Category Archives: Privatization

Obsession With “Academic Performance” is Charter School Disinformation

Promoters of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are obsessed with students’ scores on punitive and curriculum-narrowing high-stakes tests produced by big corporations. They think that test scores on these unsound tests are the end-all and be-all. They have even convinced themselves that the more technical and professional their “academic performance” reports look and feel the more believable and meaningful such test scores are.

Putting aside the 50 problems with these top-down corporate tests, the central issue when it comes to charter schools is not students’ scores on pseudo-scientific tests, but whether education is a public good and social responsibility that must be publicly-controlled and publicly-funded, or if education should be a commodity subject to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market” and something parents compete for? Is education a social responsibility and basic right that must be provided with a guarantee by government or is it a business run by entrepreneurs who advertise their schools to consumers the same way a retailer advertises goods to consumers? Should education be fully-funded, high-quality, and available for free to everyone in every neighborhood, or should it be based on a hit-or-miss survival of the fittest ethos?

The law of the jungle is not a modern, responsible, and humane way of organizing education in the 21st century. The outmoded “free market” approach to education has led to thousands of charter schools failing and closing over the last 30 years, leaving thousands of black and Hispanic kids and their parents out in the cold. Poor and low-income minority families have not been served well by privatized education arrangements such as charter schools. Contracting-out education is retrogressive.

Even if every student in every charter school scored 100 on every corporate test, this does not mean there is any justification for the existence of privately-operated charter schools. Privatizing public schools, treating a modern social responsibility like education as a dog-eat-dog phenomenon, is extremely retrogressive in a modern society based on mass industrial production.

Privatization increases corruption, enriches major owners of capital, and leads to lower quality services.

Privatization harms education, the economy, society, and the national interest.

Privatization takes socially-produced wealth away from working people and the public and concentrates it in the hands of private interests whose narrow aim contradicts the broad purpose and meaning of the common good. Privatizing healthcare, water, transportation, aviation, parks, garbage collection, and more does the same.

Privatization also restricts the ability of the people from having a say in those affairs that concern them; it is anti-democratic.

Do not get caught up in students’ test scores in charter schools or comparing test scores in charter schools with test scores in public schools. Such an exercise is meant to fool the gullible. The fundamental core issue revolves around the private/public axis.

The fraud of marketizing and privatizing public enterprises and services must be condemned and opposed.

The post Obsession With “Academic Performance” is Charter School Disinformation first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Secret Agenda of the World Bank and IMF

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) work hand in glove – smoothly. Not only are they regularly lending huge sums of money to horror regimes around the world, but they blackmail poor nations into accepting draconian conditions imposed by the west. In other words, the WB and the IMF are guilty of the most atrocious human rights abuses.

You couldn’t tell when you read above the entrance of the World Bank the noble phrase, “Our Dream is World Free of Poverty”. To this hypocrisy I can only add, ”…And we make sure it will just remain a dream.” This says both, the lie and the criminal nature of the two International Financial Institutions, created under the Charter of the United Nations but instigated by the United States.

The front of these institutions is brilliant. What meets the eye are investments in social infrastructure, in schools, health systems, basic needs like drinking water, sanitation – even environmental protection – over all “Poverty Alleviation”; i.e., A World Free of Poverty. But how fake this is today and was already in the 1970’s and 1980’s is astounding. Gradually people are opening their eyes to an abject reality, of exploitation and coercion and outright blackmail. And that, under the auspices of the United Nations. What does it tell you about the UN system? In what hands are the UN? The world organization was created in San Francisco, California, on 24 October 1945, just after WWII, by 51 nations, committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

The UN replaced the League of Nations which was part of the Peace Agreement after WWI, the Treaty of Versailles. It became effective on 10 January 1920, was headquartered in Geneva Switzerland, with the purpose of disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries, through negotiation diplomacy and improving global welfare. In hindsight it is easy to see that the entire UN system was set up as a hypocritical farce, making people believe that their mighty leaders only wanted peace. These mighty leaders were all westerners; the same that less than 20 years after the creation of the noble League of Nations, started World War II.

*****

This little introduction provides the context for what was eventually to become the UN-backed outgrowth for global theft, for impoverishing nations around the world, for exploitation of people, for human rights abuses and for shoveling huge amounts of assets from the bottom, from the people, to the oligarchy, the ever-smaller corporate elite – the so-called Bretton Woods Institutions.

In July 1944 more than 700 delegates of 44 Allied Nations (allied with the winners of WWII, including the Soviet Union) met at the Mount Washington Hotel, situated in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after WWII. Let’s be sure, this conference was carried out under the auspices of the United States, the self-declared winner of WWII, and from now on forward the master over the financial order of the world – which was not immediately visible, an agenda hidden in plain sight.

The IMF was officially created to ‘regulate’ the western, so-called convertible currencies, those that subscribed to apply the rules of the new gold standard; i.e., US$ 35 / Troy Ounce (about 31.1 grams). Note that the gold standard, although applicable equally to 44 allied nations, was linked to the price of gold nominated in US dollars, not based on a basket of the value of the 44 national currencies. This already was enough reason to question the future system and how it would play out. But nobody questioned the arrangement. Hard to believe, though, that of all these national economists, none dared question the treacherous nature of the gold-standard set-up.

The World Bank, or the Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), was officially set up to administer the Marshall Plan for the Reconstruction of war-destroyed Europe. The Marshall Plan was a donation by the United Stated and was named for U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, who proposed it in 1947. The plan gave $13.2 billion in foreign aid to European countries that had been devastated physically and economically by World War II. It was to be implemented from 1948 to 1952 which, of course, was much too short a time, and stretched into the early 1960s. In today’s terms the Marshall plan would be worth about 10 times more, or some US$ 135 billion.

The Marshall Plan was, and still is, a Revolving Fund, paid back by the countries in question, so that it could be relent. The Marshall Plan money was lent out multiple times and was therefore very effective. The European counterpart to the World Bank-administered Marshall Fund was a newly to be created bank set up under the German Ministry of Finance, The German Bank for Reconstruction and Development (KfW – German acronym for “Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau”).

KfW, as the World Bank’s European counterpart still exists and dedicates itself mostly to development projects in the Global South, now primarily with funds from the German Government and borrowed from the German and European capital markets. KfW often cooperates on joint projects with the World Bank. Today there is still a special Department within KfW that deals exclusively with Marshall Plan Fund money. These still revolving funds are used for lending to poor southern regions in Europe, and also to prop up Eastern European economies, and they were used especially to integrate former East-Germany into today’s “Grand Germany”.

Two elements of the Marshall Plan are particularly striking and noteworthy. First, the reconstruction plan created a bind, a dependence between the US and Europe, the very Europe that was largely destroyed by the western allied forces, while basically WWII was largely won by the Soviet Union, the huge sacrifices of the USSR – with an estimated 25 to 30 million deaths. So, the Marshall Plan was also designed as a shield against communist Russia; i.e., the USSR.

While officially the Soviet Union was an ally of the western powers, US, UK, and France, in reality the communist USSR was an arch-enemy of the west, especially the United States. With the Marshall Plan money, the US bought Europe’s alliance, a dependence that has not ended to this day – and has, and still is, preventing Europe from establishing normal relations with Russia, even though the Soviet Union disappeared three decades ago. The ensuing Cold War after WWII against the USSR, also all based on flagrant lies, was direct testimony for another western propaganda farce whichm to this day, most Europeans haven’t grasped yet.

Second, the US imposition of a US-dollar based reconstruction fund was not only creating a European dollar dependence, but was also laying the ground work for a singular currency, eventually to invade Europe — what we know today has become the Euro. The Euro is nothing but the foster child of the dollar, as it was created under the same image as the US-dollar.  It is a fiat currency, backed by nothing. The United Europe, or now called the European Union, was never really a union. It was never a European idea, but put forward by US Secret Services in disguise of a few treacherous European honchos. And every attempt to create a United Europe, a European Federation, with a European Constitution, similar to the United States, was bitterly sabotaged by the US, mostly through the US mole in the EU, namely the UK.

The US didn’t want a strong Europe, both economically and possibly over time also militarily (pop. EU 450 million, vs US pop. 330 million; 2019 EU GDP US$ 20.3 trillion equivalent, vs US GDP US$ 21.4 trillion. Most economists would agree that a common currency for a loose group of countries has no future, is not sustainable. There is no common Constitution, thus no common objective, financially, economically and militarily. A common currency is not sustainable in the long run under these unstable circumstances. This is more than visible only 20 years into the Euro. The eurozone is a desperate mess. In comes the European Central Bank (ECB), also a creation inspired by the FED and the US Treasury. The ECB has really no Central Bank function. It is rather a watch dog. Because each EU member country has still her own Central Bank, though with a drastically reduced sovereignty which the eurozone countries conceded to the ECB, without receiving any equivalent rights.

Out of the currently 27 EU members, only 19 are part of the Euro-zone. Those countries not part of the Eurozone; i.e., Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Sweden and more, have preserved their sovereign financial policy and do not depend on the ECB. This means had Greece opted out of the Eurozone when they were hit with the 2008/2009 manufactured “crisis”, Greece would now be well on her way to full recovery. It would not have been subject to the whims and dictates of the IMF, the infamous troika, European Commission (EC), ECB and IMF, but could have chosen to arrange their debt internally, as most debt was internal debt, no need to borrow from abroad.

In a 2015 bailout referendum, the Greek population voted overwhelmingly against the bailout, meaning against the new gigantic debt. However, the then Greek President Tsipras, went ahead as if the referendum had never taken place and approved the huge bailout despite almost 70% of the popular vote against it.

This is a clear indication of fraud, that no fair play was going on. Tsipras and/or his families may have been coerced to accept the bailout – or else. We may never know the true reason why Tsipras sold his people, the wellbeing of the Greek people to the oligarchs behind the IMF and World Bank – and put them into abject misery, with the highest unemployment in Europe, rampant poverty and skyrocketing suicide rates.

Greece may serve as an example on how other EU countries may fare if they don’t “behave” – meaning adhere to the unwritten golden rules of obedience to the international money masters.

This is scary.

*****

And now, in these times of covid, it is relatively easy. Poor countries, particularly in the Global South, already indebted by the plandemic, are increasing their foreign debt in order to provide their populations with basic needs. Or so they make you believe. Much of the debt accumulated by developing countries is domestic or internal debt, like the debt of the Global North. It doesn’t really need foreign lending institutions to wipe out local debt. Or have you seen one of the rich Global North countries borrowing from the IMF or the World Bank to master their debt?  Hardly!

So why would the Global South fall for it? Part corruption, part coercion, and partly direct blackmail. Yes, blackmail, one of the international biggest crimes imaginable, being committed by the foremost international UN-chartered financial institutions, the WB and the IMF.

For example, the whole world is wondering how come that an invisible enemy, a corona virus, hit all 193 UN member countries at once, so that Dr. Tedros, Director General of WHO, declares on 11 March a pandemic – no reason whatsoever since there were only 4,617 cases globally – but the planned result was a total worldwide lockdown on 16 March 2020. No exceptions. There were some countries who didn’t take it so seriously, like Brazil, Sweden, Belarus, some African countries, like Madagascar and Tanzania – developed their own rules and realized that wearing masks did more harm than good, and social distancing would destroy the social fabric of their cultures and future generations.

But the satanic deep dark state didn’t want anything to do with “independent” countries. They all had to follow the dictate from way above, from the Gates, Rockefellers, Soroses, et al elite, soon to be reinforced by Klaus Schwab, serving as the chief henchman of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Suddenly, you see in Brazil a drastic surge in new “cases”, no questions asked, massive testing, no matter that the infamous PCR tests are worthless, according to most serious scientists – see The COVID-19 RT-PCR Test: How to Mislead All Humanity. Using a “Test” To Lock Down Society (by Pascal Sacré – 5 November 2020)
(only sold and corrupted scientists, those paid by the national authorities, would still insist on the RT-PCR tests). Brazil’s Bolsonaro gets sick with the virus and the death count increases exponentially – as the Brazilian economy falls apart.

Coincidence? Hardly.

In comes the World Bank and/or the IMF, offering massive help mostly debt relief, either as grant or as low interest loans. But with massive strings attached: You must follow the rules laid out by WHO, you must follow the rules on massive testing on vaccination, when they become available, mandatary vaccination – if you conform to these and other country-specific rules, like letting western corporations tap your natural resources, continue privatizing your social infrastructure and services – you may receive, WB and IMF assistance.

Already in May 2020 the World Bank Group announced its emergency operations to fight COVID-19 had already reached 100 developing countries – home to 70% of the world’s population with lending of US$ 160 billion-plus. This means, by today, 6 months later and in the midst of the “Second Wave” the number of countries and the number of loans or “relief’ grants must have increased exponentially, having reached close to the 193 UN member countries. Which explains how all, literally all countries, even the most objecting African countries, like Madagascar and Tanzania, among the poorest of the poor, have succumbed to the coercion or blackmail of the infamous Bretton Woods Institutions.

These institutions have no quarrels in generating dollars, as the dollar is fiat money, not backed by any economy – but can be produced literally from hot air and lent to poor countries, either as debt or as grant. These countries, henceforth and for pressure of the international financial institutions, will forever become dependent on the western masters of salvation.  Covid-19 is the perfect tool for the financial markets to shovel assets from the bottom to the top.

In order to maximize the concentration of the riches on top, maybe one or two or even three new covid waves may be necessary. That’s all planned, The WEF has already foreseen the coming scenarios by its tyrannical book Covid-19 – The Great Reset. It’s all laid out. And our western intellectuals read it, analyze it, criticize it, but we do not shred it apart – we let it stand, and watch how the word moves in the Reset direction. And the plan is dutifully executed by the World Bank and the IMF – all under the guise of doing good for the world.

What’s different from the World Bank and IMF’s role before the covid plandemic?  Nothing. Just the cause for exploitation, indebtment, enslavement. When covid came along it became easy. Before then and up to the end of 2019, developing countries, mostly rich in natural resources of the kind the west covets, oil, gold, copper and other minerals, such as rare earths, would be approached by the WB, the IMF or both.

They could receive debt relief, so-called structural adjustment loans, no matter whether or not they really needed such debt. Today these loans come in all names, forms, shapes and colors, literally like color-revolutions, for instance, often as budget support operations.  I simply call them blank checks – nobody controls what’s happening with the money. However, the countries have to restructure their economies, rationalizing their public services, privatizing water, education, health services, electricity, highways, railroads – and granting foreign concessions for the exploitation of natural resources.

Most of this fraud –fraud on “robbing” national resources — passes unseen by the public at large, but countries become increasingly dependent on the western paymasters. People’s and institutional sovereignty is gone. There is always a corrupter and a corruptee. Unfortunately, they are still omni-present in the Global South. Often, for a chunk of money, the countries are forced to vote with the US for or against certain UN resolutions which are of interest to the US. Here we go – the corrupt system of the UN.

And, of course, when the two Bretton Woods organizations were created in 1944, the voting system decided is not one country, one vote as in theory it is in the UN, but the US has an absolute veto right in both organizations. Their voting rights are calculated in function of their capital contribution which derives from a complex formula, based on GDP and other economic indicators. In both institutions the US voting right and also veto right is about 17%. Both institutions have 189 member countries. None of these other countries have a voting right higher than 17%. The EU would have, but they were never allowed by the US to become a country or a Federation.

*****

Covid has laid bare, if it wasn’t already before, how these “official” international, UN-chartered Bretton Woods financial institutions are fully integrated in the UN system – in which most of the countries still trust, maybe for lack of anything better.

Question, however: What is better, a hypocritical corrupt system that provides the “appearance”, or the abolition of a dystopian system and the courage to create a new one, under new democratic circumstances and with sovereign rights by each participating country?

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

The post The Secret Agenda of the World Bank and IMF first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Insanity of Sustainability

Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War.
— Plato.

This wisdom is as valid today as it was 2,500 years ago. Wars go on and on. They are exactly the antidote of sustainability. Though they may be the only “sustainability” modern mankind knows – endless destruction, killing, shameless exploitation of Mother Earth and its sentient beings, including humans.

Yes, we are hell-bent towards “sustainably”, destroying our planet and all its living beings, with wars and conflicts and shameless exploitation of Mother Earth and the people who have peacefully inhabited her lands for thousands of years.

All for greed, and more greed. Greed and destruction are certainly “unsustainable” features of our western “civilization”. Not to worry.  In the grand scheme of things, Mother Earth will survive. She will cleanse herself by shaking and shedding off the destroyers, the annihilators – mankind. Only the brave will survive. Indigenous people, who have abstained from abject consumerism and instead worshipped Mother Earth and expressed their gratitude to her daily gifts. There are not many such societies left on our planet.

In the meantime, we lie about the sustainability we live in. We lie to ourselves and to the public at large around us. We make believe sustainability is our cause, and we use the term freely and constantly. Most of us don’t even know what it is supposed to mean. “Sustainability” and “sustainable” anything and everything have become slogans; or household words.

Such buzz-words, repeated over and over again, are made for promoting ideas, and for bending people’s minds to believe in something that isn’t.

We pretend and say that we work sustainably, we develop just about anything we touch sustainably, and we project the future in a most sustainable way. That’s what we are made to believe by those who coined this most fabulously clever, but untrue term. It is the 101 of a psycho-factory.

As Voltaire so pointedly said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities; can make you commit atrocities.”

Sustainability. What does it mean? It has about as many interpretations as there are people who use the term – namely none specific. It sounds good. Because it has become – well, a household word, ever since the World Bank invented, or rather diverted the term for “sustainable development” in the 1990s, in connection, first, with Global Warming, then with Climate Change – and now back to both.

Imagine! There was a time at the World Bank, and possibly other institutions, when every page of almost every report had to contain at least once the word “sustainable”, or “sustainability”. Yes, that’s the extent of insanity propagated then – and today it follows on a global scale, more sophisticated – the corporate world, the mega-polluters make it their buzz-word. Our business is sustainable, and we, with our products, promote sustainability worldwide.

In fact, sustainable, sustainable growth, sustainable development, sustainable this and sustainable that was originally coined by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, the Rio Summit, the Rio Conference, and the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June in 1992.

The summit is intimately linked to the subsequent drive on Global Warming and Climate Change. It exuded projections of sea level risings, of disappearing cities and land strips, like Florida and New York City, as well as parts of California and many coastal areas and towns in Africa and Asia. It painted endless disasters, droughts, floods and famine as their consequence, if we – mankind – didn’t act. This first of a series of UN environment/climate summits is also closely connected with the UN Agendas 2021 and 2030. The UN Agenda 2030 incorporates or uses as main vehicle – the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)”.

In a special UN Conference in 2016, Bill Gates was able to introduce into the 16th SDG Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”, the 9th of the 12 sub-targets – “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.” This is precisely what Bill Gates needs to introduce digital IDs – most likely injected via vaccines, beginning with children from developing countries; i.e., the poor and defenseless are time and again used as guinea pigs.

They won’t know what happens to them. First trials are underway in one or several rural schools in Bangladesh – see this  and this.

These 17 sustainable development goals are all driving towards a Green Agenda, or as some prominent “left” US Democrat-political figures call it, the New Green Deal. It is nothing else but capitalism painted Green, at a horrendous cost for mankind and for the resources of the world. But it is sold under the label of creating a more sustainable world.

Never mind, the enormous amounts of hydrocarbons – the key polluter itself – that will be needed to convert our “black” economy into a Green economy. Simply because we have not developed effective and efficient alternative sources of energy. The main reasons for this are the strong and politically powerful hydrocarbon lobbies.

The energy cost (hydrocarbon-energy from oil and coal) of producing solar panels and windmills is astounding. So, today’s electric cars – Tesla and Co. – are still driven by hydrocarbon produced electricity.  Plus their batteries made from lithium destroy pristine landscapes, like huge natural salt flats in Bolivia, Argentina, China and elsewhere. The use of these sources of energy is everything but “sustainable”.

According to a study by the European Association for Battery Electric Vehicles commissioned by the European Commission (EC), The ‘Well-to-Tank’ energy efficiency (from the primary energy source to the electrical plug), taking into account the energy consumed by the production and distribution of the electricity, is estimated at around 37%.“  See also Michael Moore’s film Planet of the Humans.

Hydrogen power is promoted as the panacea of future energy resources. But is it really? Hydrocarbons or fossil fuels today amount to 80% of all energy used worldwide. This is non-renewable and highly polluting energy. Today to produce hydrogen is still mostly dependent on fossil fuels, similar to electricity.

As long as we have purely profit-fueled hydrocarbon lobbies that prevent governments collectively to invest in alternative energy research, like solar energy of the 2nd Generation; i.e., derived from photosynthesis (what plants do), hydrogen production uses more fossil fuels than using straight gas or petrol-derived fuels. Therefore hydrogen, say a hydrogen-driven car, may be as much as 40% – 50% less efficient than would be a straight electric car. The burden on the environment can be considerably higher. Thus, not sustainable with today’s technology.

To enhance your belief in their slogans of “sustainability”, they put up some windmills or solar cells in the “backyard” of their land and landscape devastating coal mines. They will be filmed for propaganda purposes along with their “sustainable” buzz-words.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) and the IMF are fully committed to the idea of the New Green Deal. For them it is not unfettered neoliberal capitalism and extreme consumerism emanating from it that is the cause for the world’s environmental and societal breakdown, but the use of polluting energies, like hydrocarbons. They seem to ignore the enormous fossil fuel use to convert to a green energy-driven economy. Or, are they really not aware? Capitalism is OK. We just have to paint it green (see this and this.)

Let’s look at wh at else is “sustainable” — or not.

Water use and privatization.  Coca Cola tells us their addictive and potentially diabetes-causing soft drinks are produced “sustainably”. They tout sustainability as their sales promotion all over the world. “Our business is sustainable from A to Z. Coco Cola follows a business culture of sustainability.”

They use enormous amounts of pristine clean drinking water – and so does Nestlé to further promote its number One business branch, bottled water. Nestlé has overtaken Coca Cola as the world number One in bottled water. They both use primarily subterranean sources of drinking water – least costly and often rich in minerals. Both of them have made — or are about to sign — agreements with Brazil’s President to exploit the world’s largest freshwater aquifer, the Guarani, underlaying Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. They both proclaim sustainability.

Both Coca Cola and Nestlé have horror stories in the Global South (i.e. India, Brazil, Mexico and others), as well as in the Global North. Nestlé is in a battle with the municipality of the tiny Osceola Township, in Michigan, where residents complain the Swiss company’s water extraction techniques are ruining the environment. Nestlé pays the State of Michigan US$ 200 to extract 130 million gallons of water per year (2018).

Through over-exploitation both in the Global South and the Global North, especially in the summer, the water table sinks to unattainable levels for the local populations which are deprived of their water source. Protesting with their government or city officials is often in vain. Corruption is all overarching. Nothing sustainable here.

These are just two examples of privatizing water for bottling purposes. Privatization of public water supply on a much larger scale is at the core of the issue, carried out mostly in developing countries (the Global South), mainly by French, British, Spanish and US water corporations.

Privatization of water is a socially most unsustainable feat, as it deprives the public, especially the poor, from access to their legitimate water resources. Water is a public good and water is also a basic human right. On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.

The public water use of Nestlé and Coca Cola, and many others, mind you, doesn’t even take account of the trillions of used plastic bottles ending up as uncollected and non-recycled waste, in the sea, fields, forests and on the road sides. Worldwide less than 8% of plastic bottles are recycled. Therefore, nothing of what Nestlé and Coca Cola practice and profess is sustainable. It’s an outright lie.

Petrol industry. BP with its green business emblem, makes believe – visually, every time you pass a BP station – that they are green. BP proclaims that their oil exploration and exploitation is green and environmentally sustainable.

Let’s look at reality. The so far considered largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was a giant industrial disaster that started on April 20, 2010 and lasted to 19 September 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect, spilling about 780,000 cubic meter of raw petroleum over an area of up to 180,000 square kilometers. BP promised a full cleanup. By February 2015 they declared task completed. In reality, two thirds of the spilled oil still remains in the sea and as toxic tar junks along the sea shore and beaches; they have not been cleaned up and may never be removed. Where is the sustainability of their promise? Another outright lie.

BP and other oil corporations also have horrendous human rights records just about everywhere they operate, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, but also in Asia. The abrogation of human rights is also an abrogation of sustainability.

In this essay BP is used as an example for the petrol industry. None of the petrol giants operate sustainably anywhere in the world, and least where water table-destructive fracking is practiced.

Sustainable mining is another flagrant lie. But it sells well to the blinded people. And most of the civilized world is blinded. Unfortunately. They want to continue in their comfort zone which includes the use of copper, gold and other precious metals and stones, rare earths for ever more sophisticated electronic gear, gadgets and especially military electronically guided precision weaponry as well as hydrocarbons in one way or another.

Sustainable mining of anything unrenewable is a Big Oxymoron. Anything you take from the earth that is non-renewable is by its nature not sustainable. It’s simply gone. Forever. In addition to the raw material not being renewable, the environmental damage caused by mining – especially gold and copper – is horrendous. Once a mine is exploited in a short 30- or 40-years’ concession, the mining company leaves mountains of contaminated waste, soil and water behind – that takes a thousand years or more to regenerate.

Yet, the industry’s palaver is “sustainability”, and the public buys it.

In fact, our civilization’s sustainability is zero. Aside from the pollution, poisoning and intoxication that we leave around us, our mostly western civilization has used natural resources at the rate of 3 to 4 times in excess of what Mother Earth so generally provides us with. We, the west, had passed the threshold of One in the mid-sixties. In Africa and most of Asia, the rate of depletion is still way below the factor of One, on average somewhere between 0.4 and 0.6.

“Sustainability” is a flash-word and has no meaning in our western civilization. It is pure deception – self-deception, so we may continue with our unsustainable ways of life. That’s what profit-bound capitalism does. It lives today with ever more consumerism, more luxury for the ever-fewer oligarchs on the resources of tomorrow.

The sustainability of everything is not only a cheap slogan, it’s a ruinous self-deception. A Global Great Reset is indeed needed but not according to the methods of the IMF and WEF. They would just shovel more resources and assets from the bottom 99.99% to the top few, painting the “new” capitalism a shiny bright green – and fooling the masses. We, The People, must take The Reset in our own hands, with consciousness and responsibility.

So, We the People, forget sustainable but act responsibly.

The post The Insanity of Sustainability first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Protect The Vote And End Privatization Of The Postal Service

As we warned earlier in the year, the US Postal Service is failing due to a long term effort to weaken it plus the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic, recession and intentional efforts by the Trump administration to suppress the vote.

Members of Congress and state leaders are starting to take notice because of the magnitude of the crisis and public outcry, particularly over valid concerns that mail-in voting will be disrupted. Now is the time to not only protect the vote but to end privatization and selling off of the US Postal Service and expand it as a critical public institution that provides high-quality jobs and services to all communities, rich and poor, urban and rural, across the country.

March in 2014 to save the Post Office

The Long Push to Dismantle and Privatize the Post Office

The Post Office is mandated in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7). It is a critical service and a public good that has been provided to all people. With the passage of the 1981 budget, the US Postal Service was required to be self-funded from its revenues alone without support through taxes, which it was able to achieve until the pandemic. In fact, for more than 200 years, it has been solvent despite being the target of big banks and profiteers.

Ellen Brown describes the long history of the plan to dismantle and privatize the US Postal Service (USPS) going back to 1910 when the Postal Savings Bank Act was passed to provide a safer alternative for people after the banking crash of 1907. The big banks were upset by the competition from a postal bank. In 1966, the postal banks were dismantled after a series of laws were passed, beginning in the New Deal Era, which strengthened the private banks and gave them an advantage over postal banks.

Profiteers searching for more public entities to loot, as they have done with water, education, healthcare, and more have long viewed the Post Office as a fertile field for making money if they could weaken it enough so it would fail. A serious step in this direction was taken in 2006 with the so-called ‘Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act‘ (PAEA).

The PAEA was sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats. It passed in the House with the full support of the Democrats (including Congressman Bernie Sanders, one Democrat abstained). Most of the Republicans supported it; twenty voted against it. It then went to the Senate where it passed with unanimous consent (a procedure used when Senators do not want to be held accountable for their vote).

A requirement of the PAEA is that the Postal Service must pre-fund all of its retirement funds including health benefits for the next 75 years (for people who have not been born yet). No business is required to go to this extreme and two-thirds of Fortune 1,000 businesses don’t pre-fund retirement at all. This costs the USPS over $5.5 billion each year. It is a way to “fatten the cow” for its eventual sell-off to private corporations.

One of the first impacts of the PAEA was that 65,000 postal workers lost their jobs in 2009. The USPS is one of the largest employers of African Americans in the US. This continued throughout the Obama administration as almost half of the postal processing plants were shuttered, local post offices had their hours reduced by 25 to 75% and 3,700 post offices were closed. The move to end Saturday mail delivery was attempted and stopped. A total of 150,000 postal workers lost their jobs under Obama and those who remained had their wages cut.

Under Obama, mail sorting and trucking were sub-contracted to private entities that pay their workers less. Activists began to protest in 2013 by delivering petitions and occupying post offices. In Berkeley, CA, people occupied the main post office for 33 days to prevent the historic New Deal Era building from being sold. This was part of a year-long successful campaign that gained tremendous public support, media attention, and support by local and state elected officials.

In 2015, A Grand Alliance to Save the Post Office, created by the four postal worker unions and other organizations, including Popular Resistance, formed under the leadership of APWU President Mark Dimondstein (Listen to our interview with him on Clearing the FOG in April). The Alliance lobbied Congress to repeal the 2006 PAEA and to stop the sell-off to private corporations.

The Alliance successfully organized to stop Staples from being allowed to provide USPS services. The campaign used protests outside Staples’ stores, a boycott of Staples, and a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. A judge ruled in favor of the USPS in November of 2016 and Staples was ordered to shut down its postal services by March 2017. If Staples had been allowed to continue, it would have led to the closing of more post offices and the loss of more jobs.

Mailboxes being removed in Oregon

The Future of the Post Office is Uncertain

The US Postal Service has continued to face the same struggles throughout the Trump administration. Despite a majority in the House and enough Senators to have power over the passage of any legislation in the Senate, the Democrats did not take steps to save the post office until it threatened their re-election in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic and recession created an emergency situation for the Post Office. The closing of businesses and record bankruptcies has meant a sharp decline in the quantity of mail. Postmaster General Megan Brennan started putting out the warning early in the year that the situation is dire and that the USPS could run out of funds during the summer. The Postal Service board of governors asked Congress for a $75 billion rescue package that would provide $25 billion in immediate funds and the rest as credit and financing for modernization projects.

Instead, the CARES Act, passed in late March, provided a measly $10 billion, which has been held up by the Trump administration and used to pressure the board of governors to elect Louis DeJoy as the new Postmaster General in June. On March 30, President Trump said on FOX if there was a high voter turnout “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Trump was explaining why he opposed more money being spent to help states conduct the 2020 election during the pandemic.

The Democrats offered $25 billion in aid and relief of the yearly $5.5 billion in retirement funds in their House version of the bill but did not use their power in the Senate to demand relief for the USPS. Meanwhile, Amazon received tens of millions of dollars in support of its private delivery providers through the Payroll Protection Program for small businesses.

A new Institute for Policy Studies report found that when cuts are made to the USPS, it is rural communities that are hit the hardest. Rural residents rely on the postal service for medication deliveries, bill paying (because they often do not have internet access), and voting (because many don’t have polling places). Private delivery companies like Amazon and FedEx won’t deliver to rural areas and use the USPS to do it for them instead.

Under the new Postmaster General DeJoy, changes have been made that are slowing down mail service and delaying the delivery of medications and other necessities. Almost 700 mail sorting machines were removed and people showed photos on social media of blue mail receptacles being taken away in trucks. On Friday night, top executives in the Postal Service were fired or reassigned. This sparked a large ‘noise demonstration‘ early Saturday morning outside Louis DeJoy’s home in Washington, DC.

President Trump made it clear last week that his actions are intended to suppress the vote in the November election. There is a large push for universal mail-in voting because of the pandemic. People are reluctant to vote in person and states are having trouble finding people willing to work the polls. Although President Trump requested an absentee ballot for himself in Florida, he said that mail-in voting is subject to fraud and can only be trusted in Republican states. He denied a request for emergency aid for universal mail-in voting saying, “They want $3.5bn for something that will turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically.”

States are reporting that they’ve received letters from the Postal Service saying they will not be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in a timely manner. AP News reports 46 states plus Washington, DC are impacted by this and millions of voters will be disenfranchised if action is not taken.

This has gotten the Democrat’s attention and they are now planning to hold an emergency meeting on Monday. They have also scheduled a hearing for when they return to work in September to bring Louis DeJoy in for questioning. Some members of Congress are calling for DeJoy to resign.

Protest outside Louis DeJoy’s house in Washington, DC

Fight Back

It is important to acknowledge that while lawmakers are upset now with the attack on the US Postal Service, this is likely because it is an election year. The Post Office is the most popular government institution so this stance is not only favorable to voters but it also protects the election. Both major parties are responsible for the situation that exists today and, after the election, they will likely return to their previous apathetic positions.

Saving the post office requires a popular movement with a vision of what needs to happen and mobilization to support that vision. The protest at DeJoy’s house was a good one, but it is the bipartisan Postal Service board of governors who have the power to remove Dejoy and Congress that has the power to provide financial support.

The steps that are required to save the US Postal Service over the short term include:

  1. Immediate appropriation and release of $75 billion in pandemic relief funds and credit.
  2. Provision of funds for universal mail-in voting.
  3. Repeal of the 2006 PAEA requirement to pre-fund 75 years of retirement benefits (in fact if those funds are allowed to be used by the USPS, it likely won’t need the pandemic relief).

Then, over the longer term, steps include:

  1. Reopening and modernizing postal offices, especially in rural areas, and reinstating normal operating hours.
  2. Rehiring postal workers at all levels and providing pay increases.
  3. Prohibiting private contracting of postal services and policies that give advantages to private corporations such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS.
  4. Expanding postal services to include more financial services, especially for the 28% of people who are underserved by banks.
  5. The return of the Postal Savings Bank to provide direct banking services, including loans, throughout the country.

We wrote about future possibilities for the USPS in 2013, “Don’t Shrink the US Postal Service; Expand it.”

A Grand Alliance to Save the Postal Service is holding a meeting on Tuesday that we will attend and report back actions. For now, you can join the US Mail Not for Sale campaign here. And you can contact your members of Congress (look up their websites) and the members of the USPS board of governors, see below:

WE Charity Scandal and NGOs’ Role in Imperialism

Once again the media focuses on salacious details rather than the big picture.

While TV and newspapers have focused on the whiff of corruption surrounding the government’s $900 million contract with the WE Charity, some broader points have been ignored. Whatever the Trudeau and Morneau families have pocketed from WE, the deleterious impact that NGO has had on social services and young Canadians’ understanding of global inequities is much more significant.

In a series of poignant tweets Simon Black highlighted how WE has directed young people towards ineffective political actions and a narrow understanding of doing good in the world. He noted, “teaching kids that ‘breaking the cycle of poverty’ (WE’s words) involves travelling to a ‘developing’ country to build a school and not marching on the IMF, World Bank, White House or Parliament Hill to demand the cancellation of global South debts. That’s the real #WEscam.” In fact, a little discussed reason the federal government funds NGOs is to co-opt internationalist minded young people into aligning with Canadian foreign policy.

In another tweet Black mocks WE’s educational program. “Thanks to the Keilburgers and WE,” he writes, “a generation of kids have learned about ‘international development’ but still don’t know what an IMF structural adjustment program is.” Imposed by the Washington-based international financial institution, structural adjustment programs (SAPs) pushed indebted African, Asian and Latin American countries to privatize state assets, weaken labour regulations and liberalize trade and investment rules. Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s Canada channeled hundreds of millions of dollars in “aid” to support SAPs. Canadian mining companies greatly benefited from liberalized mining laws, but structural adjustment policies produced deep social and economic crises. Nutritional status, health, education and other social indicators declined in the wake of SAPs. For many African countries the structural adjustment period was worse than the Great Depression. International creditors argued that the flipside of this government downsizing would be increased aid, particularly to private sector NGOs. Ottawa asked the NGO sector to “undertake tasks previously performed by governments, such as the delivery of” health, sanitation and other services.

The NGO as replacement for government service is another side of the current WE scandal. On Facebook Matthew Behrens explained, “the real crime, which the media has utterly failed to mention, is that Trudeau was essentially privatizing a chunk of the Canada Summer Jobs program — which provides summer jobs at minimum wage — to a private corporation”, which then planned to pay them below the legal minimum. Charity as replacement for social services is what WE and Canadian-government-funded NGOs do all over the world. In a country like Haiti, for instance, social services are almost entirely privatized, run by “charities” often based in other countries who decide whether one qualifies for assistance. Foreign-funded NGOs have contributed to a process that has undermined Haitian governmental capacity.

This foisting of “charitable” international social services delivery systems on poor countries shouldn’t surprise Canadians since the same corporate interests that promote privatizations over there push similar efforts at home. In fact there have been hundreds of battles over many decades in every corner of the country against right wing efforts to dismantle public social services. Most Canadians understand what’s going on when pro-corporate forces argue for cutting social services. Yet when the federal government pushes similar policies elsewhere there has been little protest, mostly because the dominant media simply does not report what’s happening.

If the media were interested in telling the real story it would broaden the discussion about #WEscam. Ottawa, WE and other NGOs’ role in undercutting social services and confusing young people about global inequities is a far bigger scandal than however much one charity paid the Trudeau family.

Climate Crisis, Pandemics and Bad Governance: Humanity’s Existential Threats

Since I started News Junkie Post, eleven years ago, I have, as a rule, avoided the first person narrative. In my mind, there is a simple reason for an aversion for the “me, myself, and I” type of storytelling so widespread in our culture. The first person is fine for a journal, an autobiography of course, or if you have the immense literary talent of Marcel Proust. Otherwise, it amounts to a navel gazing narcissism common in our era and society as a spectacle where anyone, with no particular talent to speak of, aspires to achieve his proverbial 15 minutes of fame and to milk for as long as possible. The reader might wonder why I will make an exception to this self-imposed rule of first-person narrative avoidance. The answer is simple: once in a blue moon, events that either already impact humanity or are about to turn upside down all mankind’s existence personally hit you in the face like a thunderbolt.

Like most people on Earth, I have been dealing with COVID-19 while trying not to let the fear and paranoia factors affect me too much. What I didn’t expect was for humanity’s biggest challenge, the climate crisis, to join the pandemic. In my recent life experience, I’ve had to deal, at the same time, with the impacts of the climate crisis, a pandemic, and chronic bad governance, which are, unless we radically change course, humanity’s future. This is a snapshot of our common future. The three factors are compounded threats to the very survival of our species.

A town where “We Stand for Our Flag and Kneel for Our Cross”

I have lived for the past four years in a small rural community deep in the United States Bible Belt, where people are, by a large majority, white evangelicals. I call this part of the US Trumpistan, because of the strong support President Donald Trump has in this neck of the woods. Trumpistan is neither a state nor a country, but a state of mind. As an example, in the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump obtained 93 percent of the votes in the county. Incidentally or not, this part of the US used to be within the Confederacy during the US Civil War. Economically, this community is poor, and it barely survives from cattle ranching and fracking. Most people, except the ranchers, are poor, but nonetheless they follow, as patriotic evangelicals, what has become Trumpistan’s core motto, “We Stand for Our Flag, and Kneel for Our Cross.” Many are climate change deniers and creationists. At first, they viewed the COVID-19 pandemic either as a hoax concocted by the Democrats to make Trump lose his reelection bid, or as a deliberate Chinese attack on the US. In this context, I view myself as an amateur anthropologist and a sociologist.

Elderly COVID-19 lock-down misery in a retirement home

For me, the dramatic events occurred on May 22, 2020. It was a Friday, and the town had scheduled its yearly high school graduation celebration. Naturally, the townspeople, like most people on this planet, were still trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. For this purpose, and to celebrate the end of the strict lockdown affecting its retirement home, the community held an event where about 40 elderly people (see photographs) were allowed to sit outside to be greeted by relatives who drove by. It was overall an extremely sad ceremony, and I could not help myself thinking of the inherent sickness of our so-called modern civilization, where the older generation is institutionalized while, in most cases, they could have been cared for by their children or grandchildren.

In western Europe and the US, retirement homes had an extremely high mortality rate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The residents of this specific facility, just like in the rest of the US and most western European countries, were further victimized by the interdiction of visits from their relatives. They had to deal with the great psychological pain of isolation, on the premise of their own good, all of it by governmental decrees.

One could hope that the pandemic will give an acute sense a guilt to people who consider their elderly parents to be inconvenient and put them in the care of others in an institution. It is morally wrong and cruel to treat your elderly parents this way. In decent societies, either archaic societies or ones of recent past, the entire family took care of their aging relatives when they became weak and frail. The wisdom of age was respected, and older people in need of help were not put away, institutionalized and subcontracted to strangers. Furthermore, the elders were actually revered, as the younger generation would seek their advice.

On a tornado path

At dusk, a thunderstorm came. The sky turned black towards the north-west while it was still clear in the south-east. The temperature dropped abruptly. The thunderous black clouds had company: it was a tornado. The rain didn’t start right away, as the winds were gathering strength. At about 9:00 o’clock, the town sirens went off, and shortly afterwards I got a tornado warning on my phone that said: “Tornado alert seek shelter immediately.” I did so in a closet that seemed to be relatively strong and was not directly under big trees or near to windows. Then the power went off, and I could only hear the extremely loud fury of sheets of rain, thunder, and deadly winds, combined with the glaring sirens. The cacophony was intense. Nature’s wrath had hit the town, and the tornado chewed away like a giant chainsaw. It lasted for about 45 minutes. Later, while the rain continued to pour, I quickly inspected the house I live in, with help from the lightnings. The structure seemed okay, and all windows were intact. Exhausted, I went to bed.

Tornado’s wreckage

When I woke up the next day, two sizable trees were down in my muddy backyard. I did not yet realize quite how lucky I had been. Having no immediate means to clear anything, I decided to take a survey (see photographs) of the worse-hit areas of town. Someone told me where the tornado had done most damage. It was literally on the wrong side of the tracks. Urban development is interesting that way. Pretty much anywhere in the world, parts of cities, big or small, are more desirable than others. There are always dividers, either natural or man made, which sort of segregate a town by the level of income and sometimes by race. It is quite often in relationship with elevation and risk of flooding. This little town is split by a freight train railroad track. Because life is usually unfair, the poorer part of town was the one hardest hit by the tornado.

According to a local news source, over 450 structures were either seriously damaged or destroyed. For a town of slightly more than 5,000 people, already suffering from the COVID-19 recession like the rest of the US, and with the crash of oil prices, whose business sustains many in the community, the recovery will be an uphill battle. This little rural community will be joined by countless more in the very near future, and it will not make headlines in any mainstream news cycle. Many poor people became homeless that night. Many small business owners lost their livelihood. Countless majestic old oaks, sycamores and hackberry trees were snapped like matches or uprooted. Last, but not least, baby birds in the trees were killed by the thousands. The infrastructure suffered a great deal too, with many wooden electrical posts broken like twigs or laid flat on the ground.

What I saw reminded me of Katrina‘s aftermath in New Orleans, which I had covered. Natural disasters are always a reminder of life’s incredible frailty and the brutal yet awesome forces of wind, rain and fire. Some human beings, in all their arrogance, think and act like they can control natural phenomena, but this is a dangerous delusion. When the wrath of nature falls on us, we then realize that, as a species, we have no more survival power and skills than fire ants. Actually, probably less so. When you experience disasters, it usually gives you a great sense of humility as well as an appreciation for life.

The COVID-19 pandemic did that too. Disasters also, in the case of a hurricane, a tornado or a fire, bring people closer. If on Friday, during the day, in this little town, wearing a mask and social distancing was still officially on the behavioral menu, on Saturday morning, after the tornado, the COVID-19 cautions of mask wearing and social distancing were thrown to the wind. People who had lost everything were trying to help and comfort each other. This spontaneous sense of solidarity is what humanity can be at its best.

Unfortunately, just as I witnessed in New Orleans post Katrina almost 15 years ago, the citizens in this small rural town had to rely on themselves and their neighbors to start sifting through the rubble to salvage bits and pieces of their lives; rely on themselves to clear trees that had fallen on their houses, cars, and across their yards. City government authorities were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps this was because the elected town’s major powers have been de-facto stripped and assumed by an unelected and designated City Manager.

Privatization of critical sectors: the rise of banana republics

The day after the tornado hit, the private power company that has the contract from the city to maintain and fix all the electrical grid, power station, electrical posts, transformers and lines showed up, assessed the damage and immediately shut down part of the grid. Fair enough. The repairs had to be done. I asked the crew’s foreman what was a projected time estimate to restore service to the town. He didn’t want to answer and abruptly told me to contact the press representative of the corporation that employs him. The following week we had, in the town, several daily power outages as well as Internet disruption. A few years before the town had made a huge technological jump to fiber optics, all of it run underground. Of course, the Internet/communication company that won the bid to wire the town is different from the power company.

When I called the Internet company about the numerous connection problems, they told me that the underground fiber optic had been disrupted in many places in my areas. One can easily solve this problem here. Power company A is digging deep holes to set up new electrical posts, and carelessly disturbing the fiber optics of company B. This is, in a nutshell, what you get when you privatize and subcontract government functions on a local, state or federal level. There is no more coordination. Private companies only care about profits and their bottom lines. If this town was really run in a democratic manner by an elected mayor, instead of a designated city manager, the citizens could ask him in person why, for example, in a part of the US at the edge of tornado alley, major electrical wires are run above ground. Why not run them underground as is done in a city with no extreme weather hazard like Las Vegas, Nevada?

My partner at News Junkie Post, Dady Chery, and I often joke about the US and other so-called developed nations, like France, becoming banana republics, where all the infrastructure is falling apart, vital services like power and water are marginal, and corruption is rampant at all levels of government. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed governmental failures in most countries. In France, years of budget cuts in what used to be a stellar public health care system did the job. The culprits are government officials and technocrats who decided in an office somewhere, just because they could, that money must be saved. The French technocrats in question, just like the politicians in the US who for years have blocked laws to establish a free universal health care system, have blood on their hands. Indecision, and bad political decisions except the ones to dismantle the public sector to privatize government, kill.

The politician culprits will not be held accountable, as the system has been rigged to keep them, and the corporations that finance their elections and therefore maintain them in power, above the law. Yes the banana republic factor is becoming widespread, as real democracies become an endangered mode of governance. The banana republic model is contagious too, as bad governance has reached a stage of pandemic. Sadly enough, most of the aspiring banana republics do not even have the merit of growing bananas.

This first person story had to be told because I perceive this little community to be a microcosm of not only the dysfunctional aspects of the US but also the rest of the world. As the climate crisis intensifies — and this is not in humanity’s future, it is right now — millions, or perhaps even billions, will join the ranks of the homeless in this little town. Conservative estimates put the likely number of climate change refugees at 600 million by the end of the century.

As the temperature of the oceans keeps rising, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and severe droughts will affect regions of western Europe that have been so far spared. With global warming, diseases that were confined to tropical areas, like dengue fever and malaria, will move away from the equator towards the north and south. Current medical habits to overprescribe antibiotics will cause the appearance of many more antibiotic resistant bacteria. Humanity’s general forecast is grim. Our future is under multiple threats, dark clouds are gathering, and many storms are on their way. Real storms and the growing clamor of popular anger. The global COVID-19 pandemic, and its gross political mismanagement has turned people’s chronically simmering anger into a pressure cooker. Will this blow in the face of the billionaire class and their political enablers? Time will tell. It always does.

• All photos by Gilbert Mercier

SYRIZA’s Betrayal of Greece is a Spectre haunting the Left

‘Super Tuesday’ in the 2020 presidential election season is over and Senator Bernie Sanders’s time as the unlikely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination may have stopped just as quick as it began. Despite an unprecedented smear campaign coordinated by the party leadership and corporate media against him, the self-described “democratic socialist” not only managed to single-handedly de-stigmatize the latter as a dirty word in U.S. politics but at one point seemed like he had improbably overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden as the favorite to be the party nominee. Suddenly, the scenario of a brokered convention with a repeat of the ‘superdelegate’ scheme determining the outcome seems more likely. Regardless of whether he beats the odds, no one can deny the significance of Sanders’s movement in taking the relatively progressive first step of returning “socialism” from exile to everyday U.S. politics which was once an inconceivable prospect. Unfortunately, a consequence is that now his idea of an ‘alternative’ to capitalism has been made synonymous with the word in the minds of Americans, regardless of its qualifications.

So far, Bernie has purposefully avoided discussing socialism in broader conceptual terms or as a social philosophy while persistently narrowing the discussion to issues of economic disparity, free higher education or a national healthcare system. In fact, Sanders’s own supporters are the ones who often push the acceptable parameters of the dialogue to bigger questions and take his movement to places he is unwilling, likely because his candidacy filled the void of the political space left vacant following the suppression of the Occupy Wall Street phenomena. For example, some of his devotees may define socialism as the ‘equal distribution of wealth’ or even the ‘collective ownership of the means of production.’ However, Bernie and his followers both equally avoid providing any philosophical basis to their ideas and usually reduce it to abstractions of moral principles or human rights.

The most vigorous elucidation of socialism and its historical development from material conditions rather than ideals can be found in Karl Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program, a letter written in 1875 by the German philosopher to the early incarnation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in which he scathingly attacked the SPD for drafting a more moderate platform at its congress. Just four years earlier, the short-lived Paris Commune in France had been brutally repressed and the German counterparts of the Communards appeared to be making concessions in the wake of its failure. In the address, Marx contends that socialism is an  atransitional phase between capitalism and communism where vestigial elements of the free market are mixed with state ownership of the productive forces. According to Marx, socialism does not develop on its own but “emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”

While socialism might be an improvement, it still bears the stigma of capitalism because it is based on the idea that people will receive equal compensation determined by their individual contribution to the economy. Marx argues that even though profiting from the exploitation of the labor of others through private ownership of the means of production may decline, the exchange of labor itself as a commodity replicates the logic of the free market in that it still leaves workers under the dominion of what they produce if their earnings are equivalent to their labor. Since workers inherently have varying degrees of mental and physical ability, the primary source of economic inequality is left in place. Hence, Marx’s conclusion that human liberation can only be achieved once labor is transformed from a means of subsistence to freedom from necessity in a communist society, or “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” In the same document, it is made clear what role the state must play in this post-revolutionary but intermediary stage:

Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Many on the left today, particularly social democrats, try to separate Marx’s words about the role of the state from the Bolsheviks who later expanded upon the working class seizure of power by revolutionary means and put it into practice in the Russian Revolution of 1917. However, Marx did consider the United States one of a handful of countries where a peaceful transition to socialism was a remote possibility, at least during his own lifetime.

The same SPD that Marx convinced to abandon its reformist platform for a more radical line would turn their backs on the working class decades later when it endorsed the imperialist carnage of World War I and collaborated with proto-fascists. In 1912, the SPD rose to prominence after it was elected to the majority of seats in the Reichstag, but once in power its duplicitous leadership voted to support the war effort despite the Second International’s vehement opposition to militarism and imperialism. Those within the SPD who protested the party’s pro-war stance were expelled which brought an end to the Second International, most notably Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg who would go on to found the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). After the war’s conclusion which resulted in a German defeat and the abolition of its imperial monarchy, mass social unrest and general strikes led to the Spartacist Uprising in the unsuccessful German Revolution of 1918–1919 which was violently crushed by the right-wing Freikorps paramilitary units under orders from SPD leader and German President, Friedrich Ebert. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were summarily executed in the crackdown and became forever revered martyrs in the international socialist movement.

The SPD would once again betray the German people during the Weimar Republic in the lead-up to the Second World War, rebuffing the KPD’s efforts to organize a coalition against fascism which sealed Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, as Michael Parenti described in Blackshirts and Reds:

True to form, the Social Democrat leaders refused the Communist party’s proposal to form an eleventh-hour coalition against Nazism. As in many other countries past and present, so in Germany, the Social Democrats would sooner ally themselves with the reactionary Right than make common cause with the Reds. Meanwhile, a number of right-wing parties coalesced behind the Nazis and in January 1933, just weeks after the election, Hindenburg invited Hitler to become chancellor.

Social democracy’s consistent impediment of the seizure of power by the working class led to its branding as the “moderate wing of fascism” by the Comintern. By the time the Third International and the social democratic Labor and Socialist International (LSI) finally cooperated to form a Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War, it was undermined by the disruptions of Trotskyists and anarchists which cleared the way for Franco’s victory. Today, social democrats who are embarrassed by these unpleasant facts try to sweep their own tainted history under the rug, ironically the same ideologues who are always eager to cite the ‘purges’ of the Stalin era to discredit communism. A 2017 article exonerating the SPD in Jacobin Magazine, the flagship publication of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is a perfect example of such lies by omission.

Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, but a significant amount of the grassroots basis for his recent success has come from his backing by the DSA whose own rank-and-file increased by the tens of thousands during his 2016 candidacy and continued following Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. This culminated in the election of two DSA members to Congress, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Rashida Tlaib (MI), in the 2018 mid-terms. The DSA has historical roots in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), having been established by former chairman Michael Harrington, best known as the author of the classic 1962 study, The Other America: Poverty in the United States, which is widely credited as an inspiration for the welfare state legislation of the Great Society under the Lyndon B. Johnson administrationHowever, in stark contrast with the SPA and its founder, Eugene V. Debswhom Sanders idolizes and even once made a film aboutHarrington advocated for reforming the Democratic Party from within over building a third party.

Sanders might style himself as a “socialist”, but many have noted his actual campaign policies are closer to the New Deal reforms of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. A more accurate comparison than Eugene Debs would be with the appointed Vice President during Roosevelt’s third term, Henry A. Wallace, who has been written out of history ever since the Southern reactionary wing of the Democratic Party convinced FDR to replace him on the 1944 ticket with Harry S. Truman. The progressive Wallace had been Secretary of Agriculture during Roosevelt’s first two terms and was a big supporter of his domestic program. After his one-term removal, Wallace served as commerce secretary until Truman succeeded Roosevelt and fired him in 1946 for giving a speech advocating peace and cooperation with the Soviet Union which contradicted Truman’s foreign policy that kick-started the Cold War. Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948 but his campaign was sunk by red-baiting, reminiscent of the recent bogus claims of “Russian meddling” to assist Sanders’s presidential bid. Yet even Wallace was much further to the left than Bernie is today, particularly on foreign policy. As Congressman of Vermont in 1999, Sanders notably voted to authorize the use of military force against Serbia, resulting in one of his campaign staffers quitting in protest and an end to his friendship with the previously cited Parenti.

As for his socialist credentials, all one has to do is look at the model Bernie consistently invokes as an example whenever pressed to define “democratic socialism” in the Nordic model which today scarcely resembles what it once was prior to the mysterious assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark may have high taxes on the wealthy and a strong social safety net while a large percentage of the workforce is unionized and employed in the public sector — a more “humane” form of capitalism — but these gains came from class struggle, not from the top down. Similarly in the U.S., the financial regulations and public programs during the Roosevelt administration were not enacted out of the goodness of FDR’s heart but because he was a pragmatic politician and member of the ruling class who understood that it was the only way to save American capitalism from itself and prevent workers, then well organized in a strong coalition of labor unions with socialists and communists, from becoming militant. Reforms such as those under the New Deal were enacted so they could be repealed later, as we see now with Social Security and Medicare increasingly under threat. If Sanders were to be elected but his policies obstructed, it would be because no such alliance behind him yet exists.

On the other hand, recent history shows that not even a united front and mass organization can ensure the democratic wishes of workers as Greece learned in 2015 after the electoral victory of the inappropriately named ‘Coalition of the Radical Left ’ — abbreviated SYRIZA — which completely double-crossed its constituency and the Greek working class once in power. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, Greece was impacted more than any other country in the Eurozone during the economic downturn and underwent a decline which exceeded that of the Great Depression in the United States as the longest of any modern capitalist country. However, like all debt run up by capitalist governments, Greece’s bankruptcy was created by the irreconcilable contradiction of the state being torn between its constituents in the masses of people and the rich and corporations who both want to pay as low in taxes as possible, an incompatibility which forces elected political leaders to borrow excessively instead of taxing the former which give them votes or the latter which gives them money.

Like the United States, many European countries saw their productive power slowly outsourced to the developing world in recent decades where bigger profits could be made and labor was cheaper while wages and living standards in the imperial core stagnated, though the process was slower in Europe because of social democracy. For the financial sector and predatory creditors, this made for a whole new market of consumer debt to invest in and a bonanza of speculative trading. That is, until 2008 when the speculations finally crashed after consumer credit reached its limit. On the brink of failure, the so-called leaders of industry and champions of private enterprise in the banking sector begged European governments to save them from collapse. Unfortunately for Greece, its small, poor economy was already heavily in debt and unattractive to lenders, therefore unable to borrow without paying high interest rates.

At the time of Greece’s debt crisis, European governments were already besieged by their respective banks in the form of bailouts. When the German and French banks turned out to be the biggest creditors of the Greek government, the prospect of Greece defaulting meant that the German and French governments could not provide financial assistance to their corresponding banks a second time without then-President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, committing political suicide. Therefore, the European Union’s political “solution” was to make Greece the whipping boy for the financial crisis by using the pooled collective money of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund— widely referred to as the ‘troika’ — to make a series of bailout loans to Greece so it could pay off the French and German banks, but which imposed draconian austerity measures and neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ onto its economy.

The troika’s ‘structural adjustment programs’ resulted in hundreds of thousands of state sector jobs lost and the minimum wage reduced by more than 20% while much of the energy, utilities and transit sectors underwent mass privatization. Greek workers saw their taxes raised just as pensions and benefits were cut, bonuses capped, and salaries frozen at the same time government spending on health and education was slashed. As many economists predicted, the spending reductions during the downturn only worsened the crisis. However, just as we have seen throughout the EU and the U.S. since the global financial meltdown, a silver lining to the crisis in Greece was an expansion of the political spectrum and Overton Window. By 2014, the far right Golden Dawn party suddenly became the third largest group from Greece in the European Parliament, but still far behind the first-place SYRIZA, founded in 2004 as a broad alliance of the country’s left-wing parties, sans the Greek Communist Party (KKE).

In the beginning of 2015, SYRIZA rode into office in a snap election, picking up half of the Hellenic Parliament seats on its campaign promise of rejecting austerity. After failing to reach an agreement with the troika, a referendum was held to decide on whether the country should accept the bailout terms and the result was a solid 61% pulling the lever against the country’s colonization by the EU and ‘reforms’ of the international creditors, a vote which also effectively signaled that the Greek people were willing to exit the Eurozone. Despite pledging to let the electorate decide the country’s future, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA stabbed the Greek working class in the back and ignored the outcome of the referendum, totally capitulating to the demands of the private banking corporatocracy. Much of the pseudo-left had pinned their naive hopes on SYRIZA, but the truth is that the warning signs were there from the very beginning, starting with Tsipras’s questionable decision to appoint economist Yanis Varoufakis as Finance Minister, a figure who had several conflicts of interest with the institutions he was assigned to stand up to.

Varoufakis was tapped to negotiate with the troika in spite of his open ties to the neoliberal Brookings Institute, a D.C. establishment think tank funded by a cabal of billionaires and the Qatari government, as well as his previous work as an advisor to the centre-left PASOK government of George Papandreou which preceded SYRIZA and initially ushered in the austerity. The “rock star economist” jumped ship after less than six months from his ministerial post on the stated reason it was evident the SYRIZA-led government was caving in to the troika, yet Varoufakis himself had already sold Greece down the river when he led the negotiations to extend its loan agreement with the IMF that was due to expire in his first month in office. Varoufakis could have used the prospect of a potential Grexit from the Eurozone as leverage and refused to negotiate, but instead fully surrendered to the troika’s bribery. When SYRIZA later fully embraced austerity, it was only a continuation of the process he set in motion while his resignation was motivated by self-interest in maintaining his radical facade.

Allowing the IMF to make a killing off Greece’s debt was just the first breach of faith. By the time Tsipras was voted out four years later, the SYRIZA-led government had made military deals with Israel, sold arms to Saudi Arabia during its genocidal war on Yemen, provided NATO with its territory for the use of military bases and naval presence, and paved the way for the latter to accede the renamed North Macedonia as a member state. Meanwhile, Varoufakis has since been busy lending his ‘expertise’ to left candidates in other countries. After the UK Labour Party’s resounding defeat in the 2019 general elections, many rightly faulted Jeremy Corbyn’s reversal of his decision to support the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum after he was convinced by the party establishment to change his longtime Euroskepticism. Unsurprisingly, another figure who had advised him to do the same was none other than the former Greek finance minister, who has also since partnered with Bernie Sanders to launch a “Progressive International.”

The 2019 UK general election was really a second Brexit referendum, where the electorate justifiably expressed their disgust at the Labour Party’s contempt for democracy and neutering of Corbyn. Once upon a time it was Labour who stood against the de-industrialization foisted onto Britain by the neoliberal imperialist EU and the offshoring of its manufacturing jobs to Germany and the global south. Corbyn should have listened to the words of past Labour leaders like Tony Benn, who opposed the European project and its unelected bureaucracy as a violation of British sovereignty and democracy, not charlatans like Mr. Varoufakis. Worst of all is that the “left” is now disparaging the entirety of the working class as bigots and reducing the Leave vote to a reaction against the migrant crisis, as if Greece’s bailout referendum never occurred. Like the Yellow Vest protests in France, Corbyn’s loss was a sign that the opposition to globalization by the working class is still in good condition but has no authentic left to represent it. If Bernie meets the same fate, a real vanguard should be prepared to take the reins.

King Tides and Who’s King of the Hill?

I’m watching the Pacific heave up a king tide in the tiny town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. Houses right above the beach line are now soaked, their back and front yards littered with driftwood, logs and tree stumps.

And water. The power of that expanding ocean and the rising tides lend pause for any sane person realizing that this yearly cyclical event is a premonition: what I am seeing now is going to be the new normal. Everything shifts with one-three-nine feet of ocean rise in the next 20-30-50-100 years. The winds are pushing up more sea spray, and the entire scene is both amazingly beautiful and dangerous to the future of my town, a million towns across the globe.

That “normal” is no more beaches, or, that is, until the ocean takes out homes and front and back yards to sweep away more of the land to deposit beach materials to create beaches.

The idea of humanity is to deploy hard mitigation techniques to fight the tide of rising oceans — dikes, boulders, trillions of tons of earth, cement, sea wall, diversion conduits, stilts, bloated and expensive channeling and walling off wetlands.  You know, more and more busy bees, busy ants trying to push back on the forces of nature. Then there is retreat and abandonment. Obviously, we see how well retreat works when so many investments in capitalism are tied around the real estate and infrastructure of so many of their industries and businesses being so close to the impending ocean inundation. Forgot about abandonment for a long while, as we can see for obvious reasons beach community after beach community rebuilding after powerful hurricanes, that will look like rain storms under the impending new normal of heating ocean currents, etc.

There are other ways to plan for a world without ice, but we are an insane species who have let overlords control every blinking, swallowing, thinking, defecating, urinating, masticating, breathing, bleating, REM-ing moment of our lives. We have been so brainwashed and colluded and controlled that we can’t think even though we should and are capable of fixing the mitigation plans. Retrenchment is out of the question when it comes to capitalism, USA all the way, arrogance, and war making against people, planet, species. Ecosocialism!

Unless we change the conversation. Unless we get people to start thinking about and talking about and working for a viable alternative to the market-driven collapse of civilization. Our job, as ecosocialists is to put forward a practical plan to slam the brakes on emissions, an emergency response to the climate emergency. This plan has to begin with brutal honesty:

We can’t have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet.

We can’t suppress emissions without closing down companies.

We need to socialize those companies, nationalize them, buy them out and take them into public hands so we can phase them out or retrench them.

If we close down/retrench industries then society must provide new low- or no-carbon jobs for all those displaced workers and at comparable wages and conditions.

We have to replace our anarchic market economy with a largely, though not entirely, planned economy, a bottom-up democratically planned economy.

The environmental, social and economic problems we face cannot be solved individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize and restructure our economies and redeploy labor and resources to those ends. In other words, if humanity is to save itself, we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with some form of democratic eco-socialism.

Yeah, I know, we didn’t all sign up for the pollution, the massive surveillance, the penury, the ecosystems destruction, the addictions promoged and promulgated by consumerism, the predilections of greed, the gentrification, McDonaldization, Walmartization, Facebook-Google-IZATION of our worlds, for sure. But all of that didn’t just happen, since this country has a DNA-warp which allows for almost complete deification of the rich and the powerful and the controlling. Celebrity cultism doesn’t even scratch the surface of how colonized the Western mind has become.

Yep, we were sleeping when all the psy-ops, info-wars, algorithmic predictive shit came barreling into our lives. And complicit in the entire colonization of our minds, bodies, hearts, souls, futures and fates by a Brave New World corporate SOP and a big brother government.

Wet, Wild, Unpredictable

I’m talking to a few people who are here in Waldport photographing with phones the king tide phenomenon, and they dance back and forth out of the surge of high tide and the sneaker waves pummeling parking lots, cars and yards.

Some say, “Well, this is man’s doing. Or it will be more and more each decade. Amazing we think we are the highest forms of life in our universe.”

Yes. this is a direct quote from one of the bystanders who also told me she plants as many trees on her five acres, and she sees the little town of Waldport sort of vanishing in the coming decades because she knows there is no will of the people to work together to move it, or to put in hard barriers, which in the end won’t do that much.

Oh, those 7 R’s: retrench, retreat, regroup, reorganize, reassess, reinvent, revive.

In my slow (by many of my friends’ standards) life here, I am faced with a lot of time to write, a lot of people who are precarious, faced with poverty and with people who end up in my column for a little rag on the coast. Some of those pieces end up in Dissident Voice.

Not exactly tinged with revolution and Marxism and anarchy and ecosocialism and hard left zeal to at least give a decent run at this perverse society of exploitative and predatory capitalism, the columns are my emotional and intellectual Prozac, man, insulating me for a few nanoseconds from the madness of this world and the reimagining of my own sanity. I’ve got a friend out there who sees the scientists and others I feature in this rag of a column as sell outs, as reasons for the many precipitates  the communities and the cultures within those communities are failing.

Scientists and capitalism, an old pairing that has done wonderfully destructive things to people, planet, ecosystems big and small. And I get it, really, as I plod through slipstream after slipstream. Man, I am on the thin ice of aging (63 next month) and being made anachronistic daily by my idiotic dream of still getting something out there on some mainstream best sellers or notable list for my brand of literary fiction.

Reimagining Sanity - Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (Paperback): Paul Haeder

I daily have fights on various channels and in person about how people like us, like me, give zero to society.

What great invention or engineering feat have you done? What contribution to the good of humanity have you done? I bet everything you do — including typing your idiocy on your computer — is the result of engineers and technologists and doers. Take your poor ass liberal teaching (indoctrination) and Podunk writing (who the hell reads your irrelevant stuff?) and crawl back to your tie-dyed, smoked out Oregon. Another libtard/turd . . . Living in Oregon? ‘Nuff said!

This is the hard-wired brain of many Americans — and the so-called left and the wavering liberals are part and parcel part of that mindset because so many in my lifetime have denigrated my brand of revolution, perspective and analysis as way too extreme or radical. Irrelevant. Utopian. Impossible. Foolish. Something along those lines, as tempered as the above quote really is since most people I run into who label me commie, socialist and libtard are threatening my life, want my expulsion from love-it-or-leave-it-in-a-coffin USA. It gets worse what these pigs of capitalism and red-white-blue Military Industrial Complex say to me on-line and sometimes in person.

They are here to wear us down . . . 

Nothing works, it seems. Each big, small, tiny, gargantuan community is flooded with takers, and the leavers of the world, the givers, are not only out-gunned, but the entire fabric of capitalism and consumer culture and this military-might-makes-right society is flooded with those Yankees.

Begging for a countywide warming shelter, no free clinics, no dentists, reckless law enforcement hobbling the poor with more violations and court dates and jail time. The RV-with-Jeep-in-tow-and-vacation-home America against the very people who do the oil changes, the plumbing fixes the burger flipping, the road . . . .

Have a beer and celebrate when the video of Saddam’s neck is snapped by a rope. Celebrate with tailgaters when Osama bin Laden’s supposed dead body is sealed up in body bags  by those magnificent SEALs.

Despair is easy in this country, with the wide gape of peering into the belly of the beast, which is really us, US, USA.

I work as a substitute teacher and also work for a national non-profit that has designed this anti-poverty program around social capital and unconditional cash transfers. I am daily struggling to see how my two books that are coming out will make a drop in any bucket, and I am plagued with the fear of lifelong bad decisions, with a general anxiety disorder, and my own form of collective Stockholm Syndrome just daily slogging along in this messed up culture, society and country.

Let me reframe here — Any creative artist who is revolutionary and communist in purpose is going to be whacked hard in this competitive, superficial, predatory, hard-boiled, violent, usury-drawn country. Every single monetary interchange and human exchange is filled with duality after duality. Contradictions. Counter-intuitive thinking. Equivocation. Rationalization.

Daily it’s as if I have to fight very hard to stave off the insanity from surfacing, or at least battening down all those mental duress points from congealing. Daily, I have to quell the anger. Daily, I have to resort to looking toward some spiritual  formula to stay sane, pacific, and within the constraints of the social contracts laid out to keep me from going ballistic.

And yet . . . . I also work with people in complete struggle against all aspects of capitalism — shitty jobs, low pay rates; shitty vehicles or vapid public transportation; shitty local culture for people with no money, or no places for children to gather without throwing in dollars for the ride; shitty schools for their kids; shitty housing situations; shitty social capital and community resources; shitty backgrounds; shitty family dynamics; shitty physical and mental health; shitty credit scores; shitty prospects; shitty people controlling their shitty lives; shitty air and water.

Then, it’s up against this backdrop of drive-in fast-food culture, in this homogenization of every mile of roadside attraction country. Little things like — Did you know that the 7-11 corporation is directly responsible for all those bodegas and cool little family holes in the wall in places like New York going belly up? Colonization, like cancer . . . page from the playbook of Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, the lot of them. Flipping 7-11 “convenience” stores flooding neighborhoods using economies of scale and the power of billions to push out the mom and pop’s, the little guy or gal. Rents go out the roof, and that’s it, RIP small town/big town America.

Yet . . . but . . . however . . . hold on a minute! Many of these people living under shitty circumstances can muster some sense of positive daily outlook. Sure, many have false hope, and many believe that hype and propaganda of the American Dream, that anyone can be a millionaire — forgetting that there is-will be-was always a million suckers born every minute in this stolen land.

Given that, though, my whole life has been compelled to understand that survivable character in these people — how they can get a can of sardines and believe they have caviar. You know, the old lemons made into lemonade axiom.

That’s what the new short story collection coming out, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, galvanizes in the 17 short stories: the will to survive, and not always thrive. Like that coyote chewing leg out of trap to limp on three legs to still live another day and another. Three-legged Americans, these characters in this collection are all somehow tied to the Vietnam War, plagued by their own survival or someone close to them. It’s not thematic, and each story is a stand-alone. I didn’t even try and thread this or that juxtaposition to make the collection super cohesive or interlinked. Alas, though the book is a stand-alone in that all the stories have that atmospheric and gritty demarcation between failure and giving up and just going on, moving ahead . . . no matter the circumstances of past, present or future.

In that sense WOE is an American book, like the wide scope of American literature. That’s Wide Open Eyes from Cirque Press, available, gulp, on Amazon, my arch nemesis. There will be a review of the book here soon. Looking at maybe four sales from my DV crowd. Oh well.

That little detail is like death by a thousand cuts, and, coming around the bend to 63 years old, I am having a difficult time having my principles stick. Everything about Amazon, about Bezos, about the people who plan the company from coder to software and logistics engineer, who develop AI and flood the world with the non-competitive shit that is the company, I despise . . . and yet, here we are, Year of the Rat, 2020, and I have just given over my soul in a Faustian Bargain to Amazon hawking my book with their bloody cut of the deal.

Checking out isn’t an option, and the fight is now for the little guy and gal, the child, the wordless old man with Parkinson’s, the bent over old lady checking items at the Safeway. There may be MAGA in some of those struggling souls, and that’s a whole other deal. For now, though, what is this country, and what is the ordinary man-woman-child?

Country as an idea, country as something that doesn’t exist, country as something continually changing because of outside forces. Country as a word from the enemy, meaning the empire. — Roque Dalton, Salvadoran poet

Joseph Campbell (“The Power of Myth”) quote roiling around my busy mind:  I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.

Chile and Her History of Western Interference

Chile is experiencing the largest and most serious political crisis and public unrest throughout Santiago and the country’s major cities since the return to ‘democracy’ in 1990. A week long of fire, tear-gas and police brutality left at least 20 people dead, thousands arrested and injured. More than 1.2 million people protested on Friday 25 October in the Streets of Chile’s capital, Santiago, not just against the 4% hike in metro-fares. That was the drop that brought the glass to overflow. Years, decades of neoliberal policies, brought hardship, poverty and inequality to Chileans. Chile is the country with the world’s third largest inequality in wealth, with a Gini coefficient of close to 0.50 (zero = everybody has the same, 1.0 = one person possesses everything).

Important for Chileans to understand is not to believe President Sebastian Piñera’s smooth talk and compromising words. Whatever he says and apparently does in terms of backtracking from his neoliberal policies is sheer deviation propaganda. Many of these policies he already initiated during his first term (2010 – 2014). They were kept alive by Madame Michelle Bachelet (2014 – 2018) under pressure from the Chilean financial system which remains closely linked (and funded) by Wall Street, and, of course, by her IMF advisers. Continuing Piñera’s job, she helped further dollarizing Chile to the tune of 70%, meaning that Chilean banks finance themselves on the US dollar markets, mostly in New York and London, rather than on the local peso market.

A healthy economy finances itself largely from nationally earned and accumulated capital. But more often than not, national oligarchs who possess this capital earned locally invest it outside their countries, as they trust more in foreign markets than in their own country. This is classic in many developing countries and particularly in Latin America, where the elite still – or again, after a brief democratic center-left respite in the 1990s and early 2000 – looks for success and capital gains to the northern masters in Washington.

Madame Bachelet was effectively bought by the system – a former socialist, having seen her father suffer under the Pinochet regime – she has become a sad turncoat. She demonstrated her ‘conversion’ by her recent report on Venezuela’s Human Rights – which was a travesty of the truth – a sham, full of lies and omissions. Another one who sold out and became chief of a UN Office – the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Commission. How did that happen?  Who pulls the strings behind the scenes for such appointments?

Since 2018, it’s again President Piñera, who is hell bent to complete his neoliberal project. Sebastian Piñera is one of the richest people in Latin America with a net worth of close to 3 billion dollars. How could he even remotely imagine what it is, having to take the subway every day to go to work, depending on pensions which are gradually reduced under his austerity programs, having to pay school tuition for a public service which is free in most countries and being subject to privatized health services, let alone steadily depressed salaries and rising unemployment. Mr. Piñera has no clue.

Only 24 hours before the mass-protests started about a week ago throughout Chile, Piñera prided himself in public of leading the politically and economically most stable and secure country, the world’s largest copper producer, where foreign investors were keen to place their money, a “paradise island”, he called Chile, adding the country was a model for all of Latin America.

Did he really not sense what was happening? How his austerity measures – plus privatizing everything – was hurting and infuriating his compatriots to the point of no return? Or did he simply ignore it, thinking it may go away, people will continue swallowing economic tightening as they have done before?  Whatever – it is amazing!

As Piñera’s popularity has slumped to an all-time low of 14%, and protests erupted every day to a higher level, he started using people-friendly language and tone, promising increasing minimum wages, pensions and unemployment benefits. In a move to court the working class, on Monday 28 October he reshuffled his cabinet, replacing 8 of his Ministers with more “people-friendly” officials – but from all appearance it’s too little too late.

He addressed the people in a televised speech from the Presidential Palace, La Moneda, saying, “Chile has changed, and the government must change with it to confront these new challenges”. Nobody seemed to take these empty words seriously, as the masses assembled in front of La Moneda asking for Piñera’s resignation. The UN is sending a team to investigate Human Rights abuses by police and military. While Argentinians waited for regular general elections (27 October 2019) to oust their western-imposed neoliberal lynch pin, president Macri, it is not likely that Chileans will have the patience to wait until 2022.

Ever increasing inequality and skyrocketing cost of living reached a point of anger that can hardly be appeased with Piñera’s apparent promises for change. For at least 80% of the people these conciliatory words are not enough.  They don’t believe in a system led by a neoliberal multi-billionaire who has no idea on how common people have to make a living. They don’t believe in change from this government. It is highly possible, they won’t let go until Piñera is gone. They see what was happening in neighboring Argentina and don’t want to face the same fate.

Let’s just look at a bit of history. Going way back to the War of the Pacific, also known as the Saltpeter War confronting Chile with the Bolivian-Peruvian alliance, Chile counted with strong support from the UK – supplying war ships, weaponry and military advice. The war lasted from 1879 to 1884 and centered on Chilean claims of Bolivian’s coastal territories, part of the Atacama Desert, rich in saltpeter, coveted by the Brits. Thanks to the British military and logistics support, Chile won the war and Bolivia lost her access to the Pacific, making her a landlocked country. The Government of Evo Morales today is still fighting for Pacific Sea access in The Hague. Peru lost also part of her resources-rich coast line, Arica and Tarapacá.

Fast forward to 11 September 1973, The Chilean 9/11, instigated by the West, again. To be precise by Washington. In the driver’s seat of this fatal coup that changed Chile as of this day – and counting – if Piñera is not stopped was Henry Kissinger. At the time leading up to the CIA instigated coup, and during the coup, Kissinger was US National Security Advisor (the role John Bolton occupied under Trump, until recently). Kissinger was sworn in a Secretary of State 11 days after the coup – 22 September 1973; a decent reward for whom is today the biggest war criminal still alive.

The murderous coup, followed by almost 20 years of brutal military rule by Augusto Pinochet (1973 to 1990), with torture, killings, human rights abuses left and right, was accompanied by an atrocious economic regime imposed by Washington, hired, so-called “Chicago Boys” ruining the country, privatizing social services, national infrastructures and natural resources except for Chile’s and the world’s largest copper mine, CODELCO which was not privatized during the Pinochet years. The military would not allow it for reasons of “national security”.

The large majority of the population was put under constant surveillance and threat of punishment / abuse if they would protest and not “behave” as Pinochet ordered. Pinochet, along with the western directed financial sector, turned Chile into a largely impoverished, complacent population.

The British empire, at the time from London, later from Washington acting as the American empire, was always influential in Chile, expanding its influence and exploitation mechanism to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. But then, in the late 1990s and early 2000, Latin America stood up, democratically electing her own leaders, most of them left / center-left, a thorn in the eye of Washington.

How could American’s “Backyard” become independent?  Impossible. Hence the renewal of the Monroe Doctrine, which emanated from President James Monroe (1817-1825), forbidding Europeans to interfere in any American territory. The Monroe principle has now been expanded to not allowing any foreign nation to even do business with Latin America, let alone forming political alliances.

While within a few years in the early 2000s, most of Latin America has been converted into puppets of the United States, Venezuela and Cuba stand tall. They are the corner stones, not to fall. They will be the pillars from where a new sovereign Latin America will rise. The Monroe Doctrine will not hold for a falling US empire – while peace seeking Russia and China are closely associating, commercially as well as militarily, with South America – in rebuilding and defending of their sovereignty.

In addition, people living under neoliberal regimes, under western financial and IMF-imposed killer austerity programs, are waking up, demonstrating and protesting in Ecuador and Argentina – where they just in democratic elections disposed of the US-imposed neoliberal despot, President Mauricio Macri. Now, Chile’s population is angry. Their patience is collapsing, their fear is gone. They want justice. They want to choose freely their leader – and it is not Sebastian Piñera.

Chileans’ fury is not just directed at Piñera’s latest distasteful economic and financial austerity measures. They – the Chileans – still suffer from measures dating back to the Pinochet era, the era of the western Chicago Boys, measures that have never been changed, not even under the so-called socialist Madame Bachelet.

The Pinochet Constitution of 1980, under pressure from Chicago-educated advisors, the IMF and the dollar-based banking system, imposed a culture of economic neoliberalism and ideological conservatism. These key parameters, remnants from that epoch, are still valid as of this day:

Education: Chile has the most privatized and segregated education system of the 65 countries that use the OECD student evaluation standard, PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). In Chile higher education (university level) is not a right. In 1981 Pinochet has privatized most of the higher education institutions giving access mainly to students from privileged families.

Health: In 1979 Pinochet created the Preventive Health Institutions, administered by private financial institutions, providing services that most Chileans cannot afford; i.e. the Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASE), replacing the former publicly financed health system.

Public Transportation: Chile has one of the most expensive public transport systems in all of Latin America. It’s run by private for-profit concessionaries. In Chile a metro ride costs the equivalent of US$ 1.13, in Brazil US$ 0.99, in Colombia US$ 0.67, in Argentina US$ 0.43. Mr. Piñera’s recent 4% tariff increase was just the trigger for a much larger discontent.

Abortion:  Since 1939 voluntary and secure abortion was possible in Chile. In 1989 Pinochet made abortion under whatever circumstances a criminal delict.

Pensions:  In 1980 Pinochet abandoned the old public system based on solidarity among pensioned adults and handed the accumulated funds to newly created and privately run AFPs (Administrations of Pension Funds), groups of private administrators of funds accumulated entirely by workers (no contributions by employers).

“Carabineros” – Chilean Police Officers:  Under Pinochet, Carabineros have been given powers with military characteristics. They have constantly and with impunity violated human rights. For years civil society groups have requested successive governments – and ultimately again the Piñera Government to change their regime to police officers, respecting human dignity and human rights. So far to no avail, as demonstrated by police interference in the most recent protests.

These Pinochet leftovers will no longer be accepted and tolerated by Chileans. Chile’s population, and in particular, the more than 1.2 million protesting in Santiago last Friday, are requesting nothing less than Piñera’s resignation and a people’s elected Constitutional Assembly to build a new country with less, much less inequality, more social justice, and, especially without any remaining “Pinochetismo”, which today is still very present under Sebastian Piñera, who sent the military to control the mass demonstrations in Santiago and other large cities. Chileans are clearly saying these days are over. We want our country back.  We reclaim our national political and economic sovereignty.  No more western interference.

Persistent Fraudulent Enrollment in Charter Schools

While privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have long engaged in a broad range of fraudulent student enrollment practices, yet another avalanche of news reports on such dishonest practices has recently appeared.

There seems to be no end to astonishing news in the unregulated and segregated charter school sector. Controversy, scandal, and charter schools have been fellow-travelers for more than 25 years.

Virtual charter schools, perhaps the most unsuccessful and unethical of all types of charter schools, have a long-standing tradition of enrolling “ghost students” (students that do not exist) in order to embezzle millions of public dollars. This, of course, is always accompanied by Enron-style accounting in an attempt to conceal such damaging financial malfeasance.

The latest debacle in the troubled charter school sector is the massive virtual Epic Charter School Network which operates mainly in Oklahoma. It has made headlines everywhere for enrolling “ghost students” and for engaging in other crimes and unethical behavior for a long time.

In related news, two scandal-ridden online charter schools in Indiana were also recently exposed and criticized for engaging in some of the same crimes as Epic and other cyber charter schools. Together, these virtual schools inflated their enrollments by thousands of students to pilfer enormous sums of public funds.

Sadly, many other examples of inflated enrollments and other scandalous practices in nonprofit and for-profit charter schools could be cited. Corruption plagues the entire charter school sector.

Keeping in mind that the final and highest stage of capitalism ensures greater parasitism, crime, corruption, and violence across society and many sectors, the public should expect a further intensification of fraud, corruption, and controversy from all types of charter schools in the coming months and years.

Whether they are nonprofit or for-profit, virtual or brick-and-mortar, as privatized and marketized arrangements charter schools engender more corruption in education and society. Privatization, as a general rule, is synonymous with corruption and inferior service.

“More regulation” and “better oversight” will not solve the problems plaguing the charter school sector. Charter schools are deregulated schools by definition; they are a main expression of neoliberal education arrangements. Further, the charter school sector is full of wealthy, arrogant, and defensive advocates who will not tolerate any individual or organization that attempts to stop their assault on public education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Charter school owners-operators are determined to seize as much public funds and public property as possible.

But this does not mean resistance is pointless or that the rich and their cheerleaders cannot be defeated. It means the public must develop new and creative ways to deprive the rich of their power to deprive the public of its claims and interests.

It can be done.

No public funds or public property must go to privately-operated charter schools. All public funds and public property must remain in the hands of the public. This is especially true given the fact that charter schools are not public schools, as many court cases in different jurisdictions have ruled over the years.