Category Archives: Housing/Homelessness

A Flag; a Violent MAGA Family; a Brick through the Window!

I’ll get to the punch line soon, since this is part two of a two-part mini-horror story of a neighbor’s 41-year-old MAGA son, the actual son’s 63-year-old MAGA-mean mom, and alas, the 41-year-old son’s 39-year-old brother. And then the lot of them under the roof of a 63-year-old stepfather who has “US Navy retired” on his Facebook account, as well as every single post about on-line Texas Hold’em. [Part One! Your Right Ends with My Right to Might]

The offending sign:

They are not what David Graeber said, “We Are the 99 Percent.” They are making three retirements, getting social security (times two), government (tax payer funded) Medicare, free VA, and they sold a house (obscene inflated price) in California, and have come to Oregon because this coast is almost “We Are the 99 Percent White” homeland of Sundown Laws. Their house on our street is the largest and newest built right on the dunes overlooking the bay. Cheap compared to Simi Valley. They banked the rest for their glorious days as racists on the coast of Oregon.

You know, criticize students, teachers, journalists, local elected officials, the road department, Portland in general, Democrats, anyone with a green button on, and, well, not exactly connoisseurs of our incredible Hatfield Marine Sciences Center.  For them, spending money at a spendy restaurant in Newport, chipping in a $7 tip, and lording over some subservient waiter is their way of “rubbing elbows with the poor people.”

I know the types because I have talked with others around here — Californians from Orange County, Semi Valley and the like. The ones who for decades have cursed the Mexicans, the Guatemalans, the African Americans, the Koreans, the Armenians, the Sikhs, the Indians, the Chinese, and on and on and on. You know, in places named Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, those all-American English proper nouns.

The single thread I have attempted to help students understand is that we are as individuals what we individually… do, say, eat, drink, watch, read, dream, hope for, act upon, see, smell, hear, hold true, protect, believe, perform, learn, value, preserve, who we valorize, what we consume, build, and write. Collectively, well, one can imagine as a society or culture or nation that we might also have  all of these “what we …” to reflect upon whether we are good people or bad people, takers or leavers, kind or cruel, pacific or warring, COLLECTIVELY.

Ways of Thinking - Feudalism is very much alive

More on the MAGA deplorables in a moment.

Having lived in some interesting places – Bisbee, Tucson, Sierra Vista, El Paso, Albuquerque, Spokane, Seattle, Portland,  Vancouver, and then many other places in foreign lands —  I understand the concept of those who have and those who have nothing or barely nothing.

I understand (know closely) those in crisis, those with bad families, those who have been abandoned by the most important people who should have been there for them – mother, father, sister, brother, uncles and aunts, extended families. I know the directionless mindset of young people who join gangs, use drugs, commit violence,  and are on a war-path toward self-destruction. I know the deep thread of trauma inflicted upon people, and how that stays for life, an ever-lasting series of lamentations, self-analyses, and self-doubts and self-loathing, to just name a few.

It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to know bad hombres when you see them. It doesn’t take the niece or the sister of a Trump Character to know the lack of worth and the insult to humanity a guy like him reflects.

Did Hitler have adverse childhood experiences? Does it matter? Trump? Cheney? Bush? Kissinger? Milton Friedman? Colin Powell? Madeline Albright? Obama? Clinton? Biden? Every single billionaire and every single millionaire?

You know, I have a neighbor here, next door, from Arizona. Husband and wife. They hate Glendale, hate the republican Red State politics, hate the criminal ex-pardoned-sheriff Joe. They are here, and alas, they bought a lot, and built on it a manufactured home. The kind that comes in two parts. You know it from the long line of cars on the freeways with “extra wide load” pilot cars sandwiching them. A nice one with a foundation and it looks like a from-the-ground-up-with-footings house.

The deal is they (no one) can get a traditional mortgage for a trailer or park home or manufactured home. But, that billionaire Warren Buffet made some cool billions by financing mobile homes, using a balloon payment system, and his scheme (one of thousands) caused many (millions) to pay exorbitant fees, interest rates, and many-many homes were repossessed, like yesterday’s Pontiac Grand Am. Then, old Warren inflicts another layer of making money — on the used (repossessed) manufactured home market. This is the scheme of misanthropes, those that make the Forbes 1000 List, those that end up on Obama’s economic transition team. Or Trump’s. Or Biden’s.

The neighbors are nice, but alas, they are voting for Biden-Harris, and even that action conjures up fears, so much so they are afraid to put out a legal, everyday “Vote for Harris-Biden 2020” yard sign. Other neighbors want that same sign up, but fear retaliation.

I know many people living in many countries, including many in Europe, and they are sort of looking at this country from a telephoto lens, and really have not idea how bad, how messed up, how fearful, how spineless Americans are. Sure, they want USA to bomb Iran, bomb North Korea, bomb Venezuela, bomb China, bomb Russia, bomb liberals or bomb MAGA’s, but in reality, this country is all show and all bravado with a few tens of millions of psychopaths with guns running around (driving big trucks) with the red-white-and-blue dangling near the tailpipe.

Show up here on the coast a dark-skinned Italian, Frenchman, Greek, Spaniard, well, you get the picture. A deep swarthy tan, even for a so-called white man or woman, well, that’s a suspect epidermis. REALLY.

I used to work outside a lot, ride a bike for 50 miles in a day, and had dark black hair and a goatee. Sure, the hair on my arms bleached out, but still, in Idaho, in 2001 when I first ended up in the Pacific Northwest, from El Paso, one day in Idaho, while taking guests around, I was asked if I was a Heb – Jewish? Asked if I was an Arab? And asked if I was a Mexican?  I am not kidding. First, you have to deal with the fact being any of those – Jewish, Arab and Mexican – I still think is legal. But then, the undertone, the very concept of questioning who I am, based on nationality (or maybe ethnicity, because you can be any racial member in all three camps – Arab, Jewish and Mexican.

File:American corporate flag.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Deplorables 2001. Deplorables in 1980 bombing innocents in Central America. Deplorables rah-rah Bush and Nixon and Bombing them All Back to the Stone Age. And, those who work for these deplorables, well, some can call them Eichmann’s or Little Eichmann’s like Ward Churchill called many of those working in the World Trade Center. People who work for the masters, the paymasters, the schemers, the grifters, the snake oil salesmen, the high risk loan sharks, PayDay loan sharks, all those used car salesmen who eat the potato salad at the Sunday School brunch, and on Monday, sell another car with saw dust inside the transmission casing or hawk an SUV that once floated around NOL after Hurricane Katrina. Faulty air bags, faked VW emissions, cracks in the O-ring for the NASA Space Shuttle, fissures in the metal containing the nuclear rods at Three Mile Island. You know, all those people, who, unfortunately, have been lumped into “We Are the 99.”

We can say they were duped by the money, made a Faustian Bargain, drank the Kool-Aid, were bought out or sold out. Brainwashed by Capitalism … or greed. Sell their mothers down the river, because something bad in their lives turned them. Excuse/ excuse/ excuse.

I can’t go there now, or even years ago when the slogan began, We Are the 99.” I was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police during Occupy Wall Street. Many of those in the “99” ended up on the message boards and comments sections telling us that we deserved to be pepper sprayed, or what did we expect, or that there are other ways to make our point other than marching peacefully.

So, yeah, no, not part of any “We Are the 99.” Closet racists? Misogynists? Believers in the lie that all faculty at colleges and universities are elitists?

I was not brought up in privilege – my old man was an airman in USAF and then got into the Army as a Warrant Officer. Yes, I got to live overseas, travel overseas, be with relatives in Scotland, England, Ireland and Germany, but we are not talking about anything past lower-middle class. [Of course, there are plenty of psychological studies and cognitive theses on how Americans conflate their abilities, inflate  their actual economic standing, and frame their own narratives around the bastards of the world. Imagine, dirt poor people in Appalachia relating to silver-spooned, poor-hating, accent-mocking, disabilities-deriding, excon-slamming Trump or Bush or Nixon or Reagan.]

Did I strike gold? Well, I was in that time period in 1975 when a state college education was dirt cheap, and the state university in Tucson was progressive, made tons of allowances letting dudes like me major in science, English, journalism – all at the same time, semester to semester. Electives were anthropology [got to do the Garbage Project, garbology, with William Rathje];  marine biology [got to be a diver in Sea of Cortez with incredible professors who had a slew of marine species named after them]; poetry and creative writing [got to be a hanger on at the University of Arizona Poetry Center and all the writers who came through to the university];  journalism [got to get paid reporting for the then daily Wildcat newspaper, a wholly independent newspaper not under the thumb of the journalism department]. We broke stories on the veterinarian school paying for dogs (stolen) for ghastly experiments with ballistics; and broke the story on the football coach scamming refunding unused airline vouchers for his own slush fund. I even got to take a special topics class with W. Eugene Smith, the photographer. We got the Center for Creative Photography and the Ansel Adams slides. I did a first-person series on homelessness in Tucson, and I learned community journalism working on the lab paper, The Tombstone Epitaph. I got to party with Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, and even had beers several times with Lee Marvin. I got the chance to ride my motorcycle as an extra in C.C. & Company, with Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. And, much-much more by the time I was 20 years old.

A measure of an adult is not the size of his or her bank account, for sure, and alas, 43 years later, I am still lower-middle class, having had a life of part-time gigs threaded into a multi-variant quilt. Some of my friends are/were tenured professors, semi-successful novelists, and a millionaire or two here and there.

The bulk of my life has been teaching in places like El Paso and Las Cruces and Tucson, Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver.

The measure of some can be grasped through the quality of their living, their life philosophy and for some, an education inside and outside the hallowed walls of university life. I took education by the horns, got the paid TA-ship for one master’s (in English) and got another almost free ride getting another master’s in urban and regional planning. Learning is and was something you can do outside of a college, but a good college and good students and a vibrant campus and community life, no one can replace. They can bullshit you into thinking everything taught and learned in school is easily learned in the real world, but the problem is the real world is not our house, and the real world is the paymaster. A real education is life-long learning, a community of service learning, and one where curriculum is morphed, special projects encouraged, across disciples are the norm, and the liberal arts the foundation.

As many have said, I should/could write many books on my life and on what I have seen in so many other people’s lives.

Amazon.com : ACAB Anti Cop Stop Police Brutality Protest Statement Garden Flag for Outdoor House Porch Welcome Holiday Decoration, Fit Chritmas/Birthday/Happy New, 3x5ft : Garden & Outdoor

I take radical action seriously, and I know – knew from an early age – the system is rigged for the rich, and that in this country, at least, the majority of people are colonized and co-opted by the complex forces of capitalism as it plays out as predatory, penury, parasitic, usury, sociopathic and ablaze with the profits privatized and all the external costs to us, society, and to the environment, socialized. A society that doesn’t do a drum beat around the tenets of something like War is a Racket and one that has no grasp of that the same fellow, General Smedley Butler, thwarting a military coup against FDR by a group of businessmen, none of whom got “hook-line-and-sinkered” for the crime, well, that society is delusional and infantilized.

I have studied human nature, have been in developing countries, under developed countries and what might be termed as third world countries. I understand the overt corruption of a place like Mexico, where cops-politicians-rich-narcos have laid siege on the people, on the indigenous ones, on teachers and land reformers and environmental defenders. The duplicity, the complete global thuggery of the USA – all those systems of exported extortion, pollution, hostage taking, maiming, theft, fraud, and grifting, again, make the narcos look like school bullies. Right, tales of a few tens of millions Economic Hit Men, thanks John Perkins!

There is something totally hardened by the Yankee and Rebel  –

In 1923, the British novelist D.H. Lawrence offered a grim assessment of America and Americans: “All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Lawrence’s observations of the American character did not draw upon deep wells of direct personal experience. When he wrote those lines, he had only been living in the United States for a bit more than a year and had spent much of that time among artists and the literati. But he was neither the first nor the last to make such an observation. Nearly 50 years ago, surveying both the wreckage of the 1960s and centuries of archives, the brilliant historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that “Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.”

The general strike that didn't happen: a report on the activity of the IWW in Wisconsin

Here, David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. He was one of several who helped coin the “We Are the Ninety-Nine Percent.”

Well, one of the things that I discovered in researching my book is that the kind of debt crisis we’re experiencing now, being a real debt crisis, which is a debt crisis that affects ordinary people, debts between the very wealthy or between governments can always be renegotiated and always have been throughout world history. They’re not anything set in stone. It’s, generally speaking, when you have debts owed by the poor to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred obligation, more important than anything else. The idea of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable. In the past, though, there have been mechanisms, when things get to a point of real social crisis, that have always existed. And they vary by the period of history. In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms. [Counterpunch]

Now how is Graber’s untimely death Sept. 3, 2020 related to the misanthropes across the street who not only exhibit the middling middle class from California hatred of Muslims, hatred of liberals, hatred of education, hatred of book learning, hatred of the arts, hatred of discourse, hatred of debate, hatred of countervailing beliefs, hatred of evolution, hatred of most sciences, hatred of multiculturalism, hatred of youth/color/polyglots/indigenous people.

Every week there is a new yard gnome, a new seasonal flag up – you name the Hallmark celebration, this family puts them all up, during those “correct” calendar spans. They wear sports team clothes, they shop at Walmart, they plant plastic flowers, they have a yippy little dog, they don’t own a bicycle, kayak, canoe, anything to at least prove they are part of the walking species. They don’t walk. Both have hobbled gaits, and at 63 they seem and act like dinosaurs from an Archie Bunker episode.

What takes the cake is that they, as I said in the first part, took down a smallish placard/sign from our property, at our front door. The son did the stealing, age 41, and the mother the next day out and out told me “my son would never do that.”

This is America, the nation of liars and thieves and infants. So, the sign was gone, I caught him in the act, I tried to stop him with my words, and he slinked into his mother’s house at 10:40 pm. All the lights were out.

You see, they were looking at this sign, and not only were they bubbling over with rage, they were talking about it. Somehow, this sign represents everything they are against. Steal a sign from the neighbors.

Ahh, but that just was part one. Now, two days later, we get a bang on the door. Nothing like having to utilize your 2nd amendment rights. Startled, well, I thought maybe this guy was back on a rampage. I saw a Sheriff deputy.

Well, this same boy, at 7 pm, according to two witnesses, threw a large garden cement paving stone into my passenger side window. The witness called the cops. The cop asked if I wanted to report this as a crime. The cop photographed the interior, the paving stone, and then took the stone. He also called for back-up. He told me a neighbor and visitor witnessed the brick being thrown through my window. Of course, on the little Metro, I had the same sign on the back window.

This is it for America, in a nutshell. This is not Covid-19 stir crazy. This fellow has a history of booze and 24-hour drinking at mom’s place. I found this out later. The other son also has issues with going off the wagon. This is the reality of these Trumpies, 39, 41 and two 63-year-olds. Big screen TV I can see every time I go outside. The talking heads of the 24/7 Hate TV, Big Brother Hannity and Fox and Friends Hate TV stars.

But you see, these deplorables were deplorables way before this greasy man got into the White House. Seething against the Latinos and Blacks. Seething against the wildfires (blaming the democrats for those). Seething against the high cost of living, and seething that they were passed up on the time line the day they were born.

Trauma informed care means understanding where people are in their addictions, their mental crises and their involvement in the criminal injustice system. Not about blame or expecting people to meet some “normal” level of functioning, but meeting them there at the trauma and going from here to be an inspiring and helpful case manager.

But when the shoe is on the other foot – the neighbor committing an act of violence (yes, a brick or rock through a car window right outside your home is a symbolic threat to a person’s body) or the politician thieving or the president raping – well, the victim cannot always be so holistic and understanding of those perpetrators’ childhood, juvenile, teen, young and old adult traumas as rationales for bad behavior.

One brick, a few hundred dollars later, then cops who give citations but do not take people to jail because of Covid-19. Guys that are white met by white cops. Lies, excuses, etc. The deputy said this perpetrator was saying, “Come on, aren’t you guys part of the blue lives matter? Come on, what I did was for you.”

There you have it. Me threading the needle, since I know for sure policing has been a giant racist and punishment and sadistic thing in US society. I know if the perp had been a dark person, a BIPOC, then, one backtalk move, and that person would be in cuffs.

Instead, the deputy said this guy was all over the place, was trying to coddle up to the cops, and that he was smelling of booze and that his job was to disarm the individual’s uneven demeanor by de-escalating things.

And, the bottom line is I am told to exercise my 2nd amendment rights, have the gun/guns ready, “and, if any trouble happens on the property, wink wink …,” well, those are the words of cops.

Oh, and they recommended to get a no-stalking order filed at the court, so a judge can meet with me via phone to determine if this one guy, the 41-year-old, will be hit with a court order to stay away from me. For each member of the family, we’d have to file individual stalking orders.

This is America, the hard, cold shallow/sallow America. The California Here You Come America. The Fox News America. The seething white racist America. The Americans who hate welfare while they scoop up all the welfare from their mercenary service (sic) in the US Navy, while getting social security, while getting Medicare and VA benefits, and maybe this fellow, the 41-year-old, he too is on government assistance – unemployment and possibly developmentally disabled before age 18?

I have friends all over the world who think the United States is something completely than it is. They consume so much Holly-dirt, and they maybe smart and read the elites and Ivy League mostly white books on this or that angle in America. Their take on things – because the Ivy Leaguers and Elite Coastal Lizards – have no real sense of how bad the country is, how tough the soul of the white nation is, how quickly the nation of immigrants will turn into a nation of haters.

The paperwork for the no stalking order is absurdly long. Then, the conference courtroom swearing in. All the other no-stalking cases up first – violent spouse or ex-boyfriend. Nothing like listening to all these cases of violence, threats, etc. to get a person re-traumatized. That’s what was on the docket — my case and then women who were in fear for their lives because of violent ex-spouses and ex-boyfriends.

So, get this – in the USA, now, I have a temporary no-stalking order, and the guy will be served soon, which means, you guessed it, more escalation of his testosterone, etc. More of the MAGA might makes right stupidity? That’s one possible scenario. The order goes to a level, according to the judge,  of this fellow not being allowed in my field of vision, which makes it, err, problematic for him, since the house’s stoop overlooks the same road we share.

All the nonsense like –

You will have the opportunity to ask the judge to stop the stalker from:

Following or monitoring you,
Threatening you,
Talking or writing to you (by mail, phone, text, email, or social media),
Interfering with or damaging your property,
Coming near you in public or on private property, and
Showing up at your work, home, school, or daycare facility.

Someone may be stalking you when they:

Follow you,
Conduct surveillance on you,
Appear uninvited at your home, work, or school,
Makes unwanted phone calls or sends unwanted emails or texts,
Leave objects for you,
Vandalizes your property, or
Hurt your pet.

Like I said, I have had an interesting life. Worked as a police reporter and was even threatened as a newspaper journalist by both Sheriff deputies and a local policeman in Bisbee, Las Cruces and El Paso. For publishing too much on the PD/Sheriff. Got to hang out in Chihuahua City and on a couple of ranchos outside the city with some mean hombres – both college educated (MBA and JD) in the USA, but then, also politicos with ties to the cocaine trade. Been in small towns in the south, and up north in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah and Arizona.

The Euro’s and Aussies and Kiwis know nothing about how warped and dysfunctional this country under white banking and war rule is. Imagine, that defective set of genes then moving into 1990 and the 2000s. Complete monsters like Zuckerberg and Bezos, the entire Fortune 5000 captains of industry, the sports team owners, Hollywood, from sea to shining sea.

The MAGA thing is real, not just some kneejerk against the orange monster/menace/accused pedophile/accused rapist. Yet, there are so many Americans willing to give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, so many Ellen’s and Karen’s giving Bush Baby the benefit of the doubt. This is the caliber of both sides of the political manure pile.

You’re 77 and Joe Biden and, bam, the slippage, big time. Then the felon, the grifter, the complete imbecile, Trump, 74. Two accused rapists, two rotten men, and one, Biden, living some fabled set of lies, the plagiarist in the Senate and VP. Then the habitual thief, Trump, lying as a tool, incompetent, and believe it or not, dumber than dirt, making Bush Junior look like Stephen Hawkins.

One hundred and fifty-one, the two of them, combined imbecility and lies and entitlement. Both racists, both lovers of the exceptionalism that is the huge American lie. Imagine, having five leaders, 30 years old each, running for president? Imagine that. “Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for holding the presidency. To serve as president, one must: be a natural-born U.S. citizen of the United States; be at least 35 years old; resident of the US for at least 14 years.”

This is the quality of MAGA, and many of them are old, Christians, sure, and they in any other time in history would not let their daughters come home with a greasy man like Trump for a date, let alone for candidacy for son-in-law. Not exactly all-American virtuous guy. No Norman Rockwell guy. No Norman Vincent Peele kinda dude.

Yet, their televangelists and pulpit punchers are all degenerates, and the country – little do the Euro visitor knows this – is steeped in magical thinking, protective angels, strong belief in papa in the head office guiding the poor and even educated people on what to think, say, mouth, and hear around what it means to be American.

So it goes, these neighbors, the quasi-restraining order (for a stranger, no less – not even work related). People of two generations hating blacks, hating gays, hating people with disabilities, hating the environment, hating hating and more hating.

A rock through the window, and what’s next? What will happen when the Black Lives Matter signs go up? When will they bring out their guns and ammo? When oh when will that restraining order come to the rescue? After two more pavers are thrown into our vehicles’ windows? Gunshots over the house, threw the window or at us?

This is the Trump-Land, and the same scum were there during Clinton (I went to a gun show in Texas and they were selling embossed bullseye targets with Chelsea, Bill and Hillary faces on them. Nixon? Democratic Convention in Chicago? School busing? How many are dead in Ohio? Black Panthers? Which red-baiting McCarthyite went on to, well, advise Mister Queens New York?

Flag for the Black Panthers (Black Panther Party) : vexillology

This is how the sausage was made in America with that secret ingredient always back into the ground up mix–

400–500 years ago, Europe’s unwanted social outcasts and religious extremists began relocating to Virginia and Massachusetts. Grateful crowns back in London, Amsterdam and Strasbourg rejoiced as their most ungovernable and unwanted subjects self-exiled to the new world. There, waste people and pilgrims set about recreating the same intolerance they sought to flee. Puritan Christianity was so intolerant that they were unable to coexist anywhere – neither with their own kind back in the old world, nor with the natives of the new.

These first settlers thought the Inquisition ended too soon and eagerly sought to reproduce it – burning heretics and accused witches, perpetuating the cruel and unusual medieval tortures discarded by their European forebears, and forcing abused wives to wear the scarlet letter. Women and children had no rights; men were vicious tyrants. Colonial promoter Richard Hakluyt back in England neatly summarized the first settlers’ goals in 1585: “The ends of their voyage are these: to plant Christian religion; to trafficke; and to conquer.”  Abel Cohen

Great Debate: Should it be a crime to burn the American Flag? – The Crimson

Oh, those in the One Percent and then the others, in that 19 Percent Group

U.S. has highest level of income inequality among G7 countries

I’ll go with Michael Parenti on this accord — the richest 85 families own as much wealth as the lower 50 percent of the world? Bullshit. Those misanthropes own a hell of a lot more than anything the 3.5 billion people on earth might collectively “have.” No comparison:

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population— whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.— can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down? Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities? especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc. We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are. — Michael Parenti 

And so I get a rock through my car window, get to go to court to file a no stalking order, and await yet more American mean as cuss reactions as the Black Lives Matter and Ecosocialist signs go up . . .  Of course, after I have to purchase and install closed circuit surveillance cameras. Yep, MAGA Mutts for Trump 4.0.

What does it mean if the US flag is upside down? - Quora

The post A Flag; a Violent MAGA Family; a Brick through the Window! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Eviction Abolition: The Time Is Now

It’s the beginning of the month. Do you know your neighbors?

I have several questions for you. Can you imagine a society where the prospect of a forced eviction is considered completely barbaric, and is virtually or entirely unheard of in practice? Can you imagine the United States becoming one of those societies? And have you joined a local community group that is considering these questions where you live?

I’m a founding member of a new network I and others are working on expanding here in Portland, called Portland Emergency Eviction Response, which is basically a rapid response team to go participate in eviction defense actions, activated by text message, in the tradition of the telephone trees of the twentieth century, or the tin horns of the nineteenth century.

I’d like to give you my answers to the questions I posed above.

Can I imagine a society where the class war is not carried out in such vicious ways, with millions of renters across the country getting evicted every year, with the disruption, dislocation, destruction and chaos that ensues in community after community, year in and year out?

Yes, that’s easy. Many countries in the world already don’t allow this feudal practice. I travel in them and perform in them regularly, and have done so for most of my adult life. There are many ways landlords can seek restitution aside from the forced eviction of tenants.

Can I imagine the US becoming one of those societies, where eviction doesn’t happen?

Although it is currently a more unequal place than it has been since the Age of the Robber Barons, this fact is not only a curse for so many struggling in poverty, but it’s also an opportunity. As bad as the housing crisis was for both homeowners and renters before the pandemic hit, it is exponentially worse now, particularly since the federal government has been unable to take any meaningful action since the end of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — although the new move by the Centers for Disease Control to ban evictions for anyone making less than $99,000 until the end of the year at least kicks the can down the road until then, when the past rent will suddenly come due for tens of millions of people who will have avoided eviction until then.  The patchwork of state and local eviction suspensions is now, finally, largely supplanted by a nationwide ban.  But one which, like almost all the other temporary eviction bans, does nothing to address the underlying problems that existed prior to the pandemic, or the divisions that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  So unless further, major action is taken, everything now comes crashing down at the beginning of 2021, instead of this month.

With the situation being as bad as it is, a lot of people are realizing that the capitalist system and the ever-increasing cost of housing that has been the situation for a long time now, but much more so since the last financial crisis, is untenable. People are no longer going along with the program. Landlords seeking to evict tenants, from New York to California, have faced spontaneous and angry gatherings of their neighbors, that have caused them to back off and go away. This is how it starts.

Even a criminally unequal society still requires a certain degree of the consent of the governed in order to function. Police brutality alone won’t work – not when the people being evicted increasingly include members of the extended families of cops across the country, just as they increasingly include so many other segments of society, with Black and brown people being disproportionately impacted everywhere. People are spontaneously reacting against this madness when they’re confronted by it. Increasingly, clearly, the consent of the governed is being withdrawn.

This is why the time is now. This is why people who have been involved with every other political movement that has ever existed in my lifetime are back out in the streets today. All those folks involved with the global justice movement, Occupy Wall Street, the climate justice movement, and so on, also believe that Black lives matter, and that now is the time to fight back against institutional racism, and all the other institutions that perpetuate it, such as the police, and also the venture capitalists and their facilitators in the state legislatures across the country that allow for the kind of ethnic cleansing that has taken place in cities like Portland, where more than half of the Black population here has been priced out of the city since I moved into it.

I have seen the same thing happen in every city I have lived in in this country, and I’m not the only one who is sick and tired of it. Being sick and tired is becoming widespread. There are only so many times one can experience this pattern before you’ve had enough – moving into a diverse neighborhood, only to see it get whiter and whiter, until only the most recent newcomers with six-figure incomes can afford to live in it anymore, and the vast majority of Black and brown residents, along with the vast majority of professional artists and so many others, are once again forced out. The ranks of those who are fed up with this shit is growing fast.

Which brings me to my third question – have you joined a neighborhood network of some kind?

Spontaneous outpourings by neighbors are essential, but we can’t depend on that alone to end something like the phenomenon of forced eviction. Forced eviction was banned in Chicago during the last Great Depression in no small part because people organized eviction defense squads. Somewhat more recently in New York City, many squats and other buildings were saved through similar kinds of mobilizing – even during the very authoritarian Giuliani administration in that city. In the UK, eviction defense actions in Glasgow were essential to fueling a successful rent strike and ultimately a nationwide rent freeze, a century ago.

History is full of such examples. Although for the bigger ones you sometimes have to go back a ways to find them, this is because of the confluence of circumstances people were facing at those times – which bear so much similarity to today. Sudden economic crashes on top of an already terribly divided, stratified society, met by incompetent political leadership.

Changing the world always seems impossible at first, I hear. The obstacles always seem insurmountable at the outset. Getting started is the hardest part. But once one eviction has been prevented, and then another, momentum can build very quickly.

Those of us who are working on the initiative we’re calling Portland Emergency Eviction Response are looking at this basic approach: if you are facing eviction in the city of Portland and for whatever reason(s) you have decided you want to try to stay in your home and resist this eviction order, contact us, so we can be in touch well before the cops actually show up. When the police do eventually show up, which they tend to do on their own time, you tell us, and we activate the text mob. But first, if you’re in Portland, you need to sign up, to this or another such initiative. If you do, you’ll meet some of the best people you’ve ever met, while you’re defending someone’s home together.

Go to artistsforrentcontrol.org and scroll down to the bottom of the screen to sign up. Another world is possible, and another Portland is possible.

The post Eviction Abolition: The Time Is Now first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“People of the Cave”: Palestinians Take Their Fight for Justice to the Mountains 

Palestinians are not going anywhere. This is the gist of seven decades of Palestinian struggle against Zionist colonialism. The proof? The story of Ahmed Amarneh.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer from the northern West Bank village of Farasin, lives with his family in a cave. For many years, the Amarneh family has attempted to build a proper home, but their request has been denied by the Israeli military every time.

In many ways, the struggle of the Amarnehs is a microcosm of the collective struggle of Farasin; in fact, of most Palestinians.

Those who are unfortunate enough to be living in areas of the West Bank, designated by the Oslo II Accord of 1995 as Area C, were left in a perpetual limbo.

Area C constitutes nearly 60% of the overall size of the West Bank. It is rich with resources – mostly arable land, water and ample minerals – yet, relatively sparsely populated. It should not be surprising why right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to annex this region. More land, with fewer Palestinians, has been the guiding principle for Zionist colonialism from the outset.

True, Netanyahu’s annexation plan, at least the de jure element of it, has been postponed. In practice, however, de facto annexation has been taking place for many years, and, lately, it has accelerated. Last June, for example, Israel demolished 30 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, mostly in Area C, rendering over 100 Palestinians homeless.

Additionally, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli army bulldozers destroyed 33 non-residential structures as well. This is “the same number (of homes) demolished throughout the entire first five months of 2020,” OCHA reported.

Unfortunately, Farasin, like numerous other Palestinian villages and communities across Area C, has been singled out for complete destruction. A small population of approximately 200 people has been subjected to Israeli army harassment for years. While Israel is keen on implanting Jewish communities in the heart of the occupied West Bank, it is equally keen on disrupting the natural growth of Palestinian communities, the indigenous people of the land, in Area C.

On July 29, Israeli forces invaded Farasin, terrorizing the residents, and handed over 36 demolition orders, according to the head of the Farasin village council. Namely, this is the onset of ethnic cleansing of the entire population of the village by Israel.

Ahmed Amarneh and his family also received a demolition order, although they do not live in a concrete house, but, rather, in a mountain cave.  “I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,” he told reporters. “I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

Amarneh’s emotional outburst is not misleading. In a recent report, the Israeli rights group B’tselem, has listed some of Israel’s deceptive methods used to forcefully remove Palestinians from their homes in Area C or to block any development whatsoever within these Palestinian communities.

“Israel has blocked Palestinian development by designating large swathes of land as state land, survey land, firing zones, nature reserves and national parks,” according to B’tselem. Judging by the systematic destruction of the Palestinian environment in the West Bank, Israel is hardly interested in the preservation of animals, either. The ultimate goal is the allocation of “land to settlements and their regional councils,” B’tselem argues.

Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that, for example, as of November 2017, only 16 of the 180 Palestinian communities in Area C have been approved for development. The rest are strictly prohibited.

Between 2016 and 2018, of the 1,485 Palestinian applications for construction and development in these areas, only 21 permits have been approved.

These unrealistic and draconian measures leave Palestinian families with no option but to build without a permit, eventually making them targets for Israeli military bulldozers.

Hundreds of families, like that of Ahmed Amarneh, have opted for alternative solutions. Failing to obtain a permit and wary of the imminent demolition if they build without one, they simply move to mountain caves.

This phenomenon is particularly manifest in the Hebron and Nablus regions.

In the mountainous wasteland located on the outskirts of Nablus, the wreckage of abandoned homes – some demolished, some unfinished – is a testimony of an ongoing war between the Israeli military, on the one hand, and the Palestinian people, on the other. Once they lose the battle and are left with no other option, many Palestinian families take their belongings and head to the caves in search of a home.

Quite often, the fight does not end there, as Palestinian communities, especially in the Hebron hills region, find themselves target to more eviction orders. The war for Palestinian survival rages on.

The case of Ahmed Amarneh, however, is particularly unique, for rarely, if ever, Israel issues a military order to demolish a cave. When the cave is demolished, where else can the Amarneh family go?

This dilemma, symptomatic of the larger Palestinian quandary, reminds one of Mahmoud Darwish’s seminal poem, “The Earth is Closing on Us”:

Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?

However depressing the reality may be, the metaphor is undeniably powerful, that of savage colonialism that knows no bounds and Palestinian steadfastness (sumoud) that is perennial.

Often buried within the technical details of oppression – Area C, home demolition, ethnic cleansing and so on – is the tenacity of the human spirit, that of the Amarneh family and hundreds of other Palestinian families, who have turned caves into loving homes. It is this unmatched perseverance that makes the quest for justice in Palestine, despite the innumerable odds, possible.

Pandemic Panhandling

One story of surviving as an artist in the USA, from the collapse of the music industry to the housing crisis to the pandemic.

Occasionally, for one reason or another, I feel inspired to write an essay about my personal finances, mainly because, for me, it’s an interesting perspective, the really up-close and nitty gritty one. But also these days, the plight of artists is often in the news, along with the plights of many other people, and I have been regularly getting messages from people who are concerned about my welfare in these times, and wondering how I’m doing. Sometimes they assume that because I’m doing a lot of writing and organizing around rent strikes and eviction defense, I must soon be facing eviction myself.

If you happen to be one of those people wondering about such things, but you’re not interested in the lengthy explanation, the short answer is up til this point, me and my family are doing OK, with no imminent prospect for having to either sell or move into our car. We’re able to pay for rent and food despite the lack of work, and although there has been very little in the way of government assistance we’ve been able to access otherwise, we do have free health care for the most part, here in Oregon, if you’re poor enough to qualify, which we are.

For the more involved explanation, I’ll start with a brief recounting of the situation for me and many other artists prior to the pandemic.

For those of us old enough to have been working as touring musicians in the 1990’s, the music industry overall was about five times as big in 1997 as it was in 2017, when it finally stopped collapsing. From the major labels to the folks playing in the local pub, the whole industry has shrunk radically. Unevenly, at different times for different types of artists and to different degrees, but across the board. The main reason for this phenomenon has been the rise of the internet, and then particularly the unregulated corporate internet, and the rapid decline of the phenomenon of music fans purchasing CDs from artists at concerts, which is where the vast majority of such sales used to take place, among independent artists.

For me and many other indy artists I’ve talked to, 2013 was the year the floor totally dropped out of merch sales. It’s not a coincidence that this was also the year Spotify launched the free version of their music streaming platform. Spotify perfected a sort of corpse-feeding version of a new music industry, very much like what Uber did to the taxi business – in both cases, operating on an industry-destroying, investment-sustained business model whereby they function at a loss until they take over the world in the process, with lots of political corruption and government connivance, from Sweden to the United States.

As this process was taking place, the cost of housing kept rising in most parts of the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia and so many other countries I’m personally very familiar with. The rise in the cost of housing has also been associated with the same sorts of predatory corporate consolidation and bribery of legislative bodies, a la Spotify and Uber, incidentally. Real estate prices have also affected the music venues, which have been rapidly disappearing, charging instead of paying, and/or relocating into smaller spaces. A concomitant phenomenon has been the disappearance of the once-lucrative college circuit.

The shrinking of the music industry has been reflected in other statistics aside the 80% reduction in sales overall. Between the 2000 census and the 2010 census, 41% fewer people claim to be professional musicians in the US. (And that’s well before Spotify’s free tier.) During that same period, between those two censuses, the city of Portland, Oregon also lost about half of its Black population, which is an interesting correlation. Basically, people who were living close to the wire before the turn of the century became unable to live here ten years later. You can be sure the same sort of pattern took place in many other cities at more or less the same time. As I sit here now in this two-bedroom apartment, it was recently announced in the business press that the average Black family in the US cannot afford to live in a market-rate two-bedroom apartment.

With this multiplicity of obstacles – to recap, half your income that used to be represented by merch sales disappearing, eventually be be replaced by minimal amounts of streaming income, while your housing costs double and your ability to make money from touring decreases due to the same housing crisis and its impact on small businesses – it’s not surprising that so many artists, probably by now a solid majority of them, had to stop being professional artists, find another job or two, and turn their art into a hobby, when they have a chance to get to it.

A tiny percentage of artists who have produced multiple hits might be in a position to live off of royalties from radio airplay and Spotify. Those who essentially couldn’t live off of 20% of their former incomes had to find other ways to make ends meet, as the living they were making in the 90’s wasn’t all that great, either. The main options were finding other jobs that they could do in between tours, to tour a lot more to try to make up for other losses, to turn to different forms of patronage – crowdfunding or grants or some combination thereof – or to throw in the towel.

I was personally sometimes able to crowdfund successfully enough to pay for recording projects, despite the loss of any income from selling the results in any form. I was never able to make up for the loss of income from merch sales collapsing, however, so rather than trying to tour more or get another job, I turned towards patronage in 2013, on the advice of a wonderful accountant here in Portland. I didn’t realize it at the time, but retrospectively, it’s not a coincidence that I started crowdfunding patronage, at first only through my own website, later also on Patreon and Bandcamp, in the same year that Spotify kicked off it’s free tier.

As it happens, my pursuit of the patronage model just reached the point at the beginning of this year where, between the three aforementioned platforms plus streaming royalties, it adds up to rent plus food — just before the arrival of Covid-19.

What has become abundantly clear since the pandemic hit is the fact that the level of success I’ve achieved with crowdsourced patronage – paying for rent and food — puts me in a crowd of not more than 2% of formerly professional musicians out there. Everybody else had to tour, usually a lot, whether they wanted to tour that much or not, as I always also needed to do, much as I generally enjoyed it and look forward to someday doing more of it. And most of those artists also needed to work additional jobs aside from touring. Those who thought they had some kind of security because they had multiple sources of income – namely, income from touring, and income from working a service sector job of some kind – have discovered they didn’t have job security in a pandemic after all. We hear every day from NPR and many other news sources about all the artists, service sector workers, and so many others who have been surviving from the extra federal pandemic $600 a week on top of what would otherwise be usually an insultingly tiny pittance from the state employment department, how tiny depending on the state – and that’s if you qualify as a gig economy worker for such a privilege, which in Oregon, you did not. For those lucky enough to get through to the Employment Department and receive this federal money, it ran out at the end of July, and millions of people, be they artists, service sector workers, or a multitude of other professions who are out of work, talk about being on the edge of a financial cliff currently. For a staggering number of unemployed gig economy workers – still tens of thousands in the state of Oregon alone – money from the Employment Department has never come, after five months, and when we call, the line is literally always busy. (I wrote a song about it – “Ballad of the Oregon Employment Department.”)

As with so many other things, there is suddenly a much more widespread and much more talked-about awareness of how badly Spotify pays artists, how high the rent is, how much it costs in the US just to have internet access, and so on. Much more talked about is the fact that most artists aren’t making a living at their art. I guess for a lot of people, including so many artists, it was just assumed that, of course, you were working a day job in a cafe in order to afford to do gigs in the evenings. But now it’s been broadcast on Marketplace and elsewhere, it’s official, they almost all have other jobs of some kind, and most of them have lost all of them.

With all this press came a flurry of donations to me and many other artists.  I don’t know about everyone else, but for me they were significant.  They went a long way to make up for the loss of income from several canceled tours.  We did better than covering basic expenses, we even paid off half of our credit card debt.  The donations slowed down after the first couple months, and I imagine other artists also had this experience.  Which means they, and I, returned to what was the status quo after the pandemic hit, but prior to the flurry of donations.

In our apartment, we stopped paying the rent to our usurious corporate investor slumlord, The Randall Group, last April, because there is a suspension on evictions here, and out of solidarity with all those folks, such as the 98% of artists, by my estimation, who are currently unable to make ends meet unless they’ve got an inheritance, or a different job that didn’t disappear when the pandemic hit. We take our rent money and put it into a savings account every month, on the assumption that we may eventually have to pay all or part of it, in order to avoid getting evicted.

People regularly tell me I’m very productive, with all the interviews I’m doing and songs and other things I’m writing during these past five months, since I canceled the tours I had planned in nine different countries. If that’s true, it’s only because I’m part of a tiny little privileged group of artists who is both willing to beg, and good enough at doing it online after years of trying, to eke out a living at it.

I’m hesitant to even admit to this accomplishment, lest it vanish. Perhaps somehow once the stock market finally crashes, my number of patrons will, too? But for the moment, despite the precariousness of my profession for so many others – a profession so precarious that few people readily even conceptualize it as such – I sit here with my little, now unschooled family in this apartment, and I feel like I’m standing on a nice green hill, watching the valley below burning. Which a valley is literally doing, not far to the east of here, just to illustrate the point.

The Plight of Refugees and Migrant Workers under Covid

In a world where nationalism and social division is increasing, bigotry growing, are the words refugee, asylum seeker, migrant worker, derogatory labels triggering prejudice and intolerance? Such terms create an image of ‘the other’, separate and different, strengthening tribalism, feeding suspicion, our common humanity denied.

Under the shadow of Covid-19 those living on the margins of society have been further isolated; the refugees and migrants of the world, those displaced internally or in a foreign land, people living in war zones, and the migrant workers in the Gulf States, India, Singapore and elsewhere.

Refugees/migrants and migrant workers are among those most at risk from Covd-19, the economic impact of the pandemic as well as xenophobic abuse linked to the virus. Migrant workers (who universally have few or no labor rights) from Qatar to India have been discriminated against, discarded and ignored. Migrants, particularly those of Chinese or Japanese appearance in the US and elsewhere subjected to violence and abuse, and in refugee camps across Europe and the Middle East, including Gaza, thousands have been left in unsafe camps without medical support.

Homeless, hungry and at risk

Even before the pandemic erupted, to be a refugee, migrant, or migrant worker was commonly to be mistrusted, marginalized and in danger. Whether working as a maid in one of the Gulf States, an internal migrant worker in their homeland or living inside an overcrowded refugee camp these men, women and children are amongst the most vulnerable people in the world. In Europe, where thousands of refugees (many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are packed into camps, their lives already swamped by uncertainty, the fear of the virus hangs heavy. Lacking sanitation and essential services these overcrowded tarpaulin cities are unsafe; the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, for example, was designed to accommodate 2,840, but now has 19,000 people; 40% are under 18, self-harming and attempted suicides are widespread. Compounding the heightened risks Covid has created, since July 2019 asylum seekers throughout Greece no longer have free access to the healthcare system, other than emergency support.

Meanwhile, in countries with large populations of migrant workers Covid-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic is adding additional layers of suffering to already arduous lives, not just of workers, but the families migrant workers support. According to the UN, round 800 million people globally are supported by funds sent home by migrant workers. Families depend on such payments to pay rent and buy food; when this flow stops, as is the case for many now, poverty and the risk of starvation is made more acute. The World Bank is warning of huge drops in global remittance payments of around 20%, resulting from the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic, which they say has impacted on migrant communities particularly hard.

In the Gulf States, which depend on millions of workers from Africa and Southeast Asia, Covid-19 is intensifying discrimination and increasing abuse against migrant domestic workers, including abrupt termination of their contracts. In Kuwait suicide among migrant workers has surged; Saudi Arabia has deported thousands of Ethiopian workers (A total of 2,968 migrants were returned in the first 10 days of April, UN state), without any medical screening, which the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Ethiopia said, is “likely to exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 to the region and beyond.” And in Lebanon (where the majority of migrant workers are Ethiopian) and elsewhere across the region, lower income families unable to cover salaries, cover food costs or provide accommodation have laid off domestic staff; resulting in migrant workers being at high risk of forced labor, including prostitution.

Worse still is the case of freelance (‘live out’) workers, whose work has stopped, leaving them with no income, no food and nowhere to go. In Qatar, (one of the richest countries in the world, with over two million migrant workers) which has one of the highest rates of infections per capita, many of those suffering from the disease are migrant workers. Foreign workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines are being laid off or remain unpaid, as the economic impact of the virus hits. Some domestic workers (women) have been made destitute. In Singapore, widely thought to have responded well to the pandemic, migrant workers, employed mainly in the construction industry, were thrown to the wolves. And in India following the hasty decision by Prime Minister Mahendra Modi to lock the country down on 25th March, (giving people four hours warning!) tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of internal migrants working in cities were forced by their landlords to vacate their homes and had no choice but to head back to their native village. Without funds and with transportation suspended, huge numbers were forced to walk the hundreds or thousands of miles home.

Homeless, hungry and at risk of contracting coronavirus, migrant workers were ignored by the Modi regime. Reacting to this wholesale neglect, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing and on extreme poverty said (4th June), “we are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant laborers, especially those who belong to marginalized minorities and lower castes…..the Government has failed to address their dire humanitarian situation and further exacerbated their vulnerability with police brutality [which is commonplace in India] and by failing to stop their stigmatization as ‘virus carriers’.”

Contemporary Slavery

Covid-19 has highlighted a raft of social inequalities and destructive practices throughout the world. As such issues float to the murky surface of human affairs an opportunity presents itself for reform, for changes in attitudes and practices.

There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of employment rights for migrant workers throughout the world, with migrant workers receiving the same protections as native employees, including access to health care, limits on the hours of work, rates of pay, days off etc.

The Kafala System is used throughout the Gulf States, where the UN estimates there to be “35 million international migrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Jordan and Lebanon, of whom 31 per cent were women.” Under Kafala a migrant worker, many of whom are domestic staff and therefore out of sight, cannot resign if an employer is abusive, the work exploitative or the conditions unacceptable. Amnesty International relates, that it “ties the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer.” The system enables employers to essentially own workers, giving them total control of workers’ movements. This legitimization of modern-day slavery must be brought to an end immediately.

Refugees and migrants are human beings fleeing violent conflict (are often traumatized), persecution and economic hardship. The journey into an unknown future is often treacherous, always uncertain. In the vacuum left by governments and regional authorities like the EU, that should be processing asylum applications in designated centers and offering safe passage, criminal gangs control migration routes and methods of travel, which are unsafe and extortionately expensive. Deaths are commonplace, abuse and exploitation widespread. If they survive the dangers and arrive in their destination country, all too often they are viewed with distrust and antagonism, instead of being warmly welcomed. They are pushed into the shadows, the margins of society, offered little or no state support and made to feel unwanted.

This must change; all should be embraced, not only those with skills in short supply.  The idea of judging who can and cannot enter a country based on some discriminatory points system related to national need (the Australian way – a country with a shameful immigration record), as the UK government is proposing, reduces human beings to commodities, some of which are more valuable on the ‘open market of immigration’ than others – and is completely abhorrent.

Deal with the causes of migration, help construct a world at peace by cooperating, sharing and building relationships; reject competition and nationalism in favor of unity and tolerance and see a dramatic fall in the numbers of people forced to leave their homeland, whether in search of safety or opportunity.

Covid-19: past, present and future

The current pandemic continues to have a large negative impact on most aspects of our lives. Over 20.6 million have been infected and almost 750,000 have died worldwide (about 5.3 million infections and over 168,00 deaths in the US) due to this pandemic. Besides these horrific impacts, this pandemic has also made clearer the failure of the bipartisan neoliberal economic approach that puts profit before people and planet.

Pre-pandemic

Before the pandemic, the world was already nearing a climate catastrophe and ecological collapse. In addition, under its neoliberal approach, the US already had a shamefully large number of homeless, tens of millions underinsured or without health insurance, millions experiencing hunger, millions without jobs, millions more facing huge debts, and an appalling wealth and income inequality. Politicians, operating in a system of legalized bribery, continued to fund the military wildly beyond its needs. This wasteful spending clearly didn’t make us secure and took money from the far more needed and productive domestic spending. In addition, systemic racism, especially in the US ‘injustice’ system, greatly harmed minorities. This was hardly an ideal world.

During the pandemic

Due to the Trump administration’s scandalous lack of preparedness and its failure to promptly implement public health measures, many municipalities instituted total lockdowns in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. These lockdowns led to the closing of many businesses (especially small businesses) and tens of millions filed for unemployment. These job losses resulted in millions more: 1) losing their health insurance; 2) facing the loss of their housing; and 3) experiencing severe hunger. In addition, due to systemic racism, minorities were disproportionately more susceptible to the disease than whites.

So far, the Trump administration and Congress have enacted relief packages that primarily benefited the already obscenely wealthy while providing only minimal short-term aid to the rest of us. In contrast, several other nations demonstrated real concern about their people and their businesses by funding 70% or more of the business payrolls. As a result, they didn’t experience large job losses or bankruptcies.

My hopes

My hopes are that the politicians would finally live up to the ideas in: 1) the Second Bill of Rights (an economic bill of rights) that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed in 1944; and 2) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), including the rights of women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

Roosevelt said: In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; and,
  • The right to a good education.

Unfortunately, the US doesn’t recognize these rights and some others in the UDHR that are accepted by many other wealthy nations. As a result, tens of millions of our population unnecessarily suffer tremendous harm.

In addition, my hopes include a major overhaul in our imperialistic foreign policy. We must rejoin the family of nations and rely on diplomacy instead of military power and economic coercion. The global threats of nuclear war and the looming climate catastrophe require nations to work together.

Some vital changes

Unless the Trump administration and Congress quickly enact bills that:

1) fill shortfalls in the budgets of the Post Office and state and local governments;

2) provide aid to true small businesses;

3) provide long-term funding directly to the population;

4) declare a jubilee on debts owed to predatory lenders;

5) support a green new deal;

6) provide healthcare for all;

7) drastically reduce the military budget; and especially

8) fully protect the rights of minorities,

I fear the US is likely to fall into a long-lasting depression and risk societal collapse.

Update

President Trump and the Republican-led Senate dithered around for two months after the House proposed its major relief bill instead of getting a new relief bill enacted. This ineptitude and callous attitude towards the desperation and suffering of many Americans is incredible. Making matters maddeningly worse, the US is still ill prepared to deal with this crisis, a crisis that is likely to worsen upon the return of inadequately protected teachers and students to school.

Unfortunately, these updates reinforce my fears about the future.

Open Letter To My Landlord #5

Our landlord doesn’t read my letters, as far as we know, but it feels like it’s only fair to write a letter each month, if we’re not going to be paying the rent.

Well, hello again. This is the fifth full month in the pandemic, and the fifth month of the suspension on evictions here in Oregon, the fifth month that we’re not paying our rent, and the fifth month that I’m writing you a letter, instead of giving you another check.

I say I’m writing “you,” and “you” is a convenient word in the English language, since it can be either singular or plural. I might be writing to an individual, or to a corporate board, or even to thousands of investors, and I can still address this entity as “you.”

As it is, I have no idea who you are. Which seems odd, doesn’t it? Maybe even odder is the fact that I’m addressing you as if you might be reading this letter. What we both know is that you’re not. If anyone is reading this letter, other than people who read my blog, it is some employee in the property management company that does all your dirty work for you, so you can sleep at night. You know, like raising the rent on a family like mine almost 250% over the course of a decade. You wouldn’t want to do that to anyone you actually knew, so it’s best to remain totally anonymous, right?

Anyway, putting aside the question of the profoundly unethical behavior you have exhibited towards your tenants through such rent-gouging practices over the past decade or so, let’s center our attention on the current historical moment, shall we? You’re not reading this, so I’ll just take that as an enthusiastic “yes, let’s.”

Before the pandemic hit, Portland, Oregon was the most rent-burdened city in the United States. You were already actively creating this situation through the political lobbying groups you fund, who long ago bought our legislature, and by so many other means. You were already actively cleansing the city of its Black population, and of its artists, service sector workers, and everyone else who can no longer afford to live in this increasingly expensive metropolis. We were all leaving the city, month by month, over the course of many years now, as you know, if you’re paying any attention at all.

But now, with the sudden loss of jobs for so many of us, with those of us who managed to get past the busy signals and actually get any money from the state now having those benefits cut off (I’ve personally never managed to get any in the first place), with the pandemic spreading across the country in a form that the scientists are calling “out of control,” as we’re looking at an estimated 28 millions evictions in the US between now and the end of September, according to the business press, I wonder what your game plan is?

Because so far as I can tell, your game plan is to just keep going like you’ve been doing since I moved in to this apartment in April, 2007. Oh and as you probably don’t know, I paid the rent on time every month from then until March, 2020. You kept raising the rent every year, sending a letter through your property management company, thanking us for our tenancy and letting us know, incredibly, that the rent is going up and if we don’t like it we can move out whenever we like (I’m paraphrasing), and never once giving us even the beginnings of an explanation for why the rent has had to double and more over such a short period of time. And then, weeks into the pandemic, on March 25th, you announced yet another rent increase.

OK, so maybe it takes more than a few weeks for a big, important landlord like you to realize something is happening in the world and half of your tenants have just become unemployed, so we can’t expect you to move your big corporate ship so nimbly. But now it’s been almost half a year, and still not a single word from you. Not even anything like, “hey, I exist, I’m your landlord, I feel your pain, and hey, you don’t have to pay rent for the month of April.” A lot of other landlords, big and small, wrote their tenants notes like that, across the country – but not you.

But the obvious reality is, at least if you read the business press, as I’ll bet you do (whether “you” is singular or plural, in this case), things are not going to be going back to any kind of pre-pandemic “normal” anytime soon. And “normal” was untenable in the first place, as the business press was telling us last year, too. I mean, there are only so many tech millionaires from San Francisco and New York City you can hope to replace the rest of us with, as you systematically drive us out of this city. You’ll eventually run out of them, and then what? And what about your tenants like me, who were already long ago priced out of New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle, too? Do you think we’ll all just leave quietly, again? Where should we move next, any suggestions? Where’s the next town you plan to re-shape in the image of Silicon Valley?

No, the old normal wasn’t working, and the new normal is Great Depression Chapter 2. I’m sure you know this, because, like I mentioned before, it’s not just your struggling artist tenants who read the business press – you do, too. You make big investments in real estate, not because you are interested in housing people, but because it’s an extremely profitable thing to invest in. Now, maybe less so. So then the question is, are you going to make the kinds of adjustments in your profit-uber-alles business model in time to save your precious capitalist system? Or are you going to just zombie on, making as much money as possible, until the riots get bigger? And then, you got insurance, so who cares if the riots get bigger, right? But eventually society becomes ungovernable if you let it go like that. That’s why the governor, despite the fact that she rules on your behalf, for the most part, saw fit to suspend evictions for the time being. As a representative of your class, she’s scared of your renters, even if you’re too busy looking at your stock portfolio to pay attention to the real world, struggling to breathe, under the pressure of your unfettered capitalist knee.

If you have children that you care about, if you are indeed human, or even if you as a collective board of corporate investors are, somewhere in the equation, human, and have children, or maybe just nieces and nephews that you care about, maybe you want to consider the future? What kind of world, and what kind of assets, will they be inheriting from you? Will they require armed guards when they walk down the sidewalks of this city? Will they have to put a tall gate around their homes to keep out the impoverished masses like the rich have to do in Mexico or Kenya? Will there be any money left in the public coffers to increase the police budget enough to defend your assets from the people who use your assets, otherwise known as us renters, living in what we sometimes, foolishly, in our more deluded moments, refer to as “our homes”? Is it maybe not time to shift direction here, to realize your business model and the economic system you and your corporate lobbyists have brought into existence is totally unsustainable?

Out of the goodness of my heart, and because me and my children would really prefer not to take you up on your invitation to spend the rest of our lives fighting the class war with the likes of you and your heirs, I’ll give you some advice: stop.

Write your renters a letter, tell us who you are. Explain to us what your expenses are, lay it out, and be completely transparent. Did you apply for any of those trillions of dollars of forgivable loans that the government has just issued to corporations just like yours? Tell us about that. Then charge us rent that is equal to your expenses, plus a little extra. Let that formula determine “the market rate,” rather than your current formulation of the market rate as “whatever the market will bear.” Behind that door lies the end of society. Behind that door lies fascism, for no democracy can survive such ponzi scheme, kleptocratic corruption and still have a population that believes it’s ruling on behalf of the citizens, rather than just the citizen-capitalists like you and your heirs. Is that the future you want?

Well, I just thought I’d give a little communication another shot. My mother always said it was good to talk it out, but it’s hard when the communication is only one-way. Is this how you conduct your other relationships? Anyway, I’d say this letter is easily worth $1,175 for a two-bedroom for the month of August. I’ll write an even more eloquent letter for September, I promise. It’ll be worth even more. Not that you’ll read it, either, whoever you are.

Sincerely,
David Rovics
Francis Park Apartments
Portland, Oregon

Masked, Homeless, and Desolate

Personality is persona, a mask…The mask is magic…Larva means mask; or ghost…it also means mad, a case of demoniacal possession.

– Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body, 1966

Walk the streets in the United States and many countries these days and you will see streaming crowds of people possessed by demons, masked and anonymous, whose eyes look like vacuums, staring into space or out of empty sockets like the dead, afraid of their own ghosts.  Fear and obedience oozes from them.  Death walks the streets with people on leashes in lockstep.

That they have been the victims of a long-planned propaganda campaign to use an invisible virus to cower them into submission and shut down the world’s economy for the global elites is beyond their ken.  This is so even when the facts are there to prove otherwise.  It is a clear case, as Peter Koenig tells Michel Chossudovsky in this must-see interview, that is not a conspiracy theory but a blatant factual plan spelled out in the 2010 Rockefeller Report, the October 18, 2019 Event 201, and Agenda 21, among other places.

Who can wake the sleepwalkers up in this cowardly new world where culture and politics collude to create and exploit ignorance?

Fifty-five years ago on this date, August 20, 1965, Bob Dylan released his song “Like a Rolling Stone.” It arrived like a rocking jolt into the placid pop musical culture of the day. It was not about wanting to hold someone’s hand or cry in the chapel. It wasn’t mumbo-jumbo like “Wooly Bully,” the number one hit. It wasn’t like the pop pap that dominates today’s music scene.  It wasn’t Woody Guthrie in slow time.

It beat you up.  It attacked.  It confronted you. Maybe, if you were alive then, you thought Dylan was kidding you. You thought wrong.  Bitching about his going electric was a dodge.  He was addressing all of us, including himself.

Still is. But who wants to hear his recent “Murder Most Foul” and read Dylan’s scathing lyrics about the assassination of JFK, the killing that started the slow decay that has resulted in such masked madness.  “And please, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” he tells us in capital letters for emphasis.  Exactly what all the mainstream media have done, of course, and not by accident.

There are no alibis.  “How does it feel/To be on your own/with no direction home/A complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?”

It was in the mid-1960s when confidence in knowing where home was and how to get there disappeared into thin air.  If you left mommy and daddy, could you ever get back from where you were going?  Who had the directions?  Absolutes were melting and relativity was widespread.  Life was wild and the CIA was planning to make it wilder and more confusing with the introduction of LSD on a vast scale. MKUltra was expanding its scope. Operation Mockingbird was singing so many tunes that heads were spinning, as planned. The national security state killers were in the saddle, having already murdered President Kennedy and Malcolm X as they sharpened their knives for many more to come.  The peace candidate, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had been elected nine months earlier with 61.1% of the popular vote and went immediately to work secretly expanding the war against Vietnam.  War as an invisible virus.  Who knew?  Who, but a small anti-war contingent, wanted to know?  War takes different forms, and the will to ignorance and historical amnesia endure. War is a disease.  In 1968 Richard Nixon was elected on a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War and then ramped it up to monstrous proportions, only to be reelected in 1972 by carrying 49 out of 50 states.

Who wants to know now?  The historian Howard Zinn once said correctly that this country’s greatest problem wasn’t disobedience but obedience.

What’s behind the masks?  The lockstep?

On the same day that Dylan released “Like a Rolling Stone,” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, just back from a “fact-finding” trip to Vietnam, recommended to LBJ that U.S. troop levels in Vietnam be increased to 175,000 and that the U.S. should increase its bombing of North Vietnam dramatically.  This was the same McNamara who, in October 1963, had agreed with JFK when he signed NSAM 263 calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 military personnel from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and the remainder by the end of 1965.  One of the moves that got Kennedy’s head blown open.

Poor McNamara, the fog of war must have clouded his conscience, confused the poor boy, just like Secretary of State Colin Powell holding up that vile vial of “anthrax” at the United Nations on February 5, 2003 and lying to the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Powell recently said, “I knew I didn’t have any choice.  He’s the President.”  How “painful,” to use his word,  it must have been for the poor guy, lying so that so many Iraqis could be slaughtered.  Of course, he had no choice.  These war criminals all wear masks. And have no choice.

Masks, or demonic possession, or both.  You?

It’s tough being on your own.  It hurts to think too much.  Or think for yourself, at least.  To obey an authority higher than your bosses.  “I was tricked” is some sort of mantra, is it not?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns

When they all did tricks for you

Dylan was lost and disgusted when he wrote the song. His own music sickened him, which, for an artist, means he sickened himself. He had just returned from a tour of England and was sick of people telling him how much they loved his music when he didn’t.  He needed to change.

What else is the point of art but change?  If you’re dead, or afraid of getting dead, you aren’t going to change.  You’re stuck.  Stuck is dead.  Why wear a mask if you know who you are?

Knowledge, or more accurately, pseudo-knowledge or mainstream media lies, is a tomb “the mystery tramp” sold to us, a place to hide to avoid pain and guilt.

I have read more books than anyone I know.  It sickens me.

I know too much.  That sickens me.

I sicken myself. All the news sickens me.

I know so much no one believes me.

As Francesco Serpico once told me: “It’s all lies.”

Of course.  Dylan and Serpico are blood brothers.

Only art tells the truth.  Real art.

Not bullshit pop art.  Some say “Like a Rolling Stone” is about Edie Sedgwick, “the girl of the year” in 1965 and one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. Perhaps to a degree it is, but it’s far more than that.  It’s about us.

Poor Edie was poisoned by her wealthy family at a young age and barely had a chance.  She was an extreme example of a rather common American story. People poisoned in the cradle.  Thinking of her got me thinking of Andy Warhol, the death obsessed hoarder, the guy who called his studio “The Factory” in a conscious or unconscious revelation of his art and persona, his wigs and masks and the hold he has had on American culture all these years.  Isn’t he the ultimate celebrity?

Warhol once took my photo on a deserted street.  His and my secret but this is the truth.  West 47th Street on an early Sunday morning, 1980.  I guess he thought he was doing art or collecting images for his museum of dead heads.  When I asked him why, he said I had an interesting face.  I told him he did too, rather transparent and creepy, but I didn’t want to capture him.  He was a ghost with a camera, a face like a death mask, trying to capture a bit of life.  I told him I didn’t give him permission to shoot me, but he turned and walked away into the morning mist.  The shooters always just walk away in pseudo-innocence.

I then went down the street to the Gotham Book Mart that was my destination and asked James Joyce why he had written “The Dead,” and Joyce, secretive as ever, quoted himself, “Ed,” he said, “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.  Longest way round is the shortest way home.”  Now that was direction.

Only those who know how to play and be guided by intuition are able to escape the living tomb of so-called knowledge; what Dylan called, lifelessness.  But that was from “Desolation Row,” released as the closing track of Highway 61 Revisited on August 30, 1965.  The only acoustic song on the album.  Slow it down to make the point another way.  “Like a Rolling Stone” was the opening track.

Do you feel all alone or part of a masked gang roaming the streets incognito? Miss and Mr. Lonely, does that mask help?  How do you feel?

Desolation means very lonely. From Latin, de, completely, solare, lonely.

Does that mask help?  Do you feel alone together now, one of the crowd?

Do you really want to know about desolation row?  It’s here. It was here in 1965, too.  Only the true lonely know how it feels to really be all alone.

The Umbrella People, those who some call the deep state or secret government under whose protection all the politicians work, say they want to protect us all from death and disease.  They are lying bastards who’ve gotten so many to imitate their masked ways.  They can only sing a mockingbird’s song.

Listen to real singers. Dylan has arched the years, as true artists do. Who has paid close attention to what he said this year about the assassination of President Kennedy in his song, “Murder Most Foul”?  Or were many caught up in the propaganda surrounding corona virus, and rather than contemplating his indictment of the U.S. government and its media accomplices, were they contemplating their navels to see if a virus had secreted itself in there. Viruses lurk everywhere, they say, and the corporate media made certain to circulate a vaccine about the truth in Dylan’s song.  This is normal operating procedure.

We are on still on Desolation Row.

“Take Off the Masks.”  That was the title of a book by Rev. Malcolm Boyd that I reviewed long ago.  He was a gay priest who decided that his mask was a lie.  He came out into the light of truth.  He had guts.

It is time for everyone to take off the masks.  Escape from Desolation Row.

Listen to Dylan, long ago – today:

At midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do

And they bring them to the factory
Where their heart attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene

Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody’s shouting
“Which side are you on?”

Housing for All

Read Part I and Part II.

In the best of economic times, large numbers of homeless Blacks, Indigenous peoples, and other disenfranchised, impoverished and marginalized members of our society live in squalor on our streets while much larger numbers of housing units sit empty. This is disgraceful, unacceptable and unjust, and it contributes to major discrepancies in wealth and power in the US population. No one should be homeless, and existing properties must not be allowed to remain empty merely to restrict market supply and artificially inflate prices for private gain. When all persons have reliable, adequate housing, they will be empowered to confront racism, police brutality and other injustices in society, and will become a broad, popular base for reform.

A first step in rectifying this inequity is to institute a tax on vacant property, making it unattractive to keep it without residents for a significant time. This incentive will lower the rate on rental property and make it more available to a wider population. Existing anti-blight and landlord statutes and regulations may be sufficient to maintain the quality of the housing, but will need to be strictly enforced with fines and penalties that are serious deterrents to substandard conditions.

A second step is to provide more affordable housing.  Many local governments require developers to include affordable housing in their contracts and fine them if they fail to provide it. Unfortunately, the fines are often considered merely a cost of doing business, and the funds often get used for expenditures that do little to provide low cost housing. The requirement must be to actually construct the housing units, and not to concentrate them in a section of the municipality that segregates low income people from the rest of society. In lieu payments must not be accepted as a way for developers to satisfy this requirement.

A third housing option is a community land trust (CLT) controlled by the community and offering units that can be either leased to low income residents and families, or sold to them while the community retains possession of the land. This option makes it easier for persons with low incomes to become buyers and develop equity that can be used to graduate to home ownership that includes the land. It also offers the possibility of motivating developers to satisfy the requirement for affordable housing by purchasing suitable land and buildings to place in the trust and/or constructing units on the land, as approved by and with the agreement of the trust and the local housing authorities.

One of the advantages of a CLT is that it keeps housing development more closely in the hands of the community and stabilizes land prices, discouraging speculation. Developers often oppose CLTs for that very reason, and it’s why we must insist on measures of this kind if we are to succeed in empowering the disenfranchised and marginalized members of our society and transferring power from the elite.

Finally, local governments must be made responsible for assuring adequate housing for all its residents, with the participation of larger supporting governmental units in order to to avoid placing localities with larger disadvantaged populations under undue burden. Penalties should be established for failure to provide adequate housing for all the population within a municipal boundary.  This is a practice common in Germany and other countries, and it places the burden and the shame on communities that fail to meet their obligation. Many third world countries are able to enforce such requirements, as well. It is time for the U.S. to do the same and take care of all of its people.

Succeeding installments of this Manifesto will address the following issues that will contribute to spreading power and wealth to all members of society and especially Blacks, Indigenous peoples, and other groups that are currently disenfranchised and marginalized:

·      Providing a clean, healthy living environment for us all, but especially for the most vulnerable among us,

·      Improving the quality and accessibility of our educational system, including high quality free higher education to all,

·      Empowerment of the people in government, freer and more accessible voting rights, an end to the Electoral College, elimination of power elites and protection of rights to all, including full sovereignty for indigenous nations and renegotiation of reparations,

·      Greater restrictions on the rights of corporations and financial institutions, and more democratic financial institutions, as well as a cabinet level Department of Consumer Protection and Advocacy, mortgage reform, an end to derivatives, and other reforms of investment and financial institutions and practices,

·      Support for and extension of labor unions to currently unorganized workers, and greater participation in international unionization, including prohibition of, or disincentives for, importation of nonunionized goods and use of nonunionized services

·      Greater access for noncitizens to legally enter the US for work purposes, protection and documentation of undocumented persons within the US, and greater liberalization of access to U.S. citizenship,

·      An end to concentration of the media into the hands of a small elite, greater access to wider media messages, an end to monopolistic practices and censorship, especially politically directed censorship and influence by social media,

·      A complete change in policing, with greater restraints upon the use of force, community control of police hiring, firing and discipline, and a rethinking in how police are recruited and trained, as well as a shift in police culture and how to accomplish it,

·      A reduction in incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex,

·      Closure of all U.S. military installations outside U.S. territory, an end to intervention and interference in the affairs of other countries, and an end to economic sanctions against other nations. Closure of clandestine operations in the CIA, or transference of such capabilities to the Pentagon. Abolishment of the AUMF,

·      Respect for the sovereignty of, and an end to attempts to dominate other nations.

Stop the Evictions Before They Start

The system based on a combination of police brutality, mass imprisonment, and evictions at gunpoint may be collapsing, but if it’s going to fall in the direction we want it to fall in, we need to push it that way.  And if we want to make that happen, we have to organize to stop the impending wave of evictions before it starts.

*****

This society is at a crossroads in so many ways.  In recent weeks, a multiracial uprising in the streets of the US and other countries is demanding not more ineffective police reforms, but a total transformation of the concept of policing.  The ideas are not new, but the degree to which the notion of defunding the police has suddenly become commonplace is new.

The powers-that-be and the corporate media are very actively trying to frame the questions as narrowly as possible, at every opportunity, sticking as much as they can to rehashing useless reforms and talking about bad apples, better bias training, and so on.  They will avoid the elephant in the living room as much as possible, and do everything they can to make sure there’s a sufficiently complex set of mirrors surrounding the elephant so that we don’t see it.

The reason they must avoid the elephant at all costs is because the horrifically unequal and unsustainable system of capitalism, this corrupt plutocracy that we live in, can only be held together through constant deception, and the threat of armed force and imprisonment.  Deception whenever possible, armed force and imprisonment whenever necessary.  When and to what degree the different strategies of control are employed depends on various factors, such as race and class.

Portland, Oregon, my home town for the past thirteen years, is the most rent-burdened city in the United States.  This was the case well before the pandemic.  Depending on the year, Portland also has the highest number of police killings of Black people in the US, per capita.  If these statistics might be related, I have no studies to cite, but there they are, anyway, these facts that stand starkly side by side.

Here’s another statistic:  in the United States we have a census every ten years.  A lot happens from one year to the next, let alone every ten years, but nevertheless, what is known for sure is that between the census in 2000 and the census in 2010, the city of Portland lost half of its Black population.  Since 2010 it has lost more.

There is no statistic to neatly measure the gains or losses for many other demographics, but this number can easily be assumed to be more or less representative in terms of the many artists and other lower-paid workers who have been forced to leave the city.  The process of gentrification — the process of investment companies buying up massive numbers of buildings throughout the US (and other countries) and then proceeding to maximize their profits by charging as much rent as the market will bear, while they create the market through price-fixing and buying most of the legislators in every state capital — is extremely disruptive, in every possible sense.  What this does to communities and to the lives of people within them cannot be overstated.  It can be called many things, but it is most certainly a vicious form of class war, and it is most certainly a form of urban ethnic cleansing.

This level of social disruption, this ethnic cleansing, this class war relies on many things in order to keep happening.  It relies on the consent of the governed to no small degree — it relies on most people believing they deserve their miserable fates, that it is their fault they can’t afford the rent or the mortgage, that if they just worked harder or got more education, they could achieve like those billionaires have done.  That’s the deception part of the equation.

But when circumstances start to become impossible, the deception gets harder to maintain.  And everyone knows, whether they believe the deception or not, that behind it lies the threat of force — of being beaten, shot, and/or imprisoned.  So, the movement to defund the police needs to be understood as the very radical idea that it is, since it would mean not just the prospect of Black people not having to worry about being shot by uniformed, paid employees of their town or city just for existing, but also the prospect of the investment banks that own much of the rental property in those towns and cities no longer having the option of sending the men with guns in to enforce the laws that they got their legislators to pass.  No more evictions at gunpoint.

What would happen, in a rent-burdened city largely owned by investment banks, when the landlords no longer have the threat of violence to fall back onto?  And what would happen if that police force is not defunded, and if the suspension on evictions currently in place in Portland is lifted, and if the landlords can start filing for evictions all over the city?  There are many unemployed people in this city (like this author) who have been rejected by the Employment Department, or whose unemployment money will soon run out.  There are many people in this city who were just barely managing to come up with rent before the pandemic, who were spending 70% of their earnings on the landlord every month.  There are many people whose credit cards were already maxed out before the pandemic hit, and many others whose credit cards are now at their limits — and they’ve been spending their money on nothing but food and rent.

Once the ban on evictions is lifted, we can expect the waves of evictions to begin.  They won’t happen all at once, however.  People who lost significant income due to the pandemic may be able to put the process off by six months or more.  The future is unwritten, and things are changing rapidly.  Lots can happen between now and the time that the city declares the crisis is over.

But for me and others of us artists that remain in the city of Portland, affiliated in the loose-knit network called Artists for Rent Control, it is clear that the time to prepare for the evictions is now, while they are still banned.  We say they should remain banned.  Without the threat of forced eviction — that is, without the threat of the police — tenant-landlord relations in society become very, very different.  But as long as the threat exists — or will soon exist once again — we need to be able to respond to it directly.

Doing so will require the participation of a certain cross-section of people in the city of Portland who really believe that another Portland is possible.  Who believe we can stand up to the corporations who would seek to enforce their ability to make obscene profits through their investments in the human need — and human right — to housing.  Who believe we can confidently condemn the system that has produced such deadly inequities — who can ask the question of the bankers that run this country:  what gave you the right to be our landlords?  How did it happen that we taxpayers bailed you out only a decade ago, and now you’ve somehow managed to buy the buildings we live in, and double the rent?  What kind of dystopia have we woken up in?  What sector of the matrix is this, anyway?

Artists for Rent Control does not make any claims to knowing the whole way forward here, but we know one thing:  popular education, community-building, and direct action are effective and important tactics.  The popular education part is helping people to understand that another world is possible.  This is the role of art in any social movement, along with the community-building that tends to take place anytime a public event involving music or other forms of artistic expression takes place.  The direct action part that our little group is initiating is what we are calling Portland Emergency Eviction Response (PEER).

The concept is well-worn and simple, in its essence.  You enter your phone number and sign up for text notifications.  When we get confirmation that an eviction is taking place, you’ll receive a text telling you where it’s happening.  You then drop whatever you’re doing, and head immediately to the address provided.  What happens next depends on the situation, and is impossible to predict with certainty, but the fact is that it is often the case that just a few dozen people showing up to an attempted eviction will cause the cops to give up and leave.

A successful movement to lower the rents, to impose rent control, to pressure government entities to get involved by buying buildings from recalcitrant landlords in order to turn them into housing collectives, must inevitably involve many people, many tactics, many approaches, just like anything else.  But this form of direct action has generally been an important element of any successful struggle between landlords and tenants.

What we need, and what the time may be ripe for, is a return to the kinds of tactics employed by the Anti-Rent movement in New York’s Hudson Valley in the 1840’s, to take one example.  The most important of the tactics was this one:  whenever the landlord sent in the police or some other armed group to try to seize the property of tenant farmer family, or evict them from their farm, the farmers would blow a tin horn, which would reverberate through the rolling hills of the region.  Within an hour or so, hundreds of other tenant farmers would show up — generally on horseback, wearing disguises, and armed.

For nine years of what became known as the Rent Strike Wars, the tenant farmers of the Van Rennsalaer estate did not pay the rent, and did not get evicted.  Though there were many standoffs between masked rent strikers and police, for nine years, not a shot was actually fired in either direction.  For nine years, every time, the police retreated.  I’m simplifying the story a bit, but in the end, the landlord was forced to sell his estate to the tenant farmers, and many progressive laws were enacted.  Our effort here is to revive the tin horns, in the form of text messages, but otherwise our hope and our belief is that by employing similar tactics, we may get similar results.  Our belief is that whatever might be coming next in the struggle for fairness, justice and equality in this unfair, unjust and unequal society, eviction abolition will be a first step in the right direction.