Former radical and Black Panther advocate, now prison abolitionist, Angela Davis, is “very excited” that Senator Kamala Harris is a Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in the current US election. She admits there may be “problematic areas” with Harris’ political record, like her support of the death penalty, (or perhaps her opposition to a California bill when she was attorney general that would have had her office investigate all fatal police shootings?) but Davis has said feminists have to make “pragmatic compromises” and Harris might be “amenable” to future “progressive radical pressure.” Davis then explains that it’s “a feminist approach to be able to work with these contradictions.” When you are a Black “radical progressive” woman who has devoted years to abolishing mass incarceration and the police state—that’s one massive contradiction! A radical for Black and Brown and female rights should not support such a candidate, especially a Black candidate like Harris. It is not “a feminist approach” to totally deny everything for which a feminist—especially a “radical” feminist—stands.
Feminism is a philosophy of human rights, equality, democracy and justice. Feminists do not, as Harris did as San Francisco district attorney, punish Black mothers for their children’s truancy by jailing them when they couldn’t pay the fine. Feminists who support prison abolition certainly should not. President Trump’s lunacy does not change Harris’s cruelty. She, like Hillary Clinton, is no feminist, and should not be someone supported with on-line fund-raisers. She, just like Vice President Joe Biden, who was a major architect of the present police/prison industrial complex, is not “palatable” if you’re a feminist or radical or any sort of dissenter against a police state.
The American police state has jailed dissenters since its beginnings, and it certainly shows no sign of ending that enterprise with the capitalist oligarchy now in control. The longest-jailed woman political prisoner for fighting against police brutality, Reverend Joy Powell, wrote me a few weeks ago that for Black Americans, “the system is working exactly the way it was meant to work.” It was meant “to keep their feet on our necks, by either killing an individual based upon the color of their skin. . . or trumping up charges on one with a voice and making tag team efforts to silence us.” Joy Powell knows all about that. And so do all the hundreds of women political dissenters today.
To highlight just a couple of recent cases, and there are way too many to choose from, we have only to look at the Denver police/district attorney repression of the organizers of the ongoing protests against the police murder of Elijah McClain, and the arrest of a Black female Kentucky legislator at the protests erupting in outrage after no justice was achieved for Breonna Taylor, killed in her bed. On September 17th, a number of organizers of the Elijah McClain protests were arrested by Denver police, including Eliza Lucero and Lillian House of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Lucero thinks the district attorney has a personal vendetta against them, as they were refused a bail hearing, and held for eight days. The women observed the unsanitary and cramped conditions that existed for themselves and their fellow women prisoners, who, if menstruating, could, without supplies, bleed through their pants, and have to wait for the weekly laundry day to do anything about it. In a week, Lucero and House were allowed one anti-virus mask, and no shower. The Denver women only got a bail hearing after an international outcry fueled by social media. They’ll have a preliminary trial on November 10th to face bogus felony charges including “inciting a riot,” “kidnapping” (encircling a police precinct during a demonstration—apparently the police felt threatened), obstructing a highway, and stealing a sign. They face up to 40 years in jail. Their crime is to publicly and loudly object to the police torture and murder of the very young and innocent Elijah McClain.
As with the protests surrounding Daniel Prude’s killing in Rochester, NY, people took to the streets a few days ago to show their outrage about yet another documented case of murder over compassion in the case of Walter Wallace, whose family had requested an ambulance and instead got men with guns, more than ready to kill another young Black man who posed little threat. His mother and others were trying to defuse the situation, but the police have other much more deadly ways of dealing with situations. During the resulting protests, a video was shown on social media which highlighted an officer arresting a young Black woman. He wrestled her to the ground and “punched her repeatedly.” This is the police state in action.
To say that protesters against the lack of accountability for the killing of Breonna Taylor are frustrated, despairing and very angry, is to put it mildly. Many have been arrested in numerous demonstrations, some with felony charges threatened as in Denver. At the end of September a grand jury– two of whose number, in an extraordinary action, spoke out against the charges not made—led along by the (Black) Kentucky attorney general, declined to bring charges against any police officer for killing Breonna Taylor. Even knowing by now the lack of influence they would have, people took to the streets. Two of those people were Kentucky representative Attica Scott and her college student daughter Ashanti. Scott, the only Black female in that body, has submitted “Breonna’s Law” to the legislature to forbid “no-knock” warrants. She felt she needed to be part of the demonstration after no charges were brought.
Scott was, with her daughter, seeking sanctuary in a church before curfew. A few minutes before curfew began, they were arrested. She had been taking pictures with her phone, always an impetus to anger cops. She asked the arresting officer, “Where did you want us to go?” He only told her to turn off her phone “so it doesn’t get broke.” They were held overnight and Scott said she was “traumatized.” But, she said, she has “the responsibility as a woman, a Black woman, a mother, to keep the fight going.” As a Black woman, and a mother, Representative Scott needs to keep the fight going. Senator Kamala Harris (also a Black woman and a mother) is very definitely on the other side of that fight. Harris jailed Black women and is a staunch friend of the police. Is it “palatable” enough then, for feminists, for radicals and leftists, to vote for Biden/Harris?
A few years ago (quite a few), I wrote a book about militant feminist suffragists called Iron-Jawed Angels. These were women political prisoners who lost jobs, husbands, and reputations; who were beaten, jailed and forced fed: all to gain the constitutional right to vote, a step on the road to full equality with men. That success was going to be quickly followed by a constitutional Equal Rights Amendment, clearly recognizing female equality. Well, that hasn’t worked out as yet. Who knows what a strange Christian rightist/female inferiority advocate, the new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, may harbor regarding the Equal Rights Amendment. But even the vaunted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg did not believe the unprecedented ratification time limit that ERA campaigners faced should be set aside, meaning perhaps they should start over.
So women have their right to vote, if not citizenship without rights forbidding sex discrimination. What did years of campaigning for woman suffrage, including violence and jail time, glean for women? They can vote in a 2020 election that presents them with no choice at all: one out-front lunatic candidate of the capitalist-controlled nation, or another better-mannered candidate, scion of traditional Clinton/Obama Wall Street/imperialist/Big Lobbies. Both campaigns applaud the police/mass incarceration state. Both shudder at the thought of “defunding the police” and out-man each other to make China/Iran/Cuba (and on and on) pay for daring to challenge American hegemony in any way. Both support jailing political dissenters—especially dissenters who reveal the “contradictions” of the great US of A (Julian Assange), or dissenters against the police/mass incarceration state (Joy Powell, Eliza Lucero…).”Liberal” social media censors any word against Joe Biden’s obvious long-time influence peddling, done alongside Trump’s deal-making. Biden, like Trump, has numerous women who have accused him of sexual wrongdoing. Just as establishment feminists were willing to overlook that side of Bill Clinton’s character, so are they willing to ignore, vilify and eventually silence Biden accuser Tara Reade. Not a lot of choice here for actual feminists.
Except that the Democrats have Kamala Harris, who spent a career “locking up Black and brown people.” Harris refused to reduce prison overcrowding. She fought “tooth and nail” to uphold wrongful convictions because of “official misconduct” and opposed the use of police body cams. Unabashedly capitalist, she wanted prisoners kept locked up to use them for cheap labor. Senator Kamala Harris is the poster girl of the police/mass incarceration state. But radical Angela Davis, who has called Obama part of the “black radical tradition,” argues: “Perhaps she will be amenable to the kind of progressive radical pressure that we can exert in the future.” Maybe. And maybe this is one of Davis’s “pragmatic compromises.” And feminist contradictions.
How about, as a radical feminist, or real leftist, forgetting the compromises and contradictions? There are choices: leftist third party choices who have managed to get on a number of state ballots. Gloria La Riva is running for president as candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the party of Denver’s Eliza Lucero and Lillian House. La Riva has travelled from protest to protest: from Rochester, NY to Portland, OR. She finds “resistance and dedication” in these demonstrators. She advocates free healthcare, adequate housing, a guaranteed annual wage and social equality. She is a good feminist/leftist female candidate. Then there is Angela Walker. Walker is the African American running mate of Green Party/Socialist Party’s Howie Hawkins. Walker, a bus and truck driver at present, describes herself as a “Fred Hampton/Assata Shakur socialist.” She’s been a civil rights activist from an early age, in Occupy and union fights. She ran as a socialist for sheriff in Milwaukee in 2014, raising issues of systemic racism and mass incarceration, and got 20% of the vote. Walker is “a fierce advocate for the rights of Black, Brown and indigenous people, the LGBTQA community, Labor and the Earth itself.” Here is another good feminist choice, with no compromise, no contradictions.
I am a radical feminist and I vote. I voted for Howie Hawkins and for Angela Walker, the fierce advocate for human rights.
In less than four weeks a nation that loves nostalgia will be entertaining an election not unlike those a century ago. The election on 3 November 2020 will be fundamentally a “white man’s election”, the penumbra of protest notwithstanding.
Donald Trump captured the Republican nomination and the election four years ago by appealing to the populist elements that were opposed to what can actually be called the Bush-Clinton gang in the GOP. With the necessary money and a salesman’s astute sense of how to hawk, he overwhelmed the GOP establishment candidates and placed himself on the wave of those who rightly hated Clinton and certainly had no love for Obama.
Neither Hillary Clinton’s horrid personality nor her legacy could possibly appeal to anyone except party diehards, gravy train parasites and the academic faux gauche; i.e., those who bought the synthetic brand Obama in 2008 and became addicted to the product.
Mr Trump’s unexpected win — although not surprising for those who had a sober view of Clinton — caused considerable upset in the Establishment. As I have noted, but apparently few others have, while Donald Trump is unsurprisingly rich, he is, in fact, the first POTUS to be elected in at least a century who was not previously a senior civil servant, military officer or professional politician. That, of course, means that he was not “trained” how to behave or instructed as to who really makes decisions for the White House. Although the mass media have focused on his business career and his wealth, they conspicuously ignore the fact that he is also the first person in the White House since 1980 not controlled by the Bush family!1
Since in the US no one likes to talk about power as it is really exercised and by whom, four years have been spent attacking a mediocre New York real estate gangster for stage performances that were largely spoiled by the crew behind the curtains. Never mind any virtues or defects of Donald Trump’s ostensible program or policies since these are not really important. The most serious problem has been that there was a policy and program adopted prior to his election that Ms Clinton was supposed to represent and failure to elect her meant this policy and program had to be pushed without her– against Mr Trump, if necessary.
Donald Trump’s failure to cooperate with those who, in fact, make policy was manifest in the frequent changes to high office appointments. Since the only power Mr Trump actually has had — not unlike Jimmy Carter — is to appoint and dismiss cabinet officers and some other senior bureaucrats, this is what he did. Although his appointments did not give him more control over the relevant departments, they did cause considerable irritation throughout senior echelons of the federal bureaucracy. The most obvious disruption arises when people whose careers have advanced by following certain superiors in a given structure find that they have a new boss and perhaps even that they are transferred to some part of the organisation less favourable to their future promotion. For outsiders these changes are scarcely noticeable but for career civil servants at the higher management levels such disruption is taken very seriously. The programs that were dependent for their smooth implementation on continuity from the Obama-Clinton management were now subject to administrative delays or even budgetary obstacles. Thus layers of official Washington had reasons to aggravate the obstructions and contribute to the attack on Trump.
As the impeachment proceedings finally demonstrated, the principal objections to Donald Trump were nothing more than his frustration of the Establishment program to which the Bush-Clinton gang was committed. Every effort has been made to show that Donald Trump as POTUS is neither entitled nor competent to exercise executive authority. Nor is he allowed to change Establishment policy (in the form of initiatives under his predecessors). Yet the US Constitution does not name failure to adhere to the policies of a previous administration as a violation of the law or an impeachable offense. None of those who claim that Mr Trump is the “worst ever” POTUS seem to have any recollection of George W Bush, a semi-literate son of the ruling dynasty, re-elected by blatant election fraud with at least one illegal war to his credit, not to mention the demonstrable corruption in office. No matter how mediocre he may be, Donald Trump’s record is snow white compared to that of his predecessors.
Failing impeachment and removal from office, the immediate effects of the 2015 pandemic plan were then turned against Mr Trump in a last ditch attempt to show that he is incompetent, if not the cause of the faux pandemic.2 Clearly a project, which under Ms Clinton would have been launched earlier (no doubt to profile her “leadership”), was now implemented in the hope that it would foil Donald Trump’s re-election chances. However, that was not sticking either.
A serving POTUS rarely has to seek party re-nomination for a second term, the micro-convention held by the Republicans was therefore a formality. For years, however, the Democratic Party has had to contend with its dissident left wing (in the US sense of the word). Again Bernie Sanders was let into the bullring to take a few stabs at a Trump effigy to keep the restless in their seats until a suitable nominee could be appointed.
The lockdown — apparently supported mainly by Establishment jurisdictions — was bound to create a variety of social tensions. Hence the situation was ripe for some creative counter-insurgency work. It is no secret that police officers, especially — but not only — in urban forces, perform contract murders frequently for those who run the drug business in the area. It takes little fantasy to imagine that Mr Floyd was assassinated for propaganda reasons. The rather unusual spread of simultaneous demonstrations following his murder was quicker than even the Ferguson or Charleston killings several years ago could trigger.3 Moreover careful attention to the locations and the composition of the demonstrations ought to have raised suspicions.
The demonstrations in predominantly white cities like Portland, while forty years ago perhaps sensible venues, were selected for media-effectiveness. White folks demonstrating in cities, where Blacks form an insignificant portion of the population, that “Black lives matter” also makes sense. It is comparable to the US motivation for dropping atomic bombs on cities that had not yet been attacked. These demonstration venues also have advantages: The absence of any other distracting activity made the demonstrations the easy focus of cameras. There were no embarrassing Black neighbourhoods to film and maybe raise questions that did not fit the script. The scope of Black issues could be carefully defined without any real Blacks involved.
One of the tactics of counter-insurgency developed and refined from the Phoenix Program is the creation of armed propaganda teams that appear and behave like the enemy. BLM is such an organisation, as is Antifa. Remarkable about the conduct of these two groups — exhibiting traits of CANVAS coaching — is that they perform a mirror of what whites thought they saw in the 60s.4 The propaganda team composed the language by borrowing heavily from “white” depictions of the Civil Rights movement protests. The point of the operations was not to mobilize Blacks — on the contrary. The primary aim of the operation is consolidation of white votes for the Democratic Party. Instead of dressing like the Klan to intimidate Blacks, they are costumed like Civil Rights protesters to intimidate Whites who might vote for Trump.
There is another aspect of this campaign that is even more provocative. As the escalation of sexual identity/ gender based politics has overwhelmed nearly all other opposition issues, the classical and wholly unresolved issues of economic justice, the plantation prison system, housing and education, not to mention the militarism that drives US foreign (and domestic policy) have been obscured. If one considers the positions taken by arguably the most radical Black American of his day, Malcolm X, there is nothing in any of his speeches that would justify or promote the conduct under the banners of BLM and Antifa.5 Ironically — but I believe intentionally — the excited attention given to Black Lives Matter and its allies actually serves to suppress the fundamental issues of white supremacy upon which the US is based and that people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King consistently raised.
Historically elections have been fought for marginal shifts in the allegiance of white voters. Since the 50s these shifts were occasionally magnified by whether Blacks were able to vote or not. One could say that Black votes became the “swing” constituency in presidential elections. This was always a source of conflict within the historically racist Democratic Party. The mobilisation of Black voters was so contentious that it had even split the party.
Barack Obama conspicuously avoided mentioning King’s name in any of his speeches during the 2008 presidential campaign. Yet his speeches were saturated with subliminals that surely triggered the name in the heads of liberal listeners. (I frequently had to show people the speeches afterwards to prove that he had never said “King”.) This practice continued throughout his two-terms. Surely he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize so quickly to consecrate his election as if he were “Martin Luther King”, without being him. At the same time the “right Black man” was finally given the prize.
Black Lives Matter consortium was invented and funded to promote virtual Black protest with subliminal messages aimed at white voters in the same way the Obama campaign was contrived. In the view of the Establishment, real Black Americans are too offensive to whites and too unreliable politically. Moreover there is a standing policy in the Democratic Party not to mobilize Blacks except under the most controlled conditions. Ideally these are the conditions under which what Black Agenda Report calls the “Misleadership Class” can manipulate them. So what we have, in fact, is the product of a long-standing practice of the historical Democratic Party, a Black movement without any Blacks. The core of this armed propaganda has modernised the minstrel show in a violent and destructive manner.
These Democratic Party covert operations are designed to smear Donald Trump without staining the Democrats themselves. It is another strategy for capturing the “swing vote” without any obligation to serve the constituency whose ballots it needs. It aims — like in elections a century ago — to stuff the ballots for a Southern racist (Biden) against a carpetbagger (Trump) and, regardless of who wins, leave everything else just as the Establishment wants it.
This author contends that essentially from the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 until 2016, the Bush family has directly or indirectly controlled the White House. GHW Bush exercised this control as vice president for two terms, as POTUS for one. Bill Clinton was essentially co-opted into the Bush gang while governor of Arkansas when the state was being used as a hub for drug running by CIA assets. GW Bush then served two terms and was relieved by Barack Obama, a person with a long and intimate relationship to the US intelligence services with which the Bush family also enjoys a historically strong connection. Hence “bipartisanship” in the US has been based upon domination of both major parties by an alliance of the Bush family and the Clinton couple. However, were the same configuration to be identified in another country; e.g., the Soviet Union/ Russia, the conclusion would be reached immediately that the intelligence agencies or even criminal syndicates have undue control over the executive. For example, it has been commonplace to identify Russian President Vladimir Putin as a former KGB officer. It was very rare that US President GHW Bush was introduced as a former head of the CIA. By treating the entire US system as sui generis there is virtually no analysis of power relationships and structures pertaining to the USA in categories or concepts that permit comparison with other regimes. This is deliberate and not accidental, another aspect of so-called “exceptionalism”.
Although the extent to which prior planning exercises occurred and public statements were made by various prominent individuals suggest that the conditions for the so-called pandemic in 2020 could have been man-made, any culpability remains deniable.
On 9 August 2014, Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a town in Greater St. Louis. On 17 July 2015, nine parishioners were murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, including the senior pastor, by one Dylann Roof.
After viewing the first US Presidential debate on September 29, one is left with no doubt about the degenerating political discourse among America’s ruling elites.
Following the debate between US President, Donald Trump, and Democratic Presidential nominee, Joe Biden, most analyses focused mainly on the personal insults and name-calling, which, deservedly, earned the event the title ‘worst Presidential debate in recent memory’.
Supporters of both parties, however, rushed to minimize the damage inflicted by the poor performance of their candidate, elevating certain points and conveniently omitting others.
However, some issues were thoroughly discussed, thus allowing us to formulate educated opinions on both candidates’ stances on certain subjects, such as racism and police brutality.
Ongoing mass protests, occasional riots and persistent police violence across many American cities should have elevated the conversation to the point where racism in America contributed greatly in the formulation of questions and answers in the Thursday night debate. However, the opposite happened.
Although President Trump plainly failed to condemn “white supremacists and militia groups”, giving the benefit of the doubt to such despicable associations such as the ‘Proud Boys’, Biden did not fare much better.
Trump’s position was not particularly shocking. After all, in 2015 he accused Mexico of sending criminals, drugs and “rapists” to the US, issued the ‘Muslim ban’ in 2017 and, more recently, referred to the Black Lives Matter social justice movement as “a symbol of hate”.
It is Biden’s position in the debate that has proven truly precarious, however. Aside from his occasional jabs at Trump, calling him a “racist”, Biden has failed dismally at articulating a coherent racial justice program that would prioritize the struggle for equality and rights for Black people and other US minorities.
Shockingly, there was no reference to the intrinsically racist travel ban on people coming from predominantly Muslim countries. Worse, not a single reference to Islam, Muslims or Islamophobia, the latter being the key factor unifying most ultra-nationalist, racist groups in the US and elsewhere in the world.
Instead, Biden attempted to find a compromise that would allow him to brand himself as the anti-Trump alternative on race, yet without appearing too ‘radical’ in the eyes of his White voters. The outcome was a bashful and marginal acceptance of responsibility concerning the “systemic injustice in this country”, yet without earnestly confronting the White establishment that has constructed and profited from the systemic racism.
Certainly, nobody expected that Biden, who spearheaded the 1994 crime bill during the Bill Clinton Administration — which led to the mass incarceration of mostly Black people — would be suddenly transformed in his passion and eloquence regarding social justice into the figure of Cornel West, Noam Chomsky or Angela Davis. However, his failure to enunciate the minimally-required program that could reassure Black and other minority voters, was still astounding.
His first remarks seemed feeble, as if he was trying to refrain from outright condemnation of anti-Black racism in the country. He spoke about “equity and equality”, about “decency”, “the Constitution” and never walking away “from trying to require equity for everyone, equality for the whole of America.”
But with respect to specifics, he seemed to gag, only referencing gangs of White protesters “spewing anti-Semitic bile” and, later, bemoaning the discrimination against “Irish Catholics”.
What about anti-Black racism?
Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than any other group in the United States, although Black people are twice as likely to be unarmed than White people when fatally shot. Moreover, according to a major study cited in Nature Magazine, “white officers dispatched to Black neighborhoods fired their guns five times as often as Black officers dispatched for similar calls to the same neighborhoods.”
Consequently, reducing the discussion of racism in America to solely police brutality is, itself, covertly racist, for it insists on ignoring the roots of racism which range from social and economic marginalization to cultural stereotypes.
Not only did Biden, often exalted as the ‘progressive’ choice, miss the opportunity to recognize the social and class conflicts as major underpinnings in America’s ‘systemic racism’, he also downplayed the causes and magnitude of police brutality altogether. “Look, the vast majority of police officers are good, decent, honorable men and women. They risk their lives every day to take care of us, but there are some bad apples. And when they occur, when they find them, they have to be sorted out,” Biden said. Such non-committal language is hardly comforting to the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and thousands of other African-American families who have lost loved ones in recent years due to racially-motivated police violence.
Of course, anti-Black racism and police violence are not isolated events but are an integral part of a far-reaching ailment that has plagued America for much too long.
Furthermore, neither Trump nor the Republican Party alone should be held accountable for the anti-Black, anti-minorities, anti-immigration attitudes that have defined every US administration in recent history. It may be sobering to remember that it was President Barack Obama who referred to Black protesters in Baltimore as “criminals and thugs who tore up the place”, leading him to impose a military-enforced lockdown in the city in April 2015.
Equally relevant, it was also the Democratic Obama Administration that, between 2009 and 2015, deported more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders, “more than the sum of all the presidents of the 20th century,” according to ABCNews.com.
This is not to argue whether Republicans are better or worse than Democrats regarding the consequential subjects of racism, social injustice and immigration. However, judging by the legacies of the current and previous administrations — representing both parties — it is clear that America’s ruling elites are either unconcerned by the plight of minorities or playing the race card as a political tactic which serves their fleeting agendas during election time.
Namely, whether Trump clinches another term at the White House or whether Biden stages a major upset next month, the struggle for social justice should carry on, unabated.
As Arun Gupta tweeted the other day, “Pardon the catastrophic global warming, we now return you to your regularly scheduled state violence.”
It’s been quite a week here in Oregon. I know there are plenty of other horrors happening in the world. The invisible ones are the worst. Like tens of millions of children in the US going to bed hungry every night in recent weeks, or the tap water in Flint and Gaza continuing to be undrinkable, or the many people every night in Yemen and India dying alone at home of disease, knowing it’s pointless to go to a hospital that has no medicine and no equipment. The visible horrors are more dramatic, more newsworthy, and also deadly for some, devastating for many – Sudan and Alabama underwater. Siberia, California, and Oregon on fire.
The fires here in Oregon have further exposed the deep divisions in this society, as have all the other previous or ongoing catastrophes, from the 2008 financial crisis to the current global pandemic. They have also further exposed a government that, at every level – federal, state, county, and municipal – is deeply entwined with both corruption and incompetence. To be clear, I say this not to disparage the heroic efforts of firefighters and others in the course of this ongoing tragedy. As with the one thousand medical workers who have lost their lives in the course of their efforts to respond to the Covid-19 crisis in the US, the firefighters and others on the ground doing all kinds of mutual aid also suffer the consequences of corruption and incompetence higher up, for which they are by no means responsible.
Putting the broader current reality into some bit of context:
Huge swaths of the western US are made up of land that is controlled by the federal government, either by the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. The job of the Forest Service is to make the forests available for corporations to profit from logging it all, and then they use federal tax money afterwards to deal with the resultant erosion, mudslides, mercury poisoning, and destructive fires that result. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) makes federal land available for corporations to drill for oil and mine for coal, uranium and other things.
While old-growth forests also burn, the forests aren’t destroyed by them – on the contrary, they need fire to prosper. But over a century of reckless logging practices throughout the region and beyond has resulted in a patchwork of tree farms, which are very vulnerable to being completely destroyed by fire.
The land that’s not controlled by federal agencies is controlled by more local authorities, and, of course, much of it is privately owned. Real estate investment, speculation, and development are a huge part of the country’s economy, along with property management. In the same way that the main job of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management is to facilitate the exploitation of the land and forests by private corporations, the main job of local government authorities, it seems, is to facilitate real estate transactions.
After decades of government dis-investment in housing and the ongoing deregulation of the housing market, coupled with successful corporate-led campaigns to ban the practice of rent control in 48 out of 50 states, including Oregon, housing has become increasingly unaffordable in cities across the country, very much including all the major urban hubs of the west coast. The unaffordability of housing has resulted in people moving ever further from the urban centers, into areas that were undeveloped, as they say, until recently. First Portlanders unable to stay in their city were moving to Gresham and Oregon City. Then they were moving further out, to Molalla and Estacada, once the idea of the commute taking over an hour became a concept people were ready to swallow, if it meant the possibility of being able to afford decent housing.
Putting the past two weeks into the context of more recent events:
Since the videotaped murder of George Floyd by clearly sadistic police in Minneapolis on May 25th, Portland has been one of many cities across the US and the world where people have been protesting in one form or another, usually in multiple parts of the city at the same time, every day, against police brutality and racism, and increasingly around related issues that disproportionately impact the poor and people of color, such as access in this society to things like housing, health care, and, increasingly, food.
The protest movement here in Portland involves people from all walks of life, of all ages, from all the various racialized groups, genders, etc. The protests have been continuously met with massive police brutality. As time goes on, people are becoming more and more organized, with different networks becoming well established, taking on crucial responsibilities such as providing protesters with food, water, and medical care. Other groups take on the responsibility of making sure there’s a clear barrier around the gatherings, to make it harder for people to drive into the ranks of those assembled with motor vehicles. Others try to provide some semblance of security, keeping a lookout for suspicious characters laden with assault rifles and American flags, such as the member of Patriot Prayer who was killed in the course of the extremely tense atmosphere of the violent Trump Cruise that came to Portland on August 29th, during which time the police largely absented themselves, and allowed uncontrolled combat between fascists and antifascists to take place in the streets of the city. Michael Reinoehl was involved with doing security at the protests, and had been for a long time. Five days later, unmarked police vehicles pulled up at the apartment where Michael was staying, outside of Lacey, Washington, and executed him right there, in a hail of bullets.
Oh and, of course, then there’s also the pandemic, the various societal impacts of which probably need no introduction by now.
On the first weekend of September, a week after the deadly, 600-vehicle Trump Cruise, another Trump Cruise was planned. Hundreds of pickup trucks with over-sized US flags on the back of them, making them look a lot like those pickup trucks that get rigged up as mobile rocket launchers by groups in Afghanistan or Libya, were back in the Portland suburb of Clackamas, a county named after the Indian nation whose unceded land we are occupying now. So soon after they invaded Portland, so soon after the execution of Michael Reinoehl, this time they went from Clackamas to the state capital of Salem, bypassing the regional center of resistance that Portland has become.
By September 7th, the extreme wind event teamed up with the years of so-called drought, downed power lines, a multitude of dry lightning strikes, a century of terrible forestry practices, and decades of the cancerous suburban expansion caused by the exponential rise in the cost of housing over that time, all came together to cause the massive fires already ravaging California to do the same in Oregon. I was in Cathedral Park, where one of the last events related to Black Lives Matter was taking place, before all protest activities basically took a solid week off to focus on the apocalypse.
Mic Crenshaw and other great local hip-hop artists were performing, after the speeches were over. Several hundred were gathered beneath the very high bridge that is above the park, and the sky was completely shrouded in smoke from the fires that had begun burning around much of the state. Several people were talking from the stage about threats from fascists that people had been getting, folks threatening to come to the park and be violent. The decision was made to end the event early, but it continued, with a sort of “stay at your own risk” caveat. Some people left, but most stayed until all the performers on the sound truck were done.
I think there was one other, very scarcely-attended protest after that, before priorities really shifted. As large parts of Oregon were under evacuation orders, those being evacuated needed all kinds of assistance. The groups who had been providing food, water, medical care, and other things, generally began mobilizing to do what they could to help out with the broader effort that various elements of the government, churches, the Red Cross, and so on, were involved with, in terms of providing for basic needs.
The Trump Cruise elements of society were surely involved with fighting fires and feeding people, I’m just assuming, but some of them were and are also involved with setting up illegal roadblocks in various parts of the state, looking for people they consider suspicious, which seems to include anyone wearing black, and people of color with big cameras, such as OPB photojournalist, Sergio Olmos. One road block mentioned in the news was in Corbett, east of Portland, where I have recorded most of the albums I’ve put out since I moved to Portland 13 years ago, at Big Red Studio, which was even closer to being evacuated during the Eagle Creek conflagration of 2017.
As fires were increasingly burning in the less populated areas of Clackamas, threatening the biggest towns in the county, leveling some of the smaller ones, and threatening the main urban center of the state, Portland, just to the north of Clackamas County, local officials here in Multnomah County and in the city of Portland were very active on Twitter, and presumably in other media, encouraging us all to download an app called Everbridge, so we would make sure to get emergency notifications related to the spreading and uncontrolled fires, and possible evacuation plans.
Dwelling on this point for a moment: when a child is abducted and is being transported in a car, or when Portland was under a curfew because of what they call riots, my wife, my teenage daughter, and I all receive text notifications on our phones about these things. They come in with a loud noise, and then you have to look at the message before you can do anything else with the phone.
Given that the state seems to obviously have the capacity to send push notifications to residents of the state with phones, why do we now need to download this app? Who knows. But what can quickly be ascertained by anyone with half a brain are the following: on the Google Play store, the app has been downloaded 500,000 times or more, which is also an indication that it has been downloaded by fewer than a million people. Reviewers give the app a 2.3 star rating, with widespread complaints that it just doesn’t work. Since County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury was encouraging everyone to download the app, I did so, as did my wife, Reiko. She has an iPhone, I have an Android. We’re both proficient at this sort of technology, and neither of us could make the app work. Neither of us have ever received a notification from this app since we downloaded it and registered ourselves with it to the best of our abilities. Neither of us have received any other notifications on our phones regarding the ongoing fires through any other means, either.
In Jackson County, in southern Oregon, where the cities of Medford and Ashland are, and where the suburb of Phoenix used to exist, incredibly, the existing emergency alert system that interrupts local radio and TV programs to tell us what’s going on, was never used. Also never used were the emergency text notification system that has been used before in the state of Oregon, as I mentioned previously. The only notification system they were using was this app, Everbridge, which we were all supposed to have downloaded by now. But as you can see on the app store, even if close to a million people may have downloaded the app, that’s only a fourth of this state’s population. And the app doesn’t work, as anyone who tried to use it might have discovered long before this catastrophe.
My friend Jason Houk was one of thousands of people in Oregon whose homes were completely destroyed in the fires. His home was in Jackson County.
By the weekend of September 11th, the air quality in cities up and down the west coast was the worst in the world. All of us who have for months now been getting a crash course in epidemiology have lately been learning about the existence of something called the Air Quality Index. As the business press has had to discover new adjectives to describe the catastrophically dire state of the economy, so the meteorologists have had to start inventing new categories of bad weather. For the first time, that weekend the local air was no longer being described as “hazardous.” It had now graduated to a new term: “smoke.” It was no longer being called a type of air, it was a new gaseous substance with a different name altogether.
I looked upon my wife and teenage daughter with a combination of admiration and horror as both of them expressed a lack of interest in getting out of the city for a while. Fires were raging in the county just to the south, the air was virtually unbreathable, all activities that any of us had been involved with had been canceled for the time being, such as my protests, such as the toddler’s preschool, the teenager’s rock gym, my wife’s tennis sessions. But out of a sense of solidarity with the majority of the population of the city that was unable to get away from the smoke because they were too busy trying to keep their jobs or couldn’t afford a hotel room, they didn’t want to leave.
Admiration aside, I had different priorities. When two of my aunts teamed up to offer to pay for us to get a hotel room anywhere where the air quality was significantly better than Portland, until things improved, I insisted we leave town. Which worked with my wife and our youngest children, but not with the teenager, who insisted on staying in Portland with her other mother, sealing the doors and windows, and staying inside.
The four of us bailed last Sunday and headed to Astoria. I had studied Air Quality Index maps and fire maps, which all confirmed what I already suspected. In Oregon, the main fires were in the massive valley that goes up and down the state, on the other side of the mountain range that is beside the coast. The climate has always been much drier to the east of that mountain range, and then to the east of the next range, it’s desert. This is the case in all the three western states. This thin strip along the edge of the continent is kept moist and foggy by big weather patterns that tend not to change much, even in recent decades. The mountain range keeps the fog on the west side of it, and the hotter it gets east of the range, the more that keeps the fog from spilling over, thus trapping it along the coast. The northwest tip of the state of Oregon, the city of Astoria, has weather very reminiscent of the west coast of Ireland, for the same sorts of reasons having to do with what happens when trade winds meet land masses.
If you watched the weather reports, you would have thought the air was terrible throughout the western US. If you looked more closely, you’d see there were exceptions. My aunts, and others, were encouraging us to fly to the east coast – to the northeast, specifically, where I grew up, which thus far is well insulated from fires, if not from floods. Good that we didn’t consider that option, out of a combination of fear of flying during an out-of-control pandemic and various other considerations, because the airport soon closed to most flights anyway, due to the smoke.
We drove on the sparsely-populated streets, past the countless tents and the increasingly gray faces of the people still living in them, to the highway that leads north and west, and ends where the continent ends, in Astoria. As we got to the other side of the last of the mountains, the grass and all the other vegetation got greener, and soon we were at the ocean, enshrouded in fog which smelled only slightly of campfire. A slightly smoky fog, rather than just billowing, orange-tinged ash, passing as air.
The real refugees are those whose homes were destroyed. We were just temporary refugees, and very privileged ones. We had a sponsor paying for a hotel room. But this is also the case with refugees from Syria or Honduras or anywhere else. The ones with the means to escape are the lucky ones. The ones who can escape, in a private car, to a hotel room, are luckier still.
To compound the sense of guilt I was already feeling, as we settled into our hotel room, I heard from other folks who had already escaped to Astoria or some other town on the north coast, but who were heading back into the smoke because they could no longer afford the extortionist rates the hotels were charging. During our five days in Astoria, other folks joined us who hadn’t been planning to leave Portland, but who just couldn’t stay in the smoke any longer.
As has been the case for a very long time, I’m glued to news coverage in various forms. Hanging out with small children, as I’m usually doing in recent years, this takes the form of listening to radio and podcasts through an ear bud in one ear, while I’m at the playgrounds and such. The governor has been holding daily press conferences, which I’ve been listening to.
I’m sure they have a decent air filtration system at the capital, but I had an immediate sense of respect for the woman, if only for the fact that I think she was addressing us from Salem, which at the time had some of the most toxic air of any city on Earth. When we left Portland, the AQI was over 500.
The most notable thing about the governor’s press conferences was the fear of public speaking that you can hear in her voice and in the voices of every member of her staff. You can hear when the governor tries to sound like she’s emoting, and puts this breathy quality in her voice that we’re supposed to understand as empathy. Maybe she feels empathy, I’m not saying she’s a sociopath, necessarily, but the empathy fails to come through. At least she was audible, which was not the case with any of her staff members, speaking on Zoom or something, from their various locations. At the first conference there was nobody playing the role of host, so there were lots of awkward transitions, until the governor realized midstream that she better play that role herself, if no one else was going to do it. Which was good, because she was the only one who seemed to be using equipment at her office that allowed her broadcast to be audible through OPB’s feed. With a good headset on, listening on my phone to OPB, I could just barely hear the other speakers, such as the guy managing the overall fire response, who seems to have moved to Oregon quite recently from somewhere in Maine. What really shocked me was that day after day, the audio quality of these press conferences never improved.
The continually poor production values of their little fireside chats were compounded by much of the stuff they were saying, when you could figure out what it was. Apparently the Oregon Employment Department is starting a new Disaster Unemployment program, in addition to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, PUA. But after six months, tens of thousands of people in Oregon who qualify for PUA have yet to receive a dime from the Employment Department, which is running on 1980’s technology and has suffered from a Covid outbreak within the ranks of the staff, as well as having offices closed due to the fires. And now we’re supposed to believe any of us will receive timely assistance from them now? The governor made no mention of this reality, preferring her fantasy version, where she’s at the helm of a functional state.
Listening on many national news reports to the governor of California’s press conferences, while also making efforts to coordinate a response to the ongoing emergency, he has blown much of his hot air in the form of partisan political diatribes aimed at President Trump and the Republican Party. Candidate Biden has done the same, inferring that if we want to avoid more such fiery calamities, we’d better not vote for the “climate arsonist” Trump, which Biden is apparently not, despite a long political career pointing to his culpability in our current ecological collapse. Governor Gavin Newsom wants to blame climate change on the catastrophic situation, and federal policies around climate change, and thus deflect the lion’s share of responsibility for this mess, which lies at the doorstep of the capitalist system, and the real estate investment and unregulated real estate development that underpins it, from which he and most of his colleagues in government throughout the west coast profit from personally and politically.
If the exurbs such as Molalla and Paradise are the most vulnerable areas in this brave new climate, let’s be very clear that the biggest victims of these fires are the people who couldn’t afford to live in the places that get most of the firefighting resources, the places where most of the residents commute to to work, the bigger cities. And any efforts to mitigate this situation with better forest management will suffer the same fate as efforts to solve the housing crisis through little band-aid solutions they come up with for that — they will fail, certainly as long as the underlying problem of unregulated capitalism that drives the ever-expanding exurbs to keep expanding as they are doing.
Roaming the streets of Astoria, on the boardwalk and in the outdoor seating areas of the cafes on the piers, we observed, met or overheard conversations of many different people. It’s a town with two centuries of history as an international hub of fishing, canning, and trade, there at the mouth of the gigantic Columbia River, which leads to the sprawling ports of Portland, through which much of the world’s trade has long passed on a daily basis. The canning and fishing is nothing like it was once, but there’s a big Coast Guard presence in town, along with some functioning industry, lots of fishing boats and other sorts of boats, and it reeks of history, with many of the buildings that played a prominent role in the labor wars of the early twentieth century still standing as they were, such as the Finnish social center, and the American Legion hall, with the river still filled with functioning, though soggy-looking, wooden pilings, with large buildings atop them, with cars and trucks and cafes and canneries and little ad hoc museums.
With this backdrop, the sidewalks and grassy knolls are filled with a wide variety of people. Some of them are to be found there in Astoria year round – like the middle-aged women frequenting the cafes in the morning, talking about goings-on at the arts center, and the many people living near the trolley shelters, drinking cans of beer, and the gothic-looking teenagers who clearly have no appreciation for the fact that they live in paradise, and wish their parents would move back to Portland, where there are protests and night life.
Then there are the visitors. Some of them are actual tourists, which Astoria would normally have more of this time of year, but for the pandemic. But most of the visitors were playing the role of tourist because they were smoked out of their towns. Many families crammed into pickup trucks with several dogs and too many suitcases. Along with them, guys who looked like they hadn’t left the pot farm in years, but were being put up there by the Red Cross, and had no idea what “a card for incidentals” meant, when asked for one by the hotel clerk. I felt like a snob for even noticing that interaction, but when you are a frequent traveler, it becomes easy to spot folks who have never stayed in a two-star hotel before, or who have never been through an airport security line.
Other visitors were clad entirely in black, like I generally am. In large urban centers throughout the world, this is a very common way to dress. Outside of those centers it’s less common. Less common still are people clad entirely in black, who also have visible tattoos, piercings, and white, punk rock or political slogans on their clothing. There were many people who fit this description around town, more than on previous visits to Astoria, and I got the impression that many of them were smoke refugees like us. I also got the impression that all the American flags around this Coast Guard town was making them uncomfortable. I wondered if anyone had yelled at them, as had happened to me in recent weeks, when postering in certain Portland neighborhoods east of the 205. I was pushing a stroller around Astoria, insulated from those types of interactions by the small children. The only comment I heard was a suburban-looking woman commenting to her friend that all the articles of clothing I was wearing were the same shade of black. They were clearly entertained by this, which made me smile.
Having returned to Portland, with the AQI at a much more reasonable level, back to the usual rating in the high double digits, the mayor’s ban on CS gas has proven to be the farce that it obviously was, since he didn’t ban the use of chemical weapons by the police, but only this particular one. As the air became breathable again and the fires were becoming contained, the protests resumed. Adding fuel to the fires of the ongoing social unrest in this country, news of ICE’s apparent forced hysterectomy ring inspired renewed efforts at abolishing that particularly onerous agency, along with the police in general. Copious clouds of tear gas and other forms of wanton police brutality have characterized the past two nights on the streets of Portland. As Arun Gupta tweeted the other day, “Pardon the catastrophic global warming, we now return you to your regularly scheduled state violence.”
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed up the world….
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
— The Second Coming”, William Butler Yeats, 1919
How dare you?
“Oh, great, that’s all we need. A cynical radical leftist who is so out of touch that you would jeopardize losing the elections to Trump out of some purity. Noam Chomsky thinks this is the most important election in U.S history. How can you be so apathetic at a time like this? We have to get Trump out of office or we will have fascism. If Trump wins there will be blood on your hands. I can’t believe any radical news site would even publish this article. Up yours.”
First of all, I am not cynical in general. I am, however, cynical that any capitalist party can keep Yankeedom from collapsing. Secondly, this article does not tell anyone whether or not to vote or which party to vote for. My claim is that both Yankee political parties have already demonstrated for the last 40 years they are incapable of managing to reconstruct or repair deep ecological, infrastructural and structural problems that are engulfing us right now. Yankeedom is collapsing and it will continue to collapse regardless of who wins this “election”. Thirdly, fascism is already here and it will continue even if Trump loses the election. Though I don’t make a case for socialism, I will say that our choices are either fascism or socialism.
WHAT IS POLITICS? RULING VS GOVERNING
One of the root meanings of the word “politics” is to steer. In other words, deliberative political bodies ask themselves big sociopolitical questions like – “where have we been based on past practice and where are we going, based on future plans?” Steering is something like the word “governing”. In cybernetics, to govern is likened to a heart in the human body. It is the grand central station in which all subsystems of the body meet. These subsystems are integrated and monitored for feedback about the system’s past behavior and fed forward, anticipating where the system is going. No subsystems are left floating on their own, freely determining their own direction. Applying the words “governing” and “steering” to politics in human societies, the sad truth is that with the possible exception of hunting and gathering and simple horticultural societies, agricultural state civilizations and industrial capitalist societies do not govern their populations, they rule them. We have oligarchies struggling for power, but part of their power should not be defined as steering. They are not steering. In fact, nobody’s driving, yet they imagine they are steering and governing.
Turning specifically to Yankeedom, it is a deeply stratified class system in which the ruling class controls the major resources and the lower classes are granted just enough resources to make it to the next day. The different parts of the political system have regional struggles between the core and periphery rather than cooperation. Technology is developed not in a systematic, forward-looking way to make life easier, but mostly as weapons of war for destruction. Spiritual institutions are organized by the rulers to terrorize, demoralize and mystify their own populations. The religious authorities sanctify the rule of the rulers, just as Marx said. On the whole, at their best, the ruling classes everywhere, not just the United States, are no better than the general population. They really can’t think beyond one generation. Neither ruling class party in the history of Yankeedom has governed their populations. They have taken turns ruling them.
SIGNS OF STRUCTURAL COLLAPSE
Part of the drumbeat of the “Lesser of Two Evils” folks, is the hope that a democrat will bring things “back to normal,” meaning Yankee social life as it was before March 2020. But thinking there is a “normal” to get back to is a pathological denial of the fact that the Yankee empire has been collapsing for 50 years. All this while both parties have ignored the long-standing ecological and infrastructural problems, including the fallout from the pandemic over the last six months of 2020.
COVID -19 has expanded rather than leveled off because the nation-state ignores what scientists say and it has no national plan that all states must follow, unlike countries that have resolved the pandemic crisis, often with half the resources of the U.S. Socialist countries like Cuba, North Vietnam and China have responded quickly and admirably. Here in Yankeedom, neither Republicans nor Democrats have risen to the occasion. Each party has had six months to step up to the plate. They have done nothing systemic.
Large parts of the population are in denial that there is a pandemic and are ignoring what scientists say, spreading the virus as they dance in the clubs and on the beaches. This self-destructive behavior is partly explained by the refusal of both ruling class parties to educate their populations in basic science. Both parties have been anti-science for 50 years and have allowed college courses to skimp on science classes. At the same time movie and television producers flood the air waves and movie screens with ESP claims, extraterrestrials and reports of people who have returned from the dead. Most of the Yankee population is scientifically illiterate and innumerate (without a basic knowledge of mathematics and arithmetic).
Extreme weather is a very serious problem that has been neglected for 50 years and there has been no long-term plan to address this. Every year we have record-breaking temperatures in the summer, along with massive fires in the West. In the winters, record cold spells hit the East and North-central states. Glaciers are melting and water is rising. Has either party come to the table with a long-term plan? They haven’t because both parties are beholden to capitalists who refuse to think beyond three months into the future.
Police departmentshave turned into state terrorist organizations which have been amassing more and more weapons for decades. There is no structural reform, as the police are handed bloated budgets while they are trained to mutilate and kill as a matter of course, treating the citizens as enemies. Neither party has done anything to reign in police violence. Self-destructively, by not reigning in the police, capitalists who own both parties keep people in the streets protesting – the very people they need to get off the streets and back to work if they are to rehabilitate the physical economy.
There is an open rebellion against police terror which the ruling class has failed to address structurally. Any claim for reparation for minorities, not just for being killed by police but also for being housed for decades in prison for minor crimes is like spitting in the wind. Sadly, some of the most rabid “Back the Blue” folks are white working-class people who are also most likely to be beaten by the police. Unbeknown to most white working-class in this country, there was a time when to be a redneck meant to be against the police.
Openly armed fascist groups wave confederate flags and white power signs that will probably get worse if the Idiot-King loses. Is this a serious political problem for either party that requires a long-term solution? Apparently not, as these right-wing groups have been three and a half years in the making, bringing to the surface a racist undercurrent that has been festering in Yankeedom for hundreds of years.
We are in the worst capitalist crisis in history because COVID-19 has crippled the physical economy. Respected political economist Jack Rasmus tells us the real unemployment rate is between 25-30%, not the much lower numbers publicized by the Department of Labor. Those who have jobs are often working at reduced work hours. Consumer spending is at a low point. Both parties sing a capitalist tune that workers can be sacrificed so the economy can live. This is an economic policy? Where are all the bourgeois economists who populate every university, pumping out ideological propaganda about the free market? Do they have any policies for fixing the existing physical economy other than to say “let ‘er (the market) ride!”? These same economists are consultants to each party. Are they recommending any governing policies? For them, the physical economy and the stock market are all the same thing.
Capitalists and the state want to open up the schools this fall to in-person learning despite the fact that the COVID-19 has not even reached its peak yet. It risks jeopardizing the lives of 7-14-year-olds, as well as college students, faculty and staff. In part, capitalists want children back in school to increase the chances of their parents going back to work. Parents are more likely to stay home to guide their children through Zoom sessions rather than go to work and leave them on their own. Capitalists need workers back at work – even if they are killed. This is an economic policy?
Economically, finance capital has produced a runaway fictitious capital bubble that was not even checked after the Great Recession. The neoliberal choir boy, Obama, offered no structural reform of banking institutions. Capitalist economists blithely ignore growing bad debt. They imagine that a gambling casino (the stock market) and the use of financial instruments, like derivatives, pose no problems.
The Federal Reserve has to pump blood transfusions (money) on a regular basis into financial markets to keep them from tanking. Does either party think this might be a long-term problem? Now, the Fed has promised to keep interest rates at 0% for the next 3 years in the hopes that even more people will fall into credit card debt. Does either political party think there might be something wrong with printing more money as an economic policy? Apparently not.
Both major political parties are hated by their populations, as evidenced by the winning party being unable to attract more than 20% of the population. When these politicians are told that 60% of the population doesn’t vote or is ineligible to vote, do they say, “hmm, this is a problem, especially if we claim to be a democracy”. The answer is no. They imagine the people who don’t vote are ignorant, stupid, poor or have mental health problems. It never crosses their minds that these potential voters might not vote because these two parties and their grandstanding, lying and back street deal-making have nothing to do with the lives of most of the population. This is a great example of a political system that ignores the feedback from its periphery – that its system simply isn’t working.
Short-term thinking – Another of the many problems with the political system of Yankeedom is that it is ruled by capitalists who refuse to think beyond a single quarter. They want their assets liquid and ready to move at any time. Capitalists are incapable of governing in the way we’ve defined the word. In addition, the electoral systems that capitalists control last only four years. As long as Republicans and Democrats switch administrations every four years, there can be no long-standing policy that would supersede the various revolving doors of regimes.
All these twelve points are signs of neglect and decay that are very typical of the research Joseph Tainter did for his book The Collapse of Complex Societies many years ago. In the face of all these deep, long-term systemic problems, Congress was adjourned for one month! Given these points, do either the Democrats or the Republicans “govern” our society today? For the 40% of the population who vote for either party, voters think whichever political party wins, they govern. But from their lack of response to any of these problems, these parties do not govern – they rule.
As a socialist, I have absolutely no confidence that an enlightened long-term thinking capitalist could solve any of the problems above. However, since those of you are convinced that these presidential elections are so important, let me propose some things that an enlightened, long-term thinking capitalist might do to address these problems, whether the solution comes from a Republican or a Democrat. Then at the end I will ask you if you think the political party of your choice would implement even one of these solutions when they begin their term. The purpose of the proposals below is to get our bearings about what an overall plan might look like. I am not attempting to prioritize in what order this reform would come. Under a socialist party, we would have both a short-term and a long-term plan so we could attack these problems systematically. However, I am not arguing for socialism. I am only arguing that neither party will lift a finger to address the multiple crises we are facing.
WHAT WOULD AN ENLIGHTENED CAPITALIST PARTY DO WITH THESE PROBLEMS IF THEY WERE CAPABLE OF GOVERNING?
Have a national plan to deal with the pandemic
First, we will follow the lead of countries who have successfully managed the COVID-19 virus and will implement a long-term plan even if it means shutting down businesses and schools for six months. We will have a national plan that every state will follow. No longer will states decide their own policy in the bumbling way that has been done so far.
Overcome scientific illiteracy and innumeracy
Furthermore, long-term, we will redevelop our higher education programs to stress mastering the sciences and expand courses on critical thinking. There will be scientific boards of directors who will redesign movie and television curriculum to emphasize stories based on science, not fantasy. Science fiction writers will have to demonstrate to scientists how their script is based on scientific findings and not just on fantasy. This will begin to cut into the rampant scientific illiteracy and innumeracy that has existed for two generations. There will be required courses in geography and international politics. The reign of businessmen determining course development while sitting on the boards of directors will end. College instructors and scientific researchers will have prominent seats on those boards.
Redeploy the military for infrastructural building and repair
The enlightened capitalist party will reorient our resource base. As it is, we are currently involved in at least seven wars. We have come to realize that capitalism can only grow long-term if it invests in life rather than death. Therefore, all the troops will be called home and redeployed. Once home they will work at rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure that has been decaying for decades and will cost trillions of dollars. They will fix roads and repair bridges. They will also build low-cost housing to get every person off the street. City budgets will hold a certain percentage of land for low cost housing. City life will no longer be determined by the whim of real estate agents, given the virtue word “developer”.
Systemic climate change plan
An additional benefit to closing down our war machine will be its effect on global warming and pollution since the military is the world’s largest polluter. We will begin implementing the scientific recommendations to combat extreme weather and pollutions that have been sitting on the shelves of the U.N. for 50 years. A major part of the budget will be spent on trying to halt or reverse all the devastating fires, sickening smoke, pollution, ever more fierce hurricanes and tornadoes and melting of glaciers.
Full employment, satisfying basic needs
Next, we capitalists have come to realize that there are many needs people have that are not realized because they have low profitability returns. As capitalists we have tried to create needs that don’t exist to get people to buy products and services that do not last, either materially or by providing real emotional satisfaction. As it turns out, people have considerably more needs than we realized and so there will be no longer any unemployment. Everyone will work to satisfy the needs of all social classes. Capitalist societies are the only types of societies in history to have unemployment. This is a waste of our collective creative power. “Yes” says the short-term thinking capitalists, “but if you don’t have unemployment, wages will rise and cut into our profit margins.” As long-term thinking capitalists, we learned in the 1950s and 1960s high wages and profitability can easily go hand-in-hand. The amount of creativity that will be unleashed will more than make up the difference. In addition, a great deal of new revenue will be generated by a return to taxing corporations as was done in the 1950s and 1960s. Corporations used to be taxed at a far greater rate than today. These corporations took it in stride and still made a fortune.
Installing economic floors on the economy
Economically, everyone will receive a basic income so that no one ever has to be concerned about starving or not having a place to live. That is, in addition to increased investment in the “matriarchal” state, including universal health care, expanded pensions, mental health and physical care for veterans.
Alternatives to state terror
Police departments will be abolished, and the revenue redeployed into community defense councils following the recommendations of critical criminal sociologists who have developed alternative systems using recommendations that have been on the shelves for years. Up until now, they could never be put into practice because of the fear of police lobbies and their unions. Police will be replaced by social mediation teams, social workers and neighborhood review boards.
Next, prisoners of non-violent crimes will be released and put into rehabilitation centers and transition programs where they will either learn a trade or develop a skill they already have. They will be able to get a good college education if that is what they want. The pouring out of prisoners into the workforce will be a tremendous boon to the economy. Prisons will be modeled on the method currently in use in Norway, with the focus on rehabilitation, rather than punishment.
Attacking the National Rifle Association
As capitalists we want to invest in the reduction of violence in our population. All weapons beyond simple handguns will be illegal. The purpose of a gun should be simply for protection. No one needs machine guns to protect themselves. Open Carry gun laws will be abolished.
Long overdue reparations
The demands of the current uprising are larger than simply a reduction of police brutality. They are about restitutions. Systemic racism has continued and even worsened since the civil rights movement. To begin to make up for this, we capitalists will follow the guidelines of criminal sociologists who have calculated what would be fair restitution based on centuries of slave labor. The reparations packet would include funding employment opportunities, grants in the arts and sciences and education, childcare tuition reduction for trade as well as other programs sociologists would recommend.
Savings banks and public banks free of stock market speculation
Economically we will be transforming banks that are reinstated and can be used for commercial purposes, rather than solely for financial investment and not tied to the stock markets. Furthermore, public banks will be established in most states in order for people to invest in community institutions that have no investments in the stock market. Banks will reinstitute the rule where there can be no investments made without a certain proportion of gold to back them up. Capitalist speculation will be discouraged and penalized.
Switching to political proportional representation according to social class
Politically we will begin a process of overhauling the two-party system, with which Americans have expressed frustration for decades. What we must face is that right now sociologists tell us that there are eight social classes. The two major political parties represent at best the top 1%; 5% of the upper class; and 10% of the upper middle class. As it stands now, about 85% of the population has no representation. The middle class needs its own separate party; the working class needs its own party and those below the working class need their own party. Each party can only have representatives from its own social class. If we want people to become more political and be real citizens, we must give them their own representatives and pay them the salary of a middle-class citizen. There will be no more political representatives who are millionaires pretending to represent the middle and lower classes.
I want to point out that none of these suggestions are socialist. There is no call for the abolition of private ownership of resources. There are no constraints on inheritance. There is no proposal to freeze the assets of the 1% and redistribute them. There is no call for workers to seize the workplaces and run worksites themselves. There is no call for the nationalization of banks and industry. There is no call for closing the stock markets. My proposals are all long-term structural reforms to do damage-control over the continuing collapse of Yankeedom.
I believe most of you reading this would agree that many of these improvements would be necessary. Yet you hold on to the belief that the political parties controlled by the capitalists would in some way address these problems. They have not and they will not. In all cases up until now, both parties have done nothing. They are either unaware of the level of crisis we are in, they are in denial there is even a problem, or they recognize a problem, but their response is anemic, erratic and not well thought out. What makes you think that after this election any of these politicians will do anything differently? Vote for whomever you want but whoever your favorite candidate is, understand they operate under a political party owned by an incompetent, myopic, irresponsible capitalist class who will go down dancing on the deck of the Titanic. Paraphrasing Freud, compared to the conflict between id and the superego within the individual, the ego is helpless, much like being in a rowboat with one oar in the middle of a typhon. The ego doesn’t have a prayer. Neither do these existing political parties.
About seventy years ago, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. triumphantly proclaimed that centrist liberalism was a “Vital Center” against the twin dangers of left and right-wing totalitarianism. Today we can say the “vital center” has collapsed with both parties falling into the abyss. Our only solution to the collapse we are experiencing is to develop a mass socialist party with a plan and systemic steps to be taken over the next 5, 10 or 15 years. That is our only hope for reducing the fall as a result of the collapse. Capitalist parties are incapable of solving these problems.
It is unprecedented. Three years after the Israeli government first began vilifying a Palestinian teacher to retrospectively justify his murder by Israel’s security forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a public apology to his family last week. Yacoub Abu al-Qiyan was not a “terrorist” after all, the Israeli prime minister conceded.
And there was more. Israeli police, said Netanyahu, had portrayed 50-year-old Abu al-Qiyan as “a terrorist to protect themselves” and stop their crimes being exposed.
They shot him even though he posed no threat to anyone. Abu al-Qiyan was unarmed and driving at less than 10 kilometres per hour at the time. After shooting him, police left him to bleed to death for half an hour, denying him medical assistance that could have saved his life.
To cover up their role, police falsely claimed that he had tried to ram them with his car. The Israeli state prosecution service was deeply implicated in this affair, too, having reportedly blocked a criminal investigation, even though they knew what really happened.
Netanyahu said his government had been deceived by the serial lies back in early 2017, implying that that was why he wrongly accused Abu al-Qiyan of committing a “terror attack”.
Hail of gunfire
Such soul-searching and contrition on matters relating to the abuse and killing of a Palestinian are startlingly rare from any Israeli politician. But from Netanyahu, such comments rightly raise an eyebrow. What is going on?
In fact, Netanyahu is telling only partial truths.
Abu al-Qiyan was certainly no terrorist, nor was he a member of the Islamic State (IS), as police repeatedly claimed. He was a school deputy principal and a member of Israel’s large Palestinian minority. That made him – unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories – an Israeli citizen, though one with few of the rights enjoyed by the country’s Jewish majority. Palestinian “citizens” comprise a fifth of Israel’s population.
Bedouin citizens such as Abu al-Qiyan face the most discrimination of all Palestinian communities inside Israel. Nonetheless, he had managed to gain a PhD in chemistry, the first Bedouin to do so in Israel.
And, as Netanyahu correctly observed, Abu al-Qiyan was indeed a victim of extreme police brutality – something all too familiar to Palestinians, whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel.
When his car came under a hail of gunfire, he was hit twice by live rounds. As a result, he lost control of his car, which sped downhill out of control, hitting and killing a police officer. Abu al-Qiyan was then left to bleed to death as police and Israeli medical teams refused to come to his aid.
“Had he received treatment … he would not have died,” concluded Dr Maya Forman, who helped conduct the autopsy. That’s why Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian legislator in the Israeli parliament and the head of the Joint List faction, called Abu al-Qiyan’s killing a police “murder” last week.
Netanyahu was also right that Israeli police lied, both about who Abu al-Qiyan was and the circumstances of his death. But then again, that is standard operating procedure for Israeli security forces when Palestinian civilians die at their hands. Lack of transparency, cover-ups and impunity are givens.
Where Netanyahu was wrong was in suggesting that he was ever deceived by the police claims. He surely knew almost from the start that Abu al-Qiyan was not a terrorist, even while publicly calling him one.
How can we be certain? Because I and many others knew about the police deceptions soon after Abu al-Qiyan was shot and left to die. In February 2017, for example, a month after his death, I wrote an article setting out the lies I had been told by police, which had been rapidly exposed by forensic and video evidence – lies Netanyahu claims only just to have learned about. If I knew the truth three years ago, so did he.
In fact, the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service, which is directly answerable to the prime minister, concluded within two days that the incident was not a terror attack.
Netanyahu wasn’t tricked. He colluded in the character assassination of Abu al-Qiyan after the Bedouin man’s assassination by police.
Indeed, Netanyahu and his ministers amplified those slurs to include the rest of Israel’s Palestinian minority. His public security minister at the time, Gilad Erdan, demonised the minority’s representatives in parliament, accusing them of condoning terrorism and inciting against police by denying that Abu al-Qiyan’s killing was justified.
Whatever he says now, Netanyahu’s claim last week that “yesterday we found out [Abu al-Qiyan] was not a terrorist” did not end the lies; it continued and expanded them.
The only reason the prime minister decided to break with Israel’s decades-old policy of dissembling to ensure its security services enjoy impunity over the deaths of Palestinians was to help himself out of a jam. It certainly was not because he cared about a glaring injustice, or about Abu al-Qiyan’s vilification and the family’s suffering – both of which he very much contributed to.
Netanyahu’s goal was not to clear Abu al-Qiyan’s name, but to tarnish the reputation of Israel’s police and prosecution service – and for all the wrong reasons. The police force and prosecutors involved in the killing of Abu al-Qiyan, and the cover-up of that crime, are the same police force and prosecution service that will be acting against Netanyahu in December, when his corruption trial begins in earnest.
Netanyahu faces a string of charges that he committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His political survival now depends on his ability to breathe life into a narrative that the Israeli police and legal system are themselves corrupt and waging an anti-democratic war to bring him down.
This is the story he is trying to craft: if police and prosecutors could deceive even Israel’s prime minister for three years over the killing of an Israeli citizen, are they not also capable of deceiving the public by accusing Netanyahu himself of being corrupt?
Should Netanyahu succeed, he will demand that all corruption charges against him are dropped. Another Palestinian legislator, Aida Touma-Suleiman, tweeted that Netanyahu’s apology was worthless, calling it the “cynical use of blood for ominous political purposes”.
Netanyahu has been helped, of course, by the fact that, though his claims of a supposed establishment campaign against him are preposterous, he is not wrong about the profound corruption and anti-democratic nature of Israel’s law enforcement and prosecution system.
They are indeed corrupt – just not not against him.
But when it comes to the treatment of Palestinians, whether those in the occupied territories or inside Israel, Israeli security services have trigger-happy fingers and contempt for Palestinian lives. Investigations rarely take place, and when they do, their findings are preordained. Prosecutors willingly turn a blind eye to police misdeeds, hastily closing such files, as they did with Abu al-Qiyan.
On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded the return of the body of Ahmed Erekat, a 26-year-old Palestinian shot by Israeli soldiers 10 weeks ago in violation of both Israeli and international law.
His death parallels Abu al-Qiyan’s own treatment. Erekat was shot dead by soldiers after what appeared to be a traffic accident at a checkpoint in the West Bank in which a soldier was lightly injured. Video shows Erekat emerging from his car, posing no visible threat, only to be gunned down by the soldiers. Medical crews were again blocked from approaching.
Efforts by Human Rights Watch to find out whether Erekat was armed, or whether Israel has conducted an investigation and, if so, what its findings were, have all gone unanswered.
Similarly, in late May Israeli police killed an autistic Palestinian man, Iyad al-Hallaq, shooting him reportedly at close range, after chasing him through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. There were at least 10 cameras in that area, according to local media, but Israeli authorities have claimed none were working at the time of the incident.
These and many similar incidents show that Palestinian life isn’t just cheap. It’s worthless in the eyes of the Israeli police and army – and in Netanyahu’s eyes, too. Abu al-Qiyan’s life has meaning to the Israeli prime minister now only because it can be exploited to keep him in power.
Abu al-Qiyan’s story isn’t an aberration. It sheds light on the way Israel’s entire state apparatus systematically dehumanises Palestinians, both in life and in death.
The context for Abu al-Qiyan’s killing in January 2017 were Israeli police efforts to implement an abhorrent decision by the Netanyahu government to demolish his village, Umm al-Hiran, in Israel’s south, in the semi-desert Negev region. The entire village, home to 1,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel, was due to be razed so it could be replaced by a new, exclusively Jewish community under nearly the same name, Hiran.
In fact, it was the second time these Bedouin villagers were being ethnically cleansed by their own state. Sixty years earlier – long before 24-hour rolling news coverage or social media – they had been expelled by the Israeli army from their ancestral lands to make way for another exclusively Jewish community.
Remember, the village of Umm al-Hiran is located in Israel, and its inhabitants are all formally Israeli citizens. Nonetheless, the politicians and courts had no interest in protecting the rights of these Palestinian citizens. The state’s official policy of “Judaising” the Negev – forcing out Palestinian citizens to make way for Jewish citizens – took precedence.
Years of struggle by the villagers, aided by international and local human rights groups, had come to naught. The country’s highest court had ruled: “The residents of Umm al-Hiran have no right to the place.”
Trying to avoid bad publicity, Netanyahu’s government sent in hundreds of members of a paramilitary unit, the Border Police, under cover of night to forcibly evict the villagers. They arrived with live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.
Car veered erratically
Abu al-Qiyan had decided to leave before the demolitions began to avoid any confrontation with police. Other villagers staged a protest in the village, alongside Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament and left-wing activists, watched by a handful of journalists.
Abu al-Qiyan packed his car with the last belongings from his home, and then headed along a dusty track to reach the main road. As is the case with dozens of similar Bedouin communities in the Negev, there were no paved roads in Umm al-Hiran, because – as part of its Judaisation policy – Israel has denied these villages all basic services.
As Abu al-Qiyan carefully navigated the track down a small hill in the dark, Israeli police opened fire, aiming in the direction of his car’s headlights. Dozens of shots were fired. He was hit twice, an autopsy report revealed: once in the torso and once in the knee, rendering him incapable of controlling the car.
A police aerial video of the incident shows that, after the shots, the car suddenly sped up and veered erratically down the slope. At the bottom, the car crashed into a group of police, killing Erez Levy.
Bleeding to death
There had been no reason to shoot Abu al-Qiyan, apart from the racist preconceptions of the Israeli police officers there that night. Their force has long cultivated an institutional view of Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, as not fully human and as an “enemy”. That last observation was made not by me, but by an official, judicial-led commission of inquiry into a spate of other killings by Israeli police of Palestinian citizens.
Because the police officers arriving in Umm al-Hiran regarded its inhabitants as criminals – a view that has been expressed towards Bedouins by all Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s – they could not interpret Abu al-Qiyan’s car speeding towards them in any way other than as a car-ramming.
Cause and effect were easily reversed in their minds. They shot Abu al-Qiyan without reason. They created the circumstances that led to the death of a fellow officer. But in the racist worldview of Israeli police, the bullets fired at Abu al-Qiyan were retrospectively justified by an imagined “terror attack” the same bullets had caused.
Complicity in Abu al-Qiyan’s racist murder was not confined to the police officers. Two doctors and a team of paramedics at the scene joined them in allowing Abu al-Qiyan to bleed to death. They were only 10 metres from him as his life slowly ebbed away.
One of the paramedics explained that they did not help Abu al-Qiyan because they were not ordered to do so by police, as though they needed an invitation. Justifying the inaction, a paramedic told an investigator: “Sad, it’s easy to talk now but in the field the signs were that it was an attack.” In those circumstances, leaving Abu al-Qiyan to bleed to death was acceptable, it seems.
The police lies came thick and fast, but were quickly exposed by video and forensic evidence. Abu al-Qiyan had not raced towards police in a terror attack. He had not had his headlights turned off, supposedly fuelling their suspicions. They had not fired into the air, or only at his car’s tyres.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently reported on transcripts of an interview with the officer who shot first, known only as S. He admitted that his life had not been in danger and that he fired not at the vehicle’s tyres – the official story – but at the centre of the car.
Police claims that they had proof that Abu al-Qiyan was an IS supporter never materialised. Later, the Shin Bet intelligence service quietly closed its investigation, unable to find any signs it was a “terror attack”.
Police were caught out in another blatant deception over that night’s events. Ayman Odeh, the head of a parliamentary delegation for the Palestinian minority monitoring events in Umm al-Hiran, was left with a bleeding head wound.
Police claimed he had been hit by a stone thrown by villagers. In fact, as Odeh claimed and photographic evidence proved, police had fired rubber-coated metal bullets at him, as they had at the villagers. Had one of those bullets hit Odeh’s head a fraction lower, he could have been blinded.
Photos of the scene show a group of armed police relaxing and chatting next to Odeh, as he crawls in the dirt, stunned, with his head profusely bleeding. Despite his parliamentary privilege, Odeh was shot as he tried to assist Abu al-Qiyan. Eyal Weizman, the head of Forensic Architecture, which used video and other evidence to piece together that night’s events, has noted that had Odeh been allowed to reach Abu al-Qiyan, the teacher’s life could have been saved.
‘Blood on your hands’
In the following days, the demonisation of Abu al-Qiyan – and of Palestinian leaders, such as Odeh for disputing the police narrative – was led by the Netanyahu government.
Erdan, now Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the villagers of Umm al-Hiran “violent thieves”. He accused Odeh and other Palestinian legislators of being equally responsible for the death of police officer Levy as the “terrorist” Abu al-Qiyan. “This blood is on your hands too,” he wrote on social media.
In a 2017 post praising Erez, Netanyahu said those “supporting and inciting for terrorism” – code for the Palestinian leadership in Israel – would face “all necessary force”, including even denial of citizenship.
The Netanyahu government’s demonisation campaign provided the excuse for further indignities suffered by Abu al-Qiyan’s family and his village. The family was denied compensation, and are today reported to be still living in mobile homes after their home was demolished following the 2017 incident.
In line with its policy towards “terrorists”, Israeli authorities delayed releasing Abu al-Qiyan’s body and refused a public burial. As his nephew, Raed, told me angrily five days after the killing, as he attended a funeral at which the body never arrived: “Not only did the police kill him in cold blood, but now they are holding his body hostage to try to make more convincing their ridiculous story that he is a terrorist.”
It has apparently taken three and a half years for Netanyahu to learn what Raed Abu al-Qiyan knew from the start.
Circle of complicity
Nothing that happened to Abu al-Qiyan that night – or in the weeks and months that followed – was exceptional. The police lies and the state cover-up were not an aberration, nor was the subsequent incitement directed at Israel’s Palestinian minority. Those are all the norm.
What is exceptional are the circumstances that allowed the truth to finally gain traction – differing from cases like those mentioned earlier of Ahmed Erekat and Iyad al-Hallaq.
Because Abu al-Qiyan was killed inside Israel rather than in the occupied territories, the actions of police were initially investigated, in part to try to prove he was a terrorist, even if the findings were never supposed to see the light. Because witnesses were present, including journalists and politicians, it was easier to piece together the real events and discredit the police account.
And now, because Netanyahu is in trouble and facing trial, he is ready to spill the beans to save his neck. He is using the truth about al-Qiyan to bury the truth about himself.
This moment of dishonest truth-telling should be grasped nonetheless, because it briefly exposes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – even those who are nominally its citizens – in all its hideous, racist depravity.
It shows how wide, in a self-declared Jewish state, the circle of complicity is in a murder such as Abu al-Qiyan’s and the subsequent cover-up. That circle embraced police, prosecutors, doctors, politicians – and, of course, the prime minister himself.
On May 25, 2020, African American George Floyd, was arrested and killed by a white Minneapolis police officer. The officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt forcefully on Floyd’s neck, and in effect, crushing Floyd’s wind pipe. Three other officers were involved, two helping to restrain Floyd, and another standing guard between witnesses and the actual killing. Eight minutes passed and Floyd was dead. Video taken by onlookers was posted world-wide which led to protests and riots in Minneapolis and throughout the United States. Protests also broke out in countries around the world, most notably Europe. Absent the video, the question being asked is how many more killings are taking place at the hands of the police, specifically black men.
The cause of the protests and rioting, it is safe to conclude, has been the result of African American men and women being killed by police. George Floyd’s death unleashed rage and subsequently triggered protests which, at times, turned into violence, predominantly through the destruction of businesses and property. Yet the protest and rioting appeared different from the sixties. The African American uprising included whites, ostensibly millennial, a mixed-race, ethnic, gender identity, class struggle coalition of the discontent. In fact, while the immediate cause of the uprising was a concomitant reaction to lethal racist tactics by police, the “feel” of the uprising had deeper overtones. The protest was not only about deadly force used against African Americans, it was also, arguably, a continuation of what Reconstruction failed to do: eradicate the vestiges of white racism and its monuments dedicated to the South’s deviant overlords such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, Robert E. Lee, and host of other lionized sociopaths.
The general trend of African Americans being killed, without justification, has been transpiring increasingly for decades. The ACLU has documented numerous accounts of police harassment, intimidations, 4th and 5th Amendment violations, civil rights and civil liberty violations, and excessive force and brutality. The Innocence Project has documented disproportionately high number of African Americans who have been charged, tried, and convicted, to only be exonerated at a later date. Clearly law enforcement, District Attorneys, and the criminal justice system have all acted in illegal and rogue fashion targeting African Americans. This is systemic racism, and African Americans have been, and continue to be, the primary target.
Rogue Law Enforcement
There is sufficient evidence that law enforcement in the US has been attracting alt-right extremists in law enforcement. An FBI report, “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement” Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2006, identifies that white nationalist and supremacist groups have been, and continue to be, hired by law enforcement agencies. They are recruiting, knowingly or otherwise, current law enforcement personnel from extremist groups. The investigation warned that skin head groups were directing such recruits to take on a covert identity as “ghost skins.” The secret identity for white supremacists is to obviously “avoid overt displays” of their true identities, assimilating into society, and then promote the values of white hegemony.
In 2006 the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office discovered that a neo-Nazi gang had formed within the Department. Similar investigations around the country have revealed that officers, and entire agencies, had ties with hate groups in states such as Illinois, Ohio Arizona and Texas. This has been corroborated by an October 17, 2006 Intelligence Assessment from the FBI Counterterrorism Division which detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police. Their point of their infiltration: to harass minorities and disrupt police investigations against racists and racist police themselves. The FBI report titled, “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement,” found that the use of racist tactics of intimidation, brutality and protecting fellow racists cops from prosecution was, sadly, a highly effective recruitment tool for like-minded supremacists.
In 2009, the US Department of Homeland Security issued a report on right-wing extremism and its relationship to “violent radicalization” in the United States. In the report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” April 7, 2009, Federal law enforcement agencies, according to the report, had been alerted to an extremist threat in which state and local law enforcement have infiltrated these agencies and that other personnel are sympathetic to these groups and their cause. An FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015, gave greatest priority to the investigation of “domestic terrorism” focusing on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists, whose identifiable links connected to law enforcement personnel. On June 4, 2019, an FBI report from the Counterterrorism Division, “Confronting White Supremacy,” and June 4, 2020, FBI “Domestic Terrorism Conference Report,” described in detail the threat that white supremacist groups present to minorities and the public at large. On June 17, 2020, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) described, in their report, the deepening concern that white nationalist groups present to democracy itself. And on July 11, 2020, the PBS News Hour, examined the growth of the Alt-right in a report, “Should the US designate racial violence as terrorism?” The conclusion was not only in the affirmative but also concluded that racial terrorism is as much a concern as Islamic terrorism.
The Center for Investigative Reporting, published an investigation in 2019, that found thousands of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers were members of militia groups ranging from Confederate-sympathizing, anti-Islam, or anti-government. They were both active and interactive with each other on Facebook. Members of these groups are unabashed racists. They have been linked to groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, whose purpose is to defend white Americans from “enslavement” and the flood of immigrants, legal or otherwise. The investigation reported that active membership in these groups included active-duty and retired law enforcement officers. They are highly involved with explicitly racist Facebook groups such as “Veterans Against Islamic Filth” (the group deliberately lowercases “Islamic” in its name) and “PURGE WORLDWIDE (The Cure for the Islamic disease in your country)”, and more subterranean groups such as the “Patriots for the Reclamation of America,” and the Los Angeles County Sheriffs, City of Compton, “Executioners.” Even Netflix in a series, “Alt-Right: Age of Rage,” identifies the Alternative Right and the Aryan Brotherhood, and its ostensible leaders, Richard Spence and Jared Taylor, as incendiary in their goals to maintain white identity. They argue that white America is being destroyed by integrating different cultures and identities and that Western white culture is threatened with extinction.
The head of the Oath Keepers movement, Stewart Rhodes, proclaimed in 2009, that the anti-government group includes thousands of “retired and active” police, sheriffs, and marshals. On May 30, during protests in New York City, an NYPD officer was making hand gestures (similar to those used by gang members) that has been linked to white supremacist groups, later reported to the New York Attorney General’s office. The Plain View Project, a database of public Facebook comments made by nearly 2,900 current and former police officers in eight cities, suggests that nearly 1 in 5 of the current officers identified in the study made public posts or comments that appear “to endorse violence, racism and bigotry,” as reported by Buzzfeed News and Injustice Watch in a study of the database. In fact, there are 1269 identified problematic posts from active duty Philadelphia police officers on the site. Of the 1073 Philadelphia police officers identified by the Plain View Project, 327 of them posted public content endorsing violence, racism and bigotry. Of those 327, at least 64 hold leadership roles within the force, serving as corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, or inspectors.
Another example of racism and white supremacists in law enforcement can be traced to the 1990s in which a federal judge discovered that a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang” of Los Angeles police deputies – “the Vikings” – operated in the police department with full knowledge of the leadership. In San Francisco from 2015 – 2016, law enforcement attempted to terminate the employment of 17 police officers after an investigations revealed racist text messages were being sent within the ranks. Moreover, the Ku Klux Klan historically has been connected to local law enforcement. In 2014 a police department in Central Florida terminated the employment of two officers, one being the deputy chief of police, for membership in the KKK. In 2015, a police officer in North Carolina was photographed giving a Nazi salute at a KKK rally. The failure of police leadership to take disciplinary action on their own officers regarding excessive force and/or racist conduct is inherent to these agencies.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with George Floyd’s death, had been under investigation for over 17 documented complaints. None of those complaints resulted in disciplinary action while only a few resulted in a letter of reprimand placed in his file. The Minneapolis Police Department refused to disclose the exact nature of the investigations or reprimands. The refusal to disclose these disciplinary actions speaks to a larger issue of transparency and public accountability. Between 2011 and 2015, the NYPD recorded 319 law enforcement offenses, including harassment and assault in many cases. All offenses were “cause” for termination. Thirty-eight law enforcement officers were found guilty by police tribunals of excessive force, unnecessary and unprovoked fights during arrests, or firing weapons unnecessarily. Apparently internal investigations took little to no action on accusations of favoritism, racism, and unlawful interrogations to force confessions and guilty pleas.
Large cities, such as Chicago, also have struggles in holding police accountable. According to the Citizens Police Data Project, only 7 percent of complaints have resulted in disciplinary action. These include allegations of law enforcement using racial slurs. In 2018, the chief of police in Elkhart, Indiana, failed to discipline an officer for racial slurs while simultaneously promoting him to sergeant. The chief had full knowledge that the officer was making numerous statements on “white power” on police communications according to ProPublica. The “white power” motto has also been identified with Minneapolis Lieutenant Bob Kroll, who is president of the Police Officers Federation. He was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by four black Minneapolis law enforcement officers against the Minneapolis Police Department for discrimination. In the complaint, the allegation by the plaintiffs alleged that the Lieutenant displayed a “White Power badge” on his motorcycle jacket. Kroll,rejects the characterization but has been heard frequently describing the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization.”
The Obama administration made serious attempts to address police forces. In fifteen police departments throughout the United States, the administration legally forced these departments into consent decrees implementing reform. Under federal law the police departments were to commence with reforms from racial discrimination to brutality. In one case, the Justice Department report on its consent decree with Chicago, revealed that the police department received over 30,000 complaints of officer misconduct in five years and determined that a systematic pattern of excessive force has undermined confidence within minority communities. But the new Trump administration sought to undue these reforms.
On March 31, 2017, Trump’s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, ordered the Justice Department to review Obama-era consent decrees on police department reform. Sessions then curbed their use by requiring political appointees to sign off on any future settlements. The Trump administration restriction on the use of the decrees was characterized as a transition away from protecting civil rights to instead promoting “law and order.” This was continued by Trump’s next Attorney General William Barr, who supported Sessions’ policy. To date, the Trump administration has not issued any new consent decrees against police forces within the United States.
Not all law enforcement officers are members of racist or white supremacist groups. Nor do all law enforcement support alt-right ideology. Notable examples of strong relations with citizens and community-led policing in response to this past several week’s protests include New Jersey police officers marching with Black Lives Matters protestors, police chiefs listening to and walking with protestors, and police in both New York City and South Florida kneeling in solidarity with protestors. In Flint, Michigan, Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson removed his riot gear and walked with marchers. In Long Beach, California, Chief Robert Luna fired a rogue officer for posting his picture on Facebook standing with his baton over blood.
To be sure, there are other issues needing attention. Qualified immunity for police and district attorneys, police (unidentified) infiltration disguised as protesters assaulting protestors and damaging property falsely blaming protestors. Most disturbing is the fictional account of the Antifascists (Antifa) as a violent leftist terrorist group. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In an internal memorandum, FBI Director Christopher Wrey, found no evidence of Antifa’s involvement in national unrest, specifically with the George Floyd protests and riots as falsely reported by The Nation, June 2, 2020. The Washington Field Office memo states that “no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement” was initiated during the protests, as erroneously stated from Trump, Attorney General Barr, and various right-wing news outlets such as FOX News. On June 12, 2020, the New York Times in “Federal Arrests Show No Sign That Antifa Plotted Protests,” cleared Antifa and on June 22, 2020, the New York Times, “41 Cities, Many Sources: How False Antifa Rumors Spread Locally,” described how propaganda against Antifa was spread through the media community, most likely from conservative politicians and political action committees. The attempt was to falsely blame the uprising on an orchestrated group such as Antifa, according to Glenn Kirschner, former FBI, counterintelligence. Blaming a “left-wing” group was a ruse created to gaslight the public and divert attention from the “right-wing” police tactics condoned by the Trump administration.
Most disturbing is the training techniques — taught to American law enforcement by the Israeli Defense Forces — involving the neck suppressing technique used on George Floyd. The IDFs use the same techniques on Palestinians as reported by Amnesty International, and also documented in The Progressive in “US Police Are Being Trained by Israel – And Communities of Color Are Paying the Price.” The police training tactics are sponsored by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (A-DL), which in turn sponsors the American Jewish Committee Project Interchange Institution and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
The term “systemic racism” means that institutions produce and perpetuate racially disparate effects in the case of minority populations. Professor Bernard Harcourt of Columbia University Law School has conducted and compiled several empirical studies of systemic racism in law enforcement agencies. These include a wide range of police tactics which include the use of policies such as “stop and frisk” and the disparate rates of police activities including traffic stops, searches of motorists during traffic stops, levels of respect shown during stops, misdemeanor arrests, marijuana arrests, use of SWAT teams, individuals jailed for inability to pay petty fines, militarized policing of targeted neighborhoods, resolution of murders of white versus black victims, sustained complaints against police officers, and unarmed victims of police shootings. The evidence of links to explicit white supremacist groups is only the tip of a racist iceberg, according to Harcourt.
In The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens, 2018, Harcourt argues that the effort to reduce crime in the United States initiated a terror campaign on its citizens, specifically African Americans, in much the same way the United States supported terror tactics in the Third World. Modern militarized police officers with tanks and drones have become pervasive tools along with government surveillance and profiling. Social media also serves to distract and track citizens from the fact that they have consciously or unconsciously surrendered rights to privacy, unauthorized surveillance, and unlawful searches and seizures. All of these, Harcourt contends, are facets of a new and radical governing paradigm in the United States — one that is rooted in the modes of warfare originally developed to suppress anti-colonial revolutions and, more recently, to prosecute the war on terror. Harcourt provides a penetrating and disturbing account of the rise of domestic counterinsurgency, first as a military strategy, and secondly, as an increasing way of ruling ordinary Americans in an authoritarian manner.
Finally, Harcourt demonstrates how counterinsurgency’s principles — bulk intelligence collection, ruthless targeting of minorities, misleading, gaslighting and pacifying propaganda — have taken hold domestically despite the absence of any radical uprising, that is, till recently with the nascent Minneapolis rioting and subsequent uprisings in urban America. This counterrevolution against phantom enemies, he argues, is the tyranny of government at the behest of the power elite. For Harcourt, seeing and identifying this is the first step in resistance to the white nationalist police state within America. So the immediate task is twofold: demand an end the police killings of innocent black men and resist descending into a fascism.
Nineteen years after more than 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, there remains a bipartisan commitment to fight an endless “war on terrorism,” instigate regime change coups, increase military spending, enhance US nuclear weapons, deport undocumented residents, curtail civil liberties, and militarize the police.
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the US have obscured “The Other 9/11,” the US attack on Chilean democracy in the US-backed coup on September 11, 1973. The two 9/11s are connected by what the CIA calls “blowback.” The CIA first used the term in describing the unintended negative consequences of the US and UK sponsored coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. The September 11, 2001 attacks were blowback from decades of US intervention in the Middle East. That doesn’t justify the terrorism, but it does explain it. If we want peace and security for our nation, we should respect the peace and security of other nations.
Trump is also morphing the War on Terror abroad into a war against dissent at home. He encourages and uses law enforcement to attack nonviolent protesters, calling them “thugs” and “antifa terrorists.” He encourages white racist vigilante militias that show up armed to menace Black Lives Matter demonstrators and to intimidate local and state governments in armed protests against climate action (Oregon) and COVID-19 public health measures (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin).
Trump encourages these actions with statements that amplify paranoid far-right fantasies that call climate change and COVID-19 hoaxes perpetrated by secret elite conspiracies. Trump has instructed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and Border Patrol to violate immigration laws and subject immigrants and asylum seekers to unspeakable brutality, including separating children from their parents and internment in concentration camps where COVID-19 is running rampant. He stokes racial fears and civil strife to justify authoritarian rule. He calls the news media “fake,” the elections “rigged,” and promotes conspiracy fantasies on Twitter. Trump is sowing confusion and demoralization so people will not be able to resist repression by sections of law enforcement and the racist militias should Trump decide to resist a peaceful transfer of power. The ultimate blowback against US coups and wars abroad against democracy threatens to be a coup against democracy at home.
End the Wars on Terrorism Abroad and Dissent at Home
One of my first steps as President would be to end the wars on “terrorism” abroad and at home. Neither major party calls for ending the endless wars against “terror” abroad even though the top priority in the official National Security Strategy of the United States has changed to “Great Power Competition” with the goal of preventing the emergence of strong regional powers in Eurasia, namely China, Iran, and Russia. This New Cold War, like the War on Terrorism, is about the profits of US-based global corporations abroad, not the security of the people of the United States at home.
The nuclear modernization program initiated under Obama and continued under Trump with bipartisan support has destabilized the nuclear balance of terror and kicked off a new nuclear arms race. The nuclear threat, coupled with inaction by the great powers on the climate emergency and the proliferation of disinformation propagated by state actors on all sides that makes it difficult for publics to come to agreement on what to demand of their governments, has prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move their Doomsday Clock the closest it has ever been to midnight.
I would end the saber rattling against Russia, China, and Iran in the Great Power Competition strategy and focus on diplomacy. We need to partner with other major powers to address our common problems, notably nuclear arms, climate, and cyberwar.
I would also end the bipartisan repression of dissent at home. With Trump’s encouragement, law enforcement is using militaristic tactics to suppress peaceful protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Both major parties are united in suppressing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and publishers like Julian Assange, whose real crimes in the eyes of the National Security State is that they exposed its secret wrongdoings.
The US should speak out against violations of human rights and democracy wherever they occur, but that should not preclude also working with authoritarian governments to resolve life-or-death global issues like climate change and nuclear arms. War and threats of war are the most powerful destroyers of civil liberties, democracy, and human rights. Military threats, economic sanctions, and covert meddling in the politics of other countries only reinforces the nationalist rationalizations of authoritarian governments for repression at home in order to ward off threats from abroad.
The most powerful way to promote human rights is to set a good example. If the US wants its advocacy of human rights to be credible and effective, it must set the right example at home, where police killings of Black people are seen on social media around the world. A country where there is mass incarceration in the largest prison system in the history of the world, and from where the US military is deployed in some 800 foreign military bases for its endless wars, making the US the nation that the world’s people consider the biggest threat to peace.
The Other 9/11: Chile
Thirty years before the United States’ 9/11, the CIA orchestrated the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist government of Chile on September 11, 1973.
It is a tragic coincidence of the US bloody intervention history in Latin America that President Salvador Allende was overthrown and pushed to suicide on the same date that decades later would affect US soil by a terrorist attack. The same feelings that American felt of being violated by the first foreign attack since Pearl Harbor were felt in Chile that September 11 in 1973. The sin of Salvador Allende in the eyes of Nixon, Kissinger, and CIA Director Richard Helms was to advance deep socialist reforms that would create a more equal society, a just distribution of incomes, real freedom of expression, and a truly democratic framework that could allow, finally, the participation and voices of all sectors, specially the impoverished workers of Chile.
Sound familiar? These are exactly the challenges that the US faces today, problems that have riddled the US throughout its history and become worse in the Trump era – the authoritarian duopoly of Republicans and Democrats, voter suppression, third party suppression, deep inequality from coast to coast, and chronic poverty. It is the same kind of repression that Chile suffers today under the conservative millionaire Sebastián Piñera when people again advance the same reforms that Allende worked for and paid for with his life. It is the same social, economic, and political oppression that the two countries share on this anniversary of 9/11.
Aid, Not Arms – Make Friends, Not Enemies
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the Green Party of the United States warned against the danger that the two major parties and the corporate media would turn this horrific crime into a rationale for destructive wars abroad and political repression at home.
Instead of treating the 9/11 attackers as criminals to be brought to justice, the US used the attacks as a pretext for a long series of regime change wars in the Middle East and North Africa. The foreign policy leadership of the Bush administration had already written about the need for a “new Pearl Harbor” in order to provide the pretext for an invasion of Iraq to seize its oil fields. They wasted little time in getting started after 9/11.
The Authorization To Use Military Force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks passed Congress on September 18 with only one dissenting vote. The US invasion of Afghanistan started on October 1. The AUMF legislation is still the legal basis for today’s endless wars.
The Patriot Act, which gave the federal government broad new intrusive surveillance and investigatory powers that weakened civil liberties, was overwhelmingly voted through Congress by October 25.
The Bush administration, joined by the Democratic amen corner led by Senator Joe Biden, lied about weapons of mass destruction and about Iraq’s alleged role in 9/11 to start a second war in Iraq by March 2003.
After 19 years, US combat troops are now engaged in 14 wars. At least 37 million people, and as many as 59 million people, have been displaced by these wars, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.
The annual observation of 9/11 has been turned by politicians into a militaristic celebration of American power that is used to garner public support for US military spending and imperial aggression abroad. Right after 9/11, the world was united in its grief for our country. It was a moment that should have been used to build peace based on mutual cooperation and respect.
Let us remember 9/11 this year by demanding that the US withdraw from its endless wars, prioritize diplomacy to resolve conflicts, end arms sales to belligerents, and provide humanitarian aid for war refugees, including reopening immigration to the US from these countries.
Let’s turn the US into the world’s humanitarian superpower instead of its global military empire. Providing aid instead of arms is the best way to promote peace and security. It is time for the US to make friends instead of enemies.
The Republican and Democratic Party conventions showed that both major parties are failing to control the pandemic and protect people, address the climate crisis and clean up the environment, support families and businesses during the economic collapse, prevent police violence or deal with any of the other major problems we face.
These were two substance-less conventions. The Democrats focused on criticizing Trump without putting forward an agenda while the Republicans claimed Biden was a front for socialism when he is a deeply embedded corporate Democrat. Trump’s term as president has been a disaster and Biden has been consistently on the wrong side of history over his 47 years in politics. On issues today, both are out of step with the views of the majority of voters.
The two parties demonstrated that people must lead from below because the parties represent the wealthy and transnational corporations. We must continue to organize and build popular power if we are to win the changes we need.
The Two Parties Have Failed Us, But The People Can Succeed
At the Democratic Convention, no one used the phrases Medicare for all, Green New Deal, tuition-free college and vocational school, universal basic income, or wealth tax, even though all of these issues are supported by the majority of voters. Sen. Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Andrew Yang were silenced on issues they had championed during their campaigns.
At the Republican Convention, if those policies were mentioned, they were derided or called ‘socialist.’ The two parties did not talk about economic, health, and environmental policies because neither has any solutions. Instead, the bi-partisan policies they support have created the economic, public health, and environmental crises we are facing.
The United States is in crisis because the two-party system has failed the people and the planet. On a global scale, the United States is rated as a “flawed democracy” and corruption is on the rise. Studies within the United States find that popular support for a policy has no impact on whether it will be made into law by Congress, while wealthy interests have a significant impact over whether a law passes or fails. This is consistent with the United States being a plutocracy ruled by the wealthy.
As we have written in the past, the United States is a mirage democracy where the candidates are largely chosen by the power holders and the people get to vote for one or another corporate-approved candidate. A few progressive candidates are elected from time to time but they are marginalized at the federal level. If they do gain power, the elites move swiftly to rein them in or redistrict them out.
Third party candidates are kept out of the debates and the media, even left-leaning media like Democracy Now has not interviewed the Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins although he’ll be on the ballot in most states. Third party candidates have to fight to be on the ballot in each state, a challenge often made more difficult by Democrats and Republicans challenging them and tying them up in court.
For this reason, many people throw up their hands and decide that trying to work within the two-party system is the only available option, as flawed as it is. But, where has that gotten us? Federal elections these days are more commonly about voting against what you don’t want rather than voting for what you do want. Lesser evil voting has driven a race to the bottom in the quality of the candidates because as long as people are voting out of fear, it doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what they stand for.
Trump and Biden as the major party presidential candidates this year are the result of the system we have. Whichever one wins in November, the outcome will still be a plutocracy. The climate crisis will still rage on with climate-transformed wildfires, derechos, and drought that destroy crops and strong hurricanes that flatten towns but the Green New Deal will be off the table. The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to sicken and kill hundreds of thousands but Medicare for All won’t be an option. Workers will still be forced to work for low wages in unsafe conditions, families will lose their homes and students will be buried under heavy loans, but when Wall Street corporations or banks need help, the Federal Reserve will whisk their troubles away to the tune of trillions of dollars. Wars and interventions will continue as the Pentagon receives record budgets year after year, but for some reason, there isn’t enough money to fund our public schools, feed hungry families, or rebuild our failing infrastructure.
This system is protected by a security state that has no regard for human life, especially if you are black or brown. Time and again, the legal system lets the police get away with cold-blooded murder. This lack of accountability emboldens law enforcement. And now, it is clear from the recent events in Kenosha Wisconsin, and even before that, those right-wing militias are an unofficial arm of the security state. If this continues and they are not held accountable, they will also be emboldened to kill with impunity.
This is the reality in which we live. It is not the first time in history that this situation has existed in the world but it is unique to our generations in this country. We are living in a dark period, a failing state, and changing this situation is going to take hard work and sacrifice, but history also teaches us that people do have the power to take on the power elites and win.
After the DNC-RNC We Can’t Breathe: Keep The Struggle In The Streets, Webinar and Rally, Sunday August 30 at 2:00 pm Eastern.
People have the power; protest in Ferguson City Hall in 2014
Building Power To Lead From Below
We are in the midst of a national uprising on multiple fronts of struggle. There are widespread protests against racist police violence and there have been more than 900 wildcat strikes since March over worker safety and low pay. Teachers are striking over school reopenings. There are ongoing protests stopping pipelines and extreme energy extraction projects as well as demanding action on the climate crisis. Just last week, there was a national day of protest involving actions in hundreds of cities to save the US Postal Service.
Since the Occupy protests of 2011, which focused on wealth inequality and political corruption, but also included system-wide change on low wages, police violence, the climate crisis, and student debt, people have been building deeper movements in all of these areas. During the Obama-era, the Fight for $15 began, along with Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights, climate, and debt protests. When the pandemic and recession began, people started organizing General Strike and Rent Strike campaigns
The potential for people power has never been greater. Hundreds of thousands of people are ready to take the streets and stop business as usual. This is a time when every one of us has a role to play, whether it is sharing information in our communities (being the media), starting conversations in our social circles (education), organizing and mobilizing people in the groups we belong to or providing support for our neighbors and people who are in the streets (mutual aid). Learn how social movements create transformational change in our free online course.
No matter what happens this November, the protest movement must continue to fight for economic, racial, and environmental justice as well as peace. The next presidential Inauguration Day will need to be a day of protest when more people come to Washington, DC to make demands of the next president than are there to celebrate him.
The growing movement of movements has a broad foundation of education, organization, and mobilization on which to build. We have the ability to make this country ungovernable and if we use that power, we can make demands that cannot be ignored.
On August 2, lockdown measures were implemented in Melbourne, Australia, that were so draconian that Australian news commentator Alan Jones said on Sky News: “People are entitled to think there is an ‘agenda to destroy western society.’”
The gist of an August 13th article on the Melbourne lockdown is captured in the title: “Australian Police Go FULL NAZI, Smashing in Windows of Civilian Cars Just Because Passengers Wouldn’t Give Details About Where They Were Going.”
Another article with an arresting title was by Guy Burchell in the August 7th Australian National Review: “Melbourne Cops May Now Enter Homes Without a Warrant, After 11 People Die of COVID — Australia, This Is Madness, Not Democracy.” Burchell wrote that only 147 people had lost their lives to coronavirus in Victoria (the Australian state of which Melbourne is the capital), a very low death rate compared to other countries. The ramped up lockdown measures were triggered by an uptick in cases due to ramped up testing and 11 additional deaths, all of them in nursing homes (where lockdown measures would actually have little effect). The new rules include a six week curfew from 8 PM to 5 AM, with residents allowed to leave home outside those curfew hours only to shop for food and essential items (one household member only), and for caregiving, work and exercise (limited to one hour).
“But the piece de resistance,” writes Burchell, “has to be that now police officers can enter homes with neither a warrant nor permission. This is an astonishing violation of civil liberties…. Deaths of this kind are not normally cause for government action, let alone the effective house arrest of an entire city.” He quoted Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who told Victorians, “there is literally no reason for you to leave your home and if you were to leave your home and not be found there, you will have a very difficult time convincing Victoria police that you have a lawful reason.” Burchell commented:
[U]nder this new regime you can’t even remain in your house unmolested by the cops, they can just pop ‘round anytime to make sure you haven’t had Bruce and Sheila from next door round for a couple of drinks. All over a disease that is simply not that fatal….
Last year more than 310,000 Australians were hospitalised with flu and over 900 died. By all metrics that makes flu a worse threat than COVID-19 but police weren’t granted Stasi-like powers during the flu season. Millions of people weren’t confined to their homes and threatened with AUS$5,000 fines for not having a good reason for being out of their homes.
At an August 19th press conference, Australia’s second most senior medical officer said the government would be discussing measures such as banning restaurants, international travel, public transport, and withholding government programs through “No Jab No Pay” in order to coerce vaccine resisters.
An August 13 article on LifeSiteNews quoted Father Glen Tattersall, a Catholic parish priest in Melbourne, who said the draconian provisions “simply cannot be justified on a scientific basis”:
We have a curfew from 8 pm to 5 am, rigorously enforced including by the use of police helicopters and search lights. Is the virus a vampire that just comes out at night? Or the wearing of masks: they must be worn everywhere outside, even in a park where you are nowhere near any other person. Why? Does the virus leap hundreds of metres through the air? This is all about inducing mass fear, and humiliating the populace by demanding external compliance.
Why the strict curfew? Curfews have been implemented recently in the US to deter violence during protests, but no violence of that sort was reported in Melbourne. What was reported, at least on social media, were planes landing in the night from the Chinese province of Guandong carrying equipment related to 5G and the Chinese biometric social credit system, which was reportedly being installed under a blanket of secrecy.
Angelo Codevilla, professor emeritus at Boston University, concluded in an August 13th article, “We are living through a coup d’état based on the oldest of ploys: declaring emergencies, suspending law and rights, and issuing arbitrary rules of behavior to excuse taking ‘full powers’.”
Questioning the Narrative
Melbourne has gone to extremes with its lockdown measures, but it could portend things to come globally. Lockdowns were originally sold to the public as being necessary just for a couple of weeks to “flatten the curve,” to prevent hospital overcrowding from COVID-19 cases. It has now been over five months, with self-appointed vaccine czar Bill Gates intoning that we will not be able to return to “normal” until the entire global population of 7 billion people has been vaccinated. He has since backed off on the numbers, but commentators everywhere are reiterating that lockdowns are the “new normal,” which could last for years.
All this is such a radical curtailment of our civil liberties that we need to look closely at the evidence justifying it; and when we do, that evidence is weak. The isolation policies were triggered by estimates from the Imperial College London of 510,000 UK deaths and 2.2 million US deaths, more than 10 times the actual death rate from COVID-19. A Stanford University antibody study estimated that the fatality rate if infected was only about 0.1 to 0.2 percent; and in an August 4th blog post, Bill Gates himself acknowledged that the death rate was only 0.14 percent, not much higher than for the flu. But restrictive measures have gotten more onerous rather than less as the mortality figures have been revised downward.
Sweden got it largely right, and the British establishment catastrophically wrong. Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.
Not restraining the populace has allowed Sweden’s curve to taper off naturally through “herd immunity,” with daily deaths down to single digits for the last month. (See chart.)
The Pandemic That Wasn’t?
Also bringing the official narrative into question is the unreliability of the tests on which the lockdowns have been based. In a Wired interview, even Bill Gates acknowledged that most US test results are “garbage.” The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology used in the nasal swab test is considered the “gold standard” for COVID-19 detection; yet the PCR test was regarded by its own inventor, Nobel prize winner Kary Mullis, as inappropriate to detect viral infection. In a detailed June 27th analysis titled “COVID-19 PCR Tests Are Scientifically Meaningless,” Torsten Engelbrecht and Konstantin Demeter conclude:
Without doubt eventual excess mortality rates are caused by the therapy and by the lockdown measures, while the “COVID-19” death statistics comprise also patients who died of a variety of diseases, redefined as COVID-19 only because of a “positive” test result whose value could not be more doubtful.
The authors discussed a January 2007 New York Times article titled “Faith in Quick Test Leads to Epidemic That Wasn’t,” describing an apparent whooping cough epidemic in a New Hampshire hospital. The epidemic was verified by preliminary PCR tests given to nearly 1,000 healthcare workers, who were subsequently furloughed. Eight months later, the “epidemic” was found to be a false alarm. Not a single case of whooping cough was confirmed by the “gold standard” test – growing pertussis bacteria in the laboratory. All of the cases found through the PCR test were false positives.
Yet “test, test, test” was the message proclaimed for all countries by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom at a media briefing on March 16, 2020, five days after WHO officially declared COVID-19; and the test recommended as the gold standard was the PCR. Why, when it had already been demonstrated to be unreliable, creating false positives that gave the appearance of an epidemic when there was none? Or was that the goal – to create the appearance of a pandemic, one so vast that the global economy had to be brought to a standstill until a vaccine could be found? Recall Prof. Codevilla’s conclusion: “We are living through a coup d’état based on the oldest of ploys: declaring emergencies, suspending law and rights, and issuing arbitrary rules of behavior to excuse taking ‘full powers’.”
People desperate to get back to work will not only submit to a largely untested vaccine but will agree to surveillance measures that would have been considered a flagrant violation of their civil rights if those rights had not been overridden by a “national emergency” justifying preemption by the police powers of the state. They will agree to get “immunity passports” in order to travel and participate in group activities, and they will submit to quarantines, curfews, contact tracings, social credit scores and informing on the neighbors. The emergency must be kept going to justify these unprecedented violations of their liberties, in which decision-making is removed from elected representatives and handed to unelected bureaucrats and technocrats.
A national health crisis is also a necessary prerequisite for relief from liability for personal injuries from the drugs and other products deployed in response to the crisis. Under the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREPA), in the event of a declared public health emergency, manufacturers are shielded from tort liability for injuries both from the vaccines and from invalid or invasive tests. Compensation for personal injuries is a massive expense for drug companies, and the potential profits from a product free of that downside are a gold mine for pharmaceutical companies and investors. The liabilities will be borne by the taxpayers and the victims.
All this, however, presupposes both an existing public health emergency and no effective treatment to defuse it. That helps explain the otherwise inexplicable war on hydroxychloroquine, a safe drug that has been in use and available over the counter for 65 years and has been shown to be effective in multiple studies when used early in combination with zinc and an antibiotic. A table prepared by the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (below) found that the US has nearly 30 times as many deaths per capita as countries making early and prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine.
The latest international testing of hydroxychloroquine treatment of coronavirus shows countries that had early use of the drug had a 79% lower mortality rate than countries that banned the use of the safe malaria drug. Lowering the US mortality rate by 79% could have saved over 100,000 lives. But an effective, inexpensive COVID-19 treatment would mean the end of the alleged pandemic and the vaccine bonanza it purports to justify.
The need to maintain the appearance of a pandemic also explains the inflated reports of cases and deaths. Hospitals have been rewarded with increased fees for reclassifying cases as COVID-19. As deaths declined in the US, the numbers of cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control were also gamed to make it appear that America was in a “second wave” of a pandemic. The reporting criterion was changed on May 18 from people who tested positive for the virus only to people who tested positive for either the virus or its antibodies. The exploding numbers thus include people who have recovered from COVID-19 as well as false positives. The Loughborough and Sheffield researchers found that when controlling for other factors affecting mortality, actual deaths due to COVID-19 are 54% to 63% lower than implied by the standard excess deaths measure.
Ushering in “The Great Reset”
Forcing compliance with global vaccine mandates is one obvious motive for maintaining the appearance of an ongoing pandemic, but what would be the motive for destroying the global economy with forced lockdowns? What is behind the “agenda to destroy Western society” suspected by Australian commentator Alan Jones?
Evidently it is this: destroying the old is necessary to usher in the new. Global economic destruction paves the way for the “Great Reset” now being promoted by the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Monetary Fund and other big global players.
Although cast as arising from the pandemic, the “global economic reset” is a concept that was floated as early as 2014 by Christine Lagarde, then head of the IMF, and is said to be a recharacterization of the “New World Order” discussed long before that. It was promoted as a solution to the ongoing economic crisis triggered in 2008.
The World Economic Forum – that elite group of businessmen, politicians and academics that meets in Davos, Switzerland, every January – announced in June that the Great Reset would be the theme of its 2021 Summit. Klaus Schwab, founder of the Forum, admonished:
The world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed.
No country will be allowed to opt out because it would be endangering the rest, just as no person will be allowed to escape the COVID-19 vaccine for the same reason.
Who is behind the Great Reset and what it really entails are major questions that need their own article, but suffice it to say here that to escape the trap of the globalist agenda, we need a mass awakening to what is really going on and collective resistance to it while there is still time. There are hopeful signs that this is happening, including massive protests against economic shutdowns and restrictions, particularly in Europe; a rash of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the lockdowns and of police power overreach; and a flood of alternative media exposés despite widespread censorship.
Life as we know it will change. We need to ensure that it changes in ways that serve the people and the productive economy, while preserving our national sovereignty and hard-won personal freedoms.