Category Archives: General

16 Tons of Madness

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.

— Chorus from the song “Sixteen Tons”, written by Merle Travis, and performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1955.

Those who know me understand that my life has been all about loading U-Haul trucks and trying out new places to live.  Like my recent move to Arizona’s second largest city of Tucson, which is also the U.S.A’s 33rd largest city.  The previous year of 2018 was spent in the heart of the country’s most conservative congressional district in the outskirts of Empire’s fifth largest city of Phoenix (District 6), and I figured that “liberal” Tucson would be a breath of political fresh air.  But, as it turns out, the air here stinks just as badly here as it does elsewhere in the rotten heartland of Empire, and blood money flows freely through the streets.  I’d forgotten that within the existing rigged and owned political system, there is no room for meaningful change.  In fact, it appears that this desert metropolis would dry up and blow away without an economic system with its foundation firmly embedded in wars, prisons, and border surveillance for profit.  There’s a story here somewhere.  “How I learned to stop worrying and love the police state”?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Tucson as much as I could possibly love any god-forsaken town here in the belly of the beast.  The Mexican food is the best on earth, in a dead tie with Santa Fe, New Mexico, and you don’t really need to drive a hundred thousand dollar car or live in a mini-mansion in order to feel at home.  But the presence of unabashed and unapologetic militarism here seems even more obvious than it has been in any of the several dozen towns and cities of the U.S. of A. which I’ve previously occupied.  Every new person I meet seems to have a connection to the violence which powers and is the most prominent product of Empire.  Not having been born yesterday, and having a pretty clear understanding of the ways of the world, I came to slowly understand (I can be a little slow) that the reason must be economic.  Otherwise why would nearly everybody have a direct connection to the blood.  Follow the money…follow the blood, my unwavering intuition told me.  And sure as hell…

Number one employer in Tucson with roughly 11,000 employees:  The University of Arizona.  The U. of A.’s Defense and Security Research Institute works hand in hands full of hundreds of millions of blood bucks with the #2 employer: Raytheon Missile Systems (9600 employees), and #3 employer: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (8400 employees).  The State of Arizona comes in at #4, and an unknown number of its employees run the bloated State Department of Corrections.  Border Patrol is #7, U.S. Army Intelligence at Fort Huachuca is #11, and Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold is #10.  I include the mining operation because its continuing profits and success in Chile, Peru, and Indonesia must be constantly monitored and protected by the likes of #1, #2, #3, and #11.  In other words, an extremely large percentage of my new neighbors’ lives depend upon the continuation of the sick-ass system of wars, violence, resource theft, border walls, and incarceration for fun and profit.  Why the hell couldn’t I have ended up in Camelot…Pleasantville?  Since they don’t exist, I guess I’ll have to settle for Margaritaville instead.

Back about this time of the year, a half century ago, I had just refused induction into the U.S. Army, and told the U.S. Government and my local draft board that I wouldn’t be attending their abominable undeclared War in Vietnam.  Not under any circumstances.  My Dad, who’d always done his level best to provide life’s sustenance for mom, my sisters, and me during those years of hope and abundance following on the heels of WWII and the Korean War, worked in the “defense” industry.  He bought bearings for jet engines, for a little company which would later be bought by blood-money behemoth, Honeywell.  Bearings for jet engines designed to power the war birds which would deliver bombs, bullets, and napalm to the rice farmers of Vietnam.  It was inevitable then that we would eventually stand face to face on opposite sides of the line in the sand.  He was embarrassed because of my actions, and afraid of losing his top security clearance and even his job with an unruly son who refused to do his duty to God and country.  Those were interesting days…no, those days sucked right up there with some of the worst I can remember.

But what’s a poor soul to do when the only available jobs are designed to deliver bombs, bullets, and hell on earth to others?  What could possibly awaken the social conscience in the average Joe, who wants only to provide for his/her family?  The operating manual for Empire is clear:  Others must suffer and die so that we may eat and prosper, you don’t shit where ya eat, and you don’t bite the hand that feeds you when you owe your soul to the company store.  Fact is that Tucson is located seventy miles from the Mexican border.  A large number of its citizens live in the shadows.  Mexican immigrant invaders, desperately seeking asylum and salvation from a fucked up economic system created by the very country in which they now aspire to find fame, fortune, and maybe a roof and three steady meals.  For gods’ sake…if there was an ounce of justice in the world, this militarized bastion of Empire would still belong to its rightful owners:  the slightly less toxic Mexicans…along with the rest of Arizona, California, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming…which were “purchased” for ten million measley bucks via The Gadsden Purchase, after the U.S.A. kicked ass and purloined real estate, back in the mid-1800’s, after the Mexican-American War.  “Purchase”, my ass!  I’d bet that Mexico would gladly “purchase” it back with a fair amount of interest.

Tucson’s large population of desperate Mexicans and Central Americans, many of whom must constantly look over their shoulders for fear of incarceration and deportation, are prime cannon fodder for the likes of the city’s top employers.  In fact, the presence of so many “undocumented” po’ folks is the very reason why the strong arm of Wall Street has chosen this picturesque little city in the Sonoran Desert as a major center of operations.  Capital seeks cheap labor, and there’s an army of hungry, somewhat nervous brownish people out there who’ll do anything for a pittance, and do it gladly.  Remember The Dream Act?  I’m not certain, and don’t really care what happened with that insane idea.  The way I understand it, the proposal was:  A few years of U.S. Military duty as a paid assassin in exchange for a path to U.S. Citizenship.  Such a deal.  Mercenary armies have helped power many a declining empire into oblivion.

The hellishly hot Sonoran Summer weather has arrived, and I’m plodding up the paved trail/restricted road leading upward to the seven hundred and some odd feet of elevation gain and the summit of Tumamoc Hill here in west Tucson.  An escape from all the turmoil and bizarre goings on inside and out of my troubled mind.  From this lofty perch I can see all that Tucson has to offer, the Santa Catalinas to the north, the Rincons, the Santa Ritas, the Tucson Range, and the Tortolitas.  A giant potholed grid of asphalt, a few hundred thousand mostly baked adobe brick residences with barred windows, security warning signs, mean-nasty canines, dilapidated chain link fences, and rusted cars and appliances strewn among the cacti and weeds.  Waddling across the cityscape, a mostly morbidly obese population of electro-zombified, tattooed, green/blue/pink-haired, mindless minions.  Desperate professional sign-bearing panhandlers at every busy intersection, a handful of skyscrapers in the downtown and U. of A. neighborhoods, non-stop incursions of F-Whatever-the-fuck fighterjets and military helicopters, commercial flights, and hourly freight trains full of the neccesary raw materials of war.  Stately, multi-phallic, 30-40 foot Saguaros by the tens of thousands decorate the hillsides and arroyos.  Millions of white blooms of Spring have transitioned into brilliant red fruit, feeding the local birds and insects, who will insure the future of the giant cacti population by carrying the seeds to fertile desert soil.

I find myself wondering whether the Saguaro forests will survive beyond the collapse of the uncivilization in rapid decay, spread out below me.  For certainly the voracious, blood-sucking behemoth of the USA will continue its demise, and fall just as all empires before it.  And those unanswerable old questions constantly bubble to my mind’s murky surface.  What would it take to awaken a population which is fed and clothed by international piracy?  How do you convince a schmuck with a two hundred thousand dollar high interest student loan debt and an engineering degree from the University of Arizona that working at Raytheon is tantamount to mass-murder?  Who’s going to tell that testosterone-charged, fresh out of high school young buck that joining the U.S. Marines isn’t going to build him into a man, but, like so many boys before him, turn him into a fiend, a killer, a rapist?  Who among the struggling masses will picket, blockade, and burn the Company Store, to which they owe their souls?  How many of my neighbors can imagine a world without borders, wars, poverty, prisons, and fear?  But more importantly, who among us has the temerity, charisma, and the ability to deliver a fresh narrative capable of convincing a deaf and blind populace that there’s a better way forward?  Who?

With Panorama’s Hatchet Job on Labour Antisemitism, BBC Has Become the Tory’s Attack Dog

It is difficult to describe as anything other than a hatchet job the BBC Panorama special this week that sought to bolster claims that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become “institutionally antisemitic”.

The partisan tone was set from the opening shot. A young woman whose name was not revealed tearfully claimed to have been abused with antisemitic taunts at a Labour Party conference.

The decision not to disclose the interviewee’s identity is understandable. It would have discredited the whole narrative Panorama was trying so hard to build.

The woman’s name is Ella Rose, a senior official in the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), an organisation representing Jewish and non-Jewish members of Labour at the forefront of attacks on Corbyn. Rose has a secret past too: she once worked at the Israeli embassy in London.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Two years ago she and other JLM officials were exposed collaborating with Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy official. He had to be hurriedly removed from the UK after an undercover Al Jazeera documentary showed him plotting with activists in the Labour and Conservative parties to discredit British politicians seen as a threat to Israel.

Most observers believe that Masot was operating within the embassy as part of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which in turn has been running black ops against western critics of Israel. Corbyn, we can safely assume, is high on that list.

Rose is on record as saying she was a close friend of Masot’s.

Her emotional, quavering voice as she spoke to Panorama presented a very different image from her appearances in Al-Jazeera’s undercover footage. There she is shown threatening to use physical violence – employing Krav Maga, a martial arts technique developed by the Israeli army – against another Jewish party member prominent in support of Corbyn.

Panorama chose to follow in the footsteps of the rest of the British media in ignoring Al Jazeera’s revelations, even though they provide vital context for challenging claims of a supposedly growing “antisemitism crisis” in Labour. For the past three years, the media have produced little more than anecdotal evidence, like Ella Rose’s, to support this narrative.

In a self-fulfilling prophecy, however, the more the media has fear-mongered about antisemitism in Labour – despite the absence of objective data to back up such claims – the more polls have shown British Jews panicking at the propsect of Corbyn reaching power.

The Panorama investigation, titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”, will undoubtedly have further stoked such fear by interviewing a handful of disgruntled former employees involved in the party’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

Bitter feuds

Stripped of context, these testimonies offer a superficially plausible argument that the Labour leadership sought to minimise, or even indulge, antisemitism in the party. But the comments made by these ex-staff have to be viewed in terms of a wider power-play raging in Labour since Corbyn was elected leader.

The party has been riven by bitter, very public feuds between an old guard, which dominated under Tony Blair, and the rapid rise of the party’s left wing under Corbyn, buoyed by massive support from the wider membership.

Panorama referenced these rifts only to dismiss them as a conspiracy theory. Instead, the programme refashioned the split as a culture war between those presented as anti-racist centrists, like the disputes team’s former staff, and a supposed influx of anti-Israel, Jew-hating “Marxists” cultivated by Corbyn.

The mass purge

Some of the former members of the disputes staff interviewed by Panorama appear to have served effectively as a Trojan horse within Labour’s head office, assisting the Blairites in damaging Corbyn.

Though it was not mentioned by Panorama, these staff members were caught repeatedly violating the party rulebook by excluding thousands of Corbyn supporters during the two leadership contests, in 2015 and 2016. These mass purges had nothing to do with antisemitism. People were ousted for “offences” such as retweeting posts by the Green Party or, in one case, praising the band the Foo Fighters.

It was the enormous backlog created by these exclusions that overwhelmed the party machinery, leaving it incapable of handling disciplinary matters involving antisemitism.

Labour officials note that, even after Corbyn was secure as leader, the obstruction continued. A small number of staff – the people Panorama interviewed – actively blocked the rapid resolution of high-profile antisemitism cases, dragging them out to embarrass the leadership.

Since a new general secretary, Jennie Formby, was brought in and a new and larger disputes team appointed, including staff with legal training, the speed of handling antisemitism complaints is reported to have increased four-fold.

The paradox is that those telling Panorama that Labour is “institutionally antisemitic” are the very people who failed to deal effectively with antisemitism complaints when they were in charge.

Fears of a stitch-up

The most astounding and intentional omission from the programme, however, are the countervailing voices in support of Corbyn. The Labour leader himself and senior staff like his chief strategist, Seumas Milne, declined to be interviewed. That is understandable. They had strong grounds to suspect that Panorama planned a stitch-up.

Interviews of Labour leaders denying “institutional antisemitism” set against footage of tearful Jewish party members like Ella Rose speaking of abuse would have been a bad look.

But what was undoubtedly inexcusable was Panorama’s failure to interview even one of the many Jewish Labour members who deny the antisemitism narrative, or to note that many of the most high-profile party members suspended or expelled for antisemitism are, in fact, themselves Jewish.

Jewish members expelled

One of the expulsions briefly mentioned by Panorama was Jackie Walker, who is herself Jewish, as well as black.

The fact that Jewish activists have been disciplined for their criticisms of Israel or disputing the Labour antisemitism narrative suggests that the furor, in part at least, represents the redrawing of battle-lines within the Jewish community about who gets to speak for Jews about Israel.

This was vital, but missing, context for understanding one of Panorama’s central charges: that Corbyn’s inner circle had interfered in the complaints process by offering advice to the disputes team.

What Panorama failed to mention was that the advice was actually sought by the disputes staff. And it related to the need to handle sensitively the issue of the party being seen to take disciplinary action against Jewish members accused of antisemitism by other Jewish members.

Labour administrators were effectively being asked to take sides in an ideological fight between different kinds of Jewish activists – hardline Zionists and anti-Zionists.

‘Wrong kind of Jews’

Why, one can reasonably ask, did Panorama ignore Jewish Voice for Labour in this supposed “investigation” of Labour and anti-semitism? The group was specifically set up by Jewish members to counter the claims being made by activists like Rose.

Groups like the Jewish Labour Movement have implied that Jewish supporters of Corbyn are the “wrong kind of Jews” – an extremely ugly insinuation that Panorama appeared to endorse by entirely sidelining them. This was one of the reasons the Labour leadership censured the programme-makers in a 50-page document presented to BBC boss Tony Hall, in which it argued that Panorama had “pre-determined the outcome of its investigation”.

As Corbyn’s office noted, Panorama had cherrypicked and distorted evidence, presented only one side of the story, and relied almost exclusively on staff who have very large axes to grind.

Score-settling may make for lively TV, but it is execrable journalism.

As a public service broadcaster, the BBC is subject to an editorial policy requiring it to be impartial. Its guidelines also state that audiences should not be able to infer “the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.”

But the fact that Panorama made no attempt at even-handedness or fairness in its programme on Labour should have come as no surprise. The man in charge of the investigation was John Ware, a former Sun journalist. He cannot be considered dispassionate either about Corbyn or the prospects of Labour defeating the Conservative Party at a general election, which may be just around the corner.

Strident supporter of Israel

Two years ago, Ware wrote a lengthy article for a right-wing magazine warning of the danger of Corbyn reaching power. He was a politician, wrote Ware, “whose entire political career has been stimulated by disdain for the West, appeasement of extremism, and who would barely understand what fighting for the revival of British values is really all about”.

Shortly after Corbyn’s leadership election victory in 2015, Ware headed a Panorama documentary that sought to malign the new leader.

Ware is also a strident supporter of Israel and of its state ideology, Zionism. In a 2005 edition of Panorama he suggested that Muslims in Britain who spoke out about Israel’s crimes against Palestinians were “extremists”.

In an article in the Jewish Chronicle last year Ware concluded that anti-Zionism had “morphed into anti-Semitism – itself a Corbyn legacy”.

But that claim – that criticism of Israel is equivalent to antisemitism – needed to be interrogated rather than, as it was, assumed to be true by the Panorama special. It lies at the heart of both the split between the right and left wings of Labour, and the divisions within Labour’s Jewish membership.

‘Witch-hunt against Muslims’

Equally disturbing is Ware’s apparent view that some kinds of racism matter far more than others. This appears to be what he means by “British values”.

While he has repeatedly expressed concern about criticism of Israel, and has himself conflated it with antisemitism, his work has shown an apparent indulgence of Islamophobia. Over nearly two decades Ware has produced reports for the BBC that have antagonised Britain’s Muslim community.

In 2003 David Blunkett, Labour’s home secretary of the time and no ally of Corbyn’s, compared a programme by Ware on asylum seekers to the notoriously racist hate speech of Enoch Powell back in the 1960s.

Two years later the Muslim Council of Britain accused a Panorama documentary headed by Ware of amounting to a “witch-hunt against British Muslims”.

Islamophobia ‘rational’

In 2013 Ware claimed that Islamophobia, or what he called the “I-word”, was stopping people – though not himself, it seems – from talking about Muslim “extremism”. Ware argued that Islamophobia, unlike antisemitism, was rational and justified – or in his words, hatred of Muslims was simply “reactive”.

He wrote in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper: “It is surely Muslim radicals who have brought it [anti-Muslim bigotry] on their fellow Muslims – by their promotion of Islam as a political ideology, and by invoking Islamophobia to close down criticism of this ideology.”

Imagine how that would sound if one replaces “radical Muslims”, “political Islam” and “Islamophobia” with the equivalents of “Israel zealots”, “hardline Zionism” and “anti-semitism”. Let’s try it:

“It is surely Israel zealots who have brought it [anti-Jewish bigotry] on their fellow Jews – by their promotion of hardline Zionism as a political ideology, and by invoking anti-semitism to close down criticism of this ideology.”

Suggesting that Jews are to blame for the racism they face because some extremists among them are fanatical supporters of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians would surely amount to antisemitism in most people’s view.

Skewed political priorities

The relevance of this is that Ware and the BBC made a highly politicised decision to choose to focus exclusively on Labour and antisemitism, while ignoring the well-documented racism of the Conservative Party. That choice matches Ware’s own skewed political priorities.

The BBC’s flagship political documentary assumed that Labour suffers from an “antisemitism crisis” so severe that it needed to be the sole focus of an investigation into racism in British politics.

The decision to ignore the more visible issue of racism in the Conservative Party smacks of dangerous interference by the state broadcaster in the democratic process.

Panorama’s choice is even more astonishing given that the objective data – again overlooked by the programme – indicates that Labour has much less of a racism problem than the ruling Conservative party.

A survey this week confirmed what was already widely known: that Islamophobia – racism towards Muslims and Arabs – is rampant in Conservative ranks. A YouGov poll showed an astounding 56 per cent of party members believe Islam threatens the “British way of life”.

The Tory party’s former chair, Sayeeda Warsi, has long been ringing the alarm about senior officials, warning that they are indifferent to, or supportive of, Islamophobia in the party.

Rampant Tory racism

In addition to rampant Islamophobia, figures show that the Conservatives also have a greater problem than Labour with antisemitism.

While Corbyn has been critical of antisemitic world leaders, the Conservative leadership has been cosying up to figures like Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, who is known for his Jew-baiting and expressions of support for former Hungarian pro-Nazi leaders.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP widely expected to become the next prime minister when Theresa May steps down, has a long track record of making inciteful, racist statements.

Anti-semitism data ignored

While the Conservatives’ undeniable racism problem has failed to attract any sustained media attention, the Labour Party’s much less serious antisemitism problem has been blown out of all proportion.

The Panorama team ignored the most elementary facts undermining the now-pervasive narrative of a Labour “antisemitism crisis”.

First, surveys show Labour voters are less likely to hold antisemitic views than the wider general public or Conservative voters, and the proportion of Labour supporters expressing such views has fallen dramatically under Corbyn. The data clearly refute suggestions that Corbyn has made the party more attractive to antisemites.

Second, Labour’s disciplinary process has found that instances of discernible antisemitism is marginal, at 0.06 per cent of its half a million members. And that is after Corbyn’s political enemies have been scouring party members’ accounts seeking evidence of antisemitism.

And third, much of the media coverage has attributed often anonymous hate speech on social media targeting Jews, including Labour MPs, to Labour activists when no evidence exists to support such attribution. The politicised climate is such now that far-right antisemitism is also being blamed on Corbyn.

Questions for the BBC

Corbyn’s critics, of course, have been trying to deflect criticism of the BBC, Panorama and Ware by arguing that Labour’s complaint is some kind of Trumpian attack on journalism. That is patent nonsense.

The BBC is a public service broadcaster paid for by British taxpayers. Its credibility and legitimacy depends on it being seen to maintain strict neutrality and a commitment to evidence, not become a media attack dog in the hands of the ruling party.

The question is why did the BBC’s flagship political investigations show decide that the marginal problem of racism in Labour was a much more urgent matter than the provable and significant racism in the Conservative Party?

Unlike Labour, the Conservatives are actually in power and, through policy-making, are in a position to improve or damage the fabric of life for minority communities in Britain.

This isn’t about protecting Corbyn. It is an expectation that the BBC sticks by its commitment to assess dispassionately British political life rather than interfere, as it did with the Panorama special, in an overt, partisan manner.

• First published in Middle East Eye.

From the Green Revolution to GMOs

Why did the European Food Safety Authority claim that glyphosate was not ecotoxic? This is the question environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason poses in her new 23-page report which can be accessed in full here. In places, the report reads like a compilation of peer-reviewed studies and official reports that have documented the adverse impacts of chemicals used in modern agriculture.

Only a brief outline of Mason’s report is possible here. Readers are urged to consult the document to grasp more detailed insight into the issues she discusses as well as the evidence cited in support of her arguments and claims.

Mason argues that the European Commission has consistently bowed to the demands of the pesticide lobby. In turn, she notes the fraudulent nature of the assessment of glyphosate which led to its relicensing in Europe and thus the continued use of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. This ongoing support for the pesticide lobby flies in the face of so much evidence pointing to the detrimental effects of Roundup and other agrochemicals on the environment, living organisms, soil, water and human health.

These chemicals have become integral to an increasingly globalised process of agro-industrialisation. Mason discusses the nature of modern farming by referring to the endless corn fields of Iowa. One hundred years ago, these fields were home to 300 species of plants, 60 mammals, 300 birds and thousands of insects. Now, there is almost literally nothing – except corn – in what amounts to a biological desert. The birds, bees and insects have gone.

It’s a type of farming where so much toxic agrochemicals are used that they have ended up in soils and sediment, ditches and drains, precipitation, rivers and streams and even in seas, lakes, ponds, wetlands and groundwater. A type of agriculture that is responsible for undermining essential biodiversity, human health and diverse, nutritious diets.

The report takes us further afield, to the Great Barrier Reef to discuss the destruction of coral by Monsanto’s Roundup and Bayer’s insecticide clothianidin. It is interesting that the pesticide industry and the media tend to blame global warming for the degradation of the reef. Although there have been efforts to grow new corals, Mason states that pesticide run off from farmland means that corals will continue to be destroyed.

She touches on the role of agrochemicals in relation to the decline of the Monarch butterfly and the now well-documented ecological Armageddon due to the dramatic plunge in insect numbers: insects which are vital to soil health and the food web. Numerous studies and reports are presented as well as warnings from scientists and whistleblowers like Henk Tennekes and Evaggelos Vallianatos about the impacts of toxic chemicals in food and agriculture.

Indeed, since the late 1990s, Mason notes that various scientists have written in increasingly desperate tones about biodiversity loss and the impact on humanity as well as the emerging fungal threats to animal, plant and ecosystem health.

Mason also reveals insight into her own struggles with a local authority in Wales over the destruction of her nature reserve due to the council’s spraying of Roundup in the vicinity. Despite numerous open letters and e-mails to UK and European agencies documenting the impacts of this herbicide (some of this correspondence is contained in the report, with responses), her evidence has been ignored and it remains ‘business as usual’.

That’s because global agrochemical conglomerates exert huge political influence at state and international levels. For instance, back in 2017, the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food was heavily critical of these companies and accused them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”. The authors noted the catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society in general.

At the time, one of the report’s authors, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, said:

The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies…

Her co-author, Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, added:

While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.

In noting the severity of the issue and the driving forces that perpetuate and profit from the chemical-intensive corporatised global food regime, Mason quotes Vandana Shiva:

The ecological crisis, the agrarian crisis, the food crisis, the health and nutrition crisis, the crisis of democracy and sovereignty are not separate crises. They are one. And they are connected through food. The web of life is a food web. When it is ruptured by chemicals and poisons that come from war, and rules of ‘free trade’ that is a war declared by corporations against the earth and humanity, biodiversity is wiped out, farmers are killed through debt, and people die either because of hunger or because of cancer, diabetes, heart problems, hypertension and other environment and food related chronic diseases. Everyone is paying a very high price for corporate greed and dictatorship and collusion of corporate states to spread the toxic empire of corporations in the name of ‘reforms’.

Pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, termiticides, nematicides, rodenticides and fungicides. Today, the pesticide industry is valued at over $50 billion and there are around 600 active ingredients. Herbicides account for approximately 80 per cent of all pesticide use.

Of course, Vandana Shiva’s main focus is on India and the ongoing undermining of its indigenous agriculture by foreign corporations. The potential market for herbicide growth alone in India is huge: sales have probably now reached over $800 million per year in that country, with scope for even greater expansion. And have no doubt the global agrochemical industry has made India a priority, with a push to break traditional weeding practices (‘double-lining’ ox ploughing), seemingly with the intention on nudging farmers towards taking up herbicide-tolerant seeds.

Little wonder too that we currently see industry-connected lobbyists (masquerading as objective scientists or independent ‘science communicators’) residing abroad and encouraging farmers in India to plant these illegal GM seeds in what appears to be an orchestrated campaign. Numerous high-level reports have stated that GM is unsuitable for India. Having lost the debate, the GM/agrochemical lobby has now resorted to a tactic of illegal cultivation.

While touting the supposed virtues of GM agriculture, these lobbyists also spend much of their time promoting the merits of its godparent, the Green Revolution, in an attempt to justify the roll-out of GM seeds and associated herbicides. But emerging academic research indicates that the Green Revolution in India did next to nothing in terms of increasing productivity, despite the well-perpetuated myth that it saved lives and helped avert famine. In fact, in Punjab, the cradle of the Green Revolution in India, this ‘green dream’ has turned into a toxic environmental and human health nightmare.

India produces enough food to feed its population. It does so without GM and could do so agroecologically without synthetic chemicals – without ‘nuking’ nature and without destroying human health. While the agrochemical lobby continues to spin the message that India and the world  need its proprietary inputs to feed the world and eradicate hunger, the reality is – as noted by Hilal Elver and Baskut Tuncak – that we do not.

If we want to look at the causes of hunger and malnutrition, we must first address the deleterious impacts of the water-guzzling, chemical-dependent Green Revolution, so eloquently described by Bhaskar Save in his open letter to officials in 2006 and extremely pertinent given India’s current water emergency; the global capitalist food regime and its undermining of regional food security and food sovereignty; the lack of income to purchase sufficient food; and various other issues, including an erosion of land rights, debt, poverty and food distribution problems.

No amount of genetic engineering or chemicals can address these issues. And no amount of industry-inspired spin can divert attention from the root causes of malnutrition and hunger and genuine (agroecological) solutions.

You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves [Neil Postman] is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).

Andrew Postman

So what would Neil Postman say about this fellow [note title of this essay, referencing Jeff Bezos’ proclamation on what work should mean to every breathing American], or the many fellows like Bezos who have zero patience for a world without disrupting economies tied to their authoritarian business plan of more billionaires deserving (sic) more power. Disruptive and destructive, and not just economies in the book sense, but structural violence and community disintegration, murdering people with debt, lack of housing, no medical care, suicide, that’s Bezos, et al looking to capitalize on every penny gathered from every nanosecond in our individual human lives.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow into one of the world’s biggest companies.

Back in 1997, Bezos told shareholders that employees at other companies “can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com, you can’t choose two out of three.”

Bezos acknowledges his high standards for employees every year, telling shareholders that “it’s not easy to work here.”

In the 24 years since Amazon was founded, CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow from a modest online bookshop to one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Back in 1997, Bezos was already expecting big things out of his young company. In his annual letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos described how much effort he expected from his employees.

“When I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” Bezos wrote in the 1997 letter.

“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success.”

The New York Times reported in 2015 exactly how bruising the work environment at Amazon could be. Employees were reportedly expected to routinely work late, were encouraged to criticize coworkers‘ ideas at meetings, and were often found crying at their desks. Amazon disputed many of the claims in the Times investigation, though the newspaper defended its reporting.

God forbid we call Amazon Boss Bezos a plantation owner of a different mother, for sure. That Americans — living in small and large cities, far and wide — depend on the Amazon way as if Amazon is sutured into all aspects of American culture (sic) and hardwired into every new born’s head. Same day delivery. A shopping cart that would be the envy of any Rothschild or Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley.

See the source image

This essay, first, was going to address those other masters of the Universe — Google Guys and Algorithm Titans. I barely criticized a billionaire in a DV article —   Household Income, or Higher Planes of Consciousness?*

I criticized Nick Hanauer for his false balance, contrived bifurcation, and his new wind as a billionaire fighting what he calls the educationalism mindset that says that a good, grounded, deep and holistic education might be a thing of kings, whereas Nick says education backing and financing ain’t worth diddly squat in capitalism until more people make more money to buy more things, or just to survive in his nihilistic world.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

— Nick Hanauer

In my email box, Google, of course, I get an unsolicited email from an organization for which I have never associated with or even pursued. It’s the old surveillance state of Google and the internet Stasi, for sure —

Image result for stasi

Alas, Neil Postman was correct, in so far as what we say and do as writers really does not count — we are only as smart and deep and truthful as our masters will allow:

In my college economics class, we were taught that wages depend on productivity. The more productive or skilled workers are, my professors used to argue, the more they will be worth on the labor market and, therefore, the higher their wages will be. That’s bunk.

Under this logic, the way to cure our economic woes – whether poverty, inequality, underemployment, or unemployment – is through education. By educating our citizens, we increase their human capital, making them more productive and, therefore, increasing their expected income.

It sounds good, right?

This seductive myth – of education as an economic cure-all – is something Civic Action founder Nick Hanauer calls “educationism.” As Nick writes in a recent article for The Atlantic, it’s a myth he used to believe, and it’s a myth many wealthy elites still propagate. It’s what leads philanthropists to donate billions of dollars to public schools and educational institutions.

There’s just one problem: Educationism doesn’t work. If it did, our middle class would be much better off.

In the last 40 years, while the real incomes of most Americans have been stuck, we’ve gotten a lot more educated. Almost everyone has a high school diploma and the share of Americans with a college degree has more than tripled since 1970.”

But all that education hasn’t translated into higher wages. In fact, if our incomes had done what my college profs told me – gone up with productivity – the average family today would be earning $29,000 more a year. An average of $105,000!

Of course, it’s true that getting an education is likely to increase your own income. But that’s not the same as raising incomes throughout the economy. Not when four out of five of the fastest growing jobs pay very low wages – jobs like cashiers and health care assistants. Meanwhile, the pay of most people who do have a college education barely keeps up with inflation.

What we do need to do is raise incomes for working families and the middle class throughout the economy. That’s how we build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few. As Nick writes:

“In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.”

—  Stephen Paolini, Civic Action, email with an ask for $ support

But then, this essay takes a twist, as they always seem to do when I deploy some ground-truthing. You see, most of us in the USA, the 80 percent of the population —  many of which are on the skids, on the near skids, or those of us barely scraping by, and those of us who are unseen but are many short steps away from working for one of those sweatshops like we see with Amazon (there are so many warehouse jobs, forklift gigs, sorting careers) and finding down time in the back seat of our cars)  —  so-so tire of, really, the prognosticators writing away hard in semi-secure status —  even the smartish ones on leftish magazines like The Nation, or digital forums like Truthout or Truthdig or The Intercept.

They have NO idea of what is real in the world, and that rarefied realm of citing this study or making this or that prediction, well, it is bombast at best, propaganda at worst, denuded of humanity in many cases.

Case in point — tens of millions of men and women wandering the land (US), in some warped version of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, really, in a society that eats-sleeps-dreams-believes the crap that Huxley warned of, and that which Neil Postman discussed. Oh the irony, those, that billionaire book salesman, Bezos, dead to the world, dead to us, the 80 percent, living, barely, in the middle of their hellish barbecue.

I was with three fellows — two literally are sleeping in campgrounds, and one fellow living with his parents. A million miles away from what any social worker or Sheryl Sandberg or Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or any of the scions of Holly-dirt or anyone in the Trump Loony Bin Show, or those clamoring around an Obama or Oprah or Rachel Maddow. It’s a triple sick experience even thinking about how vapid that so-called debate was yesterday with half of the half-wits of the Democratic Party wanting to play president.

So, a life of men truly on the extinction block, in several demographics. These fellows I hired on to help my spouse and I move from a rental to a house we had the temerity to purchase in a Time of Climate Heating, Oceans Rising, Food Wilting, Water Draining, Economies Imploding, Saber Rattling, and ICBM Immolating.

Their lives, broken down, seem to hold the familiar life story of many people I have worked with as a non-traditional social worker for the homeless, the just-out-of-prison returnees, and chronically physically and mentally ill. They work jobs, stacking halibut,  packing shrimp, pounding two-by-fours, hauling goods, sorting things, cutting trees, landscaping, roofing. Both of these fellows are 50, living in campgrounds, one with false teeth, the other with nubs and rotting teeth.

Child support for children they have never seen, or can’t see now. Felonies for this or that charge keeping them from even getting to first base on an apartment application. Vagabonds harassed by cops, and living life in a constant move. For my other helper, Brian, he’s a former marine, working as a social services provider, has a wonderful child on the spectrum (autism) and is currently living with aging and sickly parents. All three fit the bill for zero tolerance in this society. Never reflected in the news stories, in the Mass Murdering Media, never on the minds of the One Percent, Point Zero Zero One Percent. I know for a fact, though, that those Little Eichmanns who populate the other 19 percent of the 20 Percenters, well, many of them have one degree of separation when it comes to family members with substance abuse issues, chronic mental or physical illness, depression, suicidal, schizophrenic, and homeless.

You get both barrels of human pain and human survival and some human triumphs when talking with real people, albeit, denigrated folk, disenfranchised humans.

They are really rough around the edges, but these fellows, Tommy and Devon, they are examples of struggle and defeat and some triumph, as Brian and I note and agree. They are so far from any of the discourse going on around the world — the complete irrelevance of all the trolling, all the internet crap, all the stuff that makes for an echo chamber that sucks humanity and human connection from the ether.

You look at Tommy, and you see a man on the skids. Big laughing screwed up face, almost Dickensian, crazy might be one moniker. Hustling and wanting to have people know that there was once a time when he had some normalcy, some sense of being a man in society — not on the skids. Though, Tommy would not see himself on the skids.

Brain injury 23 years ago when a van hit him head on as a pedestrian. And he still works, moves heavy furniture, and hammers roofs.

Devon, a former truck driver, someone who has a few years in the Marines, and as Brian states — people are only awakened to the level of how they have been able to access those tools necessary to be woken up. Yet, Brian states that he’d much rather be in the company of these men than the MSWs and other graduate-level punishers he’s worked with, as I have also worked with, in the non-profit arenas as supposed social services workers.

They probably know nothing about this movement, which could affect Tommy and Devon:

When reporters for the International Amazon Workers Voice interviewed part-time Amazon “associates” (a cheap euphemism for “employees” used to disguise the exploitative relationship between workers and management at the company) in Baltimore to discuss their attitude toward Bezos’ fortune, they were met with a torrent of disgust, calls for sharing the wealth, and social anger.

“Tell Mr. Bezos and the rest of management to come out of their offices and get on the shop floor” said one worker who identified herself as a single mother of two. “At the end of the day, they never feel what we go through in a day for $12 an hour. They get to sit down in their offices and get paid more than we will see in a year,” she said.

Bezos’ wealth typifies the way an increasingly small number of multi-billionaire CEOs and finance operatives extract ever more obscene sums from the international workforce. This process of ever-increasing wealth for the few and exploitation for the majority is reaching a political breaking point.

Explaining her work environment during the holidays, the working mother said, “they just had us move 100,000 packages in 5 hours, and at the end we aren’t even paid enough to take care of our kids. I’m a single mother, I don’t receive food stamps. My rent is $850 a month. I have to pay for gas, electricity, bus passes, plus raise two kids.

“If we decided to quit, who would move these packages out of the door?” she said, noting the social power of the workers employed by the company. “We are the ones making you rich.”

Brian and I talk about Amazon, and the nefarious nature of how the guy at the Washington Post attacks the fourth grader Trump and others, while he is part of the Military Industrial Complex. From The Intercept:

Amazon’s extensive relationship with the NSA, FBI, Pentagon and other surveillance agencies in the west is multi-faceted, highly lucrative and rapidly growing. Last March, the Intercept reported on a new app that Amazon developers and British police forces have jointly developed to use on the public in police work, just “the latest example of third parties aidingautomating, and in some cases, replacing, the functions of law enforcement agencies — and raises privacy questions about Amazon’s role as an intermediary.”

Then there’s the patent Amazon obtained last October, as reported by the Intercept, “that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice.” In particular, it would enable anyone using the product to determine a person’s accent and likely place of origin: “The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent.”

All of this is taking place as Amazon vies for, and is the favorite to win, one of the largest Pentagon contracts yet: a $10 billion agreement to provide exclusive cloud services to the world’s largest military. CNN reported just last week that the company is now enmeshed in scandal over that effort, specifically a formal investigation into “whether Amazon improperly hired a former Defense Department worker who was involved with a $10 billion government contract for which the tech company iscompeting.”

Bezos’ relationship with the military and spying agencies of the U.S. Government, and law enforcement agencies around the world, predates his purchase of the Washington Post and has become a central prong of Amazon’s business growth. Back in 2014, Amazon secured a massive contract with the CIA when the spy agency agreed to pay it $600 million for computing cloud software. As the Atlantic noted at the time, Amazon’s software “will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.”

Given how vital the military and spy agencies now are to Amazon’s business, it’s unsurprising that the amount Amazon pays to lobbyists to serve its interests in Washington has exploded: quadrupling since 2013 from $3 million to almost $15 million last year, according to Open Secrets.

What would the house-less Tommy and Devon say about this Byzantine world of hyper billions of dollars and hyper trillions of human hours wasted on the things of capitalism, of power and control, consumption?

We were keeping our eye on 1984. But it’s Brave New World we should have feared instead.

I know many friends who wonder why we — people like me — still live in the US? Many wonder what it will take young people to stand down the systems of oppression. Some believe the young people have it, as in Greta the Carbon Dioxide Robin Hood, or AOC, the new face (sic) of American politics.

This system we have now is one where a few voices count (get read, heard, published, followed), and the majority of voices are just bursts of yelling in the woods, in campgrounds, in one’s lovely home in the old sedan, in our own bedlam. People travelling from one insane place to another, but in that realm, a sanity sets in for guys like Tommy and Devon. The world is pretty clear-cut, and on many levels, these people have positive outlooks — toothless, no real estate or swelling investment accounts. Just that hard way forward. Cigarettes and bicycling miles a day. Places to shower. Places to get out of the rain without the bulldozers of misanthropy pushing them further and further into ditches or out on the periphery until they stare us all down, face to face, the coming of a New Brave World. Is it the entertaining ourselves to death cycle, or a little bit of the other — big brother, watching our every move, holding every syllable mouthed in a cloud server, every speck of mole cataloged, and every word penned or typed, collected to hold us at bay, hold us as prisoners of our own faulty beliefs?

 

Needless to say, Charles Dickens grew to hate the system and rail against it in his works. In his seminal novella “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by two portly men raising money for the poor.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the [one of the gentlemen], taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

— Charles Dickens, 1843, A Christmas Carol 

Or, updated for 2020, as illustrated by a commentator on an article about Portland, OR, once the Rose City, now The City of Rocks:

To disrupt illegal camp sites set up by homeless in Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is moving boulders onto the roadsides. The project will eventually cost about a million dollars, but ODOT argues this cost is less than the cost of dealing with existing campsites.

Many have pointed out that this policy does nothing to address the underlying problem or help the people in the camp, but only forces them to move somewhere else.

KGW8


odot boulders homeless camps highway 26 1015 2018

—Scrooge/Marley, Edward Sullivan, Planetizen

A debtor's prison in London.

A debtor’s prison in London.

Charter School Advocates Reject Analysis

Advocates of privately-operated charter schools that siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools have been a little more defensive and restive than usual in recent months.

This is to be expected given the growing number of mainstream and academic reports exposing their long-standing problems, as well as the fact that more people are seeing charter schools for what they really are.

There is a growing unstoppable social consciousness that charter schools are not just over-hyped phenomena which regularly over-promise and frequently under-deliver, but that they are fundamentally pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “innovations” that “empower parents,” “promote choice,” and “save minority kids.”

The pious claims, platitudes, and grandstanding of charter school advocates are becoming more worn-out, hackneyed, and tired. They mean less with each passing week. Charter school advocates think that blindly repeating the same knee-jerk assertions and one-liners over and over again is the same thing as analysis and discussion. They believe that people develop convictions in a healthy and organic way by being bombarded by clichés, buzzwords, and counterfeit solutions.

Charter school supporters and promoters have always favored disinformation and irrationalism over analysis, discussion, and coherence. They have always feared that too much discussion, especially deep discussion and analysis, would expose them too much and undermine their antisocial agenda. They do not want people to think too hard and too much about what is really going on.

It is not a coincidence that in various cities charter school advocates are striving more desperately to organize more charter school “discussions” to combat the swelling irreversible social consciousness developing about major problems in the charter school sector. Of course, such “discussions” are often sponsored by pro-business organizations (e.g., chambers of commerce) and typically led by panels made up entirely, or almost entirely, of people who unequivocally support charter schools and repeat myths and banalities about them.

Some of the key topics and issues charter school advocates are unable and unwilling to analyze seriously include the following.

Blind Embrace of High-Stakes Tests

Charter school promoters never address, let alone analyze, the role, nature, meaning, and significance of expensive, curriculum-narrowing, anxiety-producing, punitive, high-stakes standardized tests produced by a handful of for-profit corporations. They are fixated on comparing and ranking schools, teachers, and students, as if this has anything to do with learning. Charter school advocates are obsessed with “win-lose” tests and feel comfortable raising no concerns about them. They automatically and erroneously assume that such tests are educationally sound, meaningful, and useful. They are too hidebound and anti-intellectual to even know what it means when someone points out that assessments today are based on psychometric pseudo-science.

Charter school promoters habitually accept the social Darwinist and Skinnerian ideologies underpinning these hazardous tests that fetishize competition and quantification, while debasing learning. But how useful and meaningful are “results” that come from assessments that are top-down and philosophically and scientifically flawed? Are civilizations built on timed, multiple-choice, memorization tests produced by large corporations? The bankruptcy of the tests charter school advocates support is also evident in the fact that there are many ways to improve test scores without improving learning. Test performance and genuine learning and growth are not synonymous. In fact, a greater focus on high-stakes standardized tests means less meaningful learning and growth. Obviously, charter school promoters have no use for such critical considerations. All they know is that high-hazard standardized tests are antidemocratic political instruments to be used for destructive neoliberal purposes.

Profound Differences Between Public and Private

Charter school supporters mindlessly repeat the disinformation that charter schools are public schools to create a pretext for seizing vast sums of public money and to conceal their inherently privatized character. They believe that a school becomes public just because it is called public or just because it receives public money. If they were openly and honestly treated as the privatized arrangements that they really are, then it would be obvious to all that charter schools have no valid or legitimate claim to public funds and assets. For this reason, charter school supporters self-servingly blur the profound distinction between public and private. They even go so far as to cynically urge the public to “move past discussions about whether charter schools are public or not.” They do not want anyone concluding that the private aim to profit from providing education will never fulfil the right to education.

Major Differences Between Choice and Rights

Another way charter school supporters avoid analysis and promote incoherence and confusion, is by manipulating the use and meaning of the word “choice” to suit their narrow needs. No one is opposed to choice as such. Everyone recognizes that, generally speaking, people should have the freedom and autonomy to select something from a list of alternatives. The key problem is that charter school advocates use choice in the narrow consumerist free market sense of the word because they view education as a commodity and see parents and students as consumers, not humans or citizens. They look at a social responsibility like education largely from the profit-oriented perspective of business and entrepreneurship. The two meanings of choice are different, however, and should not be mixed up.

It should also be recalled that charter schools usually choose parents and students, not the other way around. Unlike public schools, charter schools turn away many parents and students. Charter school advocates proudly embrace “free market” dogma. They see no problems with the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” They are unable and unwilling to see that education is a basic human right and social responsibility that government is duty-bound to guarantee. Charter school supporters do not comprehend that parents in a modern advanced society should not have to shop for a school the way they shop for peanut butter. And they think it is normal and positive for hundreds of schools to close every year.

Why and How Public Schools Have Been Purposely Mandated to Fail by the Neoliberal State So As to Privatize Them

The last thing charter school advocates want is for people to investigate and analyze why so many public schools have been actively set up to fail by the neoliberal state. Charter school advocates have been deliberately repeating the self-serving narrative that public schools are failing in order to “argue” that students should enroll in charter schools, even though thousands of charter schools across the country perform poorly and are plagued by widespread fraud and corruption. Charter school advocates offer no analysis or discussion at all about how and why these schools have been set-up to fail by the same neoliberals behind charter schools and privatization. “Starve It-Demonize It-Privatize It” has been the mantra of privatizers and neoliberals for decades. The basic formula goes like this: first, cut funding for schools every year. Bleed them dry. Set them up to fail. Then demonize, attack, scapegoat, and discredit them relentlessly for months, even years, so as to set the stage for privatization as a “solution.” In this connection, charter school advocates also want to avoid any serious discussion on the enormous role of poverty, segregation, and over-testing in ensuring failure and chaos in America’s public schools, especially its urban school systems, which are the ones most heavily targeted by charter school supporters. Charter school boosters are adamantly opposed to any solution of these problems. But, as everyone can see, far from solving a single social, economic, or educational problem, nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have made everything worse.

Charter school promoters are opposed to admitting to, analyzing, and openly discussing numerous other persistent problems in the charter school sector. They quickly become defensive when confronted with these persistent unresolved problems:

  1. High student, teacher, and principal turnover rates.
  2. Widespread poor academic performance.
  3. Many charter school closures per year.
  4. High student suspension and expulsion rates.
  5. Unethical admissions practices.
  6. Extensive fraud, corruption, and racketeering.
  7. Increased segregation and stiff opposition to unions.

Many other stubborn problems could be listed. The point is that the crisis-prone charter school sector is causing great damage to public schools, the economy, society, and the national interest.

Instead of confronting issues, problems, and topics in an intellectually honest and rigorous manner, in a way that raises the level of discussion and thinking, charter school advocates prefer to keep things superficial and on the plane of platitudes, grandstanding, and anachronistic ideologies. There is no deep-dive into anything except how to profit off kids and the public.

Happenings in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear.

— Buffalo Springfield,  “For What it’s Worth,” 1967

The Sunday newspaper had been left on the park bench.  Its book page had lists of best-sellers, as if numbers two through ten could be the “best” along with number one.  Absurdities were everywhere for the taking.  On the Non-Fiction Hardcover list, numbers 3, 5, and 10 each had the word fuck in the title.  The books were published by two old and respected publishing houses: Harper and Little Brown.  However, something was odd, for the word fuck was spelled f*ck.  These books were about hope, acceptance, and living the good life, cliché topics in a feel-good culture: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Everything is F*cked, and Calm the F*ck Down.  It seemed you had to be fucked first before you could accept the hope that the good life was coming your way.  He wondered if these publishing houses thought that by eliminating the “u” they kept their hands clean and were not descending into the gutter with hoi polloi, while simultaneously titillating potential readers.  Did they think readers would be offended by the word fuck, but would not be by f*ck?  Then it occurred to him that he didn’t know what the fuck non-fiction books were anyway.  Maybe he had been wrong all his life and the opposite of up was non-up, not down.

*****

On every table in the seaside resort’s breakfast room there was a brightly colored flower in a clear watered vase.  When he picked it up to smell the orange blossom, there was no smell and the water didn’t move.  He imagined an ersatz form of plastic happiness, a conjurer’s delight, where everything was a trick, nothing moved, not even water.

*****

Leaving the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in southern California where white and black Marines were regularly fighting and there were even some killings never reported by the press, the two young Marines escaped the tense and claustrophobic atmosphere on a weekend pass.  It was early February 1967, and they took an overnight bus up the coast to San Francisco where they wandered around and found a breakfast restaurant near Union Square.  There they read in the newspaper that for the week of January 12-19 the U.S. military had suffered its highest casualty count so far in Vietnam: 144 killed, 1,044 wounded, and 6 missing-in-action.  It jolted them awake more than the coffee.  Later that afternoon, the two naifs wandered into the Haight-Ashbury district were they were startled by the first waves of acid-dazed hippies, who would soon arrive in hoards for the “summer of love.” In the evening when they visited a bar for some beers, the waitress who delivered their drinks was topless. While they regarded this slight anomaly with manly indifference, she must have noticed their military haircuts that stood out among the longhairs, and so she served them buttons with their beers. The buttons read: Vietnam Love It Or Leave It. Heading back to the base, they knew where they didn’t want to go.

*****

The young man was studying for a PhD.  He was intent on learning what made the world and people tick. He was attending a small seminar at the home of his professor, a famous German emigre who had worked for the Rand Corporation and U.S. Intelligence. Each of the five students was to give a short presentation on the subject of fake news and the issue of knowledge, since the course concerned the sociology of knowledge. The student began his presentation by quoting a famous philosopher’s words: “In formulating any philosophy, the first consideration must always be: What can we know? That is, what can we be sure we know, or sure that we know we knew it, if indeed it is all knowable. Or have we simply forgotten it and are too embarrassed to say anything? Descartes hinted at the problem when he wrote, ‘My mind can never know my body, although it has become quite friendly with my legs.’ By ‘knowable,’ incidentally, I do not mean that which can be known by perception of the senses, or that which can be grasped by the mind, but more that which can be said to be Known or to possess a Knownness or Knowability, or at least something you can mention to a friend.” The student paused and the eminent professor said, “So very interesting. Who is that philosopher?” The student replied, “Woody Allen.” “He is very perceptive,” said the professor, “and yet I have never heard of him.  I will have to read his work.” The student realized he was in good hands with such U.S. intelligence and Rand Corporation experts, so he asked the professor’s wife for another glass of the German wine she was serving and toasted his good fortune with a wry grin. None of the other students got the joke.

*****

A young man was reading a book that he highly recommended to his uncle. Leafing through it, the older man came upon this passage: “the free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms.” So what was the point of reading such a book, he wondered, since doing so was an exercise in pre-programmed absurdity since there was no freedom.

*****

You have probably seen the bumper sticker that says: “Shit Happens.” Some people are just lucky, I suppose, and odd coincidences mark their lives. When he was just out of Columbia College and working for a reputed CIA front company, Business International Corporation, Barack Obama had a chance encounter with a young woman, Genevieve Cook, with whom he had a 1-2 year relationship. Like Obama and at about the same time, Cook just happened to have lived in Indonesia with her father, Michael Cook, who just happened to become Australia’s top spook, the director-general of the Office of National Assessments, and also the Ambassador to Washington. Of course, Obama’s mother, as is well-known, just happened to be living in Indonesia with Barack and Obama’s step-father, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian military officer, who had been called back to Indonesia by the CIA supported General Suharto to assist in the CIA coup against the President Sukarno and the slaughter of over a million Indonesian Communists and Indonesian-Chinese. As is also well-known, it just so happened that Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, trained in the Russian language, after teaching English in the US Embassy in Jakarta that housed one of the largest CIA stations in Asia, did her “anthropological” work in Indonesia and Southeast Asia financed by the well-known CIA conduits, USAID and the Ford Foundation. Then there is Cook’s stepfather, Philip C. Jessup, who just happened to be in Indonesia at the same time, doing nickel-mining deals with the genocidal Suharto government. Anyway, “shit happens.” You never know whom you might meet along the way of life.

*****

The hostess at the seaside restaurant had an eastern European accent, so he asked her where she was from.  She said, “Belgrade, Serbia.” He told her he was sorry for what the U.S. government led by Bill Clinton had done to her country and that he considered Clinton a war criminal. She said the bombing in 1999 was terrifying, and even though she was young at the time, she vividly remembered it. It traumatized her, her parents, and her family. Then she smiled and said that in the month she had been in the U.S. for her summer job, all the Americans she had met had been so friendly. He welcomed her to the U.S., and as he was walking away, he remembered that Clinton’s savage bombing of Serbia that had killed so many Serbian children and other innocents had been code-named “Operation Noble Anvil.” He wondered what kind of “noble” people would think of innocent children as anvils: “heavy usually steel-faced iron blocks on which metal is shaped,” and did the friendly Americans accept Clinton’s sick lies when he ended his March 24, 1999 war address to the American people with these words: “Our thoughts and prayers tonight must be with the men and women of our armed forces, who are undertaking this mission for the sake of our values and our children’s future. May God bless them, and may God bless America.”

*****

The banal, 1967 hit song, “San Francisco” (Be sure to wear flowers in your hair), which was influential in enticing young people to come to San Francisco for the Summer of Love, was written by “Papa” John Philips, who attended the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and whose father was a Marine Corps Captain. “Papa” John’s wife had worked at the Pentagon and her father was involved in covert intelligence work in Vietnam. His neighbor and Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles) buddy was Jim Morrison of Doors fame, whose father US Navy Admiral George Morrison commanded U.S. warships in Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf during the “Tonkin Gulf Incident.” Frank Zappa, the father figure of Laurel Canyon’s many musicians who just happened to converge in one place at the same time where a covert military film studio operated, had a father who was a chemical warfare specialist at Edgewood Arsenal. Stephen Stills, David Crosby and many other soon to be famous musicians all came from military and intelligence backgrounds and frolicked in Laurel Canyon. Although they were draft age, none of them was drafted as they played music, dropped acid, and created the folk-rock movement whose music was catchy but innocuous and posed no threat to the establishment. But “shit happens.” In his disturbing book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, David McGowan raises the question: “what if the musicians themselves (and various other leaders and founders of the ‘movement’) were every bit as much a part of the intelligence community as the people who were supposedly harassing them? What if, in other words, the entire youth culture of the 1960s was created not as a grass-roots challenge to the status quo, but as a cynical exercise in discrediting and marginalizing the budding anti-war movement and creating a fake opposition that could be easily controlled and led astray…. What if, in reality, they were pretty much all playing on the same team?”

*****

The reporter was interviewing four of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s young “executive governors,” who were all dressed in three-piece business suits.  They were in the process of conducting Transcendental Meditation’s week-long course leading to super-normal abilities, including flying, levitating, disappearing, x-ray vision, and other siddhis, or supernormal powers.  Their recent press release had advertised the course as “a new breakthrough for human life on earth” for any person.  The reporter was a bit skeptical that people could be taught – for a large fee – to fly or disappear.  He asked one of the executive governors, “Can you literally rise into the air and move horizontally; can you see yourself and can others see you actually fly?”  “Absolutely,” Larry Johnson replied without hesitation, “absolutely.  Once you eliminate all stress from your nervous system, you have unbounded, unlimited potential.  A human can achieve any desire he wants, flying is only one of them.”  “People will be skeptical,” the reporter continued, “How about a demonstration?”  “A public demonstration would cause too much of a ruckus,” said Johnson.  “And we couldn’t show you because we only do it for each other.  Actually, we do our techniques with our eyes closed, but we do peek out once in a while and see each other flying around the room.  You know, one of the siddhis is a technique for making yourself invisible, and the Mararishi has said, ‘Don’t peek out to see if you’ve disappeared.’”  Johnson giggled and added, “We can also teach people to x-ray their own bodies and see through walls. Absolutely, absolutely.  It’s all about infinite correlation.  Absolutely.”  As the battered reporter left the interview, he wondered if the Maharishi was a creation of the CIA.  He remembered John Lennon’s song lines about the Maharishi’s assistant:  “But he often spread rumors through his right hand man/Who used to be with the CIA”

*****

What is “exactly clear” is that Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills, Neil Young et al) toured with their Laurel Canyon buddies, the Beach Boys, in late 1967 (their other mutual bud, Charlie Manson, stayed out west presumably to work on his craft) and performed at a very odd venue for a “dissident” rock group, The U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  At that time nearly 500,000 American troops were waging war on the Vietnamese.  That concert was an odd happening, wouldn’t you say?

*****

If  everyone actually looked, they’d see precisely what went down, “what’s going down,” and why we are going down.  If you think many of these things “just happen” for no reason, then I guess you are just “f*cked.”  Excuse me, but it’s true.  Does the asterisk help?

Morsi’s Legacy: Unlikely Democrat, Reluctant Martyr

Morsi surrounded by his minders

Mohamed Morsi (1951–2019) was the fifth President of Egypt (30 June 2012 to 3 July 2013), deposed by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in a coup d’état July 3, 2013. In his last words, Morsi accused the government of “assassinating” him through years of poor prison conditions.

Morsi is survived by his wife Naglaa Ali Mahmoud (not “First Lady” but rather “First Servant of the Egyptian people”). Morsi had five children, two are US citizens born in California. His body was quickly buried without an inquest. His wish that he be buried in his hometown Adwa was denied.

Human Rights Watch official Sarah Leah Whitson said Morsi’s treatment in prison was “horrific, and those responsible should be investigated and appropriately prosecuted.” The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for a “prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation” into Morsi’s death. Among major world leaders only Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Malaysia and Qatar expressed regret at his death.

Morsi’s legacy is mixed. An engineer who studied at the University of Southern California, he was an unlikely figure to be thrust onto Egypt’s central stage, not a major thinker in the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), without any political experience. He was an unconvincing second choice for the MB as presidential candidate, a bumbler, a poor speaker, but brave and principled.

The charismatic, millionaire businessman Khairat El-Shater, a major financier and chief strategist of the Brotherhood, was disqualified at the last minute based on previous trumped up convictions, and Morsi was only allowed a few hours before the deadline to register. He was vilified by hysterical secular westernizers, and undermined by a campaign of lawlessness and planned shortages, but was popular to the end among devout Muslims. The media and the elite were against him and drowned out the Muslim wisdom not to overthrow a ruler as long as you are “not commanded to disobey Allah. If he is commanded to disobey, then there is no listening or obedience.” Ibn Omar (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 2796).

The MB, like Iran’s Islamic order, doesn’t fit into western secular thinking. The MB supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan. But they are not the Taliban, they never supported al-Qaeda. They are more in line with Turkey’s Islamists. Or Iran’s Islamists.

A few key moments:

*On 19 October 2012, Morsi traveled to Egypt’s northwestern Matrouh in his first official visit to deliver a speech on Egyptian unity at el-Tenaim Mosque. Immediately prior to his speech he participated in prayers there where he openly mouthed “Amen” as cleric Futouh Abd Al-Nabi Mansour, the local head of religious endowment, declared, “Deal with the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, disperse them, rend them asunder. Oh Allah, demonstrate Your might and greatness upon them. Show us Your omnipotence, oh Lord.” The prayers were broadcast on Egyptian state television and translated and posted by MEMRI, a Zionist media watchdog.

*On 22 November 2012, Morsi issued a declaration which intended to protect the work of the Constituent Assembly drafting the new constitution from judicial interference, until a new constitution is ratified in a referendum. This was blown up as an Islamist coup, but in fact Morsi was just trying to get around the Supreme Court, stacked with anti-MB judges, who would declare the MB’s programs and new constitution as … unconstitutional? Whatever. In the referendum to ratify the new constitution, it was approved by approximately two-thirds of voters.

*The declaration also required a retrial of those accused in the Mubarak-era killings of protesters, who had been acquitted. Additionally, the declaration authorized Morsi to take any measures necessary to protect the revolution.

*Morsi strengthened ties with Iran following years of animosity since the Iranian revolution in 1979. However, his actions were met with Sunni Muslim opposition both inside and outside of Egypt.

*He spoke out for the rights of Christians and emphasized that Islam requires there to be an ethical component in economic affairs to ensure that the poor share in society’s wealth.

Fatal mistake

Like Erdogan, in the heady days after the 2011 uprisings in the Arab world, Morsi got swept up into Islamic revolutionary fever, calling for the overthrow of the (Alawite) “infidels”, a kind of belated revenge for the slaughter of the Syrian MB by Hafez Assad in 1980. But then, just about everyone was (and still is) supporting the Syrian opposition, from Obama to most Sunnis, soon-to-be-ISIS, and leftists.

The last straw for the military was when Morsi attended an Islamist rally on 15 June 2013, where Salafi clerics called for jihad in Syria and denounced supporters of Bashar al-Assad as infidels. Morsi announced that his government had expelled Syria’s ambassador and closed the Syrian embassy in Cairo, calling for international intervention on behalf of the opposition forces and establishment of a no-fly zone.

Morsi’s attendance at the rally was later revealed to be a major factor in the army’s decision to side with anti-Morsi protesters during the June 30 anti-Morsi protests. In November 2012, the National Salvation Front (NSF) had suddenly appeared, and overnight, a nationwide petition was signed by 22m Egyptians calling for Morsi’s immediate resignation.

Is it possible Morsi might have survived if he hadn’t broken relations with Syria and called for jihad? The Egyptian military looked at Syria and saw their own future. The Syria army was battling to hold the country together in the face of a dubious coalition of Islamists with lots of support from Saudi Arabia and the US. They decided they had to overthrow their own Brotherhood before it took them on and ended their privileged hegemony. The Egyptian military is trained and equipped by the US. Egypt runs on Saudi dollars. Best to keep the US and Saudis on your side and the message by then was ‘Dump the Brotherhood’.

We will never know, but the plan from the start clearly was for the all-powerful military to give the Brotherhood some rope, and then take charge and hang them (metaphorically and literally) if they actually tried to govern, counting on the vengefulness of the old guard and the screaming liberals if the MB pushed too hard. The liberals were weak, and could be conned into supporting a coup, and then easily brought to heel with a few arrests and massacres.

This power politics isn’t confined to the Arab world. Iran and Venezuela are both targets of western-backed campaigns to destroy any attempt, Islamic or socialist, to escape the clutches of the US empire. Trump welcomed Sisi to the White House in April 2019, after Sisi declared himself president for life (in a referendum which he won with 88.3% approval). Trump: “We’ve never had a better relationship, Egypt and the United States, than we do right now. I think he’s doing a great job.” After the meeting, Trump pushed for the US to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Overthrowing rulers

Just as Erdogan came to regret his betrayal of Assad (and barely survived a coup in 2016), so Morsi and the entire MB can only regret flirting with militant jihad abroad, from the 1980s on. Even if Assad is an Alawite and you don’t approve of that sect of Islam, you don’t overthrow him as long as he doesn’t commanded you “to disobey Allah”.

But then, 30 years ago it was official Egyptian and US policy to encourage Islamists from Egypt to go to fight in Afghanistan. And the campaign against Assad was/is almost unanimous in the West. So again, I sympathize with bad judgment by the MB.

MB spokesman Dardery said, “The nation elected Morsy to a four-year term and should stand by that. To do otherwise would disrupt the country’s nascent democracy. It is not fair to a democracy.” Lesson from Iran and Syria: If you’re going to have an Islamic revolution, make sure the people and army are on your side.

El-Sisi’s legacy

Sisi clearly models himself on Egypt’s 19th dictator-pasha Muhammad Ali. The parallel is stark between Sisi’s slaughter of thousands of Muslims, and Muhammad Ali’s clever invitation of all his Mameluke rivals to his citadel in 1811. He invited them to the centre of power and proceeded to slaughter a thousand of them to consolidate his rule. Invite your foes into the open and then murder them.

A legend of the pasha was that he had 300,000 street children rounded up and shipped to Aswan where they were taught skills and became assets to his construction of a new Egypt. Sisi launched just such a program “Homeless Children” in May 2017, planning to gather up street waifs and whisk them to an army camp for training.

Then there’s the new Aswan Dam, criticized as a white elephant, even as Egypt hovers on the brink of bankruptcy. (Along with it is a scaled-down version of the MB’s proposed industrial corridor along the Nile.) This nostalgia for the past is perhaps an attempt at taking the wind out of the sails of ISIS, the actual Muslim terrorists, yearning for the caliphate, but is just as misguided.

By attempting to destroy the MB, the legitimate Islamists, Sisi gives fuel to the ISIS fires. That was what the MB could have tackled, not a secular dictator persecuting devout Muslims. On the contrary, terrorism has increased dramatically since 2013, with at least 500 deaths.

The Ministry of Education have decreed that the revolution of January 25, 2011, and the uprising on June 30, 2013 will no longer be mentioned in high school history textbooks. The ‘Arab Spring’ didn’t happen.

President Morsi is dead, assassinated. El-Khater and other MB leaders are on death row. Sisi is dictator for life.

The end of history? Hardly. As for Morsi, he enters the realm of legend, a kind of foil for bin Laden, as a true martyr to Islam.

Household Income, or Higher Planes of Consciousness?*

We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909

The hubris, the lack of ground truthing, the faux academic natures, the overlord mentality, the star chamber blathering, and the oh so tight with capitalism persuasions of elites like Nick Hanauer, Founder of the public-policy incubator Civic Ventures, billionaire, Charter School aficionado, and one of those not-so-rare money grubbers who has so much to say about how we, the 80 percent, should live our lives in their strangling economic hell.

Allen, Gates, Bezos, Buffet, Walton, Nick, and on and on, the number of elites who are lecturing governors, policy makers, citizens, and business opportunists on what we, their poor trickled down subjects, should do to survive in their sacrifice zones of hellish capitalism.

Here’s Nick’s piece in that faux magazine, The Atlantic — Better Schools Won’t Fix America  — “Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first.”

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

— Nick Hanauer

It goes downhill from there, which one would expect as the magazine gives this fellow broadsheet exposure as he lumbers along in an attempt to revamp his earlier theses about how education is the salvation for our society, our economy (sic) and in bringing people out of poverty.

You see, these billionaires play with words and ideas, and he comes off as all anti-trickle down, pro-bridging the gap in this New Gilded Age.

He sounds like a duck, quacks like a quack, though. No mention of taking capitalism down to its knees, at least. No mention of a decent single payer health care bill, no mention of a social security system paid for through the rich and not-so-rich paying above their $120,000 cap on wages that currently sets as the gold (rust) standard for taking out SS on wages. No discussion of ending the war economy, stopping rich entrepreneurs from moving technology from its current state of extinction event after extinction event into the isolation bunkers we put nuclear energy’s waste stream.

Like all good capitalists, Nick’s invested in making money from the “middle class” as it’s forced into a frantic hamster wheel services-goods-consumer-unnecessary-and-polluting-junk society which is a race to the bottom, for sure. Ramping up riderless cars, 200 mph exclusive trains, drone-delivered crap, and I am sure people-killing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning devices — that’s their MOS. Starbucks on Mars. Netflix on the Moon. That’s their wet dreams.

Here’s his many times repeated foundation tooted throughout his piece:

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem.

Whenever I talk with my wealthy friends about the dangers of rising economic inequality, those who don’t stare down at their shoes invariably push back with something about the woeful state of our public schools. This belief is so entrenched among the philanthropic elite that of America’s 50 largest family foundations—a clique that manages $144 billion in tax-exempt charitable assets—40 declare education as a key issue. Only one mentions anything about the plight of working people, economic inequality, or wages. And because the richest Americans are so politically powerful, the consequences of their beliefs go far beyond philanthropy.

A major theme in the educationist narrative involves the “skills gap”—the notion that decades of wage stagnation are largely a consequence of workers not having the education and skills to fill new high-wage jobs. If we improve our public schools, the thinking goes, and we increase the percentage of students attaining higher levels of education, particularly in the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—the skills gap will shrink, wages will rise, and income inequality will fall.

Oh, god, so all my decades teaching in so many venues, even now, PK12, are worthless since I am a journeyman, ground truther, not in some academic elite group of book writers, or in the know with these elites who are the rich and the famous and the leeches who will spin multi-billions of our hard-earned money to play with educational curriculum.

Fact is, the jobs are pure crap, the unemployment rate is higher than the economists and their followers say, the type of jobs we have in the USA are asinine and foolishly tied to hyper consumption and hyper eating and hyper entertaining and hyper disposable (not) income based.

Old Nick goes on and on about how we need to bring people out of poverty and to pay more for those Walmart and Burger King jobs. He talks about the big job growth in low-wage jobs (low wage because we do not value bedpan cleaners, home health care workers, people that pick up the trash, do the social work, aid the teachers, teach, and do the work of paving roads, building day care centers, staffing day care centers, and on and on).

Our infrastructure in the USA is D- from the civil and other engineering societies’ POVs. We have people paying 250K dollars to be a doctor or veterinarian. We have student loan debt in the $1.5 trillion category. We have students who are homeless, part-time faculty who sleep in their cars (houseless) and millions upon millions of people with degrees from college making squat. Nick thinks the schools are great, that we are turning out highly educated folk from the colleges yet, however, we have so many jobs now that demand zero college but can’t be filled to assist the billionaires making more billions.

You know, warehouse jobs, food processing, delivery, etc. A true capitalist like Nick would never ever say we need BETTER schools, PK12, where the youth get real history on the crimes of the wealthy, the crimes of capitalism, the crimes of their own country. Never give young people ways to monkey wrench the oppressive systems that capitalism naturally invents and props up and hires militaries for to keep workers down and the rich up.

Our schools are crap, and the Chromebooks and standardized curriculum and the flat earth people around the South who hold sway on what is taught and what is read, well, we are an embarrassment. The students are losing their IQs every five years, and what is done in schools is an assault of the senses, antithetical to learning, and contrary to what we need to be teaching and having youth embrace so they can have the tools and collective wisdom and force to take Mr. Nick’s billions and take his messed up ideas and put themselves in the driver’s seat.

This addictive screen society, and the meaningless content delivered on line, and the anorexic history, and the childish stuff even in college, all of that, and more, demonstrate a true skills gap.  We need a moratorium on student debt, a jubilee, and we need major moratoriums on the power of capital and their Gilded Age masters.

He’s shocked that over the past 40 years there has been such a huge gap in the wealth of middle class people and the rich. Hmm, nothing about millions in investments making exponentially more than what most Americans consider big bucks with a few thousand in the bank. Interest rates down in the toilet for the investor class. Fee after fine after levy after penalty after tax after toll after add-on after compounded interest rate, sure, try that on $50 k a year. The cost of insurance on the vehicles, all that money stolen buying a house with more scum scoopers in the Real Estate Mafia, all those municipal and county and state government agencies adding more and more onto fees to pay for the business of democracy.

Because guys like Nick sound like a liberal, sound like a benefactor of the middle class, well, they get play in the Mainstream Mass Suicide Media like a rag such as the Atlantic. But get under the skin of this guy’s article and we find a plastic world of not-very-original ideas that are so divorced from what it takes to be a teacher and a staff and a student and a parent and a citizen of the public school system.

The teachers do not cross pollinate, and to be honest, so teachers never co-teach or cover a variety of subjects as a team. I’d say 70 percent of the people I teach with should not be teachers, though that might be hard to ferret out since I believe all PK12 education should be hands on, experiential, tied to community projects, with tons of book reading, outdoor gardening, real science in the fields and heavens, raising animals, doing arts and crafts that sell to the community, building, thinking entering the community as parachutists for day care, elderly care, animal care, park care.

School should be the end all for a community, and with national health care, a decent chance at some income at 62, with safety nets built in for illness, accident, mental health breakdown, and with housing that is built by the community, and affordable beyond affordable, tied to public transportation, tied to community farms, community civics, community art and music and democracy schools, all wrapped up in a big fat bow of retooling people to think like a tribe but act like a 21st century survivor of climate catastrophe.

Imagine taking all the additives and chemicals and toxins out of food, water, air and activities of daily living for our youth, from inception to college, and we’d be saving trillions on health care and worker depression and crime and suicide.

Yes, taking technology away, sending it to the dustbin of the waste storage facilities of the nuclear age, the chemical age, the bio-toxin age.

Nick can never ever criticize the War Machine, the Fossil Energy Machine, the Pharma Machine, the AI Machine, the Legal Machine, the Real Estate Machine, the Retail Machine, the Prison Machine, the Health Care Machine, and the other Machines that keep capitalism going strong like those gas chambers we have so much read about tied to WWII.

The Age of Dumb has morphed into the Age of Stupid, into the Age of Distraction and morphed further into the Age of Passionless Existence . . .  and then into the Age of Screen . . . and then further into the Age of I Wanna Be a You Tuber Star to this juncture,  into the Age of Fascism.

Old Nick, I am sure, loves them all — Boeing, Whole Foods, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and a thousand other enterprises of the sick and famous.

Yes, we have a huge skills gap. The skills necessary to defend a community from toxins and Air B & B’s. A skills set to stop the cops murdering, and stop the school to prison pipeline. We lack the Pk12 skills to teach youth to question ALL authority, question ALL big businesses, question ALL governments, question ALL of the so-called Nicks of the world.

The entire systems created by the cancer of capitalism need to be scrapped, or chemo-therapied out of existence.

Here, John Steppling:

But…Mark Morford, a columnist for the S.F. Gate, talked to a high school teacher friend of his in Oakland….

But most of all, he simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens’ decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words “agriculture,” or even “democracy.” Not a single student could do it. It gets worse. My friend cites the fact that, of the 6,000 high school students he estimates he’s taught over the span of his career, only a small fraction now make it to his grade with a functioning understanding of written English. They do not know how to form a sentence. They cannot write an intelligible paragraph.

Mark Morford, S.F. Gate, 2018

So this is not about measuring intelligence. IQ tests are, as I say, biased in dozens of ways. But I don’t think you can find a high school or university teacher who would not agree with the general decline in reading and writing skills. And I have noted, personally, a horrifying decline in curiosity. I rarely ever have found students curious enough to go look things up for themselves. The reasons for this are complex and beyond the scope of this article. (I have written about the evolution of visual processing and the creation of an ideal observer, on my blog. Jonathan Crary and Jonathan Beller both have profound books out on subjects inextricably linked to media and cognitive development, or lack thereof). The point here is that this loss of curiosity and literacy is not the result of a single simple thing. Nor is it a moral argument about values or some shit that Bill Bennett might have come up with. It is about a system of hegemonic control that has encouraged a surplus populace to a life spent on screens, distracted and stupified. And how this is tied into western capital and its insistence on social control and domination.

Yes, John brings in the “heavyweights” with their tomes and bibliographies and data-driven theses about media and cognitive slippage; however, again, the ground truthers have it, know it, say it, but we never are brought to the table to illuminate the elite and the powerhouse writers and thinkers to give them a real sense of the problem and the causation and the deeper issues tied to mental health slippage, physical deterioration, learning disabilities increasing, lower and lower bars for ethics, family ties, mentoring, love and respectfulness.

The bottom line is too few people have too much money, too much power, too much authority, too much control, too much say, too much ability to shape and reshape our communities. And just because everyone is doing it — oh, damn, that could be one of a thousand things consumer citizens and consumer workers and consumer neighbors are doing, but the bottom line is that many would be doing things so differently if we had agency and no overlords dictating every waking, sleeping, working, recreating, fornicating, eating, shitting, dying second — doesn’t mean it’s right or even what we want.

If Nick could just walk away from the Atlantic. If the Atlantic would just begin real journalism and real ground truthers writing vigorously and profanely and profoundly, each and every issue.

* The Six Planes of Higher Consciousness

1. Transcendence
2. Serene Knowledge
3. Universal Abundance
4. Your Vast Self
5. Integration
6. Creative Mind

Your journey through the stages of the heart, as it grows from the dark state to the clean, has been described in Stages of Mental/Emotional Awakening. It’s very important to keep these stages of mental/emotional awakening in mind as reliable guideposts of your voyage. However, it’s also very important to know the following levels of awareness which you will likely experience as you come home to your higher consciousness and become enabled to live in it as a new person.

Signing off with John Taylor Gatto:

First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don’t let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a preteen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there’s no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

Achikha in Hebrew, “your brother,” but where is he now?

Oh, yeah, it was all planned — I’d write about the 52nd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel, the subsequent cover-up, and alas, half a century of Israel and the Jewish state of Mind holding sway over much of the Western world, certainly here in the USA and Canada. Big impetus to analyze other false flags, yet, life gets in the way. Teaching youth in special education — kids with interventions, behavior plans, learning and retention plans. If only the elites and not so elite knew what is going on in America, in the classrooms, with overtaxed teachers, parents that are checked out and famished for their own self-agency and self-worth.

Image result for photo of USS Liberty

Kids in high school, needing mentors, and then, bam, first graders with all sorts of learning blocks. More and more kids with physical ailments. And, well, the beat doesn’t go on, if you know what I mean. High school kids who don’t know the history of Israel, Nakba, and certainly nothing about the Vietnam War, Korea, WWI & II, and, the USS Liberty?

Emancipation from stupidity, though, is not the purview of the poor and misbegotten and hick and small-town worker. It goes to the top, elite (sic) folk in media, education, board rooms. You won’t hear anything about the murders of those sailors by Israel. No eye for an eye by Yankees or rebels.

Fifty two years, on June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the American naval vessel USS Liberty in international waters, and tried to sink it.

After checking the Liberty out for 8 hours – and making 9 overflights with Israeli jets, within 200 feet … close enough for the pilots and the sunbathing Liberty sailors on deck to waive at each other.

Yet the Israelis attacked it with Mirage fighter jets, torpedoes and napalm. The USS Liberty suffered 70% casualties, with 34 killed and 174 wounded.

The Israeli attack spanned two hours … as long as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The air attack alone lasted approximately 25 minutes: consisting of more than 30 sorties by approximately 12 separate planes using napalm, cannon, and rockets which left 821 holes in the ship. The Israelis fired 30mm cannons and rockets into the boat.

Oh, and the media, oh the media, covering up so much about the attack. And a commission, launched in 2003, yet there is nary a word in the Mainstream Media, and we wonder why?

Liberty

Capitol Hill, October 2003. It is a historic occasion. An independent, blue-ribbon commission is to release its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded.

The commission consists of:

  • A former ambassador to one of the US’s most important allies
  • A US Navy rear admiral and former head of the Navy’s legal division
  • A Marine general, America’s highest ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the former Assistant Commandant of Marines
  • A US Navy four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the country), former Chief of Naval Operations, a World War II hero, and the only Naval admiral to have commanded both the Pacific and the Atlantic fleets

The excellent group, If Americans Knew, largely spearheaded by Alison Weir, covers this abomination:

This extraordinarily high-ranking commission was reporting on the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Many analysts believe that the Liberty attack could be Israel’s undoing – at least as far as US support is concerned – if Americans knew the facts about it.

But they don’t. Here’s why:

A search of hundreds of the largest news media in this country indexed by Lexis-Nexis does not turn up a single US newspaper that mentioned this commission, a single US television station, a single US radio station, a single US magazine. While it was mentioned in an Associated Press report focusing on one of the commission’s most dramatic revelations, Lexis reveals only a sprinkling of news media printed information from this AP report, and those few that that did failed to mention this commission itself, its extremely star-studded composition, and the entirety of its findings.

Apart from a few members of the alternative press and the excellent Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (not indexed by Lexis), this commission might as well not have existed as far as most of the US media is concerned – and therefore, the American public.

For two documentaries on the Israeli illegal attack and murders of US sailors,  go here, and here!

Then, I was going to riff with some “new” FBI documents released, on the Dancing Israelis, and I am not talking about “I wish I was a rich man” Zero Mostel.

Newly Released FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks, by Whitney Webb

New information released by the FBI has brought fresh scrutiny to the possibility that the “Dancing Israelis,” at least two of whom were known Mossad operatives, had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks

The USS Liberty all over again, but this time, more than 3,000 killed in the so called September 11, 2001 “attacks,” and then countless millions killed, maimed, imprisoned, starved, renditioned, and sickened through the coalition of the killing, err, willing. Here, read on for this unrecognized commemoration of the death of all those sailors!

Yet, in either scenario, Sivan Kurzberg had simulated the burning of the World Trade Center the day before the attacks took place. That the FBI concluded that Kurzberg was party to a Mossad surveillance operation at the time of his arrest would then suggest that Israeli intelligence also had foreknowledge of the attacks.

Notably, the relevant section of the FBI report that asks “1. Did the Israeli nationals have foreknowledge of the events at WTC and were they filming the events prior to and in anticipation of the explosion?” is redacted in its entirety, suggesting that the FBI did not determine the answer to that question to be an emphatic “no.”

And, Benjamin Netanyahu, knew what would happen ahead of the September 11, 2001 attacks. What an ally, what a great Israel First Nation this place has become the past 70 plus years!

One of the detained “Dancing Israelis,” Omer Marmari, told police the following about why he viewed the September 11 attacks in a positive light: ” Israel now has hope that the world will now understand us. Americans are naïve and America is easy to get inside. There are not a lot of checks in America. And now America will be tougher about who gets into their country.”

Then, I got derailed watching the dramatization of what happened during, around, and in the case of the Central Park Jogger and the railroading of 5 innocent youth of color who were tried, prosecuted and found guilty (slammed into prison) through the New York media, through the pigs in the police force, with the assistance of the bigger pigs in the DA’s office, all aided and abetted by the New York Post, dozens of other newspapers, and the biggest pig of them all, Donald Delirium Tremens Trump.

It’s just disgusting,” sighs Ava DuVernay.

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker and TV showrunner is discussing the role of President Donald Trump in the Central Park Five case, wherein five teenage boys of color—Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana—were falsely convicted of the 1989 rape and vicious assault of Trisha Meili, a white investment banker, and subsequently spent up to 14 years in prison.

At the time Trump, then a PR-hungry NYC real estate baron who occasionally served as his own publicist, sensed an opportunity for some headlines and inserted himself into the case, inflaming racial tensions with frequent comments to news programs along with newspaper ads, purchased for $85,000, calling the boys “crazed misfits” and urging the state of New York to “bring back to the death penalty,” essentially calling for their pre-trial execution. He concluded: “Maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done.”

More shenanigans with elite New York white Jewish culture, the prosecutor in that lying case, Fairstein, who went on to make money with trashy crime novels. To this day, like fourth grade mentally challenged Trump, she too believes the lies, her own:

And it’s another felon who plays this Fairstein —

Felicity Huffman and Linda Fairstein, former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan DA's office.

And then, the other elite Jewish white woman who also prosecuted the case, Elizabeth Lederer.

As The Times noted, Lederer has a lengthy legal history of unchallenged cases, despite the fact that she’s largely known for her involvement in the Central Park Five’s case. Lederer is no longer discussing the case in public; she did not comment on the petition in 2013.

Though Lederer has made virtually no public comments on her role in the case since the trial ended, archived articles show the trial was an emotionally charged affair, for obvious reasons. The Los Angeles Times notes that Korey Wise, one of the Five, said to Lederer after he was given his sentence, “You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this . . . up.”

Elizabeth lederer

I guess I am on a roll, here, since someone sent me this about another Jewish white elite female, this time with the US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She first sent me a month ago the Netflix info tag on Ginsburg’s life vis-a-vis a CNN documentary, RBG and then the film, On the Basis of Sex:

But no amount of swag or hagiography can obscure the fact that, while Ginsburg is responsible for a great number of landmark legal decisions, her legacy may be sorely tarnished by one truly terrible one: refusing to retire when President Barack Obama could have named her replacement. That decision came into stark relief this month when Ginsburg fell and broke three ribs—and half of the nation took a collective gasp. Women took to Twitter to offer the justice a rib.

The broken ribs must have mushed her here, for sure, as this old lady just put a few million feet in her mouth:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg praised Justice Brett Kavanaugh in her prepared remarks at Friday’s Second Circuit Judicial Conference. She noted that after Kavanaugh was confirmed the number of female Supreme Court clerks reached an all-time high, given his staffing choices.

Quote: “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks. Women did not fare nearly as well as advocate. Only about 21-percent of the attorneys presenting oral argument this Term were female; of the 34 attorneys who appeared more than once, only six were women.”

Amazing, the death star of American elites, east coast Ivy League Lepers —

GettyImages-1041759596-1538177880

Ginsburg, what a work of nothing! And the sad sack demon-crats march her out as some hero!

MANY OF US who watched Thursday’s Senate hearing spent much of the time cataloguing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s lies. After hours of testimony, during which Christine Blasey Ford answered questions about her alleged sexual assault, the financing behind her lie detector test, and whether she was really afraid of flying, viewers were treated to more hours of testimony from Kavanaugh, a federal judge who struggled to give a single straight answer.

Kavanaugh strained credulity when he argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the “Devil’s Triangle” — a phrase that appeared on his high school yearbook page — referred to a drinking game, a definition which, before Thursday, you’d have a hard time finding anywhere. (It actually refers to a sex act involving two men and a woman). He also unabashedly claimed that the term “boof” is a reference to “flatulence,” rather than other butt stuff, and that “ralph,” which means to vomit —implicitly from the overconsumption of alcohol — was a reference to Kavanaugh’s weak stomach.

I guess all of this speaks to a bit of sensitivity around white patriarchy/matriarchy and white dominance, eating away at the soul of us, the 80 percent. I guess I have to square how it is that an elite super minority and so many in that tribe are superior to anyone else on the planet, in their own minds at that, has held sway over much of my own life in education, social services, journalism, and publishing.

This is observation, but in today’s Stephen Miller-Alan Dershowitz  world, with all the backing of the ADL, anyone who dares point out the elitism and the tribalism and the power clique that defines American Judaism, well, the old canard, anti-Semite, comes popping out of clicking tongues.

Something raw, now that I am working to help a veteran who ended up renting an apartment in Wilsonville, Oregon, at age 70, with an amputation from the knee down, and using a wheelchair. He has major eye problems, which have led to vision and pain in his eyes. He is in an apartment that has two steps that prevent him from using a flat surface to go in and out of the abode. He’s fallen twice on sod, trying to maneuver the wheelchair to the parking lot. He lives alone, doesn’t drive and knows no one at the apartment complex. I got him services while working as his social worker in that nefarious place, the Starvation Army.

He is virtually at the whim of people to come and help him get out of his apartment landing onto cement. He has medical appointments several times a week, a long trip from Wilsonville to the VA in Portland.

The apartment complex is being run by the largest multi-family property management company in the USA (self advertised) called Pinnacle Property Management. I have sent letters and emails to upper management, but to no avail. So has he. The discussion about accommodations — putting down a flat walkway from his sliding back door, about 20 feet — has turned into a case of this multi-billion dollar outfit telling him they will do it but at a charge of $5,300. We are being talked down to by the Portland office, some lower ranking person who has zero empathy for the situation, but is clear to cite in reverse logic the state of Oregon’s fair housing laws, which she uses to protect her asinine attitudes.

He’s on a fixed income and was homeless. The idea that the apartment complex is now managed by this outfit, so the owner(s) can hide behind their skirts, is typical of the American Penury Society. They’ve cited fair housing laws in an Orwellian way — “If we put in the walkway at our expense for your client, that would be unfair to other tenants . . . . Then everyone asking for us to pay for an accommodation we’d have to oblige.”

I’ve advocated for the veteran since this veteran is non-confrontational and is traumatized at having to be apartment-bound for more than two months with no end in sight. I have told these nefarious folk that, (a) a new concrete pathway for the only ground floor apartment with a two-step situation would be an enhancement to THEIR property in perpetuity. Then, (b) I explained the obvious: Anyone renting the apartment in the future, when my veteran leaves, would have the advantage of having some handicapped accommodation in the case of a wheelchair bound tenant, or an injured tenant or someone in need of a walker or crutch or cane, or even a family with a newborn in a carriage.

Since I was already stewing around the Dancing Israelis and the Jewish State of Israel’s attack on our own people, sailors; and since the Central Park Five were prosecuted by two Jewish women, well, I was traumatized a bit. I looked up the management of Pinnacle, and alas, the higher ups — many of them — are self-proclaimed practicing Jews:

Eric Schwabe, Executive Vice President – Western Division

Woody Stone, Executive Vice President – Eastern Division

Jason Straub, Systems Training Manager

Deb Kopolow, Regional Vice President

Avery Solomon, Vice President – Client Services

Seth Kaplan, Regional Marketing Director

You know, none of the above people have replied to my respectful and clear emails or letters asking them to be both ethical and community orientated when thinking about my former client and now my friend.

I have looked at their internal documents, Propaganda videos and marketing web pages, and hands down, these people parade out a litany of BS about how humane and resident focused they are!

Pinnacle is a privately held organization that manages multifamily properties nationwide. Established in 1980, we are one of the largest multifamily management companies in the United States with a portfolio of over 172,000 units and 4,300 team members. Our clients include pension funds, private partnerships, international investors, insurance companies, lenders, special servicers, syndicators, government agencies and high net worth individuals.

I have come to my wits end, in this emotionally and economically cursing society, with the One Percent and the Point Zero One Percent having for too many centuries controlled the destinies of the masses. Having studied some of the Jewish tradition with radical Jewish friends 45 years ago, I am always T-boned by the unfeeling and usury-based prevailing attitudes of the rich, both gentile (goyim) and Jew or Arab Prince!

Here, some contradictions to the idea that money is the lifeblood of so many, especially the millionaires and billionaires — Mammon was an ancient god who used to be worshiped by pagans for riches, money and wealthy. Counterpoint to that:

The overarching Jewish attitude toward the poor is best summed up by a single word of the biblical text: achikha (your brother). With this word, the Torah  insists on the dignity of the poor, and it commands us to resist any temptation to view the poor as somehow different from ourselves.

The concept of human dignity is well-ingrained in Judaism. The book of Genesis describes human beings as created “b’tzelem elokim” in the image of God (1:26). At least one early Rabbi considers one of the verses expressing this idea to be the most important verse in the Torah (Sifra K’dosbim 2:4). The insistence that human beings are creations in the divine image implies that any insult to an individual, by extension, is an affront to God. In reminding us that the poor person is our sibling, the Torah emphasizes that, like us, this person is a manifestation of the divine image and should be treated as such.

A rabbinic story tells about a group of people traveling in a boat. One passenger takes out a drill and begins drilling a hole under his seat. The other passengers, quite understandably, complain that this action may cause the boat to sink. “Why should this bother you?” this man responds, I am only drilling under my own seat.” The others retort, “But the water will rise up and flood the ship for all of us!” (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6). The moral of this story is clear: one person’s destructive action may literally drown the entire community. But we might add that the inverse is also true: a single positive change may transform an entire community. Thus, the alleviation of poverty, even in the smallest detail, may help the community as a whole to flourish.

Yet Pinnacle or the Dancing Israelis or the New York prosecutors or any number of thousands of elites and money-grubbing individuals and corporations have zero understanding of the foundation of the golden rule or Gandhi’s sins

In 590 AD, Pope Gregory I unveiled a list of the Seven Deadly Sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride – as a way to keep the flock from straying into the thorny fields of ungodliness. These days though, for all but the most devout, Pope Gregory’s list seems less like a means to moral behavior than a description of cable TV programming.

So instead, let’s look to one of the saints of the 20th Century — Mahatma Gandhi. On October 22, 1925, Gandhi published a list he called the Seven Social Sins in his weekly newspaper Young India.

Politics without principles.
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.

The list sprung from a correspondence that Gandhi had with someone only identified as a “fair friend.” He published the list without commentary save for the following line: “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Unlike the Catholic Church’s list, Gandhi’s list is expressly focused on the conduct of the individual in society. Gandhi preached non-violence and interdependence and every single one of these sins are examples of selfishness winning out over the common good.

It’s also a list that, if fully absorbed, will make the folks over at the US Chamber of Commerce and Ayn Rand Institute itch. After all, “Wealth without work,” is a pretty accurate description of America’s 1%. (Investments ain’t work. Ask Thomas Piketty.) “Commerce without morality” sounds a lot like every single oil company out there and “knowledge without character” describes half the hacks on cable news. “Politics without principles” describes the other half.

gandhi-social-sins

 

Caught in Their Fun House

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

Hunter S. Thompson

Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it’s the home of the extraordinary, the only home.

— Phillip Levine

I’m digging the DV piece, “The Idiot” by Jason Holland, since in a critical mass sort of black hole kind of way, his main thesis is reflective of the experiences many of us in the bloody trenches of dying capitalism see/feel/believe minute by minute.

And after all our idiotic overcomplicated plots and schemes, they are but to mask simple truths the idiot facade tries so desperately to avoid; the inner torments of being afraid of not being good enough, not measuring up to our peers, not meeting arbitrary expectations we either accept from others or set for ourselves, or quite simply feeling like we are not worthy of love. So we play these pointless high stakes games which have a rewards as meaningless and worthless as a plastic trophy just to prove our worth. The idiot is a temporal state of being, although many are finer long term examples of displaying the behaviors of the idiot; however none of us are the perfect idiot. To avoid the affectations of being in an idiotic state it takes conscious effort to live our lives moment to moment with authenticity, to be in a state of awareness of our actions, to always be willing to suffer for something worthwhile and to be consistently well reasoned examiners of what constitutes something worthwhile.

That authenticity, moment to moment existence —  and it should be a reveling of life — is good, but there is a bifurcating of sorts when many of us are still subject to the masters of Big Brother and Big Business. We are suffering the dualism of the Century, and the more we know, the more we seek and the more we grapple, well, the more emancipated we are, but in that freedom comes some pretty harsh treatment by the masters and their sub-masters and all the Little Eichmann’s that keep the Capitalist’s trains moving like clockwork toward the global demise set in their plastic worlds!

And some of us think Dachau and Auschwitz were bad! We have already seen a hundred of them since 1945.

For me, I have the benefit of being a writer, and at this time, I have this new gig I created myself to bring to the Oregon Coast a sense of the people who are here living or who come here to set down their own stories . . . people who do things to make this world better and themselves better. Something in the draw that brings my subjects for my pieces here to the coast of Oregon. These are people, and they are not perfections or cut-outs or pulverized remnants of humanity that Capitalism mostly demands in it shark tank of inane media manipulation and marketing.

I crack open humanity and get people’s contexts — entire stories upon stories laid down, strata by strata, and cover their own formula for the art of living in harmony in a world of disharmony. Reading my stuff, I hope, will allow readers of this rag, Oregon Coast Today,  and its on-line version a better sense of authenticity via people they may or may not even run across in their own lives of being the consummate busy tourist and consumer.

A few of the pieces will be worthy of DV display, and I hope that my attempt at drilling down and “getting people” for who they are and how they got here will better the world, in some small shape. Really small, but small wonders sometimes are the ionic glue of a bettering world.

What is more compelling than the average person captured in a truthful narrative, as counterpoint to a society that delves into the celebrity, the spectacle, the idiocy as Jason puts forth in his piece, “The Idiot.”

In many ways, talking to people who have lived authentic (albeit struggle-prone) lives, or who are just embarking on a nascent stage of multiple iterations of living, I get my sense of grounding in a very flummoxed world of inanity and crass disassociation, as in the disease of pushing away humanity and pushing away the natural world to hitch oneself to the perversions of the billionaire class.

Time and time again, daily, my friends who are still in struggle — still trying to make sense of the perverted world of idiots controlling the message, the economy, the environment, the culture, and the mental-physical-spiritual health of the world, as if this is it, Trump 2.0 — give me news feed after news feed of the quickening of not only idiocy that capitalism and consumerism and war engender in our species, but also examples of the inhumanity driving the agendas of the Fortune 500 Class, the Davos crowd, the Aspen Institute gatherings, et al.

Yet, my friend, Joe the Farmer from Merced, hits the nail on the head by providing his own retort to example after example of the cruelty of capitalism and the US of I — United States of Idiots?

If this doesn’t slap the Hell out of you and rub your nose into the proverbial dog shit of what a criminally insane, inhumane, cruel and thuggish enterprise our government has become, then there is absolutely no hope for your soul. The truth tellers like Manning, Assange, Snowden and others, the brave young guys like Tim DeChristopher that monkey wrenched the sale of oil leases to public lands to try and protect the environment, this fellow that is showing his human side by providing water and aid for those dying in the desert sun, are all facing prison terms or maybe even the death penalty. Their crime? Being a compassionate human being.

What in the fuck is wrong with this country? The republicans enact cruel legislation to protect criminal enterprises, slash taxes for the obscenely rich, while removing any social or environmental protections for the population, (the Flint Michigan water system for example).

The republicans are ruthlessly attacking the environment and endangered species, turning their backs on infrastructure that is endangering peoples lives, while the spineless democrats sit idly by, wringing their hands. The democrats won’t take action against the most openly corrupt president we have ever had, that is daily destroying everything in this country as well as the rest of the world with his insane military budgets, trade wars and climate policies. The democrats response to Trump is to promote Joe Biden, a compilation of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Strom Thurman and just about every other corporate whore they could steal parts off of to make their democratic very own version of Donald Trump.

Both the republicans and the democrats promote austerity for the working people and the poor, while stuffing the oligarchs pockets with gold. Both political Parties support endless war and war profiteers but slash budgets for schools, infrastructure, health care and the elderly. Both political Parties shower money on the police state and a corrupt system of justice and private prisons. Both political Parties are turning their heads to what the oil industry is doing to our water and air with fracking and are in fact have promoted legislation to let the oil industry off the hook when it causes unbelievable environmental damage. Both political Parties are doing nothing to check the nuclear industry that is a environmental time bomb waiting to go off and have promoted legislation to limit the industries liability when it does.

What is wrong with the American people that they sit on their collective asses and do nothing while all this is happening? Are they that fucking stupid? Are they that lacking in human decency? Are they that politically dumbed-down that they won’t even fight for their own interests?

The fact that this government corruption has been allowed to go on for years evidently proves that Americans are that stupid and lacking of compassion and politically dumbed-down. Thank God for guys like Dr. Warren the others that are trying to slap some sense into the American public to show us what courage and being humane is all about. Dr. Warren and company shouldn’t be put in jail but our so called leaders sure as Hell should be for their crimes against humanity.

He’s talking about a desert saint of sorts, Scott Warren, who has the power of his call to duty to give water in milk cartons to anyone crossing the Arizona desert. Now that is a hero, yet, he is facing decades in prison. America!

The charges against Warren “are an unjust criminalization of direct humanitarian assistance” and “appear to constitute a politically motivated violation of his protected rights as a Human Rights Defender,” states Amnesty International’s Americas regional director Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“Providing humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Guevara-Rosas added in a statement last week. “If Dr. Warren were convicted and imprisoned on these absurd charges, he would be a prisoner of conscience, detained for his volunteer activities motivated by humanitarian principles and his religious beliefs.”

Yet how many humans in this crime country even give a rat’s ass about one man who is doing the good that all men and women should be doing?

AJO, ARIZONA - MAY 10: Scott Warren, a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths speaks with local residents during a community meeting to discuss federal charges against him for aiding undocumented immigrants on May 10, 2019 in Ajo, Arizona. Warren is scheduled to appear in court for felony charges on May 29 in Tucson, accused by the U.S. government on two counts of harboring and one count of conspiracy for providing food, water, and beds to two Central American immigrants in January, 2018. If found guilty Warren could face up to 20 years in prison. The trial is seen as a watershed case by the Trump Administration, as it pressures humanitarian organizations working to reduce suffering and deaths of immigrants along the border. The government says the aid encourages human smuggling. In a separate misdemeanor case, federal prosecutors have charged Warren with public littering, for distributing food and water along migrant trails. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Read the great piece about these water bearers on the border at the Intercept by Ryan Devereaux.

flood-the-desert-1556916141

So, here, whatever will come of my new column, “Deep Dive: Go Below the Surface with Paul Haeder,” starting June 7, well, I hope people reading this rag — 18,000 and counting and as they are compelled to hit each longer version of each of my profiles on line, Oregon Coast Today — will understand that life is the sum total of one’s search for meaning and worthy work and community involvement.

Maybe this compulsion toward narrative has always been inside me during my early root setting  living in Canada, Maryland, Paris, Edinburgh, Arizona . . . then on that walkabout throughout Latin America, Europe, Vietnam, USA, Central America!

When times get tough, the storyteller gets writing. Ha. Believe you me, the stories we all have collected in this Marquis de Sade world of capital and artery-clogging entertainment and constant death spiral the elites have banked as their Appian Way to Complete Dominance, they make for so much more validation of humanity than anything Hollywood could make.

Point of fact — I attempted to watch the film, Vice, about Dick Cheney, his perverse family, the perversity of neocons fornicating with neoliberalism. It was one of Hollywood’s “cutting edge” dramas. Written and directed by a Saturday Night Live writer. All the usual suspects with Hollywood multi-millions stuffed in their jowls — Christian Bale, Amy Adams, et al.

It wasn’t that good, but I sensed that the filmmakers were all about trying to make something that was “different.” I didn’t nod off during the viewing. But, I unfortunately had the DVD so I went to the extras section, and then, the behind-the-scenes of the making of Vice. This is when things went south real quickly with neoliberal, Democrat-leaning Hollywood creeps. We get every goofy platitude about each and every department’s genius in making this film. Every actor fawns the other actor for his or her amazing performance.

Then the Limey, Christian Bale, yammers on and on about he was all about making Dick Cheney human, going into his good side, being cognizant of Cheney, the human. Rubbish and this is the quality of men, adults, in our society — multimillionaires with gobs of limelight and credit and awards and houses and yachts thrown at them, and they can’t even begin to attack the cause — capitalism, rampant competitiveness, droll I-got-mine-too-bad-you-can’t-get-yours thinking. Hollywood is the anti-culture, the flagging bumbling money changers, the money makers, the money grubbers, and well, everything is about the pockets and the suits and the “executive producers,” i.e. Bankers.

Oh god, what a trip going into these Hollywood people’s hot yoga, macrobiotic diet, four-hour-a-day workout minds. The director, McKay, actually thinks this drama — make-believe — has given the world new stuff, new insights, new news about the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush-Reagan-Bush world of prostitute politics.

As if there were no real journalists working on all the pre-September 11 illegalities of the republican party and then the post-September 11 evisceration of the few rights the people of the world and USA had before full spectrum war on our planet.

As if journalists hadn’t cracked open the Koch brothers, the fake think tanks, all the pre-Truman/post-Truman lies of empire, from Roy Cohen, through to the rigged systems of oppression. Way before any trivial Hollywood wannabe open her eyes.

Entertainment and a few laughs at the expense of millions of bombed-dead people, millions more suffering-a-lingering-death daily because of Hollywood and USA policies and the evangelicals and the Crypto-Christo-Zionists bombing “the other” back to the stone age. The movie, Vice.

Racists, misogynists, misanthropes, one and all. Yet, we gotta love these democrat-leaning guys and gals making films, having millions stuffed up every possible orifice until their brains gel.

Insight into the flippancy that is Hollywood the Power Broker! Watching people like Amy Adams and Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell play this soft-shoe goofball show, and then in the little “Making of the Movie Vice” documentary (sic-infomercial) blathering on and on about the greatness of the script and every cog of the machine that churns out this pabulum, well, it steels me to continue my small-time, no-fame, big-effing-deal gig writing people profiles to bring some sense to a world captured by capital . . . idiocy!

Oh, how we fall in line. Over at Counterpunch, that cloistered world of writers has the countdown for 2018 — Best Films of the Year, as in the most conscious, socially (give me a effing break!) that is. Nothing in American society once it floats on the offal barrel is sacred, socialist, communist.

Peak TV is creating more opportunities for independent film directors, and for new stories to be told. More films from around the world are released on streaming every day, and Netflix spent an estimated 13 billion dollars on content just this year. More cash available can sometimes mean more stories by and about communities of color, women, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and other communities Hollywood has long ignored. But the movie industry is still primarily about making profit, and it’s main business is reinforcing the status quo, including churning out films that glorify capitalism, war, and policing.

Below are 2018’s top ten conscious films that made it through these barriers, plus twenty more released this year that you may want to check out.

[…]

Hollywood doesn’t have a great record in covering presidential politics (remember Kevin Costner in Swing Vote?). Vice, comedy director Adam McKay’s follow up to The Big Short, explores the Bush/Cheney presidency, attempting to make history and polemic accessible to a wide audience. It’s not as effective as his previous film, but it’s a good history, especially for those less familiar with the ins and outs of the early 2000s corporate power grab.

Lighten up already, many a friend and acquaintance tell me. “You are going to burn out like one of the bulbs you use underwater to do your night dives. Way too much shining the hoary light onto the more hoary caverns of American society. Let things go.”

Ha, well, how can we? We are entertained to death, as Neil Postman states:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book [Amusing Ourselves to Death] is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

And so it goes, as I trail the acrid dust devil of injustice — my own and the veterans’ and families’ I helped just months ago in Portland as a social worker for, drum roll, homeless veterans (and some came with families, including babies and service dogs).

I’ve written about it here and elsewhere — the Starvation Army. The deceitful, unethical, possibly murderous Starvation Army. You see, where I worked, I had these insane Nurse Ratched’s lording over grown men and women treating them like criminals, and infantiles, and the constant berating and recriminations. It was anything but social work 101. Anything but trauma-informed care. Anything  but caring people, enlightened helpers; instead, think mean, warped people who within their own broken self’s, do all the wrong things for veterans.

I decided to jump ship, and, alas, a few lawyers advised me I couldn’t get far with a hostile workplace complaint until I went through the state of Oregon’s, Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) quasi-judicial pathway.

There was great harm put upon the veterans, great harm put upon the staff, because a director was all into herself and her self-described Jesus Saves bullshit, yammering on about her former  cocaine addiction and booze abuse and 350 pounds of flesh, as well as her own failings as a mother. This place has 100 people living in it temporarily, while Starvation Army receives taxpayer money, all part of the poverty pimping Starvation/Salvation Army’s SOP.

In the end, relying on idiots in any state bureaucracy to carry forth an investigation was not my idea of justice. I did my due diligence and filed grievances, first with the Starvation Army, and, then with BOLI. I contacted VA officials, state politicians, and the media. To no avail. They too are accomplices!

To make a long and stupid Byzantine story short, my prediction of zero assistance and zero admonishing from the state to the executive director and the higher ups of the Starvation Army played out. BOLI is a toothless and empty-hearted agency, staffed by soulless Little Eichmann’s counting their paychecks and amassing points to their state sourced pension fund.

I have moved on, as usual, and the injustice perpetrated upon me is minor in the scheme of things. The veterans, however, already foisted with trauma, PTSD, administrative rape, etc., are still vulnerable to the Nurse Ratched’s of the inhumane social services that serves (sic) non-profits and religious crime syndicates like the Starvation Army.

Here, “How the Salvation Army Lives Off (and thrives with) a Special Brand of Poverty Pimping”

Here, “Alcohol, Atheism, Anarchy: The Triple A Threat to the Pro-Capitalist Salvation Army”

Here, “Insanity of Social Work as Human Control”

I have since my departure been in contact with a few veterans, and talked a few off the proverbial ledge — several that wanted to off themselves because of the Nurse Ratched’s they encounter at the Starvation Army, in the VA, and in non-profits.  This is the reality, and it’s sick, in real perverted American time —  “Hundreds witness veteran shoot and kill himself in VA waiting room”

In December, Marine Col. Jim Turner, 55, put his service uniform on, drove to the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs, and shot himself outside the medical center, leaving a note next to his body.

This is Trump, this is Biden, this is Clinton, this is the lot of them, callous and broken capitalists, who have sold their souls to the devil and brains to Jeff Bezos, et al.
And it ain’t going to get fixed until we cut away the cancer. Really cut away, daily, in small acts of defiance, great collective acts of beating the system.
Not sure what that great director Ava Duvernay says about more and more movies like her 13th or this new Netflix mini-series on the Central Park FiveWhen They See Us will do to eventually get enough Americans (70 percent are racist to the core) to demand change in the criminal injustice system of private prisons, Incarceration Complex, Profitable Prosecutions. That all those cops, dailies, elites, deplorables, Trumpies, and Trump said terrible terrible things about these 5 juveniles, calling them animals, or super predators like the Clinton Klan, well, imagine, an insane 2016 runner for the highest crime lord position of the land, POTUS, Donald Trump, after these five men were released after all the evidence found them innocent, sputtering with his big fat billionaire’s fourth grader’s words that the Central Park Five are guilty, guilty, guilty.

The press coverage was biased. There was a study done by Natalie Byfield, one of the journalists at the time for the New York papers who later wrote a book about covering the case, and it saw that a little more than 89 percent of the press coverage at the time didn’t use the word “alleged,” that we had irresponsibility in the press corps at the time not to ask second questions and literally take police and prosecutor talking points and turn those into articles that people read as fact, and proceeded to shape their opinions about this case that essentially spoils the jury pool, so that these boys were never given a chance.

Trump’s comments in his ads that he took out in 1989 were taken out just two weeks after the crime was announced—they hadn’t even gone to trial, so it was impossible for them to have an impartial jury pool. The printing of their names in the papers for minors, and where they lived, was a jaw-dropper. All of this was done by “reputable” papers in New York that we still read, so I’m curious how these papers take responsibility for their part in this, and also possibly use this to review the part they play in other cases that may not be as famous as this.

Thus, she makes my case — the callous and racist and sexist and xenophobic US Press, and here we are today, 2019, enter Amusing Ourselves to Death and a Brave New World.

The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, “Preface”

Alas, though, we have to keep those words coming, even sent to the great gray hearts and souls populating those state agencies whose workers are supposed to investigate the workplace safety concerns of workers, and are supposed to prevent workplace harassment.

I write to break through the fog, and to envelop a new way of seeing my world, for me and for the few readers that dabble in even attempting to start, let alone finish, these missives.

Huxley was right — ” Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” Brave New World, “Chapter 4”