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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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.

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Our guest:

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

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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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Trump Blows Cover Off Israeli Colonial Apartheid And Fuels Struggle For One Democratic State

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

The Trump administration has been one of the most aggressive toward supporting the Israeli colonialist and apartheid state in Palestine in cooperation with the extreme right-wing government under Netanyahu. During his term, funding has been withdrawn from the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees, the capital of Israel was moved to Jerusalem (the Palestinian Capital), Israel was declared a Jewish State and the US changed its position on the illegal settlements. This latest so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ is set to complete genocide against Palestinians. We speak with Awad Abdelfattah, a Palestinian in Haifa who is leading the campaign for One Democratic State about the current situation, the campaign and what people in the United States can do to support a secular, equal, democratic state in Palestine.

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Guest:

Awad Abdelfattah is a political writer and the former general secretary of the Balad party. He is the coordinator of the Haifa-based One Democratic State Campaign, established in late 2017.

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 store where you’ll find Clearing the FOR gear like t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags and water bottles.

So today we interviewed Awad Abdelfattah. He is a co-founder of the campaign for one Democratic state in Palestine.
KZ: We met a wide when we were in Palestine last November. We were very impressed with his long history of activism and the work he’s doing on one Democratic State and we really came to see how boycott divestment and sanction really leads to one Democratic state. That should be the goal of the campaign.
MF: Right and he talks about the the BDS Campaign which is not something that he started but was started by hundreds of Palestinian groups. And he’s encouraging them to have a conversation about making that the goal of the BDS campaign. But his work is really bringing all the different sectors together in Palestine as well as Israeli Jews and trying to get people to unite around a common vision for one Democratic State. And this is definitely the time for that. We talked a lot about this “deal of the century” that Trump has put forward with Benjamin Netanyahu and how that has really created such terrible conditions. I mean this has been going on since 1948 and before. But the conditions now are so severe that it’s the time for everyone in the world to unite and push for one Democratic secular State.

KZ: It’s also that the Trump actions including this most recent deal of the century, so-called, have really exposed the truth, that the two-state solution is not a possibility. That’s been obvious to many people for a long time, but this has cemented that. Making Jerusalem the capital has added to that as well and it’s also exposed the reality of Israel as a apartheid colonial state.
MF: That’s right. So stick around for that interview with Awad Abdelfattah. But before we get to that, why don’t we talk about some things that are in the news. Just quickly related to the interview with Awad the United National Anti-war Coalition Conference is coming up in New York City at the People’s Forum, February 21 to 23. And on the Saturday Night February 22nd will be showing a movie by Abby Martin and Mike Prisner called, Gaza fights for Freedom. They’ll be a discussion as well afterwards with the producers of the movie and it talks about the great March of return that has been going on every Friday in Gaza and continues to this day.
KZ: Fantastic movie. Incredible video shot from people in Gaza showing the reality of life in Gaza and that amazing protest. It’s really a must-see movie.
MF: Also as long as we’re talking about events, the Sanctions Killed Days of Action is coming up March 13-15. You can check out SanctionsKill.org and this is a campaign that’s educating people about the fact that these economic measures that the United States imposes on people in other countries are just as deadly as warfare. Finally on March 19th is the Iraq war anniversary, the 17th anniversary, and there are actions being organized across the country for that. People can check out popularresistance.org event calendar to get information about all of these events. So this week we wrote our newsletter about the new u.s. Space Force which we talked about last week with Bruce Gagnon. That’s on popularresistance.org, and we posted an article about this new, low-yield nuclear weapon that the United States has deployed.
KZ: Well first on this space force, what really struck me about that was the relationship between profit and capitalism with militarism, and it’s not that’s not surprising. But the privatization of space has been moving at the same time that we were moving toward militarization of space. These things go hand-in-hand on earth as well. We often see US wars as tied to capitalist exploitation of natural resources and workers around the world. Well, there’s tremendous wealth in space. People are going to get so wealthy…
MF: From mining minerals…
KZ: From mining minerals on asteroids, on the moon. It’s amazing what the potentials are, but it’s so important that this become a commons for the earth, not something the u.s. controls. The goal of US military has been to control that, and that’s that’s going to be real damaging to the world. It’s going to keep the wealth divide and it’s a last-ditch effort by the United States to continue domination. And that’s failing on earth as Russia creates weapons stronger than many US weapons. The Chinese economy is challenging the US economy. So space is the frontier to try to keep that domination going.
MF: But, we don’t think that domination is a good idea because as you said it’s very exploitative. And we talked about in the newsletter how ridiculously expensive this is going to be and it’s going to be paid for by cutting our social safety net even more. So this is something that should be of concern to everyone but also of concern is this low-yield nuclear weapon because this is actually meant to be used
KZ: This is what the US has been working on really since the Obama era and it’s been continued in the Trump era. It is to remake our nuclear weapons arsenal so the weapons can be used. Of course the reality is they can’t be used. Low-yield weapons are dangerous, are catastrophic and that’s one reason why the atomic energy scientists now got the clock down to 100 seconds.
MF: That’s the Doomsday Clock
KZ: The Doomsday Clock down to a hundred seconds. We’re on hair-trigger alert. And now the u.s. is putting out these low-yield weapons that they say can be used in war. That is a disastrous plan and it’s one more example of the u.s. escalating arms conflict, escalating weapons making. We’re going to see a nuclear arms race, an outer space arms. It’s going to dwarf any arms race we’ve seen throughout the history of the planet.
MF: Let’s talk about some whistleblowers who have exposed this US war machine, profiteering as well as other things. Chelsea Manning continues in jail in Alexandria, Virginia for refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation of Julian Assange. It’s now been more than nine months and she’s facing more than $240,000 in fines.
KZ: And she continues to do amazing work. I mean she stood up and was a whistleblower on the Iraq war, on the Afghanistan war, on Guantanamo, on the US state department being controlled by corporations, on so many other violations of law. And then as a translator. She’s been an amazing translator and now she’s in the criminal justice field standing up against secret grand juries, how they’re used by prosecutors and not really serving justice but serving prosecutorial abuse. Chelsea Manning is just one step after another standing up for what’s best and in the public interest. She really deserves our support
MF: So this new website is ReleaseChelsea.org. It has all kinds of resources and ways that people can support Chelsea and take action to raise awareness and demand that she be released. The point is made that what they’re doing right now violates international law. They are trying to coerce her to testify she’s made it very clear that she will not testify. And so now it becomes a punitive thing, which is not legal.

KZ: And that’s not legal under us law either. Once it becomes punitive, once becomes clear that she will not testify, she is supposed to be released. I think it’s been pretty clear from the first day, but now nine months later, it’s eminently clear. It’s time for Chelsea Manning released. It’s time for those fines be revoked.

MF: And Julian Assange is extradition trial is coming up February 24th. There’s going to be a global day of action for in support of Julian. The US has made it clear in the British courts agreed that if he’s extradited to the United States no constitutional rights for Julian.
KZ: Well, that’s an absurdity. I mean, it’s very clear that the Bill of Rights applies to all people. These are inalienable human rights. These are not citizens rights. And so this abuse by the Trump Administration, the US government, saying that we’re not going to allow Julian Assange’s lawyers to talk to the media… We’re not going to allow Julian Assange to talk to the media… That’s just not constitutional. In fact this is going to be one more reason why Assange should not be extradited to the United States. Being denied these basic inalienable rights. It just shows that he should not be allowed to come to United States to stand a show trial.
MF: The Supreme Court has ruled that non-citizens in the United States still should have those constitutional rights respected.

KZ: That came up in the Guantanamo cases, where Habeas corpus, a constitutional right, was granted to those prisoners in Guantanamo. The u.s. tried to deny that right. The Supreme Court said, “No. The Constitution applies to all people. It’s a human right. Not a citizen’s right.”
MF: Let’s talk about what’s going on right now in Unistotia(?) territory in Alberta region of Canada. There’s a tribe there that has been fighting the coastal link gas pipeline that would go across their territory. They’ve been fighting it for years now and the courts in Canada put forward an injunction to prevent them from trying to block construction of that pipeline. Now. there’s a big standoff going on with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The tribe is defying that injunction and protests across the country, shutting things down and occupying public spaces and support of the Unistotin.
KZ: And this is unceded territory. They consider themselves an independent nation from Canada, and courts have recognized that so it’s a lot of inconsistencies in these court decisions and consistencies in these policies. Justin Trudeau has said he wants to respect indigenous rights, but then he goes ahead and disrespects indigenous rights. They are standing up and people across Canada standing up. People United States should support their efforts.
MF: That’s right. And there’s a Unistotin solidarity website and Facebook page so you can check that out as well as articles on popular resistance about that. So you can find ways to support them. There’s even a toolkit that we posted on the popular resistance.org website if people want to find out what more they can do. And you know in this is all just part of the reality that we need to get off fossil fuels, and another sign that it’s time to get off is that fossil fuels aren’t doing so well anymore. Goldman Sachs downgraded Exxon to sell.
KZ: That’s right. To sell because it’s not meeting its profit margins. And so and this is gonna be a problem for all fossil fuel economy. Two things are happening. One thing is that climate change, the crisis, is taking root. Policies are taking root that are going to make it more difficult to use fossil fuels. And the second thing happening is that clean energy alternatives are becoming less expensive. And therefore the economic reality is that fossil fuels will not be as competitive as they used to be, and so these are going to become stranded assets. Investors would be very smart to start getting out of the fossil fuel investment racket because it’s not going to last much longer.
MF: Well it’s pretty amazing that a major corporation like Exxon would be doing poorly and that writing is on the wall and organizations are starting to divest from these fossil fuels. A recent one is Georgetown University. Thanks to student activism there, the university has announced that it will divest from fossil fuels.
KZ: It’s also interesting to see, I just saw last week, that sun oil is now investing in EV infrastructure.
MF: So explain what EV is.
KZ: Electric vehicle infrastructure. They recognize that the future or at least part of the future—I’m sure they’re trying to figure it out themselves… It looks pretty obvious to those of us who follow this that the future is electric cars and there’s gonna be some major transitions in the early part of this decade toward electric vehicles. And BP and Sun oil are both getting into the business of providing infrastructure for EV cars.
MF: Car manufacturers are switching to making EV cars. So yes, that is one part of the solution and sadly it’s about a century too late. There was a strong electric vehicle movement in the early 20th century that the oil and gas industry was able to quash. If they hadn’t done that, we might not be facing the situation that we’re facing with the climate crisis. There’s a new report out that shows that if things continue on the path that they are we can expect at least a six foot sea level rise by the end of this Century. That means in the United States displacing 13 Million people who currently live in coastal areas that will be flooded.
KZ: Images of this future which we have on popularresistance.org in an article show the entire coastal region of the United States, East Coast, West Coast, Gulf, Florida… all flooded deeply into the country, much more people realize. It’s going to cause a mass migration from the coastal areas into the inner part of the country. It’s going to cause disruption and you combine with that the heat changes and the fires and the droughts, it’s going to be very difficult century when it comes to the climate crisis.
MF: You just have to look at Australia now that they’ve gotten over those tragic fires that they had. They’re experiencing torrential rains and because of the devastation to the land with trees being burned they’re saying massive floods and mudslides.
KZ: We’ve seen that same kind of thing in California. After fires, the rains come and the mudslides follow, and this is just an ongoing catastrophic event because we have not faced up this climate crisis. We’ve had multiple generations where policymakers have known that climate crisis was real. They’ve ignored it. They’ve kept the profits going and now we’re going to start paying the price for it.
MF: Well, talking about catastrophic events, last week was President Trump’s State of the Union Address. In it he made of course a number of false claims and one of the things that he said is he went after the national improved medicare-for-all movement and said, “oh if we have medicare for all it’s going to include all those immigrants and that’s going to bankrupt the system.” Well, Adam Gaffney, the current president of Physicians for a National Health Program put an article in in these times refuting what Trump said.
KZ: And really what his reputation was is basic Public Health reality, that if you cover everybody, that reduces the risk of disease spreading, especially like we’re going through right now, with the the virus and China. If everybody’s covered, Public Health experts say that reduces the risk of those kind of virus is spreading. In addition, we’ve all known for a long time immigrants are contributing to paying for the US healthcare system, and they use less health care then people in the United States use.
MF: Right. There’s a few studies that have been published in health Affairs. One from 2009 which showed that immigrants contributed $33 billion into the Medicare system that year but only used 19 billion of that. A study that looked at private health insurance found the same thing, that immigrants tend to pay more into the system than they draw out. Right now immigrants are subsidizing our healthcare system.
KZ: Trump is being blinded by his racism and his prejudice. He’s not looking at facts. His advisors are and they’re not giving him the facts. The reality is a public health care system needs to cover everyone in order to be effective public health.
MF: Right. Another event, which was very sad and pathetic at the State of the Union… and this actually goes to pretty much everybody in Congress… applauded when President Trump recognized Juan Guido, the pro coup leader from Venezuela, who the US has been trying to put into power for more than a year now and failing. The only place he’s president is here in the United States.
KZ: It’s really embarrassing that you’d have a standing ovation—a bipartisan standing ovation—with Nancy Pelosi barely containing herself. She wanted to jump up so quickly for a failed regime change coup. That just says something so bad about u.s. foreign policy. Now Ro Khanna didn’t stand. So give hKhanna credit. Bernie Sanders was not there so he can’t say he stood. And I imagine some other Senators who were campaigning were not there as well.
MF: Though Bernie Sanders has called president Maduro a vicious tyrant, which is a complete falsehood.
KZ: Complete falsehood. Now his foreign policy advisor criticized the Democrats for participating in that standing ovation. Sanders didn’t say anything cause I don’t know where he stands on it, but you’re right. He did call President Maduro a vicious tyrant. Totally false. He said he was not democratically elected. Totally false. I mean Sanders has been so misinformed on Venezuela it’s been very disappointing.
MF: That’s really disappointing to see so many members of Congress supporting this illegal intervention in Venezuela, the regime change efforts the threats of military aggression, the economic measures that are being used against Venezuela that are contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands. And now here we are, you know, and the United States is taking this absurd step of trying a coup in Venezuela, failing, and then starting to hand over assets from Venezuela that belong to the government of Venezuela to this pro-coup leader. And that was why we were in the embassy last Spring, in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC, to try to protect the Vienna convention, push the United States to accept a “protecting power agreement” with Venezuela, which Venezuela was asking for and now we’re going to trial and in the courtroom Guido is “President.”
KZ: It’s a bizarre courtroom situation because of US Court decisions, the president decides who is the the recognized leader of a foreign country. So in that courtroom jurors will be told that Juan Guido is President, and we will not be able to tell the truth. We will not be able to say, “President Maduro is the president.” It’s just an absurdity, and it’s a really sad state of affairs. But the reality of it is, it’s a bipartisan act of imperialism. Venezuela is incredibly wealthy, not just an oil but in gold and diamonds and silver and gas and minerals that are essential for electronics and weapons\, as well as freshwater. And Venezuela has thumbed its nose United States, broken from us Empire and reclaimed its independence and sovereignty. And that’s what this is all about. And that’s why we were in the embassy, trying to prevent a violation of international law and the violation of the sovereignty of Venezuelan territory in the United States.
MF: This is one time when I’ll be in the courtroom that if I testify I’m going to have to say, “your honor, I’ll try very hard not to tell the whole truth because if I tell the whole truth, I might be found in contempt of court.” That’s how absurd this is going to
KZ: It will be very hard to testify in this case because there’s so many land mines as a result of the judge’s decision all we can and cannot say.
MF: Right. Check out DefendEmbassyProtectors.org if you want to learn more about that trial. Let’s talk about some positive outcomes though. In Tucson, Arizona US District Court judge, Rosemary Marquez, reversed a conviction against some volunteers with a group called, No More Deaths, who were bringing or leaving basic supplies in an area that’s known as the trail of death. It’s the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife refuge, which is a huge space that has very few roads and very few sources of freshwater, and many migrants who try to cross there die on the way.
KZ: So this group organizes efforts to put out water and food for migrants, so they can survive when they come into United States, and this judge reversed the conviction, a fantastic decision.
MF: Well they were charged with interfering with border patrol functions. And what’s interesting is the judge said, “well interfering with the government’s interest of ‘deterrence by death’ was just morally reprehensible. Another court decision in Brazil, Glenn Greenwald fortunately is continuing to be saved by the courts. They’ve been going after him, the Brazilian government because of this leak of hacks of phone call logs of chat messages that revealed how a judge was working with prosecutors to go after people like the former president Lula da Silva, who was running for president. Glenn Greenwald was the journalist who published those chat logs, and the Brazilian government was trying to indict him. The judge says no, you can’t do that.
KZ: And it’s interesting. The judge did it on procedural grounds and Greenwald says he’s pleased with the decision, but it’s not good enough. His lawyers are going to push for more. He wants an all-out victory so that core values of press freedom can be protected. He doesn’t want a procedural victory. He wants a substantive victory because he wants press freedom protected. He’s going to continue to report on these chat logs while he’s facing this threat of prosecution.
MF: That’s a very brave thing to do and he’s absolutely right. Journalism needs to be protected, especially in these days when truth tellers are being targeted.
KZ: And Liars are in power.
MF: Right. Let’s go to one last story. Ellen Brown. We had her on a few weeks ago talking about public Banks. She has an article in Truth Dig about Mexico and how the president of Mexico is actually moving very quickly to build 2700 public Banks. He’s calling it “The Bank of the Poor.” 2700 branches. His goal is 13,000 branches around the country. It will be a larger network of public banks in Mexico than they have private Banks.
KZ: It’ll be an amazing transformation, a real taking it to the big finance institutions. Right now there are thousands of communities that don’t have banks in Mexico. People have to go hours to get banking done. So even if the government provides benefits people can’t acquire them very easily because they have to go two to three hours to get to a bank. He’s trying to change that. So it’s a fantastic move. It’s one that I hope that the United States copies in the future because we need to challenge the power of Wall Street. And we’re seeing some cracks in that dyke that kept being broken open. And so we hope to see more States so like California recently did, more states and cities put in place a public banking system.
MF: That just shows you how if there’s the will you can do it quickly. So that’s all the news stories that we have right now. Why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll be right back with our interview with Awad Abdelfattah.
[musical break] 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 guests Awad Abdelfattah. Awad is the former Secretary General of the National Assembly Democratic Party in Palestine, and he is a co-founder of the One Democratic State. Awad thank you for taking time to join us.
AF: Thank you.
KZ: There have been a lot of developments recently in Palestine with Trump’s so-called deal of the century with Israel. This follows on his recognition of Jerusalem and other actions. Can you give us what your thoughts are on the Trump “Deal of the Century?”
AF: The deal of the century is an imperialist project in fact, and it means that this deal is consecrating the reality that has prevailed for decades in Palestine, which is an apartheid colonial reality. And of course, this has not come all of a sudden. It has been there for the last three years since Trump came to office. And Palestinians were well aware of what was coming. Unfortunately they have not prepared for this hostile and aggressive project. We strongly condemn that and in fact the project has been condemned widely by Palestinians, and we are now in front of a reality as I said, that has been shaped for decades by the Israeli State. And we will have to relate to it as a colonial apartheid regime existing in Palestine. And we will have to think of the strategies that can combat this colonial project.
KZ: One of the things that seems to be happening in the reaction to this is Israel is talking about annexing West Bank territories. Is that what you see happening? Is that is that the next step, almost no matter what the Palestinians do, is to put this so-called deal, which is what seems like a the “con of the century.” They seem like they’re going to use this as an excuse to take take more land. Is that accurate?
AF:Yeah, no doubt that. I mean, what is taking place in effect is that the Israeli government, led by the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu particularly, have been exercising the colonization over the last 70 years in all of Palestine. And with the advent of Benjamin Netanyahu to office, he decided to go ahead with legitimizing or getting legitimate international cover for this project. The United States or Trump only gave the cover. But in fact that the annexation, the colonization, the settlements, the division, the separation, have been there and they just wanted international support. They wanted support of a superpower which is the United States, which has been an ally for the state of Israel for long time. And the Palestinians have been fighting the occupation, have been fighting the Zionist project since 1948 and even before. So what is dangerous now is that a superpower is giving full support, is legalizing, the control of Palestine, is legalizing the theft of Palestine and how their lands, their resources. They are going to get more and more with impunity. So this is the most dangerous thing in this deal, so that they would weaken the ability of the Palestinians to resist it. And the fragmentation that has been pursued by the state of Israel against the Palestinians tended to weaken their resistance and to make them unable to achieve their rights. So I mean the annexation is going to happen, I think. Maybe it doesn’t add any new things because Palestine from the river to the sea has been controlled by the state of Israel. And there is one state reality, which is Israel and is an apartheid colonial regime. And the Palestinians will have now to reunite and fight Israel, not as a normal state, but as a colonial regime, as an illegitimate regime. Because when you disregard the International Community, when they disregard United Nations resolutions, what does that mean? That means that Israel is a rogue state that has to be treated as such, and the Palestinians in general have to relate to a new reality… not to continue to adhere to the illusion of the two-state solution because it is gone, and Israel has killed this option. And it was has never been ready or willing really to relate to to the two solution seriously. It has been used as the cover to complete the colonization of Palestine, and Israel feels that it has already completed [this], and just wanted the cover of a superpower, which it has gotten through Trump’s plan.
MF: Right and for our listeners… because in the United States there’s so much misinformation and a very one-sided story that’s told about the state of Israel. This deal of the century would basically give Palestinians four areas, if I understand correctly, Gaza and three areas in the West Bank, and basically Palestinians are being told you either take this deal or we’re going to start taking that property. But really you’ve talked about and written about, that this deal of the century has had many components to it starting with cutting funds to the United Nations relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees, moving or declaring that Jerusalem is the capital, the Jewish nation state law. All of this has served to further create greater apartheid for Palestinians. Can you talk a little bit about some of the impacts of these changes over these recent years.
AF: Yeah. I mean, no doubt that the reality in Palestine has been changed fundamentally by the state of Israel, and the impact of this policy is that we are today nothing left for any Palestinian and Palestinian identity in any part of Palestine. So I would like to go back to 1948 because the apartheid regime was established at the time. But the word and the ruling elites in the West continue to praise Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. I mean in the 50s and the 60s while there were hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were languishing under a system, under a tight system of control and oppression. I mean the Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, and I am one of the descendants of the survivors of the ethnic cleansing that was carried out in 1948. We remained inside the green line and a military system was imposed on us. Even the Israeli citizenship that was imposed in Palestine inside the green line was only as the condition set by the United Nations to recognize Israel, and Israel would not even have granted citizenship to the remaining Palestinians if they were the majority. Israel had to carry out ethnic cleansing in order to get a Jewish majority. So we Palestinians inside the green line where the victims of the Jewishness of the state and the Democracy of the state. The Zionist movement or the new leaders of the Jewish State wanted to have a democratic state in order to be part of the Western countries and to get more of support. So as I said, we were not only victim of the Jewishness of the state, but also the Democracy of the Jewish States. They couldn’t have established a state Jewish Democratic State without getting rid of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were still inside the border, the 1948 border. So they had to impose or to pursue strategies of domination and control, including the theft of the lands. So we were robbed of most of our lands. 75% of our land were taken over. And after 20 years from the establishment of the state of Israel ,or since the establishment of the state of Israel—I mean until late 60s Palestinians were robbed of 75% of their land it. So this is an apartheid, and we were under the military regime. Our communities were separated from each other and the Palestinians in general were separated from the Jewish population. And if we add discriminatory laws that were passed in 1950 and 1953, like the absentees law, and the land property law, that says any Palestinian person who left in 1948 has no right to go back. Although there was a United Nations resolution 194 which states that all refugees have the right to go back to their country, When a country separates half of its population because they are not Jews and denies them the right to go back to their country that is apartheid. So the apartheid was established in 1948. At the same time, the South African apartheid was declared legal. So we have been hidden. So nobody paid attention to that. Nobody wanted to. So this happened and after 1967 people thought that Israel is becoming an occupier state, but there was an apartheid from the very beginning, because Israel never related to its non Jewish citizens who remain there as equal. Israel related to them as strangers, as fifth columns, as the security risk. And in fact, they continue to entertain the idea of getting rid of them, but they could not because Israel was already recognized by the United Nations and became a legitimate state by the International Community. So they could not do that. And very few at the time conceived of Israel as such, because they thought that only the occupation paradigm of 1967 is enough to understand Israel. No if you want to understand understand Israel and to Define Israel, we should go back to 1948. And the way it treated its Palestinian citizens. So this is very important to mention to those who thought that Israel was normal State until 1967. Israel has been always an abnormal State. And now what is happening now is only an extension of the nature of the state of Israel. So what even happened in 1967, or with occupation of 1967, is an extension of the apartheid colonial regime existing inside Palestine since 1948. Israel was given the opportunity to live peacefully with an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but it refused. It’s occupation expanded as part of the dynamics of the expansions of the Zionist project. It is a pre-emptive decision. It is already planned that the Zionists have always thought that Palestine should be their own. They were ready to even reach ——- who signed Oslo with Yasser Arafat, who never believe an independent Palestinian state. In his speech in the —-, a few months after — said that we don’t accept an independent Palestinian state. We want to give them less than a state and little bit more than an autonomy. So this is the fact that should be known, that the Israeli government, even those who signed Oslo, which wanted to reach a compromise with the Palestinians, never we’re willing to Grant the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip a sovereign independent state. So it’s like that the Likud is more extreme than the Labour party, but very few are aware that the Labour party is the party which laid the ground for the apartheid regime. Labour party or the Peaceniks. They used to say that we don’t want the Palestinians here in Israel. Us here. Them there. So they believed in separation. And I always myself believed that the two state solution is a racist idea, separations idea, and we never believed in division. We never believe in separation. We thought that Palestine should be one unit and that Palestinians and Israelis should live together peacefully, including the refugees, because the refugees already are residents in Palestine or citizens, or were supposed to be citizens of the state in Palestine. So they are denied the right to go back to Palestine. So the Trump plan in fact despite, of course, it is very bad plan, but it provides the opportunity for Palestinians to reunite, and it provides the opportunity for the anti-zionist Israelis and Jews around the world to support one Democratic State in all of Palestine where all can live together peacefully in an egalitarian State. This is good only to end the bloodshed and bring real peace. This takes time. No doubt. And just we want to think of the strategies. How can we achieve decolonization and build a democratic regime instead of the existing apartheid colonial one.
KZ: So it’s interesting. It seems like what’s happening is that the false covers is becoming obvious to people now that in fact Israel is an apartheid state. That’s still denied by many but it’s becoming impossible to deny. It’s becoming obvious now that the two-state so-called solution was really just always a false promise never intended. And so now we rip away those facades and see Israel for what it is and what its intent has always been. That really kind of propels what you’re starting to talk about here… The idea of one Democratic state where all religions are respected and have rights under a constitution, where everyone in the area of Palestine or Israel has the right to vote. One person one vote. Minority rights are respected. So in many ways even those these are disastrous decisions… Jerusalem and obvious apartheid, and the ending of the two-state solution… these are the opportunity now. So talk about the one Democrat State campaign that you’ve been helping to develop and this most recent version the last couple years. Where is it and what kind of activities going on around it?
AF:The legality in Palestine is very dark, but there are spots of light no doubt that because Palestinians never ceased to resist in different forms. Not only militarily. I mean cultural resistance, intellectual resistance, popular resistance. And so Palestinians are rejecting this disastrous plan and have rejected all plans that targeted their legitimate rights. So I mean our campaign is one of these initiatives to resist, to continue to resist the reality. But what is the new is that really we are trying along other people aren’t other groups to introduced a new vision, a new humanitarian and democratic and moral vision for both peoples in Palestine. So we started in 2018 in fact the campaign, and we have been there for two years at least. But this doesn’t mean that we are the first ones to start a campaign for advocate for one Democratic State. There have been many groups and individuals before who have been trying to launch a campaign. But most of them have failed. They could not go ahead with that for different reasons, objective and subjective. And I myself used to be active since late 70s when I was still as a university student in a small movement called —— to use a public team the children of the country, the sons of the country. We call this movement a radical movement which advocated for one Democratic State and all of Palestine. We were in fact impacted by the Palestinian national charter which originally in fact advocated for one Democratic State. And so we were active inside the university mainly, and in some Palestinian townships. We were persecuted. We were harassed and most of us were imprisoned. So I mean although we are in a political Movement. We never used violence. We were political movement with a vision of one Democratic State in all of Palestine. So I was and others were supporting and were active or involved in movement or group to advocate for one Democrat State.We could not, in fact expand. We could not grow enough. As I said one of the reasons is the continued Israeli persecution. But there are other reason no doubt. So in Oslo, in fact the Oslo agreement, which came in a very bad shape… the Palestinian movement was in very bad shape, and was like a surrender, in fact, by the Palestinian leadership to the Israeli or to the Zionist movement. And so people thought at the time many people thought that peace is coming but myself and my co-founders of the national Democratic party, for which I served many years as it’s secretary general, were very critical of Oslo. We were from the very beginning. We thought that Oslo was a catastrophe, that not like others who thought that Oslo was good and then they changed their mind when they discovered that Israel was using it as a cover for expanding colonization in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now, from the very beginning we were against Oslo. We never thought that this will bring peace. So now more and more people, even those who in the Palestinian Authority, question the possibility of having a two state solution. And I can hear from them and I was in contact with some of them. They don’t anymore question that. They don’t say that because they think that through supporting the two state solution they get legitimacy from the word as well as financial support from the European countries. So now the situation is more opportune. There is more chances to think seriously about the idea that we should support one Democrat state, but we have to go in-depth into the model of the state. What kind of state means, and what strategies of the organization we should pursue. So this is what we are involved in. I think that this is the only group… this is the first group to be involved in these aspects because groups who… even my group in the 80s never in fact touched these aspects. But now what we are doing in our campaign is that really we are trying to imagine what kind of state we will live in. Bi-national state. One Democratic State, based on individual citizenship or socialist State Federation. And what is with the fate of the refugees? We are trying to imagine the return of the refugees. We talk about Share Society. We talk about what kind of parliament. I mean about the Constitution. So we are involved through workshops in these aspects of the project. But right now after Trump’s plan has been unveiled and Palestinians have woken up to a reality not only as a colonial reality, but also where they have no alternative because Mahmoud Abbas the head of a Palestinian Authority, has pursued a policy of diplomacy. I’m not saying… he never believed in popular resistance, even an armed resistance. He believed only in diplomacy, so he has not prepared himself for an alternative. I mean that they don’t have a strategy of resistance because most Palestinian factions today believe that popular resistance is an effective means of struggle. And that the don’t necessarily mean violent struggle. And we in that campaign believe that nonviolent struggle is unaffected one. This is what the support will getting for. That we use grassroots struggle to build a Grassroots movement inclusive, open to other groups so that we can work together as Palestinians and Israelis. But before that… This is a very important one that I should mention here, is that some Israeli’s think that we have to work more among the Israel’s without first reuniting the Palestinian people. Because it is the Palestinian people who is going to make a difference to make a change real change. So if the Palestinians are not united, or most of the Palestinians are not interested… at least if those who support an alternative are not united, we are not going to affect real change in their Israeli Society because the Israeli Society is becoming more and more fascist extreme, but we have to look for every Israel individual, intellectuals or activists to bring him to work together because this is very important. We have to show the model that you can work together and we can build shirt institutions. But now because the Palestinians are desperate are frustrated have no vision. So we have to help build a vision and now it’s the time to do that. We are raped but we should do now because nothing is left. So now this is the opportunity to start working on reuniting the Palestinians around One Vision. This is not going to be easy but I think that it is it and then before, because a few years ago when I used for example as an activist, or as a leader to talk about the one Democratic State before Palestinian activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they would not accept that. They would dismiss it completely. So now people at least if they don’t accept it, they don’t reject it. They say, yeah, it is a topic that has to be discussed. It has to give enough attention to the idea and start reconsidering our approach to the occupation. And what what is needed now at least because we believe that by changing the balance of forces on the ground, we should go back to the idea of Palestine, that it is one country. The Palestinians have been fragmented into three constituencies. Palestinians inside the green line, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the refugees. This was really colonial project which fragmented the Palestinians, dispirited them. But Oslo in fact consecrated that, perpetuated that. So what we are working as Palestinians inside the campaign, is the work in the direction of reuniting the Palestinian people by reuniting the vision, by returning the historical narrative, by redefining the state of Israel, that it is a colonial state. By redefining the Palestinian cause as a National Liberation cause, And redefining the conflict, to reframe a conflict because the conflict has been displayed as one between two symmetrical sides, which it’s not. We are a people colonized struggling against the colonizer. So this is very important. This is the terminology that was used in the 50s and the 60s, but the Palestinian National —- has been eliminated, of course as a result of the two-state solution.
MF: Right. This is absolutely the time for the one-state solution. Can you tell our listeners over the two years that you’ve been waging this campaign, you’ve already been able to bring over a hundred groups together. Can you talk about kind of who some of the groups are that are coming together in this campaign?
AF: No, in fact, we still we have not groups inside that campaign, but we are in contact with them. And mainly we are contacting individuals. But recently we have started with two groups, one in the West Bank and the other in France outside. But you know, these groups are not in good shape. So we are going to start contacting them. So far we have been in touch with individuals. This is very difficult work, and it needs much time because you have to engage individuals like intellectuals, activists, to convince them how to work together. After years of fragmentations and division, it’s not easy to bring people together. And this is a big challenge for us. But I can say that in the two years we have really done a lot and in relation to the short time that we have been working. And I think we are hopeful that we can soon reunite other smaller groups and individuals. But this really takes times. Of course, the vision that we are working for or the end game that we are working for, you know, it’s going to take it’s not going to happen soon. We are not naive to believe that this would happen in one year or two years or three years. The one Democratic State needs years of struggle, organizing and good strategies of work. So we are determined and willing to work harder and harder to bring people. Otherwise we will Lose the moment. There is a momentum… I believe that the momentum is that frustration with the two-state solution. The disappointment with the United States. The Palestinian elites, who are ruling the Palestinian Authority… or those who are close to the Palestinian Authority. So now it is easier for us to do that. This is not the same in the Israeli Society, but we have hundreds of Israel is who are supporting the idea and we are aspiring to contact them and to work with them and build a one front and coexist together. But as I said, we need first to agree on the terminology, the National Liberation terminology. We also our program entails education for democracy because Palestinians… It’s not easy for a Palestinians living in the West bank and Gaza Strip who view the Israelis as soldiers or killers, to tell them that we can work with Israel. Inside the green line with Palestinians who have been living with Israelis, it’s easier to work with them than Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip because they really can’t understand them. This is one of the challenges that we are facing but some Palestinians would find it difficult to work with Israelis because they think that this is normalization. And this is our work also, our our duty to explain to them that we have many Israelis—I’m not saying thousands but at least there are hundreds of Israel’s, intellectuals and activists, University child—who are ready to involve in the campaign and embrace the political platform that we have produced. So this is the beginning this is going to be hard but we believe that this is the only vision that has to be here and we have to work for
KZ: The the image of uniting Palestinians behind, this bringing Israelis Israeli Jews who see that this is the only path to peace is all tough important goals. I’m glad you’re making progress. What can people the United States be doing? What is the relationship of the boycott divestment and sanctions campaign, BDS movement? How does that relate to this? And is there anything else you think people United States should be doing to try to advance the idea of one Democratic state in Israel.

AF: Sure. I mean what the these groups, the BDS, the Palestinians and non-Palestinians. You know so you are doing a great job there. We are following what they are doing. Even the black lives matter. So of course one of our goals is to reconnect with progressive and leftist forces and individuals who are active around the world in favor of the Palestinian cause. And this is very important because the BDS is has been doing a great job and other groups also who support this openly, the one-state solution. We are trying to reconnect with them and we will start traveling more and more abroad and to coordinate with them. The BDS movement really is the most important organization in the Palestinian arena, and it emerged in a time of gloomy situation, and this really has made measurable strides in exposing Israel’s apartheid. But the problem with the BDS is that it doesn’t introduce a vision for a solution. It is embracing a some solutions, quality for Palestinians inside the green line, ending occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the return of the refugees. No doubt theoretical these slogans when achieved will lead to the one-state solution. But now I believe it is not enough and we should engage in debate with them to change their vision. In the beginning when they launched their campaign, it was understandable that they have not set a clear vision for the solution, because this really helped unite all Palestinians. Because there are individuals or representatives from different political faction. That was wise to use the three slogans. By the way those slogans were first used by our political party, which we established in 1995, which I served as the Secretary General. The three slogans were drawn from there. And so now but I mean after the fundamental changes that had been taking place we believe that BDS should engage in a debate and reconsider the approach. And start thinking of really uniting around one Democratic State. I’m not saying just as I said before, we don’t believe that one Democratic state is going to happen because what is more important now is how to build a unified strategy, a clear strategy, an effective strategy to reach this goal. Because from now until we achieve the call it will take years and years of a struggle. But we have to build a path. We have to build in this course of hope. We have to tell the Palestinian generation and the Israeli young Generation that we can build the path of light. We have to turn the struggle into a way of life where we can struggle and at the same time we can live our daily life. This is why we believe that nonviolent popular struggle is very important because this also allows the Palestinian inside the green line to engage more effectively in the struggle, if it is nonviolent struggle, like the one used in the Gaza recently by the much of return, like the anti-separation wall struggle in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But of course this doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize the right of any occupied people to resist violently against occupation. This is the stipulated in the United Nations decisions. So they have the right… every people under occupation have to use every means possible to resist occupation. But we believe that maybe it could be more effective now. We should use to the word Democratic and the humanitarian discourse and vision so that we can capture the imagination of the world and we can capture the imaginations of many Israelis, and can also at the sam etime reunite the Palestinians. So this is the strategy that we have to work and formulate in order to achieve our goal. And without much blood, without much sacrifices. Of course any struggle requires sacrifices, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that only violence can help achieve our goals. We can try that and there were struggles not violent struggle, that really could achieve our goals. And we will see in the future what will happen maybe the next generation will it will decide what kinds or what form of struggle we’ll pursue.
MF: Where can people learn more about the vision that’s coming together are learn more about the one Democratic State campaign. Is there a website?
AF: We are going to launch our website in two or three weeks in three languages, but we will start with Hebrew and English. And we have the political platform that we produced came in three languages.
MF: Do you know what the URL for that website will be?
AF: Yeah. OneStateCampaign.org
KZ: Excellent. We really appreciate the work you’re doing. It’s an incredibly important struggle and people United States now can recognize that BDS leads to ODS. Boycott Divestment and Sanctions leads to One Democratic State. That’s the vision and that’s the tool to get there. And we really wish you well in organizing Palestinians and Israeli Jews to support this brilliant Vision.
AF:Thank you very much.
MF: Well that’s all for today. Let’s go out with a song by Junkyard Empire.

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If There Is A War In Space, Everybody Loses

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

Last December, the National Defense Authorization Act that was renewed with bipartisan support in Congress authorized the creation of a new branch of the military, a space force. In January, President Trump appointed the head of that new force, General John Jay Raymond. The US military plans to move 16,ooo military and civilian personnel into that space force. We speak with Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space about what this space force means. He describes how space technology is already being used in warfare, how this area is a new profit center for the aerospace industry and how it is draining critical resources from necessary programs. He also explains that a war in space will create so many problems that everyone on the planet will be impacted in a negative way.

Listen here:

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

 

Guest:

Bruce Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.  He was a co-founder of the Global Network when it was created in 1992.

Between 1983–1998 Bruce was the State Coordinator of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and has worked on space issues for 31 years.  In 1987 he organized the largest peace protest in Florida history when over 5,000 people marched on Cape Canaveral in opposition to the first flight test of the Trident II nuclear missile.

He was the organizer of the Cancel Cassini Campaign (launched 72 pounds of plutonium into space in 1997) that drew enormous support and media coverage around the world and was featured on the TV program 60 Minutes.

Bruce has traveled to and spoken in England, Germany, Mexico, Canada, France, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Japan, Australia, Scotland, Wales, Greece, India, Brazil, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, South Korea, and throughout the U.S. Bio continued 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): 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 FOR gear like t-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags and water bottles.

So today we interviewed Bruce Gagnon of the Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

KZ: Bruce has an incredible activist from Maine. He’s a veteran and a longtime advocate for keeping weapons out of space, and he brings incredible information and detail to this issue, which is now exploding because both the Democrats and Republicans have put forward a real funding for such a space force.

MF: That’s right. The new National Defense Authorization Act allowed a space force to actually be created for the first time by the United States, and the general in charge of that space force has already been named. So we go into that in real depth with Bruce and the dangers of creating a space force… what that means for all of us. But before we get to that interview, let’s talk about some things that are in the news. Is this the end of Juan Guadio’s career as the so-called president of Venezuela.

KZ: Well, he had a disastrous Foreign Tour, trying as a last-ditch effort to save his fake presidency. He already has been rejected by opponents of the Maduro Administration and National Assembly. He is no longer present in the assembly. He went on tour in Columbia and Europe and United States and got nothing out of it as far as any new support from foreign countries. And the worst of it for him… Donald Trump did not even meet with him. Not even a photo op with Donald Trump, despite three opportunities for such a meeting.

MF: That’s right. And when Juan Guaido was traveling through Europe, he was protested. In Brussels a woman through a cake at him at Davos. He was mostly grilled … Davos is where the World Economic Forum was meeting. All the world’s oligarchs get together there and they were asking Guido, you know, like why should we bother to support you? You haven’t been able to deliver. You haven’t been able to take over the government. You don’t have any authority.

KZ: Yeah, he’s constantly asking, “why have you failed? Why have you failed?” And I suspect that’s why Trump didn’t meet with him. I mean Trump could have met with him in Davos, but Trump left a day early. Trump could have met with him in Miami where Guido had a big… well not a big rally, a moderate-sized rally. And instead Trump was playing golf and then Trump didn’t invite him Mar-a-Lago even though Guido made it clear he was waiting for an invitation. So Trump and for some reason unlike in Venezuela Guido didn’t decide to try to climb the wall at Mar-A-Lago. He’s just stayed put in Miami and now he’s flying back to Venezuela has nothing to show for his trip.

MF: It’ll be interesting to see how things go in Venezuela because his support there has really been waning. He never had very much support when he’d proclaimed himself president of Venezuela in January of 2019. Eighty percent of people in the country had no idea who he was, you know with the u.s. monetary support he was able to mount some early rallies of opposition members. Of course the u.s. through the National Endowment for democracy had been pumping millions of dollars and to Venezuela, but over time as people saw kind of what a clown he was, how corrupt he was, how corrupt his people were… stealing the humanitarian aid money, making promises and not coming through… even the opposition in Venezuela abandoned him and that’s why he lost the election as the president of the National Assembly this January. And so now he’s really nothing. He really has no power. He’s only propped up by the United States if it weren’t for the United States, he wouldn’t have anything

KZ: We cover this in depth in our weekly newsletter at PopularResistance.org because it really could be the final show before this this failed reality TV series. The most common words used in Guido’s trip were clown, puppet and failure. President Trump has already mocked behind his back by world leaders. We’ve seen that on more than one occasion. He does not want to be pictured with a clown who has failed and who everyone knows is his puppet in the 2012 election cycle. It’s not going to help him being associated with a failed clown

MF: So we can chalk this off as another failed attempt by the United States to overthrow the Bolivarian process in Venezuela, something the United States has been trying to do for the 20 years since the Bolivarian process was put in place. For those who are not familiar with that … with the election of Hugo Chava’s in 1998, Venezuela started using its resources to support the population instead of just allowing foreign corporations to exploit them. And so they’ve reduced poverty significantly, improved education and literacy, provided healthcare, built, you know, millions of units of social housing, provided food support. And this is an example that the United States doesn’t want people to be aware of because we don’t have those same kind of social supports here in the United States. Plus Venezuela has been able to resist U.S. imperialist attacks because they have such a deeply educated population, a strong military that’s allied with the constitutional government of the democratically-elected Nicolas Maduro.

KZ: Yeah, it’s really an unusual time because president Maduro has been getting stronger. He’s making incredibly long-term profitable trade agreements with China. Russia has been very supportive both economically, militarily and with intelligence information. Iran, he’s made a long-term agreement with Iran. Economists are predicting the economy is going to grow this year. This is kind of remarkable because the US economic war is getting more intense. And so all the these positive developments in Venezuela are happening despite the US economic war. People say that Maduro should have been the TIME Man of the Year because he has so successfully combated Trump and the puppet Guido. So it’s really amazing. What’s really amazing for us is we’re going into a federal prosecutionfor our effort to defend the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC. And in that courtroom the bizarre thing is [that] because of us court decisions, the court cannot say Guido is not President. And so that jury will be either not told or misled, but in that courtroom Guido is President as bizarre as that sounds.

MF: This is a legal precedent that says that the courts don’t question what the President [Trump] says. So if President Trump says Juan Guido is President of Venezuela–even though he has never been President–he has no power in that courtroom. The judge will accept what President Trump says.

KZ: The courts have said that foreign policy decisions are political decisions not justicable by the courts and therefore if the president finds Mickey Mouse is the leader of a country than Mickey Mouse is leader of the country. And if Mickey Mouse appoints Donald Duck and Goofy as his ambassadors, they are the ambassadors. And that’s important to our case because Carlos Vecchio, who is the Goofy to the puppet Guido–he was the fake ambassador, he’s the one who ordered our eviction, but he’s not really an ambassador. Will the jury be told that? I don’t know how we get a fair trial without being able to tell the whole truth… We’re waiting for a important decision from the judge on what the jury will be allowed to hear. The case was argued last Wednesday and still no decision. It’s was a for hour argument. The judge came into the argument saying she was going to rule against us very clearly. She sent that message. But by the time the argument was over she decided not not to decide, and she took the argument under advisement and is still considering it. We expected decision any day now. We’ll be updating that on popularresistance.org and the Defense Committee at DefendEmbassyProtectors.org will also be updating the status of our case. The trial starts on February 11th.

MF: Yes, and for folks who want to support us for that trial check out the DefendEmbassyProtectors.org. People are organizing to attend that trial which begins on February 11th in Washington DC, and the information that you need to know is on the defense Committee website, DefendEmbassyProtectors.org. Let’s talk about a new report that came out showing that the United States dropped a record number of bombs on Afghanistan last year. This is more than any year since they began counting in 2006.

KZ: That’s right President Trump’s Administration dropped 7,4233 bombs breaking President Trump’s record the year before when the u.s. dropped 7,263 bombs. So two years in a row President Trump who promised to end these never-ending wars, who said that these words were waste of trillions of dollars. He’s been spending recklessly and bombing recklessly. The u.s. is losing ground in Afghanistan. This long war that the u.s. seems unable to get out of is as a quagmire now and the US needs to face reality and leave Afghanistan. More bombs are not going to work. Trump has proven that record bombings make no difference.

MF: Well the Taliban has taken over a large majority control of Afghanistan and the United States is back in negotiations with the Taliban. But the reasoning for dropping all these bombs is that they thought it would actually help them in their negotiations with the Taliban.

KZ: It’s had the opposite effect instead. The Taliban has gotten stronger. People have gotten more angry at the United States. Bombing is not working. Afghanistan has been so heavily bombed already. It reminds you the North Korean War where the u.s. bombed incredible territory in North Korea. There was nothing left to bomb, as the Air Force Commander said. The same is true in Afghanistan. There are really no viable targets any longer. It’s time the United States admit it has been defeated and leave Afghanistan. Afghanistan has a history of being the graveyard of Empires. If the United States stays it could be the graveyard for the u.s. empire.

MF: And we can’t go without mentioning that those bombs are killing civilians. Just recently 15 people were killed, including three children. So this bombing needs to stop. Let’s talk about Iraq where the Iraqi Parliament voted for the United States to leave the country. But instead the United States has announced it wants to build three new bases close to the border with Iran.

KZ: The people of Iraq are angry with the United States. They are using Iraq as a Battleground against Iran. They don’t want to have their country used as that Battleground. The people have been protesting to force the u.s. out. There been attacks on the massive Green Zone, which is a city within the city of Baghdad of 20,000 people. And of course those people are not all diplomats. There are CIA agents. There are military. It’s a gigantic Skyline and there have been three attacks in the last month on the green zone. Those attacks are going to get more violent and when the prime minister of Iraq talked to Secretary of State Pompeo about the u.s. leaving Pompeo refused. And now the u.s. is doubling down and adding three new bases. And coincidentally, all three of those bases are near Iran. So the US continues to want to use Iraq as a base of operations for military efforts against Iran. The Iraqis are tired of it. If the u.s. does not leave Iraq, they’re going to start to see body bags of US soldiers. They’re going to start to see the green zone hit regularly. US so-called diplomats will be at great risk. It’s time for the u.s. to stop occupying Iraq. We’ve done incredible destruction in Iraq through the bombing and war and occupation and now the ongoing occupation. Again, the US has lost. The people of Iraq do not want the US there. It’s time for the US to get out, and when we get out of Iraq… and it’s also time to get a Syria. Donald Trump saying we’re going to take Syria’s oil (i.e., he said, “protect Syria’s oil,” which really means “take Syria’s oil,” is so overt and gangster like, that it’s time for you to get out of Syria as well. US out of the Middle East.

MF: And the story that’s not being told in the corporate media about this is, you know, the way this kind of whole thing unfolded is the United States had initially promised to rebuild Iraq after the destruction that we caused there, and the Trump Administration said to the Iraqi government, “we’ll rebuild your country if you give us 50 percent of your oil profits.” The Prime Minister said that was not acceptable, turned to assistance from China to help rebuild infrastructure. And that’s when the US government started threatening Iraq with protest, with deaths in the streets, and it started to cause this chaos. In Iraq, the US retaliated against the Iraqi militia who the US said killed a US contractor. And this escalated the situation, which culminated with the US assassination of general Soleimani and Commander Mohandas. And so now Iraq has asked the US to leave. The US is refusing to leave, and it’s doubling down, stopping the delivery of arms to Iraq and threatening more severe sanctions that have been imposed on Iran if Iraq continues to resist us occupation.

KZ: This is once again, the United States not living up to the requirements of international law. There is an agreement between Iraq and the United States that allows US troops to be in their country. Under that agreement the US cannot be launching attacks against Iran. Under that agreement the United States can be told to leave by the government. The US is ignoring that. And then the economic sanctions that the US is threatening will be unilateral coercive measures that are illegal under the UN Charter and under international law. So the US is violating agreements, violating international law, and continuing to go on with the occupation of Iraq. The murder of general Soleimani and six other people was an illegal act. There’s no war between the US and Iran, so targeting military leaders or other government officials is an illegal act. It’s an act of war. Luckily for the world, Iran was very careful in its response, proportionate in his response, against the Murder of General Soleimani. They targeted the base where the attack on Soleimani came from. They let the United States know three hours in advance that they were going to do so. The base was attacked by ballistic missiles. No US soldier or any Iraqi personnel were killed. In fact, even though the US hhadave been warned the attack was coming, the US was unable to stop the attack. This let Iran send a message to United States that showed that they cannot defend themselves against the Iranian military. This was also seen when the Iranian government shot down a drone that was in international waters near Iran. And so now twice Iran has shown the US that it can defeat its military shooting down a drone as well as hitting a base where US military personnel are present. So Iran has sent a message, but did it proportionally and that prevented the u.s. from escalating this to an all-out war which would have been a disaster. Iran is six times the size of Iraq. Its military is Is prepared. The country has deep understanding of us imperialism and wants to remain independent United States. A war with Iran would be another US defeat but it would b e very disastrous for Iran and expensive for the United States, both in treasure and in Personnel. So hopefully that war can be averted. Once again the US needs to get out of the Middle East and stop creating more chaos. They cause mass chao,s mass killings, mass migrations that are affecting not just the Middle East but also affecting Europe and surrounding countries. It’s essential for the US to end this quagmire in the Middle East and get the US military out.

MF: Sadly instead of ending this Quagmire, the US is doubling down in Palestine where President Trump announced his deal of the century. This is supported by Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders of the illegitimate state of Israel. Under this deal of the century Palestinians would be left with 15% of the geographic land of historic Palestine. This would be separated into four cantons, three in the West Bank and one in Gaza where Palestinians would have no control over their resources, their water and other things that they need to survive. The Trump Administration is threatening Palestinians, saying that if they don’t accept this deal–and it also requires them to recognize Israel as a Jewish stat–if they don’t accept it that they’ll allow more settlements in that even fifteen percent of land that’s being offered to the Palestinians.

KZ: This proposal by the Trump Administration was essentially the Israeli proposal. This essentially legitimised all of the illegal actions Israel has taken, as far as taking over land in occupied territories. It’s important to remember that this unfair division of the land comes at a time when there are more Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories as well as Israel, than there are Israelis. And so to give them less land is absurd on its face. This is really showing that a two-state solution is just not a possibility. All the Palestinian people and the people of the world need to start to demand a real solution, which is the one-state solution. One state where all religions are respected, where minority rights are protected, where every person in the area has a vote. So it’s a democratic state and a state that protects rights. This kind of a secular country is the only solution, and this is finally getting some attention in Israel from both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. We saw this when we were in Palestine last year. There’s a growing movement for one Democratic State. Our job in the United States is to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and demand one Democratic state for Israel. This is what the Palestinian people are moving towards. The polls now show, both among Jews and Palestinians, people do not think a two-state solutions is possible anymore. So we need to come to a real solution. The campaign for one Democratic state is going to be that solution.

MF: And Palestinians made it very clear that they This quote-unquote deal of the century. There have been protests throughout Palestine as well as by Palestinians and solidarity activists around the world. 41 protesters were injured by the Israeli police in that, and we have a newsletter on popular resistance that we wrote last fall after we returned from Palestine, that has more information about what that one Democratic state is. It’s called occupied Palestine from BDS to ODS, and it is important that we be in solidarity with the Palestinians and reject what the Trump Administration is offering. And as you said this would in fact push a majority population in historic Palestine onto a tiny area of land that separate. These areas of land are not even connected. They don’t have borders with Arab countries. So it would really be creating more kind of Prisons for Palestinians, like Gaza has become, where they would have no control over their access to water, to passage, to the things that they need. This is genocide. It’s been going on for too long. The United States is the primary supporter of it. It would not be going on if the United States was not providing support to the Israeli State, and so we can no longer be complicit with this genocide.

KZ: That’s right. The time has come now that we’ve seen Trump’s “Deal of the century” really as the “fraud of the century.” The time has come to recognize the two-state solution is no longer an option. One democratic state that protects Christians, Jews, Muslims and Palestinians. All groups need to be protected and that’s what a one Democratic state with civil rights for all, and one person one vote process, would create. And that’s what we need to focus on and work toward

MF: And in fact Palestinians and Israeli citizens have already come together and defined what they want that one Democratic state to look like. There’s some differences in terms of the exact appearance of it. But there’s Unity around the fact that they want a constitution that guarantees one Democratic stat. So a lot is happening in the peace movement as a response to all of these things that are going on. We want to mention that the United National Anti-war Coalition Conference is coming up in New York City from February 21st to the 23rd. People can go to the UNAC website That’s UNACpeace.org to register or learn more about that conference. This year the focus is really on connecting several movements against militarism, racism and the climate crisis, understanding the deep connections between those and and how we can unify and organize together more effectively. There’s also days of action coming up in March. March 13th to 15th is the stop sanctions actions around the world. You can go to Sanctionskill.org to learn more about that. And then the anniversary of the war on Iraq is coming up March 19th. And so there are protests being organized to protest that as well.

KZ: The UNAC conference will be held in New York City from February 21st to 23rd at the People’s Forum. We’ll be there. Please join us help us build a movement that is united not just within itself, but also with other movements on racism and climate and militarism.

MF: That’s right, and great speakers will be there including a Frank Chapman from the National Alliance against racist and political repression. And we’ll be showing the documentary by Abby Martin and Mike ___, Gaza fights for Freedom, that will include a discussion with Abby and Mike. So check that out. There’s also great entertainment on Friday night. I do want to say that one area of the world that I have great respect for is what’s happening in France. The protests there have not been getting much attention in the corporate media. They’ve been going on now for over a year, weekly protests. And starting late last fall they began a general strike in the country that continues until today and has escalated with various sectors of the population getting involved. And what recently happened, and we’ll have to see how this plays out, is the firefighters who have been a big part of these strikes as well had clashes. They were attacked by the police as a force that they typically had worked with now has come out against them.

KZ: Yes, the violence against these peaceful protests has been remarkable, and it’s remarkable that the US media does not cover it. Instead they cover fake violence and countries the US doesn’t like. I mean, for example, Hong Kong, where the police have been restrained, they’re accused of violence against violent protesters. And in France nonviolent protesters being severely beaten shot at abused… and now the French the French firefighters being attacked by the police. This shows a failed policy by President Macron. It’s time for him to end his neoliberal, pro-banker policies–of course, he is a former Banker so it’s not surprising–and really start to stand with the people or he should expect to leave office very quickly

MF: Speaking of banks, the Bank for International Settlements, which is 60 central banks including the United States Federal Reserve, issued an ominous report saying that the world is at risk for something they call a green swan event, similar to what’s referred to as a Black Swan event. And this basically means that there is the possibility of, because of the climate crisis, a financial crisis that would be something that they would not have control over and that could be devastating. The banks are not prepared for a climate crisis and this could take several kinds of manifestations that are interrelated and can worsen each other. One of them is the physical risk of things like coastlines being destroyed, major climate events. Another is the transition risk of fossil fuel energy is no longer being viable and that whole sector crashing down. And these sectors are too big for the central bank’s to bail out.

KZ: This 100-page report from the Bank of International Settlements, which is known as the “central bank of central banks”–so pretty important authority on financing–should be one that wakes people up. We’re already seeing the United States, for example, the fracking industry, having serious financial problems. Lots of money being invested by all the Big Wall Street Banks in fracking. It’s not paying off. This was predicted by people who are experts on the availability of gas United States. They were predicting that fracking would not be economically viable. And now it’s coming true. More and more analysts are saying that they should no longer invest in fossil fuels because these will become stranded assets in the climate change era. And we’re seeing insurance companies pulling out of areas at risk for for climate catastrophe. Whether it’s flooding or fires the insurance companies realize they can’t afford to handle this. These warning signals are blinking loudly and yet we still have a government that doesn’t even recognize climate change and a government that when it does recognize climate change, it actually encourages more fossil fuel development. President Obama is an incredible climate criminal and bragging about it to oil oil executives that he is the one who made the u.s. number one in oil and gas production. Trump is continuing that, in fact escalating it. Just like we have a gangster foreign policy, we have a climate crime domestic policy.

MF: Of course this is a major topic of discussion in Davos, Switzerland at the world economic Forum that just happened, but the sad thing is is that the oligarchs who were there, the best they could come up with was, “well, we need better public relations so we can attract investors”… even though we know that what we’re investing in like fossil fuels are going to be devastating for the climate and for all of humanity.

KZ: And these we faced up to. Even countries like Australia where the fires have been incredibly devastating, the goernment still refuses to do anything in response, and a serious climate a crisis way. We need to see an aggressive Green New Deal. A Green New Deal that impacts multiple sectors of our economy, not just energy, but transportation, housing, construction, banking, agriculture. So many sectors are impacted by this and we are behind. Our government is behind in even putting forth any series of policies to confront this crisis that is a threat to the global economy, global population and the Earth itself.

MF: That’s why we think it’s so important for people working in different areas to come together and work together because we really need united vision of the world that we want to see and instead of working in our silos on this or that we need to really be making these connections and working together. Now, there are various ways that people can be working to change things. Of course one is resistance, you know, pressuring people in the government or shutting things down that are causing harm to us. But another is building up positive alternatives and it’s exciting to see a new project that’s going on in Atlanta, Georgia where they’re actually… the city is buying land and turning it into food forests in areas where there are food deserts.

KZ: That’s right. This will be the largest Food Forest in the country. Seven Acres of food, and it’ll provide free organic fruits and and nuts and vegetables mushrooms and herbs. It’s a great idea and you look at cities like Detroit that have tremendous numbers of vacant lots or Baltimore, where we have 40,000 abandoned homes and lots of vacant lots. Cities across the country should be looking at this option to deal with the food desert problem. It’s often those vacant areas, those vacant lots and and empty homes, where there are also food deserts. And so this would be a way to bring more trees, to take carbon out of the atmosphere, and also provide food to people who are living areas don’t have adequate food supplies.

MF: And also bees. Bees are really important because the pesticides that are being used around the world are significantly reducing the bee population. And bees are vital to pollination of food plants. And so if the bees collapse our food system is going to collapse. So part of these food forests is also having beehives and places where the bees can flourish. So check that out. We have an article about that on PopularResistance.org.

KZ: I just want to say one more thing. This is just one example of many, of how if we face up to the climate crisis, we can actually make our lives better. I mean, can you imagine cities like this one that wants to have a mushroom walk, an apiary. They are talking about walnut trees and pecan trees, hundreds of fruit trees have already been planted. Imagine the people walking through those Parks rather than walking through deserted parking lots, former of housing areas. Just a major advantage. Same with creating mass transit and biking lanes. We can greatly make walkable communities that make much more sense for us health-wise and economically. And we can also democratize energy supplies by allowing the placement of solar on homes or in yards, making that supported by the government so it’s easier to do. These will all be changed to create a environment that’s healthier, less air pollution, less water pollution… more exercise opportunities and a more viable sustainable communities for the future. So confronting climate change will be a challenge. It’ll be difficult, but we need to start to face up to it and look for ways to turn this very big negative into as much of a positive as we can on many fronts.

MF: And that’s our philosophy. Often it’s looking at things and trying to turn them into positives. There is a great vision out there of what we could have if we organize and face up to this climate crisis. Well, let’s stop here, and we’ll take a short musical break and then come back with our interview with Bruce Gagnon.

MF: You’re listening to Clearing The FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed, with Margaret flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we turn to our guest, Bruce Gagnon. He’s the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Thank you for taking time to join us Bruce.

Bruce Gagnon (BG): Great to be with you. Thank you.

MF: On December 20th congress voted for the new National Defense Authorization Act which created a new branch of the military called the Space Force, and on January 14th President Trump confirmed General John J Raymond as the official head of that space force.

KZ: Bruce, you’ve been working on the issues of the militarization of space and nuclear weapons for a long time. How you get started? What do you see that’s different now.

BG: I started in 1982. Actually I should tell the story. I was watching C-SPAN that day, June 12th 1982. They had almost a million people protesting in New York City against nuclear weapons as part of the special session on disarmament at the UN. And after the rally in the March was covered on C-Span they cut away to a right-wing conference and Ronald Reagan’s head of SBI, Lieutenant General Daniel Graham, was a speaker and in the Q&A afterwards, someone asked him, “General Graham, aren’t you worried about that protest in New York today? They say there’s almost a million people protesting against nuclear weapons.” And his response was, “no I think it’s fantastic because they’re talking about nuclear weapons and we’re moving into space. They don’t have a clue. Let them keep doing what they’re doing.” So it was in that moment… I was living in Orlando Florida, an hour away from the space center, and I began learning everything I could. And the next year I went to work for the Florida Coalition for peace and Justice where I was constantly taking people to the Space Center to protest various military and plutonium launches by NASA. So I’ve been working on it for a long time and I think the big difference today is that technology is matured. The money has been consistent over all these Years through both Republican and Democrat administrations. So that they could really have a stable funding source to develop these Technologies. So they’re getting to the point today where now they really do have the capability to start talking about moving the arms race, literally moving warfare into the heavens. So I think that’s the big difference.

MF: Right and 1982 was also the year that the Air Force created something called the AFSPC, and the military has actually been kind of using satellites and things in space, you know in the wars that we’ve waged, the Gulf War the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. Can you talk about what that AFSPC is, and is that what’s going to kind of morph into this space force?

BG: Yeah, I think it’s the Air Force Space Command. It was around for a long time. And now they’ve essentially closed that down, and they’re now going to call what was the space command, they’re going to call it the space force, but clearly it has been around for a long time and you’re right. And this is a very important point, particularly the Gulf War and afterwards. I was reading about it in the various Aerospace industry publications. They said it was the first space war where they essentially field-tested the technology that they had up to that point. You might remember that that war lasted several weeks but in the industry publications, they said it was essentially over within the first two days because they pre-identified with satellite technology all of Saddam Hussein’s military targets and they bombed them, 95% of them, in the first two to three days of the war. Everything was really finished at that point, but they used the remaining weeks to test out the technologies, to use a hundred cruise missiles in a million dollars a piece, where they were working three shifts a day at Donald Douglas Corporation at Cape Canaveral to resupply the cruise missile stock. So it became a profitable Endeavor, but fundamentally, it was a field test. And then the second space they said was the war on Yugoslavia during the Bill Clinton administration, and what they did was they field tested for the first time the idea of cyber warfare. They essentially crawled inside of Yugoslavia’s air defense system computers so that when US and NATO planes were bombing Belgrade, taking out you might remember the Chinese Embassy saying, oh, I’m sorry. That was a mistake. We used an old map, but the Yugoslavians were not able to defend against these attacks, these aerial attacks by the US and NATO, because their air defense system had been completely shut down by a Cyber attack. So that was the first time the US ever used that technology and warfare. So it’s clear to me that they continually fabricate pretexts to do wars, so that they can continually test the new generations of these space technologies.

KZ: Wow. It’s so interesting to hear about Clinton using space warfare. And you mentioned it has been bipartisan. Of course, the NDAA was passed in the house, which is controlled by democrats. Talk a little bit about this… It seems to me this is one more example of how US foreign policy, especially military policy, is not really determine whose President, but, you know, as President Putin says no matter who’s President u.s. Foreign policy stays the same. Is that how this has been developing as well? Is this a bipartisan effort? And how what role the Democrats play.

BG: Well, I think you’re absolutely right. And just one glaring example is this recent NDAA where they approve 738 billion dollars. We saw the Republicans and Demcorats joining together in both the house and the Senate to move that forward. The space force being a part of that NDAA. And the only criticism the Democratic party had of that whole notion of the Space Force was they wanted to call it the Space Corps instead of the Space Force. Sounds a little more benign, I guess right? So that was really the it. So clearly the Republicans and the Democrats are lockstep when it comes to moving the arms race into space. Now, why would that be? Well, of course, it’s two things. One is the u.s. being the quote-unquote exceptional nation, that we should control and dominate the earth on behalf of corporate capitalism. And secondarily, we should control and dominate space because in the future the game is going to be going out in mining the sky for precious resources. Now the UN has two treaties, the outer space treaty and the moon treaty, that say no country, no individual, no corporation can make land claims, private land claims of any of the planetary bodies. It is the province of all humankind, but when Obama was President, he signed a law allowing US corporations and wealthy individuals to make land claims on celestial bodies. So clearly again, we see one more example of the Republicans and the Democrats marching together, moving this all forward. And one other example that I think is probably the most important of all is a treaty, a new treaty called PAROS, Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. For the last 25 years Russia and China and sometimes with Canada on their side as well have been going to the UN General Assembly bringing a resolution saying let’s create a new treaty. The old UN treaties are outdated. The outer space treaty, the moon treaty. They don’t include the new technologies that have been developed since the late 60s when those treaties were brought forward. And so we need a new treaty to bring in all these new technologies so that we ban all weapons in space. So nobody can move an arms race into space. Nobody can have an advantage of controlling the earth because they control the heavens above. And so the US and Israel have been blocking that treaty. Usually it passes as a resolution overwhelmingly at the general assembly. The US and Israel vote No. Then it goes to the Geneva UN conference on disarmament for actual negotiations, and it is there that the US and Israel block it. So it’s gone nowhere in all these years. So during the Republican and Democrat administrations in these last 25 years both parties have been lockstep in saying, “no new treaty.” And why? Well, they say because there’s no problem. We don’t need a new treaty. There are no weapons in space. But we know the real reason is because the US wants to control and dominate space and the earth below.

MF: Wow, so many implications of this. So the government is claiming that the space force is necessary because Russia and China are developing new technology, and this will be a purely defensive force. Is there any validity or is that at all a reasonable position?

BG: Not at all. Because if you go back to the 90s, the early 90s at the time that the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia, their space program essentially stopped dead, stop cold because they ran out of money. Their satellites at that time were not able to see incoming missile attacks because they were old and outdated. China was way way way way behind. And so it was a perfect time for the u.s. to agree to a new treaty that would ban these new technologies, but they didn’t want to. And then we saw the during the George W Bush Administration, one of the first things he did when he became president was walk away from the ABM Treaty, the anti-ballistic missile treaty, that banned either side, the US or Russia, from having so-called missile defense systems that are the shield that would be used after a u.s. first strike attack rain down on either country. And so clearly the US and the former Soviet Union and then Russia recognized that if anybody had the shield, so-called missile defense, they would have an advantage to launch a first strike attack because they would be able to theoretically pick off any retaliatory capability. And so us wanted now this first-strike capability and it wanted the shield and that’s why the u.s. walked away from the ABM treaty. And especially during the Obama Administration, missile defense systems we’re on steroids in terms of research, development, funding and deployment. And so today we now reach a situation where missile defense systems, The Shield, are being deployed all around Russia and China, encircling both countries on land, and on US Navy warships, destroyers that are actually made here in midcoast of Maine where I live. And so the response of Russia and China to that have been, “Hey look, we can’t afford to reduce our nuclear retaliatory stock because of your Shield. So this means that future negotiations for disarmament really are frozen because of your rejection of the ABM Treaty and your deployment of missile defense systems.” At the US space command for many years they have an annual war game they call the red team versus the blue team, a computer war game where they practice a u.s. first strike attack on Russia and China. Both those countries have renounced for strike attack. The United States refuses to do so.

KZ: What a nightmare. You mentioned a space arms race a few times? Can you describe what a space arms race would look like and what kind of money and resources would be put into that kind of an effort.

BG: Well, they’ve already… Since the Reagan years when he first came out with Star Wars or SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative. They’ve spent several hundred billion dollars on this program. That’s money that we’re aware of, but of course, there’s also the Pentagon black budget, the secret budget, which some people say is a hundred or more million a year. Even the Congress is not allowed to know how much… how it’s spent. But most of that money in the black budget goes for secret development of secret space technology, military systems. So you can imagine that it’s been three four five hundred billion dollars since the inception of this Star Wars program, and now with the Space Force being declared, you can see that there will be massive expenditure in the future. This whole operation is so expensive that the u.s. can’t afford to pay for it by itself. Some years ago in the industry publication called space news they ran an editorial saying, “we the industry, the Aerospace industry, have to come up with a dedicated funding source to pay for all this.” And we have, they said, and we are now sending our lobbyists to Washington to secure it. And they said it’s the entitlement programs, that officially are social security, Medicare, Medicaid and what’s left of the social safety net, which is in tatters today. So these are the programs that the industry has identified for defunding in order to pay for it. But still that’s not enough. So they’re going around the world to the Allies telling them to join in. That’s why we’ve seen the last several presidents really pressuring NATO to increase their annual allotment to the NATO war machine, which means they would have to buy more space related technology that fits into the u.s. system, because everything they say has to be intero-perable with the u.s. program. So that means, interoperability means, that it all has to tie into the system, the u.s. system, which means they have to buy their technology from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, etc. etc. And the US would be in charge of the tip of the spear. So this way the u.s. builds this world-class offensive space technology system and farms out the cost to the allies around the world. So today you have this massive satellite constellation that is able to see everything on the planet, intercept all phone fax email communications on the planet, target any place on the planet. When George W Bush launched Shock and Awe in 2003 on Iraq in the initial attack, 70% of the weapons that were used were directed to their targets by military satellites, which I call today triggers for war. Whether it’s drones or whether it’s anything else nothing could really happen without these military satellites. So they themselves have become weapons in a sense because they’re the initial trigger that makes these other technologies function. But beyond that, besides missile defense, which I talked about a few minutes ago, they’re working on anti-satellite weapons because they’re now saying that well heck if we can do this, so could somebody else. So could Russia, China, India or others? And so we have to be able to take out their satellites in times of hostilities. So that we would control and dominate. So they’re working on various kinds of anti-satellite weapons. Initially the idea was just go blow them up. But then the problem of space debris or space junk, which is an escalating problem, becomes worse, right when you blow up other people’s satellites. So now they’re looking at other technologies… ground-based lasers that could fire into space and blind Russian or Chinese satellites, for example, or other kinds of technologies… some satellites that would actually go up and gently disabled a Russian or Chinese satellite. So they’re working on many many many kinds of technologies all at one time. In addition there’s something they call Rods from God, Rods from God, tungsten steel weapons, that would be fired from orbiting satellites that would accelerate as they fell to the earth and would be used to take out underground missile silos of the Russians or Chinese, just by their the sheer speed and mass as they re-entered earth’s atmosphere. So again many different technologies being worked on. You’ve probably heard of this new super drone, the X37, the military space plane that’s proven that it can stay in orbit for more than a year at a time. It also is being viewed as a weapons technology system that could go up and grab another country’s satellite because it has an arm. It looks like the shuttle, a smaller version of the shuttle with an opening bay door, with an arm they could reach out and capture somebody’s satellite. It could be used for military reconnaissance. It could also, as it flies down from orbit, drop an attack on a particular country. So again many different technologies being worked on all costing a hell of a lot of money. And so as these satellites orbit the earth, they send their signal and real-time, split second time, to ground stations that the US has established all over the planet and various countries, that relay the signal, then back to another satellite which then relays it all to space command headquarters in the United States. All of this done and split second time. So each of these applications… ground stations, satellites, rocket launches to put satellites in orbit… All these things become highly highly expensive, and I call it payramids to the heavens. Today the Aerospace corporations are the Pharaohs of our age, building these pyramids to the heavens. And we the taxpayers will be like the slaves in Egypt land who will turn over our social security, our Medicare, our Medicaid, what’s left of the welfare program, environmental programs, education funding, all of this. They’re draining everything in order to pay for this monumental, colossally and sane program to dominate the Earth and beyond.

MF: And of course, we’re not hearing any of this in our corporate media. So there’s a… the u.s. announced a project, a Manhattan Project-sized project to basically we build this communications Network in order to… if we were to go to a war with China to be able to shoot our bombs into China and know where they were going. It is my understanding of it–you probably have a deeper understanding–is this connected to that whole kind of network that the u.s. is creating?

BG: Yeah, they’re working on so many things… satellite reconnaissance, satellite observation, satellite command control applications, to be able to piece this whole thing… You can imagine the enormity of it all, especially when you start getting the allies involved and, you know, other countries involved. And so it’s just enormously complex and enormously expensive. But you know, everything has an Achilles heel and I think the two things that are the biggest Achilles heal are… number one is space debris, space junk, In 1989 organized a protest when I was working for the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the speaker that day was Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. I think he was the fifth man to walk on the moon. And he came and spoke out against the militarization the weaponization of space and he said if we ever have a war in space it will be the one and only, because it will create so much space junk, space debris, by blowing things up that we would not be able to get a rocket off the earth. We would be entombed to the planet forever because there would be like a minefield of debris orbiting the planet at 17,000 miles an hour. And we wouldn’t be able to get through it. But what we now know is that if there ever was such a war and they went through this chaotic cascading effect of things bouncing off each other… the International Space Station, as big as it is, imagine if it was destroyed, and the debris that it would create that would then be orbiting the Earth. That means that cell phones, cable TV, GPS, everything that we do down on this planet… weather prediction. traffic signals, ATM machines, everything would go dark immediately, because all these satellites that control those so-called civilian applications would be destroyed as well. So it’s foolhardy to think that we could have a war in space and that there could be a winner when in fact everybody would lose. And this is I think one of the biggest messages that needs to get out to the people of the world. How crazy this this is. And the other part of the Achilles heel is the sheer cost. Again, and so I always tell people, you know, I’m not asking you to stop what important work you’re doing now. Please continue. But begin to talk about the connection between, you know, your work to fund human needs and environmental cleanup. Talk about how the space technology warfare system is going to steal that money. So we literally have two trains heading for a collision. One is social progress and environmental progress on this planet, dealing with climate catastrophe, having the Funds to do that. That’s one train. And the other train is this notion of US control and domination of space and the earth below with space technology. One of these two trains is going to survive and the other is not. And so let’s fight for social progress and in doing so help defeat this insane program to move the arms race into space.

KZ: There are multiple trains of various sorts on going, you know. One of the arms races that we’re concerned about is the nuclear arms race. Obama’s trillion dollar ten year plan to upgrade nuclear weapons. Trump continuing expanding that. And now we hear in this outer space force that nuclear power may be used to power the military capabilities in outer space. How does the nuclear issue relate to outer space?

BG: Well, you know, after World War II the u.s. smuggled into the United States 1,500 of top Nazi operatives, scientists. And included in that group where hundred of the Hitler’s V1 and V2 rocket scientist, Verner Von Braun and his team. They were brought to Huntsville Alabama to create the u.s. space program. One of the guys was Major General Walter Dornberger who was Hitler’s liaison, between him and Wernher von Braun. And he became vice president of Bell Aerospace, and he had a vision of orbiting battle stations that would be powered with weapons that could hit targets on the earth and knock out other countries satellites. And the original vision was that these things would be powered with nuclear reactors. So it’s long long been in the planning of the United States military that they would have nuclear reactors in space powering these weapon systems because it takes enormous power capability to fire a laser through space, etc. Etc. So this is certainly in their planning and it remains in their planning. They’re now also talking about nuclear powered mining colonies on the moon and Mars and asteroids and comets. They’re talking about nuclear rockets going to Mars, because it takes a year to get the Mars with conventional rocket technology and the astronauts’ bodies would turn to jello, so they want to cut in half the amount of time it takes to get there. So the idea is to have nuclear reactors, but in doing so you create this whole host of problems on earth at the nuclear laboratories that have years and years of bad history of contaminating workers and local communities. I’ll never forget in 1997 when Cassini was launched from Cape Canaveral we had a thousand people out there protesting it right before the launch at Cape Canaveral. And it carried onboard plutonium, and we learned that the generators on that Cassini mission… When they were fabricating those generators in New Mexico at Los Alamos labs, they had two hundred and forty four cases of worker contamination. So even before anything is launched its already problematic. The nuclear problem, but then when you start putting rockets and nuclear devices on rockets that blow up 10% of the time on launch, you’re really asking for trouble. And in that same Cassini mission in ’97, the environmental impact statement that NASA did said that if there was a explosion of the rocket on launch and a release of the plutonium as dust, it would be carried by the winds for a 60-mile radius from the Space Center west to Disney World, south to Vero Beach, north to Daytona Beach. A 60-mile radius and that all the people would have to be removed. All the buildings would have to be removed. All the vegetation would have to be removed. All the animals. Can you imagine? The snakes, the alligators, the birds, the fish, the caterpillars… All the animals would have to be removed and the top half inch of soil would have to be removed because everything would be radioactive for thousands of years. Well, this is just pure insanity. I mean, how could they do it? How could they? It could never be done? But this is the kind of nuclear Russian roulette that the United States, NASA and the department of energy and the military are playing with today.

KZ: I Imagine nuclear space debris would be a whole other story of problems.

MF: Yeah, so it really sounds like… to kind of just summarize… that in a we’re using all of our resources on earth up. So now the u.s. is pushing to open up these planets and space to mine these materials. And of course, we know that in order to exploit these places as we do here on earth, you have to have the US military to provide coverage of these corporations. And this also just sounds like the u.s. is losing its dominance in the world, now seeking to dominate outer space to maintain that control. It’s kind of a scary picture that’s emerging. Can you talk about where people can get information and what we should be doing to push back against this?

BG: I urge people to go to our website of the global Network at spaceforpeace.org, and also look for our page on Facebook and like it. And you can follow our work there.. the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. I also would challenge us all to think more about the need to call for the conversion of the military-industrial complex into what I call the natural guard as we face this real problem today that we have, climate catastrophe. The Pentagon is the biggest polluter on the planet. So biggest user fossil fuels on the planet. We need to convert this war machine today into something that will help the people. As we have increasingly very tragic and large massive climate events, we need a process to help people, to help save them, deal with refugees, deal with floods and famines and everything else that’s going to come with climate catastrophe. So we should be spending our money on those things rather than making climate problems even worse by our endless wars and our military madness that we’re doing today. So I think we have to put out this vision of a different kind of future for us all.

KZ: Wow.

MF: Yeah such important work that you’re doing, and educating. I know you also hold International conferences about the space war and nuclear weapons as well.

BG: That’s right. Every year we hold a conference in a different country that is a part of this whole process. This coming May ee’re going to be in Ottawa Canada in conjunction with World Beyond War and some bunch of Canadian groups as well. So our conference will be part of that larger Coalition event, which is really a good thing. Most of our groups work in these silos. And so it’s nice to get out and work with other people and share our information together. That’s the only way we’re really going to succeed in the future

MF: Great and folks can find that information about that conference on popularresistance.org on the events calendar. Thank you Bruce for taking time out to talk to us today.

KZ: Very appreciated. Thank you so much.

BG:Thank you both very much. You guys are doing really great work and I really admire everything you’re doing.

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Banking For The People, Not Wall Street Profits

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

It has been a hundred years since the first and only public bank was created in the United States, in North Dakota, but now there is renewed interest in starting more public banks. California passed a law last year allowing public banks. New Jersey and New York are not far behind. To explain why public banks are necessary and describe the growing movement for them, we speak with Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute. She discusses the benefits of public banks, how they save money and free up funds for necessary public projects and what the obstacles are. Brown also writes about financial issues. She talks about the current crisis in the repo market that is brewing in the United States and how it makes the economy precarious.

Listen here:

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Guest:

Ellen Brown is the founder of the Public Banking Institute and the author of a dozen books and hundreds of articles. She developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In the best-selling Web of Debt (2007, 2012), she turned those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust,” showing how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves and how we the people can get it back.

In The Public Bank Solution (2013) she traces the evolution of two banking models that have competed historically, public and private; and explores contemporary public banking systems globally. She has presented these ideas at scores of conferences in the US and abroad, including in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Croatia, Malaysia, Mexico and Venezuela. Read her full bio 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): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot-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 our store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG gear like bumper stickers, t-shirts, water bottles and tote bags. So today we interviewed Ellen Brown, a co-founder and chair of the Public Banking Institute
KZ: And she’s done incredible work mobilizing people in support of public banking. They’ve had tremendous breakthroughs recently with California and other states are getting close. We could see a real public banking Revolution against Wall Street banks in the near future.
MF: So stick around for that interview, so you can learn more about public banking, why it’s important, and places where it’s starting to be put into place. Before we get to that interview, let’s start out with some news from around the world. First off this past week, there were protests in 22 countries, more than 200 cities saying no war on Iran and US out of the Middle East.
KZ: And they followed protests in Iraq more than a million people are protesting there to get the U.S. Out of Iraq. So there’s a worldwide movement now to getting the U.S. Out of Iraq, the U.S. out of Middle East and stopping the threats of war with Iran.
MF: Right we wrote about this in our newsletter this week and we were at the protest in New York City. The weather was not very Cooperative. I’m Glad that other cities had nicer weather than we did here in New York City. But despite that about a hundred fifty people came out in the rain and the cold.
KZ: It was rainy and cold and windy at times and good speeches from people from the podium. There seems to be a very clear message now US out of the Middle East. I mean, it’s been a too destructive presence by United States since 2001. Iraq of course was a horrible military attack and occupation. Libya totally destroyed. Obama starting a war in Syria,. It Yemen, and now threats to Iran is really time for the u.s. To leave that region. Even Donald Trump says we don’t need their oil anymore since Obama made us the number one oil and gas producer in the world. Of course Trump does not give Obama credit for that. He takes credit for something Obama did. Not something to be proud of us since is a climate crime. It’s time for the u.s. To get out. Trump said he’d get out and his last election campaign. Instead he’s escalating. He needs to order US military out of the Middle East.
MF: Well, I imagine that our listeners know that the Iraqi Parliament voted to tell the United States to leave Iraq, and that was part of the agreement that the United States have with a rock that they would have the power to do that. And so people in Iraq, you know, as you said, millions came out to protest there. Big banners said get out America. Very clear messaging that if you don’t get out we’re going to force you out. And there was you know, a couple of days following those massive protests another attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad. There were an estimated three to five missiles that hit the u.s. Embassy. This is the 15th attack on the embassy and green zone since December and this time they actually hit part of the embassy, a dining area. Allegedly there is one person who was injured in that attack on the embassy, and the US state department is telling Iraq they need to protect the US Embassy and that violent attacks are unacceptable
KZ: I wish I had done that when we were in the Venezuelan Embassy. That embassy was subjected to Violent attacks. A pro-coup mob, under siege breaking Windows, breaking doors, breaking in, and the US government, the Secret Service did nothing to stop them. And so I think this is now coming back against the United States. They didn’t protect the Venezuelan Embassy. Why should anyone protect the US Embassy in Baghdad. And this is Embassy by the way is really a city. This is a massive embassy, massive Skyline, 20,000 people. And of course those people are not all diplomats. Most of those are military and intelligence personnel, CIA. That’s what that really is. People in Iraq know that and you know, just in the last week, we’ve had two attacks on that green zone, this massive City with in Baghdad. If the u.s. does not listen to the Iraqi Parliament, the Iraqi prime minister and leave voluntarily it is going to be a bloody year for US troops in Iraq. The people showed when Soleimani was assassinated that they supported Iranian involvement in their defense, and millions of people came out in Iraq to support and mourn the death of Soleimani. Then you have millions of people protesting after the u.s. refuses to leave. The incredible insulting response from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when the Prime Minister called him and told them, told him the United States had started to plan its exit. His response was, “we respect Iraqi sovereignty, but we’re not going. We’re staying.” That is just unacceptable and the people are showing that and these attacks on the green zone are just the beginning. One of those signs the protesters were carrying that we highlighted are popular resistance dot-org newsletter, “People of the United States. Tell your sons and daughters to leave Iraq or get ready to make coffins for them.” That’s what’s going to happen. And that’ll be Trump’s election year Mantra. You promise to get out and you stayed, and now people from the United States are dying and more chaos is being created in the Middle East.
MF: The Iraqi government did say it would take efforts to protect the u.s. embassy, respecting the Vienna convention. It’s interesting that the Chinese Ambassador traveled to Iraq earlier in January and offered support to Iraq to help them get the US to leave, including Military Support. So our question in the newsletter is… the world is telling the US to get out of the Middle East. Will the u.s. Listen?
KZ: The only way the US will listen is if the u.s. feels threatened. The US military has a mantra of protecting its troops and if the Iraqi people and civilian militias begin to cause problems for the safety of us personnel, the US has two choices… One, the orderly exit or two, escalation. I don’t see escalation happening, just don’t see the US government or population willing to see escalation of another war in Iraq, especially during election year. So I think the orderly exit is the way out. Every day that Trump delays that is every day a risk to us personnel and more chaos in the region. It’s time for the u.s. to get out of the Middle East.
MF: We also posted an article on popular resistance about representative Seth Moulton. He’s a Democrat from Massachusetts and a Marine. And he’s questioning… he once information about this supposed imminent threat that was used to justify the u.s. assassination of general Soleimani. And we also have to remember that also in that attack the Iraqi commander [Abu Maryam Mohandas] was also murdered. Moulton is urging every person in the military to look at the commands that they’re being given and determine whether they’re lawful before they consider following them.
KZ: Well, what molten is not saying… I appreciate him saying that but what he’s not saying is that when you are in an illegal war or an illegal occupation, every order is illegal. Every act is a violation of international law. Every order being given is a violation of international law. At some point United States has to be held accountable under International law. We flout it now, we ignore it now, but at some point there’s going to be a breaking point where the world says, “US, you’re accountable and every soldier should recognize they are being given illegal orders, illegal wars, illegal occupations and illegal military actions. Every order is illegal. Disobey them all.
MF: There’s another interesting article we posted recently on popular resistance about China’s ties to countries that are resisting us imperialism, and how the Left in the United States is not framing that in that type of way. The left in the u.s. frequently says, “oh China will be just as imperialist as the United States” but this article is pointing out how China is really giving material support to countries like Venezuela, like Iran, that are resisting US imperialism. Iran and China just updated a long-term twenty five-year deal that they have. This past fall they added another 400 billion dollars on gas and infrastructure investment to that. Of course Iran is important to China’s belt and Road initiative
KZ: And that belt and Road initiative is very frightening to United States because they fear that this will be the dominant economic explosion of the 21st century, connecting Asia and Europe through Africa. And the Middle East is going to be a very powerful engine of economic development and that frightens United States because dollar domination is already weakening. On China, you know, it’s confusing for people on the left because we don’t like their use of facial recognition. We don’t like their capitalist tendencies, their wealth divide. They have problems in in China. So we have problems with domestic policies, but China and Russia have been the bulwarks against US attacks on countries around the world, including Latin America, Africa, Middle East. They have been critical and so we have to recognize that despite the imperfections in their governments. They are actually allies against US imperialism and allies against US Empire. They’re going to be the key to ending dollar domination. The 2020s are going to be a time when US power wanes internationally and China and Russia, as well as lots of other countries that are under attack… 39 countries now are facing sent US economic sanctions. So lots of countries are going to uniting together to say no to US domination
MF: Right. And I think it’s important for listeners to understand when we’re talking about, you know, how the global dynamics are changing and China and Russia are are stepping into assist those who are resisting us imperialism… The point here is that the United States is a nation that flouts, as you said, international law, that is taking actions around the world to destabilize countries that result in the deaths of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. And we’re calling for the u.s. to be brought back into obeying the rule of law. And China and Russia have said that they’re willing to negotiate as well as Iran… willing to negotiate with the United States if the US starts behaving in a way that respects the sovereignty of Nations and international law
KZ: And that’s what has to happen. We need the rule of law not the rule of war. War is not an effective method of foreign policy, and the US in these never-ending wars of the 21st century has proven it cannot win wars, but can cause chaos and destruction around the world. A major reason why Venezuela has not been attacked by the United States is because Russia is an ally of Venezuela. They are provided with anti-ballistic missiles to protect Venezuela from aerial attack. They’ve had Intelligence officers helping uncover various schemes of the pro coup mob led by Guido in the United States. And so Russia’s involvement in Venezuela has been the key to stopping a naval blockade and an aerial attack. So this is true around the world. We see it over and over again. We probably would have seen a different result in serious, if it had not been for Iran and Russia stepping in to help defend the government of Syria. Whether we like that government or not, that’s not our determination. That is the government in Syria and the US should not be starting a war to cause regime change in Syria.
MF: And all of the conflicts that are going on right now have an ominous, you know, impact. The Doomsday Clock made a change recently, the Doomsday Clock which has been around since 1947. And it’s now at 100 seconds to midnight. This is a big change. Going from minutes to seconds. This is the closest that it has ever been to midnight since it started more than 70 years ago. In 2017 it was three minutes away, or prior to 2017 three minutes away from Midnight. Then in 2017 they moved it to two and a half minutes. In 2018 and went to two minutes. Now we’re at a hundred seconds and they say that the big problem is that the world leaders have allowed the infrastructure to handle threats to the world. They call the three biggest threats nuclear war, the climate crisis and cyber disinformation campaigns that are used to justify these interventions, like these military interventions. And they say that the major treaties that have been either ended, like the joint comprehensive plan or agreement, or the nuclear treaties like the INF treaty and the new start treaty is actually up for reauthorization in just a few days, that these are leading to an escalation of the arms race.
KZ: People should not underestimate what this means. One hundred seconds till doomsday. Why? Because we are on hair-trigger alert to use nuclear weapons in response to a perceived attack. That is highly risky. We should be immediately off hair-trigger alert. That is unacceptable when you’re dealing with nuclear weapons. Why? Because we’re also in a new era of a nuclear arms race. Begun under Obama is a trillion dollar 10-year plan to improve nuclear weapons, upgrade nuclear weapons so they can be used. Now continued by Donald Trump. This is a nuclear arms race. And so the destruction of these treaties, the nuclear arms race, the hair-trigger… And you know and none of the candidates running for office are really talking about this in the Democratic party. It’s a total silence. The only candidate whose clear on this is Howie Hawkins who seeking the green party nomination. He is very clear on nuclear weapons. You can read about that at opwieHawkins.us. But we need a real debate in the Democratic party and in the general election about this very serious risk of nuclear weapons, and whether we should be engaging in a nuclear arms race, which is going to get even worse with the global arms race that the Democrats joined with Trump in helping to develop. Now we have this outer space force. And we think a trillion dollars being spent on nuclear weapons is a lot of money. When you talking about outer space you’re talking tens of trillions of dollars being spent over the next decade. That’s what kind of arms race you’re going to be seeing, in outer space, and the potential risk to the planet and to people of the world is incredibly multiplied when you’re talking about a war developing in outer space.
MF: Right and when you talk about kind of disinformation campaigns, a good example of that is what happened around the alleged Syrian chemical attacks in Duma, Syria in 2018. One of the team leaders of the organization for the prevention of chemical weapons, Ian Henderson, testified before the United Nations security council last week. He had wanted to travel to New York to testify in person, but the United States in violation of its agreement with the United Nations blocked his Visa, so he was only able to testify by video, but he was part of a team that went in shortly after the alleged chemical attack and did a three-month study where they found that there was no chemical attack. And what did the OPCW do? They kicked them off, brought in some other people and put out a false report saying that there was an actual chemical attack. The outcome of that was that the alleged chemical attack was used by Britain and France to bomb Syria again in violation of the United Nations.
KZ: And of course the UK and France are lap dogs of United States. Those actions would not have been taken without the u.s. directing it. And so the OPCW becoming a fraudulent source of information is a very serious problem for world affairs. We need to have chemical weapons controlled. We either have an unbiased, independent chemical weapons authority to review those and now we see that the OPCW is not that, that the OPCW has become a fraudulent source of information, and become a vehicle for escalation of wars based on misinformation about the use of chemical weapons. It’s really a much more serious problem. And then the United States is trying to block those truths from being told before the United Nations. The US has been abusing its power as the host of the UN in multiple ways over the last year. It’s very damaging to international law and the body that is there to try to prevent wars and put in place the rule of law. So the u.s. is playing a terrible role as the host of the UN.
MF: Well, I think that might be what the Doomsday Clock people were talking about in terms of eroding infrastructure. When you can’t even have people travel to the United Nations to provide information or to debate these very serious issues. Another hearing that’s going on right now are the pre-trial proceedings in the trial of five men who were accused of planning the attacks on September 11th, 2001. That hearing is going on in Guantanamo and the two psychologists who worked for the CIA to develop their torture program, James E. Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, testified at Guantanamo basically saying that they would torture again.
KZ: And this is a truly destructive act by these two psychologists. They should lose their licenses. They should be prosecuted for engaging in torture. This is one of the great damages that Obama did when he was president, when he said he would not look back but would only look forward and not hold people accountable for torture. As a result we are still in this situation where torture is not clearly illegal, even though it’s written into law internationally and domestically that the u.s. should not be engaging in torture. Because of the failure to prosecute people… and these people testifying and open with no punishment, openly admitting we tortured and we would torture again… That should be the source of a criminal prosecution of both of these individuals and they should certainly be losing their licenses.
MF: Yes. And so the American Psychological Association did renounce them in 2017 and the purpose of having them testify is that the court is trying to determine if any of the testimony that was gained through coercive measures, through torture, can be admitted into that trial.
KZ: And we know from these kind of political trials that the judicial system can’t be trusted. We’re going through it right now with the Venezuelan Embassy prosecution. We’re seeing actions by the Trump prosecutors trying to blind the jury by not letting them hear the truth about Venezuela, not literally told that Maduro is president, that Guido is not president, that we were in the embassy with permission of the government. All these basic facts the Trump prosecutors want the jury not to hear, and we’ll find out later this week whether or not the judge will agree with that. We may have a very blinded and deaf jury passing judgment on us in a fictional trial.
MF: Right I just want to add that Guido who proclaimed himself president of Venezuela last year and then recently lost the election as leader of the defunct National Assembly in Venezuela is traveling around the world and things aren’t going so smoothly for him. He was protested in the United Kingdom. He was pied in the face in Brussels and he went to Spain and they basically… the high-level officials refused to meet with him.
KZ: Yeah one Guido has become a tragic comedy and he’s never been the president of Venezuela for even a second in the last year. He’s no longer president of the assembly. He’s a person without any political power in Venezuela and yet the United States continues to support him in a failed coup. It has failed multiple times and I have to say Bernie Sanders calling Maduro a vicious Tyrant is a very bad sign for whether he should be president or not. It reminds me of 1964. LBJ had a great domestic policy on poverty and on racism, and the left remain silent and elected LBJ. What did he do? He escalated the war in Vietnam, destroyed the war on poverty because of the war in Vietnam. Bernie Sanders… this comment about Maduro could lead to a regional war in Latin America, could lead to a global conflict with Russia and China siding with Venezuela. You have to correct the record, admit you were wrong in calling Maduro a vicious Tyrant. He is a democratically elected leader. Guido is running around Venezuela, running around the world. He should be under arrest. He should be incarcerated. But Maduro is not allowing Venezuela to use that power to arrest this coup monger.
MF: And of course information, when it goes counter to what the power structure wants is often suppressed, and let’s talk about two people who are being targeted. One is Glenn Greenwald. He is being now prosecuted in Brazil facing criminal charges of cyber crimes. They’re alleging that he assisted hackers that gave him the chat logs of the judge and prosecutors involved in something called Operation Car Wash, which was used to imprison, falsely imprison the former president, Lula da Silva. Federal police found Greenwald conducted himself appropriately. A judge previously said that going after Greenwald was censorship but the Bolsanaro government is going after Greenwald anyway.
KZ: This is clearly not about cyber crimes. It’s about retribution for the truth being told, for exposing the reality of the corrupt Operation Car Wash and the corrupt judge who is now the top prosecutor in the Bolsanaro Administration. He’s been given extraordinary powers by Bolsanaro. He should be removed from office and probably prosecuted himself for what he did in operation Car Wash, working with prosecutors helping them to prosecute people like DeSilva and undermine democracy in Brazil.
MF: Let’s also talked about Assange. He had another hearing leading up to his extradition trial which begins on February 24th. The British Court recently ruled that Assange would not be protected by the First Amendment if he was extradited to the United States, and that also he would be placed under a special administrative procedure, which means that neither he nor his lawyers could speak to the Press about their side of the story during that if he’s extradited and tried in the US.
KZ: Going into the extradition hearing. That’s the first step. But this is going to be multi-year process. There will be multiple appeals. Whatever happens at the extradition hearings. If Assange is extradited, these decisions about the First Amendment and special administrative detention could be sufficient to reverse any extradition. Extradition for political purposes not allowed under the US UK extradition treaty and these decisions to be silencing Assange, silencing is lawyers, not allowing any public discussion by them of this prosecution… this unprecedented prosecution… the first time ever that a journalist publisher in an editor has been prosecuted under the Espionage Act… to not allow discussion of that by his lawyers or by Assange shows it’s a political extradition and should be denied.
MF: And let’s not forget that Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond are both still in jail refusing to cooperate with a secret grand jury investigation that’s fishing to get more charges or information about Julian Assange.
KZ: Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond are both heroes for refusing to participate in this Witch Hunt grand jury. And the fact that the United States is willing to put these people in prison because they will not testify against Julian Assange shows they are not confident about the evidence they have against Assange. They need more evidence. They need Hammond and Manning to turn on Assange, provide false testimony if necessary, and the fact that they’re being held in contempt while this grand jury goes on shows the weakness of the prosecution of Julian Assange and shows the abusiveness of law enforcement Authority in the United States.
MF: Let’s talk about some other places where major protests are going on that don’t get covered in the US corporate media. Of course France has now had protests going on for more than sixty two weeks. It began with the yellow vests and now the unions have joined in. There’s been a nationwide strike going on since December. This past week they had a huge torch-lit protest through the streets of the major cities in France. They had Guillotines and Macron’s head on a spike protesting the pension reforms that Macron is trying to push through.
KZ: And these were really beautiful protests all over the country, torch-lit nighttime protests. We cover this on popular resistance dot-org if you want to see the images of these tremendous protest and this is just one of many. The Wall Street Journal reported a few days before that the strike was fading in France. They obviously showed the Wall Street Journal to be making up news rather than reporting the news because it looks like the strike is actually strengthening and not weakening. And they really focused their attention on Macron. Macron, you know, is being seen as putting in place policies for the bankers. Of course he is a former Banker, policies for the wealthy at the expense of the people and the people are fed up and they are incredibly… people are protesting intensly. The other thing that doesn’t get covered in the United States Media or the Western media is the incredible violenceMacron has used to try to stop these protests. Real injuries to protestors.
MF: Well, I think we can add a pinata to that as well with the protests that have been going on in Chile for three months now. The National Institute of Human Rights says that there have been 412.. this is the cases they know of… 412 cases of torture. 191 cases of sexual violence including rape. Three thousand six hundred and forty nine people injured. That doesn’t count people who are treated on the street by the street Medics and released, and 405 of those have been injuries. As well we’ve seen those serious eye injuries in France.
KZ: These neoliberal politicians have a very strong fascist streak. We see it in Macron. We see it in Chile. We see it in Bolivia where the capitalists want to have their control of the economy in total, and they will do anything they need to in order to stop the people from saying no to that. And we’re seeing that in Chile now. A really interesting thing developing in Chile, where we have on popular resistance about this… is the privatization of rivers. This is a classic I mean case of capitalism versus an economy for the people, a socialist economy. It’s a classic case of the rights of nature versus the rights of property owners, a classic case of the commons versus private property, of wealth versus people selling the rights of rivers. It just shows the extreme nature that capitalism requires.
MF: Let’s bring some attention to what’s happening in the western part of Canada where the ——s are fighting the Coastal Gas link pipeline. This has been This is a long time battle. They what’s the wet and tribe did win in a former Hearing in Canada. The Supreme Court ruled that they never ceded their territory to Canada that they have a clear lineage of hereditary Chiefs who are the, you know, leaders of that land and yet the Trudeau government is refusing to meet with them. The coastal gas line pipeline signed agreements with these band Councils that are not recognized by the tribe as being the leadership. And now in December a court in Canada ruled that the members of the tribe cannot obstruct construction of that Pipeline, and they are now in a very serious situation where they’re under siege by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And the hereditary leaders sent this open letter to Trudeau basically saying “You must meet with us to resolve this situation.
KZ: And Trudeau in his usual two-faced dishonest self earlier in his Prime ministership said that he would respect indigenous rights.In Canada these are called First Nations because they remain Nations. These hereditary leaders are leaders of Nations. Trudeau’s rhetoric about respecting the indigenous needs to become reality rather than pushing through these pipelines that are inconsistent with the requirement that we end our fossil fuel economy and inconsistent with respect for indigenous rights. It needs to be reversed and we really applaud them… the people in Canada for standing up against the RCMP and the Trudeau government.
MF: And protests have begun in the United States against what the US is doing to Puerto Rico in terms of its disaster relief. There have been literally hundreds of earthquakes since December in Puerto Rico, some as big as a magnitude of 6.2. I believe. They have caused over a hundred and ten million dollars worth of damage. 8,000 people have lost their homes because of these earthquakes. And what is the Trump Administration doing? They’re holding up disaster relief aid because they want to tie it… there forcing Puerto Rico to agree to severe austerity measures in order to get this aid and people are starting to protest that here.
KZ: Well, the reality is that Puerto Rico gets no benefit of being a territory. The u.s.eEspecially under Trump and his racist policies has been consistently irresponsible in the treatment of Puerto Rico when they have these kinds of climate disasters and other environmental disasters.
MF: Let’s mention a report by the environmental working group. They looked at water in the United States, at these what are called “forever chemicals” these … floral alkyl substances PFOs and PFAs are found in Teflon and firefighting foam. They said that the water in the u.s. is worse than they thought especially in cities such as Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans. They’re fighting to get awareness. A lot of these cities that have high levels … people are not even aware that they have this in their drinking water.
KZ: This is one of many problems of a weakening Environmental Protection structure. The EPA has been politicized by both parties. We know people who are whistleblowers during the Clinton-Gore era. We know people who were forced to stand down on issues during the Obama era. This is not just the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration is more overt and open about it, just as Bush was. But this is the undermining of environmental protections. We need to be strengthening the Clean Water Act, strengthening the Clean Air Act and facing up to the climate crisis and dealing with the mass extinctions that are happening globally. We are in an environmental crisis at a time when we’re weakening environmental protections
MF: Let’s close with some good news. 2019 was a good year for ending the prohibition of marijuana. Switzerland is starting a pilot study of five thousand people allowing them to have legal adult use of marijuana so they can decide on how best to regulate that. Netherlands is allowing 10 cities to open cannabis cafes. Countries such as Luxembourg, Denmark and Italy are all moving towards ending prohibition of marijuana as well as Australia and New Zealand. Mexico, Colombia and the Caribbean. The World Health Organization also removed medical marijuana from schedule four of the Global Drug treaties.
KZ: And we’re making progress the United States as well. We have come a long long way from when I first got involved in this back when I got a law school 1980, when we were getting death threats for talking about legal marijuana during the just say no Reagan years. Now, we have 11 states that have legalized adult use of marijuana, three dozen states that have allowed medical marijuana and more States considering it in this 2020 election year. We are coming to the end of marijuana prohibition. We saw for the first time in years a decrease in the arrests for marijuana. So major change, but we need to decrease it a lot more. We still in the hundreds of thousands of people arrested every year for marijuana offenses in the United States. We have a lot of work to do, but progress is being made. Momentum is on our side. We are going to see the end of the marijuana war in the coming years.
MF: So let’s take a short musical break and we’ll come right back with our interview with Ellen Brown of the public banking Institute.

MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we turn to our guest, Ellen Brown. Ellen is an attorney and a co-founder and chair of the public banking Institute. She’s also an author. Her current book is Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age. Thank you for taking time to join us Ellen.
Ellen Brown (EB): Thanks Margaret and Kevin. It’s great to talk to you.
KZ: Yeah, it’s great to talk to you as well. You know often when I am involved in political conversations, you’re going a door-to-door for a candidate… I mentioned public banks and the initial reaction is negative. But then when I explain in what it is, “oh, that sounds great.” Can you tell our listeners what a public bank is?
EB: A public bank is a bank owned by a government. So it’s owned by the people through their government. Ideally it assumes a more or less uncorrupt government. So it could be a City, a state, a county or a federal government. We have plenty of public Banks globally, but in the u.s. it’s sort of a foreign concept. We’ve got the Bank of North Dakota as our one and only state-owned bank. It’s been around for a hundred years. I mean, we now have the Bank of American Samoa as of last year, but American Samoa is not exactly on the continent. But anyway, that’s a start. So the idea is that the bank takes the deposits and the capital of the state or city or governmental entity and leverages it. The deposits go into the, you know, the public bank and then their leveraged into low-cost credit for the community. So they go for things that we the people really need and the profits go back to the people. So we basically cut out the middle man and make banking a public utility.
KZ: Yeah. So essentially if you take the public payroll, the taxes, the fees, the fines, the permits… all the money that comes into a governmental entity, and rather than sending it to Wall Street where you can borrow it back for a high-interest, you actually put it into your own public bank and hopefully it’s controlled democratically by the people. So it’s a great concept and it’s a challenge to make progress on it.
MF: Can you talk about how it saves money for the entities that have a public bank.
EB: Well, first of all you cut out the Wall Street middlemen. Second, you can make below market loans. So one thing that most people don’t understand and it’s very hard to get across is that banks actually create our money. Ninety-seven percent of the money supply according to the bank of England is created by banks when they make loans. So you’re allowed to lend under the capitalization rules 10 times as much as you have in capital. So let’s say, for example, we have this infrastructure and development bank in California. It’s called the bank, but it’s really just a revolving fund. It’s got three hundred million dollars in it. And there’s a huge demand for these loans. They make below-market loans at 3% and there’s like 20 times as much demand as there is money in the pot. So if you called it a depository bank and brought in deposits from government monies. Now, you’re not actually lending your deposits or spending your deposits. They are deposits at all times, deposited in the bank, but you could then create ten times as many loans. So you can make 300 million in loans, or sorry 3 billion in loans. So you’d have a three billion dollar bank. And so first of all you get more credit into your local economy, into places where it’s needed. You actually get more money into the local economy. Right now our money tends to go out and the profits from our banks go into other communities or States. So you can make below-market loans where they’re needed in your local economy, and that of course stimulates the economy, that increases your tax base and the profits from the loans themselves go back to the state or other entity that owns the bank.
MF: Right. So for our listeners, cities are whoever… the governments pay a lot of fees and interest to these Wall Street Banks, so you wouldn’t be paying those so that saves you millions of dollars. And then as you said you can kind of create your own money by leveraging the money that you have and investing that and things that are needed in our communities.
KZ: It’s a tough deal that lot of cities and states have been considering public Banks. But you know, you’re going against Wall Street and that’s a big challenge for politicians that depend on Wall Street for campaign loans and donations. And as well as depend on the cities and states that depend on Wall Street credit ratings to finance their economy. So it’s a big challenge but … there’s been a lot of places considered but no one’s really making any progress until recently. Just had a tremendous victory in California. Can tell us about that?
EB: Right A B 857 was a bill brought by… it’s totally Grassroots brought by the California public banking Alliance, which is an alliance of 10 cities up and down the state. Largely Millennials who came out of the divest movement like in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is largely the leader… persuaded the LA City Council to divest from Wells Fargo. This was after the Standing Rock protests and they wanted to get out of Wells Fargo because they didn’t approve of their Investments and because Wells Fargo had of course ripped off a lot of people with their mortgages, and their you know, their subprime mortgages, and they’re selling all sorts of things to people that they didn’t really need or opening up fraudulent accounts Etc.
So the LA City Council actually voted to pull their money out of Wells Fargo, but then the question was where do you put it on none of the… The local banks are not big enough and the the other alternative is to move it into Chase or something that has even more frauds against them, more fines that have been levied against them. So that logical alternative then was public banking, establish our own bank, and course we’ve been beating that drum now for a decade. So the idea was out there. I spoke about it at Occupy Wall Street in 2010 along with one of the leaders of the California public banking Alliance, Carlo,s who’s now on our public banking Institute board. And we had a retreat where we brought all these people together a couple of years ago, and you were there as well and you gave a great presentation. And by meeting each other I think they started working together and they just had so much enthusiasm. It’s just amazing what these young people have done to mobilize. Their generation is getting screwed and they know it. They came into the world like they woke up to what was going on in the world after 9/11. I woke up after Kennedy was shot. But I mean imagine living in New York and seeing those buildings came down as a young person. It’s got to make such a vivid impression on you. Anyway, they know that they’re living in very perilous times and that things have to change and it’s up to them to change them and they’re the next voters and the politicians know that so they listen to them.

So the bill ABA 57 is about carving out a special Charter for a publicly owned bank or it’s not exactly special but it said set the parameters for how you can set up a public city-owned or County owned or group of counties, group of cities, any sort of Municipal Bank. It actually got longer and longer as it went through the committees because they kept adding their amendments to it. But what it did was make it basically legal to have a public bank. That was one of the objections we used to get. We would argue and argue. Of course, it’s legal and we’d have our various… I mean, I’m sure you know how this is when you know the law and you could show to the satisfaction of the court that it’s legal. But you know, you just get that push back that well, it says in the California state constitution and in many constitutions, it says the state shall not lend their credit or extend their credit… something like that. And so that is construed to mean that they can’t have their own bank, but they extend their credit all the time. They have all kinds of revolving funds and that’s all we’re talking about… making the same kind of loans they’re already making but using our own funds to do it, you know leveraging our own funds in the same way that Wall Street that does. Anyway it was a huge success.
KZ: It was a tremendous success and I remember at that meeting in Colorado that you mentioned that the Los Angeles folks were a bunch of young people. They were really impressive and they had won that victory of divesting from Wells Fargo Fargo. Their Investments and climate polluting infrastructure. That was an amazing victory for them and they said… then they wanted to push for a public bank. I think they were able to get a voter referendum on the ballot. They lost that referendum but then they said we’re going to go to the state now. We’re going to win this on the state level. I have to say my reaction was oh man these people they don’t now they’re going to get real challenge to deal with the state government. There’s such corruption in all these state governments with Wall Street money flowing in. How are they going to ever do this? But they were so enthusiastic about it and they did it. Just for other states can learn from this, what were the keys to their success?
EB: Well, they mobilized a lot of people, mostly young people, and they got close to 200 endorsements from big like labor unions and California Democratic party. They just got a lot of support, and had a lot of social media which they knew how to do themselves. When they first did the bill, it was the LA City Council that brought a bill for City owned bank and it took us all by surprise and we only had four months to publicize it and try to get support and we still got 44% of the vote. But when they were first trying to set up a committee just to raise money, to advocate for a bill, they were talking to a lawyer and the lawyer said “well, you must have some money.” He said I saw the video videos you’ve made and the young man he was talking to you said, “no, we’re just all under 30 we know how to do that stuff.” So they’ve definitely got social media down. Somebody told me their secret of mobilizing was they made everything fun. You know, they did a lot of cheering and making signs and, you know, they would all meet and they’d go to have pizza afterwards or whatever… go to a, you know, meet somewhere afterwards. So it’s a big social event.
MF: So now that they’ve passed the bill have any cities or counties made any progress towards creating a bank, a public Bank.
EB: Well, the number of them are working on it, but the first thing they have to do is a business plan. It’s required. It’s part of the bill that they have to come up with. They used to be called feasibility studies. But we managed to get rid of that word. But it’s… anyway ideally do an actual business plan that shows this is how we’re going to do it. This is where how we’re going to make money. This is where the money’s going to come from. And for that they have to raise money in order to get an expert or team of experts to write the plan. So they’re actually all now competing for this one really good expert in California, but that means It’s like raising $250,000.

The Oakland Group, which is the East Bay. It’s three cities I think and the county together have raised a hundred fifty thousand dollars. So they’re working on it. Now in Washington State they actually raised four hundred and eighty thousand dollars, or the Senate actually got four hundred and eighty thousand dollars to do a business plan and it’s supposed to be out in March. So we’re looking forward to seeing what it says. That’s what we need is some sort of a.. you really need to wait for the big cities to do it first. It’ll probably be L.A., San Francisco or the East Bay group. And then my thought is that the smaller groups working on it should just ride on your coattails, you know, just basically do their business plan in the same way. Now New York has come out with a bill that basically copies a be 857 and they’ve got to also have a lot of enthusiastic young people pushing it. So that’s great.
KZ: I saw Cuomo promises the past that…
MF: So that’s another state level Bill.
KZ: Yes.
MF: Wow. And now New Jersey, I think also the Governor of New Jersey had some sort of executive order. Can you talk about that?
EB: Yeah an executive order… again for a committee to actually form a bank… so they’re bypassing the whole business plan, the whole feasibility study step, and just going straight for setting up a bank. So that’s excellent. And in New Jersey it’s a state bank not a municipal, you know, not a city owned bank. So yeah, we’re definitely watching them and they have one advantage, one major advantage besides the fact that the governor himself is a banker. He was a Goldman Sachs banker. And so when he heard about that idea he got all excited about it. And he said he understood banking. He understood why it was a good idea. He understood it could be a moneymaker for the state and they definitely need a new source of money. But another Advantage they have besides the owner who is a banker is that they’re collateralization requirement for public deposits is only 5%. In California it’s a hundred and ten percent.
So that means that if you take deposits you have to collateralize them or buy something very safe secure Securities, ideally Federal Securities in the same amount or actually more than the same amount… a hundred ten percent. So that limits how you leverage, you know, what you can do with the money. Somehow the big Banks manage to do it. How did they do it? By, you know, by basically through the shadow banking system and the repo market and off-the-books accounting and triple using their security. So what they do is they buy the Securities. The Securities are sitting on their books and they say, oh, yeah, we have a hundred and ten percent Federal Securities backing these public deposits. And then they take those very same Securitie,s use them as collateral in the repo Market. Borrow overnight, you know, that’s the way the repo Market Works… night after night after night. So generating, actually creating new money in the form of loans, which is how money is created.
And not only do they do that once but on average federal Securities are used three times over. So there are three different parties that all thinks they own the same security, so they’re not nearly as secure as it’s thought to be. But anyway, that’s a big scandal going on in the repo market right now, that the Federal Reserve had to step in and basically fund the thing because the lenders have gotten skidish about who their lending to, which was the hedge funds and that’s what made them really nervous. But I just saw recently that before 2008 it was the mortgage-backed Securities that were the Securities for for the repo market, like most of them were mortgage-backed Securities. And then just a few were Federal Securities. And then everybody got afraid of the mortgage-backed Securities and that’s what happened in 2008. It was the repo Market that really collapses the economy, a run on the repo market. So after 2008 they were using just Federal Securities, and that’s why Federal Securities remain low interest wise. You know, there’s a huge demand for them, even though the federal government just keeps borrowing and borrowing and borrowing key, issuing more and more bonds, but they have funds to keep up with the thirst for them in the repo market. Now they’ve gone back and 90% mortgage backed Securities because the Federal Reserve is underwriting the whole thing because the Federal Reserve’s a big player now.
MF: So that sounds very precarious to me. So after 2008 when you know, we basically bailed out the big Banks and the federal government was doing something called quantitative easing, which I think to the tune of 80 billion dollars a month or something, to prop up these big banks. So is that kind of what the government is doing again?
EB: Well in the repo Market… this is also very strange. You know it’s the FED, not the government, not the treasury or not Congress. The FED declares itself independent. It’s not really independent. It’s definitely independent of the federal government, but it’s not independent of the big Banks. It’s really a pawn of the big Banks. But anyway in the repo Market… Well, so the repo market is a long story. It was set up basically because when Deposit Insurance was provided in the 1930s to protect the banks because nobody wanted to bank with these bankrupt banks, they were putting their money in the big public banks, which were at that time the postal Banks. We did have a big postal banking system from 1911 to 1967, which was very popular and everybody rushed to the postal banks particularly in the 1930s because they were so safe and they pay 2% interest. It was a good deal.
So Wall Street leaned on Congress to give them Deposit Insurance so that we the people are actually guaranteeing our own deposits in these private Banks, but Congress was reluctant to go above $100,000, and the cap has now been raised a $250,000, but you have all these huge institutional investors… basically Pension funds and hedge funds and Sovereign wealth funds that have massive amounts of money and they kee growing all the time and they don’t want to put their money in a bank where they’re only guaranteed $250,000. But they wanted something similar to a bank. In other words, they wanted to be guaranteed and they want to be able to get it out on one day’s notice just like if you went to a bank and pulled your money out. So the repo Market evolved as a sort of pawn shop where the borrower would put up some sort of security in lieu of Deposit Insurance, and that would be the guarantee. And it was called upsale and repurchase. That’s what the word repo comes from because technically the holder of the security sells it to the lender overnight, but the deal is she’ll borrow it back the next day. So it really is a secured loan. But the reason they do it that way is if the borrower goes bankrupt and can’t pay the loan back then the lender avoids bankruptcy court. They they say, nope. We own it. You know it was a sale. It was a purchase and sale. We bought it. It’s ours. We don’t have to go through bankruptcy. And that was another big problem in 2008 with the 2008 collapse.
But anyway, so now you have this huge repo market and the lenders are money market funds and Pension funds and big funds, and the borrower’s well… So the repo Market was actually undercutting the FED funds rate. So banks themselves were going to the repo market to borrow for several reasons. First of all, they could get a better deal than in the FED funds Market which is where they borrow from other banks and that’s what the FED has control over… the interest rate on the FED funds market. So they were going to the Repo Market instead first of all because they could get a better deal but also because they could use that collateral several times over and you know, basically say it was a sale and not a sale. They really still had that collateral that they could keep using…
KZ: Sounds like such a fragile Market. You know, Wall Street seems so powerful and so strong but it really sounds like it’s a sandcastle that could disappear. I mean the public Bank approach would be such a challenge to Wall Street power. If all the states and major cities had their own public banks it would be a dramatic shift to public control of finance. Right? Have you ever thought about what that would be like. You work on this for so long. You’ve written so many books. What’s your ultimate vision if we are successful in actually putting public banks in throughout the country
EB: Well to have a network of public Banks in every city … every town would have it. Public banks… but they would all be hooked up to the central bank, which would also be a public utility which would basically be the source of liquidity. So right now we have this very phony system where the sense is that you have to get money before you can… you have to borrow it from someone or money that’s pre-existing but it’s not really pre-existing. It’s really created on the books and it’s created over and over on the books. And the big money people have access to this very cheap credit, whereas we don’t. And now that the Federal Reserve has stepped in to back the repo Market because the lenders themselves have pulled out, the Federal Reserve is guaranteeing the loans of hedge funds and you know, things that are speculative and crooked and that are ripping us off for rent… they’re the landlord’s that bought up all the properties cheaply and are renting them back more expensively among many other things they do… leveraged buyouts Etc. So they’re all about money making money. It’s all about financialization. So the whole economy has gotten financialized. And in order to make it serve people once again, if we had a public banking system where the banks were public utilities and the source of money was the Federal Reserve which is just a deep pocket of credit… which is what it is now, but it’s all credit going to the rich. It’s not credit that we have access to.
MF: Yeah. So a public bank would really put that control of money back into the hands of the public and we’d get out of this kind of profit-seeking speculative and I think fraudulent in many ways corrupt type of system right now. So we do have one place in the United States that’s had a public bank for over a hundred years now or just had its hundredth anniversary. And that’s in North Dakota. Can you talk a little bit about how North Dakota. You know what the impact has been on the economy of North Dakota and their ability to invest in public programs. Have they been able to do that?
EB: Totally. Yeah it was established a hundred years ago. It’s a 7 billion dollar bank right now and it’s basically a bankers bank. So it doesn’t compete with the local banks. It partners with them and does largely participation loans where the local bank gets the client and takes a part of the loan and then the bank of North Dakota steps in and takes the rest of it so they don’t have to sell off these big loans or lose these big Loans to Wall Street, for example. So the profits go back to the state. They managed to escape the credit crisis. I started writing about the Bank of North Dakota in 2008 right after the crisis because they were the only state that escaped the credit crisis. At first there were four states and then there were three and then there was two then there was one and that was in North Dakota. So I thought Aha and started writing and and just like China which also has a very strong public banking system, escape the credit crisis. In fact all those Asian countries with strong public banking systems escaped the credit crisis.
KZ: It’s so interesting. Essentially a public bank is democratizing the banking system. It’s is putting the government which in the United States is at least so-called the democratically-elected. It really puts the power back into the people and we were envisioning a public bank in Baltimore as part of a mayoral campaign with the green party. And we looked at combining the concept of a public bank with the idea of participatory budgeting, you know, participatory budgeting is where communities get together and decide what they need for their Community. We were envisioning the idea of the Baltimore pity people voting on what are the priorities we need in our community.
MF: So things like low-interest mortgages for housing because people are having a very hard time getting mortgages.
KZ: We have 40,000 abandoned houses in Baltimore.,
MF: So prioritizing fixing those up or or getting capital to businesses, to small businesses so they could operate
KZ: Businesses in East in West Baltimore that have been neglected for years… funding entrepreneurship in those in those neglected communities
MF: And I think in North Dakota, haven’t they done something with student loans to ease that crisis?
KZ: One thing about North Dakota I wanted to mention that’s so interesting is that they have a the highest per capita rate of Community Banks and that’s because the Community Banks team up with the North Dakota State Bank and fund projects. And that’s such an interesting concept as well.
EB: Yeah, they’re highly successful. Yeah, they did make below-market student loans. They were the first to make student loans. Actually, I think. Student loans, agriculture and energy. Those are the three sectors that they particularly supported
MF: Also when they had a big flood in North Dakota weren’t they able to pretty quickly, you know, find the money to recover from that as well?
EB: Yeah for infrastructure. So I just I’ll just mention, you know president Obrador in Mexico has just said or just started this… He’s going to establish 27 hundred … a system or network of public Banks across the country. That’s what I’ve recommended in my book, Banking on the People… That and tapping on the central bank as a public utility for all these banks. So all these banks can get their liquidity from the central bank. But anyway the big objection to this whole system in Mexico was that it would take money away from the other banks, the private Banks, you know, because everybody would want to deposit in the public banks. So that’s one to watch. I mean they’ve got the first… it looks like the first network of public banks, or at least a first in this century… the first such system…
KZ: …in this Hemisphere, and that would be incredible. I mean… if I I pursued that policy I’d be watching my back because I suspect the Wall Street Bankers are not going to be very happy about a country the size of Mexico going to a public banking system. The US was so upset with China, you know, and their public Bank funding there. You know, it’s such an interesting difference. In China, they own the banks. In the United States Wall Street owns the government, you know. And the u.s. is very upset. [They say] “that’s unfair. How can we compete? [laughter] MF: So Ellen, can you tell our listeners how they can learn more about public banking and get involved? And some areas that people are working on?
EB: Our website is public banking Institute dot o– r– g– and it has lots of information on it and we’ve got all the bills that have been brought for the last decade. And if you want to get connected with a group in your area just you can just email us and we’ll hook you up. And my books on the subject our Web of Debt: Public Bank Solution, and Banking on the People. My own website is EllenBrown.com.
MF: Right and you have frequent articles there that are very important.
KZ: We published almost all of your articles on Popular Resistance because we think that it’s really a critical issue, and I think it’s an issue that’s time has come and so I’m glad to see California has made a breakthrough. I hope you get New York or Washington State or New Jersey joining them. I think will really start to see a public banking transformation in this country, which would be great.
MF: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today Ellen.
EB: Thank you for all the work you do and the brave challenges you’re taking on right now.
MF: Thank you.
KZ: Thanks a lot. Appreciate your time.
MF and KZ: Well that’s all for today. Let’s go out with a song byJunkyard Empire because the people organized can create a future we want.

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How An African Cemetery Under A Parking Lot Galvanized A Community To Fight White Supremacy

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

The United States still has a long way to go to come to terms with its history of being founded on genocide and slavery. In recent years, we have heard about efforts to take down monuments to those who perpetrated these crimes. What we rarely hear are the stories of how that genocide and slavery have been covered up and how even today there are barriers to those who seek to expose them. One such effort is taking place right now in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo tells us the riveting story of her discovery of an African Cemetery under a parking lot. She has led a community effort to stop a building from being erected on the site, which has unearthed a horrific past experienced by former residents of that land and has become a struggle against gentrification and white supremacy.

Listen here:

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

Guest:

Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo received her BA degree from Barnard College/Columbia University and her doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo was a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of the Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She has held various academic positions as Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University – School of Foreign Studies and Visiting Scholar in the Department of African-American Studies at George Mason University.

On August 18, 2000, Dr. Coleman-Adebayo won an historic lawsuit against the EPA on the basis of race, sex, color discrimination, and a hostile work environment. She subsequently testified before Congress on two occa sions. As a result, the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act [No FEAR] was introduced by Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee ( D-TX) and Senator John Warner (R- VA). Along with the No FEAR Coalition, she ushered the No FEAR Bill through Congress. President George W. Bush signed the No FEAR Act into law. Thousands of federal workers and their families have directly benefited from this law. Read her full bio 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): and Kevin Zeese.

MF: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot-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 our store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG gear like bumper stickers, t-shirts, water bottles and tote bags. So this week we interviewed. Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition.

KZ: We’ve worked with Marsha for years. She’s also an EPA whistleblower. She exposed mining pollution in South Africa during the Clinton Gore era and she’s been an activist ever since on whistleblower issues. Now this is a project dealing with an African American cemetery in Montgomery County that was paved over for developers and they’ve been fighting to correct that and memorialize the African town that was there.

MF: Yes, and this has opened the door, this campaign, to learning so much about what actually went on in Bethesda. It’s a really interesting story, what they’ve learned so far and why this is a crucial area that needs to be memorialized and they’re looking to put a museum there to educate people about what actually happened.

KZ: This is an amazing story. I hope people stick around to listen to this interview. I think you’ll be really astonished by what they learned and sadly this is very common throughout the southern part of the United States, the Confederacy.

MF: So we just got back from our speaking tour in Florida for our efforts to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC last spring. A great job that the organizers did down there organizing speaking events for us and helping us to raise money for our legal defense fund.

KZ: And that’s part of the beginning of an East Coast tour. We’ll be going to New Jersey, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, to New York City to Connecticut. And then to Massachusetts. So check out and see what our schedule is so you can join and participate.

MF: And that website is Defend Embassy Protectors dot o– r– g. First I just want to quickly comment on the recent decision in Florida that’s going to impact formerly incarcerated and take away their voting rights.

KZ: Well, this is the result of a really massive public support for people who’ve been convicted of felonies getting their voting rights back and really overwhelming support. Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled government down there and the court down there are trying to really make that impossible to implement or difficult to implement.

MF: One of the things that they’re saying is that they can’t vote if they have any outstanding fees or fines.

KZ: Exactly and the court upheld that. The ACLU is describing it as a poll tax. Of course, the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t use that language. But essentially you got to pay these fees if you’re going to get your voting rights back. So it’s the equivalent of a poll tax which has been illegal for a long time thanks to US Supreme Court decisions. But this Florida Supreme Court decision upholds this legislative and gubernatorial action to make it difficult to implement this voting rights.

MF:  So the ACLU, which is involved in this in Florida, is going to keep fighting it. They say that it violates the Constitution. Let’s talk more about what’s happening in Venezuela. The news continues to come out  aoundJuan Guaido. So it’s interesting, we talked last week about the fact that he lost the presidency of the National Assembly. So he created his own fake National Assembly and went to El Nacional, the right-wing media outlet to hold his own quote unquote vote to elect himself as the president of the National Assembly. What’s so interesting about Venezuela is the whole situation with the National Assembly down there. It’s still a defunct body. All they really do in the National Assembly is talk about policies. They don’t have the authority or power to pass any legislation right now.

KZ: And it’s defunct because they are, the Supreme Court found election law violations that resulted in people being elected who may not have been elected if it hadn’t been for those violations. And therefore the Assembly need to correct that and they refused to do so. And so the assembly can’t act until those those seats are changed.

MF: Right. So now they kind of have these two assemblies, the one that’s actually officially recognized by the government and the new president of that is Luis Parra and they hold sessions where they debate issues and policies. And then they’re allowing Juan Guaido to go in there in the off hours to hold his own assembly with his own, I don’t know who these people are but…

KZ: His own supporters.

MF: Yeah, and they can have their little debates as well. But it’s interesting how Venezuela is taking this kind of conflict free approach to be like, okay, you want to have your own little fake assembly, you can go into the National Assembly and pretend to be the president.

KZ: Well they learned I think from the bizarre show that Guaido put on trying to climb the fence when he didn’t need to. He was actually allowed to go into the assembly by the authorities who were making sure people who are authorized go in. He was allowed to go in but he did this whole show of climbing the wall. So I guess the Maduro Administration and the National Assembly has decided just let him go in and talk. It makes no difference anyway, but Guaido is now being uncovered you know, it’s being uncovered that the US has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this coup and people want to know where the money went.

MF: The numbers have been totaled up and we have an article about this on Popular Resistance, but basically in 2019 alone, the opposition which Juan Guaido is part of, received three hundred and fifty million dollars. 286 million dollars came from our own US Agency on International Development, USAID. It’s usually supposed to be spent on you know aid.

KZ: Humanitarian aid, not coups.

MF: Right. But as Elliott Abrams said just a couple weeks ago, that money went towards media. So Guaido was actually paying media to cover him favorably. So much for a free press. And it also was being used for, on the National Assembly. So this whole like fake National Assembly thing we’re funding. He also got 20 million dollars from the Trump Administration. The USAID is saying that money went directly to Juan Guaido. Juan Guaido is saying he never got the money, it went to nonprofits.

KZ: There’s a lot of confusion about…

MF: And he has no idea where the money went he says.

KZ: There was a lot of confusion about where that money went to. USAID said some went to Juan Guaido, but they also said some was based on competitive contract bidding for NGOs and others and so it’s not all clear where this hundreds of millions of dollars went. And you know, it’s interesting. This is now coming out at a time when Guaido is violating the court order that says he can’t leave the country and going to Colombia in Bogota to meet with Mike Pompeo and other Latin American leaders. I wonder will Mike Pompeo ask him about where this money went? Will they discuss how these hundreds of millions of dollars were spent or they just will brush it under the rug? And then I saw also Guaido is planning a trip to Europe. This is all illegal. He’s not allowed to leave the country. He’s going out there around the world and lobbying. It’s amazing that he gets away with this and he may even come to the United States.

MF: Right. Well, he hasn’t been able to succeed in his coup attempts in Venezuela, so the only place he really can go and get any attention is outside of the country.

KZ: He can’t even draw a crowd in Venezuela.

MF: Yeah, a lot of the opposition is upset with him, especially because they want to know where the money went.

KZ: Well, that’s why he lost the presidency. The corruption around this money is open. People know about it. It is being investigated and that’s why a lot of the opposition has said we don’t want you as our president of the Assembly anymore.

MF: Let’s talk about Bolivia. As folks know, there’s been a coup there, a US-supported coup in Bolivia that happened after the elections last October. They’re going to be holding elections, presidential elections, a new election on May 3rd of this year. The MAS Party, Movement Towards Socialism Party, which is Evo Morales’s party, the former president who was re-elected last October, has now announced that they have two candidates, a president and vice presidential candidate for that election. The presidential candidate is Luis Arce. He’s the former economic minister that was a big part of Evo Morales’s economic plan for the country. And then the vice presidential candidate is the former foreign minister David Choquehuanca.

KZ: And they said, people who are looking at this are analyzing and saying this is an opportunity by the MAS Party to expand their base. The vice president comes from the indigenous community to solidify that base, which it was already where the MAS Party gets a lot of its political power. But having the former Finance Minister running as president is an outreach to the middle class and those who are wealthier in Bolivia. So it’s, they think this is a real opportunity to expand the base and perhaps win this election. Although we see so much going on down there to rig the election against the MAS Party. It’s gonna be very difficult for them to overcome the rigging that’s going on.

MF: The members of the MAS Party are still being persecuted by this coup government under Jeanine. Añez. Members of the MAS Party are being charged with all sorts of outrageous charges.

KZ: Doctors are being arrested and media people are being arrested. There’s real ongoing terrorism to try to frighten people and I’m sure on the day of the election, we will see troops and thugs outside of voting places, especially in indigenous communities.

MF:  Let’s talk about Iran, something we’ve been talking about quite frequently lately. Looks like the Iranian government may be filing charges against President Trump, the US military and the US government for war crimes in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

KZ: That would be a major step. And even though the US will not respect any decision from the ICC, it’s a very important process to go through. The ICC investigates this, puts out a report about it. It’s pretty obvious that the Trump Administration violated international law since there is no justification for the murder or the assassination of General Soleimani. It’s a very strong case the Iranians can put forward. I think it’s important for them to be held accountable. It’s good to see the rule of law being used rather than focusing on military force to respond to this attack.

MF: And of course, investigations are ongoing around the airliner, the Ukrainian airliner that was shot down in Iran a few hours after Iran launched missiles at the US bases in Iraq. And it’s reported that Iran is looking into whether there might have been a cyber attack against their radar system that would have led them to not be able to recognize that it was an airplane, a civilian airplane or that there may have been enemy infiltrators involved.

KZ: The Iranian air system had the ability to know that was a passenger plane, but the person who fired the missile said they lost communication. So investigation is needed to understand what really happened there. We definitely don’t know the full story yet.

MF: The US this past week just announced the new chief of the space operations for the new US Space Force is General John Jay Raymond.

KZ: So now the space force is taking shape. This is a very dangerous development to militarize outer space. It violates a treaty from back in the 1970s. The US is moving in this direction very quickly. Now that the Democrats and Republicans both agreed in the most recent NDAA to move the space force forward.

MF: So that was part of the National Defense Authorization Act and in the announcement of this new general, it was really interesting reading their rhetoric because they’re basically, the logic was that well, we don’t want to have any war in space but the best way to have peace in space is if we have a very strong military presence there. Does that sound familiar?

KZ: It’s the constant US excuse for escalation of the military budget, military weapons, troops around the world, bases around the world. We have to dominate and make it impossible for anyone to challenge our domination and controlling outer space is part of that process.

MF: Right. It’s peace through a strong military, I guess. That’s the, what we’ve all been indoctrinated in.

KZ: Nixon called it peace through strength.

MF: Right and this coming February is the expiration of the START Treaty. That’s the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that was started on February 5th in 2011. And this treaty, there’s a new report out saying that if it’s not renewed, this could really lead to even more of an arms race.

KZ: An escalation of the already existing arms race. We already see massive US spending on nuclear weapons. Now, we’re seeing the increased spending on outer space weapons. These are very expensive weapons systems that are going to lead to an arms race that we have never seen before, much bigger than we’ve seen in the past.

MF: Right and it could also lead to more escalation in space because one provision of the START Treaty is that countries are allowed to do inspections of other country’s weapons to know like what nuclear weapons and things they’re developing. Without the START Treaty, the countries won’t be able to have those on the ground weapons inspections. And so the speculation is that there will be a big escalation of surveillance in space so that they can try to watch what each other are doing.

KZ: We need to escalate in space because we are violating the treaties that allow for inspection on the ground. It’s a kind of a lose-lose proposition. We get out of the START Treaty so we can then use that excuse to get into outer space.

MF: Right but there is some good news. Cities in the United States are fighting back against this escalation towards nuclear war. There’s a campaign called Beyond the Brink. They now have more than 40 cities that have passed resolutions against the expansion of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war. They have five provisions they are basically calling for that there should be no ability to do a first strike in the United States. So we shouldn’t be allowed to just launch a nuclear bomb at another country that hasn’t attacked us, kind of like killing a general of a country that we’re not at war with. They want to get away from the sole authority where one person, the president, can authorize a nuclear attack. They want to take our nuclear weapons off of hair-trigger alert. It’s very dangerous to have them so ready to be used. They want to stop the new upgrade and modernizations of our nuclear weapons, 1.5 trillion dollar upgrade and then work to eliminate nuclear weapons. Other organizations involved are Beyond the Bomb and ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

KZ: So if you’re not, if you city hasn’t passed a resolution yet, get involved with those organizations of Beyond the Brink and build this momentum for ending this nuclear arms race.

MF: Yeah. It’s really important. There’s lots of ways that people can get involved. We have an article about it on Popular Resistance. But if you look up Beyond the Brink, you’ll be able to find this. If our leaders launch a nuclear attack, it’s going to be us, the people in these cities especially close to sensitive areas that will be impacted by those decisions as well as what the impacts would be on the world of a nuclear winter. Many people in cities are also saying don’t invest in the military or militarization or policing, you need to start investing in our communities. And we talked about this last week with Jacqueline Luqman on Clearing the FOG.

KZ: That’s right. That new federal program from Donald Trump, Operation Relentless Pursuit, 71 million dollars plus a bunch of federal agencies getting involved with in seven cities to escalate law enforcement. This will lead to more mass arrests, more mass incarceration, but will not deal with the real issues that concern these urban areas that have been neglected really for generations.

MF: Yes, and people in Minneapolis are taking action to fight back against that disinvestment. They’ve recently have a campaign called Reclaim the Block. The city in their new budget is giving a hundred and ninety-three million dollars to the police department. That’s a third of the city budget and the people in Reclaim the Block are saying, look our biggest problems are things like homelessness, opioid addiction, mental health needs and all of these are made worse by police. The police are not the answer. And so they’re saying invest in programs instead that address these issues.

KZ: And that’s true in urban areas throughout the country. It’s certainly true in our city of Baltimore where we spend more on the police than we do on health and education combined and it’s true across the country. We have seen decades, really generations of neglect and rather than confronting that neglect, the approach is to militarize the police, make them into an occupying force and keep those neglected communities away from the communities that are invested in.

MF: Right and continue to oppress them. And so Reclaim the Block and others in Minneapolis came up with their own budget and how they would like money spent on programs to end homelessness, provide mental health services and do harm reduction, which we talked about quite a bit with Jacqueline last week.

KZ: Our newsletter on Popular Resistance this week focuses is on the militarization of the police and how that is the mirror of the militarization of US policy abroad. So both at home and abroad, we are being dominated by a militaristic approach and the result really is not good for those communities or for our nation.

MF: One of the recommendations is to legalize drugs because they don’t belong in the law enforcement arena. And Congress held a hearing on Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on cannabis policy for the new decade and looking at the ways that federal law is in conflict with what states are doing on these issues.

KZ: And that’s been an issue, you know, I’ve worked on for a long time, since 1980 when I was chief counsel and then director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and a co-founder of the Drug Policy Foundation. The good news is we’re finally making progress. Eleven states have adult legal use. More than three dozen have medical marijuana being legal. And we’re seeing harm reduction policies like needle exchange being put in place across the country. We need to do a lot more. There’s so many other choices beyond spending money on police, you know. Just, I’ll just mention one that has been tried in eight countries now, which is legal access to heroin or allowing heroin to be brought for public consumption before a healthcare worker. These programs in these eight countries have resulted in dramatic reductions in crime because people don’t need to steal to pay for their heroin. They don’t need to prostitute. They don’t need to commit other crimes including drug dealing to fund their heroin use. It results in less homelessness, results in people getting employment, rebuilding their relationships and results in less drug use as well. There’s a lot we could learn if we would open our eyes to real solutions, not doing the same thing over and over. We already have the largest prison population in the world, 25% of the world’s prisoners and we only have five percent of the world’s population. How many times do you have to repeat the same mistake over and over before you realize it’s a mistake?

MF: And The Sentencing Project does some really excellent work on the incarceration rates in the United States and how we compare around the world. And we are really at the top and you look at you know, people are always talking about oh China is such a repressive country, but then you look at the incarceration rates there compared to ours and there’s really, ours is multiple multiple times higher.

KZ: And it’s not just incarceration rates. It’s also police violence. You compare the United States as far as civilians being killed to other countries, we are so far ahead of any developed country in the world per on a per capita basis. I mean it’s just obscene. We have to really restructure our police and our law enforcement and our prison system and come up with health and social solutions to the problem of drug abuse. You can’t solve it with police.

MF: Another very important issue for the United States is women’s rights. And that took another step forward in the Virginia legislature recently voting to become the 38th state to support the Equal Rights Amendment. That was an amendment that was passed by Congress in 1972. But before it is ratified, it needs to have 2/3 of the states.

KZ: And that was it, that made it 2/3 finally and now there’ll be litigation about that because the Department of Justice says it’s too late. Traditionally, constitutional amendments don’t have a deadline. This one did and there’s litigation already being filed to challenge whether or not that can go forward.

MF: And now it’s interesting that the Trump administration like immediately after Virginia approves it, the Trump Administration says, oh no, it’s too late. Like what’s that all about?

KZ: Misogyny.

MF: Well, there you go. Okay, let’s talk about another study from the Center for Biological Diversity looking at the approval of pesticides. So from 2017 to 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency had a 94 percent approval rate for pesticides, 1190 new pesticides put out into the market and some of these are some of the worst most toxic pesticides.

KZ: We have been poisoning our food in this country for a very long time. Both political parties under presidents from Democrats and Republicans have put in place in the FDA people from Monsanto and other pesticide companies. And so we get a pesticide regulatory authority rather than a Food and Drug Administration actually protecting the public interest.

MF: That’s right and the Center for Biological Diversity points out that even people who buy organic foods are still impacted by these pesticides because there’s just no way to control it. They get into the soil. They get into the water and then that gets into the whole food system. And so organic producers are actually starting to look at a new label that would be a glyphosate free food, you know, showing that there are no glyphosate residues in the food that they produce.

KZ: It’s a very challenging thing for a farmer to meet because glyphosate is so widely used. Even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has glyphosate in it.

MF: Cereals have it in them.

KZ: Cereals. It’s just it’s so widespread. We need to put in place the precautionary principle, which means that you don’t put something into the market like a pesticide until you prove it’s safe. Instead of the precautionary principle, we put in, we have the profit system, the profit principle. If it makes a profit, it gets approved.

MF: Right and then if it causes harm, you have to prove as the individual that you are harmed by it. And in fact, so for our listeners who may not know what glyphosate is that’s the chemical in Roundup, the weed killer, which is used very liberally in our society. It’s sprayed in playgrounds and parks and things like that and glyphosate is associated with cancer. There’s now thousands of cases against Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer, because of people who believe their cancers were caused by glyphosate.

KZ: And it creates this kind of bizarre spiral. You start using glyphosate and then what do they do, they put in genetically modified organisms so that they can spray glyphosate more. The GMO foods, the reason that you have GMO foods is an order to allow farmers to spray glyphosate to kill the weeds and so it just is an escalating spiral of even more dangerous pesticides replacing the ones that the GMOs, you know, protect against. It’s just like, it just gets worse and worse and we poison ourselves in this process.

MF: Right. So the seeds that are resistant to the glyphosate and then so they can spray the glyphosate and kill the weeds. Well now the weeds are becoming resistant to the glyphosate. So they have to use these new chemicals in place of that. Last week, we also talked about a victory in Union Hill, a historic black community in Southern Virginia that stopped a compressor station. a very dirty. This is something that’s used for gas pipelines to push the gas through the pipeline and they’re very toxic. But there’s another compressor station being put in in Weymouth, Massachusetts. This one is close to low-income communities that are already surrounded by other fossil fuel toxic facilities. And so protesters took it into their hands last week to block the construction by sitting in the road and preventing the concrete trucks from going through. Nine people were arrested in that action.

KZ: And there are constant actions against infrastructure for fossil fuels. One organization that we’re involved with is Beyond Extreme Energy. That’s a great place to go to learn about actions of many local groups around the country. This is one of the areas of real strength I think in the anti-climate movement, the anti-fracking movement, the anti-infrastructure movement. So there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of work being done.

MF: This particular compressor station is important because it would allow fracked gas to come from the Marcellus Shale, which is you know, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio that whole area going up to Canada. So it’s really kind of a vital link that would allow that to happen if it’s built. And of course with the climate emergency going on, we need to be not building more fossil fuel infrastructure. And that’s what protesters in Portland are going to be telling the court why they took action last April against a company, Zenith Energy, which is a big storage fossil fuel storage facility in Portland that they say is responsible for worsening the climate crisis. So they’re going to use the necessity defense.

KZ: The necessity defense means that you’re breaking a law out of the necessity of preventing a greater harm. And their view is going to be supported by the science because the scientists said several years ago we need to stop building infrastructure for fossil fuels And unfortunately since that time under the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration, we’ve seen an escalation of infrastructure building. In fact Obama was so proud of that, he told Texas CEOs that he made the US number one in oil and gas and Trump now has taken credit for that as well.

MF: Let’s talk about housing for a moment because of course the United States has an affordable housing crisis. In Salt Lake City, there are over 2,000 people who are without homes. The city closed down one of the largest shelters last November, a shelter located in the central part of the city where it was easy for folks to get to it. It had eleven hundred beds. They’ve set up some smaller shelters outside of the city more difficult to get to that only provide 400 beds and so in protest, people set up an unsheltered solidarity camp that housed 80 people outside. That was set up on January 2nd. Police came in and raided it on January 5th.

KZ: The way we treat homeless across the country is really pretty despicable. The solution to the houseless, the homeless crisis is to make housing available. And we have a housing crisis in this country that affects not just the homeless, the houseless but also affects working-class, middle-class. People are struggling to keep in their homes.

MF: That’s right. Well, it’s interesting because we have a lot of empty homes in the United States. We have more empty homes in the United States than we have people without homes and what’s happening, it’s happening in our city and it’s happening in other cities as well, is that speculators buy up these vacant properties and then they basically sit on them until they can sell them for a higher price. So they were, they profit from keeping them vacant. And so women in, some moms in Oakland California said enough of this. They had actually even tried to buy a property. The owner wouldn’t allow them to buy it. They took over an abandoned property and started living in it. These are working moms with children and they needed a place to live. And the Oakland police came in riot gear and evicted them from that house. Let’s just end with one more report that I want to talk about, a new report done by PLOS Medicine. They looked at 22 studies of a single-payer health care system from, done by from conservative to progressive institutions, and they found that all of them showed that a national improved Medicare for all would save money. 19 of those 22 studies found that they would save money in the first year and all of them found that over 10 years, it would save money.

KZ: That’s what makes this whole improved Medicare-for-all debate so absurd. It’s always about how do we pay for it? Well, the answer is you pay for something that’s less expensive very easily. And so this will save money. This will reduce the amount of our overall economy, of our GDP that is spent on health care. We are the highest in the world right now as far as per capita spending goes and we have one of the least effective healthcare systems of developed countries. We don’t provide health care to all. We have 30,000 people a year who die just from not having insurance and more than a hundred thousand who would survive in a country like the UK or France where they have a more effective healthcare system based on Single Payer.

MF: So let’s get to our interview with Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo. We’ll take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

MUSICAL BREAK

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: And now let’s turn to our guest Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo. Marsha is an EPA whistleblower. She is an author and also a journalist who’s writing is found at the Black Agenda Report and she’s the president of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition. Thank you for taking time to join us Marsha.

Marsha Coleman Adebayo (MCA): Thank you for having me.

KZ: Marsha, you know, we work with you on lots of projects and this is such an important campaign you have been part of and helping to lead. Can you tell us how this began and what got you started?

MCA: Yes, I’d love to. It started about three years ago. I had just become director of the social justice ministries at my church, which is the Macedonia Baptist Church. It’s the only remaining black church in Bethesda, Maryland. There used to be just dozens of black churches, but through gentrification and just you know, criminal activity on the part of the county government and businesses, they were all wiped away. Only one church remained and that’s Macedonia Baptist Church. And so I was asked to go to a meeting at the Montgomery Planning Board and I didn’t really know what I was walking into to be very honest with you. And they started talking about a new sector plan that they were going to redevelop this area in Bethesda. And then they started, I think the director Gwen Wright made the comment, you know, there’s a rumor that there could be, a faint rumor I think she said, that there could be an old African American cemetery somewhere in the area, but don’t worry about it because you know, we’ve got historians here and all kinds of folks and they’ll look into it. So we don’t need for you people, meaning the community, to provide concern your little heads about it because we’ll take care of it. And there was a man sitting to my left. His name is Harvey Matthews. And he raised his hand and she called on him and he said this is not you know some idea or some, you know, faint you know notion that there could be a black cemetery. I used to play in that cemetery when I was a child. And at that point, it was the most amazing experience because you know as a social scientist, you know, you learn about oral history and about how important oral history is, but I had never seen oral history used as a tool like that before in a meeting that I was in where you know all the scientists and archaeologists sitting around the table just had to drop two pins in the face of that kind of truth. And so they really didn’t know how to respond to that except are you sure and he said I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I used to play in that area because Bethesda was segregated and we didn’t have a lot of places where black kids can play and so we played among the tombstones in the cemetery. And at that point everything changed and the corporation, which was at that point Equity One, I mean I saw the guy become really flushed because I mean they spent like, you know tens of millions of dollars in this area. You had the county government that it also invested all this time and effort and money into this area and now it was all crumbling right before their faces. And at that point, they called an adjournment to the meeting and said, you know, we’ll meet in a couple of weeks. But then I started getting a flurry of phone calls saying well, you know, maybe he doesn’t quite remember. I mean they basically just tried to cover up and hide and lie their way out of this process and that’s when we realized okay we have really touched a third rail here.

MF: So let’s go back even a little further talk about the River Road African Community that existed in Bethesda before it started really getting built up with these high-rises and things in the 1950s.

MCA: Well, why don’t we go back further? Because that’s the problem with African American narrative or African American history. Our history does not start in the United States. Our history starts in West and Central Africa. And so whenever you’re sort of cornered into these little teeny holes of talking about, you know, our history starting in the United States, you sort of wiped out three or four thousand years even longer history before we got to River Road. So let’s start with the fact that the people who eventually come to River Road start in the African kingdoms of Kanem Bornu and the Ghana Kingdom and the Ashanti Kingdom and the Yuruba kingdom and that these were very advanced civilizations of higher learning you know where the Greeks were coming to West Africa to learn mathematics. Let’s talk about the University of Sankara, which you know, eventually became started being called at the colloquial level the University of Timbuktu where they were performing cataract surgery. Let’s talk about you know, the building blocks of agriculture and how to redesign waterways. All of these activities and these skills and these institutions of higher learning is the reason why Europeans went to West and Central Africa and decided to kidnap all of these people and to transfer all that knowledge so that if you look at what Europeans eventually called the transatlantic slave trade, which was in fact the largest transfer of intellectual knowledge that the world has ever seen. So basically the Europeans transferred all this agricultural and technological and science from West and Central Africa to the United States approximately, well, it lands in sort of in Jamestown is 400 years ago. But of course the Spanish had already colonized Florida by that time had already started kidnapping Africans and bringing them to that part of the country long before Jamestown. But Jamestown is particularly relevant to the River Road Community because it was in Jamestown where they were able to refine a variety of tobacco that was appealing to the European palette and 30 or 40 years after they had refined this variety of tobacco, we now get the first colonization of River Road. Of course that simultaneously wiping out Native American communities along River Road, and then basically stealing that land, committing genocide on the people and then you begin to get all of these what Europeans are of course call plantations, but of course from a bottom-up perspective the least important activity in that space was what they were planting. The Africans were being brought from Africa to be worked to death and they worked from the first glimmer of light in the morning until they couldn’t see anymore and they were literally worked to death. And so which is the reason why we no longer call these places plantations We now call them what they actually were, which is death camps. These were death camps for the Africans. And so we are now looking at about sixteen seventy when the first Africans arrived on River Road and we’ve been really homing in on one particular death camp and that’s the death camp owned by the Councilman brothers. And this particular death camp is particularly important to this community because it is actually where Macedonia Baptist Church still sits. Our church is located in what European historians call the slave quarters. And so we are going to celebrate our quote-unquote 100th year of corporate ownership of that land. But in fact Africans began to raise their hands begging God to deliver them from the torture that they were undergoing around maybe 1670. So that was the beginning of the community on River Road.

KZ: So much history is erased. You know…

MCA: So much history is erased and you wonder in whose interest. I mean, we’ve had to literally start from scratch because Montgomery County has been so actively trying to erase this incredible history that school children in Montgomery County should know like they know the Gettysburg Address, right and instead of embracing this history, understanding so that we can learn from this history, Montgomery County has actively been trying to cover it up, to deny it, to erase it and that’s just not going to happen, not as long as the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition is around. We are as much historians as we are activists at this point.

KZ: You’ve done incredible work, historic. I mean things like Truth and Reconciliation. And you can’t have reconciliation without truth and so when…

MCA:  Well, you can’t have reconciliation without justice. And the reason why they’re so concerned about this is because they’re concerned about the issue of reparations because you had as you said Margaret, you had a community of Africans who had somehow someway survived the torture of European barbarism that they, you know, euphemistically like to call slavery. It certainly was not any form of slavery we’ve ever seen that we can really sort of pin that term on what happened to Africans in this country. This is more barbarism than it was slavery. So you have this barbarism that’s going on. People are literally just being murdered and just raped and so you have this community that grows out of this barbarism. One of the things that we also found out was that as you know around 1807, there’s a blockade of bringing Africans from the continent into the United States because quite frankly it was competing with the internal market of breeding Africans in this country. I mean Europeans like to say, oh, we you know, we had some paying of conscience and we decided to end the slave trade. Oh that’s just complete and total nonsense. The reason why they ended bringing Africans into the United States was because it was interfering with their competition. People were already beginning to breed African women and so bringing in new Africans was literally in competition with the breeding industry that they had started in this country. And River Road was no different than that. Around 1807, the land begins, it is just exhausted because tobacco is really hard on the soil and the land on River Road was just not yielding the same amount of tobacco. It was, the soil was depleted. The question for the Councilman brothers as well as these other terrorists that were kidnapping Africans is that how we are going to compete with the rice growers and the sugar growers in the South? What industry can we invest our money in that will compete with these other businesses? And they also decide to go into breeding young African girls. And so from about 1807 until after 1864, which is when Maryland becomes independent, they turn the Councilman death camp into what we really hate to call it, but it was a targeted sexual assault area where African girls were being bought for at around 8 years old and then what they call primed, which means they were basically on the pedophile market until their menses started and then they were basically handed over to professional breeders. They had men who were professional breeders and they were literally starting to rape these little girls. The same thing happened with Thomas Jefferson. Of course, that’s the Thomas Jefferson story isn’t it that we don’t want to talk about, that he was a pedophile and that he was actually engaged in this activity. So it was happening in Monticello and it was also happening right here on River Road. And these were very sophisticated sexual breeding areas where they had you know, a doctor who went from one place to another. They had nurses. They had, you know midwives. They had the birthing areas. They had the raping areas. I mean, these are very sophisticated operations and the thought was that one African girl could exponentially produce about 75 people. So that if she had say 10 children in her lifetime and half are girls, then you could begin to breed those girls. You could start using them in the pedophile market as early as whenever but then later they would also be brought over to the breeding market, you know at around 10 or 12 years old. And the same thing with black boys. We don’t talk about how black boys were also used in the pedophile market as well as later in life. So when I say this community survived somehow all of this torture, that’s what I’m talking about. And then so after 1864, we get Africans leaving these death camps and beginning to build their homes and they’re trying to build some normalcy in the context of all the trauma on River Road. And what’s interesting is that three years after emancipation, so called emancipation, this one woman, I think her name was Mary Rivers, but I could have that wrong. She actually goes and she buys the land that we now call Moses African Cemetery. So why did she buy that land? She buys that land because she knows that her relatives are in that land. And instead of using the money for food or clothing, she actually buys the land. She becomes a member of what eventually becomes Macedonia Baptist Church and she’s funeralized in Macedonia Baptist Church, and then her body is actually taken and it’s actually buried in Moses African Cemetery. So the church’s roots go back so far with that land. And then after she purchased that land, a black benevolent society buys that land but names it Moses African Cemetery for the Sons and Daughters of Moses. And then, of course, they’re eventually run off of the land and then white developers basically steal the land from the black benevolent society and that is how we get to where we’re at today.

MF: Wow. So this is all history that you’ve learned through the course from that first meeting at the Planning Commission until now.

MCA:  Exactly.

MF: Can you talk about how you’ve been able to uncover this information for others who may have similar interests?

MCA: It’s not me. I mean, we are blessed with the most amazing historians and archivists, I think. People like Amy Riskin and Dr. Tim Willard and so many other people who have stepped forward. They’re so passionate about spending this history and they just have massive tools in which to do so. And so we’ve been just incredibly blessed to work with all these various people from our community who come forward to say I have a little bit I have a little piece of this history and can we stitch that together with what you know. And so we’ve been able to basically build a quilt now of the stitching together of what historians and archivists like that. Dr. Willard had been able. It was Dr. Willard Tim Willard, who is the I think the cochair of the Montgomery County Green Party who actually found the 1862 or 1863 US Census what they call the slave schedule for the US Census and that was how we were able to put together that we were looking at breeding camps because when you looked at the census report, it was all made up of young African girls and some African boys, but and maybe two or three African adults. So we knew that that was not a typical tobacco plantation because tobacco is really hard to grow and it you know takes a lot of skill and that’s a lot of back, so you’re not looking at seven or eight-year-old girls doing that kind of work and so we were able to begin to just stitch together the story from looking at those kinds of documents. And so we’ve just been incredibly blessed by having I think the most creative and most incredible historians and archivists work with us on this project.

KZ: Wow, what an amazing development and story and when I think about this, trying to hide this history in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. This should be really something that is a museum that displays…

MCA: Exactly and that’s what we’re fighting for. I know time is not, you know, we only have 30 minutes, but that’s what we’re fighting for. Can you imagine we’re fighting to bring a project to Bethesda that’s going to make Bethesda richer. I mean, it’s just incredible to think about this because once we are successful and we build a first-class museum and a first-class memorial to these women, to these little girls and boys who lived on River Road and built such a rich and powerful culture. Remember three years after emancipation, 70% of the Africans on River Road own land. I mean, that’s unbelievable. I mean when you think about how long it takes those of us in the 21st century to buy our first house, three years after the emancipation these Africans were owning land on River Road. They had started all kinds of businesses everything from midwifery to churches to their own little banking system their co-op system to farming lands and selling the skins and the meat from animals. I mean there was a very rich and prosperous community that was tucked away, but they supported each other and they loved each other and they had their outside, you know, relationships with white folks. But basically they huddled together to protect each other and support each other and that community existed until 1962 when the county in collusion with businesses decided that Africans no longer were welcomed on River Road and one by one they stole each house on River Road. They wiped out the black community here. 100% of every black home was taken away. And so if you’re in Bethesda, and you go to the Whole Foods Market on River Road, that was the home of Harvey Matthews’ family. And that land was sold in order to build this little shopping center for around I think 70 million dollars about 10 years ago, and that’s the kind of intergenerational wealth that black people do not enjoy in this country because if Harvey Matthews’ family had been able to hold onto that land, they would be millionaires now, but instead Harvey Matthews is struggling. His family is struggling while that land is now owned by Amazon.

MF: Can you describe for our listeners what happened to the Bethesda African Cemetery, what it looks like right now?

MCA: This is as I said, we had a king who visited us from Benin, Porto Novo and when we got to the area I said to him we were looking at a parking lot because as they were building the HOC building in the 1960s, they were building the basement and they of course came in contact with all of these remains and they decided to sort of push all these remains into a mass grave and then when the remains kept popping up during rainy season because it’s a very, it’s a downhill area, they decided to lock in the grave by pouring over the graves and making it into a parking lot. So first they filled in the graves by putting 30 feet of fill dirt on top of the remains and then they put basically a tarmac or they put an asphalt top on top of the grave. So right now if you go there what you’re going to see is a parking lot and that’s where our ancestors are located is, you know, it’s under a parking lot. We hosted a king from Benin from the kingdom of Porto Novo a couple of months ago. And when we got to that area, he was just, he became so overwhelmed knowing that his sisters and brothers and relatives were underneath this parking lot. And I said to everyone there that this is what contempt looks like. This is what contempt looks like.

MF: And can you describe what has been the reaction of the public in that area and how has Montgomery County responded now that you’ve uncovered all of this information?

MCA: Two separate reactions altogether. The public has been absolutely fabulous. We’ve had as you know, you were at the first demonstration that where we marched from you and Kevin from Macedonia over to the cemetery and we were in the infancy in terms of our knowledge of what was underneath the parking lot at that point. But as you could see that the community came out to support us. Everybody knows about the cemetery now because I think we’ve done a very effective public education program. And so the public has been fabulous. And of course no one supports desecration. I mean, it would be very difficult for people to actually say they support desecration of graves. So we don’t have a lot of people in the public saying, you know, we think the grave should be continued to be desecrated. On the other hand, the government has been just the exact opposite. The HOC has said they’re perfectly happy with the status quo being in place, that they have no plan, aims to develop the land. They have no plans to do anything. They just want the parking lot to stay as it is and they want people to continue to desecrate. That’s been their position. We’ve called for the executive director of HOC to be fired, but we can’t figure out who would fire him because the rules of engagement in the county is they have all these very, you know, weird accountability rules where nobody can quite figure out you know, what is the chain of command here and that’s because quite frankly, he really is beholden to the developer industrial complex. And that’s the reason why it’s so fuzzy in terms of how to get rid of him because the county has developed these kinds of very weird reporting rules. The county itself fought us tooth and nail for at least the first two years. I mean they were the ones who called the cemetery an alleged cemetery until we went through the Maryland Public Information Act and we actually found the documents with the county was actually holding meetings as early as 2015 to figure out what would happen if someone found out about this cemetery and how would they continue to sell this land if this if anyone ever found out about the cemetery. And so the county has been engaged in a protracted cover-up for a very long time to try to keep this information from the public and make sure that they could work with developers to develop this land. So what the social justice movement did because this is the most important part of what I’m going to say for the entire 30 minutes now is that when people organize it changes everything. It changes the dialogue. It changes the power structure. It changes who people talk to. It changes the entire dynamic of what happens in a political situation and that’s what happened in Bethesda, Maryland. We began to organize with all kinds of organizations from the Green Party to local black Baptist churches to local businesses to schools. And people began to understand how powerful they are. That’s very important. And of course what happened at that point is that the system reacts always in a very brutal and retaliatory way and I think people began to understand that our social justice movement was not just about Moses African Cemetery, it was about confronting white supremacy and all of its various tentacles throughout the county. And it was also about confronting the structure of white supremacy. And so this social movement has been important because it has really called into question the very core of how Montgomery County government works. That is why we are such a threat to Montgomery County right now.

KZ: It’s so true and if people want to get involved they should go to Bethesda African Cemetery dot-org, Bethesda African Cemetery dot org to get involved because you need support. You need people to know this. This is still an ongoing campaign. This has not been won and what’s important about it’s not just this one cemetery in Montgomery County. This is a history for the whole country.

MCA: Yeah, and it’s one of the reasons why we filed papers yesterday at the, with the state attorney’s office, McCarthy asking him now to file charges against the HOC on the basis of hate crimes because these are hate crimes and the only way you cannot see what’s happening with the Bethesda African Cemetery is if you don’t see those people underneath the cemetery as human. These are hate crimes. And so we’re now asking Montgomery County to step up to the plate and acknowledge finally that Africans are human. And that what happened on River Road were crimes against humanity and to also start filing a hate crime charges against all these corporations that are defiling the bodies and the memories because we’re fighting for memory here. We’re fighting for memory. Whose memory is important? Is it our memory or the corporate memory?

KZ: That’s right and black cemeteries across the South are threatened like this. Places where black people were sold in the United States are also being threatened with development. This is a history that we cannot hide. We need to bring it out in the open. We ned to understand it so we can come to terms with it. And then the restitution issue you as you mentioned plays right into that. Once people understand that this is what was going on, that young girls and boys were being sold into sexual abuse. It’s just, this is like we have to understand this about ourselves so we can come to terms with ourselves.

MF: And I just quickly want to add for our listeners that HOC is the Housing Opportunities Commission.

KZ:  Right, in Montgomery County.

MCA: Which is really just, it’s housing opportunities. That is such a beautiful name, but in fact, this is just a facade for developers to say that they’re engaged in building, you know low-income housing when in fact the majority of the housing that is really being built under this HOC, it’s really for market-rate residents in Montgomery County. And the average income in Montgomery County is a little bit less than $200,000 a year. This is by no means low income housing that they’re engaged in. This is market-based housing that they’re really and they’re using the veneer of low-income housing to do their dirty work.

MF: Can you quickly comment on other similar efforts that are going on around the United States? There have been actually some victories in other places, right?

MCA: In Chattanooga, Tennessee. They’re own HOC found out that there were remains under a building that they that, they actually had residents in this building. They have three buildings actually three buildings and they actually relocated it. They built a new complex and relocated three buildings of residents to a new place in order to preserve and protect the sacredness of this African burial ground. This is Chattanooga, Tennessee. When you think of Montgomery County and Chattanooga, you don’t think of Chattanooga as being more progressive than Montgomery County. And we have examples in Florida where corporations have found out that there were African burial grounds and have stepped forward to do the right thing. But in Montgomery County, we’re still fighting the Civil War here. But I just wanted your listeners to know also we have not won this battle. I mean, we’ve won a lot of victories. We forced two multinational corporations, billion-dollar corporations to stand down and sort of the back off but we have by no means won this battle. We’re still fighting Montgomery County and we’re still fighting the HOC and that land is still in the hands of enemies HOC and the county basically so we need everyone, we need all hands on deck and we need money. We need people who can march. We need people who can sing. There are all kinds of skills that have been brought into this social justice movement and we need every single skill out there right now. So we need the public to step forward.

KZ: We need people in our listening audience to go to Bethesda African Cemetery dot-org and learn about this issue. Write about this issue. Spread the word about this issue. We need people who really have an understanding of the history of slavery in this country, the history of white supremacy and abuse of black people of African descent need to speak about this and write about this. This is such an important history that you’ve uncovered. I remember the first event, you know, you mentioned we were at the first march, even then before all this history was uncovered, when at that point, it was a cemetery that had been turned into a parking lot. That was the story. Now, you know so much more. Even then you had a mass audience show up. It’s gotten bigger and stronger but it still has not defeated the developers that dominate Montgomery County.

MCA: They’re very powerful here. I mean because land in Montgomery County and Bethesda in particular is just every single inch is fought for and this is really flying in the face of the concept of private property versus sacred property. And so we’re having some really big discussions here in Montgomery County that go to the root of the beginning of American capitalism. And that’s what I mean by saying everybody brings something to this table. We have a cultural group that comes and they sing with us at every demonstration. They sing protest songs and songs of resistance. We have archivists. We have historians. We have people who are organizers. We have attorneys. Everyone has something to share, has something to provide to this movement because we are basically trying to break the spine of white supremacy. And so we need everyone to help us. This is a big job.

MF: Yes. Absolutely. And you’ve built such a beautiful community there Marsha. We have so much admiration for the work that you are doing and everyone there in Montgomery County. Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today about this.

MCA: If I just have one more second. We’re going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Macedonia Baptist Church on March 7th from six to ten o’clock, and we’d like to invite everyone in your listening public to please come out and join the celebration and we’re going to sing and we’re going to have a great time just celebrating the community on River Road. Thank you.

Read More

New Federal Police Surge Targets Poor And Black Communities

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

In December, the Department of Justice announced a new $71 million program, Operation Relentless Pursuit, that will increase policing and the involvement of federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency in seven cities, four of which are majority-black cities. Rather than addressing the root causes of crime, the program will result in greater repression and violence against these communities. We speak with Jacqueline Luqman about the program, what policies would be more effective and what people are doing to fight back. Kevin Zeese, who has worked for decades to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration, describes how similar programs have been tried in the past and have failed. We also provide current news and analysis.

Listen here:

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

Guest:

Jacqueline Luqman is a host and producer for TRNN. With more than 20 years as an activist in Washington, DC, Jacqueline focuses on examining the impact of current events and politics on Black, POC, and other marginalized communities in the US and around the world, providing a specific race and class analysis at the root of these issues. She is co-host of By Any Means Necessary with Sean Blackmon on Sputnik Radio. And she is Editor-In-Chief and a co-host of the social media program Coffee, Current Events & Politics in Luqman Nation with her husband, and is active in the faith-focused progressive/left activist community.

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 Popular Resistance dot o– r– g. 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, water bottles and tote bags. So today we interviewed Jacqueline Luqman. She’s a host of a number of different programs and also an activist in Washington, DC.

KZ: That’s right. We talked to her about this new program from the Department of Justice to escalate law enforcement in seven cities and it comes at a time when reports now indicate that for the last six years, each year the police have killed 1,000 civilians. And it comes at a time when consent decrees were entered into in various cities when Obama was president. A lot of those have now been not enforced by the Trump Administration. So the police are going to be allowed to continue their misbehavior and are getting more money for it. We’ve seen these things before. We talk with Jacquie about how in the past, these kinds of things lead to mass arrests and mass incarceration, particularly in black and brown communities.

MF: It’s very scary to be sending more militarized police into these poor communities. And as you mentioned the consent decree, Baltimore is one of the cities, those seven cities that is a target of Operation Relentless Pursuit. It’s a terrible name. And Baltimore has not dealt with the issue of police abuse in the city that that consent decree was worried about.

KZ: These always have terrible names. Under Clinton, it was “Weed and Seed,” like treating people as weeds. Weed them and then seed them. I was like Oh and it still goes on today. Weed and Seed’s never ended, all these programs just continue and they just cause more disruption in communities that need investment not militarized police,

MF: Right. So stick around with for that interview with Jacquie so you can learn more about this program and what’s being done about it. Let’s talk about a few things that are in the news before we get to that. There’s a new study out in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that found that raising the minimum wage would have reduced suicides by the tens of thousands.

KZ: Well, this is one thing we, people have to understand about inequality. Inequality by itself is unfair, it’s not fair that three people have the wealth equal to half the population but inequality also has impacts. There’s interesting research that shows the ties, inequality being tied to homicides, suicides, to illnesses also and this is an example, this recent study is an example of how inequality, low wages is tied to suicide. You are talking about tens of thousands potentially less suicides.

MF: Right. They talked about if minimum wage has been raised by a dollar, there would have been 27 thousand fewer suicides. And if the minimum wage had been raised by two dollars then it would have been 57 thousand fewer suicides in the US.

KZ: And they were talking about the federal minimum wage, which is still $7.50. Increased wages mean people have less stress in life, means less suicides. You are talking about two dollars an hour leading to 57,000 less suicides a year.

MF:  So a new poll that was done by Reuters Ipsos found that 64% of people in the United States support taxing wealth. Over half of Republicans polled supported taxing the rich.

KZ: And taxing wealth means, you know, right now we get taxed for our work, people get taxed for their income. Wealth means taxing people’s profits from Wall Street. And so if your Wall Street wealth goes up, you get taxed on that wealth. Taxing wealth the same as work would be a tremendous solution toward reducing inequality or reducing deficits and being able to fund programs needed like housing and healthcare, education. We can fund these programs if we have fair taxes on the wealthy.

MF:  And as we all know and we’ve talked about before on this program, the wealthy are very good at actually not paying taxes and pay a lower tax rate than middle-income people. So we really do need to find a way to tax wealth and we’ve often talked about how in the middle of the 20th century, which was a time when there was the greatest equality, income equality, the tax rates were extremely high on the wealthy at that point 70%, 90%.

KZ:  That’s right. A 90% confiscatory tax for their extreme wealth. And this is the first year, by the way where the wealthy paid less than the working people on average. So this is major and this year also is a year when corporations, this is not first, will get away with either paying no taxes or are getting money back at tax time. So our tax system has been really screwed up since the Reagan Era. That was really when that began. It got worse under Bush. It’s gotten worse under Democrats as well. And it’s gotten worse, this Trump tax reform that really deformed the tax system to its worst state in our lifetime.

MF: The corporations love socialism when they’re the ones on the receiving end, when they get the tax breaks and the tax refunds and the subsidies. They think that’s just great but use that money for actual human needs they wouldn’t support that.

KZ: There is a lot of corporate socialism. That’s not a small number.

MF:  No, it’s billions of dollars. Another new study that came out from the Physicians for a National Health Program shows that if we had a National Improved Medicare for all system, we would reduce our bureaucratic paperwork spending by 600 billion dollars a year. Imagine how much health care, actual health care that could purchase instead of paperwork.

KZ: Well, that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and it’s a peer-reviewed, highly recognized  and respected publication. They said that 34% of the cost of health care in the United States is because of administrative costs. That’s a combination of two things. That’s the cost of the insurance industry, which is about 18 percent of that. And the rest is the bureaucracy created by the insurance industry – hospitals and doctors and other providers having to figure out whether something is covered, what insurance policies someone is on, getting reimbursed, getting paid by the insurance company. You know from your own practice when you practiced medicine for 17 years, you know what it’s like to deal with the insurance industry.

MF: It takes up so much of a health professional’s time dealing with trying to get approvals from these insurance companies that really their business model is to deny care. They make money when they deny payment for care and so health professionals are always fighting with them to say no you actually need to cover this care for our patients. A National Improved Medicare for all system would be very different. It would be one set of rules, one transparent set of rules. It would be a system actually designed to pay for care. So the complete opposite of what we have right now. And it would reduce, as you know, the bureaucracy significantly, not only getting rid of a lot of headaches for health professionals and patients, but freeing up more time for a direct relationship between health professionals and their patients.

KZ: And not having doctors controlled by the insurance industry. As a doctor, you are controlled, what you can do, by what the insurance says they will pay for and so the system is really backwards. We put the profit of the insurance industry, which is something we don’t even need. It’s kind of a go-between between the doctor and the patient.

MF: It’s more than a go-between, it’s a vampire. It’s not only not needed but it’s actually detrimental to our health care system and it’s robbing us of hundreds of billions. Talk about subsidies, through the Affordable Care Act, the US government is subsidizing health insurance companies, private health insurance companies, 300 billion dollars a year in subsidies that go directly to them. And then what do they do? They limit their network so people can’t find doctors. They put the cost of care off on to patients through co-pays and deductibles and then they deny coverage, you know payment for care. So this is what we’re subsidizing. It’s just enriching them.

KZ: This study and all the information you just provided really puts the lie to the claim of people like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg who are funded by the insurance industry that we can’t afford a Medicare for all system. The reality is a Medicare for all system gets rid of that one third of the waste of administrative bureaucracy. And that’s why we can afford it. Whenever they say we can’t afford Medicare-for-all, you should ask them: what’s your system going to cost? Because every study shows the current system will be more expensive than Medicare for all, so Medicare will actually saves money. So this nonsense we can’t afford it is the opposite of the truth.

MF: The truth is we can’t afford not to do it. We have to go to a National Improved Medicare for all so we can not only control our health care spending but make sure that every person in the United States has access to the health care that they need when they need it without fear of financial ruin or going bankrupt as so, over five hundred thousand families do every year in the United States.

KZ:  This is an issue we’re going to win. Physicians for a National Health Program, which you are a board advisor to. PNHP dot org is a great place to go. We have a campaign called Health Over Profit for Everyone, health over profit dot-org. If you want to get involved in our campaign to bring National Improved Medicare to all the United States.

MF: Let’s talk about a new win against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The community of Union Hill, which was founded by freed slaves, won in a lawsuit against Dominion Energy who wanted to put in a compressor station. So for folks who may not be familiar with this, a pipeline has to have these compressor stations along the way that actually push the gas through and these compressor stations are very dirty, very polluting in the communities where they are. And so Union Hill, a majority black community, argued that they would be the ones that would be receiving that, you know having the ill health impacts because of this and they won in their day in court.

KZ: And it was a unanimous decision. And this is part of many struggles against a whole range of oil and gas infrastructure that was escalated under Obama and is being escalated further under Trump. A really good organization that kind of works on this issue that we’re part of Beyond Extreme Energy, we urge people to check out their website Beyond Extreme Energy dot org, really works with groups all over the country trying to stop these pipelines.

MF: Right. And this was the eighth court decision against Dominion Energy on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and there are more lawsuits coming. So really, congratulations to those of you fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. You’re doing excellent work and it’s having an impact. You brought up BXE, Beyond Extreme Energy, and Beyond Extreme Energy has had a big target of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which approves all of the oil and gas infrastructure in the United States. And in fact, it does approve them because that’s where it gets all its funding from is from the fees for the permits for these projects.

KZ: That’s right, the FERC does not get tax dollars. It gets paid for by the oil and gas industry, the application fees, the permits. That’s how they make their money. And so approving infrastructure means more money for FERC.

MF: And it’s a revolving door where people that work in the FERC come out of the industry and vice versa. But Beyond Extreme Energy has been targeting them now since 2014 in a very focused way and has actually been able to start making some changes there in terms of looking more at environmental impacts of projects, starting to consider the impact of these projects on climate change, but the Trump Administration is now working to undo all of that progress with their new proposal that would undermine NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which turned 50 years old this month.

KZ: That’s right. NEPA requires Environmental Impact Statements for some projects, for most projects, and Environmental Assessments, a little bit less form of an EIS, for other projects and the Trump Administration is trying to say that these EIS’s, these environmental reviews don’t need to consider the cumulative impact of climate of the project. This was a big fight. You mentioned the FERC. This was exactly the fight that BXE was fighting and they were beginning to win, requiring these infrastructure projects to look at the climate impact, the cumulative climate impact of the project and Trump is trying to change that. Now I gotta say, NEPA is a great law, but it’s also a weak law because all you’re requiring people do is an EIS or environmental assessment. Once that’s done, they can rule, look at oh, yeah, we measured the environment now we’re going to go ahead with the project. Then you have a lawsuit: did they do the the environmental assessment right? And so you have a fight about it, but now it even this act which should be strengthened is actually getting weakened.

MF: Right and we know from our own experience in Maryland that that system with the FERC is not working. When Dominion Energy built a fracked gas export terminal, refinery and export terminal in Maryland, the first one on the east coast…

KZ: That’s right, in Cove Point, Maryland.

MF: They straight out lied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on their application. They left out 90% of the population. They didn’t show that actually they were building this facility in a densely-populated area that if there was any bad event at this refinery, which happens we’ve seen them all the time the explosions and fires, the refinery is on this peninsula meaning that hundreds of people would be trapped and wouldn’t be able able to evacuate without having to drive actually towards the facility.

KZ: They actually defined this as a rural area when it’s actually a pretty intensely-populated suburban area. Normally there’s a multi-mile buffer between these kinds of terminals and the community. In this case there is a two-lane rural small road that’s between the fracked gas export terminal and people living right across the street.

MF: I want to let folks know that this proposal is open for public comments right now and public comments do make a difference. And so we urge you to consider submitting a public comment against these changes to the NEPA rule.

KZ: Let me just say something about public comments and why they’re important. I mean, it’s, some people see it as just a kind of a bureaucratic step. But in fact in administrative proceedings, public comments are equivalent to the trial evidence because these kinds of decisions go to the DC Court of Appeals. They don’t take witnesses, but they look at the record and the record is the public comments. And so people write really smart detailed public comments that make a case. This becomes the record that the Court of Appeals reviews and so public comments are important. Quantity is important, but quality is also important. So if you are interested in this issue, make a public comments that can be used by the lawyers. This will be challenged.

MF: Let’s talk about what’s happening in Bolivia. The harsh right-wing coup president Jeanine Añez continues this brutal bloody crackdown on the people of Bolivia arresting media people and health professionals who are defying the government by providing services to people who have been injured in the protests. This violates international law, as a health professional you cannot deny care to someone even in a war health professionals are allowed to take care of whoever comes to them whichever side they’re on.

KZ: That’s exactly true. And this has to be looked at as part of the build-up to the May third election, intimidating the public by threatening, arresting, even torturing journalists, by arresting doctors. When it comes to this election, there’s going to be violence and they don’t want the people who oppose the coup government getting medical care. In fact, they kicked out the 700 Cuban doctors who are a backbone of the Bolivian health system. So this is part of the build-up to that May election. And so it really is an indication we’re not going to get a fair election in Bolivia.

MF: Well, they’ve shut down media outlets in Bolivia and the USAID sent a team to Bolivia to quote-unquote strengthen the elections what this means is exactly what you’re talking about. Most likely it won’t be a fair election something maybe like we’ve seen in Honduras. They’re trying to purge the rolls of indigenous voters. The indigenous community overwhelmingly supported Evo Morales, the first indigenous president, and they’re also and this is something that the USAID has done in other countries, they’re also trying to buy off the leaders of the MAS Party or Movement Towards Socialism Party.

KZ: Yes, when the USAID says they’re going to strengthen elections, it means the opposite. They’re going to rig the election and they’re being joined by the Organization of American States, which is also controlled by the United States and has been a very very major player in Honduras and other coup elections. These are all signs that this is going to be a rigged election. Now the opposition is divided. And so that’s a plus for the MAS Party, the Evo Morales’ party. But if you have a rigged election where they use terrorism and violence and restrict voter registration, stop media from covering it, don’t allow truly independent international observers to come in, then you can really create a fake democracy. And this election really is designed, is being designed by the coup plotters to put a false imprimatur of democracy on a coup government and that’s what this is really about. The international community needs to be aware of this. People need to be aware of it because it’s going to take mass attention to get a fair election in Bolivia.

MF: There’s going to need to be a lot of eyes down there to document what goes on. Another ominous sign is that the head of the electoral tribunal there, Salvador Romero, is actually connected to the US State Department and USAID.

KZ: You can look up on Wikileaks his name or look up Bolivia, you’ll find him reported working with the US government closely to undermine Evo Morales’ government in Bolivia.

MF: And the US was behind this coup in Bolivia. Just as we’ve been behind many coups. Let’s talk about Venezuela. Elliott Abrams admitted recently at a press conference that when he was asked well how much money is USAID spending in Venezuela and what are they spending it on? He said well, I don’t know the final final number. We know that it’s in the tens of millions, around 40 million or so dollars. He did say that it was being spent on media…

KZ: Also known as propaganda.

MF: Yes, and on the National Assembly. So we have to wonder…

KZ: Why are we giving humanitarian aid? Those wealthy National Assembly members need humanitarian aid?

MF: I think people need to stop for a second and think about that. Why is USAID purportedly an aid organization spending money on the National Assembly? Well, we know exactly why because the US was trying to make it so that Juan Guaido, the previous president of the National Assembly, won election again, even though the National Assembly traditionally has changed the head every year.

KZ: And he actually lost the election and it was essentially the Juan Guaido at his most tragic comedy lowest. He was allowed to come into the meeting but he decided not to. Instead he created a show of climbing the fence rather than going in the front door. He didn’t want to go in because he knew he didn’t have the votes. So he wanted to undermine the legitimacy of the National Assembly election.

MF: And Leonardo Flores has an excellent article originally posted in the Grayzone where he talks about kind of what went on there and how the opposition is divided into a moderate camp and an extreme right-wing camp and they…

KZ: Which camp is Juan Guaido part of?

MF: Juan Guaido is part of the extreme right-wing one. Actually he was leading the protests back in 2014 that were very violent and killed people for supporting the Bolivarian process. But he talked about how actually the moderates and extremists were at fisticuffs inside of the National Assembly. The moderates want dialogue. The extremists just want control. The moderates joined with the Chavista members of the National Assembly and voted in Luis Parra as the new president. The four people that were voted into these new positions, president, two vice presidents and a secretary, are all members of the opposition parties. But what did the US media say about the vote?

KZ: Maduro took over the assembly. They nominate leadership all from the opposition, but Maduro took it over.

MF: Right, just another example of the amazing lies that we hear about Venezuela. There were a hundred and fifty of the hundred and sixty five delegates present. They voted, eighty one of them voted for Luis Parra. Parra is calling for dialogue in the country and actually has been part of the national dialogues that went on through the fall and have actually started to bring stability to Venezuela. Things are improving. Their oil production is improving. The economy is improving and they’re now reaching 7 million families a month with the CLAP program, the food and household goods subsidized program.

KZ:  Just to add two final points of the Guaido tragic comedy, after he lost the election in the assembly then he went to an opposition right-wing journalist outlet and held another vote and claimed he won the National Assembly with a hundred votes at the right-wing media…

MF: At El Nacional, right.

KZ: At the right-wing media outlet but that didn’t fly very well with most people. So the next day, he got into the assembly, took the stage and took the oath of office.

MF: With like a few dozen, I think they were more media there than there were actually delegates.

KZ: More media then delegates. It was definitely not a quorum. So he swore himself in just like Guaido swore himself in as a president a year ago. He swore himself in and says he’s going to create an alternative assembly.

MF: He’s a fake president with a fake assembly and a fake Supreme Court that operates out of Miami.

KZ: This is such a comedy and yet the US media portrays it as if it’s real. People in the US media actually called it a coup against Guaido. It’s just like so obscene what we’re told in this country. You know, this is part of the fantasy and you know we’re being prosecuted in a federal court case for our protection of the Venezuelan Embassy

MF: In Washington DC.

KZ: And in that prosecution the government just submitted a motion to say what we can tell the jury. They don’t want the jury know Maduro’s president. They don’t want the jury to know that Guaido is illegitimate and not the president. They don’t want the jury to know that we were in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela. You can find out more on Defend Embassy Protectors dot-org. Check it out.

MF: And we’re going on a speaking tour. Let’s talk about Iran. We talked about it a lot last week on our program but information continues to come to light. One of the most recent findings is that the assassination of Soleimani was actually ordered months ago.

KZ: President Trump approved the killing of General Soleimani in June. So this claim that there was an imminent threat and that’s why they assassinated him, the Secretary of Defense Esper said that he saw no evidence of what Trump claimed. He saw no evidence that four embassies were being threatened by Soleimani. That was Trump’s basis for the assassination of Soleimani.

MF: Last week President Trump made his speech about how the US would respond. Fortunately no military attacks, but the US is imposing more sanctions on Iran. But it was interesting how Trump said oh our sophisticated intelligence was able to detect this attack was coming hours in advance so that we could get our troops out of the way. In reality, it was Iran that alerted the US….

KZ: Gave them three hours warning before the attack so the US and Iraq could get people and troops out of the way of the response by Iran. And so this was really Iran protecting human lives, but letting the Trump Administration and the world know that it is capable of sending its ballistic missiles through any air defense the US may have and hitting their targets. One thing that President Trump said was that we don’t need to be in the Middle East anymore, we’re the number one oil and gas producer. That’s a very positive statement. And then for the Iraq Parliament to say US get out.

MF: And Iran is saying that one of their goals is to get the US out of the Middle East.

KZ: And so a lot of pressure and Trump could then live up to a campaign promise and say we’re leaving Iraq and if we leave Iraq you’re leaving Syria too because you need Iraq in order to have the troops in Syria. If that begins, it could be a very positive spiral of the US getting out of the Middle East, which is the number one demand of the peace movement United States.

MF: The base that Iran bombed in its attack was the base where that drone or helicopter came from that assassinated him. So that was you know, there was a direct connection there and even with notice, the United States wasn’t able to stop Iran’s missiles. So, so much for our superiority there. Now, a very sad thing that came out of that whole situation, a very tense time. People in Iran were expecting the US to retaliate against that attack. President Trump had threatened to hit 52 sites in Iran if Iran launched an attack and there was a mixup in communication and a civilian Ukrainian Airline was shot down by the Iranian military. A hundred and seventy-six people who were killed on that flight and Iran owned up to it, a very different response from how the United States acts.

KZ: During the George HW Bush Administration, the first Bush, an Iranian airliner was shot down by a US missile killing 290 people and still the US has not taking responsibility and George HW Bush said I will never apologize for the United States no matter what the facts are and the person who shot the missile was given an award.

MF: Another thing that we want to talk about quickly is we have an article on Popular Resistance, it was written by Federico Pieraccini in Strategic Culture looking at some statements that the Iraqi prime minister Abdul Mahdi made to the Iraqi Parliament about what was happening behind the scenes and how the United States told Iraq that they would only repair the infrastructure that we destroyed in the war if Iraq was willing to give 50% of their oil profits to the United States. Iraq said that wasn’t acceptable. They went to China to make a deal with the Chinese to do those infrastructure projects. Trump then pressured Abdul Mahdi to get out of that China deal or we’re going to make mass protests in your streets and what happens, mass protests. Trump also threatened Abdul Mahdi saying that we’ll have snipers killing you know protesters and state actors, something the US has done in other countries before to cause chaos and confusion. Then voila that starts to happen.

KZ: Well, it’s interesting that Trump would tell the Prime Minister that he would have mass protests in Iraq and have snipers. People were wondering when those Iraq protests were going on, were these real protests? What was really happening? Why are they targeting Iran? The protests really were strange and now we understand from the Prime Minister what really happened. It was a US-inspired protest in order to pressure the Prime Minister and the government of Iraq not to make a deal with the number-one competitor of the United States, China.

MF: and I think we have to look at the protests happening in Iran with a critical eye right now because there are protests, people are upset about the plane being shot down, rightly so, but the United States uses these kinds of opportunities to push things in a direction that the US wants it to go and so it’s weird that these vigils and protests against the shooting down of the plane are now, some of the social media is reporting that the people in the street want the shah to come back.

KZ: It’s like the Hong Kong protesters calling for British colonialism to come back. It’s so obviously a western-inspired message.

MF: That shah was backed by the US was brutal.

KZ: He was not very popular. There was a revolution against him, but there are issues in Iran. They have a very difficult economy. They’re under economic war. They have been since 1979.

MF: Let’s quickly add that our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance is about sanctions. If people want to check that out and learn about why these unilateral coercive measures are economic warfare that the United States is using are illegal and what we can do about them. There’s some days of action coming up. January 25th is an international day of action. No war on Iran. Stop the sanctions. US out of the Middle East. And then March 13th to 15th is another big day of action against these sanctions and unilateral coercive measures.

KZ: A lot to do. Lots of opportunities for impacting the direction of the country. So get involved.

MUSICAL BREAK

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 guest Jacqueline Luqman. Jacqueline is the editor-in-chief and co-host of Coffee, Current Events and Politics in Luqman Nation. She’s also a host and producer at the Real News Network and a longtime activist in Washington DC. Thank you for taking time to join us, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Luqman (JL): Thank you all so much for having me.

KZ: This is an important topic. We really are pleased that you’ve been monitoring it and reporting on it already. Can you tell us what Operation Relentless Pursuit is?

JL: Operation Relentless Pursuit is this DOJ, Department of Justice, Federal Law Enforcement initiative that is supposed to be targeted at seven of the country’s quote-unquote most violent cities, the seven cities that are recording or going through levels of violent crime that are higher than the national average. At least that’s how the DOJ is describing it. Right now, they’re targeting this effort at Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. And what they claim they are doing is to combine resources of the ATF, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, US Marshals to provide additional manpower and also seven million dollars to hire more officers at the local level for local law enforcement in these seven cities. So that’s what the Department of Justice under William Barr announced this operation as and it’s interesting that somewhere down in the weeds of this announcement, they announced that this will be just an initial effort. So if in their estimation whatever they do is successful and we don’t know how they intend to measure success, then they will, of course, expand this and unleash it on other cities in the country. And I think I need to just correct myself because I said seven million dollars, but it’s 71 million dollars in federal funding that is going to be shared amongst these seven cities for hiring new officers paying overtime and benefits and federally deputizing Task Force officers. It’s really kind of frightening.

MF: Yeah. It is really frightening and using this kind of military terminology as if the people they’re targeting are enemies and four out of the seven cities are majority-black cities so there’s probably going to be an element of focusing on poor and communities where there are people of color. What do you think about this whole kind of military approach to what the police are doing?

JL: Being someone who lived through the increase in police presence in predominantly black and predominantly poor neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the crack epidemic, I mean, it really terrifies me. It really scares me what is about to happen to the communities that are the targets of this effort. This is not going to be an effort where the federal government is going in to help anybody. The federal government is unleashing federal law enforcement agencies, expanding the reach of several federal agencies, merging them pretty much into one effort, providing material support to already problematic local law enforcement agencies in the these cities and just giving them more hardware, more money and more cover to ramp up abuse of an already abused and marginalized population of black, largely native and largely poor people. And we’ve seen what comes of this. We’ve seen that it just feeds into the surge in mass incarceration of those groups of people. It continues to perpetuate the destabilization of communities. It rips families apart. It criminalizes low-level nonviolent activity among people who are really just trying to survive in a society that’s already decided that it’s not going to invest any resources to provide jobs, decent housing, equitably funded and quality education, health care that people need including substance abuse and other community resources that people need and that this government full well knows are required to support a stable and thriving community. The government doesn’t want to provide funds for those things, but it can surge 71 million dollars to hire more cops and to pay overtime, you know, to basically to terrorize these communities because that’s what I’m very afraid is going to happen.

KZ: I’ve worked in this area of mass incarceration, racially unfair policing, the drug war since 1980 when I got out of law school and it has been a major focus – I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It’s an election-year gimmick really that you’ve seen in the Reagan Era, under the first Bush, under Clinton, this increased spending for increased enforcement leading to mass arrests, leading to mass incarceration, leading to dividing families in those communities that they target and live in. Coming at this from Baltimore, I know, you know Baltimore too because Real News who you are on is based here and looking at it from a Baltimore perspective, we have the East and West Baltimore neighborhoods, which we call the Black Butterfly neighborhoods, and these are neglected for multiple generations, neglected as far as good schools, jobs and…

MF: Shutting down recreation centers.

KZ: Basics Transportation, everything but they are militarized. I know you’re active with the Black Alliance for Peace and one of the concerns BAP puts out is essentially bringing militarization home. And so what you’re concerned about is proven by the history of these kinds of programs. If you were able to be in charge of how to confront these neighborhoods that have been neglected and the crime in those neighborhoods, what would be a more approach that you would recommend as opposed to this law enforcement approach?

JL: I mean the interesting thing about this whole issue of crime in these predominantly black neighborhoods is that unfortunately some people feel like they need more police because people are afraid, right, people are legitimately afraid from some of the criminal element in these neighborhoods. And I don’t want to dismiss the fact that yes, there is a problem with crime in some of these neighborhoods. But history itself shows us, like I said before, that we know what reduces crime. First, I would say that crime exists in every neighborhood. So if the federal government is going to surge resources to combat violent crime in most of these cities that are predominantly black, four out of the seven are predominantly black neighborhoods, then I would counter with okay, so where are the federal resources that are being surged to combat human trafficking of sex slaves that are being imported from places in Asia and Europe? There’s no massive rollout of a surge of law enforcement and resources to combat that. There is no surge against communities where white-collar crime, identity theft, you know insider trading but those crimes are not seen as you know dangerous to the fabric of society. But again history has shown us that decent-paying jobs that people can support their families on, quality housing, access to healthcare, quality education that prepares children to be able to participate in society so they can get a job, those things combat crime because why do people largely commit crime because they have to feed themselves and they can’t find a way, a legitimate way to make money. Crime is largely about commerce. It’s the black market commerce. And a lot of this crime is driven by illicit drug sales. So one of the things that I would absolutely do other than to provide the other things we talked about is to legalize a lot of the drugs that are sold on the street because if you take the criminal element out of the drug trade, then you reduce crime. Other cities are looking at taking that approach. If you look at Chicago and Illinois in general, they are pursuing a pretty robust effort to not only legalize marijuana, but also to ensure that the people who were previously criminalized through illegal marijuana sales are able to now benefit from the legal sale of marijuana by making sure that people in the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs are able to get licenses to open up their own dispensaries. So I mean there are some pretty common-sense responses. Provide people jobs. Stop taking people’s homes. Make sure that people have affordable places to live. Increase the number of actually truly affordable housing in areas, provide some type of tax benefit for working people so that they can keep their homes. Definitely invest in public schools. Provide resources and programs for kids and recreation centers. Restore the recreation centers that were closed especially in places, like Baltimore. Provide mental health, subsidized mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for people who need it. Do those things, crime will go down. It’s been proven. And then also pursue legalization or at least the decriminalization of nonviolent drug offenses and expunge people’s records so that they can get jobs even if they have been convicted of a crime because we know in this society we continue to punish people who have been convicted of crimes even after they’ve served their sentence by punishing them because they have a criminal conviction on their record.

MF: Yeah. It’s all like such common sense, right? Provide, you know, opportunities for people and the basic things that they need and you’ll see a significant reduction in violent crime and property crime. Baltimore spends three times as much money on police as they do on the health department and twice as much as they spend on education. So it just shows you where the priorities are. I want to get into the, what you raised about drug legalization because I know that’s really important and I think Kevin can comment on that but before we get to that I just wanted to comment on, you know white-collar crime. You know, since the financial crash in 2008, nobody except a few low-level employees have been held accountable for that crash that devastated the economy and caused so many people to lose their homes, lose their pensions and their savings. If you look at the, you know, kind of structural policies that are discriminatory towards black and brown people and that are partly responsible for the wealth divide that we see, the severe wealth divide between white people and black and brown people, you know, you’ve got landlords that are, you know, just getting away with charging high amounts of money for apartments that they don’t maintain. Other kinds of fraud, you know that goes on and we don’t see the police prioritizing that right now.

KZ: Yeah, and you have the history of finance client crimes like in Baltimore redlining.

MF: Right, exactly.

KZ: That started in Baltimore. You know, keeping black people in certain communities and not letting them come in and then the police are used as a militarizes force to enforce those boundaries.

MF: Right, for our listeners just quickly, redlining as where the banks literally drew lines around certain neighborhoods and would not give mortgages to black people for certain neighborhoods in Baltimore City. So basically confining them as you said to this kind of hyper segregated areas.

JL: Yeah, I mean and it’s interesting that most of the people who live in the mostly poor neighborhoods in Baltimore and in other cities like that are renters. Right they are renting their homes from someone else and most of those landlords are largely absent. They don’t live in the city and it’s hard to find out who those property owners are but the property owner who’s an absent landlord and who’s usually a slumlord actually gets all these tax benefits and tax breaks that make them money, additional money on top of the rent that they make, from owning these properties, but the people who live in the properties who pay their rent every month who also usually have to pay utilities, they don’t get any kind of tax benefit or any other benefit other than they’re not homeless for paying their rent every month and that is incredibly unfair. And it is a system that outside of redlining also still benefits a particular class of people and who are largely non-black people in this country across this country. Baltimore is a particularly saturated example of that but so is Washington DC and a lot of cities that have a high concentration of poor and black people in this country. So there are some kinds of real estate and investment focused problems that are modern in nature that have happened since redlining has been committed that continue to exacerbate this problem where there is a small group of rich mostly white people who are benefiting from holding a bunch of largely poor black people hostage in these neighborhoods that they’re paying their rent to live in these places, but they’re getting no benefits from the rent they’re paying. They’re not getting any benefits from their taxes. They’re not getting any benefit from their money going into the public schools to provide a decent education for their kids. They’re not getting support from the police because the police see them as the enemy largely and they treat them that way so they don’t get a lot of respect from the police and they get no respect from the elected officials who may come around their neighborhoods every once in a while every 4 or 2 years to take pictures and to make some promises but no one ever goes after the people who are literally taking advantage of these people every month because they need a place to live. That’s another one of those issues that people don’t think about when they think about crime and white-collar crime and the crime that’s committed in these same neighborhoods that actually is a very large contributor to one of the problems that people in these neighborhoods face.

MF: Oh absolutely and I think a big part of the racial wealth divide is the difference in home ownership because for most people their homes are their major asset and that’s something that they build equity in and pass on to their children. And then that’s the huge source of wealth for the children.

KZ: And the crash under Bush and Obama, Obama’s response to the crash didn’t stop this massive transfer of wealth from poor mostly black and brown communities, people who lost their homes in foreclosure that instead they bailed out the banks who caused the problem and so it just keeps on repeating itself over and over again. I want to talk a little about the the drug war aspect to this. I just saw last week Atlanta announced its going to disband its Drug Squad and focus on real crimes, especially violent crimes. That’s a major change. I mean a number of cities you mentioned, Chicago, the San Francisco DA that was just elected, the district attorney out there has announced he’s going to be putting forward a very different program than when Kamala Harris was DA. And the Philadelphia DA has stopped arresting marijuana offenders as has New York, so there is a big transition. But Atlanta is saying we need to focus on violent crime and in Baltimore, you keep mentioning Baltimore, we’re down to a 30% solving murders, down to thirty percent. Nationwide, it’s 50%. Back in 1965, the clearance for homicides was 90%. Now today with all this new technology with cameras everywhere in these neighborhoods, you know, we’re down to 30 to 50% depending on the city in clearing murders. You know, a lot of that could be attributed to the drug war. And that’s why Atlanta’s decision is so interesting because the drug war essentially moves police to focus on the much easier enforcement of street drug sales and that usually means poor communities because in the wealthy communities the white students in white the communities do it in their college dorm, or they do it inside their homes. In the poorer communities, people do it on the street. And so it’s much easier for police to make those arrests. And it leads to police corruption. It leads to violations of people’s rights against search and seizure, use of informants. There’s so many aspects for you know of drug enforcement that really are undermining the quality of policing and are taking police resources. And while we’re not solving murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, a low solution to all those crimes because police are not focused on them. What do you think about this idea from Atlanta to disband the drug unit?

JL: I think that is a critical step toward, you know, solving actual violent crimes. I mean drug use in this country, well drug use anywhere is not about criminality, drug use is not about criminality, drug sales really are not about criminality. People use and buy drugs, aside from recreationally, people who are addicted to drugs use drugs to escape a reality that they can’t deal with. Nobody wakes up and decides I’m going to be an addict or I’m going to be a drug dealer. That’s not how that works. Drug trafficking, drug sales, especially at the low level and I won’t even say trafficking, drug sales at the low street level is an act of economic desperation. And if you want to call it a crime, okay fine. It’s a crime of opportunity. It really is a crime of this is all I have left to do in order to make the money that I need to survive. So, I think police departments as much as they can really need to get out of the business of the war on drugs because as Atlanta I think obviously has seen it’s not a business that’s been good for them because it’s a business that never ends. And as the economy continues to go downhill regardless of what this administration says about having the lowest unemployment among African-Americans that we’ve ever seen, unemployment among black people is still twice as high as the national average and that is because there are no jobs in neighborhoods where poor black people live. That’s why poor black people exist. And that’s a manufactured condition. When you factor in the unemployment, the lack of job opportunities, the lack of infrastructure to get people to jobs that might exist somewhere not close to where they live, the lack of educational opportunities, the lack of healthcare, people are despondent and depressed and sometimes a substance to take someone out of their really difficult reality, is all that people have. That’s a societal and a mental health issue. That’s not a criminal issue. And I think some police departments are recognizing that and they are wisely focusing on dealing with actual crimes. The problem is that the societal and the mental health issue is still left unaddressed, but the police can’t do that. That’s not their job. And as much as I am for community control over the police rather than giving the police more responsibilities because I don’t want the police to be responsible for looking out for people’s mental health or societal issues. I do respect police departments that recognize what they can’t continue to do is punish and criminalize people for problems that are not actually criminal. So what now has to happen in places like Atlanta and other jurisdictions that hopefully follow their lead, is that the local and the state and the federal response has to be toward addressing the societal and the mental health issues because it was the government and elected officials and policy that created those issues that led to those societal problems. The issues that predominantly poor, black and native communities face, that was done to us. Those were not things that we did. So somebody needs to step in and address those issues and it’s not the cops.

KZ: And it’s been seen for so long, you go back to the Kerner Commission back in the 1960s yjat talked about the need for investment in inner-city neighborhoods. And it’s gotten worse rather than better. Rather than taking the advice of Kerner, we fought the Vietnam war and that absorbed the resources rather than putting money into our urban areas. On the drug issue, I think you’re making some great points and I just wanted to throw out to our listeners some ideas that cities should be considering. In addition to police not being able to solve the health and social problem of drug use, drug addiction and drug trafficking, those are economic and social issues, only law enforcement because they’re, we have chosen to use laws to combat a health and social issues. We need to put in place policies that confront the drug issue and a lot of the things that you talked about. But I’d also add some specifics on drug policy. Harm reduction, the goal of reducing harm from drug use, reducing overdose deaths, reducing the spread of disease. Programs like needle exchange, which have finally gotten more widespread in urban areas after many years of effort, programs like allow a public space where there’s a health professional observing people using their drugs to prevent overdose, to prevent spread of disease. We need to even start to go toward what’s known in Switzerland as heroin-assisted treatment. It started out as legal heroin. People who are addicted to heroin and who had failed on methadone, had failed on drug treatment, they wanted heroin. They were allowed to go to a government-controlled space, buy heroin at a legal price, which is about 10% of the illegal price, buy heroin, use it at the site and be put in touch with various counseling for education, housing, the social services, housing, jobs. I mean, you know, so it was a wraparound program and what they found that made it move from legal heroin to heroin-assisted treatment was not only was there a tremendous reduction in crime. I mean tremendous reduction in crime, tremendous reduction in prostitution, tremendous reduction in trafficking and dealing because many people who sell drugs do it to support their own drug use. If you can buy heroin at a legal price, you don’t have to sell and so that reduces trafficking, so all those positive. But the big surprise was about a year into the program the people who were part of this program got tired of using heroin and they wanted to stop using heroin. They had been able to put back their life together because they had gotten social services, education services, housing. They had rebuilt relationships with family and friends. Their lives were coming. They didn’t need the crutch of heroin anymore and heroin became a burden for them because they didn’t need to escape the pain of life. They were actually starting to fulfill their lives. And so people a year into the program who are getting legal heroin were choosing not to want it. So there’s a lot we could learn in addition to the police not solving the problem, there are health and social programs that can. So I just urge people to think about in addition to the police, we should talk about community control of police but in addition to policing the issue is what do you put in its place.

JL: Exactly, just last week, I think, I did an interview with Brandon Walker who is an organizer with Ujima People’s Progress Party, there in Baltimore, about the surge but we also talked about how Baltimore in particular is now one of the most surveilled cities in the United States with this pilot program that is going to have drones surveil the city in order to combat crime. So, you know, even this Federal initiative from the DOJ, it’s really not new because cities across the country have been trying these what they call innovative measures to combat crime and what they really end up doing is catching a lot of people in you know, low-level street drug sales and criminalizing people really because they are suffering because of the economic sanctions that have been placed on them and their communities by this government. So it is an ongoing battle for marginalized communities in this country to combat the marginalization that always finds a way to especially in this capitalist society, always finds a way to not just maintain itself the marginalization and the oppression but to kind of metastasize and grow into these different and new ways to continue to keep people who have already been pushed onto the margins in the margins. So issues that these communities are starting to take up like community control over the police are very important to people in these communities reconnecting with their revolutionary spirit, but also very important in them advocating for themselves against that system of oppression where people recognize that not only does the police department not serve them but is also the law enforcement arm of the oppressive system. So communities are now saying instead of this system imposing upon us who polices us we should control who is hired, fired and how discipline for offenses against the community are handled. Community members should control the police departments in our communities. That’s not something that the city council should do and it’s certainly not something that police unions and the police departments should be control over, the community should be control over who polices them and organizations like Ujima People’s Progress Party in Baltimore are focusing on that and other efforts as well as organizations like Black Alliance For Peace, nationally, I know Pan African Community Action is focusing on that here in DC and I bet you in every city that this Operation Relentless Pursuit is about to be unleashed in, I bet you every city has an organization like it that’s focusing on something like community control over the police. Nationally, there is the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repressionthat was just relaunched and control over the police is a focus of their national campaign. So this is a very important step in communities that have been marginalized through government policy and police abuse to advocate for control of one aspect of that equation that we are really starting to I shouldn’t say focus on because I believe it’s a refocus because this is something that black organizations and radical organizations have been demanding for decades. But it’s especially important now that we have another push from the federal government to reassert a military-like control of law enforcement in these communities.

KZ: I was at that conference you mentioned by the way. Community control of policing is an essential issue. I want people to understand this is not community policing. This is community control of policing. Chicago is the most advanced on this. We’ve covered this on Popular Resistance dot-org. You can read about it there. But there’s a detailed plan for this and Chicago is very advanced. There is an incredible movement that’s working for years out there and we can all learn from.

MF: So yeah, and I just have to say I agree so strongly well with everything that you’ve said Jacqueline, but when you were speaking about community control of police and you talked earlier about the stress that people go through and here in Baltimore, you know our police train with the Israeli Defense Forces. They use those techniques. They literally occupy neighborhoods. They have their police cars parked there with their lights flashing all the time watching people and I remember an evening we had in Palestine in the village of Nabi Saleh where we were talking with Palestinian activists there and they were talking about the whole idea of being a victim versus being someone who has agency, who takes action to change things and how you know, when you’re a victim you feel stressed by that, you feel like you have no control and that’s how you know, this occupation kind of makes people feel like you’re just being watched all the time, anything you do could be the wrong thing could lead to trouble but if you actually have control over that situation, if you have agency, that’s a huge stress reducer for people and that in itself would have positive impacts on health. It feels like so much what we’re doing in this country is counterproductive and I’m glad that you’re bringing some sanity to what we should be doing instead.

JL: Well, I appreciate that. I’m not sure if I’m bringing sanity to it, but I know that I am fascinated and honestly, I’m honored and just always in awe at the tireless work that a lot of people that I come in contact with are doing on so many different fronts because it does seem daunting. We have the same issues here in DC with the police. The Metropolitan Police Department is trained by the IDF also in Israel, and they do the same tactics. I will walk out of my house right now and go up the street and I guarantee you there are at least two police cars from two jurisdictions posted up on opposite corners of one street, and if I go to the other end of the street, it’ll be the same thing. So it’s against that backdrop that there are those of us in these communities who are so incredibly defiant because we know that we have to keep fighting on so many different fronts for a lot of our people who are just tired and beaten down, but we cannot give up. So I hope that the work that I do when to talk to people on the Real News or talk about these issues on By Any Means Necessary or you know on our own platform when I talk to you guys, I hope that when people hear it if they were tired, they’re at least encouraged to try one more time. If that’s what comes from anything I say and anything I do, then as far as I’m concerned I’ve won.

KZ: Exactly, so where can we? Obviously you can be heard on the Real News where you have a regular show. Where else can people catch your work?

JL: My husband and I have our platform on Facebook and YouTube. It’s Coffee, Current Events and Politics in Luqman Nation and we’re usually live every Sunday night at 7 p.m. And then I’m also on By Any Means Necessary on Sputnik Radio every weekday from 2 to 4 p.m. You can listen live to Sputnik Radio on the website SputnikNews.com, but you can also catch us live on Facebook at Sputnik on Facebook every day from 3:00 to 4:00. I’m also a member of Black Alliance For Peace, Pan-African Community Action and anywhere else that I can talk about these issues.

MF: Thank you so much for everything that you’re doing and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to us today.

JL: Thank you so much for having me.

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Our Responsibility As Citizens Of Empire

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

The United States reached a new height of recklessness on January 3 when the military assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes in Iraq, igniting major mobilizations throughout Iraq and Iran of mourning and rage. We spoke with Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace shortly after we learned of the murders. He describes what they mean, how to counter the militarists’ messages in support of war and next steps for the anti-war, anti-imperialist movement. We also bring you clips from the national day of action in the United States on January 4 when people took the streets in protest in more than 80 cities and 38 states. And we discuss what really happened at the Venezuelan National Assembly on Sunday.

Listen here:

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

Guest:

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights defender whose experience spans four decades of domestic and international education and activism, Ajamu Baraka is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles.

Baraka is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. As such, he has provided human rights trainings for grassroots activists across the country, briefings on human rights to the U.S. Congress, and appeared before and provided statements to various United Nations agencies, including the UN Human Rights Commission (precursor to the current UN Human Rights Council). He was the Green Party candidate for vice president in 2016. He is the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace.

Read his full bio here.

TRANSCRIPT IN PROGRESS:

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: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot o– r– g. 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 bumper stickers, water bottles, tote bags and t-shirts. So today we interviewed Ajamu Baraka or actually we interviewed him a few days ago.

KZ: That’s right. And that’s important because we’ll be talking about what’s happened since the interview. Ajamu is a longtime ally and close friend of Popular Resistance. We work very closely with him on anti-imperialist issues, anti-war issues and on Black Liberation.

MF:  And so basically we interviewed Ajamu Baraka very shortly after we learned about the assassinations by the United States in Iraq of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the Iraqi Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. Our discussion with Ajamu is really about that initial reaction to what is going on and what it means for the peace movement. We’re going to mix things up a little bit by starting with that interview and then later in the show we’ll talk about what we’ve learned since then and what the peace movement did and what it’s going to be doing. But before we do that, let’s talk about Venezuela because there was a very interesting day in Venezuela on Sunday.

KZ:  That Venezuelan failed coup, failed, failed, failed. It was the sixth time or so. That failed coup is just getting more comical and the US political and media reaction is getting more and more disappointing.

MF: Ridiculous.

KZ: Ridiculous. People are being lied to so much about Venezuela. It’s just hard to imagine they can even see the truth.

MF: Well even it was difficult for us watching events unfold yesterday to figure out what actually happened. It took us about the whole day to figure that out. But basically according to the Venezuelan Constitution, every January 5th the National Assembly, sometimes they call it their Parliament, votes to elect a new president of that body. Juan Guido who was chosen, he’s a member of the Popular Will Party, last January declared himself the president of Venezuela and then was immediately recognized by the United States and its allies in right-wing countries in South America but Juan Guaido never actually took power. As you said, he kept trying coup after coup backed by the United States, backed with millions of dollars from the United States and still could never successfully conduct a coup.

KZ:  And those coups get actually weaker. Now, with this vote in the National Assembly, the opposition showed it is divided. 30 opposition party members voted against Guaido as the president of the National Assembly, so he can’t even win in the minority opposition in Venezuela politically. So he’s getting weaker and weaker. And it’s also important know that even when he was first chosen a year ago, he was not supposed to be the one in line. They put him in line because they thought he’d be a better face for the coup. He has a good-looking family. He’s young guy. So the coup plotters picked Guaido who comes from a tiny party from the second smallest state, who only got twenty percent of the vote when he ran for the legislature, came in second place, which is enough to get in. So he’s already a weak person. He’s getting weaker and weaker politically.

MF: It was interesting what happened yesterday because there was what the corporate media was saying and then this whole kind of social media very sophisticated social media operation that was going on giving out false information. So Juan Guaido knew that he didn’t have the votes to win the presidency in the National Assembly and actually technically there’s not supposed to be the same person. It’s supposed to be a different person every year but he kind of pushed through some new rule to change that. So he knew he didn’t have the votes. There were a few deputies that were not allowed to go in because they were convicted of crimes and there were alternatives that were supposed to be there in their place. And so he decided instead of going in to stay outside with the five deputies that were not allowed in.

KZ: And there’s video though, there’s video showing him coming to the entrance. They say come on in and he says no he’s staying out with the five who can’t come in.

MF: He said only if the others can come in.

KZ: And so he didn’t come in because he didn’t have the votes and he didn’t want to be in there and lose face inside the assembly.

MF: What was really funny and we learned that it sounds like this actually happened before the vote because some of the deputies involved in this kind of stunt that he did were present outside for the stunt and then they were also present inside before the vote. So it looks like maybe earlier in the morning, he did this thing where he tried to climb over the fence of the National Assembly to make it look like they’re keeping him out and he had to break in and of course the police were not letting him climb over the fence. They’re like pushing him back.

KZ: Use the entrance.

MF: But then they did this whole show where they made it look like oh the dictator Maduro is repressing us, but that was all a stunt.

KZ: And it’s gotten so much attention that video. It’s a beautifully choreographed play act.

MF: Yeah I think maybe his next gig could be in Hollywood.

KZ: And he did a good job faking like he was trying to get in when he could have walked through the entrance and but it got attention everywhere. All the networks carried it, social media carried it. It really looked like they were keeping him out and they were just keeping him from going over the fence while trying to invite him in through the door.

MF: And so then what Juan Guaido did next is he and his I don’t know, we don’t even know who went…

KZ: There’s no list.

MF: They went to the offices of El Nacional, which is a very right-wing media outlet in Venezuela and they held their own parliamentary session where they voted their own vote. Again we don’t know who voted or how many or anything.

KZ: They claimed it was a hundred sixty people and a hundred voted for Guaido. This makes no sense. Were all of Maduro’s party people there? Did they go to that El Nacional fake assembly?

MF: I don’t think so. So anyway, then he proclaims that oh we held our own extra special session of the parliament and voted again and this time, you know, we voted for me to be the person and then of course immediately the United States says yes Juan Guaido continues to be the president of the National Assembly.

KZ:  And some of the media outlets like Reuters were like congratulations to Juan Guaido for winning.

MF: The Hill. The Washington Post.

KZ: The Hill. I was going to say they all fell for this but it’s such an obvious lie, I don’t think they fell for it. They’re participating in the propaganda ploy.

MF: Exactly. This is all part of supporting the US’ imperial interests. And so the US imperial media outlets of course are going along with that story. So anyway, the summary is that there’s a new president of the National Assembly democratically-elected, Luis Parra, and then…

KZ: A former opposition party person.

MF: Yeah, and they voted, it’s four positions in all. They have two vice presidents. And then I think a secretary is the fourth one, so they have all new people in there, but now Juan Guaido is claiming that he’s had to set up his own alternative parliament, which he’s the president of and so he’s still the president of Venezuela. I mean, it’s just kind of like this very sad pathetic situation where he’s like no, no, but I really am the president of Venezuela.

KZ: I really am the President of the parliament. And I mean, it’s pathetic. It’s sad but it’s pathetic that the US government recognizes this puppet of theirs who’s lost and lost and lost and I mean he has no credibility and that means the US has no credibility.

MF: Right and he lost the support of his own opposition folks.

KZ: Unfortunately, I’m not sure the truth is going to help us in our Embassy Defenders case. If people want to find out about that go to Defend Embassy Protectors dot org, but we go to federal trial in February. And you know if Maduro was seen as the president in the US courts, we wouldn’t be facing charges. It’s only because the courts take this nonsense that Guaido is President and that’s the only reason why we’re facing any charges.

MF: Yeah again, it’s this whole like reality versus like what the government is saying. It makes you think that this government is really sometimes in this kind of make-believe world that doesn’t actually exist like oh hey, we can just go to Iraq and kill the general of Iran and bomb inside of Iraq, even though we’re not at war with either country.

KZ: And then we can say he was planning to attack the US citizens when in fact he was in Iraq on a peace mission, which we’ll talk about later.

MF:  Yeah, let’s get to our interview with Ajamu Baraka and then we’ll come back and talk more about this. And now we turn to our guest Ajamu Baraka. Ajamu is a long-time human rights defender focused on people-centered human rights. He was the former Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016 and is currently the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace. Thank you for taking time to join us Ajamu.

Ajamu Baraka (AB): It’s my pleasure.

KZ: So we were going to start 2020 with a discussion of where we go from here in 2020, the new year and new decade, but with the decision by President Trump to assassinate Major General Soleimani in Iraq, the Iranian leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, that kind of changes the topic. So let’s start with that assassination ordered by Trump and carried out by the Pentagon in Iraq. What’s your reaction to that, what do you think it means?

AB: Well, it’s a very dangerous escalation that continues the rogue state activities of this administration and previous administrations. But this is particularly dangerous in that the consequences of it are unknown. It’s interesting to hear people praying this as something that will destabilize the so-called Middle East. Well, that process started with the invasion of Afghanistan and then the invasion of Iraq almost 20 years ago. So the so-called Middle East has been destabilized This situation with the assassination is an escalation in that now it will be another direct confrontation between two states. Since the invasions you had a series of proxy wars in the Middle East, but now there’s a real possibility of a direct confrontation between the US and Iran because this assassination cannot be seen in any other terms, but an act of war. So it is a very dangerous escalation that has both political implications for the Middle East but interestingly enough also political implications for the US domestic politics in that we have seen that as everyone’s waiting with bated breath for Congress to reconvene so that this impeachment spectacle could continue. Guess what the whole conversation is all about today and for the next few days.

MF: And let’s get a little bit into the context of who General Soleimani is because he is somebody who is very well respected and loved in Iran.

KZ: I think it was like an 80% approval rating.

MF: Yeah more than 80 percent approval rating. He is someone who has been working to defeat ISIS in the region and also working to build networks in that region of the Middle East and so he was a very important figure. Past presidents have actually talked about assassinating him – President Obama President Bush – but they felt that that was going too far. What do you think of Trump’s decision to do this in terms of you know, is this something that he did unilaterally do you think in the Pentagon was just following through or how do you think that that went down?

AB: I know that what is emerging is sort of a line that says that this is another example of the precipitous nature of Trump’s decision making but I don’t think that really was the case. The way I’m looking at what has unfolded over the last couple of weeks there in Iraq, I see this as a very cynical manipulation on the part of the US intelligence agencies along with Israel to create the pretext for a strike against Iran. The back and forth between the various proxy forces with the US strikes last week that really galvanized opposition to the US but also created the conditions for the US to claim an imminent threat and self-defense in order to strike at Soleimani. So while one can argue that the consequences are such that they can be seen as counterproductive to longer-term US interests, it appears that there was some degree of thinking that this was something that would be to the US’ strategic advantage. But what that really means in terms of how the US can remain in Iraq without another situation where they just decided to completely flaunt international law and decide that they’re going to remain in Iraq even after they are or they may be asked to leave that is something that could be one of the possible consequences of this strike. It makes no sense in terms of their longest strategic objectives making the strike at this time. So Soleimani was someone respected but we know that there is some powerful forces in the US state that have been advocating for a conflict between the US and Iran for quite some time. This move may be reflective of the ascendancy of that element in the foreign policy decision-making community.

KZ: It’s so hard to think about the US’ action and try to say give some kind of rationale for it. It really is a reckless action and it to me, it looks like the flailing of a failing Empire. The US lost in Syria to the Syrian government, the Russian government, the Iranian government. Interestingly, Trump said Iran never won a war, well they just won a war in Syria against the United States. The US is failing in Yemen with Saudi Arabia. The US is being pushed out of Iraq by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It’s been unable to really confront Iran in any successful way despite its maximum pressure strategy. So it’s really a failing Empire and one of the strange comment I’ve seen in the New York Times and other outlets is how important it is to get rid of Soleimani. Iran is not a one-person government. Iran is a deep government and they’ve already replaced Soleimani. Also Soleimani, I don’t want to underestimate him, he’s like a combination of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the CIA and a potential presidential candidate for the country. So he’s an important person but he is replaceable in their system and already has been replaced. This is not going to change that and so I have a hard time giving any sense to this. I don’t see it as a short-term benefit or long-term benefit for the United States and I think I see it as part of a downward spiral in a failed foreign policy.

AB: Well, I think that your comments are correct in terms of one way of looking at this is not the consequence of a US state that is riding high like it did 20 years ago in terms of unquestioned global hegemony, but a state that is, in fact, feeling the pressures of the emergence of other states, regional powers that have been actively challenging US hegemony. And so the response has been more dependence on the use of military force, jettisoning international law, using sanctions to try to maintain its economic dominance. So yeah all of these elements are interconnected and are reflective of a state in decline but a state with enormous capacity to inflict damage and suffering on millions of people. So it is those elements Kevin and Margaret, but there is some thinking involved in this. The objective is to try to maintain their control of that region. The issue is that in trying to realize those objectives, they are making some dangerous strategic choices that are counterproductive to their objectives. And this is one of those moves that can only enhance the power of Iran, which they claim to be opposed to. It has now a consolidated domestic opposition to the US in Iraq where just a few weeks ago there were significant fractures in the Iraqi culture as it relates to the Iraqi government. But now those forces have come together in a unified voice in demanding that the US be ejected from Iraq. So this to me is a continuation of the kinds of amateurism that we’ve seen emanating from the US’ foreign policy community for quite some time, engaging in actions that are objectively counterproductive. It appears to me, it’s my opinion that the last group of competent pro-imperialist decision-makers in the US state was under the first George Bush regime. Since then, the US has basically, their foreign policy community has been basically almost clueless in terms of how to take advantage of their newfound hegemony in the 1990s and how to maintain that hegemony in the 2000s.

MF: That incompetence really does reflect foreign policy for quite a long time and the Afghanistan Papers really bore that out showing how the Pentagon really didn’t know what it was doing, didn’t really have a plan, was misleading everybody about what was happening in Afghanistan. There was some as you said division with people in Iraq just wanting foreign influence out of their country completely whether it’s Iran or the United States, but now with this action, which blatantly violates the sovereignty of Iraq, I mean the whole justification the US was saying that a US contractor, an unnamed contractor, was killed. We don’t know any details of that. Well, if that’s the situation then that needs to be resolved through a process in Iraq not by just coming in and bombing, you know Iraqi military forces. So just as you said this shows a real degree of incompetence and disregard I think for the consequences or as you said, maybe those are the consequences the US is seeking out. What do you think about the fact that Iran and China and Russia just concluded military exercises? How do you think that this is going to impact the global power dynamics as events unfold over the next few days?

AB: I think that those maneuvers were great theater, but they have no major impact on what might unfold in any kind of military way in the so-called Middle East and in the Mediterranean. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are going to allow themselves to be pulled into any kind of conflict between the US and Iran. So that was theater. I think the main objective for anti-war and anti-imperialist forces is for us to aggressively advocate for peaceful resolutions of these issues, for non-intervention, respect for international law and upholding human rights, including the right to self-determination and national sovereignty. That has to be our role and it has to be something that emanates from the bottom up and primarily in the imperialist countries both the US and throughout Western Europe. So very dangerous times and the only way in which we’re going to be able to put significant pressure on the US state’s warmongering is for it to be a public opposition. We cannot depend on any other state taking that kind of role because these states are cautious and they’re not going to jeopardize their national interests even though they may be seeing how reckless the US is and that ultimately they’re going to be forced to act. At this point, in my opinion, they are not going to jeopardize their national interests by being pulled into this conflict between the US and Iran and what they could do and should do is they should call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council because this is a threat to international peace. This scenario has to be addressed by the international community and the only body that can authoritatively comment on this is in fact, the Security Council.

KZ: Yeah, that’s one of the sad things about this world situation is that you talk about the rule of law is what should predominate, of course it should. And if we had a strong international law system, then people would be held accountable for these kinds of decisions, people like President Trump ordering this assassination and the people who carried out the order. Carrying out illegal orders is a crime as well. They should be all held accountable. They won’t be and Iran is now in a situation where if they don’t respond, that looks weak. If they do respond, it has to lead to escalation. I know the Iranian government is very cautious. They have lots of checks and balances in the government to figure these issues out but it’s hard to imagine them taking a step that’s not going to escalate. And so that puts the peace movement in the United States in a difficult position because you know we just went through this absurd impeachment process. We spent two years on Russia gate and now they just approved very quickly and quietly this massive record-setting military budget continuing the AUMF, giving permission for these kinds of actions in Middle East. I mean, we spent all this time on these partisan divides rather than focusing on the real issues. And so what does the peace movement do now, where should we put our emphasis to try to reduce the tensions in this situation?

AB: You know we have to be able to strategically recognize when we have opportunities to advance the peace agenda and I really believe that this is one of those historical moments. There is among the public, there is a growing weariness to the ongoing wars and the idea of another major escalation or another major war. The polls indicate that the public does not have the stomach for it. So there’s a real disconnect between the policymakers in the Congress and the public and we need to seize upon that. This should be the moment that we aggressively advocate for an expansion of the anti-war movement for advocating again for international law and for respect for human rights. These are some of the I think ideological agitation points that we need to aggressively raise. We need to put pressure on these politicians, in particular the ones who are running for the Democratic nomination, that they have a clear and definitive stance on where they are with US lawlessness and US imperialism. So the ideological struggle, in my opinion, is one in which there are some advantages that we could glean from this if we recognize that and begin to move aggressively toward exploiting these mistakes that the US state is making.

MF: Yeah, this is absolutely an opportunity. It’s interesting. Ting that the evening after the attack, on the assassination of General Solomon one of the most common searches online was the draft requirements or the draft age in the United States. People are obviously concerned about where this is going to go and already the US military is having trouble recruiting enough people to fight, you know to serve in the military or serve is a weird word and you know also the United States has recognized that we don’t have the resources to fight a great power conflict. So this is really an opportunity for us to say look, let’s look at the reality. You know that this approach of the United States has not served anyone’s interests. Well, except maybe the weapons industry and those who profited from it, but in terms of creating any kind of security or sustainability for the world, the US’ foreign policy has been really quite disastrous. And so this I think is the time to be telling Congress, we need to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. We need to create some real checks on the ability of the executive office to wage these conflicts. We need to demand respect for international law and I think that there is some real energy there as you said to start getting the peace movement mobilized and activated again. Can you tell us a little bit about Black Alliance For Peace for our listeners and what kinds of things Black Alliance For Peace is doing?

AB: Well, we are part of the anti-war movement, the anti-imperialist movement in the US and we are advocating that we take advantage of this moment. We are encouraging everyone to join the national mobilizations that are taking place this Saturday demanding that there’s no war with Iran and that all US troops should be taken out of Iraq. We say that all US troops should be taken out of the entire Middle East and that the region should be a region of peace, complete and total demilitarization. So, you know, we are pushing that notion. We are pushing the idea that we need to build the anti-war movement. We’re suggesting to elements in the anti-war movement that beyond this Saturday that we begin to push out the absolute necessity for the public to be organized into an anti-war bloc and that all of us should be pushing for people to join organizations. I’m suggesting that UNAC take the lead in that because it is the coalition that is the anti-war voice, the anti-imperialist voice and that we should be pushing for people to be organized because we can’t do it by ourselves. We can’t do it as individuals. So that is what the Black Alliance for Peace as part of the broader anti-war movement is doing. Specifically though, we are connecting up this increase, this uptick in militarism on the part of the US state with the increase or the surge that was announced by the Trump administration domestically. The Trump Administration said they wanted to have a surge to combat a so-called crime. And we know that what that really means is a surge that is targeting the black and brown working class and poor communities in the US and they announced the seven cities that they are for the first phase of their search cities included cities like Baltimore and Detroit and four of the seven cities have majority black populations. So we are connecting that to the ongoing and intensifying war against the black and brown communities by the US state. We are making those connections and we are also demanding the closure of AFRICOM and all of the US bases abroad. So all of this is in the context of what needs to be done in terms of building a more effective and visible anti-war movement. And we think that strategically this misstep by these amateurs in DC allows us to take full advantage of that by pushing the more definitive open clear anti-war position that I think will resonate with the population.

KZ: Well, you know, in fact Pew came out with a poll that said that veterans and the US public believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a waste of resources and poor decisions. So the public is against us, that in fact President Trump got elected attacking these stupid Middle East War as he called them and how we were wasting trillions of dollars and getting nothing when he’s just taken a step that is going to escalate those stupid Middle East Wars. And you know, it’s interesting, so with that kind of public opinion, you also have at the same time, public opinion that talks about support for the Green New Deal and wanting to confront climate change and and take you know, all sorts of actions to move in that direction. Of course, a war economy is inconsistent with confronting climate change. So there seems a real opportunity in this next decade as US Empire is failing, a real opportunity for putting forward a totally different vision. I mean, I agree with everything you said. We work on those issues with you, AFRICOM, ending NATO bases, US out of the Middle East. We work on all those issues. I think we need to put forward a totally new vision of what a peace economy would look like, what the benefits of that would be to the people of the United States, how would it affect other issues like our urban areas, rather than investing in police investing in economic development and building those communities that have been neglected for decades, for generations. I know you mentioned Baltimore, that’s where we are, there’s been inadequate attention to the black and brown communities in Baltimore for generations. And so this is true across the country. I think it’s a real opportunity for major transformational change not just on ending this record military budget, but toward a really totally, a peace economy that invests in communities that have been neglected and puts in place a whole new energy system that is sustainable and clean.

AB: I think Kevin you are absolutely right. What you described though is the tasks and responsibilities for the movement. What we have to do is narrow those tasks and responsibilities down to clear and simple messages that correspond to where we see the consciousness of the people today and take full advantage of the strategic opportunity to talk about how the public’s resources are being squandered in support of the ruling class’ military agenda. It’s a desperate attempt to try to maintain this global hegemony to the detriment of the vast majority of the people in this country and globally. So, you know intensifying the understanding of the class war that these policies represent is really where we need to be focusing our attention. It’s a process. Right now we take advantage of the fact that people are concerned about a possible war and we connect that to this obscene budget that was passed by the US Congress. We connect that to the lack of opposition from Republicans and Democrats to the US war agenda, and we remind the people that the interests of the ruling class aren’t necessarily the same interests of the vast majority of working-class and poor people and middle class people here in this country.

MF: Right. And I think it’s going to be really important for us to, because we’re going to be hearing in the corporate media, we’re already hearing it, all sorts of messages and even from you know candidates that are running for president that oh General Soleimani was a dangerous man, and so it was good to kill him, but we don’t actually want to escalate a war with Iran. And so I think it’s going to be really critical for people in the United States to not fall for that kind of paradigm or construct or way of thinking because it’s not you know, we don’t want really anybody to be murdered especially in violation of international law, especially in violation of the sovereignty of a country. You know, if the if the US had a problem with what happened in Iraq, that’s something to be dealt with, you know with Iraq and with the Iraqis not unilaterally by the United States. So what is kind of your advice to our listeners in terms of what they’re going to be hearing and how they can best get information and respond to that?

AB: For the listeners of this program, we want them to be reminded not to fall for for the line that says that this individual deserved to be murdered and that the only issue to be considered is what the strategic consequences may be for this assassination. We have to support the idea that the planet has to be governed by some objective international rules, that the US has no moral or political or legal right to engage in this kind of conduct, that this assassination is in fact, an act of war just like the sanctions are acts of war and that they have real consequences not only for the individuals that are targeted but for masses of people in these various states and that if we’re going to have any kind of global governance that is based on justice and if there’s going to be any possibility for peace, we’ve got to reinvigorate a commitment to multilateralism and to international law and the standards and processes connected to that. We’ve got to oppose US unilateralism and rogue-statism if we’re going to avoid the possibility of a global conflict that could end life as we know it on this planet. That has to be our position. Don’tengage in any long-term conversation about the nature of this individual or even to the government in Iran. Our responsibilities as citizens of Empire is to oppose intervention and to oppose US militarism any place on this planet.

KZ: That’s the work that’s cut out for us and you know we’ll continue to be at Popular Resistance, we’ve been working in close contact with UNAC as well as Black Alliance for Peace and other peace groups.

MF: And UNAC is the United National Antiwar Coalition for our listeners.

KZ: That’s right, UNAC brings all of us together. And so I think you laid out the orders for the movement, working toward de-escalation immediately and in the long-term working toward a new kind of approach to foreign policy.

MF: Ajamu, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. We urge our listeners to check out the Black Alliance for Peace and get involved.

AB: Thank you so much.

MF: All right before we start our next discussion and why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.

MUSICAL BREAK

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 let’s follow up on the interview that we just heard. So you and Ajamu were talking about the United National Anti-war Coalition, which is kind of an umbrella group of peace organizations in the United States and UNAC, which we’re part of, has its major yearly conference coming up in February in New York City.

KZ: That’s right and we’ll be both participating in that as will Ajamu and many other leading peace activists. So the UNAC conference will be at the People’s Forum on February 21st and 22nd and 23rd. So please plan on coming. Check the UNAC website for more information. We’ll be publicizing it on Popular Resistance dot-org as well.

MF: Right. And that website is UNAC, U N A C, Peace dot-org. Let’s talk about what’s happened since the assassination of Soleimani and al-Muhandes. There was a huge reaction in Iran, in Iraq of just real horror that the United States and I think by other world leaders that the United States would go to this extreme step of violating the sovereignty of Iraq and killing a general of another country that we’re not even at war with.

KZ: Yeah and a general who was critical in defeating ISIS, defeating al-Nusra, which is another Islamic extremist, and even Al-Qaeda. So he’s been a major player in fighting terrorism in the Middle East. He even has partnered with the United States on some of those efforts and the alternative of course, in the alternative world of the US media and US politics, he’s an evil tyrant, “the most dangerous person in the world, most dangerous terrorist in the world.” I mean it’s just a nonsensical lie. This is guy is such a respected person in Iran. He has been for