Category Archives: Land Use

Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?  

On the back of Brexit, there are fears in the UK that a trade deal will be struck with Washington which will effectively lower food and environmental standards to those of the US. At the same time, it seems that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is being resurrected and could have a similar impact in the EU. These types of secretive, corporate-driven trade deals ride roughshod over democratic procedures and the public interest.

India has not been immune to such deals. The US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (2005) is aimed at widening access to India’s agricultural and retail sectors for US companies. This agreement was drawn up with the full and direct participation of representatives from various companies, such as Monsanto, Cargill and Walmart, in return for India receiving assistance to develop its nuclear sector.

And now, in India, there are serious concerns about another deal. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is currently being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific and would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food. Although stumbling blocks have prevented any deal being struck thus far, there is an increased sense of urgency to get it signed.

The RCEP could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. The plight of farmers in India has been well documented. A combination of debt, economic liberalisation, subsidised imports, rising input costs, deliberate underinvestment and a shift to cash crops has caused massive financial distress. Over 300,000 (perhaps over 400,000) have taken their lives over the last 20 years. From the effects of the Green Revolution (degraded soils, falling water tables, drought, etc.) to the lack of minimum support prices and income guarantees, it is becoming increasingly non-viable for many smallholder farmers to continue.

Indian smallholder/peasant farmers are under attack on all fronts. Transnational corporations are seeking to capitalise the food and agriculture sector by supplanting the current system with one suited towards their needs, ably assisted by the World Bank and its various strategies and directives. There is a push to further commercialise the countryside, which will involve shifting hundreds of millions to cities.

GRAIN is an international non-profit organisation and in 2017 released a short report that outlined how RCEP is expected to create powerful new rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment.

Land acquisition and seed saving

The RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. This could intensify the ‘great land grab that has already been taking place in India.

GRAIN notes that giant agribusiness concerns want to put a stop to farmer seed saving and sharing by forcing farmers to buy their proprietary seeds each season. The global seed industry is highly concentrated today and recent mergers only further consolidate its power and influence over both governments and farmers. For example, with China having acquired Syngenta, that country has a new vested interest in seeing seed laws strengthened via tighter intellectual property rights under RCEP.

We have already seen the devastating effects on Indian farmers due to Monsanto’s illegal ‘royalties’ (on ‘trait values’) on GM cotton seeds in India. Monsanto effectively wrote and broke laws to enter India. Under RCEP, things could get much worse. If patents are allowed on inventions ‘derived from plants’ (whether hybrid or genetically modified seeds), we could see higher seed prices, a further loss of biodiversity, even greater corporate control and a possible lowering of standards (or a complete bypassing of them as with GM mustard) for high-risk products such as GMOs.

India’s dairy sector

Access to the huge Indian market is an important focus for New Zealand in the RCEP negotiations, especially where the diary sector is concerned. However, according to RS Sodhi, managing director of the country’s largest milk cooperative, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, this could rob the vibrant domestic dairy industry and the millions of farmers that are connected to it from access to a growing market in India.

The Indian government has encouraged the co-operative model in the dairy sector with active policy protection. However, the dairy trade could be opened up to unfair competition from subsidised imports under RCEP. India’s dairy sector is mostly self-sufficient and employs about 100 million people, the majority of whom are women. The sector is a lifeline for small and marginal farmers, landless poor and a significant source of income for millions of families. They are the backbone of India’s dairy sector.

New Zealand’s dairy giant Fonterra (the world’s biggest dairy exporter) is looking to RCEP as a way into India’s massive dairy market. The company has openly stated that RCEP would give it important leverage to open up India’s protected market. As a result, many people fear that Indian dairy farmers will either have to work for Fonterra or go out of business.

At the same time, some RCEP members not only heavily subsidise their farmers, but they also have food safety standards that are incompatible with the small-scale food production and processing systems that dominate in other RCEP countries. There is sufficient room for concern here: during the ‘mustard crisis’ in 1998, ‘pseudo-safety’ laws were used to facilitate the entry of foreign soy oil: many village-level processors were thereby forced out of business.

The RCEP could accelerate the growth of mega food-park investments that target exports to high-value markets, as is already happening in India. These projects involve high-tech farm-to-fork supply chains that exclude and may even displace small producers and household food processing businesses, which are the mainstay of rural and peri-urban communities across Asia. This would dovetail with existing trends that are facilitating the growth of corporate-controlled supply chains, whereby farmers can easily become enslaved or small farmers simply get by-passed by powerful corporations demanding industrial-scale production.

From pesticides to big retail

Fertiliser and pesticide sales are expected to rise sharply in Asia-Pacific in the next few years. Agrochemical use is heaviest in China and growing rapidly in India. GRAIN notes that China’s acquisition of Syngenta, the world’s top agrochemical company with more than 20% of the global pesticide market, puts the country in a particularly sensitive position within RCEP.

GRAIN states that liberalized trade in farm chemicals are bound to be part of the RCEP, resulting in increased residues in food and water, more greenhouse gas emissions, rising rates of illness and further depletion of soil fertility.

The RCEP also demands the liberalisation of the retail sector and is attempting to facilitate the entry of foreign agroprocessing and retail gaints, which could threaten the livelihoods of small retailers and street vendors. The entry of retail giants would be bad for farmers because they may eventually monopolise the whole food chain from procurement to distribution. In effect, farmers will be at the mercy of such large companies as they will have the power to set prices and also will not be interested to buy small quantities from small producers. In effect, the RCEP will usher in a wave of corporate agri-food consolidation.

It is interesting to note that Ashwani Mahajan, economics professor and national co-convener of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, an Indian political and cultural organization that promotes self-reliance, argues that the ‘make in India’ push by the current government is completely at odds with the RCEP. He argues that no sector seems to want the trade deal and that India’s participation in the talks have overshot the original aim. That aim was to be that of observer, so India could learn from the process. However, Mahajan suggests civil servants now seem to be fully engaged and are ready to sign up to the deal.

The RCEP is a recipe for undermining biodiverse food production, food sovereignty and food security for the mass of the population. It will also create massive job losses in a country like India, which has no capacity for absorbing such losses into its workforce

There is a need to encourage localised food economies that are shielded from the effects of rigged trade and international markets. Rather than have transnational agri-food corporations determining global and regional policies and private capital throttling democracy, we require societies run for the benefit of the mass of the population and a system of healthy food and sustainable agriculture that is run for human need.

We need only look at Mexico and what ‘free trade’ has done to that country’s food and agriculture sector: destroyed health, fuelled unemployment, transformed a rural population into a problematic group of migrants who now serve as a reserve army of labour that conveniently depresses the incomes of those in work. The writing is on the wall for India.

No Class

In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
— Mao, On Practice, 1937

That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence.
— Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, March 6, 2007

I think that most of the confusion in this respect has been the product of a failure to develop a class analysis of these changes. From a class perspective, it is clear that what we are seeing is the growth of various movements in the fascist genre (whether prefascism, protofascism, classical fascism, postfascism, neofascism, neoliberal fascism, ur-fascism, peripheral fascism, white supremacism, or national populism—you can take your pick). Fascist-type movements share certain definite class-based characteristics or tendencies. Although it is common in liberal discourse to approach such movements at the level of appearance, in terms of their ideological characteristics, such an idealist methodology only throws a veil over the underlying reality.
— John Bellamy Foster, Interview, Monthly Review, September 2019

The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.
— Michael Parenti, Interview with Jason Miller, 2016

When environmentalism unfolds within a system of heightened inequality and inadequate democratization, it does so unequally and autocratically. The result is not a “saved” climate, but rather enhanced revenue streams for corporations.
— Maximillian Forte, Climate Propaganda for Corporate Profit: Bell Canada

John Bellamy Foster noted that it was a lack of class analysis that has stifled left discourse over the last twenty years. And I have noted that when one does engage in class analysis the first response, very often, is to be called a conspiracy theorist. Now, this is largely because any class dissection will tend to unearth connections that have been hidden, consciously, by Capital — that those hidden forces and histories are experienced by the liberal left and faux left as somehow impossible. Class analysis means that the non-marxist liberal left is going to be faced with the malevolence of the ruling class, and in the U.S. certainly, the ruling class tends to be adored, secretly or otherwise, by the bourgeoisie.

When the U.S.S.R. dissolved the West intensified its propaganda onslaught immediately. And a good part of this propaganda was focused on the denial of class. On the right, the FOX News right, “class warfare” became a term of derision and also humour. And among liberal and educated bourgeoisie the avoidance of class was the result of a focus on, and validations of, rights for marginalized groups — even if that meant inventing new groups on occasion. Class was conspicuously missing in most identity rights discourse.

And the climate discourse, which was suddenly visible in mainstream media early 2000s, there was almost never a mention of class. Hence the new appropriation of that discourse by open racist eugenicists like “Sir” David Attenborough, and billionaire investors and publishers. Even by royalty. By 2015 or so there was what Denis Rancourt called the institutionalisation of a climate ethos. I have even seen of late self-identified leftists suggesting the “Greta” phenomenon was the working class finding its voice. (No, I’m not making that up). I have also seen many leftists — many of whom I have known for years — simply hysterical around the subject of this teenager. Her greatest appeal is to middle aged white men. I have no real explanation for that. But then these same men quote, often, everyone from Guy McPherson (who I think needs a padded cell, frankly) to Bill McKibben — an apologist for militarism and wealth… here ….

Gosh kids, let’s rely on big Wall Street money.  That’s a gall darn good idea. What an unctuous fuck he is.

The Attenborough and Greta (and Jane Goodall) video was absent content, really. Terms like *tipping points* were used several times but not identified. And they were not identified because they don’t have to be. This is the near religious end of the climate spectrum. I hear people angrily denounce someone as a “denier”. This is the tone reserved for all apostates. For heretics.

Now before continuing I find it very interesting that those predicting the most dire effects of climate change, those who say we’re dead in twenty years or thirty — they are still publishing books, still marketing those books. It’s still a business. I guess I might expect climate Sadhus to appear — naked mendicants, covered in dirt and dried mud, hair matted, living off alms. Or like preachers standing on the street corner, a sort of eco Asa Hawks, Bible in hand (or climate bible in hand) offering spiritual solace to the multitude. But instead we get TED talks and more rather expensive books.

I want to make clear, the planet is getting warmer. It’s already happening. To say otherwise is irrational. That does not mean there are not many questions left answered, and increasingly undiscussed. Nor that alarmism isn’t in full swing (fear and sex pretty much form the basis of all advertising). There is very little serious adult debate about what must be accounted the most serious subject, or one of two most serious subjects, in contemporary life. The other would be the global rise of fascism. And neither of these topics is given a serious public discussion. The entertainment apparatus is, at this point, ill-equipped to handle anything serious.

I do not consider the side show carnival of Greta and the Prince of Monaco, Arnold and Barack, and eugenicist scum like David Attenborough (as an Brit friend of mine referred to him, “that old racist tosspot”) as serious. The Green New Deal is western Capital laying claim to a new market. And Attenborough and Goodall both are members of the anti immigration (Malthusian) group Population Matters. This has been exhaustively catalogued by Cory Morningstar, but then she is now being smeared as a “conspiracy theorist”. And this is, again, because class figures rather prominently in her writings.

This reminds me of my Wall Street days, I mean all the new markets, the high yield markets, different convertible markets — this is how they all start.
— Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, 2015.

Now, the bourgeoisie is perfectly happy to let the ruling class lead and be the decision makers. It is startling, really, how indigenous activists from the global south are so conspicuously missing in all this. So invisible in media. And to complain of this means one is met with just a myriad of apologetics about Greta and this carnival. And the paternalism that demands nobody ‘beat up’ on the teenager. There was never such outrage at criticism of Rachel Corrie. And amid all the young girl propaganda props (Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ, Bana Alabed, Park Yeon-mi, et al) the only constant is that PR firms are doing a lot of business. But the new investment in Green technology (sic) will really only result in — as it always does — a further growth in unemployed labor and an uptick in low end minimum wage service work. This is straight out of Capital, the general law of capitalist accumulation.

But if a surplus labouring popUlation is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus-population becomes, conversely, the lever of capitalistic accumulation, nay, a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost.
— Karl Marx, Capital. Volume I: The Process of Production of Capital, September 14, 1867

And it is not even that, really. The ruling class set in motion an environmental program sometime around the year 2000. But the Rockefeller group, remember, founded the Club of Rome in 1968. The aim was to plan for resource depletion and limits to growth. It had a decided eugenicist bent. They issued a report in 1991, and formed a think tank in 2001. Among the members are Al Gore, Maurice Strong, The Dalai Lama, and Robert Muller of all people. And dozens more including Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, George Soros, and Bill Clinton. You get the idea.

The point is that the current explosion of climate awareness is brought to you, at least partly, by the captains of western capital. And it is very white and very worried about birth rates in dark skinned countries. So the question becomes, in the midst of a real crises of pollution, and a warming planet, what and who is one to believe and where is one to turn? My first response is NOT to the people who helped create the problem in the first place.

In fact, class itself is something of a verboten word. In the mainstream media, in political life, and in academia, the use of the term “class” has long been frowned upon. You make your listeners uneasy (“Is the speaker a Marxist?”). If you talk about class exploitation and class inequity, you will likely not get far in your journalism career or in political life or in academia (especially in fields like political science and economics).

So instead of working class, we hear of “working families” or “blue collar” and “white collar employees”. Instead of lower class we hear of “inner city poor” and “low-income elderly.” Instead of the capitalist owning class, we hear of the “more affluent” or the “upper quintile’.
— Michael Parenti, “Class Warfare Indeed”, Common Dreams, 2011

There is a new religious tenor to climate discussions. And it reflects (among other things) a reductive world view. Global issues and forces and global relations on both a macro and micro level are being simplified. The template resembles a cartoon more than anything else. ‘Our demise is immanent’ is something I have read or heard at least a dozen times. People are enjoying the coming apocalypse. If they really believed that the end is nigh, they would be behaving very differently. But for many on the left the decades of marginalization has left them emotionally raw and psychologically battered. It’s so seductive to just give in to the coming apocalypse. And additionally there is a clear pleasure to be found in taking on the role of excommunicating climate Angel — come to smite the deniers with the sword of eco-piety.

Still, there are genuine and committed ecologists and activists working on preserving nature and protecting the wild. Many are from indigenous peoples in South America, Central America, Asia and Africa. They are all but invisible in mainstream media. And increasingly they are being murdered. (See Berta Caceres). One hundred and sixty four activists were murdered last year, with thirty in the Philippines alone. Twenty-six in Colombia. None of this is front page news. Why? Why is a blond teenager now nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (usually reserved for war criminals) meeting with Obama and the Pope while the defenders of Nature in poor countries remain nameless and anonymous? The answer is because white people care about white people. And because Western capital sees those poor countries as places to exploit, burden with debt, and de-populate. The ruling elite, including those backing the Extinction Rebellion and Green New Deal, are on the side of those who murdered Caceres. Look at big mining in the global south, enormously polluting, destructive of land and community and people. A just very cursory glance at who runs this mega mining concerns is illuminating. Who sits on the board of Newmont Goldcorp, for example. While based in Colorado, its primary mining operations are in Ghana, Suriname, and Peru. Well, one is Gregory H. Boyce, who also sits on the board of directors for Monsanto and Marathon Oil. Or Rene Meldori, former executive director for DeBeers. Or take the infamous Barrick Gold, on whose advisory board sits Newt Gingrich, former secretary of defense William Cohen, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg former German defense minister, and Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada. But it’s better than that…here is a bit of background from Jeff St. Clair… and here is more.

Or what about Rio Tinto, where Jean-Sébastien Jacques holds an advisory position, after leaving Tata Steel (TISCO) in India. Just surf the web and read the bios. There is a deep connection with big oil, with coal, and with nearly every other massively polluting industrial enterprise around the world. Teck is another huge mining company. It is based in Canada. I suggest reading the first article on this page….

The concern over water scarcity does not breed environmental strategies for reduction, only new ways to extract and plunder during the coming scarcity. For that is the logic of all capitalism.  There is an enormous land grab going on in Africa, for example.

When the fog that fascism creates in all countries clears away, behind it one sees an all-too-familiar figure. This character is, of course, neither marvellous nor mysterious, he brings no new religion and certainly no golden age. He comes neither from the ranks of the youth nor from the mass of the petty bourgeoisie, even if he is an expert at deceiving both these groups. He is the counter-revolutionary capitalist, the born enemy of all class-conscious workers. Fascism is nothing but a modern form of the bourgeois capitalist counter-revolution wearing a popular mask.
— Arthur Rosenberg, Fascism as Mass Movement, 1934

And here

Those billionaire donors are not subsidizing Amazonian tribes fighting for their own survival and the survival of the rain forest. They are not subsidizing activists in the Philippines or in Africa. And they are never once mentioning the U.S. military and its role in despoiling the planet. (just look at AFRICOM, which saw an exponential growth in bases and troops under Obama). But here — two links for general perusal — and here.

(Hat tip to Jacob Levich for some of this).

The land grab is going to be enforced is the message here. These donors are investing. And alongside their investment runs the spectre of global fascism. Read these links and then consider if a state of emergency is not in the works. Of course, the bourgeoisie, the white bourgeoisie, are begging for such an emergency. The climate fear and its cultish response amid the liberal and leftish is resulting in a willingness, even a desire for, their own servitude. This is where someone is going to say, oh, conspiracy theory. But is it? Read those links. Consider the unthinking reflexive adoration of Greta and the kids. And then consider the history of capitalism, of neo-liberalism. Consider just the history over the last thirty years. Greta is not anti-capitalist. She has carefully never said capitalism is a system destroying the planet.

There is a critical pollution of land and water globally. Not just plastics, but Depleted Uranium and all the waste of military and digital technology. And from pesticides and various other industrial and agricultural chemicals. How many participants in any of the climate meetings were without brand new smart phones? I don’t believe in our extinction. I do believe life is going to change, and to mitigate the suffering that comes from that change one must reject the advice of billionaires and celebrities. Change must stop being spearheaded by WHITE privilege and the western white ruling class.

Pollution is the most urgent crises I believe. Pollution from mining of ores, and rare earth minerals (leaving pollutants such as chromium, asbestos, arsenic, and cadmium) is on a scale hard to even imagine. Or the recycling of lead-based batteries, an under the radar but massive industry that pollutes with lead oxide and sulphuric acid. Tanneries have always been an infernal and accursed industry, and pollute with chromium and soda ash, as well as large amounts of solid waste, all of which is usually contaminated with chromium. Lead smelting, which is centered in the poorest countries and which releases iron, limestone, pyrite and zinc. This is not even to touch on pesticides, or the dye industry. And then we come to the military. In particular the U.S. military. The levels of pollution are nearly Biblical in dimension and scale.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others. In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone. U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government. Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.
— Whitney Webb, Eco Watch, May 2017

Contemporary capitalism is coercive at every level. The privilege of white westerners is stunningly absent from all critiques I see relating to climate change. David Attenborough has a far larger carbon footprint (to the power of ten) than a Somali sheep herder. And yet that herder is being subtly cast as a threat to global survival. The new focus on global warming (and the de-emphasizing of pollution) is the real threat to survival. For the new green capitalists the intention is to further plunder. The new corporate Green raiders want to privatize nature.

Across the world, ‘green grabbing’ – the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends – is an emerging process of deep and growing significance. The vigorous debate on ‘land grabbing’ already highlights instances where ‘green’ credentials are called upon to justify appropriations of land for food or fuel – as where large tracts of land are acquired not just for ‘more efficient farming’ or ‘food security’, but also to ‘alleviate pressure on forests’. In other cases, however, environmental green agendas are the core drivers and goals of grabs – whether linked to biodiversity conservation, biocarbon sequestration, biofuels, ecosystem services, ecotourism or ‘offsets’ related to any and all of these. In some cases these involve the wholesale alienation of land, and in others the restructuring of rules and authority in the access, use and management of resources that may have profoundly alienating effects. Green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment – whether for parks, forest reserves or to halt assumed destructive local practices.
— James Fairhead, Melissa Leach & Ian Scoones, “Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature?”, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2012

When is a contract ‘voluntary’? The answer is, probably never.
— Jairus Banaji, Theory as History, March 22, 2010

There will never be environmentally friendly Capitalism. That is like creating de-hydrated water. The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.

In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.
— Jay Taber, Heart of Darkness, SI2, 2017

The Global Witness report said much of the persecution of land and environmental defenders is being driven by demand for the land and raw materials needed for products that consumers utilise every day, from food to mobile phones and jewelry. Also recording a high number of environment and land-related fatalities were Colombia with 24 deaths, India with 23, and Brazil at 20. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, a boom in private and foreign investment has seen large swaths of land handed out to plantation, mining and hydropower companies, ushering in a wave of forced and violent evictions, particularly in indigenous areas, the report said. This has stirred fears of a return to the large-scale violence the country suffered 30 years ago. The report said Guatemala saw the sharpest increase in the percentage of murders with a five-fold rise. At least 16 people defending their land and the environment were killed there in 2018.
— Al Jazeera, 2019

In the Philippines nine farmers were murdered, likely ordered by the landowners of the sugar cane plantations. Not much has changed since colonialism. Global Witness notes that mining is the industry which has caused or ordered the most killings of indigenous activists. In Africa, in particular, mining corporations hire expensive private security firms (American, Israeli, or British) to keep the local population outside of not just the mine, but the area *around* the outside of the mine. Acacia Mining (a subsidiary of Barrick Gold) is notorious for beatings and rape, and for contamination from the massive mine at North Mara, Tanzania.

Here is a report from The Guardian‘s Jonathan Watts from this year…

The nearest general hospital in Tarime was treating five to eight cases of gunshot wounds from the mine every week from around 2010 to 2014, according to Dr Mark Nega, a former district medical officer. “I saw so many people shot and killed. Some had gunshot wounds in the back. I think they were trying to run away but they were shot from behind.” Such killings were initially played down or denied. Journalists who tried to investigate found themselves harassed by police, or believed their stories had been spiked following pressure from state authorities.

After pressure from activists and lawyers, Acacia acknowledged 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2017. Of these, six died in confrontations with police at the mine.

International watchdog groups say at least 22 were killings by guards and police during the same period. Tanzanian opposition politicians have claimed 300 people have been killed since 1999.

For such a high number of violations to have occurred outside a conflict zone in a business context is shocking and exceptional,” said Anneke van Woudenberg, the executive director of Raid, a UK corporate watchdog.

Class analysis is not conspiracy theory. Full stop. Class exists and is part of the hierarchical system of global capitalism. The so labeled *Climate Change* crisis — as it exists on the level of Green New Deal or Extinction Rebellion — has very little to do with protecting Nature. Global warming is a fact that humanity will have to adjust to and learn to live with. So much of the rhetoric and identifications that exist in the Greta narrative are driven by a subterranean belief in technology to fix any problem. Global warming can’t be fixed. Nature and planetary life move slowly. It is western narcissism that demands things happen NOW. The planet is warming and the consequences will require change. Critical changes that must take place, especially regards pesticides and contaminated land. Of that I am sure. And changes in packaging, which means in many respect, changes in how we eat. The incursion of technology into nearly every waking moment of the daily life of the Westerner has conditioned a populace, one that doesn’t read, to see the acceleration of everything as natural. But it’s not. Nature is slow. It is patient. Nature doesn’t care about us. But humanity will have to care about Nature. And capitalism is not compatible with the direction those changes and care must take. War is always partly a war on Nature. But as I have said before, equality is the real green. The United States has erased the voice of the working class and the poor. But it is exactly those voices that have to be heard. The techno/scientific clergy are of a class, too. The bourgeois academic and researcher are stamped by their class just as much as everyone else. I think that should be remembered.

Class analysis!

Decimation of the Rainforests and the Money Men

During August thousands of fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Bolivia. Some are still burning. In the wet ecosystem of the rainforest fires are not a natural phenomenon, they are started by people, mostly well-organized criminal gangs that profit from illegal logging and land clearance.

Brazil’s right-wing President, Jain Bolsanaro, took office in January; since then deforestation in the country has doubled, there have been 87,000 fires in the Amazon, the highest number since 2010. Funding to Brazil’s Environmental Protection Agency, IBAMA, has been cut by 25%, including monies allocated for prevention and control of fires, which was slashed by 23%, he has publicly attacked organizations working to protect the rainforest, like Guardians of the Forest (made up of indigenous people), and turned a blind eye to environmental crimes.

By dismantling “all the state organs that enforce environmental protection,” Alfredo Sirkis, director of the Brazil Climate Center, says Bolsonaro is inciting environmental crimes and facilitating deforestation; through his words and deeds he is complicit in the environmental crimes being perpetrated. A spokesman for Guardians of the Forest told Human Rights Watch, “If we were to wait for the authorities to act there will be nothing left.”

80,000 acres a day

The World’s rainforests are the lungs of the planet. They soak up greenhouse gas emissions, affect wind currents and rainfall patterns and produce the oxygen we need to survive. They provide habitat for hundreds of animals, thousands of birds and tens of thousands of plants: around 25% of modern pharmaceuticals are derived from ingredients found in rainforests.

In 1950 they covered around 15% of the earth’s land surface.  Now, due to intensive deforestation, it’s down to just 6%. According to Scientific American, “most experts agree that we are losing upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily, and significantly degrading another 80,000 acres every day on top of that. Along with this loss and degradation, 135 plant, animal and insect species are disappearing every day………as the forests fall.”

In 2015 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) claimed that “over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 percent”.  However, according to the World Resources Institute, that trend has reversed; 2018 “was the second-highest on record for tree cover loss, down just slightly from 2016. The tropics lost an area of forest the size of Vietnam in just the last two years.” If this unimaginable level of carnage continues unabated it is feared that in less than 40 years there will be none left.

The consequences of a world bereft of rainforests are too horrific to contemplate, but one thing is clear: it would then be too late to do anything meaningful about climate change and the environmental calamity more broadly. Currently, deforestation and forest degradation rank as the second highest cause of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, producing around 15% of the total. As the children of the world have been rightly demanding, radical action is needed now, not in twenty-five or thirty years’ time, but now.

The causes of deforestation

There are various causes of deforestation; while logging is an issue, particularly in Indonesia where 80 percent of timber exports are illegal, the major cause is animal agriculture. Huge tracts of land are cleared to graze cattle, grow feed for animals and for biofuels. Animal agriculture is a principle cause of greenhouse gas emissions – producing, the UNFAO say, 14.5% of the anthropogenic GHG emissions that are driving climate change. It also uses approximately 70% of all agricultural land, and is the primary cause of biodiversity loss, animal extinction and water pollution. If deforestation and climate change are to be tackled, reducing consumption of animal produce needs to be a priority. This is something we can all do; it just requires commitment and a sense of social/environmental responsibility.

A recent study into the impact of farming on the planet concluded that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication [when a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae], land use and water use…it is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” it states, “as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

The research, which is the most comprehensive to date, found that “beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and uses 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture,” and states that producing 100g of beef “results in up to 105kg of greenhouse gases, while tofu produces less than 3.5kg.” Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by 75% (an area equivalent to the US, China, the European Union and Australia combined), the study states, and we could still feed everyone.

In response to this summer’s fires in the Amazon a coalition of environmental groups came together, which included Friends of the Earth, Action Network, Rainforest and Amazon Watch. They called for a Global Day of Action for the Amazon and issued a damning statement to those responsible for the destruction.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is, they made clear, primarily to blame for the fires and the increase in deforestation since he took office, due to his “regressive, and racist policies and his explicit encouragement to ‘open the Amazon for business’.” But, it is multinational companies that have created the “conditions for profiteering at the expense of the lungs of the earth – and these same companies are poised to profit further as today’s fires open up the door for tomorrow’s plantations and ranches.” Behind deforestation is big business and the multinational banks.

Global commodity traders are the “key drivers of deforestation in the Amazon”; companies like Cargill, a US based agriculture corporation, or JBS, an American food processing company, or Marfrig Global Foods, a Brazilian beef producer, and, according to their website, “one of the world leaders in the production of hamburgers, with processing capacity of 232.000 tons per year”.

The products these companies make are sold by large-scale retailers all over the world: E. Lecrerc has over 500 shops in France and 112 outside the country; Stop & Shop (the name says it all), a US supermarket chain with 415 outlets; Costco, another American conglomerate, and US mega corporation, Walmart, which has 11,389 stores. Behind these corporations sit the money men. The key players are BlackRock (an American investment management corporation); US investment bank, JPMorgan Chase; Santander (Spanish Bank); BNP Paribas (French Bank); HSBC (UK-based bank) and others. “These financiers not only enable the destruction of our forests – they profit from it.”

The driving force

Behind the banks and corporate traders is the Neo-Liberal socio-economic model; these powerful organizations operate within, and are determined to uphold, the confines of its doctrine, they are driven by the values and motives inherent in the Ideology of Money, and demonstrate no concern for the natural world, or human well-being.

Together with the consumer society that it relentlessly promotes and depends on, Neo-Liberalism, sits at the polluting heart of deforestation and the wider interconnected environmental catastrophe. Under its profit-bound ethos, everything is regarded as a commodity, everyone seen as a consumer. Competition and division are inherent, selfishness and greed, the antithesis to what is needed, are fostered.

Within the present construct and modes of living it is hard to see how the necessary action to curb deforestation could be initiated. In an attempt to halt the carnage in 2008 the UN set up Redd (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). A mechanism through which developing countries are encouraged to improve forest management and developed nations can contribute to a fund to facilitate and support such schemes. It may contribute to encouraging conservation and places a degree of responsibility, albeit voluntarily accepted, on rich nations, but it will not stop deforestation.

A completely new approach to so-called development as part of far reaching systemic change is urgently needed, together with a shift in public attitudes: away from self-centered activity, competition, and the aggrandizement of the individual and/or the nation state. Humanity is one, individual but united. This essential fact needs to be recognized and acted upon. Not as a vague philosophical or psychological catchphrase, but as a principle of truth from which a new socio-economic model can be created; one that serves the needs of all through sharing, encourages simplicity of living, harmlessness and social/environmental responsibility.

Neoliberal (Mis)Governance

Neoliberalism is more than an epithet. It’s more than an economic program, or another name for globalization. It may be all of these, but most importantly, it’s a political practice. The dominant political practice of our overlords.

The problem, however, is that neoliberalism as politics rarely has a bright light shown on its shadowy manipulations. Recently 48hills, a SF Bay area news website, published an exposé on precisely that. It reveals Silicon Valley billionaires, real estate developers, academics, non-profit leaders, local politicians and, of course, ill-informed journalists all conniving to further an agenda hidden from public scrutiny. The smell of rot pervades the scene. The scene being a stew of secret meetings.

So, what’s this all about?

In case you haven’t heard, the San Francisco Bay area is facing a housing crisis and the cabal mentioned above has banded together to solve it. How great! The trouble is that they are collaborating to provide self-serving solutions behind the backs of the populace, but on their (our!) dime.

Corruption? What’s new? This isn’t Tammany Hall or Chicago’s Daley Machine, but a new sort of corruption that fits the definition of neoliberal governance, or rather, misgovernance if we assume that the public’s “business” should be conducted in a democratic manner.

Let’s start with some definitions, like the term “governance.” Neoliberalism appropriates this term from management studies where it stands for governing through the interplay of contending parties. In the context of public policy, neoliberal decision-making results from “stakeholders” contributing their perspectives and arriving at agreements legitimated through state actions: new legislation to facilitate funding through fees, taxes, subsidies or other forms of state assistance.

The thing is in this process, that the state, as represented by a “sympathetic” legislator, is but one of a number of stakeholders. Included, notably, is private business. And for purposes of authoritative weight, and depending upon the overall social impact of a specific proposal, an array of scholars, consultants and non-profit executives are invited to be stakeholders. Neoliberalism advocates the “market-place of ideas.” In this market, we know who has their thumb on the scale. And note that direct public input is absent from the deliberations. The public, after all,  is bothersome for expedited action.

The assumption behind this sort of governance is not only that the public is a nuisance, but also that the state is broken. Which means mainly it is bedeviled by arcane practices that create snail-paced progress when what’s needed, the neoliberals plead, is immediate action to deal with one crisis or another: expediency dominates the process; capital likes to move fast these days.

“Arcane practices,” however, are usually venues for public comment and deliberation, and while many may agree that state deliberations need rehabilitation, mainly through greater transparency, without them the role to government to represent the common interest is abandoned, creating a vacuum of power.

And who rushes into the void? Yes, the private sector and its agents (see above).

This is all by way of introduction to the specific situation that applies to the SF Bay area, but, I believe, not only there.

All across the country, but especially in large urban complexes, regional governments have arisen. Whether they are inter-county affairs or cross-state institutions, they have one thing in common: little to none public input. Some states limit regional functions, while others give them greater powers, like taxing authority, but none establish direct citizen selection of those who govern a region.

In the SF area the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is the regional government for the nine counties that surround SF Bay and lower Sacramento River feeding into it. This regional government, for instance, collects the tolls from the eight bridges that span the bay and river. It’s a major player in the area not only because of its multi-million dollar revenue stream from tolls ($720,784,303/2016 – 2017), but also because it has the power to put funding propositions on the ballot for voter approval.

MTC, building on its experience with regional transportation issues, recently began encroaching into the area of land use. The details of this power grab are laid out in detail on 48hills. Suffice it to say here that transit-oriented development, a program pushed nationally to provide dense housing near transportation hubs, offered MTC the wedge it needed to pry open new territory for its expansion.

And here is where the story gets interesting. It turns out that Facebook funds the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative run by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, his wife. This is not a philanthropic outfit, but a Limited Liability Corporation, so that the funds it disperses can be kept from public view.

Some clever journalistic sleuthing uncovered that CZI has been funding a slew of stakeholders involved with the expansion of MTC’s regime, including an academic entity on the University of California campus. The goal here is to have the state legislature endorse the expansion of regional government into land use issues, ostensibly to grow housing by overriding local control of zoning. Demonstrating to the state legislators in Sacramento that a wide variety of stakeholders support expanded regional control and, further, providing the intellectual heft academic authorization bestows, cinches the deal. It is impolite to mention that Facebook finances this chorus.

It’s not news that San Francisco has experienced a major catastrophe housing its citizens. And it’s not news that this calamity resulted from Silicon Valley hiring thousands and providing no place for them to live. As a result, the SF real estate market metastasized: long-term tenants got priced out as richer newcomers gobbled up landlord-inflated rentals. The result: a significant majority of the homeless in the SF Bay area are former tenants.

The high-rise apartments that the regional government and their allies are planning  will not house the homeless, nor newly hired schoolteachers, much less school janitorial staff. The aim is to erect housing that is “affordable” which means in the SF Bay area an income of at least $80,000. Salaries for new Berkeley teachers start in the $30,000 range.

The opposition to neoliberal misgovernance doesn’t really exist as such, though there is pushback on specific policy issues. The advocates for the homeless, for example, want their constituency to be prioritized, but they don’t attack the undemocratic process of expanding regional housing policies as fundamentally flawed. Their reluctance is easily understood. Since the Reagan administration, through Clinton’s regime to the present, neoliberalism has been the program of both parties. This top down, opaque governance model is like the wallpaper in the halls of power. It’s just the way “things are done.” Even the current mayor of Berkeley, a young Latino Sanders supported, plays the game. So much so that he got the Berkeley City Council to unanimously endorse the regional government takeover of housing policy.

What to do? How should neoliberal misgovernance be confronted? First, it needs to be exposed for its connivance with capital, in this case with the real estate developers, and by extension, the banks and hedge funds. Second, its antidemocratic process must be condemned: No Taxation Without Representation! But exposure and condemnation are only the first steps.

Public policy needs ethical guidelines that circumvent the establishment of power brokers. If we state that housing is a right (as the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights mandates) and if this baseline demands achieves support (which requires decontaminating pubic misconceptions) then popular power can be mobilized to demand policies that end corruption at the core of neoliberal misgovernance. Accepting that housing is a right assumes profit making is secondary to that end. In practice this means housing must be removed from the marketplace. There is ample precedent for this in the history and practice of cooperative housing. The Green New Deal references the original New Deal and we should recall that cooperative housing was integral to its vision of a vibrant society.

One “Little” Legislative Crime that Keeps on Giving

NOVA: If this region—New Orleans, the wetlands, and all—were a patient in the hospital, how would you describe them? At what stage are they?

IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Close to death.

[…]

There is the potential for extremely high casualties—people not only killed by flying debris, drowning in the soup, but also just imagine, how do we rescue the survivors? Unlike a river flood, it doesn’t come up and go down. The water stays. And it stays for months and months and months. How do you rescue all of these people? If there’s 200,000 survivors, you get 20,000 out a day, that’s 10 days. So how are they going to hang on? You know, this is one of the big nightmares: how do you rescue those survivors? What are they going to need?

They’re going to need to be detoxified. And this is Louisiana—it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 percent humidity. Putrefaction and fermentation go on very, very rapidly. So those folk are going to be surrounded by the proverbial witches’ brew of toxins.

Photo: Ron Mikulaco, left, and his nephew, Brad Fernandez, examine a crack caused by an earthquake on highway 178 Saturday, July 6, 2019, outside of Ridgecrest, Calif. Crews in Southern California assessed damage to cracked and burned buildings, broken roads, leaking water and gas lines and other infrastructure Saturday after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years jolted an area from Sacramento to Las Vegas to Mexico. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

I have talked about (written in a hundred articles and blogs) this single moment in a political prostitute’s career that defines not only the inhumanity of that person, but also his/her backers, his or her “people,” and those who continue to pad pockets with bribery money.

Little W Bush voting to vote down legislation for making chemical companies to put into their mixes of poisons chemical markers (only in 12 common/major poisons) that would help medical experts treat poisoned youth, babies, and adults when coming into an ER catatonic or seizing. He did the veto because the chemical purveyors lobbied, threw money at candidates of whoring support, and to PR spin-masters who lie lie lie to confuse the public. Those built-in lifesavers would cost some money. Profit Profit Profit Prostitution Prostitution Prostitution.

Remember Emmett Till, and his mother Mamie, and seeking a civil rights investigation into her son’s torture-murder-dismemberment from that bastion of Presidential Prostitution, Ike Eisenhower? That crappy general wouldn’t even open Emmett’s mother’s letter, or thousands of letters supporting an investigation into her son’s murder. No response from that five star mercenary:

Mamie Till-Mobley telegram

Photo credit: A telegram from Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to President Dwight D. Eisenhower requests justice in the investigation of her son’s death. The White House did not respond. [Image courtesy Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, eisenhower.archives.gov)

Will Ike rot in hell (haha)?

It doesn’t have to be an “elected” official that paves the way for the pimps of Wall Street, Big Energy, Big Everything, that so-called “Complex,” tied to the coined Military Industrial Complex, to wrest control of the people’s futures. Take EpiPen, and that head of that Big Pharma company —

She was the first woman to take over a Fortune 500 company. She lied about her MBA. And, her father is a senator and former governor of West Virigina — Heather Manhcin err Bresch. These people are emotional, economic, spiritual tyrants —

Heather Bresch
Happy and bribed multi-millionaire, maybe a cool half a billion now!

Bresch’s time at Mylan featured confusion back in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that she hadn’t earned enough credits for the MBA listed on her résumé. In the end, West Virginia University rescinded a degree it retroactively awarded—but turned out, Bresch didn’t need it to keep her post.

More recently, Mylan disclosed that it is among a group of generics companies facing price-fixing allegations from dozens of states, and federal prosecutors are investigating the issue on their own. Mylan’s president, Rajiv Malik, is among the executives personally named in the lawsuit, although Mylan has stood by its president.

But Mylan first became something of a household word back in 2016, when the EpiPen pricing controversy broke. News surfaced that the drugmaker had been hiking prices for years on its lifesaving epinephrine injector to the point where many parents had a hard time paying for their back-to-school packages. Lawmakers struck up investigations and consumers blasted the drugmaker’s motives.

Bresch, for her part, defended Mylan’s pricing by pointing to the drug pricing and rebating system in the U.S. Along with the EpiPen fiasco, Mylan paid $465 million to the federal government to settle claims it underpaid Medicaid rebates.

Again, the EpiPen, which is required for more and more people today as we are a society with broken immune systems — largely caused by plastics in our food, pesticidees in our bread, herbicides in our cereal, lead in our water, and a bombardment of gene-spliced crap in our foods, like that old fish gene in tomatoes . . . forget about nanoparticles in our beer and beef! The entire food system and general living systems in the USA have been so adulterated that more and more children I teach are in school with major food allergies requiring an EpiPen, which should be free, but instead it went up to $600 a shot under Bresch’s misleadership, and she was touted as the highest paid Pharma CEO, male or female, in the land. Mis-Fortune 500!

One action speaks volumes!Image: A pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector

Think of your own communities and your own legislative districts or states, or regions. Think of that group of prostitutes allowing fracking and earthquakes; coal ash ponds made of crumbling earth and over-spilling. Think of all those CAFOs — confined/concentrated animal feeding operations — polluting the air, land, soil and watershed/water table with billions of gallons of blood, aborted animal fetuses, urine, shit, antibiotics, fungicides, and nitrates, to name a few lovely by-products of that crispy bacon burger or tender chicken nugget with cheddar cheese or big ass T-bone! How many commissioners, state ag bureaucrats, leading scientists with leading universities /lie/lied, cover up/covered up, spin master/spin mastered confusion to the point that you are now there, living a virtual chemical and chronic disease hell?

One decision that puts health, welfare, safety of a community in jeopardy or, in fact, creates those diseases, hazards, injustices, well, that is the defining moment of any single man’s or woman’s humanity, or lack thereof. You think citing “well, in politics, it’s about compromise after negotiation after compromise” as the way democracy run for, by, because, in the name of the rich is going to fix it? After those prostitutes turn thy cheek and see-speak-hear no evil when it comes to the greater good of supporting and propping up and turbo charging the terrorists’ regime — Capitalism’s quadruple profit schemes!

One stupid remark, as we get in all the presidential debates, both sides of the political feedlot manure pile, and if the remark is steeped in injustice, seeking the power of money and inside trading (as all lobbying efforts at the predatory capital level engage in), then there should be hell to pay.

You got the head creep in the head office (POTUS — Perverted Occupant of the US), with so many lies, crimes, incompetencies and the like defining NPD Trump, but alas, the harbingers of money — networks, newspapers, all the Little Eichmanns and boot-lickers with bended knees or backwards flips awaiting Trump’s economic, environmental, international buggering — they are defined by their own prostitution and whoring and pimping.

But it’s all about compromise — how many millions will lose school lunches or measly food stamp benefits? Compromise across both aisles. How many millions are on the brink of houselessness because of that fine group of prostitutes and pimps in the landlord category gouge and gentrify and gut families into eviction hell? Compromise at your local state legislature.

One decision exposed paints a thousand other crimes hidden or about to be perpetrated:

Ask about health care at a summer cookout, and you’ll likely get an earful about how drug corporations are gouging us, leaving many families to choose between buying medications or putting food on the table.

Why? Because corporations put profits before patients.

Look at a corporation like Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, which raked in $480 million in profits last year and paid its chairman $97.6 million, all while raising the price of the medication to more than $600 per dose.

And take Michael Pearson, the former CEO of the drug corporation Valeant, who put it bluntly: “The capitalistic approach to pricing is to charge what the market will bear.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been hearing from people around the country who are terrified that the health care repeal now before Congress will put life-saving medications even farther out of reach for them and their families.

From Alaska to Alabama, people are worried sick about being able to get insulin for diabetes, blood pressure drugs, and prescriptions for panic attacks, ovarian cysts, lupus, celiac disease, thyroid cancer, hemophilia, and many other conditions.

So how many hundreds of gallons of herbicides are acceptable for humanity, wildlife, flora and fauna, fetuses? Which compromise will your cancer-inflamed aunt or developmental delayed/disabled child applaud and say, “That’s politics . . . haha”? Oh, those Poison Papers:

The “Poison Papers” represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920sTaken as a whole, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment. Search instructions for the Poison Papers.

Which of these culprits will rot in Hell? Right! Getting down to headlines:

ROUNDUP TRIAL: MONSANTO USED FAKE DATA TO WIN OVER REGULATORS

TRUMP’S EPA IS UNDERMINING NEW LAW TO REGULATE CHEMICALS

The game can’t be won by George Carlin wannabes, the Jon Leibowtiz “Daily Show” Stewart or the Stephen Colbert crap. Funny as hell is like Nero Fiddling While Rome Burns — Laughing all the way to the bank for those media mucksters, but diluting thought and intellect, those Daily Shows . . . har, har, har!

But in a chaotic society, where we throw millions at a millionaire, like, what’s his name, Anderson Cooper, or where we listen to the third grade debate (sic) antics of idiotic debate (sic) moderators (faux), well, none of these realities are brought to the fore, since America, even in this hateful iteration, is a play nice kinda place, or at least the medium is the message, since there is a cabal of few controlling 95 percent of media, 95 percent of all communication and education platforms. These chosen people will not tolerate anything outside the discourse, outside the controlled opposition, paid for and militated by the same chosen few.

Back to my neck of the woods. Living in a town where the forest meets the sea, as the PR spin puts it. I spend a lot of time on the Highway 101 working as a journalist, environmentalist and family advocate for a new gig I just got hired for to lead in Lincoln County.

That beautiful Pacific, hard-edged Oregon coast, blustery winds, amazing crags and reefs and hard escarpments into the sea. That Highway 101 right up against the near tide line, with tens of thousands of visitors in their RVs and cars, renting beach houses for a span or all summer. The town of Newport is 10,000 residents, but some warm sunny summer days, up to 50,000 from around the USA and world.

So, that big emblematic moment in this state, Oregon, not the liberal bastion portrayed by Holly-dirt or the oh-so-tragically-hip Media?! WE have their names, these culprits who call themselves representatives. Sure, there they are in living color, with their districts in bold. Imagine, Oregon’s Little Eichmann Politicians-Prostitutes voting DOWN an Early Warning system for Earthquakes and Wildfires.

If there is a hell (haha) then these will burn in it, but not in the mindset of the Chamber of Commerce or Developers or Real Estate or Construction or Hospitality felons! Read and weep!

Researchers were shocked when nearly $12 million to expand ShakeAlert and AlertWildfire — early warning systems to help detect significant earthquakes and wildfires — unexpectedly went up in smoke last month, just days before the end of the legislative session. Money for the projects was included as part of a larger funding package, but was stripped in a last-minute amendment.

Disaster preparedness has continually been a focal point as Western states are poised to enter the hottest and driest months of wildfire season. And two massive earthquakes in remote areas of Southern California this month reminded the public it’s only a matter of time before the next destructive quake hits.

“We don’t know when the next big earthquake or wildfire will strike, but we know it will happen at some point,” said Douglas Toomey, a seismologist and earth sciences professor at the University of Oregon who helps run both early warning detection systems. And Oregon is “woefully” unprepared, he said.

Here, my lite article on Oregon State University’s marine sciences center in Newport, 13 miles from mile current tsunami vulnerable home:

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

Again, this is a lifestyle and tourist-travel-stay-and-eat-and-buy magazine, where I make a few shekels:

The next big one

For some, maybe the glass is half empty, especially when considering just when, how big, how long and specifically where the next earthquake will occur along the San Andres Fault and Cascadia Subduction Zone.

For Chris Goldfinger, geology and geophysics professor, it’s not a matter of “if,” but when. He was pretty clear that an 8.0 or above magnitude quake has a 37 percent probability of hitting our Cascadia zone in the next 50 years.

He was quick to criticize the Coastal Caucus, comprising of the eight legislators from districts along the Oregon Coast, who, on June 24, voted down a statewide tsunami zoning code which would have prevented some public services, hospitals, schools, fire and police facilities from being built in tsunami zone sites.

The final activity for the day was a tour of, ironically, a new building that was designed and is currently being constructed to withstand some level of tsunami, with design features that incorporate vertical evacuation from the lower floors to the roof. Then, contingency plans include horizontal paths to avoid tsunami inundation, including Safe Haven Hill west of Highway 101, about a mile from the campus.

Thomas Robbins, from the architecture firm who designed the building, Yost Grube Hall, pointed out other design features that make this new building sort of a model for other structures, including deep-soil mixing to stabilize the ground under the building.

“Augers went down a hundred feet,” Robbins said. “Then thousands of cubic yards of grout [27,380] were injected. We designed this as state of the art, for functionality, safety and aesthetics.”

The expected growth in resident students, up to 500 in 10 years, has necessitated university housing plans — dorms — to be built on higher ground, away from the Hatfield, out of tsunami zones. There was and still is controversy about siting this new building in a tsunami inundation zone.

The OSU Marine Science building under construction, April 2019. It’s on a sandbar at sea level in Newport, Ore., and can be overtopped by the largest of the modeled tsunamis, as well as battered by the NOAA ships docked just to the left out of the frame. It’s not often you can take the “after” picture ahead of time, but this is what it may look like after being destroyed by the next tsunami. Credit: Chris Goldfinger.

Photo credit: The OSU Marine Science building under construction, April 2019. It’s on a sandbar at sea level in Newport, Ore., and can be overtopped by the largest of the modeled tsunamis, as well as battered by the NOAA ships docked just to the left out of the frame. It’s not often you can take the “after” picture ahead of time, but this is what it may look like after being destroyed by the next tsunami. Credit: Chris Goldfinger.

Here, one of the outlier scientists I quoted in my “lite story” and for whom I am seeking a longer story to discuss the bastardization of the science, or what many call engineer-stitutes — the American Society of Civil Engineers, who blew one thing after another, including NOL, Katrina.

– I had this man on my radio show in the early 2000s in Spokane, where he visited one of the colleges where I taught, Spokane Community College, Ivor van Heerden

breach

Photo credit: Breaches like this one (middle distance, beyond the bridge) on the 17th Street Canal caused the extensive flooding. It was not simply a matter of Katrina’s storm surge overtopping the levees. (Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District)

Prof. Chris Goldfinger, Ph.D., Oregon State University

ASCE models: Simplistic, no peer review, no publication

Oregon, however, already had high-end tsunami models. By comparison, the ASCE models are simplistic, a first cut at best, that failed to incorporate the geologic, geophysical or geodetic data. They did not attempt to “balance” the slip along the subduction zone so it made sense in terms of the total budget of motion between the two colliding plates, failed to use the latest geologic evidence, and did not test the models against the geologic evidence of tsunami run-up. The ASCE models and sources were never peer reviewed in any serious way nor published. In fact, it remains pretty hard to ferret out exactly what ASCE did, as there is no documentation to speak of. At a meeting where the results were presented to Oregon specialists including me, they were heavily criticized. But the process was already complete, and our comments were not incorporated.

So in the end, Oregon was sold this package to replace the 1995 law, and also to cut DOGAMI out of the picture. Legislators wanted to shoot the messenger, as so often is the case. Now Oregon will have two sets of tsunami lines, one in the new building codes, and one from DOGAMI. They are not the same, and don’t serve the same purpose. Nonetheless, the DOGAMI lines are defensible, published and available to all, while the ASCE lines are not in the same league. But many in the Oregon legislature became convinced that they were improving things, while others pushed the pro-development agenda, and others appeared to be confused about exactly what they were signing due to the press of other business.

Worse than the tsunami models is that now there is no statewide uniform guidance or law to govern what can be built in a tsunami zone. Decisions will be made by local building inspectors who decide which risk category a project belongs in, and these people, in my honest opinion, are easily influenced by politics. While a given city is free to go above and beyond the codes and place things in safe locations, it will also be free to do dangerous things if the local politicians push it. To some extent this was always true, and fixing that was a problem a state task force was working on when short-circuited by the legislative attack on DOGAMI.

A stealth war on science

It gets worse. The bill that passed last week was done in stealth mode, under the radar, when all news was focused on a climate and carbon tax debate. It was attached to another bill very late in the session, and had no real discussion, hearings or debate. Even if some of the supporters were well intentioned, some are conflicted with strong pro-development agendas. As Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat who represents the Central Coast, stated many times, tsunami protections were costing people money (a dubious claim at best), thus the attacks on the existing law and on DOGAMI.

In the end, the result may well be measured in lives lost for the simple cause of profits for developers on the coast.

India’s Tryst with Destiny

Today, we are in the grip of a globalised system of capitalism which drives narcissism, domination, ego, anthropocentrism, speciesism and plunder. A system that is using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have poisoned the rivers and oceans, destroyed natural habitats, driven wildlife species to (the edge of) extinction and have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere with seemingly devastating effects.

With its never-ending quest for profit, capitalism thrives on the exploitation of peoples and the environment. It strides the world hand in glove with militarism, with the outcome being endless destabilisations, conflicts and wars over finite resources and the capture of new markets.

This is sold to the masses as part of an ongoing quest to achieve human well-being, measured in terms of endless GDP growth, itself based on an ideology that associates such growth with corporate profit, boosted by stock buy-backs, financial speculation, massive arms deals,  colonialism masquerading as philanthropymanipulated and rigged markets, corrupt and secretive trade deals, outsourced jobs and a resource-grabbing militarism.

That such a parasitical system could ever bring about a ‘happy’ human condition for the majority is unfathomable.

Over the last 70 years, material living standards in the West have improved, but how that wealth was obtained and how it is then distributed is what really matters. Take the case of the UK.

While much of manufacturing has been outsourced to cheap labour economies, welfare, unions and livelihoods have been attacked. Massive levels of tax evasion/avoidance persist and neoliberal policies have resulted in privatisation, deregulation and the spiralling of national and personal debt. Moreover, the cost of living has increased as public assets have been sold off to profiteering cartels and taxpayers’ money has been turned into corporate welfare for a corrupt banking cartel.

Meanwhile, the richest 1,000 families in the UK saw their net worth more than double shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression, while the rest of the population is confronted with ‘austerity’, poverty, cutbacks, reliance on food banks and job insecurity.

But let’s not forget where much of the UK’s wealth came from in the first place: some $45 trillion was sucked from India alone according to renowned economist Utsa Patnaik.  Britain developed by under-developing India. And now the West and its (modern-day East India) corporations are in the process of ‘developing’ India by again helping themselves to the country’s public wealth and natural assets (outlined further on).

Under this system, it is clear whose happiness and well-being matters most and whose does not matter at all. According to researcher and analyst Andrew Gavin Marshall, it is the major international banking houses which control the global central banking system:

From there, these dynastic banking families created an international network of think tanks, which socialised the ruling elites of each nation and the international community as a whole, into a cohesive transnational elite class. The foundations they established helped shape civil society both nationally and internationally, playing a major part in the funding – and thus coordinating and co-opting – of major social-political movements.

Additional insight is set out by David Rothkopf in his 2008 book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making:

The superclass constitutes approximately 0.0001 percent of the world’s population. They are the Davos-attending, Gulfstream/private jet-flying, money-incrusted, megacorporation-interlocked, policy-building elites of the world, people at the absolute peak of the global power pyramid … They are from the highest levels of finance capital, transnational corporations, the government, the military… and other shadow elites.

These are the people setting the agendas at the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, G-7, G-20, NATO, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. They decide which wars are to be fought and why and formulate global economic policy.

Tryst with destiny

In 1947, on the steps of the Red Fort in Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke optimistically about India’s tryst with destiny. Free from the shackles of British colonialism, for many the future seemed bright.

But some 72 years on, we now see a headlong rush to urbanise (under World Bank directives – India is the biggest debtor nation in the history of that institution) and India’s cities are increasingly defined by their traffic-jammed flyovers cutting through fume choked neighbourhoods that are denied access to drinking water and a decent infrastructure. Privatisation and crony capitalism are the order of the day.

Away from the cities, the influence of transnational agricapital and state-corporate grabs for land are leading to violent upheaval, conflict and ecological destruction. The links between the Monsanto-Syngenta-Walmart-backed Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the associated US sanctioning and backing of the opening up of India’s nuclear sector to foreign interests show who really benefits from this.

Under the guise of ‘globalisation’, Western powers are on an unrelenting drive to plunder what they regard as ‘untapped markets’ in other areas of the globe. Foreign agricapital has been moving in on Indian food and agriculture for some time. But it first needs to eradicate the peasantry and displace the current model of production before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control.

Other sectors have not been immune to this bogus notion of development. Millions of people have been displaced to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other large-scale projects. And the full military backing of the state has been on hand to forcibly evict people.

To help open the nation to foreign capital, proponents of economic neoliberalism are fond of stating that ‘regulatory blockages’ must be removed. If particular ‘blockages’ stemming from legitimate protest, rights to land and dissent cannot be dealt with by peaceful means, other methods are used. And when increasing mass surveillance or widespread ideological attempts to discredit and smear does not secure compliance or dilute the power of protest, brute force is on hand.

The country’s spurt of high GDP growth was partly fuelled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head of population than it did 40 years ago. Meanwhile, unlike farmers, corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans but have failed to spur job creation.

Millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are suffering economic distress as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them. Veteran rural reporter P Sainath says what this has resulted in is not so much an agrarian crisis but a crisis of civilisation proportions, given that the bulk of the population still lives in the countryside and relies on agriculture or related activities for an income.

Independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and remaining farmers will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

US agribusiness corporations are spearheading this process, the very companies that fuel and thrive on a five-year US taxpayer-funded farm bill subsidy of around $500 billion. Their industrial model in the US is based on the overproduction of certain commodities often sold at prices below the cost of production and dumped on the rest of the world, thereby undermining farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture in other countries, not least India.

It is a model that can only survive thanks to taxpayer handouts and only function by externalising its massive health, environmental and social costs. And it’s a model that only leads to the destruction of rural communities and jobs, degraded soil, less diverse and nutrient-deficient diets, polluted water, water shortages and spiralling rates of ill health.

We hear certain politicians celebrate the fact India has jumped so many places in the ‘ease of doing business’ table. This term along with ‘foreign direct investment’, making India ‘business friendly’ and ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ embody little more than the tenets of US neoliberal fundamentalism wrapped in benign-sounding words.

Of course, as Gavin Andrew Marshall notes, US foundations have played a major part in shaping policies and co-opting civil society and major social-political movements across the world, including in India. As Chester Bowles, former US ambassador to India, says:

Someday someone must give the American people a full report of the Ford Foundation in India. The several million dollars in total Ford expenditures in the country do not tell 1/10 of the story.

Taking inflation into account, that figure would now be much greater. Maybe people residing in India should be given a full report of Ford’s activities too as well as the overall extent of US ‘intervention’ in the country.

A couple of years ago, economist Norbert Haring (in his piece “A well-kept open secret: Washington is behind India’s brutal experiment of abolishing most cash) outlined the influence of USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in furthering the incorporation of India into the US’s financial (and intelligence architecture). But this is the type of thing just the tip of a very large iceberg that’s been going on for many decades.

After the recent general election, India seems destined to continue to capitulate to a programme that suits the needs of foreign capital for another five years. However, the focus is often on what India should or should not do. It’s not as if alternatives to current policies do not exist, but as Jason Hickel wrote in The Guardian back in 2017, it really is time that the richer countries led the way by ‘de-developing’ and reorienting their societies to become less consumption based. A laudable aim given the overexploitation of the planet’s resources, the foreign policy implications (conflict and war) and the path to environmental suicide we are on. However, we must first push back against those forces and which resist this.

On 15 August, India commemorates independence from British rule. Many individuals and groups are involved in an ongoing struggle in India to achieve genuine independence from exploitation and human and environmental degradation. It’s a struggle for freedom and a tryst with destiny that’s being fought throughout the world by many, from farmers and indigenous peoples to city dwellers, against the same system and the same forces of brutality and deceit.

Sur Baher Home Demolitions illustrate a Vicious Spiral of Oppression in Palestine

Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Ms Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk.

— Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza,  he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

At Boeing Company, Names of people killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge are read aloud; Elizabeth Murray sounds a gong after each name.  (Photo credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Banner dropping over a bridge crossing the Chicago River: Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.

• A version of this article was published July 23rd, 2019 at The Progressive

Israel’s Machinery of Dispossession has crushed the Hopes of an Inspirational Family

Israeli police forced out the Siyam family from their home in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem last week, the final chapter in their 25-year legal battle against a powerful settler organisation.

The family’s defeat represented much more than just another eviction. It was intended to land a crushing blow against the hopes of some 20,000 Palestinians living in the shadow of the Old City walls and Al Aqsa mosque.

Dozens of families in the Silwan neighbourhood have endured the same fate as the Siyams, and the Israeli courts have approved the imminent eviction of many hundreds more Palestinians from the area.

But, unlike those families, the Siyams’ predicament briefly caught public attention. That was because one of them, Jawad Siyam, has become a figurehead of Silwan’s resistance efforts.

Mr Siyam, a social worker, has led the fight against Elad, a wealthy settler group that since the early 1990s has been slowly erasing Silwan’s Palestinian identity, in order to remake it as the City of David archeological park.

Mr Siyam has served as a spokesman, drawing attention to Silwan’s plight. He has also helped to organise the community, setting up youth and cultural centres to fortify Silwan’s identity and sense of purpose in the face of Israel’s relentless oppression.

However, the settlers of Elad want Silwan dismembered, not strengthened.

Elad’s mission is to strip away the Palestinian community to reveal crumbling relics beneath, which it claims are proof that King David founded his Israelite kingdom there 3,000 years ago.

The history and archeological rationalisations may be murky, but the political vision is clear. The Palestinians of Silwan are to be forced out like unwelcome squatters.

An Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, refers to plans for the City of David as “the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing”.

It is the most unequal fight imaginable – a story of David and Goliath, in which the giant fools the world into believing he is the underdog.

It has pitted Mr Siyam and other residents against not only the settlers, but the US and Israeli governments, the police and courts, archaeologists, planning authorities, national parks officials and unwitting tourists.

And, adding to their woes, Silwan’s residents are being forced to fight both above and below ground at the same time.

The walls and foundations of dozens of houses are cracking and sinking because the Israeli authorities have licensed Elad to flout normal safety regulations and excavate immediately below the community’s homes. Several families have had to be evacuated.

Late last month Elad flexed its muscles again, this time as it put the finishing touches to its latest touristic project: a tunnel under Silwan that reaches to the foot of Al Aqsa.

On Elad’s behalf, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, wielded a sledgehammer to smash down a symbolic wall inaugurating the tunnel, which has been renamed the Pilgrimage Road.

Elad claims – though many archaeologists doubt it – that in Roman times the tunnel was a street used by Jews to ascend to a temple on the site where today stands the Islamic holy site of Al Aqsa.

The participation of the two US envoys in the ceremony offered further proof that Washington is tearing up the peacemaking rule book, destroying any hope the Palestinians might once have had of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Friedman called the City of David complex – at the core of occupied Palestinian Jerusalem – “an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel”. Ending the occupation there would be “akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty”.

While Israel, backed by the US, smashes Silwan’s foundations, it is also dominating the sky above it.

Last month Israel’s highest planning body approved a cable car from Israeli territory in West Jerusalem into the centre of Silwan.

It will connect with the City of David and a network of boardwalks, coffee shops and touristic tunnels, such as like the Pilgrimage Road, all run by Elad settlers, to slice apart Silwan.

And to signal how the neighbourhood is being reinvented, the Israeli municipality enforcing the occupation in East Jerusalem recently named several of Silwan’s main streets after famous Jewish rabbis.

Former mayor Nir Barkat has said the goal of all this development is to bring 10 million tourists a year to Silwan, so that they “understand who is really the landlord in this city”.

Few outsiders appear to object. This month, the tourism website TripAdvisor was taken to task by Amnesty International for recommending the City of David as a top attraction in Jerusalem.

And now, Elad has felled the family of Jawad Siyam in a bid to crush the community’s spirits and remaining sense of defiance.

As it has with so many of Silwan’s homeowners, Elad waged a decades-long legal battle against the family to drain them of funds and stamina.

The Siyams’ fate was finally sealed last month when the Israeli courts extended the use of a 70-year-old, draconian piece of legislation, the Absentee Property Law, to Silwan.

The law was crafted specifically to steal the lands and homes of 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled in 1948 by the new state of Israel.

Ownership of the Siyams’ home is shared between Jawad’s uncles and aunts, some of them classified by Israel as “absentees” because they now live abroad.

As a result, an Israeli official with the title Custodian of Absentee Property claimed ownership of sections of the house belonging to these relatives, and then, in violation of his obligations under international law, sold them on to Elad. Police strong-armed the family out last week.

To add insult to injury, the court also approved Elad seizing money raised via crowdfunding by more than 200 Israeli peace activists, with the aim of helping the Siyams with their legal costs.

Palestinians such as Jawad Siyam exist all over the occupied territories – men and women who have given Palestinians a sense of hope, commitment and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s machinery of dispossession.

When Israel targets Jawad Siyam, crushes his spirits, it sends an unmistakeable message not only to other Palestinians, but to the international community itself, that peace is not on its agenda.

Entry Ban at Israeli City Park provokes Apartheid Warnings

The barring of a lawyer and her infant from a public park in the Galilee last week has triggered a legal battle over whether local authorities in Israel can segregate citizens on a racial basis.

Human rights groups have warned that the ban marks a growing trend by local authorities representing the Jewish majority towards explicit separation of public space in ways reminiscent of apartheid South Africa.

An Israeli court will have to decide whether it is reasonable for Afula, a city in the country’s north, to deny non-residents entrance to the main local park, which includes a playground, a small zoo, basketball courts and a running track.

The restriction amounts to a ban on Palestinian citizens from surrounding communities using a public resource, according to Adalah, a legal human rights group representing Israel’s Palestinian minority, one in five of the country’s population.

These 1.8 million Palestinian citizens are the remnants of the native population expelled from their lands in 1948 during the creation of Israel – what Palestinians call their Nakba, or catastrophe.

‘Conquest’ of the park

Afula’s mayor, Avi Elkabetz, has done little to hide his motivation in closing the park to non-residents.

He won a local election late last year on a platform that he would stop what he termed the “conquest of the park” by Palestinian citizens and has urged Afula’s residents to “proudly hoist Israeli flags throughout the park and play music in Hebrew”.

In addition, Adalah observed, Elkabetz and other Afula officials have waged a battle over the past three years to block Palestinian citizens from moving to Afula from overcrowded, neighbouring communities like Nazareth.

The mayor has been involved in a series of demonstrations against Palestinian families trying to buy homes in Afula, including one last month arranged by a far-right, anti-Arab group.

After local elections last year, councillors were made to swear a revised oath that they would “preserve the city’s Jewish character”. Despite protests, the interior ministry did not oppose the change of wording.

Mother and son denied entry

Fady Khoury, an Adalah lawyer overseeing a petition to Nazareth’s district court to repeal Afula’s decision, said it was important to understand that this was not an isolated incident.

“There has always been a lot of racially based segregation in Israel, but it was done quietly, mostly out of view in rural communities and concealed with ostensibly neutral language so that such policies would not arouse scrutiny or criticism,” he told Middle East Eye.

“But now the discrimination is moving centre-stage, into the big cities. It is being done transparently, even proudly. It is a sign of the right’s ever-greater confidence.”

Adalah launched the case after another of its lawyers was barred from the park last week. Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi, a resident of Nazareth, had hoped to take her one-year-old son there to play.

The guard refused them entry after asking her where she lived. Nazareth, the largest Palestinian community in Israel, is a short distance from Afula.

She noted that land shortages, following widespread government confiscations decades ago, meant Nazareth and other Palestinian communities lacked green spaces and public parks.

Shehadeh-Zoabi told MEE: “It was shocking and humiliating to be told to leave, especially when Jews were being allowed to enter the park without showing any form of identification. It is clear the policy is designed to prevent Arab citizens alone from entering.”

She added: “It starts with a ban on entering parks, but if we don’t challenge this policy of segregation based on ethnicity it will quickly escalate to bigger things.”

Courts wary to intervene

The Afula municipality declined to comment. A spokesman, Kfir Bazak, told MEE that it was not speaking to journalists because the Israeli media had in the past misrepresented its policy.

Adalah hopes it can overturn the park ban using two laws: one that denies municipalities the right to collect fees for public parks, and another that prohibits the denial of services based on various criteria, including place of residence.

Khoury said that, paradoxically, the residency non-discrimination clause was added by the parliament in a 2017 amendment designed to prevent companies from denying services to settlers.

Many Jewish communities in Israel, he added, placed residency restrictions on access to public facilities, such as swimming pools and sports centres, that were covertly designed to exclude Palestinian citizens. The courts had usually been reluctant to intervene.

“In those cases, there is limited space so there is an argument for prioritising local residents. Parks, on the other hand, cannot be treated as an exclusive space.

“The land is given by the state to the municipality and it is designated in city plans as an open area. It’s like a public highway. It can’t be treated as private property.”

He said if the court backed Adalah’s argument, those that are denied entry could sue the municipality.

City of ‘Arab haters’

On a visit to the park at the weekend, however, Afula residents were mostly supportive of the mayor’s move.

Tal Kauffman, aged 41, said he took his young daughter regularly to the park during the summer.

“It’s better this way. This city is known for being full of Arab-haters,” he told MEE. “I’m not against living together but the reality here is that mixing will lead to tension and fights.

“It’s just recognising how people are raised here – to hate Arabs. We have to separate the ideals of politics and real life.”

Most others, however, were more reluctant to ascribe the policy directly to racism.

Tal Cohen, aged 30, who grew up in Afula but now lives in Tel Aviv, was visiting his parents with his wife and children. He said the restriction was necessary because of “bad people”.

“It’s not about Arabs and Jews. It’s to stop troublemakers coming here and using the park. There’s a problem with alcohol and rubbish.”

‘Socially unsuitable’

Adi Aviram, aged 34, was watching over her three young children playing on a slide. She believes non-residents should not be banned but should pay a fee to use the park.

Referring to the widespread segregation in housing between the Jewish majority and Palestinian minority, she said it was good for children from different ethnic groups to meet in the park.

“The fact is if they don’t mix here, they won’t come across each other until they’re grown-ups when they have already developed prejudices. It’s good for the kids to meet each other, play together, hear different languages.”

Some 90 percent of Israelis live in communities that are almost completely segregated on a racial basis, noted Hana Swaid, a former Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament who now heads the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning.

Hundreds of smaller Jewish communities employ admissions committees to bar Palestinian citizens from living there, he added, using the pretext that they are “socially unsuitable”.

“Even the rest who live in the larger, so-called ‘mixed cities’ – like Jerusalem, Haifa, Acre, Lod and Jaffa – are mostly living under a system of partial segregation, with Jewish and Palestinan citizens divided into separate neighbourhoods,” he told MEE.

Fear of mixing

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian citizens comprise less than 1 percent of Afula’s population.

However, small numbers of arrivals from neighbouring Palestinian communities over the past three years have triggered a backlash. The mayor has capitalised on fears among Afula residents that the city is in danger of becoming mixed.

That has effectively happened close by, in Nazareth Ilit, a Jewish city built in the 1950s on the lands of neighbouring Nazareth, the reputed site of Jesus’ childhood and the only Palestinian city to survive the Nakba.

Swaid said the proportion of Palestinian citizens living in Nazareth Ilit may now be as high as 25 percent. Israeli authorities have been reluctant to issue official figures.

Last month, residents of Nazareth Ilit voted to rename their city Nof Hagalil (View of the Galilee) in a move the city’s mayor described as distancing the Jewish city from its neighbour.

Nazareth Ilit’s mayors have refused to build a school teaching in Arabic in violation of Israel’s Education Law – forcing Palestinian parents to send their children to Nazareth’s schools. Education is almost entirely segregated in Israel.

Compared to immigrants

A father with his children in Afula’s park who would only give his name as Nick said he lived in Nazareth Ilit for a time after arriving from Russia in 1992 before moving to Afula.

He warned that Afula would face a similar influx of Palestinian citizens if it did not act to stop it quickly, and compared the native Palestinian population to immigrants.

“Here is like everywhere else. People in London don’t want immigrants coming to their city. We feel the same.”

Last year, Afula city council voted down a move to incorporate in its municipal boundaries the small Palestinian village of Dahi, saying it wanted to “preserve the city’s character”. Beforehand, Elkabetz had referred to the council vote as “one of its most critical meetings ever”.

Judaising the Galilee

Swaid said Afula and other nearby Jewish cities were traditionally seen as “Judaising” – or making more Jewish – the Galilee, a region that had remained dominated by its Palestinian population since 1948.

“The problem is that after decades of government discrimination Palestinian communities like Nazareth lack lands for future housing,” he said.

“Residents have no choice but to seek solutions elsewhere. First they started moving to Nazareth Ilit, now it is Afula. That is provoking a reaction.”

Swaid and Khoury noted that Afula’s officials felt more confident excluding Palestinian citizens after the parliament passed the Nation State Basic Law last year, which has a constitutional-like status.

According to Article 7 of the law, “the state considers the development of Jewish settlement a national value, and will work to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening”.

Swaid said: “The intention behind the law is to make it possible for cities like Afula to implement segregation.”

Disturbed by Arabic

Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and editor of a recent book comparing Israel and apartheid South Africa, said there was widespread support among Israeli Jews for apartheid-style segregation.

A public survey last December revealed that 74 percent were disturbed to hear conversations in Arabic, the mother tongue of a fifth of the population. And 88 percent would be worried if their son befriended an Arab girl.

“The reality today is that you will not a find a single cabinet minister who would be prepared to denounce what Afula is doing,” Pappe told MEE.

“Not only that but all of them would understand or support its actions.”

A Haaretz editorial last summer, during protests in Afula against house sales to Palestinian citizens, noted that not even Israel’s centre-left parties had voiced criticism of the involvement of the mayor and other city officials.

“In Israel … expressions of hatred for Arabs are met with total indifference at best or encouragement at worst,” it observed.

Template for future

Pappe said it was inevitable that with Israeli politicians no longer even paying lip-service to a two-state solution, policies inside Israel would grow more like those in the occupied territories.

“The right’s argument is that there is no difference between the parts of Palestine seized in 1948, which are today Israel, and those occupied in 1967,” he told MEE. “For them, they are the same, they are all Greater Israel.

“The result is that policies towards Palestinian citizens increasingly look the same as those faced by Palestinians under occupation. All will face the same kind of apartheid. The Nation State Law was a template for the future.”

Last year, Kfar Vradim, another Jewish community in the Galilee, halted an auction for land for house-building after several plots were bought by Palestinian citizens.

Some 50 municipal rabbis issued an edict in 2010 against Jews renting or selling homes to Palestinian citizens.

And around the same time the deputy mayor of the city of Karmiel in the central Galilee was implicated in setting up a hotline for residents to inform on neighbours suspected of selling to Palestinian citizens.

Back at Afula’s park, one man admitted to being a Palestinian citizen – from the nearby village of Daburriya. Only giving his name as Abdullah, he said he had been employed by Afula as a park-keeper for four years. He declined to comment on the mayor’s new policy.

• First published at Middle East Eye