Category Archives: Right Wing Jerks

Brazilian Democracy Hangs by a Thread

It’s hard to admit how far off Brazil has strayed. Less than forty years ago, the country was coming out of a military dictatorship, and for more than three decades stood on a steady, and shiny, path to development. Now again, there’s a military president ruling the country, with a military as his Vice, several militaries on his cabinet, and hundreds of other military personnel on the lower ‘ranks’ of the government. And this military president comes in public and simply states that the Armed Forces of the country will not accept a supreme court rule if it comes out against him.

When Bolsonaro claims he won’t accept any disfavorable outcome of what he calls a “political trial”, one cannot fail to see his words under the light of what was perpetrated against former president Dilma Rouseff, because what he is really saying is that they won’t do that to him. He is saying “not to me, you won’t”, because of course, he was there when Dilma was ‘politically impeached’. In fact, he voted in favor of it.

The pivotal moment for the crisis the country is now facing was indeed the wrongful removal of president Dilma Rouseff. That event marked the beginning of a series of grave and systematic violations of the Brazilian constitution, that culminated in the completely unfair and absurd imprisonment of former president Lula and finally in the election of the worst president in Brazilian history.

Now, Bolsonaro implies that the same unfairness is being architected against him, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Since he was elected and especially during the pandemic, he has committed dozens of impeachable crimes, including crimes against humanity. But he is saying he won’t go down because the Armed Forces won’t allow it.

Under this perspective, which is completely faithful to reality, it becomes very hard to believe that Brazil is not already under a military regime. Maybe the country is not just formally there yet. It’s also difficult to imagine a way out of this situation. Without a doubt, all is in the hands of the supreme courts.

The proof against Bolsonaro must be quickly made public, his infamous fake news scheme, highly organized and funded, must be completely exposed so that his support among the population can drop to insignificant figures. With the electoral crime proven and exposed, the election fraud will become plain and along with the health disaster he has been actively promoting, the country may see the favorable political conditions for his lawful removal. But no conscious Brazilian citizen can risk the outcome of the political war the country is waging.

One particularly frightening fact is the clear signs of support and insubordination among the military police, that in Brazil exerts the role of normal police, yet with a military hierarchy.

One thing was made crystal clear though, by the president himself: He won’t go down quietly. If removed from power, Bolsonaro will call on his followers to resist. How many will answer and where they will come from are the million-dollar questions. But the fear that lingers in the air of Brazil is that democracy is hanging by a thread.

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

As World Burns, Half US Population Chronically Ill . . .

Stealing Life with the Big Bad Retail King — One-third of All Buying Transactions 

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

— Iago, Shakespeare’s Othello

It’s more than disconcerting to hear the blathering now, September 2018, about Jeff Bezos. About Amazon dot com as richest company ever. To hear the fawning love of the rich guy, now, when we were predicting a slave master killing publishing, killing independence; news reports and tribute after tribute for this full-fledged Midas of tax cheating, our homegrown monopolist of the highest order, anti-American who gives a shit about main street America, a misanthropic fake news purveyor, a full-bore felonious PT Barnum and smoke and mirrors double shuffle guy who thinks of his tens upon tens of thousands of warehouse workers as spindles, interchangeable parts, and to hell with their precarity, their one nose-bleed from homelessness.

This is a time of same sides of the coin of the realm: the conservative and the liberal, the War-Mongering Democratic Party drooling at the McCain fiasco and the Sycophantic Zio-Christo Republicans confused about who is going to own what while scampering away like rats into the alleys as the headlights of their narcissist-in-chief blowtorches the world.

The most important characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, seeking excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. These identifying features can result in a negative impact on an individual’s interpersonal affairs and life general. In most cases, on the exterior, these patients act with an air of right and control, dismissing others, and frequently showcasing condescending or denigrating attitudes. Nevertheless, internally, these patients battle with strong feelings of low self esteem issues and inadequacy. Even though the typical NPD patient may achieve great achievements, ultimately their functioning in society can be affected as these characteristics interfere with both personal and professional relationships. A large part of this is as result of the NPD patient being incapable of receiving disapproval or rebuff of any kind, in addition to the fact that the NPD patient typically exhibits lack of empathy and overall disrespect for others.**

** Note that NPD runs through the DNA of these ministers like Jimmy Swaggart or Billy-Franklin Graham, through the family RNA of so-called royalty of the world, in the brain chemistry of the likes of a Henry Kissinger or Adolph Hitler, in the hypothalamus of fruit-salad bedecked generals and in the frontal cortex of all great and not-so-great thespians, from politicos to actors.

Moreover, this Bezos, our great Albuquerque-born plumbing showroom huckster peddling absolutely all the stuff we do not need piled up in his fulfillment centers, represents those two sides of the same coin: powerful, libertarian, ruthless and spirit-less, driven to conquer/distribute/hawk all the stuff in any sort of catalog that exists out there to fulfill the needs and mostly not so necessary junk of obsolescence and consumer addiction. A cold anti-philanthropy multi-billionaire, whose net worth of $160.7 billion is headline news now as the TV clowns present the Top Five, Top Ten/Twenty diligently, Bezos is the top of the dung heap according to another rag with all the news unfit (for humanity) to print . . .

. . . Who is the richest person in the world? While Forbes updates their list of the world’s billionaires in real time as markets fluctuate, the magazine also releases a more static list each year. The total net worth of these money-makers when the 2018 list was released in March was $7.67 trillion. Click through to see 2018’s top 20 richest billionaires on the planet.


With his company — which epitomizes the heights of death star techie logic, next gen robotics, drones, massive crisscrossing of products through a digital satellite-fed network of Prime Time orders — Bezos has continually kicked out with the help of Seattle PD we protesters with one share of his shit stock at shareholder meetings protesting his sadism around refusing to air condition fulfillment centers while instead putting rent-an-ambulances outside the doors! Oh, this economic disruptor of small and large businesses, all part of that gift of unfettered homicidal capitalism a la retail conglomeration, is reviled, hated, but will be the big section in those econ books from many years to come.

Bernie Sanders wants a special tax on this white shark-eyed Jeff Bezos? Funny follies of the political kind. Imagine, justifying all the tax evasion and felonies of the billionaires and millionaires and banks and hedge funders and the rest of the elites — that’s the cool truth of our state of misrepresentation in Washington. Never political cries of “tax them all for their externalities — all the damage capital and capitalists have done to the world.”  Major and minor municipalities and entire states fall over themselves with money dripping tongues out of their mouths while courting this company with so many freebies in the billions to get another load of office buildings or fulfillment centers or even another headquarters/campus or pod of fulfillment centers. At any cost.

Image result for fulfillment center

Walmartization of the world, or was it McDonaldization first, or Fordization, but now Amazonization of the culture outstrips anything up to this point in this country’s lunacy. You can get anything anytime anywhere for anyone from this five and dime on steroids.


The Details About the CIA’s Deal With Amazon: A $600 million computing cloud built by an outside company is a “radical departure” for the risk-averse intelligence community

Just in Time Employment, 11th Hour appointments, Permanent Temp, a Precarity defined as the New Almost Slavery Gig gigs — Coulda Been HuffPost Slave

Yet, on Democracy Now, again, in September 2018, we are led to believe we now have to be aghast about those fulfillment centers and those Americans being worked to the bone, worked down to the shredded screws in their hip replacement hardware, worked to confusion and exhaustion and then discarded for not working hard enough for this Master Blaster of the Retail Monopoly.

Juan Gonzalez of DN tells us about these “cutting edge” stories from his Rutgers University Department of Journalism and Media Studies students working on this “breaking news,” while Juan laughs and smirks at the reality of “us” (not me) ordering everything on Amazon.

Here, the DN reports:

As Amazon Hits $1 Trillion in Value, Its Warehouse Workers Denounce “Slavery” Conditions

Exposed: Undercover Reporter at Amazon Warehouse Found Abusive Conditions & No Bathroom Breaks

Ahh, but we over at DV have been printing these stories for more than six years:

Nichole Gracely / May 21st, 2012

Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley (LV) is a distribution hub, and many fellow Amazon associates and Integrity Staffing Solutions temps had previously worked in other local warehouses.

I have and I can say that they’re typically rough workplaces.

At first glance, Amazon’s LV fulfillment center appears benign.

Primary red, yellow, green and blue splashes of color brighten the place, and motivational posters and friendly educational signs that feature cute characters provide guidance. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of workers populate the warehouse at once, diligently taking direction from hand-held scanners or computers, and the place is enormous so it doesn’t appear cramped. Seriously, the place could house a small city.

Physical strength is not a necessary qualification to perform any of their warehouse job functions, and management is ostensibly concerned with worker safety. Just about anyone could staff Amazon’s FC, especially since it only takes a couple of hours to train workers to perform any specific job function. It’s safe to say that anyone laboring in an Amazon FC has fallen into hard times, and many of my former coworkers’ resumes featured distinguished past titles, impressive demonstrations of manual skill and ability, and/or lofty educational attainment.

Many never thought they’d wind up in a warehouse and so, yes, this was all foreign for many. Other workers who staffed other warehouses in the past didn’t know what to make of the place because there is something different about Amazon, something alien.

“Chairman” Bezos once said that Amazon workers don’t need a union because we own the company. “Chairman” Bezos has zero tolerance for union activity and several Amazon unionization attempts were summarily squashed.

After two years on the job an Amazon FC associate is entitled to eight shares of stock. If Amazon is trading at, say, $250 a share, that’s $2,000. Ownership? $250 per share is a generous projection. Seasoned investors are baffled by AMZN’s current overvaluation because of its unhealthy 188:1 (fluctuates, yet always unhealthy) price to earnings ratio, and they’re waiting for the bubble to burst.

Nichole went on to write a piece in the Guardian: Amazon Seasonal Work  And the Guardian published another one, more than four years ago: Being homeless is better than working for Amazon

Bread and Roses — 106 Years Ago, Back to Now: Strike Amazon, Strike US Correctional Institutions, Boycott

I got this from a friend, Andy Piascik, a long-time activist and award-winning author whose most recent book is the novel In Motion. He can be reached at ###.

In the end, in the face of the state militia, U.S. Marines, Pinkerton infiltrators and hundreds of local police, the strikers prevailed. They achieved a settlement close to their original demands, including significant pay raises and time-and-a-quarter for overtime, which previously had been paid at the straight hourly rate. Workers in Lowell and New Bedford struck successfully a short while later, and mill owners throughout New England soon granted significant pay raises rather than risk repeats of Lawrence. When the trials of Ettor, Giovannitti and a third defendant commenced in the fall, workers in Lawrence’s mills pulled a work stoppage to show that a miscarriage of justice would not be tolerated. The three were subsequently acquitted.

More than a century ago and it’s rabbit-holed history . . . and what do we fight for in this country now? We have fear of unions, we embrace the gig economy/outsourcing on Kratom (called near slavery by socio-economists), and the unimaginable bullshit and shit jobs have generated aimlessness, screen addiction, be mean to thy neighbor mentality, cold hearts and Homo Retailipithecus. Bullshit jobs, as Graeber states:

A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble. But it’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.

Shit jobs tend to be blue collar and pay by the hour, whereas bullshit jobs tend to be white collar and salaried. We have become a civilization based on work—not even “productive work” but work as an end and meaning in itself.

What is Labor Day or May Day now in a world of Marvel comics and infantilization of every intercourse we have with every sort of humanity? Do we care about solidarity? Do we know how to build communities? Do we see neighbors and people in and on the streets as equals, people, us? What is the value of work when it is drudgery, dog-eat-dog, king of the hill and top of the dung heap relationships? We have to go beyond now this simpleton way of seeing the world from the bifurcated Groucho Marx eyeglasses. This is a great time of upheaval, splintering, hot house planet, Sixth Mass Extinction, a world of capital making more capital off of war, resource theft, thievery of other nations’ and cultures’ futures.

Jobs, Who Doesn’t Choose to Collapse, Hothouse Planet, People

As I continually teach young people to think, you are what you eat, what you do, what you think, what your read, what you say, what you believe, what you aspire to, what you hope for, what you do or not do to be one with humanity. If your life is one of toil, what is inside the heart, and what do you do with those beliefs and philosophies while slogging away? Are you a believer in exceptionalism, Zionist or Christian superiority? Is the white shade of skin the defining element in your life? Do you have passions that are your own, or are they manufactured, designed, and cajoled by the money changers and propagandists?

 The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.

This line was from a speech by Rose Schneiderman, Polish-born socialist and feminist and prominent labor union leaders in America. It’s a phrase embodying everything today we workers need to utilize as a galvanizing force upon our souls to break away from these people like Bezos and the entire master crafters of our pain, poverty and penury. When I say “our,” I mean the world’s collective pain in the form of billions of people, for whom Western Culture (sic) has set loose a wildfire of forced displacement, murder, resource extraction, war and disease of the mind and body.

It was also a successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, during January–March 1912, which is pretty much universally referred to as the “Bread and Roses” strike. Pairing bread and roses not as counter-balances — fair wages and dignified conditions. Defining “the sometimes tedious struggles for marginal economic advances in the light of labor struggles as based on striving for dignity and respect,” as Robert J. S. Ross wrote in 2013.

I imagine the Bezos types wanting every last penny from every last $2-a-day inhabitant on earth, and I imagine this fellow is as steely-hearted as any in an Upton Sinclair book — and note this first quote by Sinclair is for me about men and women working today, even though Sinclair was writing about a living livestock animal torn from life:

One could not stand and watch very long without being philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe…. Each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart’s desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him, and a horrid Fate in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, all his protests, his screams were nothing to it. It did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.

― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

Delusions  of Terra-Forming and Mickey Mouse Grabbing Adults’ Attention

So what do we do with these Titans of idiocy, with their billions and their algorithms, with their broken telescopes peering into the black hole of humanity?

What about the 150,000 chemicals in human cells created by the industrialists, those synergistic variant effects we have zero knowledge about, which have helped push our American society into a chronically ill species of over 50 percent of a population cycled through Western (Un-)Medicine. Children with autism or on the spectrum — count that as possibly 30 percent of all births by 2040. Diabetes 1 and 2, more than 15 percent or more of the population by 2040.

According to Dr. Winchester:

This is a really important concept that is difficult to teach the public, and when I say the public, I include my clinical colleagues.

Still, atrazine is not the only human hormone-altering chemical in the environment. Dr. Winchester tested nearly 20 different chemicals and all demonstrated epigenetic effects, for example, all of the chemicals reduced fertility, even in the 3rd generation.

Still, why do 150,000,000 Americans have chronic diseases?

Researchers believe that every adult disease extant is linked to epigenetic origins. If confirmed over time with additional research, the study is a blockbuster that goes to the heart of public health and attendant government regulations.

According to Dr. Winchester:

This is a huge thing that is going to change how we understand the origin of disease. But a big part of that is that it will change our interpretation of what chemicals are safe. In medicine I can’t give a drug to somebody unless it has gone through a huge amount of testing. But all these chemicals haven’t gone through anything like that. We’ve been experimented on for the last 70 years, and there’s not one study on multi-generational effects.

Environmental Working Group tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released the findings.

Ahh, the melting planet, the water cycle’s disrupted, the entire mess of planetary re-shifting is on a collision course with Homo Sapiens. Everyday I get more and more notifications from friends and thinkers about the impending collapses, the impending peak this and peak that (Peak Everything).

Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote … can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past. That’s why I wrote this book.”

― Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Feudal Factories of Propaganda and Propagating .001 Percenters — Water, Man, Water

We trust ourselves, far more than our ancestors did… The root of our predicament lies in the simple fact that, though we remain a flawed and unstable species, plagued now as in the past by a thousand weaknesses, we have insisted on both unlimited freedom and unlimited power. It would now seem clear that, if we want to stop the devastation of the earth, the growing threats to our food, water, air, and fellow creatures, we must find some way to limit both.

― Donald Worster, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West

We are seeing this circling of the billionaires’ wagons (vultures circling the 7.8 billion marks, us), this Bezos and Musk lust for space, for some planetary gated-armed-Utopian community. These fellows and dames are something else, and the conjurers of news unfit to consume fall over them, recording and publishing story after story about their wisdom and foresight and shamanistic ways of predicting the future.

Remember George W. Bush and his big ranch buy in Paraguay? That was 12 years ago, readers, yet, back to the future, with news (sic) report after news report (sic) keeps tracking the next billionaire economic ejaculation. W, and we thought he was only painting pets!

Image result for george bush painting pets

Image result for george bush painting pets

The Chaco is a semiarid, sparsely populated area known — to the extent that it’s known at all — for its abundant wildlife, rapid deforestation, nothing in particular… and what lies beneath it…

Our Real Wealth Trader and Outstanding Investments contributor Jody Chudley thinks he knows the true gen about the Bush land grab.

Jody says he has a “secret” about the Bushes. And he adds, “It has to do with an investment idea that’s hardly on anyone’s radar.”

The real reason Jody thinks Bush 43 and family snapped up nearly 300,000 acres in those semiarid, sparsely populated wastes of Paraguay?


That’s right, blue gold. Bush bought the rights to a veritable ocean of fresh, clear-as-glass, Grade A water.

His land rests atop one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world: Acuifero Guarani, by name.

According to Jody, “Acuifero Guarani covers roughly 460,000 square miles under parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. It is estimated to contain about 8,900 cubic miles of water.”

If you can’t quite imagine 8,900 miles of water, picture a pool nearly three times the size of California. That should give you a decent idea.

A fair amount when you consider that 98% of this planet’s water is salt water.

Of the other 2%, almost 87% of it is trapped within glaciers, hence inaccessible. Jody’s “trusty calculator” informs him that only 0.25% of the water on this cosmic ball is fresh (underground, or in rivers and lakes). Just a drop in the figurative bucket…

Now, we knew this sort of stuff was going on with the elites, who look at us all as easy marks, broken money bags, the fat cows or broken pigs of their global stockades.

What’s happened is this trickle-down lust-love-longing for these people who get plastered in the headlines as being grand and philanthropists, deserving of every cent and every billion made on the back of people, earth, cultures.

Their trans-capital and monopolies  and viral presence like Google, Facebook, Walmart, and on and on sucks the revolution out of revolutionary, since we are now shackled to their ways of doing things. The goal of the capitalists is to harmonize their theft with our survival, whatever it takes to put five to a studio apartment (of course, sneaking the other four into the room in the dead of night), whatever it takes to just float through a gridlocked urban and suburban world. So, from Bush and Paraguay, to this Gawker Killer Thiel, we have enough evidence of their feudal ways, their slippery snake eyes methods of shitting on we underlings:

Here is Robert Hunziker:

Peter Thiel, the PayPal billionaire and renowned super-super-super libertarian and unapologetic Trumpster love-fester achieved New Zealand citizenship in only 12 days and bought not only his citizenship but a $13.8 M estate in Wanaka, a lakeside community.

According to a phone interview with the former PM of New Zealand John Key, “If you’re the sort of person that says I’m going to have an alternative plan when Armageddon strikes, then you would pick the farthest location and the safest environment – and that equals New Zealand if you Google it… It’s known as the last bus stop on the planet before you hit Antarctica. I’ve had a lot of people say to me that they would like to own a property in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.


Hell in a hand-basket, from the former prime minister of New Zealand — 1935 Book, quote:

If the average white New Zealander takes the Maori seriously as a human being, he is usually rather too ready to blame him for characteristics which more careful study will show not to be inherent at all but actually the result of the coming of the Europeans themselves, the extensive destruction of Maori life and the virtual dispossession of the Maori people. Little attempt is commonly made to understand the causes which produced, for a time at any rate (for they are passing) those Maori characteristics which have become almost proverbial amongst us. To put it frankly, we blame the Maori for becoming what we have made him. It is interesting to realise that similar circumstances of the contact of peoples have occurred before, and in view of the people referred to there is one instance which it seems particularly fitting that we should bear in mind. The instance comes down to us from the days when another great Empire, an ancient one, was civilizing native peoples. There is on record a letter from a wealthy Roman landowner to his agent in Britain telling him to ship no more British slaves “as they are so lazy and cannot be trusted to work.” Similar causes produce similar effects; we should be less ready with hasty judgment and hasty blame. There is a widespread belief, and it is one certainly cherished by the average white New Zealander, that no native people have ever been so fairly treated by Europeans as have the Maori people. As a matter of fact, if it is fully and frankly told, the story of the contact of Europeans with native peoples is much the same everywhere. What we have are so many varieties of what a leading anthropologist has recently termed “the tragic mess which invariably results from the impact of white upon aboriginal culture.” It is true that the Maori people have survived, but this, on careful analysis, proves to be very largely due to their own qualities and their own efforts rather than to any specially favourable mode of treatment. If we are honest there is little ground for pakeha self-congratulation.

Ahh, the evidence of climate change (global warming–hot planet) was there in 1896 researched, formulated and discoursed by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (and then later, amateur G. S. Callendar ramified the greenhouse effect of burning fossil fuels, and then later, C. D. Keeling measured the rising CO2 levels tying that to the greenhouse hot house effect), but for which has been swept into confusion by those marketers and mad men. Imagine, average planetary temps going up from  2.5–11°F by 2100. Imagine that!

The more civilizations evolve, the more energy dependent they become, so it’s possible that trillions of civilizations in the great continuum of space evolved, rose, fell and disappeared.

If you develop an industrial civilization like ours, the route is going to be the same. You’re going to have a hard time not triggering climate change. For a civilization to destroy itself through nuclear war, it has to have certain emotional characteristics. You can imagine certain civilizations saying, ‘I’m not building those [nuclear weapons]. Those are crazy.’ But climate change, you can’t get away from. If you build a civilization, you’re using huge amounts of energy. The energy feeds back on the planet, and you’re going to push yourself into a kind of Anthropocene. It’s probably universal.

—  Adam Frank, astrophysicist

Interlude, Interglacial Periods, Working for the Homeless — Flailing at Windmills


Comparison between summer ice coverage from 18,000 years BP and modern day.

Yeah, these big ideas I broach with homeless veterans and their attendant family members, and while the Gates-Kochs-Zuckerbergs-Bloombergs-Adelsons-et al have zero concern about us, the proles, the  detritus of their Capital, I believe working to change one life at a time — even if it’s a life riddled with evictions, felonies, relapses, epigenetic familial hell, PTSD, trauma, spiritlessness, physical decay — has meaning since in that process I have incredible interchanges with people who sort of want the same thing — paradigm shifts and de-industrialization and ecosocialism a la Marx 3.0.

I try to find peace in writing, even these polemics at DV or LA Progressive; and in my own world of fiction-poetry-creative nonfiction, the windmills abound because of a rarefied culture of the M-F-A (masters in fine arts) elite — those gatekeepers of the small literary kind, or even the National Book Award kind. This country is not big on real outliers in anything tied to the arts, and I am one of those round pegs looking to splinter the quintessential square hole.

Short story collection? Who the hell would read that? Well, try out a project of mine to get the stories —  thematically (sort of) threaded (sort of) to the “Vietnam experience” — as a hard copy from a small press, Cirque. You can read one of the stories, “Bloody Sheets,” here, starting on page 115.

The collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, is a gathering of fiction, much of which has been published in literary journals. I have succumbed to a Go Fund Me “deal” to help balance-offset the costs of printing a book on paper with ink.

I have no idea if a Go Fund Me will even take off. The first and only donation is from filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. Amazing, a struggling documentarian throwing in FIRST.

But we are in a new normal of shitting on writers, expecting us to have our day and then our night jobs and then write-write-write for free.

That is the question, really, who wants to spend their time reading short stories, outside the very narrow readership of Masters of Fine Arts aficionados who in many regards can be pedantic and puffery artists?

Vietnam, no less, in a time of Tim Burns rotting the foundation of the war we committed, or the Obama administration’s scrubbing of the war in his effort to commemorate it (Obama gives killer Kissinger awards).

Vietnam. One of my short journalist pieces for an old weekly I worked for in Spokane.

How many died in Vietnam and Indochina? 3.8 million? Oh, that Nobel Cause (War) myth I run into daily at a homeless veterans shelter, that is was winnable and worthy. Killing farmers, man, in their rice paddies! Whew, only a Zionist could write that script.

Read my short story collection for a different way to frame creativity and that time period, that narrative framing, that time in history that has defined and redefined the ugly wars of today. I am going to give this a shot in a time of blatant skepticism and group-think/act/do.

Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam. Be part of the creative impetus. The energy. The publication of a short story collection. With that “ask” of the reader who then gives will receive another book of mine, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber.

In my view [Dan Kovalik], this Noble Cause myth may be the most powerful and enduring propaganda trick ever perpetrated. And, it works so well because the audience for the trick — the U.S. people — are such willing and eager participants in the charade.

To explain the power of the Noble Cause myth, Marciano quotes from Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Prize lecture.  I set forth a larger quote from the lecture than appears in the book because it is so profound:

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

John Steppling, my fellow writer who studies intersections of culture-mimesis-art-politics (My review of his book,  Aesthetic Resistence and Dis-interest. That Which Will Not Allow Itself to be Said, here at DV) discusses the MFA phenomenon, a true watering down and controlled form of check and balances fiction:

So, the fact that The Rockefeller Foundation underwrote (and still underwrites) a good many MFA programs (and not just in literature, but in theatre and fine arts) is both relevant, and not. Or maybe a better way to address this is see The Rockefeller Foundation as symptom. I received a Rockefeller fellowship, which I hadn’t applied for. But, the very fact that creative writing programs boomed after WW2, and permeated the academic landscape is without question linked to the patronage of institutions like The Rockefeller Foundation (and the MacArthur Foundation, and…). And to deny that the tacit influence of these institutions is idiotic.

Now, it’s also true that what John Crowe Ransom and Stegner and Burrows preached is correct. Or it’s correct up to a point. It is revealing that Melville was derided, because Melville wrote a lot of ideas, and additionally observed the ways those ideas and that knowledge existed in the world. But it is equally true that you do not observe those harpoons so closely, or closely in a particular way, that all you get is a harpoon description. And a so described harpoon that never participates in riots or social unrest, and whose production is unexamined and the harpoon company that distributes it is left blank…the better to describe the fluted morning dew that bifurcates my tabby cat’s shadow on the harpoon handle, and etc etc etc is only a individual’s sensory observation. The harpoon must be known, not just observed.

The real point here is that what Iowa started, and many other University programs followed, was to narrow down the definition of “fiction”. Dante would not be considered fiction today. While there is a point in demanding a concrete description, and not a generality, the exclusive focus on the concrete meant that ideas were being eliminated in fiction. The world is not abstract… but that includes History and politics and tensions of daily life. Those offices in New York, or those bad marriages, are not separate from the Chinese Revolution, or U.S. Imperialism, or the blockade of Cuba or the present two million men and women in prison in the United States. ‘Greatness’, whatever that means, and I have no problem with that word, or the ideas behind it, is in discovering both what that connection is, and ..and this is important I believe…how our own personal emotional and psychic formation, and development are related to both Mao and our failed marriages (or, even the successful ones).

The emphasis on observation, on brute description, however eclipsed ideas as a subject for fiction. You may not sit down to write ideas, per se, but you certainly have an idea of what a harpoon is. You have to know certain things, and, in fact, the best writing is that which tells you what you don’t know, not describes nicely what you already do know. And there is a tendency in young writers to generalize. So on the one hand it’s natural to emphasize the concrete, but the result, perhaps intentional, or partly so (given the Rockefeller project) was the elimination of ideas in prose, and the narrowing of the definition of what constituted “fiction”

Will Hurricane Maria Wash Away all Illusions about the U.S. in Puerto Rico?

Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward identified and emphasized an important factor in understanding the larger political and economic forces that create the conditions in which people defy the rules of the established order and take part in popular protest.1 These moments of popular protect was during the Great Depression in the 1930s, when unemployment was at about one-third for the working population in the U.S., and during the 1950s and 1960 when unemployment reached depression levels for Blacks, living in segregated ghettos. For Piven and Cloward, it was the removal of employment and the disintegration of community that resulted in uprooting people from a sense of stability that comes from the routine of work. It is in these moments of catastrophic suffering that individuals find it difficult to blame themselves or God for the plight they found themselves in.2

In the case of Puerto Rico, will Hurricane Maria have a similar effect? Will the removal of stability (which was always precarious) among the many poor and displaced in Puerto Rico force Puerto Ricans to confront the illusion that the conditions on the island are not their individual or collective faults, but the results of the U.S. colonial relationship? Hurricane Maria appears to be a part of the storm that has ravaged Puerto Rico since 1898.

Even before Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico, it had depression-like economic conditions with high unemployment and a poverty rate estimated to be at 43.5% in 2016.3 Recent figures had the “official” unemployment rate at around 10.1% in August 2017 (17% in 2010 was the highest since 2007).4 According to a Pew Research Center report, more Puerto Ricans have left the island for the U.S. this decade than during the largest recorded numbers during the Great Migration after World War II, citing job-related reasons above all others.5 Immigration to the U.S. has historically been seen as a safety-valve, reducing the social pressure and conflict associated with high unemployment.

A very important statistic is the percentage of Puerto Ricans in the labor force. According to the U.S. Census 2011-2015, only 43% of Puerto Ricans aged 16 and older are in the labor force (compared to the U.S., which is 63.3%). It is difficult to arrive at actual figures of the plight of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico when one considers all the discouraged workers who exist below the official radars of U.S. quantitative statistical methods. Many appear to either manage to scrape by, participate in the underground economy, or move to the United States. For example, the number of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. reached a record 4.9 million in 2012, and since, at least 2006, has exceeded the 3.5 Puerto Ricans on the island.

On his visit to Puerto Rico, Trump said, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.” While this may have been an attempt at humor, it actually reveals the U.S. government’s official policy on Puerto Rico, regardless if a Republican or a Democrat is at the head of the executive office. The idea that economic conditions are self-inflicted is not only consistent with “blaming the victim,” but is also part of the “myth of underdevelopment.”6 The myth of underdevelopment illustrates how imperialist nations enrich themselves through the extraction of resources, enslavement, exploitation of labor, the development of captive markets, and debt domination as a result of ownership and control of industry and trade and then turn around and treat a colony or neo-colony’s actions as the source of its impoverishment.

Puerto Rico has experienced one of the worst hurricanes in its history. Most of the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans remain without electricity, drinking water, food, fuel, vital medicines, and a devastated infrastructure. The Trump administration’s response has been slow and ineffective, leaving Puerto Rico in a dire life and death situation. However, the history of Puerto Rico has been a history of economic crisis that long preceded the hurricane or the well-publicized 72 billion dollar debt owed to Wall Street. We are told that Puerto Rico has mismanaged “its” economy and that it is a “welfare basket case,” leeching off of U.S. tax payers’ money. But what is missing in this “official” U.S. narrative is that Puerto Rico has been the location of wealth development. This wealth development has certainly not been equal. U.S. corporations have received the lion’s share of it along with a Puerto Rican elite that has seen fit to ensure that Puerto Rico’s resources remain in the control of the U.S. and that it remains a captive market for U.S. goods.

The Puerto Rico as a captive market of the U.S. was established by the U.S. Foraker Act of 1900. The Foraker act placed all trade between Puerto Rico and other countries under U.S. taxation and protective tariffs, which protect U.S. products from foreign competition.  As a result, Puerto Ricans are forced to buy all of its imported goods from the U.S., thus becoming a captive market. In addition, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 stipulates that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S. flag ships to Puerto Rico.7 As a result, Puerto Ricans pay up to 20% more for goods sold on the island, increasing the profit margins for U.S. produced goods and shipped items.

As long as Puerto Rico (and not just the selected elite) is not in a position to negotiate the terms of its development, trade, and have the capacity to regulate and tax foreign investment (includes the U.S.), Puerto Rico will remain in the clutches of U.S. dependency.  For example, in 1947, Operation Bootstrap, a U.S. driven economic development project meant to industrialize and combat poverty in Puerto Rico by attracting U.S. owned manufacturing companies, with tax exemptions, subsidies to factories, and loan assistance was a godsend to U.S. corporations because of the unlimited pools of low-paid labor and all the profits amassed without the benefit of paying taxes to the island or investing in its development. In order to address the poverty that this program accelerated, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), encouraged Puerto Rican immigration to the U.S. by subsidizing airfare. In addition, other forms of population control was used to combat poverty such as a governmental sponsored sterilization program. Yet, in that period, U.S. corporations continued to take huge profits off the island, while billions in federal welfare and transfer payments come to the Puerto Rican yearly to alleviate poverty.8

In 1976, the U.S. Congress passed Section 936, in the U.S. Tax Code, with the goal of encouraging business investment in Puerto Rico.  While several corporations, primarily pharmaceutical corporations, took advantage of the federal tax exemptions and made millions, Section 936 did not deliver on its promise of jobs or increases of wages because capital-intensive labor requires less employees. Nevertheless, the continued problem was that U.S. corporations did not invest the profits in Puerto Rico; instead most of them accumulated their profits until the end of the tax exemption period (10 years) and then liquidated their profits into other subsidiary companies outside of Puerto Rico.9 In fact, because of the loss of billions of dollars in taxes to the U.S. federal government, Section 936 was phased out of existence in 2006.  Some have pointed to the removal of Section 936 as causal to the current economic crisis, but a careful review of this law reads more like the legal corruption that pervades Washington and corporate interests, and not a viable and sustainable economic policy with Puerto Rican interests in mind.

For many Puerto Ricans, the promise of America did not pan out. Nelson Denis observed:

After one hundred years of citizenship [the Jones Act], the per capita income of Puerto Ricans is roughly $15,200—half that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the union. Yet in the last five years alone, the government raised the retirement age, increased worker contributions, and lowered public pensions and benefits. It also hiked the water rates by 60 percent, raised the gasoline and sales taxes (the latter to 11.5 percent), and allowed electricity rates to skyrocket. In 2013–14 alone, 105 different taxes were raised in Puerto Rico.10

The nefarious circumstances that surround the Jones Act of 1917 are clear and illustrate the motives of the United States. According to Johnson, “Congressional hearings in 1916 had indicated that many Puerto Ricans preferred to be Puerto Rican citizens” as opposed to U.S. citizens.11 In the period of World War I, Lewis wrote: “…America felt obliged to prove her liberalism as against imperial Germany…”12 In addition, Cripps argued that with the outbreak of World War I, the U.S. wanted to secure Puerto Ricans more firmly to the U.S. as well as curb the growing discontent toward the United States.13 Lastly, Denis argues that U.S. citizenship wasn’t exactly a gift, because one month later the U.S. declared war on Germany and needed more able bodies for the war effort in World War I.10

Puerto Rico’s elite and political process grew out of colonial context. The political process has historically operated within the sphere of external control and it is within these constraints that Puerto Rico’s political parties operate. The political process provides the island’s elite and their political parties an arena in which to exercise their limited power within the perimeters of U.S. power. For example, Luis Munoz Marin and the PPD came to power in the 1930s during political and economic strife. Munoz Marin was the Roosevelt New Deal administration’s man in Puerto Rico and he and the PPD would serve as an intermediary force between the U.S. and the Puerto Rican people, delivering the “goods,” short circuiting the tension on the island, while elevating their own political and economic interests in keeping the colony afloat.14

The creation of the “commonwealth” in 1952 or what is referred to as the Estado Libre Asociado in Puerto Rico was designed to shield against international criticism of its continued colonial status. This in turn provided the opportunity to manufacture the necessary consent to “legitimize” the political arrangement by providing the appearance of the expressed political will of Puerto Ricans. The creation of commonwealth status was used as a ploy to convince the U.N. that Puerto Rico was no longer a colony. As a result, in 1953, Puerto Rico was removed from the U.N.’s list of non-self-governing territories that required decolonization. This maneuver made the U.S. exempt from submitting annual reports on the country’s social and economic conditions to the U.N. Secretary General. Since 1953, the U.S. has refused any inquiry into Puerto Rico’s political status stating that all Puerto Rican matters are within the purview of the U.S. and it is considered an internal matter. As we will see below, the U.S. colonial relationship with the U.N. is at the core of this matter and cannot be resolved as an internal matter, but requires international attention and intervention in the form of establishing a process for decolonization.

The management of a colony by the use of a U.S. state strategy of elite promotion of the PPD and its employment distribution and social aid provisions failed miserably by the 1960s and the 1970s as the U.S. was hit with an economic crisis and moved more in the direction of neoliberalism amid growing competition from Japan and Western Europe. The period that preceded the crisis was characterized by what Morales Carrion called the “political consensus,” because it involved the PPD’s ability to deliver employment and improvements to the standard of living.15 This crisis also provided opportunity for the New Progressive Party (PNP), a new pro-statehood political party, to emerge.  They won their first governor’s election during political and economic uncertainty in 1968. They attempted to appeal to the poor with such slogans as “Statehood is for the Poor” as they attacked the PPD for being responsible for Puerto Rico’s state of dependency. The PNP program is that as a state, Puerto Ricans would have access to the services, rights, and protections that other U.S. states have. Critics have stated that statehood would bring about the death of a Puerto Rican nation; its unique culture, identity, and whatever autonomy it claims and aspires to possess.

The pro-statehood party has received little to no support in the U.S. Congress and if and when this is to happen it would more than likely occur when Puerto Rico has been depopulated of almost all Puerto Ricans, especially the poor, which is occurring now (as noted above). On the other hand, the PPD’s model as an intermediary force embedded in the New Deal politics of managing marginality has ran its course, because of  the U.S.’s declining global economic position and its increasing reliance on neoliberal policies. It is clear that the U.S. and Puerto Rico do not have mutual interests. It is also clear that the U.S. continues to maintain sovereignty over Puerto Rico and as long as it can maintain a captive market, rent free military bases, an endless pool of labor rendered superfluous due to globalization and its race to the bottom, and bodies to fill the rank-and-file of the war machine, it has no desire to change this fortuitous situation, only the desire to keep a lid on a potential explosive situation.

Puerto Ricans now must confront a grim reality that the U.S. government does not care about them and has not since 1898. This reality is not the result of the Trump administration. After all, the establishment of PROMESA, came under the Obama administration, which announced loudly and forcefully that Puerto Ricans do not have any national sovereignty or rights, because this board, which comprises of Wall Street interests has dictatorial powers, having control over Puerto Rico’s budget, laws, financial plans (allocation), and regulations, and is not accountable to Puerto Ricans.16 It is very important to point out that the U.S. government, no matter the political party at the head of the executive office, has never prioritized a resolution of Puerto Rico’s colonial status. It is also important to understand that political parties in Puerto Rico are not mere puppets of the U.S. or its party duopoly, but are active participants in sustaining their own positions of power by cooperating closely with the U.S.’ Democratic or Republican Parties.

Will Hurricane Maria wash away all illusions about the U.S. in Puerto Rico? The hurricane winds of Maria appear to be blowing the roof right off of the many years of concealment and containment of the fact that Puerto Rico is but a colony of the U.S., with second rate citizenship and as Trump stated, “on an island in the middle of the ocean.”

The last two times in which large segments of the Puerto Rican population became aware that their collective suffering was the byproduct of larger structures and processes and not the result of either individual attributes or some deficiency in their ability to self-govern was in the 1930s, when the Nationalist Party and organized labor mobilized and in the 1960s and 1970s when Puerto Rico was hit with an economic crisis, which propelled mobilizations of labor, students, and the reemergence of the pro-independence movement. In these two historic moments, the U.S. state and the elites on the island had the use of the carrot (a system of rewards in return for compliancy) and the stick (a huge repressive and surveillance apparatus on the island). However, today, there appears to be less and less carrot (the New Deal strategy), but plenty of stick.

The stick can be summed up by examining the repressive and surveillance apparatus on the island. The U.S. military presence on the island has varied according to the U.S. geopolitical strategy at any given time. At its peak, there were 50 military bases with the largest being the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. In the 1980s, these military bases had approximately 10,243 full-time active military and civilian personnel stationed on them.17

The U.S. National Guard, currently maintains 48 armories and are in 30 communities. The Guard in Puerto Rico is estimated at being about 8,000 to 10,000 strong. In addition to the Guard and the unknown military strength of other branches on the island, there are FBI, DEA, CIA, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, and private contractors who are not only involved in drug interdiction and counterinsurgency operations in the Caribbean and Latin American, but are active in Puerto Rico.18

This military presence on the island has historically served as a constant reminder and deterrent to resistance: a show of U.S. military strength as compared to Puerto Rican’s military weakness. These forces have been active in putting down rebellion and engaging in counterinsurgency types of operations in the 1930s and 1950s that targeted the Nationalist Party, a pro-independence organization. Also in the 1960-1980 period, the FBI’s COINTELPRO was active in a campaign to disrupt the pro-independence organizational efforts that included labor leaders and students on the island and in the United States. For example, in 1985, 200 FBI agents raided Puerto Rican activists’ houses and businesses throughout the island in an attempt to intimidate supporters of independence while they arrested people alleged to be connected to the Los Macheteros.19

It was discovered in 1987 that the FBI and the local police had “subversive” dossiers on about 75,000 Puerto Ricans deemed to be threats. These dossiers go back to the early days of the U.S. occupation and not only on included members of pro-independence supporters, but also included large sections of the Puerto Rican population.20 These brief examples point to how a movement for national independence has been historically repressed and criminalized; they also reveal the lunacy in the reasoning that Puerto Ricans have somehow expressed their free will under such oppressive conditions.

Will the disasters, natural or otherwise, create the conditions for a people to look beyond the U.S.’ set parameters of thought and alternatives and look at larger political and economic conditions that Puerto Rico finds itself? This is not a case of restructuring or forgiving the debt or allocating more provisions to Puerto Rico, but the case of colonialism.  A cursory study of Puerto Rico’s history illustrates that remedies to the “economic problem” in Puerto Rico have consistently overwhelming benefited the U.S. at the cost of Puerto Ricans.

The Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria on the island and its disparaging views of Puerto Rico may end up being a watershed moment for Puerto Ricans because it reveals the real commitment and position of the U.S. on Puerto Rico.  The effects of Hurricane Maria and the austerity measures (e.g., closed schools and hospitals, and cuts to government employment) may, in fact, begin a major drift towards decolonization as the current reality on the island becomes more and more evident to the common Puerto Rican.

  1. Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward. 1979 [1977]. Poor People’s Movement. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  2. Ibid., 11-12.
  3. QuickFacts: Puerto Rico. U.S Census Bureau. 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  4. Economy at a Glance: Puerto Rico. Bureau of Labor Statistic, United States Department of Labor, October 13, 2017. Received: October 13, 2017.
  5. See Cohn, D’Vera, Patten, Eileen, and Lopez, Mark Hugo. 2014. “Puerto Rican Population Declines on Island, Grows on U.S. Mainland.” Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  6. See Michael Parenti. 1995. Against Empire. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.
  7. See Nelson Denis. 2017. “After a Century of American Citizenship, Puerto Ricans Have Little to Show for It.” The Nation, March 2, 2017.  Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  8. See Juan Gonzalez. 2000. Harvest of Empire. New York, NY: Penguin Books, p. 251.
  9. James L Dietz. 1986. Economic History of Puerto Rico: Institutional Change and Capitalist and Capitalist Development. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p. 301.
  10. Nelson Denis. 2017. “After a Century of American Citizenship, Puerto Ricans Have Little to Show for It.” The Nation, March 2, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  11. Roberta Ann, Johnson. 1980. Puerto Rico: Commonwealth or Colony? New York, NY: Praeger, p. 17.
  12. Gordon K. Lewis. 1963. Puerto Rico: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean. New York, NY: Haper Torchbooks, p. 3.
  13. L. L. Cripps. 1982. Human Rights in a United States Colony. Cambridge, MA.: Schenkman Publishing Company, Inc., p. 23.
  14. Vince Montes. 2003. Cycles of Protest: Contentious Puerto Rican Collective Action, 1960s-1980s. Unpublished dissertation, New School for Social Research.
  15. Arturo Morales Carrion. 1983. Puerto Rico: A Political and Cultural History. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., p. 143.
  16. Patricia Guadalupe. 2016. “Here’s How PROMESA Aims to Tackle Puerto Rico’s Debt.” ABC News, June 30. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  17. Humberto Garcia Munoz. 1993. “U.S. Military Installations in Puerto Rico: Controlling the Caribbean.” Pp. 53-66 in Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Puerto Rico, edited by Edwin Melendez, and Edgardo Melendez. Boston, Mass.: South End Press, p. 57.
  18. Vince Montes. 2009. “The Web Approach to the State Strategy in Puerto Rico.” Pp. 99-118 in Bureaucratic Culture and Escalating Problems: Advancing the Sociological Imagination, edited by D. Knottnerus and B. Phillips. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
  19. Ronald Fernandez. 1996. The Disenchanted Island: Puerto Rico and the United States in the Twentieth Century. Westpoint, CT: Praeger Publishers, p. 246-247.
  20. Ramon Bosque-Perez. 2005. “Political Persecution against Puerto Rican Anti-Colonial Activities in the 20th Century.” Pp. 13-48 in Puerto Rico under Colonial Rule, edited by Ramon Bosque-Perez and Jose Javier Colon-Morera. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, p. 24.

Wealth over work, $28,684 to $1

On September 27th, media reports outlined the tax plan hammered out in secret by the GOP’s so-called Big Six. The morning of the 28th, the writer Stephen King tweeted his scorn: “Same old same old. The fat man’s busy dancing while the poor man pays the band.”

The poor man doesn’t really pay the band, but there’s plenty of reason to second King’s emotion.

The proposals reaffirm the Republican obsession with shoving more money into the pockets of people whose pockets are already bulging. The haves, and only the haves, would reap billions by repealing the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax. More would go in the same direction by taxing the income of pass-through businesses at 25 percent.

Worst of all, the proposals make not even a gesture toward eliminating the biggest single contributor to income inequality in America: lower taxes on income from wealth than income from work. Income made sitting by the side of the pool (capital gains and dividends) gets taxed at a lower rate than income from wages. For taxpayers in the top bracket, the preferential rate amounts to a break of roughly 40 percent (23.8 percent on investment income vs. the top marginal rate of 39.6 percent on ordinary income). The tax break for the everyday well-off is even greater, 15 percent vs. 28 percent, a savings of over 46 percent.

Candidate Trump promised a big gesture, ending the carried interest loophole that lets hedge fund managers mislabel their income as capital gains.  They’re “getting away with murder,” he said. They are, and the crime pays big-time.

It’s true, of course, that the rich hand over by far the biggest share of individual income taxes in America. It’s also true that an ever-greater portion of their income flows from wealth rather than work. That means a major tax break on ever-more billions: driving up the net incomes of the super-rich and the merely rich, driving up inequality, pushing effective tax rates on the upper reaches so low that Warren Buffett says his office workers pay at a higher effective rate than he does.

It also means that work is taxed more than it should be, or that wealth is taxed too little, or both. Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, frames the issue starkly: “We’re taxing the rich much too lightly because we tax capital so much less than labor.”

Trump is a golden example of who strikes gold under the GOP plan. Bloomberg News denounced “The Trump Tax Reform’s Pass-Through Boondoggle,” calling it “a great deal for the Donald Trumps…of the world.” Leaked pages from the president’s old tax returns show that he paid an alternative minimum tax of $31 million in 2005—a tax he now wants to repeal. The Trump family, of course, would benefit “yugely” if the estate tax gets the ax.

Tax expert and author David Cay Johnston founded a news service to focus on “what the President and Congress DO, not what they SAY.” In an article on that website, Johnston showed what happens (and what presidents and Congresses knew would happen) when tax policy favors wealth over work. He used IRS data to compare “the very highest income Americans in 1961 and 2013 with the vast majority, the 90%.”

His calculations may surprise taxpayers of all incomes:  in real terms, adjusting for inflation, effective rates have dropped sharply over those 52 years. The 90% paid an average 9.6 cents out of every dollar in 1961, but only 7.6 cents in 2013. The 400 richest paid 22.9 cents in 2013 compared to 42.4 cents in 1961.

“That’s a rate cut of 19.5 cents per dollar,” Johnston wrote, “that’s almost 10 times as large a tax-rate cut applied to a lot more dollars.” It lifted the 2013 tax savings for the super-rich to an average of $51.6 million.

The gusher came after-tax.  Comparing 2013 to 1961, the income of the top 400 rose on average by $195.4 million. For the 90%, the average rise was $6,812. “Now here comes the…ratio that may take your breath away. For each dollar of increased after-tax income enjoyed by the vast majority in 2013, the top 400 enjoyed $28,684 more. That’s $28,684 to $1.” (The ratio was even greater with Social Security taxes factored in.)

Trump’s proposed tax cuts are now masquerading as GDP growth hormones. Modest cuts, if any, are being touted as a middle-class bonanza. The real bonanza will stream even more to wealth, not work.

$28,684 to $1. And the GOP wants more.

Why I Was Put on Administrative Leave Toward a Termination: Planned Parenthood, A Vaccine, Doublethink Alive and Well in the World of Non-profits

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

— Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, London, part 2, chapter 9, pp 220

Part One

I was taking a sex education class with 40 other social workers in Seattle, Washington, at the Planned Parenthood office, this past sunny October 16. It was innocuous, infantile, silly and with a room-full of young (except me, my colleague and the trainers) social workers and providers for youth – young folk, teens, into their twenties. Homeless, drug affected, with mental health issues, identity questions, you know, youth at risk! I was cooperative, not argumentative, and rather “chill” to use the parlance of many generations.

At the end of the day, less than two hours after the session, I was called by my boss in Portland and I was told not to return for Day Two of the training. In her words: “You are not to go back to work Wednesday until I find out ‘what was going on in Seattle.’” That phrase, “what was going on in Seattle,” is one key element of how a 32-year-old supervisor with a master’s in social work from the so-deemed liberal social work program at Portland State University sees the world. She never told me what it was that got me expelled from the second session of the two-day mandatory training.

This story is on-going, unfolding, a sort of discombobulating process even (especially) innocuous non-profits, run by social workers, engage in when they want to sack someone who has shown passion for the youth and the work, created radical (social justice leftist radicalness) work around’s dealing with bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and who is loved by his clients/youth. I have been told to stay away until further notice. I even missed out Friday on a yearly retreat with my cohorts from other Portland area sites whom I have never met before.

Moreover, even under the precarity of my position (this is a ‘we got the right to fire and frog-march ya’ right out of the premises on a whim or a prayer’ state, and this behemoth of a non-profit is not worker organized; i.e., unionized), I have to believe it’s okay my sticking my head out there on the proverbial chopping block – writing about it — since it’s now October 21 and I have three days before I have a one-on-one behind closed doors meeting with the HR Director. I’ve been on paid administrative leave since October 17 (my sister, the social worker’s birthday); forced to drop my appointments with youth in crisis and others I depend on professionally; been informed to wait for the head of HR to return from vacation (this from a non-profit with over 700 employees, and only one person can hear me out, so I’ve had to stew and stew and then second- and third-guess what is the actual “charge” against me by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest to Include Washington, Idaho and Hawaii, Alaska).

What A Wonderful Day of Sex, STIs, and LGBTQI Training Turned into a Storm

We had all sorts of fun activities and ice breakers and plenty of Seattle food during the tax-funded training. It was a mix of what we might have to tell our youth in times of trouble; i.e., possible STIs contracted, possible pregnancies to be faced, possible physical abuse endured, possible queries into what to expect during first-time sex, possible questions about sexuality and sexual identity. It was taught at times in that silly sort of way, as if we were the youth.

I went with the flow, and while I was one of only three males as students, and while my grizzled beard and sport coat put me into that other protected class – anyone over fifty – I did blend in fine. Or at least I thought I had . . . .

I headed back to the hotel 19 blocks away, with my African-American colleague, female again in that protected age class. We decided to meet up later, for a drink. However, the supervisor in the program for the non-profit I work for in Portland called me up 90 minutes later and said I was on administrative leave and to not to return to work until the HR director could be contacted and then “my side of the story” would be aired. My supervisor was dry mouthed, didn’t give me a chance to ask “why” and was curt. End of debate (sic).

In the scheme of things, one 60-year-old socialist/Marxist getting sacked – this is what the unfolding reality of what’s occurring – is nothing. No tsunami, no reverberating story of my house burning down in the Columbia Gorge, or three nights weathering a hurricane hitting Puerto Rico, or surviving a Las Vegas mass shooting spree.

High turnover rates and no cause dismissals and pile-on workloads is the defining characteristic of social work/mental health healing. This is typical in my field – social services – where people in their mid-twenties are coming onto the job market with big hearts, a dedication to social work, and a big school debt load for their vaunted masters in social work, AKA MSW. Coming out of the flagship university of Portland, PSU, they might have $50K or more for debts incurred for tuition, books, living – i.e., rents that Robin Leech from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous would have been citing as his millionaires’ monthly mortgages for regular lower middle class youth and adults. Make that a master’s degree holder getting $12.25 an hour working with some very challenging cases of people on the edge.

Fighting for the Young-Old, Tired, Hungry, Poor, Disenfranchised, Houseless, Young, Misbegotten isn’t Radical, it’s Normal

I am not laughing, but the insanity of what happened to me in a 12-hour period also shines the light on the corrupt Planned Parenthood, specifically the trainers and development directors at PP who see anyone who might be both against a Trump and an Obama (me) and a dyed in the wool Marxist (me) and doubter of Western medicine (me) and this boondoggle Gardasil (me) — [more on the vaccine now forced on young girls and boy at an early age to prevent HPV — Human Papillomavirus] — as a threat . . . . But a real threat to what, that’s the question?

First, the very nature of what I do in social services is suspect every day when I work with non-profits and some of those MSW supervisors who not only make life a living hell for their workers through impossible caseloads, impossible work hours, obscene paychecks, but also through very little emotional or institutional support. We are always on the chopping block, cogs in a social services scheme that ties state-federal-philanthropic funding to our jobs – this is a veritable shitstorm of begging for funding from various agencies like Planned Parenthood (who gets money from Bill and Melinda Gates, Starbucks, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Unilever, Wells Fargo, Stanley Morgan, et al) and federal and state entities to smear on the Vaseline and adhere the Band-Aids to a very stressed-out/underfunded web of mental health and addiction issues killing this country.

We all should be on the streets during breaks, in between client visits, around town with sandwich board signs espousing an end to exploitative criminal capitalism; tooling around in our private vehicles plastered with all sorts of political and social justice billets glued on – “we are social workers and the mental health and homelessness and drug addiction and medical health issues are a crime, perpetuated by Capitalism, and in the case of Oregon, by Intel and Nike and the others who fight paying their fair share of Operating Their Billion Dollar Industries in Oregon.”

Instead, we work our caseloads with a passion and continuous trauma cortisol-laced operating procedure while in many cases the entire rotting non-profit affords us zero agency, zero trust, and in my case, my word (and the words of two colleagues who were at Planned Parenthood training, at my same table, perfect witnesses to my stellar behavior) against whatever word the Planned Parenthood trainers (three total with a fourth PP observer – we’ll get to her later).

You don’t have to get the Catholic Worker or World Socialist Web Site to see which profession is the number one stressed and most difficult in America – try CNN:

Median pay: $43,200
% who say their job is stressful: 72%

Social workers step in when everyone else steps aside to help people and families in vulnerable situations. They provide patients with education and counseling, advise care givers and make referrals for other services. And with social workers in short supply and programs underfunded, few must juggle the work of many, while reaping little reward.

Just ask Heather Griffith, a social worker who works with children in intensive foster care in Boston: “You’re getting paid $12 an hour and kids are screaming at you, telling you that you are just in it for the money and you’re just like, really?”

Portland is plagued with a huge class divide while homelessness, addiction recovery, physical/emotional trauma and mental hygiene are churning up a bloody storm of Biblical proportions, precipitating this glasshouse we are living in that shines the light on the fallout (victims) of Capitalism and neoliberalism. But, also, this quadruple storm and tsunami is illustrative of the inhumane nature of so-called liberals, white liberals, and in my field, mostly white female liberals, who have set up so many chinks in the armor of safety nets and true communitarian support and radical social work (there’s really no radical social work being done in the USA) that the people working with youth and adults in crisis are then put into crisis after crisis, daily traumas from management, threats of firing, and in my case, warning after warning for disagreeing with police who laugh at youth drug addiction or individuals with Department of Human Services branches who continue to propagate the virus that Donald Trump is good for homelessness because he is picking up the local economy.

I’ve been called on the carpet by my much younger supervisor with her shiny MSW and white privilege smirk actually because I was advocating for my foster youth, for not accepting misstatements and for denying the ageism-sexism-racism that comes from so many people’s mouths – those in some minute form of authority. I’ve been called on the carpet for voicing both a wise and no-backing-down support of my caseload – young kids and those up to age 21 who have been in foster care.

If you think I’ve strayed from the current thesis of my job now in the balance because of an outside non-profit, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest (I do not work for PP), think otherwise since I have to get to the nuts and bolts of my current fight to stay employed not only with L———-W, but in the field of social services. Count the number of men social workers and DHS case managers in any given organization or county-city-state agency on your hand. Some meetings I go to and the trainings like this one held in Seattle by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest reflect a less than 9 percent (or less) male attendance or worker ratio.

I have been with 60 case managers, and was only one of five males in the crowd.

This is also the terrible nature of the beast – out of balance demographics. Youth and adults want-need-should have male workers as well as female ones. But, the nature of this field as a female field over time has ratcheted up the idea that women are givers and men aren’t. Anyone with a socialist underpinning knows that the fields with nurses, teachers and social workers have largely been populated by women because of the patriarchy and outright misogyny of a white Christian-Jewish male dominated upper echelon in the fields of education, medicine, psychology/sociology. Low pay and no power, that’s the jig in social services, education, journalism, and now, almost in every field in America, counting 80 percent of us as members of  the precariat. The elite class and upper echelon of the fields I have worked in have largely been from Ivy League schools, and many are self-described Jews or Democrats. Count other professions I have been a worker in to include English studies, higher education, journalism, mainstream novel publishing, union organizing, environmental activism, urban planning, and now social work.  Many fields are populated largely by women, and our pay is obscene.

Back to Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest – Sasquatch Ate the Homework!

The Seattle Planned Parenthood office looks like it was designed and built for Patagonia executives: lots of old growth beams, exposed cedar wood, metal I beams and tons of windows from floor to ceiling. This is not a welcoming place, but I did what I was supposed to do as a social worker for youth in foster care: these incredible 16 to 21 year old’s who I help with mentoring, health, education, employment, cultural, physical and intellectual and spiritual pursuits. I manage funds and sources of support for them, too, as well as provide invigorating, thoughtful and fun conferences and outings and the like.

This Planned Parenthood training is a curriculum that is two days of exposing social workers and youth advocates on the basics of sex ed. It’s a cross between adults – us—getting a childish bunch of things pressed upon our brains and then some up-to-date’s on STD/STI (sexually transmitted infections) and contraception.

We do some really juvenile things as ice breakers, and, well, I am a team player and active kind of 60-year-old, and my belief is that if I am being paid to go to a training, getting a fancy hotel to stay in and per diems, then I throw in with an open and engaged mind. But I am no wall flower.

What will follow will be highly informed speculation as to why I am currently on paid leave from L———W and am faced with a Monday morning HR visit tantamount to a termination hearing:

And that’s the problem I am facing – I threw in and took the PP spiel and promise about safe space and respected opinions and in the case of my situation, anonymity, seriously. Again, I work for L———W, not for Planned Parenthood, and as of Tuesday October 17, my job was on the line because Planned Parenthood called my boss (a white thirty-something Portland State University MSW graduate) who put me on notice I am in deep shit.

I have to riff here with some common threads in my life as an activist and leftist-socialist: This is the epoch of the neoliberal and Political Corrupted left, and it’s a world of warped Political Correctness, Identity Politics, and a lot of bullshit ranting at cocktail parties, lots of railing against the Orange Monster, but in public, these people are bereft of voice, passion and spine. Few I see in the social services rail or rant or debate against the Trump-Pence-Neoliberal insanity of this world. How is this, when the reality TV Dystopian outgrowth of elitism and corrupted patriarchy power, this obvious creation of neoliberalism and anti-worker Democratic Party, Trump et al is front and center and no one tackles his presidency as an obscenity, in the lines of previous presidencies?

Our field of social services and in PP’s case, reproductive health services, is tied to the almighty government dollar entwined to the power brokers who fund these outfits and ask for all leftists’ mouths to be taped shut: Here, Planned Parenthood’s money trough: Adobe, American Cancer Society, American Express, AT&T, Avon, Bank of America, Bath & Body Works, Ben & Jerry’s, Clorox, Converse, Deutsche Bank, Dockers, Energizer, Expedia, ExxonMobil, Fannie Mae, Groupon, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, La Senza, Levi Strauss, Liberty Mutual, Macy’s, March of Dimes, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Progressive, Starbucks, Susan G. Komen, Tostitos, Unilever, United Way, Verizon, Wells Fargo.

Now, I believe this is a tale of Big Pharma and Big Non-Profit colluding together to write a false narrative about one vaccine that has gotten a lot of negative press and more negative testimony from young women and their parents on the vaccine’s debilitating and life altering (negative, full of chronic pain/fatigue, sterility!). But, that’s part two of this story – after I end up in a one-hour fact-finding meeting with my non-profit’s HR to “discover” exactly what went wrong in Seattle October 16. On all accounts, not a single untoward or odd or explosive or demeaning or contentious thing occurred in my physical participation in the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest training.

Also, this is a story of how the Political Correct non-profits do not follow the rules of safe space, anonymity in written comments and evaluations, fail to honor all people in one setting, and go on a witch hunt if even one thread of their nationally made reputation is untangled in the fabric of their overreach. Look, I am one worker, old, through the ringer in other jobs, other professions, who is now awaiting word of my future.

Twenty bucks an hour, some paid time off, health insurance, and an office and a large caseload. I have been left since October 16 to stew, to ruminate, to consult a labor attorney and to visit a psychologist as part of our company’s three free visits with a counselor tied to stress in life, stress at work.

We Are the Gift That Keeps on Giving — Social Services Worker!

I’ve been red-flagged in the minds of my youth, since I’ve never dropped appointments, and now I’ve been forced to. My teammates are left wondering what happened to me and what might happen to them. My office mates from other departments in this non-profit are wondering where I am since I’ve always been a stickler for showing up and not taking time off. I’ve been told no work, no emails, so I can’t even let my teammates know that I am okay, not terminal (maybe terminated) and let them know I am under forced administrative leave.

Here’s the rub about places where the workers aren’t organized, where there is no contract, where the bosses run roughshod over workers, though we outnumber them 100 to one: whatever the bosses do in their convoluted process and whatever they might think is due process, they are wrong.

Due process is not accusatory and is not a process of railroading — setting up an employee as presumed guilty before a fair airing of the complaint. This sort of management and supervisorial style is counter to these non-profits’ (mine especially, since we were trained recently on it) motto that we have to be social workers who use trauma informed care as our operating principle. They in turn have zero sense of trauma informed supervision.


Trauma informed care is grounded in and directed by a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma and the prevalence of these experiences in persons who seek and receive services.

Trauma informed care is about creating a culture built on six core principles:

1. Trauma Understanding: through knowledge and understanding trauma and stress we can act compassionately and take well-informed steps towards wellness.

2. Safety & Security: increasing stability in our daily lives and having core physical and emotional safety needs met can minimize our stress reactions and allow us to focus our resources on wellness.

3. Cultural Humility & Responsiveness – when we are open to understanding cultural differences and respond to them sensitively, we make each other feel understood and wellness is enhanced.

4. Compassion & Dependability – when we experience compassionate and dependable relationships, we re-establish trusting connections with others that fosters mutual wellness.

5. Collaboration& Empowerment – when we are prepared for and given real opportunities to make choices for ourselves and our care, we feel empowered and can promote our own wellness.

6. Resilience & Recovery – when we focus on our strengths and clear steps we can take toward wellness, we are more likely to be resilient and recover.

Recovering reputations, no mater how micro-aggressive the impugning is, directly or secondary, is not an easy thing when management assumes guilt — in my case, something so terrible that Panned Parenthood would ban me — and puts an employee through this process of locking him or her out of the team, out of the unit, out of the safety and sanity of fellow workers who are the front-line of work and of supporting fellow workers in times of need.

Second, having the rules of discovery broken by a non-profit during a so-called investigation is not only unethical but unprincipled. I do not have any sense of the nature of the complaint leveled against me by Planned Parenthood, so when I go into the meeting with HR Monday, it’s cold, lacking context, lacking any ability for me to get my head wrapped around this entire event.

I’ve sent emails to the four trainers for PP, and I’ve sent emails on a very human level to the supervisors’ supervisors, and even one to the company’s Executive Director, who espouses an open door policy on our web site.

Nothing in return. No phone calls allying my fears. Nothing. The Planned Parenthood people who called for my ban from the second day training did not email back, my supervisor has told me zero about the nature of the complaint, and the ED of my non-profit didn’t reach out. This is a 55 year old Portland-based non-profit, and I am being treated as a non-entity. I can’t imagine an HR person holds sway over the ED’s compassion or ability to engage with an employee.

I have two colleagues who were at the Seattle training who have told me in written texts that nothing went awry and they are more than willing to attest to my composure and level-headedness at the training. There were others there, people from Seattle, who would be just as capable as witnesses to attest to my professionalism.

This is the issue, then, a non-profit following some secret plan to investigate me after putting me on forced administrative leave. This is quasi-judicial, and I have no union to back me, no negotiator, no representative or ombudsman. In some circles, this could be called a witch hunt, monkey trial or a rail-roading.

Assume positive intentions is another mantra in the non-profit world, and again, the positive intent of whatever might be the craw in the throat of the Seattle Planned Parenthood trainers should be on my company to hold to me.

Finally, I gave these people — supervisors, HR, PP, my colleagues the thought experiment: Now, what if I was one of the many Christian social workers, evangelical, even, coming to a training put on by Planned Parenthood and funded by taxpayer money (it is)? What if this person stood up and espoused her opinions about the greatness of the current leader of the USA, President Trump. What if she went further and said that while she is willing to sit through two days of training, she wants it to be known that she supports Mr. Trump’s anti-Planned Parenthood stance. And she continued by saying she supports Oregon and Pacific Northwest lawmakers fighting against abortions and federally funded services around birth control and contraception? What if this person continued by stating that while she will listen to the trainings and participate as best she could considering her Evangelical Christian views, that she also disagrees with the LGBTQI designations bandied about cavalier like by Planned Parenthood? And what if she was in favor of the Oregon baker who refused to make a cake for a same sex couple? What if she added that she was President Trump’s calling for the US Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Colorado baker who too refused to bake a same-sex marriage-wedding cake?

That thought experiment is key to where I stand —  I am the exact OPPOSITE of that hypothetical social worker above, in both my actions, my words, and my writing. Further, I am philosophically and politically and fundamentally for anyone’s right to get birth control, birth control services/education, and to access abortion. I believe bakers or dress makers or baristas have zero ground to stand on by refusing services to African-Americans, dwarfs, people with Down Syndrome and gays or LGBTQI, anyone, including frosting a cake. It’s discriminatory. Period.

I have seen a psychologist, and he’s recommended I do not keep all this in my head. “To find some release,”  Paul. Here it is, in writing. One lawyer I called pro-bono said to keep copious notes and be as lawyer-like as possible Monday. My friends and significant other and relatives all say this is an insanity, whatever I have been accused of to be banned from a mandatory training (for my job) at the Seattle Planned Parenthood.

However, Part Two will be started the hour after HR meets with me. What will happen I can’t crystal ball into the future, but my gut feels like a process of termination, one that looks above board compared to other firings this non-profit has engaged in.

I’m no Karen Silkwood here, or Erin Brockovich. So, on the scheme of things, I’m what Death of a Salesman’s about — small potatoes, nameless worker, one of the masses busting his head against the wall of capitalism, for profit or non-profit.

But mark my words — even if one person reads this, then one person more bears witness to this injustice after injustice. If I’m sacked, the clarity of how Planned Parenthood and Big Pharma are interlinked in a nefarious game, and deadly because of the product both are pushing, will be clearer.

What more can I do in an age of dead journalism, that is, the so-called traditional and mainstream? There’s not a bunch of editors in Portland for the three alternative rags and for the mainstream dying rag waiting to report on my case. You the reader will get my own personal journey and the larger colluding of Planned Parenthood with the forces of Big Pharma. In that process, my catharsis will be evident, and the storied history of Planned Parenthood will be developed.

This is a simple case of an unfair labor practice, a violation of my free speech rights, a violation of confidentiality, and now workplace harassment, wrongful suspension and possibly wrongful termination. In a right to fire/right to work state, no less, my words and my calls for justice crumble and float away like the very parchment of treaty right given to all the great first peoples of this land and of Canada after they were torched! What’s worse is that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is creating a specter of insanity, Orwellian, a flipped over reality where someone, me, not even associated with the organization, is being called to task by his employer. What is the definition of insanity? Someone else’s projection?

He [Trump] has stepped out of our celebrity reality-TV screened world to carry on the media’s task of what Orwell said was a necessary task for the rulers in a totalitarian society: ‘to dislocate the sense of reality.’ … We have now entered a new phase of propaganda where sowing mass confusion on every issue 24/7 is the method of choice.

But therein lies hope if we can grasp the meaning of Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical statement: ‘When both a speaker and an audience are confused, the speech is profound.’

Ed Curtin

Steve Bannon’s Crystal Ball: A Split in the GOP

Rarely does the virus speak so formidably to the condition he is a product of.  The soiling, devastating strategist Steve Bannon, despite exiting the Trump administration, remains within it (symbolically at least), moving about with effect and influence. But it is a legacy of mixed curses that bodes ill for the Republican Party.

The one call he repeats with truncheon carrying persistence is one of division. This is not a man who believes, let alone tolerates, unified fronts.  Disunity is his bread, butter and caviar.  Where a front of consensus appears, his shock methods seek to disrupt it. And nothing, for Bannon, would be more reflective of failure than a united GOP, lips moving in synchronous agreement, all on that one vast page of political thought.  Unless, of course, they agreed with him.

His performance on the 60 Minutes show was nothing short than pure in its protest. In his discussion with Charlie Rose, the familiar terms were deployed with weaponized zeal.  Targets were identified, elites excoriated.  There were those troublesome individuals, the “swamp”, the establishment.  All were given a generous verbal lashing.

The personal targets were predictable enough: old stalwarts such as Speaker Paul Ryan and the human personification of the detested swamp, that veteran insider Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. They supply the stifling set, keen to submit Trumpism, or Trumpism envisaged by Bannon, to gradual strangulation.  “They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented.”

The theme of frustrated revolution proves constant in the interview, and here, the revolutionary was speaking as a combatant in exile, gazing over a world that refused to change.  “In the 48 hours after we won, there’s a fundamental decision that was made… We embraced the establishment.”

Everything else followed: the stuttering, the plodding, the meandering of the Republicans.  “I think their choice,” he predicts of the GOP functionaries in response to such instruments as the Affordable Care Act, “is going to be you’re not going to be able to totally repeal it.”  As, indeed, it is proving to be.

For Bannon, purity, despite being in a country of the energetic melting pot, is a genuine concept, the very product of a form of archaic Americanism.   Amnesty for the undocumented, he blustered, was non-negotiable.  “Economic nationalism” was indispensable to the American character. But the impure are in the ranks, laying out the pillboxes and road blocks. “The Republican establishment,” he shot at Rose with conspiratorial suggestiveness, “is trying to nullify the 2016 election.”

Of course, nothing would be Bannon without the crystal ball, the gloomy prediction with its rich wafting of apocalypse.  The GOP, he surmises, will duly be divided, and will suffer come the 2018 elections.  He expressed particular worry about how the Republicans will fall on their sword regarding the matter of immigration and undocumented labour, the great poisoned chalice of US politics.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012, is a point of considerable demurral. President Donald Trump promised on September 5 to repeal the measure, which allows applicants who arrived in the US before the age of 16, subject to various conditions (continuous residence, study, lack of a criminal record), the chance to receive work permits.  There was one softening concession: a six month grace period before the program joints the ranks of history.

For Bannon, any approach to such programs should be unequivocal and swift, necessarily brutal and decisive.  Opponents, such as the Catholic Church, were merely keen to fill the pews with the faithful. (The church, as an economic liberal entity, is a curious Bannonism indeed.)

DACA, however, risks being the bomb that goes off within GOP ranks, with its ticking device set. Leaving it linger will have lethal results: “if this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March, it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party.”

When the ashes settled, the interview concluded, the fumes could still be seen.  Bannonism remains furious and unbowed, and most of all, angrily unrepentant.  But his one persistent illusion remains: Trump is not a Bannonist, an ideologue, a person who will sport his own variant of Mao’s Little Red Book to wave with dedication.  (The Art of the Deal hardly counts.)

The current US president remains an opportunistic misfit, never one to play by the code of any specific philosophy, any credo that is not a self-interested one. It is for that very reason that Bannon had to go, to assume the visage of the indignant, philosophical monk, where he will continue to rail and pontificate about race, the undrained swamp of Washington, economic irrationalism and “the pearl-clutching mainstream media.”

Social Security: The 14th Amendment and “Odious Debt”

The Republican Party prepares to violate the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution:  Social Security — the 14th amendment and “odious debt”.

For decades the working people have been paying millions more than was needed into Social Security and for years the excess money has been borrowed by the government.  Presently there is almost $3 trillion owed by the government to the Social Security Trust Fund.  The Republican Party now controls the government and has a budget plan that will give less than was promised to millions of people who have paid excess into Social Security for years.1 This proposed budget is, in fact, a default on the debt owed to the Social Security Trust Fund and the people of the United States. The proposed Republican budget cut to Social Security is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The 14th amendment reads as follows: “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, includes debts incurred for payments of pensions….. shall not be questioned.”

For decades the politicians have not only borrowed from Social Security to run the government, but 70% of the national debt has been borrowed from banks, financial institutions, corporations and rich individuals.  The politicians borrowed because instead of taxing the rich banks and corporations, they cut their taxes.  As a result, workers’ taxes and Social Security payments provide almost 90% of the federal government’s revenues.2 Over decades the politicians have allowed major corporations to escape paying billions in taxes, they have given subsidies in the billions to corporations and agribusiness, and they have allowed tax breaks for the oil and gas companies in the billions of dollars.3 The Government has also spent trillions of dollars for multiple wars and on bailing out banks and insurance companies.

Politicians have borrowed money and spent it on the military industrial complex. Over half the national budget goes to the military in spite of the fact that over the past 46 years the general population has been opposed to the government’s decision to spend so much money on the military, and have repeatedly indicated that they would rather  the money be spent on social services, healthcare and education.

A 2014 study by Princeton University came to the conclusion that the majority of the American public actually has little influence over the policies the government adopts.  The study concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impact on US government policies while the average citizen have little or no independent influence.”4

Politicians now tell us that there is too much debt and they want to pay off the creditors rather than provide public service to the average citizen.  This debt is clearly against the interests of the general population.  This debt was obtained without the people’s consent and with the full awareness of the creditors. Thus this fulfills the International Legal Definition of an “odious debt”.  We, the people  have no obligation to pay and consider this debt invalid.  We will not pay this debt; the rich who benefited from this debt must repay it!

Stand together for a Stronger, Improved and Expanded Social Security!!

  1. New York Times, July 19, 2017
  2. The White House Office of Management and Budget, “Historical Tables”, Table 2.1
  3. “Take The Rich off Welfare”, by Mark Zepezaur and Arthur Naiman, 1996, The New York Times, 3/10/17.
  4. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”, Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, American Political Science Association 2014.

Yes, We Can Fix the ACA

2017 is the make or break year for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Seven years in, the flaws of the ACA are clear – tens of millions are still without health insurance, premiums and out-of-pocket costs are rising and causing people to either avoid and delay care or go into debt, and the US continues to rank poorly in health outcomes. There is one way to fix the ACA, and I call it the Private Extraction.

What are we to do?

The Republicans are seeking a way to keep their promise to repeal and replace the ACA, but they are finding that this is not very easy to do. There are deep divides within the party over cuts to Medicaid and subsidies for premiums. And the changes they are currently proposing will leave tens of millions more people without insurance. This is highly unpopular with the public, and the Republicans are being hit with widespread opposition. President Trump is so discouraged that he’s calling for an all out repeal now with a replacement to be determined down the road. This would be political suicide if they can’t come up with a solution.

Despite the Democratic base’s overwhelming support for National Improved Medicare for All single payer health care, the Democrats are saying that we can’t do that yet because first they want to fix the ACA. We hear Democrats and their supporters in the media and non-profit world saying that we just need to “stabilize the market” and suggesting the addition of a public insurance, which they call a public option, or allowing people to buy into Medicare as a way to insure more people.

This was the same message that the Democrats gave in 2009 when their base wanted single payer to be included in the health reform debate. Democrats said that the people were asking for too much and told them to work for something more practical, a public option, instead. This effectively divided and weakened single payer supporters. The saddest part of that story is that the public option was never intended to be in the final legislation. The White House and Congressional leadership actively worked to keep it out of the final bill when the tide of support was moving lawmakers to include it.

So, here we are again. Even Senator Sanders, considered to be a champion of Medicare for All after campaigning on it heavily in the presidential primary, is saying that we have to fix the ACA first and then we can work for single payer. We know how that works out, but in case you are not familiar with the scenario: if and when the ACA is tweaked, we will then be told that we have to wait and see if that worked, and when it doesn’t, then another tweak will be proposed, and so on. Single payer’s day will never come until we organize and work specifically to make it a reality.

Let’s look at the Democrat’s proposals:

Stabilizing the market” basically amounts to giving the private health insurance corporations more money through direct subsidies or tax credits so they will lower premiums and still make enough profits to satisfy their investors. The Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank funded by the health insurance industry lobby group AHIP, offered a “bipartisan proposal” this week “that proposes repairing Obamacare’s exchanges through a mixture of new subsidies to help insurance companies cover their most expensive patients, and lower taxes to encourage insurers to set up shop in under-served markets.”

Jeff Stein goes on to describe CAP’s plan further: “The second component is a $15 billion ‘reinsurance’ fund. It calls for giving states federal money to give insurers funding for their most expensive, high-cost enrollees — which Spiro says would in turn reduce premium payments for everyone else on the exchanges.” Here is the translation: the plan would use public dollars to reimburse private insurers for actually having to pay for health care. If you step outside of the matrix for a moment, it becomes clear that is a ridiculous idea.

And while Democrats rail about the Republican’s efforts to repeal the taxes in the ACA, the Democrat’s proposal essentially does the same thing by funneling more public dollars into the pockets of the medical industrial complex and their Wall Street investors. Applying market language to health care, which is a public necessity, reveals that the Democrats view health care as a commodity and not a human right. It can’t be both.

A “public option” is the term applied to a public health insurance that people could choose to purchase instead of private health insurance. It is often described as a way to compete with private insurers because theoretically it would be able to offer lower premiums since it would not have a requirement for profit. The reality is that adding another insurance to our already complex and heavily bureaucratic system just adds more complexity and bureaucracy. And thinking that it could effectively compete with private insurance, which already has a large grip on the market, is naive.

To create a public option, either each state or the federal government would need to set up a new health insurance plan, recruit health professionals to participate in it, negotiate rates for health care services, and then market the plan to customers as a lower cost viable alternative and hope enough people sign on to make it work. This is a big lift. And in the past, private health insurers have been willing to temporarily drop premiums to stifle just this kind of competition.

What is most likely to happen is that the public insurance becomes a relief valve for the private insurers by attracting people who actually need health care. I call it the Profiteer’s Option. Private insurers are very talented at finding ways to encourage people to leave them when they become sick. One way they do this is by severely restricting their provider networks so that when a person becomes ill and finds out that the doctor or hospital they need is not in their network, they seek an alternative. Or they can do it in a more passive-aggressive way by offering lower quality service to people who start racking up high health bills.

A natural experiment in public-private competition is found in Medicare. There is a public Medicare, often referred to as traditional Medicare, and there are private Medicare plans, misnamed Medicare Advantage plans. People who enroll in Medicare Advantage plans are healthier overall than those in traditional Medicare. When a Medicare Advantage enrollee starts to need more care, they quickly find that the Advantage plan has less generous coverage or doesn’t include the health professional they need to use and they drop out. This leaves traditional Medicare to cover the sickest population.

A public option will, in the end, struggle to have enough healthy enrollees to cover the costs of covering people who need health care and it will end up either raising premiums, so it is no longer competitive with private plans, or dropping benefits. A Medicare buy-in would essentially be another form of public option that would attract people who have higher health care needs. With any form of public option, the overly-complex and expensive health care system in the United States remains essentially unchanged. It does nothing to address the fundamental flaws in our system.

The United States spends more than twice as much per person each year on health care as other industrialized nations, which are universal and have better health outcomes, because the US doesn’t have a health care system that was designed for health. The US has the highest administrative costs, a third of our health care dollar goes to administration, and the US pays the highest prices for health care services and pharmaceuticals because we don’t have an overall system that negotiates the prices. There is no rationale for the costs of care; it is based on what the market will bear.

[Dark blue is public spending and light blue is private spending. The red bar is the average.]

The United States is also unique because private health insurers are not designed to pay for health care; they are financial services designed to make a profit for their investors. They do this by charging the highest premiums they can, shifting as much of the cost of care onto the individual through co-pays and deductibles and restricting coverage. Let that sink in for a moment. Private health insurers are predators designed to suck money out of our health care system.


A Fix for the Affordable Care Act

Count Bleed Ya Dry sucking the blood out of Uncle Sam. Photo by Bill Hughes.

There is one way that we can fix the ACA, and I call it the Private Extraction. A private extraction means that we would remove the private health insurance industry from the system. No more tax credits for private plans. No more subsidies or re-insurance to private health insurers. No more government marketplaces and employees to sell their plans to the public. This would save hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars every year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that more than $300 billion would be spent on federal subsidies for the purchase of private insurance in 2016. That’s more than 300 billion of taxpayer dollars that are feeding the industry’s high CEO salaries and Wall Street investor’s bank accounts instead of paying for care. Since the ACA was passed in 2010, health insurance stock has performed two times better than all stocks. The New York Times reported this year that:

The numbers are astonishing. The Standard & Poor’s stock index returned 135.6 percent in those seven years through Thursday, a performance that we may not see again in our lifetimes. But the managed care stocks, as a whole, have gained nearly 300 percent including dividends, according to calculations by Bespoke Investment Group. UnitedHealth, the biggest of the managed care companies, with a market capitalization that is now more than $160 billion, returned 480 percent, dividends included. An investment of $100 in the company’s stock when Obamacare was signed into law would be worth more than $580.50 today.

If we want to fix the ACA, we can’t spend more federal dollars trying to out-compete an industry that is more than twice as strong as it was when the ACA was passed. We can’t give them more money and hope they’ll cover more care for people who are sick or create a public insurance to take people with health care needs off their hands. We need to perform a curative procedure: a private extraction.

Then, what could we do to make sure that every person living in the United States has their health needs covered? The answer is simple and it already has the support of the majority of the population. It is National Improved Medicare for All as embodied in HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. For those who are unfamiliar, I describe it in more depth here.

The sooner we do this, the sooner we will be on track to healing our ailing health care system. This must be our demand to all political parties. The winning solution is Medicare for All.

• First published in Health Over Profit