Category Archives: Technology

China’s vision for the future is “Give Peace a Chance”

China’s vision for the future is “Give Peace a Chance”. It is also the title of one of John Lennon’s most prominent songs. It became the anthem for the anti-war movement, at the time of the US-waged war against Vietnam. John Lennon was a peace activist. No wonder he was ostracized, considered enemy number one by the US establishment, was followed and surveyed by the FBI – and was eventually assassinated. October 9, 1940 is his birthday.

“Give Peace a Chance” is the key motto for China’s peace philosophy throughout her 70-years Revolution, often against challenging situations, especially in the last decade with almost permanent aggressions of one kind or another by the United States and their coopted allies in Europe. China is a tremendous challenge for the west, not only because of her sheer size and economic and technological advances, but also because China seeks peaceful cooperation and development around the globe.

The West does not seek Peace. Peace is bad for business. War is good and profitable, as such renown mainstream journals as the Washington Post have openly propagated in their op-ed columns time and again. Anecdotally, both world wars were initiated in the west. This is the premise under which the permanent western aggressions against the east, especially the leadership of the east, China and Russia, are being waged.

The motto of non-aggression and Peace – a Tao doctrine – prevails in China’s foreign policy as the top principle as of this date. And there is no indication that China will depart from this Peace dogma which has brought her internal stability, international recognition and has made China over the last decades one of the world’s foremost economies, as well as a leader in technological and environmental advances. This, despite constant western castigating for pirating western technology and destroying the environment. The demonization is like a propaganda tool to deviate the world’s attention from western capitalist disasters around the world. But China moves on, undisturbed, generously, with a vision for a common future for mankind all mankind, not just China.

On 1 October, China celebrated the 70th Anniversary of her Revolution. China’s vision began with the Chinese Revolution, when China’s leader of the Communist Party, Mao Zedong, declared the Independent People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949, succeeding the Republic of China (1912). In fact, China’s Revolution already began just after the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), at the end of WWII, with the Chinese Civil war (1945 – 1949), also called the War of Liberation.

The International Forum on “China’s 70-Year Development and the Construction of the Community with a Shared Future for Mankind”, 5-6 November in Shanghai, is part of the celebration. It is a forward-looking event with a Chinese vision for the future. To better grasp that vision for the future, here is a quick look at the past.

History with Foresight

Visionary Chairman Mao Zedong wanted to finally free the people of China from hundreds of years of western colonization and oppression, from the calamities of Opium Wars I and II (British imposed 1839-1842, and 1856-1860) and engaged the Chinese Communist Party (CPC – Communist Party of China) in an all-out confrontation with the Kuomintang (KMT), or the second phase of the Civil War (1945 – 1949).  The KMT, also called the Nationalist Party, was led by General Chiang Kai-shek, who succeeded KMT’s founder, Sun Yat-sen, after his death in 1925.

Chiang Kai-shek had the support of the United States, whose main objectives were stopping the “spread” of communism and maintaining continuous access to China’s riches, mostly in the form of natural resources, but also by exploiting the Chinese labor force. Washington ordered Chiang to break all relations with the Soviet Union and to eliminate the threat of a communist leadership in China. This led to a lingering on and off conflict from the 1920s onwards between KMT and the CPC (also considered the first phase of the Civil War).

Hostilities began shortly after the foundation of the KMT in 1919 which was ‘helped’ by the United States. While Mao and his Communist Party emerged as the winner of the Civil War in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and his followers took over the Chinese Province of Taiwan, where Kuomintang is still the ruling party. China’s non-aggression against the occupation of Taiwan is one of the many demonstrations of China’s peaceful diplomatic approach to conflict.

The current President of the Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself, although it is a part of China, is Tsai Ing-wen, a politician and professor, in office since 2016. He caters entirely to the interests of Washington and the west in general, even vying to buy independently – and totally illegally – weapons from the US. While part of the PRC, Taiwan enjoys a certain autonomy, again compliments of China’s non-belligerent approach to conflicts.

Today, Taiwan is still recognized by 14 countries out of 193 UN members as the official representative of China. This, despite the fact that the UN declared the People’s Republic of China already in 1971 as the official representative of China with one of the five permanent seats in the UN Security Council (UNSC). Countries recognizing Taiwan as official China, still bending over to please Washington, are becoming fewer and fewer, as China is emerging as the number one economy of the world; call it socioeconomy, because China’s advancements are not just measured by the western standards of linear economic growth, but promote distributive growth, encompassing also vast improvements of people’s quality of life.

Mao’s victory brought a new era to the Chinese people. With what he called the Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1962), Mao and the CPC led a social and economic campaign converting the rural agrarian areas into a socialist industrialized economy through communal farming or agricultural cooperatives. This 4-year effort was constantly attacked and disrupted by infiltrated anticommunist saboteurs at a high social and monetary cost for China. But it served as a learning phase. China’s flamboyant rise to the second (by some accounts the first) world economy, proved that the lessons helped defeat US interference then and today.

The ten-year Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) was Mao’s sociopolitical movement aiming at cleaning socialist China from infiltrated capitalist elements and influences. Then, and to some extent still today, China was full with so-called Fifth Columnists, a term coined during the Spanish Civil war, when General Franco’s Nazi-party, the “Falange”, were able to defeat the legitimately elected Republicans, because the “Falange” had what they called a “Fifth Column” clandestinely embedded among the Republican defense forces in Madrid. Today Fifth Columnists are everywhere. They come in all shapes and forms, including disguised as western NGOs, in every country that Washington and its western allies want to dominate and provoke ‘regime change’.  It was clear that the west, predominantly the emerging US empire, wanted to disrupt Mao’s revolution; they would not let China flourish under her own political, communist values and beliefs.

Foreign meddling in China’s Revolution came at a huge cost for China. As a consequence, Mao’s revolutions are often portrayed by the west as failures, the usual western tarnishing the success of other nations, of other socioeconomic systems, in order to hide the west’s own disastrous failures. From a Chinese and humanitarian perspective, Mao’s Revolutions have drastically improved the public education and health system, have eradicated endemic deadly diseases inherited from the western dominated colonial and KMT times and, foremost, poverty was largely eradicated. As of these days, about 750 million people have been lifted out poverty. Alleviation of poverty was an emphasis under both of Mao’s Revolutions. These Revolutions also taught valuable lessons to Chinese scholars and future leaders and have drastically advanced China towards food self-sufficiency which she reached by 2018.

It is thanks to these lessons that, after Mao’s death in 1976, his successor, Deng Xiaoping, led China through a far-reaching economic reform, including elements of a market economy, however, always under central government control, a principle that is maintained as of today. Deng called the new Chinese economic model “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, a principal that continues today. He helped develop China into the world’s fastest-growing economy, improving the lives of hundreds of millions of citizens. Deng also masterminded the return of Hong Kong from a UK colony to China in 1997, and Macau from Portugal in 1999. The transition was completed by Deng’s successor, Jian Zemin.

Deng retired in 1992. His successor, Jian Zemin, had several high-ranking positions in previous governments and was President of the PRC from 1993 – 2003. Jian opened China further for foreign investments and trade. He visited the US in 1997, where he met with President Clinton. Jian followed a non-confrontational foreign policy, like his predecessors, strengthened relations with western partners, especially the United States, and maintained at home an economic annual growth of at least 8%. This led to an explosion of wealth, but also initially to a less than optimal distribution of wealth, most of which concentrated along China’s eastern shores, risking conflicts with the lesser developed Chinese “hinterland”.

Hu Jintao followed Juan Zemin as China’s Paramount Leader from 2002 to 2012. Hu, as a rather modest leader, along with his Premier, Wen Jiabao, and his Vice-President, Xi Jinping, continued the policy of economic growth and development, achieving more than a decade of double-digit growth, however shifting the economy gradually more to non-consumption growth, fostering, instead, socioeconomic equality, aiming at building a “Harmonious Socialist Society”.

Hu was seeking a prosperous China, free of internal social conflicts and pursued internally and externally a “peaceful development policy” – with ‘soft power’ meaning a diplomatic approach to foreign policy issues, that was never confrontational. During Hu’s rule China increased its influence in Africa and Latin America, laying the groundwork for future closer relationships with these regions. Hu was also known for shared and consensus-based leadership. Hu was succeeded in 2013 by Xi Jinping.

The Vision

Enter the era of President Xi Jinping. He is a lawyer, chemical engineer, philosopher – and visionary. On 7 September 2013, President Xi Jinping gave a speech at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University, in which he spoke about ‘People-to-People Friendship and Creating a better Future”. He referred to the Ancient Silk Road of more than 2,100 years ago, that flourished during China’s Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24).

Referring to this epoch of more than 2,000 years back, Xi Jinping pointed to the history of exchanges under the Ancient Silk Road, saying:

They had proven that countries with differences in race, belief and cultural background can absolutely share peace and development as long as they persist in unity and mutual trust, equality and mutual benefit, mutual tolerance and learning from each other, as well as cooperation and win-win outcomes.

Xi’s vision may be shaping the world of the 21st Century. He designed and engineered the Belt and Road Initiative, loosely modeled according to the Ancient Silk Road, soon after assuming the Presidency in 2013. He launched this ground-breaking “project”, a fabulous idea to connect the world with transport routes, infrastructure, industrial joint ventures, teaching and research institutions, cultural exchange and much more. Enshrined in China’s Constitution, BRI has become the flagship for China’s foreign policy.

BRI is literally building bridges and connecting people of different continents and nations. The purpose of the New Silk Road is to construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database”.

During the 19th National Congress in 2017, BRI was included in the Chinese (CPC) Constitution as an amendment to promote the BRI’s objective of “shared interests” and “shared growth” which are major political objectives for China. This amendment to the Constitution for raising international cooperation through a multifaceted socioeconomic development endeavor is unique in China’s history. It fits precisely the theme of the present Forum, “The Construction of the Community with a shared Future for Mankind”.

The BRI is a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese Government, eventually with investments in more than 150 countries and international organizations – and growing – in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. BRI is a multi-trillion investment scheme, for transport routes on land and sea, as well as construction of industrial and energy infrastructure, energy exploration, cultural exchange and integration facilities, education and research institutions, as well as trade among connected countries; and, unlike WTO (World Trade Organization), BRI is allowing nations to benefit from their comparative advantages, creating a win-win situation. In essence, BRI is to develop mutual understanding and trust among member nations, allowing for free capital flows, a pool of experts and access to a BRI-based technology data base.

At present, BRI’s closing date is foreseen for 2049 which coincides with new China’s 100th Anniversary. The size and probable success of the program indicates, however, already today that it will most likely be extended way beyond that date. It is worth noting, though, that only in 2019, six years after its inception, BRI has become a news item in the West. Remarkably, for six years BRI was denied or ignored by the western media in the hope it may go away. But away it didn’t go. To the contrary, many European Union members have already subscribed to BRI, including Greece, Italy, France, Portugal, and more will follow as the temptation to participate in this projected socioeconomic boom is overwhelming.

Germany is mulling over the benefits and contras of participating in BRI. The German business community, like business throughout Europe, is strongly in favor of lifting US-imposed sanctions and reconnecting with the East, in particular with China and Russia. But the official Berlin is still with one foot in the White House and with the other trying to appease the German – and European – world of business. This balancing act is in the long run not sustainable and certainly not desirable. At present BRI is already actively involved in over 80 countries, of which at least half of the EU membership.

To counteract the pressure to join BRI, the European Union, basically run by NATO and intimately linked to Washington, has initiated their own ‘Silk Road’, to connect Asia with Europe through Japan. In that sense, the EU and Japan have signed a “free trade agreement” which includes a compact to build infrastructure, in sectors such as energy, transport and digital devices. The purpose is to strengthen economic and cultural ties between the two regions, boosting business relations between Asia and Europa. It is an obvious attempt to compete with or even sideline China’s BRI. But it is equally obvious that this response will fail. Usually initiatives taken in ill-fate are not successful. And China, non-belligerent China, is unlikely to challenge this EU-Japan competitive approach.

China’s New Silk Road is creating a multipolar world where all participants will benefit. The idea is to encourage economic growth, distributed in a balanced way, so as to prioritize development opportunities for those most in need. That means the under-developed areas of western China, eastern Russia, Central Asia, Central Europe, reaching out to Africa and the Middle East, Latin America, as well as to South East Asia and the Pacific. BRI is already actively building and planning some six to ten land and maritime routes, connecting Africa, the Middle East, Europe and South America (see map, above).

The expected multi-trillion-dollar equivalent dynamic budget is expected to be funded by China, largely, but not exclusively, by the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), by Russia and by all the countries that are part of BRI and involved in singular or multi-country projects.

Implementing BRI, or the New Silk Road, is itself the realization of a vision of nations: Peaceful interconnectivity, joint infrastructure and industrial development, as well as joint management of natural resources. For example, BRI may help with infrastructure and management advice resolving or preventing conflicts on transboundary water resources. There are some 263 transboundary lake and river basins, covering almost half the earth’s surface and involving some 150 countries. In addition, there are about 300 transboundary aquifers serving about 2 billion people who depend on groundwater.

Water resources, life depends on them. If these resources are not properly managed, by, say, one or several parties taking advantage of the other users, a conflict is born. Often such conflicts can become violent. BRI may turn this source of potential hostilities around into a source for peace. Water is among the most shared resources on earth, and as such it may serve as an instrument for peaceful connectivity.

The Chinese government calls the Silk Road Initiative “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future”. With freshwater resources rapidly diminishing for ready use in the public domain, because of industrial and human pollution and privatization, management of water resources and transboundary water, in particular, may be constructed into a “Shared Future for Mankind.” The Belt and Road Initiative may provide the guiding principles for this shared future of life’s essential resource – water.

Today, “Give Peace a Chance” is more relevant than ever. And China is a vanguard in promoting peaceful development across the globe. During the Cuban Conference “For a World in Equilibrium” of January 2019, one of the Chinese representatives said very unequivocally in his presentation, “we are building bridges between people and nations to connect the world peacefully”. Undoubtedly, he is right and was referring to President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the New Silk Road.

The same can unfortunately not be said about the West which is, instead, building walls, predominantly the US, followed by her European vassals, either physical walls, or walls by conflicts, wars and – walls by “economic sanction”, by which they strangle and kill people en masse. Whenever a government does not share the US neoliberal doctrines, or refuses to bend to their dictate and efforts to plunder a country of natural resources, it is first subject to atrocious sanctions, then to military intervention with the goal of regime change. All that is possible because the western world is run by the fiat dollar system, under which all international transactions have to transit through an American bank, foremost a Wall Street bank. That’s how they block transfers, confiscate and steal money in banks all over the world.

In Venezuela sanctions started soon after President Hugo Chavez was elected as President in 1998. They were severely enhanced under Obama in 2014, and President Trump squeezed the country even more in 2017. In August 2019 Trump tightened the noose of economic strangulation to the maximum, “the most that any country has been sanctioned”, he proudly proclaimed, blocking and confiscating government accounts, including national reserve accounts and gold all around the western world. They are seizing Venezuelan assets in the US and internationally, intercepting ships and otherwise interrupting trade, for example, blocking crucial medication and food stock from entering the country, while also threatening sanctions on countries that are trading with Venezuela.

According to Venezuelan officials, the financial losses since 2017 amount to at least 130 billion dollars. These funds represent goods and services, the absence of which compromises not only well-being but real lives of Venezuelans. The 130 billion dollars could amply supply food and medication for Venezuelans to live well and for hospitals to function with the necessary medication and equipment. In addition, the US was directing mercenaries and members of the government opposition to sabotage the countries electric system, which caused days — in some regions weeks — of black-outs, a disaster for hospitals depending on electricity for refrigeration and lighting of operating theaters. Indeed, a recent study by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, concluded that sanctions of the US and their European allies may have cost the lives of up to 40,000 Venezuelans. But Venezuela will not cave in and will survive, largely thanks to the support from China and Russia.

At this time it could also be mentioned the 60 years blockade of Cuba, the US instigated wars on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the civil wars in Central America, Central Africa, the hostilities towards North Korea – and, of course, the constant aggressions vis-à-vis China and Russia – and much more. All for eradicating any “threat” of socialism that might spread as a positive alternative to boundless turbo-capitalism which is currently running the western world.

But enough about the west and its drive for world hegemony in flagrant disrespect of international law and Human Rights. It just goes to illustrate a few examples to juxtapose the west and the east, foremost China in alliance with Russia, whose approach is a multipolar socioeconomic development scheme, generous and peaceful, connecting people through trade and through BRI.

“The future is in the East” – so goes a progressive axiom. It is also my strong belief. By the East is meant China, Russia, most of Central Asia; now all represented by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or the Shanghai Pact. SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The Pact was signed in June 2002 and entered into force in September 2013. SCO’s headquarters are in Beijing

Today, the SCO counts 8 members, including the members India and Pakistan. Iran and Mongolia are on a “waiting list”, on the verge of becoming members. Turkey, already a dialogue partner, is increasingly vying gaining SCO access, either through association or full membership. And this, despite the conflict it may create with Turkey’s NATO partners, mainly the US. Clearly, were Turkey to join the SCO, exit from NATO would be imminent – and disastrous for NATO, perhaps the stumbling block that would bring NATO down. Especially, since popular anti-NATO pressure from Italy to Germany, Greece, Spain and Portugal is steadily growing. Turkey is also the most strategically located NATO partner between East and West; between Europe and Asia, controlling the Bosporus, access to the Black Sea.

The SCO has also several observer and dialogue partners which eventually, it is assumed, may become full-fledged SCO members. The SCO is also called the alliance of the east and is considered a security pillar in more ways than one: SCO members account for almost half of the world population and for about one-third of the world’s economic output. In other words, this eastern alliance is politically and economically autonomous and to a large extent detached from the western dollar based “sanction-prone” economy.

The SCO, a visionary Chinese initiative of the early 2000s, was overlaid and expanded in 2013 by another brilliant Chinese Initiative, the BRI. May also be added to this powerhouse another association of countries, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), primarily a trading partnership. The members are located in central and northern Asia, and include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The treaty was formally established in January 2015.

This block of eastern countries and associations is seeking against all odds, a multi-polar world, a world of Peace and Prosperity for All – a big challenge given the current socioeconomic disequilibrium – but feasible with mutual respect and a will to cooperate, to apply the forces of synergy and solidarity, as is inherent in the Belt and Road approach. The stakes are high. As Russia’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Lavrov pointed out during the 74th UN General Assembly, in September 2019: “The West ignores reality by trying to prevent the formation of a multi-polar world by imposing its narrow “liberal” rules on others”, “but” he added, “Western dominance is on the wane, ‘we’re liberals, so everything’s allowed’ just isn’t working anymore.” These words are the basis for a strong pillar and union of eastern associations.

Outlook and Vision

Economy

China has registered during the past decades a phenomenal economic growth rate, at times exceeding 12% per year. Today it has been on purpose reduced to about 6%, so as to allow a better distribution of the growth benefits, and also spread wealth more horizontally to create greater equality of well-being.

In figures and facts:

China’s GDP measured in US-dollars amounts to $14.2 trillion (nominal; 2019 est.), which corresponds to $27.3 trillion in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP; 2019 est.). This corresponds to US$ 10,153 / capita, in nominal term (2019 est.), to US$ 19,520 / capita measured by PPP.

Compare this with the US GDP of US$ 21.345 trillion in nominal terms (2019 est.) and $64,767 / per capita (2019 est.) This makes China the world’s second largest economy in nominal terms, expected to exceed the US by 2026. However, when comparing the two GDPs by their PPP values, China is number one; having surpassed the United States in 2016.

Measured by PPP, China is already today de facto the world’s largest economy, because the only figures that have any significance in economic production and consumption, are those that reflect the output’s purchasing power

Examples of Economic Efficiency

New Airport in Beijing: In only 4 years China built by far the world’s largest airport in Beijing, Daxin International Airport. It was ready for China’s 70th Birthday on 1 October 2019, when it was inaugurated by President Xi Jinping. It has been operational the week after inauguration. This airport, an architectural wonder, covers some 700,000 m2 (almost 100 football fields) and carries passengers by fast train in 20 minutes to the center of Beijing. It is expected to accommodate in 2021 already 45 million passengers and can easily be expanded to receive and serve 100 million passengers as the need requires. This airport is a sign that China is capable of realizing extraordinary achievements. It signals a visionary future.

China’s Rapid Urbanization: When in 2017, Beijing was faced with a housing shortage for low-wage migrant workers, they built 100,000 low-rent apartments in twelve months. The speed of China’s infrastructure development, the rapid urbanization, providing millions of new subsidized housing for migrant workers, is a model that has worked and is being replicated throughout China. In fact, it pays off socially and economically. People who do not have to worry about shelter, are healthier and live and work better. China has been building homes for a million people — the entire housing stock of San Francisco — every month since 1950. This policy aims at and creates well-being among the workers, among the people, and is at the same time a solid tool for China’s economic development – and people’s happiness. China’s successful and rapid housing development is being closely watched by Australia, as her major cities, Sydney and Melbourne face similar problems.

Trade

China has been the world’s largest exporter of goods since 2009. Official estimates suggest Chinese exports amounted to about $2.1 trillion in 2017. The total annual value of the country’s exports equates to approximately $1,500 for every Chinese resident. Since 2013, China has as well become the world’s largest trading nation.China is also a significant importer and accounts for about 10% of total global imports, i.e., about US$ 1.7 trillion, leaving China as a net exporter with a trade surplus of about US$ 400 billion.  Trade war with the US  see below.

Monetary Policy

China’s Yuan, is a solid currency, backed by China’s economy and by gold. In 2017 the Yuan was admitted into the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) basket of reserve currencies, which constitute the SDR or Special Drawing Rights. The SDR basket consists of five currencies and their respective weights are: US-Dollar $41.73%, Euro 30.93%, Renminbi (Chinese Yuan) 10.92%, Japanese Yen 8.33%, British Pound 8.09%. The Yuan is clearly undervalued in the SDR basket, as it is rapidly replacing the dollar as reserve currency. Treasurers around the globe realize that the US-dollar is fiat money, backed by nothing, whereas the Yuan is a solid currency, based on a solid economy, plus backed by gold.

The decline of the US dollar as a world reserve currency means that the US dollar hegemony is fading. This is inadmissible for the US. Therefore, Washington along with the major western allies, are considering to abandon the key reserve role of the dollar and replacing it with some kind of an SDR, in which the dollar would maintain a prominent role, but its Ponzi-scheme characteristics would no longer be openly visible.

The current US debt to GDP ratio is about 105%. However, what the General Accounting Office calls “unmet obligations” amounts to about 700% of GDP (net present value – total outstanding obligations discounted to today’s value). According to former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, responding to a journalist’s question, “we will never pay back our debt; we will just print new money”. This is a dangerous pyramid, or Ponzi-scheme, of which most governments are aware, and yet many of them hold on to the dollar as key reserve currency. With the yuan rising, this may change rapidly. In fact, the conversion from dollar to yuan as reserve currency has already started.

Regarding the western foreseen reserve basket to “save” the dollar, it is not clear yet what the other currencies and their respective weight in the new “Reserve SDR” would be, but let’s assume the same five currencies. The Yuan, if still in the reserve basket, would probably still be under-valued. If so, this might be a good reason for China to exit the Reserve SDR and continue with the Yuan by its own economic and monetary value as a reserve currency. The Yuan has made its reputation of stability and does no longer need the backing of a (western coined) SDR to prove its strength as a reserve currency.

The War on Tariffs

In June 2018, US President Trump started an unprovoked Trade War with China, then expanded it to other countries, including his European allies. But it is most ferocious with China. As usual, China’s response was not hostile. Retaliation, yes; but still an approach of seeking negotiations and compromise. In reality, the US market for China may be important, but not that important to be humiliated as was the case with the American bulldozer approach to impose not just tariffs, but tariffs that were nothing but a new form of economic sanctions.

The real meaning and purpose behind these tariffs was not reducing China’s exports in the first place, but harming the Yuan, as it was gaining strength and, as mentioned before, gradually taking over the US-dollar’s role as world reserve currency. Some 20 years ago the US dollar accounted for more than 90% of all reserve assets in nations’ treasuries around the globe. Today, that percentage has shrunk to less than 60% and is fading rapidly. Much of the lost territories by the US dollar was made up by the Chinese Yuan. And as the importance of the Yuan rises, the US hegemony of the world’s economy, resources and people will fade. This does not go down in Washington without a fight.

Future Economic Growth

China, in the near future, will most likely keep to a “modest” growth rate, around 5% to 7%, concentrating on horizontal distributive growth, with a focus on improved public well-being for all, universal access to affordable housing, basic infrastructure, water supply, sanitation, public transportation, rural higher education, as well as internal cultural exchange and harmonization. Two areas of economic development, ”horizontal growth”, may be singled out; (i) Artificial Intelligence (AI), and (ii) Environmental Improvement.

Technological Innovation

China is a Power House of new technologies and no doubt the world’s number one in Technological Innovation. Just to mention a few, not in order of priority:

  • Rapidly progressing robotization of construction and manufacturing, as well as of medical interventions, like surgeries and localized cancer treatment;
  • 3-D construction of serving a myriad of sectors, including manufacturing in the medical sector, medical equipment, human body replacement parts, production of construction materials – and more. China predicts in 20 to 30 years everybody (in China) will have access to individualized 3D building capacity;
  • Face recognition technology, making traditional ID and bank account access cards obsolete and identity protection more secure;
  • High-speed train systems, a domain where China has bypassed Japan and is the world’s number one; i.e., the high-speed railways Shanghai Maglev and Fuxing Hao CR400AF/BF;
  • A new generation of garbage recycling into building material, fertilizers, fuel as a source of energy, and more;
  • Architecture and building efficiency, only two examples, (i) the new Beijing Daxin International Airport, the world’s largest, built in just 4 years, with a capacity of more than 100 million passengers per year, and a superb architecture; (ii) the “Birds Nest” – the stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics which will also be used for the 2022 Winter Olympics; it was built in less than 5 years and is an architectural masterpiece, and
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – see below.

China’s ambition: Everything is possible – and China has already proven that it can be done

Artificial Intelligence (AI). China is also moving rapidly towards leadership in Technical Innovation for Artificial Intelligence, with plans to invest considerable resources into research. In 2017, the State Council (CCP) issued a “Next Generation Intelligence Development Plan”, including a US$ (equivalent) 2.1 billion AI industrial park. By 2025 the State Council predicts China to be a leader in AI research and predicts that China’s AI core industry will be worth some US$ 60 billion, amounting to about US$ 700 billion equivalent, when accounting for related industries. By 2030, the State Council expects China to be the global leader in development of AI.

Environmental Improvement. China has made leaps in improving her environment, by far exceeding efforts of western countries. China’s environmental policies are developing BRI at home and abroad in shades of green. New parks with trees and areas for recreation are emerging in every major city in China. According to an expert at the School of Regulation and Global Governance of the Australian National University, Beijing has improved its air quality by 30% in the last five years.

A study of the University of Chicago demonstrates that Chinese cities have reduced the concentrations of fine particulates in the air on average by 32% between 2014 and 2018.

The Chinese people and government are putting utmost importance to protecting the environment and ecosystems. Green development makes for improved public health, but is also attractive for investments.

China has a three-year “green” plan to improve air quality and tighten regulations. Air quality is one of the key environmental issues besetting China. In that sense, the government is accelerating the electrification of vehicles and has pledged that by 2030 all new cars will be powered by electricity.The government is also tackling drinking water quality and shortages, as well as improving urban and rural sanitation. These are longer-term propositions. Cost estimates for China’s overall environmental programs are not readily available but may easily reach into hundreds of billions of US-dollar equivalents over a ten-year period.

Conclusion

A few years ago, China, Russia and other SCO countries started trading among themselves in their local currencies with a non-western monetary transfer system, using mostly the Chinese Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS). It is out of control of the western SWIFT transfer system, thereby escapes the sanctions regime of the US. Gradually, the SCO and associated countries are detaching themselves from the western dollar-based fiat system.

In terms of trading, the SCO countries, mainly China, control most of the Asian markets, even making rapid inroads into Japan and Australia, and are evermore present in Latin America and Africa. Before long Europe will see the light and turn eastwards. It would be a wise decision. Dealing first within the confines of the huge Eurasian landmass, including the Middle East and parts of Africa – has been the logical way of trading since the Ancient Silk Road, more than 2,000 years ago.

China has a great visionary future that had already begun 70 years ago, and was enhanced six years ago with President Xi Jinping’s launching of the Belt and Road Initiative. BRI will continue spanning the globe for the next at least 50 to 100 years, spreading development in a multi-polar world, stressing equality and well-being for all. BRI investments may be counted in the multi-multi trillions and will be funded by China and the participating countries, with a socio-economic return that cannot be expressed in sheer monetary terms, as investments will also bring unfathomable social benefits, poverty reduction, improved health, higher and better education and, generally improving people’s well-being.

The bright side of this initiative is the Chinese philosophy of non-aggression, of diplomacy to resolve conflicts and of promoting peaceful economic coexistence and development around the globe.

China’s determination to develop with a “green” economy, a “green” BRI and a horizontal distributive growth that emphasizes equality and inclusion is a landmark model for the world to embrace. It is a model to construct a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind.

• First published in Global Research

How the Hand of Israeli Spy Tech Reaches Deep into our Lives

Digital age weapons developed by Israel to oppress Palestinians are rapidly being repurposed for much wider applications – against Western populations who have long taken their freedoms for granted.

Israel’s status as a “startup nation” was established decades ago. But its reputation for hi-tech innovation always depended on a dark side, one that is becoming ever harder to ignore.

A few years ago, Israeli analyst Jeff Halper warned that Israel had achieved a pivotal role globally in merging new digital technologies with the homeland security industry. The danger was that gradually we would all become Palestinians.

Israel, he noted, treated the millions of Palestinians under its unaccountable, military rule effectively as guinea pigs in open-air laboratories. They were the test bed for developing not only new conventional weapons systems, but also new tools for mass surveillance and control.

As a recent report in Haaretz observed, Israel’s surveillance operation against Palestinians is “among the largest of its kind in the world. It includes monitoring the media, social media and the population as a whole”.

Big Brother trade

But what began in the occupied territories was never going to stay in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. There was simply too much money and influence to be gained from a trade in these new hybrid forms of offensive digital technology.

Tiny though it may be in size, Israel has long been a world leader in an extremely lucrative arms trade, selling to authoritarian regimes around the world its weapons systems as “battlefield-tested” on Palestinians.

This trade in military hardware is increasingly being overshadowed by a market for belligerent software: tools for waging cyber warfare.

Such new-age weapons are in high demand from states for use not only against external enemies, but against internal dissent from citizens and human rights monitors.

Israel can rightly claim to be a world authority here, controlling and oppressing populations under its rule. But it has been keen to keep its fingerprints off much of this new Big Brother technology, by outsourcing the further development of these cyber tools to graduates of its infamous security and military intelligence units.

Nonetheless, Israel implicitly sanctions such activities by providing these firms with export licenses – and the country’s most senior security officials are often closely involved in their work.

Tensions with Silicon Valley

Once out of uniform, Israelis can cash in on years of experience gained from spying on Palestinians by setting up companies developing similar software for more general applications.

Apps using sophisticated surveillance technology originating in Israel are increasingly common in our digital lives. Some have been put to relatively benign use. Waze, which tracks traffic congestion, allows drivers to reach destinations faster, while Gett pairs customers up with nearby taxis through their phone.

But some of the more covert technology produced by Israeli developers sticks much closer to its original military format.

This offensive software is being sold both to nations wishing to spy on their own citizens or rival states, and to private corporations hoping to gain an edge on competitors or better commercially exploit and manipulate their customers.

Once incorporated into social media platforms with billions of users, such spyware offers state security agencies a potential near-global reach. That explains the sometimes fraught relationship between Israeli tech firms and Silicon Valley, as the latter struggles to take control of this malware – as two contrasting, recent examples highlight.

Mobile phone ‘spy kit’

In a sign of the tensions, WhatsApp, a social media platform owned by Facebook, initiated the first lawsuit of its kind in a California court last week against NSO, Israel’s largest surveillance company.

WhatsApp accuses NSO of cyber attacks. In just a two-week period ending in early May examined by WhatsApp, NSO is reported to have targeted the mobile phones of more than 1,400 users in 20 countries.

NSO’s spyware, known as Pegasus, has been used against human rights activists, lawyers, religious leaders, journalists and aid workers. Reuters revealed last week that senior officials of US allies had also been targeted by NSO.

After taking charge of the user’s phone without their knowledge, Pegasus copies data and turns on the microphone for surveillance. Forbes magazine has described it as the “world’s most invasive mobile spy kit”.

NSO has licensed the software to dozens of governments, including prominent human rights-abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Morocco.

Amnesty International has complained that its staff are among those targeted by NSO spyware. It is currently supporting a legal action against the Israeli government for issuing the company with an export license.

Ties to Israeli security services

NSO was founded in 2010 by Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio, both reported to be graduates of Israel’s vaunted military intelligence Unit 8200.

In 2014, whistleblowers revealed that the unit routinely spied on Palestinians, trawling through their phones and computers for evidence of sexual improprieties, health problems or financial difficulties that could be used to pressure them into collaborating with Israel’s military authorities.

The soldiers wrote that Palestinians were “completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.”

Despite officials issuing export licences to NSO, Israeli government minister Zeev Elkin denied last week “Israeli government involvement” in the hacking of WhatsApp. He told Israeli radio: “Everyone understands that this is not about the state of Israel.”

Tracked by cameras

In the same week that WhatsApp launched its legal action, US television channel NBC revealed that Silicon Valley is nonetheless keen to reach out to Israeli startups deeply implicated in abuses associated with the occupation.

Microsoft has invested heavily in AnyVision to further develop sophisticated facial recognition technology that already helps the Israeli military oppress Palestinians.

The connections between AnyVision and the Israeli security services are barely hidden. Its advisory board includes Tamir Pardo, former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The company’s president, Amir Kain, previously served as head of Malmab, the defence ministry’s security department.

AnyVision’s main software, Better Tomorrow, has been nicknamed “Occupation Google” because the firm claims it can identify and track any Palestinian by searching footage from the Israeli army’s extensive network of surveillance cameras in the occupied territories.

Grave concern

Despite obvious ethical problems, Microsoft’s investment suggests it may be aiming to incorporate the software into its own programmes. That has caused grave concern among human rights groups.

Shankar Narayan of the American Civil Liberties Union warned of a future all too familiar to Palestinians living under Israeli rule: “The widespread use of face surveillance flips the premise of freedom on its head and you start becoming a society where everyone is tracked, no matter what they do, all the time”, Narayan told NBC.

“Face recognition is possibly the most perfect tool for complete government control in public spaces.”

According to Yael Berda, a researcher at Harvard University, Israel maintains a list of some 200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank it wants under surveillance around the clock. Technologies such as AnyVision’s are seen as vital to keeping this vast group under constant monitoring.

A former AnyVision employee told NBC that the Palestinians were treated as a testing ground. “The technology was field-tested in one of the world’s most demanding security environments and we were now rolling it out to the rest of the market,” he said.

Meddling in elections

The Israeli government itself has a growing interest in using these spying technologies in the US and Europe, as its occupation has become the focus of controversy and scrutiny in mainstream political discourse.

In the UK, the shift in the political climate has been highlighted by the election of Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time Palestinian rights activist, to head the opposition Labour Party. In the US, a small group of lawmakers visibly supportive of the Palestinian cause have recently entered Congress, including Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to hold the post.

More generally, Israel fears the flourishing international solidarity movement BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), which calls for a boycott of Israel – modelled on the one against apartheid South Africa – until it stops oppressing Palestinians. The BDS movement has grown strongly on many US campuses.

As a result, Israeli cyber firms have been drawn ever more deeply into efforts to manipulate public discourse about Israel, apparently including by meddling in foreign elections.

Private ‘Mossad for hire’

Two notorious examples of such firms have briefly made headlines. Psy-Group, which marketed itself as a “private Mossad for hire“, was shut down last year after the FBI began investigating it for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election. Its “Project Butterfly”, according to the New Yorker, aimed to “destabilize and disrupt anti-Israel movements from within”.

Black Cube, meanwhile, was exposed last year to have been carrying out hostile surveillance of leading members of the previous US administration, under Barack Obama. It appears closely linked to Israel’s security services, and was a for a time located on an Israeli military base.

Banned by Apple

There are other Israeli firms seeking to blur the distinction between private and public space.

Onavo, an Israeli data collection company established by two veterans of Unit 8200, was acquired by Facebook in 2013. Apple banned its VPN app last year over revelations that it was providing unlimited access to users’ data.

Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, who heads a secretive campaign to demonise overseas BDS activists, had regular meetings with another firm, Concert, last year, according to a report in Haaretz. This covert group, which is exempt from Israel’s Freedom of Information laws, has received around $36m in funding from the Israeli government. Its directors and shareholders are a “who’s who” of Israel’s security and intelligence elite.

Another leading Israeli firm, Candiru, is named for a small Amazonian fish that is reputed to secretly invade the human body, where it becomes a parasite. Candiru sells its hacking tools mostly to Western governments, though its operations are shrouded in secrecy.

Its staff are drawn almost exclusively from Unit 8200. In a sign of how closely linked are the public and covert technologies Israeli firms have developed, Candiru’s chief executive, Eitan Achlow, previously headed Gett, the taxi service app.

Dystopian future

Israel’s security elite is cashing in on this new market for cyber warfare, exploiting – just as it did with the trade in conventional arms – a ready made and captive Palestinian population, on which it can test its technology.

It is no surprise that Israel is gradually normalising in Western countries invasive and oppressive technologies long familiar to Palestinians.

Facial recognition software allows for ever more sophisticated racial and political profiling. Covert data gathering and surveillance smashes the traditional boundaries between private and public space. And the resulting doxxing campaigns make it easy to intimidate, threaten and undermine those who dissent or, like the human rights community, try to hold the powerful to account.

If this dystopian future continues to unfold, New York, London, Berlin and Paris will increasingly look like Nablus, Hebron, East Jerusalem and Gaza. And we will all come to understand what it means to live inside a surveillance state engaged in cyber warfare against those it rules over.

•  First published in Middle East Eye

Microsoft Should Not Fund Israeli Spying on Palestinians

The act of Palestinian activists covering their faces during anti-Israeli occupation rallies is an old practice that spans decades. The masking of the face, often by Kufyias – traditional Palestinian scarves that grew to symbolize Palestinian resistance – is far from being a fashion statement. Instead, it is a survival technique. Without it, activists are likely to be arrested in subsequent nightly raids; at times, even assassinated.

In the past, Israel used basic technologies to identify Palestinians who take part in protests and mobilize the people in various popular activities. TV news footage or newspaper photos were thoroughly deciphered, often with the help of Israel’s collaborators in the Occupied Territories, and the ‘culprits’ would be identified, summoned to meet Shin Bet intelligence officers or arrested from their homes.

That old technique was eventually replaced by more advanced technology, countless images transmitted directly through Israeli drones – the flagship of Israel’s “security industry”. Thousands of Palestinians were detained and hundreds were assassinated in recent years as a result of drones data, analyzed through Israel’s burgeoning facial recognition software.

If, in the past, Palestinian activists were keen on keeping their identity hidden, now they have much more compelling reasons to ensure the complete secrecy of their work. Considering the information sharing between the Israeli army and illegal Jewish settlers and their armed militias in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians face the double threat of being targeted by armed settlers as well as by Israeli soldiers.

True, when it comes to Israel, such a grim reality is hardly surprising. But what is truly disturbing is the direct involvement of international corporate giants, the likes of Microsoft, in facilitating the work of the Israeli military, whose sole aim is to crush any form of dissent among Palestinians.

Microsoft prides itself on being a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), emphasizing that “privacy (is) a fundamental human right.”

The Washington-State based software giant dedicates much attention, at least on paper, to the subject of human rights. “Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights,” Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement asserts. “We do this by harnessing the beneficial power of technology to help realize and sustain human rights everywhere.”

In practice, however, Microsoft’s words are hardly in line with its action, at least not when its human rights maxims are applied to occupied and besieged Palestinians.

Writing in the American news network NBC News on October 27, Olivia Solon reported on Microsoft funding of the Israeli firm, AnyVision, which uses facial recognition “to secretly watch West Bank Palestinians”.

Through its venture capital arm M12, Microsoft has reportedly invested $78 million in the Israeli startup company that “uses facial recognition to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”.

AnyVision had developed an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, dubbed “Better Tomorrow” that, according to a joint NBC News-Haaretz investigation, “lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.”

As disquieting as “Better Tomorrow’s” mission sounds, it takes on a truly sinister objective in Palestine. “According to five sources familiar with the matter,” wrote Solon, “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank.”

“One source said the project is nicknamed ‘Google Ayosh,’ where ‘Ayosh’ means occupied Palestinian territories and ‘Google’ denotes the technology’s ability to search for people.”

Headquartered in Israel, AnyVision has several offices around the world, including the US, the UK and Singapore. Considering the nature of AnyVision’s work, and the intrinsic link between Israel’s technology sector and the country’s military, it should have been assumed that the company’s software is likely used to track down Palestinian dissidents.

In July, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out that “AnyVision is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank. One involves a system that it has installed at army checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day on their way to work from the West Bank.”

Former AnyVision employees spoke to NBC News about their experiences with the company, one even asserting that he/she “saw no evidence that ethical considerations drove any business decisions” at the firm.

The alarming reports invited strong protests by human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Alas, Microsoft carried on with supporting AnyVision’s work unhindered.

This is not the first time that Microsoft is caught red-handed in its support of the Israeli military or criticized for other unethical practices.

Unlike Facebook, Google and others, who are constantly, albeit deservingly being chastised for violating privacy rules or allowing politics to influence their editorial agenda, Microsoft has been left largely outside the brewing controversies. But, like the rest, Microsoft should be held to account.

In its ‘Human Rights Statement’, Microsoft declared its respect for human rights based on international conventions, starting with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In occupying and oppressing Palestinians, Israel violates every article of that declaration, starting with Article 1, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and including Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

It will take Microsoft more than hyperlinking to a UN document to show true and sincere respect for human rights.

Indeed, for a company that enjoys great popularity throughout the Middle East and in Palestine itself, an inevitable first step towards respecting human rights is to immediately divest from AnyVision, coupled with an apology for all of those who have already paid the price for that ominous Israeli technology.

America’s Education System: Teaching the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

Ask students to read for more than a couple of sentences and many will protest that they can’t do it. The most frequent complaint that teachers hear that it’s boring. It is not so much the content of the written material that is at issues here; it is the act of reading itself that is deemed to be boring. What we are facing here is not just time-honored teenage torpor, but the mismatch between a post-literate New Flesh that is too wired to concentrate and the confining concentrational logics of decaying disciplinary systems. To be bored means simply to be removed from the communicative sensation-stimulus matrix of texting, You Tube and fast food; to be denied, for a moment, the constant flow of sugary gratification on demand. Some students want Nietzsche in the same way they want a hamburger; the fail to grasp—and the logic of the consumer system encourages this misapprehension—the indigestibility, the difficulty is Nietzsche.

— Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, December 16, 2009

I am a substitute teacher (grades K-12) in a public school system located in Virginia, a state on the eastern seaboard of the United States. For many years prior to becoming a substitute teacher, I also taught at a private school in Virginia. Tuition and fees at the private school are approximately $42,000 (USD), the public schools are, of course, tuition free.

To be sure, there are highly motivated students in both educational settings that call into question Mark Fisher’s observation above. But in the main, both organizations struggle with figuring out if they are working with their subjects as students or as consumers of services provided by teachers and administrators.

From what I have observed in the tiny microcosm in which I’ve worked, adults have not figured out how to teach Generation Z. It is as if K-12 students are; well, lab rats, in a messy experiment that reflects adult confusion about how to facilitate learning in an era when all the “book learning” education seeks to impart is largely available on the World Wide Web (WWW). Reality hits video screens before adults can interpret it for their children; that is, assuming the adults are up to the task. Twitter, a modern day ticker-tape, dumbs down the American populace. Attention spans for students and adults are measured in 10 minute increments, if that.

Teachers are little more than circuits in America’s educational network and, as such, transmit surface information to the students and little more. The kids know a lot, for sure, but they, like the adults that school them and lead them, have no intellectual depth, something required for critical thinking. It is fitting, I suppose, that in these times when the United States is a polarized nation of cynics who believe in nothing, it’s not surprising that its educators teach the young to be cynics. But as Oscar Wilde noted through one of his characters, a cynic is “one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.”

And yet the very adults (academics, corporate leaders, politicians) that created this cynical, digitized short attention span world whine about students not being able to read and write, think critically or master math. There is a reason for that: They are not being taught effectively to do those things. All of which reaffirms something I wrote in 2013: The American Education System is creating Ignorant Adults.

The leaders of Boeing and Lockheed Martin worry out loud about the absence of US school-aged students who can excel at science, technology, engineering and math disciplines (STEM). But they have no problem funding initiatives for Chinese students and aviation professionals in China.

Hocus Pocus

Back in the USA, school classrooms are a mishmash of technology, new wave/repackaged learning techniques and revisionist history. Apple I-Pads and Smart Boards are located in each classroom for student/teacher use. They are all connected to software that provides music, cartoons and learning platforms like Canvas for most grade levels. The latest teaching fads like Maker Learning with its “Digital Promise” backed by Google and Pixar, among others, competes with concepts like the Flipped Classroom, Blended Learning and other pedagogies that come in and out of vogue. And yet, along side all the technology are crayons, magic markers, pencils, paper and cardboard for writing and drawing.

It’s no stretch to say that I-Phones, Android and other hand-held devices may cause epigenetic changes. Students, teachers/coaches and administrators are constantly staring head down at their computing-communications devices. It is tough to get a face-to-face conversation going with most anyone in these groups as their eyes and heads are in the down position while sitting, walking or standing. Even if you are having a meat-space meeting, participants will incessantly dart their eyes to the handheld safely nearby the hand, in the hand, or on the lap (looking down again).

America’s past, woeful in many respects, is being revised again by adults to suit the agenda of those who seek to promote a narrative that seeks to change the political/cultural narrative of US society and its history, and it is aimed at young students in particular. The New York Times (NYT) 1619 Project is an example of this. According to the World Socialist Website, “The 1619 Project, launched by the Times in August, presents American history in a purely racial lens and blames all white people for the enslavement of 4 million black people as chattel property. “

The NYT has provided teaching materials that are being used by colleges, universities and high schools across the United States. Who is willing or capable of debating the claims of the New York Times; or should we say, who is willing to be labeled a racist for disagreeing with the revisionist authors of the 1619 Project? At the collegiate level, at least, there may be debate on the matter but at the high school level, what teacher is going to argue against using 1619 teaching materials. After all it is the New York Times.

What is very troubling about the NYT revisionism is that it makes the preposterous claim that racism is part of the DNA of all white people. The World Socialist Website claims that:

This is dangerous politics, and very bad history…[it] mixes anti-historical metaphors pertaining to biological determinism (that racism is printed in a “national DNA”) and to religious obscurantism (that slavery is the uniquely American “original sin”). But whether ordained by God or genetic code, racism by whites against blacks serves, for the 1619 Project, as history’s deus ex machina. There is no need to consider questions long placed at the center of historical inquiry: cause and effect, contingency and conflict, human agency and change over time. History is simply a morality tale written backwards from 2019.

Sharpen My Pencils, Fool!

I have often winced at some of the practices I observed in classrooms. On a typical day as a substitute, I arrive at a school, pick up instructions left by the teacher who is absent (or has a meeting), and head to the classroom. Substitute teachers, or Subs, are a lower class of species, members of the gig economy, and treated as such by the “real” teachers and students. I remember one teacher I subbed for was headed off to a meeting and as she left said, “Sharpen my pencils for me.” I dutifully did. A majority of the teachers and administrators don’t ask for your name, you’re just known as “The Sub.”

Once students complete their work (if they even choose to do it), which for most does not take much class time, they are free to play video games, stick ear buds in and listen to music or hang out with friends via the handheld device. One of the popular video games with male 6th to 12th graders is Krunker, a first person shooter game. Is US society really that concerned about active shooters in schools?

The State and corporations can be found in some form in the public school system. One elementary school has Lockheed Martin as a sponsor of a science program. In another elementary school, a class is learning about Virginia’s geography: The students print and video work product will ultimately be used by a tourism association in the State.

In both institutions learning is calibrated to the SAT, ACT and various Advanced Placement tests. Student test scores serve as one metric for teacher performance reviews along with standards set by school boards, the State, or independent audits in the private school case.

Students are not required to stand or even pay attention to the United States Pledge of Allegiance that is carried via intercom into the classrooms each morning. Some schools don’t even bother with it. Yet, during sporting events like American contact football, students/athletes and fans are required, or let’s say by the pressure of custom are compelled, to stand for the playing of the United States’ National Anthem. American flags are stitched into football jerseys and prior to games one football player is selected to run the American flag onto the field amidst the adrenaline fueled shouts and growls of fellow teammates following close behind. A color guard from a high school’s junior reserve officer training corps (JROTC) sometimes is present. They present in strict marching formation the American flag along with the flags of the US Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

To stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a classroom takes one minute. To be upright for the National Anthem takes, perhaps, five minutes. The school band normally plays the latter and on occasion high school Madrigals will sing the National Anthem.

Yes, the militarization of US society and the deification of military personnel, even if they are accountants in uniform working at the Pentagon, is something to be concerned about. But saying the Pledge, and standing for the National Anthem, should be a requirement for students. There has to be some measure or display of loyalty to one’s country and the young must learn that. Still many want to wipe away any sense of citizenship, patriotism. Well, they are doing a fine job of that.

Mind the Inmates!

Students at both institutions are the beneficiaries of some serious force protection measures normally associated with protecting military personnel stationed at installations around the globe. The public schools in which I worked have armed police officers on site with a phalanx of civilian security/disciplinarians roaming the halls. Security cameras are everywhere indoors (hallways) and outside (entry and exit) recording movements. Public school buses are also outfitted with cameras and tracking systems.

The private school where I was once employed uses a less blunt force approach opting for a more subtle presence: security personnel are a bit less obvious and do not carry firearms. The school does employ a corporate style full-time director of security and safety with some serious emergency management credentials.

It is the same security scene at public and private schools across the United States which raises an interesting question: Are students really captive minds in minimum security enclosures subjected daily to social, emotional learning techniques or socialization/habilitation for entry into society? Or are they “free” learners allowed to be creative and explore beyond the confines of the pedagogy that seeks to “standardize” them.

No Student Untracked

There is a functioning big data brother at work tracking students as they make their way through K-12 known as the Common Core of Data (CCD). CCD is described by Marc Gardner in a presentation for the US National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as “the annual collection of the universe of United States public elementary, secondary education agencies and schools. Data include enrollment by grade, race/ethnicity and sex, special education, english learners, school lunch programs, teachers, dropouts and completers.” The CCD also gathers information from state justice, health and labor departments. The NCES also collects data from private schools.

It doesn’t end there. Colleges and universities are tracking high school seniors as they begin their searches for schools they’d like to attend.  The Washington Post recently reported that many colleges and universities have hired data capture firms to track prospective students as they explore websites. “Records and interviews show that colleges are building vast repositories of data on prospective students — scanning test scores, zip codes, high school transcripts, academic interests, web browsing histories, ethnic backgrounds and household incomes…”

The owner of Canvas, referenced above, is Instructure. Their mission, according to their investor website is to “grow [the young] from the first day of school to the last day of work [retirement].” One of the capabilities that Instructure provides its clients is Canvas Folio Management. According to the investor webpage, it “delivers an institutional homepage and deep, real-time analytics on student engagement, skills and competencies, network connections, and interactions across various cohorts. Allows institutions to generate custom reports tied directly to student success initiatives and export accreditation-ready reports on learning outcomes at the student, cohort, course, program, or institutional level.”

Ah, yes, the thrill of being hunted for a life time by big data brother. Anyway, there is no escape.

Don’t try this in a Classroom

Learning is an active process, not simply a matter of banking information in a recipient passive mind. Teaching therefore has to be a transactional process rather than just the transmission of information. The transactional aspect is essential to enabling students to challenge their situations in life, which they must learn to do if they are to play their parts as active citizens of a better world…teaching must be approached as an intellectually disruptive and subversive activity if it is to instill inquiry skills in learners and encourage them to think for themselves rather than mindlessly accept received ideas. We believe it is more important in the digital age than ever before.

Ingenious: The Unintended Consequences of Human Innovation, Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson, Harvard, 2019.

• Author’s Note:  The article title is courtesy of Oscar Wilde. See inline link, paragraph 5 for more.

Tech’s Labor Activism

Gig workers in California are celebrating the passage of Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) making sure that gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits due to go into effect 1 January, 2020. Meanwhile, Google’s “shadow work force,” the masses of temporary workers and contractors (approximately 54 percent of Google’s work force), is challenging Google’s seemingly unmitigated power by unionizing. In fact, two weeks ago, the two-thirds of Google’s temp workers in Pittsburgh voted to unionize despite the firm outsourcing Google’s contractors, HCL America Inc., urging its temp workers to vote against unionizing.

What does this push by Google temporary and contract workers say about the future of tech workers who have been caught outside the elite contracts offered to the more educated and specialized workers that Google depends upon? In fact, given that these contractors hold white-collar positions yet live in a constant precarious economic state, it is more than high time that we examine the rights of workers today.

This past April, over 929 Google employees signed a petition in support of contractors who worked on Google Assistant and were let go. The contractors (TVCs) Google uses make up approximately 54% of Google’s workforce calling into question why some get contracts (meaning workers’ rights and benefits) while many more do not. It also calls into question contemporary hiring practices where in August 2018 over 3,000 security guards, contracted to work for tech giants like Google and Facebook, ratified their first union contract after raising similar problems. In fact, SEIU United Service Workers West in its press release noted that before the union contract agreement, many of the security officers were making between $12 and $14 an hour.  This is approximately between $25,000 to $30,000 a year, barely a hair above California’s state minimum wage. And when you take into account that much of the work to be undertaken by these guards is in Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places on the planet to live, what these guards take home is poverty level income.

While labor laws differ often from state to state just as do certain conditions of minimum wage and other rights, there is the basic fact of employment law which, according to Hutchison & Stoy, allows workers to appeal policies they deem to discriminate against them. The bigger problem is who can afford the time, effort and risk of lost labor due to employer retaliation?  And even though Google’s shadow labor force works alongside full-time Google employees, these temporary workers are employed by third-party contractors who guarantee them none of the rights of other full-time Google workers: they earn less money and have no paid vacation time. And until this Spring when Google changed course in its policy, many in the tech sector doing contract work also have no healthcare coverage.

There are organizations battling these issues head-on such as the Tech Workers Coalition and others pushing to make existing unions fit tech workers into their agenda. And there are many pushing for the creation of a tech worker union specific to the problems unique to tech specialists that simply don’t fit into the steel worker union model, nor are these unions equipped to deal with the kinds of issues that tech workers face.

Sure, there are myriad issues of abuses of power that are common to all types of labor today as the recent Amazon victory in Sacramento demonstrates.  Yet there is an increase of consciousness among temporary and gig economy workers who are viewing their role in the workplace as compared to their contemporaries who have full-time contracts replete with perks. Certainly, they are not immune to the logical fallacies that permeate the job market today where certain individuals are allowed secure work contracts while others live in severe precarity.

While Wired declared 2018 to be the year that tech workers realized that they were workers, 2019 is the year that this nail is driven into the coffin. If anything, this is the year that people of all pay grades and levels of education are banding together to ask why one type of person should deserve access to housing, education and healthcare, while another does not.

It’s time that we all ask this question and close ranks with our brothers and sisters who are living in precarity for big tech and beyond.

The Reality Brokers (or the rise of the Automagicians)

In the case of both Big Tech and governmental surveillance agencies, undergirding a commitment to the inevitable and imminent time after-Earth is the appeal of science fiction aesthetics, concepts and projects, all aimed toward the new goal of having new places and opportunities to conquer, colonize and dominate post-Earth.
— Sarah T. Roberts, b-20, August 2019

We live in a society where capital is highly concentrated, with most commodity production carried out by companies whose fates are largely shaped by financial investors. The commodities they produce, whether material or immaterial, are made available to us in a global marketplace, delivered through complex value chains in whose operation our own unpaid labor as consumers is increasingly implicated. Information and communications technologies have so affected the spatial and temporal division of labor that for many of us the boundaries between “work and private life are inextricably muddled and few relationships are unmediated by them.
— Ursula Huws, Labor in the Global Digital Economy, December 5, 2014

It’s popular to refer to digital platforms as town squares, but the shopping mall is a more apt metaphor: they are built to approximate the participatory feel of an open market, while their corridors are ruthlessly designed for the purposes of encouraging consumption and maximizing profit. Depression, anxiety, hate-mongering, fear, and conspiratorial untruths are all acceptable outcomes so long as they are expressed, consciously or otherwise, in the service of growth.
— Evan Malmgren, The Baffler, 2018

Your whole life will be searchable.
— Larry Page (quoted in Douglas Edwards’ I’m Feeling Lucky), 2011

At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.
— Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism, January 15, 2019

The endless public appetite for apocalyptic film and TV is tied into the fantasies of reconstruction. Even the various zombie franchises are really just reconstruction stories (albeit with a huge real estate porn appeal). I want to quote Sarah T. Roberts article again, because she covers several factors that seem increasingly embedded in contemporary thinking.

In the billionaire kingmaker class, Musk is not alone in his post-Earth predilection. Indeed, he is one of several of his echelon looking cynically to science fiction and the après-apocalypse, fantasizing about outlandish ways to spend–and make–profits via projects that deepen long-standing commitments to Western supremacy and colonization, albeit with a futuristic bent. At the 2016 Republican National Convention that heralded the political ascendency of Donald Trump, PayPal billionaire and Gawker/journalism foe Peter Thiel (Thompson 2018) hailed the conquest of Mars as a worthier endeavor than wars in the Middle East. In doing so, Thiel inadvertently showed his ideological hand by invoking both as equivalent games of conquest (Daily Beast 2016). Other projects in this vein include Biosphere 2 (once the province of former Trump advisor and professional propagandist Steve Bannon), HI-SEAS, Apple’s new “Spaceship” headquarters, and the NSA’s Star Trek-inspired control room, all of which posit various offworld-oriented technological solutions to a dying future. It is a future in which capitalism has already played out the dissolution of democracy and social equalities, favoring a libertarian fend-for-yourself approach for those who remain– and those who remain, according to these projects, are overwhelmingly White, wealthy able-bodied people of the Global North.
— Sarah T. Roberts (Ibid.)

Roberts also touches on Apple’s new *campus*, which is shaped like a flying saucer and seems designed mostly to keep undesirables out as much as employees in.

Roberts again…

The spaceship aesthetic and panoptic/open floor work spaces reinstate order and hierarchy through structural and embedded surveillance while suggesting freedom of movement and action. Ample amenities are designed to keep workers on-site and productive, ideally for longer than an eight-hour workday, recalling the company towns of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Not to be outdone, both Google and Facebook have announced employee housing near their expansive campuses (Stangel 2017), in partial response to extraordinary housing costs in Silicon Valley (created by the demand from their own workers).

There is also the new NSA control room, which merges sci-fi aesthetics with Benthamesque practicality and Biosphere 2 which borrows directly from science fiction. This is a long sort of introduction to what I see as an increasing anger and frustration in western white populations that is born of the unshakable sense that white modernity is coming to an end. There is an increasing global awareness that U.S. (and EU..but the EU is hugely divided in this respect) hegemony is unravelling. The global ruling class share the same goals but have mostly allowed or been served by U.S. leadership in terms of international financial institutions and the U.N. and just by U.S. military dominance. But today there are growing areas of the planet that are openly rejecting the white supremacist capitalism/imperialism of the U.S. (and its proxies, Saudi Arabia and Israel primarily. Yes I know there are huge contradictions in that, but I will get to those). The effects of Hollywood in all this are almost incalculable. The future is built with Hollywood image and narrative, and increasingly so is the present. Narrative thinking today is tied in with Hollywood screenwriting in a near total manner.

And the effects of the internet, social media, and in general screen addictions and indoctrination have yet to be fully calculated. And this segues into the realities of content moderation. And, again, a crash course on this is to listen to a lecture of Roberts here or watch here.

And remember, too, what Andre Damon at WSWS wrote in 2018:

Social media is monopolized by a few gigantic corporations. And that concentration of control is going to obviously be exploited for more profit.

…let’s start with a shocking fact: bad behavior happens on the internet. It occurs in real life, too, of course. But there is a special quality to the depravity exhibited on social media that is particular to that domain. On the one hand, it is unthinking, and in the case of Twitter, this goes along with the character limit. But it also demonstrates a psychopathic character contradiction: an obsession with self-perception by others in combination with a disturbing lack of empathy toward many of those same others from whom one is seeking, implicitly or explicitly, validation. For many researchers, this behavior is not merely expressed on but actively shaped by social media. In a meta-analysis of seventy-two studies, the psychologist Sara Konrath and her research team found that empathy levels among college students are 40 percent lower today than they were twenty years ago — a development they attribute to, amongst other things, the “rising prominence” of “media use in everyday life”: “With so much time spent interacting with others online rather than in reality, interpersonal dynamics such as empathy might certainly be altered.
— Benjamin Y. Fong, Jacobin, 2018

There is a correlate here, found in that same Sarah Konrath study:

One especially relevant program of research finds increasing levels of narcissism in American college students from the mid-1980s until late into the first decade of the new millennium, using similar cross-temporal methods as in the current study (Twenge et al., 2008; Twenge & Foster, 2008,2010).Dispositional narcissists have inflated self-views, especially on agentic traits such as power and intelligence (e.g., Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikides, 2002). Although narcissists are extraverted, they think of others primarily in terms of their utility rather than as interdependent relationship partners (Campbell, 1999). When narcissists’ egos are threatened by rejection or an insult, they tend to aggress against the source of the threat (e.g., Bushman & Baumeister, 1998; Konrath, Bushman, & Campbell, 2006).
— Sarah Konrath, et.al., Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta Analysis, Personality and Social Psychology Review 2011

Whether it’s Twitter or Snapchat or whatever, the overriding quality associated with each platform is limited space for expression and impermanence. Snapchat is designed to literally disappear before your eyes. Twitter is particularly pathological in that it is all but impossible to have discussions, or debates there, but excels at individual declarations of fact — the users own sense of ‘fact’, that is. It has been noted by several studies about social media that those who engage in prolonged use tend to increasingly feel real life face to face interaction as persecutory. My own experience of Twitter and Facebook is that it directly breeds paranoia. And for dissident or radical left voices that paranoia is already well established, usually. It’s hard to be a socialist in America and not feel paranoia.

The first configuration is what I came to call the Vampires’ Castle. The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd.
— Mark Fisher, Vampire’s Castle, 2013

Now Fisher is a contested figure, and with good reason (for all this insight he remained a strangely reactionary voice, and that contradiction may have been impossible for him to live with). But what he describes in Vampire’s Castle is very much to the point here. And one of the tactics of social media attacks is to stigmatize in isolation (a sort of form of essentialism). And this is akin to the bullying that high school students suffer from, too, a bullying that has led to spikes in suicide and self harm. It is ridicule that borders on arbitrary. One is tried and convicted on social media for crimes of the past, often, and, of course, often for crimes that never took place, and often for non-crimes. Mischaracterizing one’s opponent is the classic technique of the fascist right, but today it is cropping up more and more often on the left. But the new essentialism is also perilously close to conspiracy theory at its very worst. I know people, very smart people, in fact, who literally believe that entire outlets or groups or institutions — having hundreds of members — are in the grip of secret cabals of fascists. A thought mechanism that mirrors classic antisemitism. And speaking of antisemitism, the rising and continuing anti-semitism on the left is meeting with less and less resistance from the left who feel encouraged to conflate zionism and Jewishness.

Now the new aesthetics of the new doomsday scenarioists of online polemics, and in real life (the doomsayers who are billionaires) are the aesthetics of 1970s science fiction, if not 1950s science fiction. It is remarkable how durable the style and codes are of stuff like The Day the Earth Stood StillRed Planet Mars, or the original War of the Worlds. And more, 70s films like Andromeda Strain or Dark Star. Even very good and rather un-Hollywood films such as Man Who Fell to Earth have shaped the current sense of what the future means, and more, what apocalypse looks like. Just look at the art/design layouts and images used in stories about global warming or the fear mongering of the overpopulationers. Tell me it’s not nearly always from science fiction and/or is not racist. That a global environmental crisis is being packaged by media as if it were an early John Carpenter film should cause concern.

So three things I sense are related here. One is the damage of screen addictions, and, perhaps more specifically, social media. And the manner of expression that is wed to the alarmist’s sense of environmental crises. To deal with the real and material crisis would require a capacity to think in ways that social media and screen habituation have discouraged if not erased. The psychological affect of decades (now) of internet coercions and indoctrination — overt and incidental — and the very damages of just over-exposure to the technology itself are huge and perhaps nearly irreversible. Internet societies are more rigidly hierarchical than society itself. It is just masked better. The second issue is the issues of synthesizing time, narration, and loss of literacy. And the third is the dying death throws of global capital and its desire to perpetuate itself even if it means mass death, and the fantasies of this capitalist ruling class, expressed in regressive tropes of kitsch science fiction and space colonialism.

There is also a strange inversion, one that is nearly dialectical, actually. On the one hand the so called advanced West, the hyper capitalist neo-liberal West and its major telecom and digital corporations, are at work 24/7 in surveillance and data gathering. And both of these activities are usually illegal. Those same mega corporations (with intimate ties to western governments) are in the business of *hiding* the production processes that build those smart phones and lap tops on which, and with which, the bourgeoisie of the west amuse themselves. The devices that these corporations spy on and steal from — these devices are not the product of immaculate technological conception. The mythology of the information age has, as one huge factor, maybe THE hugest factor, the presumption that all of this digital technology was just divinely created and fell to earth. The invisibility of the draconian assembly lines and factories of the global south that produce and assemble these mythic devices is both an intentional practice and one those firms know is deceitful. They hide it because it would be offensive to the consumers of these products. A consumer base increasingly exhibiting a green awareness (sic). Not to mention the even more draconian waste sites where disposal of these devices take place, in countries such as Philippines, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Indonesia.

This does not even touch on the mining and earth extraction of rare earth minerals such as coltan (from which niobium and tantalum are taken), yttrium, lanthanum, and terbium.

According to the Minerals Education Coalition, a baby born in the US today will use up 539 lbs of zinc, 903 lbs of lead and 985 lbs of copper during his or her lifetime, not just in phones but in other gadgets and appliances too. In terms of environmental drain from every smartphone that’s made, you can add the oil used to produce plastics, the sand used to produce glass, and so on. ( ) Of the 83 stable and non-radioactive elements in the periodic table, at least 70 can be found in smartphones. According to the best available figures, a total of 62 different types of metals go into the average mobile handset, with what are known as the rare Earth metals playing a particularly important role. Of the 17 rare Earth metals, 16 are included in phones.
— David Nield, Tech Radar, 2015

My sense is that most Americans could be convinced to give up nearly everything to ensure a livable safe future…everything except their screen gadgets.

Larry Page of Google has used (and coined) the word *automagical*. It’s the perfect word for contemporary thought. The west thinks automagically. But that sounds benign, and nothing about the trends in contemporary behavior or thinking is benign. Zuboff quotes John Searle about the nature of *declarations*. Searle wrote:“A declaration is a particular way of speaking and acting that establishes facts out of thin air, creating a new reality where there was nothing.” This is highly relevant to the social media user. This is, in fact, that on which Twitter is based. It is the speech of Kings and overlords, of pharaohs. It is also how cops talk to suspects (i.e., everyone not a cop). Most importantly it is the speech of institutions. It assumes authority.

Zuboff also notes that this sort of authoritarian speech and grammar is the province of Google, and of Google’s unprecedented power. That said, it is power of a unique and perhaps unprecedented kind. For if conquistadors issued declarations that indigenous peoples were to be vassals…WERE already so…the threats behind such declarations were made clear. Google doesn’t have to do that. No giant information and telecom giant has to do that. The threat is assumed. The threat is implanted.

Google’s stores of behavioral surplus now embrace everything in the online milieu: searches, e-mails, texts, photos, songs, messages, videos, locations, communication patterns, attitudes, preferences, interests, faces, emotions, illnesses, social networks, purchases, and so on. A new continent of behavioral surplus is spun each moment from the many virtual threads of our everyday lives as they collide with Google, Facebook, and, more generally, every aspect of the internet’s computer-mediated architecture. Indeed, under the direction of surveillance capitalism the global reach of computer mediation is repurposed as an extraction architecture.
— Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism

Everything one does is turned into code. And that code is returned to the user (as Zubhoff writes) through the filter of *intelligent algorithms*. And if that sounds like *smart bombs*, it’s because it is, and that is, to put it mildly, disquieting. Anytime intelligent or smart are used in titles or branding, the opposite is usually true. Much as the use of *freedom* in any NGO title signals State Department front group. But the issue that runs alongside the literal monitoring of everything one does is the now third generation effects of the information age on the young. The bullying of social media is only one symptom. Mental illness is now almost expected of teenagers. In the U.S. and U.K., in particular, the anxiety, paranoia, and feelings of hopelessness are endemic. And, of course, this cannot be treated by the institutions that have caused it. At best the establishment simply finds new warehousing drugs to give them. The burden to conform is enormous for teenagers and made worse by the pathologies of social media and internet habituation.

Deleuze and Guattari saw schizophrenia as the presentation of capitalist illness as it approached the 1980s, and later Christian Marazzi suggested bi-polar disorder as the new inner logic of financialized capitalism. Then today the post post modern new feudalism presents as autism, a condition first brought to awareness by a Nazi doctor. If teenagers today suffer debilitating anxiety, and a generalized fear of ‘doing’ anything lest it appear in Snapchat later in the afternoon, the result is an increasing cognitive paralysis. One teacher I know said several different high school students have confessed their inability to act or speak, answering questions etc, that even that inability and low grades is better than internet shaming and stigmatizing. Older twenty somethings, out of school and usually unemployed, wander their American neighborhoods in what amount to semi conscious trance states. Another teacher, in suburban LA, said his small college has decided to let student homeless sleep in their cars at one end of the school parking lot. After the school board passed this measure they were startled to learn that over 20% of the student body were, in fact, living out of their cars and sleeping in the school lot.

The western economies, and this is certainly true of the U.S., are propped up by militarism, stock market manipulation, and the ongoing theft of public funds and social services.

Cutting across this are the pathologies and social violence of social media.

Social media is designed for comparisons and coupled to the narrowed limits for written expression, the function of image becomes disproportionately important. But the interpretation of image is equally or more important. The idea of popularity is implanted in the system by the owners and operators of that system. The capture of eyeballs is also the capture of consensus. This is particularly true for the young.

The empty debate on the spectacle – that is, on the activities of the world’s owners – is thus organised by the spectacle itself: everything is said about the exten­sive means at its disposal, to ensure that nothing is said about their extensive deployment. Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term ‘media’. And by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service which with impartial ‘professionalism’ would facilitate the new wealth of mass communication through mass media – a form of communication which has at last attained a unilateral purity, whereby decisions already taken are presented for passive admiration. For what is commu­nicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.
— Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1967

Orders, declarations. The desire to punish, the desire to be right. The isolation and atomization of social media users contributes to this sense of priesthood and specialness — by which I mean that when one writes, for publication or just as a diarist, the activity is hugely different than writing for social media. The isolation and contemplation of the writer at his keyboard becomes a manic anxious isolation, a cruel imposed isolation that sits in stark contrast to contemplative creation. The rapidity and constant reinforcements that are built into social media are there to keep the attention of the user, for such attention is money, is profit.

What is interesting is how so much of the opinion expressed by the left today is expressed in terms of masculine power or just a replication of militarism’s scorched earth policies. Carpet bombing — from what is now North Korea, terror bombing Belgrade, shock and awe, or bunker busters in Tora Bora, or the war crimes of Fallujah, the endless atrocities inflicted on the global south — the war zone sensibility of racist domestic police forces in the U.S., this is all mirrored and reproduced on social media. Social media has become a laboratory for aggression. But in tiny ever shrinking platforms. Carpet bombing in 280 characters. The sense of shrinkage and enclosure, of foreclosure and agitation, these are design elements. (Why do Silicon Valley CEOs not allow their children to use smart phones? Why do those children go to device free schools?)

The only way that socialist and radical political voices can engage on social media — it seems to me — is to find ways to disrupt the hegemonic orders of the Spectacle. Social media is designed to create a craving for attention. At any cost. Unconscious cravings. This is why the tribalism of likes and blocking and *friends* is so constantly reinforced.

In one sense the mega corporate owners have insured that class is replaced by individualism, identitarian relations and presentation.

When Twitter began the limit for a tweet was 140 characters. The average tweet at that point was 34 characters. Twitter increased the tweet count to 280 characters but the average tweet is now only 33 characters. I suspect this reflects the trend toward inarticulate semi-languages. The trend toward quick scans rather than patient reading.

Critical theory’s effort to restore subjectivity and resist domination rightly leads to the search for and rejection of all tendencies that cause the subject to introject and reproduce his own domination.
— Amy Buzby, Subterranean Politics and Freud’s Legacy, August 14, 2013

Social media, perhaps above all else, encourages obsessive repetitions. Obsessive compulsive disorder is expressed in pure form as Twitter or Snapchat or Facebook. The repetitive behavioral action of keystrokes mimics something industrial, something also nearly manic. And in this sense the bi-polar metaphor remains rather apt. But the emptiness of the screen, the temporal limits, the erasure of lasting meaning, all feel autistic. The social media addiction eventually neutralizes meaning altogether. Trump is oddly the perfect Twitter user. Lies, contradictions, more lies, repeating the lies, and on and on. All without meaning.

All social media rage is reproducing personal pain — at one level. It is also, on another level, reflecting the trauma and violence of the society in which the users live. The compulsive Twitter user, or Facebook troll — and in a sense perhaps everyone shares troll like characteristics simply by virtue of using these platforms — are caught in a habituation cycle of need and pseudo gratification. But addiction metaphors miss the broader point here. Internet use is often likely compulsive, and perhaps constitutes a habituation, but rarely reaches the level of addiction (addictions must produce serious real world consequences for the addict). What is the most disturbing aspect of social media and internet use overall is ideological and educational. The internet, and in particular social media, have damaged cognitive abilities, and have incrementally created two (now) generations (if not three) of people who cannot think outside very narrow cyber structures. Ideologically because the internet is in the business of constantly grabbing your attention and trying to keep it; and information is dispensed via attention grabbing mechanisms and strategies. No internet platform is free of the profit motive, remember. And cyber profit is based on an attention economy. The click bait model can be expanded to anything. And the repetitive nature of social media usage reinforces a tendency already present in western capitalist societies. And, of course, class enters in this discussion exactly here. The loss of employment opportunity and social mobility encourages a recourse to social media and the internet to replace community.

It is also important to distinguish between the attention economy and newer participatory attention economy or what Boutgang labeled Cognitive Capitalism. (see Mackenzie Wark’s analysis here

Cognitive workers are in a sense entrepreneurs, are in a sense people who invest their knowledge, who invest their singular ability and in this sense the relationship, the integration between work, cognitive work and enterprise; and enterprise has a materialistic foundation. But at the same time this kind of integration has produced an ideological effect and a kind of psycho-pathogenic effect on the social forces of cognitive labor. ( ) The Prozac economy and the Prozac crash. The integration of cognitive work and recombinant capital has produced a kind of euphoria, of hyper-excitation and has produced a demotion, an erasing, a forgetting of the physical, the erotic and the social body of the cognitive worker. We have been taken in this kind of irrational exuberance and we have forgotten that we have a body – that we are a body. So the cognitive worker in this kind of hyper-excitation completely or partially has been forgetting the relationship to the society and the relationship to the physical body.
— Frano Berardi, Market Ideology, Semiocapitalism, and the Digital Congitariat,

Berardi’s (Bifo) article is worth reading in its entirety here.

In 1995, 10 years into the history of mobile phones, penetration in the UK was just 7%,” according to Professor Nigel Linge, of the University of Salford’s Computer Networking and Telecommunications Research Centre. “In 1998 it was about 25%, but by 1999 it was 46%, that was the ‘tipping point’. In 1999 one mobile phone was sold in the UK every 4 seconds.” By 2004, there were more mobile phones in the UK than people – a penetration level of more than 100%. ( ) The way that handsets themselves were marketed was also changing and it was Finland’s Nokia, which had been fighting hard with Motorola and Ericsson for dominance of the market, who made the leap from phones as technology to phones as fashion items with the Nokia 3210 device.

“The Nokia 3210 is iconic because it is the first phone that deliberately did not display any sort of external aerial,” explains Linge. “Nokia in the late 1990s cottoned on to the fact that the mobile phone was a fashion item: so it allowed interchangeable covers, you could customise and personalise your handset.”

In 1999, the film The Matrix was released, which featured Nokia’s 8110 handset prominently. Nokia followed it up with the 7110, which was also the first device to fully exploit the new WAP mobile data service, the fore-runner of the 3G services of today.
— Richard Wray, Guardian, 2010

Hollywood again. The future again. One might argue The Matrix is the most influential film in history — not because it’s any good, it’s not, but because it consolidated several threads of style and futuristic fantasy and presented them in an appealing package, one that also appealed to the new automagical thinking. The reality today is that global capital can draw upon a reserve of global labour regardless of national borders. As Ursula Huws notes in Labour in Contemporary Capitalism, 2019:

Even when casualised labour is not carried out by their direct employees, it is carried out within the scope of the increasingly elaborated value chains which these companies control.

And this casualization and global context has generated enormous resentment against migrant workers, especially in areas of industrial decline (per Huws). Hence the rise of the far right parties across Europe today. And the theft of social benefits, stuff like unemployment payments, are increasingly hard to actually receive and when received are provincial and conditional. The point is that the internet has transformed human life in its entirety. And often, maybe nearly always, for the worse. Shoshana Zuboff (Ibid.) has the final word here, for this is what all of this discussion is trending toward:

The prospect of guaranteed outcomes alerts us to the force of the prediction imperative, which demands that surveillance capitalists make the future for the sake of predicting it. Under this regime, ubiquitous computing is not just a knowing machine; it is an actuating machine designed to produce more certainty about us and for them.

This is largely what Debord saw happening too. The profit from reliable forecasting and prediction means that creating the future is the best strategy — if you make the future you can predict it with some certainty. People need to realize, I think, that EVERYTHING online is manufactured reality — it’s not real, it’s pseudo real. And marketings job is to convince you that pseudo real is REAL REAL. And if the result of this is increased mental illness and pathological degrees of aggression, and industrial levels of anti-depressant use, well, so what? Global servitude is the dream of the new reality brokers. The ruling class believes in their own fantasies (courtesy, it seems, of science fiction movies) but they are determined to control our dreams and aspirations. And unless one starts to examine all of this in terms of class, there is little hope to stop this dream of global hegemony. The mantra must be, *question everything*.

One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy

Symbioses — prolonged associations between organisms often widely separated phylogenetically — are more common in biology than we once thought and have been neglected as a phenomenon worthy of study on its own merits. Extending along a dynamic continuum from antagonistic to cooperative and often involving elements of both antagonism and mutualism, symbioses involve pathogens, commensals, and mutualists interacting in myriad ways over the evolutionary history of the involved ‘partners.’

— Gregory G. Dimijian, “Evolving Together: The Biology of Symbiosis”

It’s about being really committed. I tell students who are not any smarter than their peers that this takes hard work … to work on one question for five to seven years.

— Sarah Henkel on what it takes to study for and gain a doctorate in marine sciences

One never knows the waters a science-based article will dip into when a writer features one of OSU-Hatfield’s multidisciplinary researchers. Scientists look at very focused questions while naturalists and generalist ecologists look at systems from a broader range, but that interplay is less friction than analysis. As a journalist, my job is to dig deep and find those connections.

For Sarah Henkel, looking at how human-made structures affect what happens at the bottom of the sea is both fascinating and important to all human-activities in and around marine systems.

However, one scientist’s invasive species is another scientist’s opportunistic species. She’s got creed in the study of the benthic zone (what’s happening on the ocean’s bottom) and wave energy.

In her office at Hatfield, Sara and I recognize that the world of ecology is evolving due to innovative research and new questions scientists and policy makers are no longer afraid to ask.

She’s not atypical – a smart scientist who is open to fielding a wide-range of inquiries.

Because of the heavy footprint humans have put upon the environment in the form of cutting down entire forests and jungles, as well as geo-engineering the planet through fossil fuel burning and all the chemicals released in industrial processes, newer challenges to both our species’ and other species’ survival end up in the brains and labs of scientists.

To say science is changing rapidly is an understatement.

One Floating Piece of Debris Can Change an Entire Coast

For Henkel, she wonders what the effects of one pilon, one mooring anchor, and one attached buoy have on ecologies from the sea floor, upward.

The ocean, once considered immune to humanity’s despoilments, is as far as its chemical composition and ecological processes fragile with just the right forcers. HMSC is lucky to have dedicated thinkers like Sarah Henkel working on questions regarding not only this part of the world, but globally.

Students working with Sarah gain varying knowledge she’s accomplished through transitions from inland girl growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, where creeks, deciduous forest and terrestrial animals enchanted her and her sibling, to marine scientist in Oregon.

“Ever since I was in third grade, I knew I was going to be a marine biologist,” she says while we talk in her office at Hatfield. When a child, she visited a “touch tank” at a museum near her home and was completely fascinated with the horseshoe crabs.

Posters of benthic megaflora – seaweed and eel grass – adorn her office walls at HMSC. We’re talking about kelps like bull whip, feather boa, deadman’s finger, witch’s hair, studded sea balloons, and Turkish towel displayed on posters.

Image result for Oregon seaweed poster
Symbiosis, Cooperation, Opportunism, Invasiveness? That is the Question.

While we talk about kelp/seaweed, she shifts to invasive species like Undaria pinnatifida which hitched onto debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Over a dozen species on a worldwide list of invasive species were on broken dock moorings that washed up near Newport. Three — Undaria pinnatifida, Codium fragile, and Grateloupia turuturu — are particularly hazardous.

Image result for tsunami wreckage Newport Oregon

Some of Henkel’s work looks at one gene expression, say, in Egregia menziesii, to uncover how the species responds to various conditions. Some big issues dovetail to Undaria pinnatifida playing havoc in Australia and New Zealand.

Her fundamental question is how can certain invasive species establish niches in very different waters from where they evolved. Looking at temperature and salinity tolerances as well as desiccation limits of species helps cities, states and countries manage opportunistic invasives that not only thrive in new places, but push out endemic species.

East Coast-West Coast: Transplantation

Henkel’s a transplant herself, from Virginia, with a science degree from the College of William and Mary. She tells me that she was lucky to have gotten into a gifted and talented high school program where she attended half a day every morning, then getting bused back to her home school in the afternoon — for three years.

“It [Virginia Governor’s School] was set up like a college, with professors and curriculum more like college-level courses.”

She then transplanted herself to California State University–Fullerton in 2000 to work on a master’s degree. Then, further north, to UC-Santa Barbara for a doctorate in marine sciences.

The final thrust northward was in 2009, to OSU, where she has been ever since.

We laugh at the idea of humans also being an invasive or transplanted species: She brings up a place like San Francisco Bay which is considered by scientists as a “global zoo” of invasive species with as many as 500 plants and animals from foreign shores taking hold in Frisco’s marine waters.

“Scientists think there are more invasives in San Francisco Bay than there are native species.”

She, her husband Will, and their six-year-old live in Toledo because, as she says, “there’s no marine layer to contend with and Toledo has a summer up there.” Mountain biking is what the family of three enjoy – from Alsea Falls, to Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood.

If We Build It, Will They Come, Leave or Morph?

“The biggest issue facing wind and wave energy developers in the environmental arena is the high level of uncertainty regarding environmental effects will be difficult to reduce that uncertainty.” – Sarah Henkel

After her Ph.D, from UC-Santa Barbara, Sarah sent out more than a dozen applications for professorships and research positions to universities.

What got her into the OSU Family was her work at a California-based Trust looking at decommissioning offshore oil platforms.

“What sorts of animals are living on platforms? Do you cut them off at the top to allow navigation and then preserve whatever’s grown on it?” Artificial reefs are attractive in increasing species like corals, sponges, fish and crustacean, but she emphasized that’s mostly done in tropical locations. Henkel says she was a strong candidate for OSU because of the school’s work on the effects of wave energy equipment and lines on the ecosystem up here off Newport.

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The marriage between Henkel’s knowledge of benthic ecosystems and the need to understand not only what the moorings of wave energy machines do to fauna like boney fish, crabs, and other species, but also what happens to the mechanisms that are immersed in water as they capture the wave energy was perfect for OSU.

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She points out wind turbines also have anchoring systems and superstructures; however, the actual energy-capturing mechanisms are high in the air as opposed to wave energy devices.

Wave Energy, Blue Energy: No Slam Dunk

“The industry recognizes the value of looking like they are being good environmental stewards,” she says, pointing out her ecological expertise melds well with the industry’s ideal of sustainable, renewable clean energy.

Her role with the Pacific Marine Energy Center is to coordinate all the science concerned with the ecological effects of wind energy – both the siting, building, and operation of any wave energy array.

OSU is looking at wave energy while the other members of PMEC are studying tidal energy (University of Washington) and river energy (University of Alaska).

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The idea of studying sediment changes caused by anchors and structures located on the bottom – at the grain size level – may not be considered “sexy” when one thinks of marine biology; however, for Henkel the benthic zone is where it’s at.

“The classic question for artificial reefs is attraction versus production: Can there be more fish overall with this additional habitat, or is that artificial habitat attracting fish away from natural reefs?”

The permitting process for the wave energy site off Newport has been both Byzantine and slow, and it’s ironic that in her 10 years at OSU, she’s not had any opportunity to do the field observations and data collecting she was hired to head up. In that decade, Henkel said a 1/3 scale wave energy device was put into the ocean out here for seven weeks.

Henkel is not stuck in limbo, however, since she is conducting research into other aspects of the benthic region with far-reaching implications for our coastal economy.


Crabs on the Move

When we think of the Dungeness crab, most realize it’s Oregon’s leading commercial seafood product; it brought in an estimated $75 million in 2018. Henkel posed a question that many crabbers have had in their minds for years: How far will crabs travel in search of food?

In 2018, Henkel and a colleague from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration superglued acoustic tags onto legal-sized Dungeness crabs near the mouth of the Columbia River and off Cape Falcon.

Acoustical receivers helped the team learn the frequency and distance crabs moved in rocky versus sandy habitat – data that, again, will help understand possible impacts of wave energy testing on marine reserves.

Those 10 tagged crabs in sandy environs near the Columbia left the region within a week; the transmitter, at a price of $300 each, went with them.

Most know that crabbers prefer sandy areas for their pots because of fewer entanglements compared to rocky bottoms.

“It’s interesting because I’ve done a lot of sampling of benthic habitat and there just isn’t a lot of food down there,” Henkel told Mark Floyd of OSU. “There’s usually only very small worms and clams, yet there’s an enormous crab harvest each year and most of that is from sandy-bottomed regions.”

Good science means marching on, so another 20 crabs were tagged and then dropped in waters near Cape Falcon, a rocky benthic zone. Her findings were surprising: “Four of those crabs left the region right away, while the other 16 stayed an average of 25.5 days. One stayed for 117 days.”

“Even though it’s a small sample size, it’s clear that habitat can influence crab movement,” Henkel told Floyd. “The crabs in the rocky areas had more to eat, but they often also have mossy bellies, which may not be as desirable commercially. Commercial crabbers like to target migrating crabs in sandy areas that tend to have smooth bellies.”

Chemical Outflows Studied

Other interesting projects she’s been involved with include a 2012 study of marine species living in Newport waters to see if the Georgia-Pacific containerboard plant outfall pipe, located 4,000 feet off Nye Beach, may be exposing some marine life to contaminants.

In fact, it was the City of Newport that requested OSU researchers look at a variety of species, including flatfish (speckled sand dab), crustaceans (Dungeness crab and Crangon shrimp), and mollusks (mussels and olive snails) because they might be bioaccumulating metals and organic pollutants at different rates.

Henkel and colleague, Scott Heppell, found contamination of those species was not at levels of concern: “There was some concern that metals and organic pollutants may be bioaccumulating in nearby marine life. We tested for 137 different chemicals and only detected 38 of them – none at levels that remotely approach concern for humans.”

New Student Archetypes: Funding at the Whim of New Anti-science Administration

We discuss what characteristics current science students possess compared to when she was a young undergraduate science major in the late 1990s. “We see a lot more students who want their science to matter … they want to be studying things that will improve society.”

This social awareness also has created more collaborative and supportive learning environments, she stresses. “When I was a student, we had the attitude that we didn’t want anyone to see our data until we publish it.”

Now, she emphasizes, there is so much data coming in from all angles; for instance, one project can get 1,000 photos a minute just of one marine species in its habitat. Part of the sharing may stem too from being more socially conscious and concerned than the cohorts for Henkel when she first started school.

Other concerns are tied to this recent shift in administrations – from Obama to Trump. There was a lot of support for renewables under previous administrations, but now under Trump so much is up in the air for scientists working on research projects tagged as “climate change” or “renewable energy,” even those research projects around species protection.

Two large grants the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage are at stake.

The Scientist’s Toolbox: Adaptation

To adapt, Sarah says, wave energy research is now looking at developing, promoting and deploying small machines near navigational buoys and aquaculture operations, where batteries die in six months; in the case of aquaculture, automatic feeding machines run on batteries, but with a wave-energy generating device supplying constant power, there would be no gap in the power.

On top of that, thousands of research and navigational buoys in our oceans have batteries that need constant replacing and disposal. Wave energy at the sites would be a constant energy source and reduce waste from battery disposal.

Making lemonade – new breakthroughs in blue energy — out of lemons – subsidies and tax breaks in the billions for the oil industry but none for blue energy – is also part of the scientist’s philosophy.

Sarah’s big takeaway when talking about the power of the Hatfield campus is that students get to work with other agencies and collaborate on real projects. “Not many students can be destined for a job in the Ivory Tower,” she said. Seeing other scientists from other agencies in different roles gives students at HMSC so many more avenues for career paths.

Henkel may be a sea floor expert, but she still knows that looking at how seabirds react to/interact with wind turbines and wave energy fields is important, as is studying the electromagnetic frequency fields created by blue energy generation.

She’s on a mission to get down to the granular level of things, but in the end, each little piece of the puzzle is hitched to the big thing, called the ocean!

Sick of being a Guinea Pig

Some corporations and governments have used the US public as guinea pigs in uncontrolled experiments conducted without the public’s approval. They were often gambling with our well being when they introduced new products or conducted risky tests. In contrast, there were usually few risks for the CEOs or government officials in charge of these unacknowledged experiments.

If serious harm occurred, it was often very difficult to link the harm to the product or action due to: 1) the long lag time for the development of many diseases; and 2) other possible causes. Moreover, any damages awarded to the injured parties were usually small compared to the product’s profits. The damage awards were viewed simply as a cost of doing business. However, for the victim or his family, money was poor compensation for death or for a disease or disability.

For example, executives of cigarette companies misled the public about how addictive cigarettes were and the horrific damage they caused. Corporations paid fines, but not the executives. Note cigarettes are still on the market.

In the years before the financial crisis of 2008/2009, Wall Street introduced complex investment products that were marketed as being very safe. Unfortunately, rating agencies and regulators abrogated their responsibilities. As a result, these really risky products led to the crisis in which millions of people in this country alone lost their homes and jobs. None of the corporate leaders on Wall Street went to jail for these crimes, and many even received large bonuses.

Exxon began research on climate change about 40 years ago and an internal report concluded that results could be catastrophic and that burning of fossil fuels was a key contributor. Later Exxon shifted its strategy to opposing action on climate change. Due partly to Exxon, the necessary transition from fossil fuels has still not occurred. We are already seeing the impact of a changing climate and it’s likely to become much worse.

More recently, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded after two of them crashed killing everyone on board. The Federal Aviation Administration, despite concerns about the process, had allowed Boeing to perform some of the safety inspections. Apparently major problems with the flight control system and its instructions were missed. Will the Boeing CEO and other officials face trial or pay any fines?

There are numerous other products for which corporations misled the public about their safety. Truth and public responsibility have frequently taken a back seat to excess greed. Making matters worse, political appointees chosen to head regulatory agencies often gave priority, despite strong objections from the dedicated staff, to corporate interests over the public interest.

Given this past record, isn’t it finally time for the US to act proactively when a new product is developed, that is, to follow the precautionary principle? If there are legitimate concerns raised about a product, more testing must be performed before the product can be marketed. After all, it is far better to prevent the marketing of a product than being forced to deal with its possibly irreversible impact when it’s shown to be harmful.

Currently, there is a huge push for 5G (fifth generation) technology by the telecommunications industry. According to the industry, 5G offers greater bandwidth than 4G by using the largely untapped much higher portion of the millimeter wave spectrum. Due to its increased speed, 5G is touted as facilitating the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), that is, it will allow smart appliances, self-driving cars, etc. to connect to the internet and to talk to one another. 5G will likely complement 4G for some time. Perhaps more importantly, 5G will also be a major new revenue source for industry.

Because the higher millimeter wave frequencies don’t travel very far, tons more microwave antennas will be required. These antennas will be much smaller than those for 4G and will be ubiquitous, for example, on street signs, traffic signals and utility poles. However, privacy and surveillance issues may become even more of a concern with 5G given that these antennas are so close together.

The Federal Communications Commission under its Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, has adopted rules essentially removing most of the control by local governments to approve or deny placement of cell towers or to consider health or environmental effects for placement. However, on August 9th, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for Washington, DC Circuit ruled against the part of the FCC deregulation that exempted telecoms from considering the environmental and historic preservation reviews for the placement of 5G antennas.

5G also raises new concerns about health as there are few independent studies documenting its safety. Moreover, some independent studies recently have suggested that the health risks are of concern.

During a February 6, 2019 Senate Committee hearing on 5G, telecommunications industry representatives replied to a question from Senator Richard Blumenthal about industry support for independent health and safety studies. The response was: There are no industry backed studies to my knowledge right now.” Blumenthal replied, “So, we are flying blind here on health and safety”.

Isn’t it time to say no to being a guinea pig? Demand that the FCC and Congress stop the rollout of 5G until independent studies demonstrate its safety.

In addition, given the huge societal changes that are rapidly occurring as a result of the steady stream of technological developments, shouldn’t we say whoa and discuss the implications before going ahead? People, not corporations and their new technology, should determine our future.

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.

One “Little” Legislative Crime that Keeps on Giving

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

IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Close to death.

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mamie Till-Mobley telegram

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

Will Ike rot in hell (haha)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why? Because corporations put profits before patients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUNDUP TRIAL: MONSANTO USED FAKE DATA TO WIN OVER REGULATORS

TRUMP’S EPA IS UNDERMINING NEW LAW TO REGULATE CHEMICALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

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

The next big one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

breach

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

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

ASCE models: Simplistic, no peer review, no publication

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

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

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

A stealth war on science

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

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