Category Archives: global inequality

The Incredible Weight of Not Being

If I Don’t Feel It, The Problem Doesn’t Exist

You know we are cooked when the middling middle class, with educations from Duke, USC, Vanderbilt, Princeton, Columbia, and gobs of money in the bank, and an east coast upbringing, now California dreaming, are astonished that there are actually homeless veterans.

This is the state of the lobotomized America, one country that is a mix of Disneyland, Zombie-land, Filthy First Families, War Economics, General Anxiety Disorder gone rampant, and, well, everything one can imagine the White Race (sic) has become under the crystal meth bubble of money, debt, TV, Netflix, Cowboys and Indians Entertainment, and a population in a dervish of debt spiral while the hooked-brained Point Zero Zero Zero One Percent has us as slaves.

On the surface, everything looks fine in America when zipping down the streets of LA, Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, if one wants to believe normality is that baseline of gutters full of 7-11 hot dog wrappers, millions of miles of strip malls with attendant boarded up storefronts, smoke-pot-booze-armament-nickel and dime shops, concrete, tar, 300,000,000 cars pushing and pulling people to precarious jobs and off-the-clock mortgaged lives, and the endless serpents of 18-wheelers crisscrossing America with the goods of depravity, obsolescence, and despair.

It’s a blitzkrieg of sound bites, biting hatred toward anyone different than that narrow creepy species of white people with kids and two homes depicted on TV. The white race, even though it is shrinking, is like a plague. It takes only a few microbes to disease a pond with cholera, and it only takes a few whites in a board room or in a bureaucracy or corporation to turn the air to putrid, disease-causing sickness, where punishment is measured in how much the few can take from the many.

So I go back to the astonishment of friends and relatives on the West Coast, Southern Cal: How can there be homeless veterans . . . as if the only veterans in the minds of these upper middle class are four-star triple-dipping multimillionaire generals, or Ollie North types selling their filthy Christo-Zio murderous brand of America to FOX, the NRA and some glass church on the hill making profits from private prison hell.

We are talking about 50 K veterans homeless, hundreds of thousands basically screwed because of the enormous disabilities for which the time spent “serving” has exacted as the second and third level of punishment this sadistic system of indoctrinating people into believing they are doing anything for the country (not) in the form of pushing around dirt, cranking wrenches, tooling around in this disgusting excess of overpriced dangerous polluting equipment that literally takes food out of the mouths of babes and grannies.

Then the millions of veterans hobbling around with herniated discs, diabetes, dead knees, metal hips, PTSD, rotting teeth, a thousand varieties of internal injuries, diseases and maladies. And we pay dearly in this structural violent land of Bernie Sanders’ pet F-35 project, or McCain’s aircraft carriers, or Filthy Trump’s “we make the best stuff, the very best guns and missiles and killer jets and bombs in the whole world, the best . . .” and untold bio-chem-putridity created by the US Armed Forces.

I attempt to tell these la-la land folk that even one base, Camp Lejeune, killed thousands of military and civilians from 30 years of contaminated water exposure that was covered up by those big brass officers, generals and retired triple-dipper civil servants.  They guffaw, and then eyes glaze over when I repeat there are 130 other US-based military compounds that are toxic dumps.

Brother can you spare a dime is sister can you spare a tooth extraction

This is the lead up into my work, daily the stories and the crises, the onion peeled back, multiple bizarre incidents in the veterans’ lives. Bombarded with not only propaganda, but shock waves, chemicals, murder teams like the Phoenix Program or MK-Ultra or DARPA, you name it, the things these many times economically-drafted people have endured would rip the souls from most of the middling ones, the flag wavers and cocktail umbrella twirling Republicans and Democrats.

The filthy Trumps and Don’s entourage and millions upon millions of Kool-Aid drinkers, believers, deplorables, oh, they are, whether they are calling themselves stock brokers or sausage makers, when you lick the shoes of this sort of filthy fellow, we know we have slipped in our insanity – from all these other bastions like Ike, Truman, Nixon, Bush, Ford, Bush, Clinton, Obama, Carter, hell, these are cutouts of the two parties for which they flip billions and billions of shekels in the name of the corporate Satans.

Here I am, in the richest country in the world (ha, ha) in the weirdest town in the USA, Portland, Oregon, where the influx of money from California has turned this into a winter and summer playground for the 20 Percent with thousands of homeless in tents along freeway off-ramps, kids with heroin track lines intertwined with tattoos selling trinkets, thousands of people in drug recovery programs, and an army of civil servants and social services personnel making shitty livings off of some really shitty shitty situations.

We have this Pacific Northwest billionaire and millionaire club, the Boeings and Alaska Airlines and Intels and Nikes and Amazons and thousands of companies that give shit about the near homeless, the houseless, the struggling ones their own shitty companies hire on to do the heavy labor and mindless digital shuffling required in this usury and punishment world of the Goldman Sachs prostitutes.

I can rail on and on, but the reality is, punks like me could change the world, with just the right marketing, connections, exposures, moments of epiphany, conversations with the right person at the right time at the right place, etc.

Think 20- or thirty-acre venues, in the forests around Mount Adams and Mount Hood, anywhere in this PNW, where we could, with the right funding, get tiny homes built with sweat equity, around communal all-purpose rooms-kitchens-gathering points. Homes with toilets (compostable), solar arrays, and gardens circling this mix, and then, well, hundreds upon hundreds of these with tens of thousands of people, mixed races, mixed ideas, mixed ages, supporting each other. Ebenezer Howard comes to mind, oh those Garden Cities, but with a 21st century punch. School buses, ready for the crusher, retrofitted for homes, that is, college kids and high schoolers and Pk8 working to learn the tricks of working with hands, design, construction, art, engineering, food growing, and social services.

This organic concentric circle of tiny homes, cabins, containers, school buses, like a giant sunflower, with other circles and rings of gardens, livestock pens, work arenas, amphitheaters.

It could be done in five years. Land is plentiful. We have these creeps at Google wanting self-driving vans, buses, so get their billionaire butts involved – shuttles for those veterans and non-veterans getting to hospitals, or, better yet, do the Stan Brock (Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom sidekick) thing of Remote Area Medical and have docs, dentists, PAs, shrinks, gerontologists, child social workers, holistic healers, naturopaths, et al. I can give the links below, but the stories and solutions have already been written, for sure, and if it takes these thieves like Musk-Tesla and Bezos and Buffet and Walton and Gates and the countless gluttons, war profiteers, the scabs of humanity – industrial military-finance-education-ag-energy-legal-IT-prison-insurance-retail complex – to fund it, voluntarily, or with a Eugene Debs reality, then so be it.

Here’s the segue into one example of a veteran at the place where I work who could be the Johnny Appleseed or Pied Piper of this project, going to the captains of industry, the colonels of Wall Street and the generals of filthy rich wealth with a dervish of a man like me showing the plans and crunching the numbers.

Who’s Giving this Guy Right Out of a Quadruple Hollywood Script the Time of Day?

I will call him Stephen. He’s in the homeless shelter a second time. The first time, man, a few years ago, he was here, with a lot of sobriety under his belt, but, he ended up at a 7-11, loaned out some money to a friend, and then bam, the friend offered to pay back the loan with crystal meth. Stephen, living in our shelter, which is family and sober based, jumped out the window to not embarrass himself or put the program at risk.

From 1977 to ’82, 82nd Airborne. He did the radical macho stuff, in the Army, and he tells me that he always wanted to be in the military, since age 10. Northern California roots, athlete, family with military history – Army, Navy, Marines. He worked in a trailer factory in high school, and other outfits.

The drinking started in the Army. Guys back from Vietnam as company leaders, with plethora of drug abuse, drinking, and hell, the Army barracks had beer machines installed next to cots. The 82nd Airborne then, Stephen says, was called “The Jumping Junkies.”

He bounced around after military, working at Bank of America, married and divorced. Biker clubs (gangs) and things got hard when his son was murdered by the mother’s (his ex) boyfriend. That’s when the anger set in, and the drugs, but he ended up being a number one supervisor for construction sites building Wal-marts and the other box stores. Six figures, and, he ended up owning his own company, 12 acre plot of land and home he paid cash for. He moved up to even higher pay doing supervision of hospital construction and refab sites, in California, and earthquake mitigation.

A functional cocaine-speed-methamphetamine abuser with a lot of anger but more compassion. Prison terms for selling, a few property crimes, no violence.

He counts homelessness in years, living in storm drains, living out of dumpsters, and even told me about waking up many times with a piece of drop cloth covering him and snow packed on top of that.

He looks like a cross between Tommy Lee Jones and Scott Glenn. He talked of turning 60 in September. He’s strong, and counts his lucky stars his body held up.

Now, he makes $3000 a month, and that’s from his service connected disabilities. He is on his road to 23 months sober, and before he came back to our shelter, he was 31 days living in the forest parks around Portland that are such a draw for those same Californians who think there is no way in hell a veteran can be homeless.

Stephen’s got all the elements in this day and age of flash in the pan so-called business leaders. He has the biographical narrative that shows how some people can go from here to there back to there, hit rock bottom a few times, almost bite the dust, get criminally involved, let the drugs be the monkey on the back, and, then, bam, the spirit takes him.

He goes to Narcotics Anonymous, is a member of a local church, takes other vets belongings to their new digs, and he’s shooting for community college in the fall for an AAS degree in alcohol and chemical dependency, and he wants the BA, and more.

A tailored shirt to display his buff frame, short-sleeved to show the tattoos, and boots and new jeans and a briefcase, and, rolled up site plans for these garden villages, and the right knock-knock-knock to Bill and Melinda, or Oprah, or, whomever.

The problem in America, though, as Stephen and I talk, are the doors – which doors, how to get to those doors, and in many cases the rich and powerful hide behind a house of mirrors with all sorts of false doors. Too many middlemen and middlewomen, too many great pretenders, too many self-absorbed so-called community leaders and heads of non-profits.

You Go to Jail to Get Mental and Addiction Help!@?#

Hell, head clerk at the prison, completion of a robust program in Portland, Bridges to Change, volunteering, peer support training, volunteering at the labor force office helping recently released prisoners with resumes and finding housing for the bottom of the barrel ex-cons – those charged and time served for sexual offenses.

I keep being told I am where I am at – precarious, job to job, old now, on the far edge of power – because I piss people off, because I call a spade a spade, and that I can’t accept baby steps and the power of the offensives this white supremacist country sets forth upon the land. True.

nicevillage

The mantel is Stephen’s, and I might just be an idea generator, a big bag of hot air blowing ideas and criticisms and theoretical platitudes so far out of sync with the language of punishment and dog-kill-dog capitalism, that I am in la-la land.

So, this is how Stephen got sober the last time, two years ago – he jumped out the window his shared bedroom of the shelter, wandered for a few hours, and then, exactly 48 hours later, he went into a Subway, grabbed a milk from the fridge, plopped it on the counter, and told the attendant, “This is a robbery. Call the police.”

Stephen proceeded to put the milk back, and, waited for the cops. Attempted robbery, and a rap sheet, so two years inside a minimum-security penitentiary taking every available class in cognitive behavioral therapy and anger management and addiction recovery.

He’s the guy that could manage these garden villages, training any number of people how to lead, how to design and implement the building and construction and maintenance of the villages. One village at a time, times 5 or 20.

While these fat-cats invest in parasitic capitalism, investing in yachts and gold faucets to their penthouses. While these thugs with billions crusade across the land to smear us, the working class, attack us, those with a collectivism that would outperform any of their deceptive tricks to triple bookkeeping and felonious investments and punishment spread across the seas in their transnational capital crypto-currency Mafioso.

Brother, can you spare a million people? Sister, can you spare a few million young people from the endless toil of the fulfillment centers (sic) and kill-your-self-slowly Gig Economy.

The Three Magnets from Garden Cities of Tomorrow, 1902

Howard’s socialist vision of garden cities tied to the people and cultural implications of these thriving communities over the spatial holism of the cities/towns: Article.

The Veterans Community Project (VCP) is on a mission to eliminate Veteran homelessness by providing transitional-housing and enabling access to exceptional 360-degree service solutions. Focusing first on the Greater-Kansas City area, VCP aspires to use Kansas City as the blueprint for achieving similar successes in cities across the United States. VCP has a long-term goal of eliminating Veteran homelessness nationwide.

For many years, it has been tough to find a way to house the homeless. More than 3.5 million people experience homelessness in the United States each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Shortages of low-income housing continue to be a major challenge. For every 100 households of renters in the United States that earn “extremely low income” (30 percent of the median or less), there are only 30 affordable apartments available, according to a 2013 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  Source: Yes! Magazine.

Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a major nonprofit provider of mobile medical clinics. Our mission is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, quality healthcare to those in need. We do this by delivering free dental, vision, and medical services to underserved and uninsured individuals. RAM’s Corps of more than 120,000 Humanitarian Volunteers–licensed dental, vision, medical, and veterinary professionals–have treated more than 740,000 people and 67,000 animals, delivering $120 million worth of free health care services.

Image result for ebenezer howard

The Incredible Weight of Not Being

If I Don’t Feel It, The Problem Doesn’t Exist

You know we are cooked when the middling middle class, with educations from Duke, USC, Vanderbilt, Princeton, Columbia, and gobs of money in the bank, and an east coast upbringing, now California dreaming, are astonished that there are actually homeless veterans.

This is the state of the lobotomized America, one country that is a mix of Disneyland, Zombie-land, Filthy First Families, War Economics, General Anxiety Disorder gone rampant, and, well, everything one can imagine the White Race (sic) has become under the crystal meth bubble of money, debt, TV, Netflix, Cowboys and Indians Entertainment, and a population in a dervish of debt spiral while the hooked-brained Point Zero Zero Zero One Percent has us as slaves.

On the surface, everything looks fine in America when zipping down the streets of LA, Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, if one wants to believe normality is that baseline of gutters full of 7-11 hot dog wrappers, millions of miles of strip malls with attendant boarded up storefronts, smoke-pot-booze-armament-nickel and dime shops, concrete, tar, 300,000,000 cars pushing and pulling people to precarious jobs and off-the-clock mortgaged lives, and the endless serpents of 18-wheelers crisscrossing America with the goods of depravity, obsolescence, and despair.

It’s a blitzkrieg of sound bites, biting hatred toward anyone different than that narrow creepy species of white people with kids and two homes depicted on TV. The white race, even though it is shrinking, is like a plague. It takes only a few microbes to disease a pond with cholera, and it only takes a few whites in a board room or in a bureaucracy or corporation to turn the air to putrid, disease-causing sickness, where punishment is measured in how much the few can take from the many.

So I go back to the astonishment of friends and relatives on the West Coast, Southern Cal: How can there be homeless veterans . . . as if the only veterans in the minds of these upper middle class are four-star triple-dipping multimillionaire generals, or Ollie North types selling their filthy Christo-Zio murderous brand of America to FOX, the NRA and some glass church on the hill making profits from private prison hell.

We are talking about 50 K veterans homeless, hundreds of thousands basically screwed because of the enormous disabilities for which the time spent “serving” has exacted as the second and third level of punishment this sadistic system of indoctrinating people into believing they are doing anything for the country (not) in the form of pushing around dirt, cranking wrenches, tooling around in this disgusting excess of overpriced dangerous polluting equipment that literally takes food out of the mouths of babes and grannies.

Then the millions of veterans hobbling around with herniated discs, diabetes, dead knees, metal hips, PTSD, rotting teeth, a thousand varieties of internal injuries, diseases and maladies. And we pay dearly in this structural violent land of Bernie Sanders’ pet F-35 project, or McCain’s aircraft carriers, or Filthy Trump’s “we make the best stuff, the very best guns and missiles and killer jets and bombs in the whole world, the best . . .” and untold bio-chem-putridity created by the US Armed Forces.

I attempt to tell these la-la land folk that even one base, Camp Lejeune, killed thousands of military and civilians from 30 years of contaminated water exposure that was covered up by those big brass officers, generals and retired triple-dipper civil servants.  They guffaw, and then eyes glaze over when I repeat there are 130 other US-based military compounds that are toxic dumps.

Brother can you spare a dime is sister can you spare a tooth extraction

This is the lead up into my work, daily the stories and the crises, the onion peeled back, multiple bizarre incidents in the veterans’ lives. Bombarded with not only propaganda, but shock waves, chemicals, murder teams like the Phoenix Program or MK-Ultra or DARPA, you name it, the things these many times economically-drafted people have endured would rip the souls from most of the middling ones, the flag wavers and cocktail umbrella twirling Republicans and Democrats.

The filthy Trumps and Don’s entourage and millions upon millions of Kool-Aid drinkers, believers, deplorables, oh, they are, whether they are calling themselves stock brokers or sausage makers, when you lick the shoes of this sort of filthy fellow, we know we have slipped in our insanity – from all these other bastions like Ike, Truman, Nixon, Bush, Ford, Bush, Clinton, Obama, Carter, hell, these are cutouts of the two parties for which they flip billions and billions of shekels in the name of the corporate Satans.

Here I am, in the richest country in the world (ha, ha) in the weirdest town in the USA, Portland, Oregon, where the influx of money from California has turned this into a winter and summer playground for the 20 Percent with thousands of homeless in tents along freeway off-ramps, kids with heroin track lines intertwined with tattoos selling trinkets, thousands of people in drug recovery programs, and an army of civil servants and social services personnel making shitty livings off of some really shitty shitty situations.

We have this Pacific Northwest billionaire and millionaire club, the Boeings and Alaska Airlines and Intels and Nikes and Amazons and thousands of companies that give shit about the near homeless, the houseless, the struggling ones their own shitty companies hire on to do the heavy labor and mindless digital shuffling required in this usury and punishment world of the Goldman Sachs prostitutes.

I can rail on and on, but the reality is, punks like me could change the world, with just the right marketing, connections, exposures, moments of epiphany, conversations with the right person at the right time at the right place, etc.

Think 20- or thirty-acre venues, in the forests around Mount Adams and Mount Hood, anywhere in this PNW, where we could, with the right funding, get tiny homes built with sweat equity, around communal all-purpose rooms-kitchens-gathering points. Homes with toilets (compostable), solar arrays, and gardens circling this mix, and then, well, hundreds upon hundreds of these with tens of thousands of people, mixed races, mixed ideas, mixed ages, supporting each other. Ebenezer Howard comes to mind, oh those Garden Cities, but with a 21st century punch. School buses, ready for the crusher, retrofitted for homes, that is, college kids and high schoolers and Pk8 working to learn the tricks of working with hands, design, construction, art, engineering, food growing, and social services.

This organic concentric circle of tiny homes, cabins, containers, school buses, like a giant sunflower, with other circles and rings of gardens, livestock pens, work arenas, amphitheaters.

It could be done in five years. Land is plentiful. We have these creeps at Google wanting self-driving vans, buses, so get their billionaire butts involved – shuttles for those veterans and non-veterans getting to hospitals, or, better yet, do the Stan Brock (Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom sidekick) thing of Remote Area Medical and have docs, dentists, PAs, shrinks, gerontologists, child social workers, holistic healers, naturopaths, et al. I can give the links below, but the stories and solutions have already been written, for sure, and if it takes these thieves like Musk-Tesla and Bezos and Buffet and Walton and Gates and the countless gluttons, war profiteers, the scabs of humanity – industrial military-finance-education-ag-energy-legal-IT-prison-insurance-retail complex – to fund it, voluntarily, or with a Eugene Debs reality, then so be it.

Here’s the segue into one example of a veteran at the place where I work who could be the Johnny Appleseed or Pied Piper of this project, going to the captains of industry, the colonels of Wall Street and the generals of filthy rich wealth with a dervish of a man like me showing the plans and crunching the numbers.

Who’s Giving this Guy Right Out of a Quadruple Hollywood Script the Time of Day?

I will call him Stephen. He’s in the homeless shelter a second time. The first time, man, a few years ago, he was here, with a lot of sobriety under his belt, but, he ended up at a 7-11, loaned out some money to a friend, and then bam, the friend offered to pay back the loan with crystal meth. Stephen, living in our shelter, which is family and sober based, jumped out the window to not embarrass himself or put the program at risk.

From 1977 to ’82, 82nd Airborne. He did the radical macho stuff, in the Army, and he tells me that he always wanted to be in the military, since age 10. Northern California roots, athlete, family with military history – Army, Navy, Marines. He worked in a trailer factory in high school, and other outfits.

The drinking started in the Army. Guys back from Vietnam as company leaders, with plethora of drug abuse, drinking, and hell, the Army barracks had beer machines installed next to cots. The 82nd Airborne then, Stephen says, was called “The Jumping Junkies.”

He bounced around after military, working at Bank of America, married and divorced. Biker clubs (gangs) and things got hard when his son was murdered by the mother’s (his ex) boyfriend. That’s when the anger set in, and the drugs, but he ended up being a number one supervisor for construction sites building Wal-marts and the other box stores. Six figures, and, he ended up owning his own company, 12 acre plot of land and home he paid cash for. He moved up to even higher pay doing supervision of hospital construction and refab sites, in California, and earthquake mitigation.

A functional cocaine-speed-methamphetamine abuser with a lot of anger but more compassion. Prison terms for selling, a few property crimes, no violence.

He counts homelessness in years, living in storm drains, living out of dumpsters, and even told me about waking up many times with a piece of drop cloth covering him and snow packed on top of that.

He looks like a cross between Tommy Lee Jones and Scott Glenn. He talked of turning 60 in September. He’s strong, and counts his lucky stars his body held up.

Now, he makes $3000 a month, and that’s from his service connected disabilities. He is on his road to 23 months sober, and before he came back to our shelter, he was 31 days living in the forest parks around Portland that are such a draw for those same Californians who think there is no way in hell a veteran can be homeless.

Stephen’s got all the elements in this day and age of flash in the pan so-called business leaders. He has the biographical narrative that shows how some people can go from here to there back to there, hit rock bottom a few times, almost bite the dust, get criminally involved, let the drugs be the monkey on the back, and, then, bam, the spirit takes him.

He goes to Narcotics Anonymous, is a member of a local church, takes other vets belongings to their new digs, and he’s shooting for community college in the fall for an AAS degree in alcohol and chemical dependency, and he wants the BA, and more.

A tailored shirt to display his buff frame, short-sleeved to show the tattoos, and boots and new jeans and a briefcase, and, rolled up site plans for these garden villages, and the right knock-knock-knock to Bill and Melinda, or Oprah, or, whomever.

The problem in America, though, as Stephen and I talk, are the doors – which doors, how to get to those doors, and in many cases the rich and powerful hide behind a house of mirrors with all sorts of false doors. Too many middlemen and middlewomen, too many great pretenders, too many self-absorbed so-called community leaders and heads of non-profits.

You Go to Jail to Get Mental and Addiction Help!@?#

Hell, head clerk at the prison, completion of a robust program in Portland, Bridges to Change, volunteering, peer support training, volunteering at the labor force office helping recently released prisoners with resumes and finding housing for the bottom of the barrel ex-cons – those charged and time served for sexual offenses.

I keep being told I am where I am at – precarious, job to job, old now, on the far edge of power – because I piss people off, because I call a spade a spade, and that I can’t accept baby steps and the power of the offensives this white supremacist country sets forth upon the land. True.

nicevillage

The mantel is Stephen’s, and I might just be an idea generator, a big bag of hot air blowing ideas and criticisms and theoretical platitudes so far out of sync with the language of punishment and dog-kill-dog capitalism, that I am in la-la land.

So, this is how Stephen got sober the last time, two years ago – he jumped out the window his shared bedroom of the shelter, wandered for a few hours, and then, exactly 48 hours later, he went into a Subway, grabbed a milk from the fridge, plopped it on the counter, and told the attendant, “This is a robbery. Call the police.”

Stephen proceeded to put the milk back, and, waited for the cops. Attempted robbery, and a rap sheet, so two years inside a minimum-security penitentiary taking every available class in cognitive behavioral therapy and anger management and addiction recovery.

He’s the guy that could manage these garden villages, training any number of people how to lead, how to design and implement the building and construction and maintenance of the villages. One village at a time, times 5 or 20.

While these fat-cats invest in parasitic capitalism, investing in yachts and gold faucets to their penthouses. While these thugs with billions crusade across the land to smear us, the working class, attack us, those with a collectivism that would outperform any of their deceptive tricks to triple bookkeeping and felonious investments and punishment spread across the seas in their transnational capital crypto-currency Mafioso.

Brother, can you spare a million people? Sister, can you spare a few million young people from the endless toil of the fulfillment centers (sic) and kill-your-self-slowly Gig Economy.

The Three Magnets from Garden Cities of Tomorrow, 1902

Howard’s socialist vision of garden cities tied to the people and cultural implications of these thriving communities over the spatial holism of the cities/towns: Article.

The Veterans Community Project (VCP) is on a mission to eliminate Veteran homelessness by providing transitional-housing and enabling access to exceptional 360-degree service solutions. Focusing first on the Greater-Kansas City area, VCP aspires to use Kansas City as the blueprint for achieving similar successes in cities across the United States. VCP has a long-term goal of eliminating Veteran homelessness nationwide.

For many years, it has been tough to find a way to house the homeless. More than 3.5 million people experience homelessness in the United States each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Shortages of low-income housing continue to be a major challenge. For every 100 households of renters in the United States that earn “extremely low income” (30 percent of the median or less), there are only 30 affordable apartments available, according to a 2013 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  Source: Yes! Magazine.

Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a major nonprofit provider of mobile medical clinics. Our mission is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, quality healthcare to those in need. We do this by delivering free dental, vision, and medical services to underserved and uninsured individuals. RAM’s Corps of more than 120,000 Humanitarian Volunteers–licensed dental, vision, medical, and veterinary professionals–have treated more than 740,000 people and 67,000 animals, delivering $120 million worth of free health care services.

Image result for ebenezer howard

Urban Madness: Inequality and the Right to the City

The weekend edition of the Financial Times dated April 7/8 featured a story in the House and Home section under the title ‘Barcelona hits the Brakes.’ The story describes the negative effect of last October’s Catalan independence referendum on Barcelona’s real estate market. The Times cites data from the Spanish property website Idealista. During the summer of 2017 (Q3 2017) properties in the city gained an impressive 018 percent compared to the previous year. In Q4 2017, in the midst of uncertainty stemming from the referendum, the prices fell 1.2 percent, with the sharpest drop taking place in the priciest neighborhoods.

The most interesting nugget of the story reads like this:

Foreign buyers’ sensitivity to Catalonia’s uncertainty political situation bode ill for the city’s property market in the mid-term since they form an increasing share of the market. Years of steady appreciation has meant that much of the city’s stock has become too expensive for locals. Salaries have been stagnant says Encinar (founder of Idealista). ‘Today, when you ask local agents about business, they talk to you about ‘investors’ rather than ‘clients.’

Meanwhile in February the British Columbia Finance Minister Carole James announced measures targeting foreign buyers and speculators. Foreigners now have to pay a 20 percent tax on top of the listing value (up from 15 percent), and a levy on property speculators will be introduced later this year. Starting this fall foreign and domestic investors who don’t pay income tax in the province where the property is will pay a speculator tax of 0.5 percent of the property’s assessed value in 2018 and 2 percent thereafter. The government also vowed to crack down on the condo pre-sale market and beneficial ownership to ensure that property flippers, offshore trusts and hidden investors are paying taxes on gains.

The flashpoint for the legislation is Vancouver where foreign, particularly wealthy Chinese capital, has been driving double digit gains in property value. Media accounts report that Vancouver casinos and real estate have in recent years become vehicles for laundering proceeds for Asian high rollers and drug dealers with ties to the fentanyl trade. There were also two seasons of the very corny reality TV show Ultra Rich Asian Girls which followed the exploits of daughters of wealthy Chinese families as they shopped and partied around the city. With Chinese capital flowing housing prices in Vancouver have skyrocketed-in 2016 CBC reported that price of a single family home shot up 30 percent in one year to an average of $1.4 million even as the city claims that over the past decade the housing stock has grown by 12 percent and the population by only 9 percent. Toronto and Montreal appear to be on the cusp of similar transformations.

This kind of thing is happening in cities all over the world. In Lisbon a flood of foreign investment and financial deregulation has in the city center up 30 percent over the past two years. Yet the average monthly wage in Lisbon is about €850. Over in London research conducted for mayor Sadiq Khan revealed foreign investors are buying up thousands of homes suitable for first-time buyers. Of the 28,000 new homes built between 2014 and 2016 3600 were scooped up by foreign buyers with the majority from Singapore and Hong Kong followed by Malaysia and China. Last year it was revealed that an entire new 81 unit complex in Southwark (on the site of the former Heygate council estate) was bought by foreign investors while the same was true for 87 percent of Baltimore Wharf, a development on the Isle of Dogs where apartments started at £400,000. Accounts of Russian oligarchs living the high life have filled the press, at one point in 2016 campaigners connected to Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny organized London’s first ever ‘kleptocracy’ tour. Charles Moore, a former editor of the Telegraph, said a few years ago that London’s property market has become ‘a form of legalized international money laundering.’

In New York, early numbers from the latest Census Bureau’s Housing and Vacancy survey show unoccupied apartments ballooned by 35 percent in the three years since the last survey. Over 100,000 units are occupied temporarily or seasonally (74,945), basically meaning investments and vacation pads for the wealthy, or for unexplained reasons (27,000), no doubt a good number of the latter fit the former description.

According to data compiled by the firm PropertyShark, cited in the June 2014 New York magazine article titled ‘Stash Pad’, since 2008 about 30 percent of condo sales in large-scale Manhattan developments have been to purchasers who either listed an overseas address or bought through limited-liability corporations (a method favored by wealthy international buyers). The marketing firm Corcoran Sunshine, which specializes in luxury buildings, estimates that 35 percent of its sales since 2013 have been to international buyers, half from Asia, with the remainder about evenly split among the rest of the world. Data from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey revealed 57 percent of apartments in the three block stretch from East 56th Street to East 59th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue, are vacant at least ten months a year. From East 59th Street to East 63rd Street the vacancy rate is almost 50 percent.  Stretching it out further the Bureau estimates that 30 percent of all apartments in the entire quadrant from East 49th to East 70th Streets are vacant at least ten months a year. This coincides with New York’s homeless population reaching an all-time high.

It is difficult to conceive a more absurd reflection of global inequality than the building of cities specifically for elite investors at a time when urban homelessness is spiraling. Indeed global inequality has reached absurd levels. According to Oxfam’s report An Economy for the 99%, since 2015 the world’s 1 percent has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. The richest eight men own the same amount as the poorest half and over the next 20 years 500 people will hand to their heirs over $2.1 trillion- a sum larger than the GDP of India. While global development is slowly narrowing inequality between countries, inequality is rising within countries everywhere. The World Inequality Report 2018 reports the share of income going to the top 10 percent has increased somewhat in Europe, remained high in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East and has exploded in the United States, Russia, and Asia.

The city-as-investment dynamic is also a logical consequence of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, defined as an economic system of liberated markets, free trade, deregulation, privatization, and the withdrawal of the state, emerged from the economic stagnation of the early 1970s. Neoliberalism hasn’t been good at producing productive profits as the rate of profit has remained low. U.S. productivity growth is at its lowest level since the 1800s.However, if production is producing profits at a reduced rate where are capitalists to go to increase wealth? Get the state to cut your taxes. Break unions and freeze wages. Invent and expand creative financial assets. Buy back your company’s stocks. Build and invest in urban properties.

Since the mid-1980s corporations have become by far the most important buyers of their own stock. The dirty fact is that money cannot be made as fast by actually investing in production, meaning new plants, equipment, workers, etc., as it can by pumping up stock prices. The price-earnings (P/E ratio) measures a company’s current share (i.e. stock) price relative to its per share earnings. Since the mid-1930s the median P/E ratio for the Standard & Poor 500 stock index is 17. It currently stands at about 25. Another metric is the CAPE index, ‘cyclically adjusted price-earnings’. It measures real earnings per share over a 10 year period and corrects for inflation. The historic median is 16. Currently it is at just almost 33.

For the U.S. this has caused inequality to explode. The World Inequality Report 2018 breaks down American income growth by selected percentile from 1980-2014. Income for the bottom 20 percent of the population grew by a mere 4 percent over that period. The bottom 50 percent grew at only 21 percent, less than 1 percent a year. The top 10 percent grew 113 percent, the top 1 percent grew 194 percent, the top .001 by 423 percent, the top .0001 by 616 percent.

As the planet grows more unequal it grows more urban. For the first time in history the world’s urban population outnumbers the rural population. Cities have absorbed about two-thirds of global population growth since 1950. In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with more than one million inhabitants. As of 2016 there were 512 such cities, by 2030 there will be an estimated 662. Urbanization spans a vast gulf from the very wealthy neighborhoods of ‘International’ cities such as Shanghai, London, and New York to teeming slums all over the global South. Around one billion people, or roughly 1 in 8 people worldwide, live in slums. In this period cities have emerged as a key part of capital accumulation, absorbing surplus capital and labor. Gentrification has transformed from a local process, even an exception to urban disinvestment, to the pillar of global urban planning.

This inevitably makes the Right to the City movement of paramount importance to the International Left. The struggle against gentrification in London and San Francisco is easily linked to the struggle against displacement, and for basic human needs, in the pueblo jovens of Lima and favelas of Rio de Janairo. At bottom is the right for people to exist in space and time. This goes far beyond just an individual right to the resources a city contains. Since the process of urban change is a collective one, thus is the right to the city. Geographer David Harvey was surely correct when he wrote that ‘the question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kinds of social relations we seek, what relations to nature we cherish, what style of daily life we desire, what kinds of technologies we deem appropriate, what aesthetic values we hold.’

This never will be easy.  As inequality deepens and urbanization expands, state militarization grows with it. Stephen Graham, in his important book Cities Under Siege: The New Military Humanism, shows boomerang effect of the War on Terror on policing in Western cities. Drones are now involved in crime patrol. Security Zones, based on efforts to build Green Zones in Baghdad, are prominent in big cities. Temporary Security Zones are set up around sports events and political conventions. Since the 1990s over $5 billion worth of surplus military equipment has been transferred to police departments across the country.  During the Obama years, before limits were put in place which have since been rescinded by the Trump administration, police departments received tens of thousands of machine guns, thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment, along with hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft. The number of SWAT teams has skyrocketed since the 1980s. Originally established to deal with hostage situations and heavily armed criminals, SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times a year, mainly for drug searches (well glamorized by the CBS show S.W.A.T.). There was a glimpse of these possible confrontations with social movements during the protests against police brutality in Ferguson in 2014. There is no reason to expect these trends will cease and every reason to think they will expand.

Such is the specter that justice movements may have to confront in the future. Still, future social revolutions will be in cities or nowhere.

Inequality Social Dysfunction and Misery

Year on year the economic divisions and sub-divisions in the world deepen, and the associated social ills increase: The rich, comfortable, and the very extremely rich keep getting richer, and the rest, well, whilst some may be raised up out of crippling poverty into relative poverty, the majority of people continue to live under a blanket of economic insecurity and largely remain where they are.

Straddling the global ladder of economic and social division sit the Multi-Billionaires (there are now 2,208 billionaires), 42 of whom (down from 61 in 2016), according to a recent report by Oxfam, own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity combined. Together with their lesser cohorts this coterie of Trillionaires sucked up “eighty-two percent of the wealth generated [in the world] last year…while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth.”

The defining challenge of our time

Income and wealth inequality is not simply a monetary issue, it is a complex social crisis that supports and strengthens notions of superiority and inferiority, and was described by President Barak Obama in 2013 as “the defining challenge of our time.”

Today’s obscene levels of inequality are the result of the Neo-Liberal economic system. This extreme form of capitalism took hold first in America and Britain in the early 1980s when Reagan and Thatcher ruled, workers’ rights were trampled on, ‘society’ was a dirty word and community responsibility was abandoned to selfishness and greed. With the aid of the World Bank and the IMF, Neoliberalism swiftly spread throughout the world, polluting life in every city, town and village with its divisive, cruel ideology. Commercialization and competition are key principles and have infiltrated every area of contemporary life; everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, and the size of ones bank account determines the level of health care, education and housing available, as well as one’s access to culture and freedom to travel.

Social injustice is inherent in the system, as is inequality, which is itself a major form of injustice. Inequality strengthens deep-seated social imbalances based on class and social standing, and in a world where everything is classified, commercialized and priced; i.e., attributed value, external wealth and position have become the common criteria for determining the internal worth of a human being. Comparison and imitation follow, individuality is perverted and fear fostered; fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of not being loved, because not ‘deserving’ love, not being able to ‘afford’ love. Resentment, anger and self-loathing are fed, leading to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and drug and alcohol addiction.

Happiness and inequality

The impact of financial inequality on the health and well being of society has been extensively studied by Richard Wilkinson; British co-author of Spirit Level, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham. In order to establish national levels of inequality Wilkinson and his team used a benchmark based on how much richer the top 20% is to the bottom 20%: Japan and Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark) came out most equal, and now, Slovenia and the Czech Republic have moved towards this group. Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Portugal and USA were found to have the greatest levels of inequality, and by some margin. Recent data suggests that Russia, South Africa and Turkey should now be added to the most unequal pile. Germany, Spain and Switzerland sit somewhere in the middle.

Data relating to a range of social issues was examined: The most unequal countries were found to have lower life expectancy than more equal societies, higher infant mortality, many more homicides, larger prison populations (by 10-15 times), applied longer sentences; had higher teenage pregnancies, lower mathematic/literacy levels, more obesity, less social mobility, and, according to The World Value Survey, a great deal less trust. In more equal countries, like Sweden and Norway, around 65% of people trust others, whereas in unequal societies like America a mere 15% admitted to trusting their fellow citizens.

In all areas, countries with high levels of inequality did worse, in many cases much worse, than more equal nations. Mental health, for example, (figures from the World Health Organization): In Japan around 8% of the population suffers from some form of mental health issue, compared to 30% in America. Children are considerably healthier in more equal countries – based on UNICEF’s Index of Child Well-Being – and feel a good deal happier. Wilkinson concludes, “What we’re looking at is general social dysfunction related to inequality. It’s not just one or two things that go wrong, it’s most things.”

Look to Scandinavia

If one of the primary purposes of any socio-economic system is to create environments in which human beings can grow and live happily together, then the nations suffering under the shadow of inequality need to learn from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, which are not just the least unequal, they are also the happiest countries in the world. Throughout Scandinavia public services – education (which is probably the best in the world), health care and housing, are valued, and taxes levied in order to fund them properly; there are greater levels of social justice, this allows for trust to develop, and where there is trust relationships flower. The extremes of staggering wealth and stifling poverty don’t exist as they do in the more unequal parts of the world; social mobility is greater and the dream of betterment more realistic, as Richard Wilkinson says, “if Americans want to live the ‘American dream’ they should go and live in Denmark.”

The first duty of government is to protect the people; this involves not only dealing with terrorism and the like, but requires the development of socio-economic policies that contribute to the creation of a healthy harmonious environment. By supporting extreme inequality (which has been shown to fuel a range of social issues) governments in the more unequal countries are totally failing in this fundamental duty. Politicians, who in many cases rely on big business and wealthy benefactors for their funding, are either blind to, or negligent of, the inherent faults of the current system, and the unhealthy, negative way of life it supports.

The case for fundamental change in the economic order, and a shift away from the destructive values it promotes is becoming irrefutable; however, change occurs only gradually and resistance is great. In the meantime, governments (particularly in the most unequal states) need to acknowledge the connection between the dysfunction and disease within society and their socio-economic methodology, which is literally making people ill, as well and poisoning the natural world. They need to invest properly in public services, address wage differences, ban bonuses, introduce progressive tax reform, and, unlike America and France which are taking retrograde steps by designing tax codes which will fuel inequality, look to the Scandinavian countries and learn from their example.

For too long socio-economic systems have been designed and maintained to cater to the desires and interests of a privileged few, while the majority live inhibited lives under the shadow of financial uncertainty. For harmonious societies to evolve this long-standing injustice needs to be addressed and a degree of balance found. This requires that those whose table is full to overflowing share some of their bounty, so that all may have enough, not excess, enough.

As a wise man has said, “The rich must give up what they want, so that the poor can have what they need.” What the rich and comfortable must give up is greed (another car, another house, more designer clothes, etc.), what the rest need is freedom from economic insecurity and the fear of destitution, freedom from exploitation and dependency; secure, comfortable, and well-designed accommodation, and access to good education, health care and culture. Such essential needs are the rights of all; when made manifest they go a long way towards establishing social justice, and where there is social justice, functional, compassionate communities do evolve, conflict is reduced and collective harmony is cultivated.

When Things Fall Apart: A Graduation Message for a Dark Age

When the rivers and air are polluted, when families and nations are at war, when homeless wanderers fill the highways, these are the traditional signs of a dark age.

— Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, September 26, 2000

Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever encountered by young people.

They will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.

As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to guard against such a future.

Worse, we neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America.

We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings.

No, we haven’t done this generation any favors.

Based on the current political climate, things could very well get much worse before they ever take a turn for the better. Here are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help those coming of age today survive the perils of the journey that awaits:

Be an individual. For all of its claims to champion the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity which, as John F. Kennedy warned, is “the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and instead, as Henry David Thoreau urged, become “a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights before it’s too late.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We must learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Resist all things that numb you. Don’t measure your worth by what you own or earn. Likewise, don’t become mindless consumers unaware of the world around you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. Those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions desire compliant subjects. However, as George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, we’ve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and have lost our humanity. We’ve become sleepwalkers. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love and help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.

Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. For instance, on any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. There are 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, and 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. At least 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the government intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities. All the while, since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and police the rest of the world. This is an egregious affront to anyone who believes in freedom.

Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, at a time when the country was waging war “on different fields, on different levels, and with different weapons,” Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:

Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war… find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age—some of whom disguise themselves as politicians—delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness. As Serling concluded in his remarks to the graduating class of 1968:

Toughness is the singular quality most required of you… we have left you a world far more botched than the one that was left to us… Part of your challenge is to seek out truth, to come up with a point of view not dictated to you by anyone, be he a congressman, even a minister… Are you tough enough to take the divisiveness of this land of ours, the fact that everything is polarized, black and white, this or that, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This is one of the challenges. Be prepared to seek out the middle ground … that wondrous and very difficult-to-find Valhalla where man can look to both sides and see the errant truths that exist on both sides. If you must swing left or you must swing right—respect the other side. Honor the motives that come from the other side. Argue, debate, rebut—but don’t close those wondrous minds of yours to opposition. In their eyes, you’re the opposition. And ultimately … ultimately—you end divisiveness by compromise. And so long as men walk and breathe—there must be compromise…

Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy—prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies—he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient… Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for the American people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it.

Wake up, stand up, and make your activism count for something more than politics.

The Shame of Injustice

Poverty is the greatest cause of death and illness globally; it strangles the lives of billions of people, denying the expression of innate potential, condemning men, women and children to live stunted uncreative lives of interminable suffering and drudgery.

Whilst the numbers living in extreme poverty (the World Bank calculates this to be living on $1.90 a day) has decreased, over half of the world’s 7.5 billion population are somehow surviving on less than $5 a day (the cost of a designer coffee in developed countries). Hundreds of millions of others live in a condition of relative poverty or economic insecurity, anxiety and worry their constant companion. The majority of the World’s poorest people live in developing countries, India, Sub-Saharan Africa and rural China predominantly, but tens of millions are pushed into the shadows in industrialized nations.  America, for example, has an estimated 44 million people, or 13% of the population, living in ‘official’ poverty. Wherever the poor are found they live on the margins of society, are exploited and disregarded.

Walking hand-in-hand with poverty is the crime of extreme inequality. Obscene levels of wealth is concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of trillionaires whilst the poor are forced to beg for the crumbs that fall from their burgeoning tables.

Poverty results from and is itself a form of injustice; so too is poor education, inadequate health care, homelessness and sub-standard accommodation. Like freedom, justice is a human right and within that triumph of common sense, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, is enshrined as such. But our world is dominated by attitudes and modes of living that deny justice and prohibit freedom. It is unjust that billions of people live in squalor; it is unjust that the quality of a child’s education is dependent upon the size of its parent’s bank account; it is unjust that access to health care in many countries is determined by one’s ability to pay for it. The collective shame of injustice must be cleansed from our world and trust inculcated.

Like many of our problems the key to creating a just society lies in the encouragement of sharing. In various areas of life, sharing is beginning to fashion the way things are done: data sharing within all forms of government and between agencies and allies is common practice, United Nations agencies readily share statistics and education tools, cooperate with aid organizations, as well as sharing research material relating to global issues – climate change, for example. The worldwide web allows sharing on an unprecedented scale and has given billions of people access to information and ideas in a way that was impossible in the pre-internet age.

Whilst sharing initiatives are increasingly common, it is yet to be adopted as the primary economic and social principle. However, the ‘sharing economy’ of which we hear so much these days is a hint of things to come. A leading example of this new movement is the groundbreaking ‘Sharing City’ project set up in 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. The scheme has four main objectives: Reduce the use of municipal resources, create new jobs, build communities and cut pollution. There are a range of initiatives taking place in the city, including sharing unused parking spaces, leasing empty rooms, exchanging children’s clothing, and even meals; sharing bookshelves and internet access and letting citizens use idle spaces in public or government-owned facilities. As a result of these schemes, Forbes reports that, “a different culture is emerging, thanks to the support of the government, that has been proactively engaged with the public by providing the city’s resources such as unused public spaces and related data to its citizens, and providing support to sharing economy business models.”

On the whole the businesses grouped together under the sharing economy banner are functioning within the traditional capitalist system. Despite this distortion, it shows that the concept of sharing is increasingly influencing thinking and beginning to permeate human affairs: this augurs well for the future.

Sharing engenders trust

Injustice must be eradicated from our world, and the principal means of doing this is through sharing. When one shares, trust is engendered, divisions are dismantled, unity is cultivated and justice beings to flower. Sharing is the most efficient way to meet collective need, it is the common-sense approach to many of our problems, social and environmental; it is an expression of love, which is the unifying force of nature.

Without universal justice, disharmony will continue and peace will remain a fantasy. Injustice poisons the social fabric, pollutes the collective atmosphere and creates fermenting resentment, which fuels conflict. It is fed by complacency, which is the principal vice of the privileged, the smug and the comfortable; they have little or no idea of the intense suffering that billions of people are living under, and, fearing that their position of influence and control may be wretched from them, they cling to all that they hold dear – power and wealth.

Everything that causes injustice must be uprooted, within the structures under which we live, but also, and perhaps more importantly, within the consciousness of the individual. The destructive nature of conditioned ideals that encourage injustice must be recognized and rejected, and ways of living based on justice and social responsibility cultivated. At the same time, and flowing from this shift in attitudes, which in many people is well under way, socio-economic structures rooted in sharing are desperately needed to deal with systemic injustice.

The injustice of inequality has reached abhorrent levels, not simply wealth and income inequality, but inequality of opportunity, inequality of access to health care and good quality education, housing and culture. Such inequalities feed injustice and stoke division, leading to conflict. They are inevitable under Neo-Liberalism, and unless we reject this outdated and unjust way of organizing the global economy, inequality will continue to grow year on year. The promise of social mobility as a means of addressing or reducing injustice is mere propaganda; within the current system there is virtually no such thing; if you’re born into poverty or relative poverty, the chances are you will remain there.

The answer to injustice and social division is not to be found buried in the crumbs of the comfortable, it lies in adopting radically new ideas; concepts of sharing that are woven into the fabric of human nature and need now to be applied in a pragmatic manner to solve the global problem of injustice.

“The Global Elite is Insane” Revisited

In 2014 I wrote an article titled “The Global Elite is Insane.” I want to elaborate what I explained in the earlier article so that people have a clearer sense of what we are up against in our struggle to create a world of peace, justice and ecological sustainability.

Of course, as I explained previously, it is not just the global elite that is insane. All those individuals – politicians, business people, academics, corporate media editors and journalists, judges and lawyers, bureaucrats…. – who serve the elite, including by not exposing and resisting it, are also insane. And it is important to understand this if we are to develop and implement effective strategies to resist elite violence, exploitation and destruction but also avert the now-imminent human extinction driven by their insane desire for endless personal privilege, corporate profit and political control whatever the cost to Earth’s biosphere and lifeforms (human and non-human alike).

But first, who constitutes the global elite? Essentially, it is those extremely wealthy individuals – notably including the Rothschild family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, the Walton family and the Koch brothers – as well as the world’s other billionaires and millionaires.

Testament to their secretly and long-accumulated wealth and power, a 2012 investigation concluded that rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets – which excludes non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and race horses – in offshore tax havens.

If this sum was devoted to programs of social uplift then starvation, poverty, homelessness and other privations would vanish immediately and environmental restoration projects as well as research, development and implementation of visionary sustainability initiatives would flourish instantly. The idea of an ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘developing’ national economy would vanish from the literature on Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In addition to these individuals, however, the global elite includes the major multinational corporations, particularly including the following – although, it should be noted, this list simplifies the picture considerably by ignoring the conglomerate nature of many of these corporations and not including many of the (more difficult to identify) private corporations that should be listed in any comprehensive presentation:

* the major weapons manufacturers (such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics)

* the major banks (including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, HSBC Holdings, JPMorgan Chase, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Bank of America) and their ‘industry groups’ like the International Monetary Conference

* the major investment companies (including BlackRock, Capital Group Companies, FMR, AXA, and JP Morgan Chase)

* the major financial services companies (including Berkshire Hathaway, AXA, Allianz and BNP Paribas)

* the major energy corporations including coal companies (such as Coal India, Adani Enterprises, China Shenhua Energy, China Coal Energy, Mechel, Exxaro Resources, Public Power, Glencore and Peabody Energy) as well as the oil and gas corporations (such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, Rosneft, PetroChina, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Petrobras, Chevron, Novatek, Total S.A. and Eni)

* the major media corporations (including Alphabet [Google owner], Comcast, Disney, AT&T, News Corporation, Time Warner, Fox, Facebook, Bertelsmann and Baidu)

* the major marketing and public relations corporations (including Edelman, W2O Group, APCO Worldwide, Deksia, BrandTuitive, Fearless Media, and Citizen Group)

* the major agrochemical (pesticides, seeds, fertilizers) giants (including Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont)

* the major pharmaceutical corporations (including Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline)

* the major biotechnology (genetic mutilation) corporations (again including Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Pfizer and Novartis)

* the major mining corporations (including Glencore Xtrata, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Vale, Anglo American, China Shenhua Energy, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, and Barrick Gold)

* the major nuclear power corporations (including Areva, Rosatom, General Electric/Hitachi, Kepco, Mitsubishi, Babcock & Wilcox, BNFL, Duke Energy, McDermott International, Southern, NextEra Energy, American Electric Power, and Westinghouse)

* the major food multinationals (including Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Company [ADM], Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Associated British Foods and Mondelez)

* the major water corporations (including Veolia, Suez Environnement, ITT Corporation, United Utilities, Severn Trent, Thames Water, American Water Works).

Of course, the global elite also includes elite fora where various combinations of elite individuals from the corporate, political, media and academic worlds gather to plan their continuing violence against, and exploitation of, the Earth and its inhabitants. This is intended to consolidate and extend their control over populations, markets and resources to maximize their privilege, profit and power at the expense of the rest of us and life generally. Among intergovernmental organizations, it includes the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

A quick perusal of the agenda of such elite gatherings – including the World Economic Forum, the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission – reveals a comprehensive lack of interest, despite rhetoric and the occasional token mention, of pressing issues ranging from the threat of nuclear war and the climate catastrophe to the many ongoing wars, deepening exploitation within the global economy, extensive range of environmental threats and the refugee crisis, each of which they generated and now continue to deliberately exacerbate. See, for example, the agenda of the recent WEF meeting in Davos.

Primary servants of the global elite include political leaders in major industrialized countries (who legislate to progressively expand elite power, profit and privilege, such as Donald Trump’s recent tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social programs), the judges and lawyers (who defend elite power using the elite-designed and manipulated legal system: ever heard of a wealthy individual convicted in court and given any serious punishment or of any major corporation genuinely held to legal account for its exploitation of indigenous peoples or destruction of the natural environment?), as well as corporate media editors and journalists, entertainment industry personnel, academics, industry organizations (such as the European Round Table of Industrialists) that represent the interests of major corporations, so-called ‘think tanks’ (such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution) and ‘philanthropic trusts’ (such as the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford foundations) all of which justify, ignore or divert attention from elite violence and exploitation.

Importantly too, primary servants of the global elite include those who work within elite-directed agencies, notably including those in the so-called ‘intelligence community’ (such as the US CIA, British MI6, Russian SVR RF, Chinese Ministry for State Security and Israeli Mossad), who perform elite functions in relation to spying, surveillance and secret assassinations (particularly of grassroots activists), ostensibly under the direction of national governments. But it also includes many lower-level servants such as those who work as political lobbyists or in the bureaucracy as well as the education, police and prison systems.

So why do I claim that the elite and those who serve them are insane?

Any dictionary will offer a simple definition of ‘sanity’ along the lines of ‘soundness of judgment or reason’ and ‘the ability to think and speak in a reasonable way and to behave normally’.

But if we use this definition of sanity then, obviously, ‘sanity’ must be interpreted to mean that it is ‘sound judgment, reasonable and normal’ to further perpetrate the violence and exploitation that are overwhelmingly characteristic of our world. After all, most people powerlessly accept this incredibly violent state of affairs and, if they discuss it, do so in terms of its merits, politically, economically, morally or otherwise. Few people argue, simply, that violence is just insane.

So I would like to propose a more rigorous definition of sanity: Sanity is the capacity to consider a set of circumstances, to carefully analyze the evidence pertaining to those circumstances, to identify the cause of any conflict or problem, and to respond appropriately, both emotionally and intellectually, to that conflict or problem with the intention of resolving it, preferably at a higher level of need satisfaction for all parties (including those of the Earth and all of its living creatures).

Clearly, my proposed definition of sanity is designed to imply that any conceptions we have of ‘sound judgment’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘normal’ mean that they are qualities we associate with individuals who possess the desirable capacity to improve the overall state of human affairs, whether an interpersonal relationship or geopolitically. This means, as an absolute minimum, the capacity to reduce violence or exploitation in one context or another.

You might, of course, accuse me of writing a definition of ‘sanity’ that serves my agenda to dramatically improve world order in the direction of peace, justice and sustainability. And you are right! But whose interest does it serve to have sanity defined as behavior that involves ‘sound judgment’ and is considered ‘reasonable and normal’ in the context of perpetuating extraordinary violence?

Alternatively, you might argue that my definition of insanity is too broad. Surely, you might say, we can account for many of the behaviors outlined above in terms of different belief systems, ideologies and religions. Doesn’t a person who believes in killing people to win wars (or for other reasons) just have a worldview different from those who believe that people should resolve conflict nonviolently? Doesn’t a capitalist just have a worldview different from those who believe that people should share resources equally? Doesn’t a person who believes in the unlimited accumulation of wealth just have a worldview different from those who believe in ecological sustainability?

But there is a more fundamental issue here. As I explained in my original article, cited at the beginning of this one: Do you really believe that someone who is capable of perpetrating extraordinary violence, inequity and biosphere-threatening behavior – and thus clearly incapable of experiencing and expressing the love, compassion, empathy and sympathy that would drive a nonviolent approach to the world – is sane? Given that emotional qualities such as love, compassion, empathy and sympathy are an evolutionary gift to those not seriously damaged during childhood, what happened to those individuals who do not possess them?

Or, to explain it based on my longer definition of sanity highlighted above: Casual observation of the state of our world, including the primary threat of near-term human extinction through climate catastrophe or nuclear war clearly reveals that none of the elite is paying considered attention to the perilous state of our world, analyzing the evidence in relation to it, identifying the cause(s) driving it or responding powerfully to end it. Why is this?

In essence, it is because one manifestation of their insanity drives them to deny reality to make huge profits from weapons production used to kill people, the burning of climate-destroying fossil fuels, environmental destruction (through, for example, mining and rainforest logging), commercial farming based on the poisoning and genetic mutilation of foods, the mass production and sale of poisoned, processed and nutritionally-depleted foods, the consumption of health-destroying and dependency-creating drugs, and control over the sale of water, once considered a human right. Moreover, insanity makes the elite do everything in its power to maintain this highly profitable state of affairs.

Moreover, of course, there is no evidence of committed elite engagement in efforts to end the many local wars (from which they make huge profits), end corporate exploitation of human beings (which kills, through starvation alone, 100,000 people every day but from which they make huge profits) and nonhuman beings (which drives 200 species of life to extinction daily but from which they make huge profits) or end local environmental destruction in a myriad ways (from which they make huge profits).

So, in summary, given our ongoing rush to extinction, it is clear that those who exacerbate this threat through failure to consider and act with awareness (as well as encourage aware action by others) fail to satisfy the definition of sanity that I offered above. In short: Gambling on the future of humanity is not sane.

As an aside, it should be noted: Often enough too, the elite can rely on a largely insane population to mindlessly consume the latest consumer product, no matter how unnecessary, or they can rely on their marketing and advertising agents to persuade those of us who show the slightest reluctance to buy the latest inanity.

So with an insane global elite and its many insane servants as well as a largely insane consumer population, what can those of us who have the sanity to respond powerfully to the many threats to our survival do?

Well, if you want a child who is emotionally and intellectually engaged with the world and therefore capable of responding powerfully to their circumstances (which includes being able to resist the lure of serving the elite and being suckered by its marketing), then terrorizing the child into obedience is not the way to go about it. So, you might like to consider making ‘My Promise to Children.’

If you are sane enough to investigate the evidence and to act intelligently and powerfully in response to it, I encourage you to do so. One option you have if you find the evidence in relation to one or more of the threats mentioned above compelling, is to join those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.’

If you are self-aware enough to know that you are inclined to avoid ‘difficult issues’ and to take the action that these require, then perhaps you could tackle this problem at its source by ‘Putting Feelings First.’ Unfortunately, as mentioned above, few of us had a childhood that nurtured our sanity.

If you want to mobilize people to campaign effectively on the climate, war, rainforest destruction or any other elite-driven violence that threatens our future, consider developing a comprehensive nonviolent strategy to do so.

And if you want to participate in the worldwide effort to end the insanity we call violence in all of its manifestations, you are welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’

Elite insanity, if not stopped, will drive us out of existence. If you believe that the elite and their servants will ‘see the light’ before it is too late, I invite you to seek out the evidence to justify your belief. I have found none.

I also see no evidence that individual members of the elite will do the emotional healing necessary to be able to act sanely in response to the extinction-threatening crisis it has generated.

So it is up to those of us who can think and act sanely to stop the rush to extinction before it is too late.

Are you one of those people?

When Armistice Day and Remembrance Day Turned into War Day

Cognitive dissonance in Psychology

The psychological tension that occurs when one holds mutually exclusive beliefs or attitudes and that often motivates people to modify their thoughts or behaviors in order to reduce the tension.

Anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves of one of his or her habits.

Motivated Ignorance in Politics

Motivated ignorance can be simply defined as when people don’t want to know the facts. While ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge, education or understanding; motivated ignorance is when others choose not to educate themselves out of fear.

Example of Motivated Ignorance with Trump’s  Base

If you’re looking for an explanation for why Trump’s support is so solid among his base — and why it will remain so stubbornly high — read this piece by the Associated Press, where the reporters asked Trump supporters how they’re handling the wave of scandal.

“I tuned it out,” Michele Velardi, a 44-year-old in Staten Island, told the AP of the recent news. “I didn’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to feel that he’s not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen.”

This line is extremely revealing. It shows a psychological tendency we’re all susceptible to. That tendency is called “motivated ignorance,” and it’s an extremely powerful force in American politics.

It’s also one of the keys to understanding why political discourse can be so irrational.

The reality of this motivated ignorance in this country is it is deep running, the very foundation of how American “democracy” runs — how we as a collective have allowed for the casino, predatory, shock doctrine capitalism to pervade every waking second and sleeping nanosecond. It’s the cognitive dissonance at looking at the old apple pie, in this case, where our collective taxes (those of the 85 percent, not those from the One Percent and their Little Eichmann hit men and hit women 14 percent who steal, hide, launder, offshore, dodge and deny their fair share of the bill to keep America running) go to support the Oligarchs, the Kochs-Bloombergs-BlackRock Capitals-Zuckerbergs- et al.

See the source image

Seriously, look at the simplistic things listed above – 59 percent of the budget is for military, which in my mind is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the actual toll we pay for militarism and Empire. Put in International Affairs at 2 percent, Transportation at 3 percent, Energy/Environment at 2 percent, hell, Science at 3, Education at 5 percent, and Health at 5, and then Veterans’ Benefits — 7%. Truly, how many of those sectors support adventurism, playing the world’s cop, or our thuggery and invasive rogue statesmanship (sic)? How much of the budget is in line for supporting the grifters that are American corporations, profiteers preened by lobbyists, what Matt Taibbi calls – Griftopia and Vampire Squids from his 2010 book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America?

How much of what we do-think-consume-buy-sell-hope for-believe in-educate-govern is tied to this rancid desire to control markets, control destinies, control geo-political zones, control futures? Can we divorce anything in this society – Hollywood, food, medicine, urban planning, banking, science, technology, etc. – from the very foundation of uber alles zieg heil capitalism, above anything else?

Never.

Ironies and contradictions and counter-intuitive thinking abound in this wasteland of capital and profits and vast piles of wealth controlled by a smaller and smaller slice of the population. Daily, now that I am back off the dole and working as a social worker for homeless veterans, the Make America Great aging and down and out veterans are floundering minute by minute to find stability. That’s health, housing, any safety net or blanket.

Veterans and the VA and the pressures of a tri-county arena in the Portland, OR, market, where apartments of any affordable nature are few and far in between. Disgusting rents, disgusting digs. I work at a temporary shelter for vets, of all ages, all genders, families, and their companion dogs. Housed temporarily, and my job is connecting them to services, scrounging for resources, helping them navigate towers of bureaucratic paperwork.

Here’s what one fellow I met at the VA hospital told me:

Yeah, they never prepare you for coming back into civilian life. Truth be told, brother, the entire experience being in the Army, or military, is trauma inducting. Shit, doesn’t matter if you end up in one of the war zones. Think, man, I am a black man, and you think the military is one cakewalk? It’s white supremacist, no two ways about it. They don’t prepare you for the shock, first, of the shit they put you through in the Army. Daily, it’s hazing, humiliation. Daily, it’s one ordeal, man, after another. I don’t think someone who hasn’t been in understands that. We come out traumatized. We all come out with service connected trauma. Hands down, that’s one hundred percent disability. Forget about the hearing loss, the smashed discs in the back, the exposure to chemicals, the constant stress they put you through. I wasn’t prepared for this life, man, coming out of Iraq. I am hands down messed up, not prepared for anything, and dealing with what I went through in the Army, come on, it’s one hundred percent disabled. Hobbled by the mind games, the razing, the constant bullshit of the systems. You think as a black man, really, that it wasn’t like at times being in the Klan, or around these racists? You either hate brown people in the Middle East, or you are one of them. ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaeda. Every day it was a constant racist shit-show with Obama in as their and my commander in chief. Imagine that shit. Now, these young guys and gals have that freak show of a Trump and his Aryan Brotherhood , and how’s that transformation going to look like for brothers and sisters leaving after three, five, seven years? What shit have they prepared us for coming back into civilian life with all those emotional and psychological batterings?

This is one fellow I ran into a VA clinic, not even one of my clients. He somehow pegged me as Marxist, anti-authority, and he let go the floodgates. You can’t make these things up anymore as a traveler, as a writer who is incognito as a social worker.

Look at the pie above for aid to the Veterans, and see what the shit show pays out for the walking wounded, the chronically ill, the near insane, and the mentally deranged. Think about how much communities spend on housing, safety nets for the poor – the working poor, the children of this warped nation? Nothing, little, but the toll, and intended consequences, oh, what a toll.

Daily reminders of the stench of the racism of this country come to me as I navigate systems of penury, systems of poverty, the entire mess of the indebtedness, years of back child support, unimaginable fees to be paid to University of Phoenix, the Trump Universities of the system of deceit and destruction.

These conversations are pretty deep daily, as the men and women of the military are housed in temporary quarters, looking for ways to find housing. These are people with three or four or a few more years in the military, and they have no pensions, and in reality, after the service, many of them have kicked about, aimless, broken, working class hard, somehow broken from the line of logic that “serving your country means your country will serve you.”

Homeless, people, and that’s rotten teeth, rotten criminal records, rotten credit, rotten evictions, rotten bills, and a system that barely puts a few dollars worth of food stamps a month in their hands. The walking wounded, and the wandering poor. Each day another one hits the road, finds abandonment his or her only option, and it’s another day they have without social safety nets.

There are dozens of cases each day, how these young and not-so-young end up in an emergency shelter for veterans. Many are hammered  by huge changes in their relationships; i.e., divorce. That SEE — significant emotional event — spirals mostly men, but many women, into hitting the road and losing a home. As if the entire ranch is predicated on that 2000 or 3000 square foot home. Garage full of stuff. Children, pets, and, well, one thing leads to another, and, bam, the person — veteran — is couch surfing, living in their cars, and, bam, something gets them into a criminal justice situation or medical intervention.

For years, the spiraling, homeless, but with a job, and, then, another SEE — death of a buddy, war buddy, or, their PTSD and other ailments start shivering the soul. Booze and drugs, pain pills and meth. Whatever it is, these former soldiers — many of whom went into the military with baggage — come out with some mean and deep scars.

One fellow was working security at a fancy hotel. Had a dog as a service animal. Kicked out of apartment that did not recognize the doctor’s orders for a dog. Then, this former Marine is living in the hotel, and his dog is in a shelter. He rents a car, gets the dog, and sleeps in the vehicle and ends up working, still, with the dog in the car and people walking her for a few bucks.

Cold snap, snow in downtown Portland, and the fellow is at the wheel, with the engine on, parked, so the heater will work. He had a few drinks, a few bottles empty in the car, but he never drove the vehicle plastered.

Now, he faces $5000 or more in court costs, rehab costs, license suspensions, towing bill, rent-a-car clean up of $500 since the soldier never had a chance to clean it up.

He ends up in the shelter where I work. Bam, I find him a free dog crate, and the dog is freed from the pound, and the soldier is in a shared room with a dog companion and another homeless roommate who actually loves the dog.

Story after story, scenario after scenario. Veterans who served five years, or Vietnam Vets who had two tours in Vietnam, saw killing, and sucked in the beast of Agent Orange, Phosphorus and all the diseases and molds of Indochina.

One fellow spent three stints in prison. What, 28 years total. Veteran who ended up in his native Portland during the days of the West Coast CIA Cocaine Infusion Gary Webb and others wrote about. The crack cocaine was rampant in Portland, LA, San Diego, other locales. Coke and PTSD from military and war, and the combination turns into crime for money to support a dime a day or eight-ball.

Aged 62, and 16 years in prison for the last crime and here he is my client, working to find something, housing, a job, and he wants to keep pursuing some music career — electronic stuff, with all the software, licks, keyboards. Hell, he knew the drummer from the Yellow Jackets who did work for lots of people, including Michael Jackson.

Now how easy is that for a veteran, now in a shelter, sharing a room with another fellow, to get out of the institutionalized way of thinking? Prison mind. Hell, this African-American is the exact person the Yellow Bellied Trump and dictator of Philippines and Singapore Sadists and Chinese think drug users are good for — the firing squad.

Really, make no bones about it, Vietnam Navy veteran, using the cocaine of the Contras and Reagan Years, Colonel Ollie North and Colonel McFarland, all those blasted neocons and Israel-firsters essentially pushing drugs into Compton and Portland, and he is now the perfect model for electrocution. Because a drug user is always a drug money holder who is always a drug dealer willing to move more stuff than personal use can suffice in order to pay for rent and buy food.

Imagine the stories about Trump in New York City? Imagine how much white powder was stuffed up noses in his hotels, hell, maybe in his own suites and bathrooms, golden toilet lids for lines of coke to be inhaled with crystal pipettes. Studio 51, Trump’s parties at the Playboy Mansion, Trump the Playboy with Jeffrey Epstein, with known drug users, dealers, all those boozers, and, well, anyone owning a casino is in the business of dealing the most lethal drugs of them all — booze and smokes. Pall Malls and Jack Daniels.

Story after story I absorb. Wounded warrior after traumatized veteran. An army of none, an air force for bombing, a navy for nihilism, a marine corps for murder. So, Trump-Clinton-Obama-Bush-Reagan-Every-Member of Congress and the Senate voting for more war, more murder, well, who are the dealers really, dealers of death to not only the enemy in name (people of color) but dealers of death to their own people? Politicians, Economic Hitmen, Bankers, and Judges? Hmm.

And my work at this shelter is so-so under the radar of those Trump-Clinton-Obama-Bush-Reagan-Every-Member of Congress and the Senate-and-Corporate Leaders who vote-vote for more prisons, missile launchers, satellites of death, drones of destruction, mountain heaps of bullets and rifles, stealth bombers and endless logistical crap that feeds, clothes, houses, warms, cools, placates the soldiers.

Not a tear dropped for homeless veterans, because under the calculus of Trump and Accompanying Neoliberals, these “scum-bags” as they call them are in their own self-imposed dire straights one hundred percent because of all THEIR wrong choices.

Some choice:

A thousand a month in benefits from social security with a few service connected claims, and a 185 square foot room with two burner stove-top. Smaller than a prison cell, and these old men and old women end up living their last few years cramped in, single occupancy rooms, and somehow, we call that a success story.

If only the masters of the world, the Fortune 1000, and the Cadet Bone Spurs Trump, and his entourage of freaks and freakish family and extended clan could really get something under their manicured nails. Imagine, this draft dodger, Trump, who vilified John McCain, joking at his POW status. Imagine, this president (sic) forgetting the name of the soldier recently killed as he attempted to talk to the widow. Imagine, this unreality TV show blob, planning 50 million dollar arms parade. Imagine, all his cabinet, spending $19,000 here for a new office table, $50 thousand there for first-class flights, trips to Europe, with family in tow. Imagine, this fellow, Teflon, imagine, weak knees and golfer’s belly, commanding the men and women in uniform, pushing more war toys onto the commanders, all the graft of the multiple military lords of war, in the civilian world.

To the editor:

Cadet Bone Spurs claims he would have run into Stoneman Douglas High School unarmed if he had been on the scene of the recent shooting there. Apparently, he is braver now than he was during the Vietnam era when he secured five deferments. I would like to call on him to immediately fly to the scene of the next school shooting and put his new-found bravery into action. Come on, Bone Spurs, show us what you’re made of!

Mark Ward

Then imagine the 40,000 veterans who are deemed homeless by some measures (I believe more than that number are without housing). Imagine the broken VA system, all the vets that don’t get mental health support, all the callous and corrupt officials and medical experts who just push patient after patient back into the cold of night, the drizzle of Portland in the dead of winter.

Oh, there are homeless social workers, man, living in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, and You Name It Rah-Rah America. Working daily to help homeless veterans in some non-profit (poverty-wage poverty pimping entity) in Seattle, and the fellows have to kip inside their cars, or find shelters to wash up for a new day’s work.

And we are now in March Madness, post-Oscars, ready for the new 2018 Line Up of Trucks and Cars, and we give a shit about some black actors in the wrinkle of time or black panther, when the entire mess of America is a hall of mirrors, broken, shards, reflections of the horror show that is capital – money hoarders, the launderers, the developers, that Chamber of Death called the Chamber of Commerce.

The reverberating stupidity of anyone supporting anything that resembles a politician is a daily reminder of how many millions upon millions of Americans who are my enemy, the grease (suet) that oils the death trains of capitalism.

Daily, the discussions I have are telling, sometimes revealing. More and more people are broken children, and their hard ways, after hitting 70 or 75, are softened by their very own time in a shelter, and on the streets. Listening to the stories of pain, of all those broken people, the families that are the enemy, and the pounding chronic physical and psychological illnesses that now define America, the underclass, or even the 80 Percenters, those of us precarious, struggling to make ends meet.

Grown men who saw and breathed the Agent Orange fogs, who still call people Gooks, who ended up broken and flailed by war, and then facing the truth, the inability to make it in the American Fun House of Nightmares, which were not the Dreams of Children growing up playing baseball and running track.

I had one fellow recently who said he had grown hardened, calloused, after decades driving trucks, hard labor. He said that life breeds entire armies of hardened and severe thinkers. But my guy has seen the light, heard the stories of people in this shelter with lives unimaginable, as youth, pounded by parents, the rapes, the drugs, the abject poverty, and then signing up for the military, that economic draft we call it.

Living in the thrushes or old warehouses. Some after awarded purple hearts and bronze stars for valor, living in old container boxes, in tents near highway ramps.

Who would have thought that 9th grade baseball game, seventh inning, hot dogs, popcorn, the Dr. Pepper and cheerleaders and verdant fields and all those supports with advertising logos in left field, who would have thought that was miasma, a dream, some lost memory?

Then they genuflect to the antithesis of duty to country (Trump), the exact opposite of sacrificing for country, the entire Trump regime. America, the façade, the revolving paper poster and tinsel all glued on, all bullshit, memories falsified by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

Who would have thought a Marxist atheist like myself would be salving the mental and spiritual wounds of the walking wounded, the warriors, some, and the others who just did their time in the grinder called US military?

The trauma is inflicted and is infectious, and we go home, social workers, never satisfied with the work we did, and our phones are turned on 24-7, and we want the ones that can survive to do that and more, and some vets, yeah, they have some money coming in, but they are broken, ending up in a shelter, and we hold their hearts, solve their issues, and we go home, poor, not wanting anything in return, but for another veteran to be housed.

Six years after the Great Recession began, the number of homeless families with children remains stubbornly high. And the number of low-income households with unmet needs for housing assistance—especially families with children—has soared. Funding cuts under sequestration threaten to halt progress against homelessness and worsen the shortage of affordable housing.

This unprecedented reduction in federal rental assistance primarily affects low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families with children who are currently on waiting lists for assistance. The voucher cuts also mean that many fewer families that are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness will have access to vouchers.

On top of this are the reductions in federal food aid to the poor, once called food stamps and now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Four out of five of these recipients have gross incomes below the poverty line, about $23,500 for a family of four. As many as 4 million more would be dropped from the program under cuts proposed by House Republicans.

Homeless children, or those threatened with homelessness, are among the most heart rending victims of this assault by Republicans on housing and nutrition for the poor. They go hand in hand. Homeless children suffer much more from obesity and other diet-related ailments than other children.

— Barbara Sard, the vice president for housing policy at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

When Armistice Day and Remembrance Day Turned into War Day

Cognitive dissonance in Psychology

The psychological tension that occurs when one holds mutually exclusive beliefs or attitudes and that often motivates people to modify their thoughts or behaviors in order to reduce the tension.

Anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves of one of his or her habits.

Motivated Ignorance in Politics

Motivated ignorance can be simply defined as when people don’t want to know the facts. While ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge, education or understanding; motivated ignorance is when others choose not to educate themselves out of fear.

Example of Motivated Ignorance with Trump’s  Base

If you’re looking for an explanation for why Trump’s support is so solid among his base — and why it will remain so stubbornly high — read this piece by the Associated Press, where the reporters asked Trump supporters how they’re handling the wave of scandal.

“I tuned it out,” Michele Velardi, a 44-year-old in Staten Island, told the AP of the recent news. “I didn’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to feel that he’s not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen.”

This line is extremely revealing. It shows a psychological tendency we’re all susceptible to. That tendency is called “motivated ignorance,” and it’s an extremely powerful force in American politics.

It’s also one of the keys to understanding why political discourse can be so irrational.

The reality of this motivated ignorance in this country is it is deep running, the very foundation of how American “democracy” runs — how we as a collective have allowed for the casino, predatory, shock doctrine capitalism to pervade every waking second and sleeping nanosecond. It’s the cognitive dissonance at looking at the old apple pie, in this case, where our collective taxes (those of the 85 percent, not those from the One Percent and their Little Eichmann hit men and hit women 14 percent who steal, hide, launder, offshore, dodge and deny their fair share of the bill to keep America running) go to support the Oligarchs, the Kochs-Bloombergs-BlackRock Capitals-Zuckerbergs- et al.

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Seriously, look at the simplistic things listed above – 59 percent of the budget is for military, which in my mind is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the actual toll we pay for militarism and Empire. Put in International Affairs at 2 percent, Transportation at 3 percent, Energy/Environment at 2 percent, hell, Science at 3, Education at 5 percent, and Health at 5, and then Veterans’ Benefits — 7%. Truly, how many of those sectors support adventurism, playing the world’s cop, or our thuggery and invasive rogue statesmanship (sic)? How much of the budget is in line for supporting the grifters that are American corporations, profiteers preened by lobbyists, what Matt Taibbi calls – Griftopia and Vampire Squids from his 2010 book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America?

How much of what we do-think-consume-buy-sell-hope for-believe in-educate-govern is tied to this rancid desire to control markets, control destinies, control geo-political zones, control futures? Can we divorce anything in this society – Hollywood, food, medicine, urban planning, banking, science, technology, etc. – from the very foundation of uber alles zieg heil capitalism, above anything else?

Never.

Ironies and contradictions and counter-intuitive thinking abound in this wasteland of capital and profits and vast piles of wealth controlled by a smaller and smaller slice of the population. Daily, now that I am back off the dole and working as a social worker for homeless veterans, the Make America Great aging and down and out veterans are floundering minute by minute to find stability. That’s health, housing, any safety net or blanket.

Veterans and the VA and the pressures of a tri-county arena in the Portland, OR, market, where apartments of any affordable nature are few and far in between. Disgusting rents, disgusting digs. I work at a temporary shelter for vets, of all ages, all genders, families, and their companion dogs. Housed temporarily, and my job is connecting them to services, scrounging for resources, helping them navigate towers of bureaucratic paperwork.

Here’s what one fellow I met at the VA hospital told me:

Yeah, they never prepare you for coming back into civilian life. Truth be told, brother, the entire experience being in the Army, or military, is trauma inducting. Shit, doesn’t matter if you end up in one of the war zones. Think, man, I am a black man, and you think the military is one cakewalk? It’s white supremacist, no two ways about it. They don’t prepare you for the shock, first, of the shit they put you through in the Army. Daily, it’s hazing, humiliation. Daily, it’s one ordeal, man, after another. I don’t think someone who hasn’t been in understands that. We come out traumatized. We all come out with service connected trauma. Hands down, that’s one hundred percent disability. Forget about the hearing loss, the smashed discs in the back, the exposure to chemicals, the constant stress they put you through. I wasn’t prepared for this life, man, coming out of Iraq. I am hands down messed up, not prepared for anything, and dealing with what I went through in the Army, come on, it’s one hundred percent disabled. Hobbled by the mind games, the razing, the constant bullshit of the systems. You think as a black man, really, that it wasn’t like at times being in the Klan, or around these racists? You either hate brown people in the Middle East, or you are one of them. ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaeda. Every day it was a constant racist shit-show with Obama in as their and my commander in chief. Imagine that shit. Now, these young guys and gals have that freak show of a Trump and his Aryan Brotherhood , and how’s that transformation going to look like for brothers and sisters leaving after three, five, seven years? What shit have they prepared us for coming back into civilian life with all those emotional and psychological batterings?

This is one fellow I ran into a VA clinic, not even one of my clients. He somehow pegged me as Marxist, anti-authority, and he let go the floodgates. You can’t make these things up anymore as a traveler, as a writer who is incognito as a social worker.

Look at the pie above for aid to the Veterans, and see what the shit show pays out for the walking wounded, the chronically ill, the near insane, and the mentally deranged. Think about how much communities spend on housing, safety nets for the poor – the working poor, the children of this warped nation? Nothing, little, but the toll, and intended consequences, oh, what a toll.

Daily reminders of the stench of the racism of this country come to me as I navigate systems of penury, systems of poverty, the entire mess of the indebtedness, years of back child support, unimaginable fees to be paid to University of Phoenix, the Trump Universities of the system of deceit and destruction.

These conversations are pretty deep daily, as the men and women of the military are housed in temporary quarters, looking for ways to find housing. These are people with three or four or a few more years in the military, and they have no pensions, and in reality, after the service, many of them have kicked about, aimless, broken, working class hard, somehow broken from the line of logic that “serving your country means your country will serve you.”

Homeless, people, and that’s rotten teeth, rotten criminal records, rotten credit, rotten evictions, rotten bills, and a system that barely puts a few dollars worth of food stamps a month in their hands. The walking wounded, and the wandering poor. Each day another one hits the road, finds abandonment his or her only option, and it’s another day they have without social safety nets.

There are dozens of cases each day, how these young and not-so-young end up in an emergency shelter for veterans. Many are hammered  by huge changes in their relationships; i.e., divorce. That SEE — significant emotional event — spirals mostly men, but many women, into hitting the road and losing a home. As if the entire ranch is predicated on that 2000 or 3000 square foot home. Garage full of stuff. Children, pets, and, well, one thing leads to another, and, bam, the person — veteran — is couch surfing, living in their cars, and, bam, something gets them into a criminal justice situation or medical intervention.

For years, the spiraling, homeless, but with a job, and, then, another SEE — death of a buddy, war buddy, or, their PTSD and other ailments start shivering the soul. Booze and drugs, pain pills and meth. Whatever it is, these former soldiers — many of whom went into the military with baggage — come out with some mean and deep scars.

One fellow was working security at a fancy hotel. Had a dog as a service animal. Kicked out of apartment that did not recognize the doctor’s orders for a dog. Then, this former Marine is living in the hotel, and his dog is in a shelter. He rents a car, gets the dog, and sleeps in the vehicle and ends up working, still, with the dog in the car and people walking her for a few bucks.

Cold snap, snow in downtown Portland, and the fellow is at the wheel, with the engine on, parked, so the heater will work. He had a few drinks, a few bottles empty in the car, but he never drove the vehicle plastered.

Now, he faces $5000 or more in court costs, rehab costs, license suspensions, towing bill, rent-a-car clean up of $500 since the soldier never had a chance to clean it up.

He ends up in the shelter where I work. Bam, I find him a free dog crate, and the dog is freed from the pound, and the soldier is in a shared room with a dog companion and another homeless roommate who actually loves the dog.

Story after story, scenario after scenario. Veterans who served five years, or Vietnam Vets who had two tours in Vietnam, saw killing, and sucked in the beast of Agent Orange, Phosphorus and all the diseases and molds of Indochina.

One fellow spent three stints in prison. What, 28 years total. Veteran who ended up in his native Portland during the days of the West Coast CIA Cocaine Infusion Gary Webb and others wrote about. The crack cocaine was rampant in Portland, LA, San Diego, other locales. Coke and PTSD from military and war, and the combination turns into crime for money to support a dime a day or eight-ball.

Aged 62, and 16 years in prison for the last crime and here he is my client, working to find something, housing, a job, and he wants to keep pursuing some music career — electronic stuff, with all the software, licks, keyboards. Hell, he knew the drummer from the Yellow Jackets who did work for lots of people, including Michael Jackson.

Now how easy is that for a veteran, now in a shelter, sharing a room with another fellow, to get out of the institutionalized way of thinking? Prison mind. Hell, this African-American is the exact person the Yellow Bellied Trump and dictator of Philippines and Singapore Sadists and Chinese think drug users are good for — the firing squad.

Really, make no bones about it, Vietnam Navy veteran, using the cocaine of the Contras and Reagan Years, Colonel Ollie North and Colonel McFarland, all those blasted neocons and Israel-firsters essentially pushing drugs into Compton and Portland, and he is now the perfect model for electrocution. Because a drug user is always a drug money holder who is always a drug dealer willing to move more stuff than personal use can suffice in order to pay for rent and buy food.

Imagine the stories about Trump in New York City? Imagine how much white powder was stuffed up noses in his hotels, hell, maybe in his own suites and bathrooms, golden toilet lids for lines of coke to be inhaled with crystal pipettes. Studio 51, Trump’s parties at the Playboy Mansion, Trump the Playboy with Jeffrey Epstein, with known drug users, dealers, all those boozers, and, well, anyone owning a casino is in the business of dealing the most lethal drugs of them all — booze and smokes. Pall Malls and Jack Daniels.

Story after story I absorb. Wounded warrior after traumatized veteran. An army of none, an air force for bombing, a navy for nihilism, a marine corps for murder. So, Trump-Clinton-Obama-Bush-Reagan-Every-Member of Congress and the Senate voting for more war, more murder, well, who are the dealers really, dealers of death to not only the enemy in name (people of color) but dealers of death to their own people? Politicians, Economic Hitmen, Bankers, and Judges? Hmm.

And my work at this shelter is so-so under the radar of those Trump-Clinton-Obama-Bush-Reagan-Every-Member of Congress and the Senate-and-Corporate Leaders who vote-vote for more prisons, missile launchers, satellites of death, drones of destruction, mountain heaps of bullets and rifles, stealth bombers and endless logistical crap that feeds, clothes, houses, warms, cools, placates the soldiers.

Not a tear dropped for homeless veterans, because under the calculus of Trump and Accompanying Neoliberals, these “scum-bags” as they call them are in their own self-imposed dire straights one hundred percent because of all THEIR wrong choices.

Some choice:

A thousand a month in benefits from social security with a few service connected claims, and a 185 square foot room with two burner stove-top. Smaller than a prison cell, and these old men and old women end up living their last few years cramped in, single occupancy rooms, and somehow, we call that a success story.

If only the masters of the world, the Fortune 1000, and the Cadet Bone Spurs Trump, and his entourage of freaks and freakish family and extended clan could really get something under their manicured nails. Imagine, this draft dodger, Trump, who vilified John McCain, joking at his POW status. Imagine, this president (sic) forgetting the name of the soldier recently killed as he attempted to talk to the widow. Imagine, this unreality TV show blob, planning 50 million dollar arms parade. Imagine, all his cabinet, spending $19,000 here for a new office table, $50 thousand there for first-class flights, trips to Europe, with family in tow. Imagine, this fellow, Teflon, imagine, weak knees and golfer’s belly, commanding the men and women in uniform, pushing more war toys onto the commanders, all the graft of the multiple military lords of war, in the civilian world.

To the editor:

Cadet Bone Spurs claims he would have run into Stoneman Douglas High School unarmed if he had been on the scene of the recent shooting there. Apparently, he is braver now than he was during the Vietnam era when he secured five deferments. I would like to call on him to immediately fly to the scene of the next school shooting and put his new-found bravery into action. Come on, Bone Spurs, show us what you’re made of!

Mark Ward

Then imagine the 40,000 veterans who are deemed homeless by some measures (I believe more than that number are without housing). Imagine the broken VA system, all the vets that don’t get mental health support, all the callous and corrupt officials and medical experts who just push patient after patient back into the cold of night, the drizzle of Portland in the dead of winter.

Oh, there are homeless social workers, man, living in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, and You Name It Rah-Rah America. Working daily to help homeless veterans in some non-profit (poverty-wage poverty pimping entity) in Seattle, and the fellows have to kip inside their cars, or find shelters to wash up for a new day’s work.

And we are now in March Madness, post-Oscars, ready for the new 2018 Line Up of Trucks and Cars, and we give a shit about some black actors in the wrinkle of time or black panther, when the entire mess of America is a hall of mirrors, broken, shards, reflections of the horror show that is capital – money hoarders, the launderers, the developers, that Chamber of Death called the Chamber of Commerce.

The reverberating stupidity of anyone supporting anything that resembles a politician is a daily reminder of how many millions upon millions of Americans who are my enemy, the grease (suet) that oils the death trains of capitalism.

Daily, the discussions I have are telling, sometimes revealing. More and more people are broken children, and their hard ways, after hitting 70 or 75, are softened by their very own time in a shelter, and on the streets. Listening to the stories of pain, of all those broken people, the families that are the enemy, and the pounding chronic physical and psychological illnesses that now define America, the underclass, or even the 80 Percenters, those of us precarious, struggling to make ends meet.

Grown men who saw and breathed the Agent Orange fogs, who still call people Gooks, who ended up broken and flailed by war, and then facing the truth, the inability to make it in the American Fun House of Nightmares, which were not the Dreams of Children growing up playing baseball and running track.

I had one fellow recently who said he had grown hardened, calloused, after decades driving trucks, hard labor. He said that life breeds entire armies of hardened and severe thinkers. But my guy has seen the light, heard the stories of people in this shelter with lives unimaginable, as youth, pounded by parents, the rapes, the drugs, the abject poverty, and then signing up for the military, that economic draft we call it.

Living in the thrushes or old warehouses. Some after awarded purple hearts and bronze stars for valor, living in old container boxes, in tents near highway ramps.

Who would have thought that 9th grade baseball game, seventh inning, hot dogs, popcorn, the Dr. Pepper and cheerleaders and verdant fields and all those supports with advertising logos in left field, who would have thought that was miasma, a dream, some lost memory?

Then they genuflect to the antithesis of duty to country (Trump), the exact opposite of sacrificing for country, the entire Trump regime. America, the façade, the revolving paper poster and tinsel all glued on, all bullshit, memories falsified by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

Who would have thought a Marxist atheist like myself would be salving the mental and spiritual wounds of the walking wounded, the warriors, some, and the others who just did their time in the grinder called US military?

The trauma is inflicted and is infectious, and we go home, social workers, never satisfied with the work we did, and our phones are turned on 24-7, and we want the ones that can survive to do that and more, and some vets, yeah, they have some money coming in, but they are broken, ending up in a shelter, and we hold their hearts, solve their issues, and we go home, poor, not wanting anything in return, but for another veteran to be housed.

Six years after the Great Recession began, the number of homeless families with children remains stubbornly high. And the number of low-income households with unmet needs for housing assistance—especially families with children—has soared. Funding cuts under sequestration threaten to halt progress against homelessness and worsen the shortage of affordable housing.

This unprecedented reduction in federal rental assistance primarily affects low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families with children who are currently on waiting lists for assistance. The voucher cuts also mean that many fewer families that are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness will have access to vouchers.

On top of this are the reductions in federal food aid to the poor, once called food stamps and now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Four out of five of these recipients have gross incomes below the poverty line, about $23,500 for a family of four. As many as 4 million more would be dropped from the program under cuts proposed by House Republicans.

Homeless children, or those threatened with homelessness, are among the most heart rending victims of this assault by Republicans on housing and nutrition for the poor. They go hand in hand. Homeless children suffer much more from obesity and other diet-related ailments than other children.

— Barbara Sard, the vice president for housing policy at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Ode to America

My own little world
Is what I deserve
‘Cause I am the only child there is.
A king of it all
The belle of the ball
I promise I’ve always been like this.
Forever the first
My bubble can’t burst
It’s almost like only I exist.
Where everything’s mine
If I can keep my mouth shut tight, tight, tight.

— Guster, “Center of Attention”, Lost and Gone Forever Live, 2014

So much for the city on the hill. Narcissism has changed to nihilism and solipsism: “climate change isn’t real”, and the ravages of history continue down the rabbit hole of memory.

Take another look. Genocide and chattel slavery. The war against Mexico, the quite uncivil war, the Spanish-American war, the massacres in the Philippines, the two World Wars. Dust off a book and check out the post-WWII carnage. Three million dead in Korea, three to five million dead in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. A million or more in Indonesia where our CIA handed out kill lists to Suharto’s regime. Untold atrocities in Nicaragua. Juntas and death squads covering South and Central America, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Hundreds of thousands dead in Afghanistan, a million or more in Iraq. Refugees numbered 65 million last year, with 20 million worldwide at risk of starvation.

Welcome to America, where minorities are killed for loose cigarettes or burned-out taillights. Where kids are shot up in school after warning of the madman dozens of times. Where we are chided to “support our troops” as they massacre, where we’re told “blue lives matter” as black men are murdered in cold blood.

The only solution is to abolish the military and the police. There is no reforming to be done. Likewise the nation-state and the corporation must be banned as well. Banish capitalism to the dustbin of history. The neoliberal globalizers (yes, Trump, that means you too) have got to go.

This is the fourth world war, as Subcomandante Marcos explained brilliantly. Billions of people now are no longer needed in the global economy and form the reserve army of temporary, part-time, and seasonal laborers. This is the new precariat, which along with the ever exploited proles constructs and maintains the property of the oligarchs in our new gilded age.

The risks from global warming, nuclear war, industrial pollulants, new pandemics, and food and water shortages from drought, floods, and extreme weather all should remind us that we are constructing our very own abattoir as well. Seven-and-a-half billion of us fighting and scrambling over the scraps and dregs of our fossil fuel age doesn’t paint a pretty picture when you step back and look at things with a global perspective.

There is an absolute nothing at the heart of Western life. This gets touched up in media and the arts, when terms like “Spaceship Earth”, “The Big Empty”, and “Lonely Planet” are used in a playful way, masking our sorrow. Projecting our own isolation and alienation onto the world, we anthropomorphize features and creatures around us and thus imagine that everyone and everything else must be feeling as helpless, bleak, and disturbed as we are.

Yet, it is just not so. Just because the universe is kind of a lonely and scary place does not give us the right to destroy the planet out of fear of our own mortality, our own sense of meaninglessness.

While our foreign wars mutate and mushroom out of control, domestically, America today is increasingly provincial and insular. Like many subcultures, the political realm is dominated by nostalgia, a return to a so-called Golden Age. From “Make America Great Again” to Bernie Sanders’ New Deal/Keynesian/Social Democratic promises, they are all based on delusions. These are delusions of isolationism, delusions that we can use a Scandinavian blueprint onto a population of 320 million, delusions of American exceptionalism, being the indispensable nation.

There is also a delusion regarding the “living wage”. There can only be a living wage coinciding with a radical restructuring of the economy towards sustainability and ecological living. Without this, what would happen? A wage hike to $15/hour would encourage everyone to spend more, consume more, go on more trips and use more fossil fuels. This would not help any single living thing on the planet, as our economy is built to destroy and degrade the Earth’s natural resources and ecosystems.

Comments on US Left Radicals, with Respect

I also sense a split between two strains of Leftist radical thought in the US: the activist/socialist Left and what one might call the counter-culture/spiritual Left. Turns out, each has much to offer the other.

The activists/Marxists will be instrumental in breaking the passivity, new-age hedonism, and tendency to harp on conspiracy theory of the spiritualists. Organization and discipline on the strategic and tactical levels are in short supply, and here socialists have a lot to contribute to the conversation.

As for the counter-culture/spiritual types, they have much to teach the social justice activists and socialist/communist organizers and academics as well. In a very practical sense, those in the counterculture who have “dropped out” are doing a great service by not contributing tax money to our war machine. Those who squat and occupy public land responsibly should also be applauded, not ignored, by the academic Left. The growing movement in permaculture and homesteading also is uniquely absent even in alternative media (is too much patchouli and yoga a repellant for otherwise intrepid journalists?).

There is also an idea as old as time, summed up by the saying “Man does not live by bread alone”. The constant focus of some on the socialist Left on only materialistic problems and solutions (exemplified by some Marxist and lefty economists, among others) and inequality does not give enough weight to questions of inner life in modern society.

Many of the activist/socialists cannot even be counted on to support full drug legalization. Additionally, many ignore the issue of, or are scared at speaking out in favor of, the responsible use of cannabis and psychedelics, even though study after study confirms their beneficial effects. Of course, I’m not trying to inflate the heads of the credentialed experts, as any hippie on Haight-Ashbury or Rasta in Kingston could have confirmed this 50 years ago.

Speaking of the 60s, 50 years ago the French managed to scare De Gaulle out of the country, with an alliance of students, workers, feminists, artists, Leftists, and citizen protestors. Union workers in the US should be supporting high school students’ calls for increased legislation to halt gun violence, as well as college students’ call to end student debt, creating free higher education for universities and community colleges, etc.

Then there are people who fit neither category, including environmentalists, peace activists, anti-nuke and GMO protestors, dissidents, anarchists, etc. For many here, the Greens are simply not anti-capitalist enough, and the socialists do not put enough emphasis on environmental concerns and ecology.

I have offered a respectful critique of one of the main Left parties, Socialist Alternative, in a previous piece, especially their call to “democratize the Fortune 500 companies”, instead of breaking them down to human-scale anarchic cooperatives and inherently questioning the nature of the consumer goods and production model, which contribute to pollution, misery, disease, alienation, and global warming.  Also, their call for a living wage without structural transformation of the industrial system falls flat, for reasons mentioned above.

Last year, Alan Jones wrote a pretty epic essay dismantling the faulty thinking going on in the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in an essay here.

What is needed among radicals is more guts, and more imagination. We need more people like SPUSA 2016 presidential candidate Mimi Soltysik who called for the military and the police to be disbanded in the LA Times.

What is necessary is to become more grounded in speech and action. Technological utopianism has to be replaced by scale-appropriate bio-regional and eco-centric Earth-based production techniques. To accomplish this, we will need to reorient our culture and pay respects to the main keepers of this wisdom, the First Nations of Turtle Island, the land we know as North America.

Visioning

What anyone with a heart wants is a rainbow nation, not in terms of a country or nation-state with borders, but groups of interdependent communities, aka intercommunalism as the Black Panthers called it, where our brown, black, white, yellow, and red sisters and brothers can live and thrive in a veritable kaleidoscope, a mosaic of multicultural and intergenerational cooperation and beauty. To live in cooperation with each other and live close to the Earth, we will have to learn from and adopt the rejuvenating and conflict-avoidant cultural practices of indigenous communities.

Land and property reform are at the center of this agenda, as is instituting a universal basic income. We must utilize the burgeoning fields of bio-dynamic farming, perma-culture, and agro-forestry to feed ourselves. We must decentralize…Small Is Beautiful, as Schumacher explained.

Over the course of human history, the village was the central unit of society, where bio-regional production, markets, and trading dominated. This is how unique culture is formed, where syncretism and blending is encouraged, not denigrated by xenophobic bigots.

The modern city is completely unsustainable as well as uniquely alienating as it divides citizens by class, race, as well as in the more subtle realms of social and cultural capital, as Bourdieu foresaw.

Holistic, ethical science can be used in tandem with decentralizing farming practices and renewable energy infrastructure. The dream of the primitivist, anti-civ, and “green anarchists” (funny how some have tried to appropriate this term, which can apply to a wide spectrum of theory) to go without any modern technology is ridiculous. Sustainably made labor-saving devises should be encouraged, not denigrated, and applied science based on the precautionary principle must be upheld.

Also necessary will be deliberative councils based on merit, publicly broadcast to stimulate citizen input and education, where scientists can openly debate and plan for strategies to mitigate global warming, industrial pollution, medical and psychological epidemics of suffering (drug abuse is rampant in this country and largely attributable to loneliness and alienation, as the Rat Park study showed), etc. Imagine how much more enlightening and interesting watching the top researchers in their fields resolve crises would be, compared to the absolute shit on CNN, CSPAN, FOX, or MSNBC.

Meritocracies are not utopian, and flourish in scientific research, in spontaneous social situations, as well as for open-source coders, engineers, and technologists. Arthur Koestler sketched this idea out a bit in his book Janus, dubbing it “holarchy”.

Global warming continues to be the number one threat to the planet. By opting out of the Paris Accords (a pitiful excuse for a climate agreement, but better than nothing), the US government has  clearly shown itself to be very clearly at war with the world.

Yet “America” does not exist. Borders do not exist. We must become ungovernable, semi-nomadic if need be, like many of our multicultural, cosmopolitan ancestors were. We should re-wild and reinvigorate our natural surroundings through sustainable communal-based agriculture.

This does not mean consigning every family to peasant-level subsistence farming, as likely only 10-15% of the population would need to work in a food-production based capacity and would be compensated for their hard work and dedication compared to our mass society, compared to the 1-3% in our mechanized agro-business model where laborers and seasonal workers are ruthlessly exploited. There must be a mind-shift from a culture based on scarcity to a culture based on natural abundance.

More and more people are waking up to the ever-increasing dangers of runaway climate change and nuclear war. If the Left does not unify and form a cohesive, coherent strategy that speaks to ordinary people, the proto-fascists in Washington as well as the alt-right will continue to scapegoat minorities for capitalisms’ failures in pursuit of their goal of a tyrannical white-supremacist state.

Possibly the most feasible solution to our interlocking crises is to address the elephant in the room: overpopulation. Instituting a global program promoting woman’s education, safe sex, and birth control, and redistribution of wealth to the Global South could help tremendously.

The fragmentation of the Western Left continues because ultimately it is rooted in Eurocentrism, in a Baconian/Cartesian/Newtonian view of science and the universe. The advent of capitalism as well as the cementing of the Westphalian ideology of the nation-state ultimately leads to oligarchy, fascism, and the destruction of the biosphere and natural resources. Revolutionizing the system of global capital and abolishing the nation-state cannot be delayed for reforms that seem more realistic. Our time is running out.