking’ on you falling for the Facebook currency  as it will be so easy to use your smart phone for any kind of monetary transaction, thus, avoiding traditional predatory banking. Looks like a good thing at the outside – right? – Nope! It’s entirely privately owned and run by an unscrupulous mafia that is being set up to continue milking the masses for the benefits of an ever-smaller elite.

There is ,however, a role for blockchain cryptocurrencies, to circumvent private banking, those that are government controlled and regulated. China and Russia are about to launch their government-controlled cryptocurrencies and others – Iran, Venezuela, India – are following in the same steps. But they all ban privately run cryptocurrencies in their countries and rightly so. A combination of government-regulated blockchain cryptos and public banking, where no private profits are in the fore, but rather the well being of the citizen and the country’s economy, may be a viable solution into a new monetary scheme, protected from the kleptocracy of western banking.

Desperation about the dollar losing its world hegemony is growing – and growing fast. To salvage the western fiat monetary system, Madame Lagarde and others are also talking about some kind of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to replace the dollar as a reserve currency, since there is no escaping – the dollar as reserve currency is doomed. The current IMF SDR basket consists of five currencies, the US-dollar (weighing 41.73%), the British Pound (8.02%) the Euro (30.93%), the Japanese Yen (8.33%) and since 2017 the Chinese Yuan, the currency of the world’s largest economy compared by Purchasing Power GDP (10.92%).

At this point thinking of any reshuffling of the SDR basket’s contents is purely speculative. However, it can easily be assumed that the dollar would remain in a very prominent position within the basket, as it should remain the leading hegemon of world economy. Let’s not forget, the US Treasury controls the IMF with an absolute veto, in other words, 100%. It can also be assumed that the Chinese Yuan would either be kicked out altogether or would be given a minor weight in the basket so to diminish its role. If this was to become the chosen option by the US Treasury, it could and probably might prompt China to withdraw the Yuan from the SDR basket, as the Yuan does no longer need SDR recognition in the world to be considered a primary reserve currency.

Unless this is stealthily done — outside of public sight and in disguise of countries still holding major US-dollar reserves — the world would unlikely accept such an alternative, especially since it is widely known among treasurers of countries around the globe that the Chinese Yuan is rapidly raising to become the key world reserve currency.

As reported by William Engdahl’s analytical essay “Is the Fed Preparing to Topple the US Dollar?”, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, delivered at the recent annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a set of ideas that went into a similar direction, towards a shift away from the dominant role of the US dollar as a reserve currency. Similar to Mme. Lagarde’s earlier remarks about an SDR-type reserve currency, he made it understood that though the Chinese Yuan, the currency of the key trading nation, may have a role in the basket, it would – for now – not be an important one. He also was clear about the current disturbing and destabilizing imbalance where a faltering dollar still pretends to hold the hegemonic scepter over the world economy.

Keeping the dollar still in a leading role, while the US economy is declining, was no longer a viable option for an increasingly globalized world economy. Carney was hinting at a multipolar monetary and reserve system for a multipolar globalized world. Similar remarks came from former New York Federal Reserve Bank chief, Bill Dudley. However, Dudley, hinted that for the United States to give up her dollar dominance, the backbone for her world hegemony, may not come voluntarily. Might that lead to a major, maybe armed world conflict?

Much of this is speculation from the western perspective. It is, however, clear that there is a tremendous and mounting uneasiness about the western dollar-based fiat monetary system, backed by nothing, not even by the western economy. You compare this with the Chinese Yuan and the Russian Ruble, both backed by gold and – more importantly – by their own economy. It becomes increasingly clear that much of the speculation and efforts by influential central banking figures to save the western monetary Ponzi scheme maybe just propaganda to calm the minds of western financiers – holding them back from jumping ship.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

  1. See: Peter Koenig: “Infringing upon the Eurozone’s Sovereignty on behalf of Wall Street.  The EBC’s “Haircut” Measures, Undermining Trade and Investment with Russia and China“, Global Research, November 7, 2015; and Peter Koenig, “Retrenchment, Robotization and Crypto-Currencies: The Runaway Train Towards Full Digitization of Money and Labor“, Global Research, December 27, 2017.

Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy

As someone who has been a union member since I was a Marine with the American Servicemen’s Union until I retired last year as a Teamster as well as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, I have lived the reality of mistreatment of workers in the United States.

It is good to see labor rising with teacher and other strikes increasing across the country and with the US public showing its highest support for unions in decades. The next president should harness the energy of working people and build political power for a transformation agenda for working people who have not gotten a real raise in decades, while executives and investors have been getting rich off of higher rates of exploitation with increased productivity and globalized markets and corporate-managed trade deals that enable global corporations to pit the working classes of different countries against each other in a race to the bottom.

Urgent Reforms Needed, Time to Transform the Workplace

The centerpiece of my campaign for president is an ecosocialist Green New Deal. Responding to the climate crisis is going to require changes to many sectors of the economy. We need to create a new democratic and ecological economy. We must define this economy with the rights of workers in mind, not only their right to collective bargaining but the need to make workers into owners to end the capitalist crisis highlighted by the reality that three people have wealth equal to 50 percent of the population.

We need social and cooperative ownership where workers receive the full value of their labor. Now we are exploited. We get a fixed wage and all the surplus value we create with our work is taken by capitalists as profits simply because they own the company, not because they did any work.

The Green New Deal requires the United States to reconstruct all economic sectors for ecological sustainability, from agriculture and manufacturing to housing and transportation. This means millions of new jobs in a democratized economy where some sectors are nationalized, others are controlled by state and municipal government and more are re-made into cooperatives that are worker-owned.

A Green New Deal must include a Just Transition, which means income to compensate all workers whose jobs are eliminated by steps taken to protect the environment. Displaced workers should be guaranteed up to five years of their previous income and benefits as they make the transition to alternative work.

As part of the Green New Deal, I am calling for an Economic Bill of Rights, which includes a job guarantee and a guaranteed minimum income above poverty for all. The housing crisis will be alleviated with the institution of universal rent control and expansion of public housing in walkable communities with access to regional mass transit. Air and water pollution will be relieved by putting in place a 100% electrified transportation system emphasizing freight rails, high-speed inter-city rails, and urban light-rail mass transit, with electric powered cars and trucks where they are still needed.

A crash program of federal government investment and public enterprises to rebuild our economy for zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030 will create full employment and shared prosperity. But not everyone is able to work. And some things should be human rights, not commodities you can only get if you have enough money. That’s why we need a social safety net of social services funded publicly, not privately out of pocket. That means a national health service for universal health care, lifelong free public education, student debt relief, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. The ecosocialist Green New Deal is a plan to remake the economy so that it serves the people and protects the ecology and the climate. Those objectives require a socialist economic democracy so that we the people–not big business interests–have the power to choose economic justice and ecological sanity.

Immediate Reforms For Working People

In addition to changes coming as a result of putting in place an ecosocialist Green New Deal, we need are immediate labor law reforms.

Repeal Repressive Labor Laws: Repeal the sections of the Taft-Hartley Act, the Landrum-Griffin Act, the Hatch Act, and state “Right-To-Work” laws that have crippled labor’s ability to organize by outlawing or severely restricting labor’s basic organizing tools: strikes, boycotts, pickets, and political action. This should include putting in place Card Check which extends union bargaining status to majority sign-up or card-check recognition.

A Workers’ Bill of Rights: Enact a set of legally enforceable civil rights, independent of collective bargaining. This should include:

(1) Extending the Bill of Rights protections of free speech, association, and assembly into all workplaces.

(2) Establishes workers’ rights to living wages, portable pensions, information about chemicals used, report labor and environmental violations, refuse unsafe work, and participate in enterprise governance. OSHA must be funded adequately to protest workers and communities and workers empowered to enforce safety and health regulations. Retirement should include a mandatory system of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts that provide a return of at least 3 percent above inflation guaranteed by the federal government.

(3) Establishes workers’ rights to freedom from discharge at will, employer search and seizure in the workplace, sexual harassment, and unequal pay for work of comparable worth. These rights should ensure that workers can take legal action to stop wage theft. In addition to a living wage, workers should have subsidized, high quality child care and elder care. Workers should receive six weeks of paid vacation annually in addition to federal holidays. For every seven years worked, they should receive one year of paid educational leave and one year of parental leave for each child with no loss of seniority.

Employer Accountability: There must be strong and speedy penalties for employers who break labor laws. In addition, federal law needs to ban striker replacements, provide triple back pay for illegally locked-out workers, and there must be unemployment compensation for striking and locked-out workers.

Labor Law Protections for Farm workers: Extend to farm workers the same rights under labor law as other workers, including A Day of Rest, Overtime Pay, Collective Bargaining Protections, Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Child Labor Protections, and Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

Labor Law Protections for Prisoners: Enact legislation to end the super-exploitation of prison labor at pennies per hour, which undercuts the wages of workers outside the prison system. The prison labor system as it exists now is akin to slavery and the prison labor camps in other authoritarian countries. Work done by prisoners can be part of rehabilitation and enable prisoners to acquire job skills, support their families, and have savings upon release. Work done by prisoners for private contractors and for public works and services should be paid prevailing wages. Prison workers should have all the protections of labor law, including the right to organize unions.

Fair Trade: Trade deals should be rewritten to uplift labor and environmental standards across borders. Fair trade pacts should eliminate secretive trade tribunals to which only governments and corporations have access. Trade disputes should be adjudicated in public courts to which workers, unions, and public have access.

It is time to correct the decades of diminishing worker rights and shrinking unions as well as low-pay. The United States is about to begin a transformation to a clean, sustainable energy future. The new economy we create must prioritize the rights of workers to create an economy that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

Neoliberalism Has Met Its Match in China

Ellen Brown chairs the Public Banking Institute and has written thirteen books, including her latest, Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age.  She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called It’s Our Money.

When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates on July 31 for the first time in more than a decade, commentators were asking why. According to official data, the economy was rebounding, unemployment was below 4%, and GDP growth was above 3%. If anything, by the Fed’s own reasoning, it should have been raising rates.

The explanation of market pundits was that we’re in a trade war and a currency war. Other central banks were cutting their rates and the Fed had to follow suit, in order to prevent the dollar from becoming overvalued relative to other currencies. The theory is that a cheaper dollar will make American products more attractive on foreign markets, helping our manufacturing and labor bases.

Over the weekend, President Trump followed the rate cuts by threatening to impose a new 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese products effective September 1. China responded by suspending imports of U.S. agricultural products by state-owned companies and letting the value of the yuan drop. On Monday, August 5, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 770 points, its worst day in 2019. The war was on.

The problem with a currency war is that it is a war without winners. This was demonstrated in the beggar-thy-neighbor policies of the 1930s, which just prolonged the Great Depression. As economist Michael Hudson observed in a June 2019 interview with Bonnie Faulkner, making American products cheaper abroad will do little for the American economy, because we no longer have a competitive manufacturing base or products to sell. Today’s workers are largely in the service industries – cab drivers, hospital workers, insurance agents and the like. A cheaper dollar abroad just makes consumer goods at Walmart and imported raw materials for US businesses more expensive. What is mainly devalued when a currency is devalued, says Hudson, is the price of the country’s labor and the working conditions of its laborers. The reason American workers cannot compete with foreign workers is not that the dollar is overvalued. It is due to their higher costs of housing, education, medical services and transportation. In most competitor countries, these costs are subsidized by the government.

America’s chief competitor in the trade war is obviously China, which subsidizes not just worker costs but the costs of its businesses. The government owns 80% of the banks, which make loans on favorable terms to domestic businesses, especially state-owned businesses. Typically, if the businesses cannot repay the loans, neither the banks nor the businesses are put into bankruptcy, since that would mean losing jobs and factories. The non-performing loans are just carried on the books or written off. No private creditors are hurt, since the creditor is the government, and the loans were created on the banks’ books in the first place (following standard banking practice globally).

As observed by Jeff Spross in a May 2018 Reuters article titled “China’s Banks Are Big. Too Big?”:

[B]ecause the Chinese government owns most of the banks, and it prints the currency, it can technically keep those banks alive and lending forever.…

It may sound weird to say that China’s banks will never collapse, no matter how absurd their lending positions get. But banking systems are just about the flow of money.

Spross quoted former bank CEO Richard Vague, chair of The Governor’s Woods Foundation, who explained, “China has committed itself to a high level of growth. And growth, very simply, is contingent on financing.” Beijing will “come in and fix the profitability, fix the capital, fix the bad debt, of the state-owned banks … by any number of means that you and I would not see happen in the United States.”

To avoid political and labor unrest, Spross wrote, the government keeps everyone happy by keeping economic growth high and spreading the proceeds to the citizenry. About two-thirds of Chinese debt is owed just by the corporations, which are also largely state-owned. Corporate lending is thus a roundabout form of government-financed industrial policy – a policy financed not through taxes but through the unique privilege of banks to create money on their books.

China thinks this is a better banking model than the private Western system focused on short-term profits for private shareholders. But U.S. policymakers consider China’s subsidies to its businesses and workers to be “unfair trade practices.” They want China to forgo state subsidization an it’s d other protectionist policies in order to level the playing field. But Beijing contends that the demanded reforms amount to “economic regime change.” As Michael Hudson puts it:

This is the fight that Trump has against China.  He wants to tell it to let the banks run China and have a free market.  He says that China has grown rich over the last fifty years by unfair means, with government help and public enterprise.  In effect, he wants the Chinese to be as threatened and insecure as American workers.  They should get rid of their public transportation.  They should get rid of their subsidies.  They should let a lot of their companies go bankrupt so that Americans can buy them.  They should have the same kind of free market that has wrecked the US economy. [Emphasis added.]

Kurt Campbell and Jake Sullivan, writing on August 1 in Foreign Affairs (the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations), call it “an emerging contest of models.”

An Economic Cold War

In order to understand what is happening here, it is useful to review some history. The free market model hollowed out America’s manufacturing base beginning in the Thatcher/Reagan era of the 1970s, when neoliberal economic policies took hold. Meanwhile, emerging Asian economies, led by Japan, were exploding on the scene with a new economic model called “state-guided market capitalism.” The state determined the priorities and commissioned the work, then hired private enterprise to carry it out. The model overcame the defects of the communist system, which put ownership and control in the hands of the state.

The Japanese state-guided market system was effective and efficient – so effective that it was regarded as an existential threat to the neoliberal model of debt-based money and “free markets” promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to William Engdahl in A Century of War, by the end of the 1980s Japan was considered the leading economic and banking power in the world. Its state-guided model was also proving to be highly successful in South Korea and the other “Asian Tiger” economies. When the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the Cold War, Japan proposed its model for the former communist countries, and many began looking to it and to South Korea as viable alternatives to the U.S. free-market system. State-guided capitalism provided for the general welfare without destroying capitalist incentive. Engdahl wrote:

The Tiger economies were a major embarrassment to the IMF free-market model.  Their very success in blending private enterprise with a strong state economic role was a threat to the IMF free-market agenda.  So long as the Tigers appeared to succeed with a model based on a strong state role, the former communist states and others could argue against taking the extreme IMF course.  In east Asia during the 1980s, economic growth rates of 7-8 per cent per year, rising social security, universal education and a high worker productivity were all backed by state guidance and planning, albeit in a market economy – an Asian form of benevolent paternalism.

Just as the U.S. had engaged in a Cold War to destroy the Soviet communist model, so Western financial interests set out to destroy this emerging Asian threat. It was defused when Western neoliberal economists persuaded Japan and the Asian Tigers to adopt the free-market system and open their economies and their companies to foreign investors. Western speculators then took down the vulnerable countries one by one in the “Asian crisis” of 1997-98. China alone was left as an economic threat to the Western neoliberal model, and it is this existential threat that is the target of the trade and currency wars today.

If You Can’t Beat Them …

In their August 1 Foreign Affairs article, titled “Competition without Catastrophe,” Campbell and Sullivan write that the temptation is to compare these economic trade wars with the Cold War with Russia; but the analogy, they say, is inapt:

China today is a peer competitor that is more formidable economically, more sophisticated diplomatically, and more flexible ideologically than the Soviet Union ever was. And unlike the Soviet Union, China is deeply integrated into the world and intertwined with the U.S. economy.

Unlike the Soviet Communist system, the Chinese system cannot be expected to “crumble under its own weight.” The US should not expect or want to destroy China, say Campbell and Sullivan. Rather, we should aim for a state of “coexistence on terms favorable to U.S. interests and values.”

The implication is that China, being too strong to be knocked out of the game as the Soviet Union was, needs to be coerced or cajoled into adopting the neoliberal model. It needs to abandon state support of its industries and ownership of its banks. But the Chinese system, while obviously not perfect, has an impressive track record for sustaining long-term growth and development. While the U.S. manufacturing base was being hollowed out under the free-market model, China was systematically building up its own manufacturing base, investing heavily in infrastructure and emerging technologies; and it was doing this with credit generated by its state-owned banks. Rather than trying to destroy China’s economic system, it might be more “favorable to U.S. interests and values” for us to adopt its more effective industrial and banking practices.

We cannot win a currency war by competitive currency devaluations that trigger a “race to the bottom,” and we cannot win a trade war by competitive trade barriers that simply cut us off from the benefits of cooperative trade. More favorable to our interests and values than warring with our trading partners would be to cooperate in sharing solutions, including banking and credit solutions. The Chinese have proven the effectiveness of their public banking system in supporting their industries and their workers. Rather than seeing it as an existential threat, we could thank them for test-driving the model and take a spin in it ourselves.

Gender Neutral Pronouns While Nukes Go Unregulated

Charlie Hill, Oneida-Mohawk-Cree: “A Redneck told me to go back where I came from, so I put a tipi in his backyard.”

What exactly is the size and shape and breadth of that infamous straw that broke the camel’s back? One thousand more African-American youth murdered by cops this year in US of A? One million more people this year leaving homelands because of climate change? One billion more people making less than $2 a day? Flotilla of icebergs floating down the Baja coast? Epstein-Trump-Clinton-Woody Allen on tape raping boys and girls?

See the source image

Yet, well, how many toxins, how many chemicals, how much sewage in freshwater and how many oil spills on beaches, and how much radioactivity, and how many EMF’s will it take for that camel’s back to crack? Oh, those great white men and women telling you how many cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting, DNA-morphing, chronic illness-producing poisons should be allowed on the corn flakes and potato chips! Read on:

*Health harms

Human exposure to atrazine is linked to a number of serious health effects. A potent endocrine disrupter, atrazine interferes with hormonal activity of animals and humans at extremely low doses.

Endocrine Disruption: The science on atrazine’s effects on the hormone system continues to grow. It alters the levels of key hormones in rats and can delay puberty. In male frogs, exposure to atrazine causes a kind of “chemical castration,” causing them to develop female sex characteristics. Researchers hypothesize that atrazine signals the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, demasculinizing the frogs.

Reproductive Effects: Because atrazine disrupts hormones, it’s not surprising that epidemiological studies find associations between exposure to the herbicide and reproductive effects including increased risk of miscarriage, reduced male fertility, low birth weight, increased chance of any birth defect, and higher incidence of abdominal defects;

Cancer: Evidence for the carcinogenic potential of atrazine is growing — exposure has been linked to elevated risk of breast and prostate cancer. The recent President’s Cancel Panel Report notes that atrazine has possible carcinogenic properties. In response to concerns, U.S. EPA is currently re-evaluating atrazine’s carcinogenic potential.

[or….]

See the source image

Scientist Dr. Emily Marquez, who spoke at the DARTIC hearing in Sacramento, said this:

The committee made the right decision in light of the scientific evidence. Chlorpyrifos is neurotoxic and the Prop 65 listing affirms what scientists, doctors and communities have been saying for years – children’s developing brains are incredibly vulnerable to low amounts of the chemical during critical windows of development. State regulators should follow today’s decision by finally taking this chemical off the market.

15 years later . . .
It’s not new news that chlorpyrifos harms brains, particularly children’s developing brains. Research showing this was the impetus behind banning the chemical from home use more than 15 years ago. But progress on getting this chemical out of agricultural fields, and off of food crops, has been slow thanks in large part to the focused attention of its manufacturer, Dow Chemical.

On the national stage, Dow’s influence was made clear earlier this year when, after closed door meetings with the company’s CEO, newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made the surprising announcement that he wasn’t going ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops — as the agency had previously announced it would do based on its own scientific analysis.

I was on the radio yesterday, SOS Spokane with KYRS-FM, my old radio station when I had an hour show, Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, a weekly public affairs show where I had all sorts of guest on, a veritable list of greats (a few so-so’s) both local and national. Winona LaDuke, Bill McKibbeon, David Suzuki, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, and so many more whose names are not household names, but amazing authors and scientists and literary types — James Howard Kunstler, Novella Carpenter, Richard Heinberg, Richard Wrangham, Tim Flannery, so-so many more!

It was a look back (and forward) on my 10 years in Spokane organizing, writing columns, doing special reports for magazines and newspapers, teaching college, and more-more, including another graduate degree (urban planning), helping raise a child, literary and non-literary publishing, and environmental organizing. A fellow named Paul Potocky hosts it, and  it was both fun and frustrating to be back on the air.

Big issues, like, how do we fix our education system, how to fix the mush and propaganda of Media, how to deal with cities like Spokane spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paid shills/people rallying the rest of the country to move to the town (how many other big and small communities do the same?), how to get lefties off their asses and to quit griping over other lefties’ nuanced beliefs, climate change, etc.

Here’s my beef — Paul is an old lefty, and he’s retired, and he is in a community within a community — left-leaners but people who will never ever criticize the powers that be or the town itself. In the end, the new black is green or social services or legal aid, or what have you. People in the left-leaning arena are not willing to go full blast on criticizing America, the white supremacist threads of heavy gauge wire binding the minds of the left-leaners. They are not there to put stops on growth, to really look deeply at the embedded capitalists in the colleges that are part of Spokane, and the rah-rah small town folk but mean as cuss people who love a good Trump sexist, racist, wacko Christian joke. Spokane wants growth, Spokane wants a fulfillment (sic — a devil’s den) center from head Devil, Jeff “Amazon-Monopoly-and-Slaver” Bezos, and Spokane wants more roads, no public transportation. Spokane has a drug, depression, drop-out, decaying neighborhoods, dragging intellect problem, and the city wants to forget about the dispossessed, the near-homeless, and aging, chronically ill peeps.

When you go to a county or city meeting, the people that are the movers and shakers are developers, builders, and a few in various city-county departments. The town, like many towns, is non-responsive to we the people, but rather, we the money bags.

The very idea of “fixing things” means getting rid of things, stopping this digitalization of everything, this new disruptive and demeaning economies of scale, economies of hate, economies of monopolizing pigs who run the show. Paul and I quibbled over the media, or really, the Press. I posit that we need small rags back, more neighborhood and community broadsheets and newsletters and monthlies and weeklies — grassroots — on the streets. We need more readers. He thinks that since the cat is out of the bag, that there is no going back to a newspaper-newsprint hard copy time.

I disagree, and now is the time to teach young people how to resurrect mimeographs and typesetting, cold or hot. Time to have groups go after all levels of bad government and worse than bad business and those chamber of commerce felons.

Imagine, ten thousand or more people hitting the streets of a town like Spokane. Snap-snap-snap of maleficence, and more and more prying into the problems facing its citizens, with no salvation or solutions coming from the top, the ones who love those trendy Portlandesque bars and food emporiums and bad ass cafes.

There is no rabid, frothing, scabies-infested cat out of the bag we can’t stuff back in and gas back into euthanasia heaven.

We could say that, well, now that the cat is out of the bag in PK12 education — the common “killing” core/standardized testing brought to us by Gates-Pearson-Eli Brand — there’s no turning back. Or, now that we are completely surveilled and our lives dictated by a few chosen people vis-a-vis their schemes of anti-democratic info-biometric-history-DNA collecting, there’s no putting that black plague infected cat back in the bag. Same with all the toxins being foisted on us all, daily, and all the illegal wars not-in-our-name; all the illegal financial-real estate-insurance fraud, those distemper filled cats are out of the bag, so why attempt to change those systems of penury and structural violence? Universities that are colonized by the Koch Brothers and Fortune 1000 Companies of Fraud, well, those leukemia-finished cats are also out of the bag, so also give up?

Nope — Zapata: I would rather die on my feet than to live on my knees.

In fact, the foundation to any revolution and radical (root) change in this un-Democracy is more robust discourse, discussion, and coverage — by local entities, by local various forms of media!

This chipping away at America, or putting in better wires and cloud servers just to say new is new and better is in the mind’s eye, just allows the oppressors to do their dirty deeds quicker, more pervasively, and with a Nazi’s efficiency and Eichmann cold heart and Goebbels collective double- and triple-tap to the human brain and eco-landscape to completely confuse the population.

My thesis is to have these conversations many many more times, daily, and with more radically truthful concepts, with gusto, no holds barred, and to ram the facts down their throats — both sides of the manure pit called US Politics-Law Making-Legislative Governing.

Every single hour, now, I receive emails and texts from friends who are becoming more and more fatigued — as in Stockholm syndrome or abusive-battered spouse syndrome —  with not just the deplorable stories and vapidity of the press reporting (stenographing) on the people running the country, running the corporations, or those in the throw-a-trillion-dollars-at-their-talentless celebrity culture, or those rally goers with their chronic illnesses and vicious Christian ideology of hate thy neighbor, BUT absolutely drained with the entire project that they believe was a possibly decent American way of life in some mythical golden period of prosperity (for the rich, the white), as in post-WWII? That magical time when all things were in place —  all the bells and whistles, all the “Kum ba yah” (African spiritual song of slaves, meaning, come by here), and two cars in every driveway and smart, adorable, handsome/beautiful offspring with prominent college degrees and a trajectory that might be the envy of a Chelsea or Ivanka.

Truly, the amount of information that floods our corpuscles and demands dendrites and synapses to fire simultaneously while also filtering out the reality that this country has ALWAYS been warped and bad hombre-like puts most average people into a tailspin: spiritual, guilt-laden, fearful, hypocritical and circling the wagons kind of multivariate predicament.

Not acknowledging the U.S. as a white supremacist settler-state translates into a fundamental error.

I am sorry, but there are more white nationalists in the U.S. than folks want to admit. Not acknowledging the U.S. as a white supremacist settler-state translates into a fundamental error. AOC along with other liberals and most of the Eurocentric left are not calling for a break in the history of the U.S. state. They are not calling for authentic de-colonization. By not doing so, they are embracing the perspective of the invader.

Really, what is this “America” that the squad loves and claim to be a part of? AOC’s family is from the colony of Puerto Rico. Tlaib’s America is probably the most Islamophobic country on the planet. Omar’s native land of Somalia became one of the first of the so-called “failed states,” those states where U.S. and Western imperialism plunders and then pretends that the state failed as a result of its internal weaknesses. Pressley, as an African American, is part of a captive population subjected to 243 years of enslavement, 100 years of post-slavery apartheid, and 54 years of benign neglect.

These are the practices and policies of a state and society committed to upholding white colonial/capitalist power. The squad must understand that if one’s people are part of the working class and nationally oppressed, you don’t beg to become part of that de-humanizing and degrading machine. You don’t call for integration or for the recognition of your rights, which is not going to happen. No! You fight and struggle for your inherent dignity, understanding that human rights are not going to be granted by the oppressor.They have to be won through ferocious struggle.

Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace

More people in the USA, according to the “pollsters” like Gallup, say they want to leave than even under Obama or Bush, and their number one choice? Again, so American of them, so elitist and exceptionally ignorant of them, but it makes sense these Yankee Doodle Dandy defectors hands down see the white land to the north, Canada, somehow is in their sights as the number one choice from where to skedaddle. As if Oh Canada is this gilded, vaunted place of harmony, endless socialized this and that, and non-bigoted, pro-woman, highly respectful people! Just read the pages of Dissident Voice by putting “Canada” into the search box and you will get a virtual house of horrors/whores list of the not-so-good, bad and ugly of that land of my mother’s birth!

But, truly, so many friends have known the CIA-WTO-Skulls&Bones-MilitaryIndustrialComplex-Fortune500 fix has been in for decades; some, however, go back to this “union’s” roots and realize that the foundation of this country (forget that there were hundreds of First Nations here) —  invaded by undocumented Puritans, illegal aliens the lot of them: thieves, slave- traders, rum-runners, suckah-born-every-minute — is/was/continues to be based on land theft, raping women, enslaving women, children, men, robbing granny blind, flimflamming, scamming and bilking, polluting, lying, marketing, stealing the public coffers.

Even with this knowledge — sort of like knowing a vote for the Democrats is the same as a vote for the Republicans — one is not so steeled from succumbing to a type of despair and fatigue and paralysis even if you knew the jig was up two centuries ago. The younger ones are skeptical and so jaded — cynical — they have little push toward any sort of reckoning for the kings of this rape-thy-neighbor culture. They put noses down and push through this rotting capitalist culture, hoping that something really bad happens collectively, regionally and nationally (heat waves, tornado’s, hurricanes, earthquakes, plagues, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, viral outbreaks, war, invasions) to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Cynics, man, cynics. Then, the older people are shaking fists at Trump, forgetting to mind their P’s and Q’s, forgetting recent and old history. Trump is Obama is Bush is Clinton is Reagan is Carter is Ford is Nixon is Kennedy . . . . and so on. Trump a racist? Open racist, for sure, in the same bad hombre company —  Jackson, Fillmore, Buchanan, A. Johnson, Wilson, Nixon. We have to really watch those politicians and presidents who are never openly racist or misogynistic — like Willy Clinton and Joey Biden!

Oh those good old days in the 20th Century:

Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List by William Blum

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)

China 1949 to early 1960s
Albania 1949-53
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
Syria 1956-7
Egypt 1957
Indonesia 1957-8
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
France 1965
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Zaire 1975
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Suriname 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Libya 1980s
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Iraq 1991
Afghanistan 1980s *
Somalia 1993
Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *
Haiti 2004 *
Somalia 2007 to present
Honduras 2009 *
Libya 2011 *
Syria 2012
Ukraine 2014 *

Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?

A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

So, yeah, these are rough times, but what point in history do we see the good times rolling for the majority of people on planet earth? How were those wars waged from time immemorial? All-volunteer and well-treated armies of the Roman Empire, Alexander’s? How were those cities and pyramids built? Union jobs? How were those lands acquired, plots laid out, cattle drives perpetrated? Who got to “have” Canada or “have” Australia? Whose Hawaii is it?

I know, I know, it’s tough actually living in and fighting within and struggling inside because of everything this society stands for when it comes to all those self-delusions. I know, one out of four Americans say they will never retire . . . just work themselves to the grave or hospital gurney or care facility (streets). I know, there are a million jobs — professions — that are not worthy of the print their descriptions are printed upon, yet we continue to let the chosen few determine the futures of young and old with their a suckah (mark, fool, patsy, money-train, fall-guy/gal) is born every nano-second schemes.

The world burns, the crops desiccate, the water dries up, the diseases are spreading, the neo-natal units are busting at the seams, infrastructure’s collapsing, minimum wage blocked ($7 and change man, in 2019 — yep, we are a failed and failing and falling down nation), housing and rentals costs sky-rocketing, debt increasing, mental duress and illness burgeoning, the few gaining more and more by stealing from the many, more toxins and nuclear particles streaming into our daily lives, and yet, we now no longer can have printed on sewer and stormwater plates — manhole. It’s a they-hole, or them-hole, maybe a shit-hole cover.

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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Berkeley, California, has adopted an ordinance to replace some terms with gender-neutral words in the city code.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Wednesday that “she” and “he” will be replaced by “they.” The words “manpower” and “manhole” will become “workforce” and “maintenance hole.”

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the measure to replace more than two dozen commonly used terms. There will be no more “craftsmen” in city code, only “craftspeople” or “artisans.”

Berkeley has a long history of leading on politically and socially liberal issues.

The sponsor of the ordinance is councilman Rigel Robinson, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He says his time in college expanded his awareness of gender issues.

Robinson says critics suggested the council spend time on more important matters.

We talk about these prescient and emblematic moments in this essay forum I deploy to stave off my own insanity and the likelihood of going postal. You know, one vote here by the prostitutes of politics, or one headline or story there crafted by the presstitutes, or this or that “scientific” claim/report promulgated by this or that biostute (biologist bought, paid for and wrapped up by The Industry). It is more than just a Mad Mad Mad World, where I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore people running around.

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’

I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’

— Peter Finch in the 1976 movie, Network, playing newscaster, Howard Beale!

I am staving off that Howard Beale moment by putting into perspective everyone’s insanity and my own slippage here. That spillage is my own frustration trying to help guide others who are seeking justice, balance, perspective and answers to “how the hell did we get to this place” and “why have I failed my children and my children’s children’s children’s futures. Indeed, even making a few shekels out here on the coast for a column I pitched (and I got) Deep Dive with Paul Haeder, I get to interview people I want to get to know and learn about; some of them are powerhouses, these individuals who in a lifetime make people who have become so cynical and rotten in their lack of push forward and against the powers that be really pause.

Carol Van Strum, captured here — A real-life Toxic Avenger

Carol Van Strum

Early in her book, A Bitter Fog:

A Bitter Fog

“Where the road skirted the riverbank, overhanging shore and water, they directed their hoses into the water, inadvertently spraying the four children fishing down below. The truck moved on, leaving the children gasping in a wet mist that clung to their skin and clothing. With smarting skin, tearing eyes, burning mouths, throats and noses, they stumbled home. By nightfall, all four were sick.”

Fighting against Dow, against the Forest Service, against the Timber Companies, against the OSU biologists, against the media/Press, against the powers that be, and against ignorance. Monsanto and 2,4,5-D, that fine ingredient as one baseline poison that made  Agent Orange another gift that keeps on giving. She lost four children in a fire in their cabin, and Carol was not afraid to point to the FBI, the thugs of the herbicide companies, or the timber companies. And she keeps going, man.

Vietnamese Girl Writes With Foot

Project 1 C

Spraying Agent Orange Ranch Hand

Vietnamese Before Billboard

Carol Van Strum in my interview: All the legal wranglings have reinforced my chronic intolerance of lies. Ditto the never-ending battle against poisons — that is an industry that could not exist without lying about its products; therefore, it should not exist.

One person can’t save the world, or even see the other side of it. When I was four years old, I set out to see the world — thinking it was a special place like the World’s Fair with carousels and Ferris wheels. After the cops found me asleep in a pile of leaves by the street, my mom asked why I had run away. I told her I didn’t run, I walked, because I wanted to see the world, and she laughed and said, ‘It’s been right here all the time — the world begins at home.’ Lessons you never forget. I can’t save the world but I’ll fight tooth and nail to save this little corner of it.

So, my fine people, friends, aging folk who are going to more and more memorials, or visiting the cancer wards and Alzheimer’s facilities; those people who can’t understand this America, the one We Have Always Had America, I love you for the work you attempt.

I know people like me stir the pot and wack the hornets’ nest. I understand that in a world of spitting, cursing, lying, shooting, imprisoning, raping, stealing, a guy like me opening yet more floodgates on how much we are cooked climate-wise, civil liberties-wise, sanity-wise might be too too much. For that, I hope I do not push anyone over anyone’s edge point. You can do that all on your own, or not!

We can’t go back to some mythical time, but we can put all those polluting, infecting, scratching and biting cats back in the bag, man.  The market knows best, and below, Chomsky’s quote,  just replace “fossil fuel extraction” with any of the following — coal, mining, medical malpractice, banking, computer engineering, chemical making, big pharma, real estate, stock market, artificial intelligence, big ag, big anything, big retail, big guns, big nukes, big energy, big marketing, big ed, big prisons, big fat planned and perceived obsolescence manufacturing-marketing-retailing-delivering (think Amazon).

The logic of the capitalist market rules — what Joseph Stiglitz 25 years ago called the “religion” that markets know best. The same reasoning extends beyond, for example to the major banks that are pouring funds into fossil fuel extraction, including the most dangerous, like Canadian tar sands, surely in full awareness of the consequences.

CEOs face a choice: They can seek to maximize profit and market share, and (consciously) labor to undermine the prospects for life on earth; or they can refuse to do so, and be removed and replaced by someone who will. The problems are not just individual; they are institutional, hence much deeper and harder to overcome.

There is no need to review record of interventions, subversion and violence, particularly since World War II, which established the U.S. in a position of global dominance with no historical precedent. The record includes the worst crime of the postwar period, the assault on Indochina, and the worst crime of this millennium, the invasion of Iraq.

Like most terms of political discourse, “imperialism” is a contested notion. Whatever term we want to use, the U.S. is alone in having hundreds of military bases and troops operating over much of the world. It is also unique in its willingness and ability to impose brutal sanctions designed to punish the people of states designated as enemies. And its market power and dominance of the international financial system provide these sanctions with extraterritorial reach, compelling even powerful states to join in, however unwillingly.

Noam Chomsky: “Worship of Markets” Is Threatening Human Civilization

U.S. 2020 Presidential Election: A Watershed Moment for Humankind and the Planet

The 2020 presidential election in the United States may be the most critical political event in human history. At no time in the history of global civilization have human beings faced existential crises on a global scale. Regional crises of the past 10,000 years reveal that economic regimes have often outstripped local and regional resources, but these crises remained regional in scope. Today, however, the excesses of global capitalism have driven all of humanity to the brink of ecological and civilizational collapse.

Our addiction to fossil fuels has significantly warmed the global atmosphere and accelerated the loss of polar ice caps faster than predicted. Capitalism has fueled industrial activities that have ravaged large portions of the planet, destroying habitats and endangering innumerable animal, plant and insect species worldwide, according to a recent UN report on global biodiversity. Our oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. Global population pressure, inefficient and wasteful industrial practices combined with climate change have placed enormous pressure on fresh water sources.  Destructive superstorms, wildfires and persistent drought will likely bring profound economic instability and declining food production in coming decades.

Global capitalism has also generated vast disparities in wealth distribution, destabilizing social systems as well as ecosystems. As global and national wealth concentration grows rapidly, the poverty of billions and declining living standards for millions more strain social relations throughout the world. These injustices give rise to disillusionment, desperation, terrorism and mass migration, to epidemics and resistant bacteria and fungi. Armed conflict is endemic in many of the world’s poor regions and wars have brought invasions of poor countries by wealthy countries to stem perceived terrorists’ threats and protect geopolitical interests.

In less than a year and one-half the 2020 U.S. presidential election will occur and the candidate and policies the majority of Americans embrace will help lead the world in one direction or another.  American voters will decide whether the most powerful leader in the world will aggressively tackle the world’s unprecedented and unfolding environmental and social crises or will exacerbate these crises by facilitating unrestrained capitalist exploitation and accumulation. Working Americans are primed for an alternative to global economic system, having recently lost millions of jobs and much of their modest wealth during the Great Recession. Universal healthcare and child care, a higher minimum wage and equal pay, student debt relief, tuition-free higher education, climate change and a green economy as well as a truly progressive tax policy to fund social and environmental initiatives are on the minds of ordinary Americans, if not the majority of them. This is an opportunity for progressive voices across the nation to demonstrate that unregulated capitalism threatens American families and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Certainly, ingrained capitalist ideology and vested institutions present formidable political obstacles leading to the 2020 presidential elections. Donald Trump and the Republican Party actively resist reform of capitalism, rejecting the Paris Accords and enacting severe cuts in domestic regulations restricting corporate activity and protecting the environment. Conservative strategists are clearly framing the 2020 election to protect the advantages in wealth and political power conservatives have gained in the global economy. Trump’s abject disregard for global warming and the failure of Republicans to address it is a clear threat to the future of the planet. His nuclear war-mongering, with the tacit endorsement of the Republican Party, has flirted with planetary annihilation. For these reasons renowned linguist and ferocious political critic Noam Chomsky has stunningly and aptly dubbed the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”.

While it will likely take decades and even generations to rein in and reform our global economy enough to achieve some practical level of global sustainability, the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we and the world face make the 2020 U.S. presidential elections an extraordinary watershed moment. This is no time for a program of tepid, incrementalist reforms.  If the Democratic Party fails to embrace an agenda of far-reaching regulation of global capitalism that focuses on climate change and wealth disparity, it risks losing the presidency. Should a moderate Democratic candidate lacking the necessary vision and resolve be elected president in 2020, it may prove to be a kind of hollow victory.

The fundamental questions before American citizens could not be more crucial to the future of our nation and the world: Can we afford to ignore the ravages of climate change and the deleterious impact of our unsustainable production and consumption on the planet’s health? Can we fail to confront the concentration of wealth in fewer hands while poverty, lack of opportunity, ill health and violence driven by these realities rob generations of their potential as human beings? Should we discount, or even underplay, the fact that environmental degradation and wealth disparities on a global scale are exacerbated by inadequately regulated global economic regime?

Why Would China and Huawei Commit Economic Self-Ruin?

Rune Fisker for the Washington Post

It could be construed as a badge of professional honor that a news broadcaster is open to presenting a wide range of views. This might especially be considered so when the corporate-state media is parochially aligned to portraying an unskeptical right-wing, warmongering bizzaro worldview where left-wing (defined as socialist, communist, anarchist… not Democrats or Liberals who frequently bang the drums of war and toe the neoliberal line), pro-peace types are absent or marginalized to the fringes.

A recent segment with RT America anchor Rick Sanchez led me to question again whether Sanchez is doing the news again or opining again? He opens by discussing the friendly, deepening relations between president Vladimir Putin’s Russia and chairman Xi Jinping’s China. He asks:

Here’s the question really, right? Is this a union of strength, convenience, of necessity, of revenge, or somehow all of the above?

Of convenience, of necessity, of revenge? Are these among the best speculations of Sanchez?

Rick Sanchez interviewed John Jordan, a frequent guest on RT America. Sanchez asked Jordan: “Can you, can you, can we, can anybody blame Russia for jumping into China’s … loving arms?” Really, where does a news anchor come up with such questions?

Jordan presented his bona fides. He stated he was an American patriot on air to present the American viewpoint. He said he has “studied Russian history and culture in excruciating detail” and that he speaks Russian. Such a background does, indeed, confer gravitas. But gravitas can be nullified by the bias of patriotism.

Jordan stated “that as a friend of Russia that Russia will rue the day it did this [more closely ally with China through accepting Huawei’s 5G].” Jordan provides as a rationale that the Chinese government, legally, has a right to access all made in China technology. Thus he fears that this will be “an enormous intelligence gathering tool for China.” He adds that this could have “a chilling effect of investment into Russia.”

Jordan points out that other countries need not be dependent on Huawei for 5G and neither on American 5G; there are companies in other countries besides the United States that sell 5G. This is a crucial point since, as revealed by ex-NSA official William Binney, ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden, and by WikiLeaks, the US is deeply involved in intelligence gathering, as are American companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and social media such as Facebook.

Time to do news? What is the evidence — beyond mere conjecture — that Huawei would be an intelligence gathering instrument? Have US corporations ever offered a no-spying pact with foreign governments as Huawei has done?

It is too easy to tear apart any thread of rationality to what Jordan says. Jordan professes to be an American patriot. First, it reeks of a double standard to demonize China for what the US, as is well-known by Jordan, also does. Second, why is it even necessary to wave a flag of patriotism? My country right or wrong? Does love of a geo-political entity triumph love of humanity? Love of morality? Love of truth?

And why shouldn’t Russia and China be close partners? That often happens when countries, like Russia and China, are neighbors that share a long border where transportation and communication are easier. First, it makes good economic sense to trade with a neighbor who has goods you want and who also wants your goods. Second, being populous countries, economies of scale also come into advantageous play. Third, the China-Russia union connects both to Europe and Asia. Fourth, both these countries find themselves surrounded by American military bases, navy ships, and weaponry. As such, it also makes clear military sense to create strength through a union.

The overarching question that Sanchez and Jordan do not deal with is why Huawei would shoot itself in its economic foot? 5G technology is poised to be a financial windmill in the near future for Huawei and China, and it seems the US is far behind in this technology. As far as speculation goes, this would be a strong motive for a hyper-American patriot to jump to the defense of US interests by demonizing an economic competitor that is outpacing US economic growth.