Continued Myths and Propaganda about the murder of Osama Bin Laden

September 12th, 2021

The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Seymour Hersh, 2016
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This spring (2016) I contacted (Asad) Durrani (former head of Pakistan’s ISI in the 1990s) and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources; that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at Abbottabad compound since 2006; that (Army General) Kayani and (ISI head) Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the SEALS to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA dis not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the SEAL team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false

In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani ISI officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001…The walk-in passed the (polygraph) test.

The CIA needed to determine if bin Laden was really in the compound. Obama was informed in October, but was skeptical, wanting proof that bin Laden was in the compound. A Pakistani Army doctor by the name of Amir Aziz was treating bin Laden at the compound.

The (US) planners turned to Kayani and Pasha, who asked Aziz to obtain the (DNA) specimens…Aziz had been awarded with a share of the $25 million reward..because the DNA sample had showed conclusively that it was bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Pakistan agreed In January 2011 to cooperate on an operation if the US would come in lean and mean and kill bin Laden. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia insisted that bin Laden be killed because they did not want him interrogated by US authorities as he would have been able to implicate both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in having supported his activities. Pasha met with officials in Washington. The US agreed to increase assistance to the ISI and give Pakistan a free hand in Afghanistan as the US started withdrawing its forces.

Pasha and Kayani were promised that the deal would remain secret. Once the mission was carried out and bin Laden killed, the US would wait at least 7 days and then announce that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike on the Afghan side of the Hindu Kush.

Obama instantly broke the agreement, announcing the raid and murder for political/electioneering purposes and setting in motion an incredible series of false, fabricated stories about the whole history of events, worthy of Lewis Carroll. The CIA has sealed most of the fabrications to keep the truth hidden from journalists and the public. That didn’t stop them from revealing classified material to the makers of the 2012 propaganda film “Zero Dark Thirty” who used the material to propagate false narratives in an amazing work of propaganda/fiction posing as a depiction of actual events. Much of this fictionalized account has survived to be repeated in the 2021 Netflix series Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror, Part 5.


– – – – “Stealth” Chinook Helicopters delivering tanks to battle

At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. The town was dark; the electricity supply had been cut off on the the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began. One of the Black Hawks crashed inside the walls of the compound, injuring many on board…The cockpit of the crashed Black Hawk, with its communications and navigational gear, had to be destroyed by concussion grenades, and this would create a series of explosions and a fire visible for miles. Two (giant) Chinook helicopters had flown from Afghanistan to a nearby Pakistani intelligence base to provide logistical support (like refueling the Black Hawks) and one of them was immediately dispatched to Abbottabad…The crash of the Black Hawk and the need to fly in a replacement were nerve racking and time-consuming setbacks, but the SEALs continued with their mission. There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone…Instead…an ISI liaison officer flying with the SEALs guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters…Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired.

The SEALS reported recovering a treasure trove of computers and documents from the compound.

“Why create the treasure trove story? The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important. Otherwise, why kill him? A cover story was created — that there was a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions. All to show bin Laden remained important.”

Bin Laden was under arrest of the Pakistani ISI with Saudi Arabia providing financial support for the compound. Bin Laden was very ill and delusional by this time. The ISI gave the CIA all materials remaining in the compound when they razed it. bin Laden’s wives and children were not allowed to be interrogated by US authorities.


– – – – – The Mythical Burial of Osama bin Laden Aboard the USS Carl Vinson- Photos not Provided

“The (SEAL) squad came through the door and obliterated him.” There were no other arms in the compound. Once Obama broke the Pakistani agreement, the administration was left with a very long list of unexplained problems and questions, which journalists immediately started asking.
– How did you know bin Laden was in Abbottabad? Invent a non existent al Quaeda courier with a white car that you followed to the compound.
– How did you know he was an al Quaeda courier? Tortured him or someone else.
– How did you confirm that bin Laden was in the compound? Blame an innocent man, Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor that operates a well funded, independent medical operation that provides free Hepatitis B vaccinations, and claim that he was assigned to collect DNA samples from the bin Laden compound. This started a worldwide rumor that the CIA was funding fake vaccination programs. Afridi was accused of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison.
– What happened to the courier? The non existent courier was killed in the non existent Abbottabad firefight.
– What happened to bin Laden’s body? He was immediately buried at sea off the USS Carl Vinson. (Never happened but all records of the ship have been sealed by the CIA).
– Where are the photo proofs of death and burial? There aren’t any.
– Where is the body? Several SEALS later reported they had thrown bin Laden’s body parts out of the helicopter somewhere over the mountains and arrived in Afghanistan without a body. With the originally agreed story of death in a drone attack there would be no need for a body – in fact a body would pose problems for the original false story agreed between the US and Pakistan.

U.S. Constitutional Authorization of Militias / Vigilantes

September 1st, 2021

The Second, Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, Carol Anderson, 2021

“A well regulated Miltiia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (unless you are black).

The second Amendment was, thus, not some hallowed ground but rather a bribe paid again with Black bodies. It was the result of Madison’s determination to salve Patrick Henry’s obsession about Virginia’s vulnerability to slave revolts, seduce enough anti-Federalists to get the Constitution ratified, and stifle the demonstrated willingness of the South to scuttle the United States if slavery were not protected.

The role of the “well regulated militias” of interest to the South was “quelling domestic insurrections”.

It was obvious, whether North or South, that no militia was going to stop a foreign invasion. the (Revolutionary) war proved that beyond a reasonable doubt. What the militia could do rather well, however, as George Mason noted, was keep slave owners safe.

Throughout American history few have ever tried to differentiate between “a well regulated militia” and a mob of white vigilantes.

On Citizenship

As historian Martha S. Jones noted, “No single piece of congressional legislation was felt more…than the Naturalization Act of 1790.” That “whites only” barricade created a rightless, race contingent nether world for everyone else, including free Blacks.

The Haitian Revolution of 1791 which struck terror into the hearts of American slaveholders is covered in some detail. After the British and Spanish proved unable to put down the rebellion, Napoleon sent 20,000 of his best troops to restore order. The rebels carried out a scorched earth guerilla defense that left 80% of French troops dead on the island. The rebellion succeeded.

The High Price of Principal in Politics

September 1st, 2021

The Division of Light and Power, Dennis J. Kucinich, 2021

Tom J. Johnson, Founder of Muny Light Mayor Cleveland 1901-1909

I believe in public ownership of all public service monopolies for the same reason that I believe in the municipal ownership of waterworks, of parks, of schools. I believe in the municipal ownership of these monopolies because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will corrupt your politics, rule your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.


Boy Mayor Kucinich wife Sandy and arch rival Council president George Forbes <> <> <> Muni Plant 1941

This book is primarily an account of the long term efforts by interlocking private banks, private electric utilities, and corrupt politicians to privatize the 75 year old public Cleveland Electric company known as Muny for their own financial gains at the expense of the citizens of Cleveland and of the political efforts of Dennis Kucinich to stop them, ultimately resulting in Cleveland being forced into default on its various bonds and loans. Kucinich prevailed and Muny is not only still in operation, it is expanding and has saved the citizens of Cleveland hundreds of millions of dollars. In December of 1998, 19 years after the events chronicled in this book, Cleveland honored Kucinich for his role in saving Muny Electric.

Dennis Kucinich

Politics is inherently transactional. It is a process of give-and-take, and compromise. The distinction between normal politics and corrupt politics can therefore, be difficult to recognize. The line is crossed when the reward is personal to the office-holder – – private sector jobs for friends or relatives, contracts for personal business interests, admission to a desirable network of associates, support for a favorite charity, and well-timed campaign contributions can be inducements that cause an elected official to favor a private interest over the public interest. Corruption is much more than cash slipped under the table. Its forms are endless. This process is so endemic that it is actually accepted as “The System”. Every newly-elected office-holder, as I once was, must decide early on if he or she will participate in The System, or challenge it. Ignoring corruption or pretending it does not exit is not a real option, because acquiescing without trying to impede or stop it, you become complicit in facilitating it. Once elected, you must either join The System or fight it. I engaged The System energetically, and it cost me dearly. What is worse is that many others, whose only sin was helping me, also suffered…Was it worth it? Having finished the book, I now know the answer, I really had no choice, if I wanted to live an authentic life with integrity…I have no regrets.

At 562 pages this book, centering on Kucinich’s 1977-1979 term as Mayor of Cleveland when Cleveland was forced into default by the banks, is a surprisingly engrossing, suspenseful, page turner. If you question the soundness of Kucinich’s memory after 42 years, he includes 42 pages of end notes referencing massive qualities of supporting documentation. One could spend years going through this material.

Black Rebellion, Militarized Police Violence, and White Vigilantes

August 11th, 2021

America on Fire; The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960’s, Elizabeth Hinton, 2021
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There have been histories covering black rebellions since 1619 such as Missed Opportunities and Four hundred souls : a community history of African America, 1619-2019, as well as the New York Times published 1619 Project. This book is an American history from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the present. Hinton insists that the violent events covered here be called Rebellions and not riots or demonstrations or mob behavior.
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The militarization of the police:

(Police) Officers threw grenades filled with either chloroacetophenone (CN), the tear gas most commonly used to quell rebellion or 0-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) or “super” tear gas… The chemical weapon (CS) proved effective in pursuing the Vietcong through underground bunkers and tunnels, and in putting down rebellions in black neighborhoods. The use of tear gas in US overseas interventions correlated directly with its use at home. by 1969, the Department of Justice had facilitated the low-cost sale of more than 70,000 gas masks to local law enforcement, along with other surplus military equipment including body armor, armored vehicles and (assault) rifles.

During the 1990s, the Taser was introduced to law enforcement use as an alternative to deadly force. As of 2011, more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States used the Taser. Police now routinely use rubber bullets and pepper spray adding to their “non-lethal” arsenals.

The rise of new white vigilante groups:

Ignoring the Mayor (Stenzel of Cairo Illinois), they formed the Committee of Ten Million The job of the vigilante group would be to carry out the heavy-handed response the Mayor seemed unwilling to delivery. Similar groups had been coming together since the civil rights movement first gained momentum in the 1950s. Unlike many of the lynch mobs that had terrorized Black communities from Reconstruction to the middle of the next century. these new white supremacist groups attracted a more genteel class. The founders of the Committee of Ten Million included Peyton Berbling, the wealthy, chain smoking, white haired lawyer in his early seventies who had served as district attorney and would return to the post in 1968. Larry Potts, the dapper pastor of Cairo Baptist Church; the prominent local businessman Tom Madra; the lumber dealer Bob Cunningham. Like the Citizen’s Councils of America that could be found across the South, the Committee of Ten Million used intimidation and violence to counter the freedom movement, relying not only on brute force but also their political and economic power.

In 1969 another white vigilante force emerged in York Pennsylvania.

In York and Cairo, Black people lived in the areas most susceptible to flooding, and those that didn’t make it into public housing lived in deteriorating tenements by white slum landlords. the mayors were unresponsive to ongoing demonstrations for jobs and better living conditions, and reluctant to solicit federal War on Poverty funds that might have helped to address these problems.

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White Flight
York and Cairo were distinguished by the close alliance between law enforcement and white power vigilante groups. York uprisings in the late 1960s were the most severe of the era. The Cairo rebellion lasted longer than any of the era. The white men in power both politically and economically saw no reason to change the institutions that systematically locked Black people out of jobs, decent housing, and educational opportunities. The extreme reactions of the white power groups effectively killed the town of Cairo, once a Mississippi river boat stop, today only 2,000 residents remain, 2/3 of them Black. In 1950 the population of Cairo was over 12,000. White flight was occurring all over America, particularly in smaller communities. The result of these policies was often white flight to the suburbs. Cairo was effectively dead and Harrisburg lost 22% of its population.

By 1970 the (Cairo United) Front had created a food distribution network with the Urban League and other sympathetic supporters in Chicago, who would send tons of canned goods, household items, clothing, and toys…The United Front offered Cairo residents free legal aid services and (limited) medical care. It established a day care center, a pig farm, a factory that made prefabricated housing, a women’s clothing store, and a grocery store all based on the principles of collective ownership…At the center of the United Front’s activities during the ongoing conflict in Cairo was its boycott of white merchants.

Reverend J.J.Cobb of Cairo: “The way we see it from where we stand, is that every time we strive to do something to help ourselves there are more policemen armed with guns, more ammunition is bought to put a stop to the drive to better the conditions of the Negro.”

Charles A. O’Brien, deputy attorney general of California issued a rare statement during a hearing in 1970:

A major key to conquering this problem is to stop making the policeman the scapegoat for all of societies ills. We cannot continue to solve all our problems by passing new criminal laws. The policeman today bears the brunt of the failures of government. Poverty, inequality, disease, ignorance, and the alienation of youth were not caused by the policeman, but he is the agent who most often comes face to face with these problems. He is the one who has to put the lid back on. We must demand that the other segments of government do more–social agencies, educational institutions, college administrators, public law offices. All of these other agencies on which we spend billions must be asked to do more, to bear more of the burden, to act more creatively, to assume more responsibly.


Policing schools and the school-to-prison pipeline.
One of the most profound and negative effects of this focus on law enforcement was sending police into the public schools instead of addressing the lack of Black and other minority teachers, the white biased curriculum, outright discrimination against Black students like preventing Black students from taking elected office or joining cheer leading teams.

Yet, in Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), Cairo, and across the country, officials at all levels ultimately pursued the punitive path. After the violence of the late 1960s and early 1970s, policymakers attempted to relieve police-community tensions by pacifying the over-policed and unruly community. The strategy of managing the problems caused by systemic racism with crime control measures left Harrisburg economically stagnant, segregated, and with a failing school system.

Local, state, and federal agencies had “joined a vicious circle of racial discrimination and economic depression.”

Miami 1980 The most violent Rebellion.
In 1980, the white Kulp brothers, newly arrived in Miami from Pennsylvania, with a girlfriend drove into the heart of Liberty City where both boys were killed after a brick shattered their windshield and their car crashed hitting a 75 year old man and pinning a young Black girl into a wall. Both brothers were killed by a mob of Black witnesses, but a Black taxi driver drove the white girlfriend out of Liberty City. Thus started the 1980 Miami rebellion, seemingly coming out of nowhere and yet the most violent seen since 1964.

…by the mid 1970s this (Blacks locked out of political power) had changed, with levels of Black political leadership resembling those of the Reconstruction era “seven magic years”…The formation of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971…Black elected officials began campaigns to bring job training programs, welfare provisions, health care, and social services to their constituents. It seemed that the Black freedom struggle had shifted from direct action to formal politics…But (in Miami) Black owned business spiraled into a sharp decline…Black residents owned 25 percent of all gas stations in Dade county in 1960. By 1979 that figure had dwindled to 9 percent, while Cuban and South and Central American-owned stations quadrupled from 12 to 48 percent. Between 1968 and 1979, Latinx applicants received $47.3 million (in SBA grants), or about 47 percent of the total SBA grants in Miami, while Black applicants were awarded a paltry $6.5 million.

The average income of Latinx owned businesses in places like Little Havana were double those of Black owned businesses. Then, in 1980, the Mariel BoatLift brought another 125,000 Cubans to the Miami area. Black jobs became even more scarce with this new influx of favored laborers. Between 1977 and 1981 another 70,000 Haitians arrived in Miami, after fleeing the dictatorship of Jean Claude Duvalier. They were treated even worse than existing Blacks already living in Miami. 90 percent of Federal relief sent to Miami after 1980 Black rebellion went to white, Cuban, and other Latin owners who opened businesses in non Black communities. President Carter sent $6 million to Miami for a job training program. Black participants never found work. The devastation to Liberty City and Overtown were so extensive that residents had to travel up to 30 miles to shop. Two years after the Rebellion 70 percent of residents were out of work. The acquittal by an all white jury of Officer Alvarez for killing a Black man in 1984 set off another conflagration in Liberty City, Overtown, and Coconut Grove. In 1989 a Colombian born officer Lozano killed a Black motorcyclist who then crashed killing his Black passenger setting off a four day rebellion in Overtown. Officer Lozano was convicted of manslaughter in 1990 but his conviction was overturned in 1991 because the original jurors were ruled to have voted for conviction because of the fear of setting off riots.

LA, Rodney King Rebellion, and the Gangs
The Rodney King beating in 1991 by four white police officers which was captured on video set off a five day rebellion killing more than 50 people and causing more than $1 Billion in property damage.
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in 1992 warring Crip and Blood gangs understood the rebellion not as a moment of wanton destruction, but as an opportunity to transform themselves and their community. By moving to end the violence, the gangs hoped to win political influence and to control scarce resources on their own terms.


Much of the impetus for this effort originated in the Amer-I-Can program, run by former NFL star Jim Brown. Most of the young men who would organized the truce in 1992 were trained in the program. With the Black Panthers and other radical organizations were no longer viewed as a major threat by the early 1970s, law enforcement turned its attention to street gangs, many of which had been operating for decades. In 1992, the reported number of gang related homicides in Los Angeles County peaked at 803, a 77 percent increase in four years. Two decades of police gang control measures had failed. The Reagan “War on Drugs” in 1984 lead to mass incarceration on a scale seen nowhere else in the world.

Yet as the 1992 rebellion raged and the city burned, members of the Crips and the Bloods in Watts set out to bring internal warfare to an end, and to face common external enemy–systemic racism, embodied most immediately by the police–as a united front.

On April 26 and 28 1992, gang treaties were agreed to and the next day the four officers who beat Rodney King on video walked free. What really got the gangs attention was the killing of a Black ninth grader by a Korean store owner over a $1.79 orange juice. Federal, state and local law enforcement saw the 1992 rebellion as an opportunity to target “gangs” and “illegal immigrants”, exactly the opposite of the Crips and Bloods vision of ending the violence.

When the rebellion started…,graffiti in Watts already announced the (Crips and Bloods) truce agreed to the day before. The uprising had the effect of cementing it. Unity parties in Imperial Courts and Nickerson Gardens went on as the surrounding areas burned. On May 3, the day before the rebellion ended, the Pirus Bloods in the Hacienda Village housing project entered the accord, meaning that there would be peace throughout Watts going forward.

Property damage was light and the police alone were responsible for the three deaths in Watts. The gangs proposed that unarmed gang members would be trained to accompany any police officer on duty in Watts in a program that would institutionalize the Black Panthers’ Community Alert Program of the 1960s. The treaty was still in effect in 1997 four years later.

Gang probation officer Jim Galipeau: “The only tragedy of the truce was that society needed to reward the gang members who created it, yet didn’t do a damn thing.”

The Bloods and the Crips had asked for a mere six million dollars to transform policing in South Central. “Give us the hammer and the nails, and we will rebuild the city” their 1992 proposal had begged.

About the only positive outcome, other than a dramatic drop in violence, was the creation of a gang intervention program where gang members were employed by the city to defuse violence.

Cincinnati and the Failed Federal and ACLU efforts to reform the police, and Cincinnati Gentrification
By 2000, white flight reversed into massive gentrification programs, most exemplified by booming white enterprises in Cincinnati. The inequality and social injustice of bad schools and lack of jobs created a tinder box that was lit by a police killing in 2001, resulting in a multi day rebellion. This time, the violence got the attention of Federal policy makers interested in police reform. The ACLU and the Cincinnati Black Front sued the Cincinnati police over the killing that set off the rebellion. A Collaborative Agreement was negotiated in 2002 and it was signed by the city one year after the start of the rebellion. Separately the Department of Justice entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the city and the Cincinnati Police Department. A federal monitor Saul Green, and a small team of Justice Department investigators would remain in Cincinnati for five years to assure that the Agreement was implemented and maintained. When the city failed to comply with the Agreement it was extended for another two years. In 2006 the police department effectively threw the Agreement out the window implementing “Operation Vortex” targeting areas where “gentrification” was planned and Blacks and other poor needed to be removed before “renovations” could start.
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Rebellions, both peaceful and violent happened across America throughout the Obama years.

Both strains of Black protest have served important purposes historically. Any success of the nonviolent, direct political action of the civil rights movement depended on the threat of violent, direct political action. As Martin Luther King Jr. himself recognized, the power of mass nonviolence arose in part from its capacity to suggest the coercive power of violent resistance should demands not be met.

Rebellions of 2020 were all started nonviolently and became violent only after police provocation or violence.

New Coalition based Rebellions start in 2020

Rebellions throughout America, from those in the 1960s to Cincinnati in 2001, mainly involved Black protestors, yet the most sustained collective violence in 2020 did not emanate from Black ghettos. In a reversal that would have been unthinkable not so long ago, it came from majority-white cities and suburban communities. Most of the looting in 2020 took place in upscale neighborhoods, and it targeted high-end retailers like Gucci and Tiffany&Co. on Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills…Confrontations between protestors and police were most intense and protracted in cities like Portland and Seattle, among the whitest cities in America…An estimated 95 percent of counties where protests took place were majority white, and three-quarters of these counties were 75 percent white.

The 2020 demonstrations revealed that racial justice champions, environmental activists, LGBTQ-rights advocates, and labor unions appear to be stitching together a new coalition…In Cincinnati…,left wing activist groups now called for a redistribution and redirection of resources away from police departments and prison systems and toward programs that would improve mental health services, address climate change, and provide better housing, education, and job opportunities for all Americans…in 2020 some public officials and police officers participated in the demonstrations to express support for the anti-racist cause.

The American History of Missed Opportunities

August 2nd, 2021

From Here to Equality, Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, William A Darity jr & Kristen Mullen, 2020

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This important, well researched, and very readable book makes the case for reparations due to African Americans after more than 400 years of racially discriminatory, officially sanctioned policies in America. It is a history with an emphasis on turns not taken or taken wrongly and the impacts of these actions on the inequality of African American wealth and income. Much of their case for reparations rests on undeniable facts and statistics. And ultimately this is a story of unstoppable and unaccountable capitalism in search of cheap (or free) labor.

From 1619 to the 1660s, the majority of blacks in the colonies were contract servants not slaves. They could accumulate land, vote, testify in court, and mingle with whites as relative equals.

Black people overwhelmingly were the objects of enslavement. While there was an extended period of white immigrant indentured servitude during the colonial period, their numbers were dwarfed by coerced immigrants from the African continent. Even at the height of importation of white indentures, while 216,000 whites came to British North America as bonded laborers, 300,000 Africans were forcibly imported to the colonies. By the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the practice of white indentureship was in sharp decline. On the other hand, in 1790 there were close to 700,000 enslaved blacks in the United States, a number that grew to 4 million by the start of the Civil War.

For a very brief period during the colonial era, black and while laborers were treated equally and their wages and their punishments for comparable offenses were undifferentiated. County court records from the period reveal that some slaves owned personal property and were allowed to contract for their services; others were able to procure freedom for themselves and their families. In England throughout the sixteenth century, the status of “slave” was not a life sentence…nor was it determined by phenotype. But as the demand for manpower grew in the colonies, so too, did the legal strictures on enslaved people, transforming them comprehensively into human chattel devoid of individual rights…In addition to solving the colonial labor shortage problems, enslavement of Africans enabled European mercantilists policymakers–and British mercantilists in particular–to maintain a regime of low wages in the home economy. The exportation of too large a fraction of the domestic labor force would put upward pressure on the cost of hiring labor at home.

Black phenotype also made it easier to recognize and capture slaves if they escaped. White indentured laborers couldn’t be so easily identified.

A British High Court decision in 1772 de facto ended the practice of slavery in England proper. A major motivator in the American independence movement was fear that Slavery would end throughout the British dominion. Slave owner Thomas Jefferson could decry the slave trade, call for independence from England, and uphold slavery, all without irony.

The Declaration of Independence could have been a document of universal rights. To the extent that black people are construed as fully human, championing liberty and freedom for some…while condemning blacks to eternal servitude is problematic. Republicanism affirmed the ascendancy of the colonial aristocracy while maintaining a fine line of control over the masses of poor whites, providing opportunity for some of them to obtain land and own slaves while assuring even the most impoverished whites that they could exercise dominance over blacks.

At least a third of the signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. The Constitution of 1787 specified that the slave trade would end in 1808, though illegal slave trade continued. Elsewhere in the Americas, as independent nations came into existence, outlawing the slave trade and outlawing slavery went hand in hand. The Constitution required 2/3 of slave populations be counted for congressional apportionment and presidential elections and decreed 2 senators for each state. The Constitution has minority rule embedded within it. The mere existence of slaves as countable bodies allowed the slave states to control elections and enact slave protecting legislation like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. They even invented the filibuster which today can block any majority Senate action with only 40 senators.

The American Revolution was fought, in large part, by a colonial elite to preserve their right to human property. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was fought, in large part, by the enslaved to liberate themselves from slavery.

Pease and Pease estimated that between 1830 and 1860 approximately 60,000 blacks left the south and resettled in the north, and an additional 20,000 to 40,000 blacks migrated to Canada. They estimated the number of blacks living in intentional black communities during the forty year period before the Civil War at 3,500 to 5,000 persons.

When Abraham Lincoln came into office, he hoped to end slavery through programs of compensated emancipation where slave owners would be paid compensation for the freeing of their slaves. Most slave owners preferred to hold on to their slave property to such an extent that Southern States seceded from the union, leading to the Civil War. Lincoln does not seem to have given much thought to what would happen to 4 million freed slaves other than the vague idea that they would migrate to Haiti or Liberia. A small number did migrate, but the vast majority wanted to be recognized as full citizens with all the privileges and rights of citizenship. To accomplish this goal they would need education, employment, the vote, and land.

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White supremacist Andrew Johnson of Tennessee became President on Lincoln’s assassination. He universally pardoned all Confederate participants allowing the southern elites to return to power and to reacquire property seized by the Union during the war. He thwarted all efforts to transfer or sell confiscated lands to blacks. The “seven magic years” of reconstruction saw some black voting rights in Republican controlled states. As southern democrats regained political control black voting rights all but disappeared. The withdrawal of Federal troops from the south left blacks without any protection since whites did everything they could to prevent blacks from arming themselves. Whites burned black schools and intimidated or killed any teachers in these schools. Johnson was impeached in 1868 but was not removed from office. Grant became President in 1869 but his lack of political skill and bad judgement continued the absence of Federal action in the southern states. A South Carolina Representative reported that 53,000 had been killed by white terrorists since the end of the war; 1766 on average each year. The white supremacist south began to rewrite history immediately after the end of the Civil War, coining the term the “Lost Cause” and erecting thousands of monuments to southern political and military “heroes”. They even incorporated the confederate battle flag into their new state flags. Once in power again, southern white Democratic leaders began enacting Black Codes to reestablish black slavery in all but name throughout the south. Whites again controlled most of the land for which they required “Labor”. Labor contracts were far worse than indentured servitude because the laborer could only escape the contract upon death. Blacks could be arrested at will to provide free labor. Union Col. Samuel Russell Thomas testified before Congress:
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Wherever I go– the street, the shop, the house, or the steamboat–I hear the people talk in such a way as to indicate that they are yet unable to conceive of the Negro as possessing any rights at all. Men who are honorable in their dealings with their white neighbors will cheat a Negro without feeling a single twinge of their honor. To kill a Negro they do not deem murder; to debauch a Negro woman they do not think fornication; to take property away from a Negro they do not consider robbery…they still have an ingrained feeling that the blacks at large belong to the whites at large, and whenever opportunity serves, they treat the colored people just as their profit, caprice or passion may dictate.

Federally owned land was (and still is) huge, with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 adding 827,00 square miles or 529 million acres. Land confiscated from the Confederacy during the Civil War made additional tracks of land available, approximately 850,000 acres. 40 acres and a mule would have required the Federal government to earmark 40 million acres for 1 million families of former slaves. This never happened. Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads and distributed 270 million acres. Most of the Confederate confiscated land was sold at auction to white, many northern, speculators. These new capitalist absentee landowners, needing farmers, instituted share cropping and “labor contracts” for poor farmers both white and black. A few blacks were able to acquire small blocks of land or houses.

By 1910 blacks had managed to amass 15 million acres with 218,000 owners or farmers. By 1997 black farm ownership had diminished to 2.7 million acres. “The land African Americans lost over the 20th century was taken in some form, and not sold freely.”

The disregard for black lives evidenced by antiblack riots, lynchings, neighborhood devastation, and inferior education in the process that Douglas Blackmon has called “black reenslavement”.

(Jennifer) Mueller provides evidence that the source of This transfer transfers to whites is in publicly provided assets, including 246 million acres of land, an area approximating that of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia combined. These occurred under the auspices of the Homestead Acts (1860s-1930s).

Blacks were largely excluded from the the benefits of the Homestead Acts; mere 4,000 to 5,500 African American claimants ever received federal land patents from the Southern Homestead Act enacted in 1866…white Southern Homestead Act claimants numbered around 28,000. Gifts of Southern Homestead and Homestead Act land enriched more that 1.6 million white families–both native born and immigrant. By the year 2000, the number of adult descendants of these original land grant recipients was 46 million people, about a quarter of the U.S. adult population.

At the end of WWII, the GI Bill guaranteed home, business, farm loans, and educational opportunities to returning veterans. Of 3,229 GI Bill related loans made in Mississippi in 1947, only two were offered to black veterans.

The article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the June 2014 issue of the Atlantic resurrected the national conversation over reparations for black Americans. One of the most impressive aspects of Coate’s article is his insistence that the events and conditions during the antibellum period are far from the only basis for reparations.

This book is devoted heavily to documenting the damages done to blacks post Emancipation. Turning to details of reparations, the authors give a number of alternate ways that damages could be calculated with a number of these studies showing damages on the order of more than $17 trillion.

…since today’s differential in wealth captures the cumulative effects of racism on living black descendants of American slavery, we propose mobilizing national resources to eradicate the racial wealth gap. The magnitude of ongoing shortfalls in wealth for blacks vis-a-vis whites provides the most sensible foundation for the complete monetary portion of the bill for reparations.

To qualify for reparations, the authors suggest two criterion;

First, U. S. citizens would need to establish that they had at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States after the formation of the republic. Second, they would have to prove that they self-identified as “black” “Negro”, “Afro-American”, or “African American” at least twelve years before the enactment of the reparations program or the establishment of a congressional or presidential commission “to study and develop reparations for African Americans”.

How do you change the minds of millions of white supremacists whose fixed attitudes toward black people were described so well by Union Col. Samuel Russell Thomas? Must the U.S. wait til white supremacists are in such a minority as in South Africa that they can no longer control or defeat any efforts to address race based income and wealth inequality?

denial, disinformation, deflection, delayism, doomism

July 26th, 2021

The New Climate War: The Fight To Take Back Our Planet, Michael E. Mann, 2021

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Mann has devoted much of his professional life and focus in an effort to educate the public about climate change. His role model was Carl Sagan who had a remarkable ability to communicate complex science to ordinary people.
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Mann, Bradley and Hughes 1998 Hockey Stick Chart

How quickly are temperatures rising?

The true warming rate is about 0.2%C per decade. Since current warming stands at about 1.2%C, it would at current rates take a decade and a half to reach 1.5%C warming, and another two and a half decades to reach 2%C warming.

Without CO2 reductions, we would expect a rise of 1.5%C by 2035 and of 2%C by 2060.

Researchers believe renewables can be scaled up to meet 80% of global energy needs in ten years and 100% in thirty years. Clearly that last 20% which would include air travel and other hard to solve problems will take time and research.
Guardian’s Fiona Harvey:

investments amounting to trillions of dollars (estimated 1 to 4 trillion) in fossil fuels–coal mines, oil wells, power stations, conventional vehicles–will lose their value when the world moves decisively to a low-carbon economy. Fossil Fuel reserves and production facilities will become stranded assets, having absorbed capital but unable to be used to make a profit…If the bubble bursts suddenly, as it might, rather than gradually deflating over decades, then it could trigger a financial crisis.

Banks are already reducing their investments and many University endowments are pulling their funds out under pressure from their students.

Why look at non solutions when a solution is in hand. Solar costs about $50, wind $30-$40, and nuclear $100 per megawatt hour. Fossil fuels cost about $50. If fossil fuel subsidies were removed and a carbon tax were added to reflect the real cost of CO2 emissions, the cost of fossil fuels would rise dramatically.

One group of climate experts has in fact published a set of “concrete interventions to induce positive social tipping dynamics.” They propose as key ingredients, “removing fossil-fuel subsidies and incentivizing decentralized energy generation, building carbon neutral cities, divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels, revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels, strengthening climate education and engagement, and disclosing greenhouse gas emissions information.

Air travel is often sited as a way to reduce CO2 but air travel accounts for about 3% of global carbon emissions. if everything is taken into account, travel by train can have an even higher carbon footprint than air travel.

We know that we can eliminate most CO2 emissions by converting to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Those who wish to continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy often propose “non-solution solutions” as a deflection tactic.

DEFLECTION DELAYISM
The most common of these is “clean coal” using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Global CCS Institute reports 51 facilities globally are under development. When fully deployed they would collectively capture nearly 100 million tons of C02 annually. We emit about 40 billion tons of CO2 annually so 100 million tons would represent about 0.25% of total emissions. It will take decades (which we don’t have) to determine the actual amount of CO2 that has been captured and stored successfully. Coal generators are rapidly being phased out. CCS is not a solution.

There has been much talk of geoengineering and Bill Gates has hired geoengineers to look into shooting reflective particles, sulfate aerosols into the stable upper part of the atmosphere. This is feasible and a muti-billionaire like Gates might even be able to try it without government assistance or approval. The big problem is “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Would Ozone layer destruction accelerate? Would polar ice melt faster? Would the sulfur falling back to earth result in catastrophic acid rain? If we don’t sustain the layer with continuous injections the earth’s temperature would rise suddenly. The danger here is not only from billionaires but from other countries that might attempt to solve their own problems without regard for the rest of the world. And we already have a known solution – renewable energy – so why even look at such a crazy unproven idea with huge unknown risks to the entire planet?

Reforestation sounds promising but at best, combined with modified agricultural practices, at absolute most 20 billion tons of CO2 could be captured or 50% of our current emissions. It would take decades to reach these levels of CO2 removal and meanwhile we would continue to increase emissions every year. We already have a real and proven solution, renewables, that can be implemented now so why focus on this. Reforestation and agricultural reform are important and should be undertaken but they are not a solution to our immediate CO2 problem.

Then there is the nuclear power option, forgetting the meltdowns at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Nuclear cost is double that of renewables. Mann suggests we leave existing nuclear plants operational since the investment has already been made until they are decommissioned at the end of their useful lives, hoping they continue to have access to adequate cooling water and avoid other accidents. Building new Nuclear plants would also take far too long to displace existing fossil fuels.

Much of this important book is dedicated to educating the public in the tactics developed by monopolistic companies whose products are harmful in attempts to convince the public otherwise. These tactics no doubt originated in the 19th Century but came to public awareness over the dangers of tobacco, plastic trash, chemicals like DDT, CFC refrigerant destroying the ozone layer, Roundup, etc., Fossil Fuels and CO2 levels, etc. The playbook was even attempted for COVID-19 because the pandemic posed a threat to companies wanting business as usual (Urging us to take one (die) for the sake of the economy). The successes of these campaigns is due to the enormous resources available to these companies, their willingness to sponsor fake research (Koch and Mercer), their control over messaging and media (Fox WSJ, the petrostates led by Russia and Saudi Arabia), and exploiting the ignorance of the public about science and research (disinformation). Who does the powerful global fossil fuel industry most fear? Greta Thunberg and the international climate youth movement. Mainstream media is notorious for failing to report on climate change. Young climate activists have succeed in making the front page of major newspapers around the world, something climate scientists have been unable to do. As Bob Dylan would say “The times they are a changin”.
Stephan Schmidt, former presidential campaign co-advisor to McCain tweeted about the COVID-19 campaign “The injury done to America and the public good by Fox News and the bevy of personalities from Limbaugh to Ingraham will be felt for many years in this country as we deal with the death and economic damage that didn’t have to be.”

The Coronavirus crisis, in fact, underscored the importance of government. The need for an organized and effective response to a crisis, after all, one of the fundamental reasons we have governments in the first place. Crises, whether in the near term like COVID-19 or in the long term like climate change, remind us that government has an obligation to protect the welfare of its citizens by providing aid, organizing an appropriate crisis response, alleviating economic disruption, and maintaining a functioning social safety net.

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The book includes discussions of social media and the role of bots and troll bots, artificially generated internet postings with the ability to automatically analyze real people’s postings and create artificial responses. So then bot sentinel is created that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to classify accounts and their postings as being the creation of bots and trollbots and to automatically generate a trollbot score for the likelihood that the the account is automated. This is not a fictional dystopian world. Users of social media are facing this mad world of bots where it may be impossible to know if you are having a conversation with a machine or a person. Imagine an entire discussion thread generated completely by warring bots with no actual human participation. Forget annoying automated phone calls. This is total out-of-control madness.

Rediscovering the Magic of Antitrust

July 23rd, 2021

Break ’em Up; Recovering our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money, Zephyr Teachout, 2020

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This is a compact must read book. Here are some highlights:

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Antitrust Can’t Bust a Monopoly of Ideas WSJ

The highest and best goals of America–equality and freedom–require government to protect citizens from any group or any person wielding too much power. We used to do pretty well, using antitrust, campaign finance laws, public utility regulation, labor laws, and other anti-monopoly tools. But in recent years, our government has failed on all these fronts. Meanwhile, corporations have disabled key institutions designed to protect against arbitrary power.

After the crash of 2008, the impunity of elite networks was on full display when no banker was jailed for lawless activity. Pharmaceutical and big tech corporations regularly get away with laughably trivial fines for their major violations of the law…Public courts have been replaced by arbitration in which judges are paid by corporations, reasons aren’t given, and no one knows what happens.

Unelected “megalomaniac President” Zuckerberg: “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company.” Facebook “set up a more democratic or community-oriented process that reflects the values of people around the world.”

The will to power is connected to the desire for material accumulation, but it is made of something different, and Zuckerberg clearly has it. The ability to affect the lives of everyone on earth, to know everything about them, to shift elections, to change the practice of democracy–these are not unforeseen by-products of a business plan. They are not an accident. They are the point.

People in power are more likely to interrupt, to look away when others speak, to touch others inappropriately, to say what they want, to take risks…They are more likely to be rude, hostile, and humiliating. They are more impulsive,more self-centered in their choices, which they make obliviously, because they are less able to read other people’s reactions. People in power rely more on stereotypes when making judgments about others, with less awareness of unique or individual traits. They aren’t good at describing the interior lives of others, and are bad at guessing what others want or feel.

Researcher Jake Dunagan: “The experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your skull and take out that part of your brain so critical to empathy and and socially-appropriate behavior.”

Denmark has appointed an ambassador to deal directly with the quasi governments of Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

At the heart of (Antonin) Scalia logic in the Gilmer case, and entire series of cases involving arbitration agreements, is a fantasy of choice–a fantasy that relies on a nonexistent power dynamic and and set of unavailable non-arbitration options…Scalia’s contract logic reflects neoliberalism, a powerful ideology in American legal thought. Neoliberalism is defined by a deep skepticism of democratic institutions, which it treats as corrupt and unreliable, and a mirror-image faith in market institutions, which it treats as responsible and reliable. For most of Anglo-American history, a whole series of principles shaped contract enforcement. Corrupt contracts weren’t enforced, and contracts with real power imbalances were not enforced. The neoliberal view is that freedom of contract should be presumed and contracts almost always enforced…If you sign a contract, the presumption is that you signed it freely, and freedom is treated as a formal matter, not a contextual one…Was Scalia cynically serving big business or naively imagining a world that didn’t exist?

Political parties are being replaced by corporate-run institutions. Big corporations, which consider political strategy essential to their overall strategy, increasingly use the tools of authoritarianism–centralized regimes, opposition suppression, forced public displays of alignment–to hold on to their power, and they do it in the name of free speech. A persistent paranoia has naturally slipped into politics as these institutions are corroded, and this has led millions to flee politics as quickly and quietly as possible, and millions of others to embrace the nihilism of Donald Trump and Fox News.

The cutting edge of monopoly racism is, as with so much else, in big tech companies, where a toxic combination of power and opaque bias is repackaged and defended as neutral algorithms…When doing web searches, poor people are shown worse jobs and apartments, while elites with purchasing power get access to real estate deals and better employment opportunities…Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple pose unique race bias dangers in two ways. First, they are among the few companies with the resources to extract and exploit publicly available datasets in combination with their own data, creating data monopolies. Second, their choices about what data they use to serve what content have uniquely powerful impacts on everyone in society…Finally, they don’t just passively allow bias, they make money off it.

Researcher Marshall Steinbaum:

“Permitting consolidation and vertical integration and control in supply chains has made labor markets less competitive and worsened outcomes for workers, which is in direct contradiction to the (untested) economic assumptions that motivated the Chicago School’s antitrust takeover in the first place.” Monopoly turns out to be a major driver of inequality…With the massive collapse of an economy into sectors that are each dominated by corporate monopolies, workers may be in great demand, but they are not in a good position to bargain for a fair portion of the value they create…In simple terms, “Capital won, labor lost.”

Wall street has been a driving force behind the gutting of antitrust laws, because when it is allowed, monopoly power is a means of taking a big chunk of money and multiplying it, without adding any value. Access to seed capital, combined with bad antitrust policy, meant big unearned profits…Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world, has made his money by investing in already-monopolized industries…He invests in closed markets, monopolies, and oligarchies…He prefers businesses with substantial “moats”, or, as a friend of his called it, “unregulated toll bridges.”

Business school graduates today are taught to invest in the areas where antitrust fails.

In 1967, the Chicago School of Economics launched an all-out war against American predation rules…after President Reagan (in the 1980’s) installed new judges, and economic departments were flooded with Chicago School scholars, the new theory won…The new court decisions did not get rid of predatory pricing laws as a concept, but they made it so difficult to prove a predatory pricing claim that in practice any lawsuit became nearly a dead letter.

The monopoly-predation-subsidy-capital cycle goes like this:
1. The promise of monopoly power attracts excess capital investment;
2. with that investment, the company can engage in predatory pricing to push out competitors and win subsidies;
3. only the biggest companies win individual company subsidies, which they use to push out remaining competitors and reinvest in politics.
4. they then use the investment in politics to block antitrust and influence tax code;
5. without being subject to antitrust and having to pay taxes, they can promise more monopolistic behavior and attract more capital investment.

These new judges–including Justice Antonin Scalia and judges Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, the biggest defenders of big business–overturned decades of case law. They treated all mergers as presumptively positive. They effectively wrote predatory pricing out of the Clayton Antitrust Act, concluding that almost any price-cutting was good for customers–even if price-cutting was designed to push out competitors and monopolize a market. They reinterpreted antitrust laws as consumer price-protection tools. They rejected a vision that these laws were designed to curb despotism. They rewrote hundreds of years of contract law, excising the power analysis that once accompanied contract interpretation.

Clinton, Bush, and Obama all presided over an ongoing merger wave that would have horrified any 1960’s judge. From 1992 to 2016, antitrust was not even in the Democratic Party platform.

In sum, from 1980 to today, antitrust was triply depoliticized. First, courts treated the body of antitrust laws as if they were designed only to serve consumer welfare, not growth and abuses of political power in the private realm. Second, practitioners of antitrust–prosecutors, judges, and law professors–depoliticized their own roles, allowing technically trained economists to make the big judgements about what society should look like. They deferred to professional elite economists, whose jargon is complicated and whose claims to special knowledge make it hard for people to feel comfortable challenging them. Giving economists the final say also allowed practitioners to avoid responsibility and to treat decisions as if they were required by abstract laws instead of as hard political decisions that shape power in society. Third, and most bizarrely, these same practitioners treated antitrust as if it were a job for courts, not Congress.

We are in the early stages of a major battle to reinvigorate the anti-monopoly movement. There are huge toolboxes of existing laws that can be enforced right now; a lot of bad Supreme Court precedents that can be overturned by congress; and new laws that need to be passed to address weaknesses in the old laws and new obstacles. The new antitrust era, to meet the crisis of concentration we now face, will require us to do all three.

The Federal Trade Commission–right now– can also play a critical role in changing basic competition rules. As Sandeep Vaheesan argued in a significant article in 2017, the FTC has substantial power, to define the scope of federal laws. Congress, anticipating changing business practices and changing methods of unfairness, purposefully gave the FTC the power to define “unfair methods of competition.” Executive agencies have enormous discretion to act, as Vaheesan points out, the FTC can and should change merger law by making mergers presumptively illegal in competitive markets, and should lay out particular clear, bright line rules–like speed limits– against certain kinds of “vertical” behavior, like when Tyson forces farmers to use building firms it prefers.

The next president (Biden), in particular will have outsized power when it comes to antitrust; she (or he) can unilaterally promulgate new merger rules, directing the FTC to adopt clear guidelines that declare that it will oppose mergers of a certain size and percentage of the market. The new guidelines for the Department of Justice and the FTC can adopt the posture that policing conduct violations is a top priority. They can strongly signal that they won’t stand for a few small changes, but will require structural reorganization.

Even with strong enforcement, we need new laws. Congress should start by overturning all the bad decisions made by Reagan judges. That alone would serve to sharpen the swords of the laws already on the books.

When people are allowed to amass great pools of capital, one of two things happens; The logic of investment overcomes the moral sensibilities of the people who hold the investments, and the investments agents’ instructions to maximize profit sever the moral relationships between people and their impact on the world. Or the logic of power overcomes the moral sensitivities of those who hold too much power, and they start governing from a place of whimsy and self-importance, disconnected from human reality and unable to honestly perceive the world over which they trample. Both outcomes lead to destruction, instability, and cruelty.

For today’s neoliberal economist, market freedom does not mean moral action or thought in the commercial realm, it only frees the buyer and seller from state interference; the only morality in a market lies in cheaper consumer goods. Efficiency has become more than a value, it’s become something approaching an unhealthy, elite obsession.

As (Langston) Hughes understood, the biggest, most powerful dream of America, the one we can’t forget, the one that underpins the right to eat, breathe clean air, have dignity, is the dream that people, not kings or lords or dukes, should govern themselves. The basic dream of America is the fight against illegitimate power. Money is not a legitimate source of political power. The only source of legitimate power over others–the power to imprison, the power to tax, the power to make decisions–flows from we the people.

Monopolies, Created Deserts, and Warren Buffets

July 9th, 2021

Monopolized; Life in the Age of Corporate Power, David Dayen, 2021

This book is one of the most depressing, even apocalyptic in recent memory. It is also well researched, organized, and important.
Each chapter addresses an industry segment that has fallen to monopoly: Airlines, Big Agriculture, Journalism and media, Broadband Internet, Opioid medication, Banks, Offshoring essential products, Amazon and Google, Hospitals Supply chains, Rental Housing after 2008, Prisons and Immigrant detention. The book is focused on monopolies in each of these segments. Warren Buffet is mentioned as a significant investor in monopolies in each chapter. Dayen estimates that twelve mega-billionaires like Warren Buffet effectively control the entire US economy today. What can these handful of men possibly do with the wealth they have accumulated? This is from Jeff Bezos, currently the wealthiest:

The only way I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space Travel

Tesla’s Elon Musk seems to share Bezos’ sentiment. Dayen — “Our overlords literally shoot money into space while millions around them suffer.” Here is Buffet;

We think in terms of that moat and the ability to keep its width and its impossibility of being crossed.


Dayen — “Morningstar offers an economic moat index fund of the twenty companies with the highest walls around their businesses.”

The average age of a farmer in America is fifty-eight. In Iowa, 60 percent of all farm owners are over the age of sixty-five; just 1 percent are thirty-four or younger. More than half of all Iowa farmland is rented out, and the startup costs of land, machinery, and other inputs are a huge barrier to entry. A substantial number of farm owners are elderly widows who inherited the land. As they pass on, Iowa could be transformed.

As Iowa and other agricultural states empty out and businesses close, the states turn into people less deserts. Mono culture (single crop) farming with huge chemical inputs are transforming formerly fertile land into barren deserts. Deserts can take many forms and empty farmland is only the first discussed here.

The news deserts created primarily by the dominance of Facebook and Google and by the crippling of the media business model have grave implications for democracy…it’s undeniable that corruption spreads, conspiracies are fostered, and truth is obscured where journalism is absent.

This is the curse of bigness in San Francisco, a city so teeming with money that nobody can afford to open a store to take it…But the truth is that the San Francisco Bay Area is the nation’s second-most dense…Big money has created a vicious spiral: a winner-take-all city keeps accumulating vacant lots, dead-eyed commuters drive for hours to their barely affordable homes, landords must keep rents astronomically high to cover their own astronomically high loans. The concentration of extreme wealth isn’t just bad for the losers in depressed counties and towns. It’s bad for the winners.

Urban deserts are not limited to Flint and Detroit Michigan, to Oakland California and Philadelphia and Baltimore. Try living in today’s San Francisco. Several of my son’s San Francisco old high school friends are living lives as nomads in the city, complete with vans.

In telecommunications including cellphone and broadband America is a disgrace with the highest prices and lowest quality and service anywhere in the world. At America’s founding, postal service was guaranteed to every American. FDR’s Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) together with massive western dam projects guaranteed electrical power to every American. At one time every American was guaranteed phone service. Dayen describes Chattanooga, a big beneficiary of the TVA, and its TVA run utility the Electric Power Board (EPB) which decided to upgrade using fiber optics to improve the reliability of its electric grids. In 2007 EPB decided to offer fiber optics to every home in its service area paid for by a $219.8 million bond. Comcast sued to stop the plan alleging illegal cross-subsidy of electric rate payer funds. Comcast lost and residents of EPB’s service area have access to gigabit broadband access supporting phone and internet service. If you are not in EPB’s service area you are in the communications desert.
I live in the heart of Phoenix Arizona and have access to Centurylink’s (baby Bell) DSL “service” of 16MB sometimes at a cost of about $50 per month. I have a grandfathered T-Mobile prepaid phone that gets no signal at my home even after the T-Mobile Sprint merger. I can make phone calls from my home via Android wifi on my T-Mobile phone or via voice over IP (VOIP) through google voice.
I live five miles from Phoenix’s TV Towers but receive no over the air (OTA) signals for any major network on my TV. Using advanced rooftop antennas and signal amplifiers, I used to be able to receive 5 major networks 95 miles line-of-site to the towers on Mount Lemon near Tucson. Continued reduction in transmit power by network operators has reduced reception to 3 major networks today. Even these 3 are sensitive to weather. I tried to raise the issue of reduced OTA transmitter power over the publicly owned airwaves with newly elected Senator Mark Kelly and was blown off by staff members.
If you live in rural America chances are you have no access to broadband. Urban Americans may typically have two “options” for broadband, your baby bell or surviving phone company and one cable operator. Both will have atrocious customer service and questionable reliability and unconscionable low speeds. Somewhere in a streaming chain, maybe the local broadband supplier is able to restrict speeds or break a stream altogether. We could get better service almost anywhere in the world. Most Americans live in a communications desert.

Dayen talks about the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) banking business that came into it’s own in the 1960s. Today it is a huge industry dominated by the six too big to fail banks.

As of 2019, the six biggest banks–JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley–control $10.5 trillion in financial assets. These banks also happen to be serial transnational criminal enterprises, paying $182 billion in (inadequate) penalties for rap sheets of incomparable length. Few of the violations even relate to the financial crisis’s run-up and aftermath, though those were significant. Incidents of debt collection fraud, market rigging, money laundering, misrepresentations to clients, kickback schemes, and unlawful securities sales all occurred after the crisis.

The media has focused on stock buyback after tax reductions and record profits but gives little attention to the bigger story; mergers of corporations into ever larger and more unaccountable monopolies. The six big banks are key players in these mergers pocketing huge fees for their services. Goldman Sachs, in one merger featured in the book involving United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), continued to change the terms of the merger to favor themselves and even created and sold derivatives for hedge funds wanting to bet against the merger.

Mergers in the health care industry, especially hospitals has created large healthcare deserts in America. Hedge funds often buy hospitals for their real estate value and close them after gutting their operations. Millions of Americans are left with few options and long travel distances and time to seek services.

Monopolies create highly vulnerable supply chains often with sole source and offshore production. Dayen talks about an acute shortage of saline drip bags (cost $1) because production in sole source Puerto Rico was disrupted. This failure disrupted services in hospitals across the country. Covid19 protective equipment like masks, shields, gowns, etc. were simply not available for months. Then there are sole source parts like faulty batteries for the F-35 $100 million fighter jets that made them unable to escape Hurricane Michael in 2018. All current US Weapons systems are dependent on parts from China! Supply deserts are disruptive and dangerous and we are inundated in them.

Ten million American homes were lost to foreclosure as a result the 2008 financial subprime disaster. Dayen has an earlier book Chain of Title focusing on the struggle of American’s being illegal foreclosed on as a result of the massive production of fake documents purporting to support the existence of loans. Aaron Glantz in 2019 published Homewreckers, showing the macro side of how all these illegally foreclosed homes ended up in the hands of hedge funds and other bottom feeders and were removed permanently from the American supply of individually owned homes. Dayen here talks about how these new owners, without experience in real estate rentals and without any regard for the law or people converted these homes into badly or unmaintained rentals and profited from illegal fees, penalties, evictions, and extortion while the huge inventory of once livable single family homes are turned into slums. These few corporations make the Trumps and Kushners of the world look like petty thugs. Meantime, Americans looking to buy homes find limited options and soaring prices. Welcome to the housing desert.

We know how to handle monopolies. You restore the interpretation of the antitrust laws to cover the full spectrum of harms, beyond just consumer welfare. Then you break up dangerous concentrations of economic power, block mergers that would excessively consolidate markets, regulate natural monopolies as public utilities, structurally separate functions where necessary, intervene in the public interest so citizens are protected and empowered, and vigilantly examine markets to prepare for monopolies to emerge again. Maybe that sounds impossible in the abstract. But it is entirely possible under existing law that either hasn’t been enforced in decades or has been misinterpreted for decades. We have over a century of experience with both successfully preventing unnecessary concentrations and failing to do so. The mechanisms are clear; getting the political class to enforce them is the stumbling block.

Latex, Diamonds, Charles Taylor, Austerity, Ebola, The Perfect Storm

May 22nd, 2021

Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds, Ebola and the Ravages of History, Paul Farmer, 2020

Young Paul Farmer and Future World Bank President Kim Jim Yong in Haiti


Ebola was not simply a deadly disease; it was the manifestation of neolibereralism as an affliction, which wrecks havoc in the world’s most vulnerable societies. –Ibrahim Abdullah and Ismail Rashid, Understanding West Africa’s Ebola Epidemic: Toward a Political Economy, 2017





Charles Taylor Liberian Warlord

There can be no understanding of this medical wasteland, and its vulnerability to Ebola, without knowledge of the shared and distinct histories… Their shared history has long involved rapacious extraction and forced labor regimes. Rapacity on this scale requires and foments violence, resulting in more illness and injury…That’s (colonial rule) where control-over-care strategies originated…In the first part of the twentieth century at least, black doctors were shunted aside or formally excluded from the colonial medical services…Many West Africans still harbor memories of campaigns to isolate (and sometimes destroy) settlements afflicted by smallpox, cholera, and vector-borne diseases such as plague, malaria, and trypanosomiasis. In the course of many of these epidemics, and for a century or more, funerals and wakes were banned, travel restrictions imposed, and punitive measures (from fines to incarceration) routine. Medical care was not…After independence, tardy efforts of link disease control to care were nonetheless under way in Guinea and Sierra Leone and, to a lesser extent, Liberia. But health expenditures of any sort remained a tiny fraction of postcolonial national budgets. That fraction shrank further when their governments signed on to structural adjustment programs (austerity) — and geared up for war…Neglectful policies first written by the sanitarians of fading colonial governments have left a disastrous imprint, but other disastrous policies were advanced by development institutions claiming to represent the poor, or frail or failed states. Few of these ventriloquists were natives of West Africa…Externally imposed austerity meant that governments lost much of their scant capacity to engage in anything resembling caregiving.

Commentary on most epidemics sends history down the drain. That’s no accident. Surely the successful rebranding of European empires as “Western democracies” and the inevitable focus on “local” disasters of African politics or epidemiology stand as impressive examples of willed amnesia. This entire process of shrugging off human agency — a.k.a. history — lets external actors and forces off the hook, allowing expatriate pundits and self-dealing global bureaucrats to argue that local greed and tribal grievance are the primary cause of independent Africa’s woes, including its poor economic, political, social, and physical health. But those without shelter are of course obliged to pay closer attention to the clouds above.

…if you want to address the delivery problems, you need a social medicine incorporating staff, stuff, space, and systems. But Western Africa, like the northern Congo, has not known this sort of social medicine, because of the extractive arrangements that I’ve described in the previous four chapters; slavery, racism, colonialism, and war. Its medical and public-health systems have failed repeatedly to delivery on the promise of discovery.

Ebola, like Marburg has received scant attention from the best basic scientists and clinical researchers, and from the world’s largest research based pharmaceutical concerns, for a simple reason: there’s not much money in it.

The critical step in preventing future epidemics will be finding ways of delivering vaccines and therapies to those who need them — and who need them in part because they live in a clinical desert that was created when their predecessors were enslaved and subjugated so that people and nations in other parts of the world could amass great wealth and prosperity.

Public-health nihilism and its control-over-care variant retain their force largely among the poor living in what are now called low-income countries. These countries are, of course, the former colonies; strains of the paradigm run rampant within them, and in the field now widely known as global-health.

The postcolonial world still suffers from control-over-care logic, and from the plague. In the Indian state of Gujarat, population forty-five million, plague killed hundreds in the 1990s–with the diamond polishing city of Surat the epicenter of a major outbreak in 1994.

One of the few happy aftermaths of the Western Ebola epidemic has been the development of what appears to be be a safe and protective vaccine… We can expect the usual debates about whether further and different clinical trials are needed, and which regulatory hurdles must be cleared before it and other vaccines are licenses, and by which agencies…Ebola-nomics is sure to influence these discussions, since the disease’s victims, like those sickened by cholera and plague, are mostly poor people of color, as are their primary caregivers.

…Ebola and other public-health calamities strike most often in places from which human capital and raw materials have been extracted for centuries. From the rural reaches of Haiti and Rwanda, from the prisons of Siberia, and from the slums of urban Peru; for thirty years, I’ve been pointing out how the epidemics that people have suffered in these places have arisen because of the inequalities — political, economic, and medical –that such extraction invariably worsens.

Diapers Power and Poverty

May 13th, 2021

Broke in America; Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty, Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox, 2021

This book provides a road map to a better America, Jeffrey Sachs

Well organized book is a clear explanation of why poverty is a systemic failure, a result of decades of intentional bad policy decisions in the U.S.

Part 1 Basic Needs covers chapters on Water: Running Dry; Food: Hungry in America; Housing: No Place to be Poor; Power: Shut Off; Transportation: Access Denied; Hygiene; A Problem Swept under the rug; Health: Health does not equal Health Care.

Part 2 discusses the many forms of oppression -covers chapters on Racism: Stealing Homes; Sexism: Women’s Work; Denial of Political Power: Government Not of, by or for the people; Mental Health Discrimination: Poverty is Trauma; High-Poverty Schools: Class Matters.

Part 3 Discusses solutions: Possibilities: The Poor Don’t Need to be with you Always; and Advocacy: Making Change.

Stacks of diapers and dollars isolated on a white background.

Author Goldblum illustrates the power of organizing, creating The National Diaper Bank Network, which has given out more than two hundred million diapers since it started. Diaper cost for the poor illustrates the often hidden problems that government is failing to address with its botched policies.

But ultimately, poverty is a problem that can be easily and quickly solved, but only by government taking bold action. The best thing is that solving poverty would have enormous positive economic consequences for the country as a whole. Our collective political stupidity in failing to properly address poverty is mind boggling.