Archive | April 13th, 2020

Corporate greed puts over 400 residents’ lives at risk at Pennsylvania nursing home

By Emily Hannon

Corporate greed puts over 400 residents’ lives at risk at Pennsylvania nursing home

Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center employees fighting for their rights | Photo: Indeed.com

On April 1, Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Pennsylvania released a statement that 34 of its residents had tested positive for coronavirus. Since then, the virus has continued to spread, and Brighton is now operating under the assumption that all of its 800 residents and staff members have the disease. Per official records, at least three residents died from the virus last weekend, but a source told The Times that the death toll could be as high as 13 as of April 13.

Many staff members have quit out of fear for the safety of themselves and their family. Ten employees at Brighton have already become infected with the virus. Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents workers at Brighton, said he had received reports that some of the employees “believed they were forced to work in unsafe circumstances and walked off.”

Failure to meet health code standards

Brighton has a history of failing to meet health code standards, which no doubt contributed to the spread of the disease. In 2019, U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey listed Brighton as one of 20 nursing homes in Pennsylvania that “consistently underperform.” The U.S. government website medicare.gov gives Brighton a “below average” overall rating, with a health inspection rating of only 1/5 stars.

Brighton is even flagged on the website as having a history of abusing its residents. Health code violations recorded in September and October of 2019 include failure to maintain infection control, failure to discard spoiled linen and dressing, and failure to maintain adequate hand-washing facilities.

In an interview last year, Yarnell claimed that “flat funding, low wages, short staffing and high staff turnover have created a spiral of declining quality” at Brighton. On indeed.com, dozens of reviews for Brighton can be found by former employees, most often giving a one-star review of their experience working there.

Complaints on the website include: “[they] don’t care about the patients,” “the building is filthy,” and one particularly insightful review: “No official training. Just figure it out on your own. […] Salary pay is a joke, lunches deducted you don’t get, lengthy hours you don’t get paid for at all but it is expected you stay to get work done. Severely short staffed daily. Minimal care is provided. It is all about pleasing corporate and the might[y] dollar. And absolutely nothing about the patients. The place is archaeic [sic], filthy and dilapidated.”

The workers of Brighton know where the money is going that should be paid to the employees and spent on the residents’ care: to the corporate owners. Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center has for-profit, corporate ownership. While the workers of Brighton are risking their lives on the front lines of the pandemic, the mysterious figures behind BL Capital Group Holdings LLC, DNS Group LLC, and Fair Oaks Family Holdings LLC rake in the profits.

This thievery has long been justified by a capitalist ideology that pretends the capitalists are the “risk-takers.” But where are these capitalists now, while the workers risk their lives to save the lives of others? The truth is that workers take all the risk, and workers make the world run. There is no need for a capitalist class, and all the corporate owners of Brighton have done is degrade workers’ conditions and sanitary conditions to such a point that the lives of 800 people are at risk.

The events unfolding at Brighton are a frightening sign of what is to come if the working class doesn’t organize to defend ourselves. In Pennsylvania, 518 residents living in long-term care facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data released Monday by the Department of Health. Nearly 600 health care workers have also tested positive for the virus in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. government has left workers to die without any protection from the coronavirus. The government has emphasized individual responsibility and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, but won’t even supply the basic items that citizens need to perform proper hygiene, such as masks and hand sanitizer, or even ventilators and protective equipment that medical and hygienic staff desperately need. Meanwhile, charlatan Donald Trump is spreading misinformation and confusion with his denials of the reality of the threat and his dangerous snake-oil cures.

It would not be difficult for the U.S. government to do what needs to be done to save lives: using the Defense Production Act, the government could demand that major industries start producing the items we desperately need: ventilators could be made by General Motors, masks could be made by factories that make clothing, and so on. Socialist states such as Cuba and China have already adapted their production at the drop of a dime to produce essentials such as masks. This is the difference when the working class in power, where the state defends the interests of the working class against the capitalist class, not vice versa.

Here in the U.S., the eyes of the working class are being opened like never before. Class warfare has taken on a literal meaning for many people in the U.S. in a way they haven’t experienced before. Using indoctrination and propaganda, the U.S. ruling class has long convinced the average worker that their experiences of violence and exploitation are not real; it is an “invisible violence” so-to-speak, and its most visible forms such as racism, sexism, LGBT+ bigotry and poverty are blamed on “human nature” and other absurd notions.

On the side of the workers or on the side of the capitalists

Now the working class can see clearly that the bourgeoisie is to blame for these manifestations of violence, for the dismantling of workers’ protections, and the degradation of human rights. The capitalist class will always leave us behind, and the question is not whether we side with the liberal or conservative wing of the bourgeois parties, but whether we are on the side of the workers or on the side of the capitalists. The capitalist class is organized, and so must we be. Only by organizing in a revolutionary workers’ party like the Party for Socialism and Liberation can the working class unite against those who wish to exploit us. Join the fight for socialism, join the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

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Trump policies kill birds: Why it matters

By Tina Landis

Trump policies kill birds: Why it matters

Geese flying. Photo: National Park Service.

In a move that will increase corporate profits and further weaken regulatory powers, the Trump administration is relaxing criminal penalties under the migratory bird law for industry-related bird deaths. For the past 50 years, industries were fined for bird deaths caused by their operations such as oil pits, mining sites, telecommunication towers and other hazards. 

For instance, after a 2016 incident where thousands of snow geese perished in the acid-laden waters of the Berkeley Pit — a Butte, Mont. Superfund site — the mining company instituted a noisy arsenal of fireworks, drones and remote-controlled boats to scare birds away from the pit to avoid further fines. 

Recently, following assurances from Trump officials that conservation measures were voluntary, a road and tunnel construction project in Virginia destroyed the nesting grounds of 25,000 shorebirds. The American Petroleum Institute tried to place the blame on the birds(!) in a regulatory report, stating that “The birds themselves are the actors, colliding or otherwise interacting with industrial structures.” 

More companies seeking profits at the expense of the environment will likely follow suit without intense public pressure to do otherwise. 

Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe stated that the law’s threat of penalty acted as “a brake on industry” and likely has saved billions of birds. “Removing that obligation, if it stands, over the next several decades will result in billions of birds being casualties,” said Ashe. “It will be catastrophic.”  (Manufacturing.net) 

New policy adds fuel to fire of bird mortality

This increase in bird mortality at the hands of the aggressively anti-environment Trump administration comes on top of a broader onslaught ravaging bird populations throughout North America due to climate change and land use practices. Since 1970, a one-third decline in the bird population has occurred throughout the continent from the Arctic tundra to the Gulf Coast. (AllAboutBirds.org) 

As the world warms up, migratory patterns and food sources are shifting, adding more stressors on bird survival rates. Land use changes that increase development and agriculture are destroying vital nesting habitats and poisoning species. 

Why does it matter? Each species acts as a cog in the factory of the ecosystem providing a service to the functioning of the whole. Remove or deplete too many cogs and the factory no longer functions resulting in ecosystem collapse. Birds play a vital role in spreading seeds of plants in their droppings, reducing insect and rodent populations, and in some cases acting as a food source for larger birds of prey. 

“Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too,” said Brooke Bateman, Ph.D., National Audubon Society senior climate scientist. (Audubon News) 

How can we stop bird decline and climate change?

First, we must build a strong and sustained environmental movement. Trump’s rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act further endanger bird populations. Both of these acts were passed in the 1970s as a result of the mass upsurge in the progressive movement. Only sustained mass pressure from below will change policies at the top regardless of who is in office.

We also need to fight for climate justice and for an uprooting of the for-profit system that puts the goals of corporations above the livability of the planet. We need to rethink where we live to preserve and restore vital habitats. Instead of building ever-expanding surburbs, we need to maintain and restore wildlands and build eco-cities filled with green spaces and vertical gardens integrated into buildings where bird and insect populations can thrive. (Basdogan and Cig, 2016)

We must shift to regenerative agricultural practices that partner with the ecosystem and away from the agribusiness model that requires intensive chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that poison bird and insect populations. (Food Tank) 

We need to clean up Superfund sites like the Berkeley Pit so that humans and other species cease being poisoned. Renowned mycologist Paul Stamets developed mycoremediation — bioremediation methods that utilize mycelium — that successfully remove heavy-metal, toxins and radioactive materials from water and soil resulting in a toxin-free environment at a much faster rate and lower cost than traditional remediation methods.(Watson, PressBooks)  

Now more than ever with the climate crisis looming, we need more measures protecting ecosystems, not less. But as the Trump administration has shown time and again, their priority is the profits of big business and a complete disregard for the health of people and the planet. 

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Rich flee NYC, workers deal with COVID-19

By Joyce Chediac

Here, a train going to a poor area of Brooklyn at 6 pm on March 31. Social distancing is not an option for low-wage workers, many of whom are essential workers. Photo: Facebook page of Radical Graffiti.

With 67,822 people infected with coronavirus and 2,472 dead, the residents of this sprawling city of 8.6 million people have been warned to stay at home. Yet the mail is delivered, the trash taken away, food is stocked and sold in supermarkets. The ambulance comes when you call 911, and doctors and nurses are in the hospitals.

These essential works are the heroes of the pandemic. New York would collapse without them. Clearly they need every support. But they are not getting it.

Mount Sinai is one of the hospitals where nurses have had to wear trash bags for gowns due to shortages. On April 3, these nurses protested outside the hospital holding pictures of their colleagues who had died of the virus and demanding PPE.

Who was listening? Not their bosses. While their staff are risking their lives to treat others, two of the Mount Sinai Hospital  system’s top executives are waiting out the pandemic in their Florida vacation homes.

Dr. Kenneth Davis, 72, the CEO of the Mount Sinai Health System who got $6 million in compensation in 2018, is holed up in his waterfront mansion near Palm Beach, Fla. Dr. Arthur Klein, 72, president of the Mount Sinai Health Network, is also in his oceanfront condo, also in Palm Beach.

When the virus hit, the rich turned tail and ran

These millionaires are not the only ones who ran away. New York is the big money city, the city of Wall Street and the epicenter of capitalism. With at least 65 billionaires and 350,000 millionaires, it is the richest city in the world. When the virus hit hard, the rich turned tail and ran.

Business magnate David Geffen was so crass as to circulate a picture of himself waiting out the pandemic in the Grenadines on his $590 million yacht, with a message hoping everyone was well.

Whole luxury buildings were seen clearing out, as the wealthy fled to their country homes in the Hamptons on  Long Island, in Connecticut, on Cape Cod. The gutless exodus was so big that the population of the Hamptons increased by 40 percent in the last few weeks. While workers with no protections took their lives in hand by traveling in crowded subways, the mail of the rich got its own private and roomy limousine. Many now holed up in the Hamptons are paying hundreds of dollars a day for a private limo to bring their mail to them from their Manhattan apartments.

Those who claim to make the world turn have not only been absolutely useless in this health crisis, they also have been dangerous. In the rush to save their necks they did not flee the virus, they took it with them. Their mass exodus to Hamptons coincides with a steep spike in virus cases in Suffolk County, where the Hamptons are located.

Essential workers sick and dying

Essential workers have gotten no support from the money class who claim to make this city work, and virtually no government protection. Some city and state policies and practices have even threatened their safety. They have been left on their own to individually find a way to stay well as they perform their necessary functions.  This is criminal neglect.The result is that front-line workers in NYC and their families have the highest COVID-19 contagion rates and the greatest number of deaths from the virus.

New health statistics released April 1 show the city’s confirmed COVID-19 cases by patient address and by ZIP code. This has revealed that the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of confirmed virus cases are also those with very large numbers essential workers — from medical to supermarkets to delivery to sanitation and janitorial.  These workers, almost all people of color, mostly survive on minimum wage or a little more.

The Queens neighborhoods of Corona, Elmherst, and Jackson Heights, have the highest viral loads in this city. In those neighborhoods, people who work in food preparation and serving, personal care and service — including childcare workers and aides to the elderly — as well as in the construction and janitorial industries make up 38 percent of the working population, according to Census Bureau data.

Immigrants are on the front lines   

Some 40 percent of New Yorkers were born elsewhere, and Queens is home to the city’s greatest number of immigrants.

For example, some 167,840 home health aides are still working, assisting people in their homes who cannot manage bathing and cooking, or in many cases, accessing the toilet or even getting in and out of bed by themselves.

These workers are overwhelmingly low-income immigrant women of color. Many live paycheck to paycheck. Some rely on public benefits for food and housing, according to SEIU 1199, the union representing 60,000 city health aides.

“The vast majority of home and community-based providers (68%) in our survey report that they do not have access to adequate personal protective equipment,” said Home Care Association of New York State President and CEO Al Cardillo.

Across the board, essential workers have virtually no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  As most are minimum wage workers, they often live in close quarters with several family members, conditions where the coronavirus can spread easily. They have no other option but to take crowded subway trains to their jobs, conditions which expose them repeatedly to the virus.

Social distancing not an option for low-wage workers

Social distancing to slow contagion is a huge issue in this city. In normal times, the subway has 4.3 million daily riders. Going to and from work under normal circumstances often means coming within three feet of hundreds of people.

With orders issued for New Yorkers to stay home, subway ridership has now decreased dramatically. Ridership is the lowest in areas of the city where people can work from home. While many subway stations are empty, subway stations in many working class neighborhoods are just as crowded as if nothing has happened. These stations are clustered in low-income areas where many front-line workers live.

The Bronx: Poorest have highest death rates

Take the Bronx, the city’s poorest borough, where COVID-19 deaths are double those of the city as a whole. Bronx’s residents have the highest rates of asthma, diabetes and hypertension and other comorbidities that make the virus especially deadly. But many of them are also workers who cannot stay home.

The 170th Street station in University Heights and the Burnside Station in Mount Eden are in sections of the Bronx with a high percentage of African and Latin American immigrants. Their median household income is a third of the city as a whole. Half the children here live in poverty. A great many here do not have health insurance. These subway stations are still crowded, with thousands packing the trains daily, risking exposure to the virus.

In fact, the city has actually made matters worse for them. With the schools closed and people working at home, and subway ridership down by about 3 million, the city has cut back on service everywhere, significantly increasing the crowding on subways in these clustered areas.

The virus has taken a heavy toll on transit workers. In early March the Transit Authority said it had little PPE, and conductors and others were even instructed to work without masks, endangering themselves and the riders. At the end of March, however, the Authority found it had a large stash of masks it didn’t know about. By that time the damage was done. More than a thousand transit workers are infected, and 22 have died.

Medical workers at highest risk

The constant exposure to the virus and lack of PPE puts medical personnel at an especially high risk. With as much as a third of the doctors and nurses out at any given time, those remaining must deal with such an onslaught of very sick patients that hospitals are being called war zones.

There were 7,200 calls for ambulances made on March 31 alone. The daily 911 call volume is so high that, according to EMT Facebook posts, it has surpassed calls made on 9/11. This overload, plus a staff decimated by sickness, has meant that some patients are waiting nine hours for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, EMTs sent home because they tested positive for the virus are being forced to return to work before the 14-day quarantine is over, and they are returning to mandated double shifts. Fire Department EMTs and their union are fighting a ruling falsely declaring surgical masks safe that threatens to penalize the emergency worker if they bring their own much-safer N95 mask and wear it at work.

Such working conditions and rules create a situation that is unsafe for workers and their patients. It’s no wonder that some ambulance workers, instead of going home, have taken to sleeping in their cars between shifts to avoid infecting their families.

City and state governments serve big money

The state, city and federal government have turned their backs on these workers.  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has given trillions of dollars in tax breaks to giant real estate developers now hiding out in the Hamptons, and turned needed hospitals into luxury condos. Yet, the major is refusing to grant hazard pay to the EMTs and paramedics risking their lives every day.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted Trump for not providing ventilators yet, even in the midst of this pandemic, he is cutting $400 million in Medicaid funds from the municipal hospitals. While other hospitals turn away those without insurance, the municipal hospitals which treat everyone, and are most likely to be utilized by immigrants, low-wage workers and the undocumented.

Workers show solidarity with those who risk their lives

The working people of this city have a very different view of events. Every night at 7 p.m. thousands of the housebound here stand by their windows or on their balconies to clap, whistle, shout, and bang pots and pans. They are saying “thanks” to the doctors, nurses, emergency medical attendants, grocery and food workers, delivery people, postal workers, truck drivers, janitors, sanitation workers, electrical workers, transit drivers, home health aids and others who risk their lives daily doing essential work so that the rest of us can stay home and be safe.

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed that these people, the ones actually getting the job done, are most vital and necessary. In marked contrast, by their own behavior during this crisis, the CEOs, billionaires and their political flunkies have shown themselves not only to be useless, but to be parasites feeding off of others. Society would be much better off without them.

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San Diego protesters demand release of refugees from concentration camps

By Anzy Adams

San Diego protesters demand release of refugees from concentration camps

Banner reads “QUEERS AGAINST DETAINING MIGRANTS”. Photo: Kay Burner

Liberation photo

Photo: Kay Burner

In the age of COVID-19 physical distancing, organizers in San Diego are getting creative with their tactics. On March 31, a coalition of organizations including Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, Never Again Action and Jewish Action Norcal called a COVID-safe car rally to bring attention to ongoing struggles in concentration camps like Otay Mesa Detention Center. 

Many local individuals as well as community organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, ANSWER Coalition and other groups participated in the action. The event was centered around a demand to release all immigrant detainees and the hashtag #FreeThemAll. Sister rallies also took place in Sacramento and Los Angeles.

“It’s important for organizers to be as creative as possible,” said Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego and one of the participants in the protest. “The pandemic has changed how we interact with each other, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up our push towards social justice and uplifting everyone’s human dignity. We need to raise this important issue of people who are being detained, especially in the context of a pandemic and because private companies are profiting off of it.” 

Participants decorated their vehicles with signs and banners, gathering separately in their cars in a public parking lot. They wore personal protective equipment and maintained physical distance. Then, the group of cars drove together in a continuous loop around downtown San Diego. They honked their horns and chanted from open windows. 

Liberation photo

Photo: Kay Burner

Otay Mesa Detention Resistance also hosted a live broadcast for participants to listen to in their cars. The broadcast included bilingual statements from detainees talking about their poor conditions in the camps, demands for California Governor Gavin Newsom to release all ICE detainees, and information about how deadly a virus like COVID-19 can be in crowded detention facilities. 

Migrants and refugees have little or no access to basic healthcare and sanitary services. People in the migrant concentration camps have been organizing hunger strikes and demanding better conditions as the virus continues to spread. Please consider signing the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s local and state-wide petitions that include demands to free prisoners and protect undocumented people immediately.

Posted in USA, Health, Human RightsComments Off on San Diego protesters demand release of refugees from concentration camps

A Zionist attack on free speech

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Misuse of anti-Semitism
By Lawrence Davidson

Background: Weaponising anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism has been weaponised. That is, the Zionists, within and without Israel, are using the charge of anti-Semitism as a weapon to silence those who are critical of the Israeli state. In wielding this weapon, Zionist organisations and the media outlets they control or influence have released a flood of slander and libel. The charge of anti-Semitism is levelled at anyone who opposes Israel’s inherently racist policies and is supportive of Palestinian human rights. And, where the Zionists have sufficient political influence, as is the case in so much of the United States, they are making every effort to encourage laws that make criticism of Israel illegal because, they claim, it is ipso facto anti-Semitic. In this way, the weaponisation of anti-Semitism maliciously defames individuals, corrupts legal systems and also threatens any reasonable notion of free speech.

Libel, slander and defamation: the US case

In cases where individuals and organisations are labelled anti-Semitic as part of a concerted campaign of defamation, one would hope that the libel laws would offer some protection and / or relief. And, as we will see, in some cases such as the United Kingdom and Australia, this has proven possible. However, in the United States this has not happened. To understand why requires a short history lesson on the evolution of free speech, as against the need to protect individuals, particularly “public persons” such as those running for office, from defamation.

American attitudes towards free speech, which form the foundation for much of the country’s legal thinking when it comes to libel, slander and defamation, can be traced back to the writing of John Stuart Mill (1806-73). Mill was an influential English utilitarian philosopher and liberal thinker who supported the growth of democracy in the 19th century. He also considered what aspects of democracy would need the strongest defence. For instance, he supported a very broad interpretation of freedom of expression. He laid out his position in an 1859 book entitled On Liberty. Here he argued that allowing a broad interpretation of free speech was the best way of establishing what is true and what is not. “Even if an opinion is false, the truth can be better understood by [publicly] refuting the error.” Mill had faith in the citizenry (or at least the educated middle class of his day) to recognise, through the process of debate, what is true when it came to public pronouncements. “If any argument is really wrong or harmful, the public will judge it as wrong or harmful.” Thus, for Mill “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, [in this case by suppressing his or her public speech] is to prevent harm to others.” However, considering that defamation was subject to rebuttal, the citizenry would ultimately reject such falsehoods without state intervention. 

Even though Mill’s faith in an educated public’s ability to know truth from falsehood has proven, at least as far as this author is concerned, quite naive, Mill’s notion of erring on the side of government inaction when it comes to slanderous or libelous speech has had much influence in the United States. 

In 1919, sitting as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a series of decisions that laid out the future standard for judging prosecutable speech: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” The example Holmes used for such an extreme case was that one’s First Amendment right to free speech would not permit someone “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre.” The libel laws in the US have followed this same path towards setting a high bar for any demonstration that free speech has been abused. Thus, in terms of defamation one now has to prove that the presentation in question is meant to defame (and is not just an opinion) and is put forth with “actual malice” [New York Times v Sullivan 376 US 254 (1964)]. This is particularly the case for “public figures” bringing suit for defamation. Public figures in  the United States seem to be in a special category of people who are expected to attract a certain amount of, apparently legally acceptable, slanderous and libellous abuse. 

The fact is that, in the US, libel is so difficult to demonstrate in both federal and most state courts that such suits are only rarely attempted. It is clear that in this case protecting an idealised principle of free speech has taken precedent over protecting the reputations and public standing of individuals. 

As it has turned out, this situation has given American Zionists a wide field to use the weaponised charge of anti-Semitism with near impunity. A good example of this has been the smear campaign waged against the Democratic Party’s presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who is himself Jewish. Called an anti-Semite over and again, Sanders has relied on the American progressive community to defend him. There is no indication that either Sanders or his legal advisors have considered suing his defamers for libel.

Libel, slander and defamation: the UK and Australian cases

The misbalance between freedom of speech on the one hand and recourse to legal protection against slander and libel on the other is greatest in the United States, and in this case, public figures appear most at risk. In England and some of the Commonwealth countries such as Australia, a somewhat greater balance exists, opening up the possibility of legally defending oneself against defamation.

Anecdotally, a key historical root in the evolution of this more balanced standard for Britain’s “defamation law” is the 17th century decision to outlaw duelling – transforming an often deadly engagement into a supervised courtroom debate. As of today, “English law allows actions for libel… for any published [untrue] statements which are alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual(s) [including businesses] in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them.” There are exceptions to and defences against this standard, but it certainly opens up a more reasonable opportunity for defending oneself against defamation than exists in the United States. 

The same can be said for a Commonwealth country such as Australia. Here, the primary purpose of the law against defamation is to protect citizens from false statements about them that “may cause harm to their personal or professional reputation”.

Let’s take a look at a few recent examples of successful challenges to libellous defamation issuing from Zionist sources. 

Members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament and those running for Parliament who are critical of Israel or otherwise supportive of Palestinian rights have suffered repeated “exaggerated and fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism”. Finally, in 2019, one such victim, Mrs Audrey White, former Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool Riverside, decided to sue the British paper the Jewish Chronicle for libel. She was able to prove that this Zionist paper had, over a series of four articles, published fake allegations that she was an anti-Semite. These pieces turned out to be part of a campaign of false charges waged against many left wing politicians. Ultimately, in early 2020, the paper was forced to admit, in print, that it had lied about Mrs White, and pay damages and court costs. It was also demonstrated that the paper had “engaged in unacceptable obstruction” of the investigation that led to the libel ruling.

This is not the first time the Jewish Chronicle has been sued for defamation. In August 2019 the paper was forced to pay a cash settlement to InterPal, a British charity providing aid for Palestinians. The Jewish Chronicle had implied that interPal was a “terrorist” organisation. The paper now faces a “financial crisis” and is reportedly operating with a $2 million deficit. It is staying afloat due to financial contributions from “community-minded individuals”. [Editor’s note: on 8 April 2020 the Jewish Chronicle announced that it has gone bankrupt and will cease publication.]

A similar series of events have taken place in Australia. Again, political figures are targets if they are critical of Israel or otherwise supportive of Palestinian rights. Take the case of former Labour Party MP Melissa Parke, who had the courage to assert that, “To say that Israel has become an apartheid state is not anti-Semitic; it is a simple statement of fact and international law.” She went on to suggest that Palestinian resistance, including retaliatory missile launches from Gaza, were a “consequence of decades of brutal occupation”. Finally, she drew attention to, and criticised, Zionist influence on Australian politics. For this she was described as an anti-Semite in a front-page story in the tabloid Herald Sun and similar piece in the paper West Australian. She was also slandered by Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia / Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. He publicly described Parke as a “fanatic” and someone “trafficking in conspiracy theories”. She sued them all for defamation. To date both the Herald Sun and the West Australian have been forced to published retractions and offer apologies.

Conclusion

The weaponisation of anti-Semitism by the State of Israel and its Zionist allies worldwide should serve as a clear warning to American legislatures and courts that it would be both fair and wise to bring the country’s libel laws into closer conformity with those of the UK and Australia. Indeed, it can be argued that to simply ignore the defamation that is now being rolled out by the Zionists actually puts free speech in danger. Here is how this is happening.

The profuse and persistent use of slander and libel is an attempt at censorship. If you will, it is an attempt to silence a certain category of speech under the cover of “free speech”. The United States has a worse-case scenario of this fraudulent approach because American Zionists seek to use slander and defamation as a basis for novel speech-restricting law. Here they weave a particularly tangled web – declaring that it should be illegal to stand in opposition of one form of racism (Israel’s racist policies towards the Palestinians) because to do so supposedly reflects another form of racism (they can assert this only by equating opposition to Israeli policies with anti-Semitism). It is enough to make your head spin!

John Stuart Mill’s 19th century assertion that “If any argument is really wrong or harmful, the public will judge it as wrong or harmful” has proved unreliable. Most people are buried in their local affairs and, in the present case, have no objective information or experience to judge the behaviour of a foreign country – in this case, Israel. All they can go on is media and government messages which, in the US, are influenced by pro-Israel lobbies. This means that, with the possible exception of college campuses, there is no public debate as Mill would understand it. So, how is the average member of the public to “judge” Zionist slander and libel to be “wrong and harmful”? 

The situation really demands legal recourse to seek retraction and compensation for purposeful falsehoods, not only for the sake of people’s reputations and public standing, but also for the sake of maintaining a reasonable doctrine of free speech. Weaponised words and concepts are, most of the time, synonymous with falsehood and propaganda. In that environment, free speech is diminished and corrupted.

A Zionist project to criminalise criticism of Israel

A Zionist project to criminalise criticism of ‘Israel

In “Home”

The faulty logic behind the Zionist attack on BDS

The faulty logic behind the Zionist attack on BDS

In “Home”

Stooges seek to criminalize criticism of Israel

Stooges seek to criminalize criticism of ‘Israel

In “American stooges”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI2 Comments

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic

by MELVIN GOODMAN

Photograph Source: srslyguys – CC BY 2.0

As the international community is consumed by the impact of Covid-19, there are signs of the impact of the pandemic on the body politic. There is change throughout the international community, particularly the decline of the influence and power of the United States; the fragmentation of the European Community; the weakening of the transatlantic system; the increased influence of China; and the dire impact on Third World countries and their refugee problems. At home, the Trump administration’s “destruction of the administrative state” has made the battle against the virus far more difficult.

The United States. A time that calls for global leadership and international assistance finds the United States rejecting international diplomacy and foreign aid in an “America First” policy that is doing great harm. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has typically led the international community and its key institutions, particularly at times of crisis. The Trump administration’s hollowing out of the U.S. institutions of governance as well as  Donald Trump’s “America First” policy set the stage for the failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus at home and abroad.

Trump’s immediate predecessors did better.  President George W. Bush mismanaged the Iraq War but handled the AIDs crisis in Africa effectively; President Barack Obama successfully managed both the financial crisis and the Ebola outbreak.  Now the United States is paying the price of Trump’s denial of science, his campaign against public service, and his ultra-nationalism, which have compromised the global role of the United States.

The lack of respect for science by both Donald Trump and Mike Pence is directly related to the denial of the climate crisis, which in turn explains the dismissive attitude toward the pandemic in the crucial months of January and February, when the White House received dire forecasts from both the intelligence community and the health care bureaucracy.  Both the United States and South Korea suffered their first cases of Covid-19 on January 20: South Korea immediately turned to testing, contact tracing, and isolation; the Trump administration dragged its heels on all of these measures and still lacks a federal policy for the logistics and supply role that is essential.  Domestic governance, once a strong suit in the U.S. hand, has been severely compromised by Trump’s war on civil service.

The European Community.  The pandemic has clearly exacerbated the North/South and East/West fault lines of a European Union that is still dealing with the divisive problems of Brexit and the refugee crisis.  The prosperous states of northern Europe, led by the Netherlands, are questioning the provision of financial assistance to the struggling states of southern Europe, particularly Italy, Portugal, and Spain.  The East/West divide is also worsening as key East European leaders, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Andrzej Duda, are using the pandemic to gain extra-parliamentary powers.  The western nations of the EU have condemned the violations of the rule of law in the eastern nations, and there have been calls for expelling Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party from Europe’s largest umbrella political group, the European People’s Party.

Orban has been a particular problem for the EU, having obtained parliamentary approval to rule by decree for as long as he sees fit and, as a result, may see an end to the billions of Euros that Hungary receives under the EU’s budget.  Hungary as well as Poland and the Czech Republic have been cited by the European Court of Justice for refusing to accept their fair share of refugees during the refugee crisis of 2015.  Orban blocked the EU program to resettle migrants from Muslim nations in Africa and the Middle East, arguing that he wanted to “keep Europe Christian.”  The refugee crisis exacerbated the rise of the far right throughout Europe, which has weakened the political center in the East and West, particularly in Germany.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has its own East/West divide due to the radical differences between member states regarding policy toward Russia and the proper level of defense spending, issued a boilerplate declaration on April 2 that declared its “ability to conduct operations and assure deterrence against all the threats we face is unimpaired.”  This ostrich-like statement ignored the fact that the pandemic has already affected  the conduct of military exercises, and threatens large-scale deployments the world over.

The Pentagon, for example, failed to respond initially to a viral outbreak on one of its (obsolescent?) aircraft carriers because it didn’t want to concede the impact of the pandemic on readiness.  It fired the captain of the carrier who wanted to address the Covid-19 crisis because the military leadership believed he embarrassed the president of the United States.  Unfortunately, the Washington Post explicitly endorsed the Pentagon’s position on April 4, when it agreed that the consequences of taking a carrier “offline—especially a ship assigned…to check China’s military power—would be enormous.”  In actual fact, the Chinese have developed cruise missiles that would compromise the ability of U.S. aircraft carriers to target mainland China.

China.  Although China contributed to the spread of the virus by denying and suppressing data in December and early January, the Beijing government pursued an aggressive containment policy that dealt effectively with the crisis.  The outbreak of the virus in Wuhan started as China’s “Chernobyl,” but Beijing gained international attention and recognition by eventually offering expertise and assistance on a global basis, particularly to Italy, which has been ignored by its European neighbors.  Chinese test kits and masks have been made available to the United States as well as to nations in Africa and Latin America.

Throughout the Third World, there has been a high-level discussion of China’s authoritarian model as an effective system for dealing with pandemics.  Meanwhile, authoritarian leaders in China and elsewhere, including the United States and Israel, are exploiting the pandemic in order to expand their political powers.

China is taking advantage of a divided European community and a weakened United States to advance its international position.  Unlike the United States, China has avoided contentious disputes in various geopolitical regions, particularly the Middle East, which has become Washington’s briar patch.  Xi has created a solid state-to-state relationship with Russia and is not seeking a strategic confrontation with the United States.  The phone conversation between Trump and Xi on April 2 has led to a reduction in polemics between the two states, indicating that both leaders realize the need to concentrate on their domestic problems.  Ultimately, however, Xi may face domestic pressures at home because of the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.

Russia and the Third World.  The combination of the pandemic and the price war over oil have brought particular problems for the weak economies of Russia and the petroleum states of the Third World, such as Venezuela, Angola, and Nigeria.  Like impoverished Third World nations, Russia lacks a civil society to address the social and economic implications of the pandemic.  The health care systems in Russia, like those in the Third World, have been a serious vulnerability since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

The refugee crisis is a particular problem for the weaker economies in the Third World. There are 12 million refugees in the Middle East from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey. Half the population of Syria is in a refugee or displaced status; Iran, which may be responsible for the majority of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East, is housing several million refugees from Afghanistan. The refugee crisis in Africa, which numbers more than 17 million displaced individuals and six million refugees, affects the entire continent as well as southern Europe.  The Greek economy cannot deal with even the relatively small number of refugees from the Middle East and Southwest Asia, who are trapped on islands in the Aegean.

As the strongest economic and military power in the global economy, the performance of the United States in dealing with the pandemic has been shockingly inept and even unconscionable.  American politicians and pundits have regularly attributed the collapse of the Soviet Union to a strategic collapse marked by a ruinous arms race; an unaffordable global presence; and a moribund economic and social system.  Ironically, the United States now finds itself in an arms race with itself; a global military footprint that no longer serves strategic interests; and a level of social and economic inequality that is unmatched in the global community.  Like the former Soviet Union, the United States is currently confronting a public phenomenon of cynicism toward government as U.S. leadership is no longer credible.

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Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide

by EVE OTTENBERG

Photograph Source: Euan Morrison – CC BY 2.0

Sanctions have long been indefensible; now in the time of Covid-19, more so than ever. Nor are they some minor phenomena. Over a quarter of humanity lives under U.S. economic sanctions. That means millions of people lack untroubled access to food and medicines during a lethal pestilence. Thus in Iran, where the government fears millions of deaths from Covid-19, sanctions amount to genocide. Under ordinary circumstances, these embargoes are economic warfare. By putting Iran and Venezuela under economic siege even before the pandemic, the U.S. had murdered tens of thousands of those countries’ citizens. Yet most Americans seem unaware or unconcerned about this sadistic, criminal and murderous policy inflicted on millions in their name.

It’s important to understand where the U.S. corporate and political elite is coming from. To them, Covid-19 is an opportunity. An opportunity to loot the U.S. government via bailouts for ill-run corporations. An opportunity to attack a beleaguered country like Venezuela or even start a war. An opportunity to crush perceived enemies like Iran. To Trump and his advisers, the deadly plague does not demand charity or humanity. It does not entail saving lives in Iran or Nicaragua. And it means the barest minimum of help for U.S. workers. In times of pandemic, we see what people are made of and who they truly are. Our rulers are killers.

The U.S. sanctions countries, individuals and companies. The six countries sanctioned are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Cuba and Venezuela, while in 23 countries, the U.S. sanctions presidents, military officials, powerful businessmen and companies. By sanctioning these leaders, the U.S. impedes normal international trade for their countries. One country thus embargoed, Russia, has leverage against the U.S. In the current oil price war, Russia and Saudi Arabia have pulled the plug on the U.S. fracking industry. As one journalist noted, Trump – who sanctioned Russian firms but then phoned Putin about stabilizing oil prices – “can dish it out, but he can’t take it.” Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, however, have no such leverage.

During a plague, like now, Cuba is perhaps safest from U.S. sanctions brutality, having weathered it for decades, by means of its sensibly market-unfriendly policies. Cuba also has the medical resources to cope with Covid-19. Indeed Cuba has sent its doctors and medicines around the world to help with this disease. The contrast between Cuban solidarity with humanity and the haughty cruelty of U.S. sanctions could not be plainer.

Cuba has over 22 anti-viral medicines that may have some efficacy against Covid-19. One of them, Interferon alpha 2b shows real promise, and over 45 countries have requested it from Cuba. The U.S. is not among them. Though the epicenter of the pestilence, the U.S. political elite is so blinded by the ideology of aggressive, militaristic capitalism, that it won’t allow its citizens access to potentially life-saving medicines. This is beyond arrogant prejudice – it is rank, doctrinaire stupidity.

For Iran, one way around U.S. sanctions is Instex, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges created by European countries in response to Trump’s illegal rupture with the Iran nuclear deal. On March 31, Europe used Instex for the first time to send Iran badly needed medicines. Originally Iran hoped Instex could broadly facilitate trade. It waited over a year for Instex’s launch. Now it is clear that Instex will only serve humanitarian assistance. This is less than Iran had hoped for, but still better than nothing.

Meanwhile, Italy asked for medical help from China and Cuba, and many other countries have followed suit. They don’t care about U.S. sanctions, or their dubious rationale – that they will lead Iranians or Venezuelans to rise up and overthrow their governments. Sanctions have no such effect anyway. And in reality, they are the reverse of such imaginary liberation – they are collective punishment of countries the U.S. considers enemies. Such collective punishment is a war crime under the 1949 Geneva conventions. In a better world, the U.S. politicians responsible for this wanton murder would be put on trial for this crime. But this is not a better world. War criminals are in charge.

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Black Rock Takes Command

by JOYCE NELSON

The mainstream financial press has been remarkably quiet about the Federal Reserve’s appointment (March 24) of BlackRock to manage its massive corporate debt purchase program in response to the Covid-19 crisis. That silence might have a simple explanation: you don’t slag your boss if you know what’s good for you.

BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink may now be the most powerful man in the world, overseeing not just the Fed’s new (potentially $4.5 trillion) corporate slush-fund, but also managing $27 trillion of the global economy (even before the March appointment). As the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock already was managing $7 trillion for its global corporate investor-clients, along with another $20 trillion for clients through its financial risk-monitoring software (called Aladdin).

As Andrew Gavin Marshall has explained, “Unlike a bank, asset management firms do not manage and invest their own money but do so on behalf of their many clients. In the case of BlackRock, those clients come in the form of banks, corporations, insurance companies, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, central banks, and foundations.” [1]

With $27 trillion under various forms of its management, BlackRock towers over the finance, insurance and real estate sectors. This much consolidated financial power may be unprecedented, but with BlackRock involved in virtually every major corporation across the planet (including the media), even BlackRock’s competitors (if that word even applies) are quiet about Fink’s appointment.

To date, only Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade.com are providing the needed ongoing and intrepid coverage. [2]

How Many Bailouts?

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi has called this new bailout of Wall Street a “bailout of the last bailout” in 2008. [3] Less well known is that the 2008 Wall Street bailout was itself a bailout of an earlier 2001 Wall Street bailout, in which the Fed pumped more than $100 billion into a struggling financial sector (wounded by the dot.com bust) under cover of the 9/11 crisis. [4]

Some attention has lately been paid to the fact that, during the 2008 bailout, BlackRock’s Larry Fink played a major role in advising governments and corporations in how to deal with toxic assets from crashing banks. But something important is being overlooked.

As I wrote in my 2016 book Beyond Banksters, these governments and corporations “sought Fink’s advice, despite the fact that (as Fortune reported in 2008) BlackRock’s Larry Fink ‘was an early and vigorous promoter [of] the same mortgage-backed securities’ responsible for the crisis. ‘Now his firm is making millions cleaning up those toxic assets,’ Fortune noted.”

Clearly, during the years between the 2001 Wall Street bailout and the 2008 bailout, BlackRock saw an opportunity and acted on it. Then, when those securities became toxic, BlackRock saw another opportunity and again acted. Clever.

BlackRock is a key focus in my book (along with McKinsey & Company) because both firms have been playing an outsized role in Canada’s politics since the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015. Trudeau has created a Canada Infrastructure Bank – widely called the “privatization bank” by us serfs – and has proposed to pour some $120 billion into infrastructure spending in order to attract investment from the international financial sector. As I wrote, by August of 2016 Trudeau was reportedly “courting BlackRock” in the hopes that some of its huge torrent of money would be directed into Canada for infrastructure projects.

Of course, those private investors would want a sizeable return (at least 9%) on their investments, so most of those projects would be either: 1) the outright conversion of a publicly-owned asset into a private one (selling off roads, bridges, ports, airports, water and wastewater systems, etc.), or 2) the building of new infrastructure (like transit) through a public-private partnership (P3) in which the private sector would pocket the tolls and operate risk-free during long-term contracts, or 3) the clever combination of both, by which an existing public asset would become a P3.

More than ‘Bad Optics’

In an outrageous display of corporate arrogance, on November 14, 2016 BlackRock hosted a private summit in Toronto for “a select group of major international investors” with trillions of dollars in assets. They were allowed to meet and question PM Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, and other federal officials, but the press was not allowed to be there to record the “opportunities” that our elected politicians were offering these banksters.

And in the latest move, on March 27 – the same day that the U.S. Congress approved the bailout bill making BlackRock a key financial overseer – Canada’s publicly-owned central bank, the Bank of Canada (BoC), suddenly announced that BlackRock will act as its advisor for a new quantitative-easing (QE) program for corporations – basically a money-spigot for a struggling corporate sector.

There was no tendering process for this role, and as one financial writer noted, BoC Governor Stephen Poloz appeared to be “opting to put urgency ahead of dithering over potential traps such as conflicts of interest, a rushed tendering process and bad optics.” [5]

But let’s be clear: the central banks on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border have now placed BlackRock in a primary position for effecting monetary and fiscal policy in both countries. That is much more than “bad optics.” That is flagrant corporatism.

There is a terrible irony here, and it’s worth some attention.

SIFI

When I wrote Beyond Banksters in 2016, BlackRock was managing a mere $15 trillion (not the $27 tillion it’s managing now). Not surprisingly, for several years there had been some financial voices calling for BlackRock to be designated as a “systemically important financial institute” (a SIFI), which would mean that it would be far more heavily regulated and would need to meet potentially higher capital requirements from U.S. regulators.

I quoted The Economist, for example, which in 2013 was worried that because so many companies rely on BlackRock’s Aladdin financial risk-monitoring software, there is a danger that they’d all “jump the same way” and “make things worse.”

Similarly the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research had issued a 2013 report that concluded that asset management firms like BlackRock and the funds they run are “vulnerable to shocks” and “may engage in ‘herding’ behavior that could amplify a shock to the financial system.”

But BlackRock had long been lobbying strenuously against being considered a SIFI.

Then in 2014 BlackRock executives somehow obtained a confidential Federal Reserve PowerPoint presentation that implied that BlackRock could pose the same financial risk as big banks. [6] Angered by this new jibe, BlackRock lobbied hard against this view, and, as I wrote, in April 2016 the company “avoided greater oversight from regulators in the U.S.”

Consider BlackRock’s position now: the new bailout bill not only further erases the line between the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, it places BlackRock effectively in an overseer position for both. Those lowly bureaucrats from both institutions who had attempted to turn BlackRock into a SIFI are now answering to Larry Fink. Clever.

In what is the most thorough critique of the BlackRock appointment to date, a March 27 letter from the Sunrise Movement to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell noted: “By giving BlackRock full control of this debt buyout program, the Fed is further entwining the roles of government and private actors. In doing so, it makes BlackRock even more systemically important to the financial system. Yet BlackRock is not subject to the regulatory scrutiny of even smaller systemically important financial institutions.” [7]

‘Stealth’ Bailouts

The 30 signers of that letter to Powell include Public Citizen, as well as many environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Amazon Watch, Stand.Earth, and the Rainforest Action Network. They rightly express concern about BlackRock’s many conflicts of interest and especially note: “…corporate bond-buying programs such as these may be stealth fossil fuel company bailouts if adequate climate safeguards are not applied. The Federal Reserve should not prop up industry destroying the climate and creating further risk to the financial system, and many of our organizations will be asking Congress to take legislative action to prevent this.” [8]

Just days later, on April 3, seven CEOs from Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp., Continental Resources, Occidental Petroleum, Devon Energy, Phillips 66, and Energy Transfer had a private meeting with President Trump. Who knows what they asked for, or were promised?

The New York Times attempted to assure readers that BlackRock “won’t be making a mint off the Federal Reserve” and “will earn relatively modest fees” for helping the Fed “run a bond-buying program to steady markets unsettled by the pandemic.” [9] But that assurance largely misses the point: much more important is the “herding behavior” that a large asset manager like BlackRock is capable of, and about which various economists have expressed concern. With 70 offices in 30 countries, and a data-farm called Aladdin advising round the clock on that $20 trillion in investments for clients, the potential for BlackRock to shape the global economy to its liking is formidable. Add to that the fact that BlackRock is now also advising Canada’s central bank.

Here in Canada we’re waiting to see if the Trudeau government gives another bailout to the Alberta oil patch. The announcement – with possibly as much $15 billion pending – will likely come this week. With BlackRock a major shareholder is almost every oil company involved in the tar sands (and around the globe), it will be difficult for the government to explain such a bailout without looking like it’s taking direction from Larry Fink.

On the other hand, maybe this pandemic has moved everything to a “new normal” where there is no such thing as “bad optics,” only urgent, pragmatic action. Clever.

By the Way

The last time the financial press indulged in massive coverage of BlackRock was during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, when numerous financial pundits were exchanging gossip about Fink’s desire and potential to be Hillary Clinton’s Treasury Secretary. Of course, the result of the election changed all that. But now, with Larry Fink overseeing the virtual merger of the Fed and Treasury while advising Treasury’s Steve Mnuchin, his position might be even more powerful than any appointment Clinton would have made. Clever.

As Matt Taibbi observed way back in 2009 in the midst of the previous bailout, “By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of CDS [credit-default swap] and CDO [collateralized-debt obligation], most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the [2008] crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system – transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.” [10]

So keep your eyes on your pension fund and Social Security, my fellow serfs (or should I say: fellow slaves?). Larry Fink has long been committed to privatizing Social Security and this current crisis might just be the right opportunity. Of course, it will be called something innocuous or warm and fuzzy, like the CARES Act, and it will be greeted in the mainstream media as an urgent, pragmatic decision.

Footnotes:

[1] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Exposing BlackRock: Who’s Afraid of Laurence Fink and His Overpowering Institution?” Occupy.com, December 23, 2015.

[2] Pam Martens and Russ Martens, “Icahn Called BlackRock ‘An Extremely Dangerous Company’; the Fed Has Chosen It to Manage Its Corporate Bond Bailout Programs,” wallstreetonparade.com, March 30, 2020.

[3] Matt Taibbi, “Bailing Out the Bailout,” Rolling Stone, March 31, 2020.

[4] Pam Martens, “Looking at 9/11 in the Context of the Wall Street Bailout of 2008,” Wall Street on Parade.com, September 8, 2016.

[5] Kevin Carmichael, “Why Bank of Canada needs BlackRock’s help,” Financial Post, March 27, 2020.

[6] Ryan Tracy and Sarah Krouse, “One Firm Getting What It Wants in Washington: BlackRock,” The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2016.

[7] Sunrise Movement, “30 Groups Release Letter to Fed Raising Concerns Over Details of BlackRock Deal,” Common Dreams, March 27, 2020.

[8] Ibid., Letter to The Honorable Jerome Powell, March 27, 2020.

[9] Matthew Goldstein, “Fed Releases Details of BlackRock Deal for Virus Response,” The New York Times, March 27, 2020.

[10] Matt Taibbi, “How Wall Street Is Using the Bailout to Stage a Revolution,” Rolling Stone, April 2, 2009.

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Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana

by BILL QUIGLEY

Photograph Source: Louisiana National Guard – CC BY 2.0

Virus Raging. Statewide Louisiana is second only to New York in deaths per 100,000 people with 582 reported as of April 7. Six parishes (counties) in the New Orleans area are in the top ten in deaths of all the counties in the nation: St. John the Baptist, Orleans, St. Charles, Jefferson, St. James and Plaquemines, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Race. Louisiana is 32 percent African American. Yet 70 percent of COVID 19 deaths in Louisiana are of African Americans. “”These differences are produced by policy, not physiology,” Dillard Professor Amy Lesen told the Advocate. “They’re based on race and class bias in the health care system, access to health care and preventative care.” Similar disproportionate impacts have been observed in Chicago and Milwaukee. This shows the pandemic is following patterns of entrenched inequalities in economic and medical opportunities.

Nursing Homes. There are 436 nursing homes in the state. Fifteen days ago, there were 3 nursing homes with more than one person infected. Inside those homes 363 patients have been identified as carrying COVID 19, one hundred more than last week. More than 103 people have died in these homes and more than 70 homes have at least one person with the virus. There are now 47 nursing homes with more than 1 person infected.

Prisons. A federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, the first inmate died March 29, by now five inmates have died and 22 others tested positive for the virus.

State prisons reported their first positive on March 28, now 28 prisoners have been reported positive. Additionally, 26 staff have tested positive. All family visits have been cancelled for weeks as have pardon and parole hearings. The New Orleans jail reports 15 inmates positive for the virus.

Immigrants. ICE holds 8,000 immigrants in jail in Louisiana. The first ICE case outside of Oakdale has been reported in Pine Prairie Louisiana. Immigrant women in ICE jails in Louisiana protesting inadequate coronavirus protections were pepper sprayed. The women were being held in a housing area with 80 other women where the bunks are less than a meter apart. Women in other ICE jails made a video shared with The Intercept trying to alert the world to their plight.

Unemployment. Louisiana usually gets about 1,500 applications for unemployment a week Two weeks ago they received over 70,000. The max benefit for Louisiana workers is $247 a weeklowest in the nationNo one in Louisiana has received a federal check for the additional $600 promised.

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From Strike Wave to General Strike

by RICHARD MOSER

The strike wave is here. The strike wave is real.  Can workers take the next steps toward a General Strike?

The current crisis is a rare opportunity for us to build a movement both outside of electoral politics and based on an organizing model. That matters because the biggest shortcoming of the left and the social movements is our lack of organizing.

Organizing can do what good intentions or radical theory or electoral campaigns cannot: turn solidarity from a dream into a living thing. But without some serious solidarity, all our hopes for a General Strike will fail to materialize.

As we build the solidarity infrastructure needed for a General Strike lets not lie to each other. It’s called “class struggle” for a reason. Strikes are painful with workers pitting their sacrifice and suffering up against the bosses’ profits. Strikes are no party.

But, general strikes, while rare, are a good match for the unprecedented interlocking crises we face. There is an answer to our problems. It’s the age-old working-class answer: “solidarity forever.” But, never forget that solidarity is forged in sacrifice too.

Solidarity is not simply passing a resolution or staking a claim — it is actions like boycotts or mutual aid efforts or sending money to those at the front lines or going on strike yourself.

The Strike is Back

After a long period of retreat, the strike has returned with a vengeance. In 2018 West Virginia teachers kicked off a strike wave the likes of which we have not seen for decades. And the leadership is coming from the rank and file — not union officials.

In this moment of pandemic panic strikes and unrest are focused on immediate demands. We want a general strike and that is a great thing but we have to pave the way between the largely defensive strikes that actually exist and the political offensive that is the heart of a general strike.

General strikes contest for power by explicitly raising class consciousness and proposing system-wide reform, economic democracy, maybe even social transformation. The political task is to build the transition between the defensive strike wave and the offensive general strike we need. We can find the path by starting down the trailhead right in front of us.

If we want to engage people we have to listen carefully to what they say and do. The strongest currents of resistance that I see are actions, demands, and tactics around the immediate life and death questions of safety, protection, and survival:

+ Protective equipment, sick benefits, hazard pay.

+ Strike as “sick out” that withholds labor until we break the back of the pandemic.

+ Strikes, slowdowns, rolling job actions or staying home. Let the workers decide.

+ Increase wages for essential workers.

+ The conversion of production to ventilators or masks or tests.

+ Universal health care

+ No rent, no evictions, no vacancies

+ Mutual Aid to serve the people

These may be immediate demands but in them we can imagine the possibilities of the General Strike. In these demands, (and in the bosses’ rush to get us back to work) we can see that labor creates all wealth. We can see that workers are essential and bosses are disposable. When workers demand that they switch production to ventilators or masks — the seeds of worker control are taking root. Housing and health care are revealed as demands of direct interest to everyone, not just a moral stand. If the General Strike is the front-line Mutual Aid is the quartermaster providing aid and comfort to the troops and showing us what a democratic economy looks like.

Taken together these actions and demands are the beginnings of a struggle for economic, workplace and community democracy. Call it Freedom and Democracy, call it Socialism or Revolution, call it Reason or call it Treason — I don’t care what you call it.

Its Solidarity Forever or General Strike Never

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

― Lilla Watson

Solidarity is not simply good intentions or the fine speeches that politicians sometimes make. Solidarity grows by acting on the principle that “your liberation is bound up with mine.” With solidarity, a new world is possible — without it we surrender to corporate power.

By all means, have your steering committee pass a resolution but real solidarity can only be achieved by organizing and activism.

Here are a few possibilities:

+ We need to coordinate strategic boycotts targeting Amazon, Whole Foods and other corporate criminals. We need a huge email list and a website updated daily to select targets and coordinate timing.  Who will take up this work?

+ In 2016 the Sanders campaign proved that a presidential campaign could be crowdfunded by millions of small donations. Can we set up a funding mechanism to funnel money to striking workers trying to last “one day longer” than the boss?

+ Solidarity with strikers means building networks, coalitions, Mutual Aid and communal efforts, and Unemployed Councils.

The Crisis Cannot Be Resolved by Normal Means

When compared with the narrow vision of the electoral arena (with the vast majority of politicians from both major parties still opposing universal healthcare) even these initial spontaneous uprising are full of ideas for redistributing wealth and power.

Even in the depths of the crisis, unanimous Congressional action could deliver nothing greater than temporary cash payments so meager as to exaggerate the very wealth inequality that made our world unsustainable in the first place.

These tasty crumbs are welcomed aid to workers but were also a good move by the ruling class to calm things down. Without real resistance, our rulers got away with tossing us the bare minimum necessary to engineer consent so they could gain a far bigger prize: the further consolidation of 40 years of corporate power.

It’s not that progressive Democrats produced nothing. They moved the discourse in important ways. But the unanimous consent to the corporate bailout signals the limits of even well-meaning electoral activity under existing conditions. And that is why the strike wave is so important. Direct action gets the goods. And, the torch is passed back from celebrities and politicians to the unknown everyday people that were always the true leaders of the working-class.

The left needs Ella Bakers’ vision. Do we have the capacity to “pick up the pieces or put together pieces?”

What will help the millions move? What will build the capacity for self-organization? We need to learn and quick. Because it is when millions move — then and only then — that we will unleash the enormous creative energies of the people. They will find the way forward.

The people are telling us where to find them. Can we catch up? Its due time for all organizers to engage, listen, learn from and stand with our new leaders. There is no greater solidarity than this.

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