Category Archives: Housing/Homelessness

Once a US Soldier, Always Wounded, Always Losing!

What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa?
W.E.B. DuBois

I Began My Career Working with Homeless Veterans. Here's What I Learned |  Inc.com

He died. In an assisted (sic) care (oxymoron) home (nope) facility/prison (yes). Homeless for a few years; he was a photographer; and his life went to shit in four years. He overspent on photo equipment, a studio, gave away shoots, and alas, he ended up living in his car, putting the entire inventory in an expensive storage unit, and then he tried surviving.

I met him when I was a social worker helping him as a short-term veteran (Army, 12 months, no combat) in a housing program, 24/7, where my job was to get him on his feet, get his VA benefits together, get him back on some financial track, and getting him inspired to live.

He was curious, could run in mixed company, and he was fragile. That is the way of families — estranged, bizarre old men (father) moving on with second and third wives, and just giving shit about offspring.

I worked for the Starvation Army, one bloody year, and you can read about that hell hole of a fake (maybe not) religious wacko institution (poverty pimps): Here, Here and Here, over at Dissident Voice.

The preachers and lecturers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves. Why, a free-spoken man, of sound lungs, cannot draw a long breath without causing your rotten institutions to come toppling down by the vacuum he makes. Your church is a baby-house made of blocks, and so of the state.

…The church, the state, the school, the magazine, think they are liberal and free! It is the freedom of a prison-yard.

― Henry David Thoreau, I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau

He lost one leg to diabetes, and it was typical – small black dot on his foot, and then, living the rough life, cold weather chills in a vehicle, long walks in the cold when the car broke down. Bad diet, and stress.

They chopped it (the leg) off at the knee. He was having eye/vision issues. He was a smart guy, even did a trivia night for his fellow homeless vets and their families. His memory, though, was flagging. He never wanted to learn how to deal with a prosthetic leg. He was getting more and more confused, obsessed with CNBC-type shit, and anti-trump disease to the max.

He had to be reminded of everything, daily, and we worked on getting him housing vouchers, and, alas, he was finally getting Social Security, and then, the VA took care of some of his stuff.

Nursing home kitchens in 'horrible' condition endanger the elderly,  advocates say

He went to a couple of my fiction readings in Portland, and he was always there for my movie nights to watch some documentary that pushed to push against the military mindset, and he was there to listen to me rail and rail.

He found out his estranged father left some money to him when he died. It was a windfall, and my vet could not handle all the information and financial asides. It took two years to get that money, and he gave one leech a $10,000 loan for some scheme for a new dog food patent (right!), and alas, that leech never paid him back. The vet’s dead, and this deadbeat who pried money from him has no reason to pay back.

Before death, and after the Starvation Army, my vet got into an apartment (with my help), and they screwed him over. The one ground floor apartment with a large step and stoop, impossible for him to navigate his wheelchair, that wasn’t in the bargain. He already signed the lease and wanted out of the Starvation Army. He and I worked on getting the apartment to build a stone or cement pathway from the back slider, to the parking lot, so he could get his Uber or handicap buses trips.

It was another eye opener – largest (now #3) property management company in the USA for apartments, out of Texas, and not one of them responded to my emails or calls. Terrible, since that has never happened to me ever in my life. I have always gotten responses, even harsh ones back. From cops, senators, CEOs, IRS, more. These people are human leeches.

Pinnacle comes in at number three in the rankings for the largest property managers in the country, with 172,000 units under management. The company manages a diverse array of assets, including mixed-use properties, commercial properties, affordable developments, senior properties, and student housing. It also specializes in the turnaround of distressed assets and assisting in the management of HOAs and condo associations. Pinnacle is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and is currently headed by President and CEO Rick L. Graf.

So think about that. He had to pay for this walkway, and it was an improvement for that unit, to say the least, so why should he have to pay? He had volunteers with a construction company and from the Rotary Club, and that Pinnacle nixed it. They had to have their vetted company. We are talking about $500 for the job using volunteers and a bonded contractor, versus the $2500 through Pinnacle’s outfit.

That apartment life did not last long. He was having major choking issues, and cognitive ones. He wasn’t eating right. No phone calls taken, or texts.

We are talking about a man, 68, no family. He had no one but a friend he met at the Rotary Club and acquaintances. And me, his former social worker. Who happened to move on the Coast, so I was 3 hours from him one way, via car.

He had to leave the apartment, to a care center (sic). That apartment would not give him a break, since he had to break the lease because of medical reasons. No big deal he was a veteran.

These are parasites.

Then, he ends up in one of the larger senior living places, and that was a living hell for him as he slipped more and more, had no decent meals, and never had a case manager for months. Then, lockdown, March 2020.

Here it is, Wikipedia

Brookdale Senior Living owns and operates over 700 senior living communities and retirement communities in the United States. Brookdale was established in 1978 and is based in Brentwood, Tennessee. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Fortress Investments became the majority owner of Brookdale, holding approximately 51% of its share. Currently, Glenview Capital Management (a hedge fund) holds the largest number of shares. Brookdale has approximately 70,000 staff members and 100,000 residents. As of 2018, it was the largest operator of senior housing in the United States. In 2021, a New York Times investigation revealed that Brookdale submitted wrong and manipulated data to the government, thus inflating ratings of the quality of care in Brookdale facilities. Shortly thereafter, the state of California filed a lawsuit against Brookdale, alleging that the company manipulated the federal government’s nursing-home ratings system.

 

He was paying out of his social security and this money he got from his father: $4100  a month plus another $2000 for “special services.” There were no “Special services.” This happens every minute in the USA. Imagine, a society with how many aging people? How many with chronic illness? Who the fuck has $6100 a month to pay for these scabies outfits? 

Again, we can either prepare for the ultimate disaster that disaster capitalism gives us, or, put our heads back in that sand:

In 10 years, more than half of middle-income Americans age 75 or older will not be able to afford to pay for yearly assisted living rent or medical expenses, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

The researchers used demographic and income data to project estimates of a portion of the senior population, those who will be 75 or older in 2029, with a focus on those in the middle-income range — currently $25,001 to $74,298 per year for those ages 75 to 84.

And it doesn’t look good for that group because of the rising costs of housing and health care. The researchers estimated that the number of middle-income elders in the U.S. will nearly double, growing from 7.9 million to 14.4 million by 2029. They will make up the biggest share of seniors, at 43%.  — Source

This three paragraphs cited above are from a two-year-old article. You think the plandemic has assisted with this? Socialism is about planning for and building out facilities and holistic ways to help the aging, the poor, the sick. Capitalism is about planning for and setting out a million ways to fleece and fleece people. Maybe blood and plasma and bone marrow transplants are the only way to get through. Or, just donating body and soul to Big Pharma for their Mengele stuff. A 10 by 10 room, with a roommate, and mac’n’cheese six days a week, fasting on Thursdays.

This is how America runs, as a continuing criminal enterprise, an elaborate multi-layered system of bilking and outright theft, casino capitalism on steroids, and zero concern by the majority of the people with investments, banks (owners) and the elected officials to make safety nets. Who the hell can afford $6100 a month for a studio apartment? Crappy food? Surly workers (underpaid, over worked)? This is prison on a whole other level.

He had to go to the VA, via ambulance, and with taxis, a few times with this female friend.

Nursing Home and Care Workers Officially the Most Dangerous Job in the U.S.  - Ms. Magazine

She got him to get a will prepared, and to get some things in order, but he was failing, vacant, not there, and alas, he died August 2020 age 70, and that should never have happened. If I had a community, 100 acres, gardens, small (tiny) homes, pets, chickens, and community conversations, he would NOT have died. Life expectancy dropped because he ended up in an apartment, isolated, alone, scared, and with deeper cognitive issues. A supportive community getting him off his duff, getting him involved, would have saved him. Could save millions of Americans. Hundreds of millions of global citizens.

So who owns the land, the farms, the concepts of living and aging in place, intergenerational, cooperatives, decent air and water? Dog-eat-dog. And who thinks that a coronavirus lives and breathes in the summer? Oh, that flu season, now 365 days a year, some rain or shine.

You know, I didn’t get a chance to talk to this vet too much about his concerns around lockdown, the SARS-CoV2, and, well, like many things once a person ages, sometimes talking real stuff about real things is too much for a mind that is going south.

Not all pandemics are caused by the obvious suspects. Though the media have us whipped up into a frenzy over a select cast of superstar pathogens, the villain in the next global drama may be lurking in the unlikeliest of places; perhaps it hasn’t even been discovered yet.

“I think the chances that the next pandemic will be caused by a novel virus are quite good,” says Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist from the EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based organisation that studies the links between human and environmental health. “If you look at Sars, which was the first pandemic of the 21st Century, that was a previously unknown virus before it jumped into people and spread round the world. So there’s a precedent there – there are many, many viruses out there in the families that we’re concerned with.”

Out of millions of viruses on the planet, very few have ever caused a major outbreak
Olival is not alone. Earlier this year, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates warned that the next pandemic could be something we’ve never seen before. He suggested that we prepare for its emergence as we would for a war.

Meanwhile, the WHO is so firmly convinced that they have updated their list of pathogens most likely to cause a massive, deadly outbreak to include “Disease X” – a mystery microorganism which hasn’t yet entered our radar.  By Zaria Gorvett, 13th November 2018

The irony of ironies, I was talking about things like this way before that BBC (bad bad organization) put out these pabulum pieces as quoted about NOV. 2018, a year before the official Wuhan and Italian flu hit (sic).

The death of the vet, of course, create a nightmare for his friend, designated as the executor of his “estate.”

Comcast screwed the estate by keeping service going (charging $90 a month) even though he was dead. He had a storage unit that was charging $215 a month. That Brookdale ended up hitting the estate with more bills in the thousands. The apartment complex, Pinnacle, was looking for several thousand for fees and penalties. The bills came in, and the collection agencies rose to the occasion.

Stop the Cap! » Comcast's Reputation for Bad Customer Service is Legendary  and Never-Ending

And this vet’s friend (sic) who had borrowed the money paid nothing back.

It is May, 2021, and those proceeds to his small estate have not yet been disbursed. Pandemic lockdown has hurt the process. Two of the beneficiaries are a free clinic that attended to this vet’s needs during his hours of need. And a food pantry out of a church who also helped him with food and electricity money.

He probably had $340,000 total, most of it in a Morgan Stanley account. Mind you, this is all from his dead old man, and the vet had not expected that. There are tax filing fees, moving expenses for his stuff to a furniture nonprofit, fees for the storage unit. Some prescription bills and other outstanding bills that should have just vanished. The creditors came out of the woodwork, and because I was not a family member, brother, say, of nephew, all those bills got paid. If I had been that family member, I would/could have wrangled many of the bills into either zeroed out bills, or some with a dime on the dollar. It takes letter writing, advocating, and pounding down these leeches.

Why Morgan Stanley Bet Big on Eaton Vance - The New York Times

As of May 18, 2021, the five beneficiaries – two nonprofits in need – have not seen a cent. Because the executor has had to do so much, and the fact the vet had no family, my vet’s estate is getting whittled down by that great American tick – middle men, fees, penalties, taxes, this and that amount extracted as part of the ugly middle and middle man/woman mentality of the USA.

Some people came up to the plate and did pro bono work, but because I was close to this whole thing, and talked with the executor a lot, I see how the total amount that could have been distributed five ways — $70,000 each – might now be even close to $60,000 each. What the beneficiaries don’t know won’t hurt them, right? All those leeches sucking the dead, well, they just don’t know it. It was money they were not expecting, so what’s the big deal.

That’s not the point. This is a minute-to-minute situation in USA. Millions of people and their families get screwed in the tens of billions each year by the ticks and leeches. I have had to deal with PayDay loan companies, repo men, collection agencies, courts, companies, telecoms and hospitals and others who have their hands out for more and more cuts of many of my clients who were making $730 a month in Social Security, and some way less. I contacted hospitals and businesses and others to get fees and bills reduced or zeroed out.

Young or old, many of the homeless people I worked with could NEVER work in a competitive work environment. Their health and minds are shot to shit. Much of that (PTSD and complex PTSD) was caused by the Armed Forces, and by the systems of punishment that hit these guys and gals after departing that shit hole.

Not everything in their lives is someone else’s fault and responsibility. They made bad choices. Booze and drugs, you betcha, took them down. Bad food, bad thinking smoking, and more, deteriorated them at a young age. Trying to pay rent, evictions, etc., all that adds up to the weathering.

Healthcare | Free Full-Text | Application of the Weathering Framework:  Intersection of Racism, Stigma, and COVID-19 as a Stressful Life Event  among African Americans | HTML

Living in a truck or car or tent or in a garage, that also weathers these people. In the end, pre-Covid and now during it, these people are throwaways. The Stock Market is busting at the seams. Zoom school, and Zoom work for the middle class, the new normal abnormal. The rest of the workforce or citizen? Screwed blued and tattooed.

screwed, blued and tattooed meaning and pronunciation - video Dailymotion

The irony is that my vet friend “made” more money in that investment account dead than when he was alive.  And we know the great history of Morgan Stanley.

I’m writing this because I am delaying something bigger, and poetry, tied to the absolute hell hole that is American Zionism a la Israeli Zionism. War crimes that are ten thousand George Floyd’s “I Can’t Breathe” murder.

And I can’t wrap my head around this in a rural community. No marching here, no groups, and hell, in France and Germany and England, it is illegal to peacefully march for Palestine.

I’m thinking about Canada and USA, supporting murderous arms and murderous policies of that racist “country.” I am thinking about my vet’s account at Morgan Stanley:

The broker got him stocks in Walmart, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Blackstone, BlackRock. This guy was a friend, and asked about investing, and I had a guy in mind, but my buddy went with a friend of the Rotary who said this broker with Morgan Stanley would take care of him. My buddy wanted social responsible investing, and that, alas, is yet another bullshit marketing tool of the masters of the casino capitalist Walled Street.

Northrop Grumman’s medium-caliber cannons boast unrivaled reliability and  effectiveness. When paired with our exceptional training, services, certified accessories and warranties, the result is exceptional value and performance over the entire gun system lifecycle. The company has produced solid propulsion systems for the Ground-based  Midcourse Defense interceptor, as well as for the Trident II D-5 and Minuteman III strategic missiles. Northrop Grumman has 100 percent propulsion success on strategic production motors. For nearly half a century, Northrop Grumman and its heritage companies have been designing and developing bomb fuses that have stayed on pace with the technological advancements of the time.
This is a tan vehicle with the

How many parts in a missile or Bushmaster automatic cannon? Parts equal jobs. Parts designed equal academic jobs. Think of all those people in all those companies, in factories and warehouses, and manufacturing plants, and marketing plants, paint plants, PR plants, all of them down to the web master and the photographer making money on dead Palestinian children. It comes down to that.

I have relatives whose kids (grown adults) are blonde beauties in the sense of USA beauty, and they are tall, and lean, and they are pulling down $120,000 a year as 28 year old’s, working for one of those California based military death companies.

Here, five — to include Raytheon, Northrup Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Flir Systems

More listed here

Here are California Dreaming Death Machine (139) openings for just one hiring site

In 2019, here are the top states, but remember, those figures are not the true amount of money made on death since so much more tied to offensive weapons and space should be factored in. Sort of the multiplier effect of all the businesses service and hard industries making bank because  of those contractors and their employees and their subcontractors and their employees living and eating the California dream, or whichever state listed is the dream. Forget about the billions in Hollywood and their enormous entanglement of people making money off those Tom Clancy, et al crap movies. Death, death, death, even in the form of liberal actors spewing off on this or that thing, but in the end, they love the DoD.

  • California: $66.2 billion
  • Virginia: $60.3 billion
  • Texas: $54.8 billion
  • Florida: $29.8 billion
  • Maryland: $26.1 billion
  • Connecticut: $19.7 billion
  • Pennsylvania: $18.1 billion
  • Washington: $17.8 billion
  • Alabama: $16.0 billion
  • Massachusetts: $15.8 billion

So, I am having a difficult time focusing, with this Industrial Complex tied to killing Palestinians, and so many other people’s of the world, through the training, outfitting, arming, and educating of the despots of the world. This is a telling interview. Malak Mattar, Dan Cohen and Miko Peled join MintCast to discuss the ongoing Israeli violence in the Gaza Strip.  See interview here.

I am still processing all of this, trying to listen to Zoom continuing education credited things like trauma and social service workers in a time of lockdown and Covid-19. Things like that, which are bullshit, really. Just amazing bullshit now on Zoom, most of it. But I am just cruising through these people who believe they are thinking and saying something new.

© 2021. Raymond Nat Turner, The Town Crier. All Rights Reserved.

BAR’s poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner is an accomplished performing artist. You can find much more of his work at https://www.youtube.com/user/zigilow

BAR’s poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner is an accomplished performing artist. You can find much more of his work at YouTube. 

+–+

The acrobats are back…(gimme a bleepin’ break!)

The acrobats are back—riding bareback and backwards on Donkeys! They’re back juggling hocus-pocus focus groups; Back, spinning Wall Street straw into fools’ gold for the war- mongering mouth of a punch drunk politician. Back hallucinating on FDR Fairytales. Back somersaulting over scarlet streets, strikes and factory seizures; back vaulting over violence/militant eviction resistance

The acrobats are back—Lilliputian left-Munchkin Marxists—juggling Classless analysis; doing back-flips erasing millions; Tumbling above herds of handcuffed communists, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists who waged pitched battles with Pinkerton-police-national guard-gun thugs. The acrobats are back turning cartwheels; Flipping history on its head— Landing squarely in the laps of generals and statesmen…

The acrobats are back—flipping LBJ minus 34 dead and smoke-filled skies over Watts/43 dead in Detroit/27 dead, 1400 arrests in Newark; LBJ minus millions marching NO to Jim Crow, war/women’s oppression; Minus martyrs—whose M’s include Mickey, Medgar, Malcolm, Martin… The acrobats are back, dancing in donkey dung down the Yellow Brick Road for the Emerald City Intersectional Empire—strangely resembling the Pentagon…

The acrobats are back—daredevils who dangled dangerously for 8 yrs. from the Drone Ranger’s dick. They’re back—Capitalist Hill cartwheels and flips—sticking stealth socialist landings as Comrade Schmo plays them like The Great Oz—ominously warning: “Pay no attention to Wall Street-War-Profiteer- Big Pharma/Fossil Fuel-Credit Card Companies behind my thin blue curtain of Promises!” Then he quietly pulls his pistol and mumbles, ”What’s in your wallet?”

WALL STREET IS WAR STREET: best slogan spotted at #OccupyWallStreet | Not  My Tribe
And the reality is that Wall Street and those Mutual Funds and Exchange Tradeable Funds (ETF’s), all are tied to bombing, booze, tobacco, big pharma, the entire shooting match. Just can’t go to sleep at night, or can’t look myself in the mirror, when thinking about all that time and energy and research and writing, and educating, and the reality is we are what we are — war criminals. Or, read, “Try as You May to Deny, but Evil is in Our DNA“!

Israeli Forces spokesman Zilberman announced the start of the bombing of Gaza, specifying that “80 fighters are taking part in the operation, including the advanced F-35s” (The Times of Israel, May 11, 2021). It is officially the baptism of fire for the US Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter, whose production Italy also participates in as a second-level partner.

Israel has already received twenty-seven F-35s from the US, and last February decided to buy no longer fifty F-35s but seventy-five. To this end the government has decreed a further allocation of 9 billion dollars: 7 were granted by a US to Israel free military “aid” of 28 billion, 2 were granted as a loan by the US Citibank.

While Israeli F-35 pilots were being trained by the U.S. Air Force in Arizona and Israel, the US Army Engineers built in Israel special hardened hangars for the F-35s, suitable for both fighters’ maximum protection on the ground, and their rapid take-off on attack. At the same time, the Israeli military industries (Israel Aerospace and Elbit Systems) in close coordination with Lockheed Martin enhance the fighter renamed “Adir” (Powerful): above all its ability to penetrate enemy defenses and its range of action which was nearly doubled.

These capabilities are certainly not necessary to attack Gaza. Why then are the most advanced fifth-generation fighters used against Palestinians? Because it serves to test F-35s fighters and their pilots in real war action using Gaza homes as targets on a firing range. It does not matter if in the target houses there are entire families.

The F-35s, added to the hundreds of fighter-bombers already supplied by the US to Israel. are designed for nuclear attack particularly with the new B61-12 bomb. The United States will shortly deploy these nuclear bombs in Italy and other European countries, and will also provide them to Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East with an arsenal estimated at 100-400 nuclear weapons. If Israel doubles the range of F-35 fighters and is about to receive eight Boeing Pegasus tankers from the US for refueling the F-35s in flight, it is because it is preparing to launch an attack, even nuclear, against Iran.

 — “F-35s Bombing Gaza

Books - Democracy at Work (d@w)
 
Wolff and I have corresponded.
 
https://youtu.be/ynbgMKclWWc

The coronavirus pandemic, the deepening economic crash, dangerously divisive political responses, and exploding social tensions have thrown an already declining American capitalist system into a tailspin. The consequences of these mounting and intertwined crises will shape our future. In this unique collection of over 50 essays, “The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,” Richard D. Wolff argues clearly that “returning to normal” no longer responds adequately to the accumulated problems of US capitalism. What is necessary, instead, is transition toward a new economic system that works for all of us.
 
 “A blueprint for how we got here, and a plan for how we will rescue ourselves” – Chris Hedges
 
“A magnificent source of hope and insight.” – Yanis Varoufakis
 
 “In this compelling set of essays, and with his signature clarity, intensity, accessibility and deference to historical and present perspective, Wolff has issued not just a stark warning, but concrete reasoning, as to why this time really should be different.” – Nomi Prins
 
“One of the most powerful and incisive voices in America. As an economist he transcends that “dismal science”, he is a tribune of Main St, a voice of the people.” – George Galloway
 
 “Wolff clearly explains the ways that capitalism exacerbates unemployment, inequality, racism, and patriarchy; and threatens the health and safety of workers and communities – i.e., most of us.” – Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Ph.D.
 
“If you care about deeper measures of social health as Americans suffer the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, you will find here a wealth of insight, statistics, and other ammunition that we all need in the fight for a more just society.” – Adam Hochschild
 
“The current failed system has a noose around all of our necks. Richard Wolff offers an economic vision that gets our society off the gallows.” – Jimmy Dore
Corporate Welfare Hurts Us All - Imgur
Source.
Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world. — Henry Kissinger, interview with the Observer, 1983, on his book, Years of Upheaval 
New study outlines trillions handed out in U.S. corporate welfare bonanza -  Tax Justice Network Corporate Welfare: How Exactly Does It Affect Us As Americans
The post Once a US Soldier, Always Wounded, Always Losing! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Try as You May to Deny, but Evil is in Our DNA

What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
― John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Exploring Coffee's Past To Rescue Its Future : The Salt : NPR

We used to research the cup of coffee. School. Mostly community colleges, but at two universities — UT-El Paso and Gonzaga. A lot of evening classes I taught. Even on military compounds, and in prisons, and in the bowels of twin plants in Juarez.

In the old days, sleeves rolled up, adults and young people in classrooms, computers, paper and white boards at our ready, would get comfortable and uncomfortable. It was not an easy class, those Composition 101 and 102 mandatory (sometimes ONLY) writing classes for college students (I am so for mandatory 12 classes on writing, thinking, media, rhetoric, propaganda, etc.). Food and drinks, music during essay writing, and face to face consternation and confrontation. Cooperation.

That cup of coffee from the earliest look at where that bean came from originally intrigued the students. Who would have known (we talked about the Colombian exchange, the Doctrine of Discovery, food, animals, other things that came to the Imperialists). Think of the spice islands on steroids:

The original domesticated coffee plant is said to have been from Harar, and the native population is thought to be derived from Ethiopia with distinct nearby populations in Sudan and Kenya. Coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly related to religious practices.

Fun stuff, this sort of research and writing, and deep dive. We turned these assignments into poetry, poster illustrations, research papers on the diseases of coffee, on the power of coffee like so many thousands of other foods and products, crossing oceans. Many a product of empire and racism, and the coffee paper also turned into “Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate?” essays.

In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. In 2004, the Ivorian First Lady’s entourage allegedly kidnapped and killed a journalist reporting on government corruption in its profitable cocoa industry. In 2010, Ivorian government authorities detained three newspaper journalists after they published an article exposing government corruption in the cocoa sector. The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery. (Source)

Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil by Gavin Mayhew
Your Chocolate Pleasure Supports Child Slavery - YouTube

So much has happened since I first hit the streets as a newspaper journalist in 1977, and so much has changed since I started teaching college classes in research writing and writing and journalism (1983). The “see, speak, hear no evil” paradigm is the destiny of capitalists. It is the way of who we are every waking nanosecond of our lives. Boycott Divest Sanction my ass. This is where I also pretzel myself into contradiction after contradiction. I should be on an island, or just on 20 acres I have near Mount Adams. Eating mushrooms and stitching moss and bark clothing.

Do ostriches really bury their head in the sand? - BBC Science Focus  Magazine

Capitalism is the cancer, virus, prion, the tapeworm, the carrot and the stick. It is the blood sucker of all concepts. Slavery is Capitalism. We talked about this, in so many ways, not always me railing overtly with my anti-Capitalist thesis. I would bring to class small business owners, restaurant owners, ex-military, nonprofit directors, friends who were homeless, living in garages, artists, and dissidents of many kinds. Another thing that is DEAD in the water.

Now, you have to get people vetted and approved to come to a classroom. This is the sickness of our lefty culture. The rightwing has already played this card, too. “Why the hell are you bringing a person from Planned Parenthood to your class? Illegal. Stop. I’m calling the president.”

U.S. Coffee Facts Infographic by Kellen Lester, via Behance This infographic touches coffee consumption stat… | Coffee facts, Coffee facts infographic, Coffee uses

That coffee, now, looking at a cup, the ecological footprint, the energy used to get a cup of coffee to say, my Spokane students. Because Spokane loves its coffee. The amount of water used to grow a cup of coffee. We’d look at the coffee in Central America, or Colombia. Where that plant is grown. What was bulldozed to bring that plantation there. Who works the finca? Which indigenous group of non-Spanish speakers in Guatemala work these plantation, tends the bushes, picks and dries the cherries. Species lost, pesticides used. Water diverted. And, food crops denied.

Again, young and older adults, blown away in my classes, since I was teaching them to look deeper at any number of topics, and develop critical thinking and discourse skills, in whatever watered down version I’d get with many students who were coming to college ill-prepared to really write “essays.” Variations on a theme. Just the cup of liquid, first grown and processed in poor countries, takes about 38 gallons of water to grow.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is It-takes-37-gallons-of-water-to-produce-one-cup-of-coffee.jpg

We’d try and research more and more on the life-cycle of a ceramic cup or Starbucks thermos, and the life cycle and life span of a coffee maker. Embedded energy, waste, mining, slave warehouses, metals, all that fossil fuel to move those metals, cook them, mill them, ship them around the world. Sure, we could look at at sack of dried but not roasted coffee cherries coming from the Guatemala Highlands, and then where it gets shipped by boat, and then moved by truck, and then the actual cleaning and roasting of the coffee. Packaging, and then, that journey is crossing back and forth, over land, in the air, over seas.

The assignment blows many students’ minds, as it should. In the classroom, and I’d bring in a coffee person, with coffee and snacks, and she’d talk about farms in Mexico and Africa she’s visited. Talk about the flavor, the various types of coffees.

We’d look at Fair Trade, Beyond Fair Trade, Shade Grown and the like. Socially responsible coffee. I’d talk about how Vietnam — where I had gone and worked — was cutting more and more forests down to grow coffee. Coffee pests and diseases, and soil enhancements with fertilizers. The entire life cycle analysis of as many things we could extract from the coffee history and production, well, it blows students’ minds, and it only works in person. Don’t fool yourself with the fucking mouse, keyboard and Zoom camera/mic.

We need to talk about the environmental and human and ecological costs of plantation, mountain-razing coffee:

2.2 A Bitter Brew- Coffee Production, Deforestation, Soil Erosion and Water Contamination | Environmental Biology

This pathetic Zoom and remote learning (sic) formula is the deadening of the brain. Recall, Americans already have three quarters of their brains (or more) colonized by lies, propaganda, hate, myth, plain stupidity, largely from terrible K12 (prison with smiling teachers) and all the marketing, and a government whose job is to fleece the masses for the company men, and fleecing includes culling thinking and deep analysis.

All this work, for coffee? Nope, because the students then do some of their own research on any manner of things. Cause and effect, solutions, pro-con, classification, expository, digital rhetoric, and deeper position papers. Research, and while we share sources and do all sorts of things at home, in groups, the big thing is getting the classroom energized, talking, arguing. Debate every minute. We even meet out of class in a, well, coffee shop, and coffee roaster.

Thinking about origins and perspectives. This is a full-time job as an instructor, in the class with all sorts of human beings there taking in and reacting to the work, the talks, the learning and the discourse. This Zoom shit is the death of humanity as I knew it. Radical Pedagogy, 2003 article!

Why Online Education Can Never Replace the Real Thing 1

Always with food, something in the class, mostly evening classes.

In 1960, the University of Missouri published a short “Guide for Television Teachers.” Across the country, over 100 different colleges offered nearly 500 televised courses to a half a million students. So professors needed pointers about the best way to teach in this burgeoning new medium.

“Relax,” the Missouri guide underlined. “Try to be yourself.” Male professors should wear “conservative” ties, the guide added, while women should avoid necklines or hemlines that might “cause discomfort or embarrassment” if they leaned over a counter or sat in a low chair. Once they were properly attired, they could loosen up and let their real character shine through. “Remember that the TV camera projects your natural personality best,” the guide urged, “and the more relaxed and natural that you are, the better you will reach your viewers.”

Slavery: The Original Bitter In Your Chocolate | Chocolate Class

Who are these children forced to work the cocoa plantations of the Ivory Coast?

Ask more of your chocolate – Alter Eco

Shit, those were the days. And here I am, suffering at age 64. I am feeling the burn, the beat-down burn, of more and more people around me stupid, mean, see-speak-hear not evil when it comes to this fucked up Empire, This War Machine. Those were the good old days? Is that my new mindset and refrain?

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil by Simulacrumble on DeviantArt

It is the contradiction to be an American totally — North American, Canadian or citizen of the USA. Every waking and sleeping minute we are covering the world in blood, exploitation, penury, death. Pain and misery is the way of the land. The hollow media, the celebrities in music and film, oh even more viral than the politicians. They are the elite, or the elite’s house boys or house girls.

“So what can we do but go with the flow? Just let it go. They have all the power, so just live your life as best you can. It’s not that bad. If we don’t bomb the world, steal the minerals, colonize space with weapons, then someone else will. What about China, Russia? I want a family, a job, and just a chance to live on weekends and kayak and smell the moose dung.”

I am down — really depressed — because of what that cup of coffee assignment represents: I am old. I am no good as a teacher because it is a digital and PC and cancel culture study body. I am down because most of the people I would have worked with years ago on political issues, as artists, well, they are either dead, or brains deadened by the struggle and the losing. I am depressed because that cup of coffee assignment is not lauded. The entire Western Civilization or Western Culture is in various forms of mental illness. That illness grouping includes a million wrong ways to medicate or mediate the illnesses of the minds.

Mental health: 'Spike in self-harm, suicide ideation amid Covid-19  pandemic' - Times of India

I am not that, but I am alone, it seems. Now, the coffee, and where it comes from. Do I invest in Folgers Coffee (a division of J.M Smucker Company)? This is what’s depressing me now — my spouse and I are moving some money saved into some investments. Now I have to decide how to put some of it away, or as they say, to invest it. Because there are no interest rates, the average person can’t go to a state bank or any institution and put money into a municipal bond to do some good for society and make a few percentage points above zero. What’s wrong with 4 percent or 5 percent interest? That is the crime, zero or negative interest rates. Criminal. Imagine, there is not one thing on planet Earth, planet Wall Street, planet Retirement Fund which is not heavily tainted with DDDD: death, disease, destruction and destitution. We have been relooking at Socially Responsible Mutual Funds, or ESG’s, and the picture was never pretty:

ESG Ratings: How can a business' environmental and social impact be measured?

Oh, you can say, “Broker, find me a fund that isn’t into war, weapons, mining, prisons, guns, germs, exploitation, banks, insurance companies.” It is virtually impossible. You might not want Walmart stock in the mutual fund, but then Amazon and Facebook and Kraft Foods might be in it. Microsoft, Boeing. Any amount of honor or commitment to NOT engaging in investing that gives money to the murderers, the exploiters, the ocean-soil-jungle-forest-wetland-river killers, it is all lost because they all are wrapped up into one big fat thievery corporation — BlackRock and Blackstone and the top 100 banks, hedge funds, and so many other “if-you-can-make-6-or-12-percent-on-yearly-return” investment products are so embedded in the master slavers in Fortune 1000 circles, and even within the 10,000 largest corporations.

Housing Is A Human Right Stephen Schwarzman Proposition 21 Blackstone

[Modern-Day Robber Baron: The Sins of Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman]

The system is rigged for brokers to use brokerage houses, big ones, and those fees — buy, sell, trade, manage — more money and profits made for NOT producing one potato or bicycle. Yet, MBAs and the others in this crew believe that they don’t want their precious children to work the slave fields of Ivory Coast, or to be soccer ball stitchers, or to be at the wrong end of a toxic waste discharge hose. But invest in Hershey’s, or Nike, or Smithfield, well, out of sight, out of mind. Yep, they would not want their precious families bombed with the amazing number of components tied to an amazing number of businesses wrapped up in one missile. Screws, wires, capacitors, metal shrouding, telemetry, paint, seals, nuts and bolts, precision metal parts, tubes and coils and electronic guidance systems and batteries and, well, you get the picture. But goddamn, you can make bank on investing in defense (sic) companies because there is an endless demand by governments to have that shit in stock. We the taxpayer pay for those Hellfire’s:

Lockheed Martin, Boeing (previous second source), and Northrop Grumman (seeker only for AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire) Unit cost US$150,000 (FY 2021)!

The Military-Industrial Complex | Hoover Institution

It’s much more than just those three companies making bank for these missiles. There is an entire contingent (armies) of companies and service economies tied to this murder weapon:

AGM-114 Hellfire II Missile, United States of America

Pretty simple looking murder weapon: those companies making tons of money, and the death makes more money for them, in resupplying.

3d hellfire ii missle missile model

In the past, I have studied mutual funds I have invested in, to squirrel away some savings, and the picture is pretty ugly. There are no SRI’s that are nothing more than just market washing. Socially Responsible Investing, NOT:

21 Best Mutual Funds for Investment in 2021-22

Top Holdings — Axis Bluechip

Company Sector P/E 3Y High 3Y Low % Assets
up Infosys Technology 29.50 10.06 1.48 9.36
equal Bajaj Finance Financial 76.34 10.38 4.36 8.98
up HDFC Bank Financial 24.82 10.94 6.06 8.97
up Tata Consultancy Services Technology 34.90 9.05 2.30 7.32
up Kotak Mahindra Bank Financial 33.90 9.46 4.74 7.12
up ICICI Bank Financial 23.28 8.05 0.00 7.07
up Avenue Supermarts Services 178.26 7.41 2.45 5.55
equal HDFC Financial 23.54 6.82 1.28 5.01
up Reliance Industries Energy 27.33 8.33 0.89 4.30
up Divi’s Laboratories Healthcare 57.37 3.15 0.00 3.15
equal Hindustan Unilever FMCG 68.89 5.27 1.49 2.58
up Ultratech Cement Construction 34.72 2.36 0.00 2.24
up Asian Paints Chemicals 85.41 4.24 1.32 2.17
equal Nestle India FMCG 77.15 4.59 0.00 2.14
up Motherson Sumi Systems Automobile 147.57 2.08 0.00 2.08
down Maruti Suzuki India Automobile 46.37 5.83 0.00 1.89
equal Pidilite Industries Chemicals 86.93 2.55 0.60 1.82
up Bharti Airtel Communication 5.50 0.00 1.79
equal Cipla Healthcare 31.01 2.36 0.00 1.62
up Wipro Technology 25.80 1.83 0.00 1.55
down Shree Cement Construction 49.08 1.59 0.00 1.32
new Tata Steel Metals 17.76 1.21 0.00 1.21
equal Titan Company Cons Durable 139.72 3.45 0.78 0.98
equal Dr. Reddy’s Lab Healthcare 44.62 3.21 0.00 0.94
equal HDFC Life Insurance Financial 99.18 1.82 0.00 0.89

This is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Fund holdings, in general:

The Gates Foundation's Hypocritical Investments – Mother Jones

Top Warren Buffett Stocks By Size

Here are the top 10 Warren Buffett stocks by number of shares, as of March 31:

  • Bank of America (BAC), 1.01 billion
  • Apple (AAPL), 887.1 million
  • Coca-Cola (KO), 400 million
  • Kraft Heinz (KHC), 325.6 million
  • Verizon (VZ), 158.8 million
  • American Express (AXP), 151.6 million
  • U.S. Bancorp (USB), 129.7 million
  • Bank of New York Mellon (BK), 72.4 million
  • General Motors (GM), 67 million
  • Kroger (KR), 51.1 million

Look at what Warren Buffett owns as part of Berkshire Hathaway. Products — Diversified investments, property and casualty insurance, Utilities, Restaurants, Food processing, Aerospace, Media, Toys, Automotive, Sporting goods, Consumer products, Internet, Real estate, Railroad

How Does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Invest Its Money?

So the average Joe and Jane, if they get a mutual fund or two for some long-term investment, this is the reality — you might be a social justice warrior, an anti-racist campaigner, an anti-war proponent, an environmentalist, community crusader, a socialist, an anti-capitalist, but if you stick your toe just a bit into the pond for minimal investments, just to protect a few thousand dollars here and there, this is what you get — money into the pockets of madmen: school to prison pipeline experts, war lords, surveillance capitalists, drug pushers, bad loan chieftains, medical fraudsters, real estate thugs, polluters, mountaintop removers, river toxifiers, land thieves, propaganda priests.

I am so serious about this now — where does the money go, and which company is being supported by stockholders shoveling money into their companies? Look at the union busters, at the price gougers, at the political lobbying arms, all these giant corporations and their networks of bunkos!

You can turn blue in the face decrying Monsanto (Bayer) for its pesticide poisons or Exxon for climate change propaganda or Sackler/Purdue Pharmacy for opioid addictions, but if you have a mutual fund, there is a chance that somehow those companies are entwined somewhere in the formula of a “strong mutual fund.”

The corporate giants are also demanding that Congress allow the repatriation of about $2.5 trillion stashed abroad without paying more than 5% tax. They say the money would be used to grow the economy and create jobs. Last time CEOs promised this result in 2004, Congress approved, and then was double-crossed. The companies spent the bulk on stock buybacks, their own pay raises and some dividend increases.

There are more shenanigans. With low interest rates that are deductible, companies actually borrow money to finance their stock buybacks. If the stock market tanks, these companies will have a self-created debt load to handle. A former Citigroup executive, Richard Parsons, has expressed worry about a “massively manipulated” stock market which “scares the crap” out of him.

Banks that pay you near zero interest on your savings announced on June 28, 2017 the biggest single buyback in history – a $92.8 billion extraction. Drug companies who say their sky-high drug prices are needed to fund R&D. But between 2006 and 2017, 18 drug company CEOs spent a combined staggering $516 billion on buybacks and dividends – more than their inflated claims of spending for R&D. — Nader

We all are sinners in capitalism — just paying our tax bill: death and destruction raining down on Palestinians, for example:

“Seven deadly sins: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice.” – Mahatma Gandhi

America's Last Snake-handling Cults

Oh, we all think we have found the formula for living in this insane and murderous country. Oh, we have to put nose to the grindstone. Follow the leaders. Get the jab. Do as you are told. You home is not your castle. There are no 40 acres and a mule. No handouts. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Pinch your nose, cover your eyes, plug your ears, muffle your mouth!

What is capitalism for dummies, currency rate of exchange in mexico

So, you end up throwing in the towel — no purity test, no selective boycotting of this or that product or service. No true anti-Imperialist leaning, when tax filing time comes. Nothing free in this un-Democratic land of thieves, murderers and thugs. Almost every step you take in America is full of landmines, cow pies, toxic puddles and electrified fences. The horizon is one theater of the absurd after another. The amount of nonsense and self-congratulatory verbiage from all manner of people who think they are enlightened or vaunted or above the dirty, scab-sucking, ripoff fray of capitalism, well, that is the self-delusion, the big lie.

You have a military industrial complex : LateStageCapitalism

So, the role of k12, and of higher education? One of the key foundations for a society — good education, robust, and deep learning, deep thinking, and systems thinking growing. Under capitalism and consumerism and conformist ideology that is US of Amnesia, there are so many broken things about face to face education, and I have written tons on this. Taking it to Zoom, to televised classes, remote learning, well, all the bad gets funneled into this new normal-abnormal.

In addition to education, colleges and universities provide indoctrination in the values and shared beliefs that our society deems important. These commonly shared values and tenets must be instilled, importantly beginning in grade school and before (the Jesuit boast, variously stated, is “Give me the first seven years and you can have all the rest”), and continued and reinforced through high school and college.

It is at the university where young men and women of indoctrinated conviction are most typically apt and able to respond to what is going on in the world around them, perhaps even take to the streets. Indoctrination can be overt or subtle. — George Heitmann

Allentown's Muhlenberg College allowed a limited number of students to live on campus this fall semester.

The post Try as You May to Deny, but Evil is in Our DNA first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Economic Collapse Continues Uninterrupted

To conceal the economic and social decline that continues to unfold at home and abroad, major newspapers are working overtime to promote happy economic news. Many headlines are irrational and out of touch. They make no sense. Desperation to convince everyone that all is well or all will soon be great is very high. The assault on economic science and coherence is intense. Working in concert, and contrary to the lived experience of millions of people, many newspapers are declaring miraculous “economic growth rates” for country after country. According to the rich and their media, numerous countries are experiencing or are on the cusp of experiencing very strong “come-backs” or “complete recoveries.” Very high rates of annual economic growth, generally not found in any prior period, are being floated regularly. The numbers defy common sense.

In reality, economic and social problems are getting worse nationally and internationally.

“Getting back to the pre-Covid standard will take time,” said Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist. “The aftermath of Covid isn’t going to reverse for a lot of countries. Far from it.” Even this recent statement is misleading because it implies that pre-Covid economic conditions were somehow good or acceptable when things have actually been going downhill for decades. Most economies never really “recovered” from the economic collapse of 2008. Most countries are still running on gas fumes while poverty, unemployment, under-employment, inequality, debt, food insecurity, generalized anxiety, and other problems keep worsening. And today, with millions of people fully vaccinated and trillions of phantom dollars, euros, and yen printed by the world’s central banks, there is still no real and sustained stability, prosperity, security, or harmony. People everywhere are still anxious about the future. Pious statements from world leaders about “fixing” capitalism have done nothing to reverse the global economic decline that started years ago and was intensified by the “COVID Pandemic.”

In the U.S. alone, in real numbers, about 3-4 million people a month have been laid off for 13 consecutive months. At no other time in U.S. history has such a calamity on this scale happened. This has “improved” slightly recently but the number of people being laid off every month remains extremely high and troubling. In New York State, for example:

the statewide [official] unemployment rate remains the second highest in the country at just under 9%. One year after the start of the pandemic and the recession it caused, most of the jobs New York lost still have not come back. (emphasis added, April 2021).

In addition, nationally the number of long-term unemployed remains high and the labor force participation rate remains low. And most new jobs that are “created” are not high-paying jobs with good benefits and security. The so-called “Gig Economy” has beleaguered millions.

Some groups have been more adversely affected than others. In April 2021, U.S. News & World Report conveyed that:

In February 2020, right before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Black women had an employment to population ratio of 60.8%; that now stands at 54.8%, a drop of 6 percentage points.

The obsolete U.S. economic system has discarded more than half a million black women from the labor force in the past year.

In December 2019, around the time the “COVID Pandemic” began to emerge, Brookings reported that:

An estimated 53 million people—44 percent of all U.S. workers ages 18–64—are low-wage workers. That’s more than twice the number of people in the 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. Their median hourly wage is $10.22, and their median annual earnings are $17,950.

The Federal Reserve reports that 37 percent of Americans in 2019 did not have $400 to cover an unanticipated emergency. In Louisiana alone, 1 out of 5 families today are living at the poverty level.  Sadly, “60% of Americans will live below the official poverty line for at least one year of their lives.” While American billionaires became $1.3 trillion richer, about 8 million Americans joined the ranks of the poor during the “COVID Pandemic.”

And more inflation will make things worse for more people. A March 2021 headline from NBC News reads: “The price of food and gas is creeping higher — and will stay that way for a while.”  ABC News goes further in April 2021 and says that “the post-pandemic economy will include higher prices, worse service, longer delays.”

Homelessness in the U.S. is also increasing:

COVID-driven loss of jobs and employment income will cause the number of homeless workers to increase each year through 2023. Without large-scale, government employment programs the Pandemic Recession is projected to cause twice as much homelessness as the 2008 Great Recession. Over the next four years the current Pandemic Recession is projected to cause chronic homelessness to increase 49 percent in the United States, 68 percent in California and 86 percent in Los Angeles County. [The homeless include the] homeless on the streets, shelter residents and couch surfers. (emphasis added, January 11, 2021)

Perhaps ironically, just “Two blocks from the Federal Reserve, a growing encampment of the homeless grips the economy’s most powerful person [Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell].”

Officially, about four million businesses, including more than 110,000 restaurants, have permanently closed in the U.S. over the past 14 months.  In April 2021 Business Insider stated that, “roughly 80,000 stores are doomed to close in the next 5 years as the retail apocalypse continues to rip through America.”  The real figure is likely higher.

Bankruptcies have also risen in some sectors. For example, bankruptcies by North American oil producers “rose to the highest first-quarter level since 2016.”

In March 2021 the Economic Policy Institute reported that “more than 25 million workers are directly harmed by the COVID labor market.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more than 100 applicants for each job opening in some sectors.

Given the depth and breadth of the economic collapse in the U.S., it is no surprise that “1 in 6 Americans went into therapy for the first time in 2020.” The number of people affected by depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide worldwide as a direct result of the long depression is very high. These harsh facts and realities are also linked to more violence, killings, protests, demonstrations, social unrest, and riots worldwide.

In terms of physical health, “Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults report undesired weight changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.” This will only exacerbate the diabetes pandemic that has been ravaging more countries every year.

On another front, the Pew Research Center informs us that, as a result of the economic collapse that has unfolded over the past year, “A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression.”   And it does not help that student debt now exceeds $1.7 trillion and is still climbing rapidly.

Millions of college faculty have also suffered greatly over the past year. A recent survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) found that:

real wages for full-time faculty decreased for the first time since the Great Recession[in 2008], and average wage growth for all ranks of full-time faculty was the lowest since the AAUP began tracking annual wage growth in 1972. After adjusting for inflation, real wages decreased at over two-thirds of colleges and universities. The number of full-time faculty decreased at over half of institutions.

This does not account for the thousands of higher education adjuncts (part-time faculty) and staff that lost their jobs permanently.

In April 2021, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities stated that, “millions of people are still without their pre-pandemic income sources and are borrowing to get by.” Specifically:

  • 54 million adults said they didn’t use regular income sources like those received before the pandemic to meet their spending needs in the last seven days.
  • 50 million used credit cards or loans to meet spending needs.
  • 20 million borrowed from friends or family. (These three groups overlap.)

Also in April 2021, the Washington Post wrote:

The pandemic’s disruption has created inescapable financial strain for many Americans. Nearly 2 of 5 of adults have postponed major financial decisions, from buying cars or houses to getting married or having children, due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey last week from Bankrate.com. Among younger adults, ages 18 to 34, some 59 percent said they had delayed a financial milestone. (emphasis added)

According to Monthly Review:

The U.S. economy has seen a long-term decline in capacity utilization in manufacturing, which has averaged 78 percent from 1972 to 2019—well below levels that stimulate net investment. (emphasis added, January 1, 2021).

Capitalist firms will not invest in new ventures or projects when there is little or no profit to be made, which is why major owners of capital are engaged in even more stock market manipulation than ever before. “Casino capitalism” is intensifying. This, in turn, is giving rise to even larger stock market bubbles that will eventually burst and wreak even more havoc than previous stock market crashes. The inability to make profit through normal investment channels is also why major owners of capital are imposing more public-private “partnerships” (PPPs) on people and society through neoliberal state restructuring. Such pay-the-rich schemes further marginalize workers and exacerbate inequality, debt, and poverty. PPPs solve no problems and must be replaced by human-centered economic arrangements.

The International Labor Organization estimates that the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost globally as a result of government actions over the past 13-14 months.

In March of this year, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reported that, “Acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries in the coming months without urgent and scaled-up assistance.” The FAO says, “”The magnitude of suffering is alarming.”

And according to Reuters, “Overall, global FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] had collapsed in 2020, falling by 42% to an estimated $859 billion, from $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to the UNCTAD report.” UNCTAD stands for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The international organization Oxfam tells us that:

The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began…. Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade. (emphasis added, January 25, 2021)

According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed about 120 million people into extreme poverty over the last year in mostly low- and middle-income countries.”  And despite the roll-out of vaccines in various countries:

the economic implications of the pandemic are deep and far-reaching. It is ushering in a “new poor” profile that is more urban, better educated, and reliant on informal sector work such as construction, relative to the existing global poor (those living on less than $1.90/day) who are more rural and heavily reliant on agriculture. (emphasis added)

Another source notes that:

Pew Research Center, using World Bank data, has estimated that the number of poor in India (with income of $2 per day or less in purchasing power parity) has more than doubled from 60 million to 134 million in just a year due to the pandemic-induced recession. This means, India is back in a situation to be called a “country of mass poverty” after 45 years. (emphasis added)

In Europe, there is no end in sight to the economic decline that keeps unfolding. The United Kingdom, for example, experienced its worst economy in literally 300 years:

The economy in the U.K. contracted 9.9 percent in 2020, the worst year on record since 1709, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a report on Friday (Feb. 12). The overall economic drop in 2020 was more than double in 2009, when U.K. GDP declined 4.1 percent due to the worldwide financial crisis. Britain experienced the biggest annual decline among the G7 economies — France saw its economy decline 8.3 percent, Italy dropped 8.8 percent, Germany declined 5 percent and the U.S. contracted 3.5 percent. (emphasis added)

Another source also notes that, “The Eurozone is being haunted by ‘ghost bankruptcies,’ with more than 200,000 firms across the European Union’s four biggest nations under threat when Covid financial lifelines stop.” In another sign of economic decline, this time in Asia, Argus Media reported in April 2021 that Japan’s 2020-21 crude steel output fell to a 52-year low.

Taken alone, on a country-by-country basis, these are not minor economic downturns, but when viewed as a collective cumulative global phenomenon, the consequences are more serious. It is a big problem when numerous economies decline simultaneously. The world is more interdependent and interconnected than ever. What happens in one region necessarily affects other regions.

One could easily go country by country and region by region and document many tragic economic developments that are still unfolding and worsening. Argentina, Lebanon, Colombia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Jordan, South Africa, Nigeria, and dozens of other countries are all experiencing major economic setbacks and hardships that will take years to overcome and will negatively affect the economies of other countries in an increasingly interdependent world. And privatization schemes around the world are just making conditions worse for the majority of people. Far from solving any problems, neoliberalism has made everything worse for working people and society.

It is too soon for capitalist ideologues to be euphoric about “miraculous economic growth and success.” There is no meaningful evidence to show that there is deep, significant, sustained economic growth on a broad scale. There is tremendous economic carnage and pain out there, and the scarring and consequences are going to linger for some time. No one believes that a big surge of well-paying jobs is right around the corner. Nor does anyone believe that more schemes to pay the rich under the banner of high ideals will improve things either.

Relentless disinformation about the economy won’t solve any problems or convince people that they are not experiencing what they are experiencing. Growing poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, debt, inequality, anxiety, and insecurity are real and painful. They require real solutions put forward by working people, not major owners of capital concerned only with maximizing private profit as fast as possible.

The economy cannot improve and serve a pro-social aim and direction so long as those who produce society’s wealth, workers, are disempowered and denied any control of the economy they run. Allowing major decisions to be made by a historically superfluous financial oligarchy is not the way forward. The rich and their representatives are unfit to rule and have no real solutions for the recurring crises caused by their outmoded system. They are focused mainly on depriving people of an outlook that opens the path of progress to society.

There is no way for the massive wealth of society to be used to serve the general interests of society so long as the contradiction between the socialized nature of the economy and its continued domination by competing private interests remain unresolved. All we are left with are recurring economic crises that take a bigger and bigger toll on humanity. To add insult to injury, we are told that there is no alternative to this outdated system, and that the goal is to strive for “inclusive capitalism,” “ethical capitalism,” “responsible capitalism,” or some other oxymoron.

But there is an alternative. Existing conditions do not have to be eternal or tolerated. History shows that conditions that favor the people can be established. The rich must be deprived of their ability to deprive the people of their rights, including the right to govern their own affairs and control the economy. The economy, government, nation-building, and society must be controlled and directed by the people themselves, free of the influence of narrow private interests determined to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else.

The rich and their political and media representatives are under great pressure to distort social consciousness, undermine the human factor, and block progress. The necessity for change is for humanity to rise up and usher in a modern society that ensures prosperity, stability, and peace for all. It can be done and must be done.

The post Economic Collapse Continues Uninterrupted first appeared on Dissident Voice.

New Green Deal + Old War Deal = Same Rotten Deal

While a new American administration presides over what many believe is a return to normal after the more openly blatant worship of wealth and Israel of the Trump regime, what’s missed is that what passes for normal is what needs radical change. As long as market normalcy in the USA means hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, millions more live in poverty and millions more than that are so much deeper in personal debt than ever before in our history that the World Bank warns of the possibility of social collapse, what passes for normal is not just highly judgmental but criminally immoral. Especially when a mincing step forward domestically is accompanied by a crippled giant stride backward in foreign policy.

This while more than half a million Americans have died in a pandemic that has already wreaked economic havoc among almost all the general population while some millionaires have become multi millionaires, some multi millionaires have become billionaires and some billionaires approach becoming trillionaires. As this market “normality “awaits the hopeful arrival of a Green New Deal, named after the world war two version which created a middle class by spending billions of public dollars to aid survival of the richest while allowing enough of their money to trickle down to pass for a welfare state form of capitalism, it now actually threatens to bring on even more dreadfulness to an even greater population.

A couple of trillion in government spending is proposed now when tens of trillions are needed but will never be found under the market forces of private profit normalcy. The goal must be a radical restructuring of the political economic value system that treats earth, air, water and human beings as commodities to be bought, sold and rented in pursuit of enormous private profit for an ever shrinking number as hundreds of millions diversely sink lower in class status under the burden of bearing the staggering public loss of dollars, humanity and nature itself.

While this seemingly hopeful program of another new deal for domestic progress is proposed in order to save capitalism once again by muffling if not smothering calls for more radical change, the old deal of the murderous warfare state is even more dangerous than ever, with the amateurs of the Trump regime replaced by more experienced creators of policies of mass murder to preserve the alleged chosen people status of American capital and its servant class of more diverse than ever professionals who arrange minority rule and convince people it‘s democracy.

The old cold war against communism and socialism in Russia and China is more fervently being waged against those now capitalist nations offering a greater menace to what is called “western civilization”. This is defined as peace, democracy and humanism to disguise its base on colonialism, slavery and the mass murders of world wars one, two and the great slaughters that followed in Asia and the rest of the world not worthy enough to be rated as civilization by creatures who would make savage predatory beasts seem humanitarians, poets and lovers by comparison.

Naturally, this new Chinese and Russian capitalism is treated as massive terror and desperately in need of trillions spent on the military, which adequately protects the American troops ringing the Russian border and American ships sailing the South China Sea but is helpless to protect Americans being murdered in America by neighbors, workmates, the police and other patriots.  Nor are they/we protected by having tens of thousands of military personnel at hundreds of military bases thousands of miles from America’s shores. This is sold to a mentally imprisoned population as a defense of America and rationalized by a brilliant leadership that might have trouble understanding that it should put its socks on before not after its shoes while spending trillions on warfare and offering no help at all to tens of millions of Americans without health care or shelter.

Despite the unrelenting intellectual and moral sewage being forced into the mental diet of innocent participants in what is called our sacred democracy, newer generations contain more critical numbers than ever speaking out, organizing and showing signs of no more tolerance for this weaponized mass murdering drivel. Even while under assault reducing the common needs of all to alleged minorities by our ruler imposed doctrines of identity to reduce a majority to squabbling over which group has suffered more with least suffering getting the most, far more are resisting that divide and conquer program to save the system by divisive race, ethnic and sexual bigotry.

Current mind mashing daily bulletins about Putin’s being a murderer and Chinese preforming genocide on Islamic people are part of  the daily diet of intellectual sewage that passes for reporting in the news marketplace, more minds are being destroyed while more wealth is created by the media servants of capital. Daily bulletins inform (?) us that China is brutalizing Islamic Chinese and committing “genocide”, the popular term to use when anybody dies anywhere but where the term and the idea were born, while we lecture them on how to destroy the Islamic world for Israel and capital, commit mass murder and slaughter tens of thousands, destroy nations and reduce millions to poverty. If there were a judgmental, righteous and vindictive deity such as the one created by the more sadistic episodes of Old Testament mythology that had one destroy the planet because of false worship or a bad migraine, there might be a cataclysmic explosion, earthquake, holocaust and plague every fifteen minutes until our nation was obliterated. Luckily, we only have to deal with the largest population of earth dwellers growing fed up with a material reality forced on them by allegedly higher forms of humans practicing a form of political economics that might create a Department of Rape and call it a Ministry of Love

Rather than having to deal with a strengthened coalition of nuclear armed nations sick and tired of suffering abuse from an international bully and able to respond to any attack with their own powers of mass murder, we can only hope that Eastern Capitalist media may soon retaliate by offering lessons in humanity to the western civilization (?) by describing how it is possible to end poverty by investing in people rather than murdering them.

In China, a nation of nearly one and a half billion people, nearly 90% of them own their own homes. In Russia, another brutal capitalist horde assaulting our mythological democracy, which has never elected a president by majority of the electorate, 80% of the people own their homes. Worst of all, the savage state of communist Cuba has 90% of its people in homes they own, and this accomplished under years of brutal economic assault by an alleged  “great power” 90 miles away. Isn’t that terrifying?

A part of Islamic teaching claims there is no god but god, which is a belief system that can work for good or bad because it’s a faith-based belief. Material reality says that there is no race but human and that is a material fact, a scientific reality and not simply a belief. The sooner we rise above good or evil teachings about cultural truths  (?) and face material reality which is just that, we who identify as human beings can create democracy, the best deal for humanity.

In the words of an anonymous Vegas dealer, we don’t need a new deal: we need an entirely new deck. To bring that about, the people will have to take ownership of not just the gambling casino but every aspect of material reality that affects the public good. That sounds strange because it represents democracy, a deal we’ve never had as a people but only a charade of our rulers and their professional – and more “diverse” than ever – servant class. We need to give meaning to the word, and very soon, which means we need a political party that represents the public good, and an economy that does the same. Give that whatever label makes you feel best, but do it soon or we might not have much of a later.

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Small Acts Can Become A Power No Government Can Suppress

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) was passed in the House this past week and now heads to the Senate, where it will no doubt be changed before it becomes law some time in mid-March. The current unemployment benefits expire on March 14.

While we don’t know what the final bill will look like, at least now we can get an idea of what is in it. Overall, as expected, the provisions in the bill will help to provide some financial assistance to some people, but they won’t solve the crises we face. And the Biden administration is backtracking on promises made on the campaign trail.

As Alan Macleod writes, Biden has abandoned raising the minimum wage, ending student debt and the promised $2,000 checks. His focus is on forcing people back to work and school even as new, more infectious and more lethal variants of the virus causing COVID-19 threaten another surge in cases and deaths. There is only one promise Biden appears to be keeping, and that is one he made to wealthy donors at the start of his campaign when he said, “nothing would fundamentally change.”

Despite this, people are organizing across the country for their rights to economic security and health and an end to discrimination. These struggles are necessary as we cannot expect either of the capitalist parties to act in the people’s interest. But together, we can demand that one of the wealthiest nations on earth upholds its responsibility to provide the basic necessities for its people. This is consistent with a People(s)-Centered Human Rights approach.

What is and isn’t in the ARP?

The current version of the American Rescue Plan contains provisions that would provide money to people earning less than $75,000 per year. One is the one-time $1,400 check.  Another is raising the tax credit for families with children, which will benefit those who file tax returns but leave out the millions of poor people who don’t.

The ARP will also extend unemployment benefits until the end of August and increase the enhanced benefits to $400/week. Unlike the previous bills, this one includes workers who left their jobs because of unsafe conditions and those who had to leave work or reduce their hours to care for children. The benefits are retroactive for some workers who were denied benefits.

While this will temporarily improve the economic situation for many people, it is not a plan to address the poverty crisis in the United States nor is it sufficient to support people through the current recession and pandemic. People will still face barriers to receiving the aid. Instead of making the programs something that people have to apply for, the government could provide monthly checks to everyone with incomes under a certain amount automatically. Numerous examples show that putting money into people’s hands, such as through a guaranteed income or giving unrestricted lump sums, improves their well-being.

An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, a promise of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, is in the House version of the bill, but it will not be in the Senate version unless the White House or Democrats intervene, which they seem unwilling to do. The minimum wage increase is being blocked by the Senate Parliamentarian, but the Vice President could override the decision or the Democrats could take steps to work around the Parliamentarian, as has been done in the past on other issues. They are choosing not to take this stand.

The ARP also fails to extend the eviction moratorium, which will expire at the end of March. While it does contain funds for rental assistance, they are being given to the Treasury Department to disburse to the states, so it is not clear how these funds will help people directly. A recent study found that corporate landlords received hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks last year but continued to evict thousands of people. When the eviction moratorium ends, those who cannot pay the back rent risk being evicted.

The health benefits in the ARP are not only inadequate but they are set to further enrich the medical-industrial complex, as I explain in “Biden’s Health Plan Shifts Even More Public Dollars into Private Hands.” The ARP is fulfilling a laundry list provided by private health insurers, hospitals and medical lobbying groups. It will subsidize the cost of insurance premiums but leave those who have health insurance still struggling to pay out-of-pocket costs and at risk of bankruptcy if they have a serious accident or illness.

And finally, another group that is being left out is those who have student debt. I spoke with Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice on Clearing the FOG this week. He said the current student loan burden is likely over $2 trillion and that the vast majority of debtors will never be able to repay . Collinge argues that it is imperative the Biden administration cancel student debt using an executive order, which he has the power to do, rather than leaving it to Congress. If the President does it, then the debt disappears (tax payers have already paid for the loans), but if Congress does it, which is unlikely to happen, they would have to offset the ‘cost’ through cuts to other programs or by raising taxes. Collinge also explains that cancelling student debt would be a significant economic stimulus.

All in all, the current ARP is another attempt by Congress to throw more money at a failed system that doesn’t change anything fundamentally. We must demand more.

The case for wealth redistribution

Lee Camp recently made the case for a massive change in the direction of wealth redistribution based on a new study that finds “the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality has grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020.” This amounts to over $1,000 per month per person in wealth that has been redistributed to the top or almost $14,000 per year.

It is time to reverse the direction of this wealth redistribution from one of consolidation at the top to one that creates greater wealth equality. This could be accomplished in a number of ways. In the middle of the last century, it was done through extremely high taxes on the wealthy and government investment in programs for housing and education. Camp advocates for taking all wealth over $10 million and redistributing it to the bottom 99.5% in a way that benefits the poorest the most.

Raising wages is another way to redistribute wealth. Professor Richard Wolff explains there are ways to raise wages without harming small businesses by providing federal support to them to offset the costs. Think of it as a reversal of the hundreds of billions in subsidies that have been given to large corporations, which they use to buy up and inflate the value of their stocks, to the small and medium businesses. It is smaller businesses that are most likely to keep wealth in their communities, unlike large corporations that extract wealth, and are the major drivers of the US economy. Small businesses alone comprise 44% of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

If workers earned higher wages, it would also save the government money that is currently spent on social safety net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps for low-wage workers. These programs enable large corporations to profit off worker exploitation, especially Walmart, Amazon and McDonalds, according to the DC Report.

Robert Urie points out that another price society pays for the gaping wealth divide is state violence and incarceration. He writes, “At $24 per hour, the inflation and productivity adjusted minimum wage in the U.S. from 1968, workers were still being added to employer payrolls. The point: $24 – $7.25 = $16.75 per hour plus a rate of profit is one measure of economic expropriation from low wage workers in the U.S. Maintaining an unjust public order is critical to the functioning of this exploitative political economy. Most of the prison population in the U.S. comes from neighborhoods where the minimum wage affects livelihoods.” Imagine the many ways that greater economic security would positively benefit families and communities.

People are fighting back

In our current political environment, we cannot expect Congress and the White House to do what is necessary to protect the health and security of people without a struggle that forces them to do so. There are many ways people are fighting locally for their rights through resistance and creating alternative systems. Here are a few current examples.

On February 16, fast food workers in 15 cities went on strike to demand $15 an hour. Other low-wage workers joined them. Last Monday, in Chicago, Black owners of McDonalds franchises began a 90-day protest outside of the McDonalds headquarters because of discrimination against them. They say, “McDonald’s has denied the Black franchisees the same opportunities as white operators and continually steer them to economically depressed and dangerous areas with low volume sales.”

In Bessemer, Alabama, workers are conducting a vote to start the first union for Amazon employees. If they succeed, it will be an amazing feat considering that Alabama is a right-to-work state and Amazon is doing what it can to stop them. In Arizona, another right-to-work state, workers at two universities are leading an effort to unionize all higher education employees in the state. They are concerned that federal funding provided to keep universities open will not be used in a way that protects all workers. They cite recent practices that prioritize the financial well-being of the universities over worker health and safety.

Some workers are taking power in other ways. Bus drivers in Silicon Valley organized with the support of community members to stop fare collections and only allow boarding in the rear, moves designed to aid passengers during the recession and protect drivers during the pandemic. They were committed to doing this whether management agreed to it or not. Others are building worker-owned platform cooperatives to challenge platform corporations that exploit their labor such as Spotify and Uber.

Others are working to meet people’s basic needs through mutual aid. Food not Bombs has been feeding people throughout the pandemic in various cities. In Santa Cruz, CA, they are out every day to feed the houseless despite being hassled by the city and moved around. A rural area in Canada that includes 65,000 people pulled together it local resources to make sure everyone is fed through a food policy council of elected officials, organizations and stakeholders. They reallocated their budget from events and travel to food security. They opened their seed banks to support local gardening efforts and commandeered unused buildings as spaces for assembling food boxes that were delivered to those in need.

These examples illustrate the tremendous power people have to force changes and create support networks in their communities when they organize together. While we should continue to expose and pressure Congress and the White House to invest in programs that provide for people’s needs, that is a function of government after all, we also need to organize in our communities to build popular power and create alternative systems that will slowly build the society we need.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.

— Howard Zinn

The post Small Acts Can Become A Power No Government Can Suppress first appeared on Dissident Voice.

American Exceptionalism: Private Wealth and Public Squalor

A December 2017 statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights notes that, while the US manages to spend “more [money] on national defence than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined”, US infant mortality rates were, as of 2013, “the highest in the developed world”.

The Special Rapporteur provides a barrage of other details from his own visit to the US, during which he was able to observe the country’s “bid to become the most unequal society in the world” – with some 40 million people living in poverty – as well as assess “soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction”.

Capitalism, it seems, is a deadly business indeed.

Belen Fernandez

A demonstrator from the Occupy Wall Street campaign seen with a dollar taped over his mouth as he stands near the financial district of New York September 30, 2011 [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

A demonstrator from the Occupy Wall Street campaign seen with a dollar taped over his mouth as he stands near the financial district of New York September 30, 2011.  (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

How the Cookie Crumbles

She’s 80, comes from Ayr, Scotland, lives in a sea town along the Oregon Coast. She is caretaker for her 55-year-old nephew. Her heart-failed husband, liver shot through, dialysis weekly, is another of her charges.

Imagine, she and her family ran a small chain of shops — clocks, another locksmith, another fish and chips. That was in Bonnie Scotland.

Her sister married a bloke in the US Air Force, and she shipped out with him. Pregnant. Child Drew, early on, in Tucson at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, he was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Life for her changed, and then her sister promised if anything happened to this sister, Aunt Regina would take care of Drew. That was a long long time ago.

Regina’s sister and her sister’s husband immolated in a crash coming back from El Paso. Boy Drew left with a younger sister — the boy age 20, sis 16.

For 35 years, our Regina and her Bob raised the boy. Drew is now 55, and part of my job is to support him in his job at a grocery store. He’s been there more than 15 years, and he makes $12.01 an hour.

Forget that economic injustice for a moment. Listen to how the crumbling cookie goes in predatory capitalism — Regina has not been back to the old country in 20 years. She has two knees that are shot. She needs two replacements, but she is the caretaker for the chronically-sick husband. Drew lives with them, getting his two-times a week work at the grocery store as a bagger.

He’s got the infectious personality, and he also has some “issues” glomming onto female staff. Regina was not told that adults with Downs Syndrome many times have lost the synoptic connections tied to urgency for urination and defecation.

Sweet drinks he gulps down, like a lost man in the Sahara. He scarfs down or wolfs down his food.

Like anyone, Drew wants to be in a relationship, married, on some piece of property with a horse, dogs and big garden. He works eight hours a week, and receives under $800 in social security payments.

The state pays Aunt Regina for his care. Her biggest worry is Drew losing his job because of the bathroom accidents or the sexual harassment.

Regina is kind but firm, and her bedside manner isn’t from the latest holistic and enlightened training around people who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I tell Drew, that if he messes up one more time, the grocery store will fire him. The job is more than pocket change for him. He gets out, has responsibilities, is growing some from the integrated employment, and, mind you this is a big AND, I get him out of the house for a few hours a week so I can gain some sense of sanity. I don’t know if he has to be put into a state institution.”

Luck of the draw, luck of the gene expression, luck of the accidental car mortalities, luck luck luck.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles, and in capitalism, we are not judged by how we treat our aged, infirm, vulnerable, youth, sick, disabled, poor. The worse we treat “them,” the more “they” have to struggle, the more daily fear “they” have of failing, faltering, flipping out mentally, the more successful those Capitalists and those Investors and those Finance Wizards and those Upper Economic Class are!

Redistribution of wealth for “them” is taking every last penny from “them,” us. Working people at $12.01 an hour after 15 years in a national/international chain.

A mentality that posits that “they” meant to do that, defecate in their pants, or, oh, “they” know better, and, oh, “they” are gaming the system and pulling the wool over your bleeding heart social services worker heads.

Heartless in a Time of Plague   

Our Scottish Regina is worried about what will happen to Drew once she kicks the bucket, or when she is no longer physically capable of carrying on and running a household with a very demanding Drew and a very failing Bob, her 86-year-old husband.

We talk about the old country’s National Health Service. We talk about the failures of a society that has been ripped open time and time again by the purulent investors — another word for making money anyway they can.

Gutting medical care, gutting entitlement programs, gutting progressive taxation, gutting the measures for health and safety for and by the public. Where oh where will Drew go once his aunt and uncle pass on?

Think of every dollar and penny pinched, and then think of how much we the taxpayer shell out for every nanosecond of the crimes of corporations eating at the belly of communities, and every penny taken in light speed for everything run by the imposters, the misanthropes.

Every million$ here, every billion$ there. Grifters and grabbers. How much did the first Billionaire’s “impeachment” cost us? How much does an Alex Jones or Tom Brady or Michelle Obama get paid for their insipid bolstering of their self-referential mythology? Each speech? Each rot gut book penned?

Every rivet sunk into a Hellfire missile, every pound of fuel used in US Military Terrorism Toys, every nanosecond million made through illegal and unethical investing through algorithm?

That Moon shot by India, or that Mars rover by Japan, or Israel gunning for more surveillance. How much is every human lifetime worth, if we are lumped together in that big pile of “other” and “non-human”?

That heartless cookie crumbling capitalism is rotten to the core. The joke is, though, by the filthy rich, the Art of War Friedman’s and Bezos and all the Google middling’s and upper crust, that if all the billions were taken from the filthy rich, and dumped into the majority on planet earth — the poor, the uneducated, the misbegotten, the terminal, the dysfunctional, the Jerry Springer protagonists and antagonists, in five years all that and more would be back in the hands of the Star Chamber 1,000 or 2,000 Multi-Billionaires.

“We’d just get it all back, because the masses are inherently stupid, know nothing about the value of a dollar, would buy all the junk and shit and whoring dreams we create to sell. We’d have all that so-called ‘redistributed’ wealth back in our hands.”

That myth is coupled with another one, where the rich and the rest of us, having collectively, as much as the 1,000 or millionth richest? Christian Parenti lays it out simply and clearly here:

The 85 richest in the world probably include the four members of the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart, among the top ten superrich in the USA) who together are worth over $100 billion. Rich families like the DuPonts have controlling interests in giant corporations like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and United Brands. They own about forty manorial estates and private museums in Delaware alone and have set up 31 tax-exempt foundations. The superrich in America and in many other countries find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter much of their wealth in secret accounts. We don’t really know how very rich the very rich really are.

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.

85 Billionaires and the Better Half by Michael Parenti

Ways of Thinking - Feudalism is very much alive

Image by Judite B

The books and discourse and deep discussions and analyses have already been posited and published, and yet, we are in 2021, and the school system, the media system, the propaganda machines of government-military-resource extraction-big ag/med/pharma/AI/finance continue to cobble truth, censor the reality of the penury system that is consumer-corporate-criminal-corrupt Capitalism.

Here, a hodgepodge of readings ramifying the thesis in this essay of mine —

Chris Hedges and Richard Wolff: Capitalism Does Not Work for the Majority of the People

Make No Mistake: The Rule Of The Rich Has Been A Deadly Epoch For Humanity

Michael Parenti: Does Capitalism Work? (2002)

The 1% Pathology and the Myth of Capitalism

Capitalism: The Systematic Poverty and Exploitation of Human Beings by Finian Cunningham

Michael Parenti: These Countries Are Not Underdeveloped, They Are Overexploited (1986)

Luxury Eco-Communism: A Wonderful World is Possible

The Growing Disparity In Living Conditions and Its Consequences by Rainer Shea

Covid-19 and the Health Crisis in Latin America by Yanis Iqbal

The Start Of The Great Meltdown For Industrial Civilization by Rainer Shea

MFTN: Poverty Will Kill More Of Us Than Terrorism

The Rich Are Only Rich If We Let Them Be by Dariel Garner

Mystery: How Wealth Creates Poverty in the World by Michael Parenti

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger + How Economic Inequality Harms Societies

Wealth Belongs To All Of Us – Not Just To The Rich by Dariel Garner

We Are So Poor Because They Are So Rich by Dariel Garner

Here are the source links — X and Y

Railroaded into this Mess 

It all comes back to the rackets — war, banking, big ag, law, prisons, military, computing, finance, insuring, retail, lending, investing, for-profit medicine, education, utilities.

The rackets of putting garnishments on all of our wages. The punishment rackets of fines, foreclosures, levies, taxes, fees, surcharges, add-ons, user fees, disposal fees, tolls, late fees, interest fees, penalties, wage attachments, wage theft, any-government-revenue/policing/judicial entity having the legal right to crack into any savings or checking or real estate holding they want to….And steal!

Imagine that freedom, uh? My Drew or my Don, they work for pittances, and they have their measly wages garnished if they make too much above the allowable social security benefit level. Imagine all of the flimflam, all those middle and peripheral and shadowy and underhanded people and agencies each taking a gram of flesh until that human life has been pecked away.

Stuck in a closet somewhere. Huddled around a TV, surrounded by the deadly products of a food industry responsible for billions dead. Food (sic) more deadly than cancer sticks, AKA cigarettes.

Think hard how those children-who-come-to-me-as-adults as their social services manager, wanting me to help them find jobs in a dog-eat-dog culture, where the cookie isn’t just crumbling, but rather smashed into smithereens by the capitalists. All those poisons in food, all the polluting, toxin-laced, dam-building, river-tainting, air-staining processes that bring us better living with plastics-fastfood-shelf lives of a decade. Better living through chemistry, pharmaceutics, chronic illness, disease management, pain regulating.

Then, we cannot discuss the possibilities of a society with more and more allergies, more and more chronic illnesses, more and more learning disabilities, more and more developmental disabilities, more and more intellectual disabilities, more and more trauma and PTSD and generalized anxiety and physiological premature weathering.

And poverty does more than just kills. Poverty eats at the soul, drives people to unsafe harbors like consumerism, disposability, obsessions, addictions, inattentiveness, collective Stockholm Syndrome, perversions, empty calories-entertainment-thinking.

There are numbers just for one aspect of our consumer-retail-exploitative societies competing in a trans-national gallery of dirty capitalism — 4.2 million premature deaths annually? Five million? More? Exposure to air pollution caused over 7.0 million deaths and 103.1 million disability-adjusted life years lost in one year.

Attributed to dirty (polluted) air. Not dirty water. Not dirty food. Not dirty drugs. Not smoking. Not boozing. Not war.

The study uses existing data from IHME on global burden of diseases (Mortality and Disability Adjusted Life Years) related to air pollution such as Trachea, Bronchus and Lung cancer, COPD, Ischemic heart disease and Stroke. This study shows that air pollution is one of the major environmental risk factors for the global burden of disease in 1990-2015 and has remained relatively stable for the past 25 years. By region, the largest burden of disease related to air pollution is found in Western Pacific and South-East Asia, reflecting the heavy industry and air pollution hotspots within the developing nations of these regions. Moreover, the rates of Disability Adjusted Life Years increased because of increase in pollution, especially in South-East Asia region, African region, and Eastern Mediterranean region where populations are both growing and ageing.

— Source

I’ve written about this for years — how there is so much disconnect in Criminal Capitalism, where the marketing ploys and psychological tricks force babies and then toddlers and then kindergarteners and then grade schoolers and then more and more millions of growing minds to adapt to counterintuitive thinking, to accept death, slow or otherwise, as part of the social contract. Dog-eat-dog, predation, big fish/small pond, and the roots of America after decimating Turtle Island, one smoke and mirror show after another snake oil sales pitch.

Which sane or humane person would accept a PayDay loan scam? Which humane person would accept forced arbitration clauses? Which caring human would not endorse clean, well-run, full coverage public transportation? Which caring mother would not demand prenatal care, and medicine and clinics on demand? Where is the logic of old men and old women (look at the senate, the congress, the administration) running the lives of the unborn, newborn and youth into the ground.

Even the thirty-somethings in Brooks Brothers suits look, sound, smell, and espouse OLD. I don’t mean old and wise, or elder thinkers, or experienced and well traveled. I mean old in decayed.

If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be saved by people with old minds and new programs. It will not be saved by people with the old vision but a new program.

The Takers accumulate knowledge about what works well for things. The Leavers accumulate knowledge about what works well for people.

— Daniel Quinn, Ishmael

These flimflam artists, these liars and cheaters and pontificators and media monsters, they are antithetical to a good governance, good society, good people.

They not only do not know the stories of Drew and his Aunt Regina and Uncle Bob, but they have no forward-thinking solutions to the aging old foster parents and the still healthy middle-aged Drew. With all his beauty. With all his kindness. With all his adept knowledge of how to get on, get along, get his day going. Drew, born in the cookie crumbles crap shoot. Regina, who was on her way back to the UK, Scotland, when she answered the call to take care of Drew and his sister.

This story is repeated a million times a month, worldwide. The penalty for living, for being human, for being not one of them (rich, powerful, greed-wielding) and for stopping their lives to do the right thing.

You wake up one day and believe you have a worthy life. You wake up and take account of what good you have done. You wake up and look in the mirror and wonder what it is you actually dreamt, thought, spoke, cared for, read, built, protected, grew, sheltered, did, held sacred, envisioned, husbanded, parented, fostered, ate, drank, created.

Did any of that living have purpose, or some connection to the humanity that is the real culture of Homo Sapiens, mother culture?

Daily, I have a million intersections with culture and cultures — Big D for deaf or small d for disabled? Brain-injured at birth, or hit by a truck at age 11. Traumatic Brain Injury from an early childhood beating, or massive psychological trauma from a rape at age 20. Born with any number of diagnosed maladies, or any expression of “being born on the autism spectrum.” Fragile X or fetal alcohol affective disorder. Or Downs Syndrome.

The luck of the draw is one enormous field of chance, and the outcomes are not just tied to the abilities — emotional, spiritual, economic, personal — of those you call family, but how the society at large and each community gauge the value of life, the value placed on those whose luck of the draw came up short in some areas.

But the world is fragile, and those on some neuro typical scale and those atypically neuro, can we build our culture together, and heal and protect and shelter and engender and facilitate and teach and learn from?

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will ACT like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.

— Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

victor-palenque-ishmael-lords-wolves-read-ishmael-daniel-quinn

The post American Exceptionalism: Private Wealth and Public Squalor first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dreams Outside the Hopes of the Neuronormal

The legacy of a society is, well, how it treats its young, old, frail, infirm, sick, poor and those hobbled by structural and environmental injustice.

Some in urban planning circles also allude to how safe a community is based on the popsicle test – can a child or two walking from home to a store, get a popsicle without having to cross high speed roads or highways, without having to walk along long stretches of ugly dangerous buildings, and who can find a multitude of stores that sell good food and desserts like Popsicles. How easy it is for the child to walk there? Are the homes-apartments-duplexes-offices looking out toward the sidewalks? Are there porches out front where people linger and lounge? Are there trees for shade? Are there mail boxes? Are there stores and eateries on the ground floor of a stretch of businesses with apartments and housing one and two floors above? Are there people bicycling? Are the stores and businesses set toward the streets and their parking lots pushed to the back of the establishments? Are there scalable hardware stores with windows and many doorways? Are there neighborhood groups that patrol the neighborhoods? Are there mixed neighborhoods with lower economic mixed in with middle class? What are the officers of the peace doing? Are they walking and bicycling their beats, where they live? Are they battened down in huge bulletproof SUV’s with three computers, five assault weapons, and the A/C blaring?

The children, walk or bicycle from their home, and within a few minutes, they get to a place of business, without running through or dodging a gauntlet of racing trucks and autos. Are there elderly and families and business owners and customers there, doing their thing, on a scalable level?

We know that in capitalism, in this free (sic) market society, with the bottom dollar and the bottom line of more and more profits without work or building something as the drivers, we the people – those two children walking to get a fudge bar or organic apple – are not the drivers of the society, the communities, the neighborhoods.

Life in Capitalism is designed for speed, rot, decay, throwaway buildings and throwaway humanity. We have those massive systems of oppression run by real estate, insurance, finance, banks, building and paving, all those entities guarded by the US Chamber of Commerce whose job is to maximize the profits (gouging’s) of the large and medium-sized businesses that have run rough shod over us, the “regular people.”

Now, those old industries are being retrofitted for the next level of exploitation and enslavement vis-à-vis the economies of scale vaunted by the monopolies, the investor class and billionaires. And that scaling up is facilitated by the masters of logarithms and Artificial Intelligence and digital dictators.

Mom and pops – that is, the small family-owned businesses and the mini-chains of this or that service or consumer item – they are now on the cutting block in an amped up destruction of people’s lives, on a scale that would make a steroid using wrestler look like Mother Teresa on bread and water. Any chance of having a small business community have a say in how their communities and neighborhoods and census tracks are developed alongside with how their neighboring communities connect to this urban and rural planning, all of that inclusive and participatory democracy and governance are  dwindling ten-fold yearly.

Who makes the decisions? Who puts the brakes on suburban sprawl and rampant car-centric cities? Ahh, the masters of money and masters of stocks and the AI and Digital Dictators will have more and more say in the design (or miss-design) of both the built environment as well as the financial environments. Add to that educational environments, the healthcare environments, the food system environments, the housing environments. We the people do not have control!

Examples by Design

I’m putting in this opening above to help segue into the reality of my work now – one of many hats, but now, it’s social work and case management for adults living with developmental and intellectual disabilities. And some who have had traumatic brain injuries.

If the reader doesn’t have a bead on what the ID/DD community is, well, look it up. In a Western culture with more and more pre-newborns gestating into a slurry of forever chemicals, cortisol loads, heavy metals, stress hormones from mother, and a combination of all of this as a synergetic roulette wheel, coupled with DNA markers from mother and father, well, you can image that young boys and girls with disabilities like Autism Spectrum Disorder or mental retardation or any number of other aspects of life dealt from a genetic and poison deck of cards will be a huge burden on families, medical services, schools, society in general.

Go back to the Popsicle analogy, but this time look at how our cultures deal with the less fortunate – a child born is innocent, no matter what sort of spirituality or religiosity you hold or do not hold. Cases in point for me after more than two decades working with poisoned souls – the children of the storms: fetal alcohol-affected or drug-addicted or hugely malnourished inside the womb – we are barbaric in terms of how we “deal” with the afflicted or the people born into a life of one or multiple deficits.

Here, a composite – Drew was born to a mother who “experienced” drug and alcohol addiction. He was 5 pounds and four ounces at birth. He tested positive for cocaine and opiates at birth. He was in a nursery until moved to foster care in 10 days. His birth mother had several children “taken away or removed from her” because of her addictions.

He was adopted by an old woman, who loved him but died of cancer when Drew was 7. Neighbors reported to the child protective agencies in California that Drew was being neglected and the dying mother was not caring for him properly.

This is a common story in my line of work – multiple foster home placements per individual, lots of behavior issues arising by first year of school, from aggression, to defiance, to tantrums. Quickly he was put under a special education label – independent education plan. His ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and anxiety, depression, aggression, isolating behavior, and poor stick-to-it-ness, all of that and more channeled him into special classes and into the special education network. Hearing voices and magical thinking and fantastical thoughts and paranoia, well, Drew is sort of a ward of the state. His foster/adoptive parents are his financial guardians, and he has county case workers and state ones lined up, along with nonprofit case workers.

I work with a nonprofit, again, as a case worker-employment specialist. My job is to get people like Drew jobs, but that process is holistic, systematic and definitely tied to the whole suite of getting young and not so old people ready to face competitive employment, integrated, no longer stuck in some sheltered workshop.

Those “sheltered workshops” included Goodwill clothing tagging rooms where all workers were those living with developmental disabilities; or even roaming crews of cleaners of office buildings who are all labeled ID-DD. That is a type of cloistering, sheltering from mainstream society.

My nonprofit, of course, is a middleman of sorts, replacing the services states, counties and cities should be providing by taking over the contracts to do the work of providing developmental disabilities safety nets.

Nutshells are the Only Teachable Moments

So, getting someone a job at a hotel to do towel folding or room cleaning, or helping someone land a job as a custodian at a school, and for those with more skills and with more confidence, a place in retail sales, that’s part of my work. Sure, in Portland I worked with lawyers who have cerebral palsy, and true, that type of person deserves an equal shot at being a lawyer or working at the level somewhere. These advocates have their hearts in the right place, to be sure, and no Five F’s for them – filth, factory, food, foliage, fur – because they have graduate degrees.

The reality is, though, someone with a lack of reading skills, with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and all the attending issues tied to the autism in that individual, well, working a cash register is tough (impossible for most), and doing public customer service at any level is tough. Behind the scenes jobs are the norm, and, unfortunately, the filth, food, foliage, fur and factory are the only choices sometimes. Life on the Central Oregon Coast where people retire or vacation, and where a fishing industry thrives, well, those job opportunities dwindle big time.

Aspirational:  all people deserve home, health, education, food, work, public transportation choices. Aspirational: sure, we need communities designed for that Popsicle test. Most of my clients, of course, do not drive, or can’t. Most clients have issues with navigating the absurd on-line employment applications. Many clients need me there in the actual job interview.

Many clients need a coach on the job, sometimes for life. Many clients work minimum wage for 20 hours a week to keep a bit of the SSI (social security insurance coming in). We are such a penury and usury society that my clients, even at minimum wage, get a dollar taken away from every two dollars made. This is how the system kills hope, advancement — the state gobbles up shekels after their first $85 is earned.

All the studies and anecdotal evidence show that a job for a person with a developmental disability or a physical disability, or even a psychological disability like schizophrenia, THRIVE with employment for obvious reasons: a sense of belonging, team work, doing something as a member of society, extra money, socialization, using the brain. But here we are again, failing the other Popsicle test – we penalize and penalize and penalize until people are stripped bare.

A few clients have to take urine tests for many jobs, and if they come back positive for cannabis, well, some outfits disqualify the person automatically from a minimum wage job. Even if that person has a medical marijuana card, in a state where pot is legal (it is in OR). Imagine that, all those politicians, those weak-spine things in DC and around state Capitols, and this is what they have legislated and this is how weak they are when it comes to day to day, people to people life-and-death decisions.

Study after study, and again, a million anectodical stories show THC and CBD actually pull patients off prescriptions and actually keep anxiety at bay and amp up focus.

The law enforcers and the bureaucracies and the policymakers are Neanderthals, really (no attack on those people, Neanderthals, but it’s a term of describing how behind the times and backward they are).

My job is to do workarounds, to do magic, and while mom and pop’s along the coast are shuttering daily, the small hotels are now owned by investment groups, and managed by the big daddies of hotel and motel management corporations. Having workarounds with national organizations, sometimes multinationals, well, those conversations never happen, let alone an email gets returned. They are not of, for and by the community. They are in business for the investors and profits.

The chances of having an offspring with one or a number of chronic illnesses or who might end up on the spectrum or might have brain anomalies because of gestational issues, or who are genetically programmed to come out a “certain way,” well, those odds increase monthly.

Yet the systems of oppression and the cops and the legal systems, they still incarcerate, batter and murder people with autism. People in mental health crises are tased and murdered by pigs. The systems of oppression are buttressed by the prejudices of Holly-dirt and the bullies of the world. It can be an overt Trump making fun of a disabled reporter at a press conference when he was first running in 2016, or it could be a Biden who pushed the crime bill, putting untold numbers of people with mental, emotional and situational abuse in chambers of hell – prison.

The spectrum of people who still do not understand why I work in “that field,” under all the pressures of emotionally traumatized and psychologically depleted people and their families, well, they might think of themselves as the beautiful people, the anti-Trumpistas, the LGBTQ folk, the African-American-in-the-VP-office loving folk, but again, they fail the Popsicle test.

Dream hoarders and Not in My Backyard vacillators, and all sorts of other liberal/neoliberal types, they are no friends of the Popsicle Test of a Sustainable, Fair, Resilient Community. They love their first and second homes. They covet a Stock Market hovering around 31,000 points. They love the Netflix mental diabetes junk they consume, and they have no idea why Biden is as bad as Bush or Trump.

And then I have to convince people to shed their prejudices against people that are not appearing “like themselves.” We do not use terms like “neuronormal” to contrast my clients with the mainstream, but in the end, what is normal in a society that shifts baselines almost weekly?

With the new normal full of paranoia, unapproved vaccines, and misleading diseased minds like Fauci and Gates leading the charge for a global forced vaccination program, one can image how paranoid my clients are who live in group homes or in small one-room apartments. TV and few friends ramify their fears. Lockdown is a locking up of the mind!

Some clients do not even want to meet me face to face on a beach with masks on. They are paranoid because of the mass polluting media. One disability on top of another and another. Welcome to America.

What is a disability? I suppose Helen Keller might figure in here:

When she was sixteen, in 1896, she was catapulted to national fame, writes Keith Rosenthal for the International Socialist Review. By 1904, when she graduated from Radcliffe College, she was internationally famous. She joined the Socialist Party of America a few years later and began advocating for revolutionary change. “She noticed the close relationship between disability and poverty, and blamed capitalism and poor industrial conditions for both,” writes Sascha Cohen for Time.

But even though she had strong politics and a national voice, nobody took her opinions seriously. “Newspaper editors would use her disability as a means to dismiss her politics and to dissuade people from taking her seriously,” writes Rosenthal. “Her radicalism, conservative writers would aver, was a product of the political ‘mistakes [which] spring out of the manifest limitations of her development.’”

Despite this, she was a leading light of the American socialist movement, Rosenthal writes. Among many other causes, she championed pacifism and the U.S. staying out of World War I. Source: Smithsonian Magazine

keller.jpg

Eventually, in dog-eat-dog, kill your competition capitalism, we all become each other’s competitor, enemy. A few billion dollars here and there for hundreds of millions of struggling people is birdseed, yet the systems of oppression and suppression, along with the mass murdering media, cull agency, gumption, and the ability of people to stand up to the oppressors and the authorities and multiple graduate degree certificate holders.

What do the people I serve and the so-called “normal majority” have in common? There are variations on a Dystopian theme, whether it’s Blade Runner or Minority Report or Brave New World or 1984. Almost everyone in this country is confused, shattered, see-hear-speak no evil tied to their specific coalitions and ways of thinking. My amazing clients are enmeshed in fear and the outside world, thanks to the conflation of SARS-CoV2 to a body-eating zombie virus, eating them alive and culling them all eventually. No more hide and seek — it’s all duck and cover and mask and hide and isolate.

What that gives me as a worker are many people who deserve integrated employment but who are hobbled and shackled to the gestalt of a warped society. Do they have other ways of thinking and seeing and hearing? Of course. Do they have their own methods of surviving paranoia, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, magical thinking, shattered executive functions, functional or complete illiteracy?

Of course. Of course. But again, the Popsicle test fails each time. Imagine, a job, 4 pm to 8 pm, in a town 15 miles from where they live. Can you see the public transportation system beautiful and timely and regular? Nope. Can you see all these taxi and shuttle services for free getting people to work and from work who can’t-won’t-never will drive? Where is that dreamland in Capitalism?

Yet every minute and every second of a 24-hour news cycle or 24 hours of a million channels broadcasting thousands of novellas, soap operas or series and movies, all are occupied with the stories and travails of the rich and famous, the idiotic heroes or pig crime dramas or Marvel Comic Book drivel. Rarely do Americans see what they live out personally, or view what they struggle with daily, or get to watch people like themselves in this battle to get the oppressors and Eichmann’s to bend to their/our will and begin to apply the tenants of the Popsicle Theory.

Otto Zehm

I can end with story after story of humanity hog-tied or knee-butted to death by the cops. Add to that demographic people living with psychological-intellectual-developmental disabilities.

You do not have to surf the internet long to find a few cases of autistic men and women or boys and girls getting pepper sprayed and handcuffed and body slammed by the pigs.

There is that case of Otto Zehm, and then Alien Boy which I wrote about here at DV. “Watching Brian Lindstrom’s Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, I am reminded of my forty plus years in and around cops, with mentally distressed clients, as a social worker with homeless and re-entry and veteran clients, and as a teacher in many alternative high school programs, community college, prisons, with military students, and with adults living with developmental disabilities.”

I think that most of us instinctively avoid people with mental illness.

I think in many ways what my films are about is that search for my grandpa’s dentures: for that humanizing narrative that bridges the gap between “us” and “them” to arrive at a “we.”
—Brian Lindstrom, documentarian

Zehm was 32 years old when the Spokane cops killed him by putting him on the ground and forcing a cop’s weight onto his back while Otto’s diaphragm collapsed. He was a custodian, and back in 2006, the Spokesman Review deemed him as a mentally disabled custodian.

He went into a mini-mart for soda. It took almost a decade to find the pig guilty of murder. And this is how the DA and cops think of “mentally disabled custodians” —

Zehm either “attacked” the officers or at least refused to comply with their commands. Police Chief Jim Nicks said Tuesday that Zehm “immediately engaged” the first officer.

“Whether he lunged or turned quickly on him, whatever the case may be, the officer clearly felt there was a risk there,” Nicks said. “The suspect had a large two-liter bottle of pop. The officer had to take all those things into consideration as far as what level of threat this might be.

“But the bottom line is they had a duty and an obligation to detain and control him.” — Spokesman Review

I’ve been down this road many times over the years. My first police encounter as a newspaper reporter was in Ajo, Arizona. A very long time ago. Pima County Sheriff responds to a mother’s call about her Vietnam War veteran son having a mental crisis out front in the desert front yard. Fenced in. He needed some meds. The cops show up. And, while the veteran was on his mother’s property, which essentially was being paid for through the vet’s job and benefits, the deputy pulled his gun on the other side of the property line. He tells the 38 year old to drop the small knife.

A knife brandished by a shirtless and barefoot fellow in his OWN front yard.

Justified-six-shots-to-the-torso homicide. I was 19, and back then, I had  this gig as a newspaper reporter, the so-called “sexy” cop beat, and, while I pushed my editors to allow some of my secondary interviews into the piece (interviews I did from a USC criminal justice reforming professor, another from a police chief in Akron) well, those were cut from the published article. Those two sources discussed how police are ripe for this sort of homicide, and how the system is rigged to defend civilian killing cops. That was 43 years ago.

I spent time with the vet’s mother and his ex-wife, and in reality, this guy was pretty cool, a great rock hound, three years at the university in hard rock geology, but his PTSD was way too much. PTSD wasn’t even the terminology back then in 1976.

I think of Otto Zehm all the time now. I knew of him and said hello to him a few times while I lived and taught in Spokane. He cleaned at the Community Building where I did a lot of gigs as a poet and teacher. I had my radio show in that building, and I ran into Otto a lot.

There is no way in hell Otto could have done harm to a cop.

The irony is that in 2006 I wasn’t working yet directly in the field of developmental disabilities. Sure, I had students who had psychological disabilities, and some students with accommodations. Many students who came back from the killing mountains of the Middle East.

I ended up working with adults with developmental disabilities in Portland and the three-county area 8 years later.

Now I am back at it, and, I think about some of my very verbal and far-thinking men and women with autism disorders. I think of their defiance and their questioning and their inability “to get” that cops or pigs or sheriff deputies just are itching for a bruising. They expect instant compliance. That is compliance from a disabled person, or from a three star black general or a Mexican American female attorney.

You can read about the extrajudicial killings this country’s allows. And that, again, is the Popsicle Test failure Number 999,999.

All those promises for reform. With the Portland Police Bureau. Seattle PD. Spokane PD. A thousand other PD’s blemished overtly with police brutality, police coverups, police maleficence.

No Popsicles for the People. Including the Developmentally Disabled.

Amid coronavirus, parents want ice cream vendors to return - Los Angeles Times

The post Dreams Outside the Hopes of the Neuronormal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will More Police-State Arrangements Foster Democracy?

The events of January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C. were historic and will be analyzed for some time to come. Many were rattled and shaken to their core by what unfolded that day in the nation’s capital. Others were excited, relieved, and hopeful.

Since then, all sorts of disinformation, confusion, and illusions have filled mainstream accounts of what happened that day and why, but it is already clear that certain things are emerging that once again do not bode well for the people. It is always important to ask: “when a major event happens, who ultimately ends up benefitting from it?”

As with past events and crises, and keeping in mind the role and significance of “disaster capitalism,” it is not unreasonable to assume that the events of January 6, 2021 will be used by the rich and their political and media representatives to expand police-state arrangements under the banner of high ideals (e.g., “protecting the citadel of democracy” and “our democracy is in peril”). The irony of the situation did not escape numerous world leaders and millions around the globe who proclaimed in unison: “Finally the U.S. is getting a taste of its own medicine. The U.S. has actively organized ruthless coups, conflicts, wars, rebellions, and insurrections in more than 100 countries over the past 200 years.” For many, the events of January 6 further lowered the credibility of “representative democracy” in the “bastion of democracy.”

Further degrading the legitimacy of outmoded governance arrangements, the world saw how Washington D.C. was recently turned into a large military camp with armed soldiers and armed state agents everywhere. Many police and military forces will remain in and around the area well after the January 2021 presidential inauguration and contribute to establishing a “new normal” of police presence. How does this look at home and abroad? Like a robust vibrant democracy which is the envy of the world, or a scandalous troubling situation? The massive militarization of Washington D.C. has only added to the dystopian, humiliating, and bizarre life everyone has been forced to endure since March 2020 when the never-ending and exhausting “COVID Pandemic” started in earnest.

But contrary to media accounts the struggle today is not between democrats and republicans. It is not between those who support Trump or revile him. It is not between racists versus anti-racists, pro-diversity or anti-diversity advocates, or “progressives” versus “right-wingers.” Nor is it between “right-wing thugs” versus the police, or ANTIFA versus right-wing militias. These are facile dichotomies that consolidate anticonsciousness and further divide the polity. Such superficial characterizations miss the profound significance of what is unfolding—an intense legitimacy crisis—and the fact that no one is talking about how to empower the people as sharp conflicts among factions of the ruling elite intensify and ensnare people. Ramzy Baroud reminded us recently that:

While mainstream US media has conveniently attributed all of America’s ills to the unruly character of outgoing President Donald Trump, the truth is not quite so convenient. The US has been experiencing an unprecedented political influx at every level of society for years, leading us to believe that the rowdy years of Trump’s Presidency were a mere symptom, not the cause, of America’s political instability.

In the current fractured, chaotic, and dangerous context, all manner of inflammatory and provocative remarks are still being made by a range of politicians, media outlets, and “leaders.” Words like “treason,” “insurrection,” “violent mob,” “coup,” “rebellion,” and “sedition” are being thrown around loosely and quickly. There is no sense of how such discourse takes us all further down a dangerous road. Different individuals, groups, and factions are being lumped into overly-simplistic categories and classifications while ignoring the long-standing marginalization of the polity as a whole and the continued failure of “representative democracy.”

In this foggy context, it can be easy to forget that whether you are a democrat, republican, or something else, the economy and society are not operating in your interests. Debt, poverty, inequality, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, stock market bubbles, environmental decay, and generalized anxiety continue to worsen nationwide and harm Americans of all political stripes while the rich get much richer much faster. Existing governance arrangements marginalize more than 95 percent of people. Working people have no real mechanism to effectively advance their interests in the current political setup. They are reduced to perpetually begging politicians and “leaders” to do the most basic things. There is an urgent need for democratic renewal.

In the coming months we will not only see more economic collapse but also more police-state arrangements put in place in the name of “security” and “democracy.” A main focus will be “domestic terrorism,” leading to the further restriction of freedom of speech and criminalization of dissent. Freedom of movement will also be constrained. This will be far-reaching, affecting everyone, even those currently throwing around words like “sedition,” “coup,” and “insurrection.” Already, the atmosphere has been chilled; many are more carefully self-monitoring their speech and actions so as to not be targeted by the state.

At the end of the day, conflicts, divisions, social unrest, political turmoil, and economic deterioration will not go away so long as the existing authority clashes with the prevailing conditions and the demands emerging from these conditions. Objective conditions are screaming for modernization and solutions that the rich and their entourage are unable and unwilling to provide.

Unemployment, under-employment, hunger, homelessness, poverty, debt, inequality, despair, and generalized anxiety do not care if you are black or white, democrat or republican, right-wing or left-wing, a “Trumper” or “anti-Trumper.” Concrete conditions are screaming for the affirmation of basic rights like the right to food, shelter, education, healthcare, work, and security.

Their struggles and demands may take different forms and express themselves in different ways, but it is the long-standing absence of these rights that people from all walks of life are striving to bring into being.

And while their policies may differ in some respects, the different factions of the rich and their political representatives have only more of the same to offer people: more inequality, more debt, more under-employment, more worry and insecurity, more stock market bubbles, and more empty promises. Lofty phrases and grand “plans” from the rich and their representatives won’t change the aim and direction of the economy. People are not going to suddenly become empowered because one party of the rich or the other holds power now. Divisions, dissatisfaction, and marginalization are not going to disappear just because a different section of the rich wields power. Many believe that the road ahead will be very rocky.

Democratic renewal does not favor the rich or their representatives, it is something only working people themselves will benefit from and have to collectively fight for. In this regard, it is key to consciously reject the aims, outlook, views, and agenda of the rich and develop a new independent aim, politics, outlook, and agenda that favors the polity and the public interest.

The post Will More Police-State Arrangements Foster Democracy? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Economic Nightmare Shows Need for New Aim and Direction for the Economy

The U.S. labor force participation rate stood at 61.5% in November 2020, the lowest rate in 44 years. According to Investopedia:

The labor force participation rate is a measure of an economy’s active workforce. The formula for the number is the sum of all workers who are employed or actively seeking employment divided by the total noninstitutionalized, civilian working-age population.

Note that this metric includes those who are not employed, meaning that the labor force participation rate is actually lower than 61.5%.

In related news, nearly 60% of Americans withdrew or borrowed money from their IRA or 401(k) during the never-ending “COVID Pandemic.” Further, tens of millions are still unemployed and 700,000–900,000 people are still filing initial unemployment claims every week (40 weeks in a row).

In addition, Trading Economics recently reported that:

The US economy cut 140K jobs in December [2020], missing market expectations of a 71K rise. It was the first decline in employment levels since a record 20.787 million loss in April [2020].

On January 7, 2021, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. reported that:

[C]ompanies in the Entertainment/Leisure sector, which includes hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and movie theaters, announced the highest number of cuts in 2020 with 866,046, 5,688% higher than the 14,963 announced in all of 2019.

On January 8, 2021, the Economic Policy Institute stated that:

Long-term unemployment (27 weeks and over) continues to rise, increasing by 27,000 in December [2020]. The share of the unemployed who have been unemployed at least 27 weeks is now at 37.1%.

While the official unemployment rate was 6.7% in December 2020, the real unemployment rate according to many exceeds 20%. Not surprisingly, many people plan to take on a second or third job just to stay afloat. The situation today is such that many do not even have enough to cover a $400 emergency.

Over the past 10 months, about 110,000 restaurants have permanently closed and several thousand more businesses are expected to shutter their doors forever in the coming months, with or without “stimulus” money. Car sales, it is worth noting, fell about 15% in 2020. And as for corporate bankruptcies, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported on December 15, 2020 that, “There have been 610 bankruptcies this year through Dec. 13, exceeding the number of filings seen in any year since 2012” (emphasis added).

The multi-faceted nature of the still-unfolding economic nightmare is such that millions of U.S. renters are thousands of dollars behind in rent while many are homeless and others are spending several hours in long food charity lines in many cities. On January 6, 2021, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated that:

Some 29 million adults — 14 percent of all adults in the country — reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days, according to Household Pulse Survey data collected December 9–21.

The real number of people experiencing “food insecurity” is higher.

On top of all this, wages and salaries have been cut for millions of workers, as have benefits and retirement contributions. Annual salary increases have been frozen as well. More people are living paycheck to paycheck. And more than eight million Americans have sunk into poverty in under 10 months. So-called “stimulus checks” are simply too small and too infrequent to make any lasting positive changes. “Stimulus bills” seem to only further enrich the wealthy and exacerbate existing inequalities.

As if the news could not get any grimmer, a June 1, 2020 headline in the Wall Street Journal read: “CBO [Congressional Budget Office] Says Economy Could Take Nearly 10 Years to Catch Up After Coronavirus.” Ten years!

The economic nightmare that is unfolding is also a global phenomenon, meaning that there is a multiplier negative effect across the board. Poverty, inequality, debt, and unemployment have increased significantly in many countries. It is one thing for a few countries to experience severe economic decline and decay but it is something else entirely when more than 100 countries simultaneously experience significant economic deterioration. This is especially true in an increasingly interconnected world. The imperialist World Bank is already talking about (another) “lost decade of growth” for many countries, coupled with massive debt accumulation in Western and other countries. The U.S. alone has tacked on at least $5 trillion extra dollars to the nation’s debt in less than a year.

This is the tip of the iceberg. There is no shortage of depressing statistics. The economic nightmare is not going away anytime soon. There is no vaccine for the economic catastrophe gripping the world. A vaccine will not stop growing inequality, poverty, debt, and unemployment. More than a few believe that rising unemployment rates, poverty, debt, and inequality will lead to civil unrest, violent protests, and political and economic conflicts.

The pain is deep and widespread—far worse than the 1930s or 2008. The scale and damage of the current economic decline is quantitatively and qualitatively bigger than previous recessions and depressions. In many ways, there really is no such thing as “economic recovery” under capitalism. That is a loaded and misleading phrase that the short-sighted rich and their political and media representatives like to overuse. Objective developments and contradictions have given rise to an economy that largely rolls from crisis to crisis. The so-called “new normal” is deeper crisis.

The actions of the rich and their governments did not prevent the 2008 economic collapse. Nor have the steps taken by the government and the private U.S. Federal Reserve after 2008 prevented the much-deeper 2020 economic collapse just 12 years later.1 With enormous amounts of debt still accumulating at all levels, with endless digital money printing, with more stock market bubbles growing, and with no real government oversight and accountability for what is unfolding it is hard to see a future without another momentous economic collapse. Then what? More of the same failed policies and arrangements from a failed state? How long can that go on? Where does this leave people, society, and the environment? Will there be pressure to continue to believe that things will still somehow be OK?

These and other economic data point to an economic system that is obsolete, one that habitually leaves millions unemployed, insecure, and unsure of their fate and well-being. Voluminous data expose a historically-exhausted economic system that cannot unleash its full productive capacity and instead lays waste to enormous human potential while the rich get richer even more rapidly. Nothing has stopped the tendency of the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer. No major problems have been solved in capital-centered societies.

Lurching from crisis to crisis is backward, irrational, and inhumane. The necessity to fight for an alternative and build the New is sharper than ever. This cannot be done by following the ideas, views, outlook, and agenda of the rich and their cartel parties; they offer no solutions, just more disasters. The rich have not come up with anything that overcomes the deep problems documented by thousands of economists and sociologists for decades. The rich and their representatives are opposed to a self-reliant, balanced, vibrant, diverse economy that is human-centered and recognizes that humans are born to society and depend on society for their livelihood and well-being.

An economy based on the aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible for a tiny ruling elite is an economy that belongs in the past. It is a failed economy. It cannot open the path of progress to society. A new aim and direction are needed for the economy. Along with this there is a need for democratic renewal of the political process so that the will of the people can be given effect. The rich must be deprived of their ability to carve up and use a productive socialized economy for their narrow privileged interests.

  1. The 2020 economic collapse was intensified and accelerated but not caused by the “COVID Pandemic.”
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