Free Joy Powell!  America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality

If you protest against police brutality in America, you are definitely going to get brutalized by the police.  And lately, federal marshals, homeland security, ICE officers, and assorted militarized federal goons and thugs will pile on.  If you led a movement against police brutality in Rochester, NY in 2006, like Rev. Joy Powell did, you will be set up on felony burglary and then murder charges, and spend a long time in prison—doing very hard time as a female, African-American, political prisoner.  It’s important to make sure Rev. Powell’s story is out there, because she was in the forefront of the black effort to protest this most lethal form of white supremacy, and as the only political prisoner jailed for directly fighting police brutality, is paying dearly for it.

Joy Powell recently wrote about the killing of George Floyd:

We live in a system which blatantly displays “White Justice and Black Laws” with random killing of Black and Brown people based upon the color of their skin. . . [T]he world is enraged after the traumatic news aired of an unarmed black man named George Floyd being brutally murdered by a Minneapolis officer named Derek Chauvin who strangled him to death as his knee pressed in this unarmed victim’s neck while George was handcuffed on the ground.  This evil and diabolic murderer didn’t treat George Floyd with dignity and humanity. . . [It] has me disgusted and totally vexed.  We’re pushed to the brink and forced to protest.  It’s really happening;  it’s called “CIVIL UNREST”!

Rev. Powell knows all about the lack of dignity and humanity of the police.

Powell is in solitary at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women—harassed by guards, and, typically for prisoners, especially political prisoners, denied medical treatment for diabetes and asthma.  Born in 1962, she grew up in bad conditions in Rochester, NY, and started young, dealing drugs, for which she was jailed at the Albion Prison—where she was raped and then stalked by a corrections officer.  In spite of that trauma, she came out determined to devote her life to advocating for the mentally ill and then organizing protests against violence.  By 2002, this included the lethal violence of the Rochester Police Department.  By then a Pentecostal pastor, Powell organized demonstrations criticizing the police when six people died in police custody and when a man was beaten to death.  The police beat a mentally ill black man to death, and then they “maced, beat with billy clubs, stomped and arrested” those who tried to intervene to prevent his death.  It was all on tape, but not only did the police go unpunished, they were commended by the police department and the mayor.  All this sounds very familiar.   It certainly is to Joy Powell.  She has recently written:  “African-Americans are subjected to the harshest laws. The color of my skin seems to be the only crime:  racial profiling comes to white supremacist minds.”  The harshest punishment was definitely meted out to Powell.

Powell’s activism against police brutality and racism resulted in her being framed for serious crimes.  The Rochester PD had warned her she was a “target.” She was not to get away with speaking out “against corruption, police brutality, and police justifications,” as the Jericho political prisoner organization put it.  She was set up:  falsely charged with burglary in 2006, and convicted—getting 16 years—and then, in 2011, convicted of killing a man back in 1992, given 25 years to life, with no credible evidence and witnesses who later admitted to lying.  She will be eligible for release in 2022.

That is, she will if she survives that long.  It’s been reported that at Bedford Hills Prison, women with corona virus symptoms are housed virtually on top of each other in isolation.  After two weeks, they’re released into the general population.  There’s no widespread testing; each prisoner gets one disposable mask.  At Carswell “Medical” Prison for Women in Ft. Worth, there have been at least 500 cases.  One of the women politicals I’ve written about, Red Fawn Fallis, in for resisting the pipeline poisoning of indigenous lands, has been transferred to Dublin (California).  But fellow Native-American prisoner Andrea Circle Bear was not as fortunate.  She died of the virus at Carswell, after delivering her baby.  Earth Liberation Front (ELF) political transgender Marius Mason was also transferred, to Danbury (Connecticut), but not Aafia Siddiqui.  Siddiqui is a victim of horrific injustice, tortured as an alleged Muslim activist, and is still at Carswell, serving her 86-year sentence as a “terrorist.”  All political prisoners should immediately be released.

As Joy Powell said in her recent statement on Floyd’s murder:  “My people came here in shackles and chains, yet nothing has changed.  It remains the same. . .  They maced a 9-year-old girl and busted a 75-year-old man’s head open in Buffalo.”  In Powell’s own Rochester NY, her struggle continues and the response is still brutality.  In July of 2018, 16 people were arrested at a Black Lives Matter Rochester march.  The marchers were met by Rochester riot police with “guns, batons, and helicopters” and with no mainstream press coverage.  In June of this year, after yet another violent police response to their George Floyd rally, the Rochester BLM released a statement criticizing the RPD’s “disregard for our basic humanity” and insisting the city of Rochester must “divest from police and invest in our communities.”  The dissent goes on and so do brutal police riots.

As of the end of June, at least 10,000 protesters have been arrested.  And as ever, police certainly do not spare women when it comes to their brutality—many, many videos can be seen online where women are knocked down, held down, maced at close range—very young women and women from the Wall of Moms in Portland.  And also as ever, black women can count on special attention from police as they defiantly protest against faceless, heavily armed storm troopers.  In early July, in Des Moines, protest organizer and African-American Jasmine Johnson, 19, was charged with “criminal mischief.”  She told of two officers holding her handcuffed arms while she said to them:  “Let go.  I have handcuffs on.  I can’t do anything.  You’re holding me too tight and it hurts.  Let go of me!”  According to Des Moines’ BLM, law enforcement “became violent” at that demonstration.  They tackled a woman, while other protesters tried to push away the cops.  And they put two black women in chokeholds—one of them was then slammed up against the side of a van, causing her injury.  Such police violence is way too common.

Another egregious example is the experience of Miracle Boyd, a black 18-year-old activist, a recent high school graduate, who is an organizer for Chicago’s Good Kids Mad City.  She advocates defunding the police and using the money to help black and Latinx communities.  She has also worked against gun violence and poverty.  On July 20th she was filming the cops’ violence at a rally to protest the Christopher Columbus statue.  She was filmed when she was punched in the face by an officer—the blow knocking out several of her front teeth.  She’d been recording the violence around her where the CPD struck at least 32 people with their batons, some on the ground when being hit.  After the incident she got hate mail, racist messages and threats, all of which blamed her and thought she deserved to be punched.  Boyd said, at a news conference, that she was attacked by the CPD, “who value a supremacist statue over my life, safety and well-being.”  Her lawyer, Sheila Bedi, a law professor from Northwestern, says the officer was using “lethal force” illegally.  They want him fired, and Boyd is bringing a civil lawsuit.  The social media visibility of the incident, as with other filmed violent incidents, means that perhaps at least some of these police crimes might face punishment.

The Black struggle against the lethal force unleashed by white supremacy to keep them in line dates back to slave patrols, but in terms of more recent movements, the Black Panther Party was very important, and very dangerous as far as the government was concerned.  The Black Panthers, begun in 1966 (over 50 years ago!), demanded an end to police brutality and had armed patrols to ensure it.  According to the BPP’s Safiya Bukhari (another female political prisoner), the Panthers’ “10 Points” featured “an end to police brutality and murder of blacks” and “black men freed from jails.”  The US systemic white supremacist government has not lost that fight yet.  Famed political prisoner—until she escaped to Cuba—Assata Shakur, member of the BPP and its underground military wing, the Black Liberation Army, clearly saw that their enemy was, as Shakur said in her Autobiography (1984), “the capitalistic, imperialistic oppressors.”

The Panthers put their analysis in the global context of American imperialism abroad.  Truths about capitalism and imperialism cannot be admitted by the US, because of the necessity of maintaining the Big Lie of America personifying freedom, equality and democracy.  So when Julian Assange tore back the curtain to reveal the true nature of the US war to “help” the people of Iraq with the revelation of the “collateral damage” tape, it had to be quickly contained and those responsible for the truth-telling harshly punished.   Similarly, when the tape of George Floyd’s murder was widely broadcasted, the corporate government and media tried to contain and co-opt the horrible truth of unchecked police violence, and has now moved to forcibly suppress the anti-racist/anti-government protesters.

As Joy Powell puts it:  “Unity, shame and fear, has moved in weeks what centuries couldn’t.  Acknowledgement is power.”  There’s hope in that recognition.  Assata Shakur talked of “political, social and economic oppression” of black people.  And then “where there is oppression, there will be resistance.”  So many black women political prisoners have fought white racism—from anarchist Lucy Parsons in the 1870s, to Communist Claudia Jones in the 1950s, and SNCC’s Diane Nash, MOVE’s Janine and Janet Africa and the Black Panther women of the 1960s and 70s—and now for BLM.  BLM’s politicals include the jailed (in 2016) Jasmine Richards from Pasadena, and Sandra Bland, who was quite possibly murdered in a Texas jail in 2015. All political prisoners must be freed—this is even more urgent as prisoners confront the corona virus.

And Rev. Joy Powell, jailed for exposing police brutality, is one who should be released.  It was good to see that the Black is Back Coalition, in advertising their August conference, pictured Joy Powell with Mumia Jamal, Sundiata Acoli and Mutulu Shakur; she was there with all the black male political prisoners, many in jail since the age of the Black Panthers. The Coalition argues that during this latest uprising, it would be a good time to free all these prisoners.  Joy Powell’s statement on the uprising is moving:  “We need love, peace and the police abuse to cease! . . . THE GIG IS UP IN 2020, like thunder we sing!  No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police!”  She wants to be free—to have justice.  She wonders—as do the protesters in Seattle, Portland, NYC, Des Moines and Rochester—“why can’t I exercise my first amendment right of ’free speech’?”  In Powell’s case, she wants to exercise her right “without being set-up, and beaten, with trumped-up charges, a couple of wrongful convictions and a 6’ by 8’cell.”  She’s the only political prisoner jailed directly for fighting police brutality.  Free Joy Powell!

Can the Anti-Netanyahu Protests grow into a Larger Movement?

Israel is roiling with angry street protests that local observers have warned could erupt into open civil strife – a development Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be encouraging.

For weeks, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have been the scene of large, noisy demonstrations outside the official residences of Mr Netanyahu and his public security minister, Amir Ohana.

On Saturday night around 13,000 marched through Jerusalem shouting “Anyone but Bibi”, Netanyahu’s nickname. Their calls were echoed by tens of thousands more at locations across the country.

Turnout has been steadily growing, despite attacks on demonstrators from both the police and Netanyahu’s loyalists. The first protests abroad by Israeli expats have also been reported.

The protests, in defiance of physical distancing rules, are unprecedented by Israeli standards. They have bridged the gaping political divide between a small constituency of anti-occupation activists – disparagingly called “leftists” in Israel – and the much larger Israeli Jewish public that identifies politically as on the centre and the right.

For the first time, a section of Netanyahu’s natural supporters is out on the streets against him.

In contrast to earlier protests, such as a large social justice movement that occupied the streets in 2011 to oppose rising living costs, these demonstrations have not entirely eschewed political issues.

The target of the anger and frustration is decidedly personal at this stage – focused on the figure of Netanyahu, who is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Protesters have renamed him Israel’s “crime minister”.

But also fuelling the protests is a larger mood of disenchantment as doubts grow about the state’s competence to deal with multiple crises unfolding in Israel. The virus has caused untold social and economic misery for many, with as much as one fifth of the labour force out of work. Netanyahu’s supporters in the lower middle-classes have been hit hardest.

Now well into a second wave, Israel has a per capita rate of infection that outstrips even the US. The shadow of a renewed lockdown amid government mishandling of the virus has undermined Netanyahu’s claim to be “Mr Security”.

There are concerns too about police brutality – starkly highlighted by the killing in May of an autistic Palestinian, Eyad Hallaq, in Jerusalem.

Police crackdowns on the protests, using riot squads, undercover agents, mounted police and water cannon, have underlined not just Netanyahu’s growing authoritarianism. There is a sense too that the police may be ready to use violence on dissenting Israelis that was once reserved for Palestinians.

After manipulating his right-wing rival, the former military general Benny Gantz, into joining him in a unity government in April, Netanyahu has effectively crushed any meaningful political opposition.

The agreement shattered Gantz’s Blue and White party, with many of his legislators refusing to enter the government, and has widely discredited the ex-general.

Netanyahu is reportedly preparing for a winter election – the fourth in two years – both to cash in on his opponents’ disarray and to avoid honouring a rotation agreement in which Gantz is due to replace him late next year.

According to the Israeli media, Netanyahu may find a pretext for forcing new elections by further delaying approval of the national budget, despite Israel facing its worst financial crisis in decades.

And, of course, overshadowing all this is the matter of the corruption charges against Netanyahu. Not only is he the first sitting prime minister in Israel to stand trial, but he has been using his role and the pandemic to his advantage, including by delaying court hearings.

In a time of profound crisis and uncertainty, many Israelis are wondering which policies are being pursued for the national good and which for Netanyahu’s personal benefit.

The government’s months-long focus on the annexation of swaths of Palestinian territory in the West Bank has looked like pandering to his settler constituency, creating a dangerous distraction from dealing with the pandemic.

Similarly, a one-off handout this week to every Israeli – over the strenuous objections of finance officials – looks suspiciously like an electoral bribe. As a result, Netanyahu is facing a rapid decline in support. A recent survey shows trust in him has fallen by half – from 57 per cent in March and April, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, to 29 per cent today.

Many Israelis increasingly see Netanyahu less as a father figure and more as a parasite draining resources from the body politic. Capturing the popular mood is a new art work called the “Last Supper” that was covertly installed in central Tel Aviv. It shows Netanyahu alone, gorging on a vast banquet by stuffing his hand into an enormous cake decorated with the Israeli flag.

In another move designed to highlight Netanyahu’s corrupt politics, better-off Israelis have been publicly organising to donate this week’s state handout to those in need.

Netanyahu’s repeated incitement against the protesters – disparaging them as “leftists” and “anarchists”, and suggesting they are spreading disease – appears to have backfired. It has only rallied more people to the street.

But the incitement and Netanyahu’s claims that he is the true victim – and that in the current climate he faces assassination – have been interpreted as a call to arms by some on the right. Last week five protesters were injured when his loyalists used clubs and broken bottles on them, with police appearing to turn a blind eye. Further attacks were reported at the weekend. Protest organisers said they had begun arranging defence units to protect demonstrators.

Ohana, the public security minister, has called for a ban on the protests and urged a heavy hand from the police. He has delayed appointing a new police chief – a move seen as incentivising local commanders to crack down on the protests to win favour. Large numbers of protesters have been forcefully arrested, with reports that police have questioned some on their political views.

Observers have wondered whether the protests can transcend party political tribalism and develop into a grassroots movement demanding real change. That might widen their appeal to even more disadvantaged groups, not least the one fifth of Israel’s citizens who belong to its Palestinian minority.

But it would also require more of the protesters to start drawing a direct connection between Netanyahu’s personal abuses of office and the wider, systemic corruption of Israeli politics, with the occupation its beating heart.

That may yet prove a tall order, especially when Israel faces no significant external pressure for change, either from the US or from Europe.

• First published in The National

Yes, we need to talk about Romanticism

We need a robust discussion about Romanticism as has been properly introduced, though not for the first time in these pages. Some very important observations have been made with the proposal that Romanticism is something we “need to talk about”.

In fact, there is a serious need for placing much of the political and economic debate here and today in the context of cultural history. In a part of the world, or a population, that has been schooled for the past century to look forward and never look back — except under the most circumscribed and frankly quite dishonest conditions — it is indeed helpful and I have been arguing, essential to recognise broader processes which have shaped the Geist (culture) in which we live today.1   As I have also argued elsewhere we have no genuine access to the past but only to documents, which we ascribe to the past.2 We construct the past — to the extent we are interested in it at all — by ordering such documents and artefacts in a manner we call chronological (although often enough even the chronology has had to be revised).

For this reason, Romanticism as it has been described elsewhere, does reflect a point of departure for examining a bundle of attributes. These attributes are in turn historicised in the context of two cultural historical traditions. Let us leave aside chronology for a moment.3 Those traditions are Romanticism and Enlightenment. Since the discussion “we need” to have is one in the context of Western culture, a discussion of Enlightenment in other cultural contexts; e.g., Islam, can be deferred here. That is not because it is irrelevant but because it would exceed the scope of this intervention.

While one can certainly find sources that support the definition of Romanticism as focus on emotions, it is not very useful to suppose that emotions and sentiments are antonymous. The problem, which such a dichotomy attempts to address, is real. However, it can be stated in another way: why is the emotional as a source of consciousness and supposed font of knowledge of the world melded with possessive individualism? To say of Romanticism that; i.e.: “This movement over time towards the Romanticist inward-looking conception of emotion and feelings has had knock-on negative effects on society’s ability to defend itself from elite oppression (through cultural styles of self-absorption, escapism, and diversion rather than exposure, criticism and resistance) and retarded “art’s frequently reiterated dedication to humanity”, is to no small degree anachronistic.

The inward-looking conception is actually a relatively recent phenomenon, which is better termed — vulgar Enlightenment. The Enlightenment secularised Christian salvific dogma, distilling sentiment from religious prescriptions. The inward-looking conception was a secularised form of Protestantism’s justificatio sola fide. Voltaire parodied this superficial substitution of rationalism for divine will in Candide.

In contrast the phenomena that triggered the extremes of Romanticism were the French Revolution and its apparent failure. All the major Romantics, especially the English Romantics like Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, were sincere supporters of the French Revolution.4 The myth of British liberty was fully discredited by the support Britain and its allies gave to the Reaction. The degree of disappointment cannot be exaggerated. The emotions which became the focus of Romantic poetry — and one must remember that until the latter part of the 19th century poetry was the mass cultural product par excellence, not the much later novel — were by no means expressions of individual self-absorption. On the contrary they were expressions of deep social despair. When Wordsworth returned from fighting in the French Revolution he spent some ten years living in London’s slums trying to come to terms with the failures in France. Byron’s “adventures” were clearly an expression of his inward disgust with Britain and a determination to fight it at every chance he had — dying in a war for Greek independence.5

The interpretation of Romanticism — the driving artistic and cultural force for revolution and utopianism in the 19th century — as an opposite to the Enlightenment is only possible if one takes today’s “inward-looking conception of emotion and feelings” ascribes it to Romanticism and projects this back to the documents and artifacts produced nearly two centuries ago.6

Romanticism has been a controversial concept for most of the 20th century. The term itself can be deceptive since its use is often an allusion to a cliché that, in fact, derived from the popular literature historically ascribed to the Enlightenment (late 18th century). Gerald Horne suggests — not without reason — that at least the British “Enlightenment” to which Adam Smith belonged was a rationalisation for political solutions innovated in the Western hemisphere in order to stabilise the colonial order there.7  The “sentiments” which were to lead Europeans to overlook ethnic and religious conflicts of a fratricidal nature would in turn permit even Jews to have rights in the New (colonised) World.

In contrast Romanticism became an expression of great despair at the failure of revolutionary forces and popular insurrection to overthrow the rationality by which the Church, the State and Capital maintained their domination.

Today people have already come to take “social distancing” for granted — within a mere six months. The Romantics were faced with enforced social distancing and vicious repression to which today’s “inward-looking” identity fixated Enlightenment followers are virtually (since real contact is avoided) committed with life and whatever genitals they may have accidentally acquired or developed.

Indeed we need to talk about Romanticism. However, there is not just one concept of Romanticism. So that it is still necessary to clarify the use of the term about which we intend to talk.

* We Need to Talk about Romanticism, Dissident Voice, August 1, 2020

  1. GWF Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807), Morse Peckham argued that what Hegel meant could best be translated as “culture”.
  2. See “Romanticism and War: Contextualising a theory of interpretation”, Dissident Voice (15 September 2016.
  3. Not only is the value ascribed to the so-called Medieval epoch by artists; e.g., Walter Scott, a complex subject, it cannot be assumed that the periodicity upon which such cultural-historical paradigms are based is beyond question. It is at least safer to say that any assertion that a value or set of values is derived from the past or antiquity is under some conditions an affirmation and under others an condemnation. Thus the validation in reference to a past has to be distinguished from any other valuation criteria.
  4. “I cannot, however, be insensible of the present outcry against the triviality and meanness both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge, that this defect, where it exists, is more dishonorable to the Writer’s own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation, though I should contend at the same time that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. From such verses the Poems in these volumes will be found distinguished at least by one mark of difference, that each of them bas a worthy purpose. Not that I mean to say, that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived; but I believe that my habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken, I can have little right to the name of a Poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other we discover what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the  impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the being  to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections ameliorated.“ William Wordsworth (1802) Preface to “Lyrical Ballads”.
  5. T P Wilkinson, “Humour, Hatred, and History, or Byron’s Revolutionary Abandonment”, Bulletin de Liaison de Societe Francaise des Etude Byroniennnes, 2008, pp. 37-45.
  6. Here I would like to draw explicit attention to the body of work on Romanticism by Morse Peckham (1914-1993), Explanation and Power, (1978); Man’s Rage for Chaos, (1967); and three volumes of essays: Romanticism and Behavior, Romanticism and Ideology, The Triumph of Romanticism.
  7. Gerald Horne, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, January 22, 2018.

Vaccine Tyranny – Will You Take Bill Gates’ Shot?

They are rushing through a Covid vaccine at a blistering pace, while granting immunity to big Pharma for any damage it might do to the American people. They are lowering the minimum effectiveness level to 50 percent - like tossing a coin. The propaganda machine is in high gear. Should we line up for the shot? Also in today's Liberty Report: Massive anti-lockdown protests in Europe! Today on the Liberty Report:

Vaccine Tyranny – Will You Take Bill Gates’ Shot?

They are rushing through a Covid vaccine at a blistering pace, while granting immunity to big Pharma for any damage it might do to the American people. They are lowering the minimum effectiveness level to 50 percent - like tossing a coin. The propaganda machine is in high gear. Should we line up for the shot? Also in today's Liberty Report: Massive anti-lockdown protests in Europe! Today on the Liberty Report:

How to Get Fired from Your Restaurant Job in 10 Easy Steps

Though most restaurant jobs in general aren’t necessarily the most difficult to obtain, they can certainly be the easiest to lose. The service industry is essentially one gigantic slippery slope of potential pitfalls for any employee who consistently places his or her own self-interest ahead of the unique commitments service employment commands.

According to a study conducted by The National Restaurant Association, the employee turnover rate in the hospitality industry is approximately 66%. Restaurant turnover is higher than the private sector due to several factors, including higher portions of teenagers, students and temporary employees in the industry workforce, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy.

And then there’s plain old stupidity and irresponsible behavior – the two inescapable pillars propping up most restaurant workforces. So if paying your bills or sustaining a semblance of a lifestyle isn’t at the top of your have-to-do list, then perhaps short-term employment at your nearest restaurant is just the thing for you.

Here then are some guidelines guaranteed to jettison you into the ranks of the jobless. All it takes is a little effort on your part. Very little, to be exact.

Call In Sick. A Lot. Especially On Weekends And Holidays. It’s always entertaining to observe individuals who make the effort to get hired for the sort of job they have no idea what they’re signing up for. The hospitality industry is predicated on profiting from special occasions and catering to people during their day’s off from work. To pull this off, restaurants require a flexible workforce who have the ability and desire to work during these times. Being genuinely ill is one thing and most respectable employers don’t want you working around their food if you’re sick. However, if your mystery illnesses coincidently always coincide with Saturdays and major national holidays, do yourself a favor and resign before being unceremoniously invited to never return.

Bait And Switch Yourself. Restaurant managers love liars the same way crack addicts appreciate empty pipes. The road to the unemployment line is paved with the corpses of restaurant employees who promised their hiring managers full scheduling availability then magically couldn’t work weekends and holidays after getting the job. The quickest way to get promoted to customer is to make your boss look like a fool for hiring you, and making promises you have no intention of keeping will do the trick every damn time.

Consistently Give Your Shifts Away. There never seems to be a shortage of people who say they want a job but don’t want to work. Coincidentally, these are also usually the same individuals who constantly complain about not being able to pay their bills while bitching about the infrequency of their scheduled shifts. Granted, part of the enticement of the service industry is flexibility of scheduling and working alongside a pool of people who can take your shift when something unexpected comes up. However, if you fall into the habit of regularly giving your shifts away there’s a better than average chance that your employer will view it as a sign that perhaps there’s someone else out there who’s willing to actually show up when scheduled.

Be Smarter Than Your Manager. The only thing worse than being smarter than your boss is letting everyone know it. Though your supervisor may frequently take up residency in the neighborhood of stupid, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by pointing out the obvious. One of the primary endearing traits most restaurant corporations look for in their leadership candidates is their willingness to unquestionably take and implement corporate mandates regardless of how mundane or ridiculous they may be. The only critical reasoning that is characteristically required of restaurant managers is their ability to accurately decipher and impact a Profit and Loss Statement, and anything outside of that is about as welcome as a fart in a crowded elevator. There’s a good chance that your restaurant manager is stupid because that’s what the company expects, so not accepting that doesn’t make you appear overly intelligent, either.

Make Theft And Intoxication Your Priorities. Pharmaceutical connoisseurs and crooks are drawn to the service industry the same way personal injury lawyers instinctively sniff out fender benders. Unfortunately, some restaurant employees approach working stoned while simultaneously concocting ways to scam their employer with the same enthusiasm most of us reserve for our next intake of oxygen. Showing up to a hospitality job while intoxicated is a risky proposition due to the abundance of wet floors, sharp objects and dull customers which populate most restaurants, while theft is understandably at the top of every manager’s zero tolerance list. If you’re the guy who can’t make it through a shift without either a flask or a plan to pilfer, then perhaps you should consider a more appropriate line of work. Like politics, for example.

Bang Your Boss. Restaurant workers hooking up with each other is as common as the internet and porn. Though shitting where you eat is seldom advisable, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about restaurant staffs romantically commingling. But the amore line between supervisors and those they oversee is one that should never under any circumstance be crossed. Any restaurant that values the sanctity of its culture has rules in place to prevent this from happening, along with the inevitable drama and potential legal liability such relationships usually pose. However, passion and reason sometimes cohabitate as seamlessly as a Southern Baptist at a gay pride parade and periodically inappropriate workplace indiscretions do occur. If you choose to enter into a romantic relationship with your boss, just be aware that one of you will eventually have to go – and it usually isn’t the person in charge. As always, love comes with a price.

Tell Customers The Truth. The customers may not always be right, but they sure as hell better be tolerated. Like it or not, the condescending “guest” who seems determined to make your life a living hell is also the same nutsack who helps you pay rent and buy beer. Just like the creepy uncle you have to temporarily endure every Christmas, every restaurant shift is filled with surprise visits by incorrigible curmudgeons whose sole mission is to share their misery. If you value your paycheck, your best bet is to swallow the instinct to fly your fuck off flag and instead tell these cretins what they want to hear while sending them on their unmerry way as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, eating periodic shit is sometimes the trade-off for keeping yourself afloat in a world of turds.

Don’t Pretend To Buy In. The person who signs your paycheck expects to purchase a modicum of loyalty in return. Though you may consider the cuisine your employer peddles to essentially be reheated processed Sysco crap, you’re still getting paid to sell it like it just emerged from the kitchen of The French Laundry itself. The same goes for whatever promotional nonsense the marketing geniuses at the corporate office cook up for you to hawk like a curbside snake oil salesman. The condition of your conscience isn’t at the forefront of your employer’s concern so much as the profits you’re being compensated to produce, and the moment you find yourself unable or unwilling to stand alongside the company you represent is also the exact minute you need to begin looking for your next gig.

Be The Guy Who Never Takes One For The Team. Expecting your restaurant job to always be equitable and consistently fair is a little like being surprised when Justin Beiber does something stupid. Sometimes the workplace hole just beckons, and you’re required to take your turn spending time in it. This means that there will be instances when you’re asked to stay later during a shift than what you had originally planned if the business warrants. It also comes in the guise of getting called off unexpectedly if business is projected to be slower, even though you’d rather work. Either way, going with the flow and gaining a reputation for being adaptable to your employer’s needs will go a long way toward increasing your favorability rating and extending your tenure. On the flipside, too many “no thank yous” directed at your boss will place you on the selfish-short-termer list from which there is usually no return.

Make Sure Everyone Knows That The Rules Don’t Apply To You. There’s always that one guy who’s too good to be doing the job he’s getting paid for and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it. This is usually either the aspiring actor whose genius hasn’t quite yet been noticed or the Ph.D. who has magically discovered that his degree qualifies him to wait tables alongside GED graduates. There’s no greater way to strand yourself on a workplace island than to claim superiority over the people you’re working alongside while assuming exemption from collective menial tasks meant for all. Though you may have convinced yourself that you don’t deserve the same fate as your coworkers, your my shit doesn’t stink attitude will land you quick residency in time to look for your next job, asshole purgatory.

Europeans Are Waking Up to Government Covid Tyranny. Why Are We Still Asleep?

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Tens of thousands of Germans marched through Berlin on Saturday, proclaiming a “Day of Freedom” and demanding an end to government-mandated face masks and “social distancing.” The UK and Netherlands also saw large protests against their governments’ tyrannical actions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to media accounts, the Berlin protesters held signs reading “We are being forced to wear a muzzle,” “Natural defense instead of vaccination,” and “We are making noise because you are stealing our freedom!”

Good for them!

The New York Times Tweeted that the masses of Berlin demonstrators were all “Nazis” and “conspiracy theorists.” Does the “paper of record” really want us to believe there were perhaps a million Nazis active in the streets of Berlin? Wouldn’t that be alarming?

The fact is, Europeans are realizing that their government-mandated lockdowns did little or nothing to protect them from the virus, while causing economic catastrophe and untold human suffering.

They likely looked around and noticed that Sweden, which never locked down its economy, rejected face masks, and kept its restaurants and other places of business open, did not fare any worse than the countries that have been turned into open air prisons for much of the year. In fact, Sweden had a lower death rate from the virus than strict lockdown states like the UK and France. No wonder people are starting to get angry.

Unfortunately, while the Europeans are waking up, Americans are still asleep as our freedoms continue to be trampled. While Europeans demand an end to government tyranny, here we see states with minuscule new deaths returning to lockdown. It is as if all the wannabe tyrants from mayors to governors are finally realizing their secret dreams of ruling by decree. Their dreams are our nightmares!

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy put citizens “on notice” that he will lock the state back down if people dare to go outside without a face mask or even to have guests inside their own homes! What kind of politician puts his own constituents “on notice”?

It is not as if the “experts” are even looking into treatments for the viral infection. Doctors who report their own successful experience treating Covid patients with hydroxychloroquine, for example, are ridiculed, censored, and even fired from their jobs. The rush to silence “America’s Frontline Doctors” last week and to disappear their video down the memory hole should terrify anybody who still believes in free speech.

No, they say, we must keep locked down and masked until we have a vaccine. The US government is dumping billions into a vaccine that may be less than 60 percent effective to prevent a virus that has something like a 99.8 percent survival rate. What kind of math is that?

How many may be harmed more by the vaccine than helped? We’ll probably never know because the US government has just granted big pharma immunity from liability claims if the vaccine produces damaging side effects.

They keep moving the goal posts to keep us terrified and isolated. First it was body counts and then “cases.” The numbers have been so wildly off that it’s hard to trust any reporting. People are getting angry. They are confused. They are facing an economic depression of historic proportions. But worst of all, they are watching as Leviathan government snatches every last bit of freedom.

Three cheers for the Europeans! Let’s hope America wakes up soon!

COVID-19 Crisis Failure, People Must Save Themselves and the Economy

Positive COVID-19 Test (Shutterstock)

The US is at a moment of truth. This week, Congress has to face up to a pandemic that is out of control and an economy that is collapsing. The Republican’s and Democrat’s proposals show they will fail this test. The people will need to protect themselves and lead from below.

The pandemic is worsening with more than 60,000 new cases and approximately 1,000 new deaths daily. Deaths, now over 158,000, are spiking across the sunbelt and increasing across the Midwest. By Election Day, the US could have 250,000 deaths making COVID-19 the third largest killer after cancer and heart disease.

The economy shrank at a record 32.9% annual pace in the second quarter, the largest since records were first kept in 1947. Jobless claims increased for the second week in a row with 1.4 million new people seeking unemployment benefits and continuing claims have risen to 17.06 million. More than 35 million people have lost their jobs since March.

In the face of these depression-era numbers, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are planning enough spending to rebuild the economy. President Trump, who has botched the response to the pandemic, is unable to lead but seems willing to sign anything that passes Congress.

Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, at a drive thru distribution in downtown Pittsburgh, 10 April, 2020 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.)

Republican HEALS Act Will Spread the Virus, Deepen Economic Collapse

The Republican Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act seeks to push people back to work and reopen schools even if it is not safe to do so. Their proposals to cut unemployment benefits are designed to make workers desperate so they will work in conditions that put their health at risk. A large portion of school funding is restricted to schools that physically reopen forcing unsafe schools. Here are some of the details of the bill:

Health care: The inadequacy of for-profit healthcare has been magnified by the pandemic. The loss of jobs resulted in millions of people losing their health insurance on top of almost 30 million people who were already uninsured. Republicans do not include a funding increase for Medicaid, which 70 million people rely on. The National Governor’s Association reports states are experiencing budget shortfalls ranging between 5 and 20 percent. The Republicans do not provide any funding to state and local governments to make up for this loss of income. Without new funding, states will have to cut Medicaid eligibility, reduce benefits, or reduce payments to providers at a time when the economy and virus mean more people need it.

Food: The Census reports 26 million people do not have adequate food. Food banks are reporting shortages and 14 million children are going hungry but the Republicans did not extend funding for food assistance programs. The Republicans did not extend either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamps, or the Pandemic EBT program, a benefit for households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals, which ended in June. In contrast, they did propose a 100 percent deduction on business meals through the end of 2020.

Housing: The eviction moratorium expired last week. It protected an estimated 12 million renters in federally-backed properties. The HEALS Act does nothing to prevent evictions from restarting. There are 110 million Americans who live in rental households. Twenty percent of them, 23 million people, are at risk of eviction by September 30 according to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. With the cut in unemployment benefits, the Census Bureau estimates 24 million people will be unable to pay next month’s rent, including 45 percent of Black and Latinx households.

Worker safety: As workers are being forced back to work, the HEALS Act cuts their ability to sue at a time when worker-safety is at its greatest risk in a century.  Senator McConnell calls this a “red line” that must be in the final bill. His proposal would preempt the few state workplace safety laws that exist and supersede such federal worker safeguards as the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, among others. The Republican proposal would erect almost insurmountable obstacles to lawsuits by workers who become infected at their workplaces and limit damages. To be immune, employers would merely have to show they were  “exploring options” to comply with federal law, or they found the risk of harm to health could not be “reduced or eliminated by reasonably modifying policies, practices, or procedures.” A worker whose lawyer issues a demand letter and settlement offer would find themselves potentially facing litigation by the employer against them. If employers sue workers, there is no limit to punitive damages. These provisions would be retroactive to December 1, 2019, and remain in effect at least until October 1, 2024.

Student debt: The HEALS Act doesn’t extend the interest-free payment pause on federal student loans or halt debt collection on government-held student debt, two forms of relief in the original CARES ACT. Without extending the relief Congress first granted to student loan borrowers through the CARES Act, 40 million people are likely to have to resume payments on September 30, 2020 at a time when there are Depression-like levels of unemployment.

Business support: The Act provides $100 billion more for the problematic Paycheck Protection Program, which has been rife with corruption as members of Congress and the administration as well as their friends, families, and donors got payouts. Big businesses got loans even though the program was intended for small businesses, making small business owners furious. Black and minority businesses were denied loans. Money is needed for main street businesses but PPP needs major changes rather than just pouring more money into the failed program.

The bill also includes $1.75 billion for the FBI building. This was added at the insistence of the Trump administration because the president’s hotel is across the street from the FBI. Without funding to refurbish the building, the FBI could move to Virginia or Maryland, leaving the current building to be torn down and likely replaced with a hotel that would compete with Trump’s hotel.

Military spending: Nearly $30 billion in the HEALS Act would be allocated in a brazen giveaway to the military. The bill includes billions for the Pentagon including $686 million for F-35 stealth fighters, $650 million for A-10 ground attack airplane wing replacements, $1.4 billion for four expeditionary medical ships, and $720 million for C-130J transport aircraft, $375 million for armored vehicles, $360 million for missile defense, and $283 million for Apache helicopters. This is reportedly being added to make up for money taken from the Pentagon for the border wall and comes after Congress recently passed a record military spending bill.

Paramedics taking a patient into an Emergency Room at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The Democrats Fail To Use Their Power

The Democrats control the House of Representatives. Nothing can pass the Senate without Democratic Party support. The Senate Republicans are divided and Trump is desperate to sign a bill. Polls show Republicans could lose the Senate so they need to pass a good bill. The political alignment favors the Democratic Party but it still isn’t doing what is needed.

The Democrats passed the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act in May, a $3 trillion proposal compared to the $1 trillion HEALS Act. Two months ago this may have been adequate but now that figure needs to be increased as more jobs have been lost, state and city governments have lost income, and the cost of treating the virus has increased with more cases.

A “red line” for the Democrats should be funding state and local government with at least $1 trillion to continue basic services. More than 20 million people work for state and local governments such as firefighters, teachers, police, sanitation workers, and transportation workers. The Economic Policy Institute estimates 5.3 million jobs will be lost without state and local funding. President Trump and the Republicans do not want another massive increase in job loss, so the Democrats are in a strong position to make this demand.

The decrease in unemployment benefits should be another unacceptable “red line” as this will further shrink the economy. The Economic Policy Institute finds the loss of the extra $600 of unemployment benefits, which people are currently spending on basic needs, will result in the loss of an additional 3.4 million jobs.

One area where the Democrats can build on some agreement is the $1,200 COVID-19 relief payment to individuals. These payments are too small. A good COVID-19 relief package would increase payments to $2,000 per person monthly for the duration of the pandemic and recession for households earning under $150,000 as suggested by Sen. Bernie Sanders. This would slow the economic collapse and ease suffering.

It is essential to extend the moratorium on evictions not just for federally-subsidized housing, but the federal government should also cover rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the crises. Otherwise, millions of families will lose their homes in an election year, which should be politically unpalatable for both parties.

Health workers give people free Covid-19 tests in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26 (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

We Need a Plan

What is missing from both the Republican and Democratic bills is a strategy to control and stop the pandemic. The virus is 7 months old and still spreading rapidly. President Trump has failed to lead so Congress must do so. The bill should include a massive investment in making rapid testing available across the country. Every business and school should have rapid testing capability before they reopen. This should be combined with hiring 500,000 public health tracers so those who have been exposed to COVID-19 can be tracked to prevent further spread of the virus.

Everyone wants to restart the economy but this must be done safely. In addition to testing and tracing, workplaces and schools must be safe. School districts should decide whether to restart or continue web-based learning and should be supported by the federal government whatever they choose. Hundreds of thousands of tutors who can do one-on-one teaching to support web-based learning are needed. With high unemployment, especially among recent graduates and college students, there are people available to take on this task.

Congress should authorize OSHA to rapidly enact stringent standards for workplaces to reopen, along with funding for necessary safeguards. There should be increased funding for OSHA workplace inspections and investigations of inadequate safety. Employers who meet the standards for a safe workplace should have legal protection from frivolous lawsuits but employees should also have the right to sue if workplaces do not meet safety standards. This approach protects both workers and employers and will reduce the spread of the virus.

Neither party handled healthcare well even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has magnified the failure of for-profit healthcare. To stop the spread of the virus, Congress needs to break away from its privatized approach to healthcare. With the widespread job loss, 5.4 million workers lost their health insurance as did millions more family members. This is the largest decline in health insurance coverage in US history. The rapid response to this healthcare crisis should be the expansion of Medicare to everyone in the United States. Ideological opposition to publicly funded healthcare should not block this essential step. The long term failure of our healthcare system and widening health disparities demonstrate why we need a community-controlled, public, universal healthcare system.

Workers strike over safety (Yahoo Finance)

he People Must Rule, and Protect Ourselves

Congress and the President are unlikely to enact the laws needed to confront the pandemic and economic collapse. As a result, both will worsen. We will have to take action to protect ourselves and build popular power to win our demands.

We need to organize mutual aid to people meet people’s basic needs, such as for food and housing. Many cities have vacant buildings owned by the local and federal governments. As homelessness rises, these should be taken over to house people. We discuss the practical steps for taking over homes with Cheri Honkala this week on Clearing The FOG, (available as a podcast on Monday).

We build popular power by taking the streets as people have been doing for over two months now across the country, only buying essentials, refusing to pay rent or debt payments, blocking evictions and by building in our workplaces for a general strike.

Our actions must not be about which presidential candidate from the two parties of the millionaires to elect. Only one serious presidential campaign is right on COVID-19 and the economy, the Green candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. Our actions need to be about building a people’s movement that grows in power before and after the November elections. No matter who is elected, the people will need to resist, create new systems and rule from below.

The Use and Abuse of President Donald Trump

In all of the bizarre and ridiculous iconography of our first cartoon President, Donald J. Trump, the photo-op of Trump holding an upside-down Bible in front of St John’s (of Patmos?) Episcopal Church, near the White House, really takes the cake — and, perhaps, eats it, too.  Of course, the whole scene was a fiasco right out of Hollywood, as militarized police and actual military units violently suppressed a considerable throng of protesters, so that the embattled “leader” could awkwardly lurch to the Church for a weird evangelical pose (In the event, the President should have taken a golf cart; Trump’s handlers really dropped the ball on the optics here…).

There are many layers of irony threading through Trump’s churchy photo-op.  For example, the President was wielding a version of the Bible not considered “authoritative” by evangelicals, one of his presumed audiences; and, moreover, in front of a notoriously “liberal” house of worship — not to mention the tyrannical police state tactics used to clear Lafayette Square in D.C. on June 1, 2020.  However, the image that struck me most amidst all of this Hellish hoopla was that of Trump holding a Bible aloft with what appeared to be a cloven hoof-hand, as if the President were posing as the Antichrist poster boy of the Moment.  Yes:  not only is Trump the “worst literal Hitler” figure ever, as C.J. Hopkins has quite correctly noted; now, Mein Trumpf  has achieved — albeit fleetingly — Antichrist status…

Yet, the Antichrist Trump is entirely pathetic; Hannah Arendt’s concept-phrase the “banality of evil” is far too strong in this case.  Antichrist Trump’s expression during the photo-op could be most generously described as dour, although bland, or even blank, would be more accurate.  The President responds to a reporter’s question (one of the reporters not punched in the face by security forces that day) — “Is that your Bible?” by inflectionlessly stating that “It’s a Bible,” in a quiet, hollow, distant, vacant voice.  If Trump in this moment is Satan’s chosen tool, then he appears to have zero enthusiasm — or extremely “low energy” — for the role. (Again, Trump should have taken the golf cart, as that 5-minute walk to the Church from the White House, the sheer physical exertion of it, has clearly de-animated him, our first cartoon President.)

Nevertheless, despite this deflated performance, Trump is far from imperfectly cast as the “Antichrist.”  As all voting evangelicals will remember come November (if there is an election…), Trump has used the Presidency to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which, according to a certain prophetic tradition, is a necessary pre-condition for the Apocalypse, which will herald the Second Coming of Christ.  Certainly, the tone and tenor of our Times have become more “apocalyptic” since Señor “Carnage” wallowed in to the Oval Office through an almost unnatural election in 2016.

Given the hallucinatory goofiness of the Bible’s last chapter, the Book of Revelation, the banality of Donald Trump as Antichrist makes a certain sort of occult sense, this 6-times bankrupt Whore of Babbling on…

However, there is another fictional figure that I believe Trump more uncannily resembles than the anti-hero of Biblically deranged myth-making.  I owe this insight to John Hawkins’ recent DV article “Doublethink!  Doublethink!  It’s Two Thinks in One!” (published on Bastille Day, 2020), which links the Trump phenomenon to Emmanuel Goldstein, the “Two-Minute’s Hate” character of George Orwell’s 1948 dystopian novel, 1984.  Indeed, during the seemingly pre-determined 2016 election run-up, the fanatical, viscerally venomous bashing of Trump had just begun…

Ever since Trump’s curious Electoral College victory, the “2-Minutes Hate” on Trump has been in full-blown, blast furnace Inferno-mode.  One would think that every True-blue Liberal in the Land were Christian as Hell, and that Trump was the Devil incarnate:  the original sinning Root of all Evil.

Who knew that “Liberals” could be so rabid?  Isn’t such zealotry supposed to be the exclusive, gun-guarded paranoid domain of the self-righteous Right? Take an obviously “liberal” Late Night TV comic show host like Stephen Colbert, who once portrayed an unconsciously self-parodying Right-winger. Ironically, it appears that Colbert’s previous comic incarnation got his wish, since the current Colbert is now going on a “4-Years Hate” rant — in 10-minute monologue installments — on Trump.  Such an obsession!

To be fair, Trump’s opponent in 2016 (besides Jill Stein…) was also a relentlessly demonized figure:  her eminence, Hillary “Benghazi” Clinton. Perhaps, in 2016, the choice of “lesser evils” had never been more evil — or, at the very least, more banal…

At that time, just 4 years of “Hate” ago, the diabolical rivals of the two uncontested national political parties squared off in 3 televised debates, the second of which — held at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, October 19, 2016 — produced a most pivotal exchange.  Hillary fired off the opening salvo, a salvo that has echoed throughout Trump’s besieged Presidency:  that the Donald was a “Putin puppet.”  Clinton was the presumed next-President at this point, so close to the Vote, the debate itself a mere formality.  And yet Trump, the apparent political upstart, fired automatically back that Clinton herself, in fact, was the “puppet.”  A brief — if almost tense and meaningful — puppet food fight ensued, on presumably the most elevated American political stage (if the stage had been any lower, then America would have been that much more democratic at that moment — but it wasn’t…).  There was no clear resolution as to whom the “real puppet” was that debate night; that determination would have to wait until election night, a few weeks later, and, lo and behold! — the Fallen Angels sang:  most winning, and puppetest puppet of all, was — Donald J Trump!

In retrospect, after the mashed potatoes had been squeegeed off the camera lenses, it is quite clear that Clinton won this less-than-great Russian puppet debate. Contrariwise, if Clinton’s popular victory — by almost 3 million more votes — had carried her into the Oval Office (as normally it would have), then Trump would have won the “puppet debate.”  As it happened, Trump lost the debate by winning the election…So:  Was it all a bit of typical Clinton manipulation?  Did Hillary Clinton never campaign in key (-Stone) states just to insure that Trump would win them?  If so, then it was a nice strategy: “Nice, nice, very nice,” indeed:  almost ideally designed to deliver a snake-oiling lump like Trump — our highly unlikely Emmanuel Goldstein figure — as “President of the United States of America,” seemingly against all odds…Well, then:  let the “Hisses” begin!

And so they did.  From the perspective of History, which is never what it seems to have been whenever one looks into that vast cauldron of human happenings from time to time, we are now all pandemically thrust into the vagaries of the 2020 American election, whether we wish to be or not.  The 2020 political menu has been firmly established:  it is squarely a choice between Red Meat and the Vegetable — and both items are well beyond their expiration dates.  It’s a difficult choice and, frankly, quite indigestible either way.  “Would you prefer your Racism more or less watered down?” Black Lives Matter — except when it comes to U.S. elections.

Will Credit Card “country Joe” Biden or Golf Resort slick Donald Trump prevail:  this is certainly a question — for FoxNews, MSNBC, NPR, the Guardian, NYT, the Washington Post, and other Major Media “influencers” around the increasingly decreasing airwaves.  It’s all such a tight fit…

Whatever the outcome, which has certainly been fore-ordained, given the two greasy gray “candidates” pre-selected for our gastro-political displeasure, there is no doubt that the World’s mightiest Military in History is waiting in the wings, just in case we all need some regimentally oriented types to figure this thing out, just in case an Electoral food fight breaks out.  I will leave this essay into the capable quotes of a renowned fictional religionist, Bokonon (aka Lionel Boyd Johnson IV — or “LBJ” said another way…), who had this to say about “Caesar,” just in case anyone is confused about the new-fake Caesar, Donald Trump, that Weapon of Mass Distraction: “Pay no attention to Caesar.  Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.”1

* (Quote from Chapter 31 “Another Breed” of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle)

  1. Cat’s Cradle Chapter 46, “The Bokononist Method for Handling Caesar”.

Honestly, Americans couldn’t care less about Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline taken from Kowloon site (Andre Vltchek)

I just spent two weeks in the United States, investigating, analyzing the situation there.

I worked in Washington D.C., Minneapolis, where Mr. George Floyd was murdered by deranged cops, in New York City and Boston. COVID-19 was at my tail, as the states kept opening and closing, frantically. Demonstrations were shaking the country, protests against endemic racism and discrimination have been erupting in hundreds of cities and towns.

In several of my reports, I described confusion and deep contradictions, which have been devastating this, still the most powerful nation in the Western world.

While feverishly working in the United States, I was often thinking about Hong Kong.

The deeper the crisis in the United States, the more aggressive Trump’s administration was attacking Beijing, often via Hong Kong. As if desperately searching for a culprit, for an excuse, for justification, why North America has been shaking so violently, why it has been cracking and collapsing. Unwilling to take responsibility, the regime needed a foreign ‘element’ which it could accuse, to blame for broken pavement all over Manhattan, for tents erected by homeless people at many corners of the District of Colombia, for once modern and proud metro-rail of the capital city which was lately beginning to resemble a transportation system in some poor developing country. The regime needed to blame someone else for so much dissatisfaction, indignation, and confusion. And it was determined to produce an ideological enemy whom it could insult on a daily basis while escaping liability for scandalously inept management of the COVID-19 tragedy.

China! Trump’s index finger kept pointing towards the mighty dragon of the east. Embargo after embargo, sanctions after sanctions were imposed. China’s Communist Party members were banned from entering the United States. Trade restriction walls have been growing higher and higher. U.S. Navy ships were sailing, provoking China, right next to its shores. Millions of dollars were dispersed among the brutal rioters in SAR, just in order to provoke authorities and spread chaos.

Hong Kong, particularly its new national security law, has been sitting on the front pages of U.S. newspapers and magazines. The law, which this author and many of his colleagues described on several occasions as an absolutely normal, logical and necessary piece of legislation, was selected by Washington as its rallying cry, as a symbol of the anti-Chinese policy.

Most Hong Kong residents, both those who support their government and those who are critical of it, are well aware of the obsession of President Trump and his lieutenants Pompeo, Rubio, and others, with their SAR. They clearly understand that the government of the United States is behind the 2019/2020 riots.

What they don’t know is that this fascination with Hong Kong comes exclusively from the top of the U.S. establishment. It has absolutely nothing to do with ordinary citizens.

During my latest journey to the United States, I interacted with many people, people who are residing in several states. I listened to them; to their grievances, hopes, outrage. I was also interviewed in the city of Minneapolis. At the end of my visit, I concluded: right now, the situation in the United States is so bad, that vast majority of its citizens is deeply preoccupied with their basic existential problems: how to keep their jobs, how to survive, to pay mortgages, student loans, and medical bills.

They have near-zero interest in a faraway city, Hong Kong, which, anyway, enjoys the reputation of having a much higher quality of life than, for instance, New York, and which sits on the so-called ‘freedom index’ well above the U.S.A. itself.

Ask those common American folks about Hong Kong, and if they know anything about it at all, it will be an abstract vision of a shiny skyline of a super-rich Asian city, plus the Cantonese food. Even the very concept of SAR is only for the intellectuals, particularly for those who are interested in international politics, meaning just a tiny minority.

However, antagonizing foreign countries, as well as the United Nations, is always cheap, one could say vulgar, but very effective political ‘move’ before the elections. Many U.S. presidents were using it in the past. Some even went to wars or overthrew foreign governments, killed thousands of innocent people.

All this has nothing to do with the principles or ethics. Do not search for logic, either.

Freedom, liberty, democracy – all these are abstract terms in today’s America. At closer examination, most of Americans are not free at all. They are scared, very scared, and they are shackled financially but also through the toughest laws imaginable, much more than the citizens of other countries.

Antagonizing, provoking China, has nothing to do with some ‘fight for democracy and freedom.’ Most Americans have no idea about whether China is democratic or not. To comprehend Chinese democracy and socialism with Chinese characteristics would require at least some basic knowledge of Chinese culture and history. Such knowledge is desperately lacking in the United States, among the general public, and even at the ‘top,’ among such people like Steve Bannon, an extreme right-wing maniac, or Peter Navarro, a top Trump advisor, who writes about China, who is bashing China, but knows close to nothing about it.

In turn, deciding whether Hong Kong is free and democratic would at least require an understanding of the concept of SAR.

The recent events clearly indicated how brutal, how undemocratic is the United States.

The situation at home should be the main preoccupation of the U.S. citizens. And, frankly, it actually has been lately.

Hong Kong citizens should realize that their territory has been converted into a political football by both Washington, London, and Brussels.

But a big city, an important territory, and especially the lives of its citizens, should never be reduced to a game.

Elections in the U.S. will take place, and they will pass. Soon after, American voters will forget about Hong Kong. They don’t care about it even now. In a few months, they will want to know absolutely nothing about it, except, as before, cliché photographs, and great food.

But the damage to Hong Kong and its people who are being sacrificed for political gains in Washington, would not be easy to undo.

It is now, and it will be then: Beijing is the one which has been genuinely concerned, and which will always be ready to defend its citizens.

• First published by China Daily Hong Kong