The ruling FOG (Forces of Greed) spin news stories in their favor and keep the masses distracted with celebrity gossip and reality shows. Each week on Clearing The Fog, we feature guests who are working to expose the truth and offer real solutions to the current crises faced by our nation and the world. Knowledge is power, and with this knowledge you will be empowered to act to shift power to the people and weaken the corporate stranglehold on our lives. Our podcast is brought to you each week without advertising.

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Update On Assange: The Most Important Press Freedom Case Of This Era

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

This past week, just as public sentiment and corporate media attention were shifting in favor of Julian Assange, the United States issued another superseding indictment in his extradition case. The indictment doesn’t add any charges, it merely uses public information to smear Assange’s reputation and attempt to portray him as a hacker instead of the journalist and publisher that he is. This shows that the US government has a weak case against Assange. Joe Lauria, an investigative journalist and senior editor of Consortium News, explains the new indictment and provides an update on Julian Assange. The Assange case is the most important press freedom case of this era. It will determine our right to know what our government and corporations are doing.

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Joe Lauria is’s Editor-in-Chief. As a long-time contributor to the website and as someone whose career path followed closely the path taken by Consortium News founder Robert Parry – with an impressive resume in both mainstream and independent journalism. Joe has a long and distinguished career in investigative journalism, writing for publications including the Wall Street JournalBoston Globe, the Sunday Times of LondonLondon Daily Mail, the Montreal Gazette, and Bloomberg News. Joe’s work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post,, New York Magazine and The Guardian, as well as alternative media websites such as, The Duran, and of course, His focus has been international affairs and its intersection with domestic policy, particularly regarding the Middle East (where he lived for three years), and U.S.-Russian relations. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with former U.S. Senator and American presidential candidate Mike Gravel, which is a history of U.S. foreign policy and the defense industry, and How I Lost: By Hillary Clinton, an analysis of the DNC and Podesta emails revealed by WikiLeaks, with a foreword by Julian Assange.

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Black Activists Expose The FBI Targeting Their Movements

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

In 2017, a leak from the FBI revealed they were targeting black activists organizing to end racist policies and practices calling them “Black Identity Extremists.” This is consistent with the FBI’s long history of investigating and harassing black and brown activists. Organizations like Media Justice and the ACLU have been working to get information from the FBI about what they are doing and who they are targeting but the FBI has been putting barriers in their way. We speak with Myaisha Hayes of Media Justice about what they have learned so far and its impact on activists. Hayes also discusses their efforts to urge Congress to stop federal funding for surveillance of people exercising their constitutional rights and to educate activists about ways to protect themselves.

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Myaisha Hayes is the Campaign Strategies Director at MediaJustice. She previously spent two years as the organization’s National Organizer on Criminal Justice & Technology, where she oversaw the launch of the #NoDigitalPrisons and #ProtectBlackDissent campaigns. Myaisha also brings several years of organizing experience with her from various national and local campaigns including President Obama’s re-election campaign, Fight for $15, and the CLOSErikers Campaign. As the grandchild of a political prisoner, she is deeply committed to organizing people power that leads to radical transformative change and justice. Myaisha earned her BA in Black Studies at Occidental College and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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To Deal With Police, We Must Understand Why They Even Exist

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The recent protests across the country following the murder of George Floyd have elevated the demands to defund and abolish the police. This comes on the heels of the nationwide resurgence of a movement for community control of police led by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. We speak with author and activist Max Rameau of Pan African Community Action about the role of police in the bigger picture of the evolution of human beings as protectors of private property and wealth, the pitfalls of defunding police if this dynamic is not addressed and what community control of police looks like. Max is co-author with Netfa Freeman of an upcoming book, “Community Control over Police.”

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Max Rameau is a Haitian born Pan-African theorist, campaign strategist, organizer and author. After moving to Miami, Florida in 1991, Max began organizing around a broad range of human rights issues impacting low-income Black communities, including Immigrant rights (particularly Haitian immigrants), economic justice, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, particularly for ex-felons and police abuse, among others. As a result of the devastating impacts of gentrification taking root during the housing “boom,” in the summer of 2006 Max helped found the organization which eventually became known as Take Back the Land, to address ‘Land’ issues in the Black community. In October 2006, Take Back the Land seized control of a vacant lot in the Liberty City section of Miami and built the Umoja Village, a full urban shantytown, addressing the issues of land, self-determination and homelessness in the Black community. Read more here.


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US Veterans, Including Active Duty, Reject Militarization Against Demonstrators

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The United States is in the midst of a mass uprising against police violence, but also a whole list of grievances such as the lack of jobs, health care, education and more. Sustained protests have been going on for two weeks defying curfews and severe repression by police. The national guard has been deployed to 23 states and President Trump threatened to deploy the military against people expressing their First Amendment rights. We speak with Danny Sjursen, a retired Major and spokesperson for About Face: Veterans Against the War, about how members of the military are responding to current events. Veterans have called for members of the national guard and military to refuse illegal orders and they are receiving an unprecedented number of responses. Danny also provides insight into the police community and why they are doubling down on repression.

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Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and contributing editor at His work has appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Mother Jones, Popular Resistance, and Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. His forthcoming book, Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War(Heyday Books) is available for pre-order. Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet and see his website for speaking/media requests and past publications.

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Steven Donziger Challenged A Corporate Polluter And Won, Now They’re Trying To Ruin Him

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

Texaco was the first oil company to drill in the Amazon. To maximize profits, and because they thought they could get away with it, they did not take any steps to protect local communities or the environment from their toxic waste. For a long time, they did get away with it. Then a group of lawyers and organizations worked with locals to sue Chevron, which bought Texaco, and won a $9.5 billion judgment. Chevron refuses to pay and instead has gone after the lawyer, Steven Donziger, in unprecedented ways with a vengeance. We speak with Donziger and Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch. For more information, visit, and

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Steven Donziger is a lawyer, writer, former journalist and environmental advocate currently known for leading an unrelenting (24 years and counting) legal battle against Chevron Corporation related to its contamination of the Ecuadorian rainforest. Steven has led a variety of international human rights fact-finding and advocacy projects, served as a public defender, and edited a leading text on criminal justice reform. In the Chevron/Ecuador case, his “Herculean tenacity” (Business Week) is often credited with keeping the case on track for 18 years until his clients prevailed in a complex environmental trial and won a $9.5 billion damages judgment. That judgment has since been affirmed on appeal and by Ecuador’s Supreme Court, and Donziger is now part of efforts to enforce that judgment against Chevron’s assets in jurisdictions around the world, including Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. After winning the judgment, Steven was the main target of campaign of retaliatory litigation by Chevron that the company admitted was designed to “demonize” him. To combat the efforts of Steven and his colleagues, Chevron has deployed a team of 60 law firms and more than 2,000 lawyers and consultants, at a cost conservatively estimated at $2 billion. Chevron’s defense is considered the largest and most expensive such effort in the history of the fossil fuel industry. Read more here.

Paul Paz y Miño joined Amazon Watch in 2007. He has an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University. Since 1995, he has volunteered as Colombia Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA and was the Guatemala/Chiapas Program Director at the Seva Foundation for seven years. Paul has lived in Chiapas, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador, promoting human rights and community development and working directly with indigenous communities. Paul is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and served on the board of Peace Brigades International USA.
Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulpaz

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Special Edition: Sanctioned Countries Speak Out On COVID-19

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

On May 9, 2020, the Sanctions Kill coalition based in the United States held the first in a series of webinars on the United States’ illegal economic coercive measures imposed on 39 countries and one-third of the global population. This webinar featured representatives from six countries: Cuba, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Syria, Venezuela and Iran. Each of these targeted countries shares common struggles to maintain their sovereignty and provide basic necessities for their people while trying to build new forms of governance in the face of aggression and interference from the United States. It is rare to hear directly from government representatives from targeted countries in the United States and it is important for us to understand what is happening in a way the corporate media will not provide. The second webinar is on Sunday, May 31 at 1:00 pm Eastern. See the Facebook event page or register directly at

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Cuba — Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal, Charge des Affaires of the Cuban Mission to the UN
Zimbabwe — Dr. Frank Guni, Secretary for Administration, ZANU-PF North America
Nicaragua — Francisco O Campbell, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S.
Syria — Dr. Bashar Ja’afari, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations
Venezuela — Carlos J. Ron Martinez, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
Iran – Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Ambassador to the United Nations

Transcript in progress

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What We Know So Far: Dispelling The Myths About COVID19

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

As we get close to two months of quarantine to stop the spread of COVID19 and the government has failed to put in place both public health infrastructure to effectively control the pandemic and economic support to see people through it financially, pressure is building to end it. In addition to the protests against the restrictions on movement and businesses, people are starting to question the rationale behind measures such as wearing masks, quarantining and vaccines. This is being fueled by a few people who are pushing unsubstantiated claims that are causing confusion. We speak with Dr. Andy Coates, a practicing physician in Albany, New York who also teaches evidence-based medicine, about what we know so far about the new SARS-CoV2 virus that is causing COVID19.

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Dr. Andy Coates is a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program and an assistant professor of medicine and psychiatry at Albany Medical College. Board certified in internal medicine as well as hospice and palliative care medicine, Dr. Coates graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Coates is a co-founder of the Capital District chapter of PNHP and founder of Single Payer New York. He previously served on the statewide executive board of the Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO. He provides commentary on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

Transcript in progress

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Mutual Aid: Building Networks Of Solidarity Not Charity

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

In the face of the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse, people are organizing mutual aid networks to provide food, medicines and other basics to those in need. This is done in the spirit of solidarity, not charity, a non-hierarchical empowering approach versus a hierarchical exploitative approach. We speak with Eleanor Goldfield, an activist in Washington, DC who is active in her local mutual aid network and has written about it, about how they are organizing, the response from the community and government and how this fits into the bigger picture of resistance and building alternative systems to meet human needs. Some resources that Eleanor suggests are, and her website,

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Eleanor Goldfield is the founder and host of the show, Act Out! which aired on Free Speech TV as well as in podcast form. (The podcast is still going and will pick up again April 17, 2020)! She also co-hosts the podcast Common Censored along with Lee Camp.

Her current work focuses on more long-form and in-depth pieces, the first iteration of these being a film on West Virginia’s coal and fracking country, as well as their radical past that folks are working to uncover – so that it might inform a radical present and radically just future.

As a journalist, her articles and photographs cover people and topics which are censored or misrepresented.

Artistically, she works in a variety of mediums and her performances blend music, spoken word and visual projections.

Transcript in progress.

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Cancel The Rents Activists Say Housing Is A Human Right

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

There is a growing movement of people refusing to pay their rent whether they are not able to or whether they can but they are acting in solidarity with those who can’t. In this recession, tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. Support from the government is not reaching everyone who needs it. Thirty percent of people could not pay their rent in April. This is occurring in an environment where property owners are large corporations that seek profit even when it means people losing their homes during a pandemic. We speak with DC activist and co-host of By Any Means Necessary about the Cancel the Rent campaign, which calls on local government to put a moratorium on rent until the pandemic is over. Their long term goal seeks to transform the way housing is structured in the United States so it is treated as a basic human right.

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Sean Blackmon is a DC-based activist who works on a broad range of issues. He is an active member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and is the co-host with Jacqueline Luqman of the radio program, By Any Means Necessary, on Sputnik Radio.

Transcript in progress.

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The Struggle Against Neoliberalism Intensifies: Saving Our Postal Service And Workers

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The wave of worker, student, and renter strikes is growing into a campaign for a general strike that begins on May 1 and continues at the first of each month from there. The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse, a purely neoliberal money grab, has revealed that the only way we are going to survive and maintain social programs is by fighting for them. We speak with Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, about Congress’ failure to provide necessary funding for the US Postal Service as revenue has fallen by 50%. The USPS faces the real possibility of going bankrupt and the administration is openly saying it will let it fail in order to privatize it. We also speak with Joe Henry, political director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Iowa, about the Meatless May campaign for meatpackers and against factory farming.

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Mark Dimondstein is President of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 200,000 employees of the U.S. Postal Service and approximately 1,500 employees in the private-sector mailing industry. He began his first three-year term in November 2013 and was re-elected on October 5, 2016 for another term starting in November 2016. Since taking office, Dimondstein has transformed the APWU into a fighting, activist organization. He helped establish A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service, strengthened the unity among the four postal unions, helped forge the Campaign for Postal Banking, and led the successful fight against a privatization scheme involving the office-supply chain, Staples. In the union’s recent contract fight, he outlined a vision that emphasizes the unity between the demands of postal workers for a good contract and the demands of the American people for an expanded, vibrant, public Postal Service. Read more.

Joe Henry is the political director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Iowa and a co-founder of the “Protect Our Workers, Protect Our Food” coalition.

Transcript in Progress

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General Strike Campaign Growing In The United States; Begins On May Day

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

Over the last two years, there have been record numbers of worker strikes in the United States not seen since the depression. Since the recession and COVID-19 pandemic started this winter, there have been many wildcat strikes in response to workers having their pay cut and being required to work in hazardous conditions even though they are deemed essential. Now, as the government demonstrates its unwillingness to provide basic protection for the population even as it injects billions of dollars to big industries and banks, support for a general strike is here. We speak with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson about the plans being made for the first general strike on May Day, what that will look like and how the campaign will be sustained over time.

Popular Resistance is holding a national Zoom meeting on April 29 to provide information on ways people can participate in, support and amplify the first of many general strikes. More information at

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Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson.  Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.  Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.


Margaret Flowers (MF): So this week we interviewed Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson, about the upcoming plans for a general strike.
KZ: That’s right. A general strike that he and his organization, Cooperation Jackson, and other organizations including ours, Popular Resistance, are getting involved in. It’s a really important 2020 year effort. Pretty exciting. Big opportunity. It could be another Occupy if it takes off.
MF: And as our preparation for May first, we are holding an information call on April 29th at 7 p.m. Eastern time, and we will provide people with information about how they can participate and support the general strike. So go to
KZ: It’s important to do that because it’s unusual to hold a general strike in the middle of a pandemic when people are being told to stay home. There will be a lot of creativity involved in this general strike.
MF: Right, but people can still do it, so find out how. And there’s information about that also at So let’s talk about some things that are in the news. Let’s start off as we have been lately with a little bit of an update on COVID-19. The United States now has around 800,000 cases that we know of documented. Many people are saying it’s likely much higher than that and over 41,000 deaths.
KZ: So when you project will be the million cases.
MF: Well at this rate we’re going a hundred thousand cases every three to four days. So by next week when we do this show we may be around a million cases.
KZ: We doubled our deaths in the last month from 20,000 to 40,000.
MF: And as you’ve documented on popular resistance, the number of deaths each week right now in the United States from COVID-19 is higher than the number of deaths from cancer and almost as high as heart disease. Those are the one and two killers.
KZ: That’s a week-to-week comparison of how many people die from those kinds of common killers to this new one, COVID-19. And we’re in the top two right now with COVID-19. It’s it’s a pretty serious pandemic. People should not underestimate it as people New York City know, but people around the country now are starting to see.
MF: It’s really sad that at this time when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and cases are continuing to rise and deaths are continuing to rise that the Trump Administration is talking about cutting funding to the World Health Organization.
KZ: Oh he’s doing so many things wrong. He’s done so many things wrong on this pandemic from the beginning. His administration knew about this before January and did nothing. It’s pitiful and really an example of incompetent governance. And it really should knock him out of running for president for that reason alone.
MF: You say that every week which is why I kind of chuckled a little bit but people are actually wondering if they can hold the president criminally responsible for his negligence in handling this pandemic.
KZ: Well now he’s trying to encourage these protesters around the country, going out to urge Governors who are doing the right thing to stop doing the right thing. And these protesters, you know, hundreds and thousands of people actually are going to make the virus worse. They are going to create new hot spots where these protests are occurring. They’re out they’re not wearing face masks. They’re not doing anything to protect themselves. It’s absurd and President Trump is liable for that.
MF: I think it was the governor of Michigan who said that they may actually make it be required that there are longer restrictions because if there’s a surging cases. And it’s interesting because I think Ohio was one of the early states to have these reopen protests, and I noticed today on the tracker that Ohio is having an increased number of cases. I don’t know for sure if that’s related. But you know Ohio is not out of the woods yet and people should not be asking to reopen at this moment.
KZ: I think it’s probably too soon to be related, but it’s certainly an important coincidence that when these fringe group protesters are urging reopen the state, the state’s becoming a hotspot State. The reality is you can’t reopen until we have the basic tools: widespread testing and the ability to track people who have been positive to see who they’ve been relating to. Tracking and testing. And we can’t do either at this stage. And so if these protests really want to open the economy back up again, that’s what they should be protesting for. They should be proposing for lots of money for testing and lots of money to hire and train people to become trackers. That’s how you can reopen the economy.
MF: Yeah. I just read today the center for Medicare and Medicaid Services statement on what’s required to reopen some of the places in the country that might not be having so many cases. And that is exactly what they say. And that is definitely not in place yet in the United States. What do we see? Governors are still scrambling to get tests. Which state was it that just bought some tests from South Korea?
KZ: Our state. Maryland just bought thousands of tests from South Korea. We’re going through a very big upsurge in Maryland, right now. In addition to those two testing and tracking, we also need better care. It’s interesting to watch doctors talking about the virus and how they respond to people because it’s always changing. They’re learning so much.
MF: It’s still very new.
KZ: Yeah, that’s great that they’re learning, and it’s so interesting how whether you become ill from the virus in a serious way is about your immune system. And then it looks like it attacks everywhere in your body from head to toe. Every major organ can be under attack. We’re seeing a lot of kidney, liver, heart, as well as lungs. It’s a much bigger attack on the body than we initially thought of it. Initially it started as pneumonia, but pneumonia is not the only way people die from I’m COVID-19.
MF: It’s causing inflammation of the heart and heart attacks. It’s causing kidney failure requiring dialysis. It’s causing liver disease as you said, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. So it’s pretty lethal, actually. There was a great article by Kaylee Rogers in 538.
KZ: I know it’s a weird location, 538, the political website.
MF: Yeah, I but I think Nate Silver said that he was asked to look into it. He’s such a good numbers kind of person and people said, can you answer the question? Is this just another flu? And so he looked into it and he looked at…
KZ: Well, this is a health reporter looking into it…
MF: RIght. Not Nate Silver. 538 looked into it. And so what they looked at was comparing it to like SARS and MERS. So the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that started in China in 2002… There were only about 9,000 cases worldwide of that, and under 800 deaths. And then if you look at the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS. There have been since it started, worldwide 2,500 cases and just under 900 deaths. And they say that the reason that is is that those viruses were much less infectious than COVID-19. They had to really get deep down into the lung tissues. The virus did to be able to find a place to grab on and get inside the cell and start replicating, whereas COVID-19 can just get into the back of your throat. That’s where the receptors are and it starts growing there, and then can get down through your bronchi and into your lungs. Also because the mortality rate was so high with SARS and MERS, people tended to die instead of infecting other people. If you look at COVID-19, half to three-quarters of the people who are infectious are carrying it around and don’t even know that they have it.
KZ: And they can be infectious for a long time.
MF: Yeah, they can and they’re highly infectious in the days just before they show symptoms. And this is the one of the criticisms I have of the CMMS report, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services report, on what conditions need to be met… call for people to be screening frequently in the workplace for symptoms. But the reality is that you’re going to be infectious before you’re showing symptoms. So really what they should be doing in the workplace is routine testing to screen for it.
KZ: There really is not a good routine tests available. that can be a quick test for COVID.
MF: People have been talking about possibly having a quick test soon. We haven’t seen it yet.
KZ: It doesn’t exist this point. So that’s one of the that’s one of the things that’s ironic about COVID-19. People have been saying, “most people don’t get sick.” But that’s a problem, because if most people aren’t getting sick, don’t know they have it, they are spreading it. MERS and SARS both made you sick, and you get six seriously, so you can’t spread it because you’re in the hospital. But with COVID-19 you’re out walking around with it. If we allow people to leave their homes.
MF: And then just one other quick thing… comparing it to the swine flu, which infected a lot of people. They think worldwide since the swine flu started in 2009 about a billion people have been infected with it, but it’s a much milder disease and it’s mortality rate is about 0.1%. We’re talking with COVID-19, we’re not sure yet, but people are saying between a 1 and 3% death rate. So if it’s a one percent death rate that’s 10 times more deadly.
KZ: So it’s kind the worst of both worlds. It spreads easily, silently. People even know they’re spreading it, and for some people becomes very deadly with a relatively high death rate.
MF: Right. That’s why it’s become such a pandemic, because of those characteristics.
KZ: And that’s why we have these lockdowns, the economy closing down, for COVID but not these other illnesses or for the seasonal flu.
MF: Right, and we wouldn’t have to be locked down so long if we actually had a healthcare infrastructure, a public health care infrastructure. The ability to test. All these things that other countries have that handled it really well like South Korea. They were able to act quickly, take it seriously, contain it, and now they’re monitoring it.
KZ: What’s so interesting looking at Nicaragua and Venezuela, two countries that have economic problems because of US economic Warfare, as well as Nicaragua being the second poorest country in our hemisphere after Haiti. Both countries are handling it very well, because they have a community-based health system. Doctors in every community. Health workers that can go door to door and talk to residents, find out what potential problems are, advise them how to avoid getting ill. If someone is ill get them taken care of right away. But we don’t have that. Even in China, in Wuhan, they went door to door in order to stop the spread of this illness.
MF: They had 1,800 teams of five people that were doing that type of surveillance. And you know, also if you talk about Venezuela, they have a food program. So people are able to stay inside because they can get food delivered to them through their community organizations, through what’s called the CLAP program. And that’s a problem for Nicaragua. They haven’t actually closed down yet, because they need to be out and working in order to feed people. Nicaragua doesn’t have the mechanism in place to get money to people.
KZ: They’re too poor. Basically in Nicaragua… It’s a poor country. For many people if you don’t work that day, you don’t eat that day . And so they can’t close the country down.
MF: But Venezuela… of all the countries in Latin America it has the lowest case numbers so far. They’re doing a very good job, but I think what’s sad about Nicaragua, and what our listeners need to be aware of, is that there is a campaign going on by the right-wing opposition, using their International media connections in the UK and the US to just totally lie about Nicaragua. It’s like what we experience all the time with Venezuela..
KZ: These are all the same groups that are funded by the United States, National Endowment for Democracy, trained with social media by United States, have media Connections in the United States. They’re part of the regime change apparatus of the United States, and the putting out incredibly false stories about Nicaragua. Multiple newspapers report that Daniel Ortega was dead.
MF: I know. The BBC, the New York Times.
KZ: The Guardian, which is basically a CIA paper…
MF: … saying, oh, well, where is Daniel Ortega? Maybe he’s sick? Maybe he’s died? So, of course he came out and gave a speech…
KZ: A fantastic anti-war speech CALLING for the end of nuclear weapons and applauding the country for how they were responding to COVID-19.
MF: But people need to be aware because even Publications that people might think of as being very esteemed, like the Lancet, carried an article…
KZ: That was a letter, not an article. It was not a peer-reviewed article but a letter from some people who wrote Nonsense about Nicaragua.
MF: So question it. Whenever there’s a country that’s in the crosshairs of the United States and you’re hearing things in the media, it’s always good to question it. And of course Nicaragua is part of the State Department’s “Troika of Tyranny” right now, targeting Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Another thing that’s happening is out of the COVID-19 crisis and the economic recession is that there have been a lot of strikes going on. We’ve talked about this/ A lot of workers that are striking, just wildcat strikes because of the working conditions, pay being cut as we talked aboutrecently. And so there’s another kind of strike that’s being done and that’s rent strikes, because the state is doing a lot to help homeowners and landlords, but tenants are not getting help, and so New York City is planning for a massive run strike on May 1st.
KZ: May 1st is a big day for all sorts of strikes, as we’ll talk about with Kali Akuno.
MF: They’re basically saying that there’s been a three-month moratorium on mortgages. Landlords are getting tax abatements, but tenants… there’s been a 90-day moratorium on evictions, but what they’re saying is that at the end of that moratorium, all of that rent is going to be due, and if they can’t pay the rent they think there’s going to be a wave of evictions. So they’re asking for a cancellation of rent for April, May and June. And you saw an interesting statistic on April rent.
KZ: One-third of the rents due for April of not been paid, and I think that’s really rooted in the reality of how poorly the government has responded to the coronavirus economic crash. They didn’t fund people enough. Twelve hundred dollar checks, which many people still have not even gotten yet, even though the rent has been due, has not arrived for a lot of people. And it’s only $1,200. Canada is giving $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis. That’s what the United States should be doing as well. That would at least cover rent for most people. A family who has two people, that’s $4,000 and money for children as well. So then people would have money to live on, to buy food to survive this economic collapse that has been triggered by the coronavirus.
MF: And another sign that people are really struggling are the bread lines. We’re seeing all kinds of reports around the country of extremely long breadlines. Schools have been converted into food pantries. Food pantries are running out of food In Chicago they turned their Sports Arena into basically a food supply place.
KZ: Some of the images of these food lines are really astounding. They look worse than the depression in the 1930s. Very long lines. People waiting in cars for hours. Car lines. Thousands of cars. Waiting to pick up a package of food. And the problem also developing related to food is that the supply chain is breaking.
MF: You know people that work in the food industry are getting sick and then they don’t have the workers.
KZ: From slaughterhouses to grocery store workers, and so if people get sick, we really don’t have enough essential workers and essential workers aren’t paid well, so people don’t want those jobs. Our supply chain is weak.
MF: Another interesting facet of our food supply chain is that so much of it is geared towards restaurants, towards bulk purchasing. And so you see farmers in California plowing over their crops. You see Dairy people in Vermont pouring their milk out.
KZ: People crushing their eggs.
MF: In Maryland, they’ve come up with an interesting solution. They’ve kind of come together ,and they’re putting together these food boxes of either prepared meals or fresh produce, and they’re asking people to register online. They’re offering them at a very low price, and then one day a week they have it set up in a way that those boxes can be picked up. It’s a way to get this bulk food, you know, so it’s not just being destroyed.
KZ: It really shows our country is a failure. We’re not adapting. We’re now into April. This started in late December. In January became clear, but we’re now four months, we’re still not adapting.
MF: So we wrote our newsletter this past weekend. And the last four weeks we’d written about how the 2020s was a decade of transformation, and we wrote about various aspects… the economy, healthcare, the environment, foreign policy, how those could be transformed. This week we focused on the “how” to make that transformation possible. And the general strike is one big part of it. We need a mass social movement. But the other part is, how do people respond in this current electoral environment where you have to really awful candidates in the major parties.
KZ: That’s one thing that really kin of generated the newsletter. People kept asking us, “what do we do with Biden versus Trump?” Neither one of them is going to give us what we want, what the people’s necessities are. What’s needed to protect the planet. Neither one of them are visionaries for the future. A failed businessman and a corporate Democrat who really don’t have a lot of new ideas. And so we started to talk about that and think about it, and decided to look at the history of the United States, because this is not the first time that the two parties been out of touch with the people. It’s happened over and over again from abolition of slavery, foreclosures against farmers and the 1890s, the monopoly conditions in the 1900s, low wages, child workers. I mean, there’s so many issues that the government has been refusing to act on over the years. But despite the fact that two parties did not represent the people, people found ways to win. And lots of changes, from workers compensation to unemployment to retirement security, to Social Security. Lots of changes happened because people organized. And it was a combination of two things. It was one: organizing social movements, and then second: supporting third party campaigns. And the third party campaigns didn’t win, but they put issues on the agenda, and that agenda then was pushed by the social movements. They worked in synergistic relationship between social movements and third parties and they were able to push these issues forward, get them on the national agenda. The whole New Deal, you can look back, was the Socialist and Progressive Party. It was their platform from the 1910s to the 1920s. If it wasn’t for Huey Long, threatening a 1936… the got assassinated in 1935, but he had developed a mass national following for a redistribution of wealth. And FDR before that election enacted Social Security and other New Deal reforms to prepare for that election. So the third party threat was very critical there.
MF: Well with Bernie Sanders out of the race a lot of people who support his reforms like a national improved Medicare-for-all and free college education, those kinds of things, are looking for a way to continue to have that voice. And I think as we outline in the newsletter, there are third-party candidates out there who are talking about those kinds of ideas. So you can find that at under the newsletter section. Let’s talk about three recent court cases that are of interest. One is that Attorney General, William Barr, just filed saying that the 9/11 families will not be able to have access to the documents they’ve been trying to get. And that’s what President Trump said he would help them get.
KZ: These poor 9/11 families have been denied and denied denied. It looked like because Trump said they were going to get it, they might. Barr took a long time to decide and decided against them. He’s keeping those documents secret.
MF: Yeah, he’s using what’s called the states secrets privilege. And it’s interesting because he won’t even tell the lawyers why they’re too secret. So that’s sparking lots of curiosity there.
KZ: There’s already so many questions about the 9/11 catastrophe. The 9/11 commission… even the two chairs said that the commission was inadequate. It was rushed. It wasn’t funded, didn’t have access to information. So even that commission questioned their own findings. And so it’s going to remain an unsolved issue until these documents and other information are released.
MF: Another investigation that’s been going on for quite a while now is the Flynt prosecution around the change in the water supply that resulted in high levels of lead in the water and lead poisoning, and people were worried because the prosecutors said last year that the statute of limitations on that criminal case would be up at the end of this month. Now they’re saying that they have a legal strategy and the investigation will continue. People shouldn’t worry about that statute of limitations.
KZ: Be very curious to see how that turns out.
MF: And then the Keystone XL pipeline. the KXL pipeline that people have been fighting in the US for a long time… A court in Montana ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Army Corps of Engineers violated the law when it issued the water permits. And so now they’re validating those and that’s probably going to stop construction. A lot of other cases continue to go on around this pipeline, but that’s a victory.
KZ: That’s a big victory. They rushed the permit. So I’ll add one more legal case, since we’re taping this on 4/20, a holiday. I observe every year since I’ve been a longtime activist for ending marijuana prohibition. There’s another lawsuit going on in Massachusetts. Cannabis dispensaries are suing the government because they were not allowed to stay open, but the alcohol shops were. You can buy medical marijuana just not legal adult marijuana, and they should be open. So they’re suing to try to get the right to open during the pandemic.
MF: I wanted to follow back up on the Keystone XL pipeline because as we’re taping this another amazing thing is happening. Has this ever happened? I don’t know. The price of oil is now negative.
KZ: sIt tarted the day that $11 drop to one cent and drop 237 as we went to taping was at 3650 negative. In other words, you know, you get paid $36 to take the barrel of oil.
MF: Yeah. I was just seeing how the oil companies were actually leasing tankers to store the oil because they have so much oil they don’t know where to put it. So this is a really interesting phenomenon. You know, where is this going to go?
KZ: Well, this is going to first off go to a major series of bankruptcies for the fracking industry in the United States, which already was living on borrowed time and borrowed dollars because they were not turning a profit. You already saw a lot of bankruptcies the last two years. This is going to escalate those bankruptcies greater. The fracking industry is in deep trouble, but it’s also real important for investors, because this could change the whole investment paradigm around energy. People are going to see that oil and gas are likely stranded assets. They’re stranded assets. Not just because of the shutdown of the economy now. They were already moving in that direction because of the reality of climate change, and the reality of electric cars. Things were changing on the energy front. Wind and solar. Thermal and wave energy were getting cheaper than oil and gas and coal.
MF: They’ve been very expensive for a long time, and they like to build…
KZ: So the situation is changing. I think it means investors are going to say, “I don’t want to have those stranded assets and they have got start finding ways to get out of the oil and gas industry.
MF: Well, that’s what Financial Times says. They say the oil crash is only a taste of what awaits. The energy industry, the end of hydrocarbons as a lucrative business, is a real possibility. We are seeing that in dramatic form in the current oil price crash. So we talked about how in a pandemic and the recession or depression occurring… during a pandemic the recovery is a very slow, long recovery, as opposed to a war where there’s a lot of destruction and then an immediate need to rebuild all that infrastructure. A pandemic kills people, but it doesn’t destroy structures, and so we were talking about how important it would be if this was an opportunity to rebuild our whole economy around clean energy. A carbon-free, nuclear free economy and really tackling the climate. It could create millions of jobs for people and a healthier environment. There’s all these reports now that people in areas of the country that are highly polluted are dying more frequently.
KZ: You can see the blue sky now too.
MF: Well, you know people who have been polluted have a more weakened respiratory system, and they’re more likely to have severe illness or die from COVID-19. But now that we’ve all been in our houses all this time, the emissions have really significantly reduced and so this is really a huge opportunity for us to stop the destructive ways, that path that we’ve been on for a long time, and really change how we’re doing things.
KZ: Well, the energy they not is not just the energy infrastructure, which by itself is trillions of dollars a year, and according to Howie Hawkins, who’s done the most detailed review of this can read a budget everything on how we talk is about US tens of millions of jobs created. So it’s gigantic. So with the 22 million people unemployed, tens of millions of jobs created and a lot of those other people go back to their old jobs, but still a lot of new jobs could be created. So we also have structure that’s failing separate from the Green New Deal. Bridges, roads, mass transit. I mean the society of civil engineers has for years been giving the US a bad rating in its infrastructure and calling for trillions of dollars in spending. So the combination of that kind of spending, as well as on infrastructure, as well as green New Deal spending to transition. The economy is multi trillions of dollars, almost like rebuilding the entire country, because when you talk about the green New Deal you’re talking about housing that needs to be uplifted so it’s more efficient. And talking about parking lots becoming energy producers, and about community gardens of energy. There’s so much to do to build and create a clean energy economy that’s sustainable, that it’s going to take trillions of dollars in investment.
MF: Right, and as we wrote in our last newsletter, not this week, but the past week, talking about the environment. It’s the factory farming model that we use the United States that is putting us at more risk for these types of what are called zoonotic diseases or infections, where the infectious agent jumps from an animal to people and so, you know, we’re already starting to see kind of a change in the food system. Many farms that sold to restaurants are now finding ways to sell directly to people. People are looking to their local economy… with the slaughterhouses shutting down, people are looking to their local farms for the proteins that they want to eat.
KZ: So all that’s also part of the Green New Deal, because we need a generative agriculture.
MF: And localized Agriculture. And yeah, so they lost opportunities here, even in the midst of this really severe an awful crisis that is causing death and suffering, and not just from the infection, but from the economic insecurity that people are facing. So this is an important time for us to come together in solidarity, and that’s a great and that’s a perfect segue to our interview with Kali Akuno, to talk about how we’re going to do that. So, let’s take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.
Musical Break:
MF: And now we turn to our guest, Kali Akuno. Kali is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, and he’s a longtime human rights and social justice advocate. Thank you for taking time to join us Kali.
Kali Akuno (KA): Thank you.
KZ: Kali, first off, let’s just talk about how Mississippi and how Jackson are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and the economic collapse. What’s happening in your area?
KA: Well, here in Mississippi… on the one hand you have the city telling people to stay in place, offering pretty stiff penalties to folks who are violating various orders. And on the other hand, you have the state Governor who’s basically following Trump’s orders of encouraging everybody to put themselves in danger and get back to work. So there’s a lot of mixed messages here in Mississippi and you see the results of it every time you go out to grab something to eat or to get some supplies. You see it. There are different folks. Who are wearing masks? There are others who are not wearing masks. We’ve had a few demonstration similar to what’s happening in Michigan, Ohio and other places like that. So, you know, it’s all over the place here in Mississippi. Unfortunately, and we are one of the states I think most ill-equipped to actually deal with this this virus, with this with this pandemic. We do not have the medical infrastructure overall to deal with folks Health in the best of times and we definitely aren’t at capacity now. There is an undercount here in Mississippi, both of who’s infected and how many have died. It’s pretty severe. We may never know, in fact, how many have been touched by this in one form or another. Anecdotally we see in our media community in West Jackson its impact particularly amongst the homeless population, pretty significantly a number of folks… we will never probably be able to verify this but just circumstantially we know that there are a good number of homeless members of our community, more than 10 now from this is last checking yesterday who have died since the the end of February. And there are many more who are sick. So these are some of the things going on here in Mississippi. And in Jackson in particular, it’s a very uneven approach. It’s a very all over the place, mixed message type of orientation. And unfortunately, I think it’s creating the situation where we’re going to be dealing with this pandemic for a long time. Anyone thinking that this is going to be one more month or two more months, I can tell you from the conditions that we’re facing here that is a bold-faced lie, and we better start getting ready for much longer duration of this particular epidemic.
KZ: So I just want to say it’s funny about those mixed messages when I think of Trump’s daily briefings. It’s constantly mixed messages.
KA: That’s right. It’s incredible how…
KZ: Mixed message confuse the public.
MF: Right. I wanted to actually get your thoughts because last time we interviewed you we were talking about, you know, we need to be ungovernable and fight for what we need. And now we see these right-wing people who are being funded by dark money through Koch brothers and other things like that who are, you know, these kind of right-wing fascist groups. Proud boys and all that coming out and being ungovernable, defying their governor’s orders. And the president is openly egging them on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
KA: Well, I’m glad you brought up the first piece about the money. I’ve heard no commentary in the mainstream media about the money and who’s funding this and the pattern that they’re using and we need to really follow that and study it because it speaks to some very nasty times ahead of us. I’m afraid to report, number one, they’re just following the Tea Party, bringing that out, you know, for a new purpose. And that’s where all the dark money comes in. The Koch brothers in particular. And all the different types of right-wing foundations that are set up. You can see they’re very much in play with the level of coordinated messaging and spins that they’ve had from day one. And the talking points clearly that the right has received around how people can be sacrificed, that they’re willing to sacrifice. And that the other talking point that it’s better to save the economy and to save the American way of life. More than they care about human life. I mean, that’s literally their talking point. And this is coming, we should know, directly from the top. I think they’ve been very strategic in how they’ve rolled this out. You know, they have Trump talking about how we need to get the country going again and talking about it how it’s best for the economy and, you know, we want to get people back to work. I think Trump was testing the waters on a constitutional basis about how much power could he have. And you hear him going back and forth, you know, was it last week? “Well, I can I have the ultimate power to determine when everything goes back open” and then the governors on the coast, you know, particularly in New York. California, saying “no, you do not” and then creating their own coalitions with their neighboring states just to determine when they would jointly open. And then him backing off but only to a degree in saying, “okay, you guys kind of have the authority” but he threatened to withhold aid, you know, from those States. And then said it is kind of up to you, but I’m going to have different states, the republican-led states… have them start agitating from the ground up, and from state senators and state representatives, start putting out these wild claims and these very, I mean, I don’t know what to say, what I really think on the airwaves right now, but to come out and just blatantly say, “this is only going to kill two or three percent of the population and that’s okay. We can live with that.” I think we really just have to be honest and call it out. Just looking at how this particular pandemic is rolling out and how many Black, Latino and Indigenous people are being killed due to the nature of how the society was organized before the crisis, built around the very deep institutional racism that existed in society since its founding. And so for them to make this call saying only two or three percent. It winds up having a very distinct racial tone when you look at it. The fundamental essential workers and how they’re being literally sacrificed by this logic and by this push. So it’s a very dangerous call and then when you really mix that in with many of the other things that folks haven’t taken notice of … that Trump has really instituted on the federal level, you know. They’ve eliminated all almost every EPA guideline that you can think of so the level of pollution that is going to be allowed in the ramping back up. It’s going be catastrophic. If you want to look at it from an environmental perspective, all the gains around clean water and clean air that have been made in the month and a half that there’s really been kind of the slow down. Those are not only likely to be erased but just be eviscerated by the elimination of the environmental standards that they eliminated. They’ve also eliminated various types of labor protection laws, you know, very quietly, very steadily, very stiffly. And so the right is reorganizing society in the midst of this pandemic and I hope that we can reach everybody with enough time for them to understand how this reorganization is taking place, to put enough people in motion to fight back.
KZ: These violent protests in Michigan and Ohio… come in with their guns and their threats. It reminds me of the seeds of that 2000 election when they were…
KA: storming the Electoral boards in, Florida.
KZ: … Tea party. And now it’s evolved into this. It just gets worse and worse. But let me let me change to a little bit different focus on this, looking at COVID-19 and the economic collapse. What do you see those crises highlighting as far as fault lines in the US economy and political system?
KA: We could talk about this for days. Let’s start with this designation of essential, and again, who gets to determine that, right? So here in Mississippi one of the things that was deemed essential were gun shops, ammunition shops, lethal weapons shops, and then that was mirrored on the federal level by federal guideline that Trump put out… that this was essential and that they should stay open and their businesses be protected. Now, I’m bringing this up because ventilators and face masks, two things this pandemic has shown very clearly are essential for saving lives, particularly frontline workers. And those who have been stricken by this virus. We cannot produce enough of those in this society to go around in the time of a crisis, but we can produce unlimited weapons. Virtually unlimited weapons and unlimited ammunition in a time like this, and to distribute it at a time like this. It speaks to some real deep fault lines and contradictions in this society that we are more prepared to kill life than we are prepared to save life. And that the political leadership in charge now, it’s just perpetuating this motion, this direction, very openly and very blatantly. And I want people to really just think about that who are listening. There are other fault lines, but I want you to really just think about that because we still are now well over a month or two. Most of the shutdowns that have happened still are competing for PPE with the federal government. They’re still being charged by the corporations that produce these materials. The Chamber of Commerce right now to a certain extent is dictating federal policy in an emergency response to ensure that profits are maximized. Not People’s Health. Not people’s safety and security. But their profits are maximized in regards to how this response is going to be dealt with. This is the stated policy of the President and of the Senate. And then look at the impact that it’s having on people’s lives. Let’s just look at Detroit for another critical fault line. One of the basic things that every doctor or nurse would tell you is that your frontline weapon against COVID-19 is being able to wash your hands repeatedly, you know, throughout the day. There are tons of people in Michigan and Detroit and Flynt and cities in between who still don’t have running water. Or if they do have running water, it’s contaminated water. And these primarily are black and white working-class communities that have been screaming about this particular fault line in our society now for almost well over a decade. And you have a situation in Michigan where I know at least directly in Flynt… State officials and local officials were sued for how they violated the human rights of the people that they were supposed to protect and serve. And the courts basically, you know, these conservative courts through the motions away, and basically just said it’s up to you to fix your own water problem, when we don’t have the individual capability to deal with the public infrastructure. There’s a reason why it’s public and there’s a reason why it’s there for sanitary purposes from lessons that our communities learned from science around having clean sewage and that have an open sewer. And things of that nature that we learned from the 19th century. And basic scientific analysis. Then here we are in the 21st century and folks are suffering because of their race and because of their class.
MF: Let’s get into the call to action that cooperation Jackson has issued earlier this month. You’ve put out a call for a general strike. Can you talk about the genesis of that call to action? Who is behind promoting that and yeah, let’s start with that.
KA: Well, we were the first group. Cooperation Jackson wasn’t the first group to put out a call before us. There was a called General Strike 2020. They put out a Facebook call and then there was another group called Corona strike and the IWW was one of the groups behind the general strike, as well as several key YouTube personality figures who are behind it as well, some of whom have millions of followers. And then the forces that put together the corona strike were many of the critical forces that did the media and communications infrastructure of Occupy Wall Street right there in New York City. So folks who have some experience. And we also did a lot of the work relief work around the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Also in New York. So some people with some critical experience. I think in the struggle as I would say, our particular call came from our direct local experience of this kind of schizophrenic. I hate to use that term but it’s the best I can think of right now, the response that we saw going on in the state of Mississippi and how Mississippi and Florida are very intentionally were being opened earlier in March. It’s kind of test runs for this right-wing approach and policy, and they were doing it in a very coordinated way, and for us when we heard Trump say that he wanted the country back open on Easter or following Easter and they wanted this big opening, we thought that that was basically a death sentence. So that put us in motion and say we need to call for all workers everywhere to strike for their lives because if folks go back to work too soon before there’s some critical medical control of the situation, and it’s kind of flat lined out in terms of the number of new infections… would be basically a killing field for the people in my community who are working on the front line. So that was kind of just a real emotional response that my organization had through a lot of conversations on our end, as we were trying to figure out, given the resources and the tools that we had. What would be the most appropriate response for us to defend ourselves and defend our community? We initially try to just do the Mutual Aid work that we knew how to do… myself and many others are survivors from Hurricane Katrina. We learned a lot of mutual Aid skills 15 years ago battling the aftermath of that human catastrophe. So we kind of jumped in motion there. Luckily we were in contact with many folks on the front lines in Italy who were at that time like two or three weeks ahead in their experience dealing with COVID-19 and they told us they had done some mutual Aid work and told us do not do that if we don’t have the personal protective equipment. The reason they told us to stop is because they did it and didn’t have the PPE and all of the people who volunteered got sick and some of them died. So we headed their advice from direct experience. We backed off, figured out a new way that we could support our community, which for us started with a call for political action and we were very much inspired by the the Wildcat strikes. They were just popping up all over the place in Memphis. It’s in Georgia, in Detroit. And we saw just a tremendous amount of motion with various forces of labor that we ourselves are connected with, including some of the Amazon workers in some of the organizing work that’s going on around Whole Foods, and we just said let’s just take a risk. We know calling for a general strike under conditions like this might be seen by many as wild or premature, but we’d rather take that risk. In calling for it, it seems just a hundred lives from folks staying away from work on me first then just to sit and be inactive in this period and allow the right-wing to really dictate what is going to happen in society who’s going to be protected. So we put forward that call. Fortunately we’ve been able to combine forces with General Strike 2020 and with Corona strike. So we’re starting to do planning and coordination with each other for a major set of activities. It’s on May Day, on May 1st to have people striking in place. And for those who can to send a clear message to their employers that number one: they have to ensure the workplace is safe. And the number two :that we’re not going to go back to the way things were, and that there’s going to be some major changes afoot that workers and working class communities and oppressed communities are going to be asking for on the heels of this. That is our the middle message that we’re trying to bring home in right now… it’s really trying to reach as many people as possible, to hear this word and to take to organizing in your community, whatever action you deem is appropriate to send a clear message to the President and his allies that people are more important than profits, and that people come before the economy.
KZ: You know, even the before COVID-19 and the economic collapse strikes were just massively happening in the United States. The last two years there have been record numbers of strikes. And so we’ve been covering that and we’ve been writing about how the people, the working-class understands their power, that the general strike could be a game-changer. That’s right. And especially now that people are seeing that they are the essential ones to keep the economy going.
KZ: If the essential workers say, no we’re not going to keep the economy going. When it’s unfair to us where it’s risky to us doesn’t even provide us with health care or sick days. I mean basic, you know, basic fairness. People say no to that and stand up. It is incredibly powerful. And now that general strike takes so many forms. You told me my rent strikes you talking about the dead strikes. That’s right and people staying on at work and and it could be even it could start even small with we’re going on May first. We’re going to take half the day off and we’re going to keep building on that next week. We’ll take a full day off work start we’re going to Two hours off on May First. We take 4 hours or next week and we’re going to keep building, and as it builds you’re sending a message to the power structure that people are getting organized. How do you see the logistics of a general strike? I know it’s with these kind of things. We know we helped to organize Occupy as well, and lots of actions and we did that. We did the protection the Venezuelan Embassy last year.
KA: How can we predict how these things play out…
KZ: Even though we can’t predict it, can you give us a sense of how you could see a general strike playing out in 2020?
KA: One of the ways that we’re trying to put everybody in some combined motion. We want to do a 24-hour broadcast to combine all the different motion together. And with that we’re asking all the different folks who are taking action to give a live report of their actions, you know, using some form of media that many of us now have available at our fingertips. So to record it on Facebook live or Instagram live or to use Periscope and other equipment like that to highlight your action and to upload it so that everybody is aware of it and we can share it and broadcast it as far as wide as possible. We’re also asking everybody who can strike in place, you know, if you’re the millions of people who are already at home, many of whom are are now being just totally… They’re having their lives totally dominated by Zoom meetings. Did take like you mentioned, you know, if it’s just an hour off, or two hours off, take their time off and then communicate your support for whatever demand it is that upholds… be it a rent strike or whatever. And if you’re willing, take a picture, let’s selfie, which so many of us do now, you know, almost daily and post it and state which of the demands that you support and why and how you want to move and see the society going forward. And we’re trying to gather literally tens of millions of those and encourage people to do that. Striking in Place. Those who are in a position to do that, and they communicate with everybody is broadly as possible. Then we are also encouraging everybody to do action jams. And what do we mean by that? There are a ton of targets who have to meet our demands. So target the president. Target your local Senator. Target the corporation that you work for. Target the local corporation that we work for that is not securing your life or securing your future, and raise a demand that you think is appropriate, or that you think that you need.
KZ: …to transform and improve your situation.
KA: So we we are trying to make it as easy as possible for everybody to be engaged in this, on this first day of action and to really communicate the importance of that, for us to see that we’re not alone, that we can act in unison, in solidarity, even in a time like this, and that the tools that we now have at our disposal, particularly in the communications fields, make it possible for us to connect and to demonstrate our solidarity in ways that weren’t even possible 20 years ago. And so breaking the kind of isolation is one of the main things that we’re trying to do, and really trying to have roll out on May 1st. So people gain a collective sense of our overall strength and power, that we’re not alone. We don’t have to suffer in isolation alone. And then we still have the capability to act collectively to uplift our voice and give birth to our demands and give a mandamus to our demands to change society. So those are some of the ways that we are encouraging people to take action and the communicate their action and to be in solidarity with each other on May 1st. We also taking up when we know things are the Are not going to change on me first in and of themselves, even if there’s hundreds of millions of we going to send a clear message, but best believe the forces of the right are going to fight against anything and everything that we put forth. So we have to be in this on a protracted basis. So the idea of emerge in some conversation that we’ve been having trying to figure this out and coordinate everything that we should start on May 1st, but that every first we should continue so that you’ll be at action on June 1st there being a Action on July 1st. There be an action on August 1st because we know this is going to continue for a while and even if the virus itself Peter’s out the economic catastrophe that’s in its wake is going to be with us for a while and the debts that people are queuing right now trying to survive be it for for rent being having to use, you know credit cards those who have those to put food on the table or the pay for utilities that’s going to be with us. And so we’re And the need to act in unison to make sure that these debts go away that people are allowed to have running water and electricity and the roof or they over their head for months to come. If not years to come, you know where they don’t have to basically pay for it because they’ve been unemployed. There is now what a record 22 million people have been fired or laid off in the course of a month. And if you add that on to the folks who were are basically structurally unemployed and primary unemployed you’re looking at Upwards to to by some estimates for 40 million people. So we’re already a Great Depression levels. And one of the things that we want to do is start encouraging is folks who are unemployed to start organizing unemployed counselors in your community and start practicing Mutual Aid and raise demands their to start really practicing direct participatory governance in your community. So these are these are some of the ways that the it can roll out and we’re encouraging and roll out to take place.
KZ: Yeah, that’s that’s really excellent. I just loved it. The idea making is a campaign is so important as it has to build interestingly in 2020. We have two incredibly bad presidential candidates from the to Wall Street parties Biden and Trump who are terrible on labor…
KA: …terrible and equality, terrible on corporations
KZ: I mean, it’s the year to do this. It’s a great year do this
MF: That’s right. Yeah, and the it’s critical the way that you are structuring this to have regular actions. If we think about the yellow vests and France who have been protesting for over a year and out weekly. No, this is what it requires and that allows more people to see it and join into it. We don’t have a lot of time but can you talk a little bit about the demands cooperation Jackson This put out a list of Demands and you like us and many others have been saying this is not the time to be asking for small things. We need to really transform the system to change the way that things are right now. Can you talk a little bit about those demands?
KA: We’ll try to be brief as possible meaning to things that yourselves ourselves have been to hiding for years are now possible. I have to stick that and folks need to know that so Medicare for all or well as I would say universal healthcare is a real possibility. Now, that’s one of our key demands Universal basic income also very possible right now and not just for some short term duration, but as a structural change the structural shift democratizing Finance public banking that is now possible. I mean we See that with just the the trillions of dollars that the FED is just pumping out the prop up the economy and the prop up the corporations that they deem worthy. Right and I say that because we have to know what is happening to the post office. You know how the Republicans are literally trying to kill it in this moment, but saving Airlines in gun shops and things of that nature, so we want to bring that particular piece home because some dimensions of how finances or Nods and constructed are very much at the heart of why we’re in the predicament were in now. We also are calling for broad abolition. You know that we have to create new ways to integrate people in the society to make sure that these are don’t turn into kill boxes. Basically, which the prisons are fundamentally become. We also call in for Dan into ice and end of these detention centers to end all these crazy restrictions on the freedom of human. in movement of capital can roam free people should be able to roam free in move where they think is that’s advantageous to secure good life for themselves and for their family within, you know, principal rules of Harmony, of course the particular with the environment in the community that they’re a part of what calling for all of the US military infrastructure and intelligence infrastructure and all the billions of dollars and trillions of dollars that go there that those be shut down and all of those resources Should be redirected course all the social programs that are needed to organize and live in a society that takes care of human beings and put human beings first. We’re calling for all of the basic Social Services to be upheld and expanded. So that’s you know free childcare that’s free education from K through postgraduate degree. If so desired because this this Society our society has the ability to to meet all of these demands that is the critical thing. We want people to understand and it’s showing very clearly right now that we don’t face unlimited resources. We Face a lack of political will and so we’re trying to really Elevate that and make sure that these structured demands become front and center towards creating a new Society one that is Equitable and just for everybody regardless of race religion nationality sex gender language. Our society has the capability the resources to create something that we’ve dreamt about what we know was within the actual technological expertise that we’ve gained over the last couple of hundred years. It’s time to really push and make a new Society possible
MF: think it’s critical that we do that as you outlined at the beginning of the interview. What’s at risk here if we don’t organize with the direction that we’re currently going. It’s not a pretty picture of what we’re facing.
KZ: Thank you. They talked about two to three percent people dying. That’s six to ten million people. That’s what we willing to accept.
MF: That’s crazy. So just again quickly. How can people get more information or how can they plug into this effort? Is there a hashtag that’s being used that people can…
KA: We’re encouraging everybody to use for hashtags. This is what are just kind of new Coalition that is emerging isn’t is encouraging? So in all of your messaging general strike 2020 Corona strike made a 2020 It’s strike for our lives. Those are the four hash tags that were asking people to use across the board to communicate just a general thrust of where we’re going where we’re headed and how we’re envisioning kind of wielding Collective power from here on out.
MF: Right? Well, thanks again calling for taking time to talk with us and for all the work that you’re doing. It’s is truly important work and we encourage our listeners to plug into this effort.

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Gig Workers Fight Back: ‘We Don’t Want To Deliver COVID-19 With Your Groceries’

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The economy has shut down considerably in the United States so that people can shelter in place and slow the spread of COVID-19, but not all workers are able to do so. Essential workers include those who work in the food industry, not only the producers but also grocery store workers. One group of workers that is in high demand is the personal shopper who will buy what people order and deliver it to their homes. Shipt Shoppers, who do this work, have had pay cuts and are not being provided with what they need to protect themselves and their customers from contracting COVID-19. We speak with Robin Pape, a gig worker who is helping to lead the fight back to demand that Shipt Shoppers are protected and compensated for the hazardous work they are doing. Their fight is representative of what many essential workers are facing during the pandemic.

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Robin Pape is a social worker and a gig worker who lives in upstate New York. Learn more here.


Margaret Flowers (MF): This week we interviewed Robin Pape. She is a gig worker in central New York she works for a company called Shipt Shoppers.
Kevin Zeese (KZ): And that’s a company that basically goes to the store, shops for people, and then delivers it to people’s homes. It’s a really great service, especially during the coronavirus.
MF: She makes an excellent point that it’s much better to have fewer people in the stores delivering food to a lot of people than a lot of people going to the stores. Unfortunately, gig workers are not being treated very well right now and Shipt Shoppers are fighting back. So stay tuned for that interview so you can find out more about that. We recorded the interview on Friday April 10th, which was actually a day where they were calling for a boycott of Sshipt Shoppers to support their demands. But before we get to that interview, there’s a lot in the news. Let’s start out with some information that was released about Julian Assange this past week his partner and the mother of their two children spoke out.
KZ: Julian Assange, one of his lawyers, who was became part legal team in 2011, met almost every day as a part of his legal defense. So by 2015 they became personally involved, became partners and produced two children.
MF: She talks about how having a family was an effort to establish some normalcy in Julian’s life at a time when the establishment was trying to do everything to tear him down. But what was interesting is that they had previously kept her identity and the fact that there were two children secret because of threats, and judge Barrett’s are who’s been a terrible judge in the Assange case, said that that privacy was not necessary and was going to release her name. So she decided that she wanted to release her name first and explain more about her relationship with Julian Assange.
KZ: Wikileaks produced a video of her describing the evolution of their relationship and why she was going public, and that is something we published on popular resistance and publish on other sides as well.
MF: You can find out in Consortium News as well.
KZ: She went public because she feels like Julian Assange’s life is at stake and it’s really threatened by the captivity he’s being held in.
MF: She’s worried that he’s coming to the end of his life and said that she believes that people have failed Assange. So we need to continue to remember that Assange is in prison. He shouldn’t be in prison, particularly with his declining health situation. He should not be in prison where he’s at a higher risk of Contracting COVID-19. Let’s talk about some news that’s not really in the news, although it’s should be in the news. You remember when Bernie Sanders was accused of saying that a woman couldn’t for president, and it was in the news all over the place for a week.
KZ: Elizabeth Warren basically through that attack out.
MF: Well, there’s a woman, Tara Reid, who worked for Joe Biden who has a credible allegation of sexual molestation, and people that she told the story to at the time that it happened who are backing her up, and yet radio silence.
KZ: It’s really interesting that this allegation comes out and then Sanders stops his campaign. You would think that when that kind of a cloud is hanging over a candidate’s head, it’s not a time to back out of your campaign. It’s the time to stay in and see how this plays out. And this was first broken in the media outside of the corporate media. I mean, the mainstream media. The New York Times find an article which was balance in favor of Joe Biden I’d say, but still at least got the story out. And you know, I saw her interviewed on other outlets and she is very credible.
MF: There have been other complaints.
KZ: There have been been other complaints and there are seven complaints so far. That’s what made her come out, by the way, and she’s been trying to get this out for more than a year.
MF: Well, this is what’s interesting. Because if you look at the way that the establishment has responded to her allegations. Of course, Joe Biden has been chosen by the Democratic Party machine to be their candidate and the media has been complicit with that. She went to Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, both saying your proponents of women’s rights. Will you help me tell the story? Both of them declined? She went to the me to movement. They wouldn’t help her. So they’re only “me too” if you support their political agenda.
KZ: Well met too is a very Democratic oriented thing, because it’s really an anti-trump focused. You know, the whole women’s March… I mean it’s very Democrat oriented. There are serious serious problems with male sexual abuse of women. There’s no question about that. So I’m glad this is coming out, but it’s a shame this woman didn’t get any attention for it. She tried so hard and now people saying, “why’d you wait so long now? You just did it while he’s the nominee.” No, she actually has been trying for a year to get this out.
MF: Definitely allegations of sexual abuse or things that we should be taking seriously, and people should be pressing the media. If this person is running to be the president of the United States people need to know more about the situation.
KZ: We already have a president of the United States that has a lot of credible allegations against him as well. And so it’s like it’s really a sad situation… a sad state of affairs for US politics that the two candidates for president in 2020 will both have these kinds of allegations, that are all credible allegations. And just shows a real problem with women’s rights in the United States.
MF: Let’s talk about the COVID-19 Let’s do an update on that. Right wow the number of cases in the United States is nearing 600,000, far outstripping any other country in the world.
KZ: In other countries over a hundred fifty thousand.
MF: And New York is over a hundred and fifty thousand, and is the second highest place in the world for COVID-19. And our hearts really go out to all of you in New York who are doing your best to try to stop the spread of infection and take care of patients and loved ones. We have over 23,000 deaths already in the United States. And things are continuing to escalate, although people are doing a good job of trying to shelter in place. But in the face of that this past week Trump threatened to withhold funding to the World Health Organization because he’s accusing them of not alerting us soon enough to this pandemic.
KZ: One reason why this is happening is because more information is coming out about how the US knew before January… in fact the World Health Organization was informed late December, on December 31st. China didn’t realize it was a coronavirus until January 7th. But before then they called the United States government. They called the Center for Disease Control. Alex Azar knew about it. The National Security Council knew about it in early January, before China even knew it was a coronavirus.
MF: They didn’t know was a new coronavirus, and they didn’t know that there was a human to human transmission until the second week of January. That’s when those first cases began. So in the first couple weeks it wasn’t clear what this was going to be about, but still China alerted the appropriate authorities and the US was one of those bodies that was alerted.
KZ: Aand now Alex Azar, the Secretary of HHS… he’s a pretty conservative former pharmaceutical lobbyists leader of HHS… is under the thumb of Trump because now it’s coming out in the press that he was urging Trump to take stronger action, warning him that this could be a serious virus. CDC as well. National Security Council, Secretary of Commerce. A number of people were warning Trump. Take this seriously. And he was saying it’s going to go away. He was saying… when he was in at the world economic Forum… he was saying we’ve had one Chinese person coming to the United States. We’ve got it under control. It’s not a big deal. He then I said it’s a hoax, you know, just over and over again. He was making mistake after mistake. And this threat to World Health Organization is another mistake.
MF: Well, apparently there were some internal memos that have been now found from Peter Navarro who warned the president in late January…
KZ: Navarroi is the Secretary of Commerce.
MF: … that there could be up to five hundred thousand deaths, and the cost to the economy could be six billion dollars. In late February he issued another memo saying there could be up to two million deaths in the United States. So he was trying to sound the alarm at least within the administration.
KZ: And so the threat to the World Health Organization is a way for Trump to blame somebody else, rather than blame himself. He was warned and warned and warned. They did not follow the protocol for pandemics that was developed from previous pandemics. He did not listen to the advisors who were saying this is serious. Instead he listened to Jared Kushner who’s was saying it’s no big deal. And how here we are. The reason why the numbers from the United States are so different from the rest of the world is because this has been mishandled for the first two and a half months that we knew about it. And that blame goes to the Trump Administration. President Trump as well as many leaders of his administration. It really should be something that makes him not acceptable for president United States in 2020, but I think more is finally coming out about Trump’s role and his administration’s way of mishandling this and causing all these illnesses and deths.
MF: Propublica did a really excellent report on looking at the money that is being spent on the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. They found that the White House did an unprecedented action where they pushed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give a federal contract to a Canadian defense company that has an office in Maryland called Air Boss, the largest contract given out of the COVID-19 money… 96 million dollars… was given to this Canadian company without any bidding process at all. The White House intervened and called FEMA and said give them the contract. This is pretty unprecedented for FEMA to be told who to give a contract to.
KZ: Well, Congress has appropriated lots of money, trillions of dollars, and that money is not going to be watched very closely. Trump has already fired inspector generals and says he’s going to ignore any kind of oversight. When you have trillions of dollars at risk and an election year, that is a recipe for disastrous corruption. People will get a hundred million dollar contract and make a donation of a million dollars to the Republican National Committee. That’s the kind of thing we’re going to see start see coming out… that kind of corruption. And I’d be interested to see what this Canadian company, what their ties are determined ministration and why they got this special contract.
MF: Another thing in the news is that slaughterhouses are closing down, meat processing plants. The workers, because of becoming sick, or being worried about becoming sick in that environment, are walking out. So we may see less meat in the stores.
KZ: They’re angry. We’re seeing grocery workers testing positive for COVID as well. And so grocery workers, these essential workers, are not getting hazard pay, not getting their protection. They’re getting angry for being mistreated. They are essential workers and should be treated as essential workers.
MF: Oxfam has a new report. They find that half a billion more people in the world are likely to go into poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This would mean that over half of the population in the world would be living in poverty. And of course parts of the world that are going to be impacted most severely, as always, is the global South, where there’s already such poverty. They’re calling for an emergency rescue package for all. They recognize that many governments are trying to do their own kind of rescue packages as the US did here, as inadequate as it is. But they say there really needs to be a global one. The United Nations is estimating 2.5 trillion dollars, canceling all debts all countries debts, and then making available new money… cash injections into those countries, particularly so they can expand investment in their healthcare systems to handle the crisis.
KZ: Even those are global numbers. If you look at those kinds of numbers the United States, we have very high levels of poverty. Half the population is food insecure already. The food quality in the United States has lots of problems. The whole food chain is a major problem. Debts are an incredible problem United States. The highest consumer debt ever. Student debt is dragging down multiple generations. We need to put those kinds of policies that are being talked about by Oxfam in place in the United States as well.
MF: Absolutely and other countries are doing that. But in the United States in the past three weeks, as nearly 17 million workers have filed for unemployment… new filings for unemployment… really leaps and bounds beyond previous records of filings for unemployment… five million people have lost their insurance, their health insurance, in the last three weeks, and researchers estimate that by the end of June there will be 13 .5 million more people without insurance. That will bring the number of uninsured in the US up to around 43 million, which is about where it was in 2008 when people were pushing for healthcare reform. And the Federal Reserve estimates that 47 million workers nationwide will lose their jobs by the end of June. So we’re still considering to see some real serious impacts from this economic recession.
KZ: Government leaders are really hoping to see a leveling off or a downward trend in cases and deaths, but it’s hard to see that. And it’s hard to see that, maybe in New York, but there are a lot of other cities that are just getting started. Our state, Maryland, is is going through a rapid increase in cases right now. So with that kind of rolling reality across the country of different cities and states at different phases of the virus, it’s hard to see a leveling off of the virus happening in the near future. It highlights the reality that healthcare should not be tied to employment. That was a mistake of history. It was not a planned approach to how to get healthcare to people. It was just because there were controls in place during World War II such that there was no way to raise people’s incomes. So they instead provided healthcare to workers as an incentive for workers, and now we’re stuck with it. But it’s not a sensible way to provide healthcare. You should have healthcare whether you work or not. Healthcare is a human right, and it should be with you from birth to death, and there is only one way to do that. And that is a single-payer, Medicare-for-all or some kind of National healthcare system better than insurance.
MF: Right. There was also a poll that came out in the past week from the Society for Human Resource Management that found that half of small businesses will not be able to pay their employees for a full month of this shut down. 4% of them expect to close their doors. 58 percent of workers cannot meet their needs, even some of them for weeks in this shutdown. And more than fifty percent of workers are not able to to work remotely. For people who work in what are called the physical Industries, things like construction and manufacturing, 72 percent of them are economically insecure. People who are service workers… 62 percent of them are economically insecure. And then when you come to the what are called the knowledge Industries, so people in insurance law government … only 38 percent of that population can meet their needs. So it really highlights this kind of class divide in the States.
KZ: All the shortcomings of the US economy are being magnified now. This crisis is bringing out reality in ways that we knew were there, but were not as easily seen, and now they’re being seen. And it’s going to get worse. I mean, we just talked about health insurance. What is the health insurance industry going to do when there’s 40 million people no longer paying their premiums.
MF: Right. At time when there’s more costs for healthcare
KZ: What kind of bailout are they going to be getting from the from the US government?
MF: Well, I think that if they ask for a bailout, it’s time to tell them goodbye. It’s time to nationalize our healthcare system, or at least nationalize our health insurance as a first step.
KZ: Of course you thought that before the coronavirus as well.
MF: Yeah, but this is a unique opportunity.
KZ: No, I agree. I agree
MF: It’s common sense. I mean the Affordable Care Act, you know, the biggest positive out of it was that it gave Medicaid to a lot more people. But it also was a huge bailout to the health insurance industry. They are getting hundreds of billions of dollars every year in subsidies for people to purchase their product. And then what do they do? They turn around and they try to raise the premiums as much as they can. They’re raising the out-of-pocket costs and then they’re restricting what care people can get. They’ve created these ultra-narrow networks.
KZ:And Joe Biden doesn’t ask, “how can we afford that?”
MF: Nobody ever asks, how can we afford it, if it’s you know, something like war or bailing out Wall Street. But when it comes to what people need it’s, “how are we going to pay for that?” But the point is that they don’t do anything positive for our healthcare system. In fact, they detract from it because they become an obstacle between patients and the healthcare that they need. They’re sucking hundreds of billions a year out of our healthcare system into their profits. CEOs of insurance companies are some of the highest-paid CEOs= there are. So we just need to be ready to make that demand and say, “No. Private health insurance must go,” which was the name of a single-payer group that used to organize in New York City. But I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Let’s talk about some of the ways that people are fighting back because in this last rescue package, it was definitely the wealthy who benefited the most, and now people are really struggling. People have not gotten their checks for the twelve hundred dollars, at a time was when rent is due. And so many people around the country are organizing rent strikes, and calling for rent strikes in April. There’s one big complex in Alexandria Virginia, a five tower apartment complex, where the residents are organizing to strike and say, “we’re not paying our rent until a month after the pandemic is over.”
KZ: And that’s just one of many strikes. We’re going to hear in the interview later from the Shipt Shoppers and their call for a strike. We are seeing Amazon strikes. We are seeing calls for general strikes. McDonalds’s workers saying, “our life is more valuable than fast food.” These realities are hitting hard. We are in the beginning of another phase of the popular movement that’s been developing really for the most of the century.
MF: Well, we’ve been covering how strikes have been rising over the past two years, but now we’re seeing a really rapid escalation a real strike wave.
KZ: The last two years were record strikes four, for more than 30 years. So there have been more than just strikes. They’ve been RECORD strikes for two years in a row, and now we have this on top of it. This is because workers never recovered from the last economic collapse. They have never been treated fairly. They haven’t gotten a real raise since the 1970s. That is the root problem in our economy. Our economy is flawed at the bottom. If the foundation the economy is flawed, you’re not gonna have a healthy economy. And this is a problem with trickle-down economics. Feed the people at the top. They will make lots of money. They’ll urinate down to the foundation. The foundation is falling apart, and that’s been a mistake of US economic since the early 1980s.
MF: Spain is moving in an interesting direction. They’ve they’re talking about providing a permanent basic income out of this crisis. Although initially when it was first announced people thought it was going to be for everybody. Now it looks like it may just be for those who are financially insecure and need it, but that’s interesting as a permanent change that they’re talking about in Spain.
KZ: And it’s something that we need to be talking about here. That twelve hundred dollar payment… first off, the Democrats right now have the power to make that demand. President Trump needs a good economy for his re-election. The economy is in desperate shape. People are struggling. That $1,200 dollar payment should be a $1,200 payment every two weeks for the length of the pandemic. Maybe a month beyond that so the economy get’s going again. That’s what the Democrats should be demanding right now. They’re not. They have the power to make that demand because they control the house. They need to Democrat votes in the Senate. They can’t pass anything without Democrats. Where the Democrats? They’re not fighting for the people.
MF: Right. We should let our listeners know that April 15th is a national day of action for healthcare workers, those on the front line who are working incredibly hard risking their lives…. Some of them are dying. They’re not being protected properly, and they’re doing a national day of action across the country. It will manifest itself in different ways, but the hashtag for that is #TheSystemIsBroken, and they’re calling for a national, improved Medicare-for-all healthcare system as well as other demands, such as appropriate staffing…
KZ: Safety protections for workers.
MF: Right. So I hope that people will support their healthcare workers on Wednesday, April 15th. Over this past weekend people around the country also rallied to protect our postal service. The postal service has been under attack for a long time. The pandemic has caused a real drop off in the use of the post office. It’s a self-funding institution and so over the weekend lots of people went online and started purchasing stamps and other items from the postal service store, to try to give up a bottom-up injection of cash into them. But the post office is saying, “what we really need is change at the congressional level and for people all to contact their member of congress.”
KZ: Well Congress has been trying to privatize the post office for all of this century, since the George W Bush era put in place incredible laws that require them to buy health insurance and pensions for people who aren’t even hired yet… just requirements that no business would be required to make. As you said, they are self funding institution. They don’t get any tax dollars, and that people don’t really realize that. It’s a non taxpayer-funded organization, except for customers purchasing stamps and shipping services. And so people have been buying stamps to try to help the post office, and I think that’s a good idea. But I think we have to have systemic change that really protects the post office. It’s the largest employer of black males in the country. It’s a major employer of working class people. A very solid job for people, and if that gets privatized and is taken over by UPS or Federal Express or some other private entity, it’ll become…
MF: an exploitive worker model, like everything else
KZ: … like UPS workers are exploded, and FedEx.
MF: Yeah, so I pulled up an old clip from 2015 when we interviewed president Mark Diminstein. He’s the president of the American Postal Workers Union.
KZ: He’s done a great job.
MF: And he’s been one of the leaders of the Grand Alliance, which is a coalition of the four postal unions as well as many organizations. Popular resistance is a member, but let’s listen to that clip, and he explains the attack that the postal service has been under, so we can understand when we call our member of congress, why the postal service is in the situation that it is. Let’s play that clip start out by telling our listeners a little bit about what’s going on with the Postal Service. Well, you know, what’s making it analyze it under attack? What’s happening?
Mark Diminstein (MD): Well, you know, the reason it’s under attack, to be simple about it, is to follow the money. The post office takes in about sixty eight billion a year. It’s not taxpayer-funded. That money comes from the users. Those of us who buy stamps and mail packages, and so on and so forth. And it’s public. So there are certainly those that want to privatize the post office and get their hands on that money, make a profit off of it, rather than have the post office be part of the public good, kept in the public sphere and here for generations to come. So in essence there’s a struggle going on as to the two visions of the post office. Those who are running the post office, certainly the Board of Governors, have been on a slash and burn approach of cutting services, cutting jobs and privatizing. And the American postal workers union and the other postal unions have a vision of of expanded services and better hours of operation… better ways to serve the people because in essence, it’s a service. It’s not a business. And and so that’s that’s what’s going on. And and there is a real struggle going on as to what direction the future to post office is going to be in this country,
KZ: That is a critical struggle, not just for the post office but also for so many other issues that affects. You know, I mentioned at this top of the show that the post office employees more African-Americans in the US than anyone else. And so the impact of those solid, middle-class jobs with benefits, leaving the black community if they privatize… Because that’s what they will do. They’ll slash and burn. All those jobs will disappear and they’ll shut down post offices all over the country, even more than two already doing. And then it’s the whole issue of privatization. It’s a great opportunity to educate about privatization. So can yo explain… The post office brings in a lot of money, but it’s in the red. Can you explain why that is?
MD: It’s a manufactured crisis by congress. We call it a hoax. So in 2006 congress passed a law called the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act, that forced the Postal Service to pay $5.5 billion dollars a year for 10 years. That’s 55 billion dollars… to fund retiree healthcare costs. Not pensions. Healthcare costs 75 years into the future. So this is an institution that was forced to do something no other institution is forced to do. No other company has to do it. And this is for workers that aren’t even born yet. Not only workers that don’t work at the post office yet. So what’s happened is is that has created a financial crisis behind which the forces of privatization, the forces of cutting and burning, say, “well we have to do something to save money. We’re broke.” The reality is that we’re not for this pre-funding mandate, the post office is actually doing quite well. There are changes. The internet has affected first class mail, but we have a saying that the internet taketh and the internet giveth. And while first class mail is is down, package delivery has explode. I have daughters who are grown, and they don’t use the post office the same way that my wife and I do. They tend to pay some bills online. But guess what? They order stuff online that I never dreamed of. And every time that’s done, there’s a package that the post office is in a great position to service. So that is the hoax. Congress created the problem. Congress should fix the problem. As of yet they haven’t.
KZ: I think they’re actually just fattening the calf for the privatizers who can come in and reap the profits of all that money. You know, 55 billion dollars in the bank.
MD: They’re moving it over to the federal treasury to use for whatever they want.
KZ: want. Oh my god. Wow, that’s worse.
MF: Okay, so we hope that everybody will take action. Call your member of Congress. If you need some help with that go to and we have articles there that talk about what’s going on and what you should be saying to your member of Congress. Let’s talk a little bit about foreign policy. You know, as people around the world countries around the world, have been rallying to help each other out, the United States has actually been escalating its aggression through military threats against Iran and Venezuela, as well as increasing the economic sanctions against many countries. So peace activists in the United States have been trying to figure out what we can do, and have been very active trying to push back against these military aggressions and sanctions. One thing that people can do is sign a letter that’s being circulated to both the US government and the United Nations calling for an end to the sanctions.
KZ: And that’s on popular resistance dot org, and other actions you can take as well. People are also using social media to express their support for Venezuela. Taking a picture of themselves, holding a sign saying “hands off Venezuela, stop the sanctions” and urging people to call their members of Congress to end these illegal, unilateral coercive measures being used against Venezuela and other countries.
MF: And the hashtag for that is #FightCOVIDnotVenezuela. There’s also an international week of action coming up at the end of May, May 25th to May 31st, that many peace organizations in the United States are signing on to. And there’s also information about that on Pilar resistance dot-org, but we’re hoping that people around the country will organize, whether it’s virtually, you know, we don’t know what the situation is going to be at that point, but we do need to push back against these. So check out the May 25th to May thirty first week of actions. You know last week President Trump signed another order actually saying that the United States can go off earth to get resources. So mining on the moon, things like that. Russia pushed back very harshly against that, saying that that violates our International laws that actually treat space as a commons, and not a place that individual country is can go and just exploit.
KZ: It’s a commons that all of the world should benefit from. It’s a commons that should be demilitarized and stay a non-military area. The United States since the Reagan era has been trying to move towards Star Wars, now to the space force under Trump. This has been an ongoing effort by the United States. Ignoring the treaty that protects outer space as a commons. We need to go back to recognizing that outer space is for the globe. It’s not for one country to dominate the planet.
MF: The United States has also been supporting efforts through the United Nations to update the treaty about space. And many countries around the world are pushing to strengthen the treaty, treating space as a commons, keeping weapons out of it, but the US has been an obstacle to that.
KZ: We did a whole show on this a few weeks ago with Bruce Gagnon. You can get it on popular resistance dot org slash podcast.
MF: Or on the archives at WBAI. But I think one of my favorite articles this week was by Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J.S. Davies. It talks about the United Nations secretary, Antonio Guiterez, calling for a global ceasefire, and it’s titled “the Global Ceasefire Means that War is a Non-Essential Activity.”
KZ: War is a non-essential activity. It’s so true, and I’m glad to see that potentially the Yemen war might be winding down. That’s a positive step. But we have too many conflicts that are ongoing. We saw this week that a sailor on the USS Teddy Roosevelt died of COVID-19. That can be a risk for all soldiers around the world. It’s really time to follow the General Secretary’s advice and stop these conflicts. And do that during this pandemic and hopefully do that even longer.
MF: Right. At the end of the article they write about the fact that the aggression the United States is waging around the world is in violation of the United Nations Charter. And so if we don’t need to be at war with each other right now, maybe after the pandemic is over is a time to start adhering to these International charters and laws.
KZ: Time to become a world beyond war. War is uncivilized.
MF: That’s right. So let’s stop with that. We’ll take a short musical break and then we’ll be back with our interview with Robin Pape.

Musical Break:

MF: And now we’ll turn to our guest Robin Pape. She is a social worker and a gig worker in Upstate New York. Thank you for taking time to join us Robin.
Robin Vape (RP): Thank you for taking some time to shed light on what’s going on with us.
KZ: We appreciate that you’re taking the time to let our viewers know what’s going on? Let’s start with a simple question what our Shipt Shoppers and what do you do?
RP: So Shipt Shoppers are independent contractors and we are personal shoppers for the public. We receive orders on our phone. We take our vehicles to the store and shop at many different retailers for whatever the customer has ordered. And then deliver it to the customer.
MF: Right now Shipt Shoppers across the country are organizing and pushing back, particularly against Target stores, because of the way that they’re being treated. Can describe… for Gig workers just even outside of the COVID-19 pandemic… how our gig workers generally treated by the stores where they do the shopping.
RP: So even before COVID-19, Shipt Shoppers have had issues with Shipt. We’ve been really silenced as a group and I’ve reached a point where I’m not okay with being silenced anymore. Whatever happens happens, but people are deactivated from the platform for speaking out. And so that makes people really not say was the problems are. Shipt has had problems with tips for a long time, with customers and Shoppers reporting to them that shoppers don’t receive them. Or customers aren’t given the action to tip. So these are things that have been reported to Shipt for a long time, and it makes up a significant portion of our income from this gig. So that’s been an issue. And then early this year they rolled out a pay model. They already had a pay model in four or five other cities, but now they’ve started testing their version 2K model, which has resulted in a loss of income for the people who have been experiencing it. Fortunately it hasn’t come to my area yet. But when it does I can’t imagine it will be worth my time any longer. With everything going on was COVID, we’re dealing with the fact that our pay has been cut. We’re being told that were essential and so important to helping people really isolate and flatten the curve. And for a lot of us this is a really big deal, and we want to do our part. And for one person to shop for 20 people, is a lot better than those 20 people going to the store themselves. Many of us have pre-existing condition or are vulnerable for other reasons that make this kind of work really what works best for us. It’s not like we can just go find a different job or quit working, because we need this income, and it doesn’t really allow for us to have much in savibngs. So our pay has been cut and now we’re in the middle of this pandemic, which has us all afraid. And we’re not being given any protective gear. I know where we’ve been told that it’s coming. Now would be nice, and it’s really unclear how or when or any of that going to happen. So the stores are out of stock. Customers want what they want. We can always get it, and that reflects on us poorly. We’re also having to spend more time in stores trying to find substitutions or other options for customers. And that’s just further risking exposure. So we’re asking for a little bit more right now to protect our health and our safety, and to make this worth putting ourselves at risk.
KZ: This sounds like a really great service and during this pandemic. I mean, you’re exactly right, having one person do the shopping rather than multiple people go in the store. It just makes so much sense, and it’s just bizarre to me that you say that you’re pay has actually been cut, rather than increased. You should be getting some kind of hazard pay at this point. Tell me about what kind of pay cut you’ve had and what the rationale for the cut was.
RP: The version one pay, which existed in almost all markets prior to the beginning of this year, was… you would receive five dollars per shop, along with 7.5 percent of the receipt total. So if a customer added on items it would increase your pay. You are motivated and inclined to add on as much stuff as they wanted, and you could fit it into your schedule. That system seem to work very well. There were still issues with tipping, and it didn’t take into account the distance from the store that a customer might live. So there were still some issues, but it would fall for better than it is now for the shoppers who are experiencing version 2. And what version 2 did was… it’s algorithm-based. It’s a black box. We don’t really know. There’s no transparency anymore. But we do know that the orders often pay less than what they would have otherwise. It’s not coming out to five dollars plus 7.5 percent of the receipt total. We also know that no matter how much gets added on to the order, our pay is not going to go up anymore.
KZ: And what was the reason for this change?
RP: You know, I’m not aware of a reason.
KZ: Probably for them to make more money.
RP: Right. I mean if I had to put all hypothetical out there, that would probably be what it was. I know that Target recently bought Shipt maybe a year ago. I don’t know the exact date, after I started working for them. And there may be something where now there are stockholders, and so I don’t know if any of that might have anything to do with making things more profitable, but it certainly wasn’t to benefit shoppers, or to enable us to provide an even higher quality service that we already do.
MF: We’re weeks into this pandemic now. Have the Shipt Shoppers received any protective equipment?
RP: I’m not aware of any shopper having received any protective equipment. I’m a moderator on a private Facebook group for Shipt shoppers, where we can criticize the company and try to share what’s going on in our own markets. I’m not aware of anyone having received them, and like you said, we’re several weeks into this and they’re saying you’ll have it in two weeks and we’re going to send it to hot spots. I mean all of these… it’s the difference between actually having these products to use and keep safe and deliver products, and right now it’s not. And so in addition to delivering toilet paper and Amy’s frozen pizza, I could be delivering COVID. Any one of us could be. And if we had these precautions, this perspective equipment, maybe we could do a better job of making sure that’s not the case.
MF: Right. And how about if Shipt Shoppers do get sick? What are the policies on that? Are you protected?
RP: Well their newest policy on this… what they’re saying now is that they consider these things on a case-by-case basis. They’re almost acknowledging that they have set the bar too high for it to be accessible for anyone, without really telling us what the new bar is. Once you’re diagnosed or told by your doctor that you need to go home and stay home, we can’t then learn that before we will pay you, we need you to go and get these things. And that’s what’s happened in many cases. It doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. So it doesn’t say, “well you’re more vulnerable.We’re going to pay you to stay home.” You have to actually get tested and tests aren’t easy to come by, you know, you’re more likely to be diagnosed by your doctor. And if you have mild symptoms, you’re told not to go get tested. Your’re told to stay home. So there’s just a lot of there’s a lack of clarity and how supposed to access this pay. It doesn’t seem like it includes everyone that it should.
KZ: So what kind of actions are the Shipt Shoppers taking to push for these changes?
RP: Well, there was not working this week, to demonstrate that we we weren’t interested in sacrificing ourselves when the company seems to care so little about us. And then today customers were asked to not place orders, and it’s hard for us to know… it’s hard for anyone to really know, whether or not these actions have any effect… if they do any damage to the bottom line, to their financial whatever, but what we do know is that it’s gotten a lot of media attention and people are talking about it now and ways that they weren’t before. So in that regard, we are successful.=
KZ: It’s so absurd because if they were smart, they would basically make a big advertising marketing deal out of this saying, “we provide you shoppers who will deliver to your home for your safety during the virus. And we’re paying them, we’re making sure that these shoppers are safe.” You know, it could have been a good marketing effort by them in the middle of this virus to increase the use of Shipt Shoppers. It just it’s such a dumb capitalist move.
RP: I agree completely and I think it would have been an excellent marketing, and they could have gotten a lot of loyal customers out of this. You know, stealing customers from the other guys who aren’t doing anything. But I think a piece of it is that we are considered independent contractors in name only. By providing the kinds of training equipment that would be helpful, they would really be blurring the lines between independent contractors and employees. nd I think they want to be careful of that too.
KZ: Is that that because if you’re employees you have more rights?
RP: Yes,
MF: I think I understand that. Target is actually paying their employees in their stores. They gave them a raise. Is that right?
RP: That’s what I’ve heard. That’s what I’ve seen reported, is that the employees are getting a two dollar raise, and that they’re getting extra sick hours. Lots of businesses are doing this who don’t employ delivery services. But, you know, Target is recognizing that they’re putting their in-store workers at a higher risk. Although even two dollars, because if you catch COVID and you take it home to your family, you’ll be really glad that you made a hundred and forty extra dollars. It’s still insulting, and it’s these types of positions, whether they’re you know cashiers or stockers or gig workers, are not the kind of positions that have been gotten much respect years. These are not careers. They’re meant for teenagers. And now finally these these workers are being told how important they are, and nothing is being done to help keep us safe in the line of fire. It’s just really insulting. And to have a pay cut on top of that. And they say that this version 2, they say it’s a trial, but they’ve been rolling it out everywhere. And we also have been told that that it is go nationwide.
KZ: And since you’re independent contractors, it’s very hard to organize. You say you have a private Facebook group. That’s one place I guess you can organize, but you don’t have collective bargaining or a union, or any way to really have one person speak for the group. So it’s a challenging organizing channel for you, for you all to fight back against these policies.
RP: Totally, and the fact that they have the official Shipt Facebook page, and they set up Facebook pages and different communities that are always monitored. There’s always somebody be in there keeping an eye on things and deleting comments and just interfering with the conversations that are happening. And people are getting fired for saying something that the company doesn’t like. They say they’re drinking the Kool-Aid, which has a whole lot of really negative and insensitive connotations. Don’t use that. Okay, that’s what they call it. It’s a very cult-like environment until you’re able to get out of it.
MF: Right but, you know in this economy, there’s so many people that have had to take on these types of jobs. One of the things that I was reading is that because of the pandemic and increased orders, Shipt has hired a lot of new workers. Can you talk about what’s going on with that, and how that’s been problematic for you?
RP: The new shoppers… many maybe didn’t even grocery shop for their own families. They’re certainly not professional shoppers. They don’t have enough support to help them with the regular, everyday operating problems that come up, let alone those that were experiencing right now, and the extra additional glitches with the app. Last I knew the app was down right now. It’s back up an hour ago. The app goes down. These kinds of problems that veteran shoppers have encountered before and may still need some guidance on, new shoppers are now having to deal with us. And so the customers experience has got to be less positive, and nobody can get through to Shipt to deal with their issues. I had a prescription delivery. Just pick it up drop it off. The customer wasn’t home. I called. I texted. I couldn’t get through. So I returned it to CVS, which is where I picked it up. They tell you now to send them a text if you have to cancel an order. So I sent them a text and I got an automated response that it would be at least three hours before I heard back. This was on a Friday. That order sat on my dashboard until Monday. During that time that customer couldn’t reorder his prescription. CVS wouldn’t. I went back the next day to try to deliver it for the customer because I recognized it was prescription medicine. He probably really needed it. I wasn’t able to pick it up because it hadn’t been canceled on Shipt’s end, and until it was I couldn’t order it.
MF: That does seem really problematic. So let’s talk a little bit about kind of the specific demands that Shipt Shoppers are asking for. So one thing is you’re asking for hazard pay. Can you talk about that and also talk about specifically what you want in terms of how to be protected, and what Shipt should be doing if a shopper gets sick.
RP: So yeah, we’re talking about hazard pay. I don’t know how to come to an agreeable amount. I’ve heard five dollars per order throw them out. I don’t know. I like to think my life is worth more than that. It certainly is to the people who love me. So yeah, we’re asking for some sort of recognition that we’re working in hazardous environments, and that we’re protecting other people from having to do the same. For protective equipment, I think what’s most important is masks and sanitizing spray. Something to clean our hands frequently. For each shop that I’m doing I probably use hand sanitizer five times, for each shop. And that’s my hand sanitizer. My own personal sanitizer gets used literally at least five times per order. Earlier this week I thought that if I I don’t find more hand sanitizer I’m going to have to stop working, because I refuse to work without it and I’m supplying my own. I found more but I was maybe a week away from needing to stop if I didn’t get any. So hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, something to wipe down the inside of our cars, our hands, our trunks=, our doors. Something like that would be incredibly helpful. Masks to cover her face and to make sure that we’re not breathing all over these customers food. And so that we’re also safer in the grocery store and keeping a grocery store safer for other people. A lot of people would like gloves. Personally I think they kind of give us false sense of security, and that washing our hands more is probably the safest and most effective way to keep them clean. But if I could get some hand sanitizer and some face masks that would be a win in my book.
KZ: They’re such reasonable requests. I mean what’s so interesting about this COVID-19 virus is it is really highlighting some of the fault lines, dramatic mistakes in our economy. I mean, you’re an essential person during this pandemic, and you’re not being treated well. I think we not only have to try to work right now to be supportive, to try to help people like you get what you were asking for, which is so reasonable, but we have to be thinking in the long run. How do we change these policies so that people who are essential workers… Now we know who the essential workers are…
MF: And they are to the wall streeters.
KZ: It’s not the wall streeters. That’s right. It’s not the CEOs. It’s the people who actually do the work. We have to work toward a society that pays people fairly, provides sick leave and healthcare. Its unveiling so many mistakes that we’re making our economy.
RP: Yeah. I think the gig economy grew so quickly and got so big and involved so many independent contractors that the laws didn’t really have a chance to keep up with it, and to see what was going on. I think the way they were classified so that they can skirt all kinds of benefits and taxes that they would otherwise have to be paying us, or for us, and that it really it leads to people being vulnerable. If I get sick I wouldn’t have health care. I’m not sure how I would be able to get the treatment that I would need without insurance because my employer doesn’t provide that to me. So a lot of people are in a really difficult situation where they have to work, but if something happens God forbid that they’re really going to be screwed.
MF: Yeah, I just saw a poll today that was done by a human resources organization. And they said that 72% of service workers are in such a financially precarious position that they can’t make it through even a few weeks of a shutdown.
KZ: I think your point is really well taken about the gig economy developing so quickly in the laws not keeping up with it. And you know, the reality of course is that is the way the employers and the investors want it to be. They want gig workers who have no collective bargaining potential, who don’t get healthcare, who don’t get sick leave, who don’t get paid. You can just hire someone else and treat them as disposable people. And the treatment of people like you during this crisis shows the incredible lack of respect they have for people who are doing such important work.
doing such important work. It’s considered unskilled. Anyone could do it. But the truth is there’s a lot of skill that goes into all of these different gigs. There’s time management. There’s a lot of skill involved. People just don’t give credit. And there’s talk of the Democrats in New York signing some bill giving $25,000 to essential workers. Even still gig workers would not qualify for any of that. The money is distributed to employers to distribute to employees and we’re not employees.
KZ: And you know they knew that when they put that law in place. When Democrats say that they know they’re excluding workers because they’re doing it for their donors.
RP: Absolutely. It’s a shame and I certainly don’t think that the Democrats are holding anyone best interests in heart right now. It’s all PR. What Shipt does and politicians do… it’s all PR. But we would just really like to have, what we need to be safe and to make what we’re doing worth it, because for me it’s not worth it to drive 20 minutes to the store and expose myself for 45 minutes to bring you $30 worth of groceries this week. And the next week you’re going to send me to the store again for 30 more dollars worth of groceries. And it’s just I can’t do that for seven dollars. I can’t do that for 20 dollars. I haven’t been working because I’m uncomfortable with myself in those situations. I’m a single mother and I don’t have siblings. I don’t have parents. There’s nobody else to take care of my girls but me. I can’t put myself in that situation no matter how much money they throw at me. But there are a lot of other workers who are, and those workers need the protection, and those workers need to feel valued and have their lives respected. And right now it doesn’t feel like they are. And I think shipped and Target could do a much better job.
MF: So you’re moderating the Facebook group. So you’re hearing from a lot of Shipt Shoppers. Are shoppers starting to feel empowered? Are they starting to really get a will to fight back against this? How how are people feeling about this right now?
RP: So it was really interesting that initially there was a lot of fear in even bringing it up the Facebook group, that the people who did it might be sued, or or at the very least they wouldn’t be working for Shipt anymore. And to the best of my knowledge that hasn’t happened to any of the people who are involved. Certainly we’ve had people try to infiltrate the group, people who were part of headquarters or who had ties to Shipt, even though that was expressly not wanted. But it went from300 people. And then overnight we’re about to break a thousand. So there certainly are a lot of Shipt shoppers who were looking for an open platform, and all of those ones who were silenced on the official platform, their Facebook group, found a home with us. And so while there’s still quite a bit of moderating going on and figuring out who’s for the cause and who’s still part of the cult, I think we made a lot of progress in the last month since the group began.
MF: So how can our listeners support Shipt Shoppers right now? What are some things that they can do?
RP: They can not use Shipt. There’s another platform called dumpling which allows shoppers to actually be independent contractors, and set their own prices and recruit their own clients. And if people want to support gig workers right now, that would be a great way to do it. You can go to, and put in your zip code and it will tell you if there are any dumpling shoppers in your area. The platform is simply a platform- paid a fee for providing a platform. There’s no up-charge. There’s a lot of reasons to use dumpling over Shipt. So you could stop using the service. That would be great. Speak out and share what you see… the talk about what big workers are dealing with right now. Share them on Facebook and on Instagram and on Twitter and in your mom group. Let people know that we’re not being treated fairly and that we have really reasonable demands. I think those are the two things that come most to mind for me. If you’re still going to order, tip well. Like don’t tip what you would normally tip. Tip well. Understand that things are out of stock and be understanding and flexible about the work that’s being done in the services being provided and consider being taken.
KZ: How do people join your private Facebook group?
RP: Well, they have to be a Shipt shopper. So there’s that requirement, but there’s some questions that you have to answer and some proof that we have to require to try keep it in a safe space, that there are any Shipt shoppers who are looking for this kind of support and we’ll get the involved. That’s where you would go to Shipt list.
KZ: Great. Well, you know, the concerns you’re raising are really speaking for many many thousands of people. So you’re giving a voice to the concerns that a whole range of gig workers have, not just Shipt shoppers. So it’s a very important that your voice is out there. So we really appreciate that you’re doing the work you’re doing. A lot of essential workers now are starting to stand up and so you’re part of a important developing movement and I hope that you realize the importance of the work you’re doing.
RP: Well, thank you very much. And again, I really appreciate you giving me some time to talk about these issues and to share them with the public so that people have an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes with these services and companies that are really providing a really necessary service right now but are not compensating the the actual workers in the way that they should be or even taking care and concern for their health and well-being.
MF: Yeah, it’s really a crime what they’re doing, the way there that Shipt shoppers another gig workers are being treated. Well Robin, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. And you know, we’ll keep sharing out what we can with this and we encourage our listeners to do the same and spread the word and I think that this is a time when we need to be all demanding what we need. We shouldn’t be asking for crumbs anymore. We need to be asking for what we actually need.
RP: Well, thank you for having me.

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Another Method Of US Censorship: Media Minders

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

The United States government often criticizes other countries for controlling their media, but over the past thirty years, it is the US media that has become tightly controlled. We speak with Kathryn Foxhall with the Society of Professional Journalists who explains how government agencies from the local to the national levels, educational and scientific institutions and police departments restrict access by media to officials and use minders to monitor what those officials say. Foxhall describes how this lack of access to information hinders ethical journalism, how it has impacted the stories we read and what people are doing to push back. This is particularly important during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic because reporters are being denied access to health officials.

Listen here:

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Our guest:

Kathryn Foxhall has been a reporter focused in great part on federal agencies for over 40 years, including 14 years as editor of the newspaper of the American Public Health Association. In recent years she has worked as a point person with the Society of Professional Journalists and others on the issue of agencies, businesses and others forcing controls on staff communications with reporters. Contact her at

Resources on the issue of “Media Relations Office Censorship” or “Censorship by PIO”

The Society of Professional Journalists has a website with history, case studies and surveys on the issue.

SPJ’s latest resolution on the issue, passed by the society’s full council and calling the controls censorship and authoritarian, is here.

Kathryn Foxhall’s opinion piece in MedPage Today is here.

First Amendment attorney Frank LoMonte’s recent, extensive analysis says the controls are unconstitutional and many courts have said so. SPJ’s press release on it is here.

Kathryn Foxhall’s blog with some links is here.

The “Media Relations Handbook for Government, Associations, Nonprofits and Elected Officials,” says:

 “However, it must be made clear to all staff that they should deal with the media only when authorized by the public relations team. Loss of control over communications can be a disaster for an organization, leading to public controversy and loss of credibility.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Frequently Asked Questions” for reporters says, “Why is it necessary to go through a press officer when I want to talk with a CDC expert?”  “Press officers are here to make sure your questions get answered by the best spokesperson for your story, within your deadline.” Full statement here.


Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to clearing the fog speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers
Kevin Zeese (KZ): flowers and Kevin
MF: So this week we interviewed Kathryn Foxhall. She is a longtime journalist and she’s with the Society of Professional Journalists.
KZ: Yeah, and she is very interesting. We’re all so concerned about censorship of the media and the manipulation of what we’re told, and we worried about the algorithms on Facebook and on Google and whistleblowers and corporate influence but this is an interesting angle that has existed for a while, but not a lot of people have heard about it.
MF: And it’s getting worse and it’s causing harm, especially in this time of a pandemic.
KZ: She talks about how it’s very common for reporters to have to talk to experts, scientists with a minder monitoring what they say, so we don’t get the whole story.
MF: Yeah, and it goes even deeper than that, but stick around for that interview so you can find out why we’re not being told the full story. But before we get to that interview, it’s important that we talk about some things that are in the news. And of course what’s on everybody’s mind right now is the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. So let’s talk about a few things that are related to that. One thing that’s interesting is that, of course, if you look at the numbers around the world of how many cases countries have, how they’re handling it, you see that the United States has now far outstripped every other country approaching 400,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths.
KZ: More than quadruple most countries.
MF: And so it’s no surprise, I guess, that were suddenly seeing in the corporate media all this talk about how actually China’s numbers are much higher, but they’re just hiding it.
KZ: Yes. we have to say China is lying when in fact a story in the Washington Post this week said that in fact, we’re not being told all the truth about deaths, that the Center for Disease Control only counts deaths when there’s a test that shows the person had COVID-19.
MF: And of course A lot of people are not being tested.
KZ: And a lot of people aren’t even going to the hospital, and they’re dying at home. And so, you know, these death numbers are high but they’re not even the whole story.
MF: And that’s in the United States. In fact, Mark Levine, who’s a New York City council member. He’s the chair of their health committee, said that in just New York City, 180 to 195 New Yorkers are dying a day in their homes, and that they aren’t able to test them. They don’t have enough tests. And so they’re dying of likely COVID-19, but that’s not being counted in the numbers. But what’s interesting about this claim in the corporate media, there was an excellent article by FAIR that talks about… they’re quoting this this intelligence report… two intelligence officials who remain anonymous say that the report has found that China is hiding its numbers. They won’t reveal anything else because they say the report is secret, and they won’t give their name. So, how are we supposed to believe a report that is so secretive?
KZ: That’s what’s so wild about it. It’s so widespread… this unsourced report… these newspaper stories with no sources, it’s so widespread. I know I find that on social media when I post anything about the numbers, [people say] “well you can’t trust those numbers in China.” Why? Because they read these news reports that say China is lying, with no sources. We have to always remember, we get news about China, the strategy of the United States, the National Security strategy is “great power conflict.” And China is a number one rival. Russia number two. And so everything we’re about Russia and China we have to take with very heavy grains of salt.
MF: Yeah. I went to highlight another article written in TheGrayZone, and he looks into where this false media narrative first came from, and it came from this outlet called Radio Free Asia, which was created by the United States government as a propaganda arm, and is actually overseen by the US Department of State, and he says that there’s a woman her name is Jennifer Zhang. She’s with the Falun Gong. Of course the Falun Gong is a far-right, anti-China organization, and she was tweeting out exactly what they were reporting on Radio Free Asia, the day before Radio Free Asia reported it. So this sounds like it’s a real false distraction meant to demonize China and take the attention off of how badly the United States is coping with this crisis.
KZ: Well, you know outlets like that Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe… these are all US propaganda arms trying to confuse people in other countries about what’s really going on. The interesting thing is a few years ago in the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Congress allowed for the military to use those psyops programs domestically, against people of the United States.
MF: They content was too good to hold back from people in the United
KZ: States. Yeah. So now we have two with all this kind of news again when it attacks China and Russia we’ve got is this psyops against people United States to create anti-china feeling so we can escalate conflict.
MF: Right, and of course, it’s coming around the same time that Wuhan is being opened up again, people are allowed out of quarantine. The shops are opening up and China has basically done an excellent job of dealing with the crisis. The World Health Organization has applauded China for what they did and and they actually sent a team there to investigate. There have been studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association looking at the data from China. No reports of any irregularities in those studies. They’ve been looking at what we could learn from China.
KZ: Yeah, so we don’t have to even believe China. It’s these third, Western sources or European sources like the World Health Organization, going to China, seeing for themselves and reporting back to us. And so when that kind of reporting is happening in peer-reviewed journals and the World Health Organization, and we hear this other propaganda about how China is lying, we’ve got to just say “what’s going on. here?” Our alarm Bells have to ring when we hear these anti-china comments.
MF: Right. And of course another story that people may be aware of is the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a naval ship that was in Guam on a just a kind of a fun tour…
KZ: It’s a very weird tour what they were doing. They were in Vietnam. They were doing crafts, and music, and entertainment. It’s part of the US trying to get control of Vietnam by having friendly soldiers get off the ship. Who knows?
MF: While they’re there 114 of the sailors were tested positive for COVID-19. There was a lieutenant, a commander of the ship, who wrote a letter internally within the Navy through the chain of command saying that we have these cases. We need to do something. This is not a good environment that’s conducive to isolating. The bunks are very close to each other. And that letter got leaked to the newspaper. So what did the Navy do?
KZ: They fired him? mean the guy tries to protect people from COVID-19 and he’s the first official fired during this pandemic in the United States for trying to protect people. And this comes on the heels of the military saying we are not going to announce how many people in the military we have the virus. That’s become a national security secret and the sad part of the story is… just announced as we started tape this the show… The lieutenant has now tested positive for COVID-19 himself. By the way, just one more thing… the video of him leaving the ship with the sailors giving a standing ovation to him, cheering him loudly and resoundingly… he’s leaving the ship as he’s fired. They are so happy he took the stand he did for them to protect their lives, and he has paid with his career.
MF: That’s right. Other news is that SouthCom has formed an agreement with Brazil. Brazil is going to be a new, non-NATO ally to the United States, and is now going to be our major center for the militarization of Latin America. Just after the United States charged president Maduro of Venezuela, and I think 14 other members of the government and Military, with this bogus charge of our Narco-trafficking, the US then started announcing that it’s going to be sending naval ships and other military to Latin America… the largest military mobilization to Latin America in 30 years. Does this remind you of anything?
KZ: It reminds me of Panama. 30 years ago was Panama. And it reminds me of the how US invaded Panama based on drug charges against Noriega. Now, the charges against Noriega are very different than the charges against Maduro, because Maduro has actually been fighting the drug war very aggressively. Venezuelans are not a pro-drug country. They are actually fighting the drug war. Now it’s very interesting that Brazil is getting involved because, not reported by in the media yet, but if you search for it, you’ll find stories from Brazil about how the military has taken over the government in Brazil.
MF: Yeah, that’s interesting when she talked about that.
KZ: It’s a very interesting story. Bolsonaro was in a conflict with the Health Minister. Bolsonaro was calling the virus a cold, just the sniffles, urging that Brazil relax the restrictions, and allow people to go to stores and restaurants, and the Health Minister saying, “No. No. No. We can’t do that.” And the entire administration sided with the health Minister. Then there were Governors calling for Bolsonaro’s resignation, the progressive members of the legislature calling for Bolsonaro’s resignation. Then there is a meeting with the military and evidently the chief of staff who is a general has now become the so-called acting president. Now acting president does not exist in the very Brazilian Constitution. So it’s a newly created position. They do have vice president who’s also a general, but I guess they didn’t put him in charge. This Chief of Staff now has essentially become the acting president, but Bolsonaro keeps his title, but reportedly has no power. Now, they’ve called other Latin American countries to let them know they should not return any calls from Bolsonaro, but this has not been confirmed by Bolsonaro or by the military in Brazil. But it has been reported in multiple places that this is occurred. So Bolsonaro may be out. It’s not clear exactly what the next steps are. Will there be an election in the future? How long will this acting president be in power? All those issues have not clarified.
MF: Right. Sounds like a whole unique situation. And it’s also not clear what the politics are going to be, how this is going to impact Brazil’s cooperation with Southern command, although I imagine that this particular chief of staff was actually formally a military attache from Brazil to the United States and spent time in Washington, likely to develop those relationships in Washington. So I’m not expecting much change from that.
KZ: And the Brazilian military is not one to be all that proud. A lot of racism in the military. A lot of violence, and you don’t really want those people in charge of the government.
MF: So the United States SouthCom… one of the reasons that they are using to legitimize their major mobilization and Latin America, is that China and Russia are there.
KZ: Now we can’t violate the Monroe Doctrine, but sending more ships based on this phony narco-trafficking charge, which they have no evidence for… I read the indictment. There’s no source provided as far as the allegations they make, and of course they will probably never go to trial unless they capture Maduro and kidnap him and bring him to the United States. Then we might see a trial, but that’s unlikely.
MF: And I don’t think I would trust that trial very much either.
KZ: Of course not, but it’s interesting that this movement of ships to Latin America is happening just after this incident with the Teddy Roosevelt in Guam. Should we really be putting people on ships at the time of this virus, based on a phony narco-trafficking charge, and putting people at risk? I mean, what are they doing? It makes no sense.
MF: I think it’s another example of the US military showing that they don’t actually have a concern for the lives of their soldiers, that you know, they’re just kind of widgets. They’re cogs. They are part of the military machine and they’re expendable and it’s sad. I know members of the military who feel that way.
KZ: Well, a lot of peace activist veterans became peace activists because of their experience in the military. They saw exactly what you described. They see war crimes. They see orders they shouldn’t be following. This is a fraudulent military escalation against President Maduro because president Maduro has survived everything they have thrown at him, and they have thrown a lot at him. Assassinations, economic war, terrorist attacks. It’s just incredible.
MF: attacking the infrastructure.
KZ: Right. Even if even appointing a phony president.
MF: Right. They continue to claim he’s the president even though he has absolutely no power. So this is actually to me a very scary situation. You and I have been to Venezuela and we have a, you know, friendship with social movements that are down in Venezuela, with media down in Venezuela, and to see the United States… The United States has been trying for 20 years to overthrow the government of Venezuela. As you said, nothing that the US has done has succeeded in overthrowing the government, although it’s caused a lot of destruction. It’s caused a lot of excess deaths, as we talked about with Alfred de Zayas a couple of weeks ago. And now to see this outright military aggression makes me very concerned that the US Could invade Venezuela at a time when they think that most people are not paying attention. People are focused on, as they should be, on fighting this pandemic. At the same time that the head of the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guiterez, has called for a global ceasefire, the US is sending warships to surround Venezuela. So president Maduro wrote a letter to the people of the United States of America, and it’s I think it’s something that people won’t hear about. They won’t hear on the corporate media. So if it’s okay with you, I’d like to read that letter.
KZ: I’m looking forward to that.
MF: Okay. So here’s the letter. It says: To the people of the United States of America. For weeks now the world stands still, trying to control a pandemic that without any doubt is the greatest challenge we have faced together, as a society and as an International Community. Our priority is confronting it, as is the priority of the people of the United States. Fortunately in Venezuela we have been able to count on some advantages. We took very early measures of social distancing and amplified testing, relying on our free and public healthcare system that counts doctors throughout the country with what we call family. We also rely on the invaluable community-based organizations to help raise social awareness and support the most vulnerable sectors. The solidarity of Cuba China and Russia, and the support of the World Health Organization, has likewise allowed us to obtain necessary medical supplies, despite Donald Trump’s illegal sanctions. In expressing my solidarity to you in this important historic challenge, as well as our consternation and grief for the consequences of the pandemic in the United States, I also have the obligation to make you aware that as the world focuses on dealing with the COVID-19 emergency, the Trump Administration once again, instrumentalizing institutions in order to fulfill electoral objectives, and based on infamies under the pretext of the War on Drugs, has ordered the largest US military deployment in our region in the last 30 years with the purpose of threatening Venezuela and bringing to our region a costly, bloody military conflict of indefinite duration. In the run-up to this fallacious maneuver, last March 26th, William Barr an Attorney General of questionable independence, who recommended the 1989 invasion of Panama against Noriega, and helped cover up the irregularities of the Iran-Contra scandal, filed without showing any evidence whatsoever, accusations of drug trafficking towards the United States against myself and Senior Venezuelan state officials, even though data from the Department of Defense itself showed that, unlike Colombian and Honduras, two of Washington’s allied countries, Venezuela is not a primary transit country towards the United States. It is clear that the Trump Administration is creating a smokescreen to cloud the improvised and erratic handling of the pandemic in the United States. The most optimistic forecast shows that close to two hundred and forty thousand souls will be lost in the United States. From the beginning Donald Trump downplayed and even denied it, the same way he has done with climate change. Today the crisis in the United States aggravates simply because, despite having the resources, he is not willing to transform the healthcare system to prioritize full care for the population, instead of profit-based private medicine, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry.
We in Venezuela do not want an armed conflict in our region. We want brotherly relations of cooperation, exchange and respect. We cannot accept war threats nor blockades, nor can we accept the intention of installing an international tutelage that violates our sovereignty and disavows the progress made in the last year, in the sincere political dialogue between the government and a large part of the Venezuelan opposition, that wants political solutions, not oil wars. Based on the foregoing I call upon the people of the United States to stop this madness, to hold your officials accountable, and to force them to focus their attention and their resources on urgently addressing the pandemic. I also ask together an end to the military threats, an end the illegal sanctions and blockade that restrict the access to humanitarian goods that are so necessary for the country today. I wholeheartedly ask you not to allow your country to be dragged once again into another unending conflict, another Vietnam, another Iraq, but this time closer to home. The peoples of the United States and Venezuela are not as different as their lies intend us to believe. We are people’s seeking a more just, free and compassionate society. Let us not let the particular interests of minorities, blinded by ambition, to set us apart. “We,” as our leader, Hugo Chavez, once said, “share the same dream. The dream of Martin Luther King is also the dream of Venezuela and its revolutionary government.” I invite you to struggle together in order to make that dream come true. No to United States war against Venezuela. No more criminal sanctions. We want peace. – Nicolas Maduro
KZ: I can see why someone who read that letter, someone who sent us a message in response that letter on our website, said it brought her to tears. Powerful letter.
MF: We’ve talked about this before. We are citizens of empire. The United States is an empire. We live in that Empire. The United States is increasing sanctions, military aggression, blocking aid to countries… literally the United States blocked a plane from China to bring equipment, and blocking [shipments] also to Canada.
KZ: And we take the goods for ourselves, intended to those other countries. It’s piracy.
MF: Right. We have a responsibility because this is our country. This is our government doing this in our name. We have a responsibility to take action. And so I think that’s why that letter is so important to me because it’s a letter of common sense. It’s what we need to be doing. We need to stop the aggression and work together globally to confront this crisis. And so it’s hard to do action when we’re stuck in our houses, when members of congress are unreachable, their staff are not in the office. And so we launched a social media campaign.
KZ: A stay at home action.
MF: Exactly. But we hope that it will be massive because everybody with a camera and a computer can participate, or camera phone that has internet can participate. And basically we’re asking you to make a sign, take a picture, and then tweet that out to your member of congress to the president and use the hashtag #FightCOVIDnotVenezuela.
KZ: Yeah, we took pictures of us holding different signs and you can see them on popular resistance ,and then we put it on Twitter and on Facebook and urged other people do the same thing. We’re working with other groups on this, but we need people to take action. One thing that we found with Maduro… and this is not the first time he’s done this. [He wrote] another open letter and another video to the people of the United States, previously.
MF: And he recently did a letter to the world.
KZ: He recognizes the power of social movements. Social movements have made Venezuela what it is. How they could break the United States, elect Hugo Chavez, keep Maduro in power, stand up to US Aggression. Social movements are the key. He recognizes they’re very powerful and they can be very powerful here as well. He recognizes our power more than we recognize our power. I hope that people take that letter to heart. We publish it on as well, in the slider on top, so you can read it again,. But take it to heart and take action. And tell everyone all your networks and your friends to join in that action. We don’t want a war with Venezuela. And by the way, the president of Iran, President Rouhani, wrote a very similar letter, an open letter to the United States where he said “history will judge us for what we allowed our country do.”
MF: Right. And of course the United States is also talking about escalating its aggression towards Iran. So we have to be vigilant about that. There is some good news. I mean, there are countries in the world that are coming to the aid of other countries .Cuba’s a big one, of course, because basically they have this huge group of doctors that they send out internationally all the time. China is showing real leadership in this, now that they’ve controlled their epidemic there. They are giving supplies.
KZ: They’e sent hundreds doctors as well.
MF: Right and they’ve they’ve been providing aid now to 89 countries including the United States. They sent a plane load of supplies to New York. I understand.
KZ: They have the Silk Road. Now they’re calling it the Health Silk Road, that goes from China to the world, providing equipment and health professionals and advice, to try to get control of this virus the way that China did.
MF: And there’s a real movement globally towards ending the sanctions, which we’ve talked about before. They’re not actually sanctions. It’s economic, coercive measures that are illegal, that the United States is imposing on over 30 countries. A third of the world’s population. And other countries have been reluctant to stand up to the United States and violate the the coercive measures even though they’re illegal and they don’t have any requirement that they have to follow them. But because I’ve been worried about retaliation other countries have been obeying them. But there’s a break in that now, and we’re seeing more and more… we’re seeing the United Nations saying that this sanctions should be ended. We’re seeing European countries theG7 plus China have come out with a statement against sanctions, and then just last week the UK, Germany and France used this system that they had set up. It’s a system that allows them to trade with Iran and bypass the US dollar, so they don’t have to go through any of the financial Institutions that are worried about violating the sanctions. They were able to send medical supplies and medicines to Iran.
KZ: And that could be a major, major breakthrough. Now, Europe had been developing this system to bypass US finance and had been afraid to use it, but I think the combination the coronavirus and the US escalation of sanctions and threats of war, has made it possible finally for Europe to break the United States, start using the system, and that could be a major change in global finance. If Europe and Russia start to use this kind of system to bypass US domination of finance, it could really undermine the US hegemony. Dollar diplomacy could be severely weakened, and the fact that one third of the people the world are subjected to illegal, unilateral, coercive measures… these illegal economic wars by the United States, is something the United States should be very worried about. They should be back-paddling quickly, rather than escalating.
MF: The US and Others have written about this. It’s actually kind of showing the world what it really is, and I think as this shakes out …this global recession or depression… this pandemic… when they shake out and you see that the United States is selfish, you know, stealing things for itself, is punitive, is not a cooperative member of the world community, I think it’s going to hurt the United States. And you see China showing real leadership and doing the things that I think people the United States who believed in the whole American Myth might have believed that the United States was supposed to be doing.
KZ: And Russia is doing it as well. Russia is also sending health equipment to Italy/ And you know the other thing about this… at the same time all that’s happening, the other thing that’s happening is people are seeing the incompetence of the United States. And so how can you be a global leader when you can’t even manage your own country. The incompetence of the Trump Administration in responding to this virus is so immense. SARS-2 first became known about, at the World Health Organization, in late December. In January, on January 3rd the Health and Human Services secretary learned about it. The National Security Council learned about it. It wasn’t until January 7th that China actually said it was a coronavirus. And wanted Donald Trump do? He killed Soleimani. He ignored this virus. He said it was a hoax. You’ll get over it. Go to work. You can get over it. Spring will take care it. It’s not real. He minimized it and did nothing until late March. Two and a half months is literally deadly for thousands and thousands of people. He should be knocked out of running for re-election, just based on this incompetence. It’s shameful the way he’s behaved, and it continues.
MF: It , because the United States, while other countries who saw the possibility of a pandemic coming when this virus took hold… they stopped exporting their medical supplies. They started stockpiling them. The United States has not stopped the export of medical supplies. In fact, there is a ventilator company that is based in New Jersey that the United States invested in to develop a low-cost ventilator, and instead they’re selling them at a higher price that they could get in the US, to other countries. You see that the president is playing favoritism, risking people’s lives, sending some states aid, and other states that are blue states, are not getting aid. The governor of Massachusetts had to talk the New England Patriots into using their airplane to go to China to get supplies because Trump wouldn’t send the applies to Massachusetts. We see how he redefined what the national stockpile means.
KZ: Jared Kushner of foolishly mis-described it in a press conference saying that the stockpile is not meant for the states, when in fact the mission statement of the stockpile said it was for the states.
MF: Well who would it be for if it’s not for the statews?
KZ: And then the Trump Administration redefined the stockpile after that to say that the states have to take care of themselves first. And this is a secondary, supplement to the states protecting themselves. And it’s so bad Trump gets up there and he says, “no one saw this coming.” Oh my goodness. Does he know anything? The reality is HHS put out reports saying that we were not ready for a pandemic one when it came. The Pentagon did. the same thing. The National Security Council did it. There was even a pandemic playbook developed after the Ebola virus and other previous viruses… a pandemic playbook on how the United States should react and handle it… step-by-step instructions from past experiences on how the US should act. What did the Trump Administration do? They left that playbook on the shelf. They never even looked at it. Anthony Fauchi said in 2017 that he was sure a pandemic would come during the Trump Administration. And then he gets up there and says no one predicted it! Everyone predicted it. And they put out plans for a deal with it. It’s just abysmal. You know, Taiwan has the one of the best records on dealing with this virus. Why? Because they went through SARS, and developed a playbook on how to handle it, and they have been following that playbook, and they have controlled the virus. The US ignored the virus, didn’t follow the playbook, and now thousands of people are dying. That is Trump and the Trump administration’s fault.
MF: Our hearts go out to everybody out there who is suffering because of this pandemic, especially people in hard-hit cities like New York City and the health professionals who are out there taking care of people, and the essential workers who are out there continuing to go to work and make sure that we have food and our trash is picked up and all the important things that we need to to continue to survive. There are a lot of workers around the country who are striking because they’re not being protected in their jobs and we need to support them. There was a bus driver in Detroit who was part of the effort there to try to get protective equipment for bus drivers because people on the bus were coughing and sick. And sadly that bus driver died of COVID-19. So this is a real crisis and we have to do what we can to support each other right now. Remember it’s physical distancing, but social solidarity is critical at this time. Please please take care of yourself. Take care of your neighbors. Take care of your family. If someone in your community is hungry, feed them. This is a huge economic downturn which we didn’t even get to talk about a lot. But as I’m sure people know the unemployment claims doubled last week from the astounding 3.3 million the week before to 6.6 million and that’s still under counting,
KZ: These are depression type numbers.
MF: numbers. These are never seen before in the United States type numbers.
KZ: In a hundred years. we have not seen this level.
MF: So it’s important that we help each other get through this. Take care of yourself. Find ways to connect with others in your community so you don’t feel so isolated. And we need to get information. We need accurate information. And that’s why this upcoming interview with Kathryn Foxhall is so important, because we need to understand why reporters are not able to give us the facts that we need to have.
KZ: Why reporters can’t get the facts to give us the information we need to have.
MF: Right. So let’s take take a short musical break and then we’ll come back with that interview with Kathryn Foxhall.
Musicel Break
And now we turn to our guests Kathryn Foxhall. Kathryn is a writer on health and health policy in Washington DC, and she’s with the Society of Professional Journalists. Thank you for taking time to join us Catherine.
Kathryn Foxhall (KF): Thank you very much.
KZ: You really wrote about the COVID-19 virus and talked about how reporters are having a hard time talking to government health officials because of restrictions. I want you to describe what was going on with regard to talking to health officials.
KF: Okay. Well, this is a phenomenon that is in our society and it’s important to understand that goes way back. I mean, I would say I personally, and some other reporters I knew, began to get the first inkling of it in the mid-90s. So it’s this restriction that grew up, that when a reporter calls an agency, including an agency like the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, or the Food and Drug Administration, you cannot any longer just call a person and talk to them. You as a reporter have to go through the public information office. It has become our censors. In other words, the rules are: you never say a word to anyone without oversight from the agency. And actually that often turns into oversight from the political entities. This started and it’s become tighter and tighter to the point that I would say most reporters just go to the public information office What this means among other things is that no one is allowed to speak to us in confidence. The level of contact we have is cut down I would say by over 90% because you have to go through this permission-seeking process. There are only a few public information officers in any agency. That means there’s a tiny hole in a wall that is between journalists and sources. And there are many on either side, but there’s only so many that will get through that hole in any particular length of time. So this has been frightening, and there has been a number of journalists working on it, opposing it, and we have gone to both the Obama and the Trump Administrations, and told congress about it. But it’s become so much part of our society that we haven’t taken it seriously. So now we have COVID. So what does it have to do with COVID? We have spent a couple decades not understanding these agencies very well, not getting a chance to understand when something might be going wrong in these agencies, and we still don’t have that access. You see excellent stories in various publications. This morning both the New York Times and The Washington Post have excellent stories. Unfortunately you have to understand they still don’t have normal access. And they’re still, for instance, ten thousand plus people in CDC who are basically silenced. Unless they want to put their careers at risk, they don’t talk to a reporter without the oversight. So as good as those stories are, the chances are good. They’re also missing stuff.
MF: So you have been covering health for a while now. And you were covering the HIV epidemic back in the 1980s. Can you talk about what it was like then for you and why that was important?
KF: Well, HIV is a dramatic example of the fact that there is an official story and there are many many unofficial stories. All the time. It’s not unusual. It’s not just instances. A big scandal. It’s just a constant phenomenon. It’s kind of like if you talk to your cousin at Thanksgiving about her work in a particular agency. you’re going to get a whole different vision than if you just listen to the official story. During the early HIV period, I just very quickly learned that you do talk to people and confidence. Otherwise, you don’t understand what is happening. As a order you need to talk to people in confidence. And my go-to story is… one time I spent some time with a person high up in the CDC. This was the early years of the HIV epidemic and I was talking to him about a budget story. And for some time he gave me the standard, official story, you know, “the program will be okay. We will do more with less.” Etc. And then I just by happenstance said, “doctor, is there something you could tell me if your name weren’t attached to it?” And he exploded. And he tell me how the program worked. And he told me what would be at risk if it were cut. And of course he had his own biases, but then again he was giving me hard cold facts that otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten in a few hours I had to put that story together. I was just appalled because I was within inches of writing that story as basically the official story that he was giving me. It would have been accurate. It would have been well sourced. In other words, I would have had the name of a high-level city official, and it would have just been as immoral as putting barriers in front of first responders. It would have been misleading the public health people I was writing about. It would have been better had I never been born. With all those millions of lives at risk to mislead people, .even when you’re being accurate, it would have just been completely immoral.
KZ: That sounds so similar to today.
KF: I fear that it is very very similar to today.
KZ: Particularly with the problem. I mean, we’re in an election year , and Trump’s re-election is going to be determined by, in large part, how he responds to this virus. And there seems to have been a lot of mistakes made. They first heard about this in December, late December, and didn’t do any or mid-March. And I imagine that a lot of people in CDC, HHS and other health departments, other health agencies, that are very concerned about this and would say things that would be very critical. But how can someone be critical when they have a minder next to them? They can’t criticize their agency.
KF: That’s exactly the point. And it’s just very very scary because in other words the press can be completely accurate. They can report things as they are happening and really not get the point. We basically at this moment have 10,000 people in CDC who are silenced. I cannot imagine anything more dangerous, and I will tell you though… I hope our profession of journalism answers responsible for this, as I do the insiders and the politicians, because we have known this for years, and we have just been calling the PIOs, asking for interviews, knowing these interviews are highly controlled, not ever telling the public about that, and oftentimes just in one way of the other, whether it’s by a lie or whatever. just being blocked. We’ve known this and known this and known this. And when you look back on the 2019 coverage of FDA and CDC, going back, you will see a lot of “FDA approved a drug. FDA had a meeting. CDC released a study.” Okay, those circumstances are… the agency pushed out some information. It comes out of a circumstance where all those people behind that can’t talk, or can’t talk without a minder. We publish that information anyway, without warning the public that these are the circumstances. Yes, FDA said this, but no. We know nothing about what all those people on the inside might be worried about, might be laughing about, might be stunned that the agency is saying that. I know, I know that the excellent reporters who are putting out information right now, if they could walk into these agencies normally, if they could talk to people on the phone without the oversight ,within hours or days they would just have their socks knocked off. I mean, it would just be an amazing story that the public doesn’t have at this point.
MF: Wow. Knowledge is power, and so I’m sure the powerful are very interested in controlling that knowledge. So you’ve written… I mean part of it is the public information officers that control who reporters can talk to them.
KZ: That’s the PIO.
MF: Right They sit in on the interviews so that they can control the narrative of the interview. You’ve talked about how some agencies don’t even have a way for press to get credentialed. Can you kind of talk about how widespread this is? I mean it goes beyond the CDC and the FDA. How widespread is this kind of control of the narrative in the United States?
KF: It’s very widely… It’s pervasive now. I don’t think I’m an agency by agency survey has ever been as ever been done. But you you hear about it everywhere with reporters who cover the federal agencies. But the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored seven surveys over five years, and those showed that this is pervasive across the country. Organizations who have scientists, schools, all kinds of educational institutions, local and state governments, and most chilling to me, police departments, crime reporters. We surveyed reporters in several instances, and we surveyed the PIOs themselves in other instances. And PIOs very openly in terms of police departments said things like, “well, we sit it on the interview to ensure it stays within the parameters that the chief wants.” I’m not sure how we got here, but there’s a great belief in censorship throughout these entities in the country.
KZ: I think that’s even particularly stronger if you talk about, for example, the intelligence agencies, Pentagon, National Security. There you’ll see even more intensely and it comes to mind to me because I’m thinking about how how does this kind of censorship relate to the censorship that we see when whistleblowers are being prosecuted. What are your thoughts on this? That’s the other way these poor government officials who have a story to tell take the risk of blowing the whistle by releasing documents or, you know, another way is getting information out. What are your thoughts about whistleblowers and this policy together?
KF: I think these various controls and various angles from which we can look at the controls, are terrifically interlaced The angle with the whistleblower problem is that if people become official whistleblowers, and it becomes known that they have released information. they will be persecuted pretty much. That’s what we found out. And people are scared to go that route and talk to whoever through the roots of whistleblowers.
MF: So you’re saying even journalists are afraid to talk to whistleblowers.
KF: No. What I’m saying is people within agencies are scared to talk to whistleblowers. This sort of extends that whole fear, what I’m talking about in terms of having guards on any kind of contact with reporters. This sort of extends that control and that fear to anything and everything. In other words it used to be natural, .not a big thin,g not a whistle blowing instance, for someone to just talk to a reporter, most of the time I would say. It’s not a matter of wrongdoing or malfeasance or whatever. It was just an education about the agency. They are forbidden to even do that now.
MF: So what is the impact on journalists? Is this something that journalists talk about within their circles? About the impact that is having? I mean, you’ve written that without access you can’t have ethical journalism. Is this something that people are feeling?
KF: The idea that without this access it’s harder to do ethical journalism is a point that I’m pushing right now very hard. Journalists talk about this a great deal among themselves. And that includes journalists from the most prominent a news organization. We’ve had whole sessions on it in journalism organizations, in journalism meetings. But somehow our other we don’t tell the public in any big way. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we don’t want to tarnish our own brand. We don’t want to say this is the real problem. We don’t want to indicate that we are not getting the whole story. I don’t think we’ve taken it seriously enough. We look at it as a problem and as an irritant to our work, but we can’t bring ourselves to even admit among ourselves that this is keeping stuff from us and from the public. I feel maybe one thing that is at work here is there’s a human bias that says, “what you see is all there is.” In other words as humans we think we see at all. I’m afraid that that is going on with journalists. We work hard. We sometimes get leaks. We do have insiders who will talk at times. We have skills like getting information through the Freedom of Information Act. We get impressive stories. We don’t like to think about the fact that maybe there’s so much out there that we don’t know, that the balance in completeness of our stories is at risk
KZ: And I imagine if reporters were to say in their article… a note at the end or something, that these interviews were conducted under the surveillance of a minder, that that would be the last time they get interviewed. And having access, even when it’s limited by the minder being there, is still better than having no access. I imagine that’s a big problem. What do you see as a way to fix this problem?
KF: Well at this point it’s huge. It is very deep in our society. For some reason that we need to research more, we don’t see it as a free speech problem. We don’t see it as a problem that keeps information from all of us. So I think the first step has to be journalists standing together across the board, all kinds of organizations saying yes, this is censorship. It has all the deadly, abusive qualities of censorship everywhere. And we are going to stand against it. We’re going to report it and continue to oppose it until we seriously get the attention of the policymakers.
MF: Now there has been some effort/ You wrote about a bill back in October of 2019 that was has some language that would allow federal scientists to speak more openly. Can you talk about that?
KF: Well as part of a bill that has to do with scientific integrity and the federal government, and the scientific Integrity policies that they hope that all agencies that deal with science will have…it was actually very disappointing. It had a tiny little hole in this wall of media relations censorship. And that whole was… federal scientists can talk about their own work—mind you nothing else—they can talk about their own work to a reporter who gets in touch with them, without telling the agency first. That’s a tiny, tiny hole. It’s only scientists. It’s only their own works. Nothing else. And also there’s no provision to say that the agency can’t force them to tell the agency about contact afterwards. To me that was so tiny it was it was reinforcing the larger rule, but they couldn’t even do that. The house finance committee that considered this changed the bill before they passed it and took out that provision. And you know, it was a bipartisan vote. They had agreed ahead of time, and they voted for the bill that took out that provision. I’m stunned that in the Congress of the United States. there is this feeling that we have free speech, except for media relations control.
KZ: It’s really amazing that the way this 21st century is redefining freedom of the press and freedom of speech with the whistleblower attacks, with the minders, using the Espionage Act, the algorithms that stop you reading stuff. So much censorship. It’s kind of frightening, but I appreciate that you say this is bipartisan. You point this back to 25 years with the Bill Clinton administration/ You talked about the Obama Administration, and the Trump Administration. These days some people want to say it’s all about Trump. But you’re really making this pretty clear consistently. This is a bipartisan problem. The Democrats are… it seems like maybe it even started with the Democrats during the Clinton era. So talk about… are there any people in Congress who get this, and who could become allies and the movement could build on?
KF: I have to say I just don’t know/ We tried once or twice. We sent letter to Congress. We did go to a particular Senator’s office. I don’t know this cultural norm that we have built up seems to be self-pervasive and so deep into our culture that honestly, I’ve had a number of people, even journalists, who I think honestly don’t get it at first. And some journalists say well, they have a right to their own story. So they don’t honestly seem to see the danger in having all these people, many of whom are very close to the information that we desperately need, silenced. Basically silenced, in terms of talking freely y to the Press.
KZ: It’s so interesting because it’s going on 25 years now, so you think of a reporter he’s 45. That’s all they’ve known. That’s the only way the world has existed.
MF: It’s like children today who are growing up in an environment where you’re used to not having privacy. And I tried to as I was raising my my kids help them to understand that when I grew up privacy was expected. You know, and in this situation access and transparency are expected and we are losing those.
KZ: So what happens if you were to go have an interview with an official and the minders there. They tell you their story with everything approved by the minder. What happens if you call that official afterwards and try to talk them individually. What’s the reaction you would get?
KF: In most instances the official, or any individual you called would be like, “Oh I have to I have to go through this public information office.” So you’re under heavy pressure.
MF: They have policies within their institutions that are controlling the individual employees. Is that right?
KF: Correct. It’s not it’s not just something the public information office tells a journalist. These policies are heavily emphasized.
KZ: Even if you tell the government official that it’ll be off the record? Are they afraid their phones are tapped, or how do they know it’s enforced?
KF: I know that they do not want to take the risk usually. And of course there are instances where public officials or people within the agencies do talk, either because they’re angry enough or they’re scared enough of what is going on. But most often they will not talk to a reporter if reporter calls them personally.
MF: Now, you’ve also written about a situation with the FDA where some nonprofit groups were trying to push for more access to the FDA\, and the FDA came back with a finding that in their belief, it was completely legal to restrain the press’ access. Can you talk about that?
KF: That’s correct. The petition was put in by a man who has a newsletter on the FDA for many many years. He owns the newsletter and he when this started happening he was appalled, and he some years in put in a petition to FDA to say, you know, you shouldn’t be doing this. Four years later the FDA came back with a very legalistic document that said that they could do this because of a 2006 Supreme Court decision. There’s several things there to talk about. One is, these control started well before 2006. But federal agencies and others seem to have just jumped on the Garcetti decision as justification for this. The Garcetti decision was about a public employee who basically put information out that was his opinion, that was different from the agency’s opinion. And the way I understand it is he did not make a differentiation between what he was saying and what the agency was saying. Well, I think most of us can understand that. I mean, you don’t imply that your employer is saying thus and so. When you write an official document for an agency, or you make another statement for the agency, you say what the agency isn’t saying, that you’re an employee’ and you say that.
Well personally, I thought the Supreme Court decision was the worst that I have ever read, and I used to read a lot of them. But agencies just jumped on that to say we have a right to say, “people can’t talk without oversight. We can do these controls.” And of course, I think that it would be perfectly reasonable for an agency to say you have a right to speak.You have a right to tell anybody your own opinion, but you should differentiate between what is your opinion and what is the agency’s opinion. The controls we have now go far far beyond that.
KZ: Yeah, they’re stretching that Garcetti decision. Is there some weaknesses in this, and I hope that in the future there are some legal challenges to it. I could see a number of different perspectives, especially take a really bad case like a Flint water case, where people knew and the government prevented reporters from finding out, I think you could create a case where the courts would be more open to it, but it’s a big fight.
MF: So for people who are listening to this show who want to learn more or get involved. where’s the best place for them to read about this?
KF: Well, the Society of Professional Journalists has a page that is particularly on the PIO issue. We call it the Public Information Officer issue, and there are a number of documents they are that explain the history, etc. You can also just get in touch with SBJ in general. You all indicated that you all would have a home page where some of these connections could be linked to, and I hope you’ll do that.
KZ: Yes. Well that will definitely do that. Yeah. It’s really important that you’re talking about this because people are worried about censorship for lots of different reasons, but I bet very few readers and listeners of this show are aware of this public information officer minder problem that prevents us from hearing the full story about critical issues. So I’m glad this is being Royal. Thank you for doing that;
MF: Yeah. Thank you for taking time to join us and thank you for your work.
KF: Certainly and you might not know it but there are many many other journalists working on this issue.

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On The Front Line Of COVID-19: Doctor Calls For System Change

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

New York is the area hardest hit by the coronavirus currently in the United States with over 60,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths, ranking it as the sixth highest number of cases in the world. The area in and around New York City has the most cases. Governor Cuomo is scrambling for hospital beds and equipment. The Army Corps of Engineers has been called in to convert convention centers and other large spaces into temporary hospitals. A naval hospital ship is heading up from southern Virginia to provide support. The city is bringing in refrigerated trucks to store dead bodies and China is sending planeloads of medical supplies. We speak with Dr. Mike Pappas, who is working on the front line of this crisis about COVID-19, how health professionals are handling it, how it is exposing the flaws in our healthcare and economic systems and what systems would protect people.

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Dr. Mike Pappas is an activist and family medicine physician living and practicing in New York City. He frequently write for Left


Margaret Flowers (MF): This week we interviewed Mike Pappas. He’s an activist and a doctor living and practicing in New York City.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): And he’s practicing in the center of the coronavirus and so he gives us a report on what it’s like dealing with that reality.

MF: Mike talks about how it’s really exposing the flaws in our healthcare and economic systems. This past week the National Labor Relations Board report on the number of new filings for unemployment benefits skyrocketed in an amount that has never been seen before in the United States. In one week, the applications went up to 3.28 million people, an increase of over 3 million applications.

KZ: If you look at comparisons with other years, there’s no comparison. There’s nothing ever been like this before. It was a massive surge and this is just one week, and there’ll be another report coming out this week, which will probably also have very high numbers. People are predicting up to a 30% unemployment rate, which would be higher than it ever was during the depression, and that came from the St. Louis Fed. It’s a pretty wild number and it indicates we are already in a recession, even though it takes a couple of months for the data to come in to prove it. We are already in a recession, and it’s not surprising because everything has stopped economically. People are being forced out of work. People are being forced to stay home. The question is what it will this evolve into.

MF: A lot of that depends on how the federal government responds to this, and we know in the 2008 financial crisis Congress didn’t respond well. The stimulus package and the bailout really helped those who were at the top but didn’t really stop the foreclosures or provide enough in unemployment support. Workers’ rights have been eroding in the United States. Pensions and pay have been stagnant. So, you know, this rescue bill that Congress just passed last week again, it’s not enough and it’s not soon enough.

KZ: It’s just barely enough to keep people from screaming, you know, the twelve hundred dollar, one-time payment is minimal.

MF: And they’re saying it may not come out until May.

KZ: It could take weeks to get to people. And then the unemployment benefits. That was a positive. People will get $600 on top of their usual unemployment benefits per month, and that goes for four months, which is not going to be sufficient. About a quarter of the rescue bill goes to people’s needs. The rest of it goes to business, especially to Big Business and the big business part, which is the largest segment, is tied to the Federal Reserve, and that results in it being essentially a foundation for five trillion dollars of Federal Reserve spending on big business.

MF: Yeah, we should explain that a little bit because the Congressional bill gives 454 billion to big industries, big business, including the defense industry. That’s a whole nother conversation… why they need to be bailed out. But the way that the Federal Reserve operates, they can then use the equivalent of ten times that amount of money to bail out the investor class, basically, and so that’s going to be $4.5 trillion… trillion!

KZ: Yes, and so that’s a massive, massive bailout for big business. And already before this even happened the Fed was bailing out Wall Street to stop the stock markets from failing.

MF: And basically pledging to buy any debt that they need to buy.

KZ: Up to six trillion. And so it’s a massive bailout for the investor class and business class. Just enough for the workers.

MF: I would say not enough for the workers.

KZ: Just just enough for the workers not to scream. [laughter] But certainly not enough for the working class to survive. What really struck me about that was the day that we saw that massive increase in unemployment applications—three million applications—was also a record day for the stock market to go up. It was the largest increase since 1933 for the stock market, the same day we had these massive unemployment applications. So it really showed the contradictions in the US economy, where the wealthy seem to benefit when the working class suffers. And that bill really that was signed by Trump and passed by Congress, the coronavirus bill, really showed that as well. Big business benefits and the working class survives. It’s a class war? It’s much more sharpened and clarified than it’s ever been before. And I really think these are laying the seeds for significant class conflict in this decade.

MF: Oh, I agree with you and I think we’re already seeing that. We saw, you know, since the Occupy Movement, people have been more aware and talking more about the reality in this country that it works for the wealthy and that the rest of us get screwed. I think we’re seeing in the way that the government is responding to the COVID-19 crisis, they’re showing that lives are not as important to them as keeping the economy going. President Trump tried to float out this idea of, “oh, maybe it’d be a good idea, wouldn’t it be beautiful if everybody was back to work on Easter and the churches were filled again on Easter.” And workers around the country have been on strike. There have been the all these wildcat strikes going on in all different sectors, from the auto workers to trash collectors. People working in the Perdue chicken farm, or bus drivers in Detroit who were striking because they weren’t getting enough protective gear. And then they won that as well as winning free fair for bus riders.

KZ: What’s also strange about this coronavirus crisis bill is that all these workers lose their jobs, which means many of them lose their health insurance because we have this crazy system in the United States that ties health insurance to work, which shouldn’t occur. But we have that system. And so there’s nothing in this bill about paying for people’s coronavirus tests or coronavirus treatment. So people lose their health insurance and get nothing in this coronavirus crisis bill for healthcare!

MF: And we’re not doing things that other countries have done either, like putting, you know, a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, or pausing rents. People are talking about going on a rent strike.

KZ: Pausing debts. People in the United States are in the highest consumer debt we’ve ever had. And so not only is this $1,200 coming slow, after people’s rent is due. It’s coming slow after people’s monthly debts are due. And so and nothing is being done about that. So it’s really a very inadequate response when it comes down to the people’s needs, and it’s really designed to prop up the stock market and prop up big business.

MF: I think it’s interesting that when President Trump floated out that idea of calling for people to return to work, there was a big…

KZ: Trump floated that idea only after hearing from The Wall Street Journal, hearing from Wall Street investors. They were all telling him, “people got to get back to work.”

MF: Right, the economy is at a standstill and that’s not going to work for the investor class. They suddenly realized they actually need the workers to be at work. But there’s a big backlash, and so President Trump announced he’s not going to call people to go back to work and that for now, we’re going to continue on this path until the end of April, April 30th. And we’ll, you know, we’ll see from there. There was another interesting idea that he floated out there that got a lot of backlash which was putting US troops along the Canadian border. The US-Canadian border is considered to be pretty much a non-militarized border, unlike our southern border with Mexico, which is highly militarized. And Canada was like, “Whoa. Whoa, we don’t want to be like the southern border.” Because the reality is in those border towns, they’re basically under like military rule. There’s high rates of violence going on in those towns, and oppression. And Canada didn’t want to be like that.

KZ: And you know, the de-militarized border in Canada is something that Canada and the US used to be very proud of. Canada still wants to keep it. The United States seems to want to change it. It’s interesting, the rationale makes no sense.

MF: Yeah, that’s exactly true.I can’t even think about why the United States wants to do that.

KZ: Well they’re claiming they want stop Canadians from coming to the United States.

MF: Right, but that’s the whole thing. Again, it’s like, let’s go back to reality because that’s not an actual reason. In 2018, there were fewer than a thousand Canadians that tried to get into the United States, while that same year there were 20,000 people from the United States trying to get into Canada. So if anybody wanted to have a rationale to militarize their border, it would be Canada.

KZ: It makes no sense. It’s just one more example of how this response is really highlighting how our systems just don’t work. And I think one of the really interesting things about this coronavirus crisis… who the essential workers are. These are some of the lowest paid workers in the country. We’re talking about trash collectors, grocery store workers, delivery people, postal people. These are not well paid workers. These are not well-respected workers. They are not given the dignity they deserve.

MF: They are now.

KZ: And I think hopefully people are seeing that they have power. People power is real. And what I mean by that is without these people doing their jobs, the economy does not work.You know, it was interesting when Trump floated that idea about sending people back to work, what started to trend on Twitter was general strike, hashtag GeneralStrike, hashtag GeneralStrike2020. Wow. If people United States start really thinking about a general strike, now they see they have the power to stop the economy. Wow! And a general strike, by the way, does not just mean people not working. It means a rent strike. It means a mortgage strike. It means a tax strike, a debt strike.

MF: There’s lots of ways that people can resist and participate in a type of a general strike. They’re very powerful.

KZ: And a general strike is not like a one day event. You can start that way. You can start with a one hour event. What it is is a campaign that can last weeks or months or years. It is real class war, and that’s why I’m saying that the events that we’re now going through with the coronavirus and the economic collapse are planting the seeds for radical change in the next 10 years, if people realize their power, recognize their power, and are not afraid to use their power. That last one is key.

MF: Absolutely. And so that’s what we wrote about in our newsletter this week at Popular Resistance. We’ve been writing about how the 2020s are a decade of potential transformation, and last week we focused on healthcare. This week we focused on remaking the economy. People can find that at But I really liked Vijay Prashad’s article from the Tri-Continental Institute for Social Research, because they put out a COVID-19 declaration that basically had 16 points of what countries around the world should be doing right now. And it’s the basic things covering healthcare, stopping evictions. Making sure people can get their basic needs met for foods and things like that. The title of the article was, “We can’t go back to normal because normal was the problem.” And I think that’s what people are realizing, that what we have right now is not working, and we don’t want to go back to that.

KZ: We’ve written the same thing. Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report also wrote the same thing. Normal was the problem. We can’t go back to normal. And I think more and more people are seeing that what’s happening now is going to change things forever, because people realize that being economically insecure, being underpaid, not having any savings, not be able to afford college, having college debt, not having health care… I mean all these issues, all the neoliberal policies that have taken place over the last 40 years, and shrunk the safety net, shrunk peoples incomes, created this massive wealth divide… they’re all being put into focus.

MF: One important area of resistance that’s happening right now around the coronavirus is in prisons and detention centers where prisoners are going on strike. They’re refusing to work. They’re refusing to leave their cells, and basically around the country we’re seeing this happening. And what basically people are calling for is, you know, that immigrants who are being detained…

KZ: And some of those are on hunger strikes, the immigrants…

MF: They should be released. There’s no reason to detain them. And then prisoners, they’re saying, “anybody who’s over 50, anybody who has health problems, anybody who has a minor offense…

KZ: Nonviolent offenders, people awaiting trial…

MF: People on parole, with technical violations, people who have less than a year sentence… You know, they’re basically asking people around the country to contact their Governors and say, “you need a plan to reduce the prison population by 50% now,” because the courts can do that. The courts can make those decisions.

KZ: And 50% means a million people, because we have such an absurd prison population in this country. Two million people behind bars. It’s absurd! So cutting the prison population, because those are people really shouldn’t be in prison anyway… Going back to normal makes no sense. If you can release those people out of prison and society is not hurt by it, why were they held in prison?

MF: Yeah.

KZ: Prison should be for people who are too dangerous to be out in society, if you have prisons at all. I mean we need to figure out alternatives to prison, prisons are way overused in this culture and we need to change that.

MF: And it wasn’t always this way. I mean this really took off during what, like the 60s 70s 80s …

KZ: When Joe Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, along with Reagan as president. I mean, the combination was deadly.

MF: People are calling for Julian Assange to be released from prison because of the threats to his health. His lawyers are calling for him to be allowed to be released on bail. Another area of our society… Indigenous Women Rising is calling out the Indian Health Service. They’re saying that already, you know, Native Americans rely on the Indian Health Service, but it’s already underfunded. It’s understaffed. They’re saying that people who finish their medical residencies go into the Indian Health Service so that they can work off their student debt, and that people that tend to do that they are not dedicated. They don’t stick around. So they get a lot of turnover. So basically they’re just calling out the fragility of the Indian Health Service and how we need to be thinking about that. I didn’t see anything in the coronavirus bill that was providing support to the Indian Health Service.

KZ: No there’s no health services in the bill, which is interesting. Coronavirus is a virus. You’d expect the bill would be about heath.

MF: Well, there’s some money for hospitals. That’s it.

KZ: That’s all there is, but you know the Indian Health Services needs to be better funded, better staffed.

MF: And not privatized like they’re doing.

KZ: Not privatized. But you know, if we were to put in place a national improved Medicare for all, the Indian Health Service would remain under most people’s scenarios, but people who are indigenous would also have access… they can go wherever they want. All doctors are in the system, so indigenous people could go to those doctors. Plus they’d have the Indian Health Service, which would be focused on more indigenous-related issues, more culturally focused on indigenous issues. And so you’d have both.

MF: Let’s talk about some of the other impacts that the COVID-19 disease that’s happening. So the Defender 2020 NATO war games were supposed to go on from February to June. They started them and they’re supposed to be the largest war games ever… thirty-seven thousand soldiers involved in that from many different countries. And I guess it took the good sense of Germany to say, and they are one of the countries very hard hot by this pandemic, to say “no, we are not sending our soldiers to that, and you cannot use our country to bring your soldiers in for this.” And so effectively that shut down the Defender 2020 because the US was relying on the German soldiers to transport their equipment and things to the exercise.

KZ: The thing about Germany is a lot of the conflict between the US and Germany and Russia is the US wanting Germany to buy US gas, and not build that pipeline from Russia to Germany, and so the US has been trying to create a divide between Russia and Germany. And certainly these exercises would have added to that divide and the fact that Germany said no… I think Belgium said no first, but that wasn’t as important… but Germany saying no pretty much ended the war games. That’s a real slap in the face to the United States on this bigger issue of the relationship between Russia and Europe.

MF: The NATO War Games Defender 2020 was basically on Russia’s border simulating attacking Russia. Can you imagine how we would…

KZ: Including nuclear attack.

MF: Yeah. Can you imagine how we would respond if Russia and China set up a war game right off of the coast of the US and were pretending to attack us?

KZ: And working with Mexico and Canada and Venezuela, pretending to attack the United States. It’s insane.

MF:But there is another set of war games that’s supposed to go on this year and that’s Rimpac. It’s in the Pacific and basically last time they had it they had 25 countries. They’re saying they’ll be more than 25 countries involved this time…

KZ: But they won’t tell us which

MF: Right. I know that’s a weird thing. So as the Defender 2020 targeting Russia. The Rimpac is targeting China, and pretending to attack China.

KZ: This is all part of the new US National Security strategy, which is [called] Great Power Conflict. And when you see the US practicing war games to attack Russia, to attack China, and the strategy is great power conflict, it’s obviously laying the groundwork for a World War III. How could how much more clearer could the US be? To name the strategy “Great Power Conflict” and then practicing attacking China and Russia. It’s absurd!

MF: Yeah, it is absurd, and you know at this time, with this pandemic going on, many countries are saying, “look we need to be actually cooperating with each other, collaborating, understanding that this pandemic affects all of us.” And doing something about it… I think Antonio Guterres, the secretary of the United Nations, called for countries to cease their hostilities right now, so that we could focus on the pandemic. And the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, wrote a letter to the people of the United States… and we have that posted on, and it’s actually a beautiful letter because it talks about, “We want dialogue. We want peace. We want to collaborate. We want to focus…”

KZ: And he tells the people that it’s up to you to hold your government accountable.

MF: He basically says history will tell… the United States is behaving poorly right now. We are increasing our economic measures against Iran. People call them sanctions, but they’re actually coercive measures. They’re collective punishment, as we talked about last week with the United Nations expert, Alfred de Zayas. These are not legal sanctions, they’re illlegal, and they’re hurting Iran. Rouhani reported a hundred different entities that are being targeted by the US’s economic war, financial entities, and how this is robbing them of hundreds of billions of dollars, making it not possible for them to purchase medications and supplies that they need. So it’s killing people, and he wrote this beautiful appeal to people of the United States calling for that to end.

KZ: You know you mentioned that we did our newsletter this week on the decade of cultural transformation and focusing on the economy, and the week before we did healthcare. This next week we’re going to do foreign policy because this crisis that we’re seeing now… the coronavirus crisis, is bringing out the worst in US foreign policy, not just what we talked about but the idea that Cuba is sending doctors and health professionals to Italy and China and a bunch of other countries, and China and Russia are sending supplies and health professionals to Italy. China is sending now planeloads full of health equipment to the United States, and that’s the first of a whole bunch of plane loads. And at the same time that they’re all doing that to help other countries, the US is escalating sanctions. This economic warfare against Nicaragua, against Cuba, against Venezuela, against Iran, against Syria, against other countries, it’s just obscene. And so I think again, these crisis situations are magnifying and clarifying what’s wrong in our political culture and what needs to be changed, and foreign policy needs major change.

MF: Well, they were eight countries that came together and called on the United Nations to stop the coercive measures against them, and these countries were China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria and Venezuela. And the UN secretary Guterres, when he spoke with the group of 20 nations this past week, spoke about the need to stop the economic measures. Also Michelle Batchelet, who’s the head of the office of human rights…

KZ: who has not been that great…

MF: No, she’s a neoliberal, and even she, which would be far for her… She said, you know, “we need to question whether these sanctions are a good idea right now and that in light of this crisis, they should be paused.” What we’d really like to hear coming from the United Nations is “These measures are illegal. They violate the UN Charter and they must be stopped. Not paused, stopped.”

KZ: All these sanctions, this economic warfare that’s illegal, really shows Europe in a very weak position. The fact that Europe has to kowtow the United States and stop trade with Iran. Stop trade with Venezuela. Stop trade with Syria.

MF: Recognize Juan Guaido.

KZ: It’s embarrassing, and I think that these war games being canceled by Germany essentially taking the lead on that… is really part of the sign that the US and Europe are breaking. The reality of the problems that we’re seeing now from the coronavirus… these realities are actually long term problems. We can’t go back to the old normal. Once you see the truth…

MF: like that the government can just basically produce as much money as they want to

KZ: That’s right. They can do trillions of dollars and it’s not an issue.

MF: So why can’t we have all the things we need like education?

KZ: Right. Why do they always ask, “how can you pay for healthcare?” I mean, it’s absurd, and so now that we’ve seen the truth people say, “well we have to act on that truth,” and so our job I think and our listeners job… Everyone’s job right now is to express the truth. So everyone in the country can see the reality.

MF: I was glad to see this past week that a lieutenant general Robert White… he is a US commander in Iraq… He sent a memo to Secretary Mike Pompeo basically saying that we should not be attacking the Iraqi militias. Iraq has asked the US to leave, and we’re attacking these militias and calling them “Iran-backed” militias. And in fact, they’re just militias, they’re Iraqi militias, and he’s saying we should not be attacking them. We should not be attacking Iran.

KZ: So to see that kind of dissent in the ranks speaking out like that… you know that many people in Pentagon are thinking that and saying it. This one didn’t stay private.

MF: And I hope that others will be inspired by his courage and also not be a private.

KZ: Well it will be very interesting to see how the Trump administration responds… what kind of actions they take against this guy, or maybe they won’t take action against him. Maybe he’s telling a truth that some people want heard, and if that’s the case, maybe others will join him.

MF: In the last few minutes that we have, I wanted to talk about the Department of Justice indicting president Maduro, the president of Venezuela and 13 other members of the government and military, with these fake narco-terrorism charges.Venezuela…they don’t cultivate coca there. And if you look at the coca traffic in Latin America coming to the United States, the vast majority is coming from Colombia and Ecuador. Less than seven percent is coming through Venezuela.

KZ: And if you look at the reality in Venezuela is that Venezuela kicked the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, out in 2005, because the DEA was getting involved in regime change operations, rather than drug enforcement. And since that time seizures of cocaine have increased in Venezuela. Bolivia had the same experience. Bolivia kicked the DEA out in 2008. Morales was able to negotiate with the coca growers and shrunk coca growing in Bolivia by something like 30% after the DEA left. The real problem with cocaine trafficking is from Colombia, which is the major grower and producer of cocaine, and consumers in the United States. And the US is not going after those. Or Honduras, where the US coup put in place a real narco government. The brother of the president has been convicted in New York. On 26 charges, and the president Hernandez, was mentioned multiple times in that trial as being part of that cocaine trafficking conspiracy. But he’s a US ally so nothing is happening there. Bolsonaro, you know, when he went to the G20 a year ago, a lieutenant general flying with him was busted with 60 pounds of cocaine. And Juan Guaido. He was pictured with drug traffickers in Colombia.

MF: Well, this is how the US’ indictment is already backfiring, because one of the people that they indicted, Cliver Alcala, the General, who is an opposition member…They were caught on March 24th. There were trucks that were seized in Colombia that were headed for Venezuela that had all kinds of weapons in them. And he said, “oh, you know those trucks? That money that was used to purchase those weapons, $500,000 worth of weapons, came from Juan Guaido, who’s being funded by the US, and he said also I met at least seven times with advisors from the US that were advising us…” because they have these training cells in Colombia right across the border from Venezuela, where they’re training and preparing to go into Venezuela and do basically terrorism in Venezuela, to try to cause a crisis, cause chaos. So it kind of backfired because this guy came out and said oh but the US is paying for these weapons. They’re helping us.

KZ: Now he’s been flown to the United States, to be contained, to be quieted, and to be given a script of what he can say.

MF: Yeah, but the dangerous part is that the US has put a bounty on President Maduro’s head of 15 million dollars. And people are likening this to what happened with Manuel Noriega in Panama in 1989 shortly before the US invaded Panama.

KZ: It is very dangerous. Now Maduro can’t travel very easily. He could be arrested by a US allied country, or by Interpol, or by US agents. The US States courts have allowed people to be kidnapped and brought to United States. That’s lawful, for some to be kidnapped and brought to United States to stand trial. It’s obscene. And so the potential of war, the potential for kidnapping, and the potential of arrest… all these problems are made worse. Just like the sanctions have united people around Maduro, this will also unite people around Maduro because they know it’s false. One more time the US is desperate to try to get Maduro out. Everything else they’ve tried has failed. So now they’re trying this one.

MF: That’s what it is. So lastly I just want to mention some positive news, some things that people are doing in this COVID-19 crisis that’s really positive. And I think it’s important to frame that what we’re doing right now… we shouldn’t really be calling it social distancing. It’s physical distancing. We’re just trying to put some distance between ourselves physically so that we’re less likely to infect each other. But social, we actually need to be doing more of that. We need to be looking out for our neighbors, checking in with our family and our friends to make sure that people have what they need and they’re okay. And so there’s some really interesting things that people are doing around the country. There’s a lot of mutual aid projects that are being organized as well as people finding other ways to socialize, doing online happy hours…

KZ: Concerts online. David Rovics, who opens each one of these shows with his song… He’s been doing concerts online. Other musicians are doing the same thing, and people are holding get-togethers online, parties online. People are learning how to use zoom and other similar kinds of video conferencing techniques to socialize. People are coming together to try to solve crisis problems.

MF: Yeah. So to all the people that are listening out there, try not to get too down on this. Be creative. Find ways that you can connect with people in your community or your friends or your loved ones during this time. Don’t isolate yourself socially. Just isolate yourself physically.

KZ: And people also by the way are finding ways to protest. I love the ICE protests, where they surround the ICE incarceration centers with cars, and demand people be released.

MF: That’s a great way to block the streets.

KZ: And that’s just one of many examples of people being creative in their protests.

MF: Right, Well, that’s all we have time for. Why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll come back with our interview with Dr. Mike Pappas.

[Musical Break]

MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the Forces Of Greed, with Margaret fFowers…

KZ: and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And now we turn to our guest Mike Pappas. Mike is an activist and a medical doctor living and working in New York City where they now have, at the time of this recording, more than 46,000 cases of COVID-19, which makes New York City sixth in the world for the number of cases, higher than Iran, France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and where they’ve had more than 600 deaths.

KZ: Yeah, so you’re in the epicenter for the United States. Although I see more breakouts happening in Detroit, Los Angeles and New Orleans, Florida… So New York may be ahead of the curve for a lot of the country. Tell us first off tell us how you’re doing personally, physically.

Mike Pappas (MP): Thanks for having me on guys. I think that, you know, right now is a pretty stressful time for everybody. Not just people in the healthcare system, but I think just everybody in the general public. Personally right now it’s relatively stressful because I’m working both in the hospital system in New York City in Manhattan, and then also in the clinic setting. And there are a lot of changes that are suddenly going on to our already inadequate health care system. So for example in the clinic setting, we’re moving a lot of things over to telehealth type visits, so that poses all of its own challenges to see patients and be able to treat them or work with them through their various chronic illnesses in that setting. And then in the hospital setting things have just become more and more hectic, and I unfortunately only see them getting worse. Our hospital is building makeshift pods throughout the hospital. They cleared out the cafeteria. They’ve cleared out hallways that they’re making hospital beds there, doing everything possible to kind of make more bed space in the hospital. And then we already have… I work as a resident physician, so we already have pulled all of our residents off of almost every other rotation and they’re all going to be going to the inpatient setting. So things are drastically changing and I think that they’re gonna get worse as we go forward from now.

MF: A lot of people have been saying oh, this is just another flu, but have you experienced these kinds of numbers of people coming in, of these kinds of arrangements… is this typical of a flu season?

MP: That claim is somewhat frustrating to me, being somebody who’s been working with patients who have tested positive for a coronavirus, and having worked with patients who have tested for flu, and having worked through previous flu seasons, I do not think that this is anything like the flu, and I think that maybe making that claim is a way of people somehow coping with or processing the fact that they could be affected by coronavirus, or they could lose a family member from coronavirus, and maybe it’s a way of kind of downplaying that. But I think it’s somewhat dangerous because with this virus we’re seeing very young people who are drastically affected by it. We just had on our service a thirty-year-old come in overnight. No medical history, had already been tied to the medical system, so it’s not like there was an underlying medical history and we just weren’t sure about it. But to our knowledge no medical history who is now intubated in an ICU, who just decompensated or got much worse very very drastically and had to have a tube put down their throat to help him breathe. So I think that this is something very serious. I think it’s something that spreads much more quickly than the flu, and it’s something that I think that we need to take much more seriously, because I think that right now, the way that we’re seeing New York grapple with this virus… I can only estimate that New York is going to be the next Italy.

KZ: Well, one of the things that’s becoming more evident with this virus and how it’s spreading, and how its leading to mortality, is some of the flaws in the US healthcare system. Now you’re in the middle of that. Are you seeing that in your practice? Are you seeing weaknesses in US healthcare and how we’re dealing with the virus?

MP: Oh, a million percent. I mean, I think that New York is a test case, but I think that the virus is exposing all of the flaws in the for-profit healthcare system in the United States, along with the capitalist economic system, honestly. I mean we had months to prepare for this virus, and we see that not only is the healthcare system completely unable to respond in an appropriate manner, but just the entire economic system is unable to respond adequately. So we see that, for example, we know more and more patients are coming in and the healthcare system inside of… even if we’re looking at New York, we’ve been shutting down hospitals throughout New York over the past years. Governor Cuomo, who is the media’s new darling, has been key to doing this. We’ve been decreasing hospital beds throughout New York. Hospitals have been trying to cut staffing over the years. Nurses in five hospitals in New York were recently going to strike for safe staffing, and while maybe some union officials will disagree with me on this, but I think NYSNA really sold them out in that fight that they had, and they did not really achieve the safe staffing that they wanted to achieve. So now we’re seeing this influx of patients and all of a sudden everybody’s scrambling. We need more hospital beds. We need more staff. Can people volunteer? Can people do this? Can people do that? And if we would have given safe staffing to the nurses like they were initially demanding, because we wouldn’t have been closing hospitals in the city like Beth Israel hospital, because the real estate is more valuable in that area where that hospital is located… If we wouldn’t have been doing those types of things, we would have potentially been able to respond to this crisis better. We can look at testing for example. In the United States, we had seen this virus spreading around the rest of the world. There was a test from Germany that the WHO, that was accepted by the rest of the world, but in the United States, we didn’t want to use that because we wanted to give government money to some private company so they could develop a test. So what did we have? We had a poor rollout of the initial test that then had to be recalled. And we’re just starting to get testing up and running in the United States now. So after the virus is spreading throughout communities. So that’s on the testing front. When it comes to the protection front, nurses and medical providers in general, don’t even have enough personal protective equipment or PPEs. So those are the masks, the face shields, all those types of things to help decrease the spread of the virus. So just today nurses at Jacobi Hospital were out staging an action in front of the hospital because there are nurses there and medical providers that have been using N95 masks for five days straight, with a surgical mask over the N95 mask. So what does that do? It increases the chance that not only are the healthcare workers exposed and contract the virus, but then they spread the virus to other patients who come into the hospital. So in no other setting would this be appropriate to work in, but in this setting, where there’s this manufactured scarcity of masks or ventilators or these types of things… because all the different entities inside of the healthcare system are unable to actually respond appropriately with the immediacy that’s needed, because there they’re more concerned about their bottom line. The last thing I would say is an example of that is, there’s been reports that hospital systems are not going to buy ventilators, even though that they know that they’re going to need them, because they are saying, “well what if in some off chance we don’t need the ventilators? Then maybe we shouldn’t buy them because we’re going to be stuck with this expense that’s going to hurt our bottom line.” And that is the way that these entities inside of our healthcare system, and capitalist tendencies inside of our economic system, think, even inside of a pandemic.

KZ: It’s amazing that, you mentioned ventilators, Trump just said no to spending a billion dollars on ventilators, but just signed a four trillion dollar bill that mainly bails out the investor class and big business interests. So trillions of dollars for that, but not even a billion dollars for much-needed ventilators. It’s insane.

MP: Kevin, you just mentioned something that triggered a thought in my mind when you mention the investor class. There was this interesting article out of The Intercept recently where they reported that investment bankers were actually talking with device manufacturers, and with heads of hospital systems, and with heads of pharmaceutical companies, and telling them to find ways that they could increase their profit during this pandemic… viewing this pandemic as an opportunity to increase their profit. And we know that people think this way inside of that class, the capitalist class… because I think it was Goldman Sachs … not to long ago a report came out about them questioning whether curing disease was the best model inside of our healthcare system. And if curing disease would be something that would benefit the bottom line, or if just consistently treating disease and not curing it would be better. So I think that it speaks to the actual pathologic and I would say completely insane way of thinking of the capitalist class in our society.

MF: Yeah, it’s amazing. I remember being in medical school in the 1980s when they started talking about treating healthcare as a business and calling patients clients. And how doctors were supposed to learn business. And I remember just going, “That’s ridiculous. Why would I even want to study business? I just want to take care of my patients, you know, this is not a business.” And I never imagined at that time the extreme that this would go to… that having a conversation about whether curing people is good for our healthcare system. But one of the parts of that business model is that hospitals, like many of our retail outlets, only keep in stock, what they think they’re going to need immediately. And so now we’re seeing these various hospitals and various states pitted against each other as they’re going out into the market and trying to get this equipment… masks and things like that. And we’re saying the price gouging that’s going on with that. What are your thoughts on that?

MP: I mean, I think it is an insane way of organizing things, and while capitalists want to continually tout the market as stimulating innovation and creating the best outcome for everyone, and that competition will somehow make commodities cheaper… I think what I’m talking about when I say that the virus is exposing all of the contradictions and the pathological nature of the economic system. We’re seeing that the exact opposite happens, where you have a mask that can typically be bought at 98 cents, which I’m sure that actually can be bought cheaper than that but somebody needs to flip a profit from producing the masks… that are now being sold for seven, eight dollars, and while America’s darling Governor Cuomo will sit on stage during his daily address and talk about how there’s a problem with that, and how he needs to buy masks for seven or eight dollars… He leaves out the part where the whole reason why that’s happening is because of how we decided to organize our economic system and our healthcare system inside of that economic system… because our healthcare system is not based on actually the health of the individual patient, and the general public is not the prime concern of our healthcare system. It might be the prime concern of the healthcare workers, many of the healthcare workers inside of the healthcare system, but the healthcare system itself and the executives and the people that run it… their prime concern is extracting profit from sick bodies. Their secondary concern is making sure that I think as a public relations mechanism, that people are being cared for because they don’t want too many bad stories to get out when they’re trying to extract that profit. But that’s the system that we’ve developed. You mentioned when you were in training… It’s interesting because when I started my residency training, even starting at an FQHC in New York, which I think has its benefits and does good work on some level… one of the first days we had one of the executives from the FQHC come and speak with us and she said, “Healthcare is a business and that’s just the way it is.” And I was just like, “Am I in like the Twilight Zone right now?” that you just had the nerve to actually say that and you tell yourself as the head of this institution that is supposed to care about justice and these types of things… and you had the nerve to actually admit those sounds from your mouth. It was just stunning to me, but that’s the way that our system has worked. And that’s the way that I think that from even the beginning of training people need to be conditioned to think… so that they accept these dynamics once they start to work inside of this system.

KZ: The realities of our for-profit system or scary. Can you describe… how does coronavirus kill somebody? And what is the situation? We read a lot about the morgues in New York being filled up, and air-conditioned trucks outside of hospitals and other places. What’s the situation? How do people die and what’s the situation with morgues?

MP: Yeah. So in terms of the kind of biological mechanism of the virus… and I will say in advance I am no infectious disease specialist, but I’ve been looking more and more into how the virus actually affects the body since I’m treating patients who are affected by the virus. And basically what we know right now is that the virus is called the coronavirus or you look at the abbreviated term is COVID-19 that people might see …that stands for the disease of the virus. The virus falls under this category of viruses called coronavirus, and it’s basically because of the structure of the virus. The corona-like structure on the outside of the virus typically attaches to receptors that are found in the body called ACE II receptors. And that allows the virus to kind of go into the body and cause the infection. What we’re seeing a lot of times with patients is a multifocal pneumonia. So instead of in a typical bacterial pneumonia, where you’ll see one part of the lung that’s affected, with coronavirus you often see a number of different areas of the lung affected, to the point that at my hospital they’re actually doing a study with CT scans where they looked at tens of thousands of CT scans from China and they found that there’s this characteristic picture of the coronavirus on the X-ray, where they’ll have this multifocal pneumonia. And oftentimes what happens then is your body trying to fight against the virus causes fibrosis of the lungs, where the lung kind of scars a little bit in certain areas to try to protect the rest of the body from the virus. So as the lung is scarring in multiple areas of the lung, that obviously affects people’s breathing, and people who have asthma or COPD, or any type of lung issue, or other types of chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease or those types of things, are at greater risk of complications from the virus because of how it affects the lungs. But then the other thing that we see is as the lungs start to fibrose, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the lungs for it to be oxygenated. So oftentimes what we’re seeing is people who are actually dying from cardiac arrest because of the amount of work that the heart has to do to pump blood to these lungs that are harmed by the virus. So there was just a story… actually, I think it was in the media yesterday… of a 17 year old in Lancaster, California who had died. He actually went to an urgent care center after having been sick for a few days. He went there and they actually turned him away because he didn’t have health insurance, which speaks to the disgusting nature of our healthcare system. So they told him to go to the local emergency room. On his way to the local emergency room, he went into cardiac arrest. And he was able to be revived at the local hospital, but then he died a few hours later. And that cardiac arrest is something that we’re often seeing with the coronavirus patients. The other thing that I would say that is really dangerous about coronavirus is, we often tell our patients, “look out for fever or shortness of breath, and if you’re having shortness of breath, definitely go right into the hospital.” But there are these other atypical or not normal ways of the virus actually presenting. So on my medical service in the hospital, we will see patients who come in with very very bad abdominal pain, to the point that we think, “Wow. Did they have some type of bowel perforation or something like that. They might have to go for surgery.” We will get a CT scan of their abdomen. It’ll look generally okay. But when we get a CT scan of their chest, or we do a swab for the coronavirus, they are coronavirus positive. So there can be these weird ways of presenting that we’re seeing more and more with the virus, where people can have bad abdominal pain or nausea or vomiting. And that’s dangerous because sometimes they’ll think maybe they just ate something bad, or maybe they just have a stomach bug. But sometimes that can actually be the coronavirus, and eventually that coronavirus can affect the lungs and then go to everything that I just spoke about. But people present to care later sometimes because of the different ways that the virus can present.

MF: Yeah. Wow, and you know, we’re still learning… we’ve only had this virus with us for a few months. So there’s still more learn about it. So, New York City is anticipating that they’re not even at the peak yet of cases, and that peak is still possibly a few weeks away. How are health professionals in New York dealing with that reality, and what can people be doing to support them?

MP: Yeah. So I think that there’s a number of things that health professionals in New York. I think just on localized or more individual level, people are even reaching out to their colleagues who have been part of the healthcare system and may not be any longer, and asking them to kind of come back to the healthcare system, because we’re going to need more health care workers. And New York saw something like 40,000 people volunteer to come back and work in the healthcare system, which is good. I think one of the risks of that is especially if we have retired workers who are coming back into the workforce, they might be at more risk of exposure to the virus. And then complications of the virus. So we’re seeing in Italy there’s a lot of healthcare providers that are coming down with illness and dying from the coronavirus, and I think that it’s important to note that that’s something we’re seeing more and more. As you mentioned Margaret, the research is kind of at its beginning stages on the virus, but what we’re starting to see in anecdotal reports from China and Italy and other parts of the world is the viral burden actually has a large effect on the overall outcome. So healthcare workers, for example who are being constantly exposed to the virus might get a greater viral burden and then have worse outcomes themselves if they actually contract the virus. So what we’re trying to do is at least on our service specifically is try to cycle providers. So we’ll have residents who are working a week on the inpatient service and then take a week off to try to decrease their exposure. And I think that when it comes to decreasing exposure, one of the things that could best help healthcare workers in New York City and in the rest of the country that is going to be hit with this… is actually having adequate personal protective equipment. So we really need to ramp up the production of personal protective equipment in the United States. And I think that Donald Trump hasn’t pushed that really. He just finally pushed GM to start producing ventilators, but there’s been this idea that “oh, well, eventually private companies are just going to do this out of the good nature of their heart.” And I think that we really need to push for a ramping up of production of personal protective equipment in the United States to help protect healthcare workers because we can bring more and more healthcare workers into the system, but if they aren’t adequately protected and not only are they going to be affected negatively by coronavirus, but they’re actually going to spread it to other patients in the hospital. We’re going to start seeing hospitals as a main location where people actually contract the coronavirus and then experience the ill effects of it as opposed to going into the hospital to be treated for either the coronavirus or some other illness and hopefully leaving healthier than they came in. So I would say that one of the things that the general public could do is, they can actually push for industries throughout the United States, especially non-essential industries and the manufacturing industry, to switch production over to personalized protective equipment, vents and those types of things. I think that that would be something very important for working people in general in the United States to push. I am part of a group called Left Voice which is an international network of revolutionary online publications. And one of the things that we published on our website was a kind of a ten-point program of things that we think the working class needs to push for in the United States to help healthcare workers and actually combat this virus.

KZ: I just want to quickly return that question about mortgages, because people around the country are seeing these reports of New York buying refrigerated trucks because morgues are getting full and people online are denying it saying that they think this is a hoax and not really happening. What’s the relation with…

MP: So I mean that is actually happening in New York. There’s getting to a point that morgues are actually being just overcrowded. I will say that I’m going into work at my hospital tonight, so I can look to see if that truck has arrived at our hospital. All I know is that at other hospitals in New York City, on the west side and in Queens, I’ve heard that they actually are having to have refrigerated trucks there because it’s just getting to the point that the morgues can’t handle the people that are dying from the coronavirus. And I think that, honestly, once testing is… We say people that are dying from coronavirus, right? But if testing is starting to expand in hospitals, and I think it is now much more expanded in hospitals, but I think that once we expand testing even more, both in hospitals and in the general population, we are going to have an exponential increase in the number of deaths that are actually attributed to coronavirus, because we can only say, “hey that was complicated by coronavirus” with a positive test, and then speculate on other people who may have died. But as more and more people become positive with testing, I think we’re going to see more and more deaths directly attributed to that. And it’s going to be that I think eventually all hospitals in the New York City area are going to unfortunately have a refrigerated truck or two like this because of the number of people who are going to die from the virus.

MF: So in the last minutes of our show, you and I and Kevin have all advocated for a long time for a socialized healthcare system. Do you think that more health professionals are going to get on board with that? And what do you hope comes out of this crisis in terms of our healthcare system?

MP: I think that if I had to kind of try to identify one positive… if there is any positive outcome of this pandemic, I think it is that the pandemic is finally exposing capitalism for what it is, which is in my analysis a parasitic system run by a parasitic class that frankly does not give a shit about the planet or the general public. And I think that our healthcare system operating inside of this economic system is also a completely parasitic, dysfunctional system that will never ever give us the type of care that we need. So I think that as more and more healthcare workers and the general public see the healthcare system exposed for what it is, their eyes will be open to the fact that we need a nationalized, universal healthcare system in the United States, where healthcare is actually a right. I will say just anecdotally from personal experience working as a resident physician who’s kind of like in training… I see both my co-residents being more and more… all my co-residents, both here in New York and then also friends in New Orleans and other areas of the country… being more and more just appalled by the way that this healthcare system is functioning. There are residents in New York that are currently on the west side that are working in the pandemic and their hospital won’t even give them a contract that they’ve been negotiating for. There are residents that are in New Orleans… that they have to ask their hospital for personal protective equipment and their hospital often tells them to buy their own personal protective equipment. And I think that when residents, medical students, attending physicians, nurses, healthcare workers overall, start to see how this healthcare system is functioning and how it cares predominantly about the bottom line, and about increasing profits at its core… they’re going to be more and more pushed towards supporting a new system, which I think is, a new healthcare system and a new economic system, which I think are both positives.

KZ: And that’s why we called our campaign health over profit for everyone because it’s that profit-based system that’s the root cause of the dysfunction. We’ve got to get the profut out. So at Popular Resistance, our campaign is HealthOverProfit. org. We already have two-thirds support, you know, in the public for an Improved Medicare for all. This is just going to increase the support, and it’s gonna become the common view. It’s unfortunate we’re going to have two presidential candidates from the two corporate parties, Biden and Trump, who don’t support the kind of transformation we need so we have to keep struggling as a movement and build that.

MP: Yeah. I mean I completely agree and that’s why I admire the work that you both are doing so much. And I really encourage everybody to check out the health over profit campaign because I think this is the type of thing that we need to be pushing towards, and we need to, while we see so many things in the public sphere changing right now that obviously are not beneficial to the extractive system that is capitalism. And I think that we need to mobilize the public to actually make sure that after we come out of this pandemic, that things do not return to normal because normal is what led us into this situation. We need to move far beyond that.

MF: Yeah, we agree. So Michael, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today and for the work that you’re doing. It’s amazing that in this time when you’re working so hard, you’re also finding time to write and speak out. So we encourage people to follow your articles at Left Voice.

KZ: And we also publish him on Popular Resistance.

MF: We hope that you stay well during this time, and that you feel supported and are able to get through it. It’s a challenging time and you’re right there on the front lines.

MP: Thanks guys.

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United Nations Expert: “The United States Is Committing Crimes Against Humanity”

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Clearing the FOG. -

It was recently confirmed that the former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, won the last presidential election in October. He was forced to resign in a US-assisted coup that has brought a violent and fascist government into power. We speak with Alfred de Zayas, a legal expert on civil and political rights and an independent expert to the United Nations, about the legal implications of the coup and interference by the United States in other countries besides Bolivia. Mr. de Zayas describes the US government’s history of flouting international law and why the international legal system is unable to enforce those laws. He also discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and what the world needs in this time of crisis.

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Alfred-Maurice de Zayas studied history and law at Harvard, where he obtained his J.D. He practiced corporate law with the New York law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett and is a retired member of the New York and Florida Bar. He obtained a doctorate in history for the University of Göttingen in Germany.

Mr. de Zayas has been visiting professor of law at numerous universities including the University of British Columbia in Canada, the Graduate Institute of the University of Geneva, the DePaul University Law School (Chicago), the Human Rights Institute at the Irish National University (Galway)and the University of Trier (Germany). At present he teaches international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy.

In 2009 de Zayas was a member of the UN workshop that drafted a report on the human right to peace, which was subsequently discussed and further elaborated by the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council. He is also a signatory of the Declaración de Bilbao and Declaración de Santiago de Compostela on the Human Right to Peace. He served as a consultant to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of mercenaries. De Zayas is an expert for civil and political rights and has published nine books on a variety of legal and historical issues, including “United Nations Human Rights Committee Case Law” (together with Jakob th. Möller, N.P. Engel 2009), and has been co-author and co-editor of numerous other books, including “International Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms” (together with Gudmundur Alfredsson and Bertrand Ramcharan). His scholarly articles in the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights and Macmillan Encyclopedia of Genocide, encompass the prohibition of aggression, universal jurisdiction, the right to the homeland, mass population transfers, minority rights, refugee law, repatriation, legal aspects of the Spanish Civil War, indefinite detention, Guantanamo and the right to peace. He is fluent in six languages and has published a book of Rilke translations with commentary (“Larenopfer”, Red Hen Press 2008) and is completing the translation of Hermann Hesse’s “Das Lied des Lebens”.

From 2002-2006 he was Secretary-General, from 2006-2010 President of PEN International, Centre Suisse romand. He was member of several advisory boards, including of the International Society of Human Rights (Frankfurt a.M.), Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen (Berlin), the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (Canada) and of the conseil scientifique of the Académie International de droit constitutionnel (Tunis).

He has received several awards, most recently the “Educators Award 2011” of Canadians for Genocide Education.


Margaret Flowers (MF): So this week we interviewed the United Nations independent expert on. And political rights Alfred de Zayas.
Kevin Zeese (KZ): I’ve admired him for a long time. He’s really taken strong position on lots of issues and especially on the issues of
MF: sanctions. Mr. de Zayas was born in Cuba, but he is a citizen of the United States and he went to law school at Harvard. He was a senior lawyer for the United Nations and now he lives in Geneva and he’s visited all kinds of countries and done reports. So he really gives us an interesting perspective on the lawlessness of the United States and how it acts with impunity.
Before we get to that interview, let’s talk about some things that are in the news. This week at Popular Resistance, our newsletter focused on the 2020s as a decade of opportunity because of all the crises were facing, although nobody expected the crises to really peak the way they are so quickly.
KZ: We were predicting the 2020s as a decade of opportunity before the coronavirus and the current economic collapse because there are so many other crisis situations that are peaking. Climate change, homelessness, poverty healthcare, debt. All these issues are just incredible. And movements are growing with each of them. And so we looked at that this week, around the coronavirus and healthcare.
MF: So what we’re working on right now is kind of a series of articles about the opportunities that come out of these crises that we face. And this week we focused on healthcare and both kind of a short-term and a long-term vision. So, you know in the short term we delineate some immediate steps that should be taken in the United States to try to get the virus under control.Also to provide jobs to people who are now losing their jobs from the service sector. But we could be employing so many people right now to work on the coronavirus crisis, people to be on the phones on hotlines to answer questions and get people to resources that they need. People to be trained to be conducting screening for the virus or testing or following up on cases. In Wuhan China alone they had 1,800 teams of infectious disease investigators. Each team had about five people and they were tasked with finding out who had the virus, tracing their contacts, reaching out to them, making sure people are isolated. I mean that’s a huge number of people and then think about how many people could be employed in disinfecting public areas, transportation and things like that. There’s a lot that could come out of this crisis in the Short term and then in long term. Of course, there are structural changes we need to make, like a healthcare system in the United States. So that this type of situation doesn’t happen again.
KZ: Well, the coronavirus is really showing the US was not prepared. Even though it knew this kind of epidemic or Global pandemic was possible. We can’t do the kind of things you described they were happening in China, because we don’t have the personnel. We don’t have the people. We don’t have the ability to train the personnel, even though there are many people who would do the jobs and who could use the income. At work we’re doing nothing to prepare for that or put that kind of program place. But really the the virus has shown how our system does not really work to protect Public Health. Countries that have single-payer systems, which would be like an improved Medicare for all United States, are better prepared to handle this kind of crisis. In fact, the only part of our health system… and really the United States is divided into several health systems. That’s one of the problems. Being very divided. It’s very fragmented. You have the insurance-based part. You have the Medicaid part for poor people. You have the Medicare Part 4. Elderly and chronically ill. And then you have the Veterans Administration for veterans really? It’s only the VA that’s prepared to respond to this kind of a crisis and that’s because it is the socialized system. It’s not just a Single Payer system. It goes further than that, its government run hospitals and government paid doctors and other health professionals. They’re the ones who are most capable of responding to this kind of an epidemic.
MF: That’s right. They already have Telehealth in place so they can continue to be in touch with their patients without requiring them to come into the Medical Centers. They have a Communication Network, they are coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. They’re running these emergency coordination centers around the country. They’re making sure that supplies are getting to their hospitals in the areas that are hardest hit they’ve set up a website with information. They’ve set up nurses who are going out and screening members of the military who are returning to the country. So they’re able to because they are a public entity and their mission is health. They’re able to be really agile. And shift resources and people where they need to go and that’s the same thing that you saw in China. They mobilized 40,000 health professionals to come into areas that were hardest hit and so I think one of the long-term things that I hope comes out of this, because I think the awareness is really growing, is that the United States finally needs to create a universal publicly financed healthcare system a national healthcare system, whether it’s a national improve Medicare for all, which would be like a national health insurance, or whether here’s a National Health Service like expanding the VA system to everyone. Either of those would be more effective, more efficient and protect our health better than what we have right now.
KZ: And it’s interesting the VA can do that because of the reasons you described. And it’s so underfunded. I mean the VA struggles because the Republicans and Democrats have both not funded it adequately, but it’s still capable of doing that kind of activity. The other thing that I think the virus is showing us is the pharmaceutical problem. The pharmaceutical industry. Is looking for profits. They’re one of the highest profit making sectors of our economy. But they charge outrageous prices for medicines often on no basis other than making profit. They can get away with it. And then you have the Secretary of Health saying that he can’t guarantee everybody have access to the vaccine when it’s developed. Even though the United States is going to spend a billion dollars lot create that vaccine. That shows a real sickness in our healthcare system. Of course he comes from the Pharmaceutical industry so he thinks like a pharmaceutical executive, and he’s thinking about how to make profit for his former industry, that they have to make profit or they won’t produce what we need. The fundamental flaws in our healthcare system. Those are being exposed more clearly during this virus and I think we not only have to act from the short term but we really have to act in the long run. It’s really a shame that Sanders is kind of out of the running now because it has to be perfect time for him to be making the case for Medicare for all. Of course, Joe Biden’s not going to do that. Donald Trump’s not to do that. So it’s not really a spokesperson in either. Who’s out there doing it? So it’s up to the movement to take advantage of this opportunity and really make the case for national improved Medicare for all, or a National Health Service.
MF: Right. And I wanted to comment on one thing you said because you mentioned how the Veterans Health Administration is struggling because it’s being underfunded and I think that’s a fear that people have is that if we move to a national publicly financed system that maybe it wouldn’t be funded. But this is where a universal system is so critical because what we find is in countries where they have a universal system, every person from the poorest person to the wealthiest person is in that same system. It creates this social solidarity where everybody relies on that system and they want to protect it. And so there’s a very powerful force there that prevents governments from underfunding it and we see this in countries that have these systems are very popular. e
KZ: The VA is underfunded for two reasons. One, never-ending wars since 9/11 resulted in a lot more veterans needing health services and funding has not kept up, and secondly, really the two parties want to get rid of the VA. They want it privatized. They want to become another profit sector for the industry and not be a public service. And so probably the very open about that. The Democrats are less open about it, but both parties underfunded so underperforms and things I look it doesn’t work. Well you don’t give it money. So it’s starved. That’s why you get rid of it. That’s the strategy. So if it was universal and everyone was in it, and that’s really the slogan. Everybody in. Nobody out. If everybody’s in it, we would all advocate for it, not trying to get rid of it. We would probably be trying to enhance it.
MF: And that’s what other countries do as well. They try to improve their system all the time. The covid-19 and economic crises are bringing out actually some positive changes. Over 500, almost 600 groups came out calling for a moratorium on water shut offs and electricity shut off. About half of states have implemented that and a number of large cities have implemented that ,but saying that not only do we need to stop shutting them down. We need to move even beyond that to developing more distributed solar energy. So buildings around the country, people on houses on schools are creating solar renewable energy as well as moving to a system of water making. It’s an income-based payment rather than a flat payment that really hurts people at the lower end of the income Spectrum
KZ: Water is a problem throughout the country right now. It’s again another flaw being highlighted by the current crisis. Water shut offs in many cities because of the price of water and some places privatized. And people without water can’t do the basics that are needed to prevent the virus like washing their hands. And so turning people’s water back on, stopping any more shut offs is an essential step now, but really need a whole different water policy.
MF: So the Federal Reserve in St. Louis put out a statement that they’re expecting as much as a 30% unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2020. They’re also saying that we may have as much as a 25 to 50 percent decrease in our gross domestic product or GDP in the United States. Those are depression levels.
KZ: Those are higher than depression levels. The Depression had a 24.9 peak as far as unemployment goes and so if you’re talking about 30%, you’re already above depression levels. And as far as the shrinkage of the GDP, again a 25 percent shrinkage is equal to the Great Depression. We don’t have 50 percent you are talking a major. Just unfathomable numbers, and the real issue with this is how long will it last. Because that’s really one of the key distinctions between a depression or recession is length of time the Great Depression lasted multiple years. If this virus goes on for six months or a year, a year and a half until a vaccine is developed and we have a shutdown of our economy or shrinkage of our economic activity… that could lead to a multi-year depression and people are talking about that now. It’s not just me as a commentator. This is Bank of America saying it. This is a real threat. And so it’s so important. Remember, I think when we talk about this threat that we were heading as a nation to a recession. Anyway, there were very serious flaws in our economy before the coronavirus, before the oil war going on, that’s dropping all prices that we had a very high consumer debt. That was unsustainable.We had very high corporate debt that could lead to a credit crisis and corporations were going bankrupt. We had our fracking industry already having multiple bankruptcies for the last couple of years, multiple bankruptcies each year. We had the climate crisis bearing down on the fossil fuel industry. There are many flaws in our economy. And of course massive government debt as well massive wealth divide. These were all leading to an economic crisis. What you have to look at the coronavirus and the oil war as triggers. They aren’t the real cause. There are fundamental flaws in our economy and we can’t let the virus and the oil work cloud our vision. So we don’t we forget about the fundamental flaws that need to be fixed.
MF: That’s right. And we know right now Congress is struggling to come up with a second stimulus package because so many small and medium-sized businesses are at risk. Large Industries are complaining that they need to get bailed out again, and it’s interesting that one we’re hearing politicians talk about policies that people have been wanting for a long time. Like a universal basic income where people would get a monthly check so that nobody would be in poverty anymore.
KZ: That’s come from Mitt Romney of all people. Lindsey Graham of all people, saying we needed to have money in the hands of people throughout the country.
MF: But that goes back to… I mean Milton Friedman talked about helicopter money and you know dropping money from Hawk helicopters as an economic stimulus because people who don’t have money… when they get it they spend it right into the economy, because they have needs that they haven’t met.
KZ: And that’s true. In the United States for a long time people have been living on the edge of economic insecurity and we’re seeing that particularly the workers who are now essential workers, who handle food, who handle deliveries, who do cleaning… tasks that we think of as menial tasks are now in this crisis labeled essential workers. But they’re not treated like essential workers. They’ve been impoverished and economically insecure. Their kids can’t afford to go to school. This is part of the fundamental flaws I was talking about earlier. This is being highlighted and so on, like Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham… pretty arch-conservative members of the Republican party calling for money to people to keep them afloat is a pretty interesting. And then of course all the corporations want socialism all of a sudden. They want the government to fund them. I think the key about all this is when we put these kind of programs in place, we hav to be talking about restructuring the economy. We can’t just be giving money to these big corporations. The absurdity of the Republican tax changes, allowing this number of stock buy-backs that artificially inflated and created a bubble in the stock market and gave great wealth to shareholders and executives whose pay is tied to the stock price… That can’t be allowed. We can’t allow this wide discrepancy between CEO salary and worker salary. There’s got to be some shrinkage in that. So there are some fundamental changes in our economy that need to occur. I can tell you what’s brewing now, and it’s been brewing for a while because we talked about 2020s as being a decade of change, but it’s really igniting now. Because of the various crises we are facing is economic populist revolt. This decade could be a decade of economic populist revolt that will make Bernie Sanders look like a conservative.
MF: Right. Well, it’s interesting because you know, there were corporate and bank bailouts back in the crisis in 2008 and Main Street didn’t get bailed out and people were hurt. They lost their homes. They lost their pensions their jobs. And so workers this time around are saying we’re not going to tolerate that and you know, for instance the airline industry has been hit really hard. United has now shut down most of their international flights. The airline companies are calling for a bailout and the airline unions are saying you don’t get bailed out unless we actually get bailed out, unless the workers are protected. They are calling for things like a cap on executive salaries, making sure that the workers are paid a fair wage and have benefits and the things that they need. So, you know, there’s been this kind of sense, the Occupy Movement, the workers movement has really taken off in the last few years. We’ve also seen wildcat strikes where they’re not sanctioned by the union. Record strikes. Workers are not even paying attention to when their unions tell them to stop striking. They don’t stop. And so I think that there has been this worker revolt growing and that’s what we need in this time to make sure that these industries just don’t get a free pass. If the government is investing in an industry. It needs to have an equity share of that industry and get a return from that investment that then can be used in the future for social programs that we need.
KZ: When taxpayer dollars are invested and taxpayers have a say in how those companies are, so they are run for the public interest. All these crashes are showing that we need to move toward much more of a collective approach to our economy, much more of a planned approach to the economy, actually much more of an eco-socialist approach. And the neoliberal, financialized capitalism has been a failure for most people. In the United States now, it’s being shown in these crises. And I don’t think we’re going to get what we want in the initial response to the crisis. But in this decade we have to fight for it, and I think people are going to see that. Hey, we could have done a guaranteed national income. So we did it for during the coronavirus. We could fund business make sure they’re successful, because we did during the economic collapse, right? So we could pay for health care.
MF: You know, suddenly the Covid-19 tests are free.
KZ: That’s right. And so people are seeing these are really not crazy ideas. These are actually possible to put in place and even Republicans will support them when the pressure hits hard. So it’s up to us to build that pressure.
MF: Another area that people are really pushing on is prison reform because of course prisoners are at a very high risk for Covid-19. They’re stuck in a facility where they really can’t isolate themselves. They’re in groups. There’s a big flux of people coming and going from the outside, and there are calls right now and some places are responding to release prisoners who are elderly, who have underlying health problems, who are in for nonviolent crimes or short sentences. There’s been already a reduction in the number of people who are being arrested for the level of crimes that prosecutors are prosecuting. They’re focusing more on violent crimes, which is kind of what we should have been doing all along. We shouldn’t be arresting people for these minor nonviolent crimes.
KZ: Like every other issue were talking about, prisons are a crisis now because of the virus. But in fact, they’ve been a crisis for decades. I’ve been working on prison reform and ending the drug war since the early 1980s and it has been a crisis for families, for Individuals, for the last 40 years. And so we finally began to face up to it. You already start to see movement, obviously medical marijuana is winning. We’re winning legal adult use for marijuana. We’re winning harm reduction as an alternative to incarceration. We’re seeing prosecutors say I’m not going to prosecute these low-level drug offenses anymore. I’m going to put our resources into violent crime. So we’re starting to see the beginning of a spiral downward trend. I’d say the prison population… for the first time, you know, the United States, with five percent of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners, we have more people in solitary confinement than most countries have as their total prison population. So this is a crisis of incarceration. And again, this current coronavirus issue is forcing people to face up to this prison crisis. And we have to recognize beyond the coronavirus. It’s not just the prison crisis. It really starts from policing, racist policing, violent policing. Unfair judges making racially unfair decisions… probation, parole, every step of the way. You see unfair decisions often that look racially unfair which makes it hard to say they’re not racist. We have a crisis in our criminal justice system. And the coronavirus is helping bring that out as well.
MF: There’s a one thing that we need to mention because it’s not being talked about in the news, but in Palestine the Israeli Defense Forces police killed ten thousand Palestinians since 2000. I don’t think that there’s much awareness in the United States of the number of Palestinians that are killed as well as injured. There are Israeli Defense Force soldiers who count how many Palestinians they’ve shot in their knees. There’s so many Palestinians that are missing parts of their legs. And so what we often hear about is there is Israel complaining about the Palestinians threatening or injuring them, but it’s generally always started by the Israelis and there’s disproportionately a huge factor that impacts the Palestinians.
KZ: It’s such a disproportionate level of violence coming from Israel toward the Palestinians, and Palestinians are basically nonviolent. Throwing a rock is about it…
MF: … when you’ve got snipers surrounding you. That’s not my opinion…
KZ: You mentioned shooting kneecaps of Palestinians. As long as they got a target, it’s sport for IDF soldiers.There’s a horrible article about that. One IDF Soldier said when he shoots a knee, he saves the shell and has them on his bookshelf so he can keep a count of how many knees. It’s just real sick behavior
MF: And of course this wouldn’t be happening without the political cover and financing from the United States. So we should be pushing our politicians to stop funding the Israeli State until this ends, until the apartheid and violence against Palestinians ends.
KZ: Well, that is the root of it. If the United States did not provide financial and political cover for Israel that behavior would not be happening. It’s obvious that the activities are going to continue… land theft and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. You’re not going to ever have a fair treatment. Palestinians and human rights are not being protected. The only way I can be protected is, as we’ve talked about and interviewed people on this show, One Democratic State, where there’s a constitution that gives every person of adult age the right to vote equally, protects the rights of all religions and non-religion so people are protected. Minority religions are protected. Deism would be a minority religion if the Palestinians were all counted as the part of the voting population. So it’s not even a democracy now. It’s a fake democracy that is designed really to be a Jewish State and we need to move to one Democratic State.
MF: And then finally, I want to mention that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this past week that they are imposing more sanctions on the country of Iran, targeting three more entities for the crime of trading oil, which is a major export of Iran that they rely on in order to get revenue to pay for the medications, food and other necessities. And United States’ unilateral coercive measures, which are illegal, and our interviewee, Mr. Alfred Zayas will explain that more, are really hampering Iran’s ability to deal with the covid-19 epidemic.
KZ: And the same is true for Venezuela, where the US continues to increase sanctions as well during this epidemic, while Cuba is sending doctors to Italy and China and Russia. And in other countries the US is escalating sanctions, which shows a real sickness in our foreign policy and that needs radical change.
MF: Well, let’s get to that interview. We will take a short musical break and then we’ll be right back. You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the Forces Of Greed, with Margaret flowers and Kevin Zeese.
Musical Break

KZ: So let’s start with the upcoming election in Bolivia. You’ve made some comments recently about the last election and what should be done to correct the situation. Give us your sense of what’s going on in Bolivia..
AZ: It’s a coup d’etat I mean, this is almost tradition in Latin America. You have right-wing coups against democratically elected governments. And here, as everybody knows, the United States was involved in bribing, influencing the military in Bolivia. And it’s quite clear after the investigations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its study, that the so-called OAS analytical report on the October election in Bolivia were deeply flawed, and that essentially Who Morales had won the polls substantially. And it’s scandalous how the OAS has been manipulated has been hijacked by the United States and has been used for strategic American economic and geopolitical interests. Now, it’s not the first time that the OAS has as a Secretary General who is a puppet of Washington. There have been exceptions. I mean, you may remember at the time of the coup in Honduras, the coup against Jose Manuel Zelaya, which was of course financed by the United States, etc. The then Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza strongly condemned the right wing coup. But of course in this case of Bolivia, the OAS got itself involved and is =responsible for this, and what is particularly shocking… I coined the turned to have “moral vertigo.” Maybe you remember Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo with Kim Novak. But in any event, it is breathtaking how the OAS has been corrupted, how the OAS is just a mere tool of US Foreign policy. And what is really disgusting… countries that ostensibly support the rule of law… countries that ostensibly support democracy… countries that give lip service to Human Rights and of course proper elections procedures, etc, etc… That they didn’t condemn the coup against Morales. That they played the game with the OAS. I mean there was this big Shadow over the legitimacy of Evo Morales, but there has been here a series of violations of the constitution and also of international law. And when there’s been a violation of international law, the rule is that you are supposed to make reparations. And reparations on the international law entails a return to the status quo, the presidency of Evo Morales, and that would be a reinstatement of Evo Morales. Now the violations of human rights since ever Morales’ departure, has been been lethal, and there has been very little of condemnation in the so-called mainstream media. The York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN… Even the BBC Etc. I think they’re all happy that ever Morales is gone. And why are they happy? Because they see the time the hour of the great gu thing is at hand. They see if the right-wing actually wins the elections in May, that then there’s going to be a privatization of everything and the multinationals will be able to march in. The American speculators and investors will march in. So everything that has been done by way of social legislation by Morales will be thrown out.
And one of the things that the press is not informing the people about, is that Evo Morales actually was enormously successful on the economic plain, meaning the GDP of Bolivia quadrupled and the standard of living of the population improved by a factor of three. Morales, like Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, like the Castro Brothers in Cuba, had different priorities. Their priorities were education, doing away with an alphaetism. Healthcare and making it possible to have a level playing field so that everybody has the same opportunity to play a role in a democratic Bolivia or a democratic Venezuela, or Cuba for that matter… that is ignored. The fact that Bolivia was the fastest growing economy in Latin America, that is ignored by the mainstream media because they don’t want people to know that. When the dogmatism Washington, of the Heritage Foundation, of the Brookings and those parallel Republican or Democratic think tanks… both of them are committed to corporate America. Both are committed to the dollar, the almighty dollar. So these so-called think tanks have tried to convince the world that socialism is a failed system. But again the kind of Market-based socialism that we know from Sweden, Norway, from Denmark, from the Netherlands, from China has not been a failure. Quite the contrary. It has been a success and that is the problem. The problem is that that constitutes a model. That constitutes an alternative economic approach, and it that alternative economic approach can be successful and can be shown to be successful, then maybe other countries in Latin America would prefer that. Maybe even in the United States, a person like Bernie Sanders will have a greater chance of being elected, or Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom. But the mainstream media is committed to denigrating any model that is not the capitalistic neoliberal model, And the way the story goes, socialism is a failed system and we will make sure that it stays that way. We will put as many monkey wrenches in the wheels of Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia, etc., so that they fail. And this is of course ideology, but not just ideology. It’s money. The elites, the 1%, want to retain their power. Once they have achieved dominance… You probably know the famous book by the South Korean economist, picking the ladder. That is exactly what’s happened. I mean the United States, the United Kingdom, those rich countries that have reached economic dominance… They don’t want any competition. It will take the ladder. and that is exactly what these ideologues intend to do. They don’t tell you in so many words. Actually Trump actually sometimes does tell you in so many words, I mean me he doesn’t try to hide it, doesn’t try to sugarcoat it like Obama would sugar-coated it, or Bill Clinton would sugar cod it. I mean Trump is a bit rough about it, same as John Bolton or as Mike pompeo.
MF: Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about Venezuela because that’s another country where the US has been interfering. It’s another country where their economic model, you know, poses a threat to the United States and other capitalist Nations because it’s showing another way of organizing a society. Can you talk about the US’s economic measures that have been imposed on Venezuela and the legality of them, the impacts of them on Venezuela?
AZ: Well, let me go back to 1970, and I’ve seen the original documents because there were declassified. In 1971 Salvador Allende get selected in Chile. Nixon calls in Kissinger and tells him we are not about to tolerate an alternative economic system in Latin America. We do not want a successful model of socialism in Latin America, and we will make the economy scream, meaning we will impose all sorts of direct or indirect sanctions that will be economic war against Chile. When that is not function, it became necessary to find a general Pinochet who would get rid of Salvador Allende, who would impose 17 years of dictatorship on the Chilean people. Now moving through 1998, 1999 when ChVWS was elected in Venezuela in a wave of disgust against the neoliberal governments and the enormous difference in wealth in the population of Venezuela. So he comes in with a program that is a program very much consistent with the idea of fair distribution of wealth among all Venezuelans. All have a right to the natural resources of the Venezuela. So Chavez starts making changes gradually. It’s not a revolution like it was in Cuba in 1958 ’59. You didn’t have this, how we say, rough —- for marijuana, which went through Cuba in 1959. Chavez was a bit more careful, a bit slower, until they forced his hand, until you had the coup d’état against him in April 2002. He was supposed to be killed, but he was so popular with the Army, like Evo Morales in Bolivia. Since Chavez himself was a military person, he had the loyalty of the military with him. And they saved him. They rescued him from Pedro Carmola, and so he came back and then since the elites did not succeed in getting rid of him, then the elites did this enormously wasteful strike of the petrol industry, which caused I don’t know how many billions and billions of dollars to the economy of Venezuela in 2003.
And so after that then there was a nationalization of the Petrol industry by Chavez. Now, when shall we say, the opportunities for American investors and transnationals became narrower, then obviously the idea was to topple this man, and that was done through an economic war that started not in 2015 with the sanctions of Obama, not in 2017 with the sanctions of trump. I mean the economic war has been going since 1999. It’s like what Nixon told Kissinger about Chile. We shall make the civilian economy scream. That’s what he said in 1970 about Chile. Well, essentially that is exactly what George W Bush was doing to Venezuela. The United States shall make the Venezuelan economy Scream. Of course, while the price of oil is very , Chavez could afford to do his thing. He could afford being a sovereign country. He could afford shaping the economy of his country, and you know, building houses, you know, 3 million units of houses for Venezuelan families, who otherwise would have lived in shantytowns, etc. etc.
So, I mean these were enormous achievements, but achievements that did not bring a profit to Washington, did not bring a profit to the American investor, or to the transnational corporations. So the moment came when Chavez passed away in 2013, that everybody thought we will get mr. Caprilas elected. So Caprilas, in a way, would have been America’s puppet, would have been America’s man in Venezuela. And he failed. He did not succeed in defeating Maduro. So what happened? You have these very very violent demonstrations against Maduro in 2013, 2014, 15 16, 17, etc. etc. And Obama in 2015 has Venezuela declared to be a threat to the United States. A national security threat to the United States. I mean for someone who was editor of the Harvard Law review, someone who was a lawyer and graduate of Harvard, it is absolutely baffling, flabbergasting that he would sign such a bill. Of course he’s not the one who initiates it. I mean his cabal did so, but by making that kind of a presidential order, or presidential decree, you open the door for imposition of sanctions. Now unilateral coercive of measures everybody knows are illegal. Now the fact that governments get away with it like the United States gets away with it, United Kingdom gets away with it, European Union gets away with it. That doesn’t mean that its legal. I mean legal are the sanctions that are imposed under chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter., after there has been a finding under article 39 of the charter that there is a threat to the peace or a breach of the peace, then the first step is not smack the country military, but try to impose some economic measures that will persuade the government that it’s in its own interest to play the game. And so the sanctions against South Africa were successful. The sanctions against Rodesia and Zimbabwe were legal. In fact, these were sanctions of the Security Council. But the sanctions of the United States are like collective punishment I mean the intent is to destabilize the economy of Cuba, of Venezuela, of whatever country that dares try another economic model that is not the neoliberal American economic model. The idea is that they will create such chaos in the country that the people will will rebel against their socialist leaders. But that didn’t happen in Cuba. I mean 60 years and three trillion dollars worth of economic damage done to Cuba did not cause an internal revolt in Cuba against the government. And not because the government is oppressing them, but because and I’m sure if you were to have an election—certainly you’ve had an election in the 1960s and 70s. 80s and Cuba—the Castro brothers would have been confirmed in their positions. So it’s not like they were undemocratic, that they were unpopular. They were actually quite popular and the people of Cuba did not blame the Castro Brothers for their lack of consumer goods, their lack of luxury goods, their lack of televisions and computers and other things. They blamed the sanctions. They blamed the financial blockade. Interestingly enough the United Nations have condemned the embargo against Cuba 27 times. There have been 27 resolutions adopted by the general assembly, notably in November 2016. That one was really Universal. You had 191 state holding with the resolution ordering the lifting of the sanctions against Cuba, and two countries abstaining, the United States and Israel. So that is as universal as you can get. And of course United States did not lift the sanctions against Cuba. Now with regard to Venezuela the Human Rights Council here in Geneva has condemned repeatedly the imposition of unilateral coercive measures. I mean, not saying unilateral course of measures against Iran or against Syria or against Venezuela… just generally, saying that unilateral measures are incompatible with the UN charter, incompatible with a charter of the OAS, incompatible with customary international law, with principles of freedom of trade and freedom of the seas etcetera, etc. It’s all in the preamble or paragraphs of the resolutions. And all of that of course is the law. You have law without enforcement.
KZ: That’s the key. You say everybody knows that these unilateral coercive measures are illegal and there have been reports of the UN saying these are illegal. Is there any way to hold the US accountable and stop these?
AZ: The United States in the past, say in the happy years of President Jimmy Carter… the United States had been a leader… As I say if you want to make America great again, all you have to do is to revive the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt. But the human rights movement, and these ideas of social justice and equity… they were pushed by people like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, by Eleanor Roosevelt, by Jimmy Carter. Etc. And while I was it senior lawyer with the United Nations. I had opportunity of being in Washington on several locations and being in the state department on several occasions. I can assure you that there’s a lot of people in the state department who think like I do, who are believers in international law, believers in the importance of having a rules-based international order. But then you have the the fanatics. You have what I would call the jackals, who just want to bully everybody else, who just want to make money, and to consider the United States as above international law, and not accountable to anybody.
Back in the years of Jimmy Carter. for instance, the United States had given the declaration under article 36 of the statute of the International Court of Justice, which accepted automatically ipso facto the jurisdiction of the international court of justice vis-a-vis the United States. But Jimmy Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, withdrew that declaration when the United States got smacked a couple of times because of the Iran-Contra violations, because of the US interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, and it’s financing of the the contras and of the counter-revolution against Daniel Ortega; Here we have the United States deliberately saying no, we will not be accountable. No, we will not allow ourselves to be put on the dock, so they pulled out of that one.
MF: Yeah, and so the unilateral course of measures have a terrible impact on the people of the countries that they’re targeting. And you know, the Iranians are really struggling right now with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impact of the coercive measures that are preventing them from getting the supplies that they need. They’ve been calling for other nations, particularly European nations, not to comply with the sanctions. Is there a legal basis for other countries to not comply with these illegal measures?
AZ: Well, obviously any country that is complicit in the imposition of unilateral coercive measures has violated international law, has committed what is termed an international wrongful act for which there is an obligation to make reparations. Make reparations for instance to the people of Syria. Sake reparation to the people of Iran. Sake preparation to the people of Venezuela and Cuba. But again international law is not self-executing, and many countries like the United States do not accept the jurisdiction of the international court of justice. Therefore there’s no organ that will oblige the Europeans, or obliged for the countries to observe international law. I mean, even when you have a clear position of the international court of justice as you had in the Nicaragua case, as you have in the cases of Germany against the United States, Mexico against the United States. These were several cases under the Vienna convention on consular relations, because the people who were executed in the United States were German citizens and were Mexican citizens. So even when the United States was condemned there was no enforcement, There wasn’t even an injunction. I mean the the court had issued what affirmed interim measures of protection, and ordered the United States not to execute the German brothers. And the United States happily went through and executed them.
So you have here a situation of illegality but total impunity. That is the difference. But you know, an illegality does not create new law. There is an old principle of Roman law which says X in Judea non oritur use. Out of a violation of law, you cannot derive any rights. So it’s not like the international law regime has changed. It’s just that International law regime never had an effective system of enforcement. Therefore if there is no good faith… If there is no good will on the part of the politicians, then you’re not going to have international law observed.
You mentioned Covid-19. Well, it’s quite clear that the United States because of its sanctions against Iran, bears responsibility for a good many of those who have perished, because not only the lack of access to medicines, but actually the healthcare infrastructure in Iran has been impacted negatively because of the sanctions already for many years. So you can say that sections kill. Sanctions kill very clearly. That has been established with regard to say to the embargo against Cuba, and every year Cuba presents a report to the general assembly in which it actually doesn’t an accounting. I mean these sanctions have had this economic impact. But it’s not only the economic impact because we have no access to replacement parts, to repair a scan machine, or to repair a dialysis machine, etc, of course many people have died. So it’s not indirect actually. Sanctions do kill and when the number of victims reaches a very high number… the study of Professor Jeffrey Sachs with regard to Venezuela, and this concerned only the year 2018, the estimate is that the consequence of the sanctions in Venezuela was the death of 40,000 people. You can do the accounting yourself. That was 2018. But how many have perished in the year 2019? And the situation was made worse than 2018. How many have perished in the course of 2020. Now beyond that come in the pandemic, come in the additional threat of Covid-19. It’s quite clear that because the healthcare system in Iran in, in Syria, in Venezuela, in Cuba have been negatively impacted by the sanctions and by the financial blockade, and by the inability, even if you have the money, the inability to actually access the medicines, to purchase the medicines, because of course, the country that was gonna sell you the medicine doesn’t want to suffer a penalty from the Department of the Treasury of the United States. So they just simply drop the client. Venezuela is a risky client so you drop them, but the consequence of dropping Venezuela is that people are going to die. When the number of deaths reaches forty thousand, a hundred thousand etc. What do you have? A clear case of a crime against humanity? It’s not just a simple crime. It’s not just a homicide. You have here a crime against humanity, with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of victims, to the international criminal court. The statute of the international criminal court is crystal clear, that they have jurisdiction over matters of the sort, of any governmental decision or activity that leads to mass dying in a particular country. So, can you bring the United States before the ICC? Actually no. The United? States withdrew its signature in 1998. That was at the time of Bill Clinton, that Bill Clinton had is representative sign the statute of Rome. But in 2002 Condoleezza Rice… actually the way it was reported in the press she “unsigned it.” Of course you cannot physically unsung something, but what you can do is to send a note to the secretary of the United Nations and say look we’re never going to ratify this, so count us out. I mean we are not longer bound by anything concerning the international criminal court,.
KZ: And so as a result of this, Alfred, the US Global gangsterism continues unchecked.
AZ: Very much so, unless people like you, unless people like Amy Goodman and democracy now, and the real news, and Jeffrey Sachs, and many many others who think like I do… If gradually there is a consciousness that we are really not the good guys. We’re actually the bad guys… That has to sink in. People have to realize that our government is committing crimes against humanity, and we actually do not benefit from it. Neither you nor I. And I’m an American citizen too. I mean, I don’t benefit from these activities of Mr. Trump. Only the super-rich, the great billionaires of the United States, the transnational corporations, military-industrial complex, etc. They are all laughing all the way down to the bank. They are making big profits as a result of these
KZ: That’s right. Well we are running out time. We really appreciate the way you’ve been raising consciousness on these issues for many years. I just wanted to thank you also when we were involved in protecting the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC, and on the day we were arrested by federal authorities, you had actually sent a letter urging the US government to respect our rights and uphold international law. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. And so we’re still facing federal prosecution, but we really appreciate you speaking up on our behalf.
AZ: Of course what you have here is also a breakdown of the rule of law in the United States, and I must say I am a graduate of the Harvard Law School. And when I was at Harvard, I thought that we lawyers had a certain social responsibility that we should not just be positivists, but we should try to advance an ethical view of law and to apply law to do justice As I say the so-called rule of law has to evolve into a rule of justice. We’re not just playing a mathematical game. We’re not applying lost blindly. We’re applying laws for a purpose, and certainly in a your case.
And now with regard to Covid-19, what I would like to see is that the American non-governmental organizations,that American Civil Society stand up and say to the government, stop this madness of arms race. Stop this madness of the lethal autonomous killing units, weapon systems etc. All this research that is going into war-making, we need the money in education. We need the money in healthcare. We need the money in prevention. We need the money in infrastructure. That has to be demanded by American citizens in the primary. For instance I am dismayed to see that Joe Biden is likely to be the Democratic candidate. So you have a farce of an election in which you have on the one side a corporate Democrat and on the other side you have a corporate Republican. And the question is what is the difference? The difference is one is going to be neoliberal with giving lip service to human rights, and the other guys going to be neoliberal but doesn’t bother to give lip service to human rights. So it’s not much of a choice. I think that democracy means the correlation between the needs of the population and the laws and the regulations of the government that corresponds to those needs. And that’s not what we’re having. So I’m afraid that the election in November will be as unsatisfactory as the election in November 2016.
KZ: And in 2012 and 2008. It’s been a long time problem.
MF: We certainly have an uphill battle here, but people are doing what they can to spread awareness of the reality of what the situation we face and what those alternatives could be. Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. Mr. de Zayas
AZ: Well. I have a blog, and your you might tell your listeners that I have a website,, and then I also have a blog which is DeZayasAlfred.wordpress,vand it would be good that people read it every now and then because I put up many of my formation notes and press releases, etc. In fact the six years that I was an independent expert for the United Nations, sometimes the United Nations actually censored my press releases. They thought that I was saying something that was too politically incorrect. So they just simply refused to issue it. What I did is say well this is the press release that I intended to issue in my function as independent expert. The office refused to issue it. So here it is. Boom. And I put it in my blog and that in itself gave it a lot more visibility and then it got picked up by the Press.
MF: We will definitely share those
AZ: You guys are super important. Information information information. That is what the people need.
KZ: That’s right. We appreciate it. Then why we appreciate your work so much too. Thank you.

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