Category Archives: Housing/Homelessness

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.

Charles Bowden

What do you say, at age 61, as I am rubbernecking the constant superficial, seedy, consumer-caked world now as someone considered a major failure – a few dozens jobs, mostly sacked from, and a few dozen careers, and, I am slogging away at a homeless shelter trying to save myself from the constrictor of capitalism, that strangulating system that gets us all complicit in the crime, making us all little Eichmann’s in this murder incorporated killing, complicit in the hyper exploitation of man, woman, child, ecosystem?

Consumerism as a psychological wedge to allow for the synchronized event horizon of finance-government-surveillance-media-military to work on the masses as a suffocating fog pumped out across the globe by an elite bent on total dominance.

We can jump onto the global stage and see the battering truth:

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’).

Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, New York Times from April 12. 2018: Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

The reality is, though, most of the revolutionaries like myself in this cesspool of capitalism have to slog ahead in the belly of the beast, without the rarefied air of being an international journalist like Andre Vltchek. The reality is most of us know that when 11 million babies under age two die of treatable maladies each year, or when bodies are shot through and extremities are shattered by the sadism that is the Gestapo-Apartheid “state/religion” of Israel, we push through the fog of rapacious consumerism and consort with our deep empathy for our brothers and sisters under the thumb of despotic regimes like USA, Russia, Israel, China, India, et al.

Because, now, no matter the level of melanin in a collective people’s skin or the desperation of the people, the globe has been infected by a virus called Capitalism-Finance-Unfettered Exploitation.

Exploitation is a pretty tame word for what I am hinting at: destruction, annihilation, extinction. As is the case with me, a rant percolates from the bowels of the commonness of my life, the microcosm of traveling from point A to point B. What happens in Vegas happens in New York City. What unfolds in little town USA is unfolding in San Fran.

Whatever it is, here I was, back in Arizona, first Phoenix, the cancer, the cancer, and then up to Flagstaff, oh that place before white man invasion sacred healing cloud island peaks. Arizona, as I’ve written extensively, is where I cut my teeth as a small town newspaper reporter, learned directly the value of radical conservation, became a brother in arms for Chicanoism, tried my hand at diving and helping bring across refugees of the proxy wars of USA in Guatemala, etc.

I’ve written poetically about the place – here and there, and have inserted the value of those formative years into almost everything I’ve written, taught, done in my 48 years since coming to Arizona young, 13:

Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War – (September 4th, 2013) or page 12, Cirque

But this most recent trip, a weekend, I went to celebrate my 22-year-old niece’s matriculation, with bachelor of science degree, from Northern Arizona University. The old days when I was young, 19, and a journalist, and then, activist, like quicksilver in my brain, taking over not only my senses, but memory. Many of us saw the writing on the wall 40 and 50 years ago – this barely inhabitable place (a place of migration for Papago and other indigenous people’s), with a blitzkrieg of outsiders plowing the desert and eventually corralling the Colorado River into brackish canals to feed the malls and mayhem of winter baseball leagues and out of control military complex tax cheats. Three state universities, and then this new cheater, University of Phoenix . . . headquarters for the bizarre U-Haul . . . dry mothball arenas for the USA’s killing flying machines. Odd as hell place, with the likes of Edward Abbey running amok. I hear now Noam Chomsky is visiting prof at U of A in Tucson.

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

I kind of think of Charles Bowden from time to time, who was a reporter and novelist living in Tucson and covering the Southwest and northern Mexico. When I go into the desert, after looking at some shell of a rag that we now call daily newspapers, I feel this guy’s haunting – now dead going on four years:

When he got a hold of a story, he wouldn’t let it go, said former Citizen copy editor Judy Carlock. He had a very generous heart and a lot of compassion … he didn’t mince words.

The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty.

He was compelled to work; he had to write … in vivid imagery and concrete detail, Carlock said. Every Monday morning, the (Citizen) city desk would come in to find a long, brilliant masterpiece they had to find room for in the paper.

He lived at full tilt, fueled on caffeine and nicotine, said Carlock. Bowden had stopped smoking about two years ago, Carroll said, and was lifting weights, working on that second wind in his life.

He was no saint, but he was true to himself, said Carlock. I think he secretly relished being thought of as a rogue.

This amazing ecosystem, with syncopated Native American tribes and amazing Mexican communities turned into a wheezing series of six-lane freeways and spiraling communities for the infirm, the emphysemic and the insane.

It’s really difficult to find a place to start.  Sedona and the vortices? Flagstaff, from one-horse town to bedroom (climatically cooler but fire prone) to Phoenix? The 365 days a year fire pit danger, as heat comes earlier, rain disappears quicker, and the landscape is peppered with suburbia’s faux Mexican-Italian-Spanish-Greek designs as the ubiquitous 20-mile caravans of cars and trucks push the hot tunnel of air which is Arizona?

As a former newspaperman, I am compelled to read the dwindling local news anywhere I go, even five and dime advertising things, or corny local monthlies, and so just a few minutes with the Arizona Republic show me where the mass delusion, mass magical thinking and mass ignorance get set in. But, compelling, the stories slugs or ledes:

• Border Patrol punk who murdered 16 year old for throwing rocks, and the jury convicting him of involuntary manslaughter gets hung

• Animal abuse claims against the Havasupal Tribe’s section of the Grand Canyon – you know, animal lovers saying the pack animals used to ferry the tourists into the Canyon are treated like shit (abused) . . . . oh those do-gooders, just how many of them are animal-free product users . . . how many of them know how every stitch of clothing, every chemical smeared in their lives, every product of the modern age are placed in their realm with millions of rats, mice, dogs, and apes murdered for that consumer entitlement . . . ?

• PK12 teachers on the march for wage increases, class size reductions, more counselors, more money for staff and support personnel . . . and yet many of these Arizona scallywags want them to eat shit

• Flagstaff keeping homeless people from living – camping – on public property through ordinances from hell

• A great female representative from the state wanting dreamer children – undocumented – out of the Copper State, more of the same Trump et al giving children the boot while Trump’s monster wife calls for no more bullying

• God in the classroom, a civics literacy bill, more report cards for schools (to fail them so the charter schools get more easy pickings), and this drive for charter (for- profit, hedge-fund lined) schools to take from the public coffers and teach absolute shit

• More gigantic housing developments planned in the Sonora desert without any water delivery plans, without any water!

• Raytheon Missile Systems breaks ground on an expansion of its Tucson facility – 2,000 more Little Eichmann’s added to the already large 10,000 workers designing, testing, manufacturing and delivering via Amazon dot Com killing systems to include Tomahawk missiles and this new Stormbreaker small diameter bomb

• Mexican-American female columnist for the Arizona Republic newspaper bashing the possibility of socialist former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador making it as president of Mexico . . . “he’s a Hugo Chavez-style authoritarian tropical messiah who would turn Mexico into another Venezuela”

• The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community building lavish baseball stadiums for professional teams like the Diamondbacks

• HBO plans to debut John McCain documentary on Memorial Day – “John McCain; For Whom the Bell Tolls”

• soda or sugar taxes outlawed in the state
• non-English contracts will be voided in all insurance transactions, and beyond

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

Oh the compounding blasphemy. If this were a thematic essay, well, here are the components:

• Wanton excess in the state, with brand new, freshly washed expensive SUV’s, power cars, pick-up trucks

• Endless strip mall after strip mall and faux Spanish colonial kitsch and after faux Hacienda kitsch which propels the dribbling consumerism of 24/7 Superstore Grand Openings

• Zero tribute to the peoples of the real Arizona – Chemehuevi, Chiricahua, Cocopa, or Xawitt Kwñchawaay, Dilzhe’e, Apache, Havasupai, or Havasuw `Baaja, Hopi, Hualapai, or Hwal `Baaja, Maricopa, or Piipaash, Mohave, or Hamakhava (also spelled Mojave), Navajo, or Diné, Southern Paiute, Akimel O’odham, formerly Pima, Quechan, or Yuma, San Carlos Apache, Nné – Coyotero, or Western Apaches, Tewa, Tohono O’odham, formerly Papago, Southern Ute, White Mountain Apache, Ndé – Coyotero or Western Apaches, Xalychidom, or Halchidhoma, Yaqui people, Yavapai, or Kwevkepaya, Wipukepa, Tolkepaya, and Yavepé (four separate groups), Zuni, or A:shiwi

• Redneck clashing with wimpy liberal clashing with snowbird clashing with old Mafia clashing with Hispanic-Latino/a clashing with senior citizen Trump lover clashing with new money clashing with the Raytheon mentality clashing with the endless cancer spur that is Arizona

• My old stomping grounds, now despoiled by in-ground pools, putrid man-made lakes, endless track homes like carcinoma, endless twisting cul-de-sacs where minds end up mushed up in mojito-ville

• Hatred, man, the Trump way, McCain way, Goldwater, putrid former Maricopa County Sheriff and Minutemen militias on the border, and the Gestapo Border Patrol and the rot which is a state in the union emblematic of red state loafers and the hard-working people like those teachers

• A college, NAU, broken by a president who cheats faculty and luxuriates in the money thrown her way and the attention the local yokels give her

• Students fighting this female NAU president Rita Cheng who wants cuts to all sorts of important programs (in the liberal arts) so she can court those wanton criminal corporations and alt-right Koch Brothers

• The graduation I went to was embarrassing, dead, nothing in the way of speakers, controlled by this president, and was ten times more lackluster than a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday meeting

• Peter Principle of incompetents rising, as in the case of Rita Cheng and thousands of movers and shakers (sic) that run the state

• The inarticulate middle and upper classes of society exemplified in Arizona

• A state with more sun per year with nary a solar panel in sight

• The rotten belief that infinite growth, infinite in-migration, infinite giveaways to the corporate leeches will lead to prosperity

• The Caucasian and other Whitey people’s insipid Trader Joe’s-Dutch Brothers-Bed, Bath and Beyond systematic lobotomizing of the masses

• Sprayed-on lawns and Astroturf backyards scattered around the desiccating real lawns throughout the entire Phoenix and Tucson metroplexes

• Daily reminder of the old adage of “who the fuck thought white people and their poodles settling in Arizona made any sense”

• Like anywhere else, Arizona has no worthy newspaper of note anymore, and the news is not to be seen in the light of day

I’ve always said, that one slice of life is a microcosm, that splice onto one of the big fat four-hour reels of 70 mm movie film depicting the universality in the absurdity of being Homo Sapiens under the thumb of money changers, militaries and grand exploiters. Example: One shit-hole sugar cane fucker and his sibling (Fanjul Brothers) and his fucking family destroying the lives of thousands of slaves, upsetting the natural world, and sending the sweet sting of death to millions. One fucking family owning billions of dollars and billions of people and draining the Everglades. Something along those lines – just look at history of rubber, gold, oil, wood, fruit, minerals, raw labor, animals.

This arithmetic is as clear as the day is long, in a world where this time, the so-called now time, is bereft of no logic, no ethics, no depth of knowledge, no truth except the rubbery huckster kind. While NAU had zero commencement speakers for all five graduation sequences, we now have to read about a world of Rex Tillerson — that son of a bitch lying, thieving, fossil fuel thug — now at a graduation for a military institute (what the fuck are we still living in a world of military academies – sic).

You can’t make this shit up in a work of fiction:

In a commencement speech at Virginia Military Institute, the camera-shy former secretary of state gave his most public remarks since President Donald Trump ousted him from the White House in March.

“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”

Tillerson’s emphasis on integrity echoed his parting words to colleagues at the State Department in March. Then he went even further:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Tillerson’s time in Trump administration was marked by tension. He reportedly called the president a “moron” eight months before he was fired and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But the oil industry veteran has yet to directly criticize Trump. His speech, which began with a discussion on the globalized economy and stressed “the value of friends and allies,” is the closest he has come to attacking Trump’s rhetoric and “America First” policy.

This from the moronic Huffington Post. Alternative realities, sure, Mister Exxon. The reality of propping up dictators, of hiring murderers to take over land, of stealing oil from any number of countries, and the complete environmental despoilment created by the great Exxon-Shell-Chevron-You-Name-It soul and soil eating machine. Imagine, this guy’s a thug, Tillerson, who has no concept of realities, except his thuggery, and a billionaire mentality. Yeah, Exxon and the alternative reality of climate change and the bullshit destruction of the earth from fossil fuel burning. What great record this keynote speaker Tillerson has, and, in the end, he’s as ballless as the lot of the millionaires\billionaires, afraid to criticize the deviant, stupid and reckless Trump.

Where do these people come from? Which DNA-warped womb do they exit from? Which felonious family raised them? Which two-bit schools educated them? Which insane people hire them and then promote them?

A two-day trip back to Arizona is like a two-year LSD trip, floating around with mushrooms on the tongue daily, as bottles of mescal run through the veins. I am telling you, when you get out of your routine – I am a social worker in a veterans’ homeless shelter, where the word “chaos” describes the totality of my time there, daily – and this rushing hot wave of air sucks the oxygen from the lungs for a minute or two. Arizona is California is Oregon is Washington . . . .

And exactly what is the US of A, with so much junk, so much materialistic droning, and yet, poverty is growing, big time, and the fear of the future in terms of no one achieving affordable housing and clean public transportation and free education and decent jobs is like us all whistling as we walk past the graveyard which is Western Capitalism.

Arizona, like any other state, is defined by the kleptomaniacs in government, on boards, in corporations and in the political class. Arizona is defined by a schizophrenia of faux opulence and real indebtedness and our fellow citizens struggling, dying, really, in a world that is upside down when it comes to clean air, clean water, real medicine, and affordable life.

Arizona is the mix of Eastern seaboard accents and southern twangs and amazingly mean people who are in it for themselves, for their backyard in-ground pools, for the 6,000 square foot Barcelona- style triple-decker home. We are talking about leathery skin from all the sun and leathery pools of empathy in the hearts and minds of most Arizonans.

Yet, here I am, 61, wishing my niece good tidings, as she embarks on the journey of medical school applications, and then, what? What world is it we have to give or anoint our children with? I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of the NAU graduation, the bloodlessness of the speakers, the lack of verve, the paucity of an event that for many has cost a pretty penny in debt for parents and children alike.

I end with 2011 commencement speech at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, Angela Davis:

Commencement speakers frequently assume that their role is to encourage graduates to go out and conquer the world. The task I have set for myself is much more modest. I want to urge you to be able to retrieve and sort through and rethink and preserve memories of your time here, which may very well turn out to be the most important period of your lives. Like the philosopher Walter Benjamin, I emphasize the past as the key to your future.

And so as you move on, some of you will go to graduate school, right? Some of you will find jobs. Unfortunately, some of you may not find jobs. Some of you will make families, some of you will engage in activism, some you will be involved in cultural work, and there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of all of these. But I would like you to periodically stop and reflect about the extent to which your lives were radically transformed by your experiences here. And I hope that you will have courage to draw upon the education you have received here from your most challenging professors, as you try to imagine more equitable ways of inhabiting all of our worlds. If you continue to think and act in the tradition of your college you will respect all of the inhabitants of our environments, and not simply assume that the environment must be preserved for the sake of future human generations, but rather for all the future generations of plant life, future generations of all animal life.

How do we extricate ourselves from enduring hierarchies, class, race, sexual, religious, geopolitical? This question, I think, is the question that needs to be posed. Posing that question is the mark of educated human beings. So I might then ask you to think about education as the practice of freedom. Education is the practice of freedom. And so freedom becomes, not an imagined condition in the future, not the set of achievements that will fulfill some desire, but rather an unrelenting, unending, collective effort to reconstruct our lives, our ways of relating to each other, our communities, and our futures. Congratulations to The Evergreen State College class of 2011.

The Housing Crisis Is a Feminist Crisis That Democrats Need To Hear

Image via Boston Globe by John Tlumacki

Every election year, Democratic candidates download the latest changes to the Democratic Party platform. They usually make sure to hit refresh on the Wikipedia page for feminism and check for new developments.

It’s a miracle, with an unapologetic sexual assaulter in the White House, that reproductive health and the gender pay gap are getting any airtime at all. For statisticians and pundits, support for these issues is the best way to make a back of the envelope calculation of odds.

If you follow political punditry, you’d think Americans were split on Roe v. Wade. The fact is, only a quarter of Americans support rolling it back. For perspective, the anti-vaxxer movement has about as much support. The truth is that most Americans are in favor of social equity and access to basic social services.

As it stands, women still make 70% of what men do. Women are more often bound with being the sole breadwinner of single-parent households. Women often have more debt and lower credit scores than men. Women are also the fastest growing section of the homeless population.

Every potential obstacle for having a roof over your head is in the way for women.

Given that Democratic political candidates want to show their support for social justice, feminist, and lower-income issues, you’d think they would commit to ending the housing crisis. With a ratio of six-to-one between the number of vacant homes (18 million) and homeless Americans (3 million), you’d think they’d want to close the gap.

Housing, displacement, and gentrification should be stronger feminist issues injected into the Democratic party platform, as they affect the most dependable Democratic voters, women of color, first. This could bring new life and new energy to the platform.

The Wealth Gap Isn’t Closing

So long as women make 70% of what men make, while paying 100% of housing costs, the wealth gap between men and women will persist.

Women are also saddled with two-thirds of the student debt in the U.S. While women make up a few percentage points more of the college population than men, they are far less likely to get a high-paying job without a college degree or to inherit a family business.

Women also pay more in healthcare costs, paying an average of 30% more than men do. Just staying alive is more expensive for women.

Even high earners and entrepreneurs face a obstacles to affordability. With just 16% of business loans being given to women, companies owned by women face a glass ceiling when it comes to growth.

The Parenting Gap Is Real

In New York and California, where the minimum wage is headed toward $15 an hour, women are required to work two jobs to afford adequate housing. The cost of a two-bedroom apartment for a parent and their children in these states is around $26 an hour. The simple dignity of privacy after being a dedicated and productive contributor to the economy is denied to many women.

There are social expectations for women to take responsibility in the event that the family is a single-parent household. When men are tasked with single parenthood, they’re deeply lauded and appreciated in ways that single mothers aren’t.

Single mothers are often perceived as defective and plagued by problems they’ve somehow caused on their own. Single fathers are perceived as strong, emotionally complex, and courageous more often than single mothers are. Meanwhile, single mothers account for over 70% of all single-parent households.

Homelessness Is Increasing For Women

Unemployment numbers don’t tell a complete story. Unemployment is down as people need to take 2-3 part-time jobs just to get by. Single women and families with children form 50% of the homeless population and their numbers are growing, even though many of them have employment.

While elected officials propose small concessions and programs to act as a band-aid, they simply don’t solve the issue.  Homeless advocates are constantly struggling with elected officials who tell citizens to help the homeless by calling police, public safety, 311, 911, or an endless list of 800 numbers.

This reveals how abstract our understanding of housing insecurity is. People will sometimes endure homelessness as a way to escape an abusive parent or partner. If their abusers are in the local shelter system, elected officials are offering a thoughtless solution that fails to address both chronic homelessness and chronic abuse.

Another problem in the relationship elected officials have to housing insecurity is in the scapegoating of the mental health crisis. Plenty of people with mental health issues have homes. However, living with housing insecurity can cause all kinds of untold damage to the psyche.

And Yet Women Are Still Voting

Elected Democrats continue to stand on banal feminist platforms and telegraph their support for the right to choose and closing the gender pay gap. After decades of denying these rights or the visibility for these causes, this feels like progress.

Cynics could say that these changes could be attested to by the fact that more women vote than men. Others could say that Democrats are waking up to the fact that their most dependable demographic is women. However, given that in 2016 an infamous misogynist got the majority of votes from white women, Democrats can’t rely on women as an unspecific monolith.

Democrats are losing voters as you go up the income bracket, with people making more than $50,000 a year dropping off precipitously. This has been hard for Democrats to face, as they’ve enjoyed funding from the real estate and financial services industries. Angling for the people who are voting for them most dependably would win elections but require a disruption to the fundraising that pundits tie to a candidate’s ability to win.

So Where Do The Democrats Turn?

The people who you’d think would be too busy to vote, working single mothers who might have to work two jobs on a Tuesday, are showing up for Democrats. Why aren’t they showing up for women, especially their most loyal voting block, black women?

Just as the DNC ignored the “flyover” states in the 2016 presidential election, just as the assumed conservativism of the south is being turned on its head, the future of the Democratic party can’t survive on the steam built up by the current Democratic establishment. Democratic voters want new issues, an inspiring platform, and something more than just a team to root for.

We should push that our Democratic platform includes intersectional feminist principles that feature housing prominently. We must then demand that Democrats start putting those principles in practices.

As the 2016 presidential election proved, Democrats can’t and shouldn’t count on anyone to turn out. That’s all the more reason to work to earn our trust. So long as they withhold progress on this front, we should withhold our endorsement of their platforms.

The Shame of Injustice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing engenders trust

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

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

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

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

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

Heroes and Villains – The Daily Show in a Homeless Shelter

Now, during our catastrophically idiotic war in Vietnam, the music kept getting better and better and better. We lost that war, by the way. Order couldn’t be restored in Indochina until the people kicked us out. That war only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

These ain’t popular topics, for sure, brother/sister American. You see, the entire homeless problem in America is a bigger problem of the almost homeless, the disposed, the enslaved youth heading to State U, the Amazing Theft of Wages (Tax Day, Man), Theft of the Commons by Bureaucrats Working the Soft Shoe Corporate Game — kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), and representative government has been rejected in favor of a kakistocracy (a government run by the most unprincipled citizens that panders to the worst vices in our nature: greed, violence, hatred, prejudice and war).

There is no skip in the beat with Boss Tweet, fawning over military hardware hustled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the entire Empire Protecting Planet. This fawning this fourth-grade thinker does is a lot like his days at Studio 51 or the Playboy Mansions or the Pageants where his spittle lubricated his huffing and puffing orgasmic dead space between his ears. He is the leader of the pack, sad-sack of a playboy and land baron, thief, who gets the book deals, TV contracts, cameos in movies, his brand plastered all over Madison Avenue – make no bones about it, Trump is America. He is Dollar Store plastic and Neiman Marcus glitter. He is the freewheeling liberal lover of money and play things and parties, and he is the mean-assed inexperienced one, yellow belly, calling for war, a hater of soldiers, a hater of my people I serve daily – military veterans, not retired NCOs and Officers, but mostly those ending up in the Poverty Drafts and some drafted in Vietnam, Korea. A few years in and bam — total physical and mental calamity!

All PTSD-living, poverty people (most are poor). Trump would lambaste my work serving as social worker and finder of funds, and he’d laugh off PTSD as “nothing but an entitlement dream in your white cracker and people of color case loads’ heads.” Trump or his filthy generals, all of them, even cabinet-level creeps running all systems foul in DC, they hate the poor, the misbegotten, the broken, the addicted, the mentally cracked, the physically cleaved.

Make no bones about it, gents and dames, Trump is Obama is Clinton is Reagan. These people would love to see Soylent Green is People scaled up, now, and they openly love the $5 a day prison labor, and they love the stock maximization of everything private – drugs, prisons, health care, education, water-sewer-lights, and every bureaucratic thing that makes this tax time a time of death and loathing in a time of absolute penury cholera.

There is one hell of a lot of Non-Trumpers — those oh-so racist, rotten to the core Democrats or liberals or whatever creepy foodie-hot sauna-farmers’ market going folk that gentrify, who end up as WASP-Jew heads of every-self-loathing non-profit – absolutely holding onto the glory of the dollar, of the endless jujitsu that is standing for the anthem and going on and on about a few Trump loyalists and Alt-Right scoundrels being bad hombres too. Remember, these whites are voting against the people, the 80 percent, no matter how many pet projects they may undertake or scramble for Sundance documentary glory or big-time book glory, and they can go onto Amy Goodman’s show, talk the talk, but in the end, the people who should be talking or yelling or attacking, the very victims of the theft – grand theft of agency-past-future-progeny – they never get on that “liberal media.”

Make no bones about it, Democrats, with or without life coaches, all solar-powered up, bamboo floors and kids doing secular missions in third world depravity before going onto college and those non-profits, they are voting for war, voting for more jobs in the death industries, more and more work holding up the death machine of capitalism that eats at the very soul of their own, yet, for the time being, these 5 and 15-percenters, they sigh and get all Rachel Maddow like when they think they are caring about another black woman in jail, shackled during labor, or when some deranged (mentally challenged) black youth jaywalking gets mowed down by the police. The police – ahh, the variations on a theme when we say police, as in the HR departments, the school boards, the city and country code enforcers, the law firms, the forced arbiters, the endless thuggery of tax-levy-fee-fine-GAT-toll-penalty-surcharge makers and collectors, the endless Little Eichmann lever pullers and auditors, all those regulators and deregulators, all those heads of the departments and sub-agencies of all those alphabet soup Government Agencies – the grim reaper of compliant consumers, the toasty 15 and 20 percenters who make either a killing or a cool million from the depravity of these systems of usury and penury and PayDay loan-sharking.

Okay-okay – heroes and villains, part one:

Hero in Merced, California, way past mid-sixties, Joe, who has worked the land as an agricultural purveyor, and he’s seen water rights go the wrong way, seen the endless corporate theft in his neck of the Northern California woods ramp up yearly. He knows the crimes of school boards, the crimes of the big businesses, big ag, big energy, big everything.

I’ve been in communication with him for several months, and his wisdom and ire, his history, and his perspective over time, and his heart and soul, and his humor, man, well, this is a hero. He just sent me some links to Counterpunch and Global Research and came up with this quick reaction, triggered by Tax Day, and comments on a great writer’s works, stuff that has been published at Counterpunch and Dissident Voice to name just two – John W. Whitehead. Here’s Joe’s take on Whitehead’s most recent:

An electorate as indoctrinated as the American people are by corporate media would have a hard time distinguishing between shit and a poor grade of mush. This country’s citizens have never experienced war except for the fantasy war that Hooligan-wood and the latest X-box crap-app subjects them to 24/7. The public’s minds have been Disney-fied and fried by corporate media. The sad thing is that even Europe has few citizens left that remember the horrors of war. I’m afraid we are going to have to relive that lesson all over again. Maybe after the idiot populace of this country experiences the ravages of war right here in the land of easy credit, fantasy and denial, they won’t be so stupid as to support idiots that lead them into this misery. I don’t hold out much hope though. This country has been electing these corrupt war mongering bastards from both parties as long as I can remember. I don’t think it will change until the American public is walking around with their flesh dripping off their bones. Even then the public is so indoctrinated with this endless military crap brought to them as patriotism they will still be clamoring for revenge and more war. Stupid, ignorant and arrogant rules in this country, whether it be from Democrats or Republicans.

I hope some of the wildlife I hold so dear makes it out alive.

Hero, versus villain – I’d say anyone looking to bullseye Joe for being cantankerous, for being old and critical, for pointing out the futility of a country prostituted by both parties and ravaged by the stupidity of its populace, for having a keen sense of humor (not this one blurb, but he has some hilarity in this series he’s been writing – Letters to Cousin Linda) that person is the villain.

Hero – Three strikes and you are out. Now, out at age 64, African American, in prison for using drugs, and, whoops, when you use drugs, well, the excess is sometimes bartered off, traded and sold. Black man with cocaine equals the villains’ mark – criminal courts, public defenders, bail bondsmen, lawyers, municipal departments, prison systems, PayDay crap, probation officers.

This man is working at my shelter, a veteran, though he doesn’t pull that card much, and he is doing some amazing work making music, electronic stuff, sampled and using his own keyboard. There is no way in hell this fellow isn’t a hero: he is looking to reconnect with his sons and daughters in California. He ran the streets of Portland, and the villains – cops, judges, prosecutors, the entire carnival that is the criminal injustice system and its auxiliaries, including some social service non-profits – are a constant reminder to me that the white class – whatever that is – has ensconced itself into this people-killing, African-American defiling, people-of-color-community-imploding monster.

My hero and I talk about the way of the black man, the way of the white racists, this supremacist shit-hole that is America, and he calls me his advocate, his rare white man on the side of real justice friend.

Hero, 78, calling himself the gravedigger’s son, grew up in Massachusetts, near Boston, and he’s been a vagabond, man, and I am helping him get his studio apartment, getting him some free furniture, helping him think outside the meth-amphetamine box. Fucking 78, and he relapsed, recently, one day bender, and, he’s got COPD and hallucinates – talks about the people around me he sees and I do not.

He’s well-read, not college educated, and grew up in an Irish Catholic family, and he’s been to Ireland and parts of Europe. He hates the military, and talks about being in Korea, and seeing the shit hole America created in both zones. He is Irish and socialist, but he has been wandering the world, cook here and dishwasher there. Imagine, he’s been wandering the country and the world for more than 40 years, and, alas, Portland is his home.

He’s been throughout the Pacific Northwest, to encampments of hard-living people in the  Cascades, living hard and off the grid. Story teller, gift of gab, and he’s the typical detritus of America – whether Trump or Hillary, whether young or old. People do not listen to him.

Villains? Think of the thousands of people who have shut off when he’s been around. Think of the hundreds of people lording over him in the social services and government agencies. Think of the hundreds that look right through him on public transportation or when he’s at the side of the road.

A dignity in drifting, and he’s kipped in more than just a few cemeteries around the country and the world. He attended a poetry workshop I was holding, and his memory is amazing, and his son of the gravedigger narratives are more amazing. Pure poetry!

Villains – not one soul would want his stories published. The American attention span is all hooked into Zombie-Land, faux memoir writing, Marvel Comics thinking, absolute shit-hole narratives and fiction.

Hero – Irish American socialist who questions every step of the military might of this messed up country.

Villains are the takers, the judgers, the ticket givers, the processors, the CPAs, the balance sheet coveters, the liberal social services folk who talk like HR people and who know shit what it’s like being old or imprisoned or full of meth nightmares. It’s the villains who soft-shoe through the DSM-V and saunter through workshop after conference on what it is to be trauma-informed social workers, or what harm reduction principles are, or what it is to be middling people and middling social workers.

Heroes are the ones that live it out in tents, on the road, under overpasses, who crunch down in old cars and pick-up trucks, who cardboard surf in warehouses and in friends’ garages. These people are heroes in the sense that my social services non-profit believes everyone who served their country in the armed forces is a hero.

Heroes know that’s bullshit. Golden ticket for what? So, that family of four, mother with children, mother who works two jobs and has friends watch the kids, whose husband booked – yes, military veteran dude – so she’s not worthy of the golden ticket because she sweated over hamburgers and cleaned up feces of the rich and decaying, or she turned beds and sheets at the multi-billionaire’s chain of hotels?

Heroes and villains. Not difficult to spot the true hero, the survivor, the ones with a sense of dignity or perspective or time on the road, versus the ones who cut homeless programs, who vote against more food stamps, who demand drug testing for the shit pittance one might get in benefits.

Villains who gutted social security and gutted the post office and who closed the libraries and who Dread Scott-ed the world, who attack the good schooling public schools used to give. Villains are the militarists, Lords of War, the heathens and devil worshipers in the military industrial complex.

I am working with veterans who have been shot up with bullets, shrapnel, chemicals, toxins, propaganda, debasement, demands. Soldiers who were put on military bases/forts where the water is so bad, so polluted by solvents from military machinery and laundry (dry cleaning) that the Veterans Administration even has a name for the Parkinson’s — Camp Lejeune  Parkinson’s: various chemicals, including the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) known as PCE (Tetrachloroethylene aka Perchloroethylene), TCE (Trichloroethylene), DCE (Dichloroethylene), Vinyl Chloride and BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene). These chemicals are either known or suspected human carcinogens. Many Marines, Sailors, their families and loyal civilian employees have been affected by the contamination in various ways including, but not limited to: liver cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver disease, miscarriages, birth defects (cleft palate, heart defects, Choanal atresia, neural tube defects, low birth weight, and small for gestational age),etc.

Heroes are the one’s shaking so hard at 65 they can’t even sign their names on forms that will get them subsidized housing. Heroes who are homeless, misbegotten, broken, incapable of navigating systems and job markets and economic hoops with Parkinson’s and the other effects associated with the decay caused by the military pollutants.

Villains? Just imagine the cadre of corporatists, the protectionists, the Little Eichmann’s, anti-whistle blowers, the lock-step ones fighting the science behind the disease and destruction and decay and denuding of humanity and ecologies because of that profit margin, and that grim reaper’s scythe chopping off the heads of us, the 80 percent. How difficult is it to see those lip-less white men and women, hear their ameliorating, their HR bullshit, listen to their shallow and pedestrian articulation?

Facts – the systematic lack of affordable housing and the Draconian limited scale of housing assistance programs all contribute to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. Foreclosures? In the hundreds of thousands each year! Result? Homeless.

The 2008 recession forced two million more people into homelessness over the following two years, according to estimates by The National Alliance to End Homelessness.

One or two out of 50—or about 2.5 million—American children are homeless each year, according to a 2009 study by the National Center on Family Homelessness. These are nine year old stats.

Here are some of the causes of homelessness:

For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes, according to a 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors study are:

• Lack of affordable housing
• Poverty
• Unemployment

For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:

• Substance abuse
• Lack of affordable housing
• Mental illness

Veterans are more likely than other populations to be homeless.

We are talking around 40% of homeless men being veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population, according to research on veterans by the National Coalition for Homeless. On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless.

Do wages count? The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the 2017 Housing Wage is $21.21 per hour, exceeding the $16.38 hourly wage earned by the average renter by almost $5.00 an hour. This $16.38 an hour exceeds wages earned by low income renter households. In fact, the hourly wage needed for renters hoping to afford a two-bedroom rental home is almost twice ($13.96) higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25.

What about the food insecure. It’s 51 million people in the United States living in food insecure households, 15 million of whom are children. While the magnitude of the problem is clear, national and even state estimates of food insecurity can mask the nuances that exist at the local level.

Here: Feeding America; Foreclosures; Minimum Wage; Wage state-by-state; True Minimum Wage.

What is the real unemployment figure for US of A?

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.

The ShadowStats Alternate Unemployment Rate for March 2018 is 21.7%.

Heroes and Villains? Rage and reckless indignation. Anger and attack, those are the hero’s tools, and the villain’s tools are based on hierarchy of consumption, the power of the people who have and the impotence of those who do not have.

What is it to have anything, that’s what many of my heroes ask, those who are homeless, on $1,200.00 a month for Social Security? Imagine this world with heroes. One hero, oddly, is the lady doing my taxes. She despised what has happened to this country, and she knows the true figures for saving and investing in a social security system – average person would come out at age 65 with $250,000 or $500,000 in his or her retirement account based on social security deductions. If this fact came out, parsed and discussed daily at the water cooler and forklift bay, we’d be pounding constantly how this country is one giant theft-creating/theft-inducing continuing criminal organization . . . then would more people revolt?

Heroes are guys like Whitehead or Nasser!!!

Whitehead: All of those nefarious government deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road, or shoot an unarmed person. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

So what are you going to do about it?

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please.

Heroes are students trying to solve this shit-hole’s problems, hitting the books, and attempting to coalesce around strong thinking, critical solutions-generating thinking, and holism. Villains are the ledger counters, the money changers, the actualizers of debt.

Nasser: The burden weighing like a nightmare, to coin a phrase, on 44 million indebted current and former students will haunt these people for a good portion of their lives. The average student debtor graduates owing close to $34,000 and is projected to spend 21 years paying it off. At present, the average monthly payment for those between 30 and 40 years old is $351.00. It is not uncommon for repayment obligations to be borne by underwriters of these loans, typically the primary borrower’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Taking these co-signers into consideration, we have about 100 million people adversely affected, directly or indirectly, by the difficulty very many have repaying these loans.

Because the serving of warrants and jailing of debtors has begun picking up steam in recent years, and the financial situation of these potential prisoners has been gradually deteriorating, we have reason to expect that student-loan debtors could come to make up a significant portion of the growing ranks of those threatened with debt prison. Arrest warrants have been issued in California, Florida, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas. Arrests have been heaviest in California, Texas and Minnesota. In many cases there was no announcement of court orders or that the debtor was being sued. U.S. marshals in Minnesota conducted “Operation Anaconda Squeeze” to arrest student-loan debtors who had failed to appear in court for a “debtor’s examination.” Whether they had received prior notice was often thought by the court to be beside the point. As with the cases described earlier, often defendants are ordered to pay much more than the amount of the original loan. A Texas man, who received no prior notice about the debt or the court case brought by a private collection agency on behalf of Uncle Sam, was arrested by seven armed U.S. marshals for an unpaid $1,500 student loan he had borrowed 29 years earlier. He was ordered to pay, after interest and court fees, more than twice the amount of the original loan. $1,258.60 was added to reimburse the marshals for his arrest.

Exchanging Cars for Housing

Who could possibly be against doing something that would be both good for the environment and improve housing affordability in our biggest cities?

By turning public land devoted to noisy, dangerous and polluting vehicles into social/co-op/rental housing it is possible to put a dent into runaway climate change while improving housing affordability and urbanity.

Radio Canada recently reported on a 14-storey co-op set to be built just behind the Bell Centre on the southern edge of downtown Montréal. The Coopérative Montagne Verte will have 136 units, which will make it the largest housing co-op in a single building in Montreal. Having received a piece of city land, the co-op will be financed in equal measure with public funds and a long-term mortgage. If all goes according to plan, hundreds will gain access to affordable housing in an area with easy access to employment and services by foot, bike and mass transit.

In discussing the barrier to building more co-ops Radio Canada claimed, “the scarcity of land in Montreal is also an important issue.”  This is absurd. In fact, one of the city’s principal problems is the abundance of public land devoted to noisy, dangerous and polluting vehicles, which contribute significantly to the climate crisis (40 per cent of Montréal’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transport.)

Near where the Coopérative Montagne Verte will be located, for instance, is a highway that has gobbled up a large swath of the city centre. Thousands could be housed on the public roadway and adjacent areas destroyed by it.

In what would be a more straightforward cars-for-shelter exchange, Boulevard René-Lévesque is wide enough to build a row of lodgings with a narrow street on each side. Thousands of family sized social/co-op/rental units could be built and it would improve the city for its inhabitants and the planet. While it may seem radical, this move would simply be a return to before buildings were demolished to widen the street in the 1940s and 50s.

Other car spaces in the city centre could easily be turned into affordable housing. The three blocks of McGill College between Cathcart and Sherbrooke and a number of other non-through streets between Sherbrooke and Saint Catherine on the western edge of downtown could be reclaimed for multi-story dwellings. To the east, avenue du Parc Lafontaine between Sherbrooke and Rachel is wide enough to build a row of smaller units with a narrow street on each side.

With housing affordability an even bigger issue in Toronto and Vancouver there would be much to gain by turning public roadway into co-op/rental/social housing there. The land destroyed by the centrally located Gardiner Expressway could house thousands. Rather than spending $3.6 billion to fix the monstrosity, Toronto could subsidize co-op/social housing on this prime piece of public real estate.

Proof that cars-for-housing exchange is not pie in the sky, Vancouver’s city council voted to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts at the eastern edge of downtown. Their plan to build thousands of housing units (30% “social housing”) is better than the status quo, but not ambitious enough. The city should eliminate the boulevard that is part of the current plan and turn it all into a car free social/co-op/rental housing oasis. Ideally located for getting around by foot, bike and Skytrain, the area reclaimed for housing should also be extended along Georgia Street into downtown.

A whopping 27.4% of Toronto is roadway (another 13 per cent is parks and open spaces — a share of which goes largely unused because of the unpleasantness of adjacent traffic filled streets). I was unable to find the exact proportion of Vancouver and Montréal devoted to roadway, but a significant share of those cities is also devoted to noisy, dangerous and polluting vehicles.

We need to build an environmentalist/urbanist/housing rights coalition that would push to turn swaths of this land into social/co-op/rental housing.

How Andrew Cuomo Helped Destroy Public Housing

During a sunny Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, reporters gathered anxiously outside of the monolithic Taft Houses in East Harlem waiting for the day’s main attraction: Governor Andrew Cuomo. When he finally arrived, in grand fashion with a posse of local politicians behind him, reporters were treated to an exclusive tour of some of the decaying apartments in the enormous complex. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been in a state of crisis over the past year dealing with a massive budget deficit of $286.6 million as well as being rocked by a lead paint scandal that saw the firing of top officials. Responding to the crisis, Cuomo has positioned himself as NYCHA’s savior in chief.

During the tour with reporters, the governor examined the plethora of problems plaguing the nearly 600,000 residents who depend on public housing in an ever more unaffordable city. From pealing paint, water leaks, vermin infestation and broken appliances the governor was given a firsthand look at the inhuman conditions many New Yorkers are forced to endure.

“There is no one who will see what I saw and allow it to continue”, the Governor said.  Later he said that the state of the disrepair was utterly “disgusting”.

After the tour Cuomo gave an impassioned speech and held a press conference with residents who were oddly wearing orange hats reading in bold print “TENANTS UNITED”, an obvious jab at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat. In his speech Cuomo vowed to take action by pledging an additional $250 million on top of the $300 million he already promised to invest in New York’s public housing stock. He made sure to remind reporters even though “the state has no financial responsibility” to fund NYCHA, he was going to fight to secure the funds anyway.

Refusing to take any responsibility for the crisis, Cuomo blasted the mayor for his inaction and challenged President Trump to put his money where his mouth is

“If he really wants to make America great again he should show the people more money,” Cuomo said.

The whole event seemed to be an elaborate photo op with the intention of portraying the governor as the great white hope for the majority color NYCHA residents.  It was an attempt of heroic posturing by an opportunist politician with presidential ambitions. His speech came across as self-serving and pompous. He also absolved himself of any blame for the crisis and acted as if he were surprised by the decay he saw even though he played a role in that decay.

“At one time, NYCHA was the model of public housing, and now conditions are at the worst they’ve ever been” he said. “Tenants living in these intolerable, inhumane conditions need help now – not in four years, and this administration is taking action to ensure a brighter future for New Yorkers,”

Cuomo’s allusions to the heyday of public housing and its prospects for a “brighter future” is rather ironic given the significant role Cuomo played in the federal divestment and dismantling of public housing across the country. The governor failed to mention that as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Cuomo oversaw the wholesale destruction of public housing in cities such as Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia. During the Clinton Administration Cuomo served as Secretary of HUD from 1997-2001. Before that he served as the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development from 1993-1997. During his tenure, HUD underwent major policy shifts in accordance with the rise of the post-Cold War national neoliberal agenda that saw the decline in union membership, cuts to social safety nets, deregulation of the financial sector and the privatization of the public sector. Clinton’s HUD was no longer in the business of building public housing nor its upkeep. Making this perfectly clear during his campaign for president in 1992, Clinton portrayed himself as “a new Democratic” who was tough on crime and was keen to “end welfare as we have come to know it”. His White House began pushing major right wing “reforms” that made Ronald Regan look like FDR. One of Clinton’s most damaging attacks on poor and working-class Americans was the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA) that ended “welfare as we know it” and effectively make poverty a crime.

It was this pathological attitude towards the working-class and the poor that governed the policies that Cuomo actively supported as Secretary of HUD. As Assistant Secretary and then Secretary Cuomo oversaw the destruction of over 100,000 public housing units across the nation. Out of all the cities impacted Chicago was hit the hardest. In Chicago alone 60,000 people lost their housing along with their sense of community. HOPE VI, first implemented in phases back in 1992, was the federal program that incentivized cities to privatize their public housing by subsidizing mixed income developments. The policy became law in 1998 with the passage of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act, leading to the accelerated demolition of public housing.

Another consequence of HOPE VI was the criminalization of public housing residents. Clinton promoted the false idea that public housing was infested with criminal gangs that were terrorizing helpless residents. He insisted upon a “One strike, you’re out” policy that would evict any public housing resident convicted of a crime. Six months after the passage of HOPE VI into law 3,847 people were evicted from public housing. Housing developments across the country saw a dramatic 84% increase in the number of evictions. HOPE VI left thousands of mostly black and Latino Americans hopelessly wondering why yet again their government was at war with them. It was not the first time urban America was displaced because of federal policy. Back in the 1960’s the federal government implemented the controversial Urban Renewal policies that reshaped the landscape of American cities. Local governments with federal approval sized land through eminent domain under the guise of slum clearance. Civil Rights activists were appalled at the hundreds of thousands of forced evictions and the destruction of historical black communities.

“Most Northern cities now are engaged in something called urban renewal, which means moving the Negroes out.” Author James Baldwin eloquently said. “It means Negro removal, that is what it means. The federal government is an accomplice to this fact.” HOPE VI is the modern equivalent.

As the public face of HUD, Cuomo’s role was to sell Americans on “negro removal” in a palatable way. The language used to justify HOPE VI was never overtly racist. In fact, HOPE VI was marketed as the best way to undo the mistakes made by previous HUD policies. Increasingly public housing was viewed, and still is viewed, as an antiquated policy disaster that increasingly concentrated poor people in isolated housing blocks. The problems of public housing had nothing to do, according to HUD, with underfunding and neglect. The blame fell on the design of the buildings and the concentration of poverty. Academics such as William Julius Wilson and Douglas S. Massey provided the research backing up the claims that the concentration of the poor lead to the supposed failure of public housing. If that were true, then the solution seemed simple: break up public housing. However, many academics have called concentrated poverty a myth that hurts the poor

“The theory of concentrated poverty is based on a faulty theoretical premise—namely, that concentrated poverty can be severed from its root causes and projected as the focal point of social policy” Distinguished Professor Stephen Steinberg at Queens College said. “It’s rather like diagnosing a melanoma as a blemish and treating it with a palliative.”

Still poverty as pathology served as the ideological impetus that justified the neoliberal destruction of public housing. Its outcome saw a large-scale land grab that transferred public land serving the public good into private hands for corporate profits. All of which was administered by the now governor Andrew Cuomo.  To this day Cuomo believes the myth of concentrated poverty and its supposed key role in the “failure” of public housing. In his book All Things Possible Cuomo said that “the projects are an example of good government gone bad. The people the government is trying to help are actually going to be hurt, and when it fails, it will destroy the surrounding neighborhood.”

In the speech he gave outside of the Taft Houses, Cuomo said that public housing was “really a home-to-prison pipeline.” And that crime starts “in the neighborhood. It starts in the housing complex, and it starts many times in public housing.”

Cuomo’s disdain for government-funded public housing was reflected in the polices he enacted while he was secretary of HUD. Instead of advocating for the construction of more public housing Cuomo was an avid cheerleader in its destruction. It’s their place. He publicly endorsed privately run mixed income developments that didn’t nearly begin to replace the housing that was lost. He promoted free market solutions to addressing urban decay with such schemes as the expansion of the Empowerment Zone Program (EZ). In a nutshell EZ’s incentivized business to locate to predominately black and Latino intercity communities by providing corporate income tax credits, property tax abatements, and other tax exemptions with the idea of spurring economic growth and providing poor people with jobs. It also allocated funds to non-profit social service agencies. Cities such as Baltimore were desperate for federal assistance and enthusiastically joined the program with mixed results. One study found that the program actually cost city governments $2.5 billion in tax revenue. Some Baltimore residents found the program to be undemocratic and failed to address or take into account the real needs in the community.

“The process must reflect a true perception of neighborhood needs from those who live there,” Baltimore native Leonard Jackson said.

In a 2001 study Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center found that EZ’s programs were complete failures “Our findings suggest the EZ program has fallen far short of its stated goals” they said. “In fact, little changed in any of the cities or Zones with regard to the major goals set forth in the legislation and the regulations outlined by HUD.”

Besides Empowerment Zones there is some evidence to suggest that Cuomo’s polices at HUD may have contributed to the 2008 subprime mortgage bubble. Senator Jon Corzine believed that HUD’s policy goals throughout the 1990’s was focused on “integrating lower-income communities into the free market and creating renewal initiatives that spur private sector investment in both urban and rural communities.”

He goes on to say that “HUD has also helped America reach its highest homeownership rate ever–67.7%–and in the process helped African-American and Latino households attain record levels of homeownership.”

HUD achieved that homeownership rate by making a deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase the number of loans purchased by low-income borrowers. By greatly inflating the numbers Cuomo’s shortsighted tactics contributed in part to the Great Recession as well as the loss of the overall net worth for black families. From the years 2007-10 black wealth declined by 30% as a result of the economic crisis. After 2009 black median wealth fell from $12,124 a year to $5,677 a year. By comparison white median wealth fell from $134,992 annually to $113,149. Clearly Cuomo’s plan for “integrating lower-income communities into the free market” ended up becoming a nightmare for low-income black Americans.

All this to say for a man who now wants to make himself the avenger of public housing. Cuomo’s track record alone should make public housing residents run from his very presence at their door steps. None of this even takes into account the damage he has done as Governor of New York. Alarmingly at his press conferences over the past few weeks Cuomo has hinted and threatened to have the state directly take over NYCHA. Giving Cuomo more power over NYCHA is like making the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Who is to say what plans the governor might have to fix public housing. It would be easy for him to begin full scale privatization efforts under the guise of city mismanagement of the crisis. A crisis that could have been averted back in 2015 when Mayor De Blasio requested that the state provide $100 million in emergency funding for roof repair. Cuomo refused to fork over the cash unless the money was used for cosmetic upgrades such as landscaping and playground equipment. Now, three years later the governor wants to swoop in to NYCHA’s rescue? It would be wise for New Yorkers to be suspicious of the governor’s intentions. Public housing should not be used as a pawn in a political game for power. If Cuomo wants to truly help New Yorkers living in public housing, he would fully invest in a public housing Marshall Plan not more back door privatization.

When Armistice Day and Remembrance Day Turned into War Day

Cognitive dissonance in Psychology

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

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

Motivated Ignorance in Politics

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

Example of Motivated Ignorance with Trump’s  Base

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

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

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

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

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

See the source image

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

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

Never.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some choice:

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

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

To the editor:

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

Mark Ward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Armistice Day and Remembrance Day Turned into War Day

Cognitive dissonance in Psychology

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

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

Motivated Ignorance in Politics

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

Example of Motivated Ignorance with Trump’s  Base

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

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

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

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

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

See the source image

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

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

Never.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some choice:

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

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

To the editor:

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

Mark Ward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping in Puerto Rico

From January 28 to February 7th my wife and I were in Vieques, Puerto Rico, helping as best we could with recovery from Hurricane Maria, which hit on September 20th, almost five months ago.  Help is very much still needed. I don’t think I realized how much that is true until I got home to New Jersey and experienced all of the things I didn’t experience during those 10 days:

  • the lights and everything electrical turning on or being on all day and night whenever I need it;
  • a hot, not cold, water shower;
  • not worrying about hitting something or falling when I had to get up and go to the bathroom or move around at night;
  • not hearing (or smelling) loud gas generators behind the house where I was staying and several other places in the neighborhood as day turned into night;
  • not having to do extra-special filtering of the tap water because of concerns about its quality;
  • reliably accessing my cell phone apps, telephone and the internet whenever I want to.

These were the main differences.

I was staying at Casa de Kathy in Esperanza, the second largest town in Vieques. The only street in Esperanza that fully had electrical power when we were there was the Malecon, the downtown street next to the water where bars, restaurants and hotels are, and they didn’t get that power until the fifth day we were there. What electrical power there was elsewhere in town came from gas-powered generators bought by residents who could afford them.

There was concern about the tap water. Neither the EPA nor anyone else had done tests to determine how safe it is to drink.

There were still piles of debris and branches that had been blown down by the storm, as well as collections of stoves and refrigerators disabled by it.

Despite all of these serious problems, the sense I had was that people in general were pulling together, some more than others, to climb out of the hole the hurricane put them in. They were doing so even though there was a lot of criticism of FEMA for its slowness and for it denying aid to a number of people whose homes had been damaged.

I was glad to learn that the use of solar energy, in different forms, is growing, from small solar lights, which are popular, to solar panels on roofs to provide an alternative to an unreliable electric grid.

One of the big takeaways for me was the reinforcement of something I have known intellectually for years, that extreme weather events, like the climate changing which makes them worse and more frequent, hurts low-income people the most. Middle- and upper-class people who have access to financial and other resources had found ways to lessen their suffering or discomfort, like through personal generators. But those without those resources were in a different situation. I heard of at least one family that was sleeping in a tent in their living room because there had been serious damage to their roof that they had not yet been able to afford getting fixed.

The pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, announced just before we got there that he wanted to privatize that electrical system, currently publicly owned, which would certainly lead to higher electrical rates for many struggling Puerto Rican consumers as the corporate buyer looks to make its profits.

Then there is the relatively large Puerto Rican debt (though hugely smaller than the US debt) of $73 billion. There have been calls for that debt to be forgiven, for obvious reasons. Lin-Manual Miranda, for example, creator and star of the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” called for that in a December opinion piece in the Washington Post. He wrote:

Puerto Rico’s creditors should do the right thing and walk away. It is the only way forward. Anything short of full debt forgiveness would be a brutal form of economic punishment to a people already suffering.

But to add insult to injury, the Republican tax bill passed at the end of 2017, unless challenged and changed, will make things even worse.

A December 20th Washington Post story reported that the Puerto Rican Governor “is calling on lawmakers to rewrite a key part of the tax bill that he says might cause the island’s hefty manufacturing sector to contract, jeopardizing hundreds of thousands of jobs. [It] includes a new 12.5 percent tax on profits derived from intellectual property held by foreign companies — a move designed to compel those companies to move back to the United States. The new tax ‘is a big hit, and Puerto Rico both fiscally and economically is downtrodden, and this is the last thing they need,’ said Federico de Jesus, a former Puerto Rico government official who has been tracking congressional relief efforts for the island.”

US citizens have a special responsibility to help Puerto Rico, which has been a colony of the United States since 1898. It is our humanitarian and moral responsibility, and it is our duty as citizens of the nation which has the power to help Puerto Rico either move forward or backwards after Maria. We must do what we can as far as practical hurricane recovery support but also support groups calling for a cancellation of the debt, changes to the Republican tax bill and reform of the electric power system, not its privatization.

The Military Industrial Complex Strikes Again: War Spending Will Bankrupt America

Why throw money at defense when everything is falling down around us? Do we need to spend more money on our military (about $600 billion this year) than the next seven countries combined? Do we need 1.4 million active military personnel and 850,000 reserves when the enemy at the moment — ISIS — numbers in the low tens of thousands? If so, it seems there’s something radically wrong with our strategy. Should 55% of the federal government’s discretionary spending go to the military and only 3% to transportation when the toll in American lives is far greater from failing infrastructure than from terrorism? Does California need nearly as many active military bases (31, according to militarybases.com) as it has UC and state university campuses (33)? And does the state need more active duty military personnel (168,000, according to Governing magazine) than public elementary school teachers (139,000)?”

— Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2015.

Mark my words, America’s war spending will bankrupt the nation.

For that matter, America’s war spending has already bankrupted the nation to the tune of more than $20 trillion dollars.

Now the Trump Administration is pushing for a $4.4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2019 that would add $7 trillion to the already unsustainable federal deficit in order to sustain America’s military empire abroad and dramatically expand the police state here at home.  Trump also wants American taxpayers to cover the cost of building that infamous border wall.

Truly, Trump may turn out to be, as policy analyst Stan Collender warned, “the biggest deficit- and debt-increasing president of all time.”

For those in need of a quick reminder: “A budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and what it takes in.  The national debt, also known as the public debt, is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.”

Right now, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad.

This is how military empires fall and fail: by spreading themselves too thin and spending themselves to death.

It happened in Rome. It’s happening again.

Not content to merely police the globe, in recent decades America has gradually transformed its homeland into a battlefield with militarized police and weapons better suited to a war zone.

Since taking office, President Trump—much like his predecessors—has marched in lockstep with the military. Now Trump wants $716 billion to expand America’s military empire abroad and billions more to hire cops, build more prisons and wage more profit-driven war-on-drugs/war-on-terrorism/war-on-crime programs that eat away at the Fourth Amendment while failing to make the country any safer.

Even the funds requested for infrastructure will do little to shore up the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, railways, highways, power grids and dams.

No matter how you break it down, this is not a budget aimed at perfecting the Union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting general welfare, or securing the blessings of liberty for the American people.

No, this is a budget aimed at pandering to the powerful money interests (military, corporate and security) that run the Deep State and hold the government in its clutches.

So much for Trump’s campaign promises to balance the budget and drain the swamps of corruption.

The glaring economic truth is that at the end of the day, it’s the military industrial complex—and not the sick, the elderly or the poor—that is pushing America towards bankruptcy.

As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

The illicit merger of the armaments industry and the Pentagon that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars.

That does not include the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the globe.

Incredibly, although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

War is not cheap.

Although the federal government obscures so much about its defense spending that accurate figures are difficult to procure, we do know that since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $1.8 trillion in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (that’s $8.3 million per hour).

That doesn’t include wars and military exercises waged around the globe, which are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

Mind you, these ongoing wars—riddled by corruption, graft and bumbling incompetence—have done little to keep the country safe while enriching the military industrial complex—and private defense contractors—at taxpayer expense.

Just recently, for example, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.”

Just consider the fact that it costs American taxpayers $2.1 million per year for each soldier deployed in Afghanistan.

Imagine what you could do with that money if it were spent on domestic needs here at home.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen any time soon, not as long as the money interests in Washington keep calling the shots and profiting from the spoils of war.

War has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire, is one of its best buyers and sellers. Not only does the U.S. have the largest defense budget, it also ranks highest as the world’s largest arms exporter.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

For example, while erecting a security surveillance state in the U.S., the military-industrial complex has perpetuated a worldwide military empire with American troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

In the process, billions have been spent erecting luxury military installations throughout the world.

For example, the U.S. Embassy built in Iraq, dubbed “Fortress Baghdad,” covers 104 acres and boasts a “city within a city” that includes six apartment buildings, a Marine barracks, swimming pool, shops and 15-foot-thick walls. Camp Anaconda in Iraq, like many U.S. military bases scattered across the globe, was structured to resemble a mini-city with pools, fast food restaurants, miniature golf courses and movie theaters.

While most Americans can scarcely afford the cost of heating and cooling their own homes, the American government spends $20 billion annually just to provide air conditioning for military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In essence, what we’re doing is “we’re air conditioning the desert over there in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places,” noted retired brigadier general Steven Anderson, a former chief logistician for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.

Think about that for a minute.

There’s a good reason why “bloated,” “corrupt” and “inefficient” are among the words most commonly applied to the government, especially the Department of Defense and its contractors.

For instance, a study by the Government Accountability Office found that $70 billion worth of cost overruns by the Pentagon were caused by management failures. To put that in perspective, that equates to one and a half times the State Department’s entire $47 billion annual budget.

Fraud is rampant.

A government audit, for example, found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:

$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

Price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire.

And if you think gas prices at home can get high, just consider what the American taxpayer is being forced to shell out overseas: once all the expenses of delivering gas to troops in the field are factored in, we’re paying between $18-30 per gallon for gas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Incredibly, despite reports of corruption, abuse and waste, the mega-corporations behind much of this ineptitude and corruption continue to be awarded military contracts worth billions of dollars.

The rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, but the one that remains constant is that those who run the government are feeding the appetite of the military industrial complex.

What began in 2001 as part of an alleged effort to root out al Qaeda has turned into a goldmine for the military industrial complex and its army of private contractors.

Just consider: the Pentagon in 2008 spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earned in a year.

Yet Congress and the White House want taxpayers to accept that the only way to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit is by cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare?

As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, under a military empire, war and its profiteering will always take precedence over the people’s basic human needs.

Simply put, we cannot afford to maintain our over-extended military empire.

Money is the new 800-pound gorilla,” remarked a senior administration official involved in Afghanistan. “It shifts the debate from ‘Is the strategy working?’ to ‘Can we afford this?’ And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible.”

Or as one commentator noted, “Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.”

Inevitably, military empires collapse.

As Cullen Murphy, author of Are We Rome? and editor-at-large of Vanity Fair writes:

A millennium hence America will be hard to recognize. It may not exist as a nation-state in the form it does now—or even exist at all. Will the transitions ahead be gradual and peaceful or abrupt and catastrophic? Will our descendants be living productive lives in a society better than the one we inhabit now? Whatever happens, will valuable aspects of America’s legacy weave through the fabric of civilizations to come? Will historians someday have reason to ask, Did America really fall?

The problem we wrestle with is none other than a distorted American empire, complete with mega-corporations, security-industrial complexes and a burgeoning military. And it has its sights set on absolute domination.

Eventually, however, all military empires fail.

At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise. As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts:

The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.

I would suggest that what we have is a confluence of factors and influences that go beyond mere comparisons to Rome.

It is a union of Orwell’s 1984 with its shadowy, totalitarian government; i.e., fascism, the union of government and corporate powers, and a total surveillance state with a military empire extended throughout the world.

As we have seen with the militarizing of the police, the growth of and reliance on militarism as the solution for our problems both domestically and abroad affects the basic principles upon which American society should operate.

We must keep in mind that a military empire will be ruled not by lofty ideals of equality and justice but by the power of the sword. Those in the military are primarily trained to conduct warfare, not preserve the peace.

Here’s the kicker, though: if the American empire falls and the American economy collapses—and with it the last vestiges of our constitutional republic—it will be the government and its trillion-dollar war budgets that are to blame.

Of course, the government has already anticipated this breakdown.

That’s why the government has transformed America into a war zone, turned the nation into a surveillance state, and labelled “we the people” as enemy combatants.

For years now, the government has worked with the military to prepare for widespread civil unrest brought about by “economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

Having spent more than half a century exporting war to foreign lands, profiting from war, and creating a national economy seemingly dependent on the spoils of war, the war hawks long ago turned their profit-driven appetites on us, bringing home the spoils of war—the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.—and handing them over to local police, thereby turning America into a battlefield.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is how the police state wins and “we the people” lose.

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us not to let the profit-driven war machine endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

We failed to heed his warning.

As Eisenhower recognized in a speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, on April 16, 1953, the consequences of allowing the military-industrial complex to wage war, exhaust our resources and dictate our national priorities are beyond grave:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.