Thursday, December 31, 2020

What Did You Learn in 2020?

Some of the things I learned in 2020 were useful and probably will remain so going forward. For example, how to produce videos (and plan for the time suck known as post-production). Others were interesting and useful at the time, but it's unclear how they'll apply to this Boomer's future life. For example, how to win at British parliamentary style debate.

Some things I already knew but received much more evidence for in 2020:

A team of people collaborating with a common goal can accomplish more than any given individual can accomplish.

Distrust for authority will influence people to act against their own (and society's) best interests when it comes to public health.

Pranksters were busy in 2020. Here are designs allegedly for Space Force which turned out to be a hoax (the Nazi-like uniforms, not the Space Force).

All space programs are fundamentally military programs.

Screenshots from Google News on the final day of December, 2020.

The ginning up of support for space programs both public and private is covert militarization of public sentiment. And probably a military recruiting tool as well.

The ginning up of support for nuclear power is also being done with military applications in mind.

Information conveyed by corporate-controlled organizations, including National "Public" Radio, manufactures consent for continued militarism and promotes ignorance about the forces driving our global climate emergency.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And government in the U.S. exists to make sure of it.

False dichotomy and the personification of everything are still the leading errors in thinking used to control the masses. My run for elected office was an attempt to use one to combat the other. Jury is still out on whether this can be done, and whether or not it is a beneficial approach.

Things I did not learn in 2020 but hope to make some progress on in the new year:

How to be most effective as an information worker in a corporatized, capitalized world that rapaciously consumes nature including humans. For example, is my time and energy working for an anti-racist transformation best spent lifting up marginalized voices, working to organize white supremacist-leaning working class, a combination of both, or something else altogether?

How to make my actions as effective as possible in realizing the better world that I know is possible. I've tried protesting, marching, rallying, civil resistance, speaking, writing for mainstream publications, blogging, meeting with elected officials, petitioning, social media posting, street theater, and door knocking. Also running for elected office, also lobbying at the state level and the federal level. I've joined some organizations and helped start others. Also spent some decades teaching for critical thinking which I have National Board Certification in.

Link to buy the book here.

While I ponder all this I'll be promoting my first published book, something I need to learn how to do.

I will also will be facilitating education for a small pod at the preschool level. I could claim I'm doing that because I know for a fact that empowering young learners makes a positive difference in the world. But the truth is, I'm following my bliss.

And, while pondering, I'll take on a local project to improve the community I'm temporarily living in. One I can do safely while observing covid protocols in a state that is telling people EMTs will no longer be able to send cardiac arrest patients to hospitals because California hospitals are maxed out on ICU beds for covid patients.

Something I've spent the end of 2020 doing is taking time to process my grief over the pandemic and its harms. 

I was so busy when it hit that I of necessity made accommodations for it but powered onward through my busy, busy days with taking time to grieve. 

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer "For health-care workers during COVID-19, the burnout is real, and it's getting worse" Dec. 1, 2020  photo by Heather Khalifa

I'll grieve for all the families who've lost someone. Grieve for all the health care workers strained to their breaking point. Grieve the greed that has killed millions forced to work in unsafe conditions without health care or sick leave from their jobs.

2020 has been so difficult that people have yearned for a new year to begin. 

I hope we don't find a future so harsh that we look back on 2020 as the good old days.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Clown Show Winds Down

The current occupant of the White House was known for his book The Art of the Deal long before the corporate press elevated him to be a contender for the presidency. I remembered this factoid as news reached me yesterday that, posturing aside, he did after all sign the gargantuan military spending bill connected with the insultingly paltry pandemic relief payment of $600 for the people. Also extending unemployment insurance and a freeze on evictions in the first winter of covid.

Clearly the threat to veto the bill until Congress amended the payment to $2000 was a bargaining chip in a deal that paid off somehow. 

We may or may not ever know what was exchanged in that transaction.

As our days fill with pardons of war criminals who slaughtered children and other civilians, plus white collar criminals, 2020 draws to a close.

Those observing with clarity point out that the current occupant of the White House was essentially the same as all the other occupants: beholden to the death machine of the US militarized economy, and unconcerned to keep the promises they rode to election.

The incoming administration will be no different.

Ending subsidies to fossil fuel extraction profiteers was a promise during the primaries that Democrats used to lure idealistic youth climate activists, but quickly abandoned to kick off the general election season.

Forgiving student debt (that he had a key role in fashioning as a yoke built to last a lifetime) was another grandiose promise now being reduced to ashes.

Or maybe dangling $2000 was meant to ensure the current president's legacy remains strong among the struggling workers who still think he went to Washington DC to drain the swamp?

Here was his final "swamp draining" budget proposal.

70 million people voted for the clownish Twitter personality the second time around because the reality of their lives is deadly peril from threats more sure than succumbing to covid.

Covid is now the leading cause of death in the US, and will be for the near future even as vaccines roll out for Congress but not for most of us. 

Facing the dangers of a virus or of your job without health care has a huge impact on one's ability to survive, but the corporate-sponsored House of Representatives won't even consider a performative vote on Medicare for All much less legislation to enact universal health care. 

What show will ensue after the pageantry of the new president's inauguration subsides? 

Will the manufacturing of consent rest on the White House dogs who are vastly more telegenic than their elderly, addled master?

I'm betting it's the good-looking, intelligent Vice President who will end up carrying this administration's public relations efforts. As she is a woman and bi-racial, she is guaranteed to draw the vitriol of white supremacists losing their grasp on earning a living. (You know, the ones who voted for leaders that literally went golfing and skiing on Christmas without responding to the fact that a bomb was detonated in downtown Nashville.)

The show must go on! But most have tired of clownish "governing" and many in the younger generations actually find clowns terrifying.

Me? I'm older, and I find the incoming cabinet more terrifying than any clown. Ticking boxes for identity politics while elevating the executives of the very corporations who have murdered and impoverished working people is cynical. 

Yes, selecting Deb Haaland as the first Native Secretary of the Interior is wonderful and may she uphold indigenous wisdom in the Democratic Party (it's hard to even type those words). I was also glad to see an actual educator, Miguel Cardona,  nominated to head up the DOE. 

Speaking of the art of deals, how about a former small town mayor who parleyed stepping down after a modest primary showing into a nomination for Secretary of Transportation. But he's openly gay! That will be a great comfort to liberals in the owning class who bemoan climate crisis while supporting elected officials who consistently fail to invest in a robust public transportation system to address climate like other countries have.

And you can't blame the clownish performance of the defeated president for any of that.

Revised 12/30/20: Correcting my misunderstanding that the current occupant of the White House's veto of the military spending bill (aka NDAA) remains in place until a vote in Congress to overrride occurs. The pandemic stimulus/relief bill was signed, and the $2000 counteroffer by the deal artiste was also found to contain provisions for contesting certification of the electoral college victory of his opponent.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Conservatives Hopping Mad About Foreign Aid Bundled With Pandemic Relief Bill

Congressional "leaders" McConnell and Pelosi have net worth of $34 million and $110+ million, respectively.

Twitter is awash today with conservatives railing against the huge outlays on foreign aid found in the funding bill bundled with the pandemic "relief" bill.  

Some of the hashtags are kind of fun, like #VetoThePorkulus.

But, it's hard to tell if conservatives and other US taxpayers realize how foreign aid works as corporate welfare, mostly benefitting weapons and "security" manufacturers. Some in Congress clearly get this and don't go along to get along. From last year but just as applicable today:

Let's say Israel, one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, gets $500 million in "aid" this time around. Here's how that vast sum breaks down in the bill the president is expected to sign:

2 SEC. 8072. Of the amounts appropriated in this Act
3 under the headings ‘‘Procurement, Defense-Wide’’ and
4 ‘‘Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Defense-
5 Wide’’, $500,000,000 shall be for the Israeli Cooperative
6 Programs: Provided, That of this amount, $73,000,000
7 shall be for the Secretary of Defense to provide to the Gov-
8 ernment of Israel for the procurement of the Iron Dome
9 defense system to counter short-range rocket threats, sub-
10 ject to the U.S.-Israel Iron Dome Procurement Agree-
11 ment, as amended; $177,000,000 shall be for the Short
12 Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, in-
13 cluding cruise missile defense research and development
14 under the SRBMD program, of which $50,000,000 shall
15 be for co-production activities of SRBMD systems in the
16 United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense re-
17 quirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regulations,
18 and procedures, subject to the U.S.-Israeli co-production
19 agreement for SRBMD, as amended; $77,000,000 shall
20 be for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile De-
21 fense Architecture, of which $77,000,000 shall be for co-
22 production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems in
23 the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense
24 requirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regula-
25 tions, and procedures, subject to the U.S.-Israeli co-production

The bottom line is that Israel and many other countries are told they can order weapon systems and the US taxpayer will pick up the tab. A jobs program for the US, no? Well, no, not if the weapons systems are actually manufactured in Israel. But that's a special feature of our special relationship with Israel. Not the case in "aid" to Sudan, Egypt, Ukraine, Pakistan and the others.

To tweet that #CongressIsBroken in response to business as usual begs the question, Did you not think it was broken before? 

Because none of this is new. Or maybe people are still clinging to the notion that the job of Congress is to represent the people. This may be true on paper but the facts are completely different in 2020. 

Congress represents its corporate campaign donors, the fat cats who will enrich them in a multitude of ways if they remain loyal servants.

Corporate media work overtime to make sure that this fealty to wealth seems inevitable. It's not, but it is extremely profitable for media. Big ad buys translate to vast amounts of "earned" media that favors the wealthy candidate over the ordinary citizen seeking to represent the people by serving in Congress.

Many corrupt systems that seemed inevitable came crashing down because they weren't sustainable. Our current system is not sustainable in the face of a public heath crisis and climate emergency bearing down on us all.

May the $600 slap in the face prove to be the system's undoing.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Insatiable Greed And A $600 Slap In The Face

Fascism got a bad name in the 20th century because of the mass genocide of the Holocaust, plus the rapacious colonialism (redundant, I know) of the Japanese imperial project. For decades since, teenagers have snarled "fascist" at parents enforcing curfew in reference to the violent policing that accompanied the rise of a white supremacist party in Germany.

But it was Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, that actually had it right: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

In other words, the precise system of government we have in the United States today.

Over the last several decades we have watched as corporate power captured, not only our legislative and executive branches of national government, but the judiciary as well. 

The predictable outcome of our descent into fascism is the passage and enforcement of laws designed to benefit our corporate overlords at the expense of the literally starving and homeless people.

During any crisis of the last several decades, the already wealthy have prospered while the already impoverished have perished before our very eyes with little to no government intervention. I think Hurricane Katrina is when I first realized that the federal government would stand idly by, fat with our tax dollars, while the poor drowned and starved. FEMA like so many other federal agencies was designed to enrich corporations while the matriarch of the Bush clan toured refugees being housed in a sports stadium and pronounced on network television, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them."

The fact that so many of the "underprivileged" were Black was undoubtedly a factor in their abandonment by government of, by, and for the wealthy. Kanye West increased his fame when he said live on network television at the time: "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." 

So, failure to attend to the common good is nothing new. But it is accelerating mightily under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other wealthy countries have managed the health crisis by recognizing that staying home is containment, and subsidizing people to stay home -- including staying housed -- is good health policy.

But the US Congress is in session this weekend struggling over whether to pass a relief bill that would provide $600 one time payments after sending a measly $1200 once months ago. (Note: I know at least one Black working mother who never even received that payment.)

Currently 1/3 of people in the U.S. report they are struggling to meet basic expenses such as rent, food, and utilities.

The uptick in memes and slogans advocating violent revolution is significant in my social media feeds.

A sampling includes this one with one of the planet's rapacious billionaires as poster boy:


But more specifically, Congress is in the crosshairs. Sample tweets:


I also saw but cannot now find one that said, "The next stimulus is hidden inside in your member of Congress like a piñata."

Meanwhile reformers are insisting on a floor vote in the House on the wildly popular Medicare for All that our elected representatives will not even consider.

Fascists, drunk on power, always think the future is theirs. I think they're wrong about that.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Masks, Masculinity, And Magical Thinking

Source: "Men say masks not cool, less likely to wear them"

 (Sing to the tune of The Cruel War Is Raging)

The cruel plague is raging,

We need to wear a mask;

Foolish men all around us,

Think that's a big ask.

I'm in recovery from a long year on the campaign trail and indulging in the white, middle class privilege of following my bliss. Thus I will become the preschool teacher for my granddaughter and her 3 year old friend who were prevented by the pandemic from starting school in the fall. Many reading this will wonder if 3 year olds really need to attend school. Since all their parents have full time jobs and work from home, the answer here in Oakland, California is a resounding yes. (And I know socialized countries consider universal preschool to be the norm.)

I'm doing a lot of soul searching about what form my activism and organizing will take going forward. Electoral politics has a way of sucking all the oxygen out of the room, and my US Senate campaign was no exception at least the way I did it with near total commitment of time, energy, and resources. 

Now I'm considering how best to be of service to the revolution that must inevitably occur as 8 million additional people in the U.S. fell into poverty and homelessness, and hunger soared while billionaires prospered. These are the thoughts on my mind and heart as I relocate for a few months to assist with the youngest members of my extended family.

Each day I have been walking and for the first couple of weeks I had a 2 month old baby strapped comfortably to my chest. I huffed and puffed up and down the hills of the Bay area with my N95 mask working like a bellows. It was a relief to reach home and take the mask off for the final climb up several flights of stairs.

I became accustomed to stepping off the sidewalk in order to avoid people not wearing masks, because the infant I was toting was not masked even though I was. Coming here from rural Maine with its faith in Trumpian propaganda, I was hopeful that a greater percentage of the people in urban California would be on board with masking in public. In my home town of Solon I dared not venture into the store or the post office because I was sure to encounter many unmasked people.

Protesters shouted "Take off your mask" to Maine legislators arriving to be sworn in on Dec. 2.
Source: Kennebec Journal 

This morning in California it was just me and it was early when I set out on an errand. Sadly, approximately 1 in 10 of the people I encountered were unmasked. Of the 30 or so unmasked people I saw all but 2 were male, and this marked gender difference has been observable daily.

Masks are clearly perceived by many men in the U.S. as a threat to their masculinity. Why?

It strikes me that the answer may be related to the extreme reluctance of cis males to deviate in any significant way from their "uniform" of jeans or other pants and tees or buttoning shirts. As a young woman I was often told that men ruled the world. And I used to wonder, if that's so, then why can I and other females wear pretty much anything we want while men are so narrowly constricted? I could count on one hand the men I've known who experienced the comfort and freedom of a sarong and then kept wearing it after they'd left the beach.


The refusal to wear a mask in public is a form of bullying. Don't like it? Tough shit, stay inside, these macho dudes seem to be saying to the rest of us. (I'm not counting the people experiencing homelessness since their trauma may be a significant factor, or they may simply not have a mask; ditto the people presenting with mental health issues.) 

Masks are seen as a sign of weakness perhaps because they express care for others. 

Also, in Maine, submission to the executive orders of a female Democratic governor.

The militarization of U.S. culture is a reflection of the aggressive, bullying stance we take toward other nations. Our military is the enforcement arm of corporate government which countries can accept willingly or have shoved down their throats. This is far from solely a U.S. problem.

For example, Germany's Parliament this week narrowly avoided weaponizing drones they've bought from Israel for use by German troops in Mali and Afghanistan. So much to unpack there, but my point is that a hypermasculinized ethos pervades 2020. Uniforms are part of the ethos. (Ironically, masks are now part of military uniforms.)


Some of the people I see each day without masks are exercising, huffing and puffing as they run around Lake Merritt Park or up and down the Cleveland Cascade. My sons tell me that the directives from the state have been conflicting and confusing. People were told at first that they did not need to mask while exercising and then, as the pandemic second wave crashed over us, this was revised. Still, I see scores of male runners every week not wearing masks. 

Exceptionalism abounds; the governor of California and the mayor of San Francisco were caught eating indoors at gourmet restaurants with their friends long after that had been banned. And a few of the people I see on the street or in the park unmasked are eating or drinking something. 

Here is where I feel like magical thinking is creeping in.

1. I need to exercise or eat or drink my iced mocha oat milk latte.

2. Therefore, it's ok to remove my mask to do those things.

3. I will not be spreading the covid-19 disease when I do these things because...godammit, I have to eat and exercise!!

There are many not-so-great things about Western culture, but one of the better things is the inheritance of classical teaching that hubris is the downfall of the mighty.

Another good thing is scientific thought and research. Did bioweapons virus researchers produce this coronovirus and deploy it accidentally via a leak from a lab in Wuhan? Or did someone deploy it deliberately? Both are chiling but entirely possible scenarios in the context of the history of bioweapons.

The kind of hubris that would fund and support such endeavors is evident all around us. A lunatic billionaire claims he wants to bombard the planet Mars with nuclear weapons to turn it into a place where human life could exist. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that wearing a mask around others to reduce our risk of infection or infecting others is good science.

And caring for others is the very stuff of life.

Hat tip to bre kidman for her original artwork eloquently expressing how many of us feel at this point in time. We've almost made it to the end of 2020. Except for those who didn't

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Corporate Government Could Kill You -- It's Already Killing Your Global Neighbors

First recipient of covid vaccine in the UK. With the stark racial disparities in morbidity from covid, why did they pick a white woman? Source: England NHS UK

The anti-vaxxers in Maine were the most virulent opposition I faced when I ran for the US Senate in 2020. By which I mean, they threatened me the most often and harrassed me endlessly from the very first days of my campaign to the end 15 months later.

I don't doubt their sincerity in believing that vaccines are too harmful to give to their children. Nor am I surprised that they are on social media now declaring they will never take a vaccine to prevent being infected by covid-19.

I do doubt their critical thinking abilities. I was repeatedly told that I favored mandatory vaccinations for children even though I was clear in public forums from the early days of the campaign that this applied only to children enrolled in public schools (which are not mandatory). As a teacher for 25 years, I have the lived experience of communicable diseases spreading rapidly (not to mention lice) and profoundly affecting educational opportunities. 

Opportunities like learning more about the scientific method of having a hypothesis, collecting evidence, considering its implications, and further revising one's hypothesis.

I was told by a mom representing a group of anti-vax parents that they were planning to vote for Max Linn over me, Susan Collins, or Sara Gideon because he was the only one they could trust not to support a mandatory covid vaccination program.

I have also seen anti-vaxxers make several references to medical tyranny.

Mask wearing, even if mandatory, is not medical tyranny.

Health care workers are exhausted and posting photos of the effect of working for hours on end with PPE in place to protect themselves from covid infection. I wear a mask for them. Source: Noosa News

It is akin to infant car seat mandates, limiting personal freedom on behalf of protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

A problem with corporate government is that it breeds distrust, and that distrust becomes a huge factor in emergencies like our current public health crisis.

Big Pharma has undoubtedly infected Congress and other branches of our government. Any health care with a profit motive is a business first and a health program second. This is a problem created by our captured federal, state, and local governments who serve business interests that fund their campaigns and perqs rather than serving the people as they swore they would do.

Today Pfizer announced that people with severe allergic reactions should not take their vaccine. Two National Health staffers in the UK had reactions to the new covid vaccine Pfizer is selling. That doesn't mean nobody should.

Corporate government is also infested by another pathogen: weapon manufacturers. Every Biden cabinet nomination to head up the US military has been a board member of Raytheon, Booz Allen, or another corporation that feeds at the public trough. That's why US foreign policy amounts to endless wars with the corporate media ginning up fear of new enemies constantly.

Chris Hedges has observed that declining empires often feature irrational beliefs and "crisis cults" as the material conditions for life spiral downward. 

One word: QAnon. 

Unsurprisingly, even the outlandish beliefs of that cult have a kernel of truth underlying them. Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell did operate an international ring trafficking children for sexual exploitation, with many Democrats like Bill Clinton apparently involved. The predators weren't all Democrats, of course. They were various powerful men who could be blackmailed afterwards.

I can't dispute the kernel of truth underlying anti-vax sentiment -- that for-profit health measures pushed by corporate government could be harmful. 

But I'll continue to put my faith in scientists motivated by a concern for the common good. When deciding about taking any new vaccines I'll consult the health care providers I trust, including my sister who works at a prominent research hospital, and my own doctors who I've been fortunate to know for several years. 


I'll read sites by scientists like Rebekah Jones in Florida who have suffered their own harms for their effort to tell the truth about covid. Or the truth about artificial intelligence, for that matter.

I will continue working to distinguish between medicine for health and medicine for for profit. I can continue to be aware of my distrust of corporate government without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Medical Apartheid Particularly Gruesome Evidence Of Caste System


Taking my life in my hands (a common occurence in the time of plague) I stood in line at the pharmacy yesterday to pick up a prescription. Two customers who were in front of me had a long, interesting discussion about covid and the likelihood of a vaccine that can be trusted anytime soon. 

Both Black elders expressed skepticism about the form this might take in their community and the woman identified the source of her distrust as, "medical apartheid." Her remark has been ringing in my ears ever since. 

Higher infection and death rates for Black, indigenous, and people of color during this pandemic mirror the chronically worse health outcomes for BIPOC even before covid and are exhibit A for systemic racism in this country. 

Higher maternal mortality, infant mortality, and mortality from common diseases like high blood pressure and cardiovascular ailments are accepted by many as a fact of life in the US. A lot of victim blaming goes on and the higher castes look away from the nutritional realities of life in a food desert. 

Having recently read Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, I've been thinking a lot about her thesis that status in society isn't necessarily tied to skin color or religion or circumstances of one's birth. In the US skin color has been used extensively to establish an underclass that receives poorer nutrition, housing, schooling, and health care. But Wilkerson argues that it wasn't always thus, and looks at two other caste-driven social orders -- India and Nazi Germany -- to examine the underpinnings of America's toxic racism.

Examples of caste in action abound in 2020. 

Germany is bending the EU's rules to rush their covid vaccine to Israel, but not to Palestinians.

The University of California, Los Angeles showed that it considers college athletes of higher importance than hospital nurses, an example of caste that ignores race but does seem to exhibit a gender bias.

As someone in the caste associated with white skin and middle class economic status, it wouldn't occur to me to worry that the vaccine offered in my community might be of inferior quality. The fact that I don't have to worry is the quintessential example of white privilege.

The mass incarceration of BIPOC prior to the age of covid has meant that they are disproportionately in danger from the disease because they are forced into a congregate setting with no power to choose where they'll go or who they'll associate with. Prisoners in California just ended the hunger strike portion of their ongoing campaign to call attention to this deadly risk to their health and safety.

Excerpt from Oakland Abolition & Solidarity's blog post:

CDCr [California Department of Corrections]’s negligent and careless response to the COVID-19 outbreak at CSATF [California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility] has now killed at least three people. Active cases at the prison continue to hover near 1000 and now over half of the facility has contracted the disease. Guards and staff members are still failing to follow safety protocols and continue to move people around the facility creating more and more exposure.
Prisoners all over the nation suffer under a system of forced labor that is little different than slavery. Most are not a danger to society at all but are exploited by those who profit from their incarceration and the work they do. 

People with substance use disorder don't belong in prison to begin with, but our lack of universal health care means most in the US view prison as a treatment option rather than the punishment it really is. Many in recovery cite the stigma i.e. low caste assignment they struggle with in a social order built to reward some at the expense of others.

Our public health crisis has moved us even further away from any national greatness we might have aspired to, and it is highly unlikely that the president and VP-elect will dismantle the carceral state that helped build their political careers.

Medical apartheid is ugly and evil, and I know I'll be thinking about how to end it for a long time to come.