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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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 https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_f5ntIQ8ORBC6u1cts7t7vQ.

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Guests:

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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Guest:

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 MutualAidDisasterRelief.org, ItsGoingDown.org and her website, ArtKillingApathy.com.

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Guest:

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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Guest:
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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Guests:

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 bit.ly/MayDayMeeting.

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Guest:

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.

TRANSCRIPT

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 bit.ly/MayDayMeeting.
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 popularresistance.org. 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 popularresistance.org 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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Guest:

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

TRANSCRIPT

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 popularresistance.org 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 shop.dumpling.us, 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.

Read More

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:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

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 kfoxhall@verizon.net.

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.

TRANSCRIPT

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 PopularResistance.org 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.

Listen here:

Review us on iTunes! Click here … Then click on “View in iTunes … Then click “Ratings and Reviews.”

Guest:

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

TRANSCRIPT

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 popularresistance.org. 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 popularresistance.org, 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.

Read More

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.

Listen here:

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Guest:

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.

TRANSCRIPT

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, www.alfreddezayas.com, 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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Twenty-First Century Neoliberalism Is Failing – Where Do We Go From Here?

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

Stock markets around the world have become very volatile over the past few weeks with record losses. We are in a global recession, which could become a depression in the United States. Panic over the coronavirus and falling oil prices triggered the crisis, but economists have predicted this for some time due to high levels of corporate debt and artificial propping up of Wall Street. It was just a question of when. We speak with economist Jack Rasmus, author of “The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump,” about the current state of the economy and what we can expect from here. Rasmus posits that twenty-first-century neoliberalism is doomed to be highly unstable with rapid crashes and long recovery times. The system is going to change, but the direction it takes depends on what people do to demand a system that puts people before profits.

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Guest:

Jack Rasmus Ph.D Political Economy, teaches economics at St. Mary’s College in California. He is the author and producer of the various nonfiction and fictional workers, including the books The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy From Reagan to Bush, Clarity Press, October 2019; Alexander Hamilton & The Origins of the Fed, Lexington books, March 2019; Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression, Clarity Press, August 2018; Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges, Clarity Press, Sept. 2016; Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy, Clarity Press, January 2016;  ‘Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few‘, Pluto Press, 2012, ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression‘, Pluto Press, 2010, and ‘The War at Home: The Corporate Offensive from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush‘, Kyklosproductions, 2006. He has written and produced several stage plays, including ‘Fire on Pier 32‘ and ‘1934‘. Jack is the host of the weekly radio show, Alternative Visions, on the Progressive Radio Network, and a journalist writing on economic, political and labor issues for various magazines, including  European Financial Review, World Financial Review, World Review of Political Economy, ‘Z‘ magazine, and others. Before his current roles as author, journalist and radio host, Jack was an economist and market analyst for several global companies for 18 years and, for more than a decade, a local union president, vice-president, contract negotiator, and organizer for several labor unions, including the UAW, CWA, SEIU, and HERE. Jack’s website is www.kyklosproductions.com where his published articles, radio-tv interviews, plays and book reviews are available for download. He blogs at jackrasmus.com, where weekly commentaries on US and global economic matters are available. His twitter handle is @drjackrasmus.

TRANSCRIPT

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing The FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing The FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on Apple, SoundCloud, Mixcloud Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at PopularResistance.org, and while you’re there check out the store where you’ll find Clearing The FOG gear like bumper stickers, t-shirts, tote bags and water bottles.
This week we interviewed Jack Rasmus, who’s a labor economist.
Kevin Zeeze (KZ): Yeah. Jack writes constantly on the economy. He’s predicted recessions accurately with a long record of that. It’s an earlier interview because we wanted to talk to him about this current recession, which was triggered by the coronavirus and the oil and gas war, but as you’ll hear it took us half the conversation before he even mentions those two things, and that’s because the fundamentals of the US economy are not sound.
MF: And so this week the stock market continues to be in huge trouble with sharp declines, requiring them to stop trading, you know, to halt it for 15 minutes using the circuit breaker to try to stem the panic.
KZ: It’s a tremendous drop and the FED is pouring money into the markets. It’s interesting that each time it’s done it’s led to a further decline because people are in panic. They don’t know what is going to happen next and they see the economy unraveling, and I think most of these people who are economic elites, you know, the investor class, realize that our economy is really a fake economy.
MF: And I think that people see that again who’s getting bailed out is the people at the top. Student debt has been a crushing problem in the United States for a while now. It’s up to 1.6 trillion dollars and is keeping people from being able to buy homes, by a vehicle, start of family… all the things that people would typically do to participate in the economy after college. And so people have been calling for that debt to be relieved knowing that It would be an economic stimulus from the bottom up. The government has not done that. But then what does the Fed do? They inject about the equivalent of all the student debt into the market last week and it still didn’t really solve the problem.
KZ: You give that 1.5 trillion to the students who are in debt, the whole generation. That would have any economic impact building the economy. And that’s really what we talked about in our newsletter this week at PopularResistance.org. We go into the economy and look at key aspects of it… consumer spending, ending corporate oil and gas, the shale oil and gas industry, the stock market, the financial markets. We look at all those and each one. Then what we point to is that we were heading to recession already because each one of those are artificially built up. Those are four major drivers of the economy, and they’re all flaws. When you hear political leaders say the fundamentals of the economy are sound, you gotta just shake your head and see these guys are lying to us. Or they’re ignorant. I think they’re lying to us and they know it, and that’s why the stock market is failing despite record amounts of money going into the financial markets. The FED is really spending incredible amounts of money despite that they know that their economy is flawed and was already fragile on multiple fronts.
MF: Right and the coronavirus is a big unknown right now. Of course, the United States failed to take the necessary steps early on to be able to contain the virus. If we had acted as China did and immediately started testing everybody, you know, screening people for fevers, testing anybody who had symptoms, isolating them, following their contacts, all the things that you do from a public health standpoint to try to contain infections… If we had done that we might be in a very different place, but it looks like the United States, where the number of cases is rising rapidly… I know last week when we did this show there were around 700. Now we’re well over 4,000 cases in the United States and those are just the ones that we know about. Testing is still a big problem. The Italians are warning us that we are just a few weeks behind where they are, and they’re in a situation now where their healthcare system, and they actually have a healthcare system in Italy, unlike the United States. We don’t have a real coherent system. . . . They’re having to make some very difficult decisions about how to best use their limited resources and not giving the resources to elderly people.
MF: They’re having to make that decision. And the United States doesn’t have enough hospital beds. We don’t have enough intensive care beds to handle things if this coronavirus peaks out the way that people are predicting that we may. You know… have forty to seventy percent of the US population infected, and that could be up to two million people dying from coronavirus in the United States.
KZ: And this could last more than a year. Can you imagine that? More than a year of convincing people… being told to stay home and not go to restaurants not go to movies, not go to sports events. But I’ll tell you one of the most interesting articles I read was an article in the Boston Globe by someone from Italy what he said what not to do. He told people about the horrible choices that the healthcare system is having to make, life and death decisions. Don’t do what we did, he said. And what was that? We went out. He says stay home. Take this virus seriously, because otherwise you will be like us. I think that’s really important to mention on the air because if there’s any independent or investigative journalists listening. This is the question. Why did the US decide not to take the World Health Organization testing system, the WHO testing system that was available? It’s been used in China and Italy. The US chose not to take it. Who made that decision, and why was that the decision? Was this a decision to help a corporation profit?
MF: Well, that’s what it sounds like. People are accusing it’s coming from the White House because Jared kushner’s brother, Joshua Kushner, is now making and selling the coronavirus test kits. So that’s a possibility about why that decision was made. It was definitely a criminal decision, just like President Trump trying to buy out scientists. My God. They are creating a coronavirus vaccine and [the Trump administration] is trying to buy them out… to come to United States, and Germany took action to try to prevent that from happening. Why? Because other countries know that if the United States gets its hands on something like that, they won’t share it, unlike countries like China [who have] actually been sharing the Information, sharing resources, sending resources.
KZ: You can’t say good things about China in this country. It’s not allowed. Look at look how Bernie Sanders is being attaches for saying anything positive about China or Cuba or Nicaragua, even though all these, everything he said is true. You can’t [say anything positive about] authoritarian China. I mean, it’s such nonsense in this country.
MF: Well, let’s not perpetuate those myths. I know it’s a different kind of governing system and it’s working pretty well. It actually is working very well for them compared to the United States.
A couple of things I wanted to mention. Kids are being sent home from school. Schools are going online. This is exacerbating or exposing another problem that we have in the United States where many students don’t have access to the internet at home because they can’t afford it in our monopoly internet society
KZ: It also exposes the reality that a lot of children and youth need to go to school to get fed, right? I mean, so the lack of food is going to be a problem of these schools closing.
MF: I know that places are setting up food centers where students can go to get food during this time. Also in Los Angeles a group of homeless mothers took it upon themselves with activists to take over an abandoned house that is owned by the state. They’re saying that in this time of crisis, the state has hundreds of houses in the Los Angeles area that they should be handing over to homeless families. So they have a place to be inside and to quarantine themselves.
KZ: And that’s a reality across the country. So I hope that those Los Angeles mothers become a symbol for other people to take action to protect families and their communities because there are more vacant houses in many cities than there are homeless people. It’s one of the absurdities of capitalism because those houses stay vacant, because developers aren’t ready to develop them yet to make a profit.
MF: Right and another piece of interesting news related to the coronavirus. fFederal district judge Barrel Howell…
KZ: … who’s our judge and our federal prosecution and in the Venezuelan Embassy case.
MF: That’s right. She ruled to put an injunction on a decision to withhold food stamps to more than 700,000 people. This was a requirement that was supposed to take effect on April 1st, that adults without children would need to prove that they’re working 20 hours a week or more in order to get their food stamps. In considering that we’re in a recession and we don’t know how long this is going to last or how bad this is going to be, Judge Howell ruled that that decision was likely not a legal decision, and she put an injunction on it, but there is still a case going forward to try to get those cuts to food stamps. And so it is not a done thing yet.
KZ: She’s a lower level, district court judge, which is the first tier trial judge. And then of course the DC court of appeals is more conservative, and she’s one of the less conservative judges on that DC Court, even though we’ve had some challenges with her in our case. And then the court of appeals and the Supreme Court are even more conservative, as it goes up the chain of courts. It could be more and more difficult for that to be stopped. So we did, this week, this analysis of the economic situation and the coming recession next week. We plan to talk about solutions because what this coronavirus and recession are showing, are highlighting, are the flaws in our economy and how they only serve the wealthy and not the rest of us. And so we’re going to be putting forward a column next week on solutions, of people who have ideas on that.
We have our own ideas in fact. We start to draft it this week, but made the article too long. So we decided make two articles out of it. We have our own ideas on that, but we’d love to hear from other people. So if you have ideas on that, contact us at info@popularresistance.org and let us know. Because we’re happy to hear other people’s thoughts and views. There’s lots of great ideas out there. So that’s what we’re working on this week.
MF: When it comes to the economy it’s the solutions, and this past weekend was a weekend when people around the country, are trying to raise awareness of sanctions and the impact of US imposed sanctions on over 30 countries around the world. A third of the world’s population has been directly impacted by what are referred to as sanctions, but technically they’re unilateral coercive economic measures, which violate the United Nations Charter and another conventions. And so the coronavirus pandemic has really again exposed how damaging these sanctions are. In Iran, whose economy has been really crippled by the sanctions, they’re having very high death rates. They don’t have the resources even though, you know, leaders always say, “oh but the sanctions don’t include food and medicine.” But in reality they do, because the banks refuse to do the transactions with the countries so they can purchase food and medicine because the don’t want to be targeted if they violate the economic sanctions.
KZ: Well, these sanctions are already illegal, and in my view criminal. You’re killing tens of thousands of people just in Venezuela alone. The center for economic and policy research found that forty thousand people’s lives were shortened by the US economic war and that was just over a two-year period. We saw the same thing in the Iraq build-up to the war in Iraq. We instituted very aggressive sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of children. And Madeline Albright famous saying that it was good idea, that it was worth it. Idiotic criminal comments… are sanctions on Cuba, are sanctions on Iran. And now that you have this global recession—that’s what we’re in a global recession—it may not be up in the data yet. I’ll take a couple months to catch up. But we’re in a global recession and it makes these sanctions even more criminal. I hope that the US will revisit that in the light of the recession, reconsider that. I hope they don’t see this as an opportunity for maximum pressure. I saw an article about US officials saying if enough of Iranian leaders have died from the virus that they could have more assistance in changing the government. I mean that’s kind of sick thinking by our foreign policy pursuers. I was part of the panel via small computer this week in Wisconsin and it was on this sanctions issue, because it’s part of the sanctions weekend of actions, many of which were canceled because of the virus. But on the panel with me was a Cuba expert, an Iraq expert, and we all talked about how sanctions are illegal and how they’re resulting in death and destruction of people in these countries. They are not effectively changing the government as the US hopes. That almost never works, but they end up doing actually the opposite. They end up rallying people around the leader because they see that the leader, the government, is trying to combat the sanctions. In Venezuela president Maduro has done incredible work providing housing ,social housing units, to more than three million, and providing basic food and Essentials for kitchens. The housing program covers 12 million out of 30 million Venezuelans. The food program gives 24 million out of 30 million Venezuelans. And so when these programs are happening, the government is responding the sanctions. This happens in each country that the US targets .It actually strengthens the government, even though it causes great hardship for the people.
MF: Well, in Iran it is actually driving anti-US sentiment and uplifting the the right-wing hardliners in Iran.
KZ: He’s gotten more conservative because of Trump policies
MF: … and I think another thing that the coronavirus exposes is the lack of a healthcare system in the United States. It’s interesting that Norway recently recommended that students return home, especially from countries that have poor health infrastructure like the United States. One of the wealthiest countries in the world was listed.
KZ: It’s not safe for Norwegians to be here because our healthcare system is so bad. Please come home. They’re saying.
MF: Right. And then you have Biden on Sunday night trying to say, “oh well. Medicare-for-all wouldn’t change things,” and that was just completely ridiculous. It just shows that he really doesn’t have a grasp on health policy. I mean for one thing he kept saying well, “how are you going to pay for Medicare for all Senator Sanders?” But what Biden doesn’t understand is that his proposal, which is basically status quo, doing in a public option, is actually a more expensive proposal that will cover fewer. A National improved Medicare for all program would be completely universal, and it would save money, and people would be able to make decisions over what’s best for their health.
KZ: Under Medicare for all hospital’s wouldn’t be closing, because you’d have a global budgeting system for hospitals. Hospitals would be funded to provide services to those communities, whether it be hospitals or community centers or clinics. It depends on the community. But they would have health services. That’s just one example, and when you have a universal health system like an improved medicare for all, then people are all in the system and we all have a stake in making that system better. So you will see more support for investing in healthcare, rather than, right now, it’s up to a corporation and it’s a question of profit. Do I make money by doing that even though some other hospital has the same machine? How can I make money on that machine? Let me get that. So this redundancy of stuff we don’t need. And lack of access to health services… It’s so ignorant of Biden. It’s just amazing, on these issues… He just plays political rhetoric games. The reality is, every study shows, whether it’s a libertarian conservative or liberal progressive researcher, economists… They all show medicare-for-all saves money. So whenever Sanders is asked how you can pay for it, Sanders never gives us the answer. The answer should be, “well, how are you going to pay for your system? It’s more expensive Joe.”
MF: That’s the question what we have right now. Let’s talk about a few more stories. A fourth whistleblower has come forward from the organization for the prevention of chemical weapons (OPCW).
KZ: Whistleblowers are coming out for that organization as quickly as the economy is going down.
MF: But it’s interesting because, you know, there were the two investigators who are part of looking at the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria who said that it looked like it was a staged event, that it wasn’t an actual chemical attack. And of course their credibility was attacked for saying that. This whistleblower has declined to make their identity known and they say that there are many people at the OPCW who would like to come forward but there’s such a culture of fear there that they literally feel like their lives and their families lives could be threatened if they come forward. So that sounds like an institution that really needs to have some sunlight shine on it and to be changed.
KZ: And this really all stems from United States. The US has sought regime change in Syria since 1948. They’ve tried to control Syria for a very many reasons. Its location on the map is very important right now. It’s location is even more important because of the Belt and Road initiative of China linking with with Europe, and so Syria has been a target for a long time in these chemical attacks, were part of the process of escalating the US war, that Obama war, against it. It wasn’t a civil war. It was the Obama war against Syria trying to do regime change. When regime change failed, Biden suggested… which is what Trump is doing… Let’s divide Syria into parts. We’ll take the oil area. Well Trump has actually kept the troops in the oil area. And so this is foreign policy of the bipartisan Wall Street and war parties. That’s what this OPCW thing stems from. The US is the dominating foreign policy with that kind of aggressiveness.
MF: And well, it’s not making the news. There’s been a lot of activity of the US In Iraq. Yes. And so that’s very sad that last week a base was attacked just north of Baghdad. Two US soldiers were killed. Some others were killed and wounded. And so the US retaliated the next day by bombing militia bases. They’re just actually Iraqi militias, part of the Iraqi military. And so then that led to another attack on a US base. So this is a situation over there that’s dangerously escalating and people need to be aware of it.
KZ: It’s evolving into another occupation. The US has been asked to leave by the Prime Minister and by the Parliament and the US has refused. The US really has a choice to make. Are we going to occupy Iraq, or are we going to have an orderly and rapid exit? Of course, the exit was needed and I think it’d be very smart for Trump to do that in an election year because the public ,the US public, is tired of these never-ending wars. We are going to continue to do more damage than good in Iraq. Why are we there? And the reality is we’re partly in Iraq because we can’t be in Syria without having bases for our troops in Iraq. And so it’s all connected. It’s time for the US to get out of Iraq, out of Syria, out of the Middle East.
MF: Let’s just touch on a couple of other stories. One is that a new study that came out of Columbia, a school in New York City, their Justice lab, looked at parole policies and found that they distinctly disadvantaged black and brown people. Black and brown people are 12 times more likely to be detained for technical parole violation than a white person and they show how you know, just this whole parole policy is really hurting black and brown families and that it really needs to be reformed.
KZ: And that’s the reality of the so-called criminal justice system in the United States. I’ve been working on these issues since I graduated from Law School in 1980. I can tell you research has constantly shown that at every stage of the criminal process from police to prosecutors to judges to probation to parole, every stage is a racially unfair impact. You have to call it a racist system because that’s what its impact is. If you go to a courtroom or a prison you’ll see black and brown people, very few white people. It’s not because black and brown people commit more crimes. It’s because that’s where police and prosecution efforts are focused. We have a criminal justice system that is out of control when it comes to racism.
MF: Another sector of our society that’s really struggling is actually the farmers and USA Today did a story on farmer suicides, particularly in the Midwest and even before the economic crash, falling commodity prices the amount of debt, debt that farmers have. They were particularly hurt by the trade war with China and a severe reduction in the export of soybeans. And then on top of that you have the climate crisis and flooding and droughts that are preventing farmers from being able to plant their crops. And so there’s been a 40% increase in farmer suicides over the last two decades
KZ: Well, these corporate trade agreements are designed for agribusiness. Not for the small farmers. That’s who has the influence over the US Government, the big corporate agribusiness. This really undermines the small farmer and this reliance now on Roundup and herbicides and pesticides is a very expensive process that. In fact, when I read this story it reminds me of India, where there’s a hundred thousand-plus suicides of farmers, and it’s because they’ve moved in these fertilizers and they lost control of their seeds and the fertilizer and you have to keep using more and more and it. It just makes it impossible for farmers in India to survive. And the same thing here if we go deeper into this, where we could probably find that the use of fertilizers and GMO crops is one of the causes of these debts that are leading to suicides.
MF: Right. Well, farmers can’t even keep their own seeds. They have to buy new seeds every year and then the pesticides go along with that.
And then finally an interesting situation with Google. Google has been sued a number of times for manipulating its search engines. Tulsi Gabbard has a case against a Google, saying that it suppressed her just as she was rising early in the presidential campaign, and a judge ruled that her case could not go forward.
KZ: Because Google is not the government and therefore your constitutional right to freedom of speech protections provided by the Bill of Rights do not apply to a non-government actor, a corporation. This just shows how out of date our constitution is. People who drafted the Constitution may have been cutting edge at the time. But now it’s outdated, and one of the areas where it’s outdated is they didn’t see the Corporate State coming. Now, we have corporations and government essentially hand in glove almost as one entity. And so corporations need to be held to freedom of speech Bill of Rights protections. Really Google should not be allowed to be using its ability to impact speech to curtail candidates they don’t like.
MF: It’s interesting because one of the arguments that people are making is that Google receives so much government money that really it should be subject to the First Amendment.
KZ: Well, that’s the test. If a corporation gets so entrenched, intertwined with the government. it becomes a government actor. I don’t see it going far enough to overcome that level but that’s what we need to see… these big communications corporations need to be controlled by the constitution.
MF: That’s all the news that we have for today. Let’s take a short musical break and then we’ll come back with our interview with Jack Rasmus. You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the Forces Of Greed with Margaret Flowers…
KZ: and Kevin zeese.
Musical Break
MF: And now we turn to our guest, Jack Rasmus. Jack is an economist. He’s an author/ You can follow his regular columns at JackRasmus.com and find his new book, “Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump” on Clarity Press. He’s the host of Alternative Visions on progressive radio network. Thank you for taking time to join us Jack
Jack Rasmus (JR): Glad to join you.
KZ: So Jack, I read your website regularly, and you’ve been seeing problems in the economy for a long time as far as corporate debt and consumer debt, and an inflated stock market, and stagnant wages. And so you were predicting that in 2020 or maybe 2021 there would be some kind of a financial collapse but then events happened and on Sunday night you said the collapse is happening. What happened? What’s going on right now?
JR: Well, if you look at financial asset markets in general, not just the stock market… the stock market in a record time, just a matter of weeks, has lost over twenty percent, maybe 25%, of value. This is the total run up that occurred during Trump, which was artificially boosted by his policies. And I see it unraveling very fast, but it’s not just equity markets, stock markets. Not just in the US but globally we’re seeing all financial asset markets falling over one by one like tenpins. Of course, you’ve got the oil and commodity futures markets, which is a financial market, and you’ve got the price of oil now at $30 a barrel, going into the 20s, and when that happens, of course, you’re going to have big defaults, which are already happening to junk bonds markets in the US, and energy retail and so forth. That’s already beginning. We can talk about that. You got currency, foreign exchange markets, you know devaluing across the board everywhere. You got the new Bond Market in trouble in the United States. It’s, you know, derivative markets. We don’t know because they Shield those but those are in trouble too, except those that ensure against financial asset collapse cdss credit default swaps. They’re rising at record levels. In other words, predicting that these asset markets are going to collapse.
So we got this global synchronous financial asset market collapse going on and when this happens in general ,and it’s synchronized across credit markets and across countries, and you overlay that on top of an already weak real economy, both globally slowing down last year, the US slowing down. And by the way, I predicted for a year that you’re going to see a recession in the US fourth quarter 2019. Of course I missed it by about a month because we are in a real economy recession right now. You know six months from now the National Bureau of Economic Research, the economists who officially predict and say whether we’re in or out of a recession, you know this summer they’re going to rule that we entered a recession.
I believe that Goldman Sachs Investment Bank is forecasting now in the second quarter zero US growth. Zero, which is a polite way of not saying that we’re going to contract at the same time. You got China, which forecasts now, an independent forecast range, next quarter or this quarter even, between a 2% growth and a minus 2% growth,. You know, that’s not the official GDP you’ll get from China, but that’s the reality. So half of the world economy, US and China, is either flat or going to decline and at the same time.
You’ve got two economies like Japan already in deep recession, contrasting 7% of Europe in recession. Italy, Germany and others. Latin America tripping over, one after one. Australia. So the global economy is in a recession now. No doubt about it, and you’ve got all these financial asset markets overlaid on top of it. And what happens when that happens is financial deflation. The financial market crash exacerbates the real economic contraction and vice versa, and that’s when both of them start spiraling downward, which is exactly what happened in 2008. Of course, back then the financial market problem was housing, you know, subprime mortgages and derivatives. But you know, I’ve been predicting that the similarity is going to occur now in non-financial corporations, and it’s going to be the junk bond market and it’s going to be the triple D corporate Market. In other words corporate bonds are going to be the driver here. And the corporate bond market is far more important than the stock market to the stability of the capitalist economy. And that is beginning to crack we can already see it, and that’s why the Federal Reserve has decided to pump a hundred billion dollars into what’s called the repo market and others, to provide liquidity to the banks. 500 billion dollars in one month repo and another 500 billion in three months to repo. A trillion dollars. The FED, in a kind of a QE, is injecting now into the economy into the banks. Why? Because non-bank companies are rushing to cash. They are drawing down their credit lines. Banks, no was taken all the cash. They can get and hoarding it and being told to do. So even by Shadow Banks like Carlyle Group and BlackRock and so forth. It’s a rush to cash and that’s a real sign of a financial crisis when that’s happening. Especially when the FED pumps a trillion dollars into the market so that the banks can borrow that money so that they can then allow the credit credit line, you know, grabbing… It’s going on right now. These are the tell-tale signs that that what we got is a financial crisis brewing here, on top of a global and US real economy downturn.
MF: Well, yeah, it seems like the Federal Reserve has been pumping money into the economy for a while now and and I guess trying to find out how to stabilize the repo market since last fall. Is that really going to make a difference in terms of just kind of staving things off or is that going to fix the problem?
JR: No, it’s nothing. It can’t fix the problem. What it’s all about is giving businesses investors hard cash so they can continue making the principal and interest payments on their debt. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to spend this money to invest. That means that they’re going to hoard it and use it as a safety valve so they don’t have to default on their debt payments and go under. You see it’s not going to result in any real new investments. In other words, spending on plant and equipment structures and so forth in the US contracted nine months in a row last year. 9 months in a row. And of course it’s really contracting now and that occurred after Trump had cut taxes for investors and businesses.
And growth of multinational corporations by four and a half trillion dollars in 2018 over a decade, of course, four and a half trillion. Not the phony one and a half that they’re telling you in the media. It was four and a half trillion. You get to one and a half trillion by not saying the fact that you’re raising taxes on households by one and a half trillion, and by assuming economic growth, which is occurring by another one and a half trillion. That’s how you get to one and a half trillion, a phony number, but it’s really four and a half trillion.
And what did we get for that? We got a little bit of a bump in real investment and the economy and early 2018. And in 2019 we got a contraction. So all these business tax cuts giving more money to businesses do not result in real economic growth, or very little anymore. So where does all that money go? From the tax cuts to businesses and investors, and from lowering interest rates, which Trump has forced the FED to do once again last year? Where does it go? Well, I’ll tell you where it goes. It goes into corporate profits. And from there it goes to corporations distributing all this artificial excess profits to their shareholders last year. 1.2 trillion dollars, corporations gave to the shareholders, and stock buy-backs and dividend payouts the year before 1.2 trillion.
How about under Obama? Well, $800 billion a year on average for six years. So corporations have taken all this free money. Money from the fed and all these big tax cuts, and they shuffled it out to their shareholders. And by the way, the shareholders in the tech industry, for example, are really the senior managers. 70%, for example, of Apple’s buy-backs, which is tens tens of billions of dollars, go to their senior managers. It doesn’t go to the general public holding that stock, in other words. So they’re enriching themselves at a tremendous rate. And that’s of course why we got this runaway income inequality largely going on.
But what they do is, when they get all this excess cash, they call it back into investing in the stock market and in other financial markets, and that’s why we got these bubbles. We got these bubbles under Obama, you know. The banks were bailed out by 2010, but the Federal Reserve continued subsidizing the banks with one tenth of one percent interest rates. In other words, I could borrow money from the FED at one-tenth of one percent. And by the way, if they wanted to leave it with the FED the FED would pay them .25%. So you can borrow money and the FED will pay you, and you won’t even have to use it. You see that was the game going on. Monetary policy and fiscal policy today are not about stabilizing the economy. You know, that’s the old mainstream economic argument, right? That’s why you use interest rates and tax cuts. That does not exist anymore. Fiscal policy, monetary policy, and 21st century capitalism is about subsidizing the banks and subsidizing investors. And that’s why both of those tools are now broken.
KZ: And they’re just shoveling money into the hands of the wealthy. It’s incredibly and yet when we talked about Medicare for all, we can’t pay for it. We talk about college education. We can’t pay for it. Amazing.
MF: It sounds like they’re stealing the money to me.
KZ: It really sounds like stealing. You know, what’s so interesting about your discussion, Jack? So far the one-two punch that has been kind of the trigger to this collapse, the coronavirus and the oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. You haven’t even mentioned those yet. So I think it’s important for listeners to hear. There’s so many underlying problems in the economy that the coronavirus and the oil war are just triggers to. This current collapse… talk about what the impact of those are.
JR: I call it precipitating causes. So you got to distinguish between fundamental causes and precipitating causes. The virus is a precipitating cause. Here, in other words, it triggered and accelerated the whole downturn that was grinding and slowly approaching. That’s why a year ago I was predicting this, but ever since the virus hit, it just accelerated everything. Why did it do that? How did it do that? Well, first of all, it broke all the supply chains. Multinational corporations have moved everything offshore, particularly to Asia, right? And now the parts weren’t forthcoming, not only from China but from Japan and Korea and so forth. So that reduced production and reduced the corporate earnings forecast. But then we got a demand problem on top of that supply problem, and we can see that all around us deepening, and that is people just stopped traveling, spending on travel, spending on hotels… Restaurants, spending on entertainment and social gatherings and so forth.
And the auto industry and so forth. The demand is slowly ratcheting down on top of the supply problem, which exacerbates everything, and now you also have the channel of collapsing financial asset prices, which is going to cause a credit crunch and then freeze up production even more. And people not going to work. Okay, they’re not going to earn income. They’re not going to earn wages. I think they’re going to go to work anyway They can’t afford it. Half of the people in this country don’t have four hundred dollars for an emergency. You think if they are sick and they don’t have sick leave, you know.
Basically, we’re the only country in the world that has minimal paid sick leave. Only in Union contracts, and then only six days may be right. You think they’re going to stop going to work? They can’t afford to. It would be financial crisis crash for them individually. So even if they have symptoms or don’t have symptoms, are they going to continue going to work unless their employer says you can’t go to work anymore, at which the working class now has a big financial problem. And of course Trump’s proposals didn’t say anything about that. What did he say about the goals which were working class in his speech yesterday? Nothing. Oh, he said relief is coming soon. In other words. He said nothing nothing. That was a quote. That’s a quote. It was coming soon. And what did he propose for businesses? Oh, he’s going to give fifty billion dollars to small businesses. And he’s gonna let them spend their tax payments maybe and then he wants to cut the payroll tax. In other words. He’s got an ulterior motive here, cutting the payroll tax. And that is… he’s gonna cause a further crisis in Social Security funding because that’s what he wants. He said so. At a forum in January people asked him, you know, what are you going to do about social security, entitlements, and he says “well, I got a plan to cut that right after the election.” So he’s softening up the payroll tax and Social Security to help him justify cuts. Now Obama did the payroll tax cut and it had no effect, No effect on consumption, you know, when you got people in such a dire straight economically and you cut their taxes, whether the business or consumers, what is that going to do? They’re going to hoard the cash and checks.
KZ: What does a payroll tax cut do for someone who’s lost their job? Absolutely nothing. They lose their job taxes.
JR: That’s right. And of course the unemployment rate is far higher than the 3.7%. My estimates are is it still around nine or ten percent.
MF: Wow, and it sounds like, to me, that this pumping this cash in is basically despite pumping that cash incorporation still have record debt and now they’re pumping cash in to try to keep them from defaulting and going underwear. Lots of people will lose their jobs. What can we expect, you know, in real impacts from this current financial situation.
JR:I’ve believe in a couple of months you’re going to see even even these biased numbers about unemployment rising dramatically here, starting, you know, probably in April. This a lag. Employment always lags unemployment, always lags the real economy, and I see a lack of one to two months here, but certainly by the end of the string we’re going to see some I believe some Significant jobless numbers Rising rapidly. So that’s one of one affect. The other fact is what about people who have to stay home? You know, the employer says work at home, right? Not everybody, you know can telecommute their jobs are such that you know, they have to be on a site or something and if they have to work at home are the employer is going to pay them or they going to have to go on unemployment insurance which is like one-third maybe of what you need to One and you know, what do they do? What are working class families do when does the school shut down? Right and the kids if they’re K through 6, you know, they can’t afford and they can’t find Manny’s and babysitter’s right. What are you going to do? They’re going to have to take a leave from work. Is it an unpaid leave? This is a half-time leave while it matter that’s clear. You know, I don’t think employers are going to when they tell most people to work from home or go home or lay them off are Going to pay them full wages, you know unless there’s legislation that requires that I don’t think you know, that’s going to make much difference and then what if they have to go and get a test here who’s going to pay for not just the test. But you know Margaret you’re a doctor, you know, if you go even if you have insurance you go to an emergency room at the hospital cost you over thousand dollars just to walk in the damn door. That’s right. That’s not counting all the tests and other lab tests that may have to occur. And if you even if you got insurance, you know most people 30 million people have no insurance. First of all, another 87 million people have in their bones insurance with 500 a thousand two thousand dollar deductible and that’s not even counting co-pays, you know working folks know this then that’s stupid and they’re not going to go and get tested. They’re not going to go and you know, you can walk around if you’re very relatively healthy and young and have the virus and spread it around and have no see symptoms, you know, but they’re only testing people with symptoms, you know, an anecdotal case here is in California at the Port of Oakland where the Grand Princess cruise ship docked. I know some reporters who were down there when it was Doc and they were only testing people 2500 is the came off that ship who showed symptoms. How many were telling everybody else who showed? No symptoms go home. Why were they doing that?
MF: Even people with symptoms are having hard time being tested because if you haven’t been to Wuhan or been in contact with someone who has it, that in various places the criteria are so severe… so restricted that even people who are symptomatic can’t get tested.
JR: Yeah, and then California governor Newsom said that 8200, I think it was, test kits sent to him, had no reactive agents in them.
KZ: We still haven’t talked about the oil war. It went down to $25 a barrel, which, I think is very likely, $25 about. What’s that going to do to these shale oil markets in the United States, and the impact on jobs and bankruptcies?
JR: Look, you know, a lot of employment growth has been in Shale industry and what little investment real investment has been in oil and energy even at today’s price between 30 $35 on what I’m reading is a Out of these Shale producers are already in the process of default already and if it drops to 25 dollars per barrel even more are going to default and when they default of course is layoffs and it affects communities and spending in all kinds of ways and it sends the message to other investors. Oh if the junk Bonds in the oil patch of defaulting well gee, what about the junk Bonds in retail, you know? Big box companies like pennies and so forth or hotel chains. Oh what so, you know, we better pull our money in or let’s raise our credit lines. This is first thing they do these companies which means they’re going to default soon eventually and then of course you have what’s called Triple B corporate bonds, which is supposed to be safer than junk bonds. By the way. The junk bond is were talking about two trillion dollars in the US market here triple B’s are about three trillion, but half of the triple B’s are really Junk also, so the confidence effect can spread from junk bonds to from oil junk bonds to retail and other junk bonds to trip will be bonds. That’s five trillion dollars a good part of which may be entering a kind of a default process when that happens. The whole corporate bond market is is really shaky and who knows what will happen. The corporate bond market is far more important than the equity Market in the United States. And I see that’s the trajectory where we’re headed. It’s not guaranteed. But that’s where we are headed on the financial side. So for Trump to say in the speech yesterday, so it’s not a financial crisis. You know, that’s just another BS statement by this guy, you know in the same category of you said, oh the Europeans have seeded crisis here, you know, it’s Europeans that caused the crisis last week. It was a Chinese or Wuhan crisis. Now I guess it’;s the the Italian crisis.
MF: So when there’s a crisis like this, it offers an opportunity and you know, we see that the administration’s response has been cutting taxes, feeding more money to the banks, cutting interest rates. None of that is really going to have a real effect. What types of policies should people be pushing for right now to fix the situation in a way that protects people not just the wealthy.
JR: Okay? Well, I just wrote an article today. Will appear on my blog jackrabbits. Let me just give you the outlines of that. First of all paid medical leave 14 days, paid medical leave, until vaccines are generally available for all. Those who are tested with the virus, all those who have symptoms, and parents of K through 8 students that are forced to remain home due to school closures, and that 14-day paid medical. Call it not sick leave, paid medical leave, whether you’re sick or not. You see that’s the difference from sick leave. It could be renewable. like State legislatures, company reimbursements for paid medical leave. If it’s a small business, they should be reimbursed by the federal government. If it’s a large business, well, maybe half reimbursed or something like that, but that’s not in lieu of maybe a Union contract of paid sick leave. Provisions that may exist in other words, that will remain a crude.
This is a special six month or one year paid medical leave provision. There should be guarantees that employees who are laid off because of this. They may not be sick and maybe just because of the economic hits, you know, everybody here. There should be employment guarantees. Anybody who is on paid medical leave returns to their formal position pay and benefits and other benefits should have crew for these workers while they’re still unpaid leave. As far as hospital testing and cost. Why are we asking individuals to pay out of pocket when they can’t afford it to get tested? Why don’t we just say, “Okay go get a test.” If you feel you need it.” And clinics or hospitals, doctors, bill the government. That’s all you got to do. Just bill the government for it.
You know, that’s how people will go get tested. Because they can’t afford to take the risk of paying a huge out of pocket, but they don’t have cash flow to get tested even if they’re sick. They can’t afford to miss a day’s work. So provide other associated costs, not just the testing. You see, all the other labs and emergency rooms charge patients, whatever. Just bill it to the government, and any follow-up visits, if needed, that are directly related, to health insurance companies. Okay, if their worker is ensured the health benefits company will waive all deductibles and waive all co-pays for services related to the virus here, right if they’re uninsured right the Should pay for it. This is where medicare-for-all would solve all these details. You see if we had Medicare for all you just use your Medicare, right? But now you had a talk about reimbursing you this company and this insurance company and this hospital and all that nonsense right premiums and deductibles and co-pays should remain Frozen by these insurance companies for other other employees until the crisis is declared over by state legislatures. In other words. You don’t want these insurance companies. He’s charging others and making other other insured pay for the cost here associated with those who may have the virus or who may get sick. Right unemployment benefits. The government should immediately aesthetic extend unemployment benefits for all layoffs for an additional six months. Now, it’s only six months. There should be a guaranteed one year we’ve done this in recessions before right companies should be required to pay continue to pay unemployment. Benefit taxes and there should be no suspension of the Social Security and payroll tax for companies and or for those workers who are still working and federal student loans what our students are working as well and they lose their job. Well then and many of them are millions are by the way would then we should suspend the payments for student loans and this is very important. The interest should not accrue and add to the principal. You know right now the way they work it if you’re a student and and you don’t have work and they go you go into forbearance and the words. You don’t have to pay your loan. You still continue to accumulate interest and when you find a job and you go back they make you pay all that interest first before that back interest before you start paying down into your principal. I mean that’s userís that that’s a criminal criminal government policy that there’s no reason it shouldn’t change. There’s no reason why Students should pay anything more than the equivalent of the 10-year treasury pain note, you know, if it’s a now one percent that’s all the interest. They should be paying and the government can do that immediately overnight. You don’t even need to have legislation to do that, but they’re ripping off students and student loans are putting people into indenture ship but there’s got to be some provision here for accommodating that in this current crisis. So, you know, there’s a lot you could do.
KZ: That list is dramatic as it is dealing with health education debts. I mean, it’s so much less than the FED has been putting into saving the banks already. It’s a low-cost program. And the second thing is that if we were to face up the shortcomings in our economic system, you mentioned medicare-for-all, if we had improved Medicare for all we would have a much more coordinated response. And a lot of the issues you just raised would be taken care of as part of Medicare for all. If we had a decent rights for workers. As far as sick leave goes, decent unemployment program… These are all things that are shortcomings in the economy. If we just would face up to these shortcomings, your list wouldn’t be needed.
JR: Yeah. Well, you know as I said earlier, you know a trillion dollars in liquid injection into the bank occurring right now as we talk another trillion. dollars in this repo Market in other words, and that’s only the beginning that’s not counting their proposals for payroll tax cuts and their proposals for 50 billion more for small businesses and other tax cuts and floor going, you know, the tax payments and so forth, you know, but this is capitalist America corporations and investors are taking care of first always and then maybe if you complain enough and demonstrate enough and strike enough to throw a few Comes your way and that’s the way it works under Trump. Of course, there’s no crumbs being thrown under Obama. There were a few crumbs thrown here and there but you know, the vast majority of was the bailout of the banks the Federal Reserve spent four and a half trillion dollars bailing out the bank’s did they bail out Main Street what happened to the 14 million people who watch their homes under Obama, you know, they just lost their homes period right it took us six years to get back to the job level that we Had when the last recession under under Obama in 2007-8 began took a six years and the jobs we got back. We’re low paid service jobs. We lost the high-paying jobs and we turned out into low paid service their service jobs, and that’s why we got 60 million people cobbling together part-time temp jobs in order to make a living.
MF: Yeah, and we become a renter economy. So just finally I want to get your opinion on whether this is just, you know, people say well capitalism just typically has periods of recession and this is to be expected and it’s normal. But do you see this one this way is this just a typical normal recession and people will suffer for a little bit and then things will return to normal and everybody will be good again. Or what are we really looking at as a financial future here? Is this a long recession? What are we looking at here?
JR: Well in my earlier publications in 2010 about a buck epic procession Prelude to Global depression and then in 2060 and Road systemic fragility in the global economy and the main argument there was that 21st century us and global capitalism has become significantly financialized and by financialized I mean that there is a a surge money of money Capital going into financial asset Markets instead of going into real investment markets and you have this group of about 200,000 Global new Finance Capital Elite as I call them and identify them at my 2016 book and what they do is they move their money around now because technological you can do it and it’s a Global Financial as the economy under neoliberalism. They move the money around between these various highly liquid financial asset markets derivatives, you know stocks and Bonds and foreign exchange and so forth and those financial markets and those new financial instruments and this new Finance Capital Elites are the defining characteristic of 21st century capitalism, I believe and it’s slowing down the real growth that people need to have real jobs and it’s exacerbating the instability of global capitalism and what we’re getting now instead of in the 50s and 60s these recessions that were normal. Last six to eight months right downturn and Recovery now, we got the financial instability overlaid on the real economy. And it exacerbates the real economy downturn meaning it collapses faster and it takes longer to recover. That’s the defining nature of 21st century capitalism. You got to understand so we are more prone now to collapses like 2008-9 and I truly believe we are headed in that direction. Section here now something very similar not exactly the same. It’s not subprimes not the housing market. It’s not cbs’s and derivatives at AIG and so forth. What it is now is I said non-financial corporations up to their elbows in junk bonds and Triple B debt and defaulting and the collapse of the global oil Market, which is really about US Fracking companies versus the Saudis versus the Russians as a three-way. Fight between all three of them. You see we could talk about that if you had time, but that’s driving everything down as well. So it’s a different capitalism capitalism does not stay constant. It’s totally evolving and it’s evolving. I believe towards a more financial system as I defined it in the shadow banks are at the center of it and it’s becoming more unstable more unstable and now we are getting these contractions that are far more. Dias than the normal recessions that we saw in previous decades, but this is kind of neoliberalism at its latest stage. You see in my book The scourging the elitism. I predicted that what you see what Trump is me ilysm 2.0 a more aggressive virulent form, but neoliberalism policies broke down under Obama and the last crisis Trump is trying to restore it. He’s going to fail and what’s coming in the next decade is Totally different is not going to be neoliberalism. It’s going to be either something more proto-fascist corporate or it’s going to be something more Progressive but that fight is on the political level and it’s evolving.
KZ: It’s an evolving situation and that’s why I really appreciate your work Jack and why I read Jack Rasmus.com because it’s a great place to keep up to date on this constantly changing scene. So we’re unfortunately out of time, but I you know, that’s a good snapshot. Got a where we are and urge people if you want to stay on top of this Jack is a great resource and check out his books and check out Jack Rasmus.com. I thank so much Jack for taking the time to talk with us about this. It’s a very complicated situation in a crisis situation right now. So we
JR: appreciate ya and if listeners want to follow me day by day hour by hour, tell him to join me on my Twitter feed which is at no a @dr jack Rasmus where I just report on what’s happening almost still several times a day that crash was.com or the longer articles
MF: Great. Thank you so much Jack.
JR: Okay, my pleasure.

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The Struggle For Justice Within Extinction Rebellion US

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

The Extinction Rebellion is a nonviolent direct action campaign that started in the United Kingdom in the Fall of 2018 to push governments to declare a climate crisis and to take action to rapidly cut net carbon emissions. It quickly spread to more than 50 countries including the United States where activists added another demand for climate justice to make sure that the government’s actions do not worsen the current crises of racism, inequality, and oppression. Little did US organizers expect that after decades of bringing justice to the forefront of the climate movement, Extinction Rebellion UK would work to undermine that. We speak with long time environmental and climate justice activists Cherri Foytlin and Bea Ruiz, national team members of Extinction Rebellion US, about their struggle to protect the progress they’ve made.

Listen here:

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Guests:

Cherri Foytlin is a longtime environmental and climate justice activist, mother and author from the South who is organizing the climate justice working group of Extinction Rebellion US.

Bea Ruiz is a longtime activist and organizer, formerly with Rising Tide North America, who is a national team member with Extinction Rebellion US.

TRANSCRIPT

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the Forces Of Greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing the FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can find us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at PopularResistance.org, and while you’re there check out our store where you can find Clearing the FOG gear like t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags and water bottles. So today we interviewed two climate justice activists, Bea Ruiz and Cherri Foytlin, and they’re part of the Extinction Rebellion US movement.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Both have been long-term activists and the Extinction Rebellion, which started in the UK and now is coming to the United States, and they’re helping to get that off the ground here.

MF: And I think the significant part of this conversation is the differences between the Extinction Rebellion movement here in the United States and the one in the United Kingdom, where it first began. And how in the United States, climate activists have been working for decades to center the voices and struggles of people on the front line who are facing environmental racism, climate racism, and bring their voices to front to make sure that climate justice is centered. And the UK movement is actually not including that component and is actively working inside the United States to undo that work… or that’s how they view it… undo the work of climate justice activists to center those voices.

KZ: That’s right. They described it as the UK Extinction Rebellion movement “colonizing” the US climate movement, which is a very interesting way of looking at it. And they’re causing divisions because most of the climate movement in the United States supports climate justice, because we have had racism on the front lines of environmental degradation and the climate for a long time. Climate justice has become a centerpiece. So it’s an interesting conflict and my hope is, of course. that the tradition in the United States continues and climate Justice remains a centerpiece of the climate movement.

MF: Right. So if you’re interested in the issue of climate justice, then definitely stick around for this interview so you can understand what’s going on and how to plug in. Before we get to that interview, why don’t we talk about some things that are in the news. Of course, the last two weeks have been somewhat bumpy for the stock market and Monday morning was no different.

KZ: Well the stock market has been propped up for longer than it should have been since the so-called recovery, by tax breaks and companies buying back stock and artificially inflating it. Anytime soon there was going to be a crash, but now they’ve hit a whammy, a multiple multiple front fight. The coronavirus is already having a big impact on volatility and stock market drops.

MF: And a big part of that is because of insecurity and the impact on global supply chains.

KZ: Exactly. And now we’ve had this weekend a new major issue, an oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Saudi Arabia wanted to prop up the price of oil. Russia refused. As a result, Saudi Arabia started pumping more oil. They are now fighting over who gets control of the oil market. Russia is doing this in large part because of the United States. They don’t like to see the US shale oil market profiting over high prices that are artificially inflated, and so they’re refusing to participate. And so we saw a dramatic drop in oil prices down to $30 a barrel… for some moments below that even. So you’ve seen the largest drop yesterday, on Monday, since 1991, in the price of oil.

MF: I think that this is actually kind of Russia sees an opportunity to show the United States a little bit of a taste of its own medicine. The United States has been imposing economic coercive measures on countries all around the world, including Russia. The United States, you know, colluded in OPEC to drop oil prices back in 2014, which had a big impact on Venezuela when their government was trying to recover from the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013. And the US has played dirty for quite a long time and has taken over as the large largest producer of new gas and oil in the world.

KZ: And it’s also played dirty when it comes to the oil and gas market. The US has been putting pressure on Europe not to continue that pipeline from Russia to Germany, because they want the Europeans to buy US gas, not Russian gas. And so Russia sees that competition as well. And so yeah, this is part of the global struggle between the US and other powers, and Russia I think saw an opportunity with the coronavirus and the drop in oil demand. And now I think the oil war is… In fact, on Monday you saw the largest-ever drop in the value of the stock market, the Dow Jones market, ever in history. The largest drop ever, over 2,000 points never happened before.

MF: And that was early in the morning, at the beginning.

KZ: Well, no. That was at the end of the day. Early in the morning, in the beginning of the day the drop was so sudden they had to stop the markets for a while. But when they came back online, by the end of the day it was the largest drop in history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

MF: Yeah, so they put in place what they call a circuit breaker, where they stalled trading for 15 minutes, hoping to stem any kind of panic I guess that might occur when the market is dropping quickly.

KZ: I think the thing that really gets people confused about this whole crisis is that it’s not the oil war. It’s not the coronavirus. It’s an inflated stock market, inflated by very low money from the FED, which has really kept interest rates way low. It’s been inflated by the tax breaks that the Trump Administration, the Republicans, put in place. They allowed massive buybacks of stock. So this recovery, so-called recovery, has gone on longer than most recoveries have. And I think that’s because it’s been artificially inflated, and so now it was looking for a trigger. When was this recession going to happen? The Trump Administration really wanted it to happen in 2021, after the 2020 election, but the coronavirus and now this oil war are making it happen now. And so Jack Rasmus, an economist we have a lot of faith in, a labor economist who does excellent political economy analysis… He says that the financial crash is now underway and that’s a scary thought because people are saying this financial crash will be bigger than the last one.

MF: Right. And you know, the recovery, the so-called recovery from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, is actually kind of an artificial recovery. The people are still in very high debt. There’s high levels of poverty. A new study that came out by the National Center for Homeless Education found that over the past three years the number of homeless students has risen 15% to over 1.5 million students. And that’s just the ones they can count, the ones who are enrolled in public school. And it’s interesting that New York City was considering closing down some of its public schools over the coronavirus, but they were worried about doing that because over a hundred thousand students, homeless students in New York, rely on the schools to be able to wash their clothes, to get food and other basic services.

KZ: That’s right. This is a widespread problem. We’re talking about 16 states saw a 10% increase in their homeless population of children increasing. 16 States. So it’s a pretty widespread problem across the country. And this is now before the cuts in food stamps that the Trump Administration is putting in place, before the further cuts in social services, and before this economic crisis. So already the social safety net is not working. People are already suffering, and now we’re seeing this new economic collapse and the impact that’s going to have on people. So this is a serious impact for people who are already struggling Workers wages have not been increasing despite the so-called recovery. Homelessness is up. Poverty is up. All these issues are getting worse at a time when the economic crisis is just hitting again.

MF: Probably most likely it’s going to be a rough year. It certainly is starting out that way. We did our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance on the coronavirus. Covid-19. And really part of it was looking at the market, but also looking at how the Trump Administration is actually more concerned about the market than they are about the health of people in the United States.

KZ: And they’re trying to prevent the market from crashing by not telling people the truth, and people are seeing through that .

MF: So for example, the Center for Disease Control is not keeping accurate numbers of the number of cases. Johns Hopkins University is actually doing the best job right now of following the number of Covid-19 cases. There was a cruise ship that had people on the ship that tested positive for coronavirus, and the Trump Administration initially wanted them to stay on the ship so they wouldn’t boost the numbers in the United States, even though keeping people stuck on a ship together with some people who are infected makes it more likely that other people are going to get infected.

KZ: Japan made that exact mistake and found exactly what you described. It spread the virus among people on the ship and made the problem worse. And so not only don’t we know the number of cases, but the key thing is we don’t know the number of tests being done. The area where the Trump Administration has really been behind is getting testing kits out to hospitals, out to clinics, out their health centers, out to doctors. So tests are not being done. They’re being very restrictive in many states over who can be tested, and that’s the key to knowing how many cases we have. So the numbers are being kept artificially low because we aren’t testing. The Atlantic tried to figure out the number of tests. That’s another thing the CDC is no longer reporting how many tests are being done, and so the Atlantic tried, by going state by state to health departments and they tracked down just over a thousand tests throughout the entire United States. Italy does 10,000 tests a day, to give you an idea of how out of whack those numbers are. So we don’t know how widespread it is. We don’t know where it is. And what that means is it’s going to spread, because people don’t know where the problems are. They don’t know where they can’t go.

MF: So from a public health standpoint and this is something that China did extremely well. And other countries are doing very well and we have an article on Popular Resistance by KJ Noh about actually busting so many myths about China. You’ll be amazed if you read this article. So much of what you’re hearing in the corporate media about China’s handling of the coronavirus is out and out lies. But what they did and what other countries have done is… if you have anybody who has possible symptoms of the coronavirus, they get tested. They get held until they’re tested. They’re able to get the results of the test in about 4 to 7 hours. If they’re positive, they get quarantined, and then they start tracing out their contacts and quarantining their contacts. And this is how you do a public health approach. You find out where the cases are. It’s not about telling people not to go there. It’s about locating people who are potentially infected and isolating them. And that’s what we haven’t been doing in the United States for weeks, even though the coronavirus is clearly here. We have almost 700 cases now in the United States, but it’s probably many more than that. We just haven’t seen them because of the testing that’s not being done. Now, the administration does say, or the CDC does say, that they’re going to be getting millions of tests out to the states. So we have to hope that that’s going to be improving. I think it’s really important for folks to be putting pressure in your own community to say, “how are we identifying folks? How are we testing folks?” There shouldn’t be any barriers. That’s another thing that China did really well is that anything related to the coronavirus, if your insurance didn’t cover it, they made it free. I’ve been sick for a week now with a fever and viral symptoms, but I’m not able to get tested, so I’m trying to quarantine myself. But it should be that there’s a central approach to make sure that people can get properly tested and treated if they need it.

KZ: It all starts with testing. It all starts with rapid response by the government. This response has been anemically slow. You still are not getting testing out there. And what’s so interesting is, with Trump’s concern about the economy… in response to his concern about the economy and the coronavirus, Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chair, first said we’re going to cut the rate, the federal interest rate. Then the Federal Reserve cut the rate 50 points, and then you had a surprise victory of Super Tuesday with Joe Biden. That resulted in healthcare stocks, pharmaceutical and insurance company stocks, going up. All those were big positives for the market, and yet even before this oil war started, even before that, the market was going down. And so despite all that good news… lowering interest rates, putting in place a corporate Democrat as the alternative to Trump… Even with that good news from the market’s perspective, it didn’t stop the market from going down. And then you had the oil war on top of that. So it’s a perfect storm of an economic crisis, and the coronavirus is really showing the failure of neoliberal capitalism. The social safety nets threatened. People can’t get access to healthcare. People can’t take time off of work. It’s impossible to not come in contact with other people if you’re a working-class person who can’t take time off work. It’s just we’ve created a situation where this is going to be a catastrophe.

MF: Right and just as you said, it’s going to be people in low-wage jobs, service sector jobs, that can’t work from home like many professionals are able to work from home. They can’t afford to take off of work. And then you’ve got President Trump out there saying, “oh, yeah, go ahead take off work.” Well, there was a study done in Australia looking at the potential number of deaths globally. They did seven different scenarios from low severity to high severity based on past epidemics and they found a range of between 15 million to 68 million deaths worldwide from the coronavirus.

KZ: 15 million is the low estimate of the seven scenarios they examined. 15 million deaths and 2.4 trillion dollars in GDP losses. This is the low estimate, and this is based on previous epidemics and the impact they’ve had on health and on the economy. So this disaster is just starting. I know some people think that it’s a great exaggeration and we’re just people getting all excited about something that’s just another flu. Well it’s not. This is different. This is new. And the potential impact is significant. Take it seriously.

MF: Well, let’s talk about that. Why this is different. This has a higher mortality rate than the typical flu that we see every year in the United States. And particularly in this case, it’s elderly people and people with underlying health conditions that are dying from coronavirus. For the majority of people who get coronavirus, you’re going to have viral symptoms. But I think it’s our duty not to infect other people, knowing that our infecting another person could lead to another person getting infected who might be elderly or sick who could die from it. You know, we really need to do our best to stay in if we can, wash our hands. If you have a cough or you are sneezing or whatever, put a mask on so you’re not spreading germs wherever you go.

KZ: The CDC just put out an advisory before we started this discussion today, and what they said was that people over 60 need to prepare to stay inside. They need to stock up on their food. They need to stock up on whatever necessities they have so they don’t have to go outside, because this virus is going to become so common that going anywhere is going to put you at risk of catching the irus.

MF: Yeah. I wanted to mention two other things that China did… well three things that they did that we need to learn from in the United States. One, when they quarantined people they changed a lot of their healthcare to online healthcare so people were able to access their prescriptions, get those filled, get them delivered to their house. They also were able to deliver food to people’s houses. They could order their groceries and get those delivered, and then they put a freeze on rent during the quarantine. So if a person wasn’t working during that time, they didn’t have to worry about losing their home because they couldn’t pay their rent.

KZ: Can you see any of those things being done in the United States? And that’s what’s so sad about our neoliberal approach. It’s a sink or swim mentality, and when you have an epidemic like this people are going to be sinking.

MF: And then just one final point. I know we’ve spent a lot of time on this but another point that KJ made is how interesting it is that this virus occurred in China, and instead of people in the United States showing solidarity with the Chinese who are going through this difficult time… It’s not their fault that the virus started there. It could have started literally in any country, anywhere in the world. But it’s being used to attack China instead of you know, having like a “We are Wuhan” solidarity moment with the Chinese. So it just shows I think as we’ve talked about before on this show the real racism that occurs in the United States against China.

KZ: It’s also part of the mistaken foreign policy. The “great power conflict” rather than “great power cooperation.” If there had been great power cooperation, we might have had a different outcome than we’re having with this great power conflict, where we treat China as an enemy.

MF: Right, so now that we need to move on to a few more news stories quickly. We don’t have much time. Sunday was International Women’s Day. There were protests all around the world calling for an end to violence against women.

KZ: That’s right and International Women’s Day has a long history. In fact, it came out of the Socialist movement in 1909, organized by the Socialist Party of America in support of the garment workers, honoring them. And it developed in 1910, the International Socialist Women’s Conference. And you had a big role in Russia in 1917, when they actually, the women’s march actually helped to remove the Czar and get him to give up power and make the revolution. And it wasn’t until 1977 that it became a non-socialist event. Prior to that, it was pretty much a socialist activity, lifting up women. In 1977, the UN finally took it on and it’s been International Women’s Day since 1977.

MF: Let’s talk about the news that the International Criminal Court is going to investigate Afghanistan for crimes committed by the United States, by the Taliban and by the Afghani government.

KZ: I’m sure the ICC had to add Taliban and the Afghani government, not just focus on the aggressor, which is the United States, because the ICC was threatened by the United States. If they investigated the United States, they would cut their funding. They would put sanctions on ICC officials. So those threats were made. Even after this announcement was made the Secretary of State said he’s going to do everything he can to stop this investigation from going forward.

MF: And it would looks like there was some good news recently when the United States and the Taliban negotiated an agreement to withdraw some US troops. It was not the best agreement. It had a lot of weaknesses to it. But unfortunately, the US couldn’t even keep that for very long.

KZ: Well, they’re already back to battling. It’s hopeful that at least there’s some conversation going on. But the reality is the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan. It’s time for the United States to leave. I know there are trillions of dollars of precious minerals in the soil of Afghanistan. We can no longer expect to steal that from the Afghanistan people. It’s time for the United States to get out of Afghanistan. Get out of Iraq. Get out of the Middle East.

MF: Right. Before we get to our interview, let’s talk about some climate victories that have happened recently. First off, Wells Fargo, the bank, says that they’re going to stop investing in oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

KZ: That’s right. And Warren Buffett said he’s not going to invest in a Quebec pipeline because of the protests going on against the pipelines being developed in Canada.

MF: And in western Colorado, the Trump Administration had allowed for coal mining to go into national forests, and a court overturned that and said that bo the government cannot let coal miners go into the national forests.

KZ: And one other victory was the Constitution Pipeline between Pennsylvania and New York has also been stopped, and so people are on the front lines fighting these battles and are winning, and even if they don’t win they are delaying and increasing the expense. And this is coming at a time when this crash is happening, directed at US shale oil and gas, which are already at very weak positions. You’ve had lots of bankruptcies of shale oil and gas companies. This oil crisis is going to lower the price of oil and cause more economic crisis for the shale oil companies.

MF: Well, this is where, you know, Russia has real leverage over the United States, because Russia only needs to make $20 per barrel to cover their costs, and so they can tolerate the price going down very low, but the US cannot tolerate that for a long time.

KZ: Especially the shale oil market, because they are so heavily in debt. They have debts to repay. They need much more expensive oil. So the price of oil dropping is going to put more shale oil companies into bankruptcy. I know many people think that’s a good thing. I do too. I hope that we use that dropping of the shale oil market as an opportunity to transition to clean sustainable energy, and not rely on fossil fuels in the future.

MF: Well, hat’s a good point because we often talk about this. Crises are opportunities for transformative change. You know, when there’s a crisis, something’s got to change. Whatever the system is, whatever the result we’re getting it’s caused by the system that we’re using, and so if we want a different result… if we want to deal with the economy, if we want to deal with the climate crisis, we need to change the system. If we want a government that’s actually responsive to the needs of people, then we need to change the system. So I hope that while it’s going to be a potentially very difficult time over the next few years, I hope we can use it as ways to really be clear about what it is that we as people want. For instance, the whole DNC really getting behind Joe Biden to take on the threat of Bernie Sanders, someone who advocates for things like National Improved Medicare for all, you know, lowering student debt. Even if the DNC is successful in taking Bernie Sanders down, we have to remember that we’re not tied to a certain political leader. We as people need to remember that our power resides with us and no matter who is elected or is in power, we need to keep building and pushing for the things that we need.

KZ: That’s right. The country is facing multiple fronts of crisis. Housing, healthcare, education, never-ending war, a budget that’s spending way too much on the military. I mean these are crisis situations. No matter who is the next president, the movement has to continue to grow and put pressure on all those who are in office.

MF: Right and the Extinction Rebellion hopes to be part of that catalyst for addressing the climate crisis in the United States. So let’s take a short musical break and then we’ll come back with our interview with Cherri Foytlin and Bea Ruiz.

Musical Break

MF: And now we turn to our guests. Cherri Foytlin is a longtime activist and author living in the Gulf Coast, and Bea Ruiz is a national team member with Extinction Rebellion US. Thank you for taking time to join us.

KZ: We want to focus on Extinction Rebellion in this half-hour, but let’s start by talking about the two of you. Cherri, why don’t you tell us how you got into working on this issue and Extinction Rebellion?

Cherri Foytlin (CF): Yeah. Well, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Back in 2010 they had the big oil spill, so I went out on a boat and I saw the oil, and it really changed my perspective about things, on how fragile things are. So one thing led to another and I did a big march on DC, and I’ve been in it for a while now. You know how it works out. One thing leads to another and you end up in a spot. So that’s where I am.

KZ: And how about Extinction Rebellion. Why’d you get into Extinction Rebellion?

CF: Yeah, I got into that for the fourth principle. I don’t know if anybody’s real understanding and knowledgeable about that, but you can read through it on the website, ExtinctionRebellion.us, but I got into it because of that. Now back in 2016 there was a major flood in south Louisiana where I was at, and our house took on a foot of water, which basically ruined everything we had. And then the very next year, another flood happened that gave us a few more inches in the house, which ruined the things that we had collected during the year we had, and so we were pretty much out of the house at that point. And the house still doesn’t have plumbing. And so when I talk about climate change or I talk about climate, this is because I’m coming from a place of a person has had to deal with the climate coming into our house. My little girl says I stepped out of my bed and into climate change. And it’s true. It’s true. The scientists were very clear that that flood was caused by climate. And that really really pushed me into the side of climate justice. Where I live there’s a football field of land an hour. Every 45 minutes actually it goes underwater. And so that precious wetlands is sinking and being lost and that’s what soaks up the water when we have big major floods because it’s not unusual to have a lot of water in south Louisiana, but what’s unusual about it is we’re flooding in places that we never flooded before. When I read the Fourth Demand, it felt like it was speaking to me.

KZ: Tell us Bea how you got into this and what your background is.

Bea Ruiz (BR): I joined XR in the US when it was just forming in November 2018. I found out about a conference call to invite people to help start XR, and I volunteered on the spot. I had already been hearing about XR and started reading articles and basically researching about XR, and what called me to XR was the Rebellion part, the understanding that without civil disobedience on a mass scale, we would not have a chance to change things the way that we need to. And I also really appreciated the messaging regarding the emergency that we’re in. It really spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t been spoken to by a movement, this broad-based movement. People of color groups and radical groups had been raising the alarm for a long time but a group that was trying to reach thousands in a new way with the fact we need courage not hope. And my background before that had been in the Rising Tide North America Collective, which is a wonderful group that also has decentralized groups around the country. And I worked with one of those groups in the Bay Area as well doing direct action, and then I’ve been organizing since I was 15. I’m 48 now, so I’ve been in it a long time, and hoping to find something that would have enough leverage to try to change things on a larger scale. That’s been my overall goal.

MF: Can you talk a bit more of a specifically about Extinction rRebellion in the US. We’ll start with you Bea, about how it’s been going here. You know, how is it growing?

BR: When we started in the US we were riding this wave from the actions happening in the UK. So the movement in the US Started in a way that movements would never normally start. I mean it was like jumping into a river that was flowing really fast. People were banging down the door that they wanted to start groups. We were, we got instant media attention, all based on the excitement from what was happening in the UK, where the activists in XR UK had blocked bridges, and really created a sensation within the movement and in the press. What happened in the US s people were inspired who had never been inspired to be in the movement. People who had never been to a protest, never been to an organizing meeting, were contacting us and saying, “we want to start an XR local group.” And so a lot of the work at least for the national team has been trying to bring along completely brand new activists, which is very difficult work in many different ways, helping people with just, you know, how do you facilitate a meeting? But also political education. How should we relate to the police? How do we deal with surveillance culture and dealing with all these issues that activists deal with. But because they’re brand new people, you’re really starting from scratch. It takes a lot of time and work to try to bring people along to a whole new whole new world of organizing. That all takes a tremendous amount of time. And since we’re a small national team, you know, the local groups have been learning all this. It is so inspiring to see… people taking this up, and they’re in their local areas working together and learning about how to do organizing. But that all takes them a lot of time. It’s a lot of hard work and there’s a lot of mistakes and learning as you go, and so in the US there’s been a lot of that kind of base building. And then also XR’s approach in the US is to know that the we’re not the Rebellion on our own at all. I mean no one group anywhere could do what’s needed in order to force the government to meet demands on their own. So a lot of what the local groups are doing in the US is also doing coalition work. So reaching out to other groups locally and doing actions together and working together. And that was something that we encouraged from the very beginning, especially because folks are so new. Right? So go reach out to people and say, “can you please help us? Can we work together?” So that’s all been happening and the groups have been doing actions and slowly have been building up in scale and scope. And now we’re getting to a point where we’re trying to do even more, more coordinated actions where we have some common messaging. We have some common targets, trying to do actions on a broad scale, like in the same week or the same day, to try to maximize the impact of what groups are doing on a smaller level. And then in addition, one of the things we really want to get to is to have regional actions that are coordinated. So having regional hubs. For example, in the UK, that’s one of the ways that they had so many people come out to do their actions where they were able to be in the streets for days, for I think 10 days one time, if I recall, is because what they did is they had people from all over the UK come to London. So in the US we want to try to build up to having regional hubs. Let’s say Chicago for example. People would come from all the surrounding states to Chicago so that we can increase our numbers and stay out longer. So we’re slowly building up capacity and skill and education by the local groups. This is not the national team doing this. The local groups are a decentralized movement. So the local groups are all working through all this.

MF: Great and Cherri, how has being part of the Extinction Rebellion… how has that contributed to the work that you’re doing in the South, that you’ve been doing for a long time already on climate issues?

CF: Well, I think that having this network that’s across the country and in other places, and having some kind of name recognition is really helpful. And then also in bringing people in, like Bea said. You know, we have a lot of new people out there that really want to get involved. They’re alarmed. They’re frustrated with the way things are going and they want to take action. And having a place for people to come and to learn and to get themselves prepared, that has been very useful or helpful.

KZ: Bea can you talk about the four principles, the organizing principles of Extinction Rebellion US?

BR: Yeah actually there’s four demands, and there’s ten principles. And those things form the basis of the identity of the movement, the basis of membership in the US. The first demand is that the government tell the truth and work with the media to really inform the population of the seriousness of the emergency. This is a demand because we don’t think that that’s happening on the scale it should happen at all. For example, we think that the climate and ecological crisis should be front page news every day. Every day 24/7 there should be discussion and information being given out to the public, kind of the way the coronavirus is being talked about now, because that’s the seriousness of the emergency. We think people should be made aware of. The second demand is that the government pass legally binding policy to lower greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. And that demand is also a parameter for the third demand, which is a citizen’s assembly. So in our view, we, meaning movements in general, need to create a crisis that’s so large through a civil disobedience rebellion, that the government will be forced to tell the truth on the scale that needs to be told, and to reduce emissions on the scale that needs to be reduced. But we don’t trust the government. We think Congress has lost legitimacy. Governments around the world have lost legitimacy. So we’re not trying to empower them with more power to do this, because we don’t think that they’re going to do it. The third demand is a citizen’s assembly, which would be a body that would have legal power to create policies to reduce emissions down to net zero by 2025, and actually set concrete policies to do that. Another key part here is let’s say we have a civil disobedience rebellion right? Lots of movements get together and really create enough crisis for the government to pay attention. Without the third demand, they could just say, “okay everybody, please go home. Stop what you’re doing. We will address the emergency.” And then we all go home and finally get some rest. Then after we go home, they don’t do what they say they’re going to do, or they do some watered-down version of it. That’s what the third demand is about. The third demand is like we’re not going to trust you to make the decisions. We’re going to have a citizen’s assembly that’s going to make the decisions about how to deal with this problem. So that’s the story of the demands that came from the UK, but in the UK, that’s where the story ends. But in the US, we think that that’s really not adequate. It’s really actually quite dangerous on its own, if you all you have in our those three demands. In the US, we wanted to set parameters for the citizens assembly beyond net zero 2025. We wanted to set parameters regarding indigenous sovereignty, regarding repairing the land, reparations for people who have suffered environmental injustice, rights for mother nature. Because otherwise we’re essentially saying the citizens assembly can do whatever it wants as long as it reaches net zero by 2025. That’s completely unacceptable. Without the fourth demand, there’s no parameters for the citizens assembly to do its work in a just way, in a fair way. There’s nothing to stop the citizens assembly from closing the borders and deporting people, or building nuclear reactors, for example. So in the US, that’s why we have a fourth demand.

KZ: And that fourth demand is what we call climate justice. Cherri can you talk about climate justice in the US climate movement?

CF: You mean in the larger movement?

KZ: Right. I think climate justice has been part of the US climate movement for a while. Indigenous people played a big role. Communities of color played a big role. And climate justice has become part of the mainstream language of even white groups. So to talk about why climate justice is important.

CF: Well, first of all, we need to talk about how we got there, because when I first started doing this it wasn’t on the mouths of anybody. In fact, it was kind of a killer. People would tell me when I go down to south Louisiana, “don’t bring up climate because if you do people are going to stop listening.” And damn they were right. Like, if you brought up that word people would say that’s a hoax, and turn the opposite way. When I would go to activities and it will be like a mostly white crew, indigenous people and black people had to assert, insert themselves in order to get acknowledgement. Not just acknowledgement but in order to get our strategies even heard. That took years of work on behalf of indigenous people and bi-people, and LGBTQ+ people, and people who are non-binary. And it took years of work for us to be able to get in there. And then when you did see that,  you saw it explode. When finally we got people to look at us and not just give us a seat at the table but also hand us a plate, you saw that things changed here in the United States. Climate did really become a talking point. There was some kind of beauty and spirituality and stuff that was brought in. And that’s why I can’t understand having a white movement that doesn’t include everyone. You know, it’s more like I think people are trying to figure out how they fit in to Extinction Rebellion, and after all these years of fighting to try to get into the larger movement, and then we saw that flower, how can this smaller group see and understand things that they weren’t even here for. You know, that they don’t understand. We don’t want to have to replicate that. We don’t want them to have to go back through this whole thing, but that’s our question. The question the larger movement of has right now is, we want people to be engaged and involved, but the truth of the matter is we’ve all been in this together for the last 10 years and we’ve had a lot of growing pains and how do we bring people in now who didn’t necessarily have that opportunity. That’s our question.

KZ: So Bea, your job basically is outreach and bringing people into the Extinction Rebellion movement. How has the climate justice issue played when you’re doing that kind of outreach. Does it help? Does it hurt? Has it enlightened people? What’s the impact of that demand in the XR movement?

BR: Well, you know, we live in a thoroughly unequal, unjust racist society in the US, and so everything that we do, whether it’s organizing or not, is influenced by that; And so there are folks who come to us who want to start a local group in the US, and very rarely, but occasionally people will say, do we really need to have that demand? Isn’t it going to alienate people? And of course, what they mean is alienate white people. But those are rare cases. For the most part, people who come to Extinction Rebellion in the US read the demands and the principles and they join because they want to be part of a movement that has climate justice at the center.

KZ: A lot of the people you bring into the movement, because we are a white dominant society, are white people, and they’re joining. You know, equal justice for all is kind of the American mythology. That’s that’s how people in United States see themselves. And so climate justice would seem to be part of that kind of viewpoint of ourselves. Has that been a hindrance to bringing white people into the movement, into the XR?

CF: I don’t think so. In fact, a lot of people say that that’s why they joined. I’m not doing local organizing. The local groups or building up their groups. I hear from the local groups all the time. I’m in touch with them a lot. And I don’t hear people saying that it’s holding them back. What I hear people saying, some people within XR US are influenced by XR UK, or by one of the cofounders of XR UK named Roger Hallam, who are really putting out a different vision for Extinction Rebellion, who are really trying to undermine climate justice within the movement. And that unfortunately impacts people in the US. Roger is seen as a leader by people around the world. And so sometimes we have people in the US who are starting to take up this kind of framing. This is a small minority of folks who think that in order to reach everyone, we need to undermine the communities of color who have been doing the organizing and the sacrificing and the dying in the US for these movements, who have been leading the way… as if to recognize them and acknowledge them and center their needs is somehow going to take away from our work. And so to be frank there’s an internal battle within XR as a movement I think to try to decenter the influence that XR UK has over the movement as a whole, and to try to center justice in the movement as a whole. And so in the US, partly through Cherri’s leadership, the local groups have some members, and some members of the national team including Cherri and me, have decided to create a working group within XR US called XR Justice. XR Justice is like a center of gravity of support teams for XR groups around the world to work to center their work in justice and in their actions, to really be a counter to the kind of framing that exists in XR over all that comes from people like Roger Hallam. Cherri actually… I don’t know if you want to talk to how you’ve just recently left the national team in the US so that you can work with XR justice. Cherri just put out a blog that everyone should read about this.

MF: Cherri do you want to comment on that?

CF: Yeah. I put out the blog because I just felt like I really had some concerns. About where XR was going on, and this small group of people who are just very loud were driving another group called XR America. And in that group, the fourth demand has been changed to… I can’t even remember it’s something about net zero. That fourth demand has been changed. And so when I was reading that, it’s an insult to my sensibilities, because it is about a moral issue of people who are literally going underwater right now. But besides that it’s a strategic issue, because that fourth demand… How many people that I’ve I talked to, dozens at least who said that the reason that they came into XR at all was because of the fourth demand. And so keeping that fourth demand seems imperative to me, to the strategy of XR, but also to the movement itself, to the larger movement, as Bea has outlined. And so yeah, I wrote this blog about XR America, about the changes in the fourth demand, and how we’re starting XR Justice, which is the working group. And I’m hoping that anyone who is really into that fourth demand, who really sees the importance of it, will come to the XR Justice working group and want to work together on actions specifically devoted… and not just actions but building a relationship with environmental justice and climate Justice movements or people that are in your area because I had somebody ask me not that long ago, “well how do I know where the EJ group is? “I said well find the nastiest thing in your town and then right next to it is a neighborhood and there’s your EJ folks. And so go there and talk to them, because that’s in pretty much every major city, right? So that’s where I’m at with it. You know, it is just a matter of morality. It’s a matter of strategy, and it’s a matter of bringing people together who want to work on this in a good way together so that we can move forward.

KZ: You know, it’s interesting that Roger is playing the role in the United States of causing this division over climate justice because even in the UK, he’s been criticized. Nafeez Ahmed did a fantastic analysis of Extinction Rebellion in the UK, which we published on Popular Resistance. He did this analysis after the protest when they shut down the subway system and there was a big backlash among working-class Londoners. I mean London’s 44%  people of color, and a lot of those are working class people, and they take the subway and when the subway got shut down, the backlash came from that working-class community. And so Nafeez wrote a really, excellent analysis of Extinction Rebellion strategy, and why they’re misreading the history of protest movements. And specifically focused about the importance of centering climate justice and working people and communities of color. So it’s so bizarre. He’s being criticized in the UK for this, and now he’s bringing it to the United States where we as a movement of the climate justice movement, have worked so hard to center it. He’s now trying to erase that. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. Either of you have any comments on that kind of analysis that’s criticizing Extinction Rebellion even in the UK

CF: From my perspective, it feels like because we’ve discussed this with Roger, you know, we’ve had conversations with Roger, and he just feels like, you know, he has the right way to do things, and honestly to me as a native woman, as a woman, as a person in the climate justice movement for a long time, it feels like Roger is coming to colonize, in some way, our movement, because he just cannot get into his head that we actually know what we’re doing over here too. And we’ve actually have a pretty strong climate strategy that we’ve been using for a long time, and have made amazing progress with. It’s not a situation where it’s like we want to do things our way because we’re Americans and it’s apple pie and baseball. It’s more of a situation where, we know what our people need, you know, like we’re in touch with all sorts of native folks, you know, all kinds of folks got in the EJ/CJ movement, and we know what they’re asking us for too. And for him to come in and just plant his flag and say this is the way it’s supposed to be done..; this is the strategy and I’m not even going to listen to old time organizers who are telling us that this is not going to work here, seems a lot like trying to colonize a movement that’s been moving for a long time.

MF: Bea do you anything to add to that?

BR: I think that we haven’t provided any background yet on the issue regarding Roger’s interference in the US and XR America. So I just want to provide some of that background. So I think I’ve been saying XR US has from the beginning tried to do everything we can to not follow the lead from XR UK about not centering justice. But there are other differences as well. So XR UK has a framing called Beyond Politics. One thing that means is that XR, as a movement, doesn’t do electoral work, and doesn’t take positions on politicians. And that is one thing that all of XR, including the US, does uphold. We do not do electoral work. But XR UK also uses Beyond Politics as a framing regarding not being left or right. In the UK there’s an explicit criticism of leftists in general, and being leftist is actually like a pejorative, that it’s a hindrance to the movement. And so in addition XR UK goes out of its way to make sure that conservatives feel welcome and also being very friendly with the police. And they see this as a way to include everyone. But actually we see it as a big problem, a horrible way to organize. I mean people literally say it’s like a gut punch, for people to see XR people in the UK being friendly with the police and you know, showering them with love, sending them love notes and things like that. We think in the UK that’s completely wrong too. But in the US it’s absolutely poison. And we don’t take this framing in general… I’m not speaking for all groups. This is a decentralized movement. But overall, this is not the approach we take to the police in the US. So these are some of the differences. And Roger is a big proponent of all of these things, all of these ways of organizing, and Roger who has been highly controversial abroad, not only in the UK for the action in the tube, in the subway there, but also regarding horrible Holocaust comments that Roger has made, which caused a scandal. Rightly so. But now it’s like he doesn’t have enough to do with the problems that he’s causing abroad. He’s decided to directly intervene his position in the movement. He’s seen as the most visible leader. He has the access to the most donors, big donors. He has access to major media. Using his status and position to come to the US and organize a splinter group. He’s directly helping a splinter group form in the US Called XR America, and XR America is a movement that is really shocking, where they are actualizing a climate movement where they are telling people that if they want to work with XR America, they should not be doing social justice work. I mean they say this explicitly. They also say that they are leaving racial justice and indigenous justice to other movements to do. So we’re talking about a movement that’s actually explicitly organizing against climate justice, an attack on climate justice. And this isn’t just harmful to XR. We think this is harmful to the movement as a whole. They’re using the XR name in the US to try to attack climate justice. There are other groups in the US, not XR, and they are really concerned about it as well. And to give a very specific example, there are activists in Portland who have done climate justice work, you know, for many years, but who now have started to work with XR America and somehow worked it out in their heads that it’s acceptable to work with a group that is specifically removing climate justice from its framework and vision, from what it’s advocating for. This is dangerous. Roger is trying to help fundraise for this XR America and he’s promoting XR America.

MF: I find that really interesting because the Extinction Rebellion UK and I think Roger himself refers a lot to movements like the civil rights movement in the United States, and says, you know, XR is trying to replicate a mass movement like the Civil Rights Movement. But of course the Civil Rights Movement came out of people who were directly impacted by the policies that they were fighting against. The structural racism in the United States. The structural violence. These are people who were being oppressed and then found allies in other communities that joined them in that struggle. And so it feels like what Roger is doing is actually trying to take the heart out of the movement of the people who are most impacted. And after all of the decades of work that have been done in the United States and around the world, to finally center those voices of the people who are directly impacted, and to center climate justice, I find I agree with you. This is a very dangerous precedent.

KZ: I think the idea of describing it is colonizing is a really good analogy. And when they use the term XR America, I know a lot of people in the United States who are activists recognized as America, Latin America, South America, Venezuela, Canada…. America covers a lot of area. It’s not just the United States. And so just using that terminology is part of the colonizing. It’s really interesting that that’s what they call themselves and I’m sure totally unaware of how that is a colonizing term. This is a really important debate and I’m so pleased that you guys and others are working on this aspect of the issue. We’re running out of time, unfortunately. Can you tell us a couple things? Where can people read about XR US and the justice group that’s working on climate justice, first.

BR: Yeah, the website for XR US is ExtinctionRebellion.us. And the XR justice working group has only just started, so we don’t have a website yet, but you can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/xrjustice. If you’re interested in joining the working group, you can email us at XRjustice@protonmail.com. And if you go to the XR facebook page, you can also sign up to our e-mail list. The email list is just for folks who want to be informed and find out about events and things like that, not if you want to join. I mean obviously you can sign up on the email list too. But if you just want to get informed you can sign up on the email list. If you want to try to join the working group, then email that proton mail address.

KZ: And are there any upcoming events that you want to let our listeners know about that people should be aware of?

BR: Well, if you look at the XR US Facebook page, and also if you look at the ExtinctionRebellion.us website, you’ll see the effect our US local groups are doing solidarity actions with the Wet’suwet’em, the indigenous people in Canada who are fighting the coastal gas link. There’s a lot of actions happening. There’s a lot of actions is happening around the world by movements broadly to support that struggle, and so if you want to get involved in tthat would be great. That’s I think the most recent thing I’ve heard of what XR groups are doing regarding actions.
I was just going to reference what Margaret was saying about Roger and the Civil Rights Movement. Roger prides himself in having done PhD work on social movement research, but Margaret, I just want to agree with you that Roger really misunderstands social movements in general and really uses the civil rights movement in a very utilitarian way, and in a very incorrect way. There’s a lot there for example regarding the issue of arrests and focusing on arrests. It’s like for Roger this is a formula, right? So in the Civil Rights Movement 300 people got arrested and then some change happened, as if the goal is like a formula. 2 plus 2 equals 4. You know, he literally says we get this many people arrested and then we’ll get what we need. Yeah, in the US, we of course are focused on civil disobedience, but we are not focused on arrest in that kind of formulaic way that isn’t about relationship building. People don’t go and try to get arrested specifically. We are doing the actions that we need to do in order to raise the alarm about the issue and unfortunately the government tries to arrest people. They do that. But the goal isn’t to get arrested, and we don’t want to create a movement where the idea is, like, in order to be in the movement you have to get arrested. People of color in the US. Black people in the US, you know, getting arrested could be very dangerous. And so we want to create a movement that has a diversity of tactics, and arrest is just one of those things.

KZ: I found Roger’s writing on the 3.5% get active and you win, to be kind of amateurist. He may have got a PhD for it. I’m not sure of his experiences in movements. But the reality is if you look at the methods of people getting active to achieve a mass movement, arrest is not the only measure. There are boycotts. There are strikes. There’s marches, there’s so many things you can do to do activism. Even outreach is activism. Talking to neighbors is activism. He has a very, I’d say, childish analysis the way he does this. He looks at the writings of people who talk about this from a perspective of US policy, you know, how to change governments the US doesn’t like with nonviolent movements. He looks at that without looking at it from a more complex [perspective]. That article by Nafeez Ahmed mentioned earlier focuses very heavily on that. Cherri do you have any final thoughts for a while you wrap up here?

CF: Not really.[laughter]

MF: Well Cherri can you comment on that you’ve been working on? You’ve been fighting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Did you have any quick things folks should know about the work you’re doing?

CF: Well, the Bayou Bridge has gone through, but it didn’t go through our lands. We will be able to keep it, and so that area right now, that 11 acres is turning into bayou food forest so we are using it to feed people in cancer alley, people across the nation that are on these front lines. And so I’m really excited about that. And we also have another place in Northern New Mexico now that’s for refuge for people who are escaping the trauma of fighting in the area, like I had to. So we kind of go back and forth between here and there but great things are happening and I’m really excited about this next year moving forward and the opportunities that are available to us inside and outside XR.

MF: Great. Well, thank you both of you for taking time to speak with us and for the important work that you’re doing.

BR and CF: Thank you. Thank you for having us. All right. Thanks. Thank you very much.

Read More

Syracuse Students Lead A National Movement To End Oppressive Campus Environments

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

For a long time, students and faculty of predominately-white universities across the country have been experiencing oppressive environments where racism and homophobia are tolerated. This academic year, a group of Syracuse University students who call themselves Not Again SU has taken strong actions to confront this environment. They garnered significant attention last fall when they occupied the Barnes Center and issued 19 demands to the university. The administration agreed to address many of the demands but months later not much has been done and hate incidents continue to occur without consequences to deter them. They are currently occupying the administrative building to press for more action. This time the university responded aggressively by suspending students, denying them access to food and other necessities and unleashing a violent police force against them. We speak with one of the student organizers about what is happening on campus and how their actions have sparked a nationwide movement.

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Transcript

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing The FOG, speaking truth to expose the Forces Of Greed with Margaret Flowers…
Kevin Zeese (KZ): And Kevin Zeese.
MF: Clearing The FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at PopularResistance.org, and while you’re there check out our store where you can get Clearing The GOT gear, like bumper stickers, t-shirts, water bottles and tote bags. So this week we interviewed a student from Syracuse University.
KZ: That’s right. Right there fighting an ongoing battle against racism and . . .
MF: homophobia . . .
KZ: transphobia… You pick the issues in this regressive Administration. They fought this battle back in November December, thought they resolved it, and now they’re back at it again. They’ve been in the administration building now with all sorts of conflicts with the police, but they’re hanging strong and doing an incredible job of raising these important issues.
MF: When you say conflicts with the police, it’s not *them* causing a conflict. They’re peacefully occupying the administration building. But the police have been very aggressive towards them, as has the administration. So the update on that is they are currently in negotiations with the administration. That’s expected to be Monday and Tuesday of this week. And we’ll see what happens after that. But their action has really sparked a nationwide movement Against Racism and oppressive environments on campuses. And so it’s exciting to see where this will go.
So before we get to that interview, why don’t we talk about some things that are in the news. Of course many people are thinking about and talking about the coronavirus now that it has come to the United States, and this week in our newsletter we wrote about the Coronavirus and how the United States is really not prepared to handle it.
KZ: it. That’s right. In PopularResistance.org we examined the mistakes the US government has made, not just the Trump Administration… although he has added to those mistakes significantly, but successive administrations, and not really focusing on these epidemic health problems the way we need to focus on them.
MF: For example in China where they have a centralized system and they took very swift action to contain the virus, they’re actually seeing a sharp decline in the number of new cases. But now the coronavirus has spread around the world. More than 60 countries are reporting it. It has come to the United States and there’s a number of problems. I mean one is that there’s been cuts to the grants for states and local areas to deal with situations like this. That didn’t start under Trump. That started before Trump. And also there’s really a lack of communication amongst the various agencies and entities that would be involved in coordinating a response to the epidemic. And without that communication, it makes it really hard for the right information to get where it needs to be.
KZ: And on top of that Trump has added to the problems by his mistaken comments about the virus, calling it a hoax, a democratic plot to an election year, almost treating like a RussiaGate type story when it’s really an epidemic. This really is happening. I think it’s an epidemic becoming a pandemic, meaning a global health catastrophe.
But also big, long-term mistakes made by both parties are going to be highlighted by this virus. For example, the lack of universal healthcare right now. There are so many barriers, financial barriers, for people going to the hospital, going to their doctor to get checked if they have symptoms, that people will not get checked. We’re talking about a thousand dollar cost for these tests after insurance, and for the 27 million people without insurance and the tens of millions more without adequate insurance, it’s just not possible to go to the doctor to get checked up when you show some of the signs of this virus. If we had a national, improved Medicare-For-All system where people had access to healthcare without financial barriers, then we can see those kind of checkups,. Those kind of checkups would mean less spreading of the illness. What we’re going to see is a big increase in people with the virus in the United States, because so many are out there who already have the virus, have not been tested and containing the virus that’s going to be the big problem. Medicare-for-all would have solved that problem, plus it would ensure that people who do get ill can get treatment.
That’s just one. Another example of policies that are mistaken in the United States is the lack of sick leave. Most countries have it. There was a study done by the center for economic and policy research of 22 countries. Every developed country in the world has policies allowing for sick leave, paid sick leave. The United States does not have that. People are afraid to take off work. Which means they go to work with the symptoms of the virus, maybe not knowing they have it, and they are infecting their co-workers, infecting people they work with, and customers. If they’re in the service industry, people they serve food to, people they meet or come in contact with on transit, on their way to work as they commute. I mean, so it just spreads the virus by people not being able to take sick leave when they have a cold or have the symptoms that lead to this virus. So these long-term mistakes of US policies are really making a dangerous situation for how the US response is to this epidemic
MF: And just so people have good information about this. Of course, you can go to cdc.gov… that’s the Centers for Disease Control, to get up-to-date information about the coronavirus and how to protect yourself from it. But people should know that this is a respiratory virus that causes, in most people, kind of a cold symptom, but in some people it can cause pneumonia, and particularly for people who are older or have poor health. They’re at higher risk of dying from this. This virus is spread by droplets. That means that if someone who has the virus sneezes or coughs, the droplets that come out of that sneeze or cough will land on a surface, and then if someone touches that surface and touches their own mouth or eyes or nose, they can infect themselves. It has been found that the virus can survive for up to nine days on surfaces. So it’s good to be cleaning surfaces regularly with a disinfectant.
Also, people should not be touching their eyes, nose or mouth. And people should be washing their hands frequently. Do that. Use lots of soap soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well, and then dry with a clean towel. Now, there are lots of pictures of people wearing face masks. If you’re healthy, there’s no need for you to wear a face mask. But if you have any symptoms of a cold, if you’re coughing or sneezing or anything like that, then you need to wear a face mask so that you don’t spread it to other people. And ideally, if you have any cold symptoms, you should be staying home as much as possible. Certainly not going into areas where there are lots of people. Stay home from work if you’re able to do that.
So it’s important that people know what the facts are, how to protect themselves. And the reason this virus is a very concerning… one is it’s a brand new virus. So people don’t have immunity to it, but it’s been found that it’s highly infectious so it can spread quickly and easily to lots of people. And the mortality rate, the death rate, from it is about twenty times higher than the death rate from the flu. This season in the United States there have been already 14,000 deaths from the flu.
KZ: Just a couple more things about US policies that are worth mentioning that are problematic. Pharmaceuticals should not be a for-profit industry. Pharmaceutical research is funded in large part by the government. The government funds the research and then the profit here goes to Big big Pharma. They take the profits, and the Secretary of HHS says that he can’t guarantee that if there is a vaccine for the coronavirus that’ll be affordable. That’s absurd. The US Is going to spend a billion dollars to create a vaccine and then people can’t afford it. That’s a real flaw in a for-profit healthcare system, and really nationalizing Big Pharma is something that should be starting to become part of a dialogue in this country, part of a political agenda in this country, because Big Pharma is ripping off us consumers. It’s one of the reasons why healthcare is so expensive and needs to be confronted.
Another problem in the United States is that we’ve Industrialized. We depend on China for medicines. We depend on China for health devices, for items we will need to treat this virus. Decades of corporate trade agreements that have allowed corporations in the United States to push their production overseas have left us vulnerable. That vulnerability is shown now with this coronavirus. So a series of mistakes from healthcare to employment to trade have resulted in leaving our country insecure and really unable to handle this kind of an epidemic.
MF: And there have been reports prior to this that have warned that the United States is not prepared to handle an epidemic, for one thing. We don’t have that many hospital beds considering the size of our population. We don’t have sufficient hospital beds. Hospitals have been closing, particularly in low-income and rural areas. So that’s going to make those populations very vulnerable. It’s also concerning when you look at this task force that the Trump Administration has put together, led by vice president Pence, who basically is going out and and reassuring people that the markets are okay, and praising the President. And this is somebody who doesn’t believe in science, and doesn’t have the experience and the skills to lead a task force to stop the coronavirus. If you look at the people who are on the task force, many of them have ties to the pharmaceutical and other healthcare profiteering sectors.
If we actually wanted to create a response to the coronavirus, the very first step would be public education. You would be seeing everywhere public education. You would see hand sanitizer being put out everywhere. You would see clinics being set up in all kinds of communities across the country and hotlines were people who develop respiratory symptoms could call or go to the clinic and get free evaluations and free testing. That’s how we would actually take action to control the coronavirus, but we’re not seeing any of that happening, and so I think it’s important for people in their communities to be asking their local governments these questions, and local health departments. What are you doing to make sure that every single person can get the care that they need? And be identified as someone who may have coronavirus?
KZ: And the really interesting surprise from this is the impact on the financial markets. Six trillion dollars in wealth was lost in a week because of this coronavirus. Major major loss of resources. Now, of course we we’re due for a recession anyway. There are lots of signs of a recession coming. This may be the event that triggered it, but there are signs all over the world of a shaky financial system. And this coronavirus seems to be putting it over the edge. Stock prices go down. People see opportunities to buy, so they’ll be days when it goes up. But the overall economy is not the fundamental… You know, they always say the fundamentals are sound. Well, it’s quite the opposite. The fundamentals actually are not sound. That’s right. And as a result, we’re going to see that the economic impact from this recession is more likely [and more severe]. And it was already coming. And so this coronavirus is having health, economic and political impacts that are pretty significant.
MF: And so people can expect to see, as you said, volatility in the market. That doesn’t mean if you see it going up that it’s actually recovering. The fundamentals are very poor. And if we go into another recession, we’re going to be in worse footing than we were last time in 2008, because the amount of debt is higher than the debt was in 2008. And people’s level of financial Security is much worse than it was prior to the 2008 crash. So this is going to be a much more serious situation.
KZ: The FED will take some action to reduce interest rates, which are already very low. So there’s not a lot of room for flexibility there, but they’ll do something to reduce interest rates to kind of pump things up again, but they really can’t solve the coronavirus. They can’t solve the reality of China’s economy being slowed by people staying home from work to prevent the virus from spreading. They can’t solve the globalized structure of the economy. They can do a little bit of a spur with an interest rate drop that will help for a short time. But in the long run that’s not a solution.
MF: Let’s move on to some other stories. And actually this one is related. The people’s Water Board in Detroit, a group of social justice organizations, wrote to the Michigan Governor. They’re asking for the governor to use her executive power to place a moratorium on water shutoffs. Also, restore water to people who have had their water shut off, and move to income-based billing so that everybody can afford to have water. Now the reason that this is so important is what they’re highlighting is with the coronavirus epidemic, people need to have access to water so they can practice hygiene, wash their hands and other things like that. Also, water is just necessary for general hygiene and preventing all kinds of diseases. And so they’re really using this opportunity to highlight that everybody in the United States should have access to water.
KZ: This is another failed policy. Water has become privatized in many cities. Water has become a commodity rather than a public good. You need to return to a position where water is a public good that all people have access to. It’s essential for life and should not be a profit center for private business, or even for the government.
MF: It’s another one of those things where you cut off your nose to spite your face. It’s when people don’t have access to water that the cost to society is so much higher in many ways, including what impact it has on families. And families being separated because water is being turned off in their home. It just makes so much sense that everybody has access to water in their homes.
KZ: This coronaviruses is bringing out so many faulty policies from healthcare to the globalized economy to worker rights to basic necessities, like water. It just shows a lot of mistakes being made in this neoliberal, capitalist economy that’s strangling the people.
MF: Meanwhile we’re not spending on things like water and basic health infrastructure. Many people will be surprised to know that right now the United States is gearing up for the largest military exercise that we’ve ever held in the European Union in 25 years. This is called Defender 2020, and it’s going to involve 37 thousand soldiers. The US is sending 20,000 soldiers from 15 states over to Europe to join about eight or nine thousand soldiers who are already there. And basically they’re going to be practicing war with Russia. Why are they practicing war with Russia? Because the United States needs to have an enemy in order to justify its war budget.
KZ: Our war budget is a mint. It’s more than a trillion dollars a year and includes multiple agencies in addition to the Pentagon. And these war games are not only bad as they are with 37 thousand troops involved targeting Russia… They’re including nuclear weapons in the war games. So this is an escalation to the point that we’re talking about practicing the use of nuclear weapons on Russia, a nuclear-armed country. That is insanity!
MF: It certainly is and people may be aware that the United States practices war games all the time. We do them in the Pacific area. We do them in South Korea, regularly targeting North Korea. And you know, there is a huge amount of money that’s spent on this. It has a huge environmental impact, as all of these planes are flying and they’re dropping ammunition and things like that. So it’s outrageous. Why is the US spending so much money on these war games that are antagonizing other countries? Imagine how we would respond if other countries, say Russia and China, decided to do massive war games along our coasts. The United States would freak out.
KZ: It’s absurd. And some good news with the coronavirus is that the war games that were scheduled with South Korea… the United States against North Korea… were put to a stop because of coronavirus. One benefit of the coronavirus. One set of War Games was stopped.
MF: [The people of] South Korea has been wanting the United States and North Korea to stop the war games, but the US refuses to stop them. Let’s talk about a new report that came out back in October of 2019. There was a presidential election in Bolivia. Evo Morales won that election fair and square, but immediately after the election the Organization of American States put out a statement claiming that the election was fraudulent, that there were all of these irregularities. That was partly used to justify a coup that the US is involved in, that put in place a very violent quote-unquote government right now. Well, a new report from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that there are no significant irregularities in that election.
KZ: It’s important to remember the OAS really is a tool of US domination. The US funds it. US controls it. They manipulate the rules. You do remember they recognized Juan Guaido as a president of Venezuela by changing the rules because it could not get the two thirds vote required. They made it a simple majority and by a magic wand Guaido became the president. Under the OAS he’s President.
MF: We know he’s not really the President.
KZ: Of course. He’s nowhere near the President. He never even spent a day in the Presidential Palace. He’s not the president. He’s not even the president of the National Assembly anymore. But I don’t want to get off the point of it. Bolivia is about to have another round of Elections. These other elections, the OAS is helping to make sure there’s democracy and Bolivia.
MF: Quote-unquote helping. Quote-unquote democracy.
KZ: And USAID is helping as well. Evo Morales had kicked USAID out of Bolivia because of its interference with their Internal Affairs. And so these US-controlled institutions are helping to bring “democracy” to Bolivia by replacing the elected president, Evo Morales, who we know won the first election. We’re very interested to see what this second election is like if the indigenous populations are allowed to vote. They make 60 or 70% of the of the voters in Bolivia. Then they would win. So we’ll have to see how this plays out, but it’s not been a very positive sign so far.
MF: When you say “they” would when you’re talking about Evo Morales’s party and movement towards socialism, but unfortunately this coup that has taken over Bolivia is an extremely violent one. They are one that could easily be called fascist, extremely right-wing, and they have been clamping down on members of the movement towards socialism in a variety ways. They wouldn’t allow Evo Morales to run for the Senate, and so it’s hard to believe given the way that they’ve been behaving, that we are going to have a fair election in Bolivia.
KZ: I’d be surprised if we do. The movement for socialism parties put forward a very strong slate of candidates and they are treating the election like a legitimate election, whether the coup government will allow it to be a legitimate election, whether the OAS observing this election will allow it to be legitimate. That remains to be seen. It’s highly doubtful.
MF: Let’s talk about what continues to go on in Chicago. Speaking of state violence, as people may know, for decades there has been police torture of people, primarily black and brown people, in Chicago. And we understand that they actually are getting reports of three to five new torture claims every week, and between 2004 and 2016 the city of Chicago spent 662 million dollars on police misconduct [cases].
KZ: There are hundreds of of people who have been tortured in Chicago. Many of those people still remain incarcerated. There are campaigns going on to get those people released and to bring accountability to the Chicago Police Department. This is an incredible story of intense torture routine, torture by Chicago Police, and there are connections between these torturers and US military torturers. For example, one of the police officers involved in the torture in Chicago, Richard —, has been a Guantanamo torturer for 10 years, and then he went to Chicago and continues the practice. And he had this attitude of, “they’re all bad guys anyway. It doesn’t matter whether they’re guilty of the crime. Those who are arrested, they’re all bad guys anyway, so it’s okay to torture.” That was his attitude and that’s kind of the attitude we see in our military, and in our police, our militarized police. It’s an attitude that needs to be weeded out of both the military and the police. And the first step is releasing the people who’ve been tortured, and hold those accountable who conducted the torture.
MF: There’s a video going around on Twitter right now that shows a military commander talking to his troops and saying there is no place for racism within the military. We can’t tolerate this type of behavior within the military, but what strikes me when I see that is that people don’t recognize that the military as an institution is a racist institution, because soldiers are trained to see other people, primarily black and brown people in other countries, as something less than human. They use all kinds of pejorative nicknames towards them. They dehumanize them and they have to do this in order to make it acceptable for soldiers to kill other people in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan, or in Somalia or wherever we have military involvement. It seems so hypocritical that commanders within the military are saying “don’t be racist towards each other, towards people in the United States,” but it’s okay to be racist towards people in other countries.
Let’s move on to some good news. A group of defendants that are involved with Extinction rebellion in Portland, Oregon were part of an action against a company called Zenith Energy, which stores fossil fuels, and these defendants, when they went to trial, they used a defense. It’s a type of necessity defense called “choice of evils” and they actually had a hung jury and so they were not convicted.
KZ: Necessity has been around for a very long time as a defense. It requires the defendants to be able to show, first, that the conduct was necessary to avoid a threatened injury, and that injury needs to be imminent and was reasonable for the people to believe that avoiding that injury was of greater importance that obeying the law. And I think it’s getting more and more clear with the climate catastrophe hitting us, and the impacts of forest fires and storms and floods and droughts, that so many major impacts are happening that it is imminent. It’s happening now and so for people to take action, and raise this necessity defense is a very positive step. It’s not an easy defense. I don’t want people to, you know, run out and think they can get involved in aggressive acts of civil disobedience or civil resistance and think that they will be able to use a necessity defense. It is a very difficult defense to raise. There are people who work on this defense, who can provide assistance if you’ve go down that path, but I think for now it’s becoming so clear that the climate crisis is upon us that the necessity defense has greater and greater legitimacy and this Oregon case is a first step.
MF: Now there’s a larger group of defendants facing trial, and these 65 people in New Hampshire who did an action last September, they were charged with trespassing and they were part of a bucket by bucket action where they went to the Merrimac coal station, which is the largest coal station in New England, that doesn’t have a shutdown date, and they put on protective gear and they started taking the coal away from the station bucket by bucket.
KZ: And then are facing prosecution. Well, maybe they’ll raise a necessity defense. Time will tell. It’s a good question, but it’s certainly becoming a reality now that in this era that civil disobedience and civil resistance actions are becoming essential, because it’s obvious our government, especially in the Trump Administration, refuses to even acknowledge that climate change exists. Even when Obama recognized climate change, he put in place a lot of oil and gas infrastructure, made the US a major producer of oil and gas, and so even though he said he recognized climate change, his actions undermined the effort to prevent climate change. So it becomes more and more on the people to do all they can, and that requires civil disobedience and civil resistance.
MF: Right. And the people who are targeting the Merrimac coal station, actually some of them returned to do other actions there, even though they had been arrested as part of this first group. And they’re saying their goal is to shut down the Merrimac coal station, and we’re going to keep taking action to do that. That’s the kind of dedication and courage that we need to have if we’re going to truly confront these institutions. I mean we can do all the things that we personally can do and it’s still not going to stop the climate crisis. It’s important that we lower our use of energy. It’s important that we lower our greenhouse gas emissions. But there are these large facilities out there, industries that are causing so much of the greenhouse gases. We’re not going to solve the problem if we don’t shut them down and change to something different now. There’s a report that also came out recently that’s found that they estimate that by the end of the century 13.1 million people in the United States who live on the coastal areas will need to move because of sea level rise. Now, that’s what they’re estimating for the end of the century. But in fact if we look at how these studies have been going on in recent years around the climate crisis, every time they’ve made a prediction they’ve found out that it’s happening sooner. It’s happening, worse than they predicted. So I think that we should look at this 13 million and this level of sea level rise as probably a conservative estimate.
KZ: 13 million definitely sounds low, and this was an interesting study because it looked at movements of people after hurricanes like Katrina, and then projected what would happen as these kinds of floods and hurricanes and coastal problems developed. What kind of impact would they basically have? Every county in the United States will be impacted by the climate crisis because people will be moving. Millions of people moving from the coasts inward, and that’s going to cause disruptions in housing and communities prices. And and so they’re saying this is not just a coastal problem. This is a problem for the entire country because it’s going to affect every county in the United States.
MF: Right. And again, it’s a problem that needs real central leadership, so that we can address this ,make sure that people are able to afford housing, able to find jobs, where they’re moving. If we had a sensible policies we would be making plans for what Dr. Michael Mann calls a “planned retreat” from areas that will be very impacted by the climate crisis.
KZ: It’s important to know that in this study, they said that in 2001 a third of the planet’s urban land was vulnerable to floods. That’s in 2000. A third of the planets urban land. Well now we’re talking about this being 40%, 50%. That’s going to keep on rising, and so urban communities, often in coastal areas, are going to be areas that are subject to floods, and damage from the climate crisis.
MF: Right. So that’s all the news we have for right now. Why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll come back with our interview with the student from Syracuse University.
Musical Break:
And now we turn to our guests, who is a student organizer with the Not Again SU campaign at Syracuse University in New York. Thank you for taking time to join us today.
SU Student (SU): Thank you for having me.
MF: So if you could maybe start out… I know there’s a lot to talk about what’s been happening at Syracuse University, but maybe you can start out by talking about where you are, and how long you’ve been there, and what’s happening there.
SU: So I’m currently at — Hall. This is the home of admissions, enrollment and all the senior administration at Syracuse University. This building is very symbolic of the deeply rooted issues at this University, of the complacency with the different oppressive systems, especially white supremacy and anti-blackness, but also queer phobia, xenophobia and a lot of the other things that are rooted not just at Syracuse University but in America. And so we are on, currently, our eleventh day of our occupation of this building. So basically we came in a couple Monday’s ago trying to pass a new set of demands after our November action. And so when we came into this building, we wanted to hold the administration accountable. This was the first time out of the recent history of protest on Syracuse University, where it was not reactionary. And so what our goal was, was to attack the Institution in ways of its complacency and it’s inadequacy in facing the problems that people of oppressed identities face every single day on this campus. And so having that in mind, I think the university reacted in a way that was extremely violent, and it’s reflective of those oppressive systems. And so during the first day of the occupation at around 8 o’clock, [they’ve been telling us] throughout the day, kind of stating that we would get suspended if we stay here, but they fully threatened us 8 o’clock, and by 8:30, they closed the doors, even though they stated that the building was closing at nine, so more people couldn’t get in. And for the 31 people that were in the building, they’ve got a blanket statement letter saying that they were interim suspended. Interim suspension states that you are an act of violence on this campus and a threat to safety for the student population, and it’s very hard to get an interim suspension. And so they saw us as the direct threat, and a direct drive to campus safety when we’re trying to create systemic change. And from that day on from Monday to Wednesday, there are very adamant of denying any food, medical necessities, basic hygiene products… and it became as if these basic human necessities were treated as if they were contraband. And so it acted as a very militant State, very much like a prison, in which there are guards at every door. Nobody was being led end. I remember one time on Monday I was saying, “oh if you’re not going to let people in at least let me ask if I can have a Department of Public Safety Officer in, or if my friend can get me food from the outside, because they’re trying to let food in, and then give it to me.” They said that was not possible. There are moments when they would look into bags and they finally let medical necessities in. And on Tuesday they threw all the food on the ground. There was a moment where the DPS officers switched shifts. Instead of the side or that they usually use, they went through the main entrance where most protesters were, shoving their way and kind of enacting violence with the students and blaming it on them, as if they were inciting violence. And students were not even trying to mosh in. There were so scared for *our* safety and for *us* being starved that they started throwing food in over their heads. And there was one moment where pizza dropped on the ground and the DPS officer looked at the students and said, “now you get all can eat shit.” And so there’s been a lot of tension. There was a moment when the deputy chief grabbed his holster when dealing with protests, as if he was grabbing a firearm, and saying that he was just doing the protocol. And so with all those things happening within 3 days, it was very dystopian, very violent and very scary for the students both inside and outside.
There are people maybe eight ten twelve hours at a time waiting outside constantly because they’re so scared of what the administration can do next. And eventually on Wednesday, they were slowly allowing food and different things back into the building because they realized the act of violence that they had [done]. And by Thursday the building was open again from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. But there’s still been a lot of different actions and a lot of frustrations. Now, they’re trying to do a lot of pre-negotiation meetings before the meetings. I think they’re trying to do at least three or so, and it’s like, why do we have to sit in these meetings and drain us out before we actually have a real meeting with Administration? That’s ridiculous. And we were supposed to have a negotiation meeting yesterday on Wednesday at 4 p.m. with a list of people that we invited there, that that we want to hold accountable, and also trusted faculty, our legal counsel… but they did not show up and said that they never agreed on a time, even though they said that they were working on our accommodations and they did agree to the time. And so basically what happened yesterday was that we blocked one of the main intersections at our University, blocking buses coming into campus and kind of leading chants and holding the administration accountable, because if they’re not going to come to us we have to make ways and combat different ways, and try to shut the institution down so that they start recognizing us and actually having real negotiations in good faith that they’ve been stating that they are having. And so at this point trying to hold the ministration accountable.
KZ: Excellent. Well you guys are doing amazing work. Let’s back up a little bit to explain to our listeners what this is about. As I recall back in November, December, when you did your first campaign, the issue was racially prejudiced activities going on on the campus. Can you describe… what started this protest? what’s the race issues that are rearing their heads there?
SU: I would say the start of this particular movement kind of goes further. But if you’re talking specifically about what happens in November, that starts with the instances that occurred on November 17th, if I remember the dates correctly. Basically there was racist graffiti targeted black students, and also racist graffiti targeting Asian international students. And so that kind of stimulated a lot of anger because there was never a formal note or email sent out. Basically the only way students found out about it was through social media because DPS officers and the administration said that they were not allowed to spread these videos. And that created a lot of outrage because in my three years at Syracuse I’ve faced a lot of violence consistently, and also there’s always been a major movement every single year I’ve been here. And so hat that kind of led to a sit-in at the Barn Center, which was the newly renovated gym. So we occupied that space for ten days, and kind of held the administration accountable, having a new list of demands stating clearly what we wanted.
And even though they replied often to those demands, the responses, even though we listed expansions after expansions, were not adequately dealt with. They said things were finished and we’re no longer in progress, when they weren’t. For example, we asked for multicultural learning communities be placed on every single door. We understand systemic change takes time, but when there was only one and now there’s two, on the smallest floor plans on the University dorms, that is not substantially completed. And so things like that, where they say that they keep on finishing. There’s numerous examples. It’s obviously clear that they haven’t, and to hold them accountable is what led to this protest. But there’s been numerous protests in the past. I would say within recent history. It starts in 2014 with the general body that led an 18-day occupation when Kent Subaru came on campus and eradicated a lot of the funding for marginalized identities, also taking away the Advocacy Center, which was looking at adding nuance and ways to help aid sexual assault advisors ,and also then there was the hashtag RecognizeUs movement that was in reaction to the Theta Tau videos. And then after that there was the Acumeni Sol Madrid, which where a professor said the n word, and that kind of created a lot of outrage and kind of stemming to what Not Again SU is now.
MF: I mean, it sounds like what’s happening is a continuation of a long time culture on the campus, but would you say under the current head, it sounds like things have worsened under him? Is that correct?
SU: That is completely cracked. I mean Nancy Cantor, who is now the dean of Rutgers, was a lot better dealing with a lot of things. I know what basically happened is that she got ousted from the Board of Trustees, because from what we know she wasn’t raising enough money, or if she was raising enough money, that money was being funneled to programs to increase relationships with the city in a way that was helping the city, instead of the parasitic relationship that Syracuse University has had for 150 years. She did a lot of programming for marginalized identities as well, and they kind of saw that as taking too much money into those programs. And so when Kent Suru came in office. they wanted him to be that major fundraiser, having that one 1.4 billion dollar endowment, creating this system where it’s an R1 institution, but taking funding away from a lot of diversity offices, like the office of Multicultural Affairs, LGBT Resource Center, the Center for International students. All those things were cut when he came into office, and so he specifically, and the Board of Trustees backing him, created this University environment where those of marginalized identities never had that experience, and continue to never have that experience, and it’s getting worse with him in office.
KZ: To me it’s just amazing that the university, which is trying to raise all this money, doesn’t recognize that having this kind of racism and prejudice on campus, undermines their goal of creating a wealthy University. This this can’t be good for them. Why can’t they just confront this issue? It’s not… Describe your demands. They don’t sound very outrageous. Describe your demands.
SU: Yeah, I mean the new ones I know are little bit more controversial, such as like DPS disarmament, which I think a lot of us would all agree on. They’ve been enacting violence, or tuition fees, because of the increasing monetary restraint that harms a lot of students of color. But also simple things like the Learning Community that I stated, updating the violence-related incidents logs every 48 hours so that students are notified of what’s happening. Or like increasing housing surrounding, and focused on, students with disabilities. Things like that I don’t think are irrational at all. They’re actually things that would make the campus better. And I think that if the administration would want to take this seriously and want to actually do their jobs and create a system of change, that would mean we would be able to go home. And they would actually be doing something good for this University.
MF: Can you talk Little bit about some of the solidarity that you’ve been receiving. How have alumni, faculty, other students… How wave they been responding to what you’re doing?
SU: I think the biggest Act of solidarity is from the grad students. There are some grad students that have been a part of this movement consistently, but what they’ve done is gone a labor strike. They’re withholding all their labor, over 100 plus grad students have done so and have signed that. And so I think that’s the biggest act of solidarity I’ve seen so far. And now they‘re creating a faculty Action Coalition stating that if the resignations of certain people, a list of people more expensive than the ones that we have, are not met then they will do increased action. And so those are I would say the major solidarity coalitions that are happening so far. But there’s been a lot of great solidarity throughout the university, a lot of people wanting to help us. But there’s also been a lot of solidarity in other places. I mean there’s a sit-in that just started in Georgetown and we’re in contact with them, or in Oklahoma State University. What we understand is that this is a national movement. This is not just something that happens at Syracuse University, because it is an issue that happens at a lot of predominantly white institutions. And so creating that solidarity between universities within the United States, but even outside of that, has been great. And seeing that how much coverage we got has enacted, and has empowered students to fight for their own rights, has been amazing this
MF: Remember we were doing an event I think a month or so ago in Northampton, Massachusetts, and we met after the event with a graduate student who is Jewish and she’s very active in pro-palestinian activities, and there was white nationalists on campus who were threatening her. And so the University’s response was not to do anything to these white nationalist but to tell her not to come into her Department anymore because it was becoming a threat for everybody else in that department. And so she has to do everything from home.
SU:It’s ridiculous.
KZ: It’s ridiculous. And it’s you’re right. This is a national problem. So you mentioned that one of the things that really started this was the racist graffiti. What does the University say about that? Are they doing anything to try to prevent or deter or prosecute people involved in that kind of activity?
SU: Well, as of right now, we have 30 plus reported hate crimes… what with the university likes to describe as isolated instances, that have occurred on campus since November 17th. And only the perpetrator of three of those crimes have been caught. And so when they’re interimly suspending peaceful student protesters, but not spending and allocating resources to actually find those people, what does that mean? And what systems are they upholding when they are enacting violence on peaceful student protesters who are trying to create systemic, but not actually do anything about the white nationalist ideology that is continuing to circulate around our University. It makes no sense. I mean, I think right now there’s been eight plus incidences that have occurred since we came back from winter break, and so it shows that nothing has changed. It shows that the administration has been inadequate about finding those people. Because at the University across the street from us, the USF school of Forestry, they had one racist graffiti and the first thing they did within I want to say 24 hours… They found that person, and they suspended that person publicly, but none of that has happened at Syracuse. Even with those three perpetrators, we don’t even know what has happened to them. Yeah, it’s never it’s never been made public. We don’t know if they’ve been suspended. But the first thing the university did to us was suspend us and make that public.
KZ: It seems like a public suspension of those people would be a deterrence. It’s amazing they haven’t taken those kinds of actions. What do people who have gone to this University… What do alumni say? Is this a new problem or is this a long-term problem at the University?
SU: I think it definitely is a long-term problem. I mean, of course, like everything else there is a history, and you can’t just pinpoint a history to one event, because history goes back longer than that. I mean this university has been enacted in protests throughout its time here. I mean, I think I can think of like the Black Panther protests, that have happened here or protests regarding Vietnam, or there was also one regarding like a Denny’s, where students were being physically assaulted outside of a Denny’s. They were students of color. And so with all that history that we have, and the current history they have to switch before protesters enacted in Syracuse University and change, because the administration through all those years have never done anything without protests. And so this is a long-drawn issue and alumni have been greatly supportive, retweeting our tweets, saying things that they are supportive of us. I mean professors who used to teach here, a lot of great people have been in support, stating that that their experiences of Syracuse University are reflective of our experiences. And so they’re supporting us greatly, especially the black and other POC alumni, but also white alumni as well. And so I think that’s nice to see that there are people supporting us and understanding the deep-rooted problems of the university for the past perspective and seeing how we’re trying to push that to be better in the
MF: future. It’s not an easy thing to do it all. Let’s talk a little Little bit about how the university has responded, because I think it’s instructive for people to understand this, because it’s typical of how oppressive institutions treat people. Starting with the Department of Public Safety or the police on campus… we saw through the social media when you were first staying in crouse-hinds Hall how repressive they were and then you all put out a kind of a list of the actions that the police had done and now they’re claiming that that they’re the Victims of, you know, not you particularly but of the students portraying them in a negative way. Can you talk a little bit about that?
SU: Yeah. So I mean talking about the violence that has occurred… Numerous times there’s been numerous altercations where DPS officers who are supposed to be peace officer, who are opposed to create an environment where students feel comfortable on this campus, physically they were pushing students, putting their knees through students legs. There’s been a lot of scary things that have happened on this campus continuously. I mean, I’ve had I’ve seen so many of my friends being pushed and shoved by DPS officers and being so helpless because I’m trapped basically in this building and not knowing what else to do but cry or just look at them in the eyes and just hope that it will stop, and scared of my own safety being here with them 24 hours everyday. Them policing me, and I think that’s the really scary thing. And them using their body cams, which the university would like to state that we refuse to give them our IDs, for the interim suspensions, but basically them alluding to having facial recognition programs, where they look at the body cams for DPS, and they look at the surveillance and buildings and match student protesters’ ID card pictures with what they see on footage, and saying that they did it manually, which of course with 22 thousand students, that’s lie. And there’s been a lot of real profiling that has occurred. I mean for students who were wrongly for suspended, one was a black woman, one was a Latina woman. And so it shows the deeply rooted problems within this University. And so there’s been acts of violence in numerous ways. I mean the chancellor himself still hasn’t gave up apology to the students, not even saying that we were starved, or were withheld of those basic necessities, and kind of creating this smear campaign on a PR standpoint, kind of staining that we’re lying or we could have left at any moment, or eat at the dining hall, which is greatly insulting to us who have faced that violence for three whole days, and continue to do so as we occupy this building. And so I think it’s a very scary time at Syracuse University. There’s so much that has happened and we would also like to state that these acts of violence have not just happened within these 11 days or so, but has happened consistently for students of color on campus. I mean we talk about the Aukerman assault, where e person, I think a white woman and two other white men, came to a party and pistol-whipped a couple people and called them the n-word, and then DPS telling students that they don’t need medical attention. I mean, there are so many of these incidences where time and time again DPS shows who they protext, and it’s clearly not students of color or students of marginalized identities.
MF: Correct me if I’m wrong that DPS is put out a letter saying that you know, they were ordered to behave this way by the administration. It’s not their fault.
SU: Yeah, and I think that letter is is very interesting, because they state that we are the ones that verbally assault them, and that they’re doing all these things on protocol. And also admitting that protocol to them, even when an acting with student protesters or demonstrators, is to grip a holster or to grab a firearm, which is extremely violent. And also saying that we verbally abuse them when they were the ones who were never allowing us to get food or basic necessities. I mean when people at a state where they’re hungry, when they are depressed ,when they are deprived of the things that they need, they are going to lash out. But at the same time, when they consistently enact violence on our friends and we see them shove them, and they want to play the victims as if they have never done harm. And then they were on, and then say that they have only done so because of the administration, and also say that they only do so because their chief told them to do so… I mean that’s not fair to us, and it goes around this like circle where the administration points at DPS and DPS points at the administration, but no ways actually taking accountability for what happened during the 11 days we’ve been here. And also because this letter is going out after our demonstration yesterday where we block the intersection. They’re stating that now they want to arrest us, and that we are the ones that are militant, and we are the ones that have enacted all this violence on campus, when we were just here as radical but peaceful student protesters.
KZ: Occupying a space is not easy to do. We’ve done it a few times. And it’s especially hard when the police are aligned against you and are intentionally trying to make it uncomfortable, but it’s very interesting that the police are blaming their chief and blaming the administration. I think that’s an opportunity, I think, for division among those who you are protesting. Do you see any divisions in the administration or in the Board of Trustees? Are there any fissures developing that you’re aware of?
SU: I mean, I think it’s clear within the administration that the people who are now being scapegoated, as if they were only the ones that have been, had been able to starve us, or to deny those basic necessities… I think they’re starting to get angry. They’re upset with administration because they’re getting scapegoated while the senior Administration or saying it that had nothing to do with them, kind of painting can Ken Suru, as if he is this white savior that lifted our suspension, even though they’re still not expunged from my record, or things like that, or saying he’s the one that oh, I had no idea that food was being denied. But clearly he had his hands in what was happening here. As well, they’re kind of saying that it was their chief’s fault. But also the deputy chief is son of a racist police chief known victoriously at Syracuse, who was the the chief of police in Syracuse City, and he was extremely violent against black bodies. And so with that history in mind, it’s interesting that they’re scapegoating the chief of police, Bobby Maldonado, even though we still call for his resignation. We recognize that John Salvino has deep ties with the police, and the city, and so it’s interesting who the university is choosing to scapegoat and who they’re not.
MF: So let’s talk a little bit about the demands that you have. You put forth a List of demands back in December. Can you talk about how the university responded to those, then how those demands have changed, and where you are in the process right now?
SU: I think right now, with our first demands, they were really inadequate. We rushed and they were not done fairly. We never said we need the university to do these with and a day or within a month or was even within a year, but to do them thoroughly, and to look at our expansions and do them in a way that is aligning with our message. And so when we came back in here, we came in with the new set of demands and addendums to their responses, because for example, when we stated that after 40 hours from initial event, that they need to put it on the violence-related incident log, and to do so adequately, that has been time and time again dismissed. I mean, we have footage or clips that we’ve gotten about people stating what has happened at certain incidences, but they don’t update it for a month. How is that substantially finished, when they continue to dismiss what we stated and what they find too? And so with the progress of the new demands, it’s very unclear if they will actually do them adequately, because it showed for our old demands it was not done. And so I think this time we’re demanding that board of trustee members either start refining and our negotiation, because we know that there are the people with real power. If these people, these senior administrators even Chancellor Suru, signs off on these demands, continue to dismiss them and not done them in a way that’s thorough, then what is the point of us protesting? That’s why we’re kind of advocating and demanding that the Board of Trustees be here and actually look at the demands, because when they have the power to do curriculum changes, funding changes, like institutional changes, we need those people at the seat of the table and actually read through demands and not have them be read through lower Administration [officials[ and be told to them or have that be related to them, because obviously that’s not been adequately done.
KZ: It seems your demands are reasonable and actually would be improvement for this school. And so it seems… it’s absurd that they’re fighting you so aggressively on this. I would think that if alumni, faculty, others who are associating with the university, would start to contact some of the investors and funders, that would really get the attention of the Board of Trustees and the administration. Is anyone working on outreach to try to get those who are investing to speak to the administration and push them to put in place these very reasonable demands that would actually improve the school.
SU: Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve been trying to do as much outreach as we can, and pushing for things like that like you said, but also keep in mind that a lot of the people who are investing want their names on buildings, and their names on certain things, and where that endowment comes from… specifically wanting to build like the Carrier Dome roofs, so somebody can have their name on it instead of actually donating and creating systemic change on this university. And so we’re trying to be cognizant of that as well. But how do we destruct systems and talk to donors and talk to investors to enact change in how to create this University? I think that’s a great point and something that we’re continuously working on.
MF: What would you like our listeners to know. wWhat are ways that they can support your efforts there at Syracuse University?
SU: I think spreading our message, going on social media if you’re not physically present and cannot physically be here. Continuously posting is giving us to media attention. I think that would greatly benefit, because especially with how more radical this occupation has been compared to our occupation in the Barn Center, major news outlets have not been as receptive to picking up or stories. Also donating to a GoFundMe, because we’re currently using our GoFundMe for donations for legal counsel, as well as family expenses, because especially during this great time of turmoil and trauma, needing to be with loved ones has been a really great struggle. And also wanting legal counsel to be there for us when we’re having these negotiations, and onwards so that we actually know what is legal from the University and so that they can’t lie to us. And I think those are the best two ways. Also coalition-building. Messaging us on our social media and asking what you can do for your communities. If you go to a university and want to create your own occupation, organizers are more than happy to help with that, and coalition building that way is good, because we see this as a national fight, and so creating change not just at Syracuse University, but the entire nation is extremely important to us.
KZ: What is the social media that people should follow on Twitter, Facebook or wherever else that you think they should follow?
SU: At Instagram we’re at NotAgain.SU. And on Twitter we’re at NotAgain_SU. And so those are our main two social media channels where you can keep up with what is currently happening, and make sure that you’re in the loop.
KZ: Fantastic. Well, we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us an d our audience, and we hope that this is resolved in a peaceful and successful way for students at SU. So keep up the great work.
SU: Thank you so much and thank you again for having me, and thank you for giving us this platform to speak to your listeners.

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Weaponizing Coronavirus In The US Propaganda War Against China

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

The United States changed its national security strategy from the “war against terror” to “great power conflict” targeting countries such as Russia and China. Some say the United States is already at war with them, surrounding them militarily and using economic and media attacks to try to weaken them. A current example of the propaganda war is the US’ response to the coronavirus, which started in the Chinese province of Wuhan. We speak with US-based activist Siu Hin Lee about the reality of life in China under quarantine, the Chinese healthcare system and why the West doesn’t recognize China’s approach to foreign policy. As China with its economic power and Russia with its military might collaborate, the United States faces a choice between competition and cooperation. This choice will define the outcomes for the US in the twenty-first century.

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Guest:

Siu Hin Lee was born in Hong Kong, China, and is a fifth-generation Chinese migrant from Japan. Lee is the long-time international activist for over 40-years, he’s the national coordinator of National Immigrant Solidarity NetworkAction LA Network, coordinating committee member of UFPJ, and a long-time reporter for Pacifica Radio KPFK-Los Angeles, reporting from former Yugoslavia, former Soviet Union, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq Mexico. Currently, he also travels between China and the U.S. to organize bi-national activism work as well as medical solidarity project.

TRANSCRIPT

Margaret Flowers (MF): So this week we interviewed Siu Hin Lee.

Kevin Zeese (KZ): Yes. Siu Hin is a Chinese activist. He’s from Hong Kong, a Hong Kong American, and he is very involved in the Health Care system in China and gives us a really good analysis of what’s going on in response to the Coronavirus

MF: Yeah. He continues to stay in touch with people in China. In fact, he brings delegations there, primarily because there’s so much propaganda around China and people in the United States really are not being told the truth.
KZ: That’s because the US National Security strategy which the government and the corporate media are all supporting is the Great Power Conflict. The top great power that the US is in conflict with is a China, which is overcoming US economic domination and Military domination and political domination. So China is a target of US propaganda from government and corporate media.

MF: Right this past weekend we were in New York City for the United National Antiwar Coalition Conference, which was held at the People’s Forum. And one of the workshops… Siu Hin spoke at that conference on a workshop that was focusing on this great power conflict of the United States security strategy targeting Russia and China, and there was a lot of things that were said in that workshop that we didn’t get to capture in the interview, but one of the things I thought was really interesting is how Russia and China collaborating… a really a very powerful collaboration because Russia has military superiority to the United States, despite spending 10% of what the US spends on the military. They’ve developed weapons that are really generations ahead of what the United States has… as well as China is rising as a global economic power and in fact in some ways outstripping the United States. So this combination of military might and economic power is a very strong counterweight to the United States global domination.
KZ: In fact since 2013, China has had the largest economy in the world based on purchasing power. Parity GDP, which many think is a better measure than traditional GDP comparisons. And they’re set to overtake the United States in this decade on that measure as well. And along with Russia, China has been working on the Belt and Road initiative since 2013. This has resulted in hundreds of trade agreements, from China to Europe, going through what we call the Middle East through Russia through Africa, and this will be the dominant political and economic power in the 21st century. This is why the United States really sees China as a rival, and that’s why we’re getting so much propaganda from Hong Kong and the Muslim area of China. A lot of misinformation in the US about all those issues because the government is preparing the public for escalating conflict with China. So we’ve got to be very careful what we hear about China, question it, and really look for alternative sources of information.
MF: Yeah. I think the propaganda is even impacting people on the left who are, you know, getting swept up in Hong Kong protests and not seeing their role in fomenting anti-china racism and support for attacks against China. Also not understanding China’s motives in terms of its foreign policy, seeing that through a you know, Western imperialist lens. So these are all things that we talk about in our interview with Siu Hin. And I think it’s appropriate to say that the Pentagon right now, the US military right now, is organizing war games against Russia. Part of this great power conflict. It’s called Defender 2020 and it’s going to be involving tens of thousands of military and pieces of military equipment. And just leading up to that, the Pentagon has been doing these kind of war simulations of a nuclear attack on Russia. It just highlights how dangerous this time really is.
KZ: Yeah. It’s kind of sad the way the media puts it. What the Pentagon describes as war games whereRussia decides the used low-yield nuclear weapons. Of course the US just deployed low-yield nuclear weapons and has been investing lots of money since the Obama era in upgrading US nuclear weapons so they can be used. So this was a practice attack on Russia using nuclear weapons. How sick is that? And you know, when you think of great power conflict, that’s what the US calls its current national security strategy. What does that mean? Great power conflict? That means World War III. That’s other words that say the same thing. So that’s what we’re preparing for. That’s why the United States is preparing for with these war games with Europe. And you know, what’s interesting about it also is, I think these war games and the conflicts that the US is trying create between Russia and Europe over the gas pipeline and other issues, are leading actually in the long run toEurope breaking from the United States. When the Belt and Road initiative becomes the reality in about 2050, when China expects to have it fully operational, it’s going to be quite clear to Europe that its future lays with China and Russia and not with the declining economy of the United States, As we hollow out our Midwest and our industrial sector, China is building theirs. Russia is now investing hundreds of million dollars to build rebuild their infrastructure and particularly in areas that are underdeveloped. And so Russia and China are expanding. US is shrinking and these war games are a desperate attempt by the United States to hang on to domination.
MF: So I hope that folks will stick around for that interview with Siu Hin, and continue to talk about the importance of understanding how the global dynamics are changing and the US failing to have an adequate strategy to deal with the way that the global politics are changing.
Let’s talk about some things that are in the news this week. The Assange hearing, the extradition hearing against Julian Assange, The United States asking Assange to be extradited from the UK to the US to stand trial. That started in London on Monday. And on Saturday, there was a very large March in London. Roger Waters. Yanis Varoufakis, Chrissie Hynde, Vivienne Westwood…. Lots of celebrities were there in support of Assange, including his father John Shipton and his brother. There are solidarity marches happening on Monday all around the world. And this is kind of really connected to this great power conflict because Assange, through Wikileaks, a publication, has provided an avenue for people to get the truth about what’s actually happening in terms of US Foreign policy and other areas.
KZ: This extradition hearing, which began on Monday, is the start of a process that the US hopes will lead to Julian Assange being extradited to the United States to stand trial, where he could face a hundred and seventy-five years in jail on 17 different counts. The process that’s starting this week is a long process. They will do opening arguments this week. Then they’ll take a break into March. Then they’ll come back to present evidence to support their claims, and then the judge will make a decision. But then after that there will be appeals to higher courts. There’s lots of very important appellate issues already that have shown themselves. There is lack of access to lawyers, adverse health impacts, his lack of access to computers and other materials necessary for preparing his defense. There’s a very good chance this will end up being a political decision by the British government. While it will go through a court process, in a number of years it will become a decision of the political process. And at this hearing the protests were so loud that Julian Assange said in court he couldn’t think clearly. He couldn’t hear clearly, because the protests were coming into the courtroom. And while he appreciated the protesters supporting him… he understands their frustration… it was making it very difficult for him to understand what’s going on.
MF: And it wasn’t just Assange that had trouble. Many other reporters were put into a side room where they were supposed to be able to hear what was going on in the courtroom. They complained that they were not able to hear. It sounds like James Lewis, the United States lawyer, was refusing to speak into the microphone. So the reporters basically couldn’t hear anything that he was saying. Finally the judge did push him to start using that microphone, but Lewis, the US is arguing… and I think this is very telling… they’re saying, “oh no, this is not at all, you know, a political trial. It’s not about embarrassing the United States over the release of information that shows our war crimes. It’s about him hacking to get materials or assisting someone in hacking, that put the lives of people from the United States at risk.” What is your response to that?
KZ: Well, yeah, I mean the United States prosecutor was using a lot of the same arguments that we’ve seen discredited before. I suspect not speaking into the microphones so the media couldn’t hear was intentional on his part, and the court had to really pressure him so that the media could hear was going on. But the arguments they were making was that, you know, this was not about freedom of the press. This is not about journalism. This is about hacking and that Assange had put US informants in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places at risk by publishing these documents. Of course that claim has been made by prosecutors, but has been discredited by other US government officials. People from intelligence agencies and other agencies of the government said no one was ever injured by Wikileaks release. And so this is a falsehood that’s being used to inflame the judge and really put forward misinformation. I expect that we’ll see Assange’s lawyers correct that. But that’s the kind of approach the US government is taking: Be dishonest, mislead in order to undermine freedom of the press. And this is a freedom of the press case. In fact, there was a letter that we both signed on to by 1,300 journalists supporting Julian Assange, because this is the freedom of speech, freedom of press, case for this Century. It will Define freedom of the press and what the public has a right to know for the 21st century. I often call this the John Peter Zenger case of this Century John Peter Zenger was prosecuted in New York during the colonial era for criticizing the corruption of a British appointed governor of New York. He was telling the truth. Unfortunately in that era truth was not a defense to libel. And so he was prosecuted and held in jail for months. Pending that prosecution the jury very quickly reached a not guilty verdict because he was telling the truth and that led to the First Amendment. This case will Define the First Amendment for this century.
MF: Right an addition to the letter from 1300 journalists in support of Julian Assange, there are also 40 jurists from the US, UK and other places who sent a letter to the court saying that Assange should be freed, and doctors for Assange is a group that has come together really pushing for Assange to be released to get the medical treatment that he requires. Now a couple things that should just make this case completely discredited… one is that there was a Spanish security firm that was spying on the embassy, on Assange, all of his activities there, and meeting with the CIA to feed that information. That’s not legal. As well the extradition agreement between the United States and the UK says that people can’t be extradited for political reasons. And while the US is trying to pretend this is not a political case, I think everybody knows that this is a political case.
KZ: And you know, if this case were resolved by the political system in the UK today, it would be the Boris Johnson government, and that’s not a good sign. But this case could go on Beyond Johnson’s term and it could be a new government. This case in the end will be a political decision. There will be multiple appeals on some of the issues you raised and others that I’ve mentioned a little earlier. So this will take a while to to work its way through the court system, and the courts could even decide the extradition is illegal for the way that he was spied on. His lawyer meetings were spied on. He didn’t get access to his lawyers during the extradition process, access to computers or documents, and health problems. These are all reasons in the past that led to extraditions being denied. So it’s possible in the Appellate process this could change, but the political process could also change, and we may not see Trump or Boris Johnson and power by the time this case is resolved.
MF: It’s important that people follow this case closely and continue to speak out against it. You know, let’s not let this support for Julian Assange die down. This is a critical case in terms of our ability to know what our governments are doing. And if the US wins this case, then it will really put a chill on journalists all over the world, because the US is not going after somebody who reported in the US. The US is basically seeing the entire world as its domain to go after anyone who criticizes or exposes what the US is doing.
KZ: That’s exactly right, and you know the other case that’s relevant to this is Chelsea Manning’s case. Chelsea Manning’s lawyer filed an appeal seeking to have her released, making the obvious point that she is not going to change her mind, that this coercion is not going to work. It’s becoming punishment, and that’s not legal in the grand jury system. And Chelsea Manning is challenging that grand jury system, challenging it because of its secrecy because of how defendants are not in the courtroom, how defendants’ defense lawyers are not in the courtroom, how it’s only only the prosecutor and the prosecution’s witnesses, and that’s all the grand jurors here. So it’s a very one-sided process that can lead to unfair prosecutions, and so she’s calling for the grand jury system to end, and she’s refusing to cooperate with it. Those are views that I support as well.
MF: It’s interesting because this grand jury is going on supposedly to be investigating potential charges against Julian Assange, but the US already has 17 charges amounting up to a 175 years in prison. So it seems like the US may be trying to cast a broader net in this situation. Maybe to try to bring charges against other people. What are your thoughts on that?
KZ: Well, they’d have to say that’s what the purpose was because they’re not allowed to use the grand jury for the purpose of building their defense evidence. But what really could be happening is they don’t really have a very strong case against Assange. They need the testimony of Chelsea Manning and others. Jeremy Hammond is also being held in contempt of court for refusing to cooperate with this grand jury, and he needs to be recognized for his heroic work as well. So this could be about new people, new charges, but it could also be just the way to gather evidence to use because they may not have a very strong case against Assange.
MF: If you go to popular resistance dot org you’ll find in the slider an article about Chelsea, the release Chelsea website, and ways that you can support her. She loves to get letters from people so that’s one way that’s very easy for people to provide support to Chelsea in this really important time. And I should just quickly add that people who have been listening to our show know that we are also being prosecuted by the Trump Administration for our actions to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC last spring. That trial, our first trial in that, ended in a mistrial and now we return to court on Friday, February 28th to find out what the government will do next.
KZ: And you can keep up with that case on both popular resistance.org, but also on our defense committees website, DefendEmbassyProtectors.org. Both sites regularly updated to tell you what you can do to be supportive in that defense.
MF: And Venezuela is one of the United States’ Troika of Tyranny, going after Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba for having the audacity to stand up to the United States and try to build a different kind of society and future for their people. Another country that’s really involved in that similar type of activity right now is Chile. Since mid-October of last year people have been protesting in Chile against last 30 years of neoliberalism there, now under the Pinera government. And there’s a new report that came out from the National Institute of Human Rights. They have been interviewing people who were injured or detained by the Pinera government. They found that there are 3,765 people injured including 445 eye injuries, over 2,000 people shot with some sort of a projectile, 10,000 people who have been detained since October. 951 of them report being tortured. 195 of them report sexual violence. This is not being talked about in the US media, similar to the French yellow vests protests, where they’ve had so much police repression. But there’s quite a bit of police and state repression against these peaceful protesters and Chile.
KZ: Yeah these form months of protests, resistance and violence by the government are critical because Chile has been a neoliberal paradise from the capitalist perspective. They thought that everything was going fine. The public was accepting it. But suddenly even in Chile now, they see unrest against neoliberalism, against this form of capitalism that takes away people’s basic necessities, the social safety net, and and prevents fair wages and fair work conditions. And so for Chile to be uprising is very significant. It’s not the only uprising. We report in popular resistance on multiple uprisings in many countries in Latin America and others, but Chile is important because of what was seen to be support of the neoliberal system. Now it’s strong opposition and the government’s not handling it very well. They are, you know, abusing their power, abusing protesters, and this is going to make the situation worse and I suspect the opposition to the current government will grow and not survive this kind of protest process.
MF: Another country that’s in significant unrest right now is Bolivia, where the United States backed a coup there after the re-election of President Evo Morales last October. And similar to Venezuela, a relatively unknown person, Janine Anyes, declared herself president of the country, and is currently allowing a very repressive environment there, especially against the movement towards Socialism or Moss party that Ava Morales represented. They are going to be having elections on May 3rd. There are a lot of concerns about those elections. One concern red flag is that USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, has gone down there to quote-unquote assist with those elections. USAID had been thrown out of Bolivia by President Morales when he was in power because of their interference in the process down there.
KZ: Yeah. It’s going to be very difficult to have legitimate elections in Bolivia. Just last week they threw president Morales off the ballot. He was on the ballot to run for Senate. Of course, they don’t want him on the ballot because that will pull more people to the polls, because he’s still very popular. He left office as a very popular president who had done a great deal for the economy, especially for the indigenous people, who are the majority of the country. And so it’s going to be very difficult to imagine legitimate, fair elections in Bolivia. I’d be very surprised if the coup government allows into the country real election monitors. They’ll probably allow the Organization of American States, which supports the coup, US officials who support the coup, but not allow in people who are wanting to see a fair election. Right now the polls do show that Morales’ party is leading with a strong plurality. But I’d be very surprised if the election comes out fair. If it is fair, I expect Morales’ party through back in power. But the lithium and other natural resources in Bolivia are just too valuable for United States and Western Powers to let go of.
MF: Right so we hope that we don’t have a similar outcome to what happened in Honduras with the quote-unquote election of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the very serious repression and violence that continues to this day against people in Honduras. 36 people have died in Bolivia under this coup and the the violence by the state that’s going on there. Let’s talk about Florida. There was another positive ruling in Florida around the elections. In 2018 residents of Florida voted overwhelmingly on an amendment that would allow felons who have served their time to vote in the elections. Florida State pushed back and said if they want to vote they have to have paid all of their fees and fines. That has been challenged and a federal appeals court last week upheld a previous Court’s ruling that people cannot be prevented from voting because they have outstanding fees or fines.
KZ: That’s right. If this voter initiative that was a voted overwhelmingly with more than 65 percent support to give voters to give felons the right to vote, massive support… If that is allowed to take place, you’re talking about a million and a half new voters. That could totally change the outcome of Florida’s Statewide elections, for governor, for president and for US Senate, as well as impact Congressional elections. So this is a very important decision. That’s why the Republican government is fighting so hard to prevent these people from voting. So we just saw a decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. That’s a US Court of Appeals.The Next Step will be an en banc review by the full eleventh circuit. The first stage is three judges. The second stage is the full court to hear the case. And then after that we will likely see this go to the US Supreme Court. Now will all that happen in time for the 2020 presidential election. I tend to doubt it. The process is just too slow and that process will probably mean this will prevent those more than a million people getting their right to vote back. This is just another kind of poll tax, to use money as a way to block people from voting. It’s been found unconstitutional for decades, poll taxes. And this is just a new version of that. While I expect the eleventh circuit to rule properly, the Supreme Court’s become so politicized and so partisan that I think it’s unpredictable with the US Supreme Court will do even though the precedent I think is pretty obvious that this is illegal.
KZ: One government official from Florida did state that the State clemency board has the right, right now, or the power to restore voting rights to the felons. So we’ll see if that happens. I’m not sure if there’s the political will in Florida by the members of that board to do that, but they do have the power to do that. Let’s talk about another win. University of California in Los Angeles, UCLA, was pressured to abandon using facial recognition technology. And that was a successful student-led initiative at UCLA in California.
KZ: Facial recognition is taking off. There’s a lot of money and corporate interests behind making that widely used. There’s also a lot of Security State thinking that wants to see that kind of technology used. It’s being widely used in China very aggressively and people want to see it used in the United States. There is a movement to stop the use of facial recognition technology in the US, and there have been a number of small victories around the country. This most recent one of UCLA being pressured by the students to say no to facial recognition technology is a great sign for other students to do the same and other people do the same. This is a very potentially abusive technology and one that has to be really restricted greatly. We hope the UCLA precedent is the beginning of a nationwide effort to control this technology.
MF: One big problem with the technology is that it just doesn’t work very well, especially for black and brown people. And so that alone… I mean we don’t need this level of surveillance, but the technology is so faulty. It shouldn’t even be used right now. I want to talk about the protest going on at University of California, Santa Cruz, UCSC. Graduate students there are on a wildcat strike. They have been since February 10th. They are just asking for a cost-of-living adjustment to their pay. They want to be able to afford to live in the communities where they work. Right now, they’re making about the equivalent of $22,000 a year. There’s a report that found that just to have a bare Bones basic existence to meet your basic needs requires $32,000. That’s a very significant difference. And solidarity for that cost of living increase wildcat strike is growing, from protest from other graduate students at other UC campuses, as well as solidarity coming in from around the world.
KZ: And these strikes are part of the last two years of record strikes. We have seen record numbers of people taking actions. often without their Union or against the wishes of Union, illegally going on strike. That is a very powerful tool and if the United States public begins to understand the power of striking and starts to develop the capacity for a more general strike, the power of the people will become much more significant and can be realized. So we applaud these students for standing up for this cost living raise. We hope that they’re successful and that their success leads to others following their lead.
MF: Also the student protest going on at Syracuse University continues. It’s now been a full week of students occupying space at the administrative building Crouse-Hinds Hall at Syracuse University. They go under the name Not Again SU. You can find that at hashtag #NotAgainSU. And basically what they’re protesting is there have been incidents of racist and hate incidents going on on campus that the university has failed to address adequately. The students protested last December over this and felt that the University was continuing to not respond in an adequate way. When they started that occupation last week the university immediately suspended them that evening, also suspending students who weren’t even participating in the protests. They withheld access to food and basic necessities. The campus police treated the students abusively, and so on Monday of this week, Parents of 24 of those students sent a letter to the university complaining about the treatment of their students not being informed that the University was not allowing them food and basic necessities, not being informed at the University was allowing them to be intimidated. And so we’ll see how the university responds to that. Parents are actually on campus now supporting their students, and grad students on campus are also on strike.
KZ: The school is bungling this in multiple ways. First of all, the issue. The issue is racist acts on campus, and the students want those to be prosecuted and investigated. Why would anyone oppose that? Of course the school should be doing that. How can you not prosecute and investigate acts of racism? And then when students protested a few months ago, they seem to have won. The school didn’t follow through on its promises. And here we are again. The students are escalating, properly escalating, to protest at the school administration building. And now the school’s again making a mistake. Escalating the conflict by suspending the students, to limit their rights of students when they do protest, blocking food ,and now parents are getting upset. You’re going to see this grow. You’re going to see people who graduated from Syracuse joining these protests. The school administration is making mistake after mistake after mistake over something it should correct. The students are right to point it out, brave to point it out, and brave to stand up to the pressure of school authorities

MF: And now we turn to our guest, Siu Hin Lee. Sui Hin is a Chinese immigrant activists living in the United States. He holds two masters degrees from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. A long time undocumented Sweatshop worker, Lee is currently an Immigrant rights activist and the national coordinator of the National Immigrant Solidarity Network Action in L.A., and the China-US Solidarity Network. Thank you for taking time to speak with us Siu Hin.
Siu Hin Lee (SL): Thank you for inviting me today.
KZ: Siu Hin, that brief bio doesn’t do you justice. Your activism is really excellent in solidarity with China and other countries. Can you for our audience tell us more about your background and experience.
SL: Yeah, my family has migrated around the world since the 1890s. My more Heritage background is Chinese-Japanese. I’m a fifth generation Chinese Japanese. My great great grandfather migrated to Kobe, Japan on 1890s. My father and grandfather were born in Japan, and I, myself, was born in Hong Kong, but was living in Japan back in the 1970s. And then then back to Hong Kong, Macau and Canada, and then coming to the US. So we are like a generation of migrants, trouble on the world for variety of reasons. For the last 30 years I’ve been living in United States and being a long time undocumented worker, but also studied in the university and got degrees. So do you want to know why also I’m working between the US and China? Because of a very specific opportunity, because I was studying engineering and programming and aerospace engineering, and that’s another crazy story. Then I got the opportunity and was invited back to China to be a scorer, a distinguished scorer. This involves grants all these honors and awards in China to do a high-tech project a business. So that’s another thing… Right now the US media framing, from New York Times to CNN to Fox News says I’m a Chinese high-tech spy. So I have another thing besides my bachelor’s. I’m also considered to be a Chinese high-tech spy. [laughter] MF: By the United States you mean.
SL: That’s right.
MF: We’re going to focus on the Coronavirus. And so why you give some background about your involvement regarding Chinese healthcare.
KZ: My work in China has for the last couple years been involved in medical IT technology. So the medical industry, and specializing in developing a next-generation medical IT platform for hospitals and research centers. That’s specific for cancer and also genetic searches. It’s not an easy project, as we do it on our own, and that’s the why there have been many scientists going back to China to do this kind of project. And also … the US government has been really fearful about [this] that one of these days China’s high-tech will overrun the US.
MF: Something that our listeners may not be aware of it was kind of the way that the country of China is structured with a kind of a state control of the economy. It really is able to prioritize research in a way that the United States with its market-based economy is not able to do. Can you talk a little bit about kind of China’s approach to tech.
SL: Yes, there’s a large intellectual class in China. That’s … academia scientist. That has been going on since the Opium War, that when the British defeated … Empire, then the Chinese immediately found out that their technology was not advanced enough. That’s the reason that for the last hundred and fifty years the heart of the Chinese Society… It’s not just China but also Korea and Japan, that developing high-tech is a very important priority, and a science is becoming a very respectable social structure in the whole society. So hundreds of thousands of Chinese students came to the US to study.. not just the US but France and Europe and other countries… to study technologies and social political ideologies, and then bring them back to China, and then develop the country, since the Qin dynasty hundred years ago, today. And so most of them could be working in a government institute or maybe a bigger State factories or something. But many also right now after the reforms of the last 40 years have learned from the Silicon Valley model. They encouraged scientists going back to start the high-tech business just like a Silicon Valley startup. They want to create another circuit Valley startup kind of like a high-tech Hub. So there’s a dozen high-tech hubs around country. When they saying that scientists are going back to China to do some work they are mostly starting their own business. So private company. So right now the pretty large number of the high-tech companies are privately run. Those are the ones with the engine of developing. Of course there are many other kinds of a private industry and after … reforms from service sector to … sector to transportation, but still China is a primary state-run economy. It is a mixed economy.
KZ: Let’s turn to the coronavirus. There’s a lot of criticism in the United States of how China has responded to the virus. Can you describe how you see China’s reaction and what you’ve learned from people in China about what the response has been?
LS: I would say that the media in the US and Western countries has been portraying the whole picture negatively. How many people do you know in the US has been killed by the flu every year. Can you guess how many people?
KZ: It’s tens of thousands.
LS: Yes. It’s tens of thousands of people, and so far there’s been two thousand people killed by coronavirus. Of course, it’s a bad but at the same time, there’s been a National mobilization in China, from top level government to military to the party to the grassroots… mobilizing to fight the disease. It’s the scale of the mobilization that determines the situation and it’s never been seen around the world in history… the people not only support it but also really follow the procedures… they really want to contain themselves at home. … Wuhan since late January until now, close to one month, everyone stays at home… and some of the other cities right now… people are not leaving their homes. The overwhelming majority people support this… and then it’s not just this support, but also the lead hospital that has been built within 10-15 days and several other hospitals in Wuhan. And then with thousands of medical workers and thousands of soldiers, thousands of volunteers throughout Wuhan to combat the virus from spreading, and this includes a couple of my friends working in the medical field in the hospital. They are now all over there without hesitation to support the fight against the coronavirus. It’s not cheap. We are also organizing a fund drive to buy the medical equipment… items going to support Wuhan, but I will figure out that it’s very expensive. So this is a is not a cheap operation. It’s really high intense resources. Right now when they are criticizing Chinese efforts the coronavirus, they just didn’t see the whole effort that we’re doing, and all these detailed reports everyday from Chinese media, partly because they are in Chinese not in English, but also because the US media and Western media is deliberately not covering it.
MF: Well I think in addition to not covering it, when it is covered in the United States and also on social media it’s covered in a very negative way. So what we’re hearing is China is an authoritarian country and people are being forced to stay in their homes, and they aren’t able to get the food they need and they’re suffering terribly. Can you tell the real story about what people are experiencing during this period of quarantine
LS: I know many friends from Wuhan and I know many American friends living in China and they are pretty calm and well right now living in China. I can’t believe is it now 21st century and people can simply just go to different websites from around the world, not only from the US corporate media. You can find lots of interesting information, live coverage of what happened in Wuhan from Chinese Media or from a different kinds of English edition newspapers. I know for a fact that Wuhan does not have food shortages, because we see every day from the news to live blogs to some of the video blogs posted to YouTube channels. I encourage anyone to read China daily or Global times from China or also, you can just simply go to YouTube and then type Wuhan and then you can find dozens of web logs or video logs from the foreigners living in China. They’re just posting every day about their life in China in positive way. So there’s nothing secret about it. And people are coordinated and also there has never been any kind of crisis or desperation. People in Western media portraying that is completely false.
KZ: You know, we’ve often seen when we travel to other countries that when we read about what’s happening in the western media, and then see what’s going on in the country, it’s the exact opposite of reality. And one thing I don’t think people United States understand is the size of these cities. Can you describe… compare the city where this is happening with, let’s say, San Francisco or New York. How does it compare in size? I saw a video we have on popular resistance dot-org, you know some video reports about what’s going on there. It’s incredible the city streets are empty. People are taking all sorts of precautions. They’re getting food for weeks so they don’t have to keep going out. Describe what these cities are like. What is China dealing with here?
LS: You raise a great interesting question. Last year, last summer I was invited to go to Wuhan University to attend a one week long … summer camp organised by Wuhan University with 200 students from across many countries from Mongolia, to Russia to Eastern Europe, to some African countries. That was a really interesting experience and Wuhan is also one of the major historical cities in China with 11 million people. And it’s a large scale city and giving an ideas with San Francisco… San Francisco has a million people or so, plus the East Bay and Bay Area are probably just the same size. Because it’s 11 million people. It’s a big city with a Metro… at least a million students. I mean higher education University students and also another million high-tech workers. And there’s a couple like a high-tech hubs. The one of them is called light Hub. It’s especially focusing on the solar technology. And the reason I know is because I know a couple of my friends are from the US and are now back in China. They have their own startup Solar Company, a high tech solar company in a big industrial high-tech industrial center with a several square kilometers, which is minimum 1 square miles. It’s a very big area and then Wuhan has thousands of years of history with culture. When I was reading New York Times to see the photos they deliberate do not want to show the city in a modern way. It seems like a some kind of run down, really dirty town or something, but it’s not true. It’s really high tech with many high-rise buildings and office towers and Universities and high tech center. So that is what it is… a city with international cultural and political and social exchange.
MF: Another thing that we’re hearing in the United States is a lot of criticism of China’s Healthcare System. Can you describe for our listeners? What type of Health Care system does China have? Are people able to get the health care that they need there?
LS: China has an almost similar healthcare system like a little bit like in the US but also something like a Canada as well. So it’s a different system. It is like the Medicare or Medical kind of a system which means copay. I mean you pay some and the employer can pay some. Government pays some. And then you have credit… how much you can spend. And so disease should be covered. That’s not a problem because it’s just like a credit card. It’s a different system and then you have how much money you can spend. So you are within that amount. That’s never been an issue. But if we are big disease… you might be run out of money and then that will be an issue but that’s improving… But this does not apply to this current situation with coronavirus because they are paying for everything. So when the government builds a hospital and then you got quantitation or maybe a treatment I just don’t think that they’re charging anyone a penny for doing that. And then also the resources they are pulling in is such a tremendous tremendous amount of resources as I said. We try to want to organize my age not because China does not support them… cannot buy because it is so short right now, in such a short period of time. Then I will do if you find out that all these things, even goggles and medical cargoes are so expensive. But the people are using doctors and nurses are using everyday just what it cannot use tomorrow. So that means that they are burning money like crazy, every every day. That government is not stingy to spend money on this, not like what happened in Puerto Rico after the Hurricanes. They’re still not rebuilding after several years and then all this disease ramps up around Puerto Rico and then they cannot stop it.
KZ: Yeah. I was in China and there had been an earthquake and I remember the whole country came together around that. The solidarity, you know, there was a moment of silence when the whole country stopped working. Just incredible unity in responding to that crisis. You know the World Health Organization has said many positive things about the response to the virus. Top epidemiologists have also praised China in their response, and yet in the media we’re getting told these fear stories, Even groups like Human Rights Watch immediately came out criticizing China for the response, even though at the same time they were criticizing, the World Health Organization was applauding. Why is it that we get this false information from the US government and US Media about China.
LS: It’s a new Cold War. There’s what has been the Trump and even going back to Obama of the chief going through against China but never succeeding. Obama just lost the trade War agreement, and the trade war did not stop the China’s development but it hurt the US economy. And that’s right with this coronavirus right this moment. They need to refine a really good propaganda campaign against China to help with what they thought that that’s easy. They can do like foment such a racist, xenophobic and China bashing campaign. And then that can maybe make China back down, and make some concession. That’s not going to happen. That’s the reason that the Western media is so desperately doing whatever they want to do to… just painting a bleak image about what is happening. And one more thing. I want to say. … That’s that’s a really different Western system than like in China. When there is a disaster, how they (mobilize) thousands of people is that they asked each area. They’re going to be organized their warranty of forthcoming. So China has 30 providences and regions. So they ask each province to mobilize, to organize their own medical teams and volunteers. So some guy has a Shanghai team. Beijing teams on the ground have a ground teams. Then then they correct their own materials. They do their own fundraising. Then they are mobilizing medical workers and then they are fried there. So that’s how we know which hospital has been in which area have and have been supported by what area of the Medical Teams. That’s how it works. It’s the same with earthquakes. That Beijing team and Shanghai team. So maybe dealing teams coming. And then support. So that’s a different way to do this in than in the US. Hurricane Katrina and new orange. What they are going to do is not to bring the Army Corp of Engineers inside, like a maybe New York Medical Teams and California warranty teams are going to support the effort. And California will bring their medical supplies and resources and then they fried everything there, and then they are going to work with XYZ hospitals in New Orleans or maybe a New York teams coming to New Orleans to work with a certain area, to support each of them. They got their own responsibility area. So that’s why they can get down to the bottom. They can do something.
MF: So it’s like a coordinated organized response to disasters. So you brought up a good point about President Obama because I think this is not something that’s talked about very often in the United States… is that under the Obama Administration, he pivoted a large part of our military to surround China, worked very closely with countries like the Philippines and Japan and others to do military kind of coordination targeting China and then the trans-pacific partnership, a very large Trade Agreement, was the whole rationale that was being given. It was, “oh, well, if we don’t get in there and define trade in that region, then China will do it” as if China doesn’t have the right to be a big player in trade in Asia. We’re trying to actually exist and now Trump is continuing to carry that on, you know, antagonizing China, but maybe in not as sophisticated a way. How is China responding to what the United States has been doing over these past decade or so?
LS: It’s very interesting. You need to read many people’s analysis in China, and how the one coronavirus has unified everyone in China, instead dividing China. That is perfect. And also coronavirus has unified many countries around the world to support and work with China. In cell dividing that has been completely the opposite of what you guys want to happen. So that is going to be even just only a propaganda war which has been failing. That’s where it’s a break. We’ll break speaking like a house that is going to be working in what’s been called the Chinese response to US policy over the last decade. I think China has been really choosing a non-confrontational approach with US Not only because it’s the one that will avoid world war three, but also they don’t want to be hurting their own economy and development, because that’s exactly what you guys want to be happening.
KZ: Yeah, that’s I think a really common theme in Chinese foreign policy. You know, everyone has probably heard of the Belt and Road initiative that’s going to link Asia to Europe through Russia, the Middle East and Africa. Create a kind of the engine of the economy of the 21st century. China is making that happen by negotiating with various countries in a win-win situation. They want a situation where, while China benefits, the countries that they’re working with on the belt and road initiative trade agreements also benefit. Can you talk a little about this this approach to foreign policy the win-win approach and the belt and Road initiative
LS: This is very important because that is the difference between maybe, it’s time for not just the Chinese, but also some of the western imperialist philosophy or colonial philosophy. That was a win-win, not just only talking about how we are going to be, but also how are we going to be in partnership. Partnership is very very important and then we work together. So in the special at least minimum for the state level that’s has been the focus for the project, which is a major project. They want to make sure that it’s going to be good for not just only ideological or cultural reasons, but also very careful about politics, because China is the same thing as many other developing countries, and the world has been under imperial aggression for centuries. So that’s the reason that they are very careful about how that’s going to become, not like a political hack and control over the other countries economy or something. So that is very sincere. So that’s when you are putting this as a western perspective. That’s very difficult to understand. That’s the same thing that happened with coronavirus and the mobilization. That’s hard to understand. That’s like Chinese people will unify and support and even sacrifice. I know many people in China are in trouble around the world, sent by the government or maybe a company to support the belt and road initiatives. It’s happened all the time. I mean anywhere around the world but still a little different because then there’s going. is that different than major Western Corporations? They always have anger but they want to stay in the most expensive luxurious hotels and go get drinks and then and then they re going to parties every night, and then the king of the city or something, the king of the town. The Difference is that the Chinese system is more sincere, although there’s still cultural barriers and then language barriers, but they’re not pretending to be higher up than other people. They try not to do that.
MF: And I think in the United States, there is among people on the left. We often hear people say, you know, well China is an imperial Nation like the United States and they’re trying to dominate the world like the United States has been doing and it’s been pointed out that actually China has formed partnerships with countries like Venezuela, like Iran, that are targets of US imperialism, and almost acting in an anti-Imperialist way. Do you think there’s any substantiation to people’s belief in the United States that China is an imperial Nation?
LS: I think that’s using a western point of view because Western countries a bill under the imperious racist society that they think that rest of the world operates this way. So when you see this way that you can’t see different. Pretend that you’re doing something in good intention that will become somehow become a way. We are in a situation as I said like coronavirus, and some people have some political analysis in Chinese. One corner you see the people from the good, and to a degree to the evil. That’s true to how you react to the virus.You see how you can see the effect to you. It’s not the virus itself that is so horrible, because it’s not even by the World Health organization, and then also right now this the number that is really going to build up, going a high death rate for the disease. But more it is because of a psychological impact, and from there how do you show it to other people? And then your true face? That is very very important. So going back Wednesday in pews and then because us has been exploiting an invading everywhere around the world USS biggest military spending us has a biggest Operation spending USS biggest military base anywhere around the world with the all these stockpiles of nuclear weapons. So if you using that kind of point of view to see other concern not just only China but although other country the doing an international cooperation, then you just you see that couldn’t see the right way. They always think about this some kind this is not the apartment. It’s your own problem that you just don’t see people who do something that good and sincere but also going back even that is only One ablation but primary I guess is still the white racism pure societies that only us and number one anyone become the rivalry or potential Library. That’s not even the right Bri the even peaceful reasonable competition and then catching up on you you feel such immediate feel threatened and then you want to find some lessons to be put them down.
MF: So we’re running out of time. Can you tell us about how people can become aware of your work and what kind of activities people can do to with you to understand the situation in China and Asia more clearly?
LS: My organization, China US Solidarity Network and websites are China saw dot org and if you like you can email me at gmail.com. hat’s activist web at gmail.com. But what will be so concrete you can do as well. I want to talk to more people and want to provide more information and to how to do exchange. We also will want to organize Grassroots meetings and teachings. If you like to talk the one to talk about what we’re doing or maybe watch a situation China and addition. We also organize China delegation last year. We organized to and then we’ll try to organize twice a year to bring a delegation to China and then I see what’s happening in China as well. Chinese actor which come into u.s. It have a good dialogue. So I thought if anyone since it really want to help that to have a good peaceful dialogue between us and China and I would like to talk to them or about
MF: it. Okay. Well, thank you. Siu Hin for taking time to speak with us today. And for all the important work that you’re doing. We just want to remind our listeners that you know, there is a US national security policy of conflict with China and so the things that you’re hearing in the media. About China it’s really important to keep questioning those everyday and try to get the truth and build this type of person to person diplomacy that you’re talking about.
KZ: That’s right under under the Trump era the trend in u.s. Foreign policy that was going on with a bomb with the Asian pivot and the surrounding of Russia with military bases through NATO has become formalized as great power conflict. That’s the new National Security strategy no longer the war on terror. And so that’s where we bring you this program because It’s so important understand the truth about China in the truth about Russia because in our media among our politicians from Hollywood, we’re going to be propagandized to hate China and Russia because the policy of the United States is conflict with China and Russia. We hope to advocate for cooperation with China and Russia and other nations and that’s why we were so pleased to have you on the show with us. So people can hear that point of view and start to open their minds up to that possibility. I thank you for speaking to us today. Thank you very much.

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A Look At All The Presidents Reveals The System Is Hostile To Black People

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

As the presidential races heat up, Margaret Kimberley has a new book, “Prejudential: Black America and The Presidents,” that exposes how every one of the forty-five presidents in the United States has maintained a state of white supremacy. Her research cuts through the traditional narratives and myths of our presidents to show their support for chattel slavery until the Civil War and then the ongoing oppression of blacks in many forms after that and continuing today. Characterizing the presidents as bad to less bad, she discusses that our presidents reflect the reality of the founding principles of the country, which have not been successfully challenged. Kimberley argues that it has always been popular movements, not presidents, who have brought significant reforms and encourages black voters to break with the duopoly political parties.

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Guest:

Margaret Kimberley is a New York based writer and activist for peace and justice issues. She has been a columnist for Black Agenda Report since its inception, and was for four years the weekly columnist for Black Commentator. Her work has also appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Defender, and on web sites such as Alternet, Counter Punch, Tom Paine and Buzzflash.

Ms. Kimberley is a member of the War Resisters League speakers bureau, Stop the Merchants of Death (SMOD.) SMOD speakers are committed to informing the public about corporate connections to American military activity, especially the occupation of Iraq. She is also a member of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Iraq. In 2006 Ms. Kimberley moderated a forum entitled, “People of Faith for Peace and Justice.” The forum addressed the need for politically progressive Christians to have a greater voice in public policy debates.

Margaret Kimberley has spoken at Riverside Church in New York City, at seminars hosted by the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, and to student groups at institutions such as Mount Holyoke College and Drew University. Ms. Kimberley has also been a guest on radio talk shows around the country.

Transcript

Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the Forces Of Greed with Margaret Flowers

Kevin Zeese (KZ): And Kevin Zeese.

MF: Clearing the fog is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at popular resistance dot-org, and while you’re there check out the Popular Resistance store, where you’ll find Clearing the FOG gear like t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags and water bottles.

MF: So this week we interviewed Margaret Kimberly of Black Agenda Report. She has a new book out called, “Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents” and it’s available on Steer Forth Press
KZ: Yeah, Margaret is an editor of Black Agenda Report and did a great job going through each president and showing the reality that racism pretty much permeates the presidency.
MF: Yes. She goes through how the presidents always wanted the United States to be a white country and have supported policies to try to create that.
KZ: And she includes not just the obvious racist like Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson and the slaveholding presence, but also Barack Obama, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy… president who we think of as anti-racists.
MF: I thought her take on President Trump was really interesting and her argument for what black voters should be doing in the 2020 elections. So before we get to that interview, why don’t we talk about some things that are in the news. This week on popular resistance we wrote our newsletter about our most recent trial which concluded on Friday, and what Is going on right now in Venezuela.
KZ: Yes. It was a week-long trial and the deliberation took as long as a trial… ten and a half hours. The jurors deliberated, deliberated, asked lots of questions and they came back saying they were deadlocked. The judged says keep thinking about it. They came back four hours later still deadlocked, and in the end we got a mistrial because the jury was deadlocked.
MF: Yeah for those listeners who are not familiar with our case, Kevin Zeese and I are part of the Embassy Protection Collective which stayed in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC last spring for 37 days with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela to protect it so that there was time for the United States and Venezuela to negotiate a protecting power agreement, which is what countries normally do when diplomatic relations breakdown. But the United States was trying to hand over diplomatic properties to their failed coup leaDERS.
KZ: And we were prosecute along with David Paul and Adrienne Pine, a nurse and an anthropologist. It was a strange case because the jury was told that Juan Guaido was President even though he hasn’t been a president for a nanosecond in Venezuela. In that jury room he was the president, and the jurors didn’t know anything about Venezuela. And so they believed he was president and that made them very confused as to why we were there, because we had permission of what they thought was a former government, the Maduro government, and not the current government, which they thought was the Guaido government. When we talk to the jurors afterwards ,and the jurors stayed in the room and took questions from lawyers and the judge, the bottom line was that they were very confused.
MF: It was a confusing situation and there was no way really in the way that it was set up that it couldn’t be confusing. The judge, you know to her credit, US law states that the president has the right to recognize the leader of another country, and this judge did not have the authority to challenge that. She restricted a lot of what the jury could hear, or what she said, because if they started hearing, you know, Maduro’s the president. Guaido’s the president, that would be too confusing for them. But in the end, trying to keep that truth out of the courtroom was more confusing to them.
KZ: Yeah the jurors thought we were there just for three days, May 13th, when we were given it a trespass notice, to May 16th, and we were arrested. But in fact we were there for 37 days and jurors were like, “why were there for three days in May? What was going on in May?” It just made no sense to them and so the situation created lots of questions and at least for some of the jurors that confusion led to a reasonable doubt, and other jurors were ready to convict us.
MF: Right, but fortunately it needs to be a unanimous decision and the jury has to find someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And so since they weren’t able to do that. They were deadlocked. We appreciate the people power that went on in that jury for those few jurors who held out and wanted to acquit us.
KZ: So the result of a mistrial means that we might be tried again. The prosecution has to decide the Trump prosecutors have to decide will they prosecute us again? It’s a very expensive process to prosecute these cases. Lots of legal lawyer time. Lots of court time.
MF: It’s a misdemeanor case and it takes up a lot of the judges time. This is the chief judge of the federal court in DC.
KZ: And so we’ll find out on February 28th what the prosecutors want to do. Will they drop the case and be satisfied that they made us go through the process and got a mistrial, or will they try again? If they do we’re preparing in fact to face another prosecution. If you go to DefendEmbassyProtectors.org that’s our defense committee. You can find out more. You can get involved and find out what you can do to help to prevent that next prosecution
MF: So it’s very interesting, you know, there’s so much confusion about Venezuela in the United States because the corporate media gives the u.s. imperialist perspective and not the reality. And so, you know, just last week or the week before I guess it was when President Trump did his state of the union, he invited the coup leader, Juan Guaido, who was on an international tour, to be in the capital and to stand up and be recognized as the president of Venezuela. And as you said, he’s never been the president, but then on February 11th, the same day that our trial started, Juan Guido returned to Venezuela and that’s when reality hit. He is recognized by some countries outside of the Venezuela as the quote-unquote interim president, but in Venezuela, people are very clear that he is not the president and that he’s actually a traitor to the country.
KZ: Well the first thing that happened when he got back to Venezuela was he went through customs and the customs officer took his passport, because he’s not allowed to travel out of the country. What president can have his passport taken away by a customs officer? None. Right from there… the first step into Venezuela, it was shown he is not the president. Then he stepped in the airport. And as you said he was not very popular. People were calling him a traitor, an assassin
MF: They were throwing things on him.
KS: Chasing him out of the airport.
MF: Grabbing him by the shirt.
KZ: It was a mob scene of opposition. He was not a loved president and that was very clear. Even the opposition doesn’t support him anymore. He could not win the election for the National Assembly, to be the president of the the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition. He couldn’t win that election a month ago. And so he’s falling down further in Venezuela. But unfortunately, we’re seeing some activities in Venezuela that are disconcerting. Some terrorist attacks at key buildings. This is the kind of thing we’ve seen in other us regime change efforts. No one’s accused the United States yet, but it’s typical of US tactics. We have heard in the past of u.s. planning terrorist activity in Venezuela to cause disruption and fear and get people divided. So this maybe the new tactic u.s. is doing . Terrorist attacks inside. We don’t know yet. I expect it will come out because Venezuela has uncovered these terrorist attacks in the past.
MF: Right and I wanted to mention that the new National Assembly, the new leadership of the National Assembly, which as you said is its opposition dominated …

KZ: elected by people all from opposition parties.

MF: Right. So they are actually investigating Juan Guido for corruption, for the money that he’s received from outside countries, which is the reason that he’s not allowed to travel… because he violated the law by taking money from foreign governments. They are also, you know, looking into a case against the United States for actions that have led to the theft of Venezuela’s assets in the amount of $116 billion dollars. Juan Guido is implicated as part of that. And we have all of this on Popular Resistance. It’s in the newsletter. It’s really interesting that the leader of the party that Juan Guido used to be part of, Popular Will… The leader of that is Leopoldo Lopez. He’s been under arrest for a long time because of violence that he incited. He’s now in asylum in a Spanish embassy. But Rudy Giuliani flew to Spain to meet with some supporters of that party and Leopoldo Lopez’s cousin, Alejandro Betancourt, is actually being prosecuted in the United States for money laundering 1.2 billion dollars

KZ: And Guliani is representing him.

MF: And Giuliani went to the Department of Justice after meeting with these folks in Spain and tried to to get the DOJ to give leniency to Alejandro Betancourt. So there’s all kinds of corruption that’s wrapped up around on this but I think another really interesting thing that happened in the past week is Venezuela filed a request for an investigation of the United States by the international criminal court because of the illegal, unilateral coercive economic measures. We call them sanctions. Many people call them sanctions, but these are coercive measures that the United States has been using against Venezuela.

KZ: And they want to investigation. because this has caused a humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela. It’s shorten the lives of 40,000 Venezuelans, according to one research project by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, over just a few years. And there are scores, more than two dozen countries, that are subject to US unilateral coercive measures or sanctions. If those countries join this lawsuit with the ICC, that would be phenomenal. Imagine all these countries demanding the ICC investigate the United States. Now the ICC has been under a lot of pressure from the United States. They don’t want to be investigated. The US has threatened sanctions on the judge and prosecutors at the ICC. They have threatened to withdraw funding. It’s very serious . The US does not want to be subjected to investigation for their crimes, The US unfortunately violates a lot of international laws. This unilateral course of measures is one example of many US violations of international law.
MF: That’s right and there is going to be some days of protests in March against these sanctions. There’s a website, sanctionskill.org. If folks want to get involved, protests are being organized across the country and around the world to raise awareness that these unilateral coercive measures are illegal. They need to be stopped. There are ways that we can resolve our conflicts that don’t require starving, keeping people from getting their medicines or killing people.
KZ: sanctionskill.org. I think it’s very important people understand that sanctions are are a form of war. Economic blockades, preventing financing of economies, preventing trade, this leads to people dying. This is a form of war and needs to be challenged and we hope that the public gets organized and starts to raise concerns. sanctionskill.org.
MF: Another interesting court case that’s coming up… Abby Martin. She’s a filmmaker and a journalist. People may know her from the Empire files. She was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Georgia Southern University media literacy conference, and she was required before she could speak to sign a pledge to Israel. This is something that the Georgia state law requires, and because she wouldn’t sign that pledge, they wouldn’t allow her to speak at the conference. The whole conference fell apart as people who were organizing… some of them… stood with Abby Martin. Now she is partnered with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, and CARE, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and they filed suit in federal court against the state of Georgia for violation of her First Amendment right.
KZ: And Abby will be speaking. Her film will be shown at the UNAC conference in New York City this upcoming weekend and Abby will be speaking via video along with Mike Prisner, her co-filmmaker, about the film and taking questions. From the audience. It’s a fantastic film about Palestine from Gaza. Gaza fights for Freedom. Incredible video by Gazan people taking video. And my Can a be turn that into a really amazing film.
MF: That’s right. And that film will be shown on Saturday Night February 22nd. It’s at the people’s forum. And if you want to get more information about that conference, you can go to UNACpeace.org.
I just want to make our listeners aware that they’re actually 28 States who have similar laws to what Georgia has, and last December President Trump signed into law a law that said that public universities could not get funding if they’re not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism. Of course now that the definition of anti-semitism includes criticism of Israel, this has really shut down the rights of people in the United States to, you know, have the right to protest and redress the government for the actions that Israel is taking.
KZ: Well it’s an attempt to shut down, and that’s because the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, BDS, is an effective tool for challenging Israel. Last week we talked about how BDS leads to ODS. One Democratic state. That is the long-term solution for Israel and the BDS movement needs to adopt that as the vision for the future. And then I think we have a strategy and a goal that makes a lot of sense in that can be achieved.
MF: Right and so one Democratic state would basically be that there be a constitution. There’s no Constitution right now.
KZ: And that’s because Israel does not want to define what Jewish means. It’s very complicated, and that’s one reason why there’s no constitution.
MF: It would be a One Democratic state that was secular, where everybody had the right to vote, where minority rights would be protected. It’s really the only way in the current situation where so much of the Palestinian land has been taken, as they are under this apartheid colonial situation. It’s the only way to resolve this in a way that supports the rights of all people living in Palestine.
So let’s talk about a new study. There’s a lot of talk about college education and you know high amounts of student debt. 1.6 trillion dollars of student debt in the United States. 11% of people are defaulting on that debt. That’s a record numbers of defaults. And there was a new study looking at what would millennials, people with college and post graduate college debt… What would they be willing to do to get rid of that student debt? 39 percent of them said they would be willing to spend a week in jail.
KZ: That is amazing. And there’s a whole series of things people would be when do. And people are suffering because of this debt. People are not able to get jobs. They take jobs they don’t want because they’re desperate for money. They get second jobs. They live with their parents. They can’t buy a house. They can’t buy a car. So many problems we created. And to think in our generation schools were basically free. There were minimal cost to go for a college education. Now the cost of tuition and lodging and food has all skyrocketed. People going into debt. And now the debt can’t be something you can even get rid of in bankruptcy, thanks to Joe Biden. Biden was the guy who led the charge in Congress for making it so bankruptcy could not alleviate student debt. So these youth are stuck with debt, undermining their lives. And we grew up in a situation where people got basically free collagen. In New York City when I was growing up the CUNY system was totally free.
MF: That’s right. And 89% of people with student debt that were polled in this study said that it was a significant financial burden for them, their student debt, meaning that they had to make sacrifices just like what you outlined… not being able to buy a home, you know, not being able to buy a car, living with their parents, not starting families. So this actually doesn’t just impact them. It impacts our whole economy. If the newest generation, the youngest generation is not able to do the normal things of participating in economic life. And this all goes hand in hand to with the whole job situation where most of our jobs are service jobs and they’re low-wage job. So it’s all tied together. But you and I came from middle-class families. And we were born in the 50s and 60s, the time when there was the greatest equality in the United. And I think part of that was because you could get a very low cost education. We would not, I would not have been able to go through college and medical school the way I did the way the prices are now.
KZ: And I couldn’t go on to college and law school. I went to state universities and could not have afforded private universities. And certainly couldn’t afford the cost of universities today. So we have really treated this generation—now more than one generation—terribly, and it’s undermining ourselves. You take a generation or two out of the economy, that hat undermines the entire economy. These capitalists who are insisting that these students pay their debt need to wake up. It’s not healthy for anyone in the society to have generation or two straddled or stuck with debt that they just can’t afford and undermines their ability to participate in the economy.
MF: And I guess it’s starting to… workers are starting to fight back against this. I mean it’s really growing. There’s a new study by the Economic Policy Institute that looked at the number of people involved in work stoppages. And so in 2017, that was just 25,300 people across the country that participate in work stoppages.

KZ: That sounds like a lot of people. 25,000.

MF: But in 2018, it was 425,000 and in 2019, it went up to 485,000. So this is even in an environment where there are laws passed at the state level to make it more difficult for workers to strike.
KZ: And this is occurring at a time an economic recovery.
MF: So called
KZ: So called. The minute we got out of the recession in 2019, and now we’ve had these two record years of work stoppages, the largest two year number in 35 years. That’s because the jobs are terrible.
MF: And benefits are being bargained away, like health care, like pensions.
KZ: And so, you know, something like single-payer healthcare or medicare for all would be a big boon for workers. Except these unions are fighting back against medicare-for-all. It’s so absurd.
MF: Well some are.
KZ: Yes. Some are. And it’s a false fight. I mean, these Unions know that they take healthcare out of the situation and it gets provided for through taxes and a national improved medicare for also situation, then they can bargain for salaries and other benefits. Pensions.
MF: Safer working conditions. More jobs.
KZ: Shorter work weeks. So many other issues a bargain for. Let’s get healthcare out of that and begin to actually work for the workers. Right now workers are going on strike because they are desperate. People are financially insecure. Even those who have jobs cannot afford any surprise major expense of more than four or five hundred dollars. It’s an absurd financial situation. And it’s time for people to recognize people are striking for a reason, and time for government and the business owners to respond.
MF: Last week we talked about what was happening with marijuana reform around the world. This week let’s focus in a little bit more on what’s happening in the United States. There are potentially 11 more States who in this coming election season will have measures on the ballot for marijuana reform.
KZ: There are currently four measures that have been approved for the ballot. Two for adult legal use of marijuana. Two for medical use of marijuana. South Dakota has both, an adult legal use and a medical use. And New Jersey has on the ballot a legal adult use after they were unable to pass it through the legislature. Now the voters will get to vote on it. Polls shows a very good chance it will pass.
MF: That would be a constitutional amendment.
KZ: That would be a constitutional amendment. And Mississippi is going to be voting on medical marijuana. Medical marijuana across the country has like eighty percent support in the polls. So I think those medical marijuana initiatives pass. The New Jersey polls are very good for legal use. And that will be really interesting for New York. They’ll have Massachusetts on one side. New Jersey on the other, all selling marijuana legally, collecting tax revenue while New York stays without it. Although Governor Cuomo says he promises to pass it in 2020. We’ll see.
MF: Right. The other states that are seeking signatures right now to get on the ballot are Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Idaho.
KZ: And some of those say very difficult for collecting signatures. You’re talking about more than a hundred thousand signatures. Oklahoma’s a very difficult state to get on the ballot for example. So I’m not sure all those will get on the ballot, but that shows people are organizing. I know when I was working on this issue, I was the formerly the director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Vice President of Drug Policy Foundation, and we were very involved in these initiative efforts. The first one 1996 was California medical marijuana, and that opened the floodgates. I’ll tell you initiatives are not easy. You have to first off test, through polling and focus groups, on what the public is ready to support. So you pursue an issue that can pass. Then you have to collect those signatures. You’re talking about two to three dollars per signature, for very strong volunteers. Very hard to do with just volunteers. Then you’ve got to run a campaign, which means advertising. Television advertising. Door to door activity. Initiatives are not easy and yet this has been the way the marijuana issue has broken through legislators, because legislators were blinded by it. They were unable to confront it so the people had to take over, organize, and create the situation where they can make the change they want.
MF: Right. Well, it’s time to end the prohibition on marijuana. Think about the impact that will have as there are still hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests across the country every year and people being incarcerated because of that.
KZ: And then once we win the adult legal use we still to fight for justice because a lot of these states that have legalized are going very commercial. It’s very expensive to get into the business of selling marijuana legally in the dispensary. A lot of the communities that have suffered the most from the marijuana wars—black and brown and poor communities—are not able to participate. And we’re not doing enough to erase people’s records. So even when you pass these initiatives it’s only a step and we still have to continue to fight for justice around this issue and other drug issues. Marijuana is one issue, but we have serious problems with other drug issues as well. We got to move to a health-based harm reduction approach for other drugs, but getting marijuana off the table, legal for adults legal for medicines are major first steps.
KZ: Let’s talk about what’s going on in Canada. We’ve been talking about what’s going on with the coastal link gas pipeline that the coastal link company is trying to build on Wetsuetan territory. The Wetsuetans never ceded their territory to Canada and they’ve been fighting for years to stop the construction. Then a Canadian court approved an injunction against them that would prevent them from taking action to blockade that construction. They continue to blockade it anyway, and last Thursday the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had a pre-dawn raid, 5 a.m. They showed up in full force with armed drones and all kinds of things too to raid a camp that the Wetsuetans had. They broke windows on cars. They pulled a woman who was not dressed out of her truck. They arrested six people. And that has really caused some outrage across the country of Canadians who are supporting the Wetsuetans.
KZ: That’s right. There are protests across the country from coast to coast. Even the United States people are getting are angry about this. People oppose fracked gas to begin with so that already is a climate crisis problem, but then to violate the rights of these First Nations indigenous peoples adds to the problem. And encounter they call them first Nations because these were Nations. And they say this is unceded territory, as you mentioned. What that means is they never agreed they were part of Canada. So they believe they are a nation.
MF: Well they are in fact a nation.
MF: And they have the rights of a Nation. Courts have recognized that they have rights, but prime minister Trudeau is sicking the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on them to steal their land, go in there and take the resources on their land and add more to the climate crisis. Trudeau has really proven himself to be a terrible neoliberal, anti-environment anti-justice prime minister. He’s been absolutely horrible on countries like Venezuela. He just really has shown himself to be [this]. It’s unfortunate he was re-elected.
MF: The protests have really been amazing. People are shutting down ports, railway stations, bridges, roads. They’re protesting at government buildings, doing prolonged occupations at government buildings. They’re going to the offices of Coastal Link and protesting. And they have three demands. They’re demanding that Canada implement the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. They’re calling on the injunction, the court injunction, to be suspended so that the Wetsuetan can continue to resist. And they’re calling on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to stand down and stop terrorizing the Wetsuetan people.
KZ: These are all reasonable requests based on economic, racial and environmental justice and respect for the sovereignty of indigenous first nations in Canada. Their protests are amazing. It’s great to see so many Canadians across the country joining in their support.
MF: I want to give a shout out to some of our friends down in Western North Carolina who did a protest as part of Extinction Rebellion on Valentine’s Day. It was a beautiful protest with lots of hearts, you know, loving the planet and saying that we need to protect it.
KZ: And that video is on popularresistance.org.
MF: That’s right. And then there are or actions being planned in Washington DC that anybody around the country is welcome to come and participate in. This is a group called shut down DC. It’s a coalition of organizations that’s organizing for actions from Earth Day April 22nd through May Day, May 1st. And starting midway through the protest they’re going to be daily themes of actions that are led by people who are on the front lines of those themes. And so if you go to popularresistance.org, you can find information about how to plug into these Earth Day to May Day, Shut Down DC actions
KZ: These shutdown DC activists have done beautiful protests before. Very visual. Very creative. And so if you are able to be in the DC from Earth Day to May Day, it’s a great time to be part of important protests against the climate crisis.
MF: And you don’t have to be there for the whole time f you can’t. Even if you come for a few days, they have organizing calls and direct action training. So there’s ways for people to plug in. And remember that when it comes to direct actions, there’s lots of different roles that people can play. There are some people who may risk arrest, but there are lots of actions that people can do to support that don’t risk arrest, such as helping with media or helping to support those who are risking arrest with jail support, or just participating in a way that doesn’t risk arrest. So people shouldn’t be afraid of, you know, it’s called shutdown DC, but there’s lots of things that people can do to support it.
KZ: And I can tell you in Washington DC the police are very used to protests. And so you can do a lot in DC without getting arrested. It’s very different from New York. I just want people to realize the DC approach is very difficult for protesters because it’s kind of like the marshmallow approach. They let you do things. It’s the conflict that creates movements and so while that’s a difficult process for us to deal with as organizers. it’s also an opportunity for moving more people to get
MF: Washington DC has protests literally every day and the police have been sued a number of times, so that kind of restricts what they do, but I think that we can’t give a blanket statement.
KZ: We’re facing prosecution ourselves. Of course, we can’t give a blanket statement. We’re being prosecuted for what we did at the protecting the Venezuelan Embassy, but I’m just letting people know that there is more flexibility in Washington DC. You’ll get warnings. You’ll get the opportunity to back off. I’m just urging you to get involved in these very important protests.
MF: I think it’s important for people if they’re going to engage in the protest, because things can’t always be predicted, to check in with the organization, get the training and information that you need so you can participate in a way that’s acceptable and appropriate for you. So that’s the news that we have for today. Why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll be back with our interview with Margaret Kimberly.

MF: You’re listening to clearing the fog speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret flowers
KZ: and Kevin zeese.
MF: And now we turn to our Margaret Kimberly. Margaret is a senior editor of the Black Agenda Report and activist for peace and Justice and the author of a new book “Prejudential: Black America and the President.” Thank you for taking time to join us Margaret.
MK: Thank you for having me.
KZ: All right. Well, it’s gonna be fun talking with you about this and it’s such an interesting timing. Presidential weekend is when there’s will come out. So let’s start with the basic question. What made you write this book?
MK: Well, I had written a column for a Black Agenda Report about Theodore Roosevelt. I had watched one of those public television documentaries about the Roosevelt family, and it was—pun intended—a whitewash of Theodore Roosevelt, of his racism, of his imperialism. And so I was inspired to write about him for my following Black Agenda Report column. And a friend and supporter of Black Agenda Report said to me said will write about all of them? Why don’t you try all the presidents? And I thought about it and I realized that writing about all of the presidents and their relations with their treatment of black people was a great way to sum up American history. And it also reveals the ways in which the beginnings of this country, which defended and protected chattel slavery, and how so many policies were intended to physically control black people, starting obviously from slavery, the Three-Fifths Clause of the Constitution, the Electoral College, the fact that the new capital that they actually built a new city and built it within the confines of the plantation economy. So many things that happened in this country are a result of this history.
MF: And I should let our listeners know that the book is divided into 45 chapters.
MK: One for every one. I get all of them all of them. For some of them there’s not a lot to say, but they all played a role in this… I say that anti-black racism is foundational to the country and every single president has proved that in some way or other.
MF: But that’s not I think what people would think. The person who’s kind of traditionally educated in this country probably doesn’t have this knowledge. You’re a historian. When you were researching the various presidents, what did find in terms of kind of the common information that’s out there versus more of what the reality is of each of the presidents.
MK: Well, the interesting thing is even people who want to be well informed in this country are misinformed because so many lies are taught. It’s a I don’t think the word conspiracy is too harsh. The biographers and scholars who’ve written about these people lie about them. They either lie outright or they omit, and I think it’s important for to point out that an omission is a lie. So if you write about Abraham Lincoln and you don’t point out that he never gave up his desire for colonization, that is to say for black people to be sent out of the country… As late as about a week before he was assassinated, he spoke with a former Union general and asked him to come up with the plan to send black people away. There actually was a short-lived plan. 400 people were sent to a tiny Island Off the coast of Haiti Ile-a-Vache, cow Island. In 1862 Lincoln wrote this order the day before the Emancipation Proclamation, and these 400 formerly enslaved people were sent to this island. They were not well provisioned. They died from diseases and hunger and the survivors were brought home. But he actually acted on it. This was something that was planned for decades. And many presidents who we think of as being better, such as John Adams… Out of the first 12 presidents 10 were slaveholders. The only two who were not were John Adams and John Quincy Adams… But he was no abolitionist. He was from Massachusetts. Although we must point out slavery was legal in the north at that time. He could have been a slave holder. He bragged that he was not. But he did not want to end slavery, and he feared the presence of free black people. And he was one of many who wanted to send black people out of the country. Most of them wanted a country for white people, and they were quite upfront about saying so. The country of Liberia. The capital is Monrovia named for James Monroe. He was another in favor of colonization. So this was something that was discussed for the first hundred or so years of the country’s history. It was clear that that wasn’t going to happen. But the Civil War was followed by the all-too-brief Reconstruction Era and then Jim Crow segregation, and nearly a hundred ears of a kind of fascism. It’s not exaggeration to call it that. But that only ended with the mass movement. And that is the other thing I’ve learned, you know, the ones who were called good for black people or not so bad. If they did something good it was because they were forced to. Lincoln was not an abolitionist, but it was the enslaved themselves… every time Union forces drew near enslaved people ran to the union lines and thus forced his hand, and forced him to make the Civil War a war against slavery. So that is the most important thing. It is the people in action, the people in movement, that create better circumstances and the ability to exercise our human rights.
MF: Rights great and some say that the kind of break from the colonists with, you know, the British was in part because there were limits… The brits were trying to impose limits on the people’s ability to commit genocide against the indigenous and and there was a movement away from slavery. Is this something that also informs the early days of this country?
MK: Yes, it is. The colonists, you know, for all their talk of freedom and fighting tyranny… The Declaration of Independence is funny. I was never taught this in school, but it’s right there. The Declaration of Independence mentions that the British or instigating the Indians to rise. The colonists wanted to continue to expand across the continent. The British did not want them to. They had other considerations. The French and the Spanish had territories in what’s now the United States, and the spreading of their settlements would have created other issues for them. But these were people who wanted it all. They wanted all of the Indian lands. They wanted unfettered access to chattel slavery. They feared that Britain might outlaw slavery, or the transatlantic slave trade at some point; And in order to do that, they had to be free of the British crown. And I think it’s important to think of this country as a settler colonial state. That explains so much of what happened in history and it certainly explains the Revolutionary War.
KZ: You know, there’s so much you said I wanted to talk about. But let me focus on the point about movements having to push presidents. I mean, obviously the first slaveholding presidents are one example. Andrew Jackson’s horrible racism. Woodrow Wilson’s incredible racism, but then you get to the people like John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the Civil Rights Act, the Civil Rights Movement. Now, they are, I’d say just from my understanding of history, that they probably two of the “less bad” presidents when it comes to Black Liberation. Tell us about the negative sides of them, on these issues, and the positive sides of them.
MK: Well, Kennedy… let’s not forget that the Democratic party was the party of the segregated South, and Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson. He chose a southerner as his running mate. That was how you balance the ticket, a northerner and a southerner. So Kennedy was never very serious about the Civil Rights Movement, the human rights movement. He did not like… and Bobby Kennedy was especially bad, his brother, the Attorney General. They did not support the Freedom Riders, did not provide them with protection from federal law enforcement. Kennedy’s first meeting with Martin Luther King was held in secret. It wasn’t publicly announced. It didn’t appear in the White House log. The Press didn’t know about it. He was still trying to mollify those Southerners whose support he needed and wanted. He finally did give a speech and called civil rights “A moral issue, not a political issue.” Of course, it is a deeply political issue, but the little he did in his short time in office was because there was a movement. They could not back down. The people wouldn’t allow it. And Lyndon Johnson was a southern segregationist. He did shepherd through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but he was forced to do it by the actions of the people. But he was never really an honest broker. In 1964 at the Democratic National Convention, which was in Atlantic City that year, there’s a famous incident involving Fannie Lou Hamer from Mississippi. She and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party were seeking to be seated instead of the desegregated Mississippi delegation. And she was on national television and giving a very riveting speech about the oppression she suffered in Mississippi, describing this vicious beating that she suffered. And Lyndon Johnson cut her off the air and they did preempt her speech and Lyndon Johnson came on and [said] some BS about the anniversary of the president’s assassination approaching or something. They made up something to get her off the air. So that is what we got with a supposedly “good president.” Bobby Kennedy allowed Hoover to surveil Martin Luther King and others. At this convention in 1964 Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King… They were all being spied on. The FBI had tapped their phones and knew everything that was being discussed. So that is what we get with the so-called good ones. They will respond to movements but even so we still have to be very careful of them. And I think one of the things I have concluded is… the electoral system is a system that’s adversarial with us. We have to see political parties—and it’s been the Democrats that’s been the black political party since the late 60s. We are in an adversarial relationship with them and we a not see them as friends or protectors. We have to realize that they are only going to be as good as we are, and even so we still have to watch our backs.
MF: And it’s so interesting how how afraid they are of somebody who might tell the truth about what’s actually happening like Fannie Lou Hamer. So many people were excited and inspired by our first black President, Barack Obama. What are your thoughts on him? How does he fall in the whole spectrum of bad to not so bad?
MK: Well, he was, you know, he’s an interesting case of course. You know, all of the presidents have to uphold… they have to uphold white supremacy. The system demands it, and he was no different. And in the modern era what we’ve seen in the last few elections is the role of money and the role of very wealthy people in deciding who the president is going to be. The fact that Obama raised 10 times as much as John McCain in that 2008 election tells you who he was beholden to. And so, of course when he became president he bailed out the banks, the banks who had caused that 2008 financial crisis in the first place… The banks who were deregulated by Bill Clinton, a democrat in the supposed friend. Obama also, I think because he was black… is black. He’s not dead. Because he’s black he had an extra additional requirement to prove that he was not going to allow black politics to resurrect itself. And when I say black politics, obviously there are lots of black politicians. But by black politics, I mean politics that asserts our particular needs and addresses what our concerns, and the redress that we still require. So when Obama spoke his first… the first national attention he received was at the 2004 Democratic Convention— he was about to run for the senate in Illinois— and in his speech he said there is no Black America. There is no white America. Well, of course, that’s not true. There is a Black America and a white America and people in those groups assert themselves as such. But that was his way of telling the people, the 1% as they are now known, that he would be a safe candidate. He also from time to time… Well, he still does it now actually… the criticism of black people… the jokes about cousin Pookie, the scolding, especially of black men, calling black men are responsible. These are things that if Hillary Clinton had said them she would have rightly been called a racist. But he got a pass because —and it’s understandable, the yearning to see a black face and a high place, is still very strong. Also, a lot of the opposition to Obama was racist. So black people responded to that as well and my entire life black people debated whether it was possible for a black person to be elected president. And then when it happened, when we found out it could be true, there was this urge to allow him to succeed. But a successful president in this era is one who acts in the interest of people who are frankly our enemies, people and forces domestically and internationally. So he bails out the banks that get trillions of dollars to the financial services industry, and in return he leaves office and now he gives a speech and gets paid half million dollars for it. That’s the way the system is set up. So it was particularly disheartening to me and to others, although our voices were in the distinct minority. It was very disheartening to see someone who looked like us act against our interest and yet still be loved and admired as Obama was. Is.
KZ: And it’s very hard to look at Black America and see much improvement under Obama, as far as incarceration, education . In fact a terrible loss of wealth. Nothing done about that, with the economic collapse in foreclosure. So looking at his impact on Black America, it’s not a very pretty picture. You know, one of the things I think about… obviously race issues are so intertwined with the entire history of the country, from the founding, from pre-founding. Slave revolts and abolition of slavery. I assume they’re were always movements that were creating fissures around these issues and sometimes that seems to have a relationship to presidential politics, often in third-party movements. But one president that kind of I’ve always been curious about is John Quincy Adams, because he ran for president with one of the abolition parties in a third-party race. So if you can talk about John Quincy Adams. I’m really curious about him because he seemed to be potentially the one who could have challenged slavery and he did push the abolition movement.
MK: Yeah, he was president. He has an interesting history. He was President for one term, from 1825 to 1829. He was a mixed bag. So as a senator he supported the Louisiana Purchase, which increase the size of the slaveholding regions of the country. He supported Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Florida, stealing it from Spain. And of course that added slaveholding territory. He was the architect Monroe Doctrine, which says that the entire hemisphere belongs to the US and that’s still being used today when we discuss Venezuela or other parts of the Americas. And after he was defeated, he was a member of the House of Representatives and he did more as a member of Congress that he did as president. He was a staunch opponent of something called The Gag Rule, and in order to silence abolitionists in the House, it basically banned any discussion of abolition. But he pushed against it. But he was an accommodationist on the issue of slavery. He would say that slavery was evil, but then he would say it’s good for commerce. So he was back and forth. He did take part. He was the attorney who represented the captive Africans on the Amistad. The Amistad was a Spanish ship transporting enslaved people in Cuba. They rose up and took over the ship but it was captured off the coast of Long Island. They were trying to sail back to Africa, and he argued the Supreme Court case which resulted in Freedom for the Amistad survivors, who did eventually return to Africa. I believe what’s now Sierra Leone. So you know, you can give him a little bit of credit. But even those like him, it’s always one step forward two steps back. They may speak out against slavery, but at the same time accommodate. So that is that seems to be the best we get in American history frankly. And I think the way the system is set up, and the presidency and the constitution or set up. I think it is inevitable. So I think we have to be careful even as we agitate for particular people to be an office, to always remember the limits placed on them… intentionally placed. Still in the system,
MF: Right. You get a little bit of tweaks here and there but the system doesn’t change. The overall system stays the same. So every presidential election we hear that this is the most important one ever. And this year is no different. People are saying, you know, Trump is so bad that everything has to be focused on defeating him. Is this the most important election ever?
MFK: Well, you’re right every one is the most important. I mean I guess it’s technically true, but Trump is not the worst. One of the things I hope people get out of reading the book is that Trump is not the first president to make overt racist appeals. I think of in most recent time Bill Clinton. He left the campaign trail to sign an execution for mentally disabled black man in Arkansas. His Sister Souljah moment where he race-baited Jesse Jackson to make clear that he was going to uphold white supremacy, like everybody else. And yet he got black support, because the Democrats are, you know, our only option and the Republicans are so terrible. So no matter what Democrats say, they are supported. Ronald Reagan giving a speech in Mississippi talking about states rights, comments about welfare queens and strapping young bucks using food stamps… George HW Bush using William Horton, who they called Willie… he was never known as Willie, to race bait against Michael Dukakis. So this there’s this long pattern and so Trump is not an anomaly. He is just the most obvious, and I think because he’s not a politician he dispenses with any of the niceties that other presidents felt obliged to follow. He is very right wing and he does incite and encourage the most overtly racist elements, but he’s not the first to do it. First of all. And secondly, the condition of black people in this country was pretty bad before. Ae have mass incarceration. Two million people incarcerated. Half of those people black. That happened before Trump. Obama was the Deporter in Chief. He deported more people… I believe that Trump thus far still has not deported as many people as Obama had at this point in his presidency. So despite Trump’s awfulness, I think we cannot forget the awfulness of those who came before. And even in foreign policy where Trump has really ratcheted up the tax on foreign country using sanctions… but that wasn’t started by Trump, and let’s not forget what Obama did to Libya and that he that he tried to do the same thing to Syria. So Trump is bad, but so were the others. I actually think if trump just had better manners, he would be accepted by the Establishment. Because you see in foreign policy at the State of the Union Address, they invite Juan Guaido… Nancy Pelosi… She may have ripped up his speech but she certainly jumped to her feet, and the Democrats have gone along with this horrendous policy of just being very overt and choosing a president for another country. So I think it’s important to ignore some things about Trump and look at the bigger picture. And now we see Mike Bloomberg. Ugh, you know we had wealthy people controlling politics. But Bloomberg has just dispensed with the middleman and says “I’m going to do it myself.” Now it’s not clear if he really wants to be president, if he just wants to stop Bernie Sanders, if he wants to let Hillary Clinton back in. There’s all sorts of rumors, especially in the last few days. But is that saving us from anything? What does that save us from? The Democrats at the last debate… They were asked… Trump has moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. And none of them said they would move it back to Tel Aviv. They would not. Democrats always do this. They don’t undo what Republicans do when they finally get back into office. So that’s one of the things to remember and to realize, that they are not not our saviors,
KZ: You know, that lets to my other next question, which is the predicament of black voters in this duopoly, these two-parties, you know, Wall Street war parties that both have long racist backgrounds. I talked with Glenn Ford your colleague and our friend about this, and he talks about black voters are looking at who can protect them from this the horrible racist Republicans, And that kind of forces them to stay in the Democratic party. And someone like Mike Bloomberg. You look at his treatment of poor people, you know, all sorts of horrible policies that were just overtly racist and anti working-class, anti poor, and yet you see all these black politicians endorsing him. It’s just obscene. Ignoring his racist political past. So what should black voters be doing? How do black voters develop political power. Do they have to break for the Democratic party? Can they do it in the Democratic party?
MK: Well, we do have to break with the Democratic party, and everyone talks about, we have to get rid of Trump. We have to fight Trump. We have to fight Trump. The first fight has to be against the Democrats. It is entirely their fault that Trump won in the first place, so they are literally to blame. But when they get in the gains we make are so negligible. It’s gains for a small group of people, the ones you mentioned who are endorsing Bloomberg. And it’s just because money Talks. You know, I’m not surprised to see it but it is frankly a lot more depressing than I imagined it to be, to witness this complete capitulation. But the black so-called leaders, the misleaders as we call them in Black Agenda Report, capitulated a long time ago. Black people have to think about self-determination. We have to break with the Democratic party. I am a Green. I used to vote for Greens when I could in elections, and I finally made the decision to officially register as Green. We needed a real left party. We need a real Workers party, a real people’s party a real peace party, and we have to talk seriously about letting the Democratic party die, because they can’t even guarantee victory. You know, when Obama was President they were so focused on the presidency, so they could make deals with Republicans. They didn’t even care about Democrats running across the country. Almost a thousand seats lost by Democrats around the nation, and Trump’s victory was the day of reckoning there. So I don’t believe the Democratic party is useful. They’re not our friend. Now, they’re not even useful in the electoral sense. So I think we have to … There was always talk of a National independent black party. That was a movement a couple of decades ago, but we have to have self-determination. It’s going to be a long fight and many debates among people of good will, but we cannot continue to go along with the Democrats and with their puppets who sell us out.
KZ: I mean black voters are basically taken for granted by the Democrats and it’s a gigantic error because if black voters break from the Democratic party, the Democratic party is finished. They’ve already lost about 35 percent of workers to the Republicans and that’s been true for all of this century. If they lose 35 percent of Democrats to the greens of the greens become a green/black party and the black leaders take control of the green party, which would be welcomed by many green leaders… that would be an amazing death of the democratic party. And this 20/20 election could be a disaster for the Democrats because of that.
MK: I can’t even predict what’s going to happen frankly. When you look at their determination to defeat Bernie Sanders who is no socialist. I mean what he’s talking about is, you know, reforms and giving us things that we used to have. We used to have public colleges that were so cheap they were almost free. I can’t believe I hear people saying can we have three college? I mean we did, For almost three decades we did. But even the little bit that Bernie Sanders is offering is anathema to them. So this is the time to make the break. This is not the time to accommodate. Rather than let a billionaire take over. I mean it is so blatant. You know, as I said before, Bloomberg is cutting out the middleman. He’s like, we’re going to be under billionaire rule if this man succeeds. We already are but now it’s going to be official. And that is something to fear as much as Trump’s rednecks, in my opinion. But it’s going to be a topsy-turvy year and I really can’t even make a prediction about what’s going to happen. But everything that we’re seeing shows that it is imperative that we practice self-determination and stop looking for the Democrats to protect us, because they’ve already in so many ways shown us that they are are not our friends.
MF: That’s so true. And you know, I can predict, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. You heard it here first. You think the Iowa caucuses were disaster. Wait till the July convention. It is going to be a disaster brokered convention. The super delegates will come in. Sanders will have it robbed. Who they end up picking doesn’t matter because it will just divide the Democratic party and the destruction of the Democratic party seeds have been planted.
Let me close with this final question. As bad as the history of presidents are, it is so linked to the history of the country, and you know today we see incredible police violence against black communities, links between the new right-wing racist movements and police. We saw that in the past with sheriffs in the South and in the Civil Rights era. It just seems like the bad policies among presidents on race issues are just a reflection of the reality of racism in the United States.
MK: Yes. Absolutely. The president’ get… Obviously being the president gets all the attention, and especially with someone like Trump in office. But the reality of our lives… You mentioned the loss of the little bit of wealth black people had in home ownership was lost in 2008 and there was no attempt by the black president to recover that. No attempt on his part to cut the incarceration state. So these presidents get… You know, they are the presidents. You can’t ignore them. But I think in giving them so much attention we forget that the system overall is so hostile to black people. And especially now at this in stage of capitalism where when they talk about job growth is such a joke. Low-wage work. The levels of oppression, the inequality. The fact that so many Americans are poor—and this is not an issue at all, politically… that no one even bothers to speak to that. The increasing homelessness… all of the indicators of a society being under stress. It is a mistake to focus on this office, even to focus on solely on someone like Trump, when we have an entire system that is in neee of being done away with and replaced with something that’s really transformational that works for the people.
MF: Well Margaret thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. We strongly encourage our listeners to read this book. It’s important, especially this year going into this year, that people have this understanding of the dynamics, you know, in this country and and how to break out of that. So thank you for writing the book and thank you for speaking to us about.
MK: Thank you very much.

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