Stop Dropping Bombs On People’s Heads

It is the end of innocence for my 3 year old students. Their parents told them about Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian people prior to attending an action in the port of Oakland yesterday which has successfully blocked the Israeli ship ZIM from unloading.

If you think its difficult explaining to your uncle during holiday get togethers about the realities of Israel’s land grab and constant ethnic cleansing campaign, only imagine a preschool audience. This is the age when children ask “Why?” in response to any facts on the ground. (“It’s bedtime.” “Why?” “Because we need our rest.” “Why?” etc.)

We made new friends in a crowd with several other children of various ages. This fellow teacher shared his sunscreen with us.

As we gathered at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park with about 300 others yesterday afternoon, the questions were still coming thick and fast. They’re only starting to read so most of the signs were unintelligible, but the chant of “Free, free Palestine” matched up with the sign they had helped make earlier in the day. 

Some of the many questions we answered:”Why is there a helicopter in the sky?” “It’s a news team covering the protest.” “What does cover mean?” and also “Why is the truck driver honking his horn and why are people clapping?”

With the big picture orientation she’s prone to, my granddaughter mostly didn’t query us about the difference between Gaza and the West Bank or why Israel would want to steal their land and water. Her oft repeated question was this:

Why do they drop bombs on people’s heads?

After asking this approximately one hundred times and receiving answers ranging from “to steal the land” to “because they are scared and angry, and making bad choices” she transitioned into her own personal chant:

Stop dropping bombs on people’s heads.

This was tapped out with drumsticks, played on the recorder, recited to her baby brother, and murmured as she drifted off to sleep.

As her father and her friend and she and I walked back toward our car from the picket at one of the main gates, I carried the sign we’d made together. A sign that both 3 year olds had taken a turn proudly carrying that day.

“Grandma, don’t throw away our sign, we might need to use it again.”

She’s probably right about that, too.

Lesser Of Two Evils Still Extremely Evil In Supporting The State Of Israel

Source: Al Jazeera “A Palestinian woman is manhandled by an Israeli policeman in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem [Mahmoud Illean/AP]”

I’m feeling super glad that we in the U.S. elected the lesser of two evils so that Israel would no longer have a blank check for ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Not.

If anything, the Biden Administration may be more beholden to the Zionist lobby than its predecessor who only had an ambitious son-in-law planning to ride the issue to an even higher post than he got using nepotism. 

After all, our current prez and VP were previously senators who asked “How high?” when AIPAC told them to jump. 

Caitlin Johnstone, an Aussie blogger who monitors media messaging closely, feels that the corporate media narrative of made up facts i.e. Israel wrongly portrayed as victim while it terrorizes Palestinian populations is coming unraveled. She attributes the shift to the prevalence of phone cameras and platforms for sharing raw, unfiltered video of horrors like this:

And this:

Zionists do not represent all Jews, despite their claims to the contrary. 

Jews and people of conscience everywhere are now speaking out against Israel’s violence harming hundreds worshipping at a mosque, bombing Gaza killing little children in their beds (again), and displacement of Palestinians who are residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem.

There are good people in Israel speaking out against the violence, too. There are brave young people in Israel refusing their cumpulsory military service and going to jail for it. They get about as much traction as do those of us loudly condemning military “aid” to Israel (really credit for buying weapon systems at U.S. taxpayers’ expense) or the violent occupations by our own military.

But Israel is losing the public relations battle, right now in real time. 

And this could be a game changer for their violent colonial project of ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

Empire In Search Of Graveyard Signals Faux Concern For Afghan Women

Source: “The War In Afghanistan Is Bad Politics And Bad Foreign Policy” Defense One  October 7, 2018

One of the few good things the Trump administration did in office was enter into the Doha pact to end the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. They did so by negotiating with the odious Taliban, insurgents riding on religious extremism in their quest to rid their country of foreign invaders. 

Now the Biden administration is signalling that the May 1 withdrawal date is a non-starter. No surprises there: challenging China is unlikely to include abandoning military outposts right on their border. 

Biden et al. are also signalling their deep concern for the well-being of Afghan women. Because decades of military occupation have made Afghanistan literally the worst place on the planet to be female. Wait…


Source: “Once Upon a Time In Afghanistan” by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy 


For those with a historical perspective, memories of Afghan women attending universities and working as professionals under a Soviet-sponsored regime endure. The proxy war between the U.S.-sponsored mujahadeen and the Soviet-Afghan government in the 1990’s began to erode quality of life for women and girls who were bombed, forced to flee as refugees, and trafficked for sex. Repression of women’s rights under the pretext of Islamic law was the icing on that particular cake.

The CIA has actually been bragging on Twitter lately about supporting the mujahadeen “freedom fighters” against the USSR.

As we know by know, the CIA has spent decades arming militias around the planet in order to topple governments that are resistant to capitalist exploitation by the U.S. and its allies. They used to do this covertly, but in the declining days of empire, chest thumping displays of prowess are in order I guess.

Predictably, the corporate press have chimed in to manufacture consent for continuing the U.S.’s longest war.

Because, really, things have been going so well in Afghanistan under military occupation. Maybe the U.S. should just stay because deciding to withdraw could be “complicated” right?

From an Associated Press article dated April 8:

Afghanistan, a country in turmoil, has been trying to inoculate millions of children against polio but the recent killing of three female vaccinators has put the country’s campaign in doubt. However, brave women of the country remain determined to continue efforts in the face of danger and violence.

Unknown gunmen shot vaccination workers at two separate locations in the eastern city of Jalalabad on March 30 killing two volunteers and one supervisor in the polio immunization program, all of them women, as they carried out door-to-door vaccinations.

That’s right. Afghanistan is struggling after 20 years of military occupation, preceded by 10 years of civil war, preceded by 10 years of proxy war, to vaccinate for a disease eradicated in my childhood (and I am old). That’s how poor they are, and that’s how low quality of life has sunk on our watch. Life expectancy for Afghans born in the 21st century is less than 65, retirement age for those of us in the heart of the evil empire. 

Biden won’t get out of Afghanistan for the same reason Trump, Obama, and Bush didn’t: there’s plenty of good money to be made supplying the army with the tools of the trade, to quote Country Joe and the Fish. His gargantuan $715 billion “defense” budget request exceeds that of Trump by an inflation index and will no doubt pass with little debate and bipartisan fealty from the corporate flunkies in Congress.

A nation enduring a pandemic without universal health care, in which 25% of brown and Black children experience hunger each week, with millions literally unhoused, is in a very insecure position. Imperial expansion will not remedy what ails us, but most dying empires continue trying to expand right up to the moment when they hit the wall. Often, in Afghanistan.

The Cult Of Celebrity Is Not Our Friend


Which version of Philip will you remember?

I’ve long been fascinated by the role that celebrity worship (yes, I think that’s an accurate term) plays in the narrative management that keeps a greedy 1% in power hogging our common resources.

The death of Prince Philip at age 99 is a good occasion to reflect on this psychological weapon of the rich against the working classes. 

An aristocratic parasite whose brother-in-laws were literal Nazis, nasty and mean by reputation, Philip will ironically be mostly remembered on this side of the pond as portrayed by an actor in the Netflix series “The Crown.” You know: younger, handsomer, and a boon companion of the plucky queen. Loving father (hard to type that with a straight face), etc. 

This sort of thing — the inexplicable fascination ordinary humans have for individual members of the elites that are crushing the life out of them — has been going on since at least Shakespeare’s time. Recall if you will the opening scene of Julius Caesar where two patricians admonish the rabble for being out in the streets in their best i.e. not work clothes. Eager to see the triumphant Caesar parade by, Shakespeare’s plebians are indifferent to advice that Caesar recently killed rival general Pompey.


So a Renaissance playwright projected his own generation’s fascination with the cult of personality onto Roman citizens on the verge of imperial decay.

Propaganda has become much more sophisticated in our day. While ancient Assyrian warrior princes commissioned their own accolades (cuneiform message for the literate extols the fertilizing powers of King Ashurnasirpal)

the royal family in Windsor Castle has the BBC and Netflix to do this for them.

The imperial presidency in the U.S., upstart branch of the brutal colonial projects launched from England’s shores centuries ago, has its own faux populist stories told by experts. 

Thus we see a lot of attention paid to the pets brought to the White House by various CEOs of USA, Inc.

The propaganda effort starts early. Note the link in my last paragraph to National Geographic for Kids. 

If you doubt it, check out corporate publications like Time for Kids.

I had a taste of the cult of celebrity when I ran against Susan Collins for her seat in the U.S. Senate last year. Based on my experiences, I’d say a lot of projection is involved. People are eager to support a personification of their values in part because (they think) it relieves them of the responsibility for fixing the mess of late stage capitalism that we find ourselves in. Months later, I am still receiving effusive notes of thanks for my attempt to crack the corporate duopoly’s stranglehold on Congress.

You’re welcome, but the real point is: 

what are you going to do about climate crisis, galloping poverty and homelessness, and Cold War belligerence marching us toward WWIII?

Calling Out Civilian Deaths By Drone Under Yet Another Democratic Party Warmonger

Screenshot from video of protest blocking the road at Creech AFB on April 5. Group chanting, “Arrest Col. Jones, the war criminal, not Daniel Hale, the whistleblower!”  Posted by Toby Blomé at https://shutdowncreech.blogspot.com

Today I am reposting a press release from the dedicated drone resistance that converges annually at Creech Air Base in Nevada. 

These people of conscience work tirelessly to shine a light into the dark crime of U.S. relentless bombing of civilians with each successive administration in Washington DC, whether Democrat or Republican. 

Many of them will risk arrest to bring attention to these atrocities.

April 2, 2021
Contact: Toby Blomé, 510.501.5412 Maggie Huntington.602.459.5257
For more details: https://shutdowncreech.blogspot.com

ANTI-DRONE PROTESTORS FROM AROUND U.S. CONVERGE THIS WEEK TO CONDEMN KILLING BY CREECH AFB DRONES

LAS VEGAS/CREECH AFB, NV – Anti-war/anti-drone demonstrators from the East and West coasts announced they are converging here April 4-10 to hold daily protests – which may lead to arrests – at the U.S. Drone Base at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

Many military veterans, now members of Veterans for Peace, will be joining. The event is co-sponsored by CODEPINK and Veterans for Peace.

At Creech, U.S. Air Force personnel, coordinating with C.I.A. officials, are, regularly and secretly, killing people remotely using unmanned armed drone planes, primarily the MQ-9 Reaper drones. 

Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere, since 2001, according to the activists.

In the aftermath of the recent and tragic U.S. massacres by lone gunmen in Georgia and Boulder, activists will hold daily two hour vigils between 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m., during commute hours to underline the connection between mass violence at home and the “normalized” mass violence of the U.S. covert drone program and U.S. military.

Over the last 20 years, U.S. armed drones have been used to commit horrible atrocities that have included strikes on wedding parties, funerals, schools, mosques, homes, farm laborers, and in January, 2020, included direct hits on high level foreign military and government officials from Iran and Iraq.

“A man walks past a graffiti, denouncing strikes by U.S. drones in Yemen, painted on a wall in Sanaa November 13, 2014”
KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS

These drone massacres have, at times, resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians with a single drone attack. Not a single U.S. official has ever been held accountable for these ongoing atrocities, 

yet, an important drone whistleblower, Daniel Hale, who leaked truths about these atrocities faces potentially harsh sentencing later this July.

The daily vigils will include different themes each time, but two notable ones include:

Mon, April 5, 3:30-4:30 p.m. “WE STAND WITH Drone Whistleblower DANIEL HALE.” On Wednesday, March 31, Daniel Hale pled guilty to being the informant who anonymously leaked classified military documents to an online media publisher, The Intercept, that revealed secret military statistics documenting civilian casualties under the covert U.S. targeted drone assassination program. (See The Drone Papers, 2015).

As a U.S. citizen and USAF analyst, Daniel acted out of conscience to reveal the truth about these serious war crimes that he felt the public had a right to know. Protesters will stand in support of Daniel’s courageous act and demand that the real criminals be prosecuted, including the commanders of killer drone bases like Creech AFB, not the whistleblowers, who reveal the atrocities. Some of the messages will include: “Free Daniel Hale, Exposing war crimes is not a crime” “Prosecute the War Criminals not the Truth-tellers”

Tues, April 6, 6:30 – 8:30 a.m. THE DRONE MASSACRE MEMORIAL: Activists, will display a long series of banners, stretched along the highway, each highlighting details of past U.S. drone massacres, including statistics on civilian deaths.

“It is our hope,” said Toby Blomé, one of the organizers, “that the military personnel that drive into the base everyday will reflect deeply about their role in this criminal activity that causes innumerable deaths and untold suffering around the globe, and that just maybe some of them will make the difficult but ethical choice to not participate.

“Militarized drones are expanding at an unbelievable rate, replacing conventional warfare, without any meaningful public debate. It is therefore the obligation of the military personnel to embrace their own individual responsibilities.”

-END-


A pre-pandemic crowd of protestors at Creech in April, 2016.

Guard Against The Greed And Ignorance Driving Climate Crisis

Research in the UK turns up the unsurprising fact that a tiny group of humans cause the lion’s share of air pollution via air travel. I’m old enough to remember when the fawning press called these elites “the jet set” due to their excessive use of machines that allow for swift travel. 

The wealthy use travel to show off their privilege. For example, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz flying to Cancun during a statewide power outage last winter in Texas. 

Or, in an anecdote I was told by an Afghan friend, a bride in Kabul flying to Dubai for her wedding makeup.

Of the two examples, one was the direct result of unprecedented freezing weather crashing a U.S. state’s (unregulated) power grid. 

Thus, climate change begets climate change.

Then there’s greedy capitalist Elon Musk’s SpaceX flops that belch carbon and other greenhouse gases to exalt his ego if not to consolidate his wealth.

My friend and neighbor Barry Dana, past chief of the Penobscot Nation, has been ringing the alarm bell about air travel for years. His response to my sharing the news that a handful of people cause most of the climate damage due to aviation was, “I see flying to be one thing we have in our daily choices that we have the power NOT to do.” He is critical of Native environmental activists who fly in indigenous experts from around the globe to confer about our climate problem.

My response is to listen to Barry, an educator for traditional wisdom about how to live sustainably on this planet, and to make my choices accordingly.

But the elephant in the climate change room is actually military aviation.

Neoliberal rag The Guardian naturally did not offer this context in their article about elite air travel.

Source: Brown University, Watson Institute, Costs of War Project

Luckily for us, academics have been studying military contributions to climate crisis for a while now. I’ve been collecting their reports here for a few years and was excited to learn that peace activist emeritus Kathy Kelly referred to my collection in an interview recently. Podcaster Kollibri terre Sonnenblume characterized this as:

“most US Americans are ignorant of the consequences of US militarism.” 

No kidding.

Like The Guardian, the corporate press here in the U.S. works overtime to ignore the real drivers of climate change. To help craft this false narrative, military emissions were exempt from being quantified in the Kyoto climate protocols, and were made optional in the Paris climate accords. Because our planet’s atmosphere isn’t affected by pollution if it has the right flag on it?

Now, with a former Raytheon board member heading the Pentagon, this problem is unlikely to be addressed. The U.S. military is well aware that climate change is a thing and they have lots of contingency plans for dealing with the coastal flooding of many of their 800 bases around the planet.

I founded the Maine Natural Guard to help people connect the dots between climate crisis and U.S. taxpayer funded military aviation. So few people seem to care that we bomb civilians constantly no matter which of the two corporate parties is in power at the moment, but many do care about the existential threat of climate emergency. 

I’m glad to see Veterans for Peace has a web page for their Working Group on Climate Crisis and Militarism with their #1 focus: “The unequal burden of both climate change and militarism on people of color and the poor.” 

This point is important to bear in mind as we witness the ramp up to war with China, Russia, or (are the generals insane?) both. When I read Ann Wright’s comprehensive review “In Alarmist Turn, NATO Is Increasingly Positioning Itself In Opposition To China, I saw our carbon bootprint spreading like the stain it is.

Want to be part of the solution?

Add your name to join the Natural Guard effort from wherever you are!

I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment, because the commons we all share that sustain life are valuable to me.

In discussions about security and safety, I will remind others of the need to count in the cost in pollution and fuel consumption of waging wars all around the planet.

In discussions about acting soon to protect our loved ones from the effects of climate chaos, I will remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.

Who Dares To Resist Raytheon?

Back in 2019, former USM professor Ken Jones and I were arrested together protesting the christening[sic] of yet another General Dynamics war ship in Bath, Maine. Ken was one of those who chose to be jailed rather than pay a bail bondsman, and I was with his partner Melody Shank when Ken walked out of the private for-profit jail in Wiscasset where he and the others were held for a weekend.

Since returning home to North Carolina, Ken and Melody have been active in the resistance to a new war machine factory in their area. Here’s reporting gleaned from their accounts as well as the group’s Reject Raytheon website.

From Ken’s blog post in February 2021:

The site for the Pratt & Whitney (P&W, a division of Raytheon Technologies) plant being planned for Asheville is now being cleared of trees so that construction on the 1.2 million sq. ft. plant can begin soon. 

It looks like mountaintop removal, a not unfamiliar occurrence here in the Appalachian Mountains.  It breaks my heart to see it.

P&W builds engines for commercial and military jets, most notoriously for the state-of-the-art F-35 Lightning Fighter Jet. Raytheon is the 2nd largest arms manufacturer in the world, a major war profiteer.

…We did a die-in at Vance Monument in the center of Asheville.


We did a rally as part of the international day of action to celebrate the Entry into Force of the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Raytheon has over a billion dollars of contracts in the nuclear weapons industry.

My own research turns up that Raytheon spent $4 million lobbying our elected officials in 2019, and made big contributions to both Republican and Democratic campaigns in 2020.

Source: Opensecrets.com Raytheon summary

The continued operation of government at the national, state, and local level by corporate-sponsored officials is degrading the environment, degrading the health and well-being of children who grow up in poverty, rapidly increasing the number of people experiencing homelessness, and depriving millons of health care in the middle of a pandemic. 


Our current Secretary of “Defense” Lloyd Austin served on the board of Raytheon Technologies after retiring from the military. The children in other countries being killed by U.S. airstrikes could not care less whether the current administration has a D or an R after its name, or how racially diverse it is.

Brave and dedicated activists like Ken, Melody, and their friends are not afraid to call out the elephant in our midst: gargantuan Pentagon budgets that enrich contractors like Raytheon at the taxpayers’ expense. 


As the corporate press continues to push the notion that U.S. foreign policy under Biden is significantly different than that of his predecessor, independent journalists will keep pushing back on that lie.

Why not join us to share real information rather than manufactured news?

CMP Has A Climate Problem: James Fortin

Guest post today — this excellent essay on the CMP corridor project (which is already felling trees according to reports by residents of central Maine).

Its and Ours: Central Maine Power Has a Climate Problem

by James Fortin
The recent substantial failures of the for-profit power utilities in California and now Texas have several things in common.  Their uniquely negligent acts have caused numerous deaths, damage and destruction to homes, and further deterioration of the natural environment.  Whether by raging wildfires or frozen natural gas lines, the denying CEOs and their profiteering management act as though climate change is just a cost of doing business. One more example of the same sort is worth noting.

The small state of Maine (population 1.34 million) recently completed a massive, year-long deliberative process ending with the adoption of a 4-year blueprint to tackle climate change. Entitled, “Maine Won’t Wait, a Plan for Climate Action,” the effort involved hundreds of scientists, local and state officials, businesses, environmental activists and staffs of universities and colleges working thousands of cumulative hours.

A benchmark effort of the Maine governor, Janet Mills, the plan calls for a quick turn away from using gasoline to power transportation and from heating oil to warm homes (60 percent of Maine homes heat with oil).  In its place, the report portends, electricity generated from wind and solar, coupled with the use of advancing storage technology, will permit Maine to achieve some of the most aggressive anti-climate change goals in the U.S. – a 45 percent decrease of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, 80 percent by 2050, and a transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.  Whether these standards can be achieved, or are even adequate, remains to be seen as many might say, the devil is in the details.

Not surprising anyone, the climate plan relies upon the actions of companies and investors in the economic private sector, with numerous financial incentives from the state, to bring about the changes forecasted.  That being the case, a key player in the plan will be Central Maine Power (CMP), the largest electricity transmission and distribution utility in the state, and a subsidiary of Avangrid, which is owned by the Spanish conglomerate Iberdrola.  The warning flags may now be raised.

CMP has a history.  Its mis-actions over the years – power shutoffs during brutal Maine winters, mysterious overbilling of thousands of customers, and a miserable record in power restoration during outages – garnered the 122-year-old company a distinction in 2020.  It was rated the absolute worst performer among electric utilities across the U.S. in a survey conducted by J.D. Power.  Fines along the way to such dubious stardom included a whopping $9.9 million dollar penalty last year from the Maine Public Utilities Commission – its largest-ever fine – for poor management of the electric grid.  Shades of California and Texas!

Besides distributing electric power, CMP also generates plenty of arrogance and outrage.  Earlier this month CMP informed a number of both approved and proposed solar projects in Maine that their cost to distribute their clean energy via the established electric power grid, which CMP controls, would be increased.

More than 100 solar power projects which previously had received cost estimates to hook up to the grid were stunned.  Claiming it needs the funds to update substations through which solar-generated electricity would tie into the system, one “upgrade” spiked from $600,000 to $1.3 million.  In another, the proposed rip-off  skyrocketed from $250,000 to $9 million!  A project engineer working on these 2 solar developments pointed to similar engineering performed in neighboring Vermont for $75,000.  One developer noted, “Needless  to say, such costs will prohibit these projects from being built.”  Another developer agreed, his project’s extortion toll going from $618,000 to $8.4 million.

The CMP actions immediately evoked overwhelming outrage around the state including that from the governor, herself.  Mills directed the Maine Public Utilities Commission to open an immediate investigation into CMP’s actions.  She further instructed the Commission to commence a broader review of the utility to determine its capability to accommodate the growth of renewable energy generation in the state – her top priority.

Within a day, as if by epiphany, the executive chairman of CMP, David Flanagan, responded to the outrage stating his company now realized that the higher costs “would be an impossible barrier” to solar power for some.  Also, his company had found new “solutions” to the proposed upgrades that now would cost only $175,00 to $375,000, instead of millions.  The cause of the entire matter was laid, of course, upon the faulty thinking of mid-level CMP management who supposedly were overworked and had not checked with others before announcing the figures.  Commenting on the current crisis, State Representative Seth Berry,  an outspoken critic of CMP, more precisely summarized the behavior of CMP as being “Caught trying to shake down solar developers.”

Berry has long warned of the obstacles that would be placed by CMP in the way of solar electric power generation in the state.  He put forth the possibility that CMP cynically lowered its costs, thereby quieting public outrage, by scaling back the scope of the jobs to only that needed immediately. He surmised that nothing would keep the utility from seeking a rate increase later to pay for the work.

With the support of environmental activists and organizations, Berry, who is House Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, has a bill pending before the legislature that would create a consumer-owned, non-profit public electric transmission utility, eliminating CMP’s role.

An electric power customer in sync with Berry offered what many ratepayers in Maine think. “CMP has got to go. They are now essentially breaking contracts with solar project developers. We need this solar energy to do our part to address climate change… CMP is obviously poorly managed, and not capable of preparing Maine’s electricity grid for our clean energy future. Maine needs and deserves an electricity system designed and operated for the good of Mainers, not on behalf of stockholders.”

Based on current performance it should come as no surprise that Central Maine Power has a sordid history that includes precedent to this current outrage.  Using its decades-long monopoly status, hordes of cash, and a bevy of lobbyists, CMP secured the backing of the Maine Legislature in 1937 to essentially seize the Town of Flagstaff and surrounding valley farmlands.  Through legislative actions the valley was ceded to CMP for water storage, a dam was built, the valley flooded in 1951, and the resulting electric power distributed via the CMP electricity grid.  In protest, some residents refused to sell their homes to CMP and hung out on their rooftops as the flood waters inundated their houses.  Yet, CMP publicly would claim credit for the “progress” it had brought to the people of Maine.  Any mention of gloating, however, was absent from the news releases.

In the same spirit of bulldozing anything or anyone who gets its way, Central Maine Power today again is engaged a knock-down fight to secure $billions in profits via another environmental assault.  This time however, it must take on an organized anti-climate change movement as well as defeat an alliance of Indigenous peoples.

In 2020 nearly 70,000 registered Maine voters signed a petition to overturn by referendum a proposal disguised as “clean” energy by an electric power consortium of CMP, Hydro-Quebec, and others.  Involved are transmission lines that would connect hydroelectric mega-dams in Quebec, through Maine, to electric utilities in Massachusetts.  The petitioners attempted to reverse governmental approvals for a transmission corridor that includes a 52-mile long clear cut the width of the New Jersey turnpike through an area of woodlands and lakes prized by hikers, sportspeople, and ecological groups. The project then ties into an existing corridor which will be further developed for a total of 145 miles. 

The anti-CMP Corridor coalition had limited financial resources available to convince Mainers to oppose the project. On the other hand, the power consortium spent over $19 million in slick ads to fight any rollback of their $1 billion project calling itself the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC).  And if the money did not sway the public’s thinking, the consortium invested in private investigators tailing and intimidating those collecting signatures on the petitions.

Losing to Mainers in public opinion polls, CMP headed to the courts where the referendum was disallowed by the Maine Supreme Court based on its constitutionality, not environmental merits.  Not giving up, however, anti-CMP corridor activists worked with other forces to initiate lawsuits and appeals in both the courts and with the regulatory agencies involved with approvals.  At the same time they reworked their petition to comply with the language of the law, collected over 80,000 signatures, again, then submitted to the State for another referendum scheduled to be held in November 2021. This time the resolution to stop the project will be on the ballot.

Aside from the outrageous clear cutting of northern Maine woods to provide what amounts to a superhighway for transmission lines, CMP has obscured the very nature of the hydroelectric power generated by its partner, Hydro-Quebec. While big-dam hydroelectric power is renewable, it is not clean.  And perhaps even more significantly the project relies on centuries-old exploitation of traditional Indigenous lands and habitats. It is anything but just.

[Note:  Hydroelectric power is produced when reservoir water built up behind a dam is released via gravity to spin turbines, which generate electricity. There are no fossil fuels involved in the process, hence the semblance of producing green energy.] 

Before Hydro-Quebec could generate electricity from the 63 dams and 27 reservoirs that comprise its massive hydroelectric system, it had to destroy extensive forests to create areas for the gigantic reservoirs of water needed to spin the turbines.  With just one of its plants, Bersimis-1, a vast wooded area was obliterated and then flooded to create its 290-square mile reservoir. In itself this forever destroyed a significant forested carbon-sequestering area while producing an enormous jolt of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Defying the image of clean electricity being produced from moving water, the captive reservoirs where water is stored also produce carbon dioxide and methane.  Both CO2 and methane are released when vegetation decomposes in water.  Methane is a greenhouse gas that has 80 times the warming power of CO2 during the 20 years after it is first released, decreasing in potency with follow-on decades.

Compounding the negative impact of reservoir water, mercury is released from the flooded soils as well.  This poisonous element has been found at dangerously concentrated levels in fish where it is then passed up through the human food chain.  In Quebec, particularly, the First Nations have noted increased levels of mercury poisoning within their communities drastically altering their traditional uses of food and negatively impacting their spiritually oriented, indigenous ways of life.

The tribes that make up the Quebec First Nations are opposed to the NECEC citing the history of hydroelectric projects which destroyed their ancestral lands.  Deputy Grand Chief Mary Ann Nui of the Innu Nation summed up her Nation’s opposition in that “people lost their land, their livelihoods, their travel routes, and their personal belongings when the area where the project is located was flooded.  Our ancestral burial sites are under water, our way of life was disrupted forever.” She went on to point out that the Innu “weren’t informed or consulted about that project then, and now Hydro-Quebec, without talking to us, intends to export electricity that is partly produced on our lands to the United States.  It is (a) further insult to the Innu, and we refuse to be ignored, it is out of the question as an Indigenous people who have already suffered great harm from Hydro-Quebec that we would allow this to happen.”

In a joint statement Chief Monik Kistabish of the Anishnabeg of Pikogan, Chief Adrienne Jérôme of the Lac Simon, and Chief Régis Pénosway of Kitcisakik , together faulted Hydro-Québec for repeatedly refusing to discuss compensation for the damages caused by its installations. “Hydro-Québec wants to export electricity to the United States … but shows no willingness to compensate our communities for the flooding and destruction of our traditional territories. This electricity comes from our lands, and we’re not going to be pushed around any longer.”

The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador deem Hydro-Quebec’s ongoing transgression to be violations of Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Central Maine Power and its parent company, Avangrid, hope to ignore the issue and are rushing to get their transmission corridor up and running.   

As the Democratic political leadership of the state of Maine has outlined what part it is willing to  play to curb global warming, it is doing so by giving its consent and support to private capital to get the job done.  That is the way it works under capitalism.  Not the governor, nor the legislature, wish to be seen as promoting direct government involvement in creating the infrastructure to take on climate change for fear of being labeled “socialist.”  So they will defer even to the likes of CMP.  They will do nothing more than what is acceptable to the corporate financial mega-contributor genre.

Up to this point in time, if that means partnering with Central Maine Power, a company that is horrible at what it is supposed to do, as evidenced by the fines and censures levied against it, or through its arrogant disregard for the loudly expressed wishes of the people of Maine, past and present – so be it.

If that means CMP will make more money, more quickly, by aligning with the interests of industrial scale hydroelectric power, even at the expense of solar and wind sources that the Maine Climate Action Plan says is a priority – yes, that too.

And finally, if CMP willingly joins in an alliance of complicity with Hydro-Quebec – a Canadian state-owned instrument that perpetuates the settler-colonial oppression of the First Nations through exploitation of its resources – no problem there either.

Most obviously, CMP needs to be dispatched from the scene immediately, and that will be a step in the right direction, but it is not sufficient in itself to defeat the accelerating climate catastrophe.  Taking profit out of the equation for an electric utility in Maine is a small piece in the national struggle to save the planet.  Climate scientists already have predicted that the atmospheric warming to date already has baked in many non-reversible, awful consequences for the globe.  Failure to end  the use of fossil fuels, universally and quickly, will spell only deepening natural disasters and unparalleled human misery.  It is on this front that the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel industry and the 1% ownership class must be taken on, and they will fight back ferociously.

A national public emergency must be declared to battle climate change on all fronts, just as was done in the U.S. during World War II when industry was mobilized under federal control to build ships, airplanes, canons, and anything else needed to fight a war.  In the effort a Michigan automobile manufacturer built a B-24 bomber plane every hour during the war.  A Maine shipyard delivered one cargo ship each day. Several companies completed a total of 50,000 Sherman tanks between 1942 and 1945.  The list goes on, as would the production of solar panels, windmills, electric home heating units, electric vehicles of all types and untold other products to defeat a changing climate if the economy were mobilized.

This time, a first step would entail nationalization of the energy industries – fossil fuels, power grids, and generation sources – together with their banks that finance it.  Simultaneously, an emergency Congress of scientists, workers, production planners, unions, environmentalists, citizens, oppressed communities, and others would begin the process of planning and then implementing the way out of fossil fuel dependency, free of profit motive constrictors.  The U.S. can do it under such leadership – it did once; only the drive for unregulated profit stands in the way.  

There are two climate problems in Maine.  The first involves the rampage of climate changes now besetting the state and what steps Mainers are taking to attempt a mitigation of the primarily fossil-fuel, corporate assault on nature.  The second belongs to Central Maine Power alone.  The company has created a climate of haughty taking for itself and its partners in disregard to the needs of its customers or our Earth.  In all of this at least, Central Maine Power has validated in practice its answer to a riddle:What do electric rate payers, environmentalists, and Indigenous peoples have in common?  A Maine utility that has found ways to screw them all in the name of profit.

No Rainbow Flag Is Large Enough To Cover The Shame Of Killing Innocent People


Secretary of “Defense” Lloyd Austin speaking to reporters this month.

Bombs killing children are so much more attractive when dropped by Democrats, don’t you think?

The Biden Administration started bombing Syria yesterday, and here’s what Twitter wanted me to know was going on:

The airstrikes follow weeks of big $$$$$ deals selling weapons to some of the other horrific regimes kept in place by brute force around the world. Gaza’s tormenter and Yemen’s tormenter both restocked their armories,  enriching the corporations that own and operate the U.S. government. 

Those corporations have already become very, very wealthy off the taxpayers buying armaments — while rival nations invest in health care and work to eradicate poverty. 

The U.S. instead invests in weapons systems like the F-35 jet bomber that cost more than $1.5 trillion before being declared a failure. (Maybe a failure for the Air Force, but certainly not for profiteer and big Biden campaign contributor Lockheed Martin.)

The revolving door between government and industry is fascism exemplified. The U.S. will continue dealing out deadly airstrikes that kill civilians in the Middle East while literally letting its own population freeze and starve to death during a public health crisis. And whether you put an R or a D after that list of crimes makes very little difference to the victims. 

Millions Freeze, Starve While The Empire Wastes Our Resources Colonizing Outer Space

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Cars line up at a drive-thru food pantry. Neil Blake/Grand Rapids Press/AP 

Narrative management is where it’s at, and the story about U.S. space travel is about glorifying the empire — while ironically racing toward its collapse by hollowing out its life support systems.

Or maybe glorifying the domination and pollution of space and rapacious billionaires who enable it is the substance of upholding the narrative around our disintegrating empire at this point in history?

Odd that perseverance hasn’t gotten us universal health care, an end to the (designed to be endless) “war on terror,” or vaccines for everyone who wants them.

Nurses unions are begging for the Center for Disease Control to recognize that aerosols convey COVID-19 virus, a scientific fact that I’m pretty sure most 2nd graders in our nation grasped months ago. (You can sign their petition to the CDC here.) Will perseverance get them there? Probably not without a strike. 

Science denial about climate crisis has led to Texas frozen in a freak storm, its water treatment plants darkened, its mansions flooded from burst pipes. 

The fossil fuel industry that caused both the underlying climate chaos and the unregulated power grid dependent on dinosaur remains plus the underfunded social safety net is busy churning out lies. Failing to supply millions of homes with the power to heat or cook was falsely blamed on solar and wind energy systems. 

All the while, Pentagon contracting and its newest division Space Force roll on, gobbling up the vast majority of our taxes and hastening our demise. But hooray for landing on Mars! Because narrative management is where it’s at.

You Can Opt Out Of Studying Black History, But You Can’t Opt Out Of Living It

The school in Utah that made headlines allowing parents to opt out of their children learning about Black History Month has backpedaled. Public outcry and the state’s curriculum standards apparently caused them to rethink the decision to let ignorant parents extend their family’s ignorance of history into the classroom.

We’re all part of Black history, this month and every month. Our wealth as a nation is rooted in the stolen labor of Black people.

Some of us own homes and got to attend college due to our white privilege protecting us in every encounter with police. And protecting our parents, who lived to raise us. Who got their GI benefits when Black GI’s did not. Is it unfair that we all benefit from the inventionsinnovations, and art created by Black people in the U.S. and beyond?

I’m engaged in a delightful education project with two bright 3 year olds in Oakland, California who watched firsthand last summer’s massive demonstrations demanding that Black Lives Matter. Police violence is somewhat abstract to my students, but the rage and determination of BLM supporters is not. Occasionally one of the kids will pick up a sign on a stick and tell me they are protesting adding “Black Lives Matter” or “No justice, no peace.”

So they have the motivation and the context for studying some of the key Black people in our nation’s history. They are old enough to understand when something is not fair, but not old enough to have heard of civil rights leaders MLK, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, or even former 49er Colin Kaepernick.

Yesterday a new book, Young Kap, arrived in the mail and was read with interest. Last week a book on the Negro Leagues in baseball that I borrowed from the local library was a hit; most of the text is over their head, but not the excellent paintings by Kadir Nelson that accompany it. 

Also popular with my students: picture book Touch the Sky about the first Black woman to bring home gold from the Olympics. Ever heard of her? Alice Coachman is also on the cover of a book by that name that I wrote surveying the stories of women whose names ought to go down in U.S. history for their achievements. It was illustrated by Ruby Pfeiffle, and her portrait of Coachman is on the cover.

I used to teach older students about Black history including African civilizations of ancient times, slavery in the Americas, Jim Crow, the Northern Migration,  and the long struggle for civil rights. But since Michael Brown’s murder sparked Black Lives Matter rising up to define the struggle against white supremacist violence supported by government I’ve been a reading specialist working with much younger kids. Still, I’ve continued educating myself e.g. watching the documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and reading books by Black authors including a recent holiday gift from a family member, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

So this opportunity to teach Black history is especially welcome. It’s not just confined to the month of February, either.

As a mother many years ago I helped one of my sons who has Black ancestry prepare for a book day presentation in 5th grade. He had chosen to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and he dressed as Malcolm to deliver the historic speech, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. The rock was landed on us.” The white judges gave the prize to a girl dressed as Pippi Longstocking which made my son’s teacher mad. She felt the consensus of teachers and students was that my son had given the best presentation.

I felt my son learned a lot more by being penalized for appearing as a righteously angry, articulate Black leader. 

It was a teachable moment.

Judging The Biden Administration Not By Words, But By Deeds

A displaced family in Marib, Yemen, carries a winter aid package back to their shelter. Source: UN

Those keeping an eye on the foreign policy scorecard for the Democratic regime just installed in Washington DC are noticing ominous actions which are only slightly concealed by soothing words.

  • An announcement that U.S. support for the Saudi’s brutal war on Yemen would end was couched in weasel words. Yemeni professor Shireen Al-Adeimi, who teaches in Michigan, teamed up with crack investigative reporter Sarah Lazare to parse the details of what this could mean for the long suffering civilian population of Yemen.
  • One of the first acts of the new administration was sending more U.S. troops into Syria where the long running civil war/proxy war has already caused untold suffering. Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in space explains the context.
  • The Pentagon sent troops into Norway for the first time but Norway then canceled the military exercises planned because of a spike in COVID-19 infections. As reported in Military.com: 
    • “Last year’s iteration of Cold Response, another major NATO exercise, was also significantly scaled back due to the pandemic. Training in and around the Arctic Circle has been a priority for NATO forces to counter Russia in the region.” My comment: what could go wrong?
  • The new administration announced this week they are keeping the Trump administration’s Space Force as a new branch of the military. Of course they are.

Biden’s cabinet and his pick for USAID are neoliberal and neocon warhawks so all of the above was entirely predictable.

Meanwhile, although Congress easily passed a $750+ billion Pentagon budget recently, they can’t agree on pandemic relief for the millions teetering on the verge of eviction and starvation in the U.S.

And those of us who want the COVID-19 vaccine are still waiting. Ok, that one’s not on Biden yet. A family member who works at a leading research hospital told me the general consensus is three months turnaround time for national level health care planning and execution to be guided by science. 

But most of us understand that, without reining in the military budget, we’ll never get Medicare for All and, without universal health care, the pandemic is likely to be a very long event. 

As in, retirees like me may not live long enough to see the end of it. Or of the planned endlessness of the “war on terror.”

Delusional Thinking On The Rise As COVID Deniers Block Access To Vaccination Site In Los Angeles

The news that protesters against masking, social distancing, and the COVID-19 vaccine shut down a vaccination site at Dodger Stadium over the weekend is troubling me.* (One of them can be seen in video holding a sign that says, “I only like muzzles in the ♥ bedroom ♥.” Way to build credibility for your anti-science stance, I guess.)

Los Angeles has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic’s winter wave, and people have been willing to line up for hours to be on standby to receive a dose of the vaccine.

(Note: the reason I don’t like name calling was instantly demonstrated when a bot on Twitter responded to this language by claiming falsely that Jewish people are cancers on our civilization. When they go low, let’s not follow them to the bottom.)

The level of delusional thinking that would lead someone to interfere with other people seeking health care is hard to fathom. 

The fact that the protesters were themselves unmasked and undistanced indicates that they either think COVID-19 is a hoax or they think it’s a type of flu that most people recover from. The fact that they’re all white indicates they are from a demographic that has suffered least with COVID mortality. Latinx workers in Los Angeles have a terribly high rate of infection and many families are grieving the loss of a loved one while also scrambling to cope with the loss of a breadwinner. Ditto Black workers and their families.

The first person I know personally who was hospitalized with COVID, an older white man, was intubated in the ICU for 11 days before sort of recovering. Now he’s suffered congestive heart failure and is back in the hospital. I can’t figure out why the protesters don’t know anybody with similar experiences by now.

The level of delusional thinking that would lead someone to mock and harrass the survivor of a school mass shooting event is also hard to fathom.

And these two delusions seem to be more than coincidentally connected.

An extremely numb congressperson from Georgia who I do not care to name harrassed Cori Bush, a Black congresswoman from Missouri, berating her and her staff in the hallway outside their office. While not wearing a mask as required to be in the Capitol buildings. The same congressperson from Georgia is on video harassing David Hogg, a survivor of a mass shooting at his high school in Florida who went on to become a gun control organizer. (Side note: a Republican politician in central Maine lost his job as vice president of a local bank after doing the same, but on Twitter.) 

I know that the parents of first graders who died in the Sandy Hook school massacre have also reported being gaslighted by gun nuts. The pain of burying your 6 year old is almost unimaginable, but the pain of being mocked and harrassed for saying truthfully that your 6 year old was gunned down at school is beyond belief. I’ve always assumed that the NRA was responsible for pushing that cruel craziness, because they protect those who profit from gun sales.

Regardless of who’s pushing the cruel craziness around preventing folks from voluntarily being vaccinated to avoid dying gasping for breath, it’s a sign of the times. Harrassing women seeking reproductive health care has been going on for years and I suppose was the harbinger of things to come.

Unprecedented access to information, both useful and false, has led many down the path to sheer delusion. What happened?

The colonial settler state that became the U.S. has always had cults that held worldviews far from the mainstream: e.g. that the world would end on (fill in the date), or that all computers would crash on January 1, 2000. In 1978, Jim Jones led followers south to Guyana before convincing hundreds to poison themselves and their children, a mass murder-suicide that coined the phrase “drinking the Kool-aid.”

We know about climate change denial, flat earth believers (one of whom is a pharmacist being prosecuted for deliberately spoiling 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine), those who believe the moon landing in 1969 was faked — and then we come to the unfortunate events of September 11, 2001.

It seems to me that since 9/11was used as the pretext to invade and occupy Afghanistan in perpetuity, while taking an ax to civil liberties at home with the so-called Patriot Act, people in the U.S. have become more and more confused about what is or isn’t true. 

In 2003 they were told by news outlets they had relied on for actual facts that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction. Also that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Both claims were patently false, but it didn’t matter. Cue another invasion and unending occupation at great cost to taxpayers and great profits for actual makers of WMDs. Bush lied, people died. You get the idea.

Our corporate overlords would prefer that the impending revolution over lack of housing, health care, and even food, be a civil war instead. Getting us fighting over race or political ideologies is preferable to our finding ourselves with grievances in common and organizing mass action to do something about it. 

As long as we’re divided, they’re conquering.

* For those who know me I may seem hypocritical criticizing protesters shutting down an event. I’ve often done so at the “christening” events for the type of warship used to bomb Bagdhad in 2003. People who just want to entertain themselves and their children flock to these events at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard, and my friends and I block access to the shipyard gates with our bodies. The difference as I see it: no one is going inside BIW to get access to health care they hope will be life-saving. 

Will Biden Build More Nukes Like Obama Did, Or Will The New Administration Observe International Law?

Reposting this letter from my inbox with a handy tool to tell your representatives in Congress you support the U.S. observing international law by banning nuclear weapons. Who will they listen to — constituents concerned about heading off humanitarian disaster, or their wealthy campaign donors?

From Physicians for Social Responsibility:

Dear Lisa,

Around the world, the call to “Ban the Bomb” arose even before Physicians for Social Responsibility was first founded, in 1961. Now, at long last, the Bomb has been banned with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).  With your help, PSR has worked for nearly a decade to promote this treaty, alongside ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Adopted by 122 nations at the UN in July, 2017, and now ratified by 51 of them, the TPNW officially “enters into force” on Friday, January 22, 2021. This is a time to celebrate, but it is also a time to share the news!

So far, during the Obama and Trump administrations, the United States has opted not to sign onto the treaty. Therefore, the United States is not party to the treaty or its obligations (yet). Nevertheless, PSR welcomes TPNW entry into force because this new treaty delegitimizes nuclear weapons everywhere, and expresses the worldwide desire for getting rid of every last one of them. Nuclear weapons threaten all of humanity, and it’s time for the United States to work for their total elimination.

Help PSR and ICAN publicly celebrate this victory for humanity. Make sure that the Members of Congress that represent you hear about this historic event, and ask them to respond.

TAKE ACTION

Sincerely,

Martin Fleck
Director, Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program

In Sophisticated Propaganda, Even The Reverse Isn’t True

On this inauguration day, as Democrats pretend that all will be well under a neoliberal regime headed by the very corporations that are killing the life support systems of our planet, and that empty promises are as good as kept, I’m worried. 

False dichotomy is a very effective tool for keeping the masses confused. The above meme claiming “the left” just won* the presidential election is not stupid, it is dangerous.

And we’ve lived through this before.

President Obama was constantly portrayed as a socialist or communist by propagandists and political enemies. Meanwhile, the banks got bailed out and the people got sold out on his watch. (And Occupy Wall Street encampments were violently evicted in a coordinated national effort.)

Also, whistleblower Chelsea Manning and free speech martyr Julian Assange were jailed and tortured for revealing war crimes and financial crimes. Their fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden escaped the empire’s grasp to go into exile in Russia; he was at risk of suffering their fate for revealing that the federal government was conducting illegal surveillance of us all.

And those who had opposed wars under George W. Bush mostly went to brunch rather than hold their handsome, articulate warmonger accountable.

Yesterday the Biden nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, (yet another recycled Obama administration hack) indicated a desire for the war in Afghanistan to continue indefinitely. He bemoaned the fact that the Obama administration overthrew the socilaist government of Libya without installing an effective replacement for Gadaffi, whom Hillary Clinton gloated about killing

The inside job that allowed black clad men with zip ties to breach capitol security did not look like “the left” had any involvement. Someone who’s paying attention told me Erik Prince and Blackwater — or whatever he calls his band of mercenaries these days — had their people inside.

The large number of clownish participants on January 6 tend to draw our attention, but let’s not get distracted from what was allowed to happen — and what it is being used to justify.

Photo: Leigh Vogel UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

In the 1970’s my late father warned a teenaged me, “Watch for the U.S. to become a police state. It’s already well underway.”

Let’s not be distracted by the shiny surface of things, but instead keep our eye on the ball.

*A handy guide to know if “the left” ever comes to power in Washington DC: we’ll get universal health care and guaranteed basic income.

Why Was The MAGA Attack On The Capitol Allowed To Happen?

Source: ACLU blog “The Patriot Act 10 Years Later

In the 90’s I was a public school teacher in central Maine who was told that, to keep my job, I needed to give up my fingerprints to the FBI’s database to prove that I wasn’t a child molester. No one had accused me of being a child molester, and I knew that most suspected child molesters are encouraged to resign and move far away to spare superintendents the pain of an ugly public relations fiasco. Thus their fingerprints were not in any database of convicted child molesters.

I had been a busy working mom with little time for political action. Then my 9 year old was fingerprinted at school even after I expressly forbid the school to do that. These experiences radicalized me and I began working against the educator fingerprinting law in Maine. Twice we managed to have the law overturned, and twice the governor vetoed it. I resigned over the issue and moved to California to earn more money while I had two kids in college at the same time.


After hearing news from his chief of staff that the second tower of the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane, the president seemed pensive but went on reading to students in a Florida classroom. Screenshot via YouTube

Then 9/11 was allowed to happen.

Then Joe Biden’s Patriot Act passed with breathtaking speed, curtailing our civil liberties and giving sweeping surveillance powers to the federal government because “terror” had frightened us. Then the never ending “war on terror” began for control of energy resources and shipping lanes, and we still go without universal health care to pay for it.

Then I moved back to Maine and got fingerprinted because I needed the health care for my family.

Now comes the January 6 MAGA attack on the Capitol. Why was it allowed to happen do you suppose?

It wasn’t a surprise attack at all but was well-publicized in advance.

Whether Capitol and DC municipal police opened the fencing to allow the MAGA mob in to the Capitol grounds, or simply failed to defend the line when the mob pushed into them, seems like a moot point. (Remember when the National Guard teargassed peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in Lafayette Park so the occupant of the White House could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible? Remember how the Guard were directing traffic Jan. 6 while legislators were under attack?) Via AP

Cue the new even more repressive laws the public has been led to believe are needed because “domestic terror” has frightened us. 

My prediction: we will continue to go without universal health care to pay for more policing and spying on ourselves.

Australian Caitlin Johnstone as usual is seeing things with a clearer eye from Oz:

The narrative managers’ ability to move liberals and progressives from “Defund the police” to “MOAR POLICING” in just a few months was even more impressive than their ability to move them from “Believe Women” and #MeToo to “Tara Reid is a lying grifter”.

My family member points out the danger to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color:

We have a long history of institutional racism. So when you talk about expanding anti domestic terrorism powers it’s a pretty safe prediction that it’s going to carried out in a racist way and in service of capital.

Also, say a Biden admin handles it as well as possible, what does the next republican administration do with those expanded powers? It’s Pandora’s box. You don’t open it and then see what happens, once you’re there it’s too late. 

Also, I’m guessing another purpose of allowing violent intruders with handcuffs at the ready to break into the Capitol was to discourage Medicare for All candidates like me from running for Congress. 

And about that man dressed all in black with the bouquet of plastic zip-ties whose photograph is being circulated widely? Perfect set up for right wing propagandists to make the false claim that Antifa was behind the MAGA crowd.

It looks like another event is being planned for January 17.

Impeaching the current occupant of Camp David will not solve our problems, and many argue it’s a waste of time at this point, but it should be done anyway to keep the grifter off the public dole and unable to issue any more pardons. 

People who think the Biden administration is going to save us from any of this are not paying attention. Or, possibly, they are too young to remember what Senator Obama did directly after receiving the nomination of the Democratic Party.

He voted to grant immunity to the big telecom corporations for spying on all of us after 9/11.

It’s Not The Burning Of The Reichstag — That Happened 20 Years Ago #9/11NeverForget

Oka y, a few more than 13 have been arrested since I made this meme on Thursday.But the number is still < 100. It is generally agreed that if the U.S. Capitol mob had been Black, the police would have arrested thousands.

The aftermath of an armed mob breaching the “security” of the U.S. Capitol building will be long and likely not very good for civil liberties, pandemic containment, or racial justice.

But I do wish people would stop comparing the event to the Reichstag (i.e. German capitol) arson that the Nazis used to kick up their takeover of Germany. The framing of a developmentally disabled worker with a Communist Party card in his pocket was the pretext for heightened surveillance and press censorship just before a key election. Military aggression and concentration camps for “others” followed.

Our Reichstag parallel event already occured — on Sep. 11, 2001 — with the bombing of the twin towers in New York City. The “Patriot” Act shredding our constitutional rights was pushed through immediately. Press censorship grew via control of online search engines and consolidation of independent outlets by corporate behemoths.


Office of Inspector General/Department of Homeland Security via Getty Images

Military aggression and concentration camps for “others” followed.

Some of the lies and misinformation swirling around the storming of the U.S. Capitol include right wing media claiming that antifa were masquerading as Trump supporters. This will help them spin the fact that a police officer is one of the five who died as the result of the mob violence. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was injured and died later that day.

Three other people died of heart attacks and the like, but it is military veteran and Kew Anon believer Ashli Babbit who died first, bleeding out quickly after being shot by police when she tried to crawl through a window the mob had broken. 

Babbit had traveled all the way from San Diego, California to gather with hundreds of other unmasked white supremacists during a pandemic. Ironic, eh? As will be the wave of covid-19 infections from this super spreader event. 

Ironic, because their dear leader is generally understood to have lost the election due to his gross negligence and mismanagement of our public health crisis.

Here’s the (white) spouse of sexual assault perpetrator Clarence Thomas fanning the flames:

Democrats posing as the heroes of the current crisis are throwing around impeachment because it doesn’t look like the Vice President will invoke the 25th Amendment to have Trump declared unfit. It would take cabinet members participating to do that, and nearly all of them have resigned this week. (Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is the latest, and I can hear teachers all over the country rejoicing.)

Left commentators are cynically noting that Congress went into recess after working through the night to finish election certification interrupted by the mob. Dem members of Congress are tweeting about impeachment with less than two weeks remaining of the current administration, but have yet to take up the matter of universal health care which the vast majority of people in the U.S. need desperately. Priorities, priorities. In a crisis like this, who can think about something as mundane as health care? Not elected officials who already have it, that’s who.

Dems are also cheering the banning of the commander in chief from Twitter and Facebook for spreading lies about the election outcome that led directly to lethal violence. Thoughtful commentators expect this to form the pretext for more silencing of dissent. 

via Getty

To sum up: the president who was elected due to millions in free media coverage from liberal publications who selected him as the best candidate for Hillary Clinton to beat incited a crowd who destroyed press equipment and defaced the interior of the capitol building with the message:

Remember: in the case of really sophisticated propaganda, even the reverse isn’t true. 

U.S. Legacy Of Violent Regime Change Came Home To Roost Today


Every DC activist I know is commenting that if antiwar or racial justice or human rights protesters acted like the white supremacist thugs who maced police and shot weapons into the US Capitol today, they’d have been beaten, tear gassed, and arrested en masse. Or just shot dead, especially if they were Black, indigienous, or people of color.

Liberals meanwhile are responding with versions of  “Can’t wait until January 20 so we can get back to normal.”

But violent regime change is normal for U.S. government. 

It just usually happens somewhere else, out of hearing and unseen by most voters or taxpayers. Here’s a partial list from the last several decades:

Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List

By William Blum

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)

  • China 1949 to early 1960s
  • Albania 1949-53
  • East Germany 1950s
  • Iran 1953 *
  • Guatemala 1954 *
  • Costa Rica mid-1950s
  • Syria 1956-7
  • Egypt 1957
  • Indonesia 1957-8
  • British Guiana 1953-64 *
  • Iraq 1963 *
  • North Vietnam 1945-73
  • Cambodia 1955-70 *
  • Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
  • Ecuador 1960-63 *
  • Congo 1960 *
  • France 1965
  • Brazil 1962-64 *
  • Dominican Republic 1963 *
  • Cuba 1959 to present
  • Bolivia 1964 *
  • Indonesia 1965 *
  • Ghana 1966 *
  • Chile 1964-73 *
  • Greece 1967 *
  • Costa Rica 1970-71
  • Bolivia 1971 *
  • Australia 1973-75 *
  • Angola 1975, 1980s
  • Zaire 1975
  • Portugal 1974-76 *
  • Jamaica 1976-80 *
  • Seychelles 1979-81
  • Chad 1981-82 *
  • Grenada 1983 *
  • South Yemen 1982-84
  • Suriname 1982-84
  • Fiji 1987 *
  • Libya 1980s
  • Nicaragua 1981-90 *
  • Panama 1989 *
  • Bulgaria 1990 *
  • Albania 1991 *
  • Iraq 1991
  • Afghanistan 1980s *
  • Somalia 1993
  • Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
  • Ecuador 2000 *
  • Afghanistan 2001 *
  • Venezuela 2002 *
  • Iraq 2003 *
  • Haiti 2004 *
  • Somalia 2007 to present
  • Honduras 2009 *
  • Libya 2011 *
  • Syria 2012
  • Ukraine 2014 *

Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?

A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

Good News, Bad News — Which Do You Want First?

Me, I want to get the bad news up front but appreciate the warning (bad news coming): Nancy Pelosi, an 80 year old multi-millionaire so clueless she proudly showed off her two luxury refrigerators full of gelato during the first pandemic lockdown, yesterday was re-elected to lead the House of Representatives for her corporate sponsors. 

This after presiding over a pathetic $600 one time payment to struggling taxpayers while other countries have been providing thousands per month so people could afford to stay home.

The really bad news for many was that the so-called Squad of progressive Democrats in the House caved and supported Pelosi even though their followers were calling en masse for them to withhold their votes in order to #ForceTheVote on the wildly popular brand of universal health care, Medicare for All.

The fact that any progressive in Congress generally gets co-opted within a couple of years and falls obediently into line on behalf of her career is not a new phenomenon. 

Most mysterious to me is why people continue being (acting?) surprised when this happens.

Worthy of note is that my representative did something really unexpected and unusual: he voted for a fellow war veteran who serves in the U.S. Senate. This taught me that the Speaker of the House does not have to be a member of the House (who knew?), and suggests that he could not bring himself to vote for corporate shill Pelosi. The statement explaining his choice shows that he and his staff get the sentiment that is abroad in Maine and throughout the land:

I am of the opinion that only a general strike will bring about universal health care in the U.S. 

Our corporate overlords have long since indicated that we can eat shit and die as far as they’re concerned. Withholding the labor that builds all that wealth would be powerful — and calls to do so are growing every day. Status quo upholders claim “that will never happen” to which I say: return to your history books and read up on what happened when elites had bled the working class dry in empires of the past.

Ok, ready for the good news?

A conservative judge who was expected to extradite journalist Julian Assange to face trumped up espionage charges in the U.S. did not do so. Her stated reason: mistreatment during his long imprisonment by the UK on behalf of the U.S. has rendered him a suicide risk, and District Judge Vanessa Baraitser does not believe the conditions in U.S. prisons are such that Assange could be prevented from killing himself in custody. 

According to AP:

“I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” the judge said.

(Wondering if she was thinking about Jeffrey Epstein here. Does anyone really believe he killed himself in prison?)

According to independent journalist Jeremy Scahill:

So this one victory does not mean the persecution of Julian Assange for revealing evidence of war crimes via Wikileaks is over. In order to stay up to date on the health of the free press canary in the corporate coal mine, we can’t rely on the Associated Press or other corporate news outlets who ignore him whenever possible. Instead, we can use this handly list compiled by independent journalist Kevin Gosztola of other reporters who are consistently paying attention.

Because without real news, we’re doomed to die in the dark.

Insatiable Greed And A $600 Slap In The Face

Fascism got a bad name in the 20th century because of the mass genocide of the Holocaust, plus the rapacious colonialism (redundant, I know) of the Japanese imperial project. For decades since, teenagers have snarled “fascist” at parents enforcing curfew in reference to the violent policing that accompanied the rise of a white supremacist party in Germany.

But it was Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, that actually had it right: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

In other words, the precise system of government we have in the United States today.

Over the last several decades we have watched as corporate power captured, not only our legislative and executive branches of national government, but the judiciary as well. 

The predictable outcome of our descent into fascism is the passage and enforcement of laws designed to benefit our corporate overlords at the expense of the literally starving and homeless people.

During any crisis of the last several decades, the already wealthy have prospered while the already impoverished have perished before our very eyes with little to no government intervention. I think Hurricane Katrina is when I first realized that the federal government would stand idly by, fat with our tax dollars, while the poor drowned and starved. FEMA like so many other federal agencies was designed to enrich corporations while the matriarch of the Bush clan toured refugees being housed in a sports stadium and pronounced on network television, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.”

The fact that so many of the “underprivileged” were Black was undoubtedly a factor in their abandonment by government of, by, and for the wealthy. Kanye West increased his fame when he said live on network television at the time: “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” 

So, failure to attend to the common good is nothing new. But it is accelerating mightily under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other wealthy countries have managed the health crisis by recognizing that staying home is containment, and subsidizing people to stay home — including staying housed — is good health policy.

But the US Congress is in session this weekend struggling over whether to pass a relief bill that would provide $600 one time payments after sending a measly $1200 once months ago. (Note: I know at least one Black working mother who never even received that payment.)

Currently 1/3 of people in the U.S. report they are struggling to meet basic expenses such as rent, food, and utilities.

The uptick in memes and slogans advocating violent revolution is significant in my social media feeds.

A sampling includes this one with one of the planet’s rapacious billionaires as poster boy:

Also:

But more specifically, Congress is in the crosshairs. Sample tweets:

I also saw but cannot now find one that said, “The next stimulus is hidden inside in your member of Congress like a piñata.”


Meanwhile reformers are insisting on a floor vote in the House on the wildly popular Medicare for All that our elected representatives will not even consider.


Fascists, drunk on power, always think the future is theirs. I think they’re wrong about that.

Masks, Masculinity, and Magical Thinking

 


Source: WebMD.com “Men say masks not cool, less likely to wear them

(Sing to the tune of The Cruel War Is Raging)

The cruel plague is raging,

We need to wear a mask;

Foolish men all around us,

Think that’s a big ask.

I’m in recovery from a long year on the campaign trail and indulging in the white, middle class privilege of following my bliss. Thus I will become the preschool teacher for my granddaughter and her 3 year old friend who were prevented by the pandemic from starting school in the fall. Many reading this will wonder if 3 year olds really need to attend school. Since all their parents have full time jobs and work from home, the answer here in Oakland, California is a resounding yes. (And I know socialized countries consider universal preschool to be the norm.)

I’m doing a lot of soul searching about what form my activism and organizing will take going forward. Electoral politics has a way of sucking all the oxygen out of the room, and my US Senate campaign was no exception at least the way I did it with near total commitment of time, energy, and resources. 

Now I’m considering how best to be of service to the revolution that must inevitably occur as 8 million additional people in the U.S. fell into poverty and homelessness, and hunger soared while billionaires prospered. These are the thoughts on my mind and heart as I relocate for a few months to assist with the youngest members of my extended family.

Each day I have been walking and for the first couple of weeks I had a 2 month old baby strapped comfortably to my chest. I huffed and puffed up and down the hills of the Bay area with my N95 mask working like a bellows. It was a relief to reach home and take the mask off for the final climb up several flights of stairs.


Protesters shouted “Take off your mask” to Maine legislators arriving to be sworn in on Dec. 2.
Source: Kennebec Journal  (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer)

I became accustomed to stepping off the sidewalk in order to avoid people not wearing masks, because the infant I was toting was not masked even though I was. Coming here from rural Maine with its faith in Trumpian propaganda, I was hopeful that a greater percentage of the people in urban California would be on board with masking in public. In my home town of Solon I dared not venture into the store or the post office because I was sure to encounter many unmasked people.

This morning in California it was just me and it was early when I set out on an errand. Sadly, approximately 1 in 10 of the people I encountered were unmasked. Of the 30 or so unmasked people I saw all but 2 were male, and this marked gender difference has been observable daily.

Masks are clearly perceived by many men in the U.S. as a threat to their masculinity. Why?

It strikes me that the answer may be related to the extreme reluctance of cis males to deviate in any significant way from their “uniform” of jeans or other pants and tees or buttoning shirts. As a young woman I was often told that men ruled the world. And I used to wonder, if that’s so, then why can I and other females wear pretty much anything we want while men are so narrowly constricted? I could count on one hand the men I’ve known who experienced the comfort and freedom of a sarong and then kept wearing it after they’d left the beach.


Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/real-men-wear-face-masks/

The refusal to wear a mask in public is a form of bullying. Don’t like it? Tough shit, stay inside, these macho dudes seem to be saying to the rest of us. (I’m not counting the people experiencing homelessness since their trauma may be a significant factor, or they may simply not have a mask; ditto the people presenting with mental health issues.) 

Masks are seen as a sign of weakness perhaps because they express care for others. 

Also, in Maine, submission to the executive orders of a female Democratic governor.

The militarization of U.S. culture is a reflection of the aggressive, bullying stance we take toward other nations. Our military is the enforcement arm of corporate government which countries can accept willingly or have shoved down their throats. This is far from solely a U.S. problem.

For example, Germany’s Parliament this week narrowly avoided weaponizing drones they’ve bought from Israel for use by German troops in Mali and Afghanistan. So much to unpack there, but my point is that a hypermasculinized ethos pervades 2020. Uniforms are part of the ethos. (Ironically, masks are now part of military uniforms.)


Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/running-with-a-mask

Some of the people I see each day without masks are exercising, huffing and puffing as they run around Lake Merritt Park or up and down the Cleveland Cascade. My sons tell me that the directives from the state have been conflicting and confusing. People were told at first that they did not need to mask while exercising and then, as the pandemic second wave crashed over us, this was revised. Still, I see scores of male runners every week not wearing masks. 

Exceptionalism abounds; the governor of California and the mayor of San Francisco were caught eating indoors at gourmet restaurants with their friends long after that had been banned. And a few of the people I see on the street or in the park unmasked are eating or drinking something. 

Here is where I feel like magical thinking is creeping in.

1. I need to exercise or eat or drink my iced mocha oat milk latte.

2. Therefore, it’s ok to remove my mask to do those things.

3. I will not be spreading the covid-19 disease when I do these things because…godammit, I have to eat and exercise!!

There are many not-so-great things about Western culture, but one of the better things is the inheritance of classical teaching that hubris is the downfall of the mighty.

Another good thing is scientific thought and research. Did bioweapons virus researchers produce this coronovirus and deploy it accidentally via a leak from a lab in Wuhan? Or did someone deploy it deliberately? Both are chiling but entirely possible scenarios in the context of the history of bioweapons.

The kind of hubris that would fund and support such endeavors is evident all around us. A lunatic billionaire claims he wants to bombard the planet Mars with nuclear weapons to turn it into a place where human life could exist. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that wearing a mask around others to reduce our risk of infection or infecting others is good science.

And caring for others is the very stuff of life.

Hat tip to bre kidman for her original artwork eloquently expressing how many of us feel at this point in time. We’ve almost made it to the end of 2020. Except for those who didn’t

Corporate Government Could Kill You — It’s Already Killing Your Global Neighbors


First recipient of covid vaccine in the UK. With the stark racial disparities in morbidity from covid, why did they pick a white woman? Source: England NHS UK

The anti-vaxxers in Maine were the most virulent opposition I faced when I ran for the US Senate in 2020. By which I mean, they threatened me the most often and harrassed me endlessly from the very first days of my campaign to the end 15 months later.

I don’t doubt their sincerity in believing that vaccines are too harmful to give to their children. Nor am I surprised that they are on social media now declaring they will never take a vaccine to prevent being infected by covid-19.

I do doubt their critical thinking abilities. I was repeatedly told that I favored mandatory vaccinations for children even though I was clear in public forums from the early days of the campaign that this applied only to children enrolled in public schools (which are not mandatory). As a teacher for 25 years, I have the lived experience of communicable diseases spreading rapidly (not to mention lice) and profoundly affecting educational opportunities. 

Opportunities like learning more about the scientific method of having a hypothesis, collecting evidence, considering its implications, and further revising one’s hypothesis.

I was told by a mom representing a group of anti-vax parents that they were planning to vote for Max Linn over me, Susan Collins, or Sara Gideon because he was the only one they could trust not to support a mandatory covid vaccination program.

I have also seen anti-vaxxers make several references to medical tyranny.

Mask wearing, even if mandatory, is not medical tyranny.


Health care workers are exhausted and posting photos of the effect of working for hours on end with PPE in place to protect themselves from covid infection. I wear a mask for them. Source: Noosa News

It is akin to infant car seat mandates, limiting personal freedom on behalf of protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

A problem with corporate government is that it breeds distrust, and that distrust becomes a huge factor in emergencies like our current public health crisis.

Big Pharma has undoubtedly infected Congress and other branches of our government. Any health care with a profit motive is a business first and a health program second. This is a problem created by our captured federal, state, and local governments who serve business interests that fund their campaigns and perqs rather than serving the people as they swore they would do.

Today Pfizer announced that people with severe allergic reactions should not take their vaccine. Two National Health staffers in the UK had reactions to the new covid vaccine Pfizer is selling. That doesn’t mean nobody should.

Corporate government is also infested by another pathogen: weapon manufacturers. Every Biden cabinet nomination to head up the US military has been a board member of RaytheonBooz Allen, or another corporation that feeds at the public trough. That’s why US foreign policy amounts to endless wars with the corporate media ginning up fear of new enemies constantly.

Chris Hedges has observed that declining empires often feature irrational beliefs and “crisis cults” as the material conditions for life spiral downward. 

One word: QAnon. 

Unsurprisingly, even the outlandish beliefs of that cult have a kernel of truth underlying them. Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell did operate an international ring trafficking children for sexual exploitation, with many Democrats like Bill Clinton apparently involved. The predators weren’t all Democrats, of course. They were various powerful men who could be blackmailed afterwards.

I can’t dispute the kernel of truth underlying anti-vax sentiment — that for-profit health measures pushed by corporate government could be harmful. 

But I’ll continue to put my faith in scientists motivated by a concern for the common good. When deciding about taking any new vaccines I’ll consult the health care providers I trust, including my sister who works at a prominent research hospital, and my own doctors who I’ve been fortunate to know for several years. 

Source: floridacovidaction.com

I’ll read sites by scientists like Rebekah Jones in Florida who have suffered their own harms for their effort to tell the truth about covid. Or the truth about artificial intelligence, for that matter.

I will continue working to distinguish between medicine for health and medicine for for profit. I can continue to be aware of my distrust of corporate government without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Medical Apartheid Is A Particularly Gruesome Aspect Of US Caste System


Source: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2020/racial-disparities-in-covid-19

Taking my life in my hands (a common occurence in the time of plague) I stood in line at the pharmacy yesterday to pick up a prescription. Two customers who were in front of me had a long, interesting discussion about covid and the likelihood of a vaccine that can be trusted anytime soon. 

Both Black elders expressed skepticism about the form this might take in their community and the woman identified the source of her distrust as, “medical apartheid.” Her remark has been ringing in my ears ever since. 

Higher infection and death rates for Black, indigenous, and people of color during this pandemic mirror the chronically worse health outcomes for BIPOC even before covid and are exhibit A for systemic racism in this country. 

Higher maternal mortality, infant mortality, and mortality from common diseases like high blood pressure and cardiovascular ailments are accepted by many as a fact of life in the US. A lot of victim blaming goes on and the higher castes look away from the nutritional realities of life in a food desert. 

Having recently read Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, I’ve been thinking a lot about her thesis that status in society isn’t necessarily tied to skin color or religion or circumstances of one’s birth. In the US skin color has been used extensively to establish an underclass that receives poorer nutrition, housing, schooling, and health care. But Wilkerson argues that it wasn’t always thus, and looks at two other caste-driven social orders — India and Nazi Germany — to examine the underpinnings of America’s toxic racism.

Examples of caste in action abound in 2020. 

Germany is bending the EU’s rules to rush their covid vaccine to Israel, but not to Palestinians.

The University of California, Los Angeles showed that it considers college athletes of higher importance than hospital nurses, an example of caste that ignores race but does seem to exhibit a gender bias.

As someone in the caste associated with white skin and middle class economic status, it wouldn’t occur to me to worry that the vaccine offered in my community might be of inferior quality. The fact that I don’t have to worry is the quintessential example of white privilege.

The mass incarceration of BIPOC prior to the age of covid has meant that they are disproportionately in danger from the disease because they are forced into a congregate setting with no power to choose where they’ll go or who they’ll associate with. Prisoners in California just ended the hunger strike portion of their ongoing campaign to call attention to this deadly risk to their health and safety.

Excerpt from Oakland Abolition & Solidarity’s blog post:

CDCr [California Department of Corrections]’s negligent and careless response to the COVID-19 outbreak at CSATF [California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility] has now killed at least three people. Active cases at the prison continue to hover near 1000 and now over half of the facility has contracted the disease. Guards and staff members are still failing to follow safety protocols and continue to move people around the facility creating more and more exposure.

Prisoners all over the nation suffer under a system of forced labor that is little different than slavery. Most are not a danger to society at all but are exploited by those who profit from their incarceration and the work they do. 

People with substance use disorder don’t belong in prison to begin with, but our lack of universal health care means most in the US view prison as a treatment option rather than the punishment it really is. Many in recovery cite the stigma i.e. low caste assignment they struggle with in a social order built to reward some at the expense of others.

Our public health crisis has moved us even further away from any national greatness we might have aspired to, and it is highly unlikely that the president and VP-elect will dismantle the carceral state that helped build their political careers.

Medical apartheid is ugly and evil, and I know I’ll be thinking about how to end it for a long time to come.

Cloud Of Darkness Over Future Of US Still Led By Warmongers

“Cloud of darkness” was trending on Twitter when I got up this morning. It means one thing to gamers but this boomer couldn’t help but feel it probably was a reference to our collective future governed by the president-elect’s cabinet picks.

Putting female warmongers in prominent roles to please Democrats already trained to regard the warmongering Hillary Clinton as a desirable “leader” is absolutely unsurprising. What’s only mildly surprising are the weak, insincere protestations sponsored on corporate media outlets like CNN and MSNBC. 

Cutting the mic of commentators who question the wisdom of appointing, say, Rahm Emmanuel, is entirely in character for these manufacturers of consent.

Because if you’re trying to spin neoliberals as progressives, muting the pushback is essential.

To get back to my original point, trying to spin corporate hacks who peddle weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia while unwilling US taxpayers pick up the tab as feminists is laughable. Well, it would be laughable if it didn’t fool so many liberals. Identity politics has been a potent management tool for keeping the brunch eating masses stupefied while the soul and treasury of the US is hollowed out by austerity to pay for endless wars.

Real feminist leaders like Kathy Kelly have been speaking out during this transition on the urgency of ending the 19 year war on Afghanistan.

link to video on YouTube if embed does not work for you

Here’s she’s joined by moderator Ann Wright, another peace leader, as well as Matthew Hoh, Rory Fanning, Danny Sjursen, and Arash Azizzada to discuss the prospects of this happening before Biden gets into the White House.

Democrats in Congress and generals at the Pentagon are putting up resistance, of course. If the cash doesn’t flow to weapons manufacturers, how will the campaign contributions and/or cushy corporate posts flow?

When you’re in the weapons business — as the US government surely is — endless wars is your go-to marketing scheme.

But the current occupant of the White House has shown less business acumen than some expected. Instead, he has appeared to focus on his image. Challenges like managing a public health crisis resulted in fatal damage to his persona as leader, but the remaining weeks do offer some opportunities for legacy repair.

Ending the war in Afghanistan (which Obama promised to do but never did) could be just the ticket. 

Pardoning Julian Assange, jailed in the UK for the crime of actual journalism on Obama’s watch and since, would also be a winning move and, as an in-your-face to his rival and predecessor, likely to appeal to the outgoing chief executive.

Corporate Parties, Media Selling Civil War — But The People Need Revolution

The constant yammering about what divides us is an enormous smokescreen intended to obscure that which really divides us. As Liz Theoharis writes in “The New Politics of the Poor…”

“Today, in the early winter of an uncurbed pandemic and the economic crisis that accompanies it, there are 140 million poor or low-income Americans, disproportionately people of color, but reaching into every community in this country: 24 million Blacks, 38 million Latinos, eight million Asians, two million Native peoples, and 66 million whites. More than a third of the potential electorate, in other words, has been relegated to poverty and precariousness and yet how little of the political discourse in recent elections was directed at those who were poor or one storm, fire, job loss, eviction, or healthcare crisis away from poverty and economic chaos. In the distorted mirror of public policy, those 140 million people have remained essentially invisible.”

White boomers like me are most easily confused by this barrage of propaganda. We lived through a period of relative prosperity for ourselves and our neighbors, and a whole bunch of lies about those who didn’t share our prosperity.

Allegedly, the poor of my lifetime were lazy, or addicted to substances, or poorly parented by elders who were lazy or addicted. Plenty of photos of Black and brown faces accompanied the “investigative” reporting on the failed life in the segregated communities targeted by the war on drugs that was really a war on the poor. Or crime reporting about arrests that always seemed to have a Black or brown face featured despite the fact that crime rates among white people are higher.

Where were the reports on how Black veterans did not receive the GI benefits that allowed my father to complete a college education and buy a house for me to grow up in?

Where were the reports on the redlining by mortgage lenders and real estate brokers that kept Black families from moving into the neighborhoods I grew up in?

Where were the living wage jobs with union protections for working conditions available to Black and brown wage earners my father never had to compete with?

Photo credit Steven Depolo, Flickr

Where was the income for unpaid caregivers like the moms, aunties, and grandmothers that raised children in substandard housing and had to send them to substandard schools nearby?

Where were the reports on how highly addictive crack cocaine was sponsored by the CIA and deliberately introduced into segregated neighborhoods?

Where was the universal health care to treat substance use disorders like health issues rather than criminalizing and filling prisons with enslaved laborers disenfranchised from their right to vote?

Young people today understand the reality of the situation much better than most boomers, even when they are part of the dominant white caste. A common slogan I see them sharing —

No war but class war 

— expresses this understanding. 

Note that this graph is from before the pandemic, which has greatly accelerated income inequality in the US.

Because the rich got so much richer and the poor got so much poorer in the last several decades, it takes a whole lot of propaganda to convince poor whites that what’s wrong with their lives is brown immigrants taking “their” jobs. Or the Black Lives Matter movement. Or, more to the point, that liberals are the problem.

There is some truth to that and it fuels the furor to “own the libs” that the demagogue with bad hair rode to the White House.

In the crash of 2008 when banks got bailed out but regular working people got sold out, there was a liberal presiding over it all. His VP, now our president-elect, had previously been the architect of the student loan crisis that younger people continue being crushed by.

It’s clear that our corporate overlords, the ones who own the media and the means of production, are ginning up a civil war. Their invisible strategy: make sure the masses kill each other over culture rather than turning on the 1% and removing them from positions of power so that the people can eat.

There’s a reason the guillotine has become a common image in social media shared by the young. Also the slogan, Eat the rich.

But this history major will never advocate violent revolution. Wars, including revolutions, harm many innocent people, most often children and the women who care for them.

A general strike would be much more to the point. No wealth can be created without our labor. That is our greatest power. 

No propaganda can change the fact that Jeff Bezos could give every person who risks covid exposure to work in his Amazon warehouses an entire year’s salary as a bonus and still have more money than he did when the pandemic started. And, no propaganda can change the fact that, if they went on strike, his income from that source would dry up quickly.

But we are too broke to strike! young people tell me. I believe them. I also know that every strike that brought down a regime was mounted by people who lacked the resources to survive without income. Mutual aid — another thing young people are good at, putting most boomers to shame — is the cure for that ailment.

But the ruling class will bring the violence if there is a general strike, is another argument I’ve heard against it. But isn’t dire poverty, homelessness, and lack of health care for working class people violent? Isn’t a lifetime of student debt violent? Isn’t mass incarceration and the routine execution of unarmed Black people by police violent?

Certainly our endless wars for resource extraction and transport are violent. Think Afghanistan, Ecuador, and Standing Rock just for starters.

Who knows how a general strike will start, or whether I’ll live long enough to see it. 

Mass uprisings are often set off by a spark no one expected. 

Will it begin with a rent strike? A nurses strike? The pandemic has put a lot of pressure on both renters and frontline health care providers. Once a specific strike is underway, others who are economically desperate may be motivated to join in.

Remember, the Mongtomery, Alabama bus boycott of the civil rights movement was planned to last one day, intended to demonstrate how much the city bus system needed the revenue from Black customers. It lasted more than a year as that first day inspired the weary, the timid, and the fencesitters to join in.

It was also, most significantly, supported by extensive organizing in advance.

Let’s get busy.

International right wing death cult

There are two reasons I was relieved that Biden-Harris won the recent election. First, Black people (and Native people, and Latinx people) expressed how dangerous it felt to have the demagogue with bad hair urging violence against them by his disaffected white supremacist followers. (The fact that two architects of the carceral state and the ultra racist “war on drugs” represent relief for BIPOC is emblematic of the catastrophic racism foundational to our way of life in the USA. Not to mention the warmongering against brown people around the planet.)

The second reason I was relieved is that I am anticipating the end of headlines like this one from yesterday:

Source: Lewiston Sun Journal

At this point you may be wondering,

What do Maine’s COVID-19 transmission rates have to do with who’s in the White House?

Thinking about the campaign that just concluded, I am remembering several photographs and headlines:

Source: The Telegraph reporting on VP Pence’s rally in Hermon, Maine Oct. 19

Mills ‘disappointed’ coronavirus guidelines weren’t followed at Pence rally

Hundreds gathered in Hermon on Monday for a ‘MAGA’ rally hosted by VP Mike Pence; Gov. Mills said she was “disappointed” and “saddened” by what she saw at the rally.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Janet Mills voiced her disappointment of the Vice President over the “Make America Great Again!” rally in Hermon earlier this week, where hundreds—many not wearing masks—gathered for the outdoor rally.

At the Maine CDC coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Mills said she was “disappointed” and “saddened” by what she saw at the rally—large crowds, little to no social distancing, and scant mask-wearing among attendees.

One rally causing that much of an uptick in COVID cases three weeks later? Hard to believe.

But of course it wasn’t just one rally. Multiple rallies for GOP candidates in places other than Hermon like Bangor, Saco, Levant, etc. saw crowds gathering from around the state, unmasked, and not socially distancing. Most of the rallies were to secure that one electoral college vote from Maine’s 2nd district. They succeeded, but was the price for the people of Maine worth it?

Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center

Academic research has demonstrated that nations with authoritarian oligarchic governments, like the US, Russia and Brazil, have failed miserably at containing the pandemic. Meanwhile countries led by socially-minded governments like New Zealand, Australia, and China have done best.

Source: The Independent

Maine is still full of people defiantly unmasked despite the governor’s executive orders intended to keep more of us healthy and alive. I’m home in the 2nd district now that my own campaign has ended, and I don’t dare go into the local store or post office.

I’m not overly optimistic about the new regime’s ability to get a raging pandemic under control because they are deeply committed to keeping the profit motive in our failed system of health care. Only people can change that, probably by mounting a general strike until they get universal health care like Medicare for All.

In the meantime, I believe epidemiologists. I’m willing to wear a mask, cancel social events, and take extra precautions because I want to live to see my grandchildren grow and thrive. Don’t you?

Culture Of Cruelty Obvious, From Big Picture Down To Details Wherein The Devil Dwells

The only way left to affirm yourself in failed societies is to destroy.” 

— Chris Hedges

The arc of my reading this morning was rooted in Hedges’ bracing essay on why the U.S. imposes a culture of cruelty on so many innocent victims. None of his examples of sadistic public policy were new to me, but taken together as a whole they paint a picture of surprisingly consistent cruelty.

It’s been decades since I let corporations tell me what news to pay attention to, so I went on from there to read some familiar websites like Pressenza and a newish one specific to my home state, the Maine Monitor (formerly Pine Tree Watch). 

At Pressenza I read more about a situation I’ve seen some tweets about, “US Trying to Extradite Venezuelan Diplomat for the ‘Crime’ of Securing Food for the Hungry: The Case of Alex Saab v. The Empire by Roger D. Harris. It’s one pungent example of U.S. economic warfare via sanctions enforced by incarceration. 

Did you know that one-third of nations on our planet are under some form of collective punishment via U.S. sanctions?


 Hodeidah, Yemen where the U.S.-supported war waged by Saudi Arabia has created rampant malnutrition. © Asmaa Waguih/Redux

Some awareness of history suggests that sanctions nearly always precede our invasions and bombing campaigns to control other nations’ resources. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously defended sanctions imposed on Iraq that resulted in the death of an estimated 500,000 children: “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, the price is worth it.” 

This was before her confirmation hearings, by the way, but apparently posed no barrier to her joining the Clinton cabinet. Perhaps cruelty is actually a requirement for those who serve the empire?

Children are also the victims in Maine. When their parents are incarcerated, often for non-violent crimes and often for simply being too poor to pay fines or make bail, children struggle to stay in touch. As a former school teacher I know from personal experience how much kids struggle when a parent is in jail. But both public and private jails in Maine make money from gouging families for phone calls with loved ones. “As families struggle to afford 15-minute phone calls from jail, Maine counties rake in millions” by Samantha Hogan provides the satanic details.

Source: Save the Children

Zoom back out to the big picture, where children are going to bed hungry while billionaires buy another mansion. From Children’s Defense Fund:

As of February 2021, more than 1 in 5 Black and Hispanic adults with children (22.8% and 20.6%, respectively) said their households were not getting enough to eat compared with 1 in 10 white adults with children (10.4%).

Cruelty as public policy is designed to engender fear, according to Hedges. Turning it back on the perpetrators is what is required now: 

“History has amply illustrated how this process works. It is a game of fear.

And until we make them afraid, until a terrified Joe Biden and the oligarchs he serves look out on a sea of pitchforks, we will not blunt the culture of sadism they have engineered.”

Patriarchy Will End In Violent Explosions, Possibly Nuclear

Gender reveal party in Arizona that sparked widespread fires in 2017.

Another of those lame-brained gender reveal parties has caused considerable distress and damage, this time in New Hampshire, where an explosion big enough to crack nearby house foundations was set off by the expectant father.

Men have long suffered from womb envy, a disempowered feeling of jealousy at females’ superior power to bring life into being. Knowing the science of reproduction, i.e. the role of the male in fertilization, has done little to address this. 

Males raised in our current violent, power-tripping society thrash about killing wantonly and setting off explosions that make other males very wealthy

Source: https://iranpress.com/content/37315/has-seen-mass-shootings-the-last-month

The modern proclivity to determine an unborn child’s genitalia and then announce it to the world may also be a sort of backlash against the non-binary movement so threatening to traditional order-keepers. (I can remember my Christian fundamentalist grandmother and her peers being horrified when males began growing their hair long in the 60’s “because you can’t tell the boys from the girls.” This always mystified me because I still could.)

This news on damaging property and frightening your neighbors “for fun”, while distressing, was much less so than the overnight report from Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. 

Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/23/dozens-of-palestinians-wounded-by-israeli-police-in-jerusalem  
Israeli police officers stand next to a burning barricade during clashes with Palestinians [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

From a Jewish human rights activist I follow:

History is doomed to repeat itself, apparently, with fresh victims in every generation. 

Should we be worried that the increasingly violent nation of Israel, a best buddy of the increasingly violent nation of the U.S., has nuclear weapons?

Yes. 

And we should also be worried that the U.S. military tweeted about its renewed commitment to nuclear war under a Democratic administration.

Notice how it is “an adversary” that is supposedly threatening the nuclear ceasefire of sorts that has existed since Nagasaki. (I say “of sorts” because of the depleted uranium weapons used to this day by the Pentagon in its never-ending air strikes.)

Our least bad option would be to defund the Pentagon immediately. 

This would lead to a halt to encircling and menacing Russia on its European borders, and a halt to menacing China in the South China Sea. Both would significantly reduce the risk of nuclear war as both those nations have nuclear weapons but have not used them.

Defunding the Pentagon would lead to a jobs crisis as every state in the U.S. has deeply embedded building weapons systems into its economy. This could lead to the very welcome development of a Green New Deal conversion to building things we actually need, thus creating even more jobs with federal funding.

Defunding the Pentagon could also lead quickly to the conditions making universal healthcare possible. 

The primary reason people in the U.S. are suffering in poverty without adequate or even any healthcare is that the resources to fund Medicare for All are always given to the Pentagon and its contractors


Defunding the Pentagon would also be the model for defunding the violent police departments who appear determined to spark civil war in the U.S. by slaughtering people of color.


Including children and people on the spectrum and people with mental health issues and people with developmental disabilities. Yup, that’s who the violent white supremacist regime of Germany slaughtered, too, while focusing their cruelty on Jewish Europeans.


Mark Twain said history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.


You know what else rhymes? Live by the bomb, die by the bomb. And that’s where the road we’re on right now is headed.

Black Activists Question Reports Claiming Biden Pulling Afghanistan Troops Sep 11

Reaper and Predator Drone Imagery on Blue Abrash Ground, 2016. Wool rug. Collection of Kevin Sudeith. Courtesy of the Gund Gallery. https://www.uvm.edu/fleming/warp-war-rugs-afghanistan

Reposting this press release with insightful analysis of the Biden Administration’s statements on allegedly withdrawing from Afghanistan. If you value the work of the Black Alliance for Peace, as I do, consider supporting them financially. As a white ally who appreciates their labor, I make a monthly donation here.


For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

communications@blackallianceforpeace.com
(202) 643-1136

APRIL 13, 2021—Press reports were circulating April 13 that the Biden-Harris administration will not abide by the Doha agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces by May 1, violating a key component of the peace agreement negotiated by the previous administration. It appears the Biden-Harris administration is floating September 11—the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack—as a likely date to end the second longest U.S. war.

The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) has consistently demanded U.S. adherence to the Doha peace agreement. BAP even organized an International Day of Action on Afghanistan on April 8 to help raise the public’s awareness on the issue.

While BAP continues to gather information on this reported proposal, we are concerned that what is being floated by the corporate media will result in increased hostilities between the Taliban and U.S. forces, providing a pretext for increased U.S. military involvement. BAP has detailed how powerful forces within the administration and among the foreign policy elite are trying to find ways to keep a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to support broader geostrategic objectives, primarily countering Chinese influence. Some of these issues were laid out during the April 13 episode of “Voices With Vision” on WPFW (89.3 FM in Washington, D.C.).

As an internationalist organization, BAP wonders if U.S. private contractors and NATO coalition forces from other countries—both of which outnumber U.S. military personnel—will remain in Afghanistan. What role would the United States play once troops are removed? We also ask where else U.S. troops will be sent as the cold war on China is ramped up, Russia continues to be agitated and Africa remains a hotbed for U.S. military activity. We question if devastating sanctions would be slapped on the people of Afghanistan after a U.S. pullout, as in the case of 1970s Vietnam and Iraq after the 1990s bombing campaign.

For all of these reasons and as we gather information on what appears to be an attempt to test the U.S. public’s reaction, BAP continues to demand the United States and NATO pull all troops and contractors, and end all involvement. And we insist the United States respect the human rights of the Afghan people and colonized people the world over, including inside its borders.

 U.S./NATO Out of Afghanistan! 

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