In October 2019, in a speech at an International Monetary Fund conference, former Bank of England governor Mervyn King warned that the world was sleepwalking towards a fresh economic and financial crisis that would have devastating consequences for what he called the “democratic market system”.
According to King, the global economy was stuck in a low growth trap and recovery from the crisis of 2008 was weaker than that after the Great Depression. He concluded that it was time for the Federal Reserve and other central banks to begin talks behind closed doors with politicians.
In the repurchase agreement (repo) market, interest rates soared on 16 September. The Federal Reserve stepped in by intervening to the tune of $75 billion per day over four days, a sum not seen since the 2008 crisis.
At that time, according to Fabio Vighi, professor of critical theory at Cardiff University, the Fed began an emergency monetary programme that saw hundreds of billions of dollars per week pumped into Wall Street.
Over the last 18 months or so, under the guise of a ‘pandemic’, we have seen economies closed down, small businesses being crushed, workers being made unemployed and people’s rights being destroyed. Lockdowns and restrictions have facilitated this process. The purpose of these so-called ‘public health measures’ has little to do with public health and much to do with managing a crisis of capitalism and ultimately the restructuring of the economy.
Neoliberalism has squeezed workers income and benefits, offshored key sectors of economies and has used every tool at its disposal to maintain demand and create financial Ponzi schemes in which the rich can still invest in and profit from. The bailouts to the banking sector following the 2008 crash provided only temporary respite. The crash returned with a much bigger bang pre-Covid along with multi-billion-dollar bailouts.
The dystopian ‘great reset’ that we are currently witnessing is a response to this crisis. This reset envisages a transformation of capitalism.
Fabio Vighi sheds light on the role of the ‘pandemic’ in all of this:
… some may have started wondering why the usually unscrupulous ruling elites decided to freeze the global profit-making machine in the face of a pathogen that targets almost exclusively the unproductive (over 80s).
Vighi describes how, in pre-Covid times, the world economy was on the verge of another colossal meltdown and chronicles how the Swiss Bank of International Settlements, BlackRock (the world’s most powerful investment fund), G7 central bankers and others worked to avert a massive impending financial meltdown.
The world economy was suffocating under an unsustainable mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit to cover interest payments on their own debts and were staying afloat only by taking on new loans. Falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cash flows and highly leveraged balance sheets were rising everywhere.
Lockdowns and the global suspension of economic transactions were intended to allow the Fed to flood the ailing financial markets (under the guise of COVID) with freshly printed money while shutting down the real economy to avoid hyperinflation.
… the stock market did not collapse (in March 2020) because lockdowns had to be imposed; rather, lockdowns had to be imposed because financial markets were collapsing. With lockdowns came the suspension of business transactions, which drained the demand for credit and stopped the contagion. In other words, restructuring the financial architecture through extraordinary monetary policy was contingent on the economy’s engine being turned off.
It all amounted to a multi-trillion bailout for Wall Street under the guise of COVID ‘relief’ followed by an ongoing plan to fundamentally restructure capitalism that involves smaller enterprises being driven to bankruptcy or bought up by monopolies and global chains, thereby ensuring continued viable profits for these predatory corporations, and the eradication of millions of jobs resulting from lockdowns and accelerated automation.
It retains all the cruelties of the free market for those who live and work in the real world, but turns the paper economy into a state protectorate, surrounded by a kind of Trumpian Money Wall that is designed to keep the investor class safe from fear of loss. This financial economy is a fantasy casino, where the winnings are real but free chips cover the losses. For a rarefied segment of society, failure is being written out of the capitalist bargain.
The World Economic Forum says that by 2030 the public will ‘rent’ everything they require. This means undermining the right of ownership (or possibly seizing personal assets) and restricting consumer choice underpinned by the rhetoric of reducing public debt or ‘sustainable consumption’, which will be used to legitimise impending austerity as a result of the economic meltdown. Ordinary people will foot the bill for the ‘COVID relief’ packages.
If the financial bailouts do not go according to plan, we could see further lockdowns imposed, perhaps justified under the pretext of ‘the virus’ but also ‘climate emergency’.
It is not only Big Finance that has been saved. A previously ailing pharmaceuticals industry has also received a massive bailout (public funds to develop and purchase the vaccines) and lifeline thanks to the money-making COVID jabs.
The lockdowns and restrictions we have seen since March 2020 have helped boost the bottom line of global chains and the e-commerce giants as well and have cemented their dominance. At the same time, fundamental rights have been eradicated under COVID government measures.
Capitalism and labour
Essential to this ‘new normal’ is the compulsion to remove individual liberties and personal freedoms. A significant part of the working class has long been deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ – such people were sacrificed on the altar of neo-liberalism. They lost their jobs due to automation and offshoring. Since then, this section of the population has had to rely on meagre state welfare and run-down public services or, if ‘lucky’, insecure low-paid service sector jobs.
What we saw following the 2008 crash was ordinary people being pushed further to the edge. After a decade of ‘austerity’ in the UK – a neoliberal assault on the living conditions of ordinary people carried out under the guise of reining in public debt following the bank bail outs – a leading UN poverty expert compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that, unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.
Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”.
In another 2019 report, the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank laid the blame for more than 130,000 deaths in the UK since 2012 at the door of government policies. It claimed that these deaths could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts.
Over the past 10 years in the UK, according to the Trussell Group, there has been rising food poverty and increasing reliance on food banks.
And in a damning report on poverty in the UK by Professor David Gordon of the University of Bristol, it was found that almost 18 million cannot afford adequate housing conditions, 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities, one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in winter and four million children and adults are not properly fed (Britain’s population is estimated at around 66 million).
Moreover, a 2015 report by the New Policy Institute noted that the total number of people in poverty in the UK had increased by 800,000, from 13.2 to 14.0 million in just two to three years.
Meanwhile, The Equality Trust in 2018 reported that the ‘austerity’ years were anything but austere for the richest 1,000 people in the UK. They had increased their wealth by £66 billion in one year alone (2017-2018), by £274 billion in five years (2013-2018) and had increased their total wealth to £724 billion – significantly more than the poorest 40% of households combined (£567 billion).
Just some of the cruelties of the ‘free market’ for those who live and work in the real world. And all of this hardship prior to lockdowns that have subsequently devastated lives, livelihoods and health, with cancer diagnoses and treatments and other conditions having been neglected due to the shutdown of health services.
During the current economic crisis, what we are seeing is many millions around the world being robbed of their livelihoods. With AI and advanced automation of production, distribution and service provision on the immediate horizon, a mass labour force will no longer be required.
It raises fundamental questions about the need for and the future of mass education, welfare and healthcare provision and systems that have traditionally served to reproduce and maintain labour that capitalist economic activity has required.
As the economy is restructured, labour’s relationship to capital is being transformed. If work is a condition of the existence of the labouring classes, then, in the eyes of capitalists, why maintain a pool of (surplus) labour that is no longer needed?
A concentration of wealth power and ownership is taking place as a result of COVID-related policies: according to research by Oxfam, the world’s billionaires gained $3.9 trillion while working people lost $3.7 trillion in 2020. At the same time, as large sections of the population head into a state of permanent unemployment, the rulers are weary of mass dissent and resistance. We are witnessing an emerging biosecurity surveillance state designed to curtail liberties ranging from freedom of movement and assembly to political protest and free speech.
In 2020, World Bank Group President David Malpass stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet after the various lockdowns but such ‘help’ would be on condition that neoliberal reforms become further embedded. In other words, the de facto privatisation of states (affecting all nations, rich and poor alike), the (complete) erosion of national sovereignty and dollar-denominated debt leading to a further strengthening of US leverage and power.
In a system of top-down surveillance capitalism with an increasing section of the population deemed ‘unproductive’ and ‘useless eaters’, notions of individualism, liberal democracy and the ideology of free choice and consumerism are regarded by the elite as ‘unnecessary luxuries’ along with political and civil rights and freedoms.
We need only look at the ongoing tyranny in Australia to see where other countries could be heading. How quickly Australia was transformed from a ‘liberal democracy’ to a brutal totalitarian police state of endless lockdowns where gathering and protests are not to be tolerated.
Being beaten and thrown to the ground and fired at with rubber bullets in the name of protecting health makes as much sense as devastating entire societies through socially and economically destructive lockdowns to ‘save lives’.
It makes as much sense as mask-wearing and social-distancing mandates unsupported by science, misused and flawed PCR tests, perfectly healthy people being labelled as ‘cases’, deliberately inflated COVID death figures, pushing dangerous experimental vaccines in the name of health, ramping up fear, relying on Neil Ferguson’s bogus modelling, censoring debate about any of this and the WHO declaring a worldwide ‘pandemic’ based on a very low number of global ‘cases’ back in early 2020 (44,279 ‘cases’ and 1,440 supposed COVID deaths outside China out of a population of 6.4 billion).
There is little if any logic to this. But of course, If we view what is happening in terms of a crisis of capitalism, it might begin to make a lot more sense.
The austerity measures that followed the 2008 crash were bad enough for ordinary people who were still reeling from the impacts when the first lockdown was imposed.
The authorities are aware that deeper, harsher impacts as well as much more wide-ranging changes will be experienced this time around and seem adamant that the masses must become more tightly controlled and conditioned to their coming servitude.
I can’t think of anything that harms nature more than cutting down trees and burning them, said William Moomaw, professor emeritus of international environmental policy at Tufts University
Oh, the number of top 10 or top 20 stories flooding the cloud servers delivered to us promptly, nanosecond speed, over the fuck-you Three-Face-Book, or on your email server, on the Dumber Dumbed Down Smart (sic) Phone, and, of course, on the telly. Imagine, instantaneous fake news, falsified un-News, the entire suite of topics New York Times covers, LA Times feeds, and on and on.
Delivered instantaneously, and yet, water is getting shut off, electricity is being turned off, roads are buckling, and that old time religion — privatizing everything until all shit breaks loose — determined to give USA a D-minus in infrastructure. Rebar in bridges, dikes, buildings, and the like, going the way of rust, baby. Reinforced concrete, crumbling, and the entire wasteland that is Auto Nation USA, all of that endless trucking back and forth, like a fucking spider web from space, it is what we have in this broke-back country.
I’ve talked with old folks (80 years plus) and with city and county “politicians.” I’ve talked to numerous people who just can’t get that reality out of their craw — so–soch — ehh-cism! The end of humanity is, well, on the horizon. Thanks to that Socialism Derangement Syndrome (SDS). It is built into the systems in the USA, and the DNA of USA-USA-USA, well, over generations of murdering Indians, slaves, and that checkerboard of people in countries from sea to oil slick sea, it has turned most of USA into a whack — job: under-educated, under curious about the world around them, dumb as dirt, compliant, cancelling ideas/discourse/thinking/pushback/socialism on all ends of the right-left divide. The wounds in this serial murdering society can’t be cauterized.
There has to be immediate amputation of the gangrenous rot coming from all 50 states. The rot of consumerism/retailism/financialization/indebtedness is spread like a million species of bacteria and viruses and other diseases that are indeed resistant to any medicine-goop-treatment.
There are so many deplorables, that term that Hillary hacked up, she being one of millions in the deplorable camp of neoliberalism. Deplorables who would gut you for stumbling into them on a sidewalk. Deplorables who are armed to the tooth who would shoot anyone stumbling into their backyard.
Think about it. People at a bloody concussion fest, UFC, chanting USA-USA-USA with this subhuman and his other subhuman followers traipsing into the stadium with their potbellies and juggling jowls as they take a load off their sagging asses in their multi-millionaire seats.
There is no deep outrage with this sort of optics that runs the USA prime time attention span. No outrage here, that the sweetness of all those sodas have yet more and more of a price, in that shit-hole Florida, run by those shit-hole Diaspora from all over, especially the East Coast, Trump and Company no less. Read the ProPublica interactive story below, linked!
It is environmental racism, and alas, this stinking country can’t keep the water on, can’t feed the farms with irrigation, can’t give out stinking fans to dying folk in this heat wave. Imagine, all those toys, those trillions to the DoD, and those men and women in uniform, also called the Armed Forces, where are they? No triage or MASH tents or massive pouring out of USA tax dollars to mitigate and solve the unfolding problems wrought by Capitalism on Crack. Story after story. Burning cane fields, yep, that’s good for the air. And this story was the same in 2001 when I went from El Paso to Spokane: massive fires lit by wheat farmers to burn stubble. Oh, the irony of Capitalism on Crack. Good old time stupidity. But stupidity and compliant people, well, that combo makes them trillions.
Then these Nordics, these putrid white saviors in Europe touting their carbon neutral smoke and mirrors fake science. Again, tearing down forests, in this case, North Carolina, brought to us by CNN.
Northampton has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state — which almost doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic — and nearly 22% of its residents are living in poverty.
“If the wood products industry and biomass were a way of growing strong rural economies in the southeastern region, these rural communities should be some of the wealthiest on the planet,” said Smith. “We are in the world’s largest wood producing region. But you don’t see any evidence in these rural communities of thriving rural economies. The opposite is actually true.”
Enviva currently employs 98 people at their Northampton facility and pay roughly 37% more than the average wage in the county, the company told CNN in a statement, adding that they strive to hire locally if workers have the right qualifications.
Imagine, the scams, and, in the end, these communities, again, pay the price of environmental racism:
Pretty, unh? Would love to have this in your backyard, right?
The EU, which aims to be climate-neutral by 2050, is set to revise its Renewable Energy Directive this summer and is expected to update sustainability criteria for biomass. Critics hope they will restrict biomass imports from overseas, exclude whole, living trees as “waste product” and properly account for carbon emissions from cutting and burning wood.
But a draft document that surfaced this past spring does not suggest substantial changes are coming for Europe’s directive.
I live in a state where the Democratic weak kneed governor got stiff knees and shut down everything, and this is the reality of stupidity around the planned pandemic. The lack of rural and inner city clinics, and just a lack of a massive movement to treat people with the common cold, gut diseases, the flu, and the bioweaponized SARS-Cov2, that’s what the Kate Brown, self-described bi-sexual, is all about. And, the reality is, this privatized medicine (sic) needs ending. Imagine, ending CEO and CFO and stockholder dividends. Oh, it would be easy to turn hospitals into cooperatives, employee owned outfits. On a sliding scale, before single payer health care.
But the reality that the shenanigans of the hospitals have killed thousands. Not because of the batty virus, but because of delays, and no treatment. Now? Oregonian, read it.
After 18 years as a nurse, much of it in the emergency department, Jeremy Lail considered himself a battle-tested veteran.
But last week, he asked his bosses at Providence Portland Medical Center if he could go on leave. Lail said he’s overwhelmed by the horde of patients seeking treatment at his ER and unnerved at the erratic, angry nature of many of those patients.
“I dreaded going to work,” he said. “I found myself thinking, is this the day someone is going to pull a gun and shoot me? We’re seeing how society can devolve right now. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and depression.”
For months, hospital workers have wanted nothing more than for the pandemic to end and life to return to some semblance of normalcy. But the much-deserved respite has yet to begin. Instead, a combination of understaffing and a tidal wave of seriously ill patients who have deferred health care for months has made life in the ER as bad or worse than the height of the pandemic.
It’s a recipe for disaster that is unfolding at hospitals across the country: Blend emotionally exhausted caregivers with emotionally disturbed patients, throw in a wave of street violence and the departure of some of the most experienced workers on the wards due to fatigue and burnout, and voila, America has its latest health care crisis.
Many employees argue there is another key ingredient added by the hospitals that makes the end result particularly toxic: A penny-pinching mentality that allows the understaffing to develop in the first place.
Oh, now we can see god in the science of trillions wasted on artificial (sic) suns (sic). You have this sickness, about limitless and green energy sources. Makes no sense, really, when billions are on the brink of starvation, polluted slow and fast deaths. Imagine that, no solutions NOW for farming collapses, fisheries collapses, broke-back poverty and chronic illnesses, and just endless droughts. Nope. We have all these resources and mental lifetimes in the tens of millions working on this?
These stories never-ever look at things from an ethical point of view. From a life cycle analysis view. From the view of the hoards of us, useless breathers-eaters-breeders. This news coming out of Europe or China or Israel or USA, well, no one looks at the reality of how land is desiccating and desertifying. All those satellites for 6 G internet of nanotechnology. None of the real humans are the tables of power looking at, well, all these issues tied to environmental racism, structural violence, reparations, land theft, and the like.
Because, these stories will go the way of the stories to dare valorize Palestinians, or debunk the lies of the murderous Jewish Israeli Regime of More Than Just Apartheid:
Another casualty of Israel’s war on truth: ‘Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’ fired a staffer for publishing a routine letter that criticized Israel for killing journalists…
By Kevin Metcalf
In May, Israel bombarded Gaza for 11 days, killing 256 Palestinians, including 66 children.
In the midst of this attack, hundreds of journalists in Canada signed an open letter calling for fairer coverage of Israel and Palestine. CBC then barred reporters who signed the letter from covering the region, claiming that doing so made them appear biased.
I was one of those who signed the open letter, because I believe the media should report fairly. I also expected there’d be a backlash to the letter within newsrooms, especially at the CBC, due to my own experiences: Years before this letter was released, I was fired from my media job for writing about Israel’s killing of protesters and journalists.
With help from the state broadcaster, over the course of a few weeks in 2018 my career was destroyed and my life’s work was completely uprooted. I now work as a landscaper for a living. (Source)
If my fellow writers haven’t already experienced this, well, not just criticizing Israel or the Jewish mentality of many Jews who are as racist as any Steven Miller or Donal et al Trump LLC.
Try having conversations with people in workplaces about bioweaponized SARS-Cov2. Any discussion about therapies that would have saved hundreds of thousands from oxygen-depleted, intubation death. Cancelled big time. I am an educator, so, that one is out the window to dare question masks and lockdowns. Dare question USA from a truly communist lens? Question Trump? Cancelled. Question Biden? Cancelled. Question the rapaciousness and profit motives of medicine and pharmacy and virology? Cancelled. Question how some or key points of the company you work for? Cancelled. It’s a sickness this society, so, again, the “Israel Policies Are Monstrous and Murderous” critique gets you cancelled.
Read this science story. Of course, anything tied to all the chronic illnesses, or we call them intellectual-developmental-psychiatric disabilities, is good to see how things can be mitigated (of course, the idea for both left and right elites is to say, “Hmm, useless eater, well, abort-abort.”). But this sort of story below is another form of colonizing. There are millions of people working on learning how the forever chemicals, all the hormone disrupters, all those additives-chemicals-pollutants-particulates-drugs-GMOs-et al, can cause a storm of epigenetic issues down the line, and, yes, autism spectrum disorder is just one area of massive numbers of younger and younger people developing DD-ID-PD disorders. A magnitude of 100.
You will not see these scientists looking for the genetic cause looking at all the synergistic causes of depleted sperm, wombs of wild chemical storms, none of that, of course. Nope. They are getting paid to look deep at all the causes of Autism-Autism like disorders.
An increase in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and autism has been reported in Scotland. Similar increases have been seen globally. The herbicide glyphosate was introduced in 1974 and its use is accelerating. The manufacturers claim it to be safe, but none of the Regulatory Agencies are monitoring glyphosate levels in groundwater.
By courtesy of independent researchers around the world we present evidence that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants, animals and humans, and glyphosate residues have been found in all three. Glyphosate is an endocrine-disruptor (as are many herbicides) it damages DNA and it is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer. We present graphs from the US which correlate glyphosate application and the percentage of GE soy and corn crops to the incidence and prevalence of various diseases in those on a Western diet. The Pearson’s correlation coefficients are very strong and highly significant for obesity, diabetes, autism, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, deaths from Parkinson’s, Senile Dementia and Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel disease and acute kidney failure. We present Cancer Research UK graphs of upward trends in cancer incidences between 1975 and 2009, which are in line with the US graphs.
Other consequences are gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, depression, infertility, birth defect s and other cancers. The data for the amount of non-agricultural use of glyphosate in the UK appear to be confidential. Parts of South Wales, in former mining areas, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan Balsam abound. The local Council does not hold glyphosate records. Instead it contracts out to a commercial organisation to supply industry approved vegetation management techniques. A quote from the contractor: “The glyphosate we use called round up has a hazard free label.” The level of glyphosate in a river draining from areas of Japanese knotweed was 190 parts per trillion (ppt) and local tap water was 30 ppt. These were of the order of concentrations found in a study in 2013 which showed that breast cancer cell proliferation is accelerated by glyphosate in extremely low concentrations: “potential biological levels at part per trillion (ppt) to part per billion (ppb).”
Oh, this is big, no? The Nile? Egypt and Ethiopia? You think this water story is not the issue of our times? Oh, that Artificial Sun will save us. Think water wars all over the planet:
A dispute over the Nile, the world’s longest river, is coming to a head. At stake are the lives and livelihoods of millions of people who depend on its water.
Egypt is objecting to efforts by Ethiopia to start operating a $4.8 billion dam on a major tributary of the Nile, a hydroelectric project that it hopes will power a social and economic transformation of the country, without a binding agreement that preserves Cairo’s rights to the waters.
Then, well, we get to the Zoom Doom story, the post planned pandemic story. Apple, of course, should be shut down, taken over, and the entire honchos put on that Epstein Island. Or Musk’s. Take your pick of billionaire islands. But this is the new abnormal. Working in your underwear, latte chilled, all those airplane and spider plants, and the puppy underfoot and four-pound beef-lovers pizza at the ready. These people who are threatening to leave Apple, well, I guarantee you they are dream hoarders, Hillary-Kamala lites. Believers in social distancing for life, masks on everywhere, and these are the ones who are ramming digital and cloud and satellite surveillance and AI and robotized tech up our asses.
The state of news (sic):
Apple stood its ground last week in the face of employee protest against its new requirement that they work from home only two days a week. Both the policy–which came directly from CEO Tim Cook–and Apple’s comments about it betray a striking lack of emotional intelligence. That’s a bad idea in today’s tight labor market. The approach is one no small company or startup can afford to take.
Our story begins about a month ago, when Apple announced its new return-to-the-office policy in light of widespread vaccinations and falling Covid-19 infections. In an internal email, Cook announced that, beginning in early September, employees would be required to work in the office at least three days a week. Specifically, those days would be Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Finally, the top 10 or whatever stories, prompted by my friend, Joe the Farmer from Merced:
How long will it be before we start seeing adds for front end Protest Protector guard bars for F-150’s, Chevy Silverado’s and the Amerikaner favorite, Dodge Ram? What good fascist could possibly pass up the opportunity to keep protesters blood and body parts from damaging their radiators and having expensive body shop repair bills? I’m sure some enterprising asshole is already marketing “Protest Protectors” as I write this. Only in Amerika. The land of opportunity.
He was reacting to a Counterpunch story, pulling this quote from it below. But Paul Street needed to research the term, Amerikaner — “A round cakelike pastry of flour, butter, and lemon juice, with a sugar glaze, most often plain white, but sometimes chocolate or half-white/half-chocolate.”
Talk about “fascism with American characteristics”!
“In the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests,” VOX’s Cameron Peters noted last April, “Republican lawmakers are advancing a number of new anti-protest measures at the state level – including multiple bills that specifically make it easier for drivers to run down protesters… If the recent spate of anti-protest measures in Florida, Iowa, and Oklahoma is disturbing on its face, however, context does little to make it better. There is a specific history in the US of the far right using cars as weapons, and it’s not hard to see how bills like the one that is now law in Oklahoma might only make things worse…The most notable example is from August 2017: Heather Heyer, 32, was struck and killed and at least 19 others were injured when neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. rammed a crowd of counter protesters in Charlottesville. Fields has since been sentenced to life in prison…But it’s more than that single incident. According to Ari Weil, the deputy research director for the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, there were at least 72 incidents of cars driving into protesters over a relatively short span in 2020, from May 27 through July 7… Examples aren’t hard to find. There’s even a Wikipedia page specifically dedicated to ‘vehicle-ramming incidents during George Floyd protests.’ And as Weil explained in an interview with Vox’s Alex Ward last year, ‘there’s an online environment that for years has been celebrating and encouraging these types of horrendous attacks’. (emphasis added). From Iowa Nice to Iowa Nazi: a Report from the Friendly Fascist Heartland
These are examples in USA and UK of how we help the sick, tired, overworked, the useless eaters, useless breeders, useless breathers, useless resters: “OH, JOE — The White European and White United Snakes of America and Klanada, they are all worthless scum, and we are useless breathers, useless eaters, useless breeders, useless one and all, unless there are fines/levies/penalties/tickets/violations/tolls/taxes/triple taxations/surcharges/fees-to gouge the poor and lower classes to death in their operating systems.”
Sold under the pretence of a quest for optimising well-being and ‘happiness’, capitalism thrives on the exploitation of peoples and the environment. What really matters is the strive to maintain viable profit margins. The prevailing economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption and needs a certain level of annual GDP growth for large firms to make sufficient profit.
But at some point, markets become saturated, demand rates fall and overproduction and overaccumulation of capital becomes a problem. In response, we have seen credit markets expand and personal debt increase to maintain consumer demand as workers’ wages have been squeezed, financial and real estate speculation rise (new investment markets), stock buy backs and massive bail outs and subsidies (public money to maintain the viability of private capital) and an expansion of militarism (a major driving force for many sectors of the economy).
We have also witnessed systems of production abroad being displaced for global corporations to then capture and expand markets in foreign countries.
The old normal
Much of what is outlined above is inherent to capitalism. But the 1980s was a crucial period that helped set the framework for where we find ourselves today.
Remember when the cult of the individual was centre stage? It formed part of the Reagan-Thatcher rhetoric of the ‘new normal’ of 1980s neoliberalism.
In the UK, the running down of welfare provision was justified by government-media rhetoric about ‘individual responsibility’, reducing the role of the state and the need to ‘stand on your own two feet’. The selling off of public assets to profiteering corporations was sold to the masses on the basis of market efficiency and ‘freedom of choice’.
The state provision of welfare, education, health services and the role of the public sector was relentlessly undermined by neoliberal dogma and the creed that the market (global corporations) constituted the best method for supplying human needs.
Thatcher’s stated mission was to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit by rolling back the ‘nanny state’. She wasted little time in crushing the power of the trade unions and privatising key state assets.
Despite her rhetoric, she did not actually reduce the role of the state. She used its machinery differently, on behalf of business. Neither did she unleash the ‘spirit of entrepreneurialism’. Economic growth rates under her were similar as in the 1970s, but a concentration of ownership occurred and levels of inequality rocketed.
Margaret Thatcher was well trained in perception management, manipulating certain strands of latent populist sentiment and prejudice. Her free market, anti-big-government platitudes were passed off to a section of the public that was all too eager to embrace them as a proxy for remedying all that was wrong with Britain. For many, what were once regarded as the extreme social and economic policies of the right became entrenched as the common sense of the age.
Thatcher’s policies destroyed a fifth of Britain’s industrial base in just two years alone. The service sector, finance and banking were heralded as the new drivers of the economy, as much of Britain’s manufacturing sector was out-sourced to cheap labour economies.
Under Thatcher, employees’ share of national income was slashed from 65% to 53%. Long gone are many of the relatively well-paid manufacturing jobs that helped build and sustain the economy. In their place, the country has witnessed the imposition of a low taxation regime and low-paid and insecure ‘service sector’ jobs (no-contract work, macjobs, call centre jobs – many of which soon went abroad) as well as a real estate bubble, credit card debt and student debt, which helped to keep the economy afloat.
However, ultimately, what Thatcher did was – despite her rhetoric of helping small-scale businesses and wrapping herself in the national flag – facilitate the globalisation process by opening the British economy to international capital flows and allowing free rein for global finance and transnational corporations.
Referring to the beginning of this article, it is clear whose happiness and well-being counts most and whose does not matter at all as detailed by David Rothkopf in his 2008 book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making. Members of the superclass belong to the megacorporation-interlocked, policy-building elites of the world and come from the highest echelons of finance, industry, the military, government and other shadow elites. These are the people whose interests Margaret Thatcher was serving.
These people set the agendas at the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg, G-7, G-20, NATO, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.
And let us not forget the various key think tanks and policy making arenas like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institute and Chatham House as well as the World Economic Forum (WEF), where sections of the global elite forge policies and strategies and pass them to their political handmaidens.
Driven by the vision of its influential executive chairman Klaus Schwab, the WEF is a major driving force for the dystopian ‘great reset’, a tectonic shift that intends to change how we live, work and interact with each other.
The new normal
The great reset envisages a transformation of capitalism, resulting in permanent restrictions on fundamental liberties and mass surveillance as livelihoods and entire sectors are sacrificed to boost the monopoly and hegemony of pharmaceutical corporations, high-tech/big data giants, Amazon, Google, major global chains, the digital payments sector, biotech concerns, etc.
Under the cover of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the great reset is being rolled out under the guise of a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ in which smaller enterprises are to be driven to bankruptcy or bought up by monopolies. Economies are being ‘restructured’ and many jobs and roles will be carried out by AI-driven technology.
The WEF says the public will ‘rent’ everything they require: stripping the right of ownership under the guise of a ‘green economy’ underpinned by the rhetoric of ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘climate emergency’.
At the same time new (‘green product’) markets are being created and, on the back of COVID, fresh opportunities for profit extraction are opening up abroad. For instance, World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet after the various lockdowns that have been implemented in response to the Covid-19 crisis. This ‘help’ will be on condition that neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded.
Many people waste no time in referring to this as some kind of ‘Marxist’ or ‘communist’ takeover of the planet because a tiny elite will be dictating policies. This has nothing to do with Marxism. An authoritarian capitalist elite – supported by their political technocrats – aims to secure even greater control of the global economy. It will no longer be a (loosely labelled) ‘capitalism’ based on ‘free’ markets and competition (not that those concepts ever really withstood proper scrutiny). Economies will be monopolised by global players, not least e-commerce platforms run by the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Facebook and Google and their multi-billionaire owners.
The so-called ‘green economy’ will fit in with the notion of ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘climate emergency’. A bunch of billionaires and their platforms will control every aspect of the value chain. Of course, they themselves will not reduce their own consumption or get rid of their personal jets, expensive vehicles, numerous exclusive homes or ditch their resource gobbling lifestyles. Reduced consumption is meant only for the masses.
They will not only control and own data about consumption but also control and own data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved. Independent enterprises will disappear or become incorporated into the platforms acting as subservient cogs. Elected representatives will be mere technocratic overseers of these platforms and the artificial intelligence tools that plan and determine all of the above.
The lockdowns and restrictions we have seen since March 2020 have helped boost the bottom line of global chains and the e-commerce giants and have cemented their dominance. Many small and medium-size independent enterprises have been pushed towards bankruptcy. At the same time, fundamental rights have been eradicated under COVID19 government measures.
Politicians in countries throughout the world have been using the rhetoric of the WEF’s great reset, talking of the need to ‘build back better’ for the ‘new normal’. They are all on point. Hardly a coincidence. Essential to this ‘new normal’ is the compulsion to remove individual liberties and personal freedoms given that, in the ‘green new normal’, unfettered consumption will no longer be an option for the bulk of the population.
It has long been the case that a significant part of the working class has been deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ – three decades ago, such people were sacrificed on the altar of neo-liberalism. They lost their jobs due to automation and offshoring. They have had to rely on meagre state welfare and run-down public services.
But what we are now seeing is the possibility of hundreds of millions around the world being robbed of their livelihoods. Forget about the benign sounding ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and its promised techno-utopia. What we are witnessing right now seems to be a major restructuring of capitalist economies.
With AI and advanced automation of production, distribution and service provision (3D printing/manufacturing, drone technology, driverless vehicles, lab grown food, farmerless farms, robotics, etc), a mass labour force – and therefore mass education, mass welfare, mass healthcare provision and entire systems that were in place to reproduce labour for capitalist economic activity – will no longer be required. As economic activity is restructured, labour’s relationship to capital is being transformed.
In a reorganised system that no longer needs to sell the virtues of excessive individualism (consumerism), the levels of political and civil rights and freedoms we have been used to will not be tolerated.
Neoliberalism might have reached its logical conclusion (for now). Making trade unions toothless, beating down wages to create unimaginable levels of inequality and (via the dismantling of Bretton Woods) affording private capital so much freedom to secure profit and political clout under the guise of ‘globalisation’ would inevitably lead to one outcome.
A concentration of wealth, power, ownership and control at the top with large sections of the population on state-controlled universal basic income and everyone subjected to the discipline of an emerging biosecurity surveillance state designed to curtail liberties ranging from freedom of movement and assembly to political protest and free speech.
Perception management is, of course, vital for pushing through all of this. Rhetoric about ‘liberty’ and ‘individual responsibility’ worked a treat in the 1980s to help bring about a massive heist of wealth. This time, it is a public health scare and ‘collective responsibility’ as part of a strategy to help move towards near-monopolistic control over economies by a handful of global players.
And the perception of freedom is also being managed. Once vaccinated many will begin to feel free. Freer than under lockdown. But not really free at all.
What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
― John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
We used to research the cup of coffee. School. Mostly community colleges, but at two universities — UT-El Paso and Gonzaga. A lot of evening classes I taught. Even on military compounds, and in prisons, and in the bowels of twin plants in Juarez.
In the old days, sleeves rolled up, adults and young people in classrooms, computers, paper and white boards at our ready, would get comfortable and uncomfortable. It was not an easy class, those Composition 101 and 102 mandatory (sometimes ONLY) writing classes for college students (I am so for mandatory 12 classes on writing, thinking, media, rhetoric, propaganda, etc.). Food and drinks, music during essay writing, and face to face consternation and confrontation. Cooperation.
That cup of coffee from the earliest look at where that bean came from originally intrigued the students. Who would have known (we talked about the Colombian exchange, the Doctrine of Discovery, food, animals, other things that came to the Imperialists). Think of the spice islands on steroids:
The original domesticated coffee plant is said to have been from Harar, and the native population is thought to be derived from Ethiopia with distinct nearby populations in Sudan and Kenya. Coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly related to religious practices.
Fun stuff, this sort of research and writing, and deep dive. We turned these assignments into poetry, poster illustrations, research papers on the diseases of coffee, on the power of coffee like so many thousands of other foods and products, crossing oceans. Many a product of empire and racism, and the coffee paper also turned into “Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate?” essays.
In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. In 2004, the Ivorian First Lady’s entourage allegedly kidnapped and killed a journalist reporting on government corruption in its profitable cocoa industry. In 2010, Ivorian government authorities detained three newspaper journalists after they published an article exposing government corruption in the cocoa sector. The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery. (Source)
So much has happened since I first hit the streets as a newspaper journalist in 1977, and so much has changed since I started teaching college classes in research writing and writing and journalism (1983). The “see, speak, hear no evil” paradigm is the destiny of capitalists. It is the way of who we are every waking nanosecond of our lives. Boycott Divest Sanction my ass. This is where I also pretzel myself into contradiction after contradiction. I should be on an island, or just on 20 acres I have near Mount Adams. Eating mushrooms and stitching moss and bark clothing.
Capitalism is the cancer, virus, prion, the tapeworm, the carrot and the stick. It is the blood sucker of all concepts. Slavery is Capitalism. We talked about this, in so many ways, not always me railing overtly with my anti-Capitalist thesis. I would bring to class small business owners, restaurant owners, ex-military, nonprofit directors, friends who were homeless, living in garages, artists, and dissidents of many kinds. Another thing that is DEAD in the water.
Now, you have to get people vetted and approved to come to a classroom. This is the sickness of our lefty culture. The rightwing has already played this card, too. “Why the hell are you bringing a person from Planned Parenthood to your class? Illegal. Stop. I’m calling the president.”
That coffee, now, looking at a cup, the ecological footprint, the energy used to get a cup of coffee to say, my Spokane students. Because Spokane loves its coffee. The amount of water used to grow a cup of coffee. We’d look at the coffee in Central America, or Colombia. Where that plant is grown. What was bulldozed to bring that plantation there. Who works the finca? Which indigenous group of non-Spanish speakers in Guatemala work these plantation, tends the bushes, picks and dries the cherries. Species lost, pesticides used. Water diverted. And, food crops denied.
Again, young and older adults, blown away in my classes, since I was teaching them to look deeper at any number of topics, and develop critical thinking and discourse skills, in whatever watered down version I’d get with many students who were coming to college ill-prepared to really write “essays.” Variations on a theme. Just the cup of liquid, first grown and processed in poor countries, takes about 38 gallons of water to grow.
We’d try and research more and more on the life-cycle of a ceramic cup or Starbucks thermos, and the life cycle and life span of a coffee maker. Embedded energy, waste, mining, slave warehouses, metals, all that fossil fuel to move those metals, cook them, mill them, ship them around the world. Sure, we could look at at sack of dried but not roasted coffee cherries coming from the Guatemala Highlands, and then where it gets shipped by boat, and then moved by truck, and then the actual cleaning and roasting of the coffee. Packaging, and then, that journey is crossing back and forth, over land, in the air, over seas.
The assignment blows many students’ minds, as it should. In the classroom, and I’d bring in a coffee person, with coffee and snacks, and she’d talk about farms in Mexico and Africa she’s visited. Talk about the flavor, the various types of coffees.
We’d look at Fair Trade, Beyond Fair Trade, Shade Grown and the like. Socially responsible coffee. I’d talk about how Vietnam — where I had gone and worked — was cutting more and more forests down to grow coffee. Coffee pests and diseases, and soil enhancements with fertilizers. The entire life cycle analysis of as many things we could extract from the coffee history and production, well, it blows students’ minds, and it only works in person. Don’t fool yourself with the fucking mouse, keyboard and Zoom camera/mic.
We need to talk about the environmental and human and ecological costs of plantation, mountain-razing coffee:
This pathetic Zoom and remote learning (sic) formula is the deadening of the brain. Recall, Americans already have three quarters of their brains (or more) colonized by lies, propaganda, hate, myth, plain stupidity, largely from terrible K12 (prison with smiling teachers) and all the marketing, and a government whose job is to fleece the masses for the company men, and fleecing includes culling thinking and deep analysis.
All this work, for coffee? Nope, because the students then do some of their own research on any manner of things. Cause and effect, solutions, pro-con, classification, expository, digital rhetoric, and deeper position papers. Research, and while we share sources and do all sorts of things at home, in groups, the big thing is getting the classroom energized, talking, arguing. Debate every minute. We even meet out of class in a, well, coffee shop, and coffee roaster.
Thinking about origins and perspectives. This is a full-time job as an instructor, in the class with all sorts of human beings there taking in and reacting to the work, the talks, the learning and the discourse. This Zoom shit is the death of humanity as I knew it. Radical Pedagogy, 2003 article!
Always with food, something in the class, mostly evening classes.
In 1960, the University of Missouri published a short “Guide for Television Teachers.” Across the country, over 100 different colleges offered nearly 500 televised courses to a half a million students. So professors needed pointers about the best way to teach in this burgeoning new medium.
“Relax,” the Missouri guide underlined. “Try to be yourself.” Male professors should wear “conservative” ties, the guide added, while women should avoid necklines or hemlines that might “cause discomfort or embarrassment” if they leaned over a counter or sat in a low chair. Once they were properly attired, they could loosen up and let their real character shine through. “Remember that the TV camera projects your natural personality best,” the guide urged, “and the more relaxed and natural that you are, the better you will reach your viewers.”
Who are these children forced to work the cocoa plantations of the Ivory Coast?
Shit, those were the days. And here I am, suffering at age 64. I am feeling the burn, the beat-down burn, of more and more people around me stupid, mean, see-speak-hear not evil when it comes to this fucked up Empire, This War Machine. Those were the good old days? Is that my new mindset and refrain?
It is the contradiction to be an American totally — North American, Canadian or citizen of the USA. Every waking and sleeping minute we are covering the world in blood, exploitation, penury, death. Pain and misery is the way of the land. The hollow media, the celebrities in music and film, oh even more viral than the politicians. They are the elite, or the elite’s house boys or house girls.
“So what can we do but go with the flow? Just let it go. They have all the power, so just live your life as best you can. It’s not that bad. If we don’t bomb the world, steal the minerals, colonize space with weapons, then someone else will. What about China, Russia? I want a family, a job, and just a chance to live on weekends and kayak and smell the moose dung.”
I am down — really depressed — because of what that cup of coffee assignment represents: I am old. I am no good as a teacher because it is a digital and PC and cancel culture study body. I am down because most of the people I would have worked with years ago on political issues, as artists, well, they are either dead, or brains deadened by the struggle and the losing. I am depressed because that cup of coffee assignment is not lauded. The entire Western Civilization or Western Culture is in various forms of mental illness. That illness grouping includes a million wrong ways to medicate or mediate the illnesses of the minds.
I am not that, but I am alone, it seems. Now, the coffee, and where it comes from. Do I invest in Folgers Coffee (a division of J.M Smucker Company)? This is what’s depressing me now — my spouse and I are moving some money saved into some investments. Now I have to decide how to put some of it away, or as they say, to invest it. Because there are no interest rates, the average person can’t go to a state bank or any institution and put money into a municipal bond to do some good for society and make a few percentage points above zero. What’s wrong with 4 percent or 5 percent interest? That is the crime, zero or negative interest rates. Criminal. Imagine, there is not one thing on planet Earth, planet Wall Street, planet Retirement Fund which is not heavily tainted with DDDD: death, disease, destruction and destitution. We have been relooking at Socially Responsible Mutual Funds, or ESG’s, and the picture was never pretty:
Oh, you can say, “Broker, find me a fund that isn’t into war, weapons, mining, prisons, guns, germs, exploitation, banks, insurance companies.” It is virtually impossible. You might not want Walmart stock in the mutual fund, but then Amazon and Facebook and Kraft Foods might be in it. Microsoft, Boeing. Any amount of honor or commitment to NOT engaging in investing that gives money to the murderers, the exploiters, the ocean-soil-jungle-forest-wetland-river killers, it is all lost because they all are wrapped up into one big fat thievery corporation — BlackRock and Blackstone and the top 100 banks, hedge funds, and so many other “if-you-can-make-6-or-12-percent-on-yearly-return” investment products are so embedded in the master slavers in Fortune 1000 circles, and even within the 10,000 largest corporations.
[Modern-Day Robber Baron: The Sins of Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman]
The system is rigged for brokers to use brokerage houses, big ones, and those fees — buy, sell, trade, manage — more money and profits made for NOT producing one potato or bicycle. Yet, MBAs and the others in this crew believe that they don’t want their precious children to work the slave fields of Ivory Coast, or to be soccer ball stitchers, or to be at the wrong end of a toxic waste discharge hose. But invest in Hershey’s, or Nike, or Smithfield, well, out of sight, out of mind. Yep, they would not want their precious families bombed with the amazing number of components tied to an amazing number of businesses wrapped up in one missile. Screws, wires, capacitors, metal shrouding, telemetry, paint, seals, nuts and bolts, precision metal parts, tubes and coils and electronic guidance systems and batteries and, well, you get the picture. But goddamn, you can make bank on investing in defense (sic) companies because there is an endless demand by governments to have that shit in stock. We the taxpayer pay for those Hellfire’s:
Lockheed Martin, Boeing (previous second source), and Northrop Grumman (seeker only for AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire) Unit cost US$150,000 (FY 2021)!
It’s much more than just those three companies making bank for these missiles. There is an entire contingent (armies) of companies and service economies tied to this murder weapon:
In the past, I have studied mutual funds I have invested in, to squirrel away some savings, and the picture is pretty ugly. There are no SRI’s that are nothing more than just market washing. Socially Responsible Investing, NOT:
Look at what Warren Buffett owns as part of Berkshire Hathaway. Products — Diversified investments, property and casualty insurance, Utilities, Restaurants, Food processing, Aerospace, Media, Toys, Automotive, Sporting goods, Consumer products, Internet, Real estate, Railroad
So the average Joe and Jane, if they get a mutual fund or two for some long-term investment, this is the reality — you might be a social justice warrior, an anti-racist campaigner, an anti-war proponent, an environmentalist, community crusader, a socialist, an anti-capitalist, but if you stick your toe just a bit into the pond for minimal investments, just to protect a few thousand dollars here and there, this is what you get — money into the pockets of madmen: school to prison pipeline experts, war lords, surveillance capitalists, drug pushers, bad loan chieftains, medical fraudsters, real estate thugs, polluters, mountaintop removers, river toxifiers, land thieves, propaganda priests.
I am so serious about this now — where does the money go, and which company is being supported by stockholders shoveling money into their companies? Look at the union busters, at the price gougers, at the political lobbying arms, all these giant corporations and their networks of bunkos!
You can turn blue in the face decrying Monsanto (Bayer) for its pesticide poisons or Exxon for climate change propaganda or Sackler/Purdue Pharmacy for opioid addictions, but if you have a mutual fund, there is a chance that somehow those companies are entwined somewhere in the formula of a “strong mutual fund.”
The corporate giants are also demanding that Congress allow the repatriation of about $2.5 trillion stashed abroad without paying more than 5% tax. They say the money would be used to grow the economy and create jobs. Last time CEOs promised this result in 2004, Congress approved, and then was double-crossed. The companies spent the bulk on stock buybacks, their own pay raises and some dividend increases.
There are more shenanigans. With low interest rates that are deductible, companies actually borrow money to finance their stock buybacks. If the stock market tanks, these companies will have a self-created debt load to handle. A former Citigroup executive, Richard Parsons, has expressed worry about a “massively manipulated” stock market which “scares the crap” out of him.
Banks that pay you near zero interest on your savings announced on June 28, 2017 the biggest single buyback in history – a $92.8 billion extraction. Drug companies who say their sky-high drug prices are needed to fund R&D. But between 2006 and 2017, 18 drug company CEOs spent a combined staggering $516 billion on buybacks and dividends – more than their inflated claims of spending for R&D. — Nader
We all are sinners in capitalism — just paying our tax bill: death and destruction raining down on Palestinians, for example:
“Seven deadly sins: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Oh, we all think we have found the formula for living in this insane and murderous country. Oh, we have to put nose to the grindstone. Follow the leaders. Get the jab. Do as you are told. You home is not your castle. There are no 40 acres and a mule. No handouts. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Pinch your nose, cover your eyes, plug your ears, muffle your mouth!
So, you end up throwing in the towel — no purity test, no selective boycotting of this or that product or service. No true anti-Imperialist leaning, when tax filing time comes. Nothing free in this un-Democratic land of thieves, murderers and thugs. Almost every step you take in America is full of landmines, cow pies, toxic puddles and electrified fences. The horizon is one theater of the absurd after another. The amount of nonsense and self-congratulatory verbiage from all manner of people who think they are enlightened or vaunted or above the dirty, scab-sucking, ripoff fray of capitalism, well, that is the self-delusion, the big lie.
So, the role of k12, and of higher education? One of the key foundations for a society — good education, robust, and deep learning, deep thinking, and systems thinking growing. Under capitalism and consumerism and conformist ideology that is US of Amnesia, there are so many broken things about face to face education, and I have written tons on this. Taking it to Zoom, to televised classes, remote learning, well, all the bad gets funneled into this new normal-abnormal.
In addition to education, colleges and universities provide indoctrination in the values and shared beliefs that our society deems important. These commonly shared values and tenets must be instilled, importantly beginning in grade school and before (the Jesuit boast, variously stated, is “Give me the first seven years and you can have all the rest”), and continued and reinforced through high school and college.
It is at the university where young men and women of indoctrinated conviction are most typically apt and able to respond to what is going on in the world around them, perhaps even take to the streets. Indoctrination can be overt or subtle. — George Heitmann
From left to right: Vijay Prashad, Fred M’membe, Diego Sequera, and Erika Farías in Caracas, 2019. Photograph taken by Yeimi Salinas.
On 12 August 2021, the people of Zambia will vote to elect a new president, who will be the seventh person elected to the office since Zambia won its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 if the incumbent loses. The incumbent, President Edgar Lungu, is facing a strong challenge from Fred M’membe, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party Zambia.
M’membe knows the importance of a challenge. As the editor of The Post since its creation in 1991, M’membe has long faced malicious harassment and political persecution. The voice of M’membe’s The Post sizzled with truth-telling; silenced in 2016, it was reborn as The Mast.
In 2009, an editorial in The Post described how, despite decades of independence, Zambia remained in the claws of an unjust world system. ‘Economically speaking, Zambia is the tip of the tail of the global dog,’ wrote The Post. ‘When the dog is happy, we find ourselves merrily flicking from side to side; when the dog is miserable, we find ourselves coiled up in a dark and smelly place’. No wonder that every government from Frederick Chiluba (1991-2002) to sitting President Edgar Lungu has tried to muzzle the paper and its editor, who cast a spotlight on the awful surrender of the Zambian political elite to multinational corporations and foreign bondholders. Now the editor of The Post is a presidential candidate.
Mapopa Manda (Zambia), Visionary, 2019.
Fred M’membe is a humble man who demurs about his presidential run through a warm smile. ‘Ours is a collective leadership’, he tells me of the Socialist Party, which was launched in March 2018. The manifesto of the Party pledges to reverse Zambia’s slide into privatisation and de-industrialisation, social processes that have damaged social life in the country and created a sense of despondency amongst the masses. A reading of that manifesto in these COVID-19 times is chilling: ‘Due to the poor state of water and sanitation, urban areas are prone to water-borne diseases that break out almost every year’, with water scarce and half the population without connection to sanitation systems.
The neoliberal policies pushed since the end of the government of Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda (1964-1991), have been catastrophic for Zambians. These policies, M’membe told me, ‘are creating an enormous time bomb in our country. We shouldn’t resign ourselves to hunger, unemployment, squalor, disease, ignorance, hopelessness, and despair. Struggling for a better Zambia means, in part, to build a better Zambia’.
Lutanda Mwamba (Zambia), Chuma Grocery, 1993.
Zambia is a rich country with a poor population. Zambia’s poverty rate is estimated between 40% and 60% (the country only has statistics up to 2015). A World Bank household survey conducted in early June 2020 found that half of the families who relied on agriculture saw a substantial loss of income and 82% of families that earned income from non-farm businesses saw their livelihoods shrink. The World Bank found that remittance flows into Zambia also precipitously declined.
Because of the drop in income, households reduced their consumption of goods, especially food. In 2019, before the pandemic, the Global Hunger Index found the hunger situation in Zambia to be ‘alarming’. But there is no reliable data on the growth of hunger caused by the pandemic, which prevented the Index from properly assessing the situation. Instead, it assessed the situation as ‘serious’. ‘Zambia’, M’membe told me, ‘stands at the brink of a major catastrophe’.
In November 2020, Zambia defaulted on a $42.5 million payment towards a Eurobond. President Lungu’s government has been talking to the IMF ever since, hoping to get a bailout without stringent austerity measures. Such austerity measures – including cuts in public services that the country can ill afford during the pandemic – would jeopardise Lungu’s chances in the August 2021 elections. In early March, the IMF’s staff visit concluded that ‘significant progress’ has been made toward an ‘appropriate policy package’, but no details or timetable have been released.
Mulenga Chafilwa (Zambia), Drip Drip Drip, 2014.
A month before the IMF team met with Zambian officials, the country’s minister of mines Richard Musukwa announced that the country’s copper production had reached 882,061 tonnes. This was an increase by 10.8% from 2019 figures, a ‘historical high’ according to Musukwa. Given the move to electric cars and to more high-tech appliances, copper wiring is certain to be in high demand, which is why Zambia hopes to produce more than 1 million tonnes a year in the next few years. Copper prices are inching upwards ($4 per pound) toward the highs of 2011 ($4.54 per pound). There is plenty of money to be made from copper, particularly for the Zambian people.
Four companies dominate Zambian copper: Barrick Lumwana of Canada’s Barrick Gold, FQM Kansanshi of Canada’s First Quantum, Mopani of Switzerland’s Glencore, and Konkola Copper Mines of the UK’s Vedanta. These are major mining companies that leech Zambia of its resources through creative means such as transfer mispricing and bribery. In 2019, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research spoke to Gyekye Tanoh, head of the Political Economy Unit at the Third World Network-Africa based in Accra (Ghana), about the situation of ‘resource sovereignty’. His comments on Zambia merit re-reading:
Because Zambia is now utterly reliant on copper exports, the international copper price movements have a preponderant and distorting effect on the exchange rate of the Kwacha [Zambia’s currency]. This distortion and the limited revenue from copper exports impacts the competitiveness and viability of other, non-copper exports as a result of the fluctuations of the Kwacha. The fluctuations also impact the social sector. A study done in 2018 showed that changes in the exchange rates oscillated between -11.1% to +13.4% in the period between 1997 and 2008. The loss of funds from donors to the Ministry of Health in Zambia amounted to US $13.4 million or $1.1 million per year. Because of the collapse of the Kwacha between 2015 and 2016, per capita health expenditure in Zambia fell from $44 (2015) to $23 (2016).
M’membe told me that poverty levels in the Copperbelt Province, the heart of Zambia’s wealth, are very high. It is striking that 60% of the children in this copper-rich area cannot read. ‘Foreign multinational corporations have been the major beneficiaries’, he explained. A cozy relationship with the Zambian elites enables these firms to pay low taxes and take their profits out of the country, as well as to use techniques such as outsourcing and subcontracting to skirt Zambia’s labour laws. This industry, M’membe said, ‘still operates along colonial lines’. Indeed, in Phyllis Deane’s Colonial Social Accounting (1953), she shows that in Northern Rhodesia – Zambia’s name during colonial rule – two-thirds of the profits were taken out of the territory to pay foreign shareholders, while two-thirds of the remainder went to the European workers and the minuscule leftovers went to the vast majority, the African miners.
‘Reliance on non-renewable resources like minerals for growth is, by definition, unsustainable’, M’membe reflected. Any government in Zambia will have to rely on copper – only a third of it mined to date – until the country’s economy and society are properly diversified. The Socialist Party has proposed a range of policies to harness the copper resources, from cutting better deals with the current owners to full-scale nationalisation (a policy that is currently being imposed on Zambia, as First Quantum and Glencore have cut back on their investments, forcing the government to step in). M’membe laid out seven points for a just mining policy for the immediate period:
The socialist government will declare minerals as strategic metals and provide a protective legal environment for their extraction. The export of concentrates will be outlawed, and the marketing of minerals will be coordinated by the state.
Zambian labour will have their power strengthened by laws and by political will.
Mining firms will have to source at least 30% of their industrial inputs from Zambia, which would encourage manufacturing.
Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Limited-Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH), a state-owned corporation, will take a controlling interest in all new mines.
Resource rent or variable income tax will be introduced to secure additional mineral rents.
All proceeds from mineral sales will first be credited in Bank of Zambia accounts – an essential aspect of currency and balance of payments management and stability.
Mines will have to adhere to state-of-the-art environmental technologies, practices, and standards.
Beyond this, the socialist government will encourage the creation of miners’ cooperatives, particularly for manganese, which is cheaper to mine.
Mwamba Mulangala (Zambia), Political Strategies, 2009.
There is seriousness of purpose in the Socialist Party’s agenda for Zambia. M’membe travels the length and breadth of his country speaking about this agenda. ‘We should win because of what we believe in’, he tells me. He believes that every child in Zambia should be able to read and should be able to go to sleep without hunger pangs. This is a belief that should be shared by every human being.
I remember a long time ago, finding a Life (or Look) magazine at a swap meet in Arizona, on the outskirts of Tucson. Man, those were the days – 1977. Every sort of snow bird and desert rat out there swapping any number of a million things: from shrunken and powdered dog testicles (for the prostate issues of old men) to silver dollar certificates, from six shooters to bleached out badger bones; dream catchers and gold panning equipment; everything you could imagine, it was out there somewhere in the hundreds of stalls.
The Life story was about this crusty guy, who sailed by himself, maybe circumvented the globe. In any case, I don’t have that old issue within reach, but I do recall this fellow who faced gales, isolation, dead calms, no radio contact, hunger, talking about the hernia he had to deal with onboard. Everyday, he did a headstand on the mainsail mast, to let all the guts go back down so the innards wouldn’t be protruding as much. He took a selfie of himself, upside down, with his feet and ankles held in by some loose rope he rigged.
You/We/They Are What They/You/We Eat
I’m not proselytizing some macho moment here, but rather pointing out the mettle, man, of people then, and, well, now, but also how rotting the USA celebrity cult is. From all the pardons the Orange Accused Rapist has filed through, to all the murders he personally is overseeing at the federal level.
All those celebrities and politicos and the like, either the Proud Boys and their Co-Morbidities of obesity, depression, diabetes, hypertension, or the Gestapo police and their shoot-first-cover-up-later mental retardation. I’m in social services again, as a failed novelist, Working with mostly young adults trying to prep them for jobs in the community. All those skills and insider things. People living with I/DD – intellectual and developmental disabilities. Many with co-occurring challenges – one client has fetal alcohol syndrome (was in the womb with mother drinking and drugging). The outcome is autism spectrum, anxiety disorder, oppositional defiance, paranoia, executive function control issues, and so many more DSM-V labeled “things” happening with her – including physical ailments (thanks to mommy) and a truckload of learning disabilities. Try having a job with one of those “disabilities.” I’ve thrown in as a social worker, helping just-released prisoners navigate a place like Portland, Oregon. Ten or 20 years in solitary, and, bam, out into the community, and then, bam, three months to get their proverbial shit together: housing, job, a thousand classes forced down their throats as part of the conditions of release.
Black people have much higher rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes and strokes than white people do, and they develop those chronic conditions up to 10 years earlier. Studies link these health problems to stress. The unique, unrelenting strain caused by racism can alter a body’s normal functioning until it starts to wear down. John Henrys, who battle with an unequal system as they try to get ahead in life, bear the consequences in their bodies. “The stress,” James said, “is going to be far more overwhelming than it has a human right to be.”
There is no way that the thousands of people I have met over the years – as teacher, journalist, radio host, activist – could survive those prisoner blues or that sailor’s physical predicament or the life and times of a person with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder.
And I am thinking about the elites, the stem-cell sucking Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk or Trump and Company, the lot of them, all in the houses of congress and the senate and those east coast graduates of those Ivy League Schools of the Americas. They may know the legal and political and economic tools for killing and maiming and destroying, but not one of those titans could last a day in the joint. Not one of them. Or homeless on the coast, with daily gales and tourists who call the cops for just one evil glare.
No Safety Nets for the Eighty Percenters; I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
And here I am, almost 64, in between health insurance coverage (this is the American way – new job, 90- day vetting period before coverage, and alas, what the fuck happens if something happens in the interim?). Imagine, you work your ass off, and it takes the evil system of capitalism to get a guy covered for health insurance!
This is why America and any other capitalist shit hole that demands slave wages and slavery and dead-end and shit jobs while the 10 Percent and then the other 10 Percent go their merry ways down to the investment houses, it is, definitely, a killer society. The language, the bridging, the lexicon and grammar, all of that, they are coming from complete two different places when one considers a precarious worker – college educated too, multiple times – and a retired couple in a nice big house all to themselves. The couple is worried about maximizing at least 12 percent profits on their investments, while the precarious couple is just working to, what, save money, beat the body and mind down, until what?
no state bank or credit union
no national health service
no progressive taxation system
no community free drop-in clinics
no community farms/gardens
no public transportation
no public amenities
no intergenerational gatherings
no leadership and governance
plenty of pollution, predation, precarity
You’ve heard all of this before. Here, another aside tying into this screed: So, just a few days ago, I braved the gales along the Oregon Coast. King tides. Days of rain. The beaches were full of logs, and the rivers coming from Highway 101 were a few feet deep and 20 feet across.
All my outdoor and military training went out the window – instead of getting my hiking boots wet, I opted to climb a log jam in lashing rain. Climb and climb, until, yep, not a senior moment, but a slip on a huge log jammed cedar. Bam. I did a backward fall, like a swan dive in reverse, and, yep, a perfectly large limb, pointing straight up, ready for my right side.
Ten feet down this log jam/ gnarled collection of cool trees and logs and limbs and snags got me.
The problem was I went down, 10 feet, and, bam. I took the three second rule, then got up, looked for blood on my head, and proceeded to climb out of the crisscrossing logs, as I ended up wet from the crotch down anyways in rapids of tannin-rich fresh water going to sea.
I did a mile down the beach, and, reversed course, and then things started throbbing. As is the case, a day or two later, and the pain is hard.
I live in Lincoln County, a very rural locale on the coast of Oregon. The hospital system is Samaritan, and, I have zero idea if my insurance has lapsed (since I get all these fucking notices that the deadline to enroll in health insurance is coming up).
No pissing blood. Good. No bruising. Bad or good. Pain when I laugh (lots to laugh about with Biden-Bumbler and Butt-Lick Trump in the news) or move sideways.
Everyone, from my spouse to my daughter are admonishing me to go to the ER, to the doctor, get an x-ray.
Do readers really have that memo yet at how the for-profit hospital-medical system is the reason Covid-19 has taken that toll, what, 19 percent higher rate of deaths in USA for 2020 than in the year 2019, not all attributed to the DARPA-Fort Detrick mutated bat virus concocted in several labs. Attributed to the failure of private for gouging medical care (sic) and the number of people who were told – “Wait on that heart ailment, no CAT scans today, etc., etc.”
Death By a Thousand Bills-Fines-Surcharges-Taxes-Levies-Loans
Suicide by delayed health care. Suicide by lockdowns. Suicide by the news news news.
This is North America – my choice is to go into a hospital and then have this or that test, this or that specialist yammer on, and, then, what, $8000 bill later, some diagnosis?
My own background in knowing a thing or two about medical needs, well, I did the old UCSF orthopedic surgeon lecture I found on the worldwide almost-not-free web, and alas, the verdict is my ilium is possibly fractured, maybe a few tendons ripped out of place, and, two ribs cracked?
My spouse checked on me this morning, since it was sort of a day off from my social services job and I slept in, as I also don’t sleep worth shit anymore, for the past 20 years. She thought, “Man, what if Paul is dead.”
I am here writing this, and the point of this screed is that every way I turn, and that means everyway any decent and compassionate person turns, the screws get tighter and tighter. Capitalism is the evil, and the evil doers are the elite, the one percent, then their two percenter lawyers and CEOs and thieves of every ilk. Then the two-income families with a doctor here and a defense contractor there. You get the picture – until we are the 80 Percent, while the 20 Percent not only hoards dreams and hoards community futures, but that slice of the American pie is gorged by the very people who should be, well, sent in capsules into outer space to see exactly what happens to the rich and the very rich and the somewhat rich in an oxygen-free environment at zero gravity.
There is no manner of discussion with the GOP or Libertarians or the Biden Boosters or Trumpies that can come at this fucked up capitalist penury system any other way than to say it is totally not working for the 80 percent. Story after story of the inequities, the inequalities, the ineptitudes, the inertia, the incongruence, the insipidness, and the insanity capitalism has gifted the world. From Blacks and Latinx dying in much higher proportions form the Fort Detrick Bat Virus Militarized Pathogen, to the private hell of privatized prisons, hospitals, education, and just banking.
The system of participatory socialism I describe at the end of Capital and Ideology some people would prefer to call social democracy for the 21st century. I have no problem with this but I prefer to talk about participatory socialism. In effect, this is the continuation of what has been done in the 20th century and what was successful. This includes equal access to education, to health, to a system of basic income, which to some extent is already in place but needs to be made more automatic; educational justice needs to be more real and less theoretical, as it is too often the case.
Regarding the system of property, which has always been the core discussion about socialism and capitalism, the proposal I am making relies on two main pillars: one is co-determination, through change in the legal system and the system of governance of companies, and the other part is progressive taxation and the permanent circulation of property. — Thomas Piketty
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which is an eight-trillion-dollar enterprise, and the largest shareholder in almost every company that matters to the future of the Earth.
Better Dead Than Red!
You know, I was just with a client of mine – major Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has a job at a fish processing plant. I mean, like sometimes 70 hours in a week. He’s almost 30, and his mother is his paid personal support worker. That’s cool, for sure. Something like 80 hours a month she is paid above minimum wage to get things done for her son. Things like banking, personal hygiene other things.
Obviously, I work with him and her, and with a non-profit which gets paid through the county and state for our services. This mother is also a military veteran. In any case, the person I work with is amazing, knows a thousand species of sharks and fish and other by-catch that comes in with the nets during certain harvest seasons, and, well, this man needs more men in his life.
They live in cramped quarters, and for the most part, they seem happy.
The problem is, this mother, with sort of hippie like ideology, still, she can’t even imagine socialism. “I don’t even want to hear that word, socialism.” Imagine, military (purely socialistic) veteran (socialism a la health care) and the feeding troughs from the Joints Chief of Staff on down the Raytheon line, and then add to that, everything she gets now is based on a form of socialism – socialized health care for her (VA) and him (ACA); the money she gets paid is from the government, and all those special education schools and programs over the years? Well, again, government-financed, as in public schooling and public commons.
This is why I believe Americans are really more than stupid and perverse, but they are the enemy of earth on so many levels. “It’s easier for an American to imagine a world depopulated, dead and dying from calamities, climate change, war, resource shortages, than a world without capitalism.”
This is a continual conversation I have, daily. Sometimes in the community, other times personal. Just the other night, at a solstice gathering with another couple, well, more of the ugly side of Americans who Have, and those who Do Not Have (And why don’t they have? Easy answers to be gathered).
Paranoia on Steroids (or on MSNBC)
We had already fought about what solstice means, and I like fires outside, breaking shared bread, candles, talking about some crazy pagan and even farther back rituals and thinking. But because of Covid-19 Paranoia, and all the mask fever, all the complete lunacy of our times, well, no fire outside, no swapping of recipes.
We were told not to bring food, and the idea is that food from anywhere outside this couple’s house might have the militarized bat virus lurking on it. Forget about the fact that this fellow served condiments and some other food items prepared outside of the house, packaged and sent to his local Fred Meyers.
The bone of contention was that the husband started talking about how troubled he was about his next investment fandango, and that is the crypto-investment, the post-bit coin realm. Blockchain madness. He pleads Marxist in his belief system, but like so many broken people, he is out for himself and his wife. Life is all about fear and loathing, and listening to Rachel Maddow and the other titans of stupidity on mainstream Democratic Party TV. One day you can love listening to Richard Wolff, but the next day it’s all about the Motely Fool.
My discourse was around the fact that a) I am not well off and therefore I am not in any investor class, and b) that a majority of the world should be paid in cash, in the coin of their realms, not enslaved by some digitized scam called cryptocurrency. That the USA greenback/dollar may collapse (his prediction); therefore, blockchain bit coins are the way to hedge those bets, again, more than 80 percent of Americans have no ready cash to invest in Crypto Bullshit Currency.
We have tens of millions who are food insecure NOW, and unable to feed their families. We have hundreds of millions of Americans with huge debts – from school, to mortgages, to just paying for the daily living, on credit. Of course, medical debt is a trillion dollar albatross around the necks of millions. Once you get taken into a hospital with “Fort Detrick/DARPA virus,” you might come out alive owing several hundred thousand dollars.
No jobs, bad jobs, failing jobs, and alas, the language of investors infected the Solstice. The lexicon of crypto-mancers, well, I was not in the mood, so I was snarky and, well, showed my communistic colors. Sure, it gets frustrating!
All of which leads to the same soft shoe song of “I can’t see how we can stop this technology, this digital currency … I don’t know how we can stop Russia and China from exploiting fossil fuels and resources, while we are supposed to be green, so, therefore, we should be the first at the takings …”
Cynical, Skeptical, Jaded: Part of the Problem, not the Solution
Mainstream media and the mush that is what Americans consume in TV and in la-la land movie-ville, well, that has colonized and co-opted the minds of people who were once friends with a shared and dynamic lexicon and language.
It is now, them against us. More and more, this is the relationship between friends, sometimes good friends.
Giving up, throwing hands in the air, just saying, “you do good work … you should be compensated for that” is just not enough to move a conversation forward.
We ended up talking about movies, and I said that Steve McQueen’s five movie brilliance, Small Ax, was worth the time. The fellow recommended, The Art Dealer, and alas, I reminded him that my glass was more than filled up with World War Two themed movies, Holocaust-themed flicks, flicks about grandkids looking for stolen loot or artifacts. I said, “Hey, try some different stuff than just the chosen people’s produced, or directed, or financed, or scripted shit on cable TV.”
The language of friendships are daily getting more and more cross-wired.
Here is another doozie – so, a fellow I helped over the years, a veteran, homeless, well, he put me into his will. I did not want that, and the funny thing is he came into some money from a father, and, well, nothing to shake a Trump or Clinton stick at, but the money would have been enough to make his amputated leg/ diabetic/ depressed life into something more than sheer homelessness, when I first met him.
I got him set up into an apartment, and they put him in the only ground floor unit that made it impossible for him to navigate his wheelchair safely. They were saying they’d hire someone to put in a special walkway/path to the tune of $5,500 charged to the veteran.
I tried my damnedest to get the largest apartment rental property management service (sic) in the USA to respond to empathy, logos, pathos, ethos, and, not one of my dozen emails got even a response. Pinnacle Property/Real Estate Management, look them up.
Property management investment corporations, and Pinnacle charged him for a sidewalk feature we had the local boy scouts, Rotary and a construction company all ready to put in for, well, supplies, at the tune of $500, which would have been paid by some charities (this was before he came into a few thousand dollars inheritance).
He then went from apartment to assisted living, quickly — and that nightmare, again, in a local facility that is part of national chain, and alas, $4,000 a month for a single room, and then another $2,000 a month they charged for special services? Weekly, when he was still cognizant, my friend complained about the lack of food, the small portions. He did not have a caseworker for more than two months. Then he started to fail. This is America, and, alas, this veteran died due to isolation, Covid-19 insanity, and the threads of assisted living where the workers treat the inmates like scum.
He had outstanding ambulance bills, Comcast would not shut down his phone, the banks froze his assets, the apartment complex previous to this assisted living joint had a bill for breaking his lease, the assisted living outfit had $250 late charges here and there, and alas, this is how America and capitalism runs – middle man, person x and y, corporation a and b, sticking it to you.
He had a newish friend as his executor, and she had to pay the state of Oregon $350 to take a four hour online mandatory class on being an executors (this is the society of nickel and dimes, fines and taxes, fees and surcharges, add-ons, late fees, service charges, hidden fees, surtaxes, forced certifications, levies, and more).
She had him cremated, and again, the deal is, lucky for her, she has some disposable income, so she had the finances to pay for the death certificates, the filing charges, the body burning, the moving fees, the late fees, all of that. Eventually she got the death certificates, and still she had to fight months to stop Comcast. Imagine, the hundreds of millions of dollars companies like Comcast get for phone and cable services and wifi services for the dead.
The lawyer working with the executor, for the few shekels in my friend’s investment account, needed an my W-9, for tax purposes, and I let out my disgruntled ire to him, “that, alas, capitalism and the rules written by the banks and the lawyers, demand my social security number and my name and address be given to the IRS for a paltry sum, an inheritance?” Obviously, it was a point of contention, not an attack on him personally, but surely it must have been an attack in his profession (lawyers, hands down, YUK).
What are 20,000 Lawyers at the Bottom of the Sea? Answer: a start!
These conversations go nowhere, because, a, lawyers do believe their lies and the game they play because they set the rules of the game minute to minute. I ended up saying something positive about the USPS, and he called me on his cell phone. All things looked like he was an agreeable liberal, though he said in his field, investment law, he was a rare democrat.
Again, the dreaded “socialism” came out of my mouth, since I am not and never have been a dedicated Democratic Party proponent, and alas, this country tis of thee needs the new MAGA hat – Make America Go Away.
That crossed the line for this quasi-liberal lawyer. He texted me saying – “I think I need to ask you not to overshare your politics w/ me, I don’t agree on all accounts, but support your right to believe what you want. I try to minimize my cell phone usage for work purposes, and certainly don’t want to have it be a medium for political or religious debate.”
This is how the dimwit smart lawyer types who love democrats think. Just the fear factor, too, of his ultra-conservative partners finding out his liberal leaning ways. On his cell phone. One he used to contact me with, including many texts.
This is how these $300,000 a year gutless wonders work, man. “I have mine, I get mine anyway I can, I will follow the rules, toe the line/tow the line, and alas, I make my money money money while I give a few shekels to the WWF, United Way and some democratic candidate for president. But SOCIALISM? You are worse than Trumpies! Do not contact me again!”
Oh, the level of discourse is so bastardized, so broken with mainstream and idiotic-stem media, all the barking and wailing, the pure shit coming out of the internet, the blogs, the podcasts, and more and more. There are no rational conversations with a broad mix of perspectives, that’s for sure.
Until we live in a world where any narrative, any science, any doubts, any humanity pointing against fascism, digital platforms for crypto-currency, for universal butthole/basic income, any discussion about how bad Zoom doom is for the K12 and post K12 crowd, but now, for the people who embrace working from home, never having to step foot in the office again.
Join, Believe, Comply, Be Coerced, Obey, Lock-step or DIE!
Any level of pushback against Facebook or Musk or self-driving cars or forced vaccinations, forced closures, forced kettling during protest, forced shut downs, forced evictions, foreclosures. Any level of going against the bullshit libertarian-Ayn Randian-Neoliberal-Lords of War narrative, and we are dead meat, literally or figuratively. Forget about having a smart discussion about sea level rise, anthropomorphic causes of global heating, global resource collapse, global pandemics, global pollution, global cancer rates, global hell!
I have so-called lefties denying the whole thing, even making up some shit about Covid-19 isn’t real when the evidence is that it IS real, really manufactured REAL, really perfectly Phase One of a Many Phased/Headed Hydra of Hell.
As if all those bioweapons by USA and Israel and the like are not historically Real. As if the poisons meant for humanity, as in Agent Orange, isn’t really REAL. Phosphorus bombs, Napalm bombs, Smart bombs, the mother of all bombs, nope, not real. Stealth drones and mini-poison delivery systems by CIA-Mossad. Nope, not really REAL at all.
These are subhuman, the murderers of MLK, Kennedys, Malcom, and on and on. So, no, these pieces of human scum would never ever really create REAL biotoxins. Nope. No PR-spinners saying a pack of cigarettes a day pushes the blues away. Nope, not those people, those Salvador Allende plotters. Not those Henry Kissinger types, and Dulles Brothers, and COINTELPRO, and the entire profit system that would have Tyson Foods rule the lives of not just the workers, but the fetuses of workers, the land, the very ecology where the Eerie Lake worth of Blood and Offal and Guts and Shit drain off.
No, the virus is not really a REAL invention of these murderers and experimenters. NOPE.
Imagine, here in Oregon, there is a mink industry (sick sic), where the purveyors of Auschwitz for Animals pack in minks, and they have outbreaks of not just SARS-CoV2, but other pathogens. Imagine that this is an industry? And it isn’t locked down, closed for good.
Imagine that, the democratic Governor Brown, and the lunacy of a country led by leeches and piranha and the almighty power of the imperial president and all the president’s Military-IT-AI-Banking-Medicine-Pharma-Big Ag-Prison-Chemical-Real Estate-Surveillance Complex Men/Women, messing with lockdowns, ICU’s 110 filled up, no PPE, no nothing, and this is what we have. No screaming at the top of their lungs from the NPR pundits. All those worthless millionaires and multimillionaires that are part of the medium is the message pukes.
The character Howard Beale gave the following speech in Network that still resonates today.
I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Oh well, the lying lefties who think it is all a Greta Spin or Bill McKibben muse, they too are right about green as the new black, how the greenie weenies want capitalism to save the planet, but these same lefties are wrong wrong wrong about the reality of how messed up the world really is, and will be due to a WORLD without ICE:
John Englander is a co-author of the paper and author of the books “High Tide on Main Street” and the soon-to-be-released “Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward.” He says this paper is a reaction to a “chorus of concern in the scientific community that the projections for rising sea level were understated.”
He said the research team hopes their work can inform the next major IPCC report, since that’s the most widely cited document on climate change. “With the next report now being prepared for release in 2021-22, our intent was to make the case to the IPCC leadership to explain the reality of Antarctic potential melting better, as it might significantly add to sea level rise this century.”
Since the last Ice Age, which reached its maximum extent about 20,000 years ago, global temperatures have warmed about 18 degrees Fahrenheit and sea levels have risen 425 feet; that’s greater than the length of the football field.
Historically speaking, simple math reveals that for every degree Fahrenheit the Earth warms, sea-level eventually rises by an astonishing 24 feet. There is, however, a sizable lag time between warming, melting and consequent sea-level rise.
Considering that Earth has already warmed 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s, we know that substantial sea-level rise is already baked in, regardless of whether we stop global warming. Scientists just don’t know exactly how long it will take to see the rise or how fast it will occur. But using proxy records, glaciologists can see that as we emerged from the last Ice Age, sea level rose at remarkable rates — as fast as 15 feet per century at times.1
Making political sense of the world can be tricky unless one understands the role of the state in capitalist societies. The state is not primarily there to represent voters or uphold democratic rights and values; it is a vehicle for facilitating and legitimating the concentration of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands.
In a recent post, I wrote about “externalities” – the ability of companies to offset the true costs inherent in the production process. The burden of these costs are covertly shifted on to wider society: that is, on to you and me. Or on to those far from view, in foreign lands. Or on to future generations. Externalising costs means that profits can be maximised for the wealth elite in the here and now.
My latest: The increasingly desperate task of capitalism's perception managers is to dissociate our economic system from the emerging environmental crisis – to break our understanding of the causal link between the two https://t.co/S4Aby314FX
Our own societies must deal with the externalised costs of industries ranging from tobacco and alcohol to chemicals and vehicles. Societies abroad must deal with the costs of the bombs dropped by our “defence” industries. And future generations will have to deal with the lethal costs incurred by corporations that for decades have been allowed to pump out their waste products into every corner of the globe.
Divine right to rule
In the past, the job of the corporate media was to shield those externalities from public view. More recently, as the costs have become impossible to ignore, especially with the climate crisis looming, the media’s role has changed. Its central task now is to obscure corporate responsibility for these externalities. That is hardly surprising. After all, the corporate media’s profits depend on externalising costs too, as well as hiding the externalised costs of their parent companies, their billionaire owners and their advertisers.
Once, monarchs rewarded the clerical class for persuading, through the doctrine of divine right, their subjects to passively submit to exploitation. Today, “mainstream” media are there to persuade us that capitalism, the profit motive, the accumulation of ever greater wealth by elites, and externalities destroying the planet are the natural order of things, that this is the best economic system imaginable.
Most of us are now so propagandised by the media that we can barely imagine a functioning world without capitalism. Our minds are primed to imagine, in the absence of capitalism, an immediate lurch back to Soviet-style bread queues or an evolutionary reversal to cave-dwelling. Those thoughts paralyse us, making us unable to contemplate what might be wrong or inherently unsustainable about how we live right now, or to imagine the suicidal future we are hurtling towards.
Lifeblood of empire
There is a reason that, as we rush lemming-like towards the cliff-edge, urged on by a capitalism that cannot operate at the level of sustainability or even of sanity, the push towards intensified war grows. Wars are the life blood of the corporate empire headquartered in the United States.
My latest: The new documentary on Greta Thunberg – I Am Greta – isn’t about climate change. It’s about something even more important: the elusiveness of sanity in an insane world https://t.co/uU2G6i821I
US imperialism is no different from earlier imperialisms in its aims or methods. But in late-stage capitalism, wealth and power are hugely concentrated. Technologies have reached a pinnacle of advancement. Disinformation and propaganda are sophisticated to an unprecedented degree. Surveillance is intrusive and aggressive, if well concealed. Capitalism’s destructive potential is unlimited. But even so, war’s appeal is not diminished.
As ever, wars allow for the capture and control of resources. Fossil fuels promise future growth, even if of the short-term, unsustainable kind.
Wars require the state to invest its money in the horrendously expensive and destructive products of the “defence” industries, from fighter planes to bombs, justifying the transfer of yet more public resources into private hands.
The lobbies associated with these “defence” industries have every incentive to push for aggressive foreign (and domestic) policies to justify more investment, greater expansion of “defensive” capabilities, and the use of weapons on the battlefield so that they need replenishing.
Whether public or covert, wars provide an opportunity to remake poorly defended, resistant societies – such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria – in ways that allow for resources to be seized, markets to be expanded and the reach of the corporate elite to be extended.
War is the ultimate growth industry, limited only by our ability to be persuaded of new enemies and new threats.
Fog of war
For the political class, the benefits of war are not simply economic. In a time of environmental collapse, war offers a temporary “Get out of jail” card. During wars, the public is encouraged to assent to new, ever greater sacrifices that allow public wealth to be transferred to the elite. War is the corporate world’s ultimate Ponzi scheme.
The “fog of war” does not just describe the difficulty of knowing what is happening in the immediate heat of battle. It is also the fear, generated by claims of an existential threat, that sets aside normal thinking, normal caution, normal scepticism. It is the invoking of a phantasmagorical enemy towards which public resentments can be directed, shielding from view the real culprits – the corporations and their political cronies at home.
The “fog of war” engineers the disruption of established systems of control and protocol to cope with the national emergency, shrouding and rationalising the accumulation by corporations of more wealth and power and the further capture of organs of the state. It is the licence provided for “exceptional” changes to the rules that quickly become normalised. It is the disinformation that passes for national responsibility and patriotism.
All of which explains why Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, has just pledged an extra £16.5 billion in “defence” spending at a time when the UK is struggling to control a pandemic and when, faced by disease, Brexit and a new round of winter floods, the British economy is facing “systemic crisis”, according to a new Cabinet Office report. Figures released this week show the biggest economic contraction in the UK in three centuries.
If the British public is to stomach yet more cuts, to surrender to permanent austerity as the economy tanks, Johnson, ever the populist, knows he needs a good cover story. And that will involve further embellishment of existing, fearmongering narratives about Russia, Iran and China.
To make those narratives plausible, Johnson has to act as if the threats are real, which means massive spending on “defence”. Such expenditure, wholly counter-productive when the current challenge is sustainability, will line the pockets of the very corporations that help Johnson and his pals stay in power, not least by cheerleading him via their media arms.
New salesman needed
The cynical way this works was underscored in a classified 2010 CIA memorandum, known as “Red Cell”, leaked to Wikileaks, as the journalist Glenn Greenwald reminded us this week. The CIA memo addressed the fear in Washington that European publics were demonstrating little appetite for the US-led “war on terror” that followed 9/11. That, in turn, risked limiting the ability of European allies to support the US as it exercised its divine right to wage war.
The memo notes that European support for US wars after 9/11 had chiefly relied on “public apathy” – the fact that Europeans were kept largely ignorant by their own media of what those wars entailed. But with a rising tide of anti-war sentiment, the concern was that this might change. There was an urgent need to further manipulate public opinion more decisively in favour of war.
The US intelligence agency decided its wars needed a facelift. George W Bush, with his Texan, cowboy swagger, had proved a poor salesman. So the CIA turned to identity politics and faux “humanitarianism”, which they believed would play better with European publics.
Part of the solution was to accentuate the suffering of Afghan women to justify war. But the other part was to use President Barack Obama as the face of a new, “caring” approach to war. He had recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – even though he had done nothing for peace, and would go on to expand US wars – very possibly as part of this same effort to reinvent the “war on terror”. Polls showed support for existing wars increased markedly among Europeans when they were reminded that Obama backed these wars.
Obama’s most important value was in prettifying, marketing and prolonging wars, not ending them. They saw him for what U.S. Presidents really are: instruments to create a brand and image about the U.S. role in the world that can be effectively peddled to both the domestic population in the US and then on the global stage, and specifically to pretend that endless barbaric US wars are really humanitarian projects benevolently designed to help people — the pretext used to justify every war by every country in history.
Once the state is understood as a vehicle for entrenching elite power – and war its most trusted tool for concentrating power – the world becomes far more intelligible. Western economies never stopped being colonial economies, but they were given an Obama-style facelift. War and plunder – even when they masquerade as “defence” or peace – are still the core western mission.
That is why Britons, believing days of empire are long behind them, may have been shocked to learn this week that the UK still operates 145 military bases in 42 countries around the globe, meaning it runs the second largest network of such bases after the US.
Such information is not made available in the UK “mainstream” media, of course. It has to be provided by an “alternative” investigative site, Declassified UK. In that way the vast majority of the British public are left clueless about how their taxes are being used at a time when they are told further belt-tightening is essential.
REVEALED — The UK military’s overseas base network involves 145 sites in 42 countries.
The UK’s network of bases, many of them in the Middle East, close to the world’s largest oil reserves, are what the much-vaunted “special relationship” with the US amounts to. Those bases are the reason the UK – whoever is prime minister – is never going to say “no” to a demand that Britain join Washington in waging war, as it did in attacking Iraq in 2003, or in aiding attacks on Libya, Syria and Yemen. The UK is not only a satellite of the US empire, it is a lynchpin of the western imperial war economy.
Once that point is appreciated, the need for external enemies – for our own Eurasias and Eastasias – becomes clearer.
Some of those enemies, the minor ones, come and go, as demand dictates. Iraq dominated western attention for two decades. Now it has served its purpose, its killing fields and “terrorist” recruiting grounds have reverted to a mere footnote in the daily news. Likewise, the Libyan bogeyman Muammar Gaddafi was constantly paraded across news pages until he was bayonetted to death. Now the horror story that is today’s chaotic Libya, a corridor for arms-running and people-trafficking, can be safely ignored. For a decade, the entirely unexceptional Arab dictator Bashar Assad, of Syria, has been elevated to the status of a new Hitler, and he will continue to serve in that role for as long as it suits the needs of the western war economy.
Notably, Israel, another lynchpin of the US empire and one that serves as a kind of offshored weapons testing laboratory for the military-industrial complex, has played a vital role in rationalising these wars. Just as saving Afghan women from Middle Eastern patriarchy makes killing Afghans – men, women and children – more palatable to Europeans, so destroying Arab states can be presented as a humanitarian gesture if at the same time it crushes Israel’s enemies, and by extension, through a strange, implied ideological alchemy, the enemies of all Jews.
Quite how opportunistic – and divorced from reality – the western discourse about Israel and the Middle East has become is obvious the moment the relentless concerns about Syria’s Assad are weighed against the casual indifference towards the head-chopping rulers of Saudi Arabia, who for decades have been financing terror groups across the Middle East, including the jihadists in Syria.
During that time, Israel has covertly allied with oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, because all of them are safely ensconced within the US war machine. Now, with the Palestinians completely sidelined diplomatically, and with all international solidarity with Palestinians browbeaten into silence by antisemitism smears, Israel and the Saudis are gradually going public with their alliance, like a pair of shy lovers. That included the convenient leak this week of a secret meeting between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.
My latest: Pompeo’s declaration that criticism of Israel and the peaceful movement urging a boycott of its settlements are ‘antisemitic’ marks the logical endpoint of a foreign policy consensus rapidly taking shape in the US and Europe https://t.co/0fLC8TKnzm
The west also needs bigger, more menacing and more permanent enemies than Iraq or Syria. Helpfully one kind – nebulous “terrorism” – is the inevitable reaction to western war-making. The more brown people we kill, the more brown people we can justify killing because they carry out, or support, “terrorism” against us. Their hatred for our bombs is an irrationality, a primitivism we must keep stamping out with more bombs.
But concrete, identifiable enemies are needed too. Russia, Iran and China give superficial credence to the war machine’s presentation of itself as a “defence” industry. The UK’s bases around the globe and Boris Johnson’s £16 billion rise in spending on the UK’s war industries only make sense if Britain is under a constant, existential threat. Not just someone with a suspicious backpack on the London Tube, but a sophisticated, fiendish enemy that threatens to invade our lands, to steal resources to which we claim exclusive rights, to destroy our way of life through its masterful manipulation of the internet.
Crushed or tamed
Anyone of significance who questions these narratives that rationalise and perpetuate war is the enemy too. Current political and legal dramas in the US and UK reflect the perceived threat such actors pose to the war machine. They must either be crushed or tamed into subservience.
Trump was initially just such a figure that needed breaking in. The CIA and other intelligence agencies assisted in the organised opposition to Trump – helping to fuel the evidence-free Russiagate “scandal” – not because he was an awful human being or had authoritarian tendencies, but for two more specific reasons.
First, Trump’s political impulses, expressed in the early stages of his presidential campaign, were to withdraw from the very wars the US empire depends on. Despite open disdain for him from most of the media, he was criticised more often for failing to prosecute wars enthusiastically enough rather than for being too hawkish. And second, even as his isolationist impulses were largely subdued after the 2016 election by the permanent bureaucracy and his own officials, Trump proved to be an even more disastrous salesman for war than George W Bush. Trump made war look and sound exactly as it is, rather than packaging it as “intervention” intended to help women and people of colour.
But Trump’s amateurish isolationism paled in comparison to two far bigger threats to the war machine that emerged over the past decade. One was the danger – in our newly interconnected, digital world – of information leaks that risked stripping away the mask of US democracy, of the “shining city on the hill”, to reveal the tawdry reality underneath.
Julian Assange and his Wikileaks project proved just such a danger. The most memorable leak – at least as far as the general public was concerned – occurred in 2010, with publication of a classified video, titled Collateral Murder, showing a US air crew joking and celebrating as they murdered civilians far below in the streets of Baghdad. It gave a small taste of why western “humanitarianism” might prove so unpopular with those to whom we were busy supposedly bringing “democracy”.
The threat posed by Assange’s new transparency project was recognised instantly by US officials.
Exhibiting a carefully honed naivety, the political and media establishments have sought to uncouple the fact that Assange has spent most of the last decade in various forms of detention, and is currently locked up in a London high-security prison awaiting extradition to the US, from his success in exposing the war machine. Nonetheless, to ensure his incarceration till death in one of its super-max jails, the US empire has had to conflate the accepted definitions of “journalism” and “espionage”, and radically overhaul traditional understandings of the rights enshrined in the First Amendment.
My latest: Julian Assange was on the front line of a war to remake journalism as a true check on the runaway power of government. Journalists had a chance to ally with him. Instead they served him up as a sacrificial offering to their corporate masters https://t.co/oF2nPOix49
An equally grave threat to the war machine was posed by the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of Britain’s Labour party. Corbyn presented as exceptional a problem as Assange.
Before Corbyn, Labour had never seriously challenged the UK’s dominant military-industrial complex, even if its support for war back in the 1960s and 1970s was often tempered by its then-social democratic politics. It was in this period, at the height of the Cold War, that Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was suspected by British elites of failing to share their anti-Communist and anti-Soviet paranoia, and was therefore viewed as a potential threat to their entrenched privileges.
As a BBC documentary from 2006 notes, Wilson faced the very real prospect of enforced “regime change”, coordinated by the military, the intelligence services and members of the royal family. It culminated in a show of force by the military as they briefly took over Heathrow airport without warning or coordination with Wilson’s government. Marcia Williams, his secretary, called it a “dress rehearsal” for a coup. Wilson resigned unexpectedly soon afterwards, apparently as the pressure started to take its toll.
‘Mutiny’ by the army
Subsequent Labour leaders, most notably Tony Blair, learnt the Wilson lesson: never, ever take on the “defence” establishment. The chief role of the UK is to serve as the US war machine’s attack dog. Defying that allotted role would be political suicide.
By contrast to Wilson, who posed a threat to the British establishment only in its overheated imagination, Corbyn was indeed a real danger to the militaristic status quo.
He was one of the founders of the Stop the War coalition that emerged specifically to challenge the premises of the “war on terror”. He explicitly demanded an end to Israel’s role as a forward base of the imperial war industries. In the face of massive opposition from his own party – and claims he was undermining “national security” – Corbyn urged a public debate about the deterrence claimed by the “defence” establishment for the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine programme, effectively under US control. It was also clear that Corbyn’s socialist agenda, were he ever to reach power, would require redirecting the many billions spent in maintaining the UK’s 145 military bases around the globe back into domestic social programmes.
In an age when the primacy of capitalism goes entirely unquestioned, Corbyn attracted even more immediate hostility from the power establishment than Wilson had. As soon as he was elected Labour leader, Corbyn’s own MPs – still loyal to Blairism – sought to oust him with a failed leadership challenge. If there was any doubt about how the power elite responded to Corbyn becoming head of the opposition, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times newspaper soon offered a platform to an unnamed army general to make clear its concerns.
Weeks after Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the general warned that the army would take “direct action” using “whatever means possible, fair or foul” to prevent Corbyn exercising power. There would be “mutiny”, he said. “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it.”
My latest: Corbyn's election to lead the Labour party didn't overturn the rigged political system or end the corporate chokehold on power. His victory was an accident, and the system has been fighting back with all its might to correct the error ever since https://t.co/2u0Vyo0qLU
Such views about Corbyn were, of course, shared on the other side of the Atlantic. In a leaked recording of a conversation with American-Jewish organisations last year, Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state and a former CIA director, spoke of how Corbyn had been made to “run the gauntlet” as a way to ensure he would not be elected prime minister. The military metaphor was telling.
In relation to the danger of Corbyn winning the 2019 election, Pompeo added: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”
This was from the man who said of his time heading the CIA: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”
Smears and Brexit
After a 2017 election that Labour only narrowly lost, the Corbyn threat was decisively neutralised in the follow-up election two years later, after the Labour leader was floored by a mix of antisemitism slurs and a largely jingoistic Brexit campaign to leave Europe.
Claims that this prominent anti-racism campaigner had overseen a surge of antisemitism in Labour were unsupported by evidence, but the smears – amplified in the media – quickly gained a life of their own. The allegations often bled into broader – and more transparently weaponised – suggestions that Corbyn’s socialist platform and criticisms of capitalism were also antisemitic. (See here,here and here.) But the smears were nevertheless dramatically effective in removing the sheen of idealism that had propelled Corbyn on to the national stage.
By happy coincidence for the power establishment, Brexit also posed a deep political challenge to Corbyn. He was naturally antagonistic to keeping the UK trapped inside a neoliberal European project that, as a semi-detached ally of the US empire, would always eschew socialism. But Corbyn never had control over how the Brexit debate was framed. Helped by the corporate media, Dominic Cummings and Johnson centred that debate on simplistic claims that severing ties with Europe would liberate the UK socially, economically and culturally. But their concealed agenda was very different. An exit from Europe was not intended to liberate Britain but to incorporate it more fully into the US imperial war machine.
Which is one reason that Johnson’s cash-strapped Britain is now promising an extra £16bn on “defence”. The Tory government’s priorities are to prove both its special usefulness to the imperial project and its ability to continue using war – as well as the unique circumstances of the pandemic – to channel billions from public coffers into the pockets of the establishment.
A Biden makeover
After four years of Trump, the war machine once again desperately needs a makeover. The once-confident, youthful Wikileaks is now less able to peek behind the curtain and listen in to the power establishment’s plans for a new administration under Joe Biden.
We can be sure nonetheless that its priorities are no different from those set out in the CIA memo of 2010. Biden’s cabinet, the media has been excitedly trumpeting, is the most “diverse” ever, with women especially prominent in the incoming foreign policy establishment.
There has been a huge investment by Pentagon officials and Congressional war hawks in pushing for Michèle Flournoy to be appointed as the first female defence secretary. Flournoy, like Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, has played a central role in prosecuting every US war dating back to the Bill Clinton administration.
The other main contender for the spot is Jeh Johnson, who would become the first black defence secretary. As Biden dithers, his advisers’ assessment will focus on who will be best positioned to sell yet more war to a war-weary public.
The role of the imperial project is to use violence as a tool to capture and funnel ever greater wealth – whether it be resources seized in foreign lands or the communal wealth of domestic western populations – into the pockets of the power establishment, and to exercise that power covertly enough, or at a great enough distance, that no meaningful resistance is provoked.
A strong dose of identity politics may buy a little more time. But the war economy is as unsustainable as everything else our societies are currently founded on. Sooner or later the war machine is going to run out of fuel.
It sometimes feels incredible that this time last year, many of us had never even heard of coronavirus. There had been no lockdowns. No lives lost. No economic collapse.
And for many of us, the threat of a pandemic felt like a relic of the last century, something about as menacing as hat pins, phonograph needles, or corsets laced too tightly.
But now the pandemic has come and the danger has shown itself to be very real. COVID-19 hasn’t just revealed to us the limits of modern medical science, however, or our continued vulnerability nearly as old as humanity itself.
No, the coronavirus has shown us much more. Above all, it has shown us the profound inequities that so many in our society face.
The gaps might have been papered over in the rush and distractions of ordinary life, but when the ordinary became extraordinary, they can no longer be ignored.
Studies show that it’s not only the elderly and the immuno-compromised who are at greatest risk from COVID-19. Minority populations are far more likely than the general population both to contract the virus and to die from it.
Disproportionate rates of poverty, combined with a pervasive lack of access to quality healthcare are allowing the virus to race through some minority communities like fire through a dry forest. Perhaps most frightening, these disparities aren’t the result of some residual anachronism, the lingering effects of centuries of racial injustice.
Instead, as the world retreated into lockdown and those who could transitioned to telecommuting, countless workers were left behind. And what this reveals, above all, is the casualties of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
While technological innovation is boosting the standard of living the world over, the pandemic has thrown into stark relief the reality that not everyone is a beneficiary of modern progress. According to a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 40% of American workers were able to transition to fully remote work.
And the disparities fall strongly along racial lines. While nearly 30% of Caucasians are employed in jobs that allow them to work from home, that percentage drops to less than 20% for Blacks and just over 16% for Latinos.
The Majority Minority
The profound opportunity gaps suffered by racial and ethnic minorities are coming to the fore through the disproportionate infection and mortality rates of COVID in these communities. But coronavirus is also casting a spotlight on the inequities people with disabilities face.
Among the most pernicious forms this marginalization takes is in the lack of employment opportunities for people who have a disability. Research shows that companies that hire employees with disabilities generate 30% more revenue on average than those that don’t.
Nevertheless, the unemployment rate in the disabled community is significantly higher than that of the general population. It would seem, then, that the nationwide shift to telework would be particularly good news for persons with disabilities, particularly those with mobility issues or those who have health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus.
The reality, however, is that substantial barriers to today’s technologies, including teleworking technologies, persist for many of those who have a disability. And this only serves to underscore the broader lack of accessibility in the physicial world beyond the internet.
People with disabilities may have limited opportunities to work a standard 40-hour job in a traditional office environment. This could be due either to health constraints or to physical or institutional and ideological barriers within the company itself.
In the age of telework, however, such barriers are often translated to challenges in accessing the technologies that would enable people with disabilities to use the internet and fully engage in virtual work. This might include mobility challenges that make the use of a computer keyboard difficult; vision impairments that might make researching the internet an impossibility, or learning disabilities that make working with text-based documents a formidable challenge.
It is not only minorities and persons with disabilities who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Those who live in rural areas are also particularly vulnerable. The coronavirus pandemic has also revealed profound inequities endured by those living in the most underserved areas of the nation and the globe.
Rural communities, for example, are characterized by a lack of consistent, quality healthcare. However, robust supportive care, such as that provided by family nurse practitioners (FNP) is being dispatched to bridge that gap.
As significant as the dearth of rural medical care, though, is the impact of the disruption in the global food supply caused by the pandemic. More than 250 million people worldwide are expected to face acute hunger as a result of the global lockdowns. As food shortages spread, the lack of social protections for the world’s most vulnerable populations threatens to teach a devastating lesson on just how many of us live each day balanced on the razor’s edge.
COVID-19 has not just changed our world. It has taught us to see it for what it really is. And in far too many cases, that has meant uncovering the gross inequities and profound injustices that we would rather close our eyes to. It has cast into the light of day realities our “normal” lives had for far too long kept shrouded in darkness.
RT’s On Going Underground speaks to legendary journalist and film-maker John Pilger about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He discusses the fact that the Conservative government was warned about shortages leaving the NHS vulnerable in pandemics 4 years ago, the damage privatisation has done to the National Health Service, budget cuts which have seen bed capacities fall to record lows, his criticisms of the Boris Johnson administration’s response to Coronavirus, the lack of mass-testing in the U.K. which has been seen in other countries such as Germany, South Korea and China, the government blaming China for the Coronavirus crisis, the threat to Julian Assange’s life as he is denied release from prison as Coronavirus claims its first victim in Belmarsh Prison and more!
You can almost smell the fear-laden sweat oozing from the pores of television broadcasts and social media posts as it finally dawns on our political and media establishments what the coronavirus actually means. And I am not talking about the threat posed to our health.
A worldview that has crowded out all other thinking for nearly two generations is coming crashing down. It has no answers to our current predicament. There is a kind of tragic karma to the fact that so many major countries – meaning major economies – are today run by the very men least equipped ideologically, emotionally and spiritually to deal with the virus.
That is being starkly exposed everywhere in the west, but the UK is a particularly revealing case study.
Dragging their heels
It emerged at the weekend that Dominic Cummings, the ideological powerhouse behind Britain’s buffoonish prime minister Boris Johnson, was pivotal in delaying the UK government’s response to the coronavirus – effectively driving Britain on to the Italian (bad) path of contagion rather than the South Korean (good) one.
According to media reports at the weekend, Cummings initially stalled government action, arguing of the coming plague that “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. That approach explains the dragging of heels for many days, and then days more of dither that is only now coming to a resolution.
This was 2 weeks ago. 1000s had already died all around the world, the WHO was already begging government's to enforce distancing & to "test test test." This gross negligence by the Johnson's gov should never be forgotten nor forgiven. #UKlockdownpic.twitter.com/islqkivW8l
Cummings, of course, denies ever making the statement, calling the claim “defamatory”. But let’s dispense with the formalities. Does anybody really – really – believe that that wasn’t the first thought of Cummings and half the cabinet when confronted with an imminent contagion they understood was about to unravel a social and economic theory they have dedicated their entire political careers to turning into a mass cult? An economic theory from which – by happy coincidence – they derive their political power and class privilege.
And sure enough, these hardcore monetarists are already quietly becoming pretend socialists to weather the very first weeks of the crisis. And there are many months more to run.
Austerity thrown out
As I predicted in my last post, the UK government last week threw out the austerity policies that have been the benchmark of Conservative party orthodoxy for more than a decade and announced a splurge of spending to save businesses with no business as well as members of the public no longer in a position to earn a living.
Since the 2008 financial crash, the Tories have cut social and welfare spending to the bone, creating a massive underclass in Britain, and have left local authorities penniless and incapable of covering the shortfall. For the past decade, the Conservative government excused its brutalist approach with the mantra that there was no “magic money tree” to help in times of trouble.
The free market, they argued, was the only fiscally responsible path. And in its infinite wisdom, the market had decided that the 1 per cent – the millionaires and billionaires who had tanked the economy in that 2008 crash – would get even filthier rich than they were already.
Meanwhile, the rest of us would see the siphoning off of our wages and prospects so that the 1 per cent could horde yet more wealth on offshore islands where we and the government could never get our hands on it.
“Neoliberalism” became a mystifying term used to reimagine unsustainable late-stage, corporate capitalism not only as a rational and just system but as the only system that did not involve gulags or bread queues.
Not only did British politicians (including most of the Labour parliamentary party) subscribe to it, but so did the entire corporate media, even if the “liberal” Guardian would very occasionally and very ineffectually wring its hands about whether it was time to make this turbo-charged capitalism a little more caring.
Only deluded, dangerous Corbyn “cultists” thought different.
But suddenly, it seems, the Tories have found that magic money tree after all. It was there all along and apparently has plenty of low-hanging fruit the rest of us may be allowed to partake from.
One doesn’t need to be a genius like Dominic Cummings to see how politically terrifying this moment is for the establishment. The story they have been telling us for 40 years or more about harsh economic realities is about to be exposed as a self-serving fairy tale. We have been lied to – and soon we are going to grasp that very clearly.
That is why this week the Tory politician Zac Goldsmith, a billionaire’s son who was recently elevated to the House of Lords, described as a “twat” anyone who had the temerity to become a “backseat critic” of Boris Johnson. And it is why the feted “political journalist” Isabel Oakeshott – formerly of the Sunday Times and a regular on BBC Question Time – took to twitter to applaud Mike Hancock and Johnson for their self-sacrifice and dedication to public service in dealing with the virus:
Spare a thought today for high-paid corporate journalists like this one who are now being forced to work overtime to find creative ways to make the government look good – and cover up their failure to hold the Tories to account for years of austerity that ravaged health services https://t.co/uYyREKEhqK
Spare a thought this morning for health secretary @MattHancock who has such enormous responsibility right now and is working crazy hours trying to help the nation beat this. The hourly judgements he and @BorisJohnson have to make are so difficult.
Be ready. Over the coming weeks, more and more journalists are going to sound like North Korea’s press corps, with paeans to “the dear leader” and demands that we trust that he knows best what must be done in our hour of need.
Saved by the bail-outs
The political and media class’s current desperation has a substantive cause – and one that should worry us as much as the virus itself.
Twelve years ago capitalism teetered on the brink of the abyss, its structural flaws exposed for anyone who cared to look. The 2008 crash almost broke the global financial system. It was saved by us, the public. The government delved deep into our pockets and transferred our money to the banks. Or rather the bankers.
We saved the bankers – and the politicians – from their economic incompetence through bail-outs that were again mystified by being named “quantitative easing”.
But we weren’t the ones rewarded. We did not own the banks or get a meaningful stake in them. We did not even get oversight in return for our huge public investment. Once we had saved them, the bankers went right back to enriching themselves and their friends in precisely the same manner that stalled the economy in 2008.
The bail-outs did not fix capitalism, they simply delayed for a while longer its inevitable collapse.
Capitalism is still structurally flawed. Its dependence on ever-expanding consumption cannot answer the environmental crises necessarily entailed by such consumption. And economies that are being artificially “grown”, at the same time as resources deplete, ultimately create inflated bubbles of nothingness – bubbles that will soon burst again.
Indeed, the virus is illustrative of one of those structural flaws – an early warning of the wider environmental emergency, and a reminder that capitalism, by intertwining economic greed with environmental greed, has ensured the two spheres collapse in tandem.
Pandemics like this one are the outcome of our destruction of natural habitats – to grow cattle for burgers, to plant palm trees for cakes and biscuits, to log forests for flat-pack furniture. Animals are being driven into ever closer proximity, forcing diseases to cross the species barrier. And then in a world of low-cost flights, disease finds an easy and rapid transit to every corner of the planet.
The truth is that in a time of collapse, like this decade-long one, capitalism has only “magic money trees” left. The first one, in the late 2000s, was reserved for the banks and the large corporations – the wealth elite that now run our governments as plutocracies.
The second “magic money tree”, needed to deal with what will become the even more disastrous economic toll wrought by the virus, has had to be widened to include us. But make no mistake. The circle of beneficence has been expanded not because capitalism suddenly cares about the homeless and those reliant on food banks. Capitalism is an amoral economic system driven by the accumulation of profit for the owners of capital. And that’s not you or me.
No, capitalism is now in survival mode. That is why western governments will, for a time, try to “bail out” sections of their publics too, giving back to them some of the communal wealth that has been extracted over many decades. These governments will try to conceal for a little longer the fact that capitalism is entirely incapable of solving the very crises it has created. They will try to buy our continuing deference to a system that has destroyed our planet and our children’s future.
It won’t work indefinitely, as Dominic Cummings knows only too well. Which is why the Johnson government, as well as the Trump administration and their cut-outs in Brazil, Hungary, Israel, India and elsewhere, are in the process of drafting draconian emergency legislation that will have a longer term goal than the immediate one of preventing contagion.
Western governments will conclude that it is time to shore up capitalism’s immune system against their own publics. The risk is that, given the chance, they will begin treating us, not the virus, as the real plague.