Category Archives: Public Spaces

Open Letter to Congress: Why the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 Must Be Opposed

Note: Congress is currently considering the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.  If this bill becomes law it will increase conflict between the US and China and increase US meddling in Hong Kong. It will become an excuse for unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) against China and Hong Kong. In the Open Letter below we explain in detail why this letter should be opposed. We urge you to share it with your representatives in Washington and urge them to oppose the Act.

You can download the letter as a pdf here.
hong-kong-bill-critique-noh-zeese-flowers

Thanks for taking action. KZ

HR 3289, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, was referred to the committee on Foreign affairs on June 13th, 2019. The bill “directs various departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong’s unique [i.e. preferential economic and trade] treatment under U.S. law and to determine whether China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

Currently, 16 senators and 25 House members from both parties have signed on as co-sponsors.  The bill also directs the government to impose sanctions to those who suppress “freedom” in the territory.

Currently, the leaders of the “leaderless movement” of the Hong Kong protests are touring the capital, urging the US congress to pass this bill.  Despite claims of extreme obstruction and human rights oppression, it’s clear that they are traveling freely out of Hong Kong, speaking their minds freely while urging a foreign power to assess and impose sanctions on their own state.  These contradictions indicate that all their claims should be critically analyzed.  Some of these will be directly addressed below.

The bill itself should be opposed on the following grounds:

This bill would not serve the purposes for which it is written, namely, to reaffirm the objectives and principles set forth in the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

Nor would it affirm, support, or further Human Rights in Hong Kong.

The bill accomplishes little except to draw attention to US influence on the Hong Kong protests and highlights US officiousness in Hong Kong politics.  This is within a toxic atmosphere of violence, chaos, and intrigue — engendered and engineered by the protestors — where the US is already credibly accused of fomenting, supporting, and encouraging this violence: by lending it moral support, meeting with its leaders, having high-level political and diplomatic meetings, threatening consequences if suppressed, and funding the lead organizations through the NED.

This bill is an act of moral hazard, and implicates the US congress in violence, destruction, mayhem, injury, potential loss of life, and the degradation of civic processes.  It will validate the current perception of the violent protests as US gray zone aggression in search of a pretext for further sanctions and aggression.

Furthermore, it will also degrade currently antagonistic China-US relations even further, pushing relations towards overt hostility and direct conflict, and setting the preconditions for war.

*****

The key arguments against this bill are as follows:

The PRC has upheld its commitments to Hong Kong in the Basic Agreement and Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

As the British returned the colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997, they negotiated the conditions of return and political statehood in the Basic Agreement, and the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.  The PRC has upheld all its commitments to Hong Kong SAR elucidated in the Basic Agreement and the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992:  the fundamental letter and the law of the Joint agreement and the Basic Law have all been upheld, as listed below:

  • The chief executive has been appointed by the Central People’s Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations held locally.

Although the British never allowed elections of the Hong Kong governor, as they left, they instituted provisions for the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage.  However, there is no clause committing Hong Kong to direct democracy, nor is there a specified timeline for this suffrage to be achieved.

Specifically: The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

  • Chinese and foreign nationals previously working in the public and police services in the government departments of Hong Kong remain in employment.British and other foreign nationals are employed in public posts in government departments.

High ranking members of the Hong Kong police force are British. The current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam,was a British citizen (who renounced her citizenship). Key members of the Legislative council are or have been British citizens

Currently there is a large roster of British and Commonwealth judges in the Judicial system: two thirds  (16 out of 22 judges) on the Court of Final Appeals (Hong Kong’s Supreme Court) are British Nationals or Commonwealth members.  Eight of these are Peers (Lords and Ladies of the British nobility).

  • The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong have remained unchanged.

The Basic Law committed Hong Kong to a free-market capitalism, and prevented the institution of socialist measures. Hong Kong is still a free-market capitalist state, and it can be strongly argued the underlying cause of these protests is its unregulated, laissez-faire, corporate, finance and real estate-driven capitalism.

  • Economic Law and practices have been maintained as originally agreed upon.

These laws have not been abrogated or changed, even though these economic policies have created tremendous hardship to the working classes, in particular in regards to unaffordable housing and poor prospects for work, and run counter to the PRC’s widely acknowledged practices of lifting up society as a whole and eradicating poverty.

  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has retained the status of an international financial center

Its markets for foreign exchange, gold, securities and futures have continued, along with free flow of capital, and the independent Hong Kong dollar continues to circulate and remain freely convertible.

  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has maintained independent finances.

The Central People’s Government does not levy taxes on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has established mutually beneficial economic and cultural relations with other countries; and establishes independent agreements with states, regions and relevant international organisations.

This includes its own extradition agreements with the US, UK, and 18 other countries.

  • The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issues its own travel documents for entry into and exit from Hong Kong.

Last but not least:

  • Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association…of movement, of strike, of academic research and of religious belief have all been ensured by law.

Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment all have been protected by law. All of these enumerated rights have been protected and defended by Hong Kong law. In particular, during 15 weeks of some of the most violent protests that the region has seen in recent years, the Hong Kong authorities have treated these with extreme attention to Human Rights and due process. No law abrogating the right to protest was passed, nor were there any restrictive measures passed: no curfews, no general bans on assembly or protest, no bans on masks, bans on signs, or any such law.  No measures were passed abrogating freedom of expression.  Nor has there been any arbitrary arrest or detention. Although 1200 protestors have been arrested, almost all of them have been released.

To date, a single violent protestor has been sentenced to 80 hours of community service.  (A single individual has an eye injury, but is recovering, and there is no proof that the police were responsible, and contrary to all logic, the individual in question is using all possible legal means to prevent investigation and the gathering of evidence).

No other violent civil protest in recent memory—not in France (Yellow Vests), not in Spain (Catalan Independence), not in India (Kashmir), in Indonesia (Papua and West Papua), in the US (Standing Rock, Ferguson, Baltimore)– has there been such extended restraint demonstrated by the forces of order against such extreme rioting and violence. Over a period of 15 weeks of violent rioting, infrastructure attacks, road blockades and attacks, subway arson and sabotage, airport occupation, mass beatings of civilian bystanders, no protestors have been killed or suffered serious injury. However, bystanders and people criticizing the protestors have been violently attacked and seriously injured: they have been mobbed, assaulted, and beaten unconscious with pipes, baseball bats, sticks; attacked with caustic lye (drain cleaner), or in the case of police, burned with Molotov cocktails, and stabbed. Police stations, Legislative Chambers, Political offices have been surrounded and attacked and set fire to, and even graves have been desecrated. Contrary to the claims of protestors, it is inconceivable the US or any other country would have tolerated such massive violence and insurrection.

To summarize:  Hong Kong and China have been, and are clearly following, the accords signed and agreed to.

  • There has been no interference with elections, electoral outcomes, domestic politics, or domestic legislation.
  • Hong Kong has an independent judiciary — considered one of the most independent in the world.
  • Hong Kong has a vibrantly independent media, unions, corporations, and electoral bodies.
  • Hong Kong exercises independent executive, legislative, and judicial power, including that of final adjudication.

Global analysis bears this out: the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index evaluates the countries of the world across 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom including:  Rule of Law, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Freedom of Expression, Legal System and Property Rights.  It’s understood that it is “a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint”.

On this basis, the Human Freedom Index currently ranks Hong Kong as the third freest country in the world (2018), with only New Zealand and Switzerland ahead of it.  Hong Kong currently ranks 14 rankings above the United States in Freedom (17th), and 114 rankings ahead of Ukraine, where the US recently intervened with support for “democracy and human rights”.  For over a decade — under so-called “Chinese encroachment” — it has ranked consistently in the top 3 countries of the HFI, making it one of the freest states in the world, according to conservative analysis.

This renders allegations of “loss of freedom” or “human rights” to be without substance or evidence.

The leaders of the protests, now touring the United States urging sanctions against Hong Kong on these grounds, are themselves the purest refutation of their own claims.

*****

Misinformation on Hong Kong

There is, however, a constant drum beat of misinformation. These includes allegations that:

Beijing was behind the extradition bill:

This is untrue.  The extradition bill was drafted, after extensive public consultation, in response to a heinous murder of a pregnant woman that was not extraditable under the current regime.  A long overdue bill for case-by-case extradition was written to plug this loophole, while explicitly excluding extradition for political crimes.  The bill fits all the requirements of a well-crafted extradition bill, and has multiple safeguards and checks to protect human rights and political abuse.  It is a well-crafted piece of legislation that would pass muster in any democratic, sovereign state. Furthermore, it includes 8 layers of review, including 2 stages of administrative review, and 6 layers of judicial review by Hong Kong’s fiercely independent judiciary (see above).

The bill was designed to render people to mainland China:

This was a general bill with guidelines and processes for extradition to any country. The framing of “extradition to China” was by the Anti-China protestors, and bears no relation to the actual bill or its intent.

Almost all sovereign countries have extradition agreements.  Hong Kong is part of China, and the very notion that Hong Kong is some sort of extraterritorial criminal sanctuary outside the reach of Chinese law is a concept without legal merit.

Note also that the bill itself has been completely withdrawn.

Note also, that one of the most vociferous opponents of the bill, Martin Lee — one of the unspoken leaders and lobbyists for the protests — himself urged for a comparable extradition bill, giving the lie to the assertion that the extradition process is problematic.

This is part of Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy:

The object facts show that this has not been the case, as enumerated and elaborated above (see “key arguments”) , and below. Hong Kong has a fiercely independent judiciary, and it’s inconceivable that it would extradite someone on Beijing’s political whim.  Furthermore, the notion that having an extradition treaty with another country renders an autonomous state less free or sovereign is ridiculous on its face: extradition treaties do not constitute an infringement on sovereignty.

But Beijing has been resisting a demand for universal suffrage since the British left and still does. Hong Kong citizens became accustomed to freedom under the British, and rightfully claim it against Chinese encroachment.

It’s important to emphasize that the British never gave universal suffrage to the Hong Kong people.  It ran a brutal, demeaning, colonial apartheid state, where Chinese were second class people, where segregated Jim Crow policies were the norm, and during Anti-British protests, Hong Kong citizens were often shot dead in the streets or disappeared. The British colonial administration put suffrage on the bill after never having allowed a meaningful vote during its control of Hong Kong, as a final act of challenge to the Chinese for reclaiming its own territory.  Nevertheless, the Chinese, accepted this because they wanted a peaceful return of Hong Kong to China, and they did not want to derail the process or encourage capital flight.

Regarding the actual state of affairs within Hong Kong, Beijing does not decide what Hong Kong does internally but allows a “high degree of autonomy”. This is the essence of “two systems”, which the Chinese have upheld (see “key arguments” above).  Hong Kong legislates, implements, and arbitrates its own laws, and they are following the guidelines for “orderly development” of universal suffrage that were outlined in the Basic Law.  Although constituencies currently elect the Chief Executive and Legislators, these can be legitimately acknowledged as accepted political practices in part of an evolving democratic process.  They certainly do not constitute proof of Beijing’s control.

But aren’t the “functional constituencies” that elect legislative members under the influence of Beijing?

These constituencies are diverse and reflect many groups, including business, labor, trade and professional groups.  They, themselves, represent a large number of individual members who represent a wide range of views.  A constituency is not a single platform party.  Many have members who are anti-Beijing, as shown in the diversity of election results and party seats, many of whom are opposed to Beijing, or are outright nativist/secessionist.

But didn’t Beijing interfere in the elections by disqualifying the election of six members elected to the Legislative Council in July of 2017?

Sixtus Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law, Yiu Chung-yim and Lau Sil-lai were elected to the Legislative Council on 14 July 2017.  According to Article 104 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, elected members of the Legislative Council must swear an oath to uphold the law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR.  This is basic legal practice in all political bodies, and an oath incorrectly delivered can be cause for disqualification. An oath deliberately abused, incorrectly spoken, insincerely delivered, or with obscenities added, or otherwise edited or lengthened would result in invalidation across most legal bodies.

The secretary general of the Hong Kong Legislative Council invalidated their oaths because phrases were added, protests statements made, and obscenities deliberately spoken: “the People’s Republic of China” was referred to as the “People’s re-f*cking of Chee-na” (a derogatory term comparable to the N-word).  Multiple independent judicial reviews by the Hong Kong Judiciary upheld these decisions. This is an action that would have happened in any reasonable legislative or political body.

The working and middle classes are demanding democracy, not the business class, which is doing fine colluding with mainland Chinese state and private capitalists.  They deserve democracy.

The working classes want — and deserve — better representation, and better conditions of living or working, which the current political system cannot deliver (and which Beijing cannot change until 2047).  This is not a fault with Beijing, but is a fault written into the Hong Kong basic law, as scripted, designed, and negotiated by the British, which allocated disproportionate power to business interests in order to conserve Hong Kong’s freewheeling capitalist system, diminish popular will, and maintain its status as a haven for wealthy capitalists.  This basic law absolutely bans the implementation of socialism or socialist practices; and guarantees capitalism until 2047.

In particular, Real Estate interests and the Anti-China Pan Democrats (currently prominent in the protests) in the legislature were instrumental in opposing the large scale creation of social/public housing as China has done on the mainland. As a result, currently there are only about 150,000 units of public housing–a pittance relative to the actual demand and need.  These groups have created the extreme housing pressures they claim to deplore and seek to blame China for.

But there were large rallies.  This is an undeniable expression of the Hong Kong people opposing the Chinese.

Large rallies have been noted, but police counts claim about 1/10 of what is claimed.  Major western news agencies, using facial recognition technology, state that only a fraction of the claimed numbers can be verified. As noted elsewhere, it’s also important to note that there were large rallies against the protestors, and in support of the administrations, although these were largely erased from the western press and have been de-ranked on google.

Note also that the large rallies have tapered off.  As of the current moment protests seem to number only the hundreds, occasionally, thousands. This is a small percentage of a metropolis of 7.4 Million.

Note also that these protests have turned incredibly violent and ugly. For example, a reporter for a Chinese mainland newspaper was attacked, bound, tortured and beaten by protesters during their takeover of the Hong Kong International Airport. When police and rescuers tried to free him, the protesters blocked them and also attempted to block the ambulance that eventually bore him off to the hospital, and beat the unconscious individual with a US Flag. Since then, countless Hong Kong citizens have also been mobbed, and attacked and beaten — sometimes to the point of unconsciousness — for simply opposing the views of protestors.  They have also been doxed, threatened, and had their businesses or homes vandalized or firebombed.  The ugliness, violence, and terrorism of these protestors is a far cry from what any civilized society could tolerate as reasonable expression of dissent, nor do these protests adhere to any of the touted values of free speech for those who disagree with them.

The pro-democracy movement is a threat to Beijing’s control of Hong Kong’s government and its corrupt protection of the business elite’s banking, real estate, corporate cartels. Big finance capitalism and Chinese state capitalism work hand in hand.

Large sectors of the pro-“democracy” movement are actually bankrolled by certain wealthy anti-China business leaders, media barons, corporations, and receive extensive support — moral, political, financial — from the US and the NED.  This gives the lie to the assertion that this is a “David and Goliath” fight.

This is also why the movement does not have a single articulated demand relative to business, business practices, real estate, or even capitalism, state, or financial, or otherwise.  Instead it focuses on opaque demands that are both abstract, unattainable, or demand extra-institutional measures that go against the separation of powers, for example, that demand the Chief executive dismiss all charges against protestors.   The single actionable demand — the retraction of the bill — has already happened.

Unplanned capitalist economies trend towards a bloated corporate finance sector, and this leads to the dysfunction of an extractive rentier economy.  No amount of American or British flag waving or appeal to a deluded colonial nostalgia will paper over this fundamental contradiction.

What are the problems in Hong Kong then, if not Beijing?

Economic factors: Unrestrained FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) destabilizes society.

Hong Kong is one of the most unequal places on the planet — a dystopian neoliberal state and tax haven that boasts of 93 Billionaires, 14% poverty (over 20% child poverty) and the most unaffordable real estate in the world.  Up to 200,000 people live in literal cages — some as small as 16 square feet — and the majority of working class families live in tiny partitioned apartments that are smaller than a parking space. This inequality, extreme inequality of income, shortage of housing fit for human habitation, and lack of hope is the basic tinderbox.  This has to do with the failure of the Hong Kong’s model of political economy: a laissez-faire capitalist economy lacking basic taxation, captured by FIRE.

Institutional factors: Unresolved Issues of Colonization.

Anti-Chinese secessionists, nativists, and independence activists in Hong Kong have monopoly of several powerful key institutions which bolster their power and aggravate the conflict: in particular, an extreme right-wing media empire, an educational system strongly influenced by colonial values and nostalgia, and which reproduces its values among the young, and certain sectors of the  business/managerial classes allied with Western colonial values.

Cultural factors: Internalized Colonization.

Hong Kong residents also have cultural antagonisms dating from the colonial period.

At the time of the handover, Hong Kong was 30% of China’s GDP, and Hong Kong citizens were entrained to believe they were semi-British — being the recipients of British culture and administration — and disdained the mainland Chinese. Many groups in Hong Kong were also refugees from Communism. Having copied and taken on, for decades, British class mannerisms and colonial values, as a sort of cultural surplus value, and being valorized as the financial hub of Asia, Hong Kong citizens now find themselves at a lower rung of the global hierarchy: Hong Kong, itself, is now less than 3% of GDP.  When it served as a gateway to China, Hong Kong was essential — everything passed through Hong Kong: trade, ports, financing/investment, logistics, etc. It is now on a downward trajectory, a city-state whose prime has passed. At the same time, it is also dependent on China for basic survival: it gets its water, electricity, and most of its food from China.  It also relies on trade and tourism from China.  This fundamental contradiction: that Hong Kong cannot survive without China, but it disdains and rejects it based on implanted colonial values is a large part of the antagonism. (An analogy would be a foster child raised in a privileged family that has been reunited with its “lower-status” biological parent).

These are fundamental issues and contradictions around culture, values, and identity, that must be resolved over the long term, but will not yield to shibboleths around “freedom”, nor will they be transformed through violent shock therapy or foreign intervention.

Geopolitical Factors:

Hong Kong and its protests are being used to attack, harass, and delegitimate China, as the US has designated China a “revisionist power” (i.e. national enemy) of the 21st Century in its National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy.

China’s key threat is the threat of a viable, non-western, non-imperialist, model of development.

Hong Kong is one of a series of attempts by Anti-China Hawks in Washington to maintain a “global unipolar US hegemony” by interfering and manipulating the geostrategic chessboard, in particular by stoking violent dissent and separatism within China.

These extreme factions of the body politic, including key current and former members of the current administration, are openly, vociferously anti-China, blaming China for all the ills of the US, and openly agitating for direct confrontation with China.

The US people and congress should avoid involving itself in this ugly partisan battle, making common cause with US hawks, Neocons, White Supremacists, and Hong Kong nativists and colonialists.  It should avoid ineffectual grandstanding, that can have no good outcomes for the Hong Kong people, US-China relations, the US, or the World.

The US Congress should base its legislative decisions on facts and discernment, not emotions or directed media campaigns

And above all, it must oppose this legislation, as do the vast majority of peaceful and freedom loving people in Hong Kong, the US, and the world.

One “Little” Legislative Crime that Keeps on Giving

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

IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Close to death.

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mamie Till-Mobley telegram

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

Will Ike rot in hell (haha)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why? Because corporations put profits before patients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUNDUP TRIAL: MONSANTO USED FAKE DATA TO WIN OVER REGULATORS

TRUMP’S EPA IS UNDERMINING NEW LAW TO REGULATE CHEMICALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

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

The next big one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

breach

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

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

ASCE models: Simplistic, no peer review, no publication

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

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

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

A stealth war on science

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

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

You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves [Neil Postman] is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).

Andrew Postman

So what would Neil Postman say about this fellow [note title of this essay, referencing Jeff Bezos’ proclamation on what work should mean to every breathing American], or the many fellows like Bezos who have zero patience for a world without disrupting economies tied to their authoritarian business plan of more billionaires deserving (sic) more power. Disruptive and destructive, and not just economies in the book sense, but structural violence and community disintegration, murdering people with debt, lack of housing, no medical care, suicide, that’s Bezos, et al looking to capitalize on every penny gathered from every nanosecond in our individual human lives.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow into one of the world’s biggest companies.

Back in 1997, Bezos told shareholders that employees at other companies “can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com, you can’t choose two out of three.”

Bezos acknowledges his high standards for employees every year, telling shareholders that “it’s not easy to work here.”

In the 24 years since Amazon was founded, CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his company grow from a modest online bookshop to one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Back in 1997, Bezos was already expecting big things out of his young company. In his annual letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos described how much effort he expected from his employees.

“When I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” Bezos wrote in the 1997 letter.

“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success.”

The New York Times reported in 2015 exactly how bruising the work environment at Amazon could be. Employees were reportedly expected to routinely work late, were encouraged to criticize coworkers‘ ideas at meetings, and were often found crying at their desks. Amazon disputed many of the claims in the Times investigation, though the newspaper defended its reporting.

God forbid we call Amazon Boss Bezos a plantation owner of a different mother, for sure. That Americans — living in small and large cities, far and wide — depend on the Amazon way as if Amazon is sutured into all aspects of American culture (sic) and hardwired into every new born’s head. Same day delivery. A shopping cart that would be the envy of any Rothschild or Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley.

See the source image

This essay, first, was going to address those other masters of the Universe — Google Guys and Algorithm Titans. I barely criticized a billionaire in a DV article —   Household Income, or Higher Planes of Consciousness?*

I criticized Nick Hanauer for his false balance, contrived bifurcation, and his new wind as a billionaire fighting what he calls the educationalism mindset that says that a good, grounded, deep and holistic education might be a thing of kings, whereas Nick says education backing and financing ain’t worth diddly squat in capitalism until more people make more money to buy more things, or just to survive in his nihilistic world.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

— Nick Hanauer

In my email box, Google, of course, I get an unsolicited email from an organization for which I have never associated with or even pursued. It’s the old surveillance state of Google and the internet Stasi, for sure —

Image result for stasi

Alas, Neil Postman was correct, in so far as what we say and do as writers really does not count — we are only as smart and deep and truthful as our masters will allow:

In my college economics class, we were taught that wages depend on productivity. The more productive or skilled workers are, my professors used to argue, the more they will be worth on the labor market and, therefore, the higher their wages will be. That’s bunk.

Under this logic, the way to cure our economic woes – whether poverty, inequality, underemployment, or unemployment – is through education. By educating our citizens, we increase their human capital, making them more productive and, therefore, increasing their expected income.

It sounds good, right?

This seductive myth – of education as an economic cure-all – is something Civic Action founder Nick Hanauer calls “educationism.” As Nick writes in a recent article for The Atlantic, it’s a myth he used to believe, and it’s a myth many wealthy elites still propagate. It’s what leads philanthropists to donate billions of dollars to public schools and educational institutions.

There’s just one problem: Educationism doesn’t work. If it did, our middle class would be much better off.

In the last 40 years, while the real incomes of most Americans have been stuck, we’ve gotten a lot more educated. Almost everyone has a high school diploma and the share of Americans with a college degree has more than tripled since 1970.”

But all that education hasn’t translated into higher wages. In fact, if our incomes had done what my college profs told me – gone up with productivity – the average family today would be earning $29,000 more a year. An average of $105,000!

Of course, it’s true that getting an education is likely to increase your own income. But that’s not the same as raising incomes throughout the economy. Not when four out of five of the fastest growing jobs pay very low wages – jobs like cashiers and health care assistants. Meanwhile, the pay of most people who do have a college education barely keeps up with inflation.

What we do need to do is raise incomes for working families and the middle class throughout the economy. That’s how we build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few. As Nick writes:

“In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.”

—  Stephen Paolini, Civic Action, email with an ask for $ support

But then, this essay takes a twist, as they always seem to do when I deploy some ground-truthing. You see, most of us in the USA, the 80 percent of the population —  many of which are on the skids, on the near skids, or those of us barely scraping by, and those of us who are unseen but are many short steps away from working for one of those sweatshops like we see with Amazon (there are so many warehouse jobs, forklift gigs, sorting careers) and finding down time in the back seat of our cars)  —  so-so tire of, really, the prognosticators writing away hard in semi-secure status —  even the smartish ones on leftish magazines like The Nation, or digital forums like Truthout or Truthdig or The Intercept.

They have NO idea of what is real in the world, and that rarefied realm of citing this study or making this or that prediction, well, it is bombast at best, propaganda at worst, denuded of humanity in many cases.

Case in point — tens of millions of men and women wandering the land (US), in some warped version of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, really, in a society that eats-sleeps-dreams-believes the crap that Huxley warned of, and that which Neil Postman discussed. Oh the irony, those, that billionaire book salesman, Bezos, dead to the world, dead to us, the 80 percent, living, barely, in the middle of their hellish barbecue.

I was with three fellows — two literally are sleeping in campgrounds, and one fellow living with his parents. A million miles away from what any social worker or Sheryl Sandberg or Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or any of the scions of Holly-dirt or anyone in the Trump Loony Bin Show, or those clamoring around an Obama or Oprah or Rachel Maddow. It’s a triple sick experience even thinking about how vapid that so-called debate was yesterday with half of the half-wits of the Democratic Party wanting to play president.

So, a life of men truly on the extinction block, in several demographics. These fellows I hired on to help my spouse and I move from a rental to a house we had the temerity to purchase in a Time of Climate Heating, Oceans Rising, Food Wilting, Water Draining, Economies Imploding, Saber Rattling, and ICBM Immolating.

Their lives, broken down, seem to hold the familiar life story of many people I have worked with as a non-traditional social worker for the homeless, the just-out-of-prison returnees, and chronically physically and mentally ill. They work jobs, stacking halibut,  packing shrimp, pounding two-by-fours, hauling goods, sorting things, cutting trees, landscaping, roofing. Both of these fellows are 50, living in campgrounds, one with false teeth, the other with nubs and rotting teeth.

Child support for children they have never seen, or can’t see now. Felonies for this or that charge keeping them from even getting to first base on an apartment application. Vagabonds harassed by cops, and living life in a constant move. For my other helper, Brian, he’s a former marine, working as a social services provider, has a wonderful child on the spectrum (autism) and is currently living with aging and sickly parents. All three fit the bill for zero tolerance in this society. Never reflected in the news stories, in the Mass Murdering Media, never on the minds of the One Percent, Point Zero Zero One Percent. I know for a fact, though, that those Little Eichmanns who populate the other 19 percent of the 20 Percenters, well, many of them have one degree of separation when it comes to family members with substance abuse issues, chronic mental or physical illness, depression, suicidal, schizophrenic, and homeless.

You get both barrels of human pain and human survival and some human triumphs when talking with real people, albeit, denigrated folk, disenfranchised humans.

They are really rough around the edges, but these fellows, Tommy and Devon, they are examples of struggle and defeat and some triumph, as Brian and I note and agree. They are so far from any of the discourse going on around the world — the complete irrelevance of all the trolling, all the internet crap, all the stuff that makes for an echo chamber that sucks humanity and human connection from the ether.

You look at Tommy, and you see a man on the skids. Big laughing screwed up face, almost Dickensian, crazy might be one moniker. Hustling and wanting to have people know that there was once a time when he had some normalcy, some sense of being a man in society — not on the skids. Though, Tommy would not see himself on the skids.

Brain injury 23 years ago when a van hit him head on as a pedestrian. And he still works, moves heavy furniture, and hammers roofs.

Devon, a former truck driver, someone who has a few years in the Marines, and as Brian states — people are only awakened to the level of how they have been able to access those tools necessary to be woken up. Yet, Brian states that he’d much rather be in the company of these men than the MSWs and other graduate-level punishers he’s worked with, as I have also worked with, in the non-profit arenas as supposed social services workers.

They probably know nothing about this movement, which could affect Tommy and Devon:

When reporters for the International Amazon Workers Voice interviewed part-time Amazon “associates” (a cheap euphemism for “employees” used to disguise the exploitative relationship between workers and management at the company) in Baltimore to discuss their attitude toward Bezos’ fortune, they were met with a torrent of disgust, calls for sharing the wealth, and social anger.

“Tell Mr. Bezos and the rest of management to come out of their offices and get on the shop floor” said one worker who identified herself as a single mother of two. “At the end of the day, they never feel what we go through in a day for $12 an hour. They get to sit down in their offices and get paid more than we will see in a year,” she said.

Bezos’ wealth typifies the way an increasingly small number of multi-billionaire CEOs and finance operatives extract ever more obscene sums from the international workforce. This process of ever-increasing wealth for the few and exploitation for the majority is reaching a political breaking point.

Explaining her work environment during the holidays, the working mother said, “they just had us move 100,000 packages in 5 hours, and at the end we aren’t even paid enough to take care of our kids. I’m a single mother, I don’t receive food stamps. My rent is $850 a month. I have to pay for gas, electricity, bus passes, plus raise two kids.

“If we decided to quit, who would move these packages out of the door?” she said, noting the social power of the workers employed by the company. “We are the ones making you rich.”

Brian and I talk about Amazon, and the nefarious nature of how the guy at the Washington Post attacks the fourth grader Trump and others, while he is part of the Military Industrial Complex. From The Intercept:

Amazon’s extensive relationship with the NSA, FBI, Pentagon and other surveillance agencies in the west is multi-faceted, highly lucrative and rapidly growing. Last March, the Intercept reported on a new app that Amazon developers and British police forces have jointly developed to use on the public in police work, just “the latest example of third parties aidingautomating, and in some cases, replacing, the functions of law enforcement agencies — and raises privacy questions about Amazon’s role as an intermediary.”

Then there’s the patent Amazon obtained last October, as reported by the Intercept, “that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice.” In particular, it would enable anyone using the product to determine a person’s accent and likely place of origin: “The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent.”

All of this is taking place as Amazon vies for, and is the favorite to win, one of the largest Pentagon contracts yet: a $10 billion agreement to provide exclusive cloud services to the world’s largest military. CNN reported just last week that the company is now enmeshed in scandal over that effort, specifically a formal investigation into “whether Amazon improperly hired a former Defense Department worker who was involved with a $10 billion government contract for which the tech company iscompeting.”

Bezos’ relationship with the military and spying agencies of the U.S. Government, and law enforcement agencies around the world, predates his purchase of the Washington Post and has become a central prong of Amazon’s business growth. Back in 2014, Amazon secured a massive contract with the CIA when the spy agency agreed to pay it $600 million for computing cloud software. As the Atlantic noted at the time, Amazon’s software “will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.”

Given how vital the military and spy agencies now are to Amazon’s business, it’s unsurprising that the amount Amazon pays to lobbyists to serve its interests in Washington has exploded: quadrupling since 2013 from $3 million to almost $15 million last year, according to Open Secrets.

What would the house-less Tommy and Devon say about this Byzantine world of hyper billions of dollars and hyper trillions of human hours wasted on the things of capitalism, of power and control, consumption?

We were keeping our eye on 1984. But it’s Brave New World we should have feared instead.

I know many friends who wonder why we — people like me — still live in the US? Many wonder what it will take young people to stand down the systems of oppression. Some believe the young people have it, as in Greta the Carbon Dioxide Robin Hood, or AOC, the new face (sic) of American politics.

This system we have now is one where a few voices count (get read, heard, published, followed), and the majority of voices are just bursts of yelling in the woods, in campgrounds, in one’s lovely home in the old sedan, in our own bedlam. People travelling from one insane place to another, but in that realm, a sanity sets in for guys like Tommy and Devon. The world is pretty clear-cut, and on many levels, these people have positive outlooks — toothless, no real estate or swelling investment accounts. Just that hard way forward. Cigarettes and bicycling miles a day. Places to shower. Places to get out of the rain without the bulldozers of misanthropy pushing them further and further into ditches or out on the periphery until they stare us all down, face to face, the coming of a New Brave World. Is it the entertaining ourselves to death cycle, or a little bit of the other — big brother, watching our every move, holding every syllable mouthed in a cloud server, every speck of mole cataloged, and every word penned or typed, collected to hold us at bay, hold us as prisoners of our own faulty beliefs?

 

Needless to say, Charles Dickens grew to hate the system and rail against it in his works. In his seminal novella “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by two portly men raising money for the poor.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the [one of the gentlemen], taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

— Charles Dickens, 1843, A Christmas Carol 

Or, updated for 2020, as illustrated by a commentator on an article about Portland, OR, once the Rose City, now The City of Rocks:

To disrupt illegal camp sites set up by homeless in Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is moving boulders onto the roadsides. The project will eventually cost about a million dollars, but ODOT argues this cost is less than the cost of dealing with existing campsites.

Many have pointed out that this policy does nothing to address the underlying problem or help the people in the camp, but only forces them to move somewhere else.

KGW8


odot boulders homeless camps highway 26 1015 2018

—Scrooge/Marley, Edward Sullivan, Planetizen

A debtor's prison in London.

A debtor’s prison in London.

Jerusalem Cable Car Project Passes Over Objections from Many Quarters

East Jerusalem has received new impetus from the rise of the Israeli far right and Washington’s decision to move its embassy to the city. But if completed, critics say, the long-running proposal would contribute to erasing the visibility of Palestinians in the city they hope to make their capital.

Planning for the $55 million tourism project continues despite unifying archaeologists, architects, Palestinians, and a tiny community of Jews against it – in a sign of Israel’s ever-growing confidence in making unilateral moves in occupied parts of Jerusalem.

Critics say the cable car will help hide the local Palestinian population from the roughly 3 million tourists who visit Jerusalem each year, turning the city into a “Disneyland” focused on promoting Israeli interests.

“The advantage for Israel is that visitors can be prevented from having any dealings with Palestinians,” said Aviv Tartasky, a researcher with Ir Amim, an Israeli organisation that campaigns for equal rights in Jerusalem.

“The local population will be largely erased from the experience of visiting Jerusalem. Tourists will pass over Palestinian residents, via the cable car, and then pass under them via tunnels.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism dismissed the criticism. In a statement to The National, the ministry said the cable car project was “a significant milestone in the promotion of Jerusalem and the strengthening of its status as a world tourism capital”.

Settler-run tours

The cable car, the largest project of its type undertaken by Israel, could be completed as early as in two years, its destination the slopes in occupied East Jerusalem just below the Old City, next to Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Some 72 cabins have the capacity to ferry up to 3,000 visitors an hour above mainly Palestinian homes.

Tourists will be channelled from the cable car into a visitor centre run by Jewish settlers in the heart of the crowded Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan. They will be led by settler-approved guides underground, through tunnels under Palestinian homes to the foot of the Western Wall.

Blueprints show that visitors will be able to shop in the tunnels, bypassing local Palestinian traders in the Old City market who have long depended on tourism. Israeli officials accelerated the project by bypassing routine planning procedures, even though urban planning specialists warn that it will damage the Jerusalem skyline and archaeological sites revealing the origins of modern civilisation.

Equally important, critics say, the Benjamin Netanyahu government and settler groups view the cable car as helping block any possibility of a Palestinian state emerging with East Jerusalem as its capital. They have been emboldened by President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“It should set off alarm bells that a huge state project like this is being intertwined with a private settler organisation, physically forcing visitors to go through its visitor centre, channelling them into its attractions and activities,” Mr Tartasky said.

He said the cable car was one of the ways Israel was connecting disparate settler compounds in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of occupied Jerusalem.

“It will physically strengthen these settler areas, and mean their organisations have an even greater influence on Israeli authorities.”

Encircling Al-Aqsa

The project has been forcefully promoted by the Israeli tourism ministry, headed by Yariv Levin, an ally of Mr Netanyahu, and Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Lion. Tenders will be issued as soon as the National Planning Council approves the project, which is expected to be a formality.

In violation of international law, Israel has treated East Jerusalem as annexed territory since it occupied the city in 1967. More than 200,000 Jewish settlers have moved there over subsequent decades

Hanna Swaid, a Palestinian planning specialist and former member of the Israeli parliament, said the cable car was illegal because international law allows major changes in occupied territory only out of military necessity or for the benefit of the population under occupation.

“Even in its own planning justifications, the Israeli authorities are clear the cable car is designed only for the benefit of tourists, Israeli developers and the settler groups overseeing it, not the local Palestinian population. In fact, it will serve to actively harm Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Mr Swaid said.

“It will parachute tourists to Jewish sites like the Western Wall, and marginalise Muslim and Christian sites,” he added.

Palestinians are concerned that the cable car will serve to tighten Israel’s control over access to the Al Aqsa mosque compound, the highly sensitive holy site in the Old City. For decades Israeli authorities have moved to weaken the control of Islamic religious authorities, the Waqf, on Al Aqsa, contributing to repeated clashes at the site.

Jews believe the mosque is built over the ruins of a major Jewish temple. The Western Wall, which supports the mosque compound, was originally a retaining wall of the long-lost temple.

“The cable car looks suspiciously like another means for encircling Al Aqsa, for laying siege to it,” Mr Swaid said.

Tunnels under Palestinians

According to official plans, dozens of cabins will run hourly along a 1.5-kilometre route from West Jerusalem, inside Israel’s recognised borders, to the occupied Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, just outside the Old City walls and in the shadow of Al Aqsa.

Tourists will disembark in Silwan into a large visitor centre, the Kedem compound, to be run by a settler organisation called Elad that has close ties with the Israeli government.

The Kedem centre is the latest venture in the City of David complex, an archaeological site that the settlers of Elad have been using for more than two decades as a base to seize control of the Palestinian neighbourhood.

Visitors will be taken on tours to explore Jerusalem, moving through ancient sewage tunnels that run under Palestinian homes and reach to walls of Al Aqsa.

Additional plans will eventually see the cable car alight at other sites in East Jerusalem. Among them are the Mount of Olives, which includes an ancient Jewish cemetery; the Church of Gethsemane, at the reputed site where Judas betrayed Jesus; and the Pool of Siloam, a bathing area referred to in the Old and New Testaments.

Yonatan Mizrahi, the director of Emek Shaveh, a group of Israeli archaeologists opposed to the misuse of archaeology and tourism by Israel, said: “The purpose is to offer tourists a one-dimensional narrative about Jerusalem and its history. They should see all layers of the city’s rich history. Instead they will hear only the parts that relate to Jewish history.”

Mr Mizrahi has been among those leading the criticism of the project. “No other historic city in the world has built a cable car – and for very good reason,” he said.

Jerusalem ‘not Disneyland’

In March about 30 international architects – some of whom have worked on projects in Jerusalem – wrote to Mr Netanyahu urging him not to pursue what they called short-term interests.

“The project is being promoted by powerful interest groups who put tourism and political agendas above responsibility for safeguarding Jerusalem’s cultural treasures,” the letter said.

The letter followed a statement by 70 Israeli archaeologists, architects and public figures against the cable car in November, when the project was speeded up. They said: “Jerusalem is not Disneyland, and its landscape and heritage are not for sale.”

A French firm, Safege, which worked on the initial feasibility study, pulled out in 2015, reportedly under pressure from the French government over concerns that the project violated international law.

In an apparent bid to ensure the project would go through, the previous Netanyahu government changed planning laws to remove the cable car from local and regional oversight. It also ensured the public could not submit objections.

Instead the scheme is being treated as a “national infrastructure” project, similar to a new railway line or gas pipeline. The National Planning Council offered a curtailed period for organisations to lodge reservations that ended on March 31.

Mr Swaid, who is the director of the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning, drew up a list of reservations on behalf of the Supreme Religious Council of Muslims in Israel.

Other critical comments were submitted by lawyers for the Silwan neighbourhood, the archaeologists of Emek Shaveh, the planning group Bimkom, a Palestinian merchant association in the Old City, and a tour guides group.

The Karaites, a small Jewish sect whose ancient cemetery lies in the path of the cable car, in the Biblical Hinnom Valley, said the project showed “contemptuous disregard for the dignity of the deceased and the Karaite community in general”.

Benjamin Kedar, a former chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, lodged a protest too.

Loss of all privacy

One of the Silwan homes in the path of the cable car belongs to the Karameh family. The cabins may pass only four metres above the flat roof where toddlers play and the family of 20 hang their washing. Support columns for the cable car may end up being driven into the family’s garden, one of the few green spots in Silwan.

“Nowhere in Israel do cable cars travel over houses, let alone a few metres above,” said Mr Mizrahi. “It seems clear why in this case. Because the houses belong to Palestinians.”

Samer Karameh, a 24-year-old lorry driver, said everyone in Silwan was opposed to the cable car, as it would be helping settler groups like Elad trying to take over their neighbourhood. But he was shocked to learn that it would pass so close to his house.

“We’ll lose all privacy. We won’t be able to open the windows without being seen by thousands of strangers. And it can’t be safe to have these cars travelling just over the heads of our children,” Mr Karameh said.

“We know we won’t be the beneficiaries,” he added. “The authorities won’t give us a permit to build anything here, so all the business will go to the settlers.”

• A version of this article first appeared in The National

How Israel is Working to Remove Palestinians from Jerusalem

The 350,000 Palestinian inhabitants of occupied East Jerusalem are caught between a rock and hard place, as Israel works ever harder to remove them from the holy city in which they were born, analysts and residents warn.

That process, they say, has only accelerated in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem, effectively endorsing the city as Israel’s exclusive capital.

“Israel wants Palestinians in Jerusalem to understand that they are trapped, that they are being strangled, in the hope they will conclude that life is better outside the city,” said Amneh Badran, a politics professor at Jerusalem’s Al Quds university.

Since Israel seized the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967 and then illegally annexed it in 1981, it has intentionally left the status of its Palestinian population unresolved.

Israeli officials have made Palestinians there “permanent residents,” though, in practice, their residency is easily revoked. According to Israel’s own figures, more than 14,500 Palestinians have been expelled from the city of their birth since 1967, often compelling their families to join them in exile.

Further, Israel finished its concrete wall slicing through East Jerusalem three years ago, cutting some 140,000 Palestinian residents off from the rest of the city.

A raft of well-documented policies – including house demolitions, a chronic shortage of classrooms, lack of public services, municipal underfunding, land seizures, home evictions by Jewish settlers, denial of family unification, and police and settler violence – have intensified over the years.

At the same time, Israel has denied the Palestinian Authority, a supposed government-in-waiting in the West Bank, any role in East Jerusalem, leaving the city’s Palestinians even more isolated and weak.

All of these factors are designed to pressure Palestinians to leave, usually to areas outside the wall or to nearby West Bank cities like Ramallah or Bethlehem.

“In Jerusalem, Israel’s overriding aim is at its most transparent: to take control of the land but without its Palestinian inhabitants,” said Daoud Alg’ol, a researcher on Jerusalem.

Like others, Mr Alg’ol noted that Israel had stepped up its ‘Judaisation’ policies in Jerusalem since the US relocated its embassy. “Israel is working more quickly, more confidently and more intensively because it believes Trump has given his blessing,” he said.

Demographic concerns dominated Israel’s thinking from the moment it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, and subordinated it to the control of Jewish officials in West Jerusalem – in what Israel termed its newly “united capital”.

City boundaries were expanded eastwards to attach additional Palestinian lands to Jerusalem and then fill in the empty spaces with a ring of large Jewish settlements, said Aviv Tartasky, a researcher with Ir Amim, an organisation that campaigns for equal rights in Jerusalem.

The goal, he added, was to shore up a permanent three-quarters Jewish majority – to ensure Palestinians could not stake a claim to the city and to allay Israeli fears that one day the Palestinians might gain control of the municipality through elections.

Israel has nonetheless faced a shrinking Jewish majority because of higher Palestinian birth rates. Today, Palestinians comprise about 40 per cent of the total population of this artificially enlarged Jerusalem.

Israel has therefore been aggressively pursuing a twin-pronged approach, according to analysts.

On one side, wide-ranging discriminatory policies – that harm Palestinians and favour Jewish settlers – have been designed to erode Palestinians’ connection to Jerusalem, encouraging them to leave. And, on the other, revocation of residency rights and the gradual redrawing of municipal boundaries have forcibly placed Palestinians outside the city – in what some experts term a “silent transfer” or administrative ethnic cleansing.

Israel’s efforts to disconnect Palestinians from Jerusalem are most visibly expressed in the change of Arabic script on road signs. The city’s Arabic name, Al Quds (the Holy), has been gradually replaced by the Israeli name, Urshalim, transliterated into Arabic.

The lack of services and municipal funding and high unemployment mean that three-quarters of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line. That compares to only 15 per cent for Israeli Jews nationally.

Despite these abysmal figures, the municipality has provided four social services offices in the city for Palestinians, compared to 19 for Israeli Jews.

Only half of Palestinian residents are provided with access to the water grid. There are similar deficiencies in postal services, road infrastructure, pavements and cultural centres.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have noted that East Jerusalem lacks at least 2,000 classrooms for Palestinian children, and that the condition of 43 per cent of existing rooms is inadequate. A third of pupils fail to complete basic schooling.

But the biggest pressure on Palestinian residents has been inflicted through grossly discriminatory planning rules, said Mr Tartasky.

In the areas outside the wall, Palestinians have been abandoned by the municipality – and receive no services or policing at all.

Israel’s long-term aim, said Mr Tartasky, had been exposed in a leak of private comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015. He had proposed revoking the residency of the 140,000 Palestinians outside the wall.

“At the moment, the government is discussing putting these residents under the responsibility of the army,” Mr Tartasky said.

That would make them equivalent to Palestinians living in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank and sever their last connections to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, on the inner side of the wall, Palestinian neighbourhoods have been tightly constrained, with much of the land declared either “scenic areas” or national parks, in which construction is illegal, or reserved for Jewish settlements. The inevitable result has been extreme overcrowding.

In addition, Israel has denied most Palestinian neighbourhoods’ masterplans, making it all but impossible to get building permits.

“The advantage for Israel is that planning regulations don’t look brutal – in fact, they can be presented as simple law enforcement,” said Mr Tartasky. “But if you have no place to live in Jerusalem, in the end you’ll have to move out of the city.”

An estimated 20,000 houses – about 40 per cent of the city’s Palestinian housing stock – are illegal and under threat of demolition. More than 800 homes, some housing several families, have been razed since 2004.

As well as the large purpose-built Jewish settlements located on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, several thousand extremist settlers have taken over properties inside Palestinian neighbourhoods, often with the backing of the Israeli courts.

Mr Tartasky noted that Israel has been accelerating legal efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes over the past year, with close to 200 families in and around the Old City currently facing court battles.

When settlers move in following such evictions, Ms Badran said, the character of the Palestinian neighbourhoods rapidly changes.

“The settlers arrive, and then so do the police, the army, private security guards and municipal inspectors. The settlers have a machine behind them whose role is to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Palestinians. The message is: ‘You either accept your subjugation or leave’.”

In Silwan, where settler groups have established a touristic archaeological park in the midst of a densely populated Palestinian community just outside the Old City walls, life has been especially tough.

Mr Alg’ol, who lives in Silwan, noted that fortified settler compounds had been established throughout the area, many dozens more Palestinian families were facing evictions, excavations were taking place under Palestinian homes, closed-circuit TV watched residents 24 hours a day, and the security services were a constant presence. Many hundreds of children had been arrested in recent years, usually accused of stone throwing.

Israel’s newest move is the announcement of a cable car to bring tourists from West Jerusalem through Palestinian neighbourhoods like Silwan to the holy sites of the Old City.

Mr Tartasky said touristic initiatives had become another planning weapon against Palestinians. “These projects, from the cable car to a series of promenades, are ways to connect one settlement to the next, bisecting Palestinian space. They strengthen the settlements and break apart Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

Mr Alg’ol’s family was one of many in Silwan that had been told their lands were being confiscated for the cable car and a new police station.

“They want to turn our community into an archaeological Disneyland,” he said. “And we are in the way. They plan to keep going until we are all removed.”

First published in The National

A World is Right When We Learn to Preserve and Embrace the Word Like a Poet

Special for Dissident Voice and LA Progressive, part of National Poetry Month, 2019

*****

I’m thinking a lot about creativity. About young people, 6 or 7 years of age, so ripe for learning and how we as mentors and teachers should not only respect how their inner voices count, but allow them that exploratory space.  Words as expressions of rebellion. Empathy. Rage. Regret. Laments.

Words, sold now as marketing tools, have less and less power as we have devolved into a country of business-speak, unheralded words of death-ray politicians, tweeting twats and Tweedledum’s and Tweedledee’s. Words even in creative writing programs are branded, marketed and sold as, hmm, a type of group think. MFA (masters of fine arts) programs are destructive to the outsider’s realm of seeing, hearing, touching and his or her own consciousness and subconsciousness.

Poetry, of all the practices, seems the least understood and many times destroyed the most by instructors and teachers attempting to over-analyze or over-classify what it is they think poetry – and a poet – is.

Here, early on, I’ll forward a big slash to the market of the MFA – creative writing programs, their in-house literary journals, and the bourgeoises siphoning off any remarkable revolutionary thought in creative writing.

Rebellion, and Nicaragua, and the Sandinistas fighting against the dirty and perverted capitalist dictator, Somoza. Here, first, revolutionary, Gioconda Belli.

What Are You, Nicaragua?

What are you—
a little triangle of earth
lost in the middle of the world?

What are you—
a flight of birds
guardabarrancos
cenzontles
hummingbirds?

What are you
a roar of rivers
bearing polished, shiny stones
leaving footprints of water in the mountains?

What are you—
A women’s breasts made of earth
Smooth, pointed and threatening?

What are you—
Singing of leaves in gigantic trees
Green, tangled and filled with doves?

What are you—
Pain and dust and screams in the afternoon
“screams like those of women giving birth”?

What are you—
Clenched fist and loaded gun?

What are you, Nicaragua
To cause me such pain?

Thinking like a kid is what the credo should be for adults, especially in this lobotomized world of consumption and endless war and digital dungeons. Dreaming like a child. Sketching worlds and fantastical dreams like a youth.

Instead, many MFA programs are like buttoned-down harbingers of the generalized professing: “Believe us professors and grad students as we are the key to creative writing, and do not stray, as we are the arbiters of fine arts, the word, poetry, life.”

John Steppling:

The practice of writing, the philosophy is, Firstly, a resistance to formulas and solutions. Writing and art pose questions, and if the mystery leaves the work, leaves the process, then usually, the work has died. Institutional forces demand standardized steps and conditions in their creative writing programs … because the institution knows, deep down, that art is there to destroy it. Even the word “creative” is probably suspect, but such are the conditions under which writing is taught. It is an intuitive and unconscious process, and even if done, for some film work, in partnership – it is still solitary.

One cannot write outlines and then follow them. This is what CPAs do, or insurance salesmen preparing their district conference sales quota speech. If one were to know where a narrative was going, one would have a stillborn project on one’s hands. The play or screenplay has within its narrative, an idea of itself. Narrative provides a space for character. The truth of a character is at once indelible and totally opaque. This idea is the reason, I suspect, we have art at all.

Art is not about communication, nor is it about moral instruction. It is about awakening. But it is also a discipline, and a practice. Those Neanderthal cave paintings, found in places where only one person might see them, at a time, is worth keeping in mind, at least when audience questions arise. You don’t write for an audience. Nor do you write for yourself. That is the paradox and the riddle.

Being able to recognize the truthful from kitsch is the basic foundation for starting on having a practice.

I’ve been a poet a long time, since, of course, virginal youth, and then into my teens, until death do me part. My journey has been, as Steppling states above (referencing story and play/screen writing), a series of awakenings.

The shadow of lamentations, too. Nothing heroic is happy and set upon a political or moral frame without first forcing us all to ask primal questions – questions about self in a world that’s insane. At least now, from pre-Industrial, or I imagine, starting with the ripping of tribal tides with so-called conquest societies, colonizers, we have to ask those age-old questions how to live through the mother and father haven been ripped up by superstitious and perverted religious and economic principles (sic). Insanity now, but our own relocation of the disconnected, by artists, is our sanity in an insane system, capitalism.

Words expressed – poetry – is the shaping of the amphora on the potter’s wheel. That wet healing clay, squished between fingers and synapses. The remarkable lifting of sediments from earth into the shape of creation, imagined first, then reimagined with each pump of the pedal of the wheel, each turning, each fingering and palming of clay into a work of art. Poetry.

National Poetry Month Poster 2019

This month, April, has been generally deemed as National Poetry Month. In the schools I’ve taught at. In some of the libraries I’ve perused, the posters and highlighted books are prominent. In many ways, pushing the word, and celebrating this form of creative expression is both herculean in the sense that almost everything in the USA has been co-opted by consumerism and blatant crass middling thinking and presentation; and it’s worthy of effort to have people leave the business world, the world of making money, into one of making stanzas. In addition, many slam poetry or spoken word events have been tied to the National Poetry Month, started almost a quarter of a century ago in the USA.

Here, National Academy of Poets has the month branded:

National Poetry Month each April is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.

While we celebrate poets and poetry year-round, the Academy of American Poets was inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), and founded National Poetry Month in April 1996 with an aim to:

  • highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets,
  • encourage the reading of poems,
  • assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms,
  • increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media,

I’ve had some good opportunities to be around poets and live with them and their words. Heck, just a few weeks ago, here I was, in the Central Oregon coast, with Oregon’s Poet Laureate, Kim Stafford, whose own skin is tattooed with the words of his famous poet father’s literary gravitas – William Stafford. Here, my piece in LA Progressive and elsewhere, including the literary journal, Cirque“A Poet, the Pacific Flyway, and a Sonora Flash Flood Memory.”  And my poem about reconnecting to Stafford’s son, Kim, here on the Oregon Coast, a new home for me: “Somewhere in a Writer’s Workshop He Learns the Lines from ‘Oregon Trail’

Over the years I have front and center cajoled with poets, seeing myself as one of their peers while living in precarity and calling forth lamentations as a poet. It started seriously when I was an 18-year-old in Tucson hanging out with poets and fiction writers, as part of the University of Arizona’s poets/writers series. I used to hang out at and take classes in rooms at the Poetry Center at the U of A. I’ve helped out poet Richard Shelton with his writer’s workshop at the Arizona State Prison, and he wrote a book about his big project that involved many different cohorts and writers with some tough-living inmates: Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer.

Here I was, still a youth in 1975, when Shelton taught me in poetry classes and started his trips up to death row at the Arizona State prison. I got to be a part of that, Richard’s prison workshops. Not so ironically, shortly after graduating and becoming a journalist and part-time college faculty, I started incorporating that “prison workshop” ethos in so many other of my writing gigs with my own students in a federal prison, La Tuna, NM. I’ve done writing workshops, including poetry, with gifted and talented students in Austin, TX, and with gang-influenced youth in Segundo Barrio, El Paso. I’ve carried through with writing workshops in a life-long learning program at the University of Texas—El Paso, where I had, as an example of some of my students’ histories,  survivors of Dachau write about their lives, and women who knew Pancho Villa, and other interesting older folk, write poems while we worked on their memoirs. Writing workshops for just-released inmates in a homeless program in Portland, and writing projects with homeless veterans and their families, and poetry workshops for fourth graders, and more, have cascaded into my life.

Poetry teaching was always the razor edge way to get people to open up that creative and deeply drawn area of their humanity that is more etched with meaning than their own epigenetics or more fluid of their self-worth than the corpuscles flowing inside– the embedded humanity and horror of being alone in this world. Poetry, as Sapphire shows, can be triumph, momentarily, over evil and the scars evil produce in us all.

Here, though, some quick turn of words to express what poetry is from poets themselves:

Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before. —Audre Lorde

I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests. —Pablo Neruda

Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness. —Alice Walker

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. –Rita Dove

As a direct line to human feeling, empathic experience, genuine language and detail, poetry is everything that headline news is not. It takes us inside situations, helps us imagine life from more than one perspective, honors imagery and metaphor – those great tools of thought – and deepens our confidence in a meaningful world. —Naomi Shihab Nye

Luckily, Angie with Dissident Voice and Dick with LA Progressive and Hollywood Progressive are opening up the digital venues for my limited standing column (in the month of April), as a format for some musings and personal and monumental ideas around the power of the word, poetry. Call it a cry out for something more real than the echo chambers of modern America.

More real than all the stuff I end up writing about in LA Progressive’s Terminal Velocity – Man Lost of Tribe or for Angie at DV which usually is tied to the politics of negotiating our own humanity and community and self inside the war that is killer capitalism. The most creative and psychologically real and satisfying things come to me as people I’ve touched and who have touched me, and, of course, learning to think like a mountain, as Aldo Leopold calls it in his Sand Country Almanac – imagine the poetry in this excerpt by Leopold, one of the fathers of conservation and environmental sanity:

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.…I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

It’s not a quaint thing, this poetry. Actually, many people do write poems, and see themselves as poets. Really, not just MFA students or older ladies waxing religious rhymes, but plumbers, construction workers, nurses, bookkeepers, and every form of human life.

The poem is a distilled world, as Rita Dove says. Neruda also has it right – it’s where you are from, inside the body of the world, as in forests, oceans, inside rain: that’s the germination of a poem. And, poetry should be rebellious and about revolution as Alice Walker states, and lived, as she told me twice when I’ve been to her readings and workshops.  That poetry is a bridge over fears, as Lourde states, makes so much sense. Bridging humanity over the troubled waters of the inhumane.

The direct line to human feeling . . . . and making our lives deeper in confidence, so much so there is transformation, even for the oppressed and imprisoned, giving meaning in the world and life is meaningful, no matter the circumstance, as Shihab Nye states.

I remember talking with Czeslaw Milosz at a reading in Austin, Texas. I was trying to drill down what poetry was, how I could parachute into the lives of gang members, spooks (inhalers of volatile compounds like gasoline), homeless war vets, young adults with developmental disabilities, survivors of sexual assault and invoke some solid concepts on why the poem – no matter what form it takes – is what Naomi states: imaging life as it can or should be or is honoring the word and creative practice of language in the art of detailing.

He was near the end of his life when he told me, In reality, whatever the poet attempts to say, all words are a type of lamentation. Despair, maybe, colored by something else that pushes down the blackness of humanity in this age of destruction.  Something like that. He went deeper, though. As seen in this interview in the Paris Review:

Of course, it’s true that people talk too much and without restraint. But poetry imposes certain restraints. Nevertheless, there is always the feeling that you didn’t unveil yourself enough. A book is finished and appears and I feel, Well, next time I will unveil myself. And when the next book appears, I have the same feeling. And then your life ends, and that’s it.

Two poems by Czeslaw Milosz to start the month:

In Black Despair

In grayish doubt and black despair,
I drafted hymns to the earth and the air,
pretending to joy, although I lacked it.
The age had made lament redundant.

So here’s the question — who can answer it —
Was he a brave man or a hypocrite?

A Felicitous Life

His old age fell on years of abundant harvest.
There were no earthquakes, droughts or floods.
It seemed as if the turning of the seasons gained in constancy,
Stars waxed strong and the sun increased its might.
Even in remote provinces no war was waged.
Generations grew up friendly to fellow men.
The rational nature of man was not a subject of derision.
It was bitter to say farewell to the earth so renewed.
He was envious and ashamed of his doubt,
Content that his lacerated memory would vanish with him.

Two days after his death a hurricane razed the coasts.
Smoke came from volcanoes inactive for a hundred years.
Lava sprawled over forests, vineyards, and towns.
And war began with a battle on the islands.

Next: Poetry as environmental sanity and rebellion!

Professor Pablo and Fourth Grade Enlightenment in Lincoln City

The shape of learning comes in all sizes, all forms. We know what not learning is — texting, emailing, You Tube videos, a world of Teletubbies, from birth to death.

I know what education planners are not — hedge fund billionaires, charter school profiteers, down home religious bigotry and stupidity ignoramuses, the lady from McDonald’s funding all these looped back and forth non-profits and shell NGOs and their two-year-in-the-making white papers after reports after white papers.

The fourth graders I taught Friday have a sponge for a brain, and they want something better than what they get — bells and announcements blaring throughout the day, rote memory assignments, the same old tired little book stories, little math problems, red-orange-yellow drills, lock-downs, health warnings, and on and on and on. They know that’s not real life, though — in compliant and nanny-state and rule-making America, hmm, maybe school is the launching pad.

They need mentors in the school, not just the poor flagging teachers who have taken these silly classes in college taught by even more silly professors who actually know squat about children struggling, and less about the roots of the struggle: mass culture which is mass incarceration set loose by the Capitalists, the very people who should be denigrated and egged daily (as in chicken ovum in their faces), everywhere and anywhere they pollute the world. They need schools that are of the world — beaches to clean up and learn from; corporations that spend more time nurturing humanity than maximizing profits; government officials that love them as opposed to hating them; parents who aren’t afraid of their own shadows; and revolutionary teachers.

This can only be done with the death of Capitalism. Only done with revolutionary acts daily, collectively. Only with calling a spade a spade.

You know, America and Western White Civilization stink to high heaven. I’ll get to what it is that allows me to survive without going Ted Kaczynski or Going Postal on the closest thing that deserves RIP justice.

Poetry.

But first, here, a comment from Joe from Merced, commenting on my previous post:

Yup! Source.

May I add that education should be something available to all age groups wishing to learn when they are ready to learn, whether that be at six years of age or thirty six years of age. Also the idea that the only place one can learn is in a designated school during designated hours is preposterous and itself a form of unexamined conformity and subservience to power. The fact that knowledge is only knowledge if it comes from, or is acknowledged by academia, is narcissistic and pathological in itself. For many education comes from tagging along and being exposed to some old timer with tons of experience and watching and doing as advised.

Maybe most importantly the quest for more knowledge and technological advancement itself is a progress trap that leads civilization into a box canyon to nowhere. Just because man can think it, doesn’t mean he should act on it. An example of that being the development of damned near every modern advancement in the fields of chemistry which has unleashed incredible pollution onto the environment. Nuclear energy development that has contaminated the whole world and is yet poised to complete the job of annihilation of the planet. The development of plastics that are killing the ocean sea life.

If education leads to life destructive products or customs, then maybe education ought to be about humility and self examination of outcomes rather than our current model of economic self fulfillment which never questions outcomes in its quest for profits. Maybe the best most simple idea for learning came from Gandhi and needs no tweaking, only adoption into modern curricula as the foundation of our educational system.

Wealth Without Work
Pleasure Without Conscience
Knowledge Without Character
Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics)
Science Without Humanity
Religion Without Sacrifice
Politics Without Principle

He’s so right, and alas, the problem of weaker and more intellectually- challenged and physically- imperiled generation after generation produced by this perverted society is solved with real mettle, real individual change, family collective change, community change, national change.

Calling the spade a spade.

Yesterday, we looked at plastics in their lives, in their blood, in their hormone-disrupting growth cycles, inside a turtle’s nose, and wrapped around the necks of birds and sea lions.

We looked at Chris Jordan’s work on consumption — how many plastic straws are consumed each second on planet earth or the number of disposable cups thrown away just on airlines per hour.

They had just come back from lunch, and those without responsible parents and charges who made decent lunches had to eat in the cafeteria — deep fried potatoes, fatty meat, ketchup and ranch dressing on EVERYTHING, doughy pretzels, sugared canned peaches, chocolate milk, stringy cheese.

This is not even prison food, and the place I taught, on the outside, could have used a good coat of community (yes, Mayor and Council and Chamber) paint, a mural project for the outside, new playground equipment, and more more more to engender learning — goats, fish, yurts, greenhouses, apple trees, flowers, a hedge maze, and more more more.

I stay sane by recognizing the insanity and drill down into it. Here’s the real ugliness of capitalism. Below, this person, all white and female, all middle/upper middle class, all just right in her captured make-over photo, gives squat about the children of Oregon and Coos Bay. Yet, her life is to dispose of liquid natural (sic) gas through the black snake of Canadian extractive fossil fuel industries. Her life is about injecting as much CO2 into the atmosphere as her white female-loving excetionalist life can tolerate.

These people are evil, more evil than Pence or Trump or Pelosi or Hillary. Look at the woman’s white-white face, that death twinkle in her eyes. PR wizard (grim reaper for us) for a Canadian company ready to push a pipeline through Oregon to peddle more climate-warming LNG crap for China. Through Oregon:

Tasha Cadotte

Tasha Cadotte — Jordan Cove Guest Opinion/ Mar 15, 2019

Her job is to lie-lie-lie, like all PR flacks for corporations, governments and non-profits. The opinion piece shows her education, her k12 upbringing, her college cred. She is part of the devil’s brigade.

This woman probably has a degree in communications, in psychological management, institutional leadership, or some such. Her goal in life is to be The Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Pembina. Or Enbridge. Killers of ecosystems, people, cultures. She might have even gotten herself a college degree in un-Journalism.

Corp Watch Always do the corporation watch, every single one that comes into your community to spill death words and Orwellian cancer onto the land.

This Tasha has blood on her hands. Whale blood, bird blood, and the blood of future generations on her hands. Children’s blood. However, the sane people fight the insanity with one group at a time, up against multiple millions in bribe money from the companies this Tasha loves to represent.

But the fight is far from over. In 2017, not long after FERC denied the project a permit the year prior, Don Althoff, then-CEO of the parent company Veresen (now Pembina), met with President Donald Trump and the founding director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, of Goldman Sachs.

Shortly thereafter, Cohn announced: “The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to permit an LNG export facility in the Northwest.”

Support from the fossil fuel industry spans the length of the pipeline, from Colorado to Oregon. Pac/West, a major pro-fracking lobbying and communications firm active in Colorado has also been operating in Oregon. The firm has gone so far as to have Oregon state legislation proposed officially on its behalf, which would have blocked local governments from interfering with fossil fuel infrastructure projects, such as Jordan Cove.

This legislation was in response to a 2017 county “Community Bill of Rights” ballot initiative in Coos County, Oregon, the site of the proposed Jordan Cove LNG terminal. If passed, the local law would have outlawed industrial fossil fuel projects and established legally enforceable rights for local ecosystems. Jordan Cove LNG spent an unprecedented $596,155 in cash and in-kind contributions to help defeat measure, according to the Oregon Secretary of State website.

Murals opposing the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline hang near the site of the Jackson County Department of State Lands hearing.

Murals opposing the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline hang near the site of the Jackson County Department of State Lands hearing.

This woman makes how much for her Faustian Bargain, her Josef Goebbels lies?

She could be working for the plastics industry:

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She could move on and work for the pharmaceutical genocide leaders:

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OXYCONTIN MAKER QUIETLY WORKED TO WEAKEN LEGAL DOCTRINE THAT COULD LEAD TO JAIL TIME FOR EXECUTIVES

These Little-to-Big Eichmanns get big bucks for their lousy BA in communications degree: Around $95,494 to $136,893 . . . $150K a year? $164,000 annual base salary? Plus perks, plus stocks, plus travel. What’re the sins Gandhi stated which she is smack at the center of living and abiding by? In bold:

Wealth Without Work
Pleasure Without Conscience
Knowledge Without Character
Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics)
Science Without Humanity
Religion Without Sacrifice
Politics Without Principle

Well, well, this is the result of a powerful un-education system, rigged for sinners, rigged by Little Eichmanns working for the rich as we all have had to read about the past week with the so-called scandal of the rich paying bribes for their little Johnny and Sally to get into Harvard or Yale or Stanford!


More of the white-white rich American, wanting a triple-rigged system. I bet this untalented millionaire actress has her own little stable of Little Eichmann’s like Ms. Tasha working to pollute Oregon! College scandals, or fossil fuel felons? Which is worse?

From Democracy Now: Journalist Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. His book examines how the so-called elite class of America have worked the system to maintain and consolidate power and wealth, even while claiming to help people and “change the world” through charity. On Wednesday, Giridharadas tweeted: “The college bribery scam is not a college bribery scam. It is a master class in how America—governed by a cheater, ruled by rule breakers, managed by a class that confuses its privilege for merit—functions.”

And what we learned is, as you cover on this show, America is, in many ways, rigged for the wealthy and powerful. And we know that. We have a tax code that is rigged for the wealthy and powerful. We have anti-trust enforcement that’s rigged for the wealthy and powerful. We fund public education according to property taxes, so the nicer mommy or daddy’s house, the better the school you get. America is already rigged for rich people.

The problem is, for some rich people, all that rigging that I just described is shared equally among rich people. Right? You have the same first-class seat on the commercial jet that everybody—all the other rich people have. And what we found in this case was, some rich people are not satisfied with the generalized rigging that they have to share with everybody else. They want special, private, bespoke, bottle-service rigging over and above the standard rigging that rich people receive.

And I read the indictment. This Rick Singer guy is a great character, and he really understood the psychology of these rich people. People like him in that kind role, who are service providers, often do. And he says, “You know, the people I work for, they don’t want to do a million-dollar check and then hope their kid gets a second look. The people I work for, the wealthiest families in America, they want a guarantee. They want this thing done,” he said.

And so, I think this is a phenomenal glimpse, because what—as someone who’s been writing about this plutocracy for a few years, what these folks say when they hear critics like me is, “Don’t be negative. Don’t be zero-sum. We can empower the least among us. We can fight for the poor. And we can benefit and get rich. Right? It’s not zero-sum.” And you know what really is actually zero-sum? When there is one college seat, and a hard-working kid from a poor neighborhood, whose family has never sent anybody to college, but now they have a shot at that seat—they’ve worked hard, their parents took many buses to many jobs, they might be eligible for that seat—and they don’t get that seat, because someone like Bill McGlashan, private equity baron, impact investing impresario, who had a $2 billion impact fund with Bono, has locked up that seat for his son.

So, daily, I try to instill into youth — aged 6 to 18 — to begin loving the fight, and to learn how to be IN the fight, with self-sacrifice as the underpinning of their lives; to instill in them they are the answer, that they themselves hold the key to happiness, and, contrary to capitalist thinking, happiness cannot be gained on the backs of hundreds of millions, or several billion, toiling for the rich countries; that happiness is not what they should be seeking but rather social justice/economic justice/environmental justice. Which is not all fun and games to undertake, and could be a life of poverty and recriminations from every corner, especially from family members. To the contrary as we all looked at Jordan’s film Albatross there are no happy endings if that’s all one seeks — pleasure, wealth, superficiality, pop culture, consumerism, exceptionalism in the way of America’s mythology.

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The kids want something more. They just can’t get it, because America is about feeding the rich and powerful. America is about shining the spotlight on the rich and powerful. America is about hating the poor and future generations and loving the rich and powerful.

I hope not one child I teach comes out the educational grinder even with a sliver of the propaganda plague the Tasha’s of the world possess.

Poetry, man, poetry, we also talked about. How the 62 year old substitute, who they called “Professor Pablo” is really about embracing that child, that youth, that young man. Inner child and those around me.

So, at the same age, more or less, 7th grade, here I was in Tucson, running through the desert barefooted, wrestling, tripping to Mexico and diving. Cutting down billboards and burning down development model homes.

And, taking in the spirit cells of poets, the voices deep outside the human capacity to kill, maim, incarcerate, exploit. Maybe that’s the answer to insanity of Western Culture. Poetry!

In any case, my tribute to W.S Merwin, age 91, gone, supreme anti-Vietnam War activist, and activist against the continual desecration of Hawaii by consumerism and pollution.

Just getting young people to think like a poet, draw like a scientist, believe like a sage, and work in the world like a water protector or Thoreau, we as keepers of a new and back-to-the-simple civilization, this is our course in life. Mine at least.

Now that’s the work no PR flak could ever understand in her or his colonized mind! PR firms spin America into war, spin coups, spin Americans to feed toxins to their children, and PR firms are the Faustian Bargain of the rich-rich wanting total control of all humanity, from cradle to grave, from brain to stem cell.

Scrawled Lightness of Remembrance

upon the death of W.S. Merwin (9/30/1927—3/15/2019)

those bucket bearers
word carriers bees lifting barrels
he sent benediction into boy’s
blood Sonora riot recounting
Bob Dylan Stafford Peter Gabriel
WS Merwin busted knees from
blasting Suzuki into
desert realms dogeared
Carrier of Ladders old US
Army rucksack — Neruda, Borges,
Marquez, Octovio Paz
“for the anniversary of my death”

his poem I prophesied
nineteen with sister
slain on road from Kamloops
to Tucson sideswiped
Harley skidded-over
now his death silent “tireless
traveler”

juxtapositions made
his words boy to man
reckless wrestling burning
billboards boy’s own music
treble cleft of poet Merwin
until my 20th birthday
tall man there Tucson
reading to whispering
crowd turtle neck dashing
really nothing like my dread-locks
hard sun skin at 20
yet he sang to me treble and bass
no tribal Yusef Komunyakaa drum

Merwin’s vines stilled anger
touched thin bone near heart
my rage bullets into Mexican night
turned to free-tail bats
famous poet sickened with
full force of Vietnam War
tucked inside my rucksack
next to .44 magnum

WS Merwin me with tumbler
of whiskey 1977
he said something like
“stay concealed in
your hate
of wars in our name
stay hard with sinew
for love of desert
ecosystems”

poet refused laurels
Pulitzer Vietnam war like acid
on his tongue

Now this —
We are the shadow of Sirius
There is the other side of
as we talk to each other we see the light
and we see these faces
but we know that behind that
there’s the other side
which we never know

those falling embers
once rockets to Sirius
coal black ash to soil
I touch living poet
“tireless traveler
like beam of a lightless star”
Merwin’s shape whale spray
I now seize in Oregon

death is no glowing dove
nothing bright moving as shapes
above WS Merwin like
all tribes from each book
travel with me
Merwin me that is for
sure even whiskey tequila
the shape of his eyes
setting upon me thirty
years his junior
but my brother
his words coffin bearers over
and over starting with a dead sister:

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Note: “For the Anniversary of My Death,” by Merwin.

Psychopathology of Not Teaching, Not Feeding, Not Embracing Our Youth

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.

We only think when confronted with a problem.

John Dewey, 1938, Experience and Education (Vol. no. 10). New York: The Macmillan Company &  1933, How We Think. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Co

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There’s a lot of magical thinking going on in the world, largely laid at the feet of the marketers, arbiters of propaganda, the flim-flam of Capitalism and Consumerism.

Finding solace in the next President’s Day sale or Black Friday.

Except every day in America is a Black Friday. Fire sale for the social services, for all the safety nets, for the bedrock of a democracy – education, power of the people to hold the commons and to control the benefits of the community’s needs over some punk like Musk or Sir Richard or Zuckerberg or Trump-Clinton-Obama, all same sides of the one-sided coin.

More and more people I engage with are lost, really, pushing their little broom and lifting their little dustbin to attempt to clean up the smashed walls and halls and schoolhouses and hallowed things of the people.

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Feudalism is back in style, and for each community – city block or city border or urban growth boundary – the endless brooming and dust-binning will never make a dent in what must be done: the cancer must be removed.

Oh, I know, the pacifists want the arc of social justice to come catapulting back and somehow laying bare and rendering impotent the millions of bad hombres who control the purse strings, who control the black ditches of polluting industries, who control the daily trillion loads of toxins and carcinogens and structural violence bombs put upon the majority.

The chaos and fluency of their penetration of pain on all levels of society and in all societies is amazing those rotten-to-the-core billionaires and multinational thugs who have the sociopath’s luxury of being extremely effective, especially in predatory-parasitic-extractive-casino Capitalism, where the burdens of externalities and the millions upon millions of negative and costly outgrowths of Capitalism are the burden of the masses while the extreme comforts/power bases/economic controls are privatized to a very small swath of humankind.

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These traits are the characterizations of the typical CEO, typical of the boardroom winners, so typical of the so-called powerful:

  • Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
  • Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
  • Authoritarian
  • Secretive
  • Paranoid
  • Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
  • Conventional appearance
  • Goal of enslavement of their victim (s)
  • Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
  • Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
  • Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
  • Incapable of real human attachment to another
  • Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  • Extreme narcissism and grandiose
  • May state readily that their goal is to rule the world

Variations on a theme. Just put in a powerful and famous/infamous person’s name, and the fifteen traits above get checked off pretty easily and readily.

Erik Prince or Betsy Devos, or the Democratic Party honchos or the boot-licking Republican reprobates. Now, we are in a world where the sociopath and psychopath and self-aggrandizing are foisted upon the stage and klieg lights pointed at them so all of us in this barbarous spectacle have to be exposed to not only their felonious and pathological deeds and beliefs daily, but we now have to subvert our own humanness and life by their rules . . . all the while paying to follow their rules.

Unfortunately, most people are not crippled with a malignant personality disorder, yet the young and the disposed/dispossessed and the struggling and the downtrodden in a capitalist society have very few shields or antibodies to avert from these pathological souls who have infected all levels of the corporation, the legal system, the education system, the military industrial complex, government, national politics, religion:

These people are mentally ill and extremely dangerous! We can take many precautions to protect us from the destructive acts of which they are capable.

First, to recognize them, keep the following guidelines in mind.

(1) They are habitual liars. They seem incapable of either knowing or telling the truth about anything.
(2) They are egotistical to the point of narcissism. They really believe they are set apart from the rest of humanity by some special grace.
(3) They scapegoat; they are incapable of either having the insight or willingness to accept responsibility for anything they do. Whatever the problem, it is always someone else’s fault.
(4) They are remorselessly vindictive when thwarted or exposed.
(5) Genuine religious, moral, or other values play no part in their lives.

They have no empathy for others and are capable of violence. Under older psychological terminology, they fall into the category of psychopath or sociopath, but unlike the typical psychopath, their behavior is masked by a superficial social facade.

The psychopath’s world is one where the communal and cooperative laws of human interaction and also the more lofty laws of human emotion and interaction do not apply. It’s been said that psychopathy serves as a “reality” for a good portion of humanity. The hypothesis that one man in every 100 and one woman in every 300 are born a clinical psychopath is troubling, to be sure.

Some of the literature states that psychopathy is so common that each person reading this article knows one and then a significant proportion of readers are most likely psychopaths themselves.

Interesting, the age old battle of nature versus nurture, and vice versa!

I know this is beating a dead horse, but feminist and writer Susan Sontag, in a fit of lucidity, stated the obvious:

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.

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So, who the hell knows about that 1 in 100/300 psychopathy in any given population. I might say, sure, for the white race, seems correct. Africa Source:

The pineal gland is responsible for the production of melatonin, a hormone that is secreted in response to darkness, and is also the site in the brain where the highest levels of Serotonin can be found (Sun et al, 2001). In the pineal, 5-HT (Serotonin) concentration displays a remarkable diurnal pattern, with day levels much higher than night levels. Serotonin plays an important role in sleep, perception, memory, cardiovascular activity, respiratory activity, motor output, sensory and neuroendocrine function.

Racial differences have been noted in the rate of pineal calcification as seen in plain skull radiographs. In Caucasians, calcified pineal is visualized in about 50% of adult skull radiographs after the age of 40 years (Wurtman et al, 1964); other scholars argue that Caucasians, in general, may have rates of pineal gland calcification as high as ­60-80% (King, 2001). Murphy (1968) reported a radiological pineal calcification rate of 2% from Uganda, while Daramola and Olowu (1972) in Lagos, Nigeria found a rate of 5%. Adeloye and Felson (1974) found that calcified pineal was twice as common in White Americans as in Blacks in the same city, strengthening a suspicion that there may be a true racial difference with respect to this apparatus. In India a frequency of 13.6% was found (Pande et al, 1984). Calcified pineal gland is a common finding in plain skull radiographs and its value in identifying the midline is still complementary to modern neuroradiological imaging.

Scholars believe the reduction in melatonin with age may be contributory to aging and the onset of age-related diseases. This theory is based on the observation that melatonin is the most potent hydroxyl radical scavenger thus far discovered (Reiter, 1995). Prominent theories of aging attributes the rate of aging to accumulated free radical damage (Proctor, 1989; Reiter, 1995), and as Caucasians have higher rates of pineal calcification, which produces melatonin which is a vital free radical scavenger, some suspect that people of European descent may actually age faster than those from other continents.

Pineal gland calcification has also been implicated in the onset of Multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Neuroradiological research has shown the pineal gland to be involved in the pathophysiology of Multiple Sclerosis. In a 1991 study by Sandyk R, and Awerbuch G.I published in the “International Journal of Neuroscience”, it was shown that Pineal Calcification was found in 100 % of MS patients. The strikingly high prevalence of pineal calcification in Multiple sclerosis provides indirect support for an association between MS and abnormalities of the pineal gland (Sandyk and Awerbuch, 1991). Multiple Sclerosis tends to affect Caucasians disproportionately, and is nearly unheard of in Africa and is rare among African Americans. A high prevalence of pineal calcification has also been linked to bipolar disorder.

Now my article will boomerang back to my world directly – writing and teaching, this go-round inside the K12 arena; alas, the world of a teacher is a road strewn with broken-down trucks and scattered tailpipe assemblies and transmissions and oil slicks and sheared-off wheels.

The height of America now is the constant chatter and recriminations against the education system, against teachers, against students, against the entire project of working with the young to assist them in developing critical thinking skills.

Believe you me, I should be where Betsy DeVos is, but billionaires have no expertise, no 10,000 hours of practice to give them some level of mastery, whether it’s tennis, general scholarship, educating youth, doing anything worthy of a worthwhile society. Hence, the ones leading the so-called education debate, Gates or DeVos, have zilch experience in the classroom, zero experience working. You’ll never see a fellow like me at any table.

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The idea of my time on earth has always been being on the ground, and some people liken it to ground truthing, the realities of intellectual thought sewn in the fields of those areas where we as a people consider disciplines. What better way to understand what needs to be done to fix (sic) the US education than being in it, albeit like a hired gun going from school to school grade as a substitute teacher.

Hands down, after doing this educational ground truthing a large part of my life, since 1983 when I first started a teaching assistanceship at the University of Texas-El Paso, through to today, this society will never put me at the table, so to speak, of the policy wonks and political operatives. Do they want the real minds there, those of us who just might be able to inject reality and true systems thinking in how to solve the so-called “education problem.”

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I know it’s easy to see that anything associated with neoliberalism, libertarianism, the assault of communities large and small by the elite, the super-super minority, is part of the failings of education, and all parts of society, the so-called intellectual, spiritual, built environment, natural, community commons.

The reality is capitalism IS the failure, and CAPITALISM is the education PROBLEM, and my years parachuting into schools and into school districts have shown me there are many deficits, many shortcomings and many hurdles around our public schools.

A raft of problems can be rattled off and highlighted in white paper after special NPR report. The brain trust is the children, however, not Mark Cuban and his ilk. Certainly, the systems of oppression and structural violence and mob rule of the late stage consumer culture and forced acquiescence as a pound of flesh carved out for the elites, the marketers, the flimflam artists who have wrested control of all branches of government, the Fourth estate, the Shadow Government, the corporate heads with their sycophants and armies for hire HAVE done their deep-deep damage.

As if the cultural DNA has been stripped of any normalcy, these citizens — elementary, junior and high schoolers — they already have three strikes against them, yet somehow in the chaos and poorly delivered education there are standouts.

The problem is we need education for the children and for the adults, cooperative education and co-ops of learning, for all generations. How stupid is it to continue feeding mush to children? How stupid is it to have them penned up in classrooms? How ridiculous is it to have a few disruptive youth and inattentive students run wild in a classroom? How is it that the major industries and the business roundtable folk and the movers and shakers and the parents aren’t held to task for not getting truly involved in their futures? These young people’s futures?

Experiential learning, outside the box, far-far away from standardized teaching, common core, rote memorization.

Even in this onslaught of crass, creepy psychologically-damaging crap youth have to step through daily – a land mine field every day – we can still get back the narrative, and flip the script, so to speak.

I have been in 1st grade classes, and been teaching music to elementary aged students and science and math to high school students, and everything in between. The vast majority of youth feel and know and sense they have been sold a bill of goods, and lies, and they want leaders and mentors, people who can bring to them a sense of destiny, a sense of rebellion for the good of humankind, and a real set of educational tools to help them educate themselves for life.

It is not some hippie or alternative new age spasm to say that students need hands on reality – how to grow food, how to paint murals, how to build tables, how to construct solar panels for their homes, how to chart the stars, how to speak several languages, how to wire a short wave radio, how to set up and nurture a catfish pond, how to cut flowers and how to talk to old people and the disabled in situ.

We could be using our smarts and collective action and solving our rural communities’ issues and those of our cities; problem solved by having youth brigades with their mentors and their parents working daily to make the changes necessary for resiliency. The youth want to know why they can’t give me hugs or display hugs in the school yard, so we talk about the newer research on the skin and on touching people, daily, as a way of healing, of pushing melatonin in the body, as a way to heal inflamed arteries.

On the surface or to a passerby, the children might be lost causes, already colonized by Big Mac, Disneyland, Marvel Comics, glittery inept millionaire performers and fancy falling pixels in their next orgasmic video game.

They may already be too far gone to weather climate disruption, economic wars, the battlefields coming soon, because of their multiple issues tied to chronic diseases and mental disturbances.

Ah-ha, so wrong, so wrong!

I guarantee if a school house and school grounds were set up like great rendezvous points for artists, acrobats, farmers, trades people, international visitors, under the direction of First Nations elders; I guarantee if students were there with their parents part of the week learning about history, untold stories, about how to tell a story and film a documentary; I guarantee if we shifted ground by enforcing the philosophy that we are what we eat, what we read, what we do, what we think, what we believe, what we hope for, what we want, what we imagine, and that there are direct repercussions (negative) to the individual’s mental, intellectual and physical well being with the wrong stuff in, which leads to the wrong stuff out. . . . I guarantee the conversations will change, the enlightenments will spark, the involvement on every level of the community will increase, and the individual and collective narratives will move toward that arc of not only social justice, but humanity living within our means, and understanding the value of simplicity, small ecological footprints and smelling the roses and watching the stars through the flight patterns of owls, fireflies and moths.

What a silly set of idealistic ideas on how to re-form the education system.

The fact is that students are hungry for honesty, and hungry to see how it all connects, how one piece of the puzzle is actually the link to the whole, and how all things are related. They get it, and many times there are 10-year-old skeptics, grizzled in their thinking, scabbed over in their imaginations.

Everything in school, now, under the current models of suppression, then, is to learn 9 to 5, Monday through Friday enslavement.

Children and juveniles and late age teens want nothing of that enslavement, but they have no choice in a hobbling system of people like the Gates duo or the Betsy-Donald duo, coming up with insane and self-fulfilling concepts to keep kids so down that they will abide by anything the levelers and capitalists demand of them – demands (pistols to the heads, rather) in their communities, in their purchases, in their indebtedness, in their reading and eating material, in their subservience to the company or corporation or organization.

We need legions of nurses, social workers, teachers, solutions-driven people with their heads screwed on tight and their hearts alight in the shine of innocence lost and new innocence gained. We need a world of STEAM – daftly blended Sciences Technology Engineering Arts Math for more than capitalist survival, but rather for the impending systems of collapse we have wreaked havoc on the planet, on our own souls, and now on young souls not even given a chance to push out of chrysalis.

We know what must be done: rework all public schools. Add greenhouse, ponds, rows of corn, second and third floor ropes courses, commercial kitchens, husbandry stalls, more. Rip up the pavement, get the kids to use rickshaws, learn how to be entrepreneurial geniuses with coffee stands and juice stands run by parents and students. Outdoor education on our beaches, in our city parks, inside empty warehouses.

We know what to do! And we can do it. Again, cut away the cancer — destroy capitalism!

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Small-town America is the only Solution

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I’ve been straddling the void, so to speak: I have had a disgust with this Imperial Society so long that down looks up, man. Slip streaming through the wastelands of America, first, as a kid wrestling in Tucson and having huge confrontations with fellow high school punks, racists against the Mexican-Americans on the other side of town, racists against the Native Americans up north, and racists against the African Americans recruited by the hometown basketball and football teams – University of Arizona Wildcats.

I hated and fought the bulldozers tearing up the Sonora, hated and fought the trappers wanting every god-damned coyote and other vermin cleared from the land, hated and fought the people on both sides of the foolish Tupperware or Rubbermaid parties who backed the baby killers and old lady rapers called US Uniformed Services.

The Minutemen along the border, shooting up crossers and holding at gunpoint, again grannies, old men and women, I hated them and did things to some of their crusades. .

I had nothing in common with the haters, the levelers, the people who gushed over July 4th bombs bursting in air, gushed over the Superbowl, gushed over the Oscars, gushed over the cheap flights to Vegas and Honolulu and Mazatlan. I knew even before Tucson and the border and my work in Mexico that the project of Empire was based on Puritanical lies, slavery of the mind, and the Mad Men in every branch of government and all sectors of the economy doing that soft shoe bait and switch akimbo with the minds and tax coffers of more and more distracted dumb-downed deluded magical thinking members of this sideshow carnival society.

Blind allegiance to something, that’s the American way, even those who see themselves as stripes of another zebra. Capitalism as a system of putting on the backs of the majority the pain and suffering and failures of the elite’s project to accumulate more and more wealth, land, power, industries, economies of scale toward human obsolescence, well, that was weighing on the 15-year-old’s heart, wrestling my way through anger in Southern Arizona with people who were not of my tribe, people from an alternative belief system, or at least I was from some alternative universe.

I felt like shit living in the skin of a teenage boy in Arizona, anywhere, in the US of A, and I had zilch in common with more and more people. Older people, that’s who I gravitated toward. Misbegotten hobos, they called themselves, or outlaws – bad check writers, credit union and small time hold up artists, drug dealers, Vietnam vets in motorcycle clubs or living in trailers out in nowhere Sonora Desert. Shitkickers who wanted nothing of US government, US lifestyles, US consumerism, US ideals.

I gravitated toward Mexicans who lived tight with other Mexicans, illegal crossers who seemed to know how poverty is the system designed to divide and conquer, as the once poor, with enough toil or scamming, get to play in the land of the middle class.

God, country, apple pie, and mother? Schools were are joke, because the idealism that young people should have garnered, the rebellion and the anti-authority tendencies we have as youth, creativity, genius, those were the things that the powers that be fought against.

Whew, that was then, 1972, and here I am struggling in Oregon, meeting the riptide of humanity along the Oregon Coast, a hardscrabble existence of boom or bust, displaced people, and old timers who have seen the entire place transformed into dichotomous America in microcosm: those who have put down roots, did the logging and fishing and crabbing thing, and then those who have wads of cash from California or Texas or Portland who have set up dream summer homes along one of the more incredible coastlines along this country’s two sides of the land mass.

Here I am doing the education thing again, teaching, right in the middle of the muck – some of my first gigs as substitute teacher have been right in the middle of grades 1 through 6, an emotional-intellectual-spiritual tender for those vulnerable years, those formative years, the years where the real difference in a child’s life could be enhanced by a society that throws its all into education, into teaching instead of training, mentoring instead of dictating, embracing creativity instead of stifling free thinking.

What a perfect time for young people to finally get the hands-on work of artists, historians, biologists, nurses and doctors, writers, farmers, tradesmen/tradeswomen. What a perfect time to help youth learn cooperative thinking, communitarian ideals, and have a chance to learn about and practice revolutionary thought.

Instead the schools look like old Army post barracks, and the lackluster curriculum is so dumb-downed that so many potentially fantastically creative and smart youth end up passing through the sieve of standardized education.

Yes, that age, 6, 7, 8, 9 squirrelly, but really, collectively in 2019, the entire mess is busted. Parents working three jobs, parents arguing about when to finally pull up stakes or drag in the anchor and head out of these small coastal towns. Fractured families, now, with 1 out of 1.9 marriages in disunion by 5 years in. This is the time of reckoning for young people, yet we are teaching them the hate of the country, the values of bombing other people, the ideals of dog-eat-dog capitalism, having them celebritize and honor the luxuries of the rich, and thereby forcing young kids to even give a shit about multimillionaire talent-less singers, movie idols and arbiters of crass culture.

Pizza and French fries lathered up in ketchup and ranch dressing in the cafeteria. Lunch rooms that are so loud it seems like an election night announcement that Hillary won. These little people are shuffled from recess to special reading classes, and from lunch room to classroom.

Children can’t sit still, and many are on the spectrum; and, really, there is no respect at all taught to them about elders, teachers, groups of other people. It is all for one — me-myself-and-I. How can we blame them with leaders like Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump!?

We know how to do things right; there’s no big black hole of head scratching on “how to solve the education crisis” bullshit. We know that experiential learning works. We know that smaller hands-on classes work. We know that having mentors in the families’ homes mentoring parents works. We know that parents having mandatory and company-supported days off for co-learning in the schools works. We know that music and second and third languages work before age 12. We know that art and science blended together works.

We know that the face of a nation, or the globe, is dependent on the next and the next generation and next ones after those “getting it.” We know that more learning works, and more cultural crack cocaine leads to more zoned-out and zombie-like adults. So no more crack cocaine pop culture, consumer-mad-men junk to consume and electing idiots who bag the money and run away from the real solutions.

We know that today, low wages and high living expenses and barely scrapping by and no public safety nets reap more and more scattered thinking, more and more survival of the fittest mindset, more and more children who can’t learn, won’t read, don’t know how to think.

We set upon our youth a firestorm of false ideologies of consumerism, false beliefs in might makes right, a false religion that America is the only nation to count and all the rest are against us.

Hey, so, here’s this truism: many of the venues I teach at I am the ONLY male instructor, and the staff and children alike wonder when I am putting in my application for full-time work. “Sir, we have been trying to get a male teacher hired on here for years,” is a common refrain from fellow teachers. High fives from the full-time staff for me, a guy, making it through a full day of 2nd graders.

Managed chaos. So many young children with behavioral plans. So many children with learning disabilities, with anxiety disorders, with self-esteem issues, with socialization complexes and with family burdens.

Of course, a society can be judged harshly on how it treats its children and elderly and infirm. Of course, a society can be judged on how many permissible levels of toxins, heavy metals, particulates, VOCs, neurological disrupters, endocrine scramblers end up in the soil, air, water, food of our youngest and most vulnerable of citizens.

Input, output. Mindless and meaningless and dehumanizing consumerism and popular culture (sic). Output, input.

Meaning in one’s life means a full-force commitment to the vulnerable, to youth, to individuals and families who are the backbone of labor, community, the arts. Meaningfulness means food security, economic opportunities at the local level, a real sense of a downtown and real town, no matter how rural the place might be.

Health clinics that serve the poor and the middle class alike. More and more interactive teaching and cross-discipline scholarship; and real work on stopping the lacerations against the poor, the working poor, the poor and aging, the sick and aging and poor, the young and homeless and poor, the enlightened youth and college aged adults who have solutions that the pigs of politics in those chambers of death could only imagine in their most enlightened moment.

So, interestingly, what I am a conjuring up is probably stuck in my brain and heart, and my gut gets it. But nothing that I say will work in capitalism, inside this out-of-balance society. Ironically, I started off wanting to go off on this insipid piece of journalism (sic) in New York Magazine.

Somehow this five-year old article got stuck in one of my hundreds of feeds, the one tied to urban planning, land use, New Urbanism, etc.  5 Reasons Cities Are Getting Better, and Everywhere Else Is Getting Worse.

As cities grow, their advantages of scale will grow, too. From 2012 to 2013, U.S. metropolitan areas of more than 1 million people grew twice as fast as cities with fewer than 250,000 residents. Downtown areas — the places where density is highest — are growing even faster. And millennials, who both start tech companies and form much of the consumer base for tech products, are flocking to cities in record numbers. The convergence of these trends means that large cities are not only going to get bigger in the coming years, but better.

I’ve lived in big cities, in suburbs, and in rural towns. All three have their charms. But new research shows that cities are much more likely to benefit from today’s massive wave of consumer tech investment — think delivery drones, self-driving cars, and green-energy innovations. The fact that many of these technologies are being developed and deployed first in densely populated urban zones, rather than in the countryside, means that in the future, cities are going to pull further away from rural and suburban areas economically, and carry a much higher quality-of-life premium than smaller towns.

A new report about so-called “innovation zones” is one of the clearest so far on the subject of urban tech growth. The report, by Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner of the Brookings Institution, claims that while innovation used to take place in loosely packed suburban areas like Silicon Valley, innovation in the 21st century is moving into large cities, which have several major advantages:

Physical assets
Economic assets
Network effects and cross-pollination
Density as a service
Special status

So much is wrong with anything coming out of the East Coast, really. The media and the so-called Press and the Publishers make a grown man cry with how out of touch and mean-to-the-rest-of-flyover-USA these pathetic souls can be in their hip and urbane bullshit. And what they take as god’s truth is so messed up that another trail of tears has to be shed just to get through the thought processes and elitism these freak-on-vators believe.

First, the stupidity of promoting these five “advantages” as if this is headline news; it shows the shallowness of the East Coast and their echo chambers – all those Ivy League and East Coast prime colleges loaded to the rafters with shallow thinkers and white paper tigers and endless department captains selling the same story ever told.

The takeaway for this magazine piece? “Move to a city.”

Maybe it would take me writing a book about the illogic of these captains of industry and Richard Florida bums who believe that innovation, high tech, and dense cities are the only places that count. As they depend on all the natural and agricultural and mined and harvested resources of the hinterland. Of these rural small towns, burbs, towns and townships.

We need more rural towns and burbs thriving, not less. Imagine, cities like Newport and Lincoln City or Coos Bay, as sanctuaries of people I write about all the time – the misbegotten, the retired-but-poor-as-Grapes-of-Wrath, the people of the land, the innovators in agroecology, the stewards of forest, estuary, reef, river. Imagine, green buses that transport big city people to green small rural communities where tulips are grown and apples thrive, and where that feta cheese is produced and that fresh air is filled with DNA-enhancing ions. Imagine real quaint communities and real meaningful places where the city or its harbingers are not the centerpiece of everything.

Where pounding nails into homemade furniture is the value added, not some robotics-fueled IKEA madness. Imagine small is better homes, hummingbird feeders fashioned out of old pickle jars, passive solar and incredible community and community-served private gardens. Aging in place and young people starting in life on the same properties. Imagine reading, hiking, fishing, identifying every tree, bush, insect marine life as values, as opposed to hipster, bullshit tech-centric crap tied to the industrial finance-military-surveillance-banking-prison-indentured-debt complex?

I’m thinking of these kids on the coast and some miles inland from the coast, small-towns, and a society that says this ain’t no place to stay, no place to raise a family, no place to see the world, no place to advance, no place for big dreams and tech wannabes.

Talk about a systemic existential crisis, this bullshit America of the billionaire Mafia president and the multimillionaires like Feinstein. Speaking of which, this DiFi, can’t even talk to fourth graders and other students of high school age.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) net worth: 2004: $61,768,616; 2014: $94,202,571. Increase in 10 years: $32,433,955 (+52.58%).

That speaks volumes now, and so, flyover states, the decrepit places, the struggling masses, the majority of Americans who actually have been colonized by mindless marketers of Lucky Charms and Lady Gaga and New England Patriots, they, with the right E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N, these people on both sides of the political dung heap, and those now in the dozen-plus vying for the Democrat nomination, it speaks volumes how they will forever court the high tech god of salvation.

Image result for artwork of young students climate change

We know how to solve climate change. We know how to solve homelessness. We know how to educate the right way. We know how to eat well, live fine and thrive in a holistic and preventative health care frame.

We know what a healthy family is, what a healthy community is, and what a good “nation” should be. We know how to think globally, act globally and be that diversity quilt of a million colors.

We know that treating us “bumpkins” in these small towns and those children in those small-town schools with the same dignity and seriousness as one treats a Bostonian or New Yorker is the right way to be an American.

We have solutions, those of us who are disenfranchised, those of us who have lived a fuller and more complete life than any Georgetown University creep could even dream of in their wildest imaginations.

The solutions and solutionaries are right here, everywhere, any place, where the pigs of capital failed to look or acknowledge our existence because they are so big city inbred they can’t hit a solution to this madness with their apocalyptic- inspired ICBMs.

Filming in the Most Depressing City on Earth: Jakarta

It stinks, it is the most polluted city on earth, but that is not the most terrible thing about it.

You can drive for ten or even twenty kilometers through it, and see only ugliness, fences and broken pavements. But there are many miserable cities on this planet, and I have worked in almost all of them, in 160 countries.

So why is ‘Jakarta killing me’?  Why am I overwhelmed by depression whenever I decide to film here, or to write about the state in which its citizens are forced to live? Why, really, do I feel so desperate, so hopeless?

I am tough. I hardly succumb to depression even in such places like the war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, or in the middle of the toughest slums of Africa.

So, what is it, really, about Jakarta?

Here, I often speak about ‘immorality’, but again, what do I mean by this term? I am not a moralist, far from it. I have no religion, and I very rarely pass ‘moral judgments’, unless something truly outrageous unveils in front of my eyes.

So why, as so many others, do I land in this city in good spirits, and leave one or two weeks sick, broken, literally shitting my pants, full of wrath, despair?

Why? The Western mass media and local servile sheets are constantly bombarding the world, describing Jakarta as a ‘sprawling metropolis’, or to use the terminology of the Australian National University, as a ‘normal city’.

But it is not. In fact, it is the most ‘immoral’ place on earth that I know. It is one enormous monument to fascism, intellectual collapse, Western neo-colonialism and turbo-capitalism.

This time, right here, I will explain, briefly and determinately, why!

*****

You can actually avoid feeling this way, if you decide to land in Jakarta, work for a week or two surrounded by local ‘elites’ (usually shameless thugs), sail through life here with half-closed eyes. Or if you get paid well ‘not to see’. You can also be a Western journo who lives in one of high-rise condominiums, gets himself local bimbo for a girlfriend, and collects his ‘news’ from official briefings and press conferences.

Such foreign ‘visitors’ are warmly welcomed in Jakarta, and they get incorporated into the life of local tsars, of feudal ‘cream’, of bandits who double as business people or politicians.

It is not so difficult! You land at that lavish Terminal 3 of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (half of things do not work here, already, or ‘yet’, but the terminal does look lavish), you can take a luxury limo to one of so many 5-star hotels, have meetings at a steel-and-glass office tower, dine in a posh mall where nobody shops (a money laundering concept), but where those with unlimited budgets, often dine. After all this you can leave thinking that Jakarta is just cool – bit ‘shallow’, too loud and too vulgar – but a ‘kind of cool’ city.

And you can, if you choose to never learn that about 90% of its citizens are actually living in slums.

That is, if ‘international standards’ for what is a ‘slum’ and what is ‘poverty’ or extreme poverty, were to apply here.

You see, ‘officially’, according to the treasonous Indonesian regime, only 9.9% of Indonesians are ‘poor’.

In Indonesia, you are not really ‘poor’, not necessarily, if you or your children are shitting into canal, and that canal is literally toxic from chemical, medical or other waste, and if, just a few meters ‘down the stream’, someone is washing clothes, or even brushing teeth, getting bit of your excrement. You are not ‘poor’ if you have no access to clean water, or to a decent electricity supply (almost nobody does in Jakarta, as the voltage fluctuates and destroys almost all electric appliances in no time). You are not poor if your children cannot afford to eat milk products and become physically or mentally ill from a lack of vitamins, minerals, or out rightly suffering from malnutrition. You are not poor if you are ‘functionally illiterate’, cannot compare and know close to nothing about the world.

In Indonesia, you are poor if your income is below Rp.400.000 per month (the definition applied since March, 2018). That is, as I write this essay, the equivalent of US$26 per month. Even the most cynical ‘absolute poverty’ line stands at US$1.25.

According to the UN declaration that resulted from the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995, absolute poverty is “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, and information. It depends not only on income, but also on access to services.”

If this definition were to be applied to Jakarta, at least, but probably more, than 90% of the population would have to be considered as ‘absolutely poor’. And most likely between 95 and 98 percent of people all over the entire archipelago.

But this whole country is wrapped in a duvet of lies and fabrications. Several years ago, when I was writing my big book about Indonesia Archipelago of Fear, Pluto, UK), I spoke to several leading statisticians from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), which is based in Montreal, Canada. I was told, on the record, that Indonesia does not have 245 million people as was commonly reported, but more than 300 million. However, all international and local statisticians are strongly discouraged from disclosing the real numbers. Why? Because those 60 or probably millions of more people simply ‘do not exist’.

If they ‘do not exist’, the state, the government, the regime, do not have to take care of them, to feed them, to even bother registering them. These are the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable individuals.

Almost everywhere in the world, poor countries are addressing their social problems publicly, because they want to raise awareness of the plight of their people. Some nations are then combating their problems themselves (like China or Venezuela), or they are asking the international community for help.

In Indonesia, the rulers are covering-up the true horrors of the Indonesian reality. Why?

Because they don’t give a damn about the poor. They couldn’t care less about the great majority that actually lives in destitution. They don’t need ‘help’, because the people do not matter. What matters is the profits of the few who are from the ‘elites’, as well as servitude and prostitution to the Western rulers. After all, it was the West that triggered the 1965 coup in which between 1-3 million intellectuals, ‘atheists’, Communists and unionists lost their lives. And so, the Indonesian treasonous business ‘heads’, the military generals, religious leaders as well as the servile scholars and media ‘stars’ are merrily prostituting themselves, eternally grateful to Washington, London and Riyadh, for saving them from the just and egalitarian society, which the great father of the nation Soekarno and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) were aiming at.

‘Positive statistics’, which are actually easily detectable lies, bring ‘more investment’ for their enterprises. Or so they believe. The Indonesian economy is almost exclusively based on the plunder of natural resources by foreign multi-nationals, as well as local companies. Profits end up in the pockets of very few. The business of the savage plundering of Kalimantan (Borneo), Sumatra and Papua has been monumental. The country has been almost fully stripped of its forests; it has leveled to the ground entire mountains and polluted mighty rivers. But the loot flows abroad, or it stays in the pockets of Jakarta’s chosen few.  Apart from ‘commodities’, Indonesia produces almost nothing of value. Its scientific research is basically nil, and its intellectual output minimal. Even judged by Western standards: the 4th most populous country on the planet, does not have one single Noble Prize laureate, and not one internationally recognizable thinker or a writer.

And so, there are those 5-star hotel towers, office buildings, and ridiculously overpriced malls and supermarkets (most of them designed and built by foreign companies), basically catering for those who steal, and never had to work for their money.

Living in slums that are not called slums

But in between, there are the so-called kampungs – ‘villages’ – where the great majority of Jakarta’s citizens live. A Kampung sounds romantic, but in reality, it is not – anywhere else on earth it would be called a slum. The slums of Jakarta and, in fact, of the entire Indonesia, are rat-infested, open sewage colossuses, with dark narrow alleys, toxic canals, and extremely limited access to drinking water (water in the capital was privatized by French and British companies, and as a result, the quality dropped and prices became unrealistically steep for the majority of people).

Except for just a few tiny dirty specks of green areas, and the most of the time closed small square in the center of the city called Monas, Jakarta has no public parks. Forget about public playgrounds for children, or public exercise machines! In fact, Jakarta has nothing ‘public’ left. Nothing ‘belongs to people’ – as everything was sold, corrupted, grabbed and privatized. A family of 4 has to pay around 7 USD to even enter Ancol, the only available beach area, despite the fact that Jakarta is theoretically a maritime city. But even in Ancol, despite the entrance fee, the tiny beach is littered with garbage, and a narrow promenade is broken and outrageously filthy. Otherwise – there is nothing!

A tiny public space a la Jakarta

In one enormous slum (sorry, kampung), I recently filmed hundreds of children playing in the middle of a cemetery, simply because they have no other places to go.

On the other hand, Jakarta has more mosques per square kilometer than any other city on earth that I know (and I have visited almost all Muslim countries). Mosques and small mushollahs, are literally growing on every street, often taking over land that should be intended for public use. But unlike in Malaysia or Turkey, these religious institutions do not provide playgrounds for children, or a ‘public space’.

The contrast between the tiny minority of extremely rich, and the destitute majority (I don’t believe that Jakarta has any substantial ‘middle class’, anymore), is so tremendous, that these two groups appear to be living on two absolutely different planets, while inhabiting the same city. The structure of Jakarta is such that the two realities often never even meet. And it is considered normal, by both the exploiters and the deprived masses.

Poor are used to being poor, obedient and ‘entrusting their fate into God’s hands’, in the Indonesian language called pasrah. And the rich are secretly laughing at the poor, all the way to the bank. I know them, the rich of Indonesia, too. I worked, for decades, with Indonesians from across the spectrum – from the poorest of the poor, to the richest of the rich.

*****

So why do I feel as I do? Why do I want to throw up?

Haven’t I worked in Mathare and the other tremendous slums of Nairobi, Kenya, or in Uganda, or India?

Yes, of course. I made films about the misery in Africa. But it is different there. In the entire city of Nairobi, which is the so-called service center of East Africa (much of the money from Uganda, Rwanda and even DRC Congo is being washed there), there is only one truly huge luxury mall, of which Jakarta has dozens. Comparing the palaces (ugly, vulgar, but palaces) that the Indonesians are building from the blood and sweat of the poor and from the theft of the natural resources, with those in Africa, the African ‘elites’ at least have some shame left. They don’t make contrasts so visible. They intuitively know that what they are doing is wrong, and often try to hide their wealth.

And in Africa, slums are called slums, and every slum dweller knows that his or her life is shit.

In India, things are bad, almost as bad as in Indonesia, but at least there is some true resistance, and the Communist Parties are regularly in control of various Indian states. Left-wing guerillas are fighting a civil war all over the sub-continent, and the country has some true great thinkers and intellectuals, most of them from the left.

The Indonesian poor have no idea that they are poor, they ‘thank God’ for what they have, or, more precisely ‘do not have’. And the super-rich looters are proud of their achievements. They are hiding nothing. On the contrary – they flash their wealth, knowing that they are above the law, or any moral principles. They drive their Mercedes limos right next to the slums, without fear. They are actually respected, not only feared. The more they steal, the more they are admired.

And if they are crossed, they kill.

They kill human rights activists, peasants who refuse to give up their land, or anyone who stands in their way.

Justice is totally corrupted. Actually, everything is. Only those who pay are protected.

To even just irritate the true owners of the city can lead to death. In Archipelago of Fear I wrote about the case of an owner of the former Hilton Hotel, who shot a waiter point-blank in his own establishment. Why? Because he had humbly dared to inform the owner’s girlfriend that her credit card had been declined. For the murder he only got a few years, and he bribed himself out just a few months after being put behind bars.

Not long ago, they put into prison the former moderately left-wing governor of Jakarta, known as Ahok, for trying to improve the infrastructure, sanitation and public transportation. The official charge: “insulting Islam”. A bad joke, really, as almost all Indonesian linguists agreed that there was no insult whatsoever. But again, it worked: to do something for the people, one risks being branded as a socialist, or a Communist (which here is illegal). To pay too much attention to the wellbeing of the common citizens may brand you as an atheist, which is also illegal. So, if you build a few new train lines, a few sidewalks, erect a couple of parks; you are risking ending up deep behind bars. Religions – be they Wahhabism or Pentecostal Christianity – have, for decades, been fully encouraged by the West, which is gaining greatly from destitution, ignorance and the obedience of the Indonesian masses.

Yes, I have seen a lot of horrors in this world, and faced indescribable cynicism. But Indonesia is truly ‘unique’, and so is its capital city.

It is like a huge, decaying carcass of a fish, inside which 12 million people breathe the most polluted air on earth, surrounded by indescribably ugliness, gloominess and pop-ridden meaninglessness.

And there is no fight, no true rebellion against this totally fascist arrangement of the city and the society.

The poor ‘know their place’. They have obediently accepted their fate. They steal from each other, insult and oppress each other. They do not dare to take on the real usurpers and bandit rulers. Or more precisely: they do not find them to be the real reason of their plight. In Jakarta, there is so much tension and hatred, but it is not directed against those who brought the city and the nation to their knees.

All this, while the rich do not even bother to look down at the masses. They actually do not even notice that the masses even exist. They make sure of not counting the tens of millions of monstrously poor human beings.

And the West lies, its media lies, and so do its economists.

Read the US and European newspapers and you will be told that Jakarta is a ‘sprawling metropolis’, that Indonesia is the ‘third biggest democracy’ (my god, according to them, India is No. 1), and that the Indonesian religions are moderate and tolerant.

*****

Jakarta is a shameless fusion of fascism and feudalism. As the great Australian painter George Burchett (the son of the legendary left-wing journalist Wilfred Burchett) once told me: “Cities are usually built for the people. But the Indonesian cities, particularly Jakarta, are built against the people.”

Ciputra Mall

I have written many times about Jakarta’s ‘cultural offering’. With 12 million inhabitants, it has not one permanent concert hall, its cinemas exclusively showing Hollywood junk, with some variations of Southeast Asian horrors and other garbage. The only art cinema at TIM has only around 30 seats and a very sporadic schedule. The few modern art museums are all privately owned, and avoid all social topics, or any criticism of capitalism and Western imperialism. But there are, of course, the paintings of Warhol and a few decadent Chinese artists mocking Communism, hanging on their walls. This way, the local elites can get even further indoctrinated, while taking their selfies.

Deeper thoughts are discouraged. Pop culture – its lowest grade – is literally everywhere. Intellectually, the city has been ruined since 1965.

Noise is everywhere, too. Loud, aggressive noise. Monstrous decibels that would be banned anywhere else in the world, beat people who are visiting malls. Mosques all over the city are, unlike their counterparts even in the Middle East or Malaysia, broadcasting entire sermons over the Orwellian-style loudspeakers, at least five hours a day, but sometimes much longer. Churches of extreme right-wing orientations preach ‘Prosperity Gospel’, periodically telling the worshipers that “God loves the rich and that is why they are rich, while hating the poor and that is the reason why they are poor.” To escape religions is impossible. To escape noise is impossible. It often appears that the people of Jakarta are terrified of silence. Silence would make them think, and thinking could lead to some extremely frightening conclusions.

*****

And therefore, I film.

I film broken pavements – tiny narrow sidewalks made from unmatched tiles, polluting scooters and unhygienic eateries blocking the way of the few daring pedestrians. Why is all that happening? Because nothing public is respected or put together well. Everything that is not for a fee, is simply dreadful. And it is designed to remain that way.

I am filming slums. I am filming filth, such filth which these days hardly exists even on the Sub-Continent. I cannot believe my own eyes, and so I film. I always believe my lenses.

Bus way stop — doors not working, people often fall to their death

I know the arteries of the city, big and small. I know the corners, back alleys, clogged waterways. I know the humiliated, imprisoned waterways, surrounded by miserable dwellings.

I know the old city – Kota Tua, built by the Dutch and so badly restored, that UNESCO recently refused to put it on its prestigious World Heritage Sites list.

It is easy to accuse me of being anti-capitalist, or “anti-Indonesian regime” of thieves and of barefaced collaborators. But it is impossible to accuse me of not knowing the country and its capital city. I have literally been everywhere, covering every conflict here, for more than twenty years, witnessing the atrocities committed against the people, nature and the culture.

Wherever I go in this world, I speak about Indonesia and Jakarta. It is my warning to the world.

The Indonesian nightmarish scenario has already been implemented in many parts of the world, by Western imperialism, but, has often failed as it was too monstrous for other people to swallow. The West tried to replicate Jakarta in those countries that I deeply love and call home: they tried it in Pinochet’s Chile (“Watch out, comrades, Jakarta is coming”, Allende’s people were told), but Chile rose and both the regime and the fascist system were smashed. They tried it in Yeltsin’s Russia, and again, the people rejected this horrible extremist horror show.

Jakarta is not just a city – it is a concept. Perhaps it should one day become a verb – “to Jakarta”. That would mean, to sacrifice people to greed, corruption, business, religion and foreign interests.

But it is not omnipotent. It can be confronted and defeated. We fought against Jakarta in both Santiago de Chile and Moscow. And we won.

And we will win elsewhere, too. Maybe even in Jakarta itself, one day…

All this explains why I often come to both Borneo and Jakarta – to work on films, to define and document the horror, to warn the world what has already been done to the Indonesian nation.

I try to cut through lies. I try to explain that Dilma Rousseff, the former President of Brazil who was impeached (during a constitutional coup) because of the ‘massaging of statistics’ before the elections (something that is commonly done in many countries including those in the West) would have to be, theoretically, executed by a firing squad, or quartered by a mob, if she were to do proportionally what the government of Indonesia is doing without any scruples or second thought. In Jakarta, they do not ‘massage’ – they pervert, lie, and call black, white, and day, night. And they get away with everything. No one dares to challenge them. And they get rewarded by the West – as long as they rob the country and its people of everything, and deliver huge part of the loot to the gates of Washington, Canberra, Paris and London.

I get exhausted. And ‘broke’ once in a while (because almost nobody wants to read about Indonesia, or watch films about it). And once in a while I get thoroughly depressed, temporarily losing faith in humanity. And I shit from the terrible food. And I get sick from the pollution. And I get exhausted from constant racist insults of the passers-by in this, one of the most racist countries on earth, which in just a bit over half a century has committed 3 monstrous genocides: in 1965, against the people of East Timor, and now against the Papuans. It is constant ‘bule’ (albino, or worse), but I am lucky, as my Chinese comrades suffer much worse insults, and, of course, my African comrades do as well, not to speak of my Papuan brothers!

Fascist Jakarta is a tough adversary. But I am tough, too. And so I go, drive and crawl through the dirt, noise and insults. Because it is needed. Because here is buried the key to the countless other conflicts that the West has implanted all over the world.

The Economist once described Indonesia as the least documented large country on earth. Right. And there are many reasons for it. I often describe 1965 as a “Cultural Hiroshima”, because almost all the intellectuals were either, killed, imprisoned or muzzled – overnight, and on the direct suggestions and orders from the West.

This is the most intellectually and mentally damaged country on earth, which often feels like one huge mental asylum. It is the biggest untold story of the 20th Century. Too many people got killed here. Too many people had killed. Everybody fears everything. But nobody dares to speak or to define things.

Jakarta is a city where people ‘don’t know’, or they simply refuse to know that they are being robbed of everything, that they have been fooled, and that they had been thoroughly brainwashed.

Here, cheap pop culture, Western junk food and forced dependency on filthy scooters and private cars are called ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’. Watching European football is a ‘sign of progress’. Mobile phones and text messages double as culture, and so do video games. Nobody reads books.

You ask the poor about poverty, and what do you hear? Women ‘put their fate in the hands of God’. Men begin ‘analyzing’, speaking like the IMF, using business jargon: “exchange rates, global economic situation, support for small businesses…”

In reality, the majority of local families, according to my own survey, lives on US$2-3 dollars a day (family of 4-5). Food in supermarkets costs 2-8 times more than in places like Germany. Therefore, the supermarkets are empty. The Majority of people shop at pasars – markets, where food is often full of cancerogenic chemicals, and filth is everywhere.

But most of people do not feel poor. They feel insulted when they are told that they live in misery. All without exception answer that they have nothing against capitalism. Most of them know nothing about the world; they have never been taught to compare.

Anti-Communist Museum

Everybody ‘hates Communists”, as demanded by the West and by the local rulers. There are entire anti-Communist museums here, and people going out to go there, even paying from their own pocket to get further indoctrinated. If you tell them that all they see is one huge lie, they get mad, angry, sometimes even violent. Their entire lives are based on myths. Their lives depend on them, psychologically. If myths were to be taken away, their entire lives would collapse, as they would lose meaning. That is why there is too much noise, and no substance. People are scared. But they don’t know what frightens them.

Everybody thinks the same. There is hardly any variety. It is scary. Indonesia feels like North Korea, as it is presented by the West and its propaganda. But North Korea is actually totally different – there I found definitely much more intellectual diversity than in Jakarta!

Nobody wants to change things – at least not the system, the essence. People want “more money and better life”. Is their life bad now? “No!” Do they hold their elites responsible? “For what?” They don’t understand – they don’t know what I am talking about, or pretend they don’t know, when I ask such questions.

And the rich? Their kids are in the US, Japan or Europe, studying how to screw their own population even more, after returning back. For them, the greatest pride is to work for some foreign company, or to be awarded with the Western diplomas, and to be given some reward from Europe or the United States.

And the city is choking on its own gasses, garbage and excrement. While the rich have their condos and villas in Australia, California, Singapore and Hong Kong. They can get out of Indonesia whenever they want, as they have already stolen millions, billions of dollars. When they come back to Indonesia, it is to rob even more.

I have to admit, it is all ‘a little bit tiring’. Fine, honestly: it is exhausting. Documenting all this is deadly. So now you know.

And I also have to admit, it is often lonely working here. No one in his or her sane mind would come here to work. The expenses, both financial but also related to mental sanity and physical health, are tremendous. Rewards are near zero. The West does not allow the truth about Indonesia to reach the world, and therefore, no powerful criticism of the country can ever by aired by the mainstream media.

But it is my duty to speak. Therefore, I speak. And write. And film. And as my maternal Russian and Chinese grandparents did – I fight against fascism, regardless of the cost!

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)