Category Archives: Social movements

Questioning the Extremely Online

This essay is in regard to a crime that too often goes unmentioned when the conversations turn towards political analysis, the contemporary journalistic scene, and broader social critique: the crime of being extremely online.

What does it mean to be extremely online? It mostly is as straightforward as it sounds. Generally, activities such as spending too much time on the web, scrolling through social media feeds out of habit, checking email or notifications dozens of times a day, all are symptoms of the extremely online person. Particularly, too much smartphone use is a devastating problem.

There is also a more specific version, which both mainstream journalists and alternative media commentators employ on both the right and left: constantly posting every news update; sharing a gazillion times every day each and every version and opinion on a current event/post/tweet about the lead news stories of the day, whether it is something interesting about global warming or something as ignorant and banal as the president’s tweets; prognosticating about the presidential election a year and a half before it happens;  using dubious polls or statistics to bolster weak arguments; and basically reacting to every media spectacle with behavior including, but not limited to, juvenile tantrums, posturing, faux outrage, jaded cynicism, pompous virtue-signalling, ironic detachment, and narcissistic self-aggrandizement.

Quite a few alternative media commentators tend to replicate and mimic the 24/7 spectacle that is mainstream news. That is to say, many have internalized the messaging style; the hyper-fast response time to current events…generally speaking, the norms of mainstream commentary and thus bourgeois values are being internalized. The more time spent posting for an online following on social media, the stronger the pull of an affinity to a certain type of power. Digital hierarchies become hardened, and the bourgeoisification of the web intensifies. As we shall see below, even those who identify as anti-capitalist or socialist are not immune.

The types of online behaviors regarding political debate exhibited above may be the exception, but with the expansion of social media along with its hyper-stratified tendencies, it may soon become the norm.

What research has shown is that digital literacy creates a path towards more open attitudes towards digital technology, which can be called Technophilia.1 This research points towards entertainment as one of the key drivers in promoting positive emotions and behavior when using digital technology, which results in a positive feedback loop leading to more intense and rewarding use.

If you extrapolate from this a bit, I’d suggest that the top online influencers in various political schools of thought will be more predisposed towards promoting digital technology, simply because they are benefitting from it financially. We have a situation where the most popular commentators are economically tied to social media, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that their naïve optimism regarding the power of digital media will not stop there, but rather, the naivety extends to industrial society as a whole.

The social media environment creates a logic of its own, just as most modern technology does. One obvious materialist analogy is to the medical industry. As long as for-profit companies are allowed to dominate pharmaceutical and research endeavors, the logic of the system will mean that more people are made sick, anxious, depressed, etc., to make more money for corporations. With social media, the logic of its internal dynamics precludes nuanced, informed, lengthy public deliberation in favor of sound-bite quotes, sloganeering, and focusing on personalities, along with the most shallow forms of identity politicking. Its logic depends on divisive, sensational, hateful, and ultimately fascistic rhetoric dominating political discourse.

Since the scope of Technophilia broadens and intensifies with continued use of labor-saving devices made under exploitative conditions, it ultimately results in many self-proclaimed anti-capitalists falling under the sway of propaganda emanating from mainstream technological society, as we shall see below.

Class is never taken seriously in our society. In many rural areas around the USA broadband internet access is still out of reach, and is expensive for many poor urban Americans as well, creating a digital divide. Thus it is no wonder that the rich and middle-classes are more “open” towards the web and smart-phone use. They derive more pleasure from them in terms of entertainment, increased digital literacy, and monetary success. The flip side of being more open is being more immature and blind to dangers, however. In contrast the poor and working classes respond to the digital life-world with more skepticism, as the above study indicates.

My contention here is that this digital literacy creates a new form of “digital spectacle” for technophilic Westerners on both the political right and left, especially for the middle classes. The elite implicitly understand that in a society based on artificial scarcity, only a certain amount of online influencers can vie for position in digital media. The professional and managerial classes, and their children ensconced in privilege, all too easily fall under the sway of the competitive forces in online media as well.

The poor and working class understand that in regarding to digital media, they are getting crushed under the weight of start-up costs, social capital which is either unobtainable or sleazy to get, and various online fees and hurdles to make it in a new rigged game of digital society. The digital divide is becoming a chasm, because it too it based on market forces.

As alluded to above, election cycle mania, the fascination with polling data, as well as fixation of GDP, job growth, and many other factors which the mainstream media focuses on are now internalized across the political spectrum, included much of Western Left analysis. This isn’t to say that socialists overly reliant on statistics and polling are wrong; simply that it’s mostly ineffective, as the tone is technocratic, academic, and is filled with the jargon that turns off the average citizen, even some of what is written here. I am not immune, this is a self-criticism as well, as the lack of engagement and overly analytical framework extends throughout journalism and academia across the entire social body.

Most of this behavior has been internalized and learned from mainstream media, which creates a market and manufactured interest in nonsensical statistics and banal news trivia, as Neil Postman points out:

Statistics create an enormous amount of completely useless information, which compounds the always difficult task of location that which is useful to a culture. This is more than a case of ‘information-overload.’ It is a matter of information-trivia, which has the effect of placing all information on an equal level.2

Once data becomes transmuted into a sort of holy substance, it is wielded by both the political Right and Left as a weapon: statistics back their cause and any deviation from the issue is irrational and illogical. This sets the table for false binaries and political polarization across the spectrum of political thought.

What being extremely online has done is given the very few big “influencers” in mainstream media as well as alternative spaces huge egos and warped their ability to think critically. This is most clearly seen in our “troll in chief”, Donald Trump. Time, space, and perception are distorted and it has led to a predictable and unimaginative online discourse.

When a post appears on social media, often if you know the contributor and some of the followers/friends, you can glean and predict what the reaction is going to be and who is going to say what. Depending on the news of the day, I can guestimate what the “takes” will be of my various friends and those I follow. I admit this can be sometimes comforting given the horrendous news we deal with daily. However, it also kind of implies that real people are reacting, thinking, and forming commentary algorithmically, as if our thoughts now mimic apps like Spotify and Pandora which play tracks from one’s favorite musicians; or at least similar artists which won’t offend the listener’s taste. How banal and horrifying all at once.

With podcasts or Youtube videos, as well as message boards, one can see political commentary forming a script, where individuals rattle off reels of their “greatest hits” of points, observations, and reflections, rather than engaging with the subject matter. No matter how hard we try, social media can never replicate oral traditions and real-life conversations. Dysfunction is baked into modern capitalist-based digital communication.

How being extremely online works to the advantage of the few at the expense of the many is easy to ascertain. We are told we are living in an “attention economy” and the extremely online predicate their behavior on this premise, even those who ostensibly identify as anti-capitalist. The extremely online mimic the 24/7 blather of mainstream media discourse, because nothing is too insignificant not to post, nothing too small not to get out in the lead as being “on top of” any given issue or current event. This is the sort of competitive striving absolutely essential to capitalism.

Outrage, shock, compassion, repulsion, empathy, and even “rational, objective” sober media analysis vie for our attention spans, and the extremely online prey upon those among their followers who due to loneliness, emotional issues, or escapism already spend too much time online, and are thus more vulnerable to screen addiction, sensationalist appeals, fear-mongering, gossip, consumer trends, etc.

Of course, the mainstream outlets have been deeply complicit, as it suits their financial interests. As seen by the CNN executive during the 2016 election gloating that the insane coverage of Trump was horrible for the country, but good for their bottom line, or something to that effect.

As for the reaction time of news sources, and thus political commentary, it may strain one’s memory to recall, but only twenty years ago any major news stories that broke after the evening news broadcast did not appear until the next morning, nearly an eight to twelve hour delay

Now, every media outlet is constantly bombarding us with every update and crisis in real time. The main reaction to this (notwithstanding the many sincere alternative media, community-level, and individual critiques) in the collective consciousness is shock and numbness, and it only compounds daily.

Now, many leftists tend to unconsciously mimic the same tendencies of mainstream media. This is done by copying the tactics of mainstream online influencers who use marketing, PR, and advertising firms to get ahead. This is done by pandering to the crowd and reacting to every Trump and establishment faux pas, whether Democrat or Republican. This is done by opportunistic virtue signaling and online activism viewed as a substitute for in person organizing. The virtual becomes more real than the real. Egos become more tied to the digital social environs, a derivative of a derivative.

Apparently the twisted logic is that if the extremely online use social media as a way for exposure and fame, it’s worth it. Social media becomes a tool, a means to an end to uproot the system. The downside tends to be that we become instruments of social media itself, not a new phenomenon in Western Civilization.

Posting dozens of times a day on social media simply is not in anyone’s best interest. It is in the best interest of capital, however. Why else would one post 30, 50, a hundred times a day if not to create an attention economy around oneself, to gain digital “followers” whose gaze will be diverted from possibly more important issues closer and dearer to their hearts…as well as to one’s family and friends, one’s material reality and ability to help the vulnerable and those in need close to them.

What should be obvious is every moment spent online is time away from the natural world and thus a huge time-suck where we exist as zombified, trance-induced crazy people for more information, useless updates, more drivel-data and bits of trivialities that do not change a thing.

Being online means being on the grid and the computing power needed to keep our information superhighway running is increasing like a runaway train. Despite the relatively low cost of powering one’s individual smartphone and computer/laptop/tablet etc., the internet via server farms, cell towers, etc. uses approximately 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption and the total energy use for the web increases by about 20% each year. The rollout of harmful 5G technology and internet of things only will accelerate the technological dystopia we’re enmeshed in.

Regardless of what technophiles and delusional people want to think, modern industrial civilization is a fad. We are going to have to go through an extended period of degrowth and lowering our power consumption and that will have to include less internet use. Most especially, too much smartphone use must be addressed head-on. Smartphones need to go away, for good, and it’s not too hard to imagine a workable society without them. It existed twenty years ago.

This should be simple enough to understand, but again, chronic habitual internet use and social media creates a form of addiction which leads to denialism. For those that do partake in nuanced forms of online discussion, in message boards or even in comment sections, yet limit, self-reflect, and moderate your use, congratulations. This is not directed at you. This is written is response to the serial social media addicts. For those in this group, I’ll posit that one of the root reasons for this malady is that our addict-Left comrades unconsciously identify with the system.

This isn’t meant to sound callous, these people are suffering to different degrees, and I do empathize. Boredom, loneliness, and lack of in-person human connection are endemic to our culture and these factors shouldn’t be minimized when understanding addictive behavior.

Part of the problem is the speed of society now. It’s understandable, people want to keep up with events and chime in with their two cents. It’s a human reaction. Part of the problem is also that the people who have convinced themselves they are part of the solution remain part of the problem. Mainly, because they are unable or unwilling to critically examine the technophilic ideology at the heart of the capitalist-based internet.

The “Left-opinion makers”, as the Situationists were wont to call them, thus fall hopelessly further into the spectacle.

Caveat

Social media use is not a horrible thing in and of itself. Although much of its use tends to replicate competitive and hierarchical relations, there are alternative visions of what the web could be like. Internet and social media companies could have been, and should be now, directed through public funding and non-profit models decades ago to engage and educate working class people, to provide jobs and new opportunities, and to raise the consciousness of the public sphere. This could easily be done even within the confines of a social-democratic system.

What we have now is a web and social media landscape that is largely, but not completely, irredeemable. Again, this does not mean one should completely ignore it, only that social media should be seen as a vessel to get people out of their homes and into the streets: like we saw in Tunisia, in Egypt and many other nations during the Arab Spring.

I don’t know if this metaphor is useful at all, but social media could be used as a sort of liberatory portals or gateways, networks to awaken the masses from their slumber, to take them out of the virtual and into the “natural” world. Web and social media technology can be used to “tune in” people to serious movement-building, to Marx, to environmental protests, to issues like climate change and nuclear war, through digital communication; but eventually there has to be a period when citizens step through to the other side and “drop out” to take the struggle onto the public squares. The thing is, many of those involved in just such struggles seem hopelessly “addicted” or too enamored with the power of internet technology itself, much like what has happened with the fetishization of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, the personal computer, and many other examples.

The Professional Bloviators

Sadly, quite a few self-professed anti-capitalist public intellectuals seem to be ensnared by bourgeois ideology today. Many rightly view our political and economic systems as hopelessly corrupt, yet still cling to the privilege, perks, and soapboxes offered by their academic positions (tied to student and faculty exploitation, which is either conveniently unmentioned or under-emphasized), viewing their own credentials as somehow a basis for a true and fair meritocracy, as if academia is somehow above the vagaries of blind chance, sheer luck, white privilege, and jockeying for power.

Any academic worth their salt should be either heavily insinuating, or outright stating to their students, that college is a huge waste of time and money, depending on how much “free speech” they can actually afford to say without getting canned. Universities function today as huge indoctrination camps to train the next generation of good “liberals” (or good Germans, it might be more appropriate to say) who will never question or threaten to overturn the system: the professional-managerial upper-middle class technocrats, financiers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

Thus, even some dissident academics manage to paint themselves into a corner with ineffectual arguments backing the college system, turf wars, theatrical posturing, lack of engagement with the working class, etc. This has all been said before, but again, it may be worth repeating. For instance, in 2011 in the US there were some “socialists” and “anarchists” supporting the US/UK/French bombing of Libya, and a few who equivocated and vacillated, citing the responsibility to protect civilians, parroting State Department propaganda. Oy vey.

The internet and social media has accelerated this trend, making things worse among the wider population, as even those with core anti-capitalist ideas fall into internecine bickering. This is peak aspersionary politics, or passive-aggressiveness if you prefer, which apes wider bourgeois culture. To recast Allen Ginsberg’s opening line of Howl for today, and I only mean this half-jokingly, we can think of something like: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media.” Some Left twitterati self-identify as being “extremely online”: brazenly, unashamedly, and unreflectively revealing the depths of their own screen addictions.

Aldous Huxley described the brain as a “reducing valve”, yet I’ve not heard a fully-encompassing phrase for the situation created by a digital milieu where web algorithms which reinforce harmful beliefs and behavior, prey on our addictions, amplify hatred, sow discord, polarize media and community; by devices that seize and sustain our attention long after we realize it no longer serves our interests; by neurotransmitter hijacking, empathy-deadening, critical-thinking atrophying smartphones and media built explicitly to mine us for money, use our thoughts/photos/creativity/etc. as free content while social media companies and those who advertise on the platforms make billions, and generally to simultaneously distract, outrage, and numb us. “Limbic capitalism3 is the closest term I’ve come across, but perhaps the more brutal, if less artful, phrase is more apt: mind control.

There is less and less nuance and space for radical dissent as many left-leaning alternative media and social media influencers close ranks and offer only very mild criticism of social democratic policies. Again, the striving is self-evident, is it not?

These are symptoms of unhealthy minds, formatted/manipulated/brainwashed to choose between false binaries no matter what contradictions follow from the starting premises of whatever topic is at hand. For instance, take the so-called socialist opportunists who offer very mild public criticism of the Green New Deal, or those who don’t mention the huge cuts in military spending needed to give the deal teeth, so as not to seem confrontational or radical, or perhaps to save what’s left of their perceived (yet, worthless) reputations. In other words, their take is: we don’t have time to build real socialism. Let’s form a coalition with the new social democrats, as if that didn’t end in complete disaster over 100 years ago.

Paths Forward

Now, of course it’s true that reform can indeed broaden and deepen the prospects for revolution, and it is not an either/or proposition, as Rosa Luxembourg explained so well. Yet, we cannot let the crass opportunism and striving for attention on digital media to enact important reforms derail us from steeping workers, students, minorities, and women in the rich intellectual tradition woven by the anti-capitalist Left.

Right in the introduction to the Social Reform or Revolution, Luxemburg states: “The entire strength of the modern labor movement rests on theoretic knowledge.” Despite big advances in the last three years, clearly there is a need for the deep type of work involving the framework for constructing and advancing a truly emancipatory Green New Deal, as well as fighting for open borders, the abolition of prisons and police, and the military-industrial complex.

Anything less than a systematic and intersectional approach will do a huge disservice to the movement and will replicate the cloistered, privileged milieu which unduly benefits the extremely online and their techno-utopian backers.

Reform is welcome because it can lead to tolerance, and its eventual byproduct, solidarity. Solidarity is a radiating emotional, behavioral, and intellectual stance from which flow social bonding and necessary healing mechanisms for our culture. The main ideals of environmental, social, and economic justice revolve around solidarity. Which gives us space to breathe, and here I’m reminded of Eric Garner’s last words. The minorities and the poor in this country have been suffocating for centuries. With no mass base, even the good intentions of those in Congress, such as the “Squad” who advocate for redistributive measures, will be for naught.

If some of today’s US socialist “thought leaders” are so spineless to feign from even mentioning how the prospect of renewable energy corporations left in the hands of private control will end in utter disaster, or to simply pretend it won’t, there’s not much left to say to these people. Then there are US socialists who advocate insanely for nuclear power. Forget theoretical knowledge.  This is basic common sense.  Nuclear energy is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If there is intimidation by peers, or simply self-censorship, or to maintain a lifestyle by promoting such anti-life policies on the Left, well, it’s entirely understandable, predictable, and wretched. It’s also an abdication of responsibility: clearly these are bourgeois stances.

To sum up, pointing fingers at the ruling classes’ blatantly obvious sociopathic tendencies provides the convenient scapegoats and diversionary tactics from confronting the holes in many of our own thinking

Back to theoretic knowledge for a minute. First, we have to take into account the anti-intellectual climate here in the US. One encounters quite a few semi-influential figures, especially on the right but increasingly in anti-capitalist outlets, which are quick to criticize French postmodernists, or the Frankfurt School, or various strains of thought which are deemed too obscure or weighty.

There’s no time for theory is one of their complaints, because it is too time-consuming or turns off too many people. So whatever is too complicated for the gate-keeping digital left-liberal editors is thrown by the wayside, but it ain’t clear where this process is headed other than an even more dumbed-down society. What is clear is we are dealing with lightweights.  It’s pretty paternalistic too, because the subtext seems to be that regular people are just too dumb to be introduced to “Theory” and serious academic work.

The other side to this is that many of the same people who are wonderful at explaining theory or offering political critique, many of the “the Left opinion makers”, have absolutely no environmental or ecological knowledge base. You wouldn’t trust them with a shovel; never mind on a factory floor, a communal farm, starting an activist movement or union, or organizing a cooperative. The materialism part of the equation never kicked in. It’s a function of middle-class squeamishness that needs to be squashed.

Another point I want to mention is the US and UK analytic preference for social critique and philosophical investigation, in contrast to the continental style. And I cannot emphasize enough that the dominant Anglophone trend is to turn socialism into an equation, a formula. Put another way, to offer models of governance and even to organize in the technocratic style. Not only that, but to uncritically accept a model for the future based on unrestrained use of technology, with very little understanding of environmental impacts,  conservation, or basic ecology in general.

We see this techno-fetishism in some of the ideas floating around such as “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”, notably Aaron Bastani’s recent work of the same title. Bastani is close to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. And look who gives a plug for the book, Bhaskar Sunkara. And if you follow these connections down the rabbit hole you’ll see Sunkara’s most recent work gets a plug from Ezra Klein of Vox. So there are all these ties from UK socialists to US democratic socialists to elitist technocratic liberals. And what is in common is a shared naivety regarding technology.

Again, ideas around degrowth are never discussed by the automation admirers. It’s clearly a total dismissal of the idea to preserve their own affluence. Total energy use in the West will have to decrease immensely. The economy, which is inexorably tied to energy use, will have to contract. Nearly all large buildings will have to be retrofitted to remain cooler in the summer and warmer in winter using natural insulation methods. Many large office buildings, skyscrapers, malls, etc. will simply have to be abandoned because there is no way to heat/cool them even remotely efficiently. Modern agriculture will have to be dismantled and converted to decentralized permaculture community-worked gardens.

None of this is even mentioned by the automators. This is because their thinking, their ways of being online, have already started to slip into the manner of the automaton. Which many people acknowledged, where Brzezinski dispassionately saw it as an inevitability of modern life, and famously Marcuse saw it as a downright horror in his One Dimensional Man.

The majority of the world can see through all of this talk of AI, robot, quantum computer, 5G drivel. Most people understand, even if they cannot quite communicate their ideas as coldly or eloquently as the technophiles, that the mind cannot be reduced to a mechanical device or a computer processor. As below, so above, society cannot be viewed or treated as a factory floor for renewable energy powered robots to bring us to some Jetsons or Star Trek lifestyle.

The opportunities for control and manipulation of minds have already grown at a frightening pace in the past fifty years. Even further automation would simply open up more avenues for alienation and exploitation. Here’s how. A pro-automation society would be more open to new hierarchies created by divides among the digitally literate, could empower the pharmaceutical companies to create dangerous new drugs to control moods and perception, could open up more geo-engineering of the planet, to more spying and tracking of individuals, and generally more of the full-spectrum digitization of our lives.

This isn’t to suggest that those among the extremely online don’t have any good ideas, or that the FALCers don’t either. It’s simply a reminder that some of these people are being very naïve in regard to the future of technology, some are materially benefitting from the current toxic social media environment and are therefore biased, and others do not realize the internal logic of the system which engenders some of the very barriers they wish to destroy. In most cases high technology acts as a drug, with an intelligence of its own, and once you’re on the ride you don’t control where you’re going to get off.

  1. Ronit, Purian, “Technophilia: A New Model For Technology Adoption” (2011), UK Academy for Information Systems Conference Proceedings 2011, Paper 41.
  2. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, New York, 1992.
  3. Courtwright, David. “How ‘Limbic Capitalism’ Preys on our Addicted Brains”, Quillette, May 31, 2019.

On Medicare’s 54th Birthday, Another Year Closer To Winning Medicare For All

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare Act. Within a year, and without the aid of computers, the United States provided more than 19 million seniors with health coverage. Before the law existed, over half of the elderly in the United States did not have health insurance. Medicare, which now includes people with disabilities, celebrated its 54th birthday this week.

Today, the US is on the verge of another transformation. Thirty million people do not have health insurance and 30,000 people die annually because of that sad fact. The healthcare crisis is also demonstrated by the separate but unequal reality that wealthy people in the US live 15 years longer than poor people.

Momentum for National Improved Medicare for All is growing. That is being reflected in Congress and the presidential elections. As of last week, more than half the Democrats in the US House of Representatives have signed on to HR 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019. Medicare for All was also a major topic in the most recent Democratic Presidential Debates.

Rally for Medicare’s birthday in Oakland, CA, July 2015 (From Happening-Here.Blogspot.com.)

Medicare For All Is Central In The 2020 Elections

National improved Medicare for all (NIMA) has become a litmus test issue in the Democratic Party primary for president. While corporate Democrats funded by Wall Street, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are trying to stop progress, Democratic Party voters are showing the momentum may not be stoppable.

The two leading Medicare for all candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have received the most donations of all the other candidates. One out of three donors to the Democratic primaries donated to Sanders. This broad base of support is consistent with polls that show Democratic Party voters have reached a consensus: NIMA is essential. Democratic voters have the power to nominate candidates who support Medicare for all if they insist on it. This consensus is the result of years of work by single payer advocates. This is a movement that will not compromise in support of false solutions.

Join our Medicare for all campaign, Health Over Profit for Everyone.

The Medicare for All Act not only expands health coverage to everyone from birth to death, but also improves Medicare for seniors by including more benefits such as dental, vision, hearing and long term care. And, it does this without requiring premiums, co-pays or deductibles, saving people more than $300 billion annually in out-of-pocket costs.

All doctors, hospitals and other providers will be in a Medicare for all system so people will have complete choice of health services. Patients will not be limited by the narrow insurance industry networks, which often exclude cancer and other specialty centers – places people go when they are ill – to avoid paying for health care. Medicare for all means complete coverage, complete choice and freedom to change jobs or quit a job without fear of losing health coverage.

Research shows these changes are affordable because one-third of health-related expenditures are for administrative costs caused by the complex web of insurance plans. In addition to insurance company overhead, which ranges from  12.4 percent to  17.8 percent while Medicare has administrative costs of only 1.4 percent, doctors, hospitals and other providers also have high administrative costs due to interacting with thousands of different insurance plans. Having one-payer dramatically reduces the bureaucracy of healthcare. Research shows there could be $504 billion in yearly administrative savings with a single-payer system.

Improved Medicare for all creates hundreds of billions of savings that more than offset the increased costs of covering everyone and eliminating out-of-pocket expenses. In addition to reducing administrative waste, Medicare for all allows the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceuticals and providers to bring down the prices of care.

There are many ways to pay for Medicare for all. Congress routinely goes into debt to fund wars and militarism, so it is strange that for something as essential as healthcare cost is an issue. If increased taxes are needed, there have been a variety of proposals for progressive taxes. These proposals show that all but the wealthiest will pay less for healthcare under improved Medicare for all. Households earning under $130,000 per year would save the most money.

Currently, the US spends 18 percent of its GDP on healthcare and spending is rising faster than inflation and wages. This is an unsustainable expenditure that will be reduced with an improved Medicare for all system. Other wealthy countries with single payer health systems generally spend less than 11.5 percent of their GDP on healthcare.

Medicare for all is good for businesses because they will no longer be subject to unpredictable increases in insurance costs. It is also good for the economy. Warren Buffett says our current healthcare system is a tapeworm on the US economy and describes health care as a real problem for US businesses.

People Will Not Be Fooled By False Proposals

The strategy of the industries that profit from healthcare is to confuse people with false information and false proposals that sound like Medicare for All. They create front groups to create the illusion of support for their proposals and donate to politicians who advocate for their interests. These false proposals, like the one promoted by the so-called Center for American Progress, are designed to protect the industry, not fix the healthcare crisis. The Democratic leadership is addicted to insurance, pharmaceutical, and healthcare dollars. The people must be organized to defeat the industry and put in place the system we need.

This week, Sen. Kamala Harris put forward a terrible policy proposal, which she called Medicare for all. The proposal has two major flaws. First, it requires a ten-year transition to improved Medicare for all. This is unnecessary as the Medicare system already exists and we are already spending enough on health care to cover everyone. There is no need for long delays. Second, she allows insurance industry theft of the Medicare for all system by including “Medicare Advantage” plans (these are private insurance plans). Medicare Advantage is a heavily marketed scam on the elderly that costs the government more money than traditional Medicare and has the same flaws as private insurance. This proposal is bad policy and bad politics and should result in the defeat of Sen. Harris.

The most common false proposal is some form of a ‘public option.’ Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of Wall Street’s favorite candidates, calls this Medicare for those who want it. We call it Medicare for some, not Medicare for all.  A public option does not fix the system, it makes it worse by adding another insurance plan to an already too complex system. It foregoes 84 percent of the savings that a single payer system would achieve.

Former Vice President Biden, the biggest recipient of donations from the industry, is another who refuses to advocate for what Democratic voters want. Biden continues to put forward false arguments against Medicare for all. He is stuck in the past and focused on saving the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is fundamentally flawed because it is based on the corrupt and expensive private insurance system. Biden is fading in the polls for a variety of reasons, but his refusal to support improved Medicare for all should result in the end of his campaign. Democrats must know that the public understands the issue and insists on improved Medicare for all.

Neither Republicans nor Libertarians are putting forward any healthcare plan, which resulted in Republicans losing in 2018. The Green Party has advocated for single payer health care since the start. Ralph Nader ran on a platform that included Medicare for All as early as 2000.

Congress Must Do More

In addition to stopping the false non-solution promoted by corporate Democrats, the movement must push to improve both the House and Senate Medicare for all bills. The Senate bill, SB 1129, sponsored by Sanders and 14 Senators, is flawed in very serious ways. It needs to expand coverage of long term care, provide global budgeting for hospitals and end the massive insurance loopholes of managed care structures like Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s), which function like insurance plans.

The House bill is better but still needs improvement. Both the House and Senate bills need to end commodification of health care by eliminating for-profit hospitals and other facilities. The for-profits can be purchased by the healthcare system using a Treasury Bill financed over 15 years at a cost of one percent of total health spending. If the for-profits are kept in and regulated, as the House bill does, it is likely the owners will sell them or convert them to profit-making entities like condominiums as is happening in Philadelphia. The House bill needs to shrink the transition from two years to one year, and the Senate Bill needs to shrink the four-year transition currently proposed.

The movement must insist on the best possible improved Medicare for all bill so people get the healthcare they need, businesses can thrive and the economy is not drained by the cost of healthcare. The US cannot afford to continue the insurance-dominated for-profit system it has; we must put in place improved Medicare for all.

On The Precipice Of Winning Improved Medicare for All

There are many signs that we are on the verge of winning the urgent and essential policy change of national improved Medicare for all. The single payer movement has the power to win improved Medicare for all if it doesn’t back down. The closer we get to victory, the more the profiteering industries will fight us. In the Popular Resistance School for Social Transformation, we describe this push back as part of the process of winning, and we teach how movements can defeat the strategies of those who seek to maintain the status quo.

There are still hurdles before us, but if the movement continues to work to educate voters as well as to organize and mobilize, we will create a political environment where politicians across the political spectrum must support health care as a human right as embodied in an improved Medicare for all health system.

Tools to assist advocates of improved Medicare for all:

Medicare for All Facts: This resource provides facts and citations about the critical issues in the Medicare for all debate.

Health Over Profit Tools for Activists: This includes tools to educate people and take action, descriptions of the current bills, how to influence business leaders, conservatives, the public and more.

Rising Resistance And Solidarity In The Americas

“If there isn’t justice for the people, there won’t be peace for the governor.” Protesters in Old San Juan on Tuesday call for the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has vowed to remain in office (Thais Llorca/EFE/Zuma Press)

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Managua Friday night. This past week, mass protests erupted in Puerto Rico over long term corruption and subversion of democracy. A general strike is planned for Monday.

This week is the 25th Sao Paulo Forum, a meeting of left political parties and social movements, in Caracas, Venezuela. We participated in a Sao Paulo Forum of Washington, DC in preparation for the upcoming meeting. A delegation of Venezuelan Embassy Protectors is traveling to Caracas to participate in it.

Latin America has a long history of resistance to US domination and solidarity with social movements in the United States. This resistance and solidarity is critical to our success in the United States if we are to stop the machine and create a new world.

40th anniversary of Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua (By Ben Norton, Twitter)

Resisting US Coup Attempts and Building the Good Life

Forty years ago, the Sandanista Front for National Liberation, named after Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary in the 1920s and 30s, ousted the US-backed dictator, Anastasia Somoza, from the country. This day, now called the National Day of Happiness, is celebrated every year. Check out The Grayzone Project’s Twitter feed for videos of the celebrations.

Under the leadership of the Junta of National Reconstruction, which included the future leader and president Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguans took action to provide healthcare, education, eradicate illiteracy, build roads and energy infrastructure, provide land and develop food sovereignty. They greatly reduced both economic and gender inequality.

Nicaraguans enjoyed a stable life until an attempted coup to remove President Ortega, backed by the United States, in mid-2018. Similar to pro-coup protests in Venezuela, there were blockades built by violent coup-supporters who attacked and brutally killed 198 police officers, Sandanistas and bystanders. That coup attempt was stopped despite the media lies designed to confuse the public. A year later, the truth continues to emerge but peace prevails once again. An excellent book, Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or a Coup, A Reader, breaks through the false narratives of the attempted coup and gives information helpful to understanding the situation in Nicaragua.

A delegation from Veterans for Peace is visiting Nicaragua for the anniversary. We look forward to their reports. We attended a celebration at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC hosted by Ambassador Francisco Campbell. He described current efforts in Nicaragua to bring truth and reconciliation to reunite a country divided by US interference and the coup attempt.

Nicaragua is a member of the United States’ “Troika of Tyranny,” which includes Cuba and Venezuela. These are three Latin American countries that have broken from US domination and continue to be punished for expressing their self-determination.

Cuba has been experiencing a blockade since 1958, which has driven the country to develop a resistance economy without reliance on foreign goods. Although the blockades have hurt their economy and restricted access to necessities, such as medications, Cubans have better health outcomes than people in the United States due to their well-designed universal healthcare system.

Venezuela continues to resist the current US-led coup attempt, even though the United States is taking it to new extremes. This past week, USAID, a regime change institution, announced the Trump administration is going to use almost $42 million designated for aid to Central America to pay for salaries and supplies for the right-wing opposition led by the self-declared president, Juan Guaido. The corruption of Guaido’s people continues to be exposed. Two more members of Guaido’s team were arrested for trying to sell stolen weapons.

Will Mexico be next? Arturo Sanchez Jimenez outlines what he sees as the early stages of a right-wing coup targeting the new president, AMLO.

Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet this September in New York City. Learn more here.

Protest in Puerto Rico calling for Governor to resign (by Juan Carlos Dávila)

Resistance is Growing in Latin America

Ecuador was making great strides in meeting its population’s needs under President Rafael Correa, but that is being reversed by the current president, Lenin Moreno. Moreno is known worldwide for ending Julian Assange’s asylum and allowing police into the London Embassy to arrest him, but his actions against the Ecuadorian peoples has been similarly harsh. Moreno campaigned on continuing Correa’s programs but has done the opposite. In this interview, Andres Arauz, a member of Correa’s economic team, explains Ecuador’s neoliberal turn under Moreno.

Ecuadorians launched a five-day general strike last Monday to protest “handing over Ecuador to US imperialism.” Among their complaints were Ecuador imposing austerity after receiving a loan from the International Monetary Fund, a US military base proposed in the Galapagos Islands and the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

Mass protests have also erupted in Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of people, many who have never protested before, are taking the streets in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. They are facing police repression with tear gas and pepper spray. On Monday, they are holding a general strike.

The protests began when hundreds of pages of chat logs between Governor Ricardo Rosello and other officials were released. They contained derogatory statements and disrespect for the thousands who died after Hurricane Maria. Protesters are calling for the Governor to resign. Other government officials included in the chats have already resigned.

Although the chats were the proverbial “last straw,” according to Miguel Diaz-Cruz, a Puerto Rican doctoral student, the protests are the result of “five centuries of uninterrupted imperialism, free-market disaster capitalism, an imposed dictatorial fiscal control board controlled by the very same people that bankrupted the island, and a storm of the century which was fueled by climate change.”

We spoke with Puerto Rican lawyer, Natasha Bannan, who has participated in the protests, on Clearing the FOG. The episode will be published on Monday. She goes into depth on the problems Puerto Ricans are facing, describes what it will take to start the process of resolving them and explains how activists can be supportive.

The 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution is celebrated in Washington, DC with Americans from many countries at the Nicaraguan Embassy (Popular Resistance)

Why Resistance and Solidarity Matter to Activists in the United States

People in the United States often refer to themselves as “Americans.” Sadly, this is not done in the spirit that all people in the Americas, South, and North, are Americans. Instead, we in the US are taught to see the other Americans as different from us. This is part of US hegemony and the Monroe Doctrine that views Latin America as “our backyard.” It’s why people in the US, USians, accept unilateral coercive economic measures, exploitative trade deals and violent coups that harm other Americans.

All Americans are victims of US actions that destabilize and exploit American territories. We probably don’t think about it that way very much, but what hurts our neighbors hurts us. Blockades mean that USians can’t benefit from medical breakthroughs in Cuba or inexpensive oil programs from Venezuela. Exploitative trade deals mean US jobs are moved South of the border to Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and other countries where wages are lower and there are fewer worker protections.

In the United States, we are also victims of the US Empire. The Empire Economy consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending on the military. This means less money for necessary programs to provide healthcare, education, housing, and food. The massive US weapons and military industry mean new “customers” must always be found for the products they make, which fuels wars abroad that add to global insecurity and destruction and militarization of our communities at home where the “others” are black and brown people, the poor and homeless. The US military is the largest institutional user of fossil fuels and a major polluter, driving the climate crisis and environmental contamination.

If we are to overcome the US Empire, it will take all of us together. This is one reason why solidarity between all Americans is essential. We in the United States have much to learn from our American brothers and sisters who have been targets of imperialism for centuries. We also have much to learn about the ways countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are working to reduce inequality, meet basic needs and provide a better quality of life for their peoples.

Events like the Sao Paulo Forum are opportunities to come together, get to know and learn from each other. A delegation from the Embassy Protective Collective will attend the Sao Paulo Forum this week in Venezuela. We cannot attend because of our ongoing prosecution by the Trump administration for staying in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, but we are sending Vanessa Beck, a representative from Popular Resistance who will bring a message of solidarity. Vanessa is also a leader of Black Alliance for Peace.

We also attended the Sao Paulo Forum in Washington, DC where we agreed to ten resolutions of solidarity that will be brought to the Forum in Venezuela. At the DC Forum, the Embassy Protection Collective was presented with a powerful painting by the indigenous Salvadoran artist, William Berry. Dan Kovalik donated copies of his new book, The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela, which were sold at the forum to raise funds for the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

Learn more about the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee at DefendEmbassyProtectors.org and how you can participate to support the collective’s defense against malicious US prosecution.

Resistance is rising. We can join together in that resistance with acts of solidarity to stop the US war machine and create a new world.

The Limited Mind: Why Fear is Driving Humanity to Extinction

I have previously written many articles describing one or more aspects of the dysfunctional nature of the typical human mind, together with an explanation of how this came about and what we can do about it.

I have also explained that it is this dysfunctional psychological foundation that generated the behaviors, as well as the political, economic, legal and social institutions (such as capitalism), that are driving the multifaceted and existential crisis in which humanity now finds itself.

Moreover, on that basis, my own focus has significantly evolved from the research and nonviolent activism that occupied me for several decades to now include an ongoing effort to have this psychological dysfunctionality addressed as a central feature of our efforts to understand and transform dysfunctional political, economic, legal and social institutions as well as to understand and end war (including the threat of nuclear war), the environmental crisis (including the climate catastrophe) and all other ongoing conflicts that bedevil humanity.

You may believe that psychology is unimportant to your understanding of conflict or that it is the realm of specialists but, in fact, it is crucial to any deeper and complete understanding of the origin and unfolding of our crisis and it is far from complicated simply because any psychological dysfunctionality can be explained in straightforward language which is readily understood by most people.

But because only the rarest psychologist and psychiatrist understands human psychology – as I have explained in ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry‘ – most of the literature on psychology and psychiatry is virtually incomprehensible, not to mention inaccurate. This lack of understanding has four immediate and disastrous outcomes.

First, it leads to groups of psychological symptoms being linked together and then given an arbitrary label (so that the fields of psychology/psychiatry can sound as if they know what they are talking about while excluding those who do not comprehend their jargon).

Second, it provides cover for the pharmaceutical industry to profit massively from the manufacture and sale of drugs that theoretically suppress key symptoms of, rather than cure, the psychological dysfunction that has been ‘diagnosed’.

Third, it precludes accurate diagnosis and treatment of any dysfunction: obviously, if a problem is not understood it cannot be responded to powerfully so that the issue is resolved. (Of course, it is more profitable for practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry if any dysfunction is not resolved but simply requires ongoing – that is, endless – ‘therapy’/drugs.)

Fourth and most fundamentally of all, it limits the domain of what is considered psychological dysfunctionality to those with ‘identifiable’ mental illnesses. But psychological dysfunctionality goes well beyond those considered to have a mental illness and is simply an outcome of the fact that mental health, like physical health, has many dimensions that require appropriate attention for the human organism to function optimally.

So, beyond the many examples I have offered previously in the articles I cited above (and others not cited but also available on the ‘Feelings First‘ website), I would now like to describe further common examples of psychological dysfunctionality that are impeding both activists and those they are trying to mobilize in the effort to save Earth’s biosphere and avert human extinction, particularly given the timeframe in which this must now happen.

As a result of the ‘socialization’ (more accurately labeled ‘terrorization’) to which all children are subjected throughout their childhood and adolescence (which involves inflicting unending ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence on them during these periods) the typical young human being obediently (or, often enough, unconsciously) acquires the set of attitudes, beliefs and values (as well as the consequent behaviors) that are approved by the significant adults (and predominant institutions) in their life. These attitudes, beliefs and values, however, are often so deeply entrenched by the (unconscious) fear that holds them in place that they are never subjected to serious scrutiny by the individual: whether functional or otherwise, they are accepted without question and, over time, acquire the status of ‘incontrovertible fact’ (as the individual perceives them).

The most obvious (and highly negative) consequence of being terrorized into accepting the attitudes, beliefs and values of the significant adults (and predominant institutions) around them is that the capacities to analyze a problem or conflict (often including its roots in the nature of their society), to seek out relevant (and perhaps complex) evidence to understand the issues arising from it, to plan a strategy so that underlying drivers of the problem or conflict are addressed in depth and to then behave strategically (often in concert with others) to achieve this outcome are simply never developed beyond the most superficial levels (sufficient, say, for a socially approved career, whether trade or professional).

As a result, the typical human being is simply going through the routine of ‘growing up’ (which also critically involves being further terrorized into becoming a submissive citizen and worker/soldier at school for a decade or more), choosing post-secondary education and/or an approved job doing what someone else tells you, and then doing that job (or an equivalent) for decades (usually having a partner and children in the process and perhaps some hobby as well).

Fundamentally, humans are terrorized into taking on the ‘socially-constructed delusional identity’ that their society imposes on them and then calling it ‘me’. Their personal life journey is now so utterly obliterated from their awareness that the idea of seeking out their own unique destiny never even occurs to them. Of course, some people (in industrialized societies at least) are compensated for their sacrifice: wages, entertainment, travel and other trinkets. But, for most, these trinkets are given in sparing quantities and for many others around the world (in deliberately ‘underdeveloped’ countries), not at all.

Terrorized into believing that this is all that life has to offer, only the rarest individual aspires to more. Endless consumption of goods and services (no matter the quality, beauty or functionality) at the expense of the Earth, becomes the reason for living. Because life itself no longer has meaning.

So here we are, a human population that is so devoid of self and planetary awareness that we are on the brink of precipitating our own extinction. Do you really believe that this is where we would be if we were all psychologically functional? Manipulated and controlled by an unaccountable global elite that is utterly insane using its many agents, including governments, to easily deceive us into consuming ever more in pursuit of capitalism’s ‘God’ – endless economic growth (that is, corporate profit, power and privilege) – the bulk of the human population submissively unaware (except of the latest scandal or sports result) and most activists (who purport to be trying to do something about the perilous state of the world) incapable of thinking, planning and acting strategically to struggle for outcomes that are so desperately needed.

So what can we do?

Well, given that the enormous psychological dysfunctionality of most humans is the primary driver of our accelerating rush to extinction, I encourage you to seriously consider incorporating strategies to address this dysfunctionality into any effort you make to improve our world.

For most people, this will include starting with yourself.

For virtually all adults, it will include reviewing your relationship with children and, ideally, making ‘My Promise to Children‘. Critically, this will include learning the skill of nisteling.

For those who feel psychologically capable, consider campaigning strategically to achieve the outcomes we need. The global elite is deeply entrenched – fighting its wars, exploiting people, destroying the biosphere, invading/occupying resource-rich countries – and not about to give way without a concerted effort by many of us campaigning strategically on several key fronts.

If you recognize the pervasiveness of the fear-driven violence in our world, consider joining the global network of people resisting it by signing the online pledge of ‘The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

But if you do nothing else while understanding the simple point that Earth’s biosphere cannot sustain a human population of this magnitude of whom more than half endlessly over-consume, then consider accelerated participation in the strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Or, if this feels too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

 Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)

  1. I will not travel by plane
  2. I will not travel by car
  3. I will not eat meat and fish
  4. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  5. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  6. I will not buy rainforest timber
  7. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  8. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  9. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  10. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  11. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  12. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

There is a great deal wrong with our world, which continues to get worse every day. And, as should be obvious from my argument above, if we as a species do not start to remove the (largely unconscious) fear that limits our minds and governs our behavior, we will continue contributing to this predicament rather than resolving it.

I am well aware that this point is not where the typical individual wants to start and that is assuming the point is even understood. After all, because most fear is unconscious, it is easy for people to fail to identify their own dysfunctional behavior (or to rationalize it by believing in the ‘importance’ of what they do). So while you may like to believe that we do not have to ‘start’ with this point, collectively speaking, we cannot ignore it either, if human survival is our aim.

The key issue is that for our strategy to mobilize people in this great struggle for survival to be effective, we must also be mobilizing parents, teachers, religious leaders and other adults to reconsider and profoundly revise their relationship with children. This is because every child who is not dysfunctionalized becomes a powerful agent for change. If we do not do this, we will continue to undermine the overall struggle, even if we precipitate some interim victories along the way.

My own preoccupation is ending violence, averting human extinction and building anew and sustainably our relationships with the Earth and each other. What about you?

Stop Immigrant Arrests, Close The Camps, Transform Immigration Policy

Protesters stand up to Trump’s attacks on immigrants in Los Angeles (Molly Adams|flickr).

Public awareness of the brutal repression against immigrants seeking entry to the United States, the reasons for their migration, and terrorism against immigrants living in the US are reaching levels that make them hard to ignore. The current immigration crisis is self-created and bi-partisan. Although the Trump administration’s rhetoric is extreme, it reflects policies that have developed over a long period of time.

Under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a person has “the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country at any time.” Until the twentieth century, immigrants were welcomed into the United States. Immigrant and slave labor built many of the institutions and much of the infrastructure in the US.

It was after World War I, when migration to the US increased, that the government began to use quotas and exert more control over immigration. That control has become increasingly excessive, especially from the 1990’s until today. The US’ borders are highly militarized, which has adverse impacts on border communities, and immigrants have been criminalized, which has lead to raids, detention and deportations that rip families and communities apart. This crisis will only be corrected if people demand new policies based on human rights and respect for the self-determination of all peoples

Cartoon by Canadian Michael de Adder, for which he was fired.

The Immediate Crisis

People are fleeing Central America in large part due to US policies that have installed violent, repressive governments as well as corporate trade agreements that benefit US transnational corporations while exploiting workers. People are fleeing north for survival. Subjected to abuse at home, migrants are met at the border with more abuse.

The abuse includes people seeking asylum being held in detention camps while they await trial. It includes children being separated from their parents and sometimes held in cages, often without basic necessities and with young children taking care of even younger children. Corporations are profiting from child detention while children die, like this seven-year-old girl, or this eight-year-old on Christmas DayHomeland Security’s own Inspector General has issued a report decrying the overcrowding and other poor conditions of immigrant detention facilities including feeding people rotten, foul-smelling and spoiled food.

Some have described these detention camps as concentration camps. While these are not the mass death camps of Hitler’s Germany, they meet the definition of concentration camps: a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities. Immigrants call the caged areas “dog kennels” and the cold rooms where they stay “iceboxes.”

These camps are run by government officials who have been caught making racist and vile comments on a private Facebook group with about 9,500 members. They “joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility” and posted a photo of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande saying, “I HAVE NEVER SEEN FLOATERS LIKE THIS.”

The US has a long history of concentration camps domestically and as part of imperial wars. It is a shameful history and some deny that the immigrant detention prisons are concentration camps. Those of us who can see the reality must face-up to another truth: our responsibility. Many have wondered how the concentration camps in Nazi Germany were able to exist in a modern, developed nation. Now we must ask ourselves two questions: How can these camps exist in the United States? What can we do to close them and liberate those being imprisoned?

We know from the history of concentration camps in the US and around the world that we must act to close these camps. We cannot be complicit by not taking action. This is not merely about the 2020 election and removing Trump from office, it is about rapidly building a national consensus that these are unacceptable and people mobilizing to do all they can to close the camps.

This week, President Trump is taking his racist, anti-immigrant policy from the border to raids against immigrants across the country. Trump announced these raids two weeks ago, then delayed implementing the mass arrests. Communities across the nation have organized to protect their friends, neighbors and family members who are threatened by this attack. We applaud sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, churches that will house people threatened by immigration raids and people offering legal services to those who are arrested.

Listen to our interview with immigration lawyer Heather Benno on Clearing the FOG about what people need to know to plan for and resist ICE raids. It will be available Monday morning.

Bill Clinton announces his “tough on crime” agenda during the 1992 presidential campaign at the state prison at Stone Mountain, Georgia, the spiritual home and 1915 birthplace of the second Ku Klux Klan.

The Long-Term Reality Of Abusive Immigration Policies

The concept of the “illegal immigrant” comes from a 1929  law that made it illegal to enter the United States. The law made border crossings a criminal offense that became felonies with subsequent violations. The law was based in racism, authored by a segregationist Democratic Senator from South Carolina, Coleman Blease who opposed the education of Black people, advocated lynching, and criticized First Lady Lou Hoover when she invited Jessie De Priest, the wife of Chicago congressman, to the traditional tea by new administrations for congressional wives. Her husband, Oscar De Priest, was the first Black person elected to Congress since Reconstruction.

On the Senate floor, Blease said the First Lady should remember it is the “White” House. He then read the racist poem “N****** in the White House.”  The poem was excised from the Congressional Record by unanimous agreement due to protests from Republican senators. Blease also sought to make marriage between people of different races a federal crime. The roots of today’s immigration policies originated with white supremacists like Blease.

President Bill Clinton made this racist law much worse in 1996. Clinton, a southern corporate Democrat, signed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996. These laws increased the severity of immigration violations by expanding the list of crimes that could increase jail sentences and fast-tracked deportations.

The Clinton laws laid the foundation for mass deportations under subsequent presidents. Bush, the Compassionate Conservative, more than tripled federal immigration prosecutions to 15,424 by 2003. In 2005, he incarcerated immigrants in federal jails when detention bed space in state facilities had become overcrowded. Illegal crossings declined significantly by 2008 but still, half the federal criminal docket was of immigrants crossing the border. The Bush administration intertwined local police with federal immigration enforcement by making more than 70 agreements allowing local police to enforce immigration laws. This is a continuing problem that results in immigrants not reporting crimes to the police.

President Obama remains the “Deporter-In-Chief” as he doubled the number of federal immigration prosecutions despite the fact that border crossings dropped by roughly half from 2009 to 2016. The result, the first Black president has the legacy of locking up more people of color on federal criminal charges than any other president in history. Immigration prosecutions topped 91,000 in 2013―28 times the number of such prosecutions in 1993. The Obama administration deported over 1.2 million people, the most of any president in US history. President Trump has come nowhere near the number of annual arrests and deportations of the Obama era.

The biggest difference with the Trump administration is the open cruelty of Trump and other administration officials in justifying their “zero tolerance” and family separation policies. The separation of young children from their parents is government-sponsored child abuse. The inhumane conditions in the migrant detention camps are violations of international human rights laws.

A member of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) and a family after they crossed the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico in Fronton, Texas, October 18, 2018 (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Stopping the Abuse of Immigrants and the Deportation Machine

People are organizing to confront this crisis, such as blocking access to immigrant prisons or mobilizing to stop their construction. Below are some examples of actions people are taking. We hope it spurs you and the people in your community to act because this crisis must be confronted with direct action.

There were nationwide Close the Camps protests across the country on July 2. Workers have walked off of jobs of employers providing services to the camps. People are also trying to donate diapers and toys to camps where children are held, but are being rejected.  On Friday, July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps will bring thousands of people to locations worldwide to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants.

There have been interfaith protests at ICE offices and people risking arrest at the borders. People are blockading immigrant detention centers not just along the border but around the country, and are facing jail sentences for doing so. Youth are protesting local governments who have agreements to work with ICE. Students are marching to protest the detention of fellow students.

Immigrants who are held in the camps are fighting back by engaging in hunger strikes sometimes resulting in forced feeding through nasal tubes. Immigrants who are targeted build community and defense committees to fight back against ICE.

Others are working to help migrants survive. The group “No More Deaths” is providing food and water to people crossing the border. This week, federal prosecutors announced they will retry Scott Warren, a border-aid worker accused of providing water to migrants, on three felony charges. In a prior prosecution, the jury was deadlocked and refused to convict him.

Also this week, 240 civil rights and immigrant rights groups wrote the leadership of the House of Representatives to decriminalize border crossings, roll-back the Clinton-era laws, stop entangling local police in immigration prosecutions and end detention without bail. The letter lays out some of the problems. The demands will not be won by negotiation with the power structure but by building power so the political elites have no choice but to end this crisis.

Organizations like RAICES are on the front lines providing free and low-cost legal and social services to immigrant children, families, and refugEes. Lawyers are fighting for the due process rights of immigrants, rights that are often denied. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee RightS has developed a list of national, state and local Immigration Hotlines to report raids, seek help if being detained or at risk of being deported and report missing migrants. Download a PDF of IMMIGRATION HOTLINES here. There is also the National Immigration Detention Hotline created and managed by Freedom for Immigrants.

While we work to confront the current crisis, we also must build a national consensus for systemic change in immigration policy. This includes ending criminalization and militarization of the borders and replacing them with open borders modeled after the EU to uphold the basic human right of freedom of movement. Open borders would be an economic benefit as they would add $78 trillion to the world economy. Migration is also a benefit to the US economy.

The US must end its regime change operations in Latin America, as well as trade policies designed for corporate profits, and institute a Latin American Marshall Plan. US neo-colonial, imperialist interventions and corporate trade policies are root causes of desperate mass migration. We can end the self-created border crisis and replace it with policies based on respect for human rights and self-determination and cooperation to build an economy that works for all.

Venezuela Building Socialism in the Midst of a War

“Venezuela,” Daniela Rodríguez explained, “is building socialism in the midst of a war.”  According to Rodríguez, “the U.S. is using new tools of warfare trying to subjugate, dominate, and push back socialism not only in Venezuela but in any part of the world.” Nevertheless, she added, “we are learning new ways to defend humanity.”

A youth member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Rodríguez was only nine years old when Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and initiated the Bolivarian Revolution. Based on her activism, this millennial explained to a mostly seasoned audience at the Left Forum in Brooklyn, New York, on June 29: “The road to socialism is not a flat road. It is a road with many obstacles. But the direction of our government has been clearly towards socialism. The Venezuelan constitution has shown the way. It is not easy to make a revolution the democratic way in the context of globalization and international warfare” from the U.S.

Rodríguez had been invited as a special guest to a panel of activists reporting back on their solidarity delegation to Venezuela last March.

Joe Lombardo recounted that what their delegation to Venezuela saw was the opposite of what was being reported in the U.S. corporate press. Lombardo is co-coordinator of the United National Anti-war Coalition (UNAC). He twice tried to attend announced opposition rallies in Caracas, which didn’t materialize. In fact, the government had dispatched police to protect the opposition supporters had they assembled because, for most Venezuelans, the U.S.-backed far-right opposition was profoundly unpopular. Meanwhile, the delegation witnessed huge demonstrations mobilizing in defense of the government.

Delegation organizer Bahman Azad of the U.S. Peace Council described how the U.S. is promoting wars all over the world. With its unparalleled power, the U.S. can use hybrid warfare techniques such as unilateral coercive economic measures to rain misery upon the population of any country that shows independence from the U.S.-imposed world order. The U.S. is currently unilaterally sanctioning not only Venezuela but also some 30 other countries. The increasing danger of major power confrontation and consequently of world war urgently calls for building a unified movement against militarism, because only a peace movement within the U.S. can overcome this war mongering.

Azad reflected that societies like Venezuela cannot transmute from capitalist to socialist overnight but must transform over time. Azad, citing Lenin, explained that a revolutionary vanguard must lead, but only by a single step lest it get too detached from the people and become right in essence

Another delegate, Sara Flounders, with the International Action Center noted that it is not for North Americans to tell the Venezuelans that they are not socialist enough. Instead of academic criticisms that Venezuela has not nationalized enough private property, we should understand that right now the U.S. government is preventing the Venezuelan-owned CITGO company in the U.S. from repatriating profits, which would be used to provide needed food and medicines to the Venezuelan people.

William Camacaro, of the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle, resides in the U.S. and recently led a delegation to his native Venezuela. To say that the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro does not need to be defended from the U.S. regime-change project because it has not overthrown its bourgeoisie is, according to Camacaro, to implicitly support the U.S.-backed coup effort.

Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance and another delegate, further explained that the Venezuelan revolution for socialism is best understood as a “process.”

Zeese is part of the Embassy Protection Collective, which defended the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC at the invitation of the Venezuelan government after the Venezuelan embassy staff left the U.S. For 37 days they prevented the embassy from being occupied by representatives of the unelected Juan Guaidó who is the U.S.-anointed and self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela.

Zeese along with Margaret Flowers, also a co-director of Popular Resistance and attending the panel, plus two other Embassy Protectors were ultimately arrested by the U.S. government and now face possible high fines and imprisonment. A defense committee has been formed and is soliciting donations to help defray legal fees and doing educational work to help build a national consensus against the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela by the U.S. A demonstration is called for at Herald Square in Manhattan with a march to the UN on September 22.

Rodríguez expressed her great gratitude for the courage of the Embassy Protectors defending both the Venezuelan embassy and, she added, international law. The Venezuelan people see them, she explained, as true heroes and inspirations.

An Ecuadorian attending the panel called Venezuela “the light for Latin America,” because of its internationalist commitment to helping people. He thanked the Maduro government of Venezuela, which was the first to send millions of dollars of relief aid when Ecuador had a disastrous earthquake.

Rodríguez concluded about the historical struggle against imperialism and for humanity. “I am just a worker,” she explained. “I believe in something – the need to promote solidarity. We need to feel solidarity with suffering in any part of the world. The Empire doesn’t respect international law. The United Nations is being attacked by the very nation that hosts it.” She lamented the terrible misery in Venezuela happening now due to the U.S. regime-change project, closing that “justice shall prevail.”

Popular Movements Are The Invisible Hand Of Social Change

(Photo from Common Dreams)

The political consensus in the United States is changing rapidly. While the corporate media is focused on the Democratic Party presidential debates and Trump’s tweets in response, the issues that have been advanced by the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, are becoming central to the political dialogue. There is no reason to rejoice yet, as we still have work to do to win the transformation that people and planet need, but the consensus is moving in the direction of the popular movement.

We want to remind you that this weekend is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the ten-year anniversary of the US-led coup in Honduras. The Honduran coup has led to severe austerity, violence and repression. Also, national days of actions for hands off Iran and Venezuela and stopping the raids and deportations are being planned around July 13 and 14. Learn more here. And sign on to be part of the new Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

From Chicago DSA.

Movement Issues Enter the Political Narrative

Many commentators are noting how the debate in the Democratic Party has moved to the left. Often, they will credit the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign for moving the debate. In reality, it is the people who are moving the debate.  The Sanders 2016 campaign reflected the views of the movement on inequality, economic insecurity, and corruption of government.

The work of activists is being reflected by people seeking office. Polls show that the people are much more progressive than the leadership of either of the corporate parties on issues like taxing the wealthy, national improved Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, free education from pre-school through college, ending US wars and cutting the military budget. Those seeking office are running to catch up to the people.

However, politicians running for office cannot fully represent the views of the people because US democracy is flawed. Money plays an out-sized role in US politics; and therefore, politicians and political parties have to maneuver to both represent the people and satisfy their wealthy donors often sacrificing the former for the latter. This is a constant battle in US politics — people vs. money. And it shows in politicians using rhetoric that sounds like it is in line with the movement but supporting policies that are weak.

This is demonstrated in the debate over single-payer healthcare. There are candidates who pretend to listen to the voters but actually put forward policies that deceive the voters and undermine our goals. Phony proposals like Medicare for some, or allowing a public option as another insurance or reducing the age for Medicare sound good to supporters of Medicare for all but these are not going to solve the healthcare crisis. Some candidates even advocate improving the Affordable Care Act, an approach people realize will not work because the ACA is based on private health insurance that rips people off.

Even candidates who say they support improved Medicare for all need to be pushed. Warren had been relatively silent on the issue and single-payer activists complained to her through various channels. The result was a very strong statement from Warren in the first debate. Our task as a movement is to remain steadfast and demand the real solution — national improved Medicare for all.

Another example is the Green New Deal. This is an idea that came from the Global Greens as part of the movement to confront the climate crisis and was brought into US politics by Howie Hawkins when he was the Green candidate for governor in 2010 and now puts forward the gold standard Green New Deal. While a handful of Democrats have said they support a Green New Deal, the House leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are doing all they can to undermine it. Not only did they stop a Green New Deal Committee from being created, but they prevented the Climate Committee from having subpoena power or writing legislation. The Democrats have merely put forward a Green New Deal Resolution that is exceptionally vague and useless. The people must demand a Green New Deal if we are going to confront the climate emergency.

On cutting the military budget, only one candidate — Howie Hawkins of the Green Party — has called for specific cuts of 75% from the bloated military budget. Democrats have not been specific, and as a party, they have voted for big increases in military spending, even bigger than Trump has proposed. One Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, has even called for a war tax on wealthy families who do not have any members serving in the military. A tax designed just to pay for military spending is not what the country needs. We have numerous other challenges beyond further funding of the military, which already consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending.

Sunrise Movement in front of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC.

The Movement’s Responsibility in the 2020 Election Cycle

The United States’ electoral system limits the choices of voters to candidates who are acceptable to Wall Street and other monied interests. We live in a mirage democracy that manipulates voters primarily by using fear.  In this election cycle, the fear of a second term for Donald Trump is likely to result in an “Anybody  But Trump” electoral year to keep people supporting whomever the Democrats nominate. The powers in the Democratic Party want a candidate whom donors to the Democratic Party can support.

With all the mass media attention focused on the 2020 elections, it is important for activists to remember that our job is to build the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.  We need to continue to build national consensus and elevate the issues we support so that no matter who is elected, movement issues will advance. If we do our job well, our issues will become litmus tests for candidates.

The Sunrise Movement is pressuring the Democratic Party to hold a debate on climate change. In the first two debates, there was no mention of the Green New Deal and there was only six minutes of discussion on climate in the first debate, and seven in the second in what they correctly describe as “the gravest existential threat of our time.” Sunrise, which has been protesting at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, including sitting in and spending the night, plans to escalate their protests and insist on a debate around the climate emergency the nation and world are facing.

We must also hold non-profit organizations accountable. These tax-exempt organizations need to be nonpartisan and not show a preference for candidates or political parties. Many nonprofit advocacy groups, who claim to be nonpartisan, are tied to either the Democratic or Republican Parties and improperly use their tax-exempt organization to advocate for the party they support. Activists must push them to be independent of the parties and focus on advancing their issues no matter which party is running candidates.

For example, on June 14, the Poor People’s Campaign held a debate where only candidates seeking the Democratic nomination participated. The debate was live streamed on MSNBC and the video has been published on Real Clear Politics. When the debate was over, young people from North Carolina, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York complained. They did not want to only hear from Democratic candidates. They were angry that the Poor People’s Campaign was showing favoritism for the Democratic Party  As things got heated, the police were called. At that point, longtime poverty and housing activist, Rev. Annie Chambers of Baltimore, stood up from her wheelchair. She said it was “ridiculous” and a “disgrace” saying, “You say you are nonpartisan, but you only have Democratic candidates here.” The reply from the Poor Peoples Campaign was “We invited Donald Trump, too.” Chambers said “There are more than two parties. Where is the Green Party?” Chambers is a Green who was elected to the Resident Advisory Board for public housing in Baltimore. Rev. Chambers looked at the police and Rev. Barber and said, “If you are going to arrest these young people, you need to arrest me too and you will have a fight on your hands. I’m a militant and I’m not nonviolent.” Barber said, “Don’t arrest Rev. Annie” and things began to calm down.

Activists need to remain independent of the two corporate parties and their candidates. All candidates must be pressured to support movement goals throughout the campaign.  When the campaign ends, no matter who is elected, our work does not end. People must continue to demand what is needed to protect the people and planet. Even candidates who make promises to support our policy goals during the election will be pressured by big business and wealthy interests when they are elected. It is essential that the popular movement continues to demand economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace during the elections and after.

TODAY, leaders of movements for peace and justice launched the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. Learn more, sign on and support it by clicking here.

New Culture, New Constitution, New Everything

North, Central, and South America were named after Amerigo Vespucci.  In “Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici,”1 Amerigo Vespucci describes the New World.  Lorenzo de’ Medici is a member of the Medici family, a stupendously wealthy family of bankers and importers, who ruled the city of Florence, Italy for most of the 1400s.  The Medici family’s patronage of the arts promoted the Renaissance by sponsoring many of the most significant artistic achievements. They also gave financial loans to the Church.  Moreover, in 1513, another Medici, Giovanni de’ Medici, became Pope Leo X, which shows how influential and powerful this family was.2

Amerigo Vespucci referred to Lorenzo de’ Medici as “Your Excellency.”  He told Lorenzo how he and his crew in the Americas discovered “a very large village, the houses of which were built over the sea, like Venice with much ingenuity.  While we were struck with admiration at this circumstance, we determined to go see them; and as we went to their houses, they attempted to prevent our entering. They found out at last the manner in which the sword cuts, and thought it best to let us enter.”  The document also mentions that after entering, Amerigo Vespucci and his crew took a great quantity of cotton and dye-wood and returned to the ships.3 Apparently their religious motto of “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you” does not apply when the others are considered to be subhuman savages.

Niccolo Machiavelli was famous for writing the book The Prince which gave advice to political leaders of Florence that they must be ruthless, expedient, strong, and clever.  He also said, “It’s better for a ruler to be feared than loved.” The Prince is a treatise explaining how to gain and hold absolute political power.  Machiavelli dedicated The Prince to Giuliano de’ Medici, another member of the Medici family.4

If we examine the Middle Ages, as a contrast to the Renaissance period, the perfect ruler was Louis IX of France who was so virtuous that he was made a saint.  But with the Renaissance, men like Cosimo de’ Medici and Cezare Borgia took power boldly. It was considered a realistic politics that often meant a brutal disregard for ethics.4

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn on page 1 mentions that Columbus wrote “They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…They would make fine servants.”  On page 2 of the People’s History, it mentions that Columbus wrote, “As soon as I arrived in the Indies on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”5

The Medici family, Machiavelli, and Columbus represent the foundation and mentality upon which our nation and culture were built. You could also say that our oligarchical founding fathers imbued this same commercial spirit of capitalistic enterprise.  The Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias explained the purposes that drove men to sail their ships across uncharted oceans: “To serve God and the King, to give light to those who are in darkness, and to grow rich, as all men desire to do.”6

Even today many people have the false hope that becoming rich is what will make them happy and fulfilled.  It is hard to fathom that the world’s billionaires do not seem troubled by the fact that half the world lives on less than $5.50 per day, according to the  World Bank. Many people aspiring to be millionaires and billionaires themselves see no justification in taxing the super rich at a higher rate.  Considering the needs of the planet and the rest of the world, I think the ratio of rich to poor annual incomes should be about 10:1, which means that any income above $120,000 would be taxed at 100 percent, based on the lowest wage being $15 per hour, about $30,000 a year. Moreover, everyone above the age of 18 could be guaranteed a basic annual income of $12,000 per year.  Reducing military spending by 90 percent would allow us to use tax revenues in a more humanistic way. After other nations reciprocate, we can reduce it even more.  I believe the other nations would reciprocate. It is the United States that is promoting outrageous military spending!

Instead of creating a survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog society, we can create a civilization that fosters cooperation and altruism.  If someone has the entrepreneurial skill of making a lot of money, that skill and motivation could be redirected and channeled into making the local community and the world a better place.  In a materialistic culture, the more we give, the less we have; it is a win-lose relationship. However, in an altruistic culture, the more we give the more we have; it is a win-win relationship.  Children learn what they live. We can teach different values to our children.

Today, as some of us complain about the never ending wars, a cursory study of history reveals that there have been many, many territorial and religious wars for very selfish and foolish reasons. Throughout history, in every age, there has been a small ruling class that has exploited the masses through the forces of hierarchy and domination.

Some would argue that the wars and hierarchical control are both just expressions of human nature, but you can also argue that humans just took a major wrong turn in the history of our so-called “civilization.”  We could have built a culture based on cooperation and sharing rather than competition and greed. We could have built our culture from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down.  Even non-Western cultures and some primitive cultures have had their share of social problems, but now we know so much more.  We should be able to learn from history.

In hindsight, we must realize that we can still work to reverse the 9 social sins that have developed in the West, and especially in the United States: imperialism, nationalism, racism, corporate capitalism, anti-environmentalism, speciesism, materialism, patriarchalism, and the discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  Some of us are sickened by the never-ending wars of our national leaders who wreak havoc on the world — though few average Americans seem to be aware of it or troubled by it. Moreover, some of us no longer feel comfortable saying the “Pledge of Allegiance,” even though we deeply care about the other people who share this land.

To create a new culture, we have to have a democratic constitutional convention to create a new constitution.  But how do we select the delegates for this constitutional convention? Our current federal and state legislators or their chosen representatives should not be the delegates.  That is the main reason most people are fearful of a constitutional convention: they do not trust our current leaders. But a more democratic, bottom-up approach to having a constitutional convention would be to have the delegates come from the largest national political parties, as determined by proportional representation. This method would not create a new government that inherently favors the left or the right.  However, in time, if either the left or the right attracts more people into their fold through persuasion and argument once the playing field has been completely leveled, so be it.

A new culture and a new constitution created through a maximum level of democracy will not create an ideal society at first, considering all the pejorative influences of the last 5,000 years, but in time our society can gradually get better.  Moreover, we can become collectively wiser if we create a constitution that makes it much easier to create new laws, new amendments, and new future constitutions in a democratic and fair way.

Through the scientific studies of consciousness and meditation and the mounting evidence about Near Death Experiences and the New Physics which bridges science and spirituality, and through new research into ayahuasca as a form of therapy for problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which used to be called “shell shock” — all of the above can help us realize that we are one — we are interrelated ecologically and spiritually — one earth, one world, one humanity. We are all connected to the Source Energy at the deepest level of our being, which may be the same Source Energy that created the universe.

When we realize that an intellectual understanding of history and a psychological understanding of ourselves are far more fulfilling than a materialistic lifestyle; when we realize that the earth has an ecological carrying capacity that we must honor; when we realize that world peace is hampered to the degree there is a disparity between the rich and the poor; when we realize all of these things simultaneously — then the social sins of nationalism, imperialism, racism, and patriarchalism will no longer be the dominant themes of our culture.  Moreover, with a focus on internationalism, we will see the need for a democratic world government  built from the bottom-up,  not from the top-down through fascist oligarchs, also referred to as the one percent.  If we can create a constitutional convention in a democratic way, it can ultimately promote a new way of looking at the world and our human potential; it can merge science and spirituality; it can promote more loving-kindness, cooperation, sharing, honesty, and transparency in our personal, social, and international relationships.

Archetypically, the seven largest national political parties are the Republican, Democratic, Constitution Party, Libertarian, Green, Democratic Socialist, and Revolutionary Socialist.  Now imagine if these political parties were represented at a constitutional convention based on proportional representation. What would be even more democratic would be to have the national political parties that have garnered at least one percent of the national vote be represented at a constitutional convention.

At this link, I show how it can be done:  “The Most Democratic Way to Have a Constitutional Convention.”  I also share “15 Proposals that Could Make Our Nation and the World a Better Place.”  Not everyone will  support the proposals that you or I will recommend, but we have to realize that once we broaden the political spectrum and drastically reduce the influence of money in politics, citizens will have an opportunity to become better educated.  Creating a new constitution in a fair and democratic way may not create an ideal society — at least not immediately — but it will be a society that is much better than what we now have.

• First published at OpEdNews.com

  1. Sherman, Dennis and Salisbury, Joyce. West in the World: A History of Western Civilization, fourth edition, (2011), p. 388.
  2. Muntone, Stephanie. European History DeMystified, (2012), pp. 7-8.
  3. Sherman, Dennis and Salisbury, Joyce. West in the World: A History of Western Civilization, fourth edition, p. 388.
  4. Ibid. p. 323.
  5. Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, (2003), pp. 1-2.
  6. Sherman, Dennis and Salisbury, Joyce. West in the World: A History of Western Civilization, fourth edition, (2011), p. 381.

Canada enables corrupt Haitian president to remain in power

At the front of a protest against Haiti’s president last week a demonstrator carried a large wooden cross bearing the flags of Canada, France and the US. The Haiti Information Project tweeted that protesters “see these three nations as propping up the regime of President Jovenel Moïse. It is also recognition of their role in the 2004 coup.”

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, Haitian protesters regularly criticize Canada. On dozens of occasions since Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004 marchers have held signs criticizing Canadian policy or rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. For their part, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times.

In the face of months of popular protest, Canada remains hostile to the protesters who represent the impoverished majority. A recent corruption investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes has rekindled the movement to oust the Canadian-backed president. The report into the Petrocaribe Fund accuses Moïse’s companies of swindling $2 million of public money. Two billion dollars from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela was pilfered under the presidency of Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly.

Since last summer there have been numerous protests, including a weeklong general strike in February, demanding accountability for public funds. Port-au-Prince was again paralyzed during much of last week. In fact, the only reason Moïse — whose electoral legitimacy is paper thin — is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”.

Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released another statement effectively backing Moise. The brief declaration called for “a broad national debate, without preconditions”, which is a position Canadian officials have expressed repeatedly in recent weeks. (The contrast with Canada’s position regarding Venezuela’s president reveals a stunning hypocrisy.) But, the opposition has explicitly rejected negotiating with Moïse since it effectively amounts to abandoning protest and bargaining with a corrupt and illegitimate president few in Haiti back.

In another indication of the “Core Group’s” political orientation, their May 30 statement “condemned the acts of degradation committed against the Senate.” Early that day a handful of opposition senators dragged out some furniture and placed it on the lawn of Parliament in a bid to block the ratification of the interim prime minister. Canada’s Ambassador André Frenette also tweeted that “Canada condemns the acts of vandalism in the Senate this morning. This deplorable event goes against democratic principles.” But, Frenette and the “Core Group” didn’t tweet or release a statement about the recent murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, who’d been reporting on corruption and police violence. Nor did they mention the commission that found Moïse responsible for stealing public funds or the recent UN report confirming government involvement in a terrible massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November. Recent Canadian and “Core Group” statements completely ignore Moise’s electoral illegitimacy and downplay the enormity of the corruption and violence against protesters.

Worse still, Canadian officials regularly promote and applaud a police force that has been responsible for many abuses. As I detailed in a November story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Frenette attended a half dozen Haitian police events in his first year as ambassador. Canadian officials continue to attend police ceremonies, including one in March, and offer financial and technical support to the police. Much to the delight of the country’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state since Aristide’s ouster.

On Wednesday Frenette tweeted, “one of the best parts of my job is attending medal ceremonies for Canadian police officers who are known for their excellent work with the UN police contingent in Haiti.” RCMP officer Serge Therriault leads the 1,200-person police component of the Mission des Nations unies pour l’appui à la Justice en Haïti (MINUJUSTH).

At the end of May Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard led a United Nations Economic and Social Council delegation to Haiti. Upon his return to New York he proposed creating a “robust” mission to continue MINUJUSTH’s work after its planned conclusion in mid-October. Canadian officials are leading the push to extend the 15-year old UN occupation that took over from the US, French and Canadian troops that overthrew Aristide’s government and was responsible for introducing cholera to the country, which has killed over 10,000.

While Haitians regularly challenge Canadian policy, few in this country raise objections. In response to US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent expression of solidarity with Haitian protesters, Jean Saint-Vil put out a call titled “OH CANADA, TIME TO BE WOKE LIKE ILHAN OMAR & MAXINE WATERS!” The Haitian Canadian activist wrote:

While, in Canada, the black population is taken for granted by major political parties who make no effort to adjust Canadian Foreign policies towards African nations, Haiti and other African-populated nations of the Caribbean, where the Euro-Americans topple democratically-elected leaders, help set up corrupt narco regimes that are friendly to corrupt Canadian mining companies that go wild, exploiting the most impoverished and blackest among us, destroying our environments in full impunity… In the US, some powerful voices have arisen to counter the mainstream covert and/or overt white supremacist agenda. Time for REAL CHANGE in Canada! The Wine & Cheese sessions must end! We eagerly await the statements of Canadian party leaders about the much needed change in Canadian Policy towards Haiti. You will have to deserve our votes, this time around folks!

Unfortunately, Canadian foreign policymakers — the Liberal party in particular — have co-opted/pacified most prominent black voices on Haiti and other international issues. On Monday famed Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière attended a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Port-au-Prince while the head of Montréal’s Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche, says nary a word about Canadian imperialism in Haiti. A little discussed reason Paul Martin’s government appointed Michaëlle Jean Governor General in September 2005 was to dampen growing opposition to Canada’s coup policy among working class Haitian-Montrealers.

Outside the Haitian community Liberal-aligned groups have also offered little solidarity. A look at the Federation of Black Canadians website and statements uncovers nothing about Canada undermining a country that dealt a massive blow to slavery and white supremacy. (Members of the group’s steering committee recently found time, however, to meet with and then attend a gala put on by the anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.)

A few months ago, Saint-Vil proposed creating a Canadian equivalent to the venerable Washington, D.C. based TransAfrica, which confronts US policy in Africa and the Caribbean. A look at Canadian policy from the Congo to Venezuela, Burkina Faso to Tanzania, suggests the need is great. Anyone seeking to amplify the voices from the streets of Port-au-Prince should support such an initiative.

Global rebellion to Save Our Planet

“The greatest threat to the Earth is thinking someone else will save it.” The responsibility is ours; politicians and governments are complacent, dishonest and buried in the ideology of the past. Despite repeated warnings nothing substantial has been done and time is running out.  No one else is going to Save Our Planet; a global movement of civil disobedience is needed to force governments to take the radical action needed.

In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists (made up of 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists) issued the ‘World Scientist’ Warning to Humanity’. They stated that, “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” Their words fell on deaf ears. Decades of inaction and procrastination has allowed the crisis to escalate and escalate, leading to the point where we are now, the very edge of total catastrophe.

Given the enormous scale of the issue, many people feel overwhelmed, hopeless. Eco-anxiety, defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”, is on the rise in many countries triggering feelings of rage, grief, despair and shame. Some people are so worried they are taking the extreme decision not to have children until climate change is dealt with. ‘Birth Strike’, The Guardian reports, is ‘a [UK based global] voluntary organization for women and men who have decided not to have children in response to the coming “climate breakdown and civilization collapse.” … It is a “radical acknowledgment” of how the looming existential threat is already “altering the way we imagine our future”.’

The aim of BirthStrike is not to discourage people from having children, but to communicate the urgency of the environmental crisis. Many of its members are also involved with the groundbreaking movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), a UK-based socio-political group using non-violence resistance to create a sense of urgency about tackling the environmental crisis. XR chapters now exist in dozens of countries including the US, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Spain, South Africa and India.

Extinction Rebellion is calling for an ecological emergency to be declared by governments, the UK to lead the way and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 – ambitious certainly, but we need such targets, and for citizens assemblies to be established to devise a plan of action to tackle climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. They want to create ‘peaceful planet-wide mobilization of the scale of World War II’, only such a global response they say, ‘will give us a chance to avoid the worst case scenarios and restore a safe climate.’

Consistent with other major social movements such as the Suffragettes, the US Civil Rights movement and the Freedom Movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi, civil disobedience is at the heart of Extinction Rebellion’s methodology. In April this year the group mounted a major non-violent action in central London. Thousands of people occupied public spaces in the capital, closing bridges, causing disruption and staging a spectacle. ‘Dilemma actions’ were designed in which the authorities were faced with a choice – whether to allow the action to take place or not, to arrest and contain people or not. The demonstrations lasted for ten days and were part of an integrated global action with people in over 33 countries across six continents taking part.

In London more than 1,100 arrests were made as people peacefully asserted their right to demonstrate. The rebellion was substantial and historic. The result was widespread media coverage and a debate in the UK parliament, at the end of which a national ‘climate emergency’ was declared. A positive step, although we are yet to see what it actually means, and what policy action/s will follow.

Together with School Strike for Climate Change and other groups, XR is part of a worldwide movement the like of which has not been seen before; a diverse united group of environmental activists and concerned citizens, men women and children who care deeply about the environment, recognize that their governments are doing little or nothing to tackle the issues and that radical systemic change is urgently needed.

Engagement is one of the most positive ways to overcome eco-anxiety and a feeling of disempowerment; engage and discover there are huge numbers of people who feel the same, who are extremely worried, who don’t really know what to do, but are determined to do something. Engagement around shared issues builds strong bonds, creating solidarity and strengthening commitment.

At the end of the April action Extinction Rebellion said, “we will leave the physical locations but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world…in this age of misinformation, there is power in telling the truth.”

Simplicity of living

The environmental crisis is universal, existential and exponential and is made up of a number of interconnected issues: ecological collapse, extinction of species, deforestation, air, water and soil pollution and climate change. Manipulating existing systems and making small changes won’t solve the problems; radical systemic and social change is required and urgently. Governments are weak and compromised by their relationship to business and their obsession with the economy; they are deceitful and refuse to take the necessary actions to save the planet, so they must be forced to listen, and to act in accordance with the need, which is immense.

Unbridled, irresponsible consumerism must be brought to an end; sustainability and simplicity of living must now be the keynote of our lives. Individual and collective commitment is essential, commitment to live in an environmentally responsible way, to be aware of the environmental impact of everything we as individuals do – what we buy, what we eat, how we travel, how we use utilities etc., and commitment to participate and engage; to take part in protests and/or online activism, to pressurize politicians and corporations, and to support radical green movements in any way possible.

All governments, particularly those in western democracies need to be pushed to make the environment their number one priority. The environmental crisis is the greatest emergency of this or any other time; every area of policy making must now be designed to bring about the most positive environmental impact; short (five years), mid (10 years) and long term (25 years) plans, ambitious but with full commitment, attainable, need to be agreed and implemented, the voice of climate scientists and of environmental activists listened to and major public information programs set up.

The work of environmental salvage is not separate from the prevailing crisis of democracy and the need to fundamentally change the destructive, unjust socio-economic order. For ecological harmony to be reestablished and healing of the natural world to occur we need to radically change the systems and ways of life that are fueling the crisis, and inculcate new modes of living based on more humane values.

Consumerism and greed is the poison that is driving ecological collapse, and consumerism is the life-blood of the economic system; endless growth the aim of deluded governments – on a planet with finite resources. It is collective madness, and it must end. Politicians and corporate power, however, will not suddenly wake up to the scale of the emergency and act to bring about the required radical changes. Worldwide acts of coordinated civil disobedience by huge numbers of people, designed to bring about the maximum amount of disruption in a peaceful way are required. When people unite all things are possible; now is the time to come together to Save our Planet.