Category Archives: Poverty

The Business of Agriculture and Fiscal Prudence: The Vocabulary of the Oppressor

The deregulation of international capital flows (financial liberalisation) has effectively turned the planet into a free-for-all bonanza for the world’s richest capitalists. Under the post-World-War Two Bretton Woods monetary regime, nations put restrictions on the flow of capital. Domestic firms and banks could not freely borrow from banks elsewhere or from international capital markets, without seeking permission, and they could not simply take their money in and out of other countries.

Domestic financial markets were segmented from international ones elsewhere. Governments could to a large extent run their own macroeconomic policy without being restrained by monetary or fiscal policies devised by others. They could also have their own tax and industrial policies without having to seek market confidence or worry about capital flight.

However, the dismantling of Bretton Woods and the deregulation of global capital movement has led to the greater incidence of financial crises (including sovereign debt) and has deepened the level of dependency of nation states on capital markets.

If we turn to India, we can see the implications very clearly. The increasing deregulation of financial capital flows means that global finance is in a position to dictate domestic policy. Successive administrations have made the country dependent on volatile flows of foreign capital and India’s foreign exchange reserves have been built up by borrowing and foreign investments. For policy makers, the fear of capital flight is ever present. Policies are often governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign capital inflows.

The author(s) of a recent article by the Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) notes that instead of imposing controls on flows of foreign capital and pursuing a path of democratic development, the Indian government has chosen to submit to the regime of foreign finance, awaiting signals on how much it can spend, giving up any pretence of economic sovereignty.

Anxious to shore up foreign exchange holdings, the Modi-led government is trying to attract even more risky foreign investments. Moreover, in a time of economic and social crisis, resulting from the draconian coronavirus-related lockdown, public spending to ameliorate the desperate situations of those affected has been abysmally low. This falls into line with the imperatives of global capital, which requires nation states to curb spending so that private investors can occupy the arena left open.

RUPE notes that the Indian government is also appealing to the US for help in addressing India’s foreign exchange conundrum (its foreign exchange reserves are largely based on borrowing which could exit). This will require some kind of ‘payback’.

Such payback could come in the form of a future trade deal. India is currently involved in ongoing trade talks with the US. If this deal goes through and India capitulates to US demands, it could devastate the dairy, poultry, soybean, maize and other sectors and severely deepen the crisis in the countryside.

Ranil Salgado, mission chief for India at the IMF, says that when the economic shock (resulting from the coronavirus lockdown) passes, it’s important that India returns to its path of undertaking long-term reforms. This would mean global conglomerates being able to further hollow out the remnants of nation state sovereignty.

Foreign capital is in the process of displacing the prevailing agrifood model before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control. Millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are already suffering economic distress and leaving farming as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them. The Modi administration is fully on board with the World Bank’s pro-corporate ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and other such policies aimed at further incorporating nation states into the neoliberal fold and which equate neoliberal fundamentalism with ‘development’.

Recent developments will merely serve to accelerate this process as we see with regard to the Karnataka Land Reform Act, which will make it easier for business to purchase agricultural land (resulting in increased landlessness and urban migration) and the undermining of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (mandis), part of an ongoing process to dismantle India’s public distribution system and price support mechanisms for farmers. These ‘reforms’ are ultimately about ‘liberalising’ agriculture to further ease the entrance of foreign agribusiness interests like Cargill – even as ordinary Indians suffer.

And have no doubt, they are suffering. A recent news analysis report claims India let 65 million tonnes of grain go to waste in four months, even as the poor went hungry as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. The authors claim that this resulted from the government being wedded to neoliberal ideology and the dogma of ‘fiscal prudence’. They also ask why the Food Corporation of India has been holding such a large surplus of grain and conclude that it is because the government has been unwilling to expand the public distribution scheme.

In effect, US agribusiness wants India to tighten ‘fiscal prudence’, reduce subsidies and public sector spending on agriculture. The aim is to further displace peasant farmers thereby driving even more people to cities and ensure corporate consolidation and commercialisation of the sector based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants.

This runs counter to what is actually required. The various lockdowns around the globe have already exposed the fragility of the global food system, dominated by long-line supply chains and global conglomerates – which effectively suck food and wealth from the Global South to the richer nations.

What we have seen underscores the need for a radical transformation of the prevailing globalised food regime founded on one which reduces dependency on global conglomerates, external proprietary inputs, distant volatile commodity markets and patented technologies.

Practical solutions to the (global) agrarian crisis must be based on sustainable agriculture which places the small farmer at the centre of policies: far-sighted and sustained policy initiatives centred on self-sufficiency, localisation, food sovereignty, regenerative agriculture and agroecology.

On a macro level, economist Prabhat Patnaik argues that India must delink from neoliberal globalisation via capital controls; manage foreign trade and expand the domestic market through the protection and encouragement of petty production, including peasant agriculture; increase welfare expenditure by the state; and commit to a more egalitarian distribution of wealth and income.

Rather than have transnational agribusiness corporations determining global and regional policies and private capital throttling democracy, we require a system of healthy food and sustainable agriculture that is run for human need.

In fact, what may actually be required is an alternative to ‘development’ because, as post-development theorist Arturo Escobar explains, global inequality remains severe, both between and within nations, and environmental devastation and human dislocation, driven by political as well as ecological factors, continue to worsen. These are the symptoms of the failure of ‘development’, a concept based on capitalism’s overproduction-overconsumption ‘growth’ logic with all that follows in terms of environmental degradation and the economic plunder of nations and peoples.

Looking at the situation in Latin America, Escobar says development strategies have centred on large-scale interventions, such as the expansion of oil palm plantations, mining and large port development. And it is similar in India: commodity monocropping; immiseration in the countryside; the appropriation of biodiversity (the means of subsistence for millions of rural dwellers); unnecessary and inappropriate environment-destroying, people-displacing infrastructure projects; and state-backed violence against the poorest and most marginalised sections of society.

Perhaps we should be taking our cue from the world’s indigenous peoples whose societies display a deep connection with and respect for nature. Their economics and cultures often represent the antithesis of capitalism and industrialisation: the promotion of long-term sustainability through restraint in what is taken from nature, rather than hierarchy and competition.

This was echoed by Noam Chomsky during a 2014 interview:

“There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.”

With this in mind, soil, water, seeds, land, forests and other natural resources must be democratically controlled and recognised as common wealth and the scaling up of agroecological approaches should be a lynchpin of genuine rural development, which in turn must be modelled on the notion of food sovereignty.

Renowned agronomist MS Swaminathan says:

“Independent foreign policy is only possible with food security. Therefore, food has more than just eating implications. It protects national sovereignty, national rights and national prestige.”

Genuine food security in principle derives from food sovereignty, which, in a very broad sense, is based on the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies.

The struggle to assert genuine self-determination and democratic development in India involves challenging the dominance of private (international) capital. It also entails disputing the authority of a central state and its machinery that, at independence, was designed to consolidate power at the centre, quell dissent, divide the masses and, with the undemocratic and unaccountable influence of foreign interests like the Ford Foundation and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ultimately serve the interests of both old and new colonial masters.

A Story of Resurrection

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.
— Michelle Rosenthall

A feature on a local person usually doesn’t go down the rabbit hole of a person’s trauma and her battles scraping to get out of darkness.

A few artists I’ve interviewed  unleashed catharses into their personal journeys, including personal hells; however, after reading my drafts, many have declined to “expose” so much of their lives for public consumption. The exposing of one’s trials and tribulations is powerful to readers, but many times opening up in person is easy; seeing it in print is devastating.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is not a great place to find healing, though, and a person like Oregon Coast resident Kiera Morgan faces those demons head on. She embraces the good, bad and ugly of her totality.

The Central Oregon Coast (where I live) has remarkable narratives of people who face down homelessness, incarceration, depression, poverty, illness — what some call the school of hard knocks to the tenth power. Trudging out of the dark into the bright burning light serves up powerful survivors’ tale. It is a microcosm to the rest of the USA, the world.

Kiera Morgan fits this to a tee. I met her last year at Depoe Bay’s Neighbors for Kids (a non-profit for families in need of a place for children to be when parents are working) while I was giving a presentation on an anti-poverty program I am heading up in Lincoln County.

Her nose for news quickly motivated Kiera to get me on camera for her weekly show, “Coffee with Kiera.” This is a newish Lincoln County digital platform of her own creation: Pacific Northwest News and Entertainment.

A few months later, here I am talking to her on phone, my first interview conducted with the impersonal tools of social distancing.

I ask Kiera several times — “Are you okay with the dirty laundry aired and published in a newspaper?”

I am not ashamed of where I came from. I think my story could be a learning lesson for others.

ACES — the deck is stacked

Her story is one of reclamation — radio DJ-ing, theater and a newshound background. She has been out here since 1994. Setting down coastal roots entailed pain, struggle and personal discord. Kiera is now at her sweet spot — a good marriage to Tony Thomas (with Rogue Brewery in Newport  for 12 years) and her own involvement in civic and community programs.

She has been on (or is currently a member of) such diverse advisory boards as the Salvation Army, Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, Partnership Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Central Coast Child Development Center.

Sort of the “why” of Kiera’s involvement in these social services non-profits weaves back to her early years as well as her adulthood: she was born in Idaho 55 years ago; moved to Bend; ended up in Gresham by the age of five. She’s spent time in Portland, Pendleton, Sweet Home and, finally, the Central Oregon Coast.

Though she’s not “just” defined as a child of early divorce, Kiera recalls a stepdad who was an abusive alcoholic. She ended up emotionally and physically battered.

We bring up ACES — Adverse Childhood Experiences. I’ve worked in education, with gang prevention programs, newly released prisoners and foster teens. Training around ACES, I was galvanized to in understanding my students’ and clients’ childhood traumas. Those negative events early on have concrete outcomes — future violence victimization and perpetration, lifelong physical and mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness and plethora of lost opportunities as adults.

The adage, “it takes a village to raise a child,” is pivotal in how society should create neighborhoods, communities and situations where children can thrive. Letting children fall through the cracks and live in abusive, impoverished homes nullifies many possibilities of a thriving adulthood.

Kiera emphasizes how our communities pay for this as fellow citizens get involved in substance abuse, are challenged with illiteracy and fall into myriad unhealthy lifestyle “choices.” As a community, we pay in many ways for these people failing through the cracks:

Poverty, violent parents, substance abuse in the household and being a foster youth are all high-influencing ACES.

Kiera ticks off all of the above. Her biological father was out of the picture, she says, not because that was his choice. Her mother was not emotionally sound to break away from an abusive husband, her step-father.

She moved in briefly with her biological father who was a chef and baker in Rhododendron at an operation centered around rental cabins.

“I would go to the restaurant for meals,” she says, emphasizing how she rode her bike to friends’ homes, and was able to hang with farm animals at her friends’ parents’ farms.

“My dad was good-natured, a very positive person. He would literally give the shirt off his back to anyone in need. He was a happy man, and everyone called him, Hap.”

Getting back up

Kiera’s time with her biological father ended when a private detective, hired by Kiera’s mother, stated he saw Hap letting his young daughter hang out by herself in their cabin while her father was just around the corner working in the restaurant.

More ACES: whipped by her step-father, and bruises on her body. “I literally had the design of his belt on me because he hit me so hard.”

Her biological father would show up to his sister’s house. They called the police once, and the step-father told the officer the marks were evidence of normal disciplining. Nothing happened to the abuser.

The young Kiera witnessed her stepfather’s heavy drinking. She had the marks of being swatted and belted, and she held in the emotional pain. The vicious cycle of a mother allowing the abuse of the child by a male step-parent put Kiera front and center into his rage. She was grabbed by the throat, her hair pulled and head slammed against the wall.

The next day the sixth grader showed a teacher the fingerprint bruises on her neck and welt on the back of the head.

Is this proof enough, or do I have to die before you believe me?

This journey has more twists and turns in Part Two published on the OCT website, but as one bookend to her life, Kiera reiterates, “I want to be like my dad — loving and a smile on my face. It’s important for me to expand my web site. It puts me at peace knowing I can help others through the news site.”

PTSD may stand for post traumatic stress disorder, but the label could mean Personally Tough Strong Dame after spending time with Kiera Morgan.

So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive

— Audre Lorde

Kiera is open about her life, about survival. She recounts how she was living paycheck to paycheck in Sweet Home. She was with an alcoholic, a husband who “did get physical with me, punched me.”

She emphasizes leaving an abusive spouse is not always an option. Kiera knows the psychological underpinnings of “battered spouse syndrome” by heart. She went back to this fellow many times.

One instance, Kiera’s sister came to get her, and Kiera spent her time couch surfing, virtually homeless. She lived in her car. “Nine months pregnant. Jeff found out where I was. He told me he missed me. I knew better, though, but I went back to him.”

The vicious cycle of believing a man can and will change when the bottle or the needle are more important in their lives is not atypical.

At the end of her pregnancy, she was quickly feeling massive heartburn. Eventually she went to OHSU where she was diagnosed with toxemia, which meant bed rest. On Sept. 10, 1992, a six-pound, nine-ounce Nick was born.

Foster parents bow out

Being put into a foster home and being told that you are just like their own daughter is powerful. More impacting is having these foster parents tell you they are done fostering and want out of the deal.

Kiera had that experience in 8th grade. Afterward, she got packed up and sent to a different foster home, this time in Gresham. “They had lots of kids. It was that they needed a babysitter for the other foster kids, and I was it.”

Kiera laughs, telling me she constantly listened to the Billy Joel song, “My Life.”

She had an older foster sister, aged 16, who stole and used drugs. “I could have easily gone down that path.”

Her Aunt Jean told her that she was going to be her daughter. Another change in schools. “It was tough, even though I knew Aunt Jean loved me. I really loved music and that what really helped me get through some rough parts.”

She was obsessed with record clubs, and she got into Queen, the Bee Gees, Journey, Cheap Trix and others.

My aunt always encouraged me to work. I babysat and worked at an after-school program for a Montessori School.”

Theater, she says, was a lifesaver for her. She was involved in the Overlook Acting Company that gathered in North Portland. She calls those people “my theater family.”

She also got involved in the Big Sister program. That sister, Lois, paid for a plane ticket to go to Alaska so Kiera could visit Lois’s family. But tragedy struck — her biological father was killed in a sandstorm in Idaho, hit from behind by a semi. Kiera had only been in Alaska two days when she got the news of his death.

She graduated from high school in 1983 at age 17 and went to work for a window treatment company.

More tragedy. Her foster mom was aged 60 when she was diagnosed with an inoperative brain tumor. Kiera took care of Jean for three weeks, before she passed away.

“I’ve been on my own since age 17.”

After she died, an ex-husband of Lois showed and took away the house.

Kiera was working in Beaverton for a dry cleaners, and then the day care center, and landed another job, at an Albertson’s bakery. There, she met a woman whose husband was director of the National Broadcasting School in Portland.

Work, buses from one side of Portland to the other, and this amazing school. She graduated as valedictorian. Her first gig was with KFIR AM/FM in Sweet Home.

It was a country station. “I had grown up on KGON since I was a baby. I was a rock ’n’ roller.”

Country Western music grew on her.

She ended up in an abusive relationship, but he was the father of her son. She ended in a domestic violence shelter in Pendleton. One thing led to another and she drove to Newport, found jobs and a house and ended up at the Shilo Inn as a DJ.

She was in a small trailer up the Alsea River near Waldport, Oregon.

Nick is 28 years old and had his first baby July 2019 with Amelia. Three years ago, Keira and Tony (they were married in 2001) bought a house in Newport Heights.

Kiera’s life is one of struggle, but with plenty of highlights too: working for KZVS-Toledo, KFND, delivering newspapers, retail work for the Chocolate Basket. She also works for KSHL — the Wave, 93.7 FM — doing sales and PSAs.

She and Tony have his son, Nathan, and girlfriend sharing the house with Rocky the cat and two shih tzus.

Her takeaway at the end of the interview:

I want people to feel hope.

Q & A Rapid-fire

PH: What makes you tick inside?

KM: What makes me tick, is work. I am a hopeless workaholic. I like to stay busy and be in touch with what is going on around me.

PH: What do you like about this county, this community?

KM: What I like about Lincoln County and this community is the willingness to help others when they are in need. When the chips are down for someone or an event creates a situation where people need help, like right now, we step up and help.

PH: What advice would you give a young woman who is in a viscous and abusive relationship? The elevator speech.

KM: I would say to a woman in an abusive situation that they should use their best judgement to protect themselves and loved ones. Don’t always believe everything your abuser says. If you can get out and do so safely there are those who can help you recover and get back on your feet. Most of all get counseling!!

PH: What are two big changes you have seen since first moving to Lincoln County almost 30 years ago?

KM: One of the biggest changes I have seen is the effort to help those and a better understanding of homelessness. I think people now realize that those who are homeless are not that way because they are lazy, they are families who work but simply can’t afford high rents and costs of getting into homes or apartments with fees and credit checks. I am also proud of the changes being made to have a better understanding between law enforcement, the community and those who have a mental illness and the work to get them the help they need.

PH: What are the top two issues that need addressing in Lincoln County?

KM: One of the top issues that concerns in Lincoln County, in my opinion, remains the lack of quality child care! Families often can’t afford the high cost of child care so they turn to the next best thing. This is not always a safe choice but when we live in a county that is not a M-F, 9-5 community it leaves parents with little choice. There is an extreme lack of infant care. This makes two parent families choose between only one parent working or having to work opposite shifts, which puts a strain on families. If I have said it once I will say it a thousand times “you can’t have economic development without childcare.” Families need a safe place for their kids to go for them to be able to work, it also defeats the purpose when the parent is working is paying nearly all of their paycheck to childcare. Help from the state or from companies is essential. Homelessness would be the second. There are many options that could be explored that have been done in other areas including creating small house communities, instead of trailer parks that would be managed by programs such as Grace Wins or the programs in Lincoln City.

PH: If you could do some things over in your life, what would they be?

KM: I am old enough now to realize that the mistakes that we make in our lifetime are what helps us to learn and grow as a person and become better. Love and appreciate those you have in your life, as we truly never know when things can change.

PH: What’s your basic life philosophy?

KM: My basic life philosophy is happiness. Do what makes you happy, treat others with the respect and kindness that you would like to be shown.

A Manifesto for the United States of America, Part I

The impunity of U.S. police in killing and brutalizing blacks, native Americans, other minorities and the poor is being tested. It has always been clear to its victims that it demands redress, but others are also waking up to this fact in large numbers, and they are beginning ask necessary questions if we are to effectively address the problems and begin the difficult task of making the changes to a very different society.

The problems go far beyond the police. The way our government and its police treat the marginalized members of our society mirrors way our industry treats its employees.  It mirrors the way our medical, pharmaceutical and HMO industry treats its patients. It’s how we treat the homeless.  It’s why we’re not investing in education or making it accessible to all.  It’s why industry wantonly pollutes our environment. It’s why our corrupt election has no room for any candidates except those selected by a clandestine power structure that makes a charade of the elections that are supposed to be the centerpiece of democracy. It’s why corporations have an iron grip on everything in our society, why they have turned the citizens of America into mere profit centers, to be exploited for the benefit of stockholders. It’s why speculators can make commissions of a billion dollars or more off trades that cause bankruptcy for millions of Americans. It’s why unions are atrophying and workers’ rights are crumbling. It’s why everything we see, hear and read is in the hands of a few giant corporations and oligarchs that make sure everything is properly censored so that the public will accept their suzerainty. It’s why the police exist to preserve the power structure through subjugation and brutality. It’s why the vast prison industrial complex exists to bring wealth to the private enterprises that service it and use its resources. Finally, it’s why the U.S. is the global policeman, imposing its will on the entire world, exploiting it for the gain of U.S. corporations and oligarchs, and crushing and destroying countries that are insufficiently compliant with U.S. “leadership”. “You must do what we say, or we will bring you democracy.”

These and many more factors go into determining the basis of the way the police function. They cannot be seen in isolation.  In order to bring any meaningful change to police brutality and racism, we have to realize that both are endemic in our society, and the only way to make meaningful change is to make that change systemic throughout the society.

The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic provides a prime example of the inadequacy and brutality of the U.S. system and its failure to address the needs of society. At the simplest level, the U.S. failed to care for millions of its people without homes or health insurance, who became the prime carriers of the disease. Other nations already had free national health plans, so that they could provide as much protection and treatment as their capacity could allow or mobilize, to all of their people, even when in some cases they needed help from other nations to add to their resources.

Not the United States.  The uninsured who went to hospitals and survived found invoices of tens of thousands of dollars or more waiting for them after their recovery.  Many never bothered to get treatment for that reason, and either recovered on their own or not at all.

The series of articles of which this is the first, will examine the deficiencies of the U.S. that led to these and many more systemic problems, and it will propose solutions. I have no doubt that I will fail to mention some problems and that the proposed solutions might deserve improvement, or that alternative solutions might be better. But let us start the discussion.

The dominant thread throughout the proposals is that the power structure in the U.S. must change in fundamental ways. The disempowered must become empowered and the powerful must accept to no longer dominate our society. As this change takes place, our society will be transformed.

But how will that happen? How do we get from here to there? I don’t have that answer or even a proposal, but isn’t that what the demonstrations and uprisings are all about? The anger and frustration must be channeled into creating a shift in the power structure. That is up to the people – all of us – and the way we organize ourselves.

This series of articles is intended to offer suggestions for the road that we must travel to bring about the changes that are required.

Part I: Income Redistribution

A just, optimally functional society is impossible when the vast majority of its wealth is in the hands of a privileged few, while poverty remains rampant in the nation. Differences in wealth – and especially large differences in wealth – are the basis for corruption, privilege and abuse. Empowerment of Blacks, Indigenous peoples, other minorities and the poor depends upon creating a financially secure population that can resist exploitation and repression. Income differences must be largely eliminated in order to have a society that is equitable not merely in name but in fact.

The basis of individual financial security is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). When every person has a dependable and secure income base that is an entitlement and cannot be taken away, the people will no longer be vulnerable to power elites and financial exploitation, and will be able to participate in a meaningful and powerful way in the decisions and design of our society.

The precedent for this entitlement already exists. It is not new. We call it Social Security, and it has been a part of America since 1935. It only needs expanding to provide coverage of every person in our society, from the day they are born. Currently, Social Security provides a base income for the elderly and disabled. For many it is their only income. That was the intention when it was first created in the FDR administration. It is an entitlement that does not depend upon an employer.

Despite its success, it needs several revisions in order to meet the demands of transforming our society. First, it needs to assure that no one falls below the poverty line. No one. Of course, infants and young children do not usually need the same income as adults. Theirs is a sum that is added onto that of the entire household to assure that none fall below the poverty line.  That’s usually a fraction of what is required for adults, but it will replace and offset the existing income tax credits for dependent children, thereby providing more tax income to the government, and partially covering the cost of the extension of Social Security payments to the entire population.

This Social Security income will never be taxable. No person in the U.S. should ever fall below the poverty line, so this income must not be compromised so as to potentially place them below that line.

Most or all of the remainder of the cost of Social Security payments will be covered by the existing 12.4% of contributions from income (half of which is covered by the employer, for those who are employed), which will apply to all income above Social Security income, but without a cap, so that the wealthy will pay that rate on all of their income, without limit except for Social Security income. We all agree that they can afford it, and their fellow citizens need and deserve it. Wealthier people are expected to contribute more.

Income tax will apply to all income other than Social Security, and without an exempt minimum, because that is covered by Social Security. It will, however, be far more graduated than at present, with greatly reduced tax deductions, which currently allow the wealthy and corporations to pay nominal amounts or even no taxes. The rates should return to levels similar to those of the 1950s, with the highest bracket at more than 90%. This measure will hopefully help to reduce the concentration of wealth and power among billionaires and other wealthy individuals, and empower a new and more widespread population of financially secure citizens, who will now have the means to refuse underpaid jobs and to resist coercion and subjugation.

There are some who will argue that we cannot afford to give away that much money to so many people in our society. After watching our government provide trillions of dollars in gifts during the COVID-19 crisis, mostly to Wall Street corporations, we should consider such pronouncements to be the height of absurdity.

I have already mentioned some of the sources of funding and their offsets in other areas, such as a reduction in tax credits. In subsequent installments of this series, I will discuss other sources of funding and offset, some much bigger. The concerns are totally unjustified and should not be used to dissuade us from a more just and more viable society.

There are also those who say that income should be dependent upon employment, that we have on justification for providing an income to someone who is not gainfully employed. But the relationship between employment and income is already weak in the case of Social Security. Social Security Income is not savings, and is not limited by how much one saves.  It is intended as a form of financial security, regardless of what one is earning or may have earned in the past. Nor is there any reason that the livelihood of Americans or anyone else should be tied to employment, often in an unpleasant and unfulfilling job.

The idea that we need full employment is outmoded and based on the notion that a prosperous society depends on working for a living. In the present age a tiny minority of the population is capable of providing all of the essential needs for the rest. Other jobs merely enhance our society, in a great variety of ways. Furthermore, if prosperity depends upon jobs, what happens when the jobs dry up, as often happens?

We do not need full employment in the traditional sense.  A UBI provides only enough income to avoid poverty. But its does allow enough for persons to have a wider choice of career, or to further one’s education, or to pursue a dream of becoming an artist, or to create new ideas of entrepreneurship. It creates a freer, more independent work force able to pursue both traditional and nontraditional types of work.  We all deserve the freedom to pursue fulfilling a fulfilling life of our choosing. Universal Social Security – a Universal Basic Income – is an important first step towards income freedom, independence and empowerment that will transform our society.

Upcoming installments will examine other elements that will remake our society.  These include:

·      Consideration of a national health plan through extension and revision of Medicare,

·      Meeting the housing needs of our population and especially the homeless,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments and suggestions are welcome on my Facebook page.

Our Disaster

An entire generation of Yemeni children has suffered the traumas of war, many of them orphaned, maimed, malnourished, or displaced. The United Nations reports a death toll of 100,000 people in that nation’s ongoing war, with an additional 131,000 people dying from hunger, disease, and a lack of medical care. A report from Save the Children, issued in November 2018, estimated at least 85,000 children had died from extreme hunger since the war began in 2015.

Since then, 3.65 million people have been internally displaced and the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded has infected 2.26 million and cost nearly 4,000 lives. Attacks on hospitals and clinics have led to the closure of more than half of Yemen’s prewar facilities.

“Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian disaster,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs wrote on April 23. “Nearly 80 percent of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine, and seven million people are malnourished.”

The war has had a horrific impact on all Yemeni civilians, but it has compounded vulnerability to violence for women and girls. A recent AP report described a network of secret detention centers where security forces have severely abused women they’ve targeted as dissenters. In the Sanaa governorate alone, an estimated 200 to 350 women and girls are being held, according to multiple human rights groups. A U.N. panel of experts accused Sultan Zabin, the head of the Sanaa criminal investigative division, of running an undisclosed detention site where women have been raped and tortured.

World health experts regard Yemen as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and have worked frantically to prepare for its arrival.

“Five years of fighting have degraded the health infrastructure, exhausted people’s immune systems, and increased acute vulnerabilities,” the United Nations said in mid-April. As a result, warned Mark Lowcock, the U.N.’s top aid official, “COVID-19 in Yemen could spread faster, more widely, and with deadlier consequences than in many other countries.”

When Lowcock made this statement, Yemen had recorded just one confirmed case of COVID-19 and no deaths. As of May 31, Yemen had 337 confirmed cases and 89 deaths. On May 30, The Lancet quoted Altaf Musani, the World Health Organization’s representative in Yemen:

Based on recently applied models for the context in Yemen, we are estimating in a worst-case scenario with no mitigation measures 28 million people infected, at least 65,000 deaths, and around 494,000 hospitalisations. It is a deeply alarming situation, highly catastrophic if people do not make serious behavioural changes [and] if we do not make some course corrections.

The policies of the United States are deeply implicated in Yemen’s suffering, through the sale of billions of dollars in munitions to Saudi Arabia and other countries that have intervened in the civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged the United Nations to reduce the aid it delivers to areas controlled by the Houthis.  A New York Times report quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that Pompeo, at a 2019 conference in Warsaw, said the coalition forces should kick the stuffing out of the Houthis, although Pompeo, according to the unnamed diplomat, “used an earthier noun than stuffing.”

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia led a military coalition of nine Arab states to intervene in a conflict raging in Yemen. The coalition said it was acting to restore Yemen’s ousted president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, to power.

But professor Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni who teaches at Michigan State University, contends the coalition’s real motive was to gain control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a maritime “chokepoint” through which millions of barrels of crude oil flow each day.

The Saudi warmakers anticipated a brief war, dubbing it “Operation Decisive Storm,” and expecting to quickly overwhelm the rebellious fighters, called the Houthis. They believed the rebels would be no match for the combined military strength of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the seven other Arab countries in the coalition, who were collectively backed by the United States and the United Kingdom.

But the war dragged on for months, turning into a stalemate, with disastrous consequences for Yemeni civilians. The Saudis asked the United States for massive increases in the supply of weapons. By the end of 2015, Human Rights Watch documented the U.S. had sold Saudi Arabia 600 Patriot Missiles, a million rounds of ammunition, $7.8 billion in various weaponry, four Lockheed Littoral Combat Ships, and 10,000 advanced air-to-surface missiles, including laser-guided bombs and “bunker busting” bombs.

The Obama Administration, notes Al-Adeimi, sold Saudi Arabia $115 billion of weapons and provided additional support in the form of targeting assistance, training, and maintenance of aircraft and vehicles. The Trump Administration has continued to support Saudi Arabia, including its 2017 pledge to sell $350 billion in weapons to the repressive regime over a ten-year period. President Donald Trump cited this lucrative package in declining to take action against Saudi Arabia for murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The United States has also provided cover for Saudi Arabia in the U.N. Security Council, which passed a resolution in April 2015 that demanded an end to Yemeni violence but made no mention of the Saudi-led intervention.

Al-Adeimi understands the difficult position the United Nations is in, since it depends heavily on donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. But she is dismayed by what she calls its “all-siding” the war — addressing the conflict as though it were between evenly matched opponents.

“One hundred thousand Yemenis have been killed,” Al-Adeimi says. “The Yemenis don’t have even one plane, much less fighter jets and warships!”

On March 27, the Trump Administration suspended aid to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, where 70 percent of Yemen’s population live. It accuses the Houthis of obstructing aid deliveries. Meanwhile, the Saudis are enforcing a blockade on all of Yemen’s land, sea, and airports, forcing its population into dependence on relief organizations.

Aisha Jumaan, a Yemeni who works as an epidemiologist in Washington State, says the effect of these aid cuts was immediate. She worries that Yemen may be manipulated by donors who can threaten to withhold desperately needed food, medicine, water, and fuel.

Jumaan and her organization, the Yemen Relief & Reconstruction Foundation, along with Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the Yemeni Alliance Committee, are urging the United States to reconsider its aid suspension, to give Yemen all possible resources to prevent and respond to COVID-19.

In May 2017, the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Yemen had clearly gone on longer than predicted. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared on national television and asked the Saudis to be patient. He said having a dialogue with the rebels was not possible, so the coalition was waiting them out, adding “Time is in our favor.”

Three years later, the war is still dragging on, and the flow of weapons from the United States continues unabated. Even now, in a shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, Lockheed Martin has a multibillion-dollar contract to build four Littoral Combat Ships, which will be delivered to Saudi Arabia.

In 2019, the investigative website Bellingcat reported that eleven individual U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have each exported more than $100 million worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Altogether, the United States provided up to $6.8 billion in weapons including bombs, rocket launchers, and machine guns through March 2019.

Some of these weapons may be linked to war crimes. Identifying marks on U.S. bombs used in the 2018 Dahyan bus bombing, which killed forty children and eleven adults, linked back to a Lockheed Martin plant in Pennsylvania.

On a monthly basis, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned shipping company, Bahri, sends cargo ships to Wilmington, North Carolina, the Port of Baltimore and other U.S. ports, to collect bombs, grenades, cartridges, and defense-related aircraft. The United States also supplies weapons to Bahrain and other countries actively participating in the Saudi-led war against Yemen.

On April 8, the Saudi-led coalition declared a unilateral two-week ceasefire, expressing concern about the spread of COVID-19. But within days, the Houthis were battling groups loyal to the coalition, which retaliated with dozens of air strikes. The Houthis had already issued their own proposal for ending the war and insisted that no durable peace could be achieved without the withdrawal of foreign troops and a termination of the blockade.

When the two-week ceasefire expired, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition announced a month-long extension. Yet there were numerous reports of continued coalition air strikes. The Saudis may want to extricate themselves from the war, but so far they haven’t stopped the bludgeoning air strikes or lifted the blockade.

• A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine

Sanaa, Yemen. 30 April 2020. A health worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant on the hands of people at a market in the old city of Sanaa, amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  Photo Credit: Hani Al-Ansi/dpa/Alamy Live News.

COVID-19 Great Depression: Global Ecosocialism Is the Way Out

Sunflower field in Hudson — Photo by Larry Goodwin

Suffering in numbers

The abstract science of mathematics is a language like music. But while music is in the realm of pure emotion, the language of mathematics only speaks to the mind not the heart. Numbers and equations do not lie. They are not, by essence, subjective. This being said, when the numbers are those of the dead, they can have the chilling emotional effect of a meat cleaver cutting through bones. While we have tried to stay away from the mainstream media litany of the death tolls, on April 25, 2020 we had passed 200,000 deaths globally. In the United States alone, by the end of April, the COVID-19 pandemic will have killed more people than the reported 58,220 US soldiers who died during the Vietnam war.

from the archive of Urban Museum

Neoliberal and populist war presidents?

Ironically, two political leaders who are supposed to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum have framed their COVID-19 crisis narrative as a war. One is French President Macron, a neoliberal globalist champion, and the other one is nationalist-populist US President Trump. Both, however, have a lot in common: they are proponents of global corporatism, are Commanders in Chief of their respective military but did not serve in the military. Trump was a reputed Vietnam war draft dodger, while Macron was born too late to have done the mandatory French military service. In either case, their war on COVID-19 is not going well. As matter of fact Trump and Macron are winning their war on COVID-19 like the US won in Vietnam or NATO won in Afghanistan. And incidentally, if the COVID-19 is a world war, both of these presidents and other world leaders should consider ordering a military draft.

From the archive of The National Guard

The COVID-19 killing spree is not yet over, even in its first installment. It is hard to forecast, but in a month or two, once countries such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the entire African continent are computed in the tragic body count, we could globally have reached 350,000 deaths. The worldwide government incompetence will continue and the litany of deaths will keep ticking away. Meanwhile human suffering is not a great concern for capitalism’s ruling class, the economy and the financial markets are now their main focus.

Photo by David Shankbone

Capitalism’s callous imperatives

Never mind their countless failures and shortcomings through the crisis. What mostly concerns our callous and cynical political and business leaders is COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. While the lockdown of half of humanity could have been beneficial for an extra couple of weeks from a healthcare stand point, the enforcers of the imperative of global capitalism do not care. As far as salvaging what can still be saved from the current economic collapse, the political technocrats who serve the billionaire class, are perfectly willing to sacrifice thousands of human lives. People are dying. Poor people are starving even in the so-called developed world and relying on food banks in places like Queens, New York; New Orleans; or Seine St. Denis, in Paris’ poor northern suburbs. But what truly matters for the worshippers of capitalism is the well being of their free-market God, a profane deity brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity is facing a time of reckoning. Despite what the global ruling class hopes for, the global economy has collapsed, and things will never return to normal.

The COVID-19 Great Depression

In just two months, the global economy was brought to a standstill. Airplanes are not flying; factories are not manufacturing, with the exception of face masks; oil has become worthless; three billion people are not consuming, at the exception of food products. The imposed hiatus for most global consumption and circulation of people and goods has blown a giant hole in the complex capitalist edifice. The main question now is will it recover. While the notion of a Great COVID-19 Depression has become accepted, governments worldwide are trying to give their citizens the idea that ultimately it will be okay again. As during the crash of 2008, worldwide national or supra-national banking institutions have followed the lead of the US Federal Reserve. Worldwide, the equivalent of about $7 trillion have been printed, and they are in the process of being injected in the financial markets. Without this, Wall Street and the other markets would already be worth as little as a barrel of US crude oil.

The oil war has come home to roost in the US

On April 21, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude dropped below zero. As matter of fact, it was trading at -$4.29 a barrel. Needless to say, despite the federal money injection, the impact on the US economy energy sector will be catastrophic. This situation was completely predictable. It was years in the making, with one geopolitical blunder after another. After all, for decades the US and its Saudi allies have used oil price as a weapon. The oil war has come home to roost.

During the Clinton administration an oil price drop was used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Bush Jr.’s administration used it against Iran; and the Obama administration used it against Russia as a retaliation over Ukraine. The Trump administration has applied the same policies with regime change goals in Iran and Venezuela. Like his predecessors, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin-Salman, has been fully on board for decades. The mechanics are simple: you try to achieve your regime change goals by bankrupting another country’s economy, especially if it mainly relies on oil extraction, as does Venezuela. But Maduro is still in place and the Iranians are holding on against all odds.

The Trump administration, despite its claim of being an America-First isolationist, has dutifully followed the post World War II US empire’s geopolitical strategy of asserting a worldwide dominance, even bigger than the Monroe doctrine, by engineering failed states. It is likely, however, that with 26 million unemployed, millions relying on food banks to eat, and an economy that has imploded, the US empire will have to scale back its ambitions. For global neoliberalism’s prodigal son, Emmanuel Macron, the economic and social landscapes are equally grim.

By Lanpernas

Anger in France: “la racaille” & Gilets Jaunes’ new sans-culottes?

Despite the tough lockdown for more than six weeks in France, clashes have occurred between youths in poor French suburbs and the police. It started Saturday April 18 in Villeneuve La Garrenne with what appears to have been excessive police force against a motorcyclist. From there, it snowballed to the poor suburbs in other parts of Paris and elsewhere in France, specifically in Strasbourg, Roubaix and a Lyon suburb. In Strasbourg a police station was set on fire. The French far-right has done its best to capitalize on the incident, which involved mainly young French citizens of North African or African origin. The far-right populist leader of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, called for a severe crackdown on the culprits of the social unrest. She made the racist claimed that “la racaille” (the human scum) had to be neutralized. Le Pen also attacked the Macron administration for doing something right, which was the release of 8,000 prisoners from prisons to avoid COVID-19 mass infections. This was to be expected from racist tough-on-crime Le Pen, but Eric Ciotti, a congressman from Les Republicains, a party that is supposed to be less Fascist than Le Pen’s, went a step further and called for L’intervention de l’armee et un couvre feu (a deployment of the military and a curfew).

by Francisco Anzola

Most people understand that, without the work of the six million French citizens of North African or African origin, France’s confinement would be a lot more challenging. Just like in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New Orleans, the mothers and fathers of the angry youths in France are largely the ones who have kept the country going during the lockdown, day in and day out, often risking their lives, anonymously. They are the clerks in supermarkets, the truck drivers and other delivery persons, the janitors, the garbage collectors, the bus drivers and low-paid support staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Generation after generation, since the early 1960s, the largely North African immigrants have done the hard work that the Caucasian French no longer care to do. Former president Chirac called this social inequality a fracture sociale in the 1990s. So it was identified but never fixed, and the COVID-19 crisis has just made it more blatant. France will ease its lockdown after May 11. After this, if the social inequalities are not addressed by actions instead of only words, the angry youths of the poor suburbs could be joined by the Gilets Jaunes, whose movement just went underground.

by Denisbin

Ecosocialism equation: climate crisis + COVID19 = systemic change

So far the central banks’ remedy, quantitative easing — a euphemism for printing money — has been largely futile. The 3 trillion dollars and 1.5 trillion Euros injected are financial band-aids on our global economical Titanic. If this doomed ship represents our pre-COVID-19 mode of development, it should be cheerfully sacrificed along with the giant cargo ships and planes, which are the nervous system of a globalization that is chocking on itself. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis has fully exposed the failures of governance and socio-economic systems worldwide.

Beyond their short-term post-COVID-19 strategies, few policy makers or business leaders have any valid answers. The ruling class’ model of globalization, based on corporate imperialism’s core principle of profit over people, is in ruins. In the middle of an unstoppable worldwide paradigm shift, so-called leaders and thinkers are in paradigm paralysis. They are trapped in a pre-COVID-19 reality bubble, unable to think outside the box.

by Gilbert Mercier

As citizens of the world, we may look ahead possibly to a better future for the many. One critical systemic problem unlikely to survive COVID-19 is the extreme social inequality driven by hyper-capitalist wealth concentration. In a nutshell, the existential problem of capitalism that could cause its end is as follows: exactly 2,019 billionaires worldwide have more wealth than 60 percent of the world population. This is not only immoral but also unsustainable. Let us travel back in time to 1788 for a moment. In France absolute King Louis XVI, who presumably combined the power of Macron and the wealth of France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, thought he was firmly in power. But within a year he was swept away by the French Revolution. The motto of the revolution and subsequent French Republic was Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. These three notions still have power and value. If climate justice is added to them, this could be the foundation of an ecosocialist society.

While the Great Depression of 1929 unquestionably triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, humanity cannot afford for that history to repeat itself. The COVID-19 Great Depression upon us might be capitalism’s end game and the birth of a new global ecosocialist era based on social equality, real democracy with sound governance, zero economic growth, zero global military spending, and respectful harmony with what is left of the natural world.

by Gilbert Mercier

Can We Simultaneously Oppose Bayer/Monsanto’s Biotechnology and Support Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B?

Genetically engineered crops are a form of food imperialism.  This technology allows mega-corporations like Bayer/Monsanto to patent seeds, lure farmers into buying them with visions of high yields, and then destroy the ability of small farmers to survive.

Genetic engineering produces an artificial combination of plant traits which often results in foods with less nutritional value while introducing health problems to animals and humans who eat them.  It increases costs of food production, pushing millions of farmers throughout the world into poverty and driving them off their land.

Agricultural corporations get control of enormous quantities of land in Africa, Latin America and Asia which they use to control the world’s food supply and reap super-profits from the cheap labor of those who work for them, sometimes people who once owned the same land.  These crops can be developed in open-field testing which allows the novel pollen to contaminate wild relatives of the engineered crops.

Agro-industries which dominate this process have the resources to lobby two sections of governments.  They tell one government agency that their plants do not need to pass safety tests because they are “substantively equivalent” to already existing plants.  Yet, out of the other side of their mouths, corporate lawyers argue that, far from being equivalent to existing plants, their engineered ones are so novel as to deserve patents, patents which allow companies to sue farmers who save seeds for planting during the next season.

As a resident of St. Louis, a veritable plantation of Monsanto (now Bayer), I have participated in and organized dozens of demonstrations at the company’s world headquarters, as well as forums and conferences. It is necessary to compare the use of biotechnology by food corporations with that of Cuba to decide if they are the same or fundamentally different.

Medicine in Cuba

John Kirk’s Health Care without Borders: Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism (2015) provides a wealth of information regarding Cuba’s early use of biotechnology in medicine.  It is a poor country suffering effects of a blockade by the US which interferes with its access to materials, equipment, technologies, finance, and even exchange of information.  This makes it remarkable that Cuba’s research institutes have produced so many important medications.  Even a partial list is impressive.  The use of Heberprot B to treat diabetes has reduced amputations by 80 percent.  Cuba is the only country to create an effective vaccine against type-B bacterial meningitis, and it developed the first synthetic vaccine for Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), which causes almost half of pediatric meningitis infections.  It has also produced the vaccine Racotumomab against advanced lung cancer and has begun clinical tests for Itolizumab to fight severe psoriasis.

By far, the best known efforts of Cuban biotechnology followed an outbreak of dengue fever in 1981 when its researchers found that it could combat the disease with Interferon Alpha 2B.  The same drug became vitally important decades later as a potential cure for COVID-19.  Interferons are signaling proteins which can respond to infections by strengthening anti-viral defenses.  In this way, they decrease complications which could cause death.  Cuba’s interferons have also shown their usefulness and safety in treating viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles and HIV-AIDS.

A Tale of Two Technologies

There are marked differences between corporate biotechnology for food and Cuba’s medications for health.  First, corporations produce food that fails to be healthier than non-engineered food which it replaces.  Cuba’s biotechnology improves human health to such a degree that dozens of nations have requested Interferon Alpha 2B.

Second, corporate food production drives people off of their land while making a few investors very  rich.  No one loses their home due to Cuban medical advances.

Third, food imperialism fosters dependency but Cuba promotes medical independence.  While corporate biotechnology drains money from poor counties by monopolizing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Cuba strives to produce drugs as cheaply as possible.

Patents for its many medical innovations are held by the Cuban government. There is no impetus to increase profits by charging outrageously high prices for new drugs – these medications become available to Cubans at much lower cost than they would in a market-based health care system like that of the United States. This has a profound impact on Cuban medical internationalism. The country provides drugs, including vaccines, at a cost low enough to make humanitarian campaign goals abroad more achievable.  Its use of synthetic vaccines for meningitis and pneumonia has resulted in the immunization of millions of Latin American children.

Cuba’s other phase of medical biotechnology is also unknown in the corporate world. This is the transfer of new technology to poor countries so that they can produce drugs themselves and do not have to rely on purchasing them from rich countries.  Collaboration with Brazil has resulted in meningitis vaccines at a cost of 95¢ rather than $15 to $20 per dose. Cuba and Brazil worked together on several other biotechnology projects, including Interferon Alpha 2B, for hepatitis C, and recombinant human erythropoletin (rHuEPO), for anemia caused by chronic kidney problems.

In Perspective

The bigger picture is that technology of all types is not “value free” – it reflects social factors in its development and use.  Nuclear plants require military forces for protection from attack, making them attractive in any society dominated by those who employ a high degree of violence to suppress dissent.

Market forces within capitalism select technologies that are profitable, even if they are destructive to human welfare.  Of course, medicine such as antibiotics benefit humanity even if their original goal was profits for pharmaceutical giants.

At other times, products that damage society as a whole are pursued because they augment corporate profits by weakening labor unions.  Planting and harvesting equipment have been used to undermine organizing efforts of agricultural workers.  In the mid-1880s Chicago McCormick adopted new molding machines which could be run by unskilled workers.  The company used them to replace skilled workers of the National Union of Iron Molders.

Expensive technologies can destroy small competitors so that large companies with more capital can better control the market. No case is clearer than the use of GMOs in agriculture.  By use of market control (making non-GMO seeds unavailable), financial terrorism (such as lawsuits against resistant farmers), and the pesticide addiction treadmill, GMO giants such as Bayer/Monsanto have increased the cost of food production.  This destroys the livelihood of small farmers across the globe while transforming the large farmers who remain into semi-vassals of these multinational lords of seeds and pesticides.

Though a century separated them and they affected different types of labor, actions by McCormick and Bayer/Monsanto had something in common.  They both utilized novel technology which resulted in less desirable products but increased profits.

Because they were an invaluable weapon against the union, McCormick used molding machines that produced inferior castings and cost consumers more.  GMOs in agriculture result in lower-quality food.  Since two-thirds of GMOs are designed to create plants that can tolerate poisonous pesticides such as Roundup, pesticide residues increase with GMO usage.

GMOs are also used to increase the production of corn syrup which sweetens a growing quantity of processed foods, and thereby contributes to the obesity crisis. At the same time, food engineered to be uniform, survive transportation, and have a longer shelf life contains less nutritional value. The use of GMOs in corporate agriculture is one of the largest contributing factors to the phenomenon of people simultaneously being overweight and undernourished.

Cuba’s use of biotechnology to create medications is in sharp contrast to both McCormick and Bayer/Monsanto.  Its drugs, especially Interferon Alfpha 2B, are used to help people overcome illnesses.  They are created to share throughout the world rather drive people into worse poverty.  Making a distinction between the biotechnology of Bayer/Monsanto and Cuba requires understanding the difference between bioimperialism and biosolidarity.  Imperialism subdues.  Biosolidarity empowers.

Corona Tyranny and Death by Famine

By the end of 2020 more people will have died from hunger, despair and suicide than from the corona disease. We, the world, is facing a famine-pandemic of biblical proportions. This real pandemic will overtake the fake COVID-19 pandemic by a long shot. The hunger pandemic reminds of the movie the Hunger Games, as it is premised on similar circumstances of a dominant few commanding who can eat and who will die – by competition.

This hunger pandemic will be under-reported or not reported at all in the mainstream media. In fact, it has started already. In the west the attention focuses on the chaos created by the privatized for-profit mismanagement of the health system. It slowly brings to light the gross manipulation in the US of COVID-19 infections and death rates – how hospitals are encouraged to declare deaths as COVID19-deaths – for every COVID19 death-certificate the hospital receives a US$13,000 “subsidy”, and if the patient dies on a ventilator, the “bonus” amounts to US$ 39,000.

In real life, poor people cannot live under confinement, under lockdown. Not only have many or most already lost their meager living quarters because they can no longer pay the rent – but they need to scrape together in the outside world whatever they can find to feed their families and themselves. They have to go out and work for food and if there is no work, no income – they may resort to ransacking supermarkets in the city or farms in the country side. Food to sustain life is essential. Taking the opportunity to buy food away from people is sheer and outright murder.

Every child who dies from famine in the world – is a murder

– Jean Ziegler, former UN-Rapporteur on Food in Africa.

Yes, the diabolical Masters of Darkness, who invented and launched this COVID-19 pandemic, are nothing less than murderers. Mass-murderers, that is. They are committing mass genocide on a worldwide scale in proportions unknown in recent history of human kind. And this to dominate a world under a New World Order, aiming at a massively reduced world population.

The self-imposed new rulers decide who will live and who will die. Their self-promoting do-gooder agenda – à la Bill Gates and Co. – professes to reduce world poverty; yes, by killing the poor, by, for example, tainted toxic vaccinations, rendering African women infertile. (The Gates Foundation with support of WHO and UNICEF have a track record of doing so in Kenya and elsewhere, see here  Kenya carried out a massive tetanus vaccination program, sponsored by WHO and UNICEF); or letting the “under-developed”, the already destitute, die by famine – preventing them from access to sufficient food and drinking water. Privatizing water, privatizing even emergency food supplies is a crime that leads exactly to this: lack of access due to unaffordable pricing.

Should this not be enough, “Lock Step” has other solutions to enhance starvation. HAARP can help. HAARP (HAARP = High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) has been perfected and weaponized. According to US Air Force document AF 2025 Final Report, weather modification can be used defensively and offensively; i.e., to create droughts or floods, both of which have the potential of destroying crops – destroying the livelihood of the poor.

And if that is not enough, the 2010 Rockefeller Report also foresees food rationing, selectively, of course, as we are talking about eugenics. Let’s not forget Henry Kissinger’s infamous words he uttered in 1970: “Who controls the food supply controls the people – the quote goes on saying, “Who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.”  ((See also: “The Farce and Diabolical Agenda of a Universal Lockdown“, Global Research, April 27, 2020.))

A recent Facebook entry (name and location not revealed for personal protection) reads as follows:

….. In the poorer country, where I live, the entire village is on lockdown since March 16. Here the people having nothing to eat…… The wife of my main worker was raped and beaten to death. She was of Chinese descent. In spite of not being allowed to go outside, the people were starving and rampaged walking miles from farm to farm destroying everything. I have lost my entire livestock, fruits, vegetables. The houses were burned and the vehicles, tools etc. stolen. I am bankrupt with nobody around who can give money to rebuild. My workers cannot be paid. Their families are also starving. More malnutrition and undernourishment which will lead to a higher starvation rate or death from other diseases. How many will commit suicide through landing on the streets completely impoverished? – How many died in India trying to walk literally up to thousands of miles to get back home in the hope of finding refuge, after all public transportation was shut down and all had to go into lockdown. I am sure that these numbers will be a lot higher than the number who have died from the virus as well as will increase the numbers for those dying of next year’s flue due to a weakened immune system.

And as an afterthought ….

Maybe the elite are planning depopulation. It sure looks like it.

This happened somewhere in the Global South. But the example is representative for much of the Global South, and developing countries in general. And probably much worse is to come, as we are seeing so far only a tiny tip of the iceberg.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that worldwide unemployment is reaching never-seen mammoth proportions, that about half of the world’s workforce – 1.6 billion people -may be out of work. That means no income to pay for shelter, food, medication. It means starvation and death. For millions. Especially in the Global South which has basically no social safety nets. People are left to themselves.

The New York Times (NYT) reports (1 May 2020) that in the US millions of unemployed go uncounted, as the system cannot cope with the influx of claims. Add these millions to the already reported more than 27 million unemployed, the tally becomes astronomical. The same NYT concludes that the millions who have risen out of poverty since the turn of the century, are likely to fall back into destitution along with millions more.

Dying of famine – mostly in the Global South, but not exclusively – is an atrocious death for millions, maybe hundreds of millions. Dying in the gutters of mega-cities, forgotten by society, by the authorities, too weak to even beg, infested with parasites due to lack of hygiene – rotting away alive. This is already happening today in many metropolises, even without the corona disaster. These people are not picked up by any statistics. They are non-people. Period.

Imagine such situations in large cities as well as in rural areas, under plan “Lock Step” (Rockefeller, Kissinger, Gates et al), the death toll would be orders of magnitude higher.

The current lockdown brings everything to halt. Practically worldwide. The longer it lasts the more devastating the social and economic impact will be. Irretrievable. Not only production of goods, services and food comes to a halt, but vital supply chains to bring products from A to B, are interrupted. Workers are not allowed to work. Security. For your own protection. The virus, the invisible enemy, could hit you. It could kill you and your loved-ones too. Fear-Fear-Fear – that’s the moto that works best.  It works so well that people start screaming – gimmi, gimmi, gimmi- gimmi a vaccine! – which brings a happy grin on Bill Gates’ face. As he sees the billions rolling and his power rising.

Bill Gates, along with WHO he bought, will become famous. They will save the world from new pandemics – never mind, their side effects – 7 billion people vaccinated (Bill Gates’ wet dream) and nobody has time to care or report about side effects, no matter how deadly they may be. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) may be slated for the Peace Nobel Prize and, who knows, Bill Gates may become one of the next Presidents of the dying empire. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate reward for the world?

Meanwhile the rather cold-blooded IMF maintains its awfully unrealistic prediction of a slight “economic contraction” of the world economy of a mere 3% in 2020, and a slight growth in the second half of 2021. The IMF’s approach to world economics and human development to social crisis, is fully monetized and lacks any compassion, and thus, becomes utterly irrelevant in the age of corona. Institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, mere extensions of the US treasury, they are passé in the face of an economic collapse for which they are also, in part, responsible.

What they should do – perhaps IMF and WB combined – is call for a capital increase of up to 4 trillion SDRs (as was suggested by some of the IMF Board Members) and use the funds as a special debt relieve fund, a “Debt Jubilee Fund” for Global South Nations. Handed out as grants. This would allow these nations to get back on their feet, back to their sovereign national monetary and economic policies, recovering their internal economy, with a national currency, public banking and a government-owned central bank, creating jobs and internal autonomy in food, health and education.

Why is this not happening? It would require a change in their constitution and a redistribution of voting rights according to new economic strength of nations. China would become a much more important player with a more important share and decision-making role. Of course, that’s what the US does not want to happen. But the unwillingness to adapt to new realities makes these institutions irrelevant to the point that they should and might fade away.

Interestingly, though, two of the three economic projection scenarios of the IMF, foresee another pandemic, or a new wave of the old pandemic in 2021. What does the IMF know that we don’t?

Juxtaposed to the insensitive approach of the global financial institutions and the globalized private banking system, the World Food Program warns (25 April 2020) that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause “famines of biblical proportions”; that without urgent action and funding, hundreds of millions of people will face starvation and millions could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As it is, every year about 9 million people die from famine in the world.

The WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, told the UN Security Council that in addition to the threat to health posed by the virus, the world faces “multiple famines within a few short months,” which could result in 300,000 deaths per day—a “hunger pandemic.”

Beasley added that even before the outbreak, the world was “facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II” this year due to many factors. He cited the wars in Syria and Yemen, the crisis in South Sudan and locust swarms across East Africa. He said that coupled with the coronavirus outbreak, famine threatened about three dozen nations.

According to the WFP’s “2020 Global Report on Food Crises” released Monday (20 April ),135 million people around the world were already threatened with starvation. Beasley said that as the virus spreads, “an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people.”

The famine pandemic is further exacerbated by the ongoing refugee crisis – which is also a catastrophe of misery – hunger, disease, lack of shelter, total lack of hygiene in most of the refugee camps.

Professor Jean Ziegler, Sociologist (Universities Geneva and Sorbonne, Paris), Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Committee, recently visited the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. He described a situation where 24,000 refugees are cramped into military barracks that were built for 2,800 soldiers, live under calamitous circumstances – lack of potable water, insufficient and often inedible food, clogged and much too few stinking toilets…. diseases no end. COVID19 would just be a sideline.

These people who fled Europe-and-western-caused warzones, destroyed livelihoods are being pushed back by the very European Union, as most countries do not want to host them and give them a chance for a new life. This atrocious xenophobic behavior of Europe is against Human Rights all EU countries signed and against internal EU rules. They are a sad reminder of what Europe really is – a conglomerate of countries with a history of hundreds of years of colonization, of merciless exploitation, plundering and raping of the Global South.

This abjectly atrocious characteristic, shamelessly continuing to this day, seems to have become an integral part of the European DNA. These wars and conflicts are willfully US-NATO made, for power, greed – to maintain the US military industrial complex alive and profitable – and as a stepping stone towards total world hegemony.

The refugees emanating from these conflict zones, their fate and famine will be added to those starving from the also man-imposed corona crisis. The death toll from sheer hunger and famine-related causes, may become astronomical by the end of 2020, way-way outweighing and dwarfing the doctored and manipulated COVID-19 figures.

Is there hope? Yes, there is hope, as long as we live. The world has to wake up. Seven billion people under lockdown — wake up! Realize what is happening to you, all under false pretenses to control humanity, to digitize and robotize your very lives. What better way to do this than under the pretext of locking you away “for your own safety”?  Defy these rules, stand up against these invisible omni-powerful self-appointed rulers, who only have the power, we, the People, give them, or allow them to take from us. Because all they have is money, and corrupted media that spread fear and more fear to keep locking you down.

My final words: follow you heart. Open your heart to love and beyond your five given and media-manipulated senses and enter a higher consciousness. Get out of FEAR, get out of the lockdown, stand up for your rights, for your freedom. Because freedom and liberty cannot be bought with money, nor trampled by the media. They are inherently within us all. If enough of us open our hearts to LOVE, to an all-englobing love, we will overcome this small psychopathic elite.

If Farm Workers Are “Essential,” Why Are They Treated So Badly?

On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spurred to action by the coronavirus pandemic, issued a memorandum that identified the nation’s 2.5 million farm workers as “essential” workers.  Soon thereafter, agribusinesses began distributing formal letters to their farm laborers, also declaring that that they were “essential.”

Of course, it shouldn’t have required a government-business effort to establish this point.  Without farm workers, there is no food.  And the American people need food to survive.

But, remarkably, over the course of U.S. history, farm workers, although essential, have been terribly mistreated.  Whether as slaves, indentured servants, sharecroppers, or migrant laborers, these millions of hardworking people endured harsh and brutal lives, enriching others while living (and usually dying) in poverty.

Nor is the situation very different today.  Farm labor remains hard, grinding physical toil, often requiring long hours of bending and repetitive motion to gather crops under conditions of extreme heat.  Back strain, poisoning by pesticides, and other injuries, sometimes leading to death, contribute to making agriculture one of the nation’s most hazardous industries.  Employment is often seasonal or otherwise precarious.

Some problems hit portions of the farm labor force particularly hard.  Roughly half of all farm workers are undocumented immigrants, a status that places them in constant fear of being arrested, deported, and separated from their families.   Furthermore, women farm workers face high levels of sexual harassment, thereby confronting them with the difficult choice of reporting it and facing the possibility of being fired or remaining silent and allowing the harassment to continue.

In recent decades, the federal government has prosecuted numerous growers and labor traffickers in the Southeastern United States for what one U.S. attorney called “slavery, plain and simple.”  These cases revealed farm workers were lured to the United States under false pretenses and, then, deprived of their passports, chained, held under armed guard, and forced to work.  If they refused, they were threatened with violence, beaten, drugged, raped, pistol whipped, and even shot.  In 2015, President Obama awarded the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which exposed these practices, the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts in Combatting Modern Day Slavery.

Although people performing some of the hardest and most essential work in the United States certainly seem to deserve a break―or at least reasonable compensation―they have not received it.  In 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a quarter of all farm workers had a family income below the official poverty level, while most of the others teetered just above it.  Most of them were forced to rely on at least one public assistance program.  Even after some of the more progressive states raised the state minimum wage, the average wages of farm workers remained abysmal.  In 2019, they earned only a little more than half the hourly pay rate of all American workers.

Moreover, they now face enormous danger from the coronavirus pandemic.  Greg Asbed, a leading voice for agricultural laborers, has pointed out that, for farm workers, “the two most promising measures for protecting ourselves from the virus and preventing its spread―social distancing and self-isolation―are virtually impossible.”  Many farm workers live, crowded together, in decrepit, narrow trailers or barracks, ride to and from their workplaces in crowded buses, have little access to water and soap once in the fields, and cook and shower in the same cramped housing facility.  Rapid contagion is almost inevitable, and very few have access to healthcare of any kind.

Despite the heightened danger, though, working―even working while sick―is the only practical option for farm workers, for, given their impoverishment, they cannot afford to be unemployed.  Very few receive paid sick days.  Some, to be sure, will be assisted by the one-time $1,200 payment Congress voted for members of low and middle income families.  But undocumented workers, who constitute so many of the nation’s millions of farm workers, are excluded from the provisions of that legislation.  Nor are undocumented workers eligible for unemployment insurance―although, of course, they pay the taxes that fund these programs, as well as the programs that are now bailing out America’s multi-billion dollar industries.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is getting set to deliver yet another blow to farm workers.  Almost a tenth of that work force is comprised of Mexican guest workers, legally admitted to the United States for short periods under the U.S. Agriculture Department’s H-2A program.  As America’s big agricultural growers are perennially short of laborers to harvest their crops, they have pressed hard for the admission of these guest workers.  But they dislike the fact that, to avoid undercutting the wages of American workers, the H-2A program sets the wage level for guest workers at local American wage standards.  And in states like California, the state’s rising minimum wage has lifted the wages of farm workers considerably beyond the pitiful federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.  As a result, the growers have fought for years to reduce the wages paid to guest workers.  Finally, in April 2020, the news broke that their dream of cheap labor would soon be realized, for the Trump administration is now laying plans to lower the guest worker wage rate to $8.34 an hour.  These plans, made at the same time that farmers and ranchers are about to receive a $16 billion federal bailout, will cut between $2 and $5 per hour from the pay of guest farm workers.

Naturally, small labor organizations like the United Farm Workers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee are fiercely resisting the continued exploitation of the 2.5 million people who grow and harvest America’s food.  But there are severe limits to their power, given the greed of the agribusiness industry, plus the nakedly pro-business policies of the Trump administration and its Republican allies in Congress and many states.  For the time being, at least, farm workers seem likely to remain essential, but expendable.

Education Cannot Solve Poverty and Inequality

One of the long-standing stubborn myths about education in American culture is that education is “the great equalizer” and that education is the way to overcome poverty and inequality at the individual and societal levels.

The facts show, however, that poverty and inequality are generally increasing every year despite the fact that there are more college-educated people than ever. Indeed, many people with college degrees are unemployed or underemployed. And many are stuck in jobs that have little to do with their degrees. Never mind the massive debt load oppressing many students, college graduates, and their families. In 2020, millions of college educated people are starting out life at a great disadvantage.

In the realm of K-12 education, when mass state-organized education started in the mid-1800s, only a small number of youth attended school. Today, 50 million young people are enrolled in 100,000 public schools across the country. More youth than ever are schooled. But this has not stopped poverty or inequality; both keep growing despite many “reforms.”

Poverty, unemployment, inequality, and insecurity are rooted in the outmoded capitalist economic system. This outdated system, with or without education, guarantees poverty, unemployment, inequality, and insecurity. Such problems are not some aberration or accident of the system, they necessarily arise from the internal logic and operation of capital. Capitalism ensures that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, which is why the capitalist economic system simply cannot provide for the needs of all.

Even if everyone had three college degrees, there would not be enough jobs, let alone good jobs, to employ everyone. This is one reason why the “gig economy” has exploded in recent years. Underemployment is the new unemployment. It is also worth noting that in January 2000, 20 years ago, the employment-to-population ratio exceeded 64%, while today it stands below 61%.1 This means fewer people are participating in the workforce now than 20 years ago. Pensions have also been negatively affected over the years. In 1979, more than 40 years ago, nearly 51% of workers, which is a low number to begin with, received some type of pension through their employer. By 2016, only 32.4% of workers received such pension benefits.2

Americans are suffering more with each passing year because of an economy that cannot meet the needs of all. And the COVID Pandemic has severely deepened the economic crisis confronting everyone. Work, moreover, has never been considered a basic human right in capitalist economies. Like most needs, work is reduced to a privilege or an opportunity in “free market” societies.

While education is indispensable and valuable, it cannot overcome the main contradiction in the economic system between social production and private ownership. Under capitalism, those who produce the wealth and those who control the wealth are not the same. The majority produces the wealth in society, while a tiny ruling elite controls all socially-produced wealth. Consequently, the majority cannot decide how, where, and when to use the wealth they produce. All major decisions about the economy are made by the top one percent of the top one percent.

Graduating more students from high school and college is a good thing, but it won’t solve poverty and inequality. Having more high school and college graduates does not change the economic system that generates these and other problems.

The motive of production today serves mainly the rich, not the people as a whole. Ending serious socio-economic problems requires democratic renewal and a big change in the motivation, direction, and outlook of society and the economy.

What is needed is a human-centered economy that is balanced, coordinated, and consciously organized to ensure the well-being of all. The healthy extended reproduction of society is not possible in an economy dominated by private competing owners of capital driven by unlimited greed. Only an economy with conscious human control and a society that recognizes the rights of all can overcome poverty, unemployment, and other tragedies. In such a society, the mental and manual abilities of all will be better and further developed. No one will experience insecurity, fear, and anxiety because human rights will serve as the core principle guiding all activities. Stubborn problems like poverty, unemployment, and inequality will be overcome because the human factor and social consciousness will be deployed to swiftly end such decades-long problems. Such problems will no longer be treated as “too big to solve.”

  1. Economic Policy Institute, March 2020.
  2. Economic Policy Institute, February 2017.

Trapped by the White Man’s Devils

A certain amount of despair is, well, healthy. But that fine line between using it as a motivator and that other type of the neutering kind, or the type of despair that pushes one over the edge into depression, it’s a matter of degree. And perspective.

Denial certainly staves off despair. The huge swath of Americans who are either MAGA crazed or believers in the democratic party line of war, neoliberalism, austerity, and the facilitators of the dog eat dog mentality that is capitalism under any level of American self-declared red-white-and-blue. Bloomberg or Gates, or Bezos or Buffett, they all are the power brokers of despair.

Their riches and their self-importance and their overlord power, all of it, the cause of so much despair in thinking and feeling people.

For me, a few weeks away from Dissident Voice and these polemics is more of a symptom of business that is the new normal for Americans, young and old. I turned  63,  and here I am, with three jobs, and a fourth avocation attempting to hawk my books in a climate of controlled opposition mega-obscene celebrity publishing.

All bets are off since all books readings have been canceled in Washington and Oregon, thanks to CV-19.

But it begs the question . . .

No one buys books of fiction anymore, and few read novels and short story collections, two of my forms of creative expression. My writing is not happy-go-lucky, and the concept of narrative and the great American novel/short story form I have little tolerance for.

I’ve done the college degrees – Journalism, English, Rhetoric, Writing – and have had my time with smug MFA types and worse, belittling professors of writing, AKA Literary Little Eichmann’s.

The despair I have within the context of my own struggle and creative avocations, conjoined with my disregard for this society, or the Western culture of rapacious theft and degradation of other peoples, other cultures, other lands can set forth a type of nihilism or cynicism that proves unworthy of my own desire to continue chopping at the windmills in a ritual of helping as many people as I can.

It is struggle, talking to commercial novelists, or those that have tenure outposts at colleges who are a safe bet, or who wrangle their words from a highly structured environment of  strictures that kill any outlier or outrageous way for writing.

There are not just rules for their form of creative fiction, but rules of the game.

Devil’s Churn

The oddity of the US Forest Service having a little outpost near Yachats, Oregon, called Devil’s Churn is remarkably absurd. Think about it – the number of things in western societies named “devil this, devil that” in a land ripped from the true caretakers of these places is both pathetic and demeaning.

All original names from first nations people’s have been ham-fisted into suffering Anglo Saxon or Germanic or Greek oddities. Spanish, too.

I take the path almost daily to this little cataract of waves surging in and out and pounding the volcanic rocks of this cool place along the Oregon Coast. I leap around slick rocks, look for a sign of any sea star clinging to the rocks, even though I know seastar wasting disease has decimated most of the species of sea stars in Oregon waters.

Along a rocky portion of the geographic stop I see a placard, put out by the Forest Service, in some sort of historical remembrance of the native people’s who used this part of the world for centuries as clamming sites, and well holy places.

It’s been scratched to death, this plaque, with most of the wording obscured by gouges in the Plexiglas. Amazing, this plaque is off the beaten path, under salal and pine boughs. I feel that despair – how the white tourists, the miscreant species, probably with their collective balled up hate for the Indians, just decided to say to the world that the history of these indigenous people are meaningless.

So they scratch off a culture, at least in their square small minds.

Probably dangerous to the illiterate masses this wasteful country keeps churning out yearly in our PK12 “schools” and those bastions of “higher” education called colleges and universities. Knowledge and history are the bane of Americans’ thinking, whether it’s the current accused pedophile in high office who daily bombards us with lies,  or masses more that have the power positions: business heads, politicians, the financial class, CEOs, the rich and famous.

In this time of hysteria, bad planning, no health care safety nets, no leadership, no human governance, we are all stuck in the place of plague!

Thatcher is more relevant now than every. Her words are tattooed on the asses of Fortune 1000 sociopahts and on Trump LLC’s neck, on Pelosi’s and Schumer’s and Dianne Feinstein’s dirty rotten backs.

Margaret Thatcher said it plainly, remember? The clipped syllables yet issue from that throat of near-mechanical inelasticity:

“ … there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”

Therein lies the dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, the fired Apprentice shit Americans consume and bow to.

So simultaneously looking at this amazing place of crashing Pacific (Devil’s Churn or Devil’s Punchbowl) waves and realizing how my fellow citizen and I are world’s apart lends a certain despair in my bones.

THE DIFFERENCE between despair
And fear, is like the one
Between the instant of a wreck,
And when the wreck has been.

The mind is smooth,—no motion— 5
Contented as the eye
Upon the forehead of a Bust,
That knows it cannot see.

–Emily Dickinson (1830–86), Complete Poems, 1924, Part Five: The Single Hound

Worldviews, Not Enough Local Views

This is meandering and it should be. I have gone many miles inside my brain since I started writing this. Man, the world has topsy-turved, but it was expected. My next piece is on bats — all those bats I lived with in caves in western Vietnam working with teams of researchers on biodiversity studies. Bats, man, some 1,300 species, and then, the corona!

I can leap around back to the bailouts for airlines, for a putz like Richard Branson, for so so many millionaires and billionaires. My daughter in Spokane, however, is out of work. The aesthetician school she was about to attend is on hold. Her photography is on hold since she does cool shots of businesses and people.  Her significant other just opened up a New York style pizza place, and that too is closed down. Things will close more and more.

The closing of the American mind slammed shut decades ago. My new book — short stories, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam —  has my preface in it discussing the “no more Vietnam War mistakes” syndrome. That is the neocon syndrome, the neoliberal syndrome, of making sure to go into someone else’s land and bomb them back to the stone age, both literally and with financial nukes.

Vietnam was all about the ramped up bioweapons (that started back thousands of years ago, but for USA, well, read on, and weap: A Short History of Bio-Chemical Weapons.

Damn, this well-done Counterpunch article doesn’t even have listed the Swine Flu USA/taxpayers/CIA unleashed upon Fidel’s Cuba — San Francisco Chronicle first reported this, and alas, it’s not even discussed in a time of bat corona, AKA SARS. That was 1971.

Rumsfeld, Cheney, Swine, Turkey Feather and CIA deja vu in Cuba

With at least the tacit backing of U. S. Central Intelligence Agency officials, operatives linked to anti-Castro terrorists introduced African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971.

Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.

A U. S. intelligence source told Newsday last week he was given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at a U. S. Army base and CIA training ground in Panama with instructions to turn it over to the anti-Castro group.

Why oh why have the chickens come home to roost?

“…it was the evil of slavery that caused the downfall and destruction of ancient Egypt and Babylon, and of ancient Greece, as well as ancient Rome,” Malcolm told his audience. In similar fashion, colonialism contributed to “the collapse of the white nations in present-day Europe as world powers.” The exploitation of African Americans will, in turn, “bring white America to her hour of judgment, to her downfall as a respected nation.”

Malcolm’s core argument was that America, like the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, was in moral decline. The greatest example of its moral bankruptcy, Malcolm argued, was its hypocrisy.

“White America pretends to ask herself, ‘What do these Negroes want?’ White America knows that four hundred years of cruel bondage has made these twenty-two million ex-slaves too (mentally) blind to see what they really want.”

All those Wall Street, Military Industrial Complex, Economic Hits, CIA-launched Businesses, Structural Adjustment, Bioweapon-producing, Fat Boy and Little Boy Nuke hugging leaders of the free world need these pandemics, these September 11, 2001’s, all of it, to keep the engines of money and surveillance capitalism  going.

And it all comes down to my friend Joe from California. It’s a long letter to me, but so many layers of truth and emblematic connections to the DV readers’ everyday lives and struggles in so many ways. The layers of how messed up USA under capitalism are deftly stratified here.

Paul

My oldest brother was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a nurse binding my mother’s legs together because the doctor was still at the golf course and not present for the delivery. As a result of that stupidity, my oldest brother, who was already engaged in the birth canal, starved for air. It fucked him up pretty good.

My father never really handled my oldest brother very well. I think he felt my brother’s handicap was somehow a reflection on him. People and society back then had some pretty weird ideas about what being a man was. Coming off the war, a man was supposed to be tough, and having a child like my brother I don’t think fit in real well to my fathers image of himself.

Growing up in that household was one Hell of a life experience never knowing what was going to set things into pandemonium. The best and worst thing or maybe the worst and best thing that ever happened to my brother was that some medical quack recommended my brother have shock therapy, which turned out to be like pouring gas on a raging fire. The best thing that ever happened to him was that he was institutionalized and assigned a councilor that did more to help my brother than probably anything else in his life. This man was truly a Godsend for my brother. And then came Ronald Reagan. I’ve often pondered who was crazier Ronald Reagan who closed the mental health hospital where my brother was being treated, or my brother. Fortunately the councilor that was helping my brother, before getting the ax, got my brother on aide to the totally dependent.

ATD and with the help of the family, my brother was able to live independently in his own small apartment in Merced. He was crazy as a shithouse rat, but he wasn’t stupid. In some ways I think my oldest brother was the smartest of the bunch. When Nixon went off the gold standard because Charles de Gaulle demanded gold as exchange rather than paper dollars, my brother would take cash from his check and exchange it for rolls of coins. He would take the silver coins out and replace them with the copper coins and do it over and over until he ran out of money and had to wait for his next check.

He did this until he had about fifteen hundred dollars in face value of silver coins. When the Bass brothers in Texas decided they were going to skin a fat hog and try to capture the silver market, my brother got my mother to come in and take him to get the silver coins he had amassed exchanged for dollars. He made a sizable wad of cash out of the deal, and, fortunately, my Mother who didn’t know my brother had been doing this, took possession of his wad and doled it out to him to help with his food, clothing and rent; otherwise, he would have just pissed it away.

I would take vegetables to him after Market on Saturdays; he would never let me inside his apartment which I’m sure was a fucking mess. What finally ended up happening to him was he contracted a disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome. It’s the most horrible fucking disease you can imagine. It started as numbness in his feet and slowly moved up his bod,y until he was completely paralyzed. The only way anyone could communicate with him was to formulate questions in a yes or no sequence and have him blink once for yes and twice for no. He was sent from hospital facility to hospital facility like yesterdays trash with every move ending him up further away from his family.

Somehow I got designated as the contact person for his affairs. I was contacted one morning at about 3:00 AM by a hospital down by the San Fernando Valley that my brother was having a series of mild heart attacks and wanted to know if they should continue treating him or just let him go? During the telephone call, he had a massive heart attack and died. His death certificate listed his cause of death as a heart attack. I later found out that in fact it was a heart attack, but it was caused by gas gangrene because of bedsores because the facility he was in didn’t have a bed that moved his muscles like the previous facility had and no one was checking him for bedsores.

I, along, with my sister got the job of cleaning my brother’s apartment out before his death. It was the most unbelievable mess you could ever imagine. No animal would ever live that way. It made a hog wallow look sanitary. I would suspect it had a lot to do with his chronic health problems regarding his breathing and maybe even helped bring on his Gullain Barre disease. The filth he lived in was a danger to himself and others in the building he rented.

I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this, Paul, other than as I read this essay on homelessness  [ A Crash Course on How to Handle Homelessness ]  all this started coming back to me about my brother. This fellow that wrote this piece brought up a lot of things my own family experienced with my brother; he also left a lot out. Dealing with mental illness is a tough row to hoe. As a social worker, I’m sure you well know that. But what little help there was for my brother was always under assault, and if it wasn’t for my parents, my siblings and myself it would have gone a lot harder on my brother.

Maybe that’s why I get so incensed by a cocksucker like Jamie Dimon who never worked a fucking day in his life and who gets all butt hurt when someone questions his success. His wealth came at the expense of my brother that couldn’t help himself due to circumstances beyond his control by a cocksucker doctor and his Nurse Ratched who totally fucked him up because of the same arrogance Dimon displays. And I do hope the Devil has his arrow- tipped tail up Ronald Reagan’s ass in an eternal effort to never let Reagan forget the Hell he brought on to a lot of those unable to defend themselves.