Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

Barbara Lee: I’m very terrified with regard to what we see taking place. And the signs are there. When you talk about shutting down the media, putting out their alternative facts, banning dissent and opposition, criticizing people who are exercising their First Amendment rights; trying to get people to believe, really, the distortions that they’re putting out there. That, to me, is very scary. It’s very dangerous. And you see also the corporate and military consolidation of the public sector. You see efforts to privatize schools. When you just look at the nominees, you see very few people with experience in the public sector. And so when you have the corporate sector merging with the military sectors, and when you have cabinet officials who have historically said they want to dismantle the cabinets and the agencies that they’re running, that I’m very terrified that we are beginning to see an erosion of our democratic values and an erosion of the public sector.

Hellraiser' cartoonist wants to offend, help others criticize government |  CBC News

The new normal is of course abnormal, antithetical to being a human being, or at least a being that is Homo Sapiens before say, errr, the industrial revolution, or in the new parlance, before the Fourth  Industrial Revolution, or before the internet of all things . . . .

Schooling was bad, for decades, for sure, but redeemable in some sense. Things like educational systems are fixable, or they were before the Zoom Doom decade has begun to unfold. Face to face discourse was always discordant, yet the only way for some sort of consensus or arbitrated whole, but now, with Zoom Doom, etc., and especially now that many western (whites) people want to isolate, stay at home glued to this evil screen, as if glued to some sordid 6-hour daily soap opera, really  want to do things on line, do things sheltered, well, the new species of Western (white) Adam and Eve is, well, not the people I want in my trench if the revolution ever happens . . . .

Which will not unfold, this “revolution,” if this generation and the next one is bred to take a $1000 a month UBI, takes the pink and blue pills/vaccines, and continues to listen to the putridity that is commercialism-retail-PR-spin mixed in with the noise of the day, the propaganda of them all – 2,700 billionaires pointing their antennae in all the right directions for more and more control, overlording and alas gouging the economic and socio-economic and political power from the super majority, us.

So many people I talk with, gentrified with a bit of a retirement, or at-home income, plus the house paid off, more or less, and fairly good health, they are blaming the victims, blaming the poor, blaming the kids who got the wrong degrees and who are now in debt.

The divide and conquer is subtle with democratic voters, and overt with MAGA mutts.

This is the scam of capitalism – the people who have “made it” have done so on the backs of people, and many in capitalism make money on people who are struggling, who are lower income, who are not part of the 20 percent. Divide and conquer. Classify us. Put us on a spectrum. On a scale. Rate us. Give us a score, some detailed credit report, educational report, health report, activity report. Google and the other gulag thinkers, they have the tools to put us all on dashboards, even as I type out this screed, the data and the nanoseconds of my moves will be recorded.   

Making money on fines, penalties, arrests, convictions, probation, and then all those middle-middle-middlemen making money on turning this financial screw or flipping this toggle or that investing switch to exact more and more economic pain, more and more generalized anxiety disorder pain. You can’t just do things without added-on layer after layer of people and systems taking a penny here, a dime there, a dollar over there, and a 20 percent or more cut there and there.

The reality is this country is threadbare, and county governments do not have the resources for that D-minus nationwide infrastructure that needs tending to. Counties and states do not have the money for sustaining public health, safety and well-being. We are in a system of money that banks have “loaned” communities putting them into bankruptcy. The loan sharks are large and sophisticated, repo experts of the highest order, foreclosure kings on a grand scale.

Imagine the concept of no clinics in communities, no diabetes clinics, public school nurses and counselors doled out like rare truffles (like one nurse per five schools, one counselor per 400 kids!). Imagine now in Oregon, the current college enrollment is down 20 percent. Think. Where does that go, where do we make up the work people have at community colleges? How do those worthy students move forward? Fulfillment centers? Two college degrees and working in a warehouse at $15 an hour (if you are lucky to be in a few states with that minimum wage) and praying for a universal basic/bumbling income?

And that discourse of a UBI is insane, no? No talk about public ownership of utilities, pharmaceuticals, medicine, hospitals, clinics, state banks, guaranteed housing, food security, and public transportation that can only be imagined by Phillip K. Dick. And I am not talking flying taxis, but clean trollies and constant schedules. Imagine, the end of the car for many people – that internal combustion disease maker, the thing that sits 90 percent of the time in a driveway or parking space. Imagine.

Nope. It’s the transfer of $1,200 a month basic income to the rich and the richest. A basic income in super predatory capitalism. Imagine. That is the paradigm. Sort of the same insanity of a Bill McKibben or Liz Warren saying a cleaner military – one running on biodiesel and one that recycles missile parts, on that repurposes medical waste and builds global bases at a net zero waste LEED Platinum level. Solar panel-wind turbine air force drone bases. All ships and carriers running on forever fuel, nuclear energy. Imagine that insanity. From the greenies.

The democrats and republicans are vicious, are psychopaths, and Americans on both sides of that manure pile who believe this is an exceptionalist society will believe anything to hold up their version of reality. They will wrap themselves up in the red, white and blue in varying ways. Voting is their emancipation from actually doing and acting.

Listen to this freak of a man, Trump, and watch the media just flatten down. Think about how impotent mainline media is –   

AMY GOODMAN: So, by April 2017, just three months into his presidency, Trump launched a Tomahawk missile attack on Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. Jeremy, you say in your series, “Like Pavlov’s dogs, the bipartisan war machine responded accordingly.” Let’s go to some of the media coverage of Trump’s attack on Syria. This is MSNBC anchor Brian Williams referring to a Pentagon video of U.S. missiles fired at Syria as “beautiful” three times in 30 seconds.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Go into greater detail. We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this airfield. What did they hit?

AMY GOODMAN: That was MSNBC’s Brian Williams. And this is CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

FAREED ZAKARIA: I think Donald Trump became president of the United States. I think this was actually a big moment, because candidate Trump had said that he would never get involved in the Syrian civil war. He told President Obama, “You cannot do this without the authorization of Congress.” He seemed unconcerned with global norms. President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose.

And yet, this country is waxing poetic about the “clear skies over our cities,” and how the lockdown has “given me space to think, to reflect, to evolve,” and “we are really getting closer to our roots” THANKS to Covid-19.

Dangerous-dangerous thinking. This is it, though … as more and more people (sic) who can work from home (not real work) accept permanent correspondence school-work-medicine-business. No big questioning of the motivations of the tech world, the billionaires, the pigs of AI and Surveillance. No bigger demands for this shit-hole country. No demands for holding all corporations accountable. No pitchforks and tar and feathers for the politicians, the cops, the multimillionaires, the billionaires and their evil seeds.

It is a passive culture, a giant joystick, operation, a couch potato citizenry. The Covid-19 plan-demic fit the narrative so-so well.

It is now rubber-necking to the tenth power. Almost everyone in the United Snakes of BlackRock and then those fleas on the tail of that US dog, Canada, UK, and Australia, is generally looking like a giant cast in a Jerry Springer outtake. The celebrity culture, the thugs of politics, the billionaire lizard class, the entire mauling media, the incompetence of the general population who self-identify as MAGA deplorables and/or middling liberals who believe in Manifest Destiny and Exceptionalism with a little bit of LGBTQA spin, it is the seeding of more and more weeks, months and years of stupidity. To mask or not to mask, to listen to this group of scientists, or that swath of virologists, that is the question.

No deep discussion about how broken the system(s) was/were way back when, and then this rewritten history covering up the bulldozing through the Regan years and up to now. Gutting rights, gutting checks and balances for Wall Street, Banking, Real Estate, oligarchs, polluters, thieves in suits, and the thuggery of cops and troops. Shock and awe, with this crappy media and amusing ourselves not to death but to neutering and spaying glee.

Imagine over 200 rural hospitals shut down just since 2006. Imagine simple compound fracture medical bill of $80,000. Just imagine, brand new aircraft carriers and supersonic jets, football stadiums filled with shiny bullets, and entire shipping ports filled with drones and bombs. This country has no checks and balances to demand human and township/city/state assistance during fires, hurricanes, floods and flu pandemics. No safety nets, no massive shut downs of the perpetrators of fire, poison, imprisonment, shock and awe on the streets by the murdering cops.

Then, we argue how much the thieves are hiding, ripping us off for, and on and on, the broken system

Some of the most despicable people now are on mainstream media and in the odd-ball media, and the academicians are scurrying like the careerists they are, and then the homegrown extremists, the pussy Trump (not a man’s man or a woman’s man), the murder incorporated men and women on the thin blue line, and on and on. We make those old “banana republic” epithets against our brethren south of the border seem tame. We are a thug nation, a new gilded age society of 18-carrat 5,000 square foot bathrooms for the Botox, and a 1988 Chevy van for the fulfillment worker families parked in an alley.

It all seems like a giant mental anguish experiment.

Mr. Fish Toon- Trump's Yoda - Democratic Underground

The news-news-news is a constant drone of national and international frayed stories, and in the eye of the storm, we have community after community in the USA broken, breaking apart, sliding and of course it never was meant to be a system that is for, by, with, because of the people.

This all brings me to the deplorables, the across-the-street neighbors, whose boys decided my 12 by 14 inch sign that states we believe in a woman’s right to choose and black lives matter, etc., should not only be stolen, but that my car’s window bashed in because of that sign.

Yeah, two deputy sheriff calls, two citations, and then two separate no trespassing citations, and then more and more of my time spent on tracking these cases. So many moments of my mental state thrown into the criminal injustice system. How many phone calls from county courts folk and victims rights folk telling me in their 20 or 30 or 40 years they have never seen such a backlog, a cluster fuck.

Oregon’s lockdown measures, and now property crimes – this putrid 39-year-old boy-man, all 6’5” of him, caught by a neighbor throwing a 10 pound paving stone in my car window and then prancing around the street with hands up and juking as if he just made a dunk.

Then my spouse and I start digging into this “family,” this upstanding MAGA family, and lo and behold, the mother has been evicted from two homes, and she and her current husband filed for bankruptcy in CA more than five times. The perpetrator of the criminal mischievous also has a fine white boy, blued eye semi-man rap sheet – DUIs in CA, and felony charges for, err, animal abuse, AKA cock fighting. This guy’s CA record shows he failed to appear, failed to do court-mandate classes in animal abuse. Charges dropped.

As you peel back layer after layer in America – the blond mother, prancing around the neighborhood telling anyone who will listen how upstanding she and her breed are – the dirty laundry comes flying in your face.

So these anti-Chinese, pro-MAGA mutts, they have some ridiculous business of beach footwear (whatever that is) and they stamp a sea turtle on them, and on their web site, they say “from every purchase we support the sea turtles.” Imagine that, no sea turtle environmental group listed, and alas, these anti-Chinese/China MAGA get those loafers and flipflops from, well, you guessed it – China.

The court systems are super blogged. The property crimes are going unpunished. Cases are being tossed out. Retraining orders are no being followed up on. And this is just one small slice of the angle in America where things are falling apart. Under lockdown. Before lockdown. Beyond lockdown.

Too much on the American mindset’s bandwidth. Again, the mess of crap that comes into Facebook, on Twitter, on those hate channels, on MSNBC, Fox, et al. The paraded queens of stupidity, and the kings of crime, every minute of the day, dragging any attention span left in the American collective intellect/consciousness, pulled out.

This is America. I have former colleagues who are retired, who have their little house on the gentrified hill in this or that town. They believe in this shit-hole country. They think Trump is aberration. They think that all he’s done will go on in perpetuity (lifetime appointments of judges). They believe in this shit-hole system, just putting a few new lipstick shades on the predatory-parasitic-disaster pig that is capitalism left of center, center or right.

POSTS — Lifesigns

You get a chunk of cement thrown into your car window, and you are thrown into the morass that is/was/will be the dead pool of America. All systems no-go. All entertainment zones displaying all those sacrifice zones. All those Netflix documentaries, all those mini-series, all those years and years of drama and soap operas. It’s here, the lobotomy, the collective lobotomy.

A nation of 160 million and counting developing one or more  chronic diseases. One out of five (easily) with recurring depression. A middle manager class and intellectual class stuck in the inertia of cynicism. The gilded age that pushes more and more people into poverty and learned helplessness. This is the country of proud to be stupid . . . proud to be overweight, diabetic, hypertensive and yet, “lock them up . . . give ‘em a good beating . . . shoot them on Pennsylvania Avenue . . . give them a good dump into the east bay with a sack of cement.”

This wimp of a human (bully of that species), Trump, and his suits and ties that are warped (every single GOP before, during and after his death) and who  hold up the violence and extrajudicial beatings and murders this un-man Trump and his un-man Stephen Miller and his Sessions and Barr, putrid puffer fish in Florsheims, demand, we are there, man.

Chris Hedges: We’ve personalized the problem in Trump without realizing that Trump is the product of a failed democracy. Trump is what rises up from the bowels of a decayed and degenerate system. And you can get rid of Trump, but you’re not going to get rid of what the sociologist Émile Durkheim called that “anomie” that propels societies to engage in deeply self-destructive behavior.

Trump 2020 - Mr. Fish

there is no “most prestigious environmental prize” if the poor young people aren’t leading the charge

“I also know that one must do what one can do. No matter how little it is, it is nonetheless a human testimony and human testimonies, as long as they are not based on greed or personal ambition for power, can have unexpected positive effects.…I believe in local action and in small dimensions. It is only in such environments that human creativity and meaningful identities can truly surface and flourish.” ― Manfred Max-Neef

There are  many-many gross things in the news every nanosecond of anti-social media’s and mass mainlining media’s dead from the navel up “stories.”

Imagine, now, the Great White Hope, the Sir David and the Prince William doling out a few million bucks here and there for, drum roll, individuals, companies and agencies that come up with solutions to the world’s environmental problems.

Imagine that, the deeply steeped in eugenics Attenborough, and the DNA-mutated mentally inbred royalty, having people jump through hoops to help move forward the powers that be in capitalism.

Here’s a doozy from this insipidly wet milquetoast PR spin — “We can’t cut down rain-forests forever and anything that we can’t do forever is by definition unsustainable,” says Attenborough. Adding that “if we act now we can yet put it right,” how amazing would that be? We must all act now.

Oh, cry for me, Military Industrial Complex. Nary a word about the Prince’s jets and missiles. Nothing about the deeply embedded complex that holds up the war lords. Again, to repeat – that’s Silicon Valley, that’s fast food, that’s paint, hardware, clothing, IT, telecom, med, media, pharma, oil, gas, nuclear, wires, plastics, satellites,  technical writers, office supplies, water, air, soil suppliers, engineering outfits, lumber, milling, smelting, big earth movers, drone makers, all of those grand pieces and bits that put together this zombie squid of war war war.

You will not hear that in the Attenborough line – no more war machines, soldiers, flyovers, Kings Guards, air-naval-ground-moon bases. Imagine, he states how he was 11 years old with a world population of, drum roll, 2.3 billion (1937).

And, now it’s 7.8 billion, and huge parts of the globe are dead of wildlands and are invaded by, well, you guessed it (but not coming from the Prince’s or Knight’s mouths) – capitalists &  empires running their criminal operations for the banks, the investors, the elites. Oh, mining, ag, metals, fossil fuel, minerals, fish, water, data, human lives for the operation that gets old Attenborough flying around the world in his jet-setting ways.

Let’s see, since 1937, hundreds of trillions spent on missiles, NSAS, satellites, war-war-war, and what has occurred since wee David grew up to be 94? No mention of the amassing of chemicals, industrial farms, the huge consumer-capitalist bases of seizing power, products, resources and people from other countries, all for god, country, queen, and Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and, pick your bank poison here________________! He will not speak of the accumulation of wealth and land and power by his own Anglo-Saxon greedy men of war-debt-slavery.

He wants birth-control, forced sterilization for the dark people, and LEED and zero waste third and fourth homes-castles-island enclaves for the beautiful people.

This is more of the same bizarre stuff – five prizes, $1.2 million each, for 10 years. This is the infantilism of the globe and the great super hero rescuer narrative for the beautiful people who want nothing more than capitalism that pays, has returns on investments and smells-tastes-feels-looks-sounds like green porn.

“We rely entirely on this finely tuned life-support machine” says Sir David Attenborough when describing our little blue planet, in his recently released book and documentary “A Life on Our Planet.” The legendary naturalist and broadcaster, now 94, has spent his entire life traveling the world documenting wildlife, for us to enjoy from the comfort of our living rooms. He is thought to be one of the most well-traveled people on the planet, for The Life of Birds documentary alone, it is estimated he traveled a whopping 256,000 miles. That is the same as traveling around the world ten times. And this was only for one of the eight series he has made for the BBC over the course of almost 30 years. He now joins forces with Prince William with whom he shares a passion for the environment, to help launch the Earthshot Prize. Aiming to be the most prestigious global environment prize, it will be awarded to those who come up with extraordinary ways to help tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges of our planet. [source]

Prince William and Sir David Attenborough launch Earthshot Prize

Quaint.

Here’s my email – contact me ASAP. No millions spent on techno fixes, on big giant scoops for ocean plastic, seed storage projects for the moon or mars. No 29 million studies and 29 white papers and a hundred million sad-sack pretzel logic to save the planet.

Simple stuff, so again, my contact email is below. Here

I can think of a massive one weekend event – how about a thousand or 10,000 thousand two-day charettes. Giant brainstorming sessions. Giving young people the facilitation tools to come up with a 10 part or 100 part plan to save people, planets, plants, populations of animal species.

Easy, man – with all the shit-show tools of Zoom and satellite feeds and computers and, well, you think that maybe 10,000 teach-ins and brainstorming sessions might produce a few common threads, in the countries on the African Continent, North, Middle and South America, Middle East, Far East, Island nations, and more.

Let’s see – I bet with the right engagement, those young students and their tag-along parents and uncles and aunts might be coming up with this:

  • immediate end to military spending
  • utilizing the equipment militaries have for restorative natural, agroecological, and community projects
  • no more billionaires
  • no more men and women ruling from the top down
  • no more corporations dictating the size, shape, limits, lifespans of individual humans, ecosystems, bioregions, nations, and hemispheres
  • massive collective agro-ecological farming to feed the world
  • massive eminent domain for empty buildings, second, third, fourth homes
  • microhome villages served with intergenerational diverse people healing minds-bodies-earth-natural systems
  • a collective and massive global year of strikes
  • the new framework for producing food, producing goods, producing small-locally owned businesses
  • colleges for all, and all departments engaged in connected and holistic teaching . . .
  • no more economy over anything thinking
  • deep ethics taught in all those subjects
  • community schools led by students and people in the communities
  • native and indigenous led governance, land ethic, air ethic, and cultural engagement

And, more, and can you imagine all those 10,000 community-based charrettes, where people – the young and the very old and the most vulnerable – are not just at the table, but are the facilitators. Sure, the concepts of global heating will be tantamount as well as restorative cultural-economic-spiritual-racial justice.

I am convinced that these youth forums will produce manifestos so similar, so tied to the very idea of “an injury to one is an injury to all” that all the retrograde, violent, and colonized war lord and banking lovers would be pushed out of the realm. Join us, sure.

But imagine now this Earth-Shot prize being something completely different than the old model of “who has the best ideas to fit into the capitalist paradigm to play around with some of the major issues earth and people are facing.”

Solve microplastics? Well, first, now, stop the plastic’s industry in the hands of felons and profit gougers. The packaging industries? Done. The clear cutters, strip miners, mountaintop removers – gone, out of business.

The commodities trading? Gone. The stockholders, the monopolies, the BlackRocks, gone.

Oh, I know it will be a lot of work, but the young and the very old and the vulnerable are up to the task. There is really nothing else on earth but the human/animal/plant family and natural world and working collectively so people in the next county don’t suffer while the other county doesn’t suffer.

Precautionary principle, life cycle analysis, and much more-more for an ecosocialist world. Whoops, did I use the term, Socialist?

Youth who are not completely damaged by consumerism/anti-social media/drugs/epigenics/Breaking Bad parents are naturally connected to other peoples, and given the space and chance, they are the solutions makers.

No more TED Talk white bread talkers, no more mass mainlining media infortainment, no more celebrity culture dominating everything, no more-no more.

Again, utilize this shit-show Zoom Doom and media platforms to get these 10,000 or 100,000 teach-ins/charrettes up on all platforms. Imagine, even all those colonized millionaire media fakes, all those prune headed politicians, all those stem-cell sucking CEO’s like Bezos and Zuckerberg, well, they will have to watch, man.

Old Knights and Princes are not the future. The rich and the white race rampaging throughout history in their empires of greed, religion, conquistadors of rape-pillage-theft-murder; those manipulators, those penury-creators, those bamboozlers, the smoke and mirror charlatans, the debt holders, the criminal injustice purveyors, all those blood diamond types, I know for a fact that two day teach-in and charrette, they will be tossed out as anything more than thieves and destroyers.

Give peace a chance? Give the youth the platform, the facilitation, the attention, the manifestos to change this world.  Coming up with some bio-mimic paint that self cleans will not cut it. Global shit in who is at the table, who writes the rules, who brings forth the ideas. N O  M O R E  white guys setting the stage and making the rules.

Oh, what a world it would be, and what would it take to get those 100,000 global charettes working? Technology. Computers? Some WIFI connections?  

Let the youth, the young from lower economic communities, the people of the so-called developing or less developed world make their mark now. Forget about the compostable toilets and home-sited wind turbine.

And this is what the Earthshot Prize aims to do. Just as the moonshot that John F. Kennedy proposed in the 1960s was a catalyst for new technology such as the MRI scanner and satellite dishes that helped us go to the moon, this prize aims through Earthshot challenges to create a new wave of ambition and innovation around finding ways to help save the planet. The committee has announced it will spend the next 10 years $60 million, awarding annually five, $1.2 million prizes to individuals, organizations and those around the world who are working to provide solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems.

I’ll add a reader’s comments since the other site where this article appeared, Dissident Voice, does not accept comments anymore —

Paul,

Really great essay.

I am tired of the massive abuses occurring at the hands of Big Business. Also of the massive abuses occurring at the hands of Big Government, which has merely become a wholly owned subsidiary of that Big Business.

And of the devastating consequences of disaster capitalism.

But I am just as tired of the protesters, whom are likely wasting time trying to dictate to others telling them what to do (authoritarianism & fascism are not limited only to the right-wingers), rather than using their time more productively & effectively by engaging in more productive activities & changes themselves.

Those that don’t like the Elite dominated systems, processes, and activities, should lead by example by creating better alternatives themselves.

Get out, observe, discover, create, experiment – and don’t be afraid to fail, but learn how to learn from those mistakes, to truly progress.

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. –Bertrand Russell-

There are still an unlimited amount of discoveries to be discovered & revealed. Even a lot of ancient discoveries awaiting rediscovery.

Dependence is a lack of independence. Insanity is depending on others to change, foolishly believing  independence will spawn from that continued dependence.

D.i.y ethics need to make a comeback .As do true grassroots movements. Not corporate-directed pseudo-grassroots movements.

This planet, our soils, plants, people, and ways of thinking need serious help.

Calling on corporate-Elite dominated systems to effectuate changes will only result in more corporate-Elite dominated systems. Those Elite dominated systems can be defeated, but not whilst remaining reliant solely on their terms.

D.i.y. or die.

Again, great essay.We need far more people inspiring personal change to effectuate real global change.


Regards,
Sean Ryan, NatureSoilProducts.com

Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes

Agent Orange, a fifty-fifty mix of the n-butyl esters 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T)

by Paul Haeder / October 7th, 2020

The very idea of War Being a Racket penetrates so deeply into capitalism’s flair for murder by a thousand cuts, a thousand miles in a Corvair, a thousand sips from diet Coke, a thousand sucks from Nestle baby formula, a thousand hours on the video screen, a thousand seconds inside the nuclear core, a thousand nanoparticles chewed, a thousand days living under high tension power lines, a thousand slices of mercury-cured tuna, a thousand puffs of the e-cigarette, a thousand days in law school, a thousand clicks hiked in clear cut, a thousand bombs bursting in air, a thousand doses of any one of millions of drugs or chemicals, a thousand seconds of a presidential debate, a thousand launches from NASA, a thousand bullets into Black bodies, a thousand spent uranium laced shells, a thousand drips of PCBs in our water supply, and, on and on, the drumbeat plays, a thousand cuts.

I just finished watching the documentary, The People versus Agent Orange. Carol Van Strum (here and here) is the American contingent and Nga To Tran the Vietnamese contingent. Like so many other documentaries, this one cuts to the chase – the liberation of humankind and ecologies from the death ray of capitalism is the ONLY way forward.

Veterans, Survivors Unaware of Agent Orange Benefits

The origins of Agent Orange lie in an obscure laboratory at the University of Chicago where, during World War II, the chairman of the school’s biology department, E. J. Kraus, discovered that direct doses of 2,4-D can kill certain broadleaf vegetation by causing the plants to experience sudden, uncontrolled growth not unlike that of cancer cells in the human body. Kraus, thinking his findings might be of use to the Army, informed the War Department, which initiated testing of its own but found no use for the stew of hormones prior to the end of the war. But experiments with 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T continued through the 1950s. — Orion Magazine

Ad nauseum the bantering back and forth with deplorable MAGA and shallow democrats on mainline TV/Cable, is much ado about nothing when we put into perspective every single action the corporation makes to not only rip-off each and every customer, but to delimit free speech, to eviscerate participatory democracy, to use their hit squads of lawyers to obfuscate and obliterate the righteous people up against these Titans of Tyranny – chemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture, fossil fuel, mining, data, prison, space, industrial, food, medical, media, education, criminal justice, banking, insurance, investing thieves and manslaughter experts.

The entire farm has been sold down the river a million times, so when we look at Agent Orange, the USA government, the US Air Force, the Dow corporation, the endless legal deaths by a thousand motions against some sort of reparation for the millions of Vietnamese, Americans and dozens of others in Vietnam during the tyranny of corporations and the French and the USA in fighting in another person’s land. Vietnam!

Carol Van Strum’s story is linked to my neck of the woods – the Central Oregon coast range. She is just a few dozen miles up the road, in Five Rivers. For more than 45 years, she has been both victim of and battler against the chemical spraying operators here where timber companies clear cut vast thousands of square miles of forest, and then deploy the markers of Agent Orange and other brews to include Glyphosate and atrazine, among others.

The film is understatement, but thorough and clear – some of us knew early on that the herbicide Agent Orange was more than a Ho Chi Minh Trail defoliant. It was part of a plan by the despotic South Vietnamese president Diệm ’s worldview – supported and supplied by the USA – that the Viet Cong should not have jungle cover and that the rice crops in the North should not only be destroyed but contaminated from the soil up.

Opinion | The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange - The New York Times

Tran is an amazing voice for Vietnam and the millions of victims of Agent Orange – many dead, by the millions, and many by several million surviving in varying levels of debilitation, and for her and millions of other women, giving birth to deformed, sick and dying babies.

Back in Oregon, the mothers and then the doctors came together to compare notes, and alas, the number of miscarriages/spontaneous abortions experienced by local women always coincided a month after helicopters working for the timber companies unloaded thousands upon thousands of gallons of the toxic brew, a mix of hormone disruptors and growth inhibitors that scour animals, plants and humans to the point of genetic mutations and untold physical ailments as adults.

We see the coughing “chemical guy” in Oregon, who is cell phone filming himself loading up the helicopters with the brew. He hacks up blood at night. He is another victim of better-living-through-chemistry (not). His story is vital to the telling of the Agent Orange story back home, in Oregon.

Tran’s case seeks accountability for “the deadliest use of chemicals in the history of warfare.” The case is still held up in court.

Why the United States Won't Admit Guilt Over Agent Orange

Tran was told by her heroic mother, captured by the South Vietnamese, in 1953, “If I don’t come back, you will replace me.” Tran ended up writing news for the National Liberation Front. She met her husband in the forest, who was part of the Foreign Relations Commission. “We spent our youth engaged in war.”

In June 1968 their daughter was born, and three days later the infant’s skin  began falling off. She had difficulty breathing, and she had major heart issues. “I always blamed myself thinking I was the reason for her illness and the cause of her death. Even though I have my other two children, it is the face of my first that remains anchored in my soul,” Tran states.

Tran says she carried that guilt for 40 years. “Until I found out what killed my daughter, the poison Agent Orange.”

Her second daughter was born with alpha thalassemia, a major defect of her pancreas. Same with Tran’s third daughter, and a granddaughter. Thanks, Agent Orange and the Boys at Dow!

Back and forth the documentary travels from Carol’s and Oregon’s battle against the chemical companies and the university forestry guy who was in the back pocket of Dow, and with Tran, who has several lawyers working to “put an end to the eternal impunity,” as French barrister William Bourdon calls it.

That was Operation Ranch hand, from 1962 to 71, approved by JFK and his henchmen in the DoD and military. The idea was to take away the forest cover but also to be part of a food-denial program, which under any auspices of international conventions, is an act of genocide, and a war crime.

Dr. James Clary was with the Air Force in Vietnam, which ran the program. He was order to dump the computer and erase all memory. Instead, he printed out a stack of documents two feet high – missions, sorties, coordinates, dates, gallons dropped throughout all of Southeast Asia and Laos.

“We had the information coming from Dow that there were real problems for people associated with this chemical. It was all locked up for 35 years.”

Playing down all the negative effects of this chemical was part of the Dow plan. Dioxin was the byproduct in the brew. Dow told the US government they were having difficulty producing the volume of the chemical the US wanted. The government told them to not worry about safety standards and quality control, and that a fast production process which produced more of the dioxin would not matter, since the crops and forest were being sprayed, and if people got in contact with it, the idea coming from both industrialists at Dow and those in government and the military was, “Hey, so what, this is a war . . . these are the effing Vietnamese.”

However, a former military man like Clary never saw it that way. He reiterated that 20 million gallons of it was dumped on Southeast Asia. The Ranch Hand program stopped in 1971, but then the chemicals were enlisted by the US on forest land – clear cuts that were sprayed to denude the razed land of any opportunities weeds and shrubs. The money has to be made, and the stockpiled product has to go! Sell it to the state forestry department and timber outfits.

Dr. Clary tears up on the film, showing a deep regard for the Vietnamese. He cried at the sight of the deformed children. The filmmakers state: “e is not a typical war monger, and never said that. He became a whistle-blower to expose such attitudes. They are the opposite of how he feels.

“They went back and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we need the quantities. Besides it’s going to be sprayed on the jungle over there. Not gonna be any people there and if they happen to get into it, so what? We’re at war.’”

Oregon Community Rights Organizer Featured in New Documentary 'THE PEOPLE vs. AGENT ORANGE' | CELDF

Carol Van Strum reiterates that the half-life of a dioxin molecule is 2 billion years. Dioxin, the forever chemical and the gift of cancer and birth defects and mutagenic ailments that keep on giving. Tran is now fighting for the fourth generation of people affected by the millions of gallons of this poison sprayed on her homeland. She has breast cancer.

Dr, Clary breaks down emotionally, saying he never thought his government would betray all the veterans who directly were affected and whose offspring were/are still affected. The judge in the Agent Orange case is a pure case of misanthropy that infects all chambers of the judicial and legal class.

Andre Burny, author of Agent Orange: Apocalypse Vietnam, makes it clear that this is a “crime against humanity, an attack on the human genome.”
It’s telling that one of several scientists featured in a clip, Dow’s Dr. Cleve Goring, says, “The attack on the chemical is entirely emotional. 2,4 5-T is about as toxic as Aspirin. We have not done a good job with our PR campaign.”

As benign as Aspirin! You haven’t heard this before, right? Farmed chemical-laced salmon, safe as mother’s milk. Oh, antibiotic-laced meat and poultry are safe for all consumers. You know, it would take a bathtub of the stuff a day for twenty years to cause cancer. Or, lab rats are not humans . . . no comparison. 5-G is like an apple a day. Violent video games are A-Okay. Genetically Engineered crops are better than those old fashioned heritage crap. What’s a little used motor oil dumped into the pond.

Oh dear reader, you have as many of these “it’s safer than the alarmists yammer about” stories, I am sure. Imagine, the bottom line of Dow is to cover up, drag court cases on and on until the plaintiffs are six feet under. What a little rebranding won’t fix. Or some heavyweight like Brad Pitt or Betty White endorsing the product bringing people all together now.

The documentary, The People versus Agent Orange,” delves into many of the treatment centers for victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. There are dozens. I have been to two of them, years ago, and they were not even tied to Agent Orange. Like Tran, most of the mothers blamed themselves for children coming out twisted, stunted, without limbs, craniums asymmetrical or ballooned out.

This is how capitalism works – lies, deceit, murder, cover, cover-up, blame the victim, pass on the diseases and poisons and clean up costs to the people. This is the price of capitalism, many Americans will say. This is the price of convenience. This is the price of Low Prices and instant soup, instant turkey, instant husband/wife.

Blame the child for the crimes of consumerism. Blame the fetus for the mother taking the advice of western medicine. Blame the communities for the sprayed hog blood-urine-shit in their backyards.

Capitalism is more than some giant smoke and mirrors game, bigger than some house of cards, bigger than snake oil salesmen/women grifting, bigger than shoveling up billions into the debt (poor) house. It is a system of rackets, and while Gen. Butler may have written War is a Racket about the MIC, we have to transpose that military industrial complex to Banks/ Hospitals/ Insurance Companies/ Courthouses/ Police Stations/ Law Firms /Colleges/Mining Companies/ Drug Manufacturers/ Big Ag Outfits/ Media Conglomerates/ So-Called Liberal Press and the like are the very definition of Rackets, certainly perfect actors for Dante’s Circles of Hell.

We are the fodder for that inferno, and if anyone of any political stripe doesn’t end up being pissed off after watching The People versus Agent Orange, then they are misanthropes, cult followers, colonized zombies. And I can say that about any number of hundreds of righteous documentaries — bear witness and then what? Retreat to stupidity, retreat to the capitalist’s see-speak-hear not evil while the evil eats your soul from the inside-out!

Please note that I was in Vietnam in 1994 and in 1996. I worked first with several biological teams doing a huge transect of the forest near the Laotian border. I met amazing Vietnamese scientists. I revisited places my military father was at as a CW4 cryptographic guy. His stories were my stories.

I was in Vietnam in 1994 the same age my father was there, shot twice. That was age 36.

I made a point of getting into many villages after the science report was done. I drove a motorcycle down Highway One. I met amazing people there, and had two Vietnamese who helped me navigate the language.

I was embraced by men the same age as my father. Men who fought as Viet Cong, and those men of course, did not do an eight-month and then a 12-month set of tours like my Army father. They spent more than a decade or more fighting the French, fighting the Americans.

I met a woman in Hanoi who was bombed as a child in an orphanage. I met people studying the breast milk of lactating women, in 1996, with 16 times the level of PCB’s (US standards) in their systems.

Vietnam came to me again, as I worked with many veterans, and some Vietnamese back in Texas putting on the 20th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon (April 1975). I had Le Ly Hayslip at the event, and she blessed my daughter who was still in her mother’s womb. Den Yen was the vice mayor of Saigon, and he too showed up. John  McAfee, A Slow Walk in a Sad Rain, was just one of many writers, historians, artists who were in this historical event in 1995.

I worked with then Thomas Daniel, now taking on his mother’s name, Vu, who was both my student and friend and we worked together on art projects. My play, Tiger Cages, was partly written after I ended up in London after watching the bad play, Miss Saigon. My short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, tells the story of people somehow connected to the Vietnam war.  I have taught college courses for US military, even at the Sergeants Major Academy at Biggs Field. Vietnam, “Never another Vietnam,” the “tragedy of Vietnam War,” and more is in my DNA. I even worked as a social worker helping homeless veterans and their families secure housing and benefits.

This film is powerful in that it tells a simple story of ecocide and American hubris. Several million Vietnamese were killed directly by US bombs. Many more died later from injuries and chemical death. The trauma on a country is also part and parcel of this illegal and unethical war.

Ecocide as a military practice was first coined for the war against the Vietnamese the US conducted. This documentary and Dr. Clary discuss this heinous war crime, of destroying the crops, the food sources, the soil as part of  military stratagem.

As a note, my piece here was in my blog, and at first I thought I covered all bases. One of the filmmakers, Alan Adelson, made it clear to me some of my juxtapositions of quotes were wrongly attributed. I was writing this “review” as I watched the documentary, The PEOPLE versus Agent Orange. I let my passions and zeal overtake my editor’s calm and thorough copyediting.

I appreciate Alan’s email, and I know this sort of review is not mainstream, and probably not usable for the director. I am able to take off one revolutionary cap and put on a more traditional journalist’s cap. I hope the film shows in Portland and if so, that I can have a crack at talking with the filmmaker. I have other gigs, including Street Roots, in Portland. While my column, Finding Fringe, is not textbook newspaper “objective” reporting, it still provides a look into people like Carol and her son, Jordan Merrell — A letter a day for 15 years and 9 months

War is a Racket – Major General Butler, 1935 | Creative by Nature

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. — Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

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I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective. — Rachel Libert, co-producer of film, Semper Fi

Author Wallace Kaufman lives on on Poole Slough in Lincoln County, Ore. (Photo by Paul K. Haeder)

Opinion |

FINDING FRINGE | A traveler and a writer, Wallace Kaufman is a naturalist at heart

by Paul K. Haeder | 30 Sep 2020

I answer my call of duty — to find the most interesting and outside-the-box people for this column. I received a blind-copied email from Wallace Kaufman, announcing his latest book, “Grow Old and Die Young – A Naturalist in Life’s Theater.”

I took the bait hook-line-and-sinker after doing a quick “search” on this Oregon Coast man and his new memoir. This is one prescient endorsement of this book, and the writer:

“’Grow Old and Die Young’ is a love story of the ever-changing light, moods, faces, textures, sounds and residents of Poole Slough and the Yaquina estuary. The Wetlands Conservancy could not ask for a better natural historian, poet, photographer, steward and neighbor of our beloved Lower Yaquina Preserve. Kaufman’s photos and words remind us of the life lessons the mysteries and surprises that daily tidal cycles teach us about life,” writes Esther Lev, former director of The Wetlands Conservancy.

A periodic column profiling unconventional Oregonians who push the boundaries of social order.

Yeah, compelling, as were many of the other endorsements of this man’s more than half-dozen books. This one caught my eye: “He asks pertinent questions and offers useful answers grounded in his abundant reading, wide-ranging experience, and unflagging curiosity,” states William Price, former director of Archives and History in North Carolina.

Kaufman agreed to whet my own curiosity appetite by meeting out in his very forested place.

The 81-year-old native of Queens sent me detailed directions to get to his 7-year-old home on Poole Slough. Printed out, it was 1 1/2 pages single spaced.

It took me 50 minutes via old minivan to reach his 18 acres from my home in Waldport.

I was greeted by the spry, short-of-stature Wallace Kaufman.

After he directed me to a pullout, I was asked to enter the home. The large great room overlooks Poole Slough, a winding tidewater that connects just a few hundred yards west of his floating boat launch to Yaquina Bay. This wetlands ecosystem is verdant. I spied several kayaks on a floating dock.

Walking into his home office, I figured I might be in for a five-hour interview. Bookcases were lined with mostly hardbacks, there was a large computer screen, piles of magazines were stacked like cairns, and more books and paperwork adorned the place: a writer’s cubbyhole (or coven).

Kaufman has six published books under his belt, both solo authorship and a few co-written, and he lists three translations he’s published. Then there is Kaufman’s continual assistance/collaboration for almost a decade with an Iranian, Alireza Taghdarreh, whose Farsi translation (2015) of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” has been a labor of love.

Speaking of Walden Pond — “I came to Poole Slough with several illusions and a purpose,” Kaufman writes in the preface of “Grow Old and Die Young,” subtitled “You Come Too.” “I came for the same reason that, in 1845, a short, wiry and homely 28-year-old named Henry David Thoreau went to a cabin by Walden Pond in Massachusetts: ‘to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life … and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.’”

There are big differences here: Thoreau died at age 45, exactly 17 years after his Walden Pond experience. Kaufman moved to the Newport area when he was 72. Plus, Kaufman is a world traveler and polyglot.

Kaufman has traversed many national and geographical boundaries, and possibly many more philosophical and literary heights than Thoreau. He almost bought the proverbial farm 81 years ago, as he tells me, at Kingston Avenue Hospital where the medical staff saved him at age 10 months from the deadly whooping cough. He said he’s survived two falls that crushed vertebrae. He also ticked off making it through a Guatemala prison run by secret police. He’s had several blackout concussions.

“And three days near death delivered by an aged Central American sausage. Give me another 17 years, as Thoreau had, and likely I will be dead and, like Thoreau, I don’t want to discover in my last minutes I have not ever lived.”

A full life is an understatement

His roots are spread deeply on the Oregon Coast, but Kaufman definitely harkens back to his East Coast upbringing as both foundational and transformative.

“I remember our row house with its tiny backyard. They were built on coal ash. I recall neighbors who had fathers and sons overseas, and my own uncles and cousins going to war.” He was born in 1939, two years before the U.S. entered World War II.

As a kid, he heard about the last Civil War veteran dying. We discussed those war vets from World War II. This past May, on the 75th anniversary of V-J day, out of those 16 million vets, 300,000 were still alive, according to Pew Research. By 2045, my daughter will be 48 years old and she too will read about the last living World War II vet dying.

This recollection bespeaks Kaufman’s interest in collecting facts, ideas, histories, philosophical constructs and more. I got to the nuts and bolts of things — a literary life. Kaufman told me how during sixth grade he knew he wanted to be a writer. “I remember writing terrible poems.” That was in school in the tiny community of Sea Cliff, “a little town time had forgotten … with no train station.”

Again, the irony of co-evolutionary forces transported Kaufman to Oyster Bay on Poole Slough, 76 years after his formative years began in Sea Cliff, a village within the township of Oyster Bay in Nassau County, New York.

He told me that in the movie “The Great Gatsby,” there is a scene in Glen Cove, where the millionaire’s deck overlooks the water, and in the background is — you guessed it — Sea Cliff.

There was no F. Scott Fitzgerald lifestyle for Kaufman, as his relatively poor family scavenged for coal chunks on the gravel road near the home, screening the ash for pieces of heat-giving rocks.

His father, Arthur, was a tool and die man, classified 1A during World War II, but he never ended up being drafted. He was one of millions working on the war effort — in his father’s case, bomb fuses.

The forward reach of a person’s life is the display of tapestries dyed in family lines, roots and narratives. Kaufman’s grandparents on his father’s side immigrated to Washington, D.C., from Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. His grandfather was a Jewish tailor. Kaufman’s mother’s family hailed from Scotland and Ireland, and she was Anglican, the last of 10 kids. He grew up with twin brothers.

Wallace Kaufman
Photo courtesy of Wallace Kaufman

While Kaufman has traversed the globe, he anchors himself firmly to formative years in Sea Cliff and attributes an East Coast influence and hardships of that era for tenacity and determination to make something of himself. He’s a writer at the core, a naturalist at heart, and he works as a conflict mediator for a nonprofit in Newport, yet he’s holistic enough to embrace various points in his early life as life-changing directional events.

He rattled off many influences, from people he was personally grafted to, as well as the books and geographical locales he has come to consume and absorb. “Guy T. Pinkard changed my life. He was an NYU graduate, Ph.D. student, who opened up the lab in our high school, which had been closed for years.”

The kid who had never left New York ended up falling madly in love with an Alabama girl. His teacher took a few sophomores to Pinkard’s Alabama hometown, Mill Town. They had been exchanging botanical specimens with high school students there.

The young Kaufman ended up in South Dakota two consecutive summers on an archeological dig headed up by a professor at the University of South Dakota. It was part of a Boy Scouts trip, and he learned how to lay out squares and map a dig. It was a Mandan Village earthen lodge, where the Dakota Access Pipeline is now bifurcating sacred land.

He was still smitten by the high schooler from Mill Town, so Kaufman began looking for colleges down South, and since he came from a lower economic family, he needed plenty of scholarships. He picked Duke University, since it was halfway between New York and Alabama. “Duke then was a grade B school,” he told me. “I saw people going to Ivy League schools. They did not look like me. Their parents were professionals, doctors, rich.”

As a surprise to me, the young Wallace Kaufman majored in English, as opposed to studying in one of Duke’s hard science programs. He interjected, relaying another turning point in his life — reading Will Durant’s 1927 book, “Transition: A Mental Biography.”

“I was so impressed how he (Durant) transitioned into the world of philosophy.” This is a fictionalized autobiography of Durant’s life up to his 30s. The “transition” Kaufman resonates with is Durant’s — from a Catholic faith in God to a faith in humanity. Then his transition to love of a wife and of learning.

This disavowing of conservative Christian dogma and a closed mindset is sort of universal as Durant’s philosophy reflects a post-World-War-I-era set of beliefs many in his generation were beginning to embrace.

Durant ended up in seminary but opted to teach at a “free school” where students learned at their own pace in a non-coercive way. In a sense, most people at the free school were anarchists, transferring that non-hierarchal way of schooling into concepts on how government should be run.

At Duke, the New York kid cycled into the class of “a great southern professor, Bill Blackburn, who taught some well-known writers like William Styron and Anne Tyler” to name a few. Kaufman graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English lit.

Then, he landed a Marshall Scholarship and a free ride to Oxford University. He returned to Sea Cliff with a master’s degree. He taught in the old high school — biology, general science — and he coached soccer. He was writing poetry and fiction. “I guess I was the hippie black sheep.”

There’s a great fictional book Kaufman and David Deamer co-wrote, “The Hunt for Fox P5,” about an evil scientist from the University of Oregon trying to steal the genome of an adopted daughter of a good professor. “Through characters in American universities and Kazakhstani science and politics, the authors explore the ethical complexity of editing human genes,” states Deamer, developer of innovative and new nanopore sequencing tools. He was Kaufman’s roommate at Duke.

Pathways to the Mayans, to Kazakhstan

Concision is not Kaufman’s or my better suits when it comes to writing and living. His life is a panorama of experimentation and a lust for life. He ended up in Europe, Central Asia and Siberia. After graduating from Oxford, he taught at several universities, including the University of North Carolina.

He remodeled two homes in rural North Carolina, and then started Saralyn, a community of 35 homesteads on 360 acres where 33 of these “back to the land” settlers built their own homes. That’s another iteration of his life — learning the ins and outs of socially responsible investing, sustainable development and land use/permitting. He counts more than 2,000 acres in North Carolina where he helped overlay covenants that protect the natural environment and privacy of the residents.

He did that for 20 years, and in this new book, he discusses how he was “only vaguely aware of tapping a deep vein in American culture until July 4, 2016, when I read an essay written for the Independence Day 1936 issue of the ever-popular Saturday Evening Post.”

It was by Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” books.

Lane: “This is an important fact: Americans were the only settlers who built their houses far apart, each on his own land. America is the only country I have seen where farmers do not live today in close, safe village-groups. It is the only country I know where each person does not feel an essential, permanent solidarity with a certain class, and with a certain group within that class. The first Americans came from such groups in Europe, but they came because they were individuals rebelling against groups. Each in his own way built his own house at a distance from others in the American wilderness. This is individualism.”

Parlaying his self-taught zoning and planning concepts into something entirely different, Kaufman ended up serving in Kazakhstan as resident adviser on housing and land reform.

He did end up on trips to Guatemala — Jacaltenango. His first one was with his then 10-year-old daughter. Those adventures are compelling, reverberating with my own travels in Guatemala and Central America. What he did spin from that trip was a relationship with Victor Dionicio Montejo, then an urban teacher and now an author and expert in Mayan culture. The book “El Kanil – Man of Lightning” was Montejo’s first publication: “the story most central to his people, some 30,000 remaining Jacaltecans,” Kaufman writes in the book he helped bring to life as a Spanish-English-Popbál Ti ́(Jakaltek Maya) story in 1982.

I finished the interview with a holistic question about his overall life philosophy.

Kaufman was succinct: “Anyone can gather evidence to ‘prove’ something right, but being confident of your ‘truth’ before trying earnestly to prove it wrong is the arrogance of a timid mind.”


Q&A

Paul K. Haeder: You were a teacher for a while. What are the challenges you saw then and see now in higher education?

Wallace Kaufman: “I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” — Abigail Adams. Instead of developing that ability, schools and colleges have turned increasingly to teaching one point of view.

Haeder: Do you have a role model or two? Please list/name them, identify them and tell why you consider each one respectively as role models.

Kaufman: Honesty in thinking and scholarship: I met Oscar Muscarella, former senior curator of the Ancient Near East at the Metropolitan, museum, when I was a 16-year-old digger excavating the Mandan village at Swan Creek, S.D., and he was a Ph.D. student. He built his career not only on personal genius and discovery but on exposing frauds and crimes in the antiquity’s world, from rich donors taking unwarranted tax deductions to scholars writing history based on forgeries.

My business model: Mark Thompson, a grizzled old N.Y. city waiter who opened a little bookstore and served people 3-5, 7-9 all week. Any kid too poor to buy a book, got the book free. He hired me when I was 12 to hold boards and tools as he built the shop and later taught me the used and rare book business. He had been on the skids in many towns before defeating alcoholism. His reputation as a straight shooter got him invitations to price books in rich estates and at AAUW book fairs because he guaranteed to buy anything unsold for half his price. His constant advice was the heart of ethical capitalism: “Buster, let everyone make a buck.”

Haeder:You are living a writer’s life but with a few other interests and financial supports. What recommendation would you give to aspiring journalists and writers?

Anything you might learn in J-school or an MFA program you can learn on the job, from books, from self-directed study. What you can’t learn, except through experience, is the pain, joy, suffering and confusion that gives life to good writing. Go somewhere challenging. Put your skin in the game, your life on the line, your money where your mouth is.

Haeder: If you weren’t living here, on the Oregon Coast, where would you be living, and why?

Kaufman: Ideally, I’d live by a hot spring on Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk. Since that’s not possible, I would choose a forested hot spring in the PNW, for the contrasts, the comforts, an easy way to grow old.

Haeder: We called your place your own Walden Pond. Can you elaborate on what that means, since Thoreau covers many aspects of humanity, nature, spirituality and life and ecological forces in the book “Walden”?

Kaufman: Thoreau said he went to Walden Pond to shed the diversions and distractions and surpluses of community life and think more deeply about life and to find “higher laws” — the goal of the English Romantics before him and of his friends in the Transcendental movement. He never found the higher laws, but he was sure he saw them expressed in the world of the pond. Same here for Poole Slough and its forests and marshes. My variant may be that I spend more time looking at this world through the lens of science rather than through personal revelation, which I distrust.

daring to call the entire Western Capitalist Crime Syndicate what it is – Left/Right/Center Thuggery

by Paul Haeder / September 24th, 2020

First, the reality on the ground –

I am still working, losing billable hours weekly as my contract with an “anti-poverty/social capital” organization winds down. This is with a non-profit that is pushing over $100 million (“donated” by millionaires, billionaires, philanthropies and in some cases state and city programs)  that came down the pike just in the past six months for so-called Covid-19 relief money for, right now, the 110,000 folk already, from Oakland to Detroit to Chicago and Austin and Seattle, who have applied for funds varying from $500 a person in King County, WA, from the Starbucks Mafia for out-of-work restaurant folk (that was $6 million of Schulz Foundation blood coffee profits), to home owners in Chicago who can apply for eviction relief.

I’ll do a piece on the outfit as my time with them ends soon, but for now, any Google search for my name, well, that’s a killer. For instance, again, I need the work, and for two jobs for which I interviewed via Zoom, I got the thanks but no thanks — a permeancy worker for foster children, and then a worker for folks with developmental disabilities. In each case (and I have written about both this and reverse sexism, and anti-socialist crap before) five women (a state job and then a country job) interviewing me. All these teams are stacked with women, and in the illogic of neoliberalism and this bizarre mentality, why not keep a man off the team. As if young foster youth and youth who might need to be reunited with biological families, and those with developmental disabilities NEVER EVER need to see or hear from a male case worker. You think it is true these HR folk do a Google on me? Yep.

So, now, limping along, imagine, I am working as a contractor – on the 1099 IRS form– and there is little broad connection to the organization I work for in terms of my own benefit and contribution for the organization. There is a lot of fakery, a lot of on-the-screen fake comradeship.  These people are siloed, as they work remotely (before lockdown Covid-19 Zoom Gulag). There is a lot of cliqueness, and the entire concept of remote work and conference calls/training/management is dead from the navel up.

But it is the thing of the future, thanks to the thousands upon thousands of outfits pushing on-line banking, on-line education, on-line med, on-line psychiatry, on-line family reunions, on-line weddings/divorces/funerals/ anniversaries/birthdays/dating/sex. The world is the app developers’ and the tech monsters’ virtual oyster.

But the working with the devil noise is now much more pronounced with this outfit I ended up working with starting a year ago July. We are talking about a non-profit that is now working hand in hand with the Koch Brothers (Stand Together) and Charles Schwab and all that lovely stuff that is part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Koch Network Reorganizes as ‘Stand Together’ May 22, 2019 The Seminar Network , a network of nonprofits funded by Charles Koch and like-minded conservatives and libertarians who donate at least $100,000 annually to “help people improve their lives,” has announced that going forward it will be known as Stand Together .[ Source ! ]

So, this non-profit is over 18 years old, and used to have sites where household members met monthly, shared stories, shared resources, and did journals to receive some cash assistance. It was always the “data in the monthly journals was aggregated, not connected to one specific person or household.” And the non-profit got seed money and in-kind app development and AI support from, well, you guessed it, Google.

Connecting to the Koch Brothers is a dance with the devil. That started in Feb, 2020. Talk about cognitive dissonance —

Koch-Backed “Libre Initiative” Purports To “Empower Hispanics,” But Pushes Policies That Would Disproportionately Hurt Poor Hispanics. Libre Initiative, backed by more than $10 million in Koch funding, purports to “empower Hispanics,” but experts say the organization supports policies that “disenfranchise Hispanic voters” and opposes programs that would help millions of Hispanics living in poverty. Libre opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and minimum wage increases, both of which would disproportionately benefit the Hispanic community, especially those living in poverty, and supports voter ID laws that would “disenfranchise Hispanic voters, other minorities, and the poor.” — Media Matters. 

So, this Stand Together is supported by the billionaires who hate teachers, hate unions, hate raising the minimum wage, hate the science around global heating/warming, hate universities, hate hate hate. And, the non-profit I work with is mostly made up of BIPOC, and many are 20-somethings and 30-somethings. Many came from poverty. Some are originally from places like Puerto Rico and Columbia.

Track these billionaire misanthropes here — Koch Docs. 

Read about the Koch Brothers in “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” by the Christopher Leonard.

As a 1099 contractor on the outs — who goes to bat for the few hundred Oregonians in the project I am/was heading up, money from Department of Human Services, to the tune of $720,000 total (most of which has not been distributed) — I am way left-left of field, the most radical person these young and youngish people will ever meet. I am not a capitalist, and I know what capitalism does. The proof is in the pudding — and if I sent this over to any of the people I work with, nah, I’d expect more than just push back. I’d expect narcing in the true sense of that term.

Read, Wrench in the Gears:

One of the biggest things we’re up against, and something few people are talking about, is social impact investing and pay for success finance. Within the hollowed out shell of the welfare state, which admittedly was always inadequate and used for purposes of racialized social control, global finance has built a new machine that will use predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and wearable and screen-based technologies to monitor the global poor and profit from their misery.

This effort is being carried out in partnership with the non-profit sector, higher education, think tanks, and global foundations. Many involved identify as liberal, even progressive. Successful resistance will require stopping Trump, the Koch brothers, and ALEC, as well as a corporate, militarized Blue Wave that has every intention of stabilizing late-stage capitalism with technocratic “evidence-based” solutions. Make no mistake; this is a fully bipartisan enterprise.

Outcomes-based contracts are this machine’s operating system. Contracts employ pay-for-performance agreements that reimburse service providers IF they produce specified success metrics. These metrics are narrowly defined and chosen for their ability to be gamed. Contrived solutions offer up fake “success” to enrich investors at the expense of vulnerable populations. Think standardized test scores as success metrics for education or fit-bit step counts for preventative health.

This machine requires a steady supply of people labeled deficient by those in power. Like batteries in the Matrix, the poor are meant to be the fuel. The machine does not care for their actual wellbeing; its sole purpose is to maximize profit. In that it is similar to the capitalist Western medical model where Big Pharma opts for chronic disease management over research leading to cures. Pay for success will not empower the poor, but instead manage them and harvest their data, indefinitely. — Pay for Success Finance Preys Upon The Poor: Presentation at Left Forum 

You can read more about the reality of capitalism NEVER dying because it is, a., running through the BlackRock filter ($100 trillion that for-profit scheme has on its ledgers as handlers of money), b., part of a huge effort to colonize most people on earth to abide by the Dashboard overlord. That is, people in dire straits will abide to almost anything to get paid, to get food, rent money, something, whether an at-home-paycheck, or some UBI – universal buffoon income.

It’s not just the vaccine passport that will be on the Dashboard, monetized, collected, used against you (if you don’t get one of those shots), or in your favor (if you get the shot, let the shot people put more data about you on the Dashboard, and let the AI and tech fascists decide what is or is not a viable human being on planet earth). Everything you do or say or believe or put on Facebook, that all will be collected, parsed, judged (AI) and then used to determine your worth, whether you are near the value of Soylent Green or some cubicle worker developing code.

Education is already dead in the water – So the concept of a smart, educated, critically thinking, independent, demanding, critical of government/corporations/media student, well, that has been gone-gone-gone. Now, look at the Pre-K plans for the future below:

Look, they will be collecting BMI’s and all those details of all our chronic illnesses, all reports from the cops, all prescriptions taken, all notes from the social worker/psychologist/psychiatrist. They will collect all movements in your work history, all movements in your credit history, all moving and non-moving violations.

Capitalism is not dying, but rather, it is a Philip K. Dick nightmare, making Minority Report and Gattaca and Blade-Runner look like a bicycle ride around Mister Rogers neighborhood.

The Good Club

Make no bones about it – capitalism is in its 4.0 iteration of surveillance punishment. Capitalism is never just that – a form of economic relationships, that is supposed to be fair, balanced and with that free hand helping the community of businesses come together and practice fair market sharing, and using that all boats rise kind of communitarian logic. Nine sheep farmers on the island working out how much bite the flocks can make, which fields stay off limits during certain seasons, how to share the streams, the fields, the pathways, the roads and access to markets. Even a collective of shearers and ways to store the wool and how to enhance all their lives. Sure? But then that 10th farmer comes on board, moves to the island and well, a true capitalist maximizes profits, finds ways to cut corners (expenses), and has ways to not share the water  and share the commons. Alas, yep, tragedy of the commons, and without communism and participatory democracy, then the common good is thrown out with the blood and guts and shit, put in a pond, collected out back, where the poor workers live. The common good has been replaced by the corporate good, the good of the stockholders, the good of the few at the expense of the many. Children understand this. Good things are not bad things done to good people. Duh. But capitalism is all about bad and mean and horrors done to good people.

But children can’t be taught this, anymore, and alas, what passes as education today, moreover, for the past 30/40 years, has been a mix of indoctrination and pacification.

‘Traditional education can be seen as sculptural in nature, individual destiny is written somewhere within the human being, awaiting dross to be removed before a true image shines forth. Schooling, on the other hand, seeks a way to make mind and character blank, so others may chisel the destiny thereon,’ John  Gatto, The Underground History of American Education

Much of Gatto’s writing is focused on the basic yet often overlooked distinction between schooling and education. At the heart of his work is the simple yet radical suggestion that mass schooling, a 19th-century European import to the U.S., is not the modern manifestation of the ancient concept of education but, rather, its diametric opposite.  See: Truthout Vincent Kelley,
October 25, 2019

I have written about my own decades teaching, from community colleges, to universities to prison programs, and K12. It is an absolute mess under capitalism, patriotism and commercialism. A society that believes in the red-white-and-blue and the power of the sword, well, you need willing participants and fools in that game. Start them off young. And no matter how radical and true to education one teacher or a million might be, the American will is to have outsiders and outside-the-box participants break.

Rockefeller’s General Education Board summed up in a 1906 document on scientific schooling:

In our dreams … people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk…. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…. We will organize children … and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

It is only worse a hundred and 14 years later.

Capitalism has always been a stacked deck, and always has been based on penury, parasitic, predatory financial exchanges; and socialism for the corporations. Every aspect of capitalism has been set forth as a system of dog-eat-dog, and survival of the fittest. In fact, it is a form of Organized Crime, a unique Mafia … and those externalities and economies of scale that have set about mass murders of people – either softly, through economic violence, or, deliberately, through the myriad of toxins and poisons and slow/moderate/fast death by a thousand carcinogens.

Then it makes sense that self-driving cars, Internet of Things, vaccine markers and RFIDs, mass surveillance and real time data collecting, from saliva to ulcers, from keyboard clicks to Netflix picks, the entire system is set up to use  regular humans as sources of data. Like big lakes of human blood to be harvested.

Neuroweb

Forget about the mass media and mass indoctrination. Forget about Madison Avenue and the applied psychology and behaviorism of perceived or planned obsolescence. Forget about the dopamine hits from gambling, lotteries, shopping, eating, vegging out. Forget about the manipulation through the dark arts of subliminal advertising. Forget about the colonization of the mind through malls, box stores, and now the on-line tyranny of the Walmart/Target/Amazon kind.

Forget about the blood and guts and shit and cancerous tumors chopped up and mixed in with the All American hotdogs, or the shit and fetuses and unusable offal of the birds-swine-cattle used to feed The Jungle on Steroids. Imagine, a system – capitalism – that has the dark arts of lobbying, prostituting politicians, and the economic hitmen/snake oil salesmen/grifters/outright thieves/destroyers/takers all allowing mercury in baby formula, lead in water, microplastics in everything, untested nanoparticles pulverized and mixed in with the pancake batter, all the gas-fuel additives that cause future mommy to have ovarian cancer at 25 and future daddy to have a sperm count one-half that of a guy like Willie Loman.

Imagine that system, man, of zero precautionary principle which in fact has already been reversed as the cost of doing business. Forced arbitration, death of class action lawsuits, $2000 an hour lawyers to bankrupt any plaintiff, and this great system, called Capitalism, moves like a rabid pack of dogs ten million strong across the land, the globe.

The conversations with both left and right of that manure pile called American national politics, well, vapid, and hinging on insanity all the time.

Read more on social impact bonds — man, capitalists make money on every single bad move, bad decision, bad health care outcome, bad driving record, bad physiology, bad mental health performance, bad check, bad report card, bad loan, bad divorce, bad habit, bad addiction, bad sin, bad purchase, bad trip, bad death.

Rikers Island SIB

Whew.

Now back to the ground-level stuff – I am working as a journalist (one paid gig, others free), editing Cirque Journal as guest editor (a $100 honorarium). I have a new book out and three more to get ready, and alas, where is that publishing money? Right:  in the hands of the overlords and their mutants. From Mary Trump to Michael Cohen to Joe Rogan, well, the list of underserving “authors” and complete trash products of nothingness is very very long. A hundred blog pages long. And that’s just a start!

Yet, I live in an area of the world (Central Oregon Coast) where many people are either really hurting with small fixed incomes or those that have gotten some form of the brass ring and are holding steady in their fairly middle class retirement. Plus, the service economy, and their families and their struggles are to the tenth power.

Many of the people I communicate with on social media, well, I wonder about them – they seem to also have some form of semi-secure stream of income. And yet, boy, do we hear a lot from those left-of-Al Gore types writing for blogs, Facebook posts, and on-line magazines. A LOT.

They have in most cases no concept of what homelessness is, or how housing insecurity destroys all hope. They are all raring to go with the “masks don’t work” thesis, or, “Biden is worse than Trump hands down” yammering. It is a bizarre time. They know nothing of two or let alone ten opposing ideas that all need parsing and critical discussion.

Many of my more secure friends think I am all 401-k-ed up. “Man, books, years as a journalist, decades as a college instructor, social worker . . . blah-blah-blah.” They just are as out of touch as those who believe Biden and Trump are two peas in a pod, or that the democrats hands down across the board are as bad or worse than republicans across the board.

Man, it is a shit show. Look, I have worked to lobby for part-time faculty rights, to lobby for stricter river rights, lobbied to increase minimum wage, lobbied to do a lot of progressive things. The conversations and the level of intelligence those two-bit senators and representatives who deem themselves blue compared to the level of intelligence, depth, humanity of those two-bit senators and representatives who deem themselves red is absolutely night and day, hands down.

We are not talking Karl Rover or Bill Clinton or James Carville or Cheney or Pence or Biden or Trump and all their lackies and money-rubbing pukes. I am talking about small-town politics, about small districts, about large state districts.

Yep, few are going to be able to talk about Zapatistas, anarchism, ecosocialism, any of the progressive issues, but many conversations with democrats I have had over 4.5 decades, from Idaho to Seattle, from Las Cruces to Houston, from Portland to New York City, well, it doesn’t take some Off-Guardian winner to give the world the daily news – I can attest to the complete retrograde, misanthropic, mean-as-cuss, dog-eat-dog mentality of EVERY GOP or republican I have talked to in those 4.5 decades. Inherently, they are pro-cop, pro-war, pro-unfettered capitalism; they are anti-union; anti-collective bargaining; anti-environmentalism; anti-Medicare-for-all. They are fucking misanthropes, making neoliberals seem like saints. And we know what neoliberalism is!

For anyone to talk differently, well, that is one big fat lie. Delusion. Game. Devil’s Advocacy. Or just inherent love of some of what Trump melodies, from his anti 1619 Project, to his hate of critical race theory, to his complete ignorance, man, complete. Something about the white whore Trump that some of these lefties sort of like. Ask them.

Try it, really, with two-bit GOP v. two-bit democrat. Mayoral candidate? County supervisor? Try it. REALLY. Talk to both of them about those progressive issues, those radical ideas, those socialistic ideals. You will have ears with democrats, and rants and closed minds of the GOP.

Yep, you have to have the gift of gab, and you have to pull them into their subterfuge. In most cases, you have to be a white male talking to these fellows and women. It doesn’t take a Gore Vidal level of debate skills to flush them out of their racist, anti-raising-the-minimum-wage-to-a-living-wage mentality.

Yet, oh, yet – how broken the American soul is, and I can’t lump all the lower middle-class folk who go for the Elephant in the big state races, etc. Many can and do have intelligent conversations, and can understand  false balance, invented dichotomies and do know how to process counterintuitive thinking.

I dare anyone to talk to a GOP or MAGA or military industrial complex whore about peace, getting USA out of any place, but let’s just say Venezuela. Try it. Try and discuss how corporations who lie-cheat-pollute-steal-murder must not only be prosecuted and fined, but community-wide reparations must be exacted from them as restorative justice. Try that one out with the neighbor posting the “Trump is a Sign from Out God” sign on their front yard.

Is it expected that liberals (democrats) might say and believe and understand stupid things? Sure, a bunch came out recently with “Romney is the only ethical guy” when it was first known of Ruth Bader’s demise (and like the human stain he is, Mister Bain Capital, reversed that statement about holding off on a SCOTUS vote until after the “election”). Or, how Cynthia McCain is great, and so was John McCain. This sort of bizarre rah-rah is definitely part of America’s Amnesia, and the country’s general collective Stockholm Syndrome. We are (and have been for a very long time) living in a country with two piss-ass bad national parties that have blood on their hands.

And part of the blood is on us all, as we pay for goods and services with those greenbacks – In God We Trust. Every tax filing, yep, money to-for-because of the military industrial complex, which we should know by now is everything from toilet paper to sunscreen, from pickles to window frames, from blue plastic tarps to armor-piercing ammunition, from drones to Hellfire missiles, from endless replacement parts to the tenth power each for every Hummer and Stryker parked on planet earth, to the B-1 bomber, the DARPA and Plume Island and Fort Detrick bioweapons lap dance. Every single person in academia who gets a grant from Rockefeller, Ford Foundation, any of the 2,700 billionaire-smeared non-profits and foundations and think tanks, well, they too are part of the Structural Violence and Military-Chemical-Drug-Oil-Med-Banking-Insurance-Prison-Ag-Law-Real Estate-Patent-AI-IT-Engineering-Space-Mining-Surveillance Complex.

Capitalism is about selling out and the Faustian Bargain. It is a cancer, a colonization of the mind-body-spirit-history-cultures-futures. You can strip away one layer after another layer, opt out of one thing after another thing, advance a socialist agenda in this or that arena, but in the end, Capitalism not only has us all by the short hairs, the future will be dictated by Criminal Capitalism. Every single thing coming out of Hollywood or Madison Avenue or Publishing has the stench of Sulphur, so to read all those Off-Guardian writers who just go full force on the Democratic Party, full force on the Democratic governors pushing lockdowns, full force on the Democrats who want to curtail individual and community rights, they fail the litmus test when it comes to the history of what a Republican/Conservative perverse racist and supremacist Trump or Pence or Nixon or Reagan or you-name-the-piece-of-human-stain Republican believes and wants for the world. Ask them about anything Native American, anything about the history of colonialism, manifest destiny, any of it. Question them about reparations, about genocide, about community rights, about the people’s right to push out bad businesses, bad industries, bad companies from their communities/towns/cities/states. Ask them, man, about private property, about the right to own a bazooka, about any of it, and you will hands down get the same answer through and through – from a republican, and it is, a fact, every GOP is a racist, corporatist, anti-intellectualist cult member. Do the democratic administrations have blood on their hands? Are they hypocrites? Are they in bed with Wall Street?

Yep.

But have that conversation with a mayor or county supervisor or district representative. Flush them out, and see which GOP is open to any sort of liberal thinking. Good luck on that one.

But now, down to brass tacks: the unemployment, underemployment, bad-employment (Shit Jobs, David Graeber, may you rest in peace) rates in the USA, the real buying power, the real economy, all of that has been the shits since 1970. Before. There was never a real middle class, and most Americans are part of the debtor class. New car, second car, house, boat, new roof, college education, a trip, new fridge, you name it, including surgeries and dental work, all of that is on CREDIT. For most Americans.

You might have a better time framing these realities with naïve Democrats, but try it, brothers and sisters, with GOP and MAGA and Reaganites and Nixonites. Try those talks with them, your neighbors, anyone you know or suspect of being a cult-infused Trump-loving Christian-bowing Republican.

I’ve been having those conversations since I was 13, so mark that:  one-half a century debating military, debating republicans, debating capitalists, debating the idea of America being anything other than North America, Canada, colonized and trashed, and then this USA colonized and trashed, and alas, Mesoamerica and Central America and South America, colonized and trashed before the United States ended up sending millions to their deaths through capitalism, structural economic warfare, propping up despots and dictators, and, here we are, then:

So many of my friends who vote blue are freaked out about Trump, about the Proud boys, about the anti-BLM movement, about the homeless problem, the climate heating problem, the entire shooting match – capitalism on steroids.

They are depressed and can’t even come to talk about the ways many of us who have been battling capitalism and faux democracy and this White Western Civilization’s rapacious and warring ways in order to fight off that cynicism. They believe the world is cooked and ruined, and they in one fell swoop – in their naïve and shallow democratic party leaning ways – consign young and old to the dust bins of history even before the entire ranch has been sold down the river.

I enjoy one gig:  focusing on people and their narratives and struggles. It’s for Street Roots, a paper that has won a lot of awards, but is a street newspaper, in Portland. Again, small potatoes, compared to the vaunted stuff over at Off-Guardian or Truthout or even now the Grayzone or Mintpress. But what I am finding is the stories in this newspaper are so more relevant than anything coming out of Glen Greenwald’s mouth, out of the celebrity culture that is either in overdrive, tied to MSM, or then those like  Thom Hartmann  (small potatoes) and now the $100 million deal given to Joe Rogan from Spotify.

I’m now interviewing Portland artists and the art community with the proposition around this — What is Art in a Time of Lockdown. Where Does Art Go Now that Artists Are Dropping to the Wayside like Flies. Is There No Exceptional and Out-of-the-Bourgeoise Box Art Anymore. Along those lines, but really, just talking to people who were already challenging the Art Biz mentality of American (Western Art) popular art that has permeated the art world for decades but now supercharged.

I just finished this older book: The Art Biz: The Covert World of Collectors, Dealers, Auction Houses, Museums, and Critics Hardcover – June 1, 1991 by Alice Goldfarb Marquis

And I watched again, this documentary, which lifts a lot from Alice Goldfarb Marquis’ book.

From acclaimed director Barry Avrich and executive producer Jonas Prince, BLURRED LINES: INSIDE THE ART WORLD lifts the curtain on the provocative contemporary art scene, a glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce. Featuring insider accounts from the most influential and powerful players in the industry, audiences will hear from renowned artists such as Julian Schnabel and Marina Abramovic, experts from prominent museums like MoMA and art fairs like Art Basel, insiders at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and leading gallerists.

Imagine the degradation of thinking, discourse and debate over at the Rogan Show. And, Americans love their red-faced yelling heroes, their MC’s who do Mixed Martial Arts play-by-play, then a podcast, and now this big ass deal. Americans legitimize only those who are, a., high up on the You Tube platform, and, b., make news about themselves, and, c, have wads of money and wads of followers.

This is what we have gotten to – Entertaining/Amusing/YouTubing/Reality TV-ing/Art of Dealing Ourselves to Death.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Of course, Huxley didn’t quite describe the New World as a cultist crew of One Percenters and their Five Percent Eichmann’s and the other 15 Percenters who are the managers and bosses pushing this capitalism for the rich, trickle down, voodoo economics, what have you, for the POOR. But it is a cult, really, from celebrity to academic to overpaid idiots, and on and on, until we have perversions of humanity, whether Trump and his narcissism on steroids and Adderall, or Biden or Harris or Clinton, well, what fools we are for having new overlords in the administrations and the supreme courts, and even judgeships and DAs, inside the entire mess of America, run by people who get the mic, control the medium, get the print and copy and air time. All with big bucks thrown in.

Celebrity — turned into the cult of the self, a la Christ Hedges:

We have a right, in the cult of the self, to get whatever we desire. We can do anything, even belittle and destroy those around us, including our friends, to make money, to be happy and to become famous. Once fame and wealth are achieved, they become their own justification, their own morality. How one gets there is irrelevant. It is this perverted ethic that gave us Wall Street banks and investment houses that willfully trashed the nation’s economy, stole money from tens of millions of small shareholders who had bought stocks to finance their retirement or the college expenses of their children. The heads of these corporations, like the winners on a reality television program who lied and manipulated others to succeed, walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and bonuses. The ethic of Wall Street is the ethic of celebrity.    The Man in the Mirror, Chris Hedges 

The sky glows bright red in Salem hours before sunset Tuesday, Sept. 8. The Beechie Creek Fire in Marion County was burning about 30 miles to the east. (Photo by Monica Kwasnik)

Opinion | Fire. Evacuations. What next?

As we confront our new normal, we’re still searching for a society designed to protect people

by Paul K. Haeder | 11 Sep 2020

I’ve covered a few wildfire stories over the years as a newspaperman living and working in Cochise County and Tucson, Ariz.; in El Paso reporting on places like Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, N.M.; and in Spokane, reporting on the panhandles of Idaho, Southern British Columbia and Eastern Washington.

Finishing up an urban and regional planning graduate degree at Easter Washington University, I remember discussing intently the wildland-urban interface — an area where houses meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland vegetation.

While the wildland-urban interface is a focal area for human-environment challenges like habitat fragmentation, introduction of exotic species and biodiversity decline, at the top of the list is the very issue California, Oregon and Washington are dealing with — the destruction of homes communities and human lives by wildfires.

The reality is a new normal has emerged in the West, over the course of 30 years and intensifying now in the past 15 years. Without being overly dramatic and historical, while living and working in Spokane, I got a lot of background on the Great Fire of 1910, also commonly referred to as the Big Burn. It was August of that year when strong winds caused smaller fires to combine into a firestorm that killed 87 people, destroyed entire towns and burned more than three million acres of forest with an estimated billion dollars’ worth of timber lost.

Paul Haeder has been a journalist since he was 17. He is a social worker for veterans, foster youths, adults with developmental disabilities and those in homeless circumstances, and others battling addiction and recently released from prison.
by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Fast-forward to 2011, and I am working in Seattle for a newspaper and several colleges, as well as environmental groups. Also, part of Occupy Seattle. Through all of that distraction, I ended up in a couple of conferences focusing on sustainability and urban growth boundaries. For Washington, the term “dangerously overgrown wildlands” combined with the fact that more than 230,000 people had moved into wildfire-prone areas since 1990 were part of the discussion breakouts.

The lack of preparedness, poor interagency cooperation, and dwindling funding at the state and federal levels to not just fight the fires but to mitigate this reality that more and more people are ending up in places where woodlands, timber stands and national forests abutting their communities were front and center issues.

Parallel to this is the issue of libertarianism pushing many communities into an odd situation of paying subscriptions for both firefighting and EMT services. The for-profit outfit Rural/Metro Corp. years ago came into communities in Arizona, Tennessee and Oregon hawking subscriptions for emergency response. I heard from a friend recently who personally knew of a family who had a house fire raging when the fire truck came to the property. The driver looked at his roster, stating the home wasn’t covered because it hadn’t been part of the subscription service. Quickly, the owner pulled out his wallet and put a couple hundred dollars to cover a few years of subscription on the firefighter’s clipboard. Unfortunately, the Tennessee private firefighters let the house burn down.

When to and when not to evacuate

My spouse and I are hosting Yvonne and Darrel Pearce, my in-laws from Sandy. They evacuated Sept. 9 after hearing about a Level 1 warning for their area, along with some confusion about a Level 2 warning also being issued. Some of their friends in Estacada and elsewhere were not so lucky — flames from a 113,000-acre fire burned down outbuildings, overgrown land and cars.

The discussion point in our house today centers around how do we realize a society with seamless systems to protect public health, safety and well-being. Where I live in Waldport, we’ve experienced San Francisco-level pink and pumpkin orange skies, a blotted-out sun and thick acrid smoky air.

For the Pearces, they frantically called the Clackamas County sheriff and fire agencies about friends who live in an area deemed Level 3 — a sort of get the hell out of Dodge command. This is a couple living on many acres with dogs, feral cats and chickens. They are 75 and 91 years old. The husband does not want to evacuate.

This is not so uncommon — people reluctant and refusing to evacuate homes from the threat of firestorms, tornados, hurricanes and blizzards. It turns out my mother-in-law was able to persuade the wife to get out of this area around Eagle Creek.

She was on her way to Richland, Wash., to a Walmart parking lot, “to get as far away from the smoke as possible.” This woman was not able to persuade her 91-year-old husband to leave.

Again, how and where to evacuate and how to coordinate information systems are also topics on the table.

The fact that some states like Oregon make it voluntary to leave versus other states mandates forcing evacuations legally was also brought up.

Yvonne and Darrel stated that they left with very few belongings. “I said goodbye to the apartment and our things,” Yvonne lamented. “Our lives are more important.” What they did take along with them was important paperwork, a few days’ worth of clothes and two funerary urns with the cremains of two of her brothers and those of their dog Buddy. And a tuning harp her father used when directing his church choir.

It was bumper to bumper Wednesday leaving Sandy. They both said it took an hour-plus to get to Highway 26. Many people were evacuating with vehicles loaded down. They both stated people were being considerate to not block all the side and feeder roads.

I asked them both the biggest issue they faced and still face with this evacuation, which is purely voluntary, and at the lowest level of danger at that time.

“It’s very unsettling this is happening,” Darrel said. “We need one system to coordinate information. There are too many gaps.”

Here are the levels for emergency evacuation posted on Clackamas County’s website:

Level 1: BE READY for potential evacuation. You should be aware of the danger that exists in the area, monitor emergency services websites and local media outlets for information. This is the time for preparation and precautionary movements of persons with special needs, mobile property and (under certain circumstances) pets and livestock. If conditions worsen, emergency services personnel may contact you via an emergency notification system.

Level 2: BE SET to evacuate. You must prepare to leave at a moment’s notice. This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntary relocate to a shelter or with family and friends outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Residents MAY have time to gather necessary items, but doing so is at their own risk. This may be the only notice you receive. Emergency services cannot guarantee that they will be able to notify you if conditions rapidly deteriorate. Area media services will be asked to broadcast periodic updates.

Level 3: GO! Evacuate now! Leave immediately! Danger to your area is current or imminent, and you should evacuate immediately. If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand that emergency services may not be available to assist you further. DO NOT delay leaving to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. This will be the last notice you receive.

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

There is the Avamere at Cascadia Village assisted living center next to my in-laws’ apartment complex. Maybe a hundred units, with possibly twice that number of residents in various stages of ambulation and medical need. What sort of trigger gets pulled for them to evacuate? Level 2 or Level 3? The flames coming over the treetops?

While talking to my in-laws, one of my Facebook friends out of the blue messaged me: “From a social worker friend in Portland: ‘In case you were wondering how monstrous & cruel Americans can be, houseless people in Clackamas County, whose camps are threatened by wildfires, are not allowed in the emergency fire shelters.’”

I’ve messaged this writer to have the person contact me via email, but whatever happens, the optics are not too great if even a rumor like this is being promulgated.

This is from Counterpunch’s editor, Jeffery St. Clair: “Really thick smoke here in Oregon City this morning. I got up early and went to Clackamas Community College, about two miles southeast of us, which is serving as an evacuation center. About a thousand people camped there in RVs, cars, tents or sleeping bags out on the fields, right alongside their animals: Llamas, ponies, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, alpacas, ducks. All seeming to get along, as if it were Dr. Doolittle’s ranch transported to Mars.”

While people are dealing with pets, animals and loved ones, as well as barns and homes being immolated by wildfire, the reality is global warming has been changing the region’s seasons. One extensive national climate assessment prepared by 13 federal agencies and released in 2018 states our Pacific Northwest has warmed nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.

Yes, the trend will continue into the century, with the double-whammy of warmer winters and less mountain snowpack. Those same experts know long-term changes create an unusual risk in Pacific Northwest forests: Even a modest increase in contributing factors, like days without rain, could make them much more prone to burning.

“Those are the kinds of changes that amount to taking a forest and pushing it over the edge,” said Michael Medler, a fire scientist and chair of Western Washington University’s environmental studies department.

Two years ago, I saw a report from Tim Ingalsbee, head of Firefighters United for Safety Ethics and Ecology, which is an Oregon-based nonprofit working on updating building codes. “The western slopes of the Cascades and the Northwest are just woefully unprepared,” Ingalsbee said.

While my in-laws are concerned, Darrel stated, “I’m not surprised, by the fires. But the reality of how close we are to them has stuck.”

His 72-year-old wife understands the beauty in the area they have lived in for five years attracted both them and others in droves: “We have so much beauty around us. So much vegetation, trees. We have an angus cattle ranch near us. And all those Christmas trees.”

For both her 75-year-old husband and herself, they see their Christian faith as a salve for the situation they are in. However, they know others who have lost homes and are now traumatized by the constant seasonal fear of wildfire scare have much to grapple with.

As I sign off this piece on Sept. 10, the Pearces were glued to their smartphones listening to the Clackamas County press conference. Sandy is now in a Level 2 warning. Who knows now about Sharon and Ed, the couple who just made the decision to have the wife take off and the old man stay at the property under the Level 3 evacuation warning?

by Paul Haeder / September 5th, 2020

I’ll get to the punch line soon, since this is part two of a two-part mini-horror story of a neighbor’s 41-year-old MAGA son, the actual son’s 63-year-old MAGA-mean mom, and alas, the 41-year-old son’s 39-year-old brother. And then the lot of them under the roof of a 63-year-old stepfather who has “US Navy retired” on his Facebook account, as well as every single post about on-line Texas Hold’em. [Part One! Your Right Ends with My Right to Might]

The offending sign:

They are not what David Graeber said, “We Are the 99 Percent.” They are making three retirements, getting social security (times two), government (tax payer funded) Medicare, free VA, and they sold a house (obscene inflated price) in California, and have come to Oregon because this coast is almost “We Are the 99 Percent White” homeland of Sundown Laws. Their house on our street is the largest and newest built right on the dunes overlooking the bay. Cheap compared to Simi Valley. They banked the rest for their glorious days as racists on the coast of Oregon.

You know, criticize students, teachers, journalists, local elected officials, the road department, Portland in general, Democrats, anyone with a green button on, and, well, not exactly connoisseurs of our incredible Hatfield Marine Sciences Center.  For them, spending money at a spendy restaurant in Newport, chipping in a $7 tip, and lording over some subservient waiter is their way of “rubbing elbows with the poor people.”

I know the types because I have talked with others around here — Californians from Orange County, Semi Valley and the like. The ones who for decades have cursed the Mexicans, the Guatemalans, the African Americans, the Koreans, the Armenians, the Sikhs, the Indians, the Chinese, and on and on and on. You know, in places named Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, those all-American English proper nouns.

The single thread I have attempted to help students understand is that we are as individuals what we individually… do, say, eat, drink, watch, read, dream, hope for, act upon, see, smell, hear, hold true, protect, believe, perform, learn, value, preserve, who we valorize, what we consume, build, and write. Collectively, well, one can imagine as a society or culture or nation that we might also have  all of these “what we …” to reflect upon whether we are good people or bad people, takers or leavers, kind or cruel, pacific or warring, COLLECTIVELY.

Ways of Thinking - Feudalism is very much alive

More on the MAGA deplorables in a moment.

Having lived in some interesting places – Bisbee, Tucson, Sierra Vista, El Paso, Albuquerque, Spokane, Seattle, Portland,  Vancouver, and then many other places in foreign lands —  I understand the concept of those who have and those who have nothing or barely nothing.

I understand (know closely) those in crisis, those with bad families, those who have been abandoned by the most important people who should have been there for them – mother, father, sister, brother, uncles and aunts, extended families. I know the directionless mindset of young people who join gangs, use drugs, commit violence,  and are on a war-path toward self-destruction. I know the deep thread of trauma inflicted upon people, and how that stays for life, an ever-lasting series of lamentations, self-analyses, and self-doubts and self-loathing, to just name a few.

It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to know bad hombres when you see them. It doesn’t take the niece or the sister of a Trump Character to know the lack of worth and the insult to humanity a guy like him reflects.

Did Hitler have adverse childhood experiences? Does it matter? Trump? Cheney? Bush? Kissinger? Milton Friedman? Colin Powell? Madeline Albright? Obama? Clinton? Biden? Every single billionaire and every single millionaire?

You know, I have a neighbor here, next door, from Arizona. Husband and wife. They hate Glendale, hate the republican Red State politics, hate the criminal ex-pardoned-sheriff Joe. They are here, and alas, they bought a lot, and built on it a manufactured home. The kind that comes in two parts. You know it from the long line of cars on the freeways with “extra wide load” pilot cars sandwiching them. A nice one with a foundation and it looks like a from-the-ground-up-with-footings house.

The deal is they (no one) can get a traditional mortgage for a trailer or park home or manufactured home. But, that billionaire Warren Buffet made some cool billions by financing mobile homes, using a balloon payment system, and his scheme (one of thousands) caused many (millions) to pay exorbitant fees, interest rates, and many-many homes were repossessed, like yesterday’s Pontiac Grand Am. Then, old Warren inflicts another layer of making money — on the used (repossessed) manufactured home market. This is the scheme of misanthropes, those that make the Forbes 1000 List, those that end up on Obama’s economic transition team. Or Trump’s. Or Biden’s.

The neighbors are nice, but alas, they are voting for Biden-Harris, and even that action conjures up fears, so much so they are afraid to put out a legal, everyday “Vote for Harris-Biden 2020” yard sign. Other neighbors want that same sign up, but fear retaliation. 

I know many people living in many countries, including many in Europe, and they are sort of looking at this country from a telephoto lens, and really have not idea how bad, how messed up, how fearful, how spineless Americans are. Sure, they want USA to bomb Iran, bomb North Korea, bomb Venezuela, bomb China, bomb Russia, bomb liberals or bomb MAGA’s, but in reality, this country is all show and all bravado with a few tens of millions of psychopaths with guns running around (driving big trucks) with the red-white-and-blue dangling near the tailpipe.

Show up here on the coast a dark-skinned Italian, Frenchman, Greek, Spaniard, well, you get the picture. A deep swarthy tan, even for a so-called white man or woman, well, that’s a suspect epidermis. REALLY.

I used to work outside a lot, ride a bike for 50 miles in a day, and had dark black hair and a goatee. Sure, the hair on my arms bleached out, but still, in Idaho, in 2001 when I first ended up in the Pacific Northwest, from El Paso, one day in Idaho, while taking guests around, I was asked if I was a Heb – Jewish? Asked if I was an Arab? And asked if I was a Mexican?  I am not kidding. First, you have to deal with the fact being any of those – Jewish, Arab and Mexican – I still think is legal. But then, the undertone, the very concept of questioning who I am, based on nationality (or maybe ethnicity, because you can be any racial member in all three camps – Arab, Jewish and Mexican.

File:American corporate flag.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Deplorables 2001. Deplorables in 1980 bombing innocents in Central America. Deplorables rah-rah Bush and Nixon and Bombing them All Back to the Stone Age. And, those who work for these deplorables, well, some can call them Eichmann’s or Little Eichmann’s like Ward Churchill called many of those working in the World Trade Center. People who work for the masters, the paymasters, the schemers, the grifters, the snake oil salesmen, the high risk loan sharks, PayDay loan sharks, all those used car salesmen who eat the potato salad at the Sunday School brunch, and on Monday, sell another car with saw dust inside the transmission casing or hawk an SUV that once floated around NOL after Hurricane Katrina. Faulty air bags, faked VW emissions, cracks in the O-ring for the NASA Space Shuttle, fissures in the metal containing the nuclear rods at Three Mile Island. You know, all those people, who, unfortunately, have been lumped into “We Are the 99.”

We can say they were duped by the money, made a Faustian Bargain, Drank the Kool-Aid, were bought out or sold out. Brainwashed by Capitalism . . . or greed. Sell their mothers down the river, because something bad in their lives turned them. Excuse/ excuse/ excuse.

I can’t go there now, or even years ago when the slogan began, We Are the 99.” I was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police during OWS. Many of those in the “99” ended up on the message boards and comments sections telling us that we deserved to be pepper sprayed, or what did we expect, or that there are other ways to make our point other than marching peacefully.

So, yeah, no, not part of any “We Are the 99.” Closet racists? Misogynists? Believers in the lie that all faculty at colleges and universities are elitists?

I was not brought up in privilege – my old man was an airman in USAF and then got into the Army as a Warrant Officer. Yes, I got to live overseas, travel overseas, be with relatives in Scotland, England, Ireland and Germany, but we are not talking about anything past lower middle class. [Of course, there are plenty of psychological studies and cognitive theses on how Americans conflate their abilities, inflate  their actual economic standing, and frame their own narratives around the bastards of the world. Imagine, dirt poor people in Appalachia relating to silver-spooned, poor-hating, accent-mocking, disabilities-deriding, excon-slamming Trump or Bush or Nixon or Reagan.]

Did I strike gold? Well, I was in that time period in 1975 when a state college education was dirt cheap, and the state university in Tucson was progressive, made tons of allowances letting dudes like me major in science, English, journalism – all at the same time, semester to semester. Electives were anthropology [got to do the Garbage Project, garbology, with William Rathje];  marine biology [got to be a diver in Sea of Cortez with incredible professors who had a slew of marine species named after them]; poetry and creative writing [got to be a hanger on at the University of Arizona Poetry Center and all the writers who came through to the university];  journalism [got to get paid reporting for the then daily Wildcat newspaper, a wholly independent newspaper not under the thumb of the journalism department]. We broke stories on the veterinarian school paying for dogs (stolen) for ghastly experiments with ballistics; and broke the story on the football coach scamming refunding unused airline vouchers for his own slush fund. I even got to take a special topics class with W. Eugene Smith, the photographer. We got the Center for Creative Photography and the Ansel Adams slides. I did a first-person series on homelessness in Tucson, and I learned community journalism working on the lab paper, The Tombstone Epitaph. I got to party with Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, and even had beers several times with Lee Marvin. I got the chance to ride my motorcycle as an extra in C.C. & Company, with Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. And, much-much more by the time I was 20 years old.

A measure of an adult is not the size of his or her bank account, for sure, and alas, 43 years later, I am still lower middle class, having had a life of part-time gigs threaded into a multivariant quilt. Some of my friends are/were tenured professors, semi-successful novelists, and a millionaire or two here and there.

The bulk of my life has been teaching in places like El Paso and Las Cruces and Tucson, Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver.

The measure of some can be grasped through the quality of their living, their life philosophy and for some, an education inside and outside the hallowed walls of university life. I took education by the horns, got the paid TA-ship for one master’s (in English) and got another almost free ride getting another master’s in urban and regional planning. Learning is and was something you can do outside of a college, but a good college and good students and a vibrant campus and community life, no one can replace. They can bullshit you into thinking everything taught and learned in school is easily learned in the real world, but the problem is the real world is not our house, and the real world is the paymaster. A real education is life-long learning, a community of service learning, and one where curriculum is morphed, special projects encouraged, across disciples are the norm, and the liberal arts the foundation.

As many have said, I should/could write many books on my life and on what I have seen in so many other people’s lives.

Amazon.com : ACAB Anti Cop Stop Police Brutality Protest Statement Garden Flag for Outdoor House Porch Welcome Holiday Decoration, Fit Chritmas/Birthday/Happy New, 3x5ft : Garden & Outdoor

I take radical action seriously, and I know – knew from an early age – the system is rigged for the rich, and that in this country, at least, the majority of people are colonized and co-opted by the complex forces of capitalism as it plays out as predatory, penury, parasitic, usury, sociopathic and ablaze with the profits privatized and all the external costs to us, society, and to the environment, socialized. A society that doesn’t do a drum beat around the tenets of something like War is a Racket and one that has no grasp of that the same fellow, General Smedley Butler, thwarting a military coup against FDR by a group of businessmen, none of whom got “hook-line-and-sinkered” for the crime, well, that society is delusional and infantilized.

I have studied human nature, have been in developing countries, under developed countries and what might be termed as third world countries. I understand the overt corruption of a place like Mexico, where cops-politicians-rich-narcos have laid siege on the people, on the indigenous ones, on teachers and land reformers and environmental defenders. The duplicity, the complete global thuggery of the USA – all those systems of exported extortion, pollution, hostage taking, maiming, theft, fraud, and grifting, again, make the narcos look like school bullies. Right, tales of a few tens of millions Economic Hit Men, thanks John Perkins!

There is something totally hardened by the Yankee and Rebel  –

In 1923, the British novelist D. H. Lawrence offered a grim assessment of America and Americans: “All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Lawrence’s observations of the American character did not draw upon deep wells of direct personal experience. When he wrote those lines, he had only been living in the United States for a bit more than a year and had spent much of that time among artists and the literati. But he was neither the first nor the last to make such an observation. Nearly 50 years ago, surveying both the wreckage of the 1960s and centuries of archives, the brilliant historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that “Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.”

The general strike that didn't happen: a report on the activity of the IWW in Wisconsin

Here, David Graeber, Debt – The First 5,000 Years. He was one of several who helped coin the “We Are the Ninety-Nine Percent.”

Well, one of the things that I discovered in researching my book is that the kind of debt crisis we’re experiencing now, being a real debt crisis, which is a debt crisis that affects ordinary people, debts between the very wealthy or between governments can always be renegotiated and always have been throughout world history. They’re not anything set in stone. It’s, generally speaking, when you have debts owed by the poor to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred obligation, more important than anything else. The idea of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable. In the past, though, there have been mechanisms, when things get to a point of real social crisis, that have always existed. And they vary by the period of history. In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms. [Counterpunch]

Now how is Graber’s untimely death Sept. 3, 2020 related to the misanthropes across the street who not only exhibit the middling middleclass from California hatred of Muslims, hatred of liberals, hatred of education, hatred of book learning, hatred of the arts, hatred of discourse, hatred of debate, hatred of countervailing beliefs, hatred of evolution, hatred of most sciences, hatred of multiculturalism, hatred of youth/color/polyglots/indigenous people.

Every week there is a new yard gnome, a new seasonal flag up – you name the Hallmark celebration, this family puts them all up, during those “correct” calendar spans. They wear sports team clothes, they shop at Walmart, they plant plastic flowers, they have a yippy little dog, they don’t own a bicycle, kayak, canoe, anything to at least prove they are part of the walking species. They don’t walk. Both have hobbled gaits, and at 63 they seem and act like dinosaurs from an Archie Bunker episode.

What takes the cake is that they, as I said in the first part, took down a smallish placard/sign from our property, at our front door. The son did the stealing, age 41, and the mother the next day out and out told me “my son would never do that.”

This is America, the nation of liars and thieves and infants. So, the sign was gone, I caught him in the act, I tried to stop him with my words, and he slinked into his mother’s house at 10:40 pm. All the lights were out.

You see, they were looking at this sign, and not only were they bubbling over with rage, they were talking about it. Somehow, this sign represents everything they are against. Steal a sign from the neighbors.

Ahh, but that just was part one. Now, two days later, we get a bang on the door. Nothing like having to utilize your 2nd amendment rights. Startled, well, I thought maybe this guy was back on a rampage. I saw a Sheriff deputy.

Well, this same boy, at 7 pm, according to two witnesses, threw a large garden cement paving stone into my passenger side window. The witness called the cops. The cop asked if I wanted to report this as a crime. The cop photographed the interior, the paving stone, and then took the stone. He also called for back-up. He told me a neighbor and visitor witnessed the brick threw my window. Of course, on the little Metro, I had the same sign on the back window.

This is it for America, in a nutshell. This is not Covid-19 stir crazy. This fellow has a history of booze and 24-hour drinking at mom’s place. I found this out later. The other son also has issues with going off the wagon. This is the reality of these Trumpies, 39, 41 and two 63-year-olds. Big screen TV I can see every time I go outside. The talking heads of the 24/7 Hate TV, Big Brother Hannity and Fox and Friends Hate TV stars.

But you see, these deplorables were deplorables way before this greasy man got into the White House. Seething against the Latinos and Blacks. Seething against the wildfires (blaming the democrats for those). Seething against the high cost of living, and seething that they were passed up on the time line the day they were born.

Trauma informed care means understanding where people are in their addictions, their mental crises and their involvement in the criminal injustice system. Not about blame or expecting people to meet some “normal” level of functioning, but meeting them there at the trauma and going from here to be an inspiring and helpful case manager.

But when the shoe is on the other foot – the neighbor committing an act of violence (yes, a brick or rock through a car window right outside your home is a symbolic threat to a person’s body) or the politician thieving or the president raping – well, the victim cannot always be so holistic and understanding of those perpetrators’ childhood, juvenile, teen, young and old adult traumas as rationales for bad behavior.

One brick, a few hundred dollars later, then cops who give citations but do not take people to jail because of Covid-19. Guys that are white met by white cops. Lies, excuses, etc. The deputy said this perpetrator was saying, “Come on, aren’t you guys part of the blue lives matter? Come on, what I did was for you.”

There you have it. Me threading the needle, since I know for sure policing has been a giant racist and punishment and sadistic thing in US society. I know if the perp had been a dark person, a BIPOC, then, one backtalk move, and that person would be in cuffs.

Instead, the deputy said this guy was all over the place, was trying to coddle up to the cops, and that he was smelling of booze and that his job was to disarm the individual’s uneven demeanor by deescalating things.

And, the bottom line is I am told to exercise my 2nd amendment rights, have the gun/guns ready, “and, if any trouble happens on the property, wink wink . . .,” well, those are the words of cops.

Oh, and they recommended to get a no-stalking order filed at the court, so a judge can meet with me via phone to determine if this one guy, the 41-year-old, will be hit with a court order to stay away from me. For each member of the family, we’d have to file individual stalking orders.

This is America, the hard, cold shallow/sallow America. The California Here You Come America. The Fox News America. The seething white racist America. The Americans who hate welfare while they scoop up all the welfare from their mercenary service (sic) in the US Navy, while getting social security, while getting Medicare and VA benefits, and maybe this fellow, the 41-year-old, he too is on government assistance – unemployment and possibly developmentally disabled before age 18?

I have friends all over the world who think the United States is something completely than it is. They consume so much Holly-dirt, and they maybe smart and read the elites and Ivy League mostly white books on this or that angle in America. Their take on things – because the Ivy Leaguers and Elite Coastal Lizards – have no real sense of how bad the country is, how tough the soul of the white nation is, how quickly the nation of immigrants will turn into a nation of haters.

The paperwork for the no stalking order is absurdly long. Then, the conference courtroom swearing in. All the other no-stalking cases up first – violent spouse or ex-boyfriend. Nothing like listening to all these cases of violence, threats, etc.to get a person re-traumatized. That’s what was on the docket — my case and then women who were in fear for their lives because of violent ex-spouses and ex-boyfriends.

So, get this – in the USA, now, I have a temporary no-stalking order, and the guy will be served soon, which means, you guessed it, more escalation of his testosterone, etc. More of the MAGA might makes right stupidity? That’s one possible scenario. The order goes to a level, according to the judge,  of this fellow not being allowed in my field of vision, which makes it, err, problematic for him, since the house’s stoop overlooks the same road we share.

All the nonsense like –

You will have the opportunity to ask the judge to stop the stalker from:

Following or monitoring you,
Threatening you,
Talking or writing to you (by mail, phone, text, email, or social media),
Interfering with or damaging your property,
Coming near you in public or on private property, and
Showing up at your work, home, school, or daycare facility.

Someone may be stalking you when they:

Follow you,
Conduct surveillance on you,
Appear uninvited at your home, work, or school,
Makes unwanted phone calls or sends unwanted emails or texts,
Leave objects for you,
Vandalizes your property, or
Hurt your pet.

Like I said, I have had an interesting life. Worked as a police reporter and even threatened as a newspaper journalist by both Sheriff deputies and a local policeman in Bisbee, Las Cruces and El Paso.  For publishing too much on the PD/Sheriff. Got to hang out in Chihuahua City and on a couple of ranchos outside the city with some mean hombres – both college educated (MBA and JD) in the USA, but then, also politicos with ties to the cocaine trade. Been in small towns in the south, and up north in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah and Arizona.

The Euro’s and Aussies and Kiwis know nothing about how warped and dysfunctional this country under white banking and war rule is. Imagine, that defective set of genes then moving into 1990 and the 2000’s. Complete monsters like Zuckerberg and Bezos, the entire Fortune 5000 captains of industry, the sports team owners, Hollywood, from sea to shining sea.

The MAGA thing is real, not just some kneejerk against the orange monster/menace/accused pedophile/accused rapist. Yet, there are so many Americans willing to give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, so many Ellen’s and Karen’s giving Bush Baby the benefit of the doubt. This is the caliber of both sides of the political manure pile.

You’re 77 and Joe Biden and, bam, the slippage, big time. Then the felon, the grifter, the complete imbecile, Trump, 74. Two accused rapists, two rotten men, and one, Biden, living some fabled set of lies, the plagiarist in the Senate and VP. Then the habitual thief, Trump, lying as a tool, incompetent, and believe it or not, dumber than dirt, making Bush Junior look like Stephen Hawkins.

One hundred and fifty-one, the two of them, combined imbecility and lies and entitlement. Both racists, both lovers of the exceptionalism that is the huge American lie. Imagine, having five leaders, 30 years old each, running for president? Imagine that.   “Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for holding the presidency. To serve as president, one must: be a natural-born U.S. citizen of the United States; be at least 35 years old; resident of the US for at least 14 years.”

This is the quality of MAGA, and many of them are old, Christians, sure, and they in any other time in history would not let their daughters come home with a greasy man like Trump for a date, let alone for candidacy for son-in-law. Not exactly all-American virtuous guy. No Norman Rockwell guy. No Norman Vincent Peele kinda dude.

Yet, their televangelists and pulpit punchers are all degenerates, and the country – little do the Euro visitor knows this – is steeped in magical thinking, protective angels, strong belief in papa in the head office guiding the poor and even educated people on what to think, say, mouth, and hear around what it means to be American.

So it goes, these neighbors, the quasi-restraining order (for a stranger, no less – not even work related). People of two generations hating blacks, hating gays, hating people with disabilities, hating the environment, hating hating and more hating.

A rock through the window, and what’s next? What will happen when the Black Lives Matter signs go up? When will they bring out their guns and ammo? When oh when will that restraining order come to the rescue? After two more pavers are thrown into our vehicles’ windows? Gunshots over the house, threw the window or at us?

This is the Trump-Land, and the same scum were there during Clinton (I went to a gun show in Texas and they were selling embossed bullseye targets with Chelsea, Bill and Hillary faces on them. Nixon? Democratic Convention in Chicago? School bussing? How many are dead in Ohio? Black Panthers? Which red-baiting McCarthyite went on to, well, advise Mister Queens New York?

Flag for the Black Panthers (Black Panther Party) : vexillology

This is how the sausage was made in America with that secret ingredient always back into the ground up mix–

400–500 years ago, Europe’s unwanted social outcasts and religious extremists began relocating to Virginia and Massachusetts. Grateful crowns back in London, Amsterdam and Strasbourg rejoiced as their most ungovernable and unwanted subjects self-exiled to the new world. There, waste people and pilgrims set about recreating the same intolerance they sought to flee. Puritan Christianity was so intolerant that they were unable to coexist anywhere – neither with their own kind back in the old world, nor with the natives of the new.

These first settlers thought the Inquisition ended too soon and eagerly sought to reproduce it – burning heretics and accused witches, perpetuating the cruel and unusual medieval tortures discarded by their European forebears, and forcing abused wives to wear the scarlet letter. Women and children had no rights; men were vicious tyrants. Colonial promoter Richard Hakluyt back in England neatly summarized the first settlers’ goals in 1585: “The ends of their voyage are these: to plant Christian religion; to trafficke; and to conquer.”  Abel Cohen

Great Debate: Should it be a crime to burn the American Flag? – The Crimson

Oh, those in the One Percent and then the others, in that 19 Percent Group —

U.S. has highest level of income inequality among G7 countries

I’ll go with Michael Parenti on this accord — the richest 85 families own as much wealth as the lower 50 percent of the world? Bullshit. Those misanthropes own a hell of a lot more than anything the 3.5 billion people on earth might collectively “have.” No comparison:

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population— whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.— can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down? Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities? especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc. We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are. — Michael Parenti 

And so I get a rock through my car window, get to go to court to file a no stalking order, and await yet more American mean as cuss reactions as the Black Lives Matter and Ecosocialist signs go up . . .  Of course, after I have to purchase and install closed circuit surveillance cameras. Yep, MAGA Mutts for Trump 4.0.

What does it mean if the US flag is upside down? - Quora

Your Right to Your Opinion Ends with My Right to Might

by Paul Haeder / August 30th, 2020

No ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest consciously trying to anticipate control / initiate events at home & abroad both overtly & secretly.

The dirty truth is that many people find fascism to be not particularly horrible.

 Michael Parenti

As a trauma-informed social worker (no, it’s not some buzzword or new age trend) who has worked in prisons, in closed homeless facilities, in memory care day programs, for teenager foster youth and adults living with developmental disabilities, as well as worked with veterans who are homeless (in a clean and sober facility) and with the basic human beings who find him or herself homeless in Portland on the streets in a tent, I understand the deep well of historical and familial baggage people have.

I understand we can either “make it” through childhood traumas with a modicum of sobriety when it comes to self-esteem, self-care, self-enlightenment or we just are in a constant stage or healing and rehealing (that’s true for most people I know, and myself, as well).

As I repeated many times to my daughter when she was growing up in El Paso and then Spokane (and she visited me in Seattle and Portland where I worked with the so-called down and out), when you see that toothless smile, the grime, the shaky hands holding up that sign, “Anything helps . . .  Please Help a Vietnam Veteran . . .  My Family Needs Money to Feed Themselves,” remember that that adult once was loved, coddled, and even cared for (even for a few moments in the hospital). That adult did not wake up one day in elementary school, when the teachers asked, “what do you want to be or do when you grow up?” and then responded: “I want to be addicted to pot and alcohol by age 12, meth by 17, heroin by 23 and then homeless at 25. I want to be put into the criminal justice system, have a long rap sheet, have my veins collapsed by age 36, my heart out of whack by age 40, constant headaches the rest of my life, shakes and delusions, and be carted off every month or two by an ambulance passed out with urine-soaked and shit-smeared pants.”

I recommended to her to be smart, to protect herself, to know her surroundings, but to treat these people – even the ones in the street yelling at voices and demons with their pants half down or completely naked from the waist down – as people who once, maybe for a short span of time, were honored/loved as children, as a babies, as a gifts of the world, with people galvanizing so much hope and future and potential into the thin vulnerable surface of a baby.

Story after story, case after case, and you end up age 63, still writing, still teaching, still working in social services, and now, on the Oregon Coast, in an amazing ecosystem, but also held in a kind of captivity during this time of police killings, BLM protest, lockdowns, spiraling and spiraling numbers of people on the edge, with each new day producing another 500 people ready to be entered onto that statistical category – “One Pay Check Away from Eviction or Foreclosure” and “One Mental Health Crisis from Suicide.”

If it were just that simple. Eviction, or foreclosure, well, not good on the old credit record, but if the person has safety nets, people they call friends and family and compatriots, then a soft-landing might be in store with an eviction or loss of a job or foreclosure or mental health crisis.

Unfortunately, we have  a tendency to not want to admit failure after failure, our precarity after precarity and certainly we do not want to see that life in the USA is one thin ice episode after another. Fine one day, the next month bankrupt because of a cancer or chronic disease.  We want to have this thin gossamer of hope that tells us (deludes us) that there is a chance things will not only turn around, but that we will have learned from the hardships and will have benefitted from the all and that we will be better people after all those hardships and that we will not only survive but thrive after all those bad bad things happening to us.

Somehow people believe there are agencies and people and armies of volunteers in the ready to help. That is the big lie of dog-eat-dog capitalism. Odd.

George Lakoff used to harp on narrative framing, discussing why, say, a housepainter or truck driver or warehouse forklift driver would even have any mental or logical reason to identify with someone like, say, George W. Bush. Yale, silver spoon, East Coast background, millions upon millions in the family coffer way before 1960, and now, in that era, just a regular kind of guy.

Nope – I knew many military men and women who did not suck Southern Comfort, sniff coke, womanize/manize, do no-shows (AWOL) in their Guard unit, and alas, attack every American left of his rightwing mentality.

Really, I am not pulling this stuff out of thin air. I was a military dependent – Azores, Maryland, Albuquerque, Paris, France, Munich, Germany, Scotland, and then Arizona – who had a great life traveling throughout Europe and the UK and USA before I was 14. I knew hundreds upon hundreds of military men and women. War veterans (my old man, shot in Korea, shot in Vietnam, 31 years total Army and Air Force combined). I worked with a few World War I vets as a journalist in Arizona. Plenty of WWII vets, and of course, Vietnam vets.

I taught college-level writing and literature classes to military on an Air Force  fire-fighting line, on a military post, and in an NCO Academy. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Washington.

I ended up years later in Vietnam working as a journalist/biodiversity team member. I have met and been deeply connected with ex-military in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Radical teacher, writer, activists, social services guy, and here I was, in 2018, working with down and out veterans who not only face homelessness, but PTSD, disabilities, trauma after trauma. Hands down, most of the thousands of military I worked with, then, supported my journalism, my writing, my teacher, albeit many were taken aback at my history with the military and my own familial history – grandfather who flew tri-planes for the German Navy in WWI, German uncles and relatives who were on the Russian front, Scottish and English uncles and relatives who were in submarines, on ships and as grunts in WWII.

Here’s an article I wrote for my column in Portland, for Street Roots, on that former Army medic, 75, pepper sprayed in Portland as a photographer. Story: Feds sprayed chemicals into the eyes of a retired ER nurse and veteran

There was a nanosecond or two where I considered attending West Point, and having a few ins there, I might have had a chance to get accepted. I understand the military, and that it is a blunt instrument, and that General Smedley Butler, who not only wrote War is a Racket, but broke up a business-influenced military coup attempt against FDR.

I’ve reported on cops as reporter on the so-called police beat for several daily newspapers. I have worked with Central American refugees, with prisoners and ex-prisoners, with seniors in a continuing education program, all with some sort of trauma and multiple traumas, including survivors of death squads in Guatemala, horrific injustices and rapes inside the wire, and a few Nazi deathcamp survivors.

Hands down, the idea for me is expression, self expression, working through (mostly not to the end of it) multiple adverse childhood traumas, and then those trauma inflicted through into adulthood. Perfectly fine 17 year old high school heavyweight wrestling champ, goes into the Marines, and comes back to Spokane, my student, completely obliterated emotionally as a man.

Battle of Fallujah, 18 years old, and three major areas of trauma – orders to flash lights twice, honk once, and if the person (civilian) is in the road, just mow over him or her. For my student, Jacob, that was a woman who looked like his grandmother, under the chassis of the Stryker vehicle, and as a private, he was ordered to “go find her fucking head and put it next to the body after we drag her worthless ass out from under the vehicle.” Imagine, taking a head, one that was just alive minutes before, to this headless body. A head that was more ways than one resembling his grandmother on his mom’s side, a Mexican granny.

Next, the battle field, Fallujah, and house to house, step-by-step combat, and again, Jacob and his cohorts (thousands and thousands over the years) told to shoot anyone left standing, sitting squatting. “If they fucking lift their hands and wave a white flag, better for you to get a clear shot . . . no worries about an AK-47 or hidden grenade.”

The last one of many traumas for Jacob happened on “Thanksgiving,” and he was on a mission to retrieve three dead buddies. They brought the cadavers back to base camp, and Jacob wanted to just crash in his cot – read, listen to music, sleep. “No way, soldier. This is Thanksgiving, and I want your ass in the mess pronto. We got President Bush coming in a live feed, and you will sit down and eat all this food shipped in and cooked by your fellow grunts.”

Oh, that, and the fact Jacob was amped up on amphetamines fed to the soldiers for long-duration battles, and the steroids they administered (ordered to take) as part of the battlefield triage – enough anabolic steroids in the body will allow for healing, no more bruised muscles, no more fagging out because of torn ligaments, bruised bones, bone spurs (how ironic, with Orange Menace Cadet Bone Spurs laughing all the way to his deferments).

And other some such stuff, like forced vaccinations and some odd duties in Afghanistan and UAE.

You can take the boy/young man away from the Middle East, but you can’t take the Battle of Fallujah out of the man. That sort of thing. Stuck in a community college class, five years later, and Jacob was up shit creek – how to relate to students, to faculty, to the assignments. I was one of his healers. I even got him in on a conference in Seattle – a first, really – as an undergraduate student talking about trauma and social justice as it dealt with his military trauma and indoctrination. He met David Zirin, the head speaker of the event.

Aho!

In reality, after working so long and hard at all these avocations and these gig jobs and part-time appointments and non-permanent full-time assignments – while still writing, still reporting, still organizing – I have a few lifetimes under my belt when it comes to trauma, people, war, injustice and the will to live.

In the end, though, the concept of expression and debate and 1st amendment principles goes North/South/East/West. No matter how much the idea of free speech is aspirational it certainly is not a reality in a society that forces people to be conscripted in K12, forces people to pee in a cup before employment (guilty/suspect first until proven innocent) and to undergo credit-real estate-background checks, to be hirable only after references are contacted and  work history verifiable. Think about how much free speech we have when we want to tell a cop he or she is part of a killer force. Try it, to their face. Try telling a DA or judge they are engaging in criminal injustice and arbitrary punishment. Try telling the supervisor that there is something wrong-dangerous-unethical about something in the company-corporation-factory. Try telling a governor that “to mask or not to mask” is no the way to tackle the pandemic, the SARS-CoV2, etc. and tens of millions out of work, near destitute.  Try going to work NOT wearing a mask. Try giving the thumbs down (or middle finger up) to a bunch of neo-Nazi’s or Proud Boys while the cops are protecting them. Free speech in universities? Come on, there are millions of incidents of faculty, students and others who were shunted away from any free speech or so-called academic freedom. Try telling the so-called progressive union you are working for the Jill Stein campaign when the union(s) endorsed Barak Obama in May before the election.

Having my free speech taken away or questioned is a sort of trauma I relive over and over and over.

We understand the censoring of free speech on social media. We understand the algorithms that wipe clean Google searches for many many topics. We know how we are just data fields for the masters of the universe, and that if we dare kick and scream or try and buck the system, we are then cobbled or kettled away from the so-called mainstream. Our money and land and minds will be seized. Free speech my ass.

Try not standing for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance (I have not stood since age 13, with all sorts of hell to pay). I’ve had sodas thrown at me and hotdogs tossed at my back in college stadiums. I have been yelled at in high school events. I was screamed at as a wrestler when I stayed on the mat. I was pulled from wrestling matches when I stayed on the mat during the bloody National Anthem.

No hat off during a star-spangled banner rendition. That gets people pissed off.

As a follower of many revolutionaries and thinkers outside the box, I can certainly get tied up in some contradictory thinking, and, alas, it is highly probable that we all need to embrace oppositional ideas (not just black v. white, but many views and slants and POV’s) to understand our own narrative contexts and how the world really works. Of course, the concept of thinking outside the box is almost impossible in a supra-colonized society like the USA, an oligarchy, and a war and imperial nation tied to the notion of Capital Trumping All. Free speech may have a lot of grounding in what are community standards of what is acceptable speech and what the culture may or may not tolerate (my belief is close to the ACLU’s in terms of protect hate speech – for), but in this predatory and parasitic capitalism, the boss and the bank and the brigadier general the blue line trump all.

Attempting to define one’s perspective outside the lines of corporate-financial-surveillence-taxation-penalizing-fining-tolling-penury constraints is more dangerous than yelling, All Black Lives Matter or ACAB – All Cops Are Bad/Bums/Bastards/Brutes/ETC.

I have been told as a college adjunct to not force (what is that?) students to read the Fight Club and to see a few clips from the movie as a discussion point about male identity and Dystopian thinking.  The idea is to give students in a state college alternatives  if they have a PG13 rule at home and if they deem anything offensive, anti-American, profane, violent. Or anti-Christian.

I have been told to not bring up so many political issues in my writing classes, that too many students are writing about climate change, GMOs, collapse of civilization, social justice/injustice, USA’s role in genocide, etc., etc. “Why don’t you just keep the reading list to things like The Shipping News or The House on Mango Street,  if you want to deal with multiculturalism?”

Yep, free speech gives many many Americans headaches. Fine. But, to have to deal with a neighbor’s adult son, age 41 and, and a friend of his in his 30s, on a Saturday night while I am watching a film at 10:40 pm stripes away the very definition of not just what free speech denotates, but what trespassing and home invasion does to shunt free speech, or expression (as in putting up a sign on our property).

Here I am, in a small house, with a glass screen to shunt the Pacific winds, leading up to a two-step stoop to the front door. On the window, about six feet up, the above sign — around 12 by 18 inches. Notice it is an American flag as the background. Notice it is something many of you have seen, I am sure, posted in your own neighborhood. Not my pro-Antifa sign, my upside down American flag sign, or other such radical things. Simple and easy for a semi-liberal to understand.

So, two strapping fellows yank it off while the movie sound is not that high. Thinking there is some other noise-producing thing going on outside, like a raccoon in the garden or a cat on the car roof, I open the door and the sign is ripped down and the two lurking men are dashing away, less than 20 yards across the street, with the sign. I yell at them, sort of flabbergasted that they didn’t just drop the sign when I called them “you pieces of shit … what did you do?” Then, the one gentleman yells – “Call the fucking cops then . . . . hahaha.”

We are talking almost 11 pm, and my spouse was sleeping, and, well, I went outside, with the lights on, and had a flashlight, but the two bums slinked in this guy’s retired parents’ big ass two story home with all the lights off. I was willing to talk, really, as in mediate – “You two fucked up, so now return the sign.”

You see, in America, Free Speech is trumped by the Second Amendment. What do you do knocking on a door at 11 pm when the house has no lights on? In a real world, well, you knock on the door. In America, you know that a 9mm or shotgun could very easily greet you at the door, or just go through the door.

Trauma. Now, two stupid men with nothing else to do but to take this property down and steal it can’t fathom the world as it really is. Sure, they were probably drunk, inebriated. That’s what a lot of white guys, young and old, do down on the coast. Saturday night. A big moon. No wind. Drunk.

But again, the trauma that my wife had at age 21 really plays into this scenario. I would have had no problem on my own knocking on the door. I know I would have pointed my car’s headlights over at the doorway so there would be proof they could see me. I would have asked for the sign back. I would have stepped back off their stoop because in America, a man’s stoop is his castle.

You see, coming onto our fenced property (small yard) and then physically ripping down a sign is both invasion and theft. I heard the ripping sound twice, 20 minutes apart, and alas, so, it took them two attempts to pull OUR sign down, and that is also a form of stalking.

What about the trauma of people shits like this are triggering? What about the lack of values stealing a sign? I have told many a person that the Reagan hat or Bush hat or Clinton hat or Trump hat were insults to my intelligence. However, I said it calmly, and I knew they had a right to the stupid hats on their heads. Same with yard signs –Blue Lives Matter (bizarre and racist). If the gal or guy is out watering their weeds, I have told them that the sign is illogical and out of place. And then, if there is a discussion, great. If there is a “fuck you . . . fuck off” (which is usually the case), then I laugh and walk off, keeping an eye out for my back because the United Snakes of America has a history of back-shooting Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, Latinx, poor white people, women, Middle Eastern-looking humans.

A country imbued in “might makes right” will indeed incubate all manner of idiots, whether that be a college provost or president, or some Joe the Plumber making more than the college president putting in toilets and unclogging sewer lines.

So, the Lincoln County sheriff deputy is called Sunday morning. He takes down information. He makes a notation of the trauma this incident inflicted on my wife. We talk more before he goes over to the offenders’ house. It turns out the deputy had 14 years in US Army, and the last 5 years he was in the Seattle area working on a special task force and investigative unit on sexual crimes (rape) in the military.

He understands fear, trauma, and what some people might sense as an invasion of their home, their sense of safety and future engagement with these nutty neighbors. That’s how my spouse feels. And the deputy gets the “man thing,” that I am still not afraid of authority, or mock authority, or big man rules the roost authority. He knows I would be out there talking to them now, but the trauma on my spouse trumps all.

This family is an across-the-street neighbor.

So, now, ugly No Trespassing signs I’ve put up on the chain-link fence. I had to purchase and install an extra light for the front porch. That sort of crap. The deputy suggested a no stalking order requested by my spouse from a judge. In the end, the conversation with the dipshits across the way was not cooperative, the deputy said. The tall guy, one of the perps, said, “I have nothing to say.” The father hemmed and hawed, but they never admitted to it. The deputy said he told them in no uncertain terms there was no reason for any of them to be in our yard, let alone messing with our property, the sign.

While the deputy was cooperative with us and empathetic (I told him about my military experiences, my dad’s and such), the bottom line was that I did not have photographic or closed-circuit evidence, and alas, that’s the new normal. “I can’t make him cooperate, but I made it clear that there should be no trespassing onto your property.”

This is America – small town or big town. Some of the other neighbors talked to me about “the sheriff’s vehicle in your driveway . . . what’s up.” And, here in the USA, sometimes the information spigot is forceful – lots of information about the California son who did the rip-off with his male friend. “He has been there for two months and he just stays inside and drinks all day.” You know, trauma after trauma/after addiction after addiction. Another neighbor said the other son, this guy’s 39-year-old brother, well, they both look alike, and that guy has “been on and off the wagon for a year.”

Then, itchy fingers, and my spouse finds the old parents on line, on Facebook, and then one of the son’s as well, with amazingly hateful posts – “With all these logging trucks, they should go to Portland and just run over those scumbag protestors.” And then tons of likes and hearts on that post.

I am grounded, and always have been. Capitalism under the USA, NATO, most of Europe and Canada, well, these societies are war societies and war organizations with continuing criminal enterprises called banks. No matter how hard a small minority of folk tries to shed the war complex and the MIC, no matter how hard they attempt to be antiwar, anti-racist, anti-corporatist, the majority in this country (Not just MAGA) are flag wavers, believers in exceptionalism for the white race/culture and in this country, believers in the adage “the man/woman with the most things/money/power when they die are the best people on earth (or wins)”.

Know your enemy and know your debater. Know how people frame things, and know motivations, and understand/study the epigenetics of their lives, what agnotology is, and why someone like Gore Vidal might write a book titled, The United States of Amnesia.

I go to Christian Parenti for some framing and dicing of the system that is the world’s most horrific and terroristic —

Here, some riffs on free speech (does it really exist in the USA?) by the ACLU!

Finally, in 1969, in Brandenberg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court struck down the conviction of a Ku Klux Klan member, and established a new standard: Speech can be suppressed only if it is intended, and likely to produce, “imminent lawless action.” Otherwise, even speech that advocates violence is protected. The Brandenberg standard prevails today.

First Amendment protection is not limited to “pure speech” — books, newspapers, leaflets, and rallies. It also protects “symbolic speech” — nonverbal expression whose purpose is to communicate ideas. In its 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, the Court recognized the right of public school students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. In 1989 (Texas v. Johnson) and again in 1990 (U.S. v. Eichman), the Court struck down government bans on “flag desecration.” Other examples of protected symbolic speech include works of art, T-shirt slogans, political buttons, music lyrics and theatrical performances.

In 1971, the publication of the “Pentagon Papers” by the New York Times brought the conflicting claims of free speech and national security to a head. The Pentagon Papers, a voluminous secret history and analysis of the country’s involvement in Vietnam, was leaked to the press. When the Times ignored the government’s demand that it cease publication, the stage was set for a Supreme Court decision. In the landmark U.S. v. New York Times case, the Court ruled that the government could not, through “prior restraint,” block publication of any material unless it could prove that it would “surely” result in “direct, immediate, and irreparable” harm to the nation. This the government failed to prove, and the public was given access to vital information about an issue of enormous importance.

It took nearly 200 years to establish firm constitutional limits on the government’s power to punish “seditious” and “subversive” speech. Many people suffered along the way, such as labor leader Eugene V. Debs, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage Act just for telling a rally of peaceful workers to realize they were “fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder.” Or Sidney Street, jailed in 1969 for burning an American flag on a Harlem street corner to protest the shooting of civil rights figure James Meredith.

This is a propaganda poster of a Native American man claiming that 100 million of his people were slaughtered on their homeland by European colonizers. This picture reminds us that the Native Americans were almost completely killed off on their own land. I chose this pin because the same thing is happening to my people in Palestine and Gaza right now. It is important for us to remember events like this so that we do not make the same mistake again.

In the 1980s, Jordan Merrell often played in the wilderness near his home, located in the Siuslaw Forest in Lincoln County. Jordan was adopted by Carol Van Strum and husband Paul Merrell when he was days old in 1979. (Photos courtesy of Carol van Strum)

Opinion | A letter a day for 15 years and 9 months

FINDING FRINGE | A mother’s love reaches into the bowels of the Oregon penal system to keep her son afloat by Paul K. Haeder | 26 Aug 2020, originally published in Street Roots, Portland, OR.

I catch her in the early evening. Two black bears cross the road just before turning onto her driveway.

It’s light out, but I swear I saw two barn owls swooping into a stand of apple trees.

After I am finished with the interview, she will hold court under the stars with her two Sicilian donkeys, an old mare, a cockatiel, and Amazonian and Patagonia parrots as company. A black Lab mix, Mike, is the outdoor shadow, her sentinel.

A single barrel 12-gauge shotgun is “just in case.”

Column logo: Finding Fringe by Paul K. Haeder
A periodic column profiling unconventional Oregonians who push the boundaries of social order.

I’m on her 20 acres about 30 miles by road from Waldport. The stories Carol Van Strum unfolds are a dervish through many labyrinths. She has been in the Siuslaw Forest for 46 years, but her origins start in 1940, at the dawn of World War II. Her roots were first set down in Port Chester in Westchester County, N.Y., with a father who went to Cornell and a mother who supported the whims and avocations of their five daughters.

At age 79, she’s spry enough to live in an old garage converted into a great room with a bedroom loft. Her cherub cheeks belie an Irish heritage.

I got to know Carol Van Strum a year ago when I was researching her life and her own research on deadly chemicals for another piece — about her fight against the chemical purveyors who sell their brew of toxins to cities, counties and industries like the timber barons.


Q&A: Environmentalist Carol Van Strum: Do not believe anything they tell you


Carol’s raison d’etre is the nonfiction gem “A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights,” written in 1983, which follows the case of Carol; her husband, Steve; four children (all of whom perished in a suspicious fire in their cabin); neighbors; residents of Lincoln County; and their battle with the state of Oregon, chemical companies, the EPA and the U.S. Forest Service.

The mother

The intrigue behind today’s meeting — her 40-year-old adopted son’s 15 years and nine months of incarceration for a crime he didn’t commit — ties into the many strands to her web of life that easily could be fodder for movie makers.

In the verdant wonder of the old homestead, we are about to crack open a pitiful story that turns into triumph.

The miscarriage of justice has to do with race, those without money getting the proverbial short shrift, and a punishment and retributive system of criminal injustice that wants a piece of flesh of every targeted human being.

Portraits of Jordan and Carol
Left: Jordan Merrell after his release from prison. Right: Carol Van Strum at her home in Oregon. Photo of Jordan Eric Coppolino . Photo of Carol by Paul K. Haeder.

I am here to drill down into Jordan Merrell’s figurative hell after being wrongly prosecuted and convicted of first-degree murder with a 25-to-life sentence under Oregon’s infamous Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. That was 1995.

Carol and a second husband, Paul Merrell, adopted Jordan when he was days old in 1979.

“It was a doctor’s friend who had a friend who was a midwife who said she had an African American baby boy who would find it hard to be adopted. His biological mother did not want the baby.”

The young Jordan lived an amazing life with animals, under the big sky of the Central Oregon Coast Range, while communing with fruit trees and adventures splashing in streams while studying newts and chasing crazy barn owls. He played baseball and basketball at Waldport High School, one of two Black students at the school.

The son

The story of a 15-year-old boy accused of murdering an elderly man is rare indeed. Two 14-year-old girls accused him of the crime, even though, as Carol points out, Jordan wasn’t even near the man’s house — where the murder took place. Jordan possessed no bicycle, nor a vehicle, making it impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime.

It turns out one of the girls had already attempted murdering her grandfather for money, but her juvenile record was sealed and denied as evidence in Jordan’s trial. His court-appointed defense attorney never called three witnesses who would have placed Jordan 3.8 miles away from the murder.

Jordan’s juvenile years were striated in Oregon’s MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, and when he turned 18, his life transitioned into a veritable crisscrossing of cycling in and out of all of Oregon’s prisons.

Through the hellish trial, then the early days of anger tied to wrongful incarceration, transitioning into years surviving by grit and wits, and finally graduating to learn how to mete out an existence in a dangerous world, Jordan still lands back on the power of his mother keeping him centered.

He explains that Carol is his guardian angel. “Literally, she wrote me a letter every single day. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Jordan’s stick-to-it-ness comes from his school of hard knocks and Carol’s perseverance, as well as this undying dedication to construct a lifeline of letters, books and visits.

“You know, when he went to his first adult prison, there were three Black men who took Jordan under their protection. These men showed him the ropes and protected him. Jordan was a pretty naïve and unworldly kid when he was arrested,” Carol tells me.

The rotten aspect of Jordan’s ordeal is tied to a broken legal system of bad cops, duplicitous district attorneys, incompetent defense lawyers and mean-as-cuss judges. Add to those many strikes against the teenage Draconian constraints of legislation like Measure 11.

“I didn’t have a defense really. He was a low-level lawyer,” Jordan said. “The way the legal system works is that it gets you into a corner and forces you to make a plea bargain.” At the first trial in Lane County, Jordan did not enter a plea agreement. “I didn’t know much then. The attorney tried to step down during my defense.”

The crisscrossing of incarceration blues started with Oregon Corrections’ intake center, then McLaren Youth Correctional Facility, then Oregon State Penitentiary.

In 2008, he won an appeal based on evidence of reasonable doubt — and because the attorney in the initial trial did not call witnesses.

“In this case we found that the defendant did not have effective counsel,” said Stephanie Soden, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, at the time. “It’s a fairly common reason to petition for post-conviction relief, but it’s one that’s rarely granted.”

He got a new plea deal outside of Measure 11 minimums, and the sentence was reduced, with credit for time served. He tells me he did not think he could convince a new jury of his innocence.

“I assure you I didn’t do what I confessed,” he wrote in a letter to his mother. “But it’s time to move on.”

After his resentencing, he ended up in Lane County jail. More moves to Umatilla County Correctional Facility, Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Madras, and then Pendleton to Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, and his last stop was Columbia River Correctional Institution.

He wrote essays during his time inside the wire, and this is from one he wrote when he was “fresh out:”

I walked quickly down the access road that led to the prison — as though the guards might change their minds and chase me down. The immediate area was semi-rural, the access road leading to a small highway that meandered ten blocks or so onto a main boulevard running north and south through much of the city. … I walked for miles through the outskirts of the city, stopping at numerous small stores, none of which accepted my debit card.

Finally, I came to a gas station where the clerk informed me that not only could I not get change from the card, there were no pay phones for miles! This was my first experience of the kindness I had forgotten humans naturally have an instinct for. The clerk let me use his cell phone to call a friend, and when I couldn’t operate it (it appeared to have no buttons — I thought about trying to give it a voice command) he dialed it for me.

“Early on I was angry, but when I got out, I was euphoric,” Jordan tells me. He ended up at a community house in Multnomah County — run by Phoenix Rising Transitions.

He emphasizes being around other guys just like him who understood his way of thinking was powerful. Learning new responsibilities at the house helped Jordan during the four months of halfway house living.

“It was a good way of transitioning, as opposed to ending up in a studio apartment by myself. Outside, people were rude and disrespectful, so having guys from prison on the same page made it easier since we understood where we had come from and understood our way of thinking,” he said.

Jordan was halfway through the ninth grade when he was incarcerated. He knows how tough it is in prison finding role models.

“While inside, I focused on change. I had to create an imaginary role model. It all comes down to being logical about things — is doing A going to get me to B and so on.”

When he was released, on a few occasions Jordan ran into fellow inmates who still stayed “involved in all the illegal stuff. They hung onto what they did that got them to prison in the first place.”

His best friend (one of only a few friends) is back in prison because of this arrested development.

Stepping stones inside and outside the wire

I ask Jordan what he aspired to be in his formative years.

“I guess I wanted to be a cop,” he said chuckling. He ended up out of prison working on a degree in accounting, married and with a 10-year-old stepdaughter.

His life moved quickly in some regards once outside the wire — he met Julie three weeks after leaving prison. Then three weeks later they were married. They have been a couple since 2013.

Both Carol and Jordan tell me Julie is a smart woman who’s organized and into logistics. Jordan said they both had aspirations of doing a catering service — a mobile pub or bar. The pandemic has put all those ideas on hold. He’s at Mt. Hood Community College taking classes for an associate degree. He’s also out on parole for life. While he doesn’t report in person anymore, he’s still charged a $35 per month supervision fee.

He continually reminds me of evolution, transformation and transmogrification now that he has family and purpose.

“I have left that part of my life behind. I am now doing something specifically focused on getting my life together and being devoted to my family. I lost almost 16 years of my life. I had no job experience, no life experience (outside of prison), no education.”

He mentions this after I prod him about why he’s not writing more, maybe even penning a memoir.

Jordan admits it’s possible a book might come later. “Before, when I was writing, I was in a cell for 23 or more hours a day. I had nothing else to do, so I could focus on the writing. Maybe later when I am more established.”

Overt racism Jordan endured in high school, Carol relays, was both ugly and absurd. “The only Black kid at Waldport High School. He was pulled out of class by the principal and was accused of being a gang member. How absurd — a gang of one.”

Much of Carol’s novel, “Oreo File,” is patterned after a young boy like Jordan.

While looking at her heritage corn stalks, I am gifted several books by Carol, including “Cross Country ABC: 1957,” which is an account of the trip she and two sisters took across the U.S. in a 1956 Chevy station wagon.

Then another book, penned in 2009, “The Story of a Barn – Alder Hill.” The barn was on her property, built in 1930 by Elihu Buck, an engineer who had worked on the Gold State Bridge. This gem of a short book is a history of the property, the surrounding homesteads, the trees, the creamery in Waldport as well as the Red Octopus Theatre performances premiering in the barn.

This is part and parcel of Jordan’s history, too, as he knows the land and knows the place. It’s tied up in his spiritual and cultural DNA. The book written by Carol as a tribute to Jordan is another gem – “Northern Spy: A Good Apple Tree.” The book is like a narrative poem about Jordan’s life here, from adopted baby to child to teenager.

On the hillside by the house is a grand old apple tree called Northern Spy. It was planted at the birth of a beautiful child.

Then, later:

Far away behind steel and concrete, the boy grew into a man. His faithful dog Sherlock died without seeing him again.

Then, at the end of the book, Jordan is a 33-year-old man, with his wife, Julie:

There would be difficult times ahead, looking for work, finding a place to live, enrolling in college. But good times awaited, too. By summer there would be someone to share both happy times and tough ones. Someone to take home at last and show where he came from.

“That’s my redwood,” he would say. “I planted it. And see beyond it, that’s my apple tree.”

He would show her the river, the donkey, the gardens, the flowers, an iguana’s grave.

And come fall there would be buckets of apples from his beloved Northern Spy.

No veteran shall die alone…
I hear his footsteps
near a focal plane
he looked at a world
through old lenses
tripping with amputee’s
lamentations, eyes bursting
diabetes more than dietary
benign medical diagnosis

he pushed into my life
wheelchair red, hair unkempt
man on a mission
homeless then, institutionalized
the place of my temporary work

he talked of Brazil one day
skirting along Copa Cabana
he shared cachaça
with me and others on Pacific
on my Oregon coast with vets
like a blink of my eye
one year ago
gone

happy, a buoyant time
he gushed about a trip to Europe
during better times, a woman, younger
met in Greece
Austrian student
he talked of re-meeting her

he staked out time
trivial pursuit in this facility
he watched movies
talked it up when
hard documentaries pushed
his limits

hidden deep this former
Army grunt, a broken family
father once a mountaineer
reclusive, hoarding affection
yet time was a bell tolled

Chicago father dead one year
before Danny’s demise
old at 71
stuck in a home
hospice on him like a leech
he passed away unknown
unknowing, trapped in lockdown

memory held by poet
his case worker once
holding the line
as he cycled out
lonely, virtually invalid
life alone sucked
him dry nine months later

memory I hold
his photography career
seen his jazzy images
his big studio
brand spanking new
young in this zeal

memory I galvanize
more dying now
than living, being born
how alone we are
crags of some good times
a continual wanting
of travel, minds glued
to uneven remembrances

Danny Abrego, gone August 17, 2020

another flash in my craggy life
this veteran dead, alone
from sweetness of hope
into the dungeons of isolation

this short-timer
dead, alone, a figment