Category Archives: Privatization

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.

Trump and Black Misleadership Class

In a case that finally started to receive national attention over the last few weeks, Baltimore prosecutors finally achieved their desired goal after three attempts, a conviction of Keith Davis Jr., a young Black working class resident of Baltimore, who his supporters say, was set up by Baltimore police, for the murder of Kevin Jones.  Two trials ended in hung juries and another resulted in the judge overturning the conviction of Davis.

Community supporters of Davis said that the aggressive prosecution was just another example of the heavy-handed use of state power by local Black authorities that the residents of the city have come to expect in Baltimore.

When social pimp Rev Al Sharpton showed up in Baltimore standing with members of the Black petit-bourgeoisie to defend their “great city” from the unfair attacks by Donald Trump, no one raised any doubt about the fairness of Keith Davis Jr’s conviction. They didn’t talk about the over 40,000 abandoned properties in the city, the massive displacement of Black residents aided and abetted by the Black overseers of Baltimore. And no one dared to mention Freddie Gray.

Yet, in another bazaar example of “Trump derangement syndrome” the national Black community is supposed to defend these opportunists and servants of white capital just because they were called out by Trump.

After the Keith Davis verdict, Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby issued a statement in which she said that “this case has been — and was always — about the pursuit of justice for Kevin Jones,” she wrote. “I truly hope Kevin’s loved ones can finally close this gruesome chapter of grief and find their path to healing.”

But what about the family of Freddie Gray? Doesn’t his life matter, don’t they deserve some justice also?

After one trial that led to an acquittal, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said that it would not be worth it to pursue cases against the other officers accused of killing Gray. So, all charges were dropped. And since the Obama Department of Justice also didn’t think Gray’s life was worth a Federal investigation, the killers walked, no convictions, no justice for the Gray family.

When Elijah Cummings, the new darling of liberals who one would think was some champion of social justice and principled Black leadership, was asked if there should be a Federal investigation of the officers after charges were dropped against the officers, Cummings said he didn’t have an opinion!

The controversy that has emerged from Trump’s comments on Baltimore reflects three interrelated theoretical and practical issues among Black/African peoples in the United States: The continued hegemonic standing of liberalism within mainstream Black political thought, the subordination of what is defined as Black politics to the dictates and agenda of the democrat party and the class consciousness of the Black petit-bourgeoisie and the lack of class consciousness among the Black working class.

It is understandable that a negative comment from Donald Trump regarding a major city in the country under the political leadership of Black people might spark an initial defensive reaction by many in the country because of his pattern of disparaging non-European peoples, regardless of their legal status in the U.S.

However, to try to advance an argument in opposition to Trump that frames life for African Americans in Baltimore as anything more than desperate, deprived and destitute requires a flight from reality that only members of the elite have the luxury to engage in. For Cummings, who has gone from having difficulty paying child support at the time he was first elected to Congress to today being a multi-millionaire, and his friends in the Black professional/managerial/administrative petit-bourgeois things are just fine in Baltimore.

But for the Black working class and poor who have been subjected to the systematic ravages of neoliberalism that devastated Baltimore’s industrial base, including the Baltimore port that was a hub for good paying jobs for the working class, facilitated massive displacement with urban recolonization (gentrification) and created a low-wage, de-skilled Black labor poor that is largely economically redundant, Baltimore in reality resembles the city that Trump referred to, and all the crying in the world will not change that reality.

The reality of Baltimore is the reality of decaying and dying cities and rural areas across this nation. These conditions are the conditions of late state, neoliberal capitalism that has de-centered capitalist industrial production and supply chains from the metropoles to the peripheral nations of the system. Many of the nation’s largest urban areas that have been devastated by these policies over the last few decades are also the areas with the greatest concentrations of African Americans with political leadership, but not economic power, in the hands of a Black overseer class.

When a Donald Trump with his own racist agenda distorts these systemic issues it does not follow that we should reinforce that by offering an analysis of Baltimore or any of these other cities where neoliberal Black democrats serve white power, that reduces an explanation of systemic issues to just one of the pigmentation of political class in charge in the cities or in the White House.

The Black petit-bourgeoisie as a “class for itself” is highly offended by Trump’s comments but because its class interests are in alignment with a sector of big-bourgeoisie, it is silent when Obama refers to the resisters in Baltimore as “thugs and criminals” and unleashes U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein on the people of Baltimore. Yes, the same Rosenstein at the center of Russigate.

While the DOJ only intervened into one case of killer-cops under Obama, Rosenstein made a special request to prosecute the poor, Black working-class individuals charged with various crimes during the Baltimore uprising. The result was draconian sentences that received no mention and no support because even the NGOs supposedly working on criminal justice reform went silent. Rosenstein’s position was clear and a warning to anyone who might resist state power “Anyone in the future who participates in a ‘riot’ should know that police, prosecutors and citizens will track them down and send them to prison.”

The Black misleadership class, liberal and centrist democrats, the forces grouped around Trump and even some radicals, have one essential thing in common, they all believe in the legitimacy of the U.S. state, the capitalist/imperialist system and are ready to fight to the last drop of your blood and mine to preserve this system.

The objective political and class ties of these elements is reflected in the unanimity of positions of “Full spectrum dominance, support for Israel, animosity toward the government in Venezuela, support for Department of Defense 1033 program responsible for militarizing police forces across the country, and the expansion of AFRICOM on the African continent.

This is the madness and reality of U.S. political culture. Scratch a liberal and not only do you find an imperialist supporter but a Donald Trump.

Greece:  Suicide or Murder?

Pundits from the left, from the right and from the center cannot stop reporting about Greece’s misery. And rightly so because the vast majority of her people live in deep economic hardship. No hope. Unemployment is officially at 18%, with the real figure closer to 25% or 30%; pensions have been reduced about ten times since Syriza – the Socialist Party – took power in 2015 and loaded the country with debt and austerity. In the domain of public services, everything that has any value has been privatized and sold to foreign corporations, oligarchs, or, naturally, banks. Hospitals, schools, public transportation – even some beaches – have been privatized and made unaffordable for the common people.

While the pundits – always more or less the same – keep lamenting about the Greek conditions in one form or another, none of them dare offer the only solution that could have rescued Greece (and still could) – exiting the euro zone; return to their local currency and start rebuilding Greece with a local economy, built on local currency with local public banking and with a sovereign Greek central bank deciding the monetary policy that best suits Greece, and especially Greece’s recovery program. Why not? Why do they not talk about this obvious solution? Would they be censured in Greece, because the Greek oligarchy controls the media as oligarchs do around the (western part of the) globe?

Instead, foreign imposed (troika: IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission (EC) — the latter mainly pushed by German and French banks and the Rothschild clan — austerity programs have literally put a halt on imports of affordable medication, such as like for cancer treatments and other potentially lethal illnesses. So, common people no longer get treatment. They die like flies; a horrible expression to be used for human beings. But that’s what it comes down to for people who simply do not get the treatment they humanely deserve and would have gotten under the rights of the Greek Constitution; however, they simply do not get treated because they can no longer afford medication and services from privatized health services. That is the sad but true story.

As a consequence, the suicide rate is up, due to foreign imposed (but Greek government accepted) debt and austerity, annihilating hope for terminally ill patients, as well as for pensioners whose pensions do no longer allow them to live a decent life and especially as there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, these same pundits add a little air of optimism to their reporting, as the right wing New Democracy Party (ND Party) won with what they call a ‘landslide’ victory on the 7 July 2019 elections; gathering 39.6% of the votes, against only 31.53 for Syriza, the so-called socialist party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who represents a tragedy that has allowed Greece to be plunged into this hopeless desolation. The ND won an absolute majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. Therefore, no coalition needed, no concessions required.

The new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (51), son of a former PM of the same party, in his victory speech on the evening of 7 July, vowed that Greece will “proudly” enter a post-bailout era of “jobs, security and growth”. He added that “a painful cycle has closed” and that Greece would “proudly raise its head again” on his watch.

We don’t know what this means for the average Greek citizen living a life of despair. What the “left” was unable to do – stopping the foreign imposed (but Greek accepted) bleeding of Greece; the strangulation of their country – will the right be able to reverse that trend? Does the right want to reverse that trend? Does the ND want to reverse privatization, buy back airports from Germany, water supply from the EU managed “Superfund”, and repurchase the roads from foreign concessionaires, or nationalize hospitals that were sold for a pittance and – especially – get out from austerity to allow importing crucial medication to salvage the sick and dying Greek, those who currently cannot afford treatment of their cancers and other potentially deadly diseases?

That would indeed be a step towards PM Mitsotakis’ promise to end the “painful cycle” of austerity, with import of crucial medication made affordable to those in dire need, with job creation and job security – and much more – with eventually a renewed Greek pride and Greek sovereignty. The latter would mean – finally – it’s never too late to exit the euro zone. But, that’s an illusion, a pipe-dream. Albeit  it could become a vision.

If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, the Greek oligarchs that is, those Greeks who have placed literally billions of euros outside their country in (still) secret bank accounts in Switzerland, France, Lichtenstein, Luxemburg and elsewhere, including the Cayman islands and other Caribbean tax havens, hidden not only from the Greek fiscal authorities, but also impeding that these funds could, crucially, be used for investments at home, for job creation, for creation of added value in Greece. If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, they are unlikely to make the dream of the vast majority of Greek people come true.

Worse even, these Greek oligarch-billionaires call the shots in Greece not the people, not those who according to Greek tradition and according to the Greek invention, called “democracy” (Delphi, some 2500 years ago) have democratically elected Syriza and have democratically voted against the austerity packages in July 2015. Now, that they are officially in power, they are unlikely to change their greed-driven behavior and act in favor of the Greek people. Or will they?

Because, if they do, it may eventually also benefit them, the ND Party and its adherents — a Greece that functions like a country, with happy, healthy and content people, is a Greece that retains the worldwide esteem and respect she deserves — and will, by association, develop an economy that can and will compete and trade around the world, a Greece that is an equal to others, as a sovereign nation. A dream can become a reality. It just takes visionaries.

Back to today’s reality. The Greek Bailout Referendum of July 5, 2015, was overwhelmingly rejected with 61% ‘no’ against 39% ‘yes’, meaning that almost two thirds of the Greek people would have preferred the consequences of rejecting the bailout, euphemistically called “rescue packages”, namely exiting the euro zone, and possibly, but not necessarily, the European Union.

Despite the overwhelming, democratic rejection by the people, the Tsipras government reached an agreement on 13 July 2015 – only 8 days after the vote against the bailout with the European authorities for a three-year bailout with even harsher austerity conditions than the ones rejected by voters. What went on is anybody’s guess. It looks pretty obvious, though, that “foul play” was the name of the game which could mean anything from outright and serious (life) threats to blackmail, if Tsipras would not play the game and this to the detriment of the people.

President Tsipras’ betrayal of the people resulted in three bailout packages since 2010 and up to the end of 2018, in the amount of about €310 billion (US$ 360 billion). Compare this to Hong Kong’s economy of US$ 340 billion in 2017. In that same period the Greek GDP has declined from about US$ 300 billion (€ 270 billion) in 2010 to US$ 218 billion (€ 196 billion), a reduction of 27%, hitting the middle- and lower-class people by far the hardest. This is called a rescue?

The democracy fiasco of July 2015 prompted Tsipras to call for snap elections in September 2015, hélas – he won, with a narrow margin and one of the lowest election turnouts ever in Greek postwar history; but, yes, he ‘won’. How much of it was manipulated – by now Cambridge Analytica has become a household word – so he could finish the job for the troika and the German and French banks, is pure speculation.

Today, the ND has an absolute majority in Parliament, plus the ND could ally with a number of smaller and conservative parties to pursue a “people’s dream” line policy. But they may do the opposite. Question: How much more juice is there to be sucked out of broken Greece? Of a Greece that cannot care for her people, for her desperate poor and sick, cannot provide her children with a decent education, of a Greece that belongs into the category of bankruptcy? Yes, bankruptcy, still today, after the IMF and the gnomes of the EU and the ECB predict a moderate growth rate of some 2%?  But 2% that go to whom?  Not to the people, to be sure, but to the creditors of the €310 billion.

Already in 2011, the British Lancet stated “the Greek Ministry of Health reported that the annual suicide rate has increased by 40%”, presumably since the (imposed) crisis that started in 2008. From this date forward the suicide rate must have skyrocketed, as the overall living conditions worsened exponentially. However, precise figures can no longer be easily found.

The question remains: Is the Greek population dying increasingly from diseases that could be cured, but aren’t due to austerity- and privatization-related lack of medication and health services and of suicide from desperation? Is Greece committing suicide by continuing to accept austerity and privatization of vital services, instead of liberating herself from the handcuffs of the euro and very likely the stranglehold of the EU?  Or is Greece the victim of sheer murder inflicted by a greed-driven construct of money institutions and oligarchs, who are beyond morals, beyond ethics and beyond any values of humanity? You be the judge.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Finding Space Between Despair and Validation

There is nothing very remarkable about being immortal; with the exception of mankind, all creatures are immortal, for they know nothing of death. What is divine, terrible, and incomprehensible is to know oneself immortal.
— Borges, “The Immortal”, IV, in The Aleph (1949)

All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
— Jorge Luis Borges

I knew it would come at me sooner or later, that feeling of dread that I had steeled myself against . . . staving off that realization that the books are so cooked that every level of societal organization in the USA (elsewhere, too, as in the UK, take, for example, the excellent movie, I, Daniel Blake) is rotting from the inside-out, outside-in. I’ve kept that juggling inside my mental space for a long time, but the blood-brain barrier has been pretty much intact, cloistering away intellectual realization from emotional acceptance; i.e., vulnerability.  It’s this inoculation many of us in the middle of the muck — radical journalism, even more radical social services, and, for this article, beyond radical education —  have to succumb to and for which we have to continue to ramify our emotional ‘scapes with boosters to make it through a day or week or month of travails.

I have to insert a full disclaimer: I know I am not living in Guatemala, San Salvador, Bangladesh, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia or Palestine. Things — basic living conditions — are so-so grotesque in other countries where capitalism and despotic fascism have ensconced those places with the plague of Little Eichmann’s and narcissistic racists who do the bidding of the moneyed classes (sic). Millions of babies are dying of gut diseases a year because of shitty water systems or none at all . . . because of Capitalism; the plague of misogyny is destroying the futures of women and girls in places like Saudi Arabia or a thousand other nations . . .  because of religion; resources are continually being polluted, tainted or collapsing  . . . because of Western Culture’s rapacious appetites, all flowing out of the sewage drain that defines Capitalism. All of that to the 10th power in so-called “third world” societies compared to “our” dragging lives, and, mine, sure (since I maybe enlightened, but too I am pressed into the strata of the death system . . .  USA capitalism), so, sure, how can I complain. Anything the rest of the non-Western world has to go through daily overshadows even the hard times many of “our” people in “our” country face with this old time religion of corporate-government fascism.

Good stuff daily at Dissident Voice, as in:

It is strange to watch the sleepy drama of airports, in which a bourgeoisie and a working class effortlessly intermingle, both seemingly inured to the routines of capitalist life. Something soulless inhabits the pace of capitalist life. One observes it here in the deadened gaze of the wage workers, watching their lives tick away in [airport] terminal jobs; but also in the ceaseless arrivals and departures of businessmen charging off to another sales conference; and in the harried rush of families to make it on their annual holiday junket. One wonders if any of these classes, more the workers than the professional caste, might ever revolt against the system that keeps them ensnared in their drudgery.

— Jason Hirthler, “The Curious Malaise of the Middle Class

We’ll be getting to that soulless rendering of Capitalist lives soon. For now, I’m not talking about a complete blow-out of my emotions here, but I knew that through teaching, yet again, in a PK12 system out here on the Oregon Coast, as a hired gun substitute teacher, I’d open myself up to that sinking feeling not so much of despair, but validation that the entire country has been sold down the river with a super majority of its people colonized by the thinking, or lack thereof, created by the taker class, the destroyer species, so more victims by the thousands in their cribs are created for the elite to chew up every so much and completely every day.

Then millions daily in our public schools, chewed up and spit out. But still marks for a society of Mafiosi-PayPal-PayDay loan sharks that profit in pain, dissolution, human toil, poverty, struggle, economic hell, emotional insanity, and ethical dissuasion.

I knew going into this research project — to discover out how to wrap up my concept for a short book on The Good, Bad and Ugly of American Ed — it would be rough sailing on the edges of this strange continent since I am working in a rural county with high poverty rates, high parental drug use,  homelessness and consistent precarity in the economic realm, with parents working 12-hour gigs or four jobs to a family, and a class of people who have shuttered themselves with beach-combing, Pinot Gris-loving, tourist junkets to Mexico, la Provence in France and ski resorts and mud cleansing camps in Montana. Plus, it’s Oregon, on the coast, a very racist place/history of sundown laws (not to say New York City or Chicago or LA aren’t racist super max militarized black man/woman/Latinix hating police mafia), where the rare sane and giver tribes person is a diamond yet to be found.

Inoculation for me is that I might find personal fortitude from all my many years geriatrically speaking and many more experiences living on the planet dredging up all the detritus deposited in the process of bearing witness to the failure that is America —  the Prison Complex, America — the Warring Complex, America — the Enemy of All Good People Complex, America — the Vapidity Complex, America — the All Polluting Complex. One can still hold out hope for some semblance of solidarity from cohorts and like-minded individuals within my geographical region.

The truth is that while the national media, and the national news and national academics blather on and on about, sure, important issues such as USA Democrats and Republicans parsing out why locking up whistle blowers or jailing journalists like Assange is good/bad, or how the USA ended up bombing thousands of civilians in Raqqa, or, say, the story about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez’s family suing the Border Patrol for $100 million after the Guatemalan was murdered by an agent last year on the Texas border, the work to be done at the local level, even within a fifth grade classroom, is monumental, almost impossible in this murderous carnival of capitalism gone rogue. Wave after wave of spasms after viewing or hearing any number of stories pumped out on the ticker-tape voyeurism that is Bing or Yahoo or Fox or CNN “news” (sic) feeds is interesting in an ironic way — as a student of journalism-media-public opinion trends.

But the toll on communities, on individual children, is so-so deep and grave and beyond the abilities of a Melinda Gates or Michelle Obama or Elon Musk to even begin to comprehend, let alone beyond their capabilities to just sit down and honorably and truthfully engage in healing, or dialogue.

Witnessing the absurdity that is American and Capitalistic exceptionalism, in real time, during work, while trying to accomplish  something worthy, like teaching youth six years to 18 years old, puts a heavy toll on some of us when we many times confront the injustice and insanity of it all, head on. It’s a toll tied to our personal activities of daily living in a colonized world, where, no kidding, someone like me (and I have very few friends or acquaintances who would agree with me on the following spot on quote half a century old, and counting) can’t remove what has become a default fine print disclaimer that should be plastered on anything coming out of America, and American-drenched marketing campaigns of the murderers who run Corporations, large and small:

If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far…. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

— Susan Sontag, Partisan Review, Vol. 34 No. 1 1967.

This is no flippant thing I’m expressing here, yet so many people have attacked this critique, Sontag’s, that is, and my ascribing it, so deeply, and they rebuff even considering it with so much contrarianism filled with paranoia, or that disease of white guilt, or exceptionalism, or something more, something really nefarious.

The bottom line, a fourth grade thinker like Trump and his coterie of asinine, ignorant, rich, degraded, full-on psychopathic followers, in and out of his administration, hate my students. These students who are 30 to a class. Students who have four or five bullies in each class. Students who have driveling principals who are afraid of their own shadows. Students who are 576 to one counselor on hand. Students who have Chromebooks and giant caterpillar math games in seventh grade. Students who are fed the entrails of fast food and the most dangerous food for lunch that it just makes a grown person cry. Students who are forced in classrooms with bachelor degreed teachers, mostly all with their hearts in the right place, but floundering under the weight of shitty wages and economies that take up more than half our income to just make rent.

Students with local beaches that have Memorial Day warnings of fecal matter in the tides. Students with clear cuts peppered all around them and the follow up aerial spraying of Agent Orange like derivatives to keep the invasives down. Students who have no parks to speak of, no museums, no trolley services to help them get from one beach to the next. Students who are forced to listen to military recruiters, and students bred in the faux patriotism that calls all boys and girls to seriously consider the all-volunteer military (economic draft, that is)  as a gateway to college, when the majority of youth see no end in sight in school.

We hate these kids, if one were to look at our education policies run by an Amway sales person, Betsy DeVos, and if we look at all the other cabinet level people, all those heads of our supposed government agencies for, by and because of the people, and listen to what they want in terms of tearing down every economic, environmental, educational, retirement, housing, health, energy, conservation, community development safety net, how in god’s name (sic) can any thinking adult believe that this administration or any of them really cares about the 80 percent of the country, the majority, our youth, our babies, our teens, our future?

Therein lies the catalyzing moment Friday that spurred me to write this angst-leveling piece — I again, after dozens of gigs, got from the horse’s mouth — the students — that the schools are bullying enterprises, where many in these classes call young girls and boys “fat jelly rolls, fatsos, stupid, sissies, retards, fags,” and alas, nothing is being done to rectify this. Nothing at the administration level, at the classroom level, at the parental level, at the assembly level, nothing.

And so one of these counselors, one in the school, just displayed so many levels of malpractice, stupidity, telling me, a substitute, that unless I heard the boys yelling these things, and even if the girls and boys that are the victims say that happened, are crying, are withdrawn, there is nothing he can do.

Then this ignoramous spewed some platitude about, “I told Mary to not let those boys take her power away . . . to not give them her power.” This is the state of retarded adult thinking, pure reckless operating procedures.

Then, students tell me to not be so worried that the class is going bonkers or is disruptive, or that student x and y are being not only idiots, but disrespectful of me, an elder, in some sense. That this goes on with the regular teacher, and that the students have complained about x and y bully, but to no avail.

I ask them how they even learn with all the disruptions, all the students x and y getting pulled from the classroom, or all the bells and breaks and idiotic things that supposedly have been built into the curriculum because the powers that be believe young minds can’t stick to a problem or a topic for more than 10 minutes, and anything beyond 10 minutes has to be programmed into some Chromebook moving cartoon or video game.

Teachers in middle schools who tell students, “go figure it out yourself,” when confronted with a math problem. Teachers who look like they just spent a day in Yemen under Saudi-USA bombardment after a day’s teaching.

This system for the most part is ruinous of human celebration, ruinous of honoring and stewarding young minds and bodies.

Alas, yes, fixing education is easy, but not under capitalism, not under the weight of the core curriculum or shackled by No Child Left Behind or through all the degrading junk that is shoveled down young people’s throats. Nothing in the classroom is mattering, and fixing the education system again, is what the book I am about to launch is all about.

I guess what triggered me was all the bullying, all the poor ass kids who must have demons for parents, because the amount of disrespect for teachers and peers and visitors is deafening. I am not saying all the youth are like that, or even half like those bullies, but if you get six out of 30 in a class who control the message, control the chemistry of the group dynamics, who are always vying for warped levels of attention and disruptive shenanigans, then the learning experiment begins to wither on the vine.

Add to that significant numbers of youth with behavioral plans and learning plans, youth with reading issues, with intellectual disabilities, or psychological disabilities. Youth with chronic illness. Youth from broken families. Youth with some family member in jail and with an addiction. Youth with no sense of community. Entire elementary schools, middle schools and high schools that hardly ever have anyone from the community come in to facilitate learning, let alone cadres of visiting local and regional experts in biology or other fields, or artists or just plain wise elders from tribes.

This in and of itself shows that Trump and all the suits and skirts backing him HATE America, and the way they are making America great again with untold numbers of more and more victims, beaten down by the forces of oppression and repression and suppression at earlier and earlier ages, that’s his MAGA, Trump’s army of deplorables.

Again, though, “the principal never does anything to these bullies . . . he just tells them that he will give them something if they stop bullying us . . . but they don’t stop . . . there are no consequences . . . and we just have to take it.”

Now, take that to the heart of your soul dear reading and really begin to think how we are going to get out of all the colluding and colliding messes we face in this destructive warring society when we are creating more and more causalities at younger and younger ages who will never ever be able to be part of the solution.

Truly, when the school administration knows/does diddle squat, and when some goofy counselor tells students that “getting upset about a bully is like your kryptonite . . .  letting the bullies bother you is handing them your power,” a grown man not only wants to cry, but he wants to smack that puke of a person from here to kingdom come.

Seriously.

I finish off after talking today to several people about the state of youth, the state of our schools, the state of our young people’s lack of critical thinking skills. So many civilians, or citizens, think they know what’s wrong with education, or what’s up with parents, or why millennials or those in this generation are broken. Yet, adults, so many of them, have zero tolerance for creativity, outside the box thinking, and investing in REAL education, REAL outdoor schools, REAL schools where youth are building solar panels, living in tepees, growing vegetables, planting permaculture gardens, raising chickens, collecting eggs, doing art, making instruments from which to make music, doing community film projects on the old timers, going to old folks homes and reading and performing, or bringing in homeless people to feed and clothe.

Real work, real learning, real systems thinking teaching.

Imagine hundreds or thousands of students working on drive-by photography shoots, telling neighborhood history projects, building wheelchair ramps for the handicapped, getting into real businesses and learning how to be entrepreneurs,  having bio-diesel bus trips to the state capitals weekly.

We know how to lead and follow, teach and learn, share and provide. But the systems of oppression in Capitalism make it virtually impossible to do any good with not only our young but our old, or those with disabilities, or those just out of prison, or those who are traumatized by the most brutal parents and neighborhoods.

Take the following to the bank. Yes, John wrote this decades ago, and, yes, he believed we could do wonders with schooling at home and within the communities. He did not anticipate the powers of Capitalism to generate more and more finely grained sacrifice zones at the census track level, regionally wide, entire states succumbing to an un-United States. He did not anticipate the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism, nor did he really delve into the murderous powers that have harnessed all economic models and all business plans that the USA produces. Trillions spent on war, billions spent on propagandizing this rotten economic system, billions spent on policing and jailing, billions spent on entrapping more and more people into the madness of screens and phones and idle self-aggrandizement and narcissism.

Community schools, and schools inside the companies, and forcing bosses to give time off for workers to tend to the schools. Of course, we need to own our schools, and we need Pearson Publishing and the thousands of other leeches and bottom feeders in educational publishing and curriculum design and management and testing and computerization of learning and on-line madness to be sent to the dung heap.

I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.

Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.

― John Taylor Gattoo, Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, February 1, 2002

Venezuela: US Imperialism Is Based On Lies And Threats


We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.

Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.

Rallying with the women oil workers outside the presidential palace on March 15, 2019 in Caracas.

Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid

The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.

People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.

Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.

Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.

Russia confirmed the Venezuela account and said it was supported by other evidence. The Grayzone reported on a 2010 memo about regime change in Venezuela, which included discussion of an attack on the electrical grid to cause a blackout and chaos. The US tried to sabotage the Iranian electrical grid and has used electricity attacks in previous coups, so this is part of the US coup playbook.

During our stay, CNN also reported that the drone assassination attempt against President Maduro last August was organized in Colombia and that the US was in close contact with the assassination plotters. It was also confirmed by the NY Times that it was the opposition who burned USAID trucks on February 23 at the border, the day of the humanitarian aid defeat. This corroborates the report by the Grayzone Project the day it occurred.

The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and made sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.

The attack mobilized more people in the US and around the world to oppose the US coup calling for ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ an end to the sanctions and an end to threats of war. Another mass march in support of Venezuela is scheduled in Washington, DC on March 30.

We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.

Pro-Bolivarian Process rally on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Caracas.

The US Embassy is Forced to Close

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.

Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.

When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.

The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and they will fight to preserve their independence.

When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.

Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.

Hands Of Venezuela March in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019 (by Ted Majdosz)

Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution

We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.

Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.

While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.

One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”

The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.

This contrasts with the legitimacy of President Maduro. This week, international election observers wrote the European Union telling them they were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased.” They described EU claims as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind.” We described in detail the legitimacy of the elections and other essential facts activists need to know about this US coup.

Singing and dancing as people arrive for “Con El Mazo Dando” (by Margaret Flowers)

Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential

The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.

We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll find a way to get it to them.

The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.

We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.

Join the March 30 Mobilization Against the US Coup in Venezuela and the No to NATO protests in Washington, DC.

It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.