The nationwide uprising sparked by the murder of George Floyd and other recent racially-motivated events is a response to the bi-partisan failed state in which we live. It comes in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic and the largest economic collapse in the US in more than a century. These three crises have disproportionately impacted people of color and added to longterm racial inequality and injustice. Black Lives Matter erupted six years ago when a police officer shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. Since that time, police have murdered approximately 1,100 people every year. The response of the government at all levels to the crisis of police killings has been virtually nonexistent.
The state of Pennsylvania has a population similar to that of Cuba, but has 35 times more confirmed cases of coronavirus and 63 times more lethal victims. From May 13 to this past Wednesday, the island has reported one death; Pennsylvania, 1,251. The figures, no matter what they are, are tragic, but the comparisons feed the perplexity; how are the statistics so disparate between the world’s richest country and the nation that is the victim of “the longest genocidal attempt in history?” as Gabriel Garcia Marquez called the U.S. economic blockade. Does it have to do with the fact that President Miguel Diaz-Canel does not play golf in the midst of a deadly epidemic, nor has he suggested that bleach is a “revolutionary drug”?
Stranger things have happened. Everyone was expecting US President Donald Trump to go nuclear by de facto sanctioning China to death over Hong Kong. In an environment where Twitter and the President of the United States are now engaged in open warfare, the rule is that there are no rules anymore. So in the end, what was announced against China amounted to an anti-climax. The US government, as it stands, is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO). The geopolitical repercussions are immense and that will take time to sink in.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to John Ralston Saul, author and president emeritus of Pen International, about how the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the weakness of American society, and accelerated the decline of the American Empire. Among Saul's many books are: The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World, and Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.
New York/ Boston - Sonic Automotive Inc (SAH.N), which operates 95 U.S. car dealerships, started laying off and furloughing about a third of its workforce as the coronavirus pandemic crushed its sales. Then it changed its executives’ pay packages - handing them a multimillion-dollar windfall. On April 10, Sonic’s board gave its top executives stock options to replace performance-based share awards, regulatory filings show. The options it gave Chief Executive David Smith, whose family controls the company, are now worth about $5.16 million - more than four times the value of the performance-based stock awards he got last year. Some of Sonic’s terminated employees, meanwhile, face hard times.
Tensions are high as Minneapolis police murdered a black man named George Floyd, not by gunshot, but by an agonizingly long kneel on his neck; which was not released for seven minutes, several of which the man was not breathing. Protest is a place to emerge into the collective and become unoriginal, to humble yourself in silence as others more aware with said experience lead the charge. However, writing should be the place for originality. A place where we solve the problems of theory that informs action. It is here where I would like to address a kind of Othering. This is not the Othering of making the minority docile and holy and martyred, but more so the Othering of whiteness and its discontents.
Local outlet KHOU 11 News was told by the Houston police department that protests over George Floyd’s murder would be attended by both “uniformed officers and plain-clothed officers”. This admission cannot be found in KHOU’s reporting any longer, but it has been screenshotted and still shows up on Google searches as of this writing. In New York, protesters have conclusively worked out that cops posing as demonstrators are currently wearing white armbands to identify each other. Ways of identifying plain-clothes cops are being circulated by protesters on social media. None of these people are paranoid or irrational. For generations it has been a well-established fact that police will reliably infiltrate protests and political movements, and it remains so to this day.
On May 6th, President Trump vetoed a war powers bill specifying that he must ask Congress for authorization to use military force against Iran. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of deadly sanctions and threats of war against Iran has seen no let-up, even as the U.S., Iran and the whole world desperately need to set aside our conflicts to face down the common danger of the Covid-19 pandemic. So what is it about Iran that makes it such a target of hostility for Trump and the neocons? There are many repressive regimes in the world, and many of them are close U.S. allies, so this policy is clearly not based on an objective assessment that Iran is more repressive than Egypt, Saudi Arabia or other monarchies in the Persian Gulf.
In all epidemics, there are some principles which determine how well communities and nations will respond, how long the crisis will last and how soon there will be recovery. We can already draw some lessons from the very big differences between particular countries in the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular why some wealthy nations like the UK and the USA are amongst the hardest hit. Although the numbers infected are still rising and the impact has not yet peaked, in most countries, we are entitled to ask: why have some countries controlled infections and minimized deaths better than others? This question, I suggest, leads us to consider principles of public health systems, of health planning and of broader social coherence.
Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians demonstrated Saturday evening in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv against the killing of Iyad Hallak, a Palestinian man with autism who was shot dead by police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City. Hallak, 32, was on his way to the special education school he attended and worked at near Lion’s Gate when Border Police officers began pursuing him, claiming he had been holding a weapon. Hallak reportedly fled and hid behind a nearby dumpster, where the police officers shot and killed him. No weapon was found at the scene of his death. Both officers were detained in the wake of the incident; one was released under restrictive conditions, while the other is under house arrest. In Tel Aviv, over 200 people protested outside the city’s police headquarters while over 150 left-wing activists, including a dozen Palestinians, marched on Jerusalem’s King George Street.
The pathogen that kills Black people at two and a half times the rate of whites took the life of 46 year-old George Floyd, this week in Minneapolis. Floyd’s last words were, “I can’t breathe,” much like the desperate utterances of plague victim Eric Garner, struck down in 2014 in New York City. Unlike the still raging Covid-19 virus, which is virulent among Blacks of both sexes, the Blue Plague is especially lethal to Black males of all ages. According to researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan, 1 in every 1,000 black boys and me will be fatally stricken by the Blue Plague at some point in their lifetimes – at ages ranging from 12 year-old Tamir Rice, snuffed out in Cleveland in 2014, to 50 year-old Walter Scott, who fell victim to the pestilence in North Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.
Veterans For Peace calls for the immediate withdrawal of the Minnesota National Guard. We are appalled to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment once again deployed in U.S. cities to control community members who are reacting to a long history of state-sanctioned violence. When an already embattled community is subjected to militarized intimidation, by design, their environment becomes a war zone. We call on all those who are serving with the National Guard to refuse to serve violent and racist interests. Veterans For Peace denounces the ongoing instances of police violence against Black bodies and people of color, this time resulting in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We also stand in opposition to the State of Minnesota's and the Minneapolis police force's militarized response to the right to protest.
In addition to Minnesota, where a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, the military is tracking uprisings in New York, Ohio, Colorado, Arizona, Tennessee, and Kentucky, according to a Defense Department situation report. Notably, only Minnesota has requested National Guard support. The documents were originally stored on an unclassified server but were subsequently “elevated” to a classified system. While the documents reveal significant National Guard force capabilities in each of the seven states, one Minnesota Guard member expressed concerns about the troops’ lack of training in responding to civil unrest. One document pertaining to the Minnesota National Guard, marked “For Official Use Only” (FOUO), describes one operation’s purpose: “Augment MN State Patrol Civil Disturbance Operations with a show of force.”
The extrajudicial murders of African/Black people, such as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, by agents of the U.S. government and armed civilians have sparked urban rebellions in cities across the United States. Yet these murders cannot be understood outside of the context of the U.S. state’s ongoing assault on the human rights of African/Black people. U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet demanding lethal violence—“...when the looting starts, the shooting starts...”—requires the United Nations to intervene. Trump’s threat comes as the U.S. state has tragically failed during the COVID-19 pandemic to recognize and protect the human right to health of poor and working-class people, including Africans and undocumented migrants.