Morrison’s Dangerous Fantasies Represent a Danger to Australia’s Future

Australia has just caused surprise among its friends, concern among its neighbours, and an overtly hostile reaction from the Chinese with its announcement that it was scrapping the submarine deal it had signed with France and replacing it with a scheme, cooked together with British and American allies, to buy 8 nuclear powered submarines.

The scheme as announced was extraordinarily short on details. There is apparently at least 18 months of negotiating ahead before the contract is even signed. After that there will be a lengthy delay, estimated being at least 10 years in length, before the first submarine is ever delivered. By that time, who knows what the state of the world’s geopolitical system will be. One can be assured that the Chinese, against whom the plan is obviously directed, will have taken multiple steps to ensure its own safety.

The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was not short of hyperbole in announcing the deal. He described the relationship with the United States as the “forever partnership”. As the old joke goes, there are only two forever’s, death and taxes. Morrison’s words are reflective of an unfortunate tendency among Australian politicians. They are inclined not to look at the map when making grand geopolitical statements.

Australia is a thinly populated European nation that sits at the southern end of the Asian landmass. In keeping with its geography, the bulk of Australian foreign trade is conducted with those same Asian neighbours. Ironically, China is by far Australia’s largest trading partner, followed by Japan.

The British are yesterday’s men when it comes to Asia having finally been forced to give up its holding in Hong Kong that they took by force from China in the 19th century. The United States likes to project itself is an important figure in the Asian scheme of things. As the recent debacle in Afghanistan showed, however, American influence in the region is marked by one rebuttal after another.

With the possible exception of Japan, United States influence in the region is rapidly fading, notwithstanding its provocative sailings in the South China Sea and its overt support for the island of Taiwan. It is conveniently forgotten by Western commentators that from 1949 to 1972 the island of Taiwan held China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. There was no suggestion then that Taiwan was a separate country. It could hardly have claimed to be, yet retaining China’s seat on the Security Council.

Now, Taiwan is making noises about becoming an independent country, something that the Beijing government has declared to be totally unacceptable, and which they will prevent by the use of force if necessary. It would be very unwise for the West to ignore the determination of the People’s Republic of China to recapture its rebellious neighbour. It would be equally unwise for the Americans to underestimate the Chinese level of determination and attempt to defend Taiwan from returning to the control of the mainland.

It is into this fraught situation that the Australian government is being inexorably drawn by its latest agreement with the Americans. Although the Australian media are almost completely silent on the point, one of the consequences of this new agreement with the Americans will be an increase in the number of United States military holdings in Australia. They already control the operation of the spy base at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. It was former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam‘s intention to close the base that led to the coup against his government in November 1975.

The United States has operated a baleful influence upon Australian foreign policy ever since. There is absolutely nothing in the latest announcement of Australia buying United States designed nuclear powered ships that will do a single thing to reduce that influence. Quite the contrary.

The current posturing by the Australian Prime Minister will do nothing to alter that reality. Together with his defence minister, Peter Dutton, who has been a failure at each of his previous ministerial postings, they are both talking loudly about the wonderful future of Australia. They are either too vain or too stupid to see that this latest deal does more than any other single decision in recent years to entrap Australia in a subservient role to the United States.

As Scott Ritter writes in RT: “This is a story of geopolitically driven military procurement gone mad”,1, pointing out that this deal “further exacerbates the existing geopolitical crisis with China by injecting a military dimension that will never see the light of day.”

Ritter goes on to seek answers to problems he sees as being associated with the announced purchase; for instance, first of all, how much will it cost?  Secondly, how will Australia operate advanced nuclear power systems when it has no indigenous nuclear experience to draw upon? And how does Australia plan to man a large nuclear submarine when it can barely field four crews for its existing Collins class fleet.

These are legitimate questions to ask, yet the timid Opposition Labor Party seems paralysed by them.

As Alan Gyngell points out2, the United States’ expectations of Australia’s support in almost anything going, whether it involves China or not (although that is the greatest danger) will grow. It represents an application of responsibility to ensure the ongoing welfare of the Australian people. By the time the submarines are delivered, if at all, the present generation of political leaders will be long gone. The damage they are doing will last a lot longer.

  1. US-UK-Australia Submarine Deal is a Dangerous Joke, 18 September 2021.
  2. Australia Signs up for the Anglosphere“, September 19, 2021.
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The Right to Clean Air in Jakarta

It seems utterly beyond debate but acknowledging legal rights to clean air has assumed the makings of a slow march over the years.  The 1956 Clean Air Act in Britain arose from the lethal effects of London’s 1952 killer smog, which is said to have taken some 12,000 lives.  The Act granted powers to establish smoke-free zones and subsidise householders to shift to the use of cleaner fuels (gas, electricity, smokeless solid fuel).

There is certainly no shortage of advocates for the self-evident point that clean air is vital.  Some of this has been reduced – at least historically – to an issue about the non-smoker’s wish not to have the air clouded by the selfish actions of a smoker.  But this is small beer when compared to the general levels of global pollution that keeps the Grim Reaper busy on an annual basis. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution kills 7 million or so people each year, with 9 out of 10 people breathing air “that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.”

In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David R. Boyd noted approvingly that a majority of States had, be it through their constitutions, statutes and regional treaties, recognised the right to a healthy environment.  But recognition for such a right on a global level remained an unfulfilled object.  The UN General Assembly, for instance, may have adopted a range of resolutions on the right to clean water, but never on the right to clean air.  This is despite such a right being, according to Boyd, “implicit in a number of international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration to Human Rights (right to adequate standard of living), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (right to life) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (right to health).”

This month, a flutter of interest was caused by a ruling in the Central Jakarta District Court on a lawsuit lodged two years before accusing the Indonesian government of unlawfully permitting air pollution in the capital to exceed permissible, healthy limits.  Citizens such as Istu Prayogi, who had never so much as touched a cigarette in their lives, joined the suit after his lungs revealed the sort of lung damage that would arise from being a heroic, persistent smoker.

The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel found that the seven officials concerned, including President Joko Widodo, three cabinet ministers and the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java were negligent in not upholding environmental standards.  As Duta Baskara, one of the panel members observed, “They have been negligent in fulfilling the rights of citizens to a good and healthy environment.”  The judges, however, dismissed the applicants’ submission claiming that the president had violated human rights.

The court directed that the seven officials take serious action to guarantee the rights of Jakarta’s residents by improving air-quality regulations and implementing measures to protect human health, the environment and ecosystems informed by science and technology.  Environmental laws would also have to be policed more rigorously, along with the imposition of sanctions for offenders.

The scale of this effort is hard to exaggerate.  On June 4, 2019, Jakarta registered the worst air quality in the world, if one takes the readings of the air quality monitoring app AirVisual as accurate.  At 210 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), the city keeps ahead of the pack of other polluters such as New Delhi, Beijing and Dubai.

Rapporteur Boyd also offered his services to the 32 applicants, writing in his supporting brief that, “Protecting human rights from the harmful effects of air pollution is a constitutional and legislative obligation for governments in Indonesia, not an option.”  The director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Nur Hidayati, affirmed this view to The Jakarta Post in early June that breathing “clean air is our right that the government has to fulfil.”

These are not positions plucked out of some speculative realm of legal reasoning.  The right to clean air in Indonesia is guaranteed by such legal documents as the country’s 1945 Constitution and the 1999 Law on Environmental Protection and Management.  But the writ of law is not always a guarantee of its policing.

Before the September decision, Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, did not feel that a ruling against the authorities would cause much fuss.  As the governor’s climate change envoy Irvan Pulunga explained, “The governor doesn’t see this lawsuit as a disturbance to the government’s work but a vehicle for collaboration.”  Pulungan also insisted that improvements had been made to the city’s air quality over the course of two years.

This tune coming from the office of president has been somewhat different, more a case of fleeing rather than addressing a problem.  In part, this is understandable, given that Jakarta has become a city of nightmares for policy makers, urban planners and the authorities.  Few such concentrations of humanity on the planet are as plagued by environmental concerns.  To debilitating air pollution can be added flooding, regular seismic activity and gradual subsidence.

Only a month after the lawsuit was filed, the president proposed relocating the capital to another spot to be built in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.  “The burden Jakarta is holding right now,” he claimed at the time, “is too heavy as the centre of governance, business, finance, trade and services.” Such moves promise to abandon one problem by creating another, given the risks posed to the environment of East Kalimantan.

Showing a spirit not exactly collaborative in nature, an appeal against the ruling is expected by the government.  Jakarta’s governor, in particular, finds himself facing a range of orders from the court, including designing environmental “strategies” and policies to mitigate the air pollution” under the direction of the supervision of the Home Affairs Minister.

Modest as it is, the victory for the applicants in the Central Jakarta District Court shows, at the very least, that courts remain an increasingly important forum to force the hand of legislatures in ensuring that something so elementarily vital is not just seen as a right but enforced as one.

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New York Times Advises China on Covid-19: Abandon Success, Try Failure

The recent outbreak of the Delta variant in China “shows that its strategy no longer fits. It is time for China to change tack.”

So declared a lead essay atop the New York Times Opinion/Editorial section on September  7 by Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Delta outbreak that “changed the game” in Huang’s words emerged after an outbreak at Nanjing international airport in July traced to a flight from Russia.  Did this outbreak change anything, in fact?

Let’s do the numbers.

Let’s do something that Huang did not; let’s look at the numbers from July 1 until September 7, the date of the article, a period that brackets the Delta outbreak cited by Huang.

During that period China experienced 273 new cases, about 4 per day, and no new deaths. That hardly seems like a failure.

To get some perspective on these numbers, during that same July1-September 7 period, the US, a country one fourth China’s size, reported 6,560,588 new cases (96,479 per day) and 45,054 new deaths (662 per day).

The same contrast can be seen for the entire period of the pandemic.  From the pandemic’s initial Wuhan outbreak in January, 2020, until September 7, 2021:

China had a sum total of 95,512 cases and 4,629 deaths;

The US had 40,196,953 cases and 648,146 deaths.

There have been two previous outbreaks of the Delta variant in China, one in Guangdong and another in Yunnan near the Myanmar border before the one arising in Nanjing.  The Delta variant was contained in each case. None of the three has turned out to be a “game changer,” as Huang incorrectly maintains.

Perhaps it is the U.S. that needs “to change tack.”

To anticipate an objection that has largely faded but persists in some quarters, can we believe the case and mortality count China gives us?  There are now many first-hand accounts of what life has been like in China these days that make the official tallies quite reasonable.  And quantitative evidence supporting China’s data is available in a peer-reviewed study in the prestigious British Medical Journal; it is summarized and discussed here.   Carried out by groups at Oxford University and China’s CDC, the study compares excess deaths in Wuhan and also in the rest of China during the period of the lockdown, and it finds that the official counts are remarkably accurate.

Do China’s life-saving measures imperil its economy?

China would need a very good reason to abandon its public health measures of massive, rapid testing, tracing and, where necessary, quarantining.  Are there any such reasons?  Mr. Huang states that the life-saving measures now “threaten overall economic growth in China”.  Does this prognostication fit the facts?

China’s GDP grew more slowly in 2020, but still it grew by 2.27%, the only major economy in the world not to contract.  In contrast the US economy contracted by 3.51%.  (Even China’s slowed growth in 2020 matched the US economy in normal times, which grew at an average rate of 2.3% in the four pre-pandemic years, 2016-2019.)

What about the future?  Economies are set to rebound in 2021 from their 2020 lows, with recent projections giving China an 8.4% bounce before settling in to an average growth of 6% over the following 5 years. For comparison the US jump in 2021 is estimated to be 6.4%, dropping to a 1.9% average over the following 5 years.

In terms of the economy present and future, China’s policies appear to be doing quite well, better, in fact, than any other major economy.  Mr. Huang has advanced a thesis that is unencumbered by the facts.

Why is the media’s failure to report on China’s success a threat to our very lives?

At every step of the way, China’s successes with Covid-19 have been met in the U.S. media with silence, denigration or a prediction that the success cannot continue (FAIR provides a brief survey here).  As a result, China’s measures are not widely known or understood.

China’s success with its public health measures is important for us now, because the pandemic is far from over. We don’t know what surprises viral evolution will have in store for us.  If a new variant emerges that is resistant to existing vaccines, then we have only public health measures to protect us until we catch up.  That is also true for future pandemics which will surely come our way. For us to be kept in ignorance of those measures or to have them dismissed, as Yanzhong Huang does, poses a threat to our very lives.

We might also wonder what would happen if the people of the West, including the U.S., understood clearly that measures were possible which could have protected us from the millions of deaths we have suffered.  Governments have toppled from far less.  Mr. Huang, the New York Times and the mass media, whatever else they are doing, are certainly protecting our Establishment from a rage that might have most unpleasant consequences.

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6 Reasons to Feel Grateful During Covid

A novel coronavirus, deadly and unnecessary lockdowns, civil unrest, political division, economic crises, a rise in mental health issues — the list goes on and on and on. Since March 2020, most of the world has suffered immensely in one way or another. But, amidst the madness, there is room for gratitude. More specifically, I’m suggesting we should be grateful for who and what has been exposed over the past 18 months or so.

6 Reasons to Feel Grateful During Covid

1. EXPOSED: Science and Medicine

If you ever had a doubt that these two “institutions” were hotbeds of corruption and greed, the response to Covid-19 surely cleared things up for you. Everything — from social distancing to masks to vaccines to variants to other treatments being demonized and beyond — was a poorly constructed lie.

2. EXPOSED: Corporations

The biggest money grab in history, #woke opportunism, support for mandates, and so much more. All their rainbow flags and BLM banners can’t change who they are (and have always been).

3. EXPOSED: Government

It’s a well-worn script: A crisis unfolds and elected officials — across the ideological spectrum — exploit it to enhance their power. If you were unsure whether or not any politician could be trusted, you now have your answer.4. EXPOSED: The #woke Left

The same clowns who once marched against Monsanto are now shilling for Moderna. Plus: Censorship, support for mandates, hypocrisy, thought control, groupthink… need I go on?

5. EXPOSED: Media and Social Media

All media outlets and social media platforms — regardless of their ostensible “narrative” — are nothing more than AI-assisted stenographers to power.

6. EXPOSED: The General Population 

Before Covid, did you ever wonder how your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc., would respond to a genuine (or manufactured) crisis? Well… take a good look around. Most of them, it seems, will follow orders and respect authority without question. They’ll willingly abdicate their autonomy, enthusiastically volunteer to be lab rats, and ruthlessly turn on anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep. They will embrace totalitarianism and surrender their freedoms in exchange for the illusion of safety. So, yeah… now you know.

I’m thankful that so many people and institutions in my life have clarified who they are and how they behave under duress. To connect with like-minded and open-minded comrades, you are required to move on from those seeking to harm you or, at least, hold you back. You know exactly who they are because they’ve openly exposed that they do not have your best interests at heart.

In order to move forward in a positive and powerful way, it’s essential to know where you stand in relation to others. If you wish to continue growing, learning, and evolving, you must be willing to see and accept what’s going on. Translation: You must reclaim the subversive pleasure of thinking for yourself. #gratitude.

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France deprives Lebanon of its caregivers

Following a visit to Beirut, the Director-General of the World Health Organization and the Regional Director of its Eastern Mediterranean office lamented the fact that 40% of doctors in Lebanon and 30% of registered nurses have emigrated from the country in the span of a few weeks. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ahmed Al-Mandhari pointed to the responsibility of a foreign state in this “brain drain”, and made a commitment to help Lebanon overcome this additional crisis as much as they can. (...)

Biden: Tilt Taxes to the Middle Class

The bad news is that taxes in America are tilted in favor of the rich. The best news is that we could be only weeks away from a tilt in favor of the middle class: the reforms President Biden is urging to help balance the Administration’s $3.5 trillion budget bill.

The changes won’t be going as far as the president first proposed. Congress writes the laws, and House Democrats have already dialed back on Biden’s wish list.  Even so, the bill will almost certainly reflect a sharp shift in America’s priorities.

As Biden himself puts it, “My tax policy is based on a simple proposition, which is to stop rewarding wealth and start rewarding work a little bit.”

Republicans oppose everything, and a few Democrats have differences as well. Here’s a quick rundown of some major items as legislators continue to shape the final bill.

A cut in the top marginal rate was part of Trump’s 2017 tax giveaway. Biden wants the rate back where it was, at 39.6 percent. It would apply to taxable incomes above $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples.

The tax break on capital gains is a huge part of America’s tax handout to the haves. The current levy on long-term capital gains tops out at 20 percent, little more than half the top rate on income from work. Biden hoped to equalize those rates, but that hope is history.

The Democratic-controlled Ways and Means Committee opted instead for a hike in the capital gains tax to 25 percent. Significantly, the new rate would apply to any gains realized after September 13—preventing any stock sell-offs to avoid the 25 percent rate. The Committee also recommended a 3 percent surcharge on taxable incomes above $5 million.

Ending the carried interest loophole is another of Biden’s tax-fairness goals. Candidate Trump promised to do it, but President Trump reneged and let it stand: “a tax dodge for wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers,” allowing them to defer taxes and ultimately treat their income as lower-taxed capital gains.

Bills are advancing in both the House and the Senate to do what Trump turned his back on. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has drafted the most extensive repeal: it doesn’t even include the Biden recommendation for a $400,000 income exclusion.

A supporter of the Wyden bill, former BlackRock managing director Morris Pearl, describes carried interest as an “absurd, regressive loophole with no credible economic justification…that has allowed some of the wealthiest people in the country to cut their tax bill nearly in half.”

Wealthy corporations have also been big winners in the tax-cut sweepstakes: Trump reduced the rate on corporate earnings from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent. Biden was pushing for an increase to 28 percent—still less than it was before Trump—but he won’t be getting it.

The current Democratic plan calls for graduated corporate rates, moving from 18 percent for incomes below $400,000 to 26.5 percent on incomes above $5 million. The benefit of the lower rates would phase out for firms with incomes over $10 million.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants an even lower top rate. Nothing can pass if Manchin doesn’t come aboard (and every other Democrat as well). In other words, the numbers are still in flux.

Liberals are happy enough with what’s in the bill, but deeply unhappy about what isn’t. Listen to Inequality.org: “Without significant changes…billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos will hardly pay a nickel more in taxes. And families like the Waltons…will continue to amass huge dynastic fortunes.”

All the same, America could be on the verge of a seismic change in tax policy.  After decades of tax laws that disproportionately favor the rich, Biden is shifting the focus to the broad middle class.

Instead of putting millions more into the pockets of millionaires, he intends to put billions more into the social safety net—into childcare and healthcare and education.

President Kennedy, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” President Biden to America’s wealthy, 2021: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what your taxes can do for your country.”

Congress willing, Biden’s message could be delivered within weeks.

• This article first appeared at New York Daily News

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Masters of Illusion: Sociopathy from the Very Rich on Down

Nothing Changes With the Rich!

You just can’t make this stuff up as a fiction writer (also, see below, at the end of this piece**). Demonic, but sturdy. Boring actuarial folk, or in this guy’s case, making loot illegally in the legal channel that is Illegal Wall Street:

Thomas Peterffy became one of the world’s richest people by mastering risk on Wall Street. Building his Mediterranean-style mansion seven years ago on a vulnerable stretch of Florida’s Palm Beach Island was a matter of seeing the odds clearly once again. The consequences of climate change will play out over decades, and Peterffy is 76 years old.

“I don’t have a care about it at all,” he said over lunch at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, just down the street from his home. “If something needs to be done to save it,” he added, “it’s not going to be my problem.” The founder of Interactive Brokers Group has a fortune of more than $21 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Thomas Peterffy with Lynne Wheat in Palm Beach in 2017 (Nick Mele/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

Glaser is building a new waterfront mansion designed by architect Kobi Karp, replacing a now-demolished estate owned by Jeffrey Epstein.
Seawall installation at property on the intracoastal in Palm Beach.

Nice guy, uh? And even younger ones, in the billionaire class, they whisper that, though they do have bullshit smoke and mirrors philanthropies and foundations to, well, shelter taxes and corrupt the world more with their sociopathy. In the old days, it would have been, “Eat the Rich,” “Kill the Rich,” “Banish the Rich.” Now, though, since they have created a vampire class of millionaires and media mental midgets with millions stashed away, the Rich Are a Protected Class. Until we get daily reminders of the collective insanity of Western culture, Western capitalism, Western cults. This is the rich, giving a damn about the future, or, spending millions and billions on their vaults and prison garden homes. Then, there are 10,000 in Del Rio, Texass:

a group of people in a forest: Large Migration Surge Crosses Rio Grande Into Del Rio, Texas

The temporary camp has grown six-fold since Monday and more migrants are expected in the coming days. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano made a disaster declaration Friday. “I had thought that the alarm was sent on Monday. This is setting the nuclear bomb alarm that this is no longer sustainable or acceptable,” he said. Congressman Tony Gonzales, a Texas Republican, is calling on the Biden administration to come up with a solution for the chaos. “Please get engaged, get involved, do something. This is unsustainable. This is not America. This is not the way things should be,” he said. “Folks are coming over and across as if there is no border.” Also Friday, CBP closed the Del Rio Port of Entry and re-routed traffic.

Elevating a property in Palm Beach.

Elevating a property in Palm Beach.

I have years of writing about and researching urban planning, regional planning, all the gold, silver, platinum of LEED/Sustainability/New Urbanism building. It is a mighty thing to have a few degrees from elite schools (my schools, they are not elite), and then getting placed into the star chambers of planning, architecture and design. To the point of, the Eichmanns are deep into this lie, and there is really, the way they want smart cities and internet of bodies for the future, no global warming, no global climate chaos, no collapsing systems, water shortages, deaths in the millions annually just from air pollutants. No deaths in the hundreds of thousands because of higher and higher bulb temperatures. No reality about water shortages, failing sewage treatment, endless fires, pests-poisons-pestilence vis-a-vis profits at any cost, at costs to anyone or anything, albeit, not against the elite and star chamber folk. The reality is if you believe in capitalism, in all for one, or that technology is going to get us out of the muck, then, you are a denier. The worse kind!

If this doesn’t tell it all, here we are, the great profession (sic) of planners (misshapers, building and real estate protection racketeers) having yet another fake event, virtually. Imagine that, so planners are supposed to be on the land, in the muck, in neighborhoods, looking at systems, ecosystems, people, communities, towns and mega-cities, and, here the gutless wonders are, well, hiding again, in underwear and Snoopy slippers. This was a group I was sort of a member of when I was getting my graduate degree in , well, urban and regional planning:

Save the Date: 2021 OAPA/APA WA Virtual Joint Planning Conference

The 2021 conference continues with the theme of Growing Together Virtually, recognizing the importance and challenges of planning for evolving communities, large and small, in these challenging and polarizing times. The conference will offer more sessions than last year, allowing for greater variety in session content.

Oh, in polite company, we can’t call this a bunch of fucking shit, no? All the communities now within communities, the so-called subcommunities, struggling with forced jabs, forced passports, forced scrutiny, forced surveillance, facial recognition just to enter a football game or concert. Work, sure, servicing those maskless wonders with masks on, but not enough cash to pay the rent, or, all the cash for the rent. No health care, nothing of those safety nets that the RICH have, and do not get goofy on me to profess that the rich do not have entire lobbies upon lobbies in their sophisticated protection racket. The planners — many of them looking for sustainability and gardens and walkability and healthy small downsized living — in the end buckle under the weight of bureaucracy and the rich and powerful controlling the narrative and their own money stream. Look, I understand that every arena I have entered into since, oh, age 13, those places are sacred to liberals, lights, conservative, lights, and that I would also be an outlier or outcast anywhere, or the enemy in some regard, but now, it is way beyond “enemy” or “persona non grata” I represent. It is a matter of outcasting, men, an untouchable, while the APA-WA branch, peddles more lies, meaningless doublespeak:

“What is Planning? Planning is a dynamic profession that works to improve the welfare of people and their communities. Professional planners make great communities happen by working with civic leaders, businesses, and citizens to envision new possibilities and solutions to community problems.”

I wonder what the planners might do around those Haitians, all those cities that are in disrepair, all the rough sleepers, the homeless-in-vehicles, the sheltered-in-basements/garages/hotels. How to plan, man, those smart cities, those hipster places, those virtual venues, the Zoom Rooms, the isolation chambers, the places of mediocrity sold as cutting edge Musk-Apple joints. Imagine, maybe in a year, the Planners can hook into the Bezos Ejaculatory Space Suit Freaks, and have a live feed with Bezos and ask him what’s next in planning cities around his Gestapo-Gulag-Retail-Surveillance-Cloud world. In so many ways, I found the planning profession to be vapid, dead of creativity, and certainly no rabble rousers or deep thinkers in the bunch. They talk a good talk, but in the end, their jobs are the work of the real estate, developer, building and construction lobbies, and the planners I know would never speak up at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. They are the epitome of Eichmann, updated and retrofitted for Cancel Culture and Oh So Hip Stylists.

How about his Salem group, Salem for Refugees? You think planners would want to create grants for people like me to study the dynamics of community building-engagement-employment around these newest immigrants?


With the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, thousands of people are fleeing their home and looking for protection in the US. We have been preparing for refugees and SIV cases. Now we are preparing to also provide resettlement services for individuals who have been identified as special risk (journalists, NGO workers, humanitarian workers, political activists, etc.). Due to the rapid nature of the situation, this group of individuals will have a special Parolee status which will allow for immediate work authorization but limited access to State social services or Medicaid benefits. We need your help in bridging this gap and providing for the needs of these people. In an effort to bring Afghan Evacuees to Salem, the State Department has given us an early approval as an affiliate of World Relief and we are now an official Resettlement Agency! We will begin receiving cases through the Afghanistan Placement Assistance Program and in January for all other refugees through the Reception and Placement program!

The good old days when we truly hated the rich:

In 1920, Wall Street reporter Edwin Lefèvre derided “some wretchedly rich people” in a Post article called “The Annoyances of Being Rich Today.” Without naming names, Lefèvre detailed conversations with bankers and heirs about their gripes with imperfect service and ungrateful butlers. One rich man told the author that he feared a revolution was afoot after he asked a waiter for bread and — instead of silent obedience — the response came: “Sure thing!” Others complained about accusations of vanity or the prospect of their service staff seeking higher wages.

Lefèvre sums up the groans of the plutocrats by casting wealth as a sort of illness:

I am convinced that there is a definite social disease which we may call gold poisoning. When a man has too much gold, some of it gets into the system; through the pores, it almost seems. It causes deafness and affects the sight. These ailments, gold deafness and gold blindness, are responsible for most of the annoyances of which the stricken rich so bitterly complain today. Instead of seeing or hearing, they are merely aware of a rumbling sound—the tread of their fellow men marching toward them, armed with bombs, bitterness, and taxes.

Newspaper article

John Stuart Mill called the rich, “the unearned excrement.” Oh, what a day it would be to see that again, lifted up high, daily, in the media, but this is a world of valorizing the rich, listening to the liars and grifters — the thespians — and all the handlers, the hangers-on the rich-super rich employ to massage their messages.

Larry Glickman, a professor of history at Cornell University, says he has used this clip in one of his classes to illustrate the criticism of so-called robber barons of the late nineteenth century: “In the Gilded Age, ‘capitalist’ was really a term given by its enemies to people who had earned wealth in an unfair, immoral way, so a lot of small business men said something similar to what Hickenlooper said.” Glickman says the distrust of robber barons (or capitalists) comes back to the question of hard work. “There was this idea that you had labor producing things, and that accumulating wealth through honest production was a good thing,” he says, “but there was a new class of people called capitalists getting their wealth through unproductive, exploitative ways.” (Saturday Evening Post).

** So, Bloomberg the Billionaire with Billionaire Bloomberg News, has the answer for inequities, which in any other language is, well, wage theft, tax fraud, tax evasion, thievery of a general nature, war profiteering, penury, slave/sweatshop economy. The news just continues with these abhorrent items:

Amazon’s massive new distribution centers, soon to be surrounded by infrastructure built to serve workers, are being compared to Gilded Age company towns. While many are aghast at the idea, fellow billionaires are praising it.

The e-commerce empire founded by Jeff Bezos will offer the American working class a better option than scraping to get by in increasingly expensive cities, investment adviser Conor Sen wrote in a Friday oped for Bloomberg, the financial news outlet whose namesake is billionaire former New York mayor and failed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

“Let’s call them ‘factory towns,’” Sen suggests, apparently in an effort to avoid the baggage that accompanies the concept of “company towns.” Popular in the late 19th century among the new breed of mega-corporations – railroads, steel mills, and the like – many of these dormitory communities held workers as veritable prisoners, paying them in scrip that was only redeemable at the company-run store and retaining groups of thuggish Pinkerton “detectives” to stamp out any attempts to unionize. (source)

Yet, Bezos is a joke with the power of deflection, the power of the rich to believe his own dirty secrets of domination. No number of jokes piled on by the millionaire comedian class or insightful (sic) commentaries by the millionaire presstitutes can buckle the Amazon formula. Here, the sweatshops of Amazon, providing slaves with, well, boxes of time out:

Amazon offers 'wellness chamber' for stressed staff - BBC News

 

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The Anglo Unilateralists Strike

When President Joe Biden won the White House, he promised, with a facility of unceasing boredom, that diplomacy was back.  “Diplomacy is back at the centre of our foreign policy,” he stated on February 4.  “As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.”

The fact that such diplomacy had never gone away seemed to escape him.  In the simpleton’s view of politics, his predecessor had abandoned the jaw jaw approach to international relations for muscular and mindless US unilateralism.  Allies had been belittled, ignored and mocked.  Strongmen had been feted, admired and praised.  It was now incumbent upon the United States, urged Biden, that “American leadership” confront “this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”

It would have been more accurate to say that President Donald Trump’s coarse, business board room model was simply too much of a shock for those familiarly comfortable with guile, deception and dissimulation.  But Biden’s return to acceptable hypocrisy did not mask the “America First” note in his temper.  Since then, that temper has seen a dramatic, ahead-of-schedule exit from Afghanistan, building on Trump’s undertakings to conclude open-ended wars and commitments.  US allies began to wonder whether the Biden model was that different from Trump’s cruder original.

With the announcement on September 15 of the trilateral security pact AUKUS, an agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to deepen military ties in an effort to contain China, the “diplomacy is back” cart was soiled and upended.  The European Union had not been consulted.  A furious France only received a few hours’ notice that the agreement they had made through the Naval Group with Australia to construct the next generation of attack class submarines had been dissolved.  Countries in the Indo-Pacific were also left in the dark.

France, in some ways even more than China, the primary target of AUKUS, is incandescent with rage.  On Franceinfo radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was unsparing in his remarks.  “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.” He confessed to feeling anger and bitterness. “This isn’t done between allies.”

As recently as July, Le Drian had visited Washington, where he pointedly stated that France was “an Indo-Pacific nation with territories that give [it] the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone” with a permanent military presence of 8,500 personnel in the region.  Paris, along with EU member states, was in the process of formulating a clear Indo-Pacific strategy.  Efforts were being made in creating “strategic partnerships” with Japan, Australia and India.  Regional organisations such as ASEAN were being brought into the fold.  Any “transatlantic pivot toward the Indo-Pacific” had to be taken “together”.

At the end of August, Australia and France held their inaugural Foreign and Defence (2+2) Ministerial Consultations. No hint was given that something was brewing.  As the joint statement outlined, “Ministers underscored the importance of the strong and enduring commitment of other partners, including the United States, and Indo-Pacific partners in upholding an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

With notions of sham togetherness shaken, retaliation in the old diplomatic tradition has followed.  President Emmanuel Macron has recalled the French ambassadors to the United States and Australia.  Britain was rebuked somewhat differently, being spared the same harsh treatment; being underhanded was the very sort of thing Paris expected from their historical enemy. In Le Drian’s words, its conduct had been “opportunistic”, with London being little more than “the fifth wheel of the wagon”.

In a joint statement, Le Drian and French Minister for the Army Florence Parly emphasised that this new security arrangement had been arrived at to the “exclusion of a European ally and partner … at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”  The move signalled “a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.”

Special words were reserved for Australia, a country now wooed by an unconvincing promise of eight nuclear-powered submarines that are only promised to enter service sometime in the 2040s.  The decision was “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust.”  Le Drian, in a separate observation, weighed on the theme of infidelity, calling the decision, “A knife in the back.”

None of this takes away from the fact that the original Franco-Australian contract, reached in 2016, was an ill-thought out undertaking to build 12 conventional Barracuda class submarines in imitation of the nuclear powered Suffren design.  It was vain, costly and promised obsolescence before viable performance. Then again, the French argument goes, the Australians wanted it.

The justifications for this episode of Anglophonic mischief have varied in their insolence and disingenuousness.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was all shine and floss in claiming that France remained “a vital partner” in ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific “and we want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation” in the area.  To a question suggesting that France had been stabbed in the back, Blinken mechanically repeated the vital importance of a “transatlantic” association.

Australia’s simply disposed Defence Minister Peter Dutton preferred fantasy by way of explanation, claiming that his government had been “upfront, open and honest”.  “We can understand of course, the French are upset at the cancellation of a contract but in the end, our job is to act in our national interest.”  Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace was of like mind, promising that, “Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back.”  But sneaking there was, and it was the Anglosphere, led by the United States, doing the sneaking.

AUKUS is less a trio than a hefty, bullying chief accompanied by a willing assistant and an enthusiastic supplicant.  It is a declaration of hostile intent in a region of the world that promises to be the Europe of 1914.  It has also encouraged the EU to formulate its own Indo-Pacific policy with haste and independence. “The regrettable decision which has just been announced on the FSP [Future Submarine Program] only reinforces the need to raise the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” observed Le Drian and Parley.  Policy makers in Beijing will be struggling to stifle their amusement.

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Ethiopia: TPLF Terrorism Expands, Civilians Massacred

As the armed conflict between Ethiopia and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) enters a new phase, Ethiopians are uniting against their common enemy. The TPLF is not a group of freedom fighters standing up for the downtrodden; they are a terrorist insurgent force waging a war against a sovereign state. Murdering, raping, destroying property and the lives of Ethiopians, the TPLF is a cancer that for decades has thrown a suffocating shadow of fear and division over the country, a cancer that must be cut out totally if Ethiopia is to flourish.

For 27 years they were the dominant force within a so-called coalition government. Corrupt and brutal, the TPLF stole election after election, trampled on human rights, embezzled federal funds and aid money and committed State Terrorism in various regions of the country. Administering a policy of Ethnic Federalism, they ruled through fear, divided the people along ethnic lines and are widely hated by most Ethiopians.

In 2018, after sustained public protests, they were ousted. However, after such a long period in power their divisive methodology and ideals still have influence. Senior members retreated to their Tigray heartland after losing office, regrouped, plotted, and waited for an opportunity to rise up against the government.

On 4 November 2020 they attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Forces Base in the northern region of Tigray. They killed soldiers, took control of the military’s Northern Command in Mekelle (capital of Tigray) and raided federal armories. This act of terrorism set in motion an armed conflict in the northern region of Tigray; a fight the TPLF had been itching for, which has now spread into the neighboring region of Ahmara.

Thousands have died, combatants and civilians; claims of rape and sexual violence are widespread; tens of thousands have been displaced, homeless and hungry, with large numbers, frightened and distressed, making their way to camps in neighboring Sudan.

The TPLF’s brutal actions should be condemned unreservedly by foreign governments, particularly Ethiopia’s major donors. But, far from standing with the government, the US, UK and EU have consistently supported the terrorists, circulating misinformation, making false claims against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, his government and Ethiopian forces.

Civilians Massacred

In an attempt to stop the killing and defuse the situation, on 28 June, the Government declared a “unilateral humanitarian ceasefire” and withdrew its forces from Tigray. In response, the TPLF marched into the regional capital and issued a series of outlandish conditions for complying: They demanded the release of all Tigray political prisoners (imprisoned for atrocities committed over many years), falsely accused Prime Minister Abiy of starting the war, and claimed that Tigrayans “have been subjected to…genocide and ethnic cleansing”. Federal forces are fighting the TPLF not the people of Tigray. But, as a result of the TPLF instigated conflict, civilians in Tigray have been severely impacted.

Unrelenting, obdurate, Tigray forces, which have now combined with another extremist group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), have ignored the ceasefire and continued their attack on Ethiopia, moving into the Afar and Amhara regions bordering Tigray. Death, destruction and chaos is left in their wake with distressing reports of civilian killings, rapes, kidnapping and robbery. Homes are destroyed, office buildings, including Kabele (local government) headquarters vandalized, documents burnt, water and electricity supplies cut, Churches and schools damaged or demolished, cattle killed, crops destroyed.

Over 200 civilians were killed in Afar including more than 100 children, according to UNICEF, and around 300,000 were displaced. Federal forces have now driven the aggressors out of this region. In Deber Tabor in Ahmara, the main hospital was attacked and homes destroyed. A local resident, Mr. Deres Nega told Ethiopian media how his wife, children and friends had been killed by the TPLF. His life has been torn apart. His agony is being repeated throughout the area, his pain is the pain of a nation, a pain that has but one cure, the eradication of the TPLF.

Over 200 km north of Deber Tabor, in Chena Teklehaymanot, mass graves were recently discovered containing 124 bodies, many more people (over 100) are missing feared dead. Witnesses state that the TPLF went house to house and slaughtered men, women, children, even priests (revered throughout Ethiopia) were killed. The massacre, which has been confirmed by Gizachew Muluneh, Director of Communications for the Amhara Regional State, is but one atrocity in a series of coordinated assaults by the TPLF since the government ceasefire. Getachew Shiferaw, a leading Ethiopian activist, relates that, “Civilians were massacred [by the TPLF] in Woldia, Kobo, Alamata, Lalibela, Abergele, Maytemri, Gaint, Gashena and Mersa, among others towns.” He warns that, “Chena is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s press secretary, has said that TPLF atrocities in Ahmara “were carried out to avenge the military loss the clique suffered by federal and state troops,” as its fighters were routed from Afar. The government believes the Chena massacre was carried out by “the TPLF’s Samri youth group”, who are also thought to be responsible for killing over 1,000 civilians in “the town of Maikadra…last November.” After which they escaped to Sudan and hid in a UNHCR refugee camp.

Such brutal attacks, which are consistently ignored by western governments (who know very well what is actually happening) and prominent mainstream media, are forcing the Ethiopian government, until now relatively restrained, to respond and mobilize its forces. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry recently said the TPLF was pushing the government to “change its defensive mood which has been taken for the sake of the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire,” and that unless (government) overtures for a peaceful resolution were reciprocated, “Ethiopia could deploy the entire defensive capability of the state.”

The government, which has been weak on law and order enforcement, cannot simply sit back and allow the TPLF to murder civilians. They must respond swiftly and decisively, including, if necessary, deploying the air force, something they are reluctant to do because of potential civilian casualties.

Malicious foreign forces 

Since the conflict began the Ethiopian government has been battling, not just the terrorists, but malicious foreign forces and misleading information from western governments and mainstream media – the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Facebook etc. The US, which is widely believed to be indirectly arming the TPLF, has led the misinformation campaign, and appear (together with the UK and EU) to have sanctioned the TPLF’s attack on Ethiopia.

To its utter shame the Biden administration (and UK and EU) has failed to condemn the TPLF attacks, and has undermined the Ethiopian government from the outset. They repeatedly call for reconciliation (thereby legitimizing the terrorists), and instruct PM Ahmed to negotiate with the TPLF, which is not only unacceptable to the government, but to the vast majority of Ethiopians, who liken the TPLF to a pack of hyenas, pointing out the impossibility of negotiating with wild animals.

In response to their international backers’ call for ‘negotiations’ the TPLF drafted a list of preposterous demands for any such talks. Among other fantasies, they wanted PM Ahmed to step down and be replaced with one of their own, and a power-sharing arrangement introduced. This would amount to the overthrow (with US backing) of a democratically elected government: The Prosperity Party (a party of national unity founded by Abiy) has a huge mandate, taking 410 out of 436 seats in the June 2020 general election. The formation of a new government, which will include opposition parties, is expected by the end of September/early October, and is eagerly awaited.

As these malicious foreign forces seek to destabilize Ethiopia for their own corrupt geo-political reasons, and the TPLF commit atrocity after atrocity, the Ethiopian people are laying aside long held divisions (largely caused by TPLF policies) and coming together, standing shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters against the poison of the terrorists and the Imperial arrogance of America and Co.

While this is unquestionably a deeply troubling moment for Ethiopia, at the same time there is cause for celebration and real optimism: The staging of the first democratic elections in the country’s long and rich history was a major achievement, as was the second filling of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (the largest dam in Africa) reservoir. These, along with the imminent formation of a new and democratically elected government, are unifying national events. Significant development which the Ethiopian people can take great pride in as they unite against the TPLF/OLA terrorists. Destructive groups, which must be purged from the country completely and utterly if peace and social harmony are to be established, and the  needed work of national transformation is to go ahead.

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5,000 Charter Schools Closed in 30 Years

Privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have been around for 30 years 1 and are legal in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. To date, five states have been able to fend off these segregated outsourced schools that siphon billions of public dollars a year from under-funded public schools.

About 3.3 million students are currently enrolled in approximately 7,400 charter schools across the country, which make up less than eight percent of all schools in the country. 2  At 1,300, California is the state with the most privately-operated charter schools.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 3,100 charter schools run by unelected individuals closed between 2000–01 through 2017–18. That is a very high number of closures, especially in an 18-year time span. On average, that is about 172 privately-operated charter school closures per year.

It is not clear why, but the data chart from the federal government does not include the number of privately-operated charter schools that closed between 2018-19 through 2020-21. It also excludes the number of privately-operated charter schools that closed between 1991-92 through 1995–96, as well as the number of privately-operated charter schools that closed between 2001–02 through 2003–04. The U.S. Department of Education provides data for only 18 of the 30 years that privately-operated charter schools have existed. About 11 years of data is left out. The three main reasons why privately-operated charter schools close are: financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and poor academic performance. Corruption, fraud, racketeering, and embezzlement are rampant in the charter school sector from coast to coast. News of arrests of charter school employees appears in the news nearly every week.

Assuming, conservatively speaking, that about 172 charter schools close every year on average, when 172 is multiplied by the 11 years outside the 2000-01 through 2017-18 time frame provided by the U.S. Department of Education, we get an additional 1,892 charter schools closed. This brings the grand total of closed charter schools to about 4,992 charter schools over a 30-year period. This is a reasonable estimate. No matter how you slice it, though, that is a lot of failed and closed charter schools—and in a short period of time. Does this sound like success? Should such a phenomenon continue to be endorsed, expanded, and celebrated? Great instability has haunted the segregated and deregulated charter school sector for three decades and upended the lives of thousands of poor and low-income black and brown families. If the last 30 years is any guide, hundreds more charter schools will fail and close in the coming years, leaving even more families out in the cold and more public schools without much-needed public dollars.

 Supplementary Note

It is helpful to recall that, besides widespread corruption, nepotism, and failure in the deregulated charter school sector, privately-operated charter schools, on average, have fewer nurses and more inexperienced teachers than public schools, and they usually pay both less than their public school counterparts. Several states do not even require charter school teachers to be certified and many charter school teachers have no employer-provided retirement plan. Moreover, non-profit and for-profit charter schools frequently engage in discriminatory enrollment practices and typically oppose any efforts by teachers to unionize. Charter schools also tend to offer fewer programs, resources, and services than public schools. And while the academic performance of many brick-and-mortar charter schools is unimpressive, the academic track record for cyber charter schools remains abysmal. In addition, all charter schools are run by unelected individuals and many spend millions of dollars on advertising (just like a private business). Last but not least, accountability, oversight, and transparency remain stubborn problems in the segregated charter school sector.

  1. Minnesota established the nation’s first charter school law in 1991 and opened the nation’s first charter school in 1992.
  2. It is worth noting that student wait lists at charter schools are frequently inflated and unreliable. In fact, many seats regularly go empty at many charter schools.
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