Monday 20th of May 2019

of poverty, of education, of working slaves and of consumerism...

poverty

A fellow called Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) — an Anglo-Dutch philosopher, political economist and satirist (we may have mentioned him before on this site) — explained the advantage of ignorance thus:

It is manifest that in a free nation where slaves are not allowed, the surest wealth consists in a multitude of laborious poor... To make society happy and people easy under the meanest circumstances, it is a requisite that great numbers of them should be ignorant as well as poor...

 

 

The dynamics of this truity* have changed. Now we need to have the populace to bathe in fake news daily (media baron de Murdoch comes to mind), because the populace knows too much that could become annoying to a happy bourgeois society. Imagine a society where the poor don't want to work! Or try to revolt, wearing yellow jackets! The bastards would have to rely on the industry of charity that would foster their ignorance some more:

 

Ignorance is the opiate of the poor, a cordial, administered by the gracious hand of providence....

               Soame Jenyns

 

Soame Jenyns led a sheltered orderly existence. His patrons, Lord Montfort and Lord Hardwicke, arranged his elections for him, and the post at the Board of Trade, which he held for 25 years, brought him £1,000 p.a. He supported every Administration in turn, busied himself about Cambridge affairs, and maintained a prolific output of light verse and writings on political, economic and religious subjects. He was bland and amusing, ‘with the most even temper and undisturbed hilarity of all the good companions whom I ever knew’, wrote Richard Cumberland. William Cole the antiquary, a close friend, described him as ‘rather of a finical and beauish turn, and not at all made for canvassing and caballing at elections’...

 


As we approach MAJOR elections in this country, with the present government having stretched corruption beyond its limits of credibility, with the rats from the sinking Liberal (CONservative) partyship leaving in drove — and as we move towards a push robotic-button society, we need to reconsider "employment". Work these days is no more than some accounting gymnastics that allow us to rob Paul to pay ourself honestly in an office for the automated dehambulatory square-wheel trolleys for robotic tea ladies inc.

 

Soon it will be time to force people not to work. This is actually what the highly remunerative pension for politicians is designed to do... But some of them will want to work anyway, still cashing in their pension, by becoming consultants to the people and private industries they did the business of government with... Corrupt? I ask... Here we wish some politicians, like Tony Abbott, would take the pension and show their budgies to the world, rather than try to carry on in the devious dungeons of Kanbra...

 

Most of our working activities consume the planet. Everyday we destroy more of the natural stuff.

 

So how do we get paid for DOING NOTHING? For some of us, this is called welfare. But governments need to look like they loathe doing so because those who have work (even working one hour a week is considered as employment) might resent having to fork taxes for the "lazy bastards". 

 

This is why some Nordic people have come with the idea of "the minimum wage for doing nothing".

This is wrong. Philosophically, this is the short cut to debauchery and enjoyment. I prefer the idea of Yanis Varoufakis who rather than describe us as loafers, bums, lazy uninspired couch potatoes, we shoud be seen as "consumers"

Hey! I can hear some people telling old Gus that "I'm a person, not a consumer!". I know, I know...

But this is the beauty of the scheme: multinational companies and local enterprise CANNOT survive without our services AS CONSUMERS. They cannot. This is a given. So  the scheme is to give us a usage-royalty for using the products. The more shaving cream we use, the more usage-royalty we get.

This scheme would have to be moderated to minimise abuse, but this would soon balance itself out as should you buy too much shaving cream, you soon run out of money. And the government could run the scheme by cashing in (treasuring) the usage-royalty and distribute it equallly... Beaut. 

 

This is where we regain our self-esteem considering that as a consumer we are working for the common good without having to produce anything. We thus can keep our personal damage to the planet to a minimum, by limiting the amount of consuption we might do, though the robots making stuff might think more plastic in the oceans is beaut. Beaut.

 

 

*Note: a "truity" is an awful truth that is divided along the political spectrum. On side sees it as AWFUL/WRONG/FALSE, the other sees it as the only true way to do business or run a religious racket.

swamp gas



American decline: Open pools of raw sewage in the richest country in the world

 


Rania KhalekRania Khalek
Published: 12 Feb, 2018
As the wealthy continue sucking the country dry, the question now isn’t if the US will cease to provide a decent standard of living for its people. Rather it is how many people will be sacrificed on the way down.

In America, the richest nation in the world when measured by raw GDP, children are getting sick from living by open pools of raw sewage. This was one of many shocking findings by the United Nations late last year, following a two-week investigation into extreme poverty in the US.

The UN report was issued last December by a team of investigators who visited California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia and Washington DC.

“The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth, nor its power, nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty,” wrote Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

He continued, “I met with many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles, I witnessed a San Francisco police officer telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to, I heard how thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers. I saw sewage-filled yards in states where governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility, I saw people who had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor, I heard about soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by opioids, and I met with people in Puerto Rico living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them, bringing illness, disability and death.”

The sewage-filled yards were found in poor areas like Lowndes County, Alabama, where many people cannot afford to install septic tanks, causing sewage to pool by their homes. This untreated waste creates the potential for all kinds of diseases. In Lowndes, it has led to the proliferation of hookworm, a parasitic disease of the intestines commonly found in the world’s poorest developing countries.

The discovery of third world levels of poverty and disease in the richest and most powerful country in the world, shocking as it may be, is only part of the story. The UN findings are in keeping with the downward spiral of America.

America’s Decline

Spending time in Western Europe, as I have done the last several months, provides some serious perspective on America’s decline. In most European countries, like Germany for example, public transportation works efficiently and there is a social safety net. While homelessness is a problem, it’s nowhere near as rampant as in the US and usually seems to be associated with addiction. People in Europe are generally much healthier and happier, housing and food and higher education are affordable and people don’t spend all their time working – they are able to take vacations and enjoy life in a way the vast majority of Americans are not. Europeans are typically entitled to lengthy paid maternity leave, whereas in the US working class women are forced to return to work in as little as two weeks.

 

Read more:

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/418572-us-decline-poverty-un/

 

putrid flint water...

On a hot day in the summer of 2014, in the Civic Park neighbourhood where Pastor R Sherman McCathern preached in Flint, Michigan, water rushed out of a couple of fire hydrants. Puddles formed on the dry grass and splashed the skin of the delighted kids who ran through it. But the spray looked strange. “The water was coming out dark as coffee for hours,” McCathern remembered. The shock of it caught in his throat. “Something is wrong here.”

Something had been wrong for months. That spring, Flint, under direction from state officials, turned off the drinking water it had relied upon for nearly 50 years. The city planned to join a new regional system, and while it waited for it to be built, it began bringing in its water from the Flint River. McCathern didn’t pay much attention to the politicking around all this; he had enough to worry about at his busy parish.

But after the switch, many of his neighbours grew alarmed at the water that flowed from their kitchen taps and showerheads. They packed public meetings, wrote questioning letters, and protested at city hall. They filled plastic bottles to show how the water looked brown, or orange, and sometimes had particulates floating in it. Showering seemed to be connected with skin rashes and hair loss. The water smelled foul. A sip of it put the taste of a cold metal coin on your tongue.

But the authorities “said everything was all right and you could drink it, so people did,” McCathern said later. Residents were advised to leave the taps on for a few minutes before using the water, to get a clean flow. As the months went by, the city plant tinkered with treatment and issued a few boil-water advisories. State environmental officials said again and again that there was nothing to worry about. The water was fine.

Whatever their senses told them, whatever the whispers around town, whatever Flint’s troubled history with powerful institutions telling them what was best for them, this wasn’t actually hard for people like McCathern to believe. Public water systems are one of America’s most heroic accomplishments, a feat so successful that it is almost invisible. By making it a commonplace for clean water to be delivered to homes, businesses and schools, untold lives have been saved from cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. In Flint, the water supply was instrumental in turning General Motors – founded in 1908 in Vehicle City, as Flint was known – into a global economic giant. The advancing underground network of pipes defined the growing city and its metropolitan region, which boasted of being home to one of the strongest middle classes in the country.

But in the latter part of the 20th century, GM closed most of its plants in the city and eliminated almost all of the local auto jobs. Smaller companies followed suit or simply shut down for good. Between 1998 and 2013 alone, nearly 150 of them left the downtown area. With the shuttered businesses came shuttered houses and schools. More than half the population, which had reached a high point of nearly 200,000 in 1960, disappeared. Some 22,000 people left between 2000 and 2010.

The empty structures they left behind were both disheartening and dangerous, not only because they were prone to break-ins and fires, but also because they literally crumbled on to the sidewalks where people passed by. Civic Park’s tree-lined avenues of historic homes became blighted by vacancy. At the same time, the Flint metro region – that is, the suburbs – grew exponentially. It was a widening circle of wealth with a deteriorating centre.

With so much lost, Flint needed help. An emergency plan. A large-scale intervention of some kind. But in fact the state of Michigan exacerbated Flint’s woes by dramatically reducing the money that it funnelled to its cities. Between 1998 and 2016, Michigan diverted more than $5.5bn in tax revenues – which would ordinarily go to places such as Flint, to power streetlights, mow parks and plough snow – and used it to plug holes in its own budget. At the same time, Flint suffered the Great Recession, the mortgage crisis and a major restructuring of the auto industry.

If you wanted to kill a city, that is the recipe. And yet Flint was very much alive. In 2014, the year of the switch to a new source of drinking water, it was the seventh-largest city in the state. For about 99,000 people, Flint was home. And they did what they could to fill the gaps. When Pastor McCathern and his congregation at Joy Tabernacle realised that Civic Park was not on anyone’s list of priorities, they launched their own initiatives to fix up the neighbourhood. They covered the windows and doors of vacant properties, and paid young men to mow lawns and board up empty homes.

“The community was at one time totally ignored by everybody,” McCathern said. “But because young people stood up, now everybody came on board.” You could feel a shift in the momentum. You could see the change. “It was a different Flint that was coming.”

 

Read more:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jul/03/nothing-to-worry-about-the-...

 

 

Read from top.

exposing the lies of the empire...

 

by Ramin Mazaheri

I first started reading Andre Vltchek on the website CounterPunch, which is a truly great leftist website… even though I will probably never get published on there, even if I was relaying the cure for cancer: CounterPunch appears totally opposed to working with any state media, and I work for Iran’s PressTV.

Rather anarchist and ivory-tower, but… whatever.

Reporters have only two choices: work for either privately-owned or state-owned media. I.e., you can work for shareholders, a patrician family (whether urban giants or rural petty tyrants), or some billionaire whose new sports team is in the middle of a boring rebuild, or you can work for the People.

I chose the People. Even if this closes a million doors to me – and the fact that I work for the Iranian People closes a million others – I have zero regrets.

(Blogging – working for Yourself – is now a third choice, but I don’t have the tech savvy to make that economically viable, and the vast majority of blogging journalists say the same thing.)

But what happened to Vltchek on CounterPunch? I don’t see anything from him on CP for more than a year? It is a truly top dissident media site, and they carry great thinkers, but I know they didn’t find someone better – at least not by much. I’m not the only one who has noticed this.

Is it because he has a Russian background and CounterPunch was duped on a few articles by a troll allegedly from Russia?

That was hardly the end of the world and quickly forgotten: I think every reader of CP viewed them as the victim, and thus CP could not lose any integrity. If CounterPunch thought this reduced their reputation in the Mainstream Media, well, much like state media with CP, CounterPunch has no chance of ever being appreciated by them. I would assume CP is fine with that, as the Mainstream Media can only reach the mere heights of fake-leftism on their very best days.

What is far more weighty is: given the 2+ years of a dangerous, misleading and appallingly stupid Russophobia campaign, US-based CounterPunch has an obvious obligation to promote Russian-linked leftists even more strongly now. That seems so obvious from a leftist analysis that I don’t think it requires much explanation. And yet… this is when CounterPunch chose to drop Vltchek?

The reason Vltchek is especially valuable to CP is because he’s actually going to myriad places and defending / unveiling leftism, whereas a lot of their contributors are leftists discussing leftism from their living room or discussing countries where they have never set their boots upon. That is not an insult, but is simply to show that both theoretical and practical knowledge is necessary.

Isn’t the US left supposed to be fostering a push to the left in the Trump era? That was supposed to be the best thing about Trump: he would pull the sheet off of American fascism – which has never been domestically discredited, unlike in Europe – to reveal that Trump is no different than Dronebama, the Clintons, the Bushes, et al.

Many Americans are more hungry and receptive to leftism than ever, and leftist journalists should gladly feed them the political nutrients they have been long denied by the Mainstream Media. So how could Vltchek’s work have been spiked by CounterPunch during this particular era? One would think that leftist interest in Vltchek’s work would spike during this time, not that he would get spiked!

Maybe it’s just an oversight by CounterPunch – I’m sure they get many submissions.

The solution is obvious: Bring back Vltchek, and perhaps tap some of his compatriots and colleagues at the superb New Eastern Outlook (full of Russian communist intelligentsia who have practical knowledge of socialism) for contributions. They could also run the superb analyses of The Saker, who is a courageous anti-imperialist and also Russian. Adding these Russian worthies would emphatically show that Russia is not the enemy.

But does CounterPunch believe that…?

Is it telling that CounterPunch’s website advertises the book Russia Without Putin? Putin is centre-right in the Russian context, sure, but check your local magazine stand – surely some US journal has a cover vilifying Putin this week. The book is clearly predicted on a fantasy; it has also found a way to not be only anti-Putin, but “non-Putin”. Regardless, it seems like a interesting read, and I hope somebody reviews it on Amazon.

But, at first glance, this seems like more fantasist thinking from Western leftists, which I find particularly aggravating. Just as Western leftists know nothing, investigate nothing, will not tolerate anything which challenges their fantasies on socialist-inspired Iran, the dumping of Vltchek seems like more Western leftism which refuses to see Russia as it really is, but instead as how Western leftists wish it would be. There is PLENTY of socialism in Russia, still; there is PLENTY of socialism in Iran, since 1979.

CounterPunch gets major kudos for having run Vltchek before, because Western Leftists generally have no interest in learning from the practical experiences of leftists in the Old World, and certainly not from the two main enemies of the US – Russia and Iran.

US animosity towards the “continent” of China is nowhere near as strong as towards Iran, but the socialist achievements of all three of these socialist-inspired nations are not just denied by Western leftists, but denigrated as well.

For whatever reason, Latin American leftists are deemed more acceptable to Western leftists – seems like an anti-Asian thing? We can certainly add in North Korea and especially Vietnam, whom Western leftists rallied around in the 1960s but whom they strangely and completely ignored once Vietnamese leftists won. Vietnam has the 2nd highest economic growth rate since 1990 (probably since 1981), China is #2 in increasing their UN Human development Index from 1970-2010, while Iran is #2 from 1990-2014) but – nothing for Western leftists to learn here, right?

Just being “anti-Putin” is not a very leftist stance from a leftist media like CounterPunch – right now is the time for CounterPunch to stand up for Russian leftism (and for the leftist insistence on internationalism), and not after the FBI finally admits they have nothing on Trump and Russia. However, it is very typical of Western leftists to be merely “anti-” (although being “non-” is indeed an original stance), but it’s not enough to sustain leftist-inspired revolutions, and this helps explain why the West has none.

CounterPunch should re-add Vltchek, and then add other Russian leftists as well (I think the “West Coast hippie” viewpoint can afford to lose a couple slots). This will help set many good examples, and it will counter the widespread belief that Western leftists can only push their own regional version of leftism, and are so individualistic and ethnocentric that they often appear incapable of being true internationalists.

But Vltchek is no affirmative-action hire: He is one of the very, very few open and unrepentant socialist journalists who have been around the world, burned the lying flag of imperialism, and kept the leftist flag upraised. Vltchek’s journalism helped gave me the confidence to do leftist advocacy journalism, and he can do the same for others.

I have limitations, as PressTV is a hard-news, daily journalism gig. Hard-news daily journalism has fundamental limitations: our main task is to provide as many facts as possible (and to decide which facts are the most important). At heart, I am just a sucker for from-the-street, daily, hack journalism, but Vltchek’s example shows how leftist advocacy journalism can and should be done.

I bring up CounterPunch because Vltchek was on there, and he deserves to be broadcast as widely as possible – that’s why I’m happy to write a review of his book: Exposing the Lies of the Empire.

‘EXPOSING THE LIES OF EMPIRE’ – CONSTANT INSPIRATION + MASSIVE INFORMATION

I once read that a good critic doesn’t just bash what he doesn’t like – he sings the praises of that which he does like.

The book, a huge compilation of nearly 70 articles, is Vltchek serving as the world’s best socialist tour guide. It’s an encyclopedia of leftist, on-the-ground reporting from… nearly everywhere.

It’s especially fascinating to read because he seeks out reports, which overturn the Mainstream Media accounts. He goes to the places the West vilifies and lies about (Out and About in Zimbabwe’s Capital: Harare – Is It Really the Worst City on Earth?), or totally ignores (Eritrea: African Ideological Ebola for Imperialists). Zimbabwe never gets a good write-up in the West – they nationalized White farms, after all; Eritrea never gets positive press – it’s a unique socialist state, which has massively uplifted its People.

But he also goes to the West and intellectually scorches them with equal vigor. He demolishes what they incorrectly hold up as worthy of emulation (Shameful, Cowardly European Art) and he shows how hollow their own alleged “democratic successes” are, as well as those of their allies, such as Indonesia and Nigeria.

Vltchek does things like going to North Korea to make a 25-minute documentary, which the West would surely love to ban entirely and which should be on CounterPunch, but it’s his writing style which really sets him apart from other leftists: he is not telling you a story, but relating a human being’s history. Even if that person was sacrificed to capitalism-imperialism 400 years ago, Vltchek seems to feel as though it just happened and right in front of him.

I would say that Vltchek writes with the conscience of a 13-year old, and that is quite a compliment: these idealistic, freshly-minted adults are not only absolutely certain that something better should be done immediately, but that they could do it if only they could hold the reins for a time.

You see the same words over and over in Vltchek’s reports, and they are completely foreign to the daily hard-news journalism I was trained in: words like “compassion”, “humane”, “dehumanization”, “nightmarish”, “struggling”, “conscience”, “miraculous”, “beautiful”, “shameless”.

When is the last time you read a report in a newspaper – not in an editorial – which described an economically right-wing policy’s outcome as “shameless”? Vltchek uses it when talking about free-market fundamentalism, capitalism, US foreign policy, etc. Unlike the absurd, rabid, Russophobic anti-Trumpers, Vltchek is no fake-leftist – he knows it’s all about class & economics, and the permanent link between capitalism & imperialism.

Another favorite word of Vltchek’s is one which journalists don’t utter, and which they feel is their duty to ignore, is ”humiliation”. France’s protesting Yellow Vests, for example, apparently never feel “humiliated” by their 10-year, austerity-enforced, slow descent into borderline / real poverty, even though they are, and even though this explains their anger and violence (which was only marginally exceptional in France solely during the first 6 weeks of the movement).

One is struck by Vltchek’s insistence on the fact that third worlders actually do deserve to not live in humiliation – in a just media world, such a sentiment would be in every story about the developing world… but that would undermine the false idea that capitalism & neoliberal globalism is working great / has learned from the most recent crisis / could never be the reason for a foreign army base.

In his writing he is appalled by horrid living conditions, by lack of worker safety, by infrastructure so dilapidated it creates a lack of citizen safety, and by other conditions people just write off as “normal for those people”. For Vltchek, people riding on the tops of trains in Jakarta (and getting maimed or killed) is not the chance to run a bemused photo, but it always is for Western Mainstream Media. Whereas most of us gloss over it, he relates to the reader like it was the first, worst time he has ever seen poor governance, the abuses of capitalism, the rapes of imperialism, etc. This fresh-eyed view is incredibly inspirational.

Like any 13 year old, Vltchek has a clique of friends who are SO, SO much cooler. Vltchek goes to these places – like to doctors in the Bolivia of Evo Morales – and reports back, providing the reader with yet another heaping of inspiration. If he had not done this, perhaps Vltchek would have been like many other lefties – content just to vilify their neighbors, eventually growing embittered, superior and apathetic.


To me these sights in the middle of the Bolivian Andes were like the essence of human nature – by now almost extinct – but still the essence played in front of my eyes. I was very much aware of the fact that this was exactly the socialism in which I have believed for decades; it was right here, in action, in front of my eyes. And it was simple, natural and undogmatic.”

 

It is these stories, which supply the vital, other half to his work: the requited passion, the justice, the action, the promises kept, the potential fulfilled.

It is fundamentally flattering to the reader, and correct, that Vltchek appears to treat every true leftist as though they were Che Guevara: he does not overvalue the leftist figures from his own nations, and he does not see historical figures as Ubermen from a golden or Salafist era. He sees everyone standing on the same level – even if that person is barefoot and dirty. What impresses him is only moral leftist effort, struggle and sacrifice. That is the true socialist mentality, just as much as it is true leftist internationalism.

Vltchek is an opponent of the smug & cold, the poseur & the disingenuous, the elitists & those who stratify themselves away from the People. For example, Vltchek is an atheist, but that doesn’t mean he supports stupidity when it comes to those who are anti-religion (from Blaming It All on the Muslims):


She is not the only person in Istanbul I know who has those moments. In the ‘City of Dreams’ to show spite for Islam and for practicing Muslims is clearly some commonly-used secret password to the universe of what is acceptable here as brainy and hip.”

 

You don’t read that from the Mainstream Media because, to them, being Islamophobic IS brainy and hip; you don’t read that from a lot of leftist media because they ARE Islamophobic, which includes the fear of Islam as a political force in any definition of the term. Islam is not the danger in the Muslim World – capitalism-imperialism and Western racism-ethnocentrism are the dangers. Vltchek is an atheist, but it seems he’s not so dogmatic, superior, ruthless and politically-stupid as to think socialism can function without embracing members who also choose to be religious. In short: he’s not an idiot nor a bigot – he’s a true internationalist.

If I had to pin down his official label I would describe Vltchek’s overall view most in line with “Cuban-style” socialism: after all, no country (other than the USSR) has been more truly internationalist (there would have been no South African independence without Cuban assistance to Angola, which was not even a Spanish colony); conversely, Chinese and Iranian internationalist efforts, while extensive, vital and costly, have been limited to regional affairs.

NOT MUCH TO SAY – ONLY MUCH TO READ

This review is not that long, mainly because there is not much I can say. Yes, I agree with Vltchek on seemingly 90% of his major points, but his book is not theoretical but practical. It is on-the-ground journalism: there is nothing to argue about. Unless you have been there yourself and can call him a liar, there is only acceptance, and then the intellectual adaptation required to accommodate new, ignored, shocking, passionately-infused facts of modern social existence. This is what CounterPunch and those unfamiliar with Vltchek’s work are missing.

Of course, If you want to visit such places and analyze their current situation from an openly socialist perspective, I would certainly love to read it… but very, very few people do this.

The book reminds me of J Is for Junk Economics, by our era’s must-read economist Michael Hudson, in that you can pick up either of these books for just 5 minutes and then have something to reflect on for the rest of the day.

In a just world, Vltchek is tapped to run a media company by a leftist billionaire. I don’t think there is such a thing, though…

However, there are leftist-influenced states – two of them are publishing me and Vltchek (NEO is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences), whereas CounterPunch is not, whatever their reasons are. Thank God for state media, eh?

Leftists writers all know: we are not in this for money, because what we propose is a guaranteed loser – writing leftist journalism in the English language. No Anglophone country is remotely socialist and most are ardently anti-socialist, so there is near-zero demand. We should pick something with slightly greater sales prospects: like selling pamphlets on atheism in Farsi, or books railing against the evils of hockey & donuts in Canada.

But if you can’t bankroll a media company, I hope you have some money to buy Vltchek’s book. The most important unsaid leftist phrase in the West is “anti-imperialist” – here is a book which tells you the state of that struggle around the world.

 

Read more:

https://off-guardian.org/2019/03/03/why-has-counterpunch-spiked-andre-vl...