An elitist, nationalist, bias dominates all areas of Canada’s paper of record.
On the front of last weekend’s Style section the Globe and Mail profiled Sonja Bata on turning 90. Business partner and wife of the deceased Thomas Bata, the Globe lauded Sonja for the “many contributions she has made to Canada”, including the Bata Shoe Museum and various other establishment “cultural, environmental and social causes.” The article touched on the shoemaker’s early history and described how she “traveled the world building a shoe empire – between 1946 and 1960, 25 new factories were built and 1700 Bata stores opened.”
While the three-page spread included an undated photo of Sonja and her husband on the “African continent”, it ignored how the Toronto-based shoe company took advantage of European rule to set up across the continent. By the end of the colonial era Bata had production or retail facilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Rhodesia and elsewhere. In the 1940s and 50s, notes Shoemaker with a Mission, “the organization’s expansion was especially great in francophone Africa. As Mr. Bata himself noted, there was no country in that part of the world where his company was not established as the number-one supplier of footwear.” While “Mr. Bata” may not be the most objective source on the shoemaker, a government study just after independence found the company controlled 70% of the footwear market in British East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania).
In a 1974 Saturday Night article titled “Canadians Too, Can Act like Economic Imperialists”, Steve Langdon describes the company’s operations in Kenya: “Bata seems to be undercutting decentralized rural development in Kenya, to be blocking African advance in other areas, and to be throwing its weight around politically — all at a handsome profit.” In a bid to subvert the establishment of a domestic competitor, the Toronto-based multinational wrote its overseas suppliers to discourage sales to its challenger and asked Kenyan government officials to intervene on its behalf.
Bata’s mechanized production methods squeezed out indigenous footwear producers all the while increasing imports of plastics and machinery, which came at the expense of local materials (leather) and employment. In the 1975 article Canada’s Relations with Africa Robert Matthews notes that Bata drained “money and opportunity from poor rural areas” to the benefit of a small group of locals and the Toronto head office.
When the post-independence Tanzanian government announced that it would acquire a 60 percent share of a multitude of major foreign firms Bata was the only hold out. The Toronto firm attempted to sabotage Tanzania’s push to acquire a controlling interest in the local company’s operations. In Underdevelopment and Nationalization: Banking in Tanzania James H. Mittelman explains: “Bata Shoes (a Canadian-based concern), for example, ran down stocks, removed machinery, supplied imperfect items, and later withdrew all staff, supposedly closing down for annual repairs! The Company refused to relinquish more than 49 per cent of its controlling interests, tried to set up a new wholesaling operation dependent on its firm in Kenya, and urged other foreign investors to fight.”
Bata’s aggressive reaction to Tanzania’s efforts aimed to dissuade other newly independent African countries from following a similar path. The shoemaker no doubt feared for its significant operations across the continent.
Bata received Canadian government support as well. In mid-1973 the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi visited Uganda to ask Idi Amin if he would attend the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in Ottawa. But, the primary objective of the high commissioner’s meeting was to convince Amin to reverse his nationalization of Bata. A cable published by WikiLeaks read: “CANADIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER OLIVIER MET WITH PRESIDENT AMIN JUNE 29 TO DISCUSS GOU TAKE-OVER OF BATA SHOE FIRM. AMIN REVERSED EARLIER DECISION AND ORDERED THAT A NEW PARTNERSHIP ARRANGEMENT (51 PERCENT BATA, 49 PERCENT GOU) BE WORKED OUT.”
Through the 1970s Bata worked under the white regime in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). It broke sanctions against Rhodesia by exporting goods manufactured there to South Africa. Even more controversial, it operated in apartheid South Africa until the late 1980s. The company broke unions and blocked black workers from semiskilled, skilled and executive positions. Listed among the “hardline defenders of investment in South Africa” in Ambiguous Champion: Canada and South Africa in the Trudeau and Mulroney years, Bata faced an international boycott campaign. During this period Sonja Bata was quoted in the Canadian media justifying the company’s South African policy and Thomas Bata proclaimed “we expanded into Africa in order to sell shoes, not to spread sweetness and light.”
The Globe and Mail is exposing its elitist, nationalist, bias in ignoring Bata’s unsavory history.
Yves Engler’s latest book is Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.
With Brazilian Senators preparing to vote this week on whether to oust President Dilma Rousseff from office, interim President Michael Temer’s unelected government last week has axed a popular nationwide educational program that has shaved nearly a quarter from the country’s illiteracy rate in little more than a decade.
The Ministry of Education confirmed that it had discontinued the literacy initiative to a citizen who requested an update on the program through the country’s Access to Information Act, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported Sunday.
The initiative, known as Literate Brazil Programme, was launched in 2003 in the first year of the President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva–popularly known simply as “Lula”– of the Workers’ Party or PT. Brazil is historically one of the world’s most economically and social unequal countries in the world and the program was one of several redistributive efforts undertaken by Lula’s administration in his two terms in office.
But the interim Education Ministry, headed by right-wing politician Mendonca Filho, who faces investigation over major accusations of corruption, has dissolved the program, cutting off funding to state and local governments, even while continuing to deny publicly that the program has been revised in any way. State and local officials, however, say that they’ve been unable to enroll anyone in the literacy program, Folha reported Sunday.
Since it began in 2003, the literacy initiative has served an average of 1.3 million learners aged 15 and older, managing to reduce illiteracy rates from 11.6 percent to 8.3 percent in 2014. The Unesco Institute for Statistics estimated the 2015 adult illiteracy rate at 8.2 percent, while less than 2 percent of youth are illiterate.
According to Unesco, the program has shown “real-life success stories” of how literacy skills can improve “future prospects” for Brazilian citizens.
Despite the improvements in the literacy rate, Brazil still ranks behind many countries in the region, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, among others.
There also remains a great regional disparity in Brazil’s overall literacy rate, which ranges from 2.7 percent in the Federal District and 3.2 percent in the state of Rio de Janeiro to 22 percent and 20.2 percent in the poor, service-economy states of Alagoas and Piaui, according to government data reported by Folha.
Immediately after his administration was installed in May, Michel Temer’s all-male, corruption-ridden cabinet of neoliberal ministers moved swiftly to roll back social programs and implement an aggressive state austerity program that includes sweeping privatization efforts. Lula’s protegee, the twice-elected Rousseff is scheduled to testify Monday in her impeachment trial, with a final vote expected Tuesday.
Temer government’s has also cut other key programs and ministries, including the Ministry of Culture, which was absorbed into the purview of Minister of Culture, Mendonca Filho. The move represents the re-joining of the culture and education ministries for the first time since 1985, following the fall of the country’s brutal military dictatorship.
Filho is being investigated for receiving millions of dollars in bribes and illegal donations to fund his successful 2014 reelection campaign to represent the state of Pernambuco in Congress. If convicted, Filho would likely be forced to step down from his post, which would make him the fourth member of Temer’s cabinet to resign following accusations of bribery or fraud. Temer and his Foreign Minister Jose Serra are also embroiled in bribery scandals linked to fraud in the state oil company, Petrobras.
In just three months of “interim” government, Temer’s administration has moved toward privatizing state oil reserves, making cuts to popular social programs including the housing initiative Minha Casa Minha Vida, and hinted at plans to chip away at the country’s longstanding and cornerstone universal health care program. The country has also pivoted away from its left-wing allies in South America toward the United States and conservative governments in the region.
This heartbreaking story made headlines in all American newspapers and television channels. When American swimmers were robbed at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro, the reports about the incident appeared as “breaking news” in most of US publications. It has been recently revealed, however, that the Americans initiated the robbery and accused the Brazilian police of violence.
Lochte’s legend about the criminal police
Olympians Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz reported to the police, that “police officers” stopped their cab at a gas station in Rio on August 14. According to Lochte, one of the men put a gun to his head, took the money ($ 700) and personal belongings. However, the police, having studied surveillance camera videos, concluded that it was the Americans themselves, who broke the door to the bathroom and came into conflict with gas station personnel. Being in a state of alcoholic intoxication, the US athletes damaged equipment inside the station. After the gas station employees demanded the athletes should pay for the damage that they caused, the Americans tried to escape. One of the guards, threatening with a pistol, forced the swimmers to stay and called the police.
The court prohibited the four athletes from leaving Brazil for the time of the investigation of the incident. However, Lochte, who is said to be the one who started it, had already escaped. On Friday, Bentz and Conger got permission to leave Brazil. Feigen left the country too, having paid $10,000 in donations to “institutions”. In accordance with the law of Brazil, one can make donations (charity) to avoid criminal prosecution for minor offenses. Yet, the case is far from being closed. False alarm and the destruction of property is pending – both offenses are punishable with up to six months in prison or a fine.
The Americans had a party in Rio
Brian Winter, an expert at the Research Center of the Americas in Washington, DC (Council of the Americas) told BBC Brasil that the story would be forgotten in a few days, but it was important to reveal all the facts.
It would be sad if Brazil forgets the story indeed. The story has affected the image of Brazil as a democracy with strong legal and security agencies. A variety of Western publications have been doing their best to stain this image throughout the Rio Olympics. The story started a lot earlier, when the case for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff was opened six months ago. One must admit that Washington has a habit of overthrowing objectionable governments during Olympic periods – suffice it to recall Georgia’s aggression or the Ukrainian Maidan.
“There is no sin below the equator”
The goal of such campaigns is to dramatically reduce the self-esteem of the people and their faith in their own values. Green water in pools, Zika virus, street crime, dirty cities, bad builders, “police impotence” and so on – anything comes in handy. In fairness, it should be said that the Americans accommodated Olympic athletes in Lake Placid prison in 1980 (the reconstruction of sports facilities, as well as the construction of the Olympic Village had not been completed in time). The Americans pollute their cities (Detroit, Chicago) and experience ecological disasters on a regular basis (the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico). What right do the “exceptional” Americans have to educate other nations on violence? Have they forgotten the Boston marathon bombings, or Black Lives Matter, or mass school shootings, or the Orlando gay bar massacre, etc, etc?
In the XVII century, Caspar Barlaeus, a Dutch national, said when describing excesses of colonial policy: there is no sin below the equator. According to Barlaeus, any act of dishonesty committed there does not stain gentleman’s name, especially if there is a need to topple the leftist regime that integrated itself into the economic bloc with Russia and China (BRICS) and established regional blocs (MERCOSUR, SELAC) on the basis of independent Latin American states. This country has huge reserves of shelf oil, and the new government of CIA informer Michel Temer intends to bring it all to the US of A.
Will the Brazilians answer? Will they prove that they live in a legal state, where one should not insult the police? If the story had happened in the USA, the athletes would most likely have been jailed. Yet, it all happened in Rio, so they are certain that they can get away with it, because “there is no sin below the equator.”
We would like to note here that the Brazilians have the complex of the American backyard (sindrome vira-lata): the gringos are a model of democracy, and in Brazil everything is bad, the Brazilian police is bad and corrupt, but all American sheriffs are honest and respectable people.
Perhaps, some prefer sadomasochism. They do not mind others calling their country a land of the monkeys and the whole region – a latrine (América Latrina).
As for the behavior of the American swimmers, this is an example of how “respectable” Americans behave. And these “exceptional” individuals are convinced that their arrogance and impudent behavior contributes to the image of the police state, where they come from. We doubt so.
The recent Nobel laureates’ letter accusing Greenpeace of a “crime against humanity” for opposing genetically modified (GMO) golden rice reveals a deep division not only between civil societies and some science circles but also within the science community – a division in the visions for our common future and which path to take for our joint development. A division we see growing and escalating. A strong indication of this division is that among the Nobel laureate signatories, there seems to be hardly anybody with a solid scientific track record in agriculture, food production, development, or the socio-ecological and political causes of poverty and hunger. Others with notable competence – at least in the economic and social domains of development, poverty, and hunger – are not among the signatories. Signs of escalation also include the emotional, accusing language in the letter and the ample use of scientifically unsubstantiated claims. What is missing in the letter and among the supporters and developers of GMOs is the recognition and scientific analysis of some tough facts.
Fact no. 1: Still no functioning vitamin A rice despite unlimited resources
No functioning vitamin A rice has been produced in over 20 years of research. This is despite full support at every level: financial, institutional, political, and corporate. By ‘functioning’, we mean farmer’s rice varieties that reliably and stably express sufficient amounts of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A, the precursor of Vitamin A) over many generations of seed saving. These seeds must continuously express beta-carotene at a level that has been documented to be efficiently convertible to Vitamin A in mammals and, most importantly, can (statistically) significantly relieve the symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency in hungry people. None of this is scientifically trivial but that’s what has been promised.
The first golden rice, GR1, was unsuccessful and is long gone. Golden rice 2 (GR2) is a patented pro-vitamin A GM rice developed from scratch by the multinational biotech firm Syngenta and still in the field trial stage at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at least one decade after it’s creation.
The vast majority of scientists in the world will never see such comprehensively generous support for their research – yet they still deliver, and must deliver if they ever want to renew funding for their research. This is more than can be said for the golden rice project.
Fact no. 2: Lack of recognition of real reasons for failure to deliver
A quick evidence check is sufficient to reveal the simple reason why golden rice is not in farmer’s fields: it is still not ready because it is not performing agronomically. Furthermore, it is far from being medically documented to relieve symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. Neither Greenpeace nor the destruction of a test plot in the Philippines by local activists can be held responsible for this lack of scientific achievement.
Fact no. 3: Questionable conceptual underpinning
Leaving aside its scientific aspects, the very concept of golden rice – and all other similar conceptual approaches as solutions to malnourishment – remain doomed from the start as similar approaches have failed repeatedly. The problem lies in the underlying reductionist (disembedded) approach. Combating hunger and malnutrition one vitamin and mineral at a time is a failed ideology, no matter which vitamin or mineral one starts with and which kind of delivery system one chooses. Malnourished people do not suffer from single-vitamin-deficiencies added up. They suffer from hunger, as in ‘lack of food’. This is compounded by poverty and a myriad of contributing factors working simultaneously together. That means they lack regular access to real foods containing the necessary variety of ALL essential nutrients, which, in conjunction, make up a healthy diet.
These contributing factors differ according to culture, place and time. There exists a huge amount of research and analyses to read for anybody who cares about the real causes of hunger and the real solutions (we list some old and new references at the end – or just check out the United Nations World Food Program website. For the golden rice project, we recommend for starters, the recent analysis by Stone and Glover who locate its failure in its ‘disembeddedness’ and ‘placelessness’.
Consequently, hunger and malnutrition with its complex, ‘place-based’ causes cannot be battled by a uniform, de-contextualized and placeless one-vitamin-at-a-time approach which is what GMO golden rice has to offer.
This reductionistic approach to hunger is matched by similar reductionism in the genetic engineering world where organisms are viewed as the sum of their genes and proteins. Genes are added one at a time as blueprint construction instructions for lego-like products and many more projects of this kind are underway, e.g. vitamin A banana and cassava, or iron-fortified cassava, or whatever lies within their technical reach. Stone and Glover describe this as “a preoccupation with the molecular scale” that “favors a form of reductionist thinking that conceives of traits of interest as being governed primarily by genetics rather than through interactions with the environment or management” (Stone and Glover 2016).
Supplying vitamin A or any other nutrient in isolation only works for a transitional period of time, curing a symptom at best, while work progresses on the underlying place-based causes of hunger – lack of access to food, money, education and secure living conditions. Under those circumstances, as in parts of the Philippines, cheap vitamin A pills do the job much better, in a more targeted, controlled, and effective way than any patented GM crop could ever do.
Fact no. 4: A missing roll-out plan
But even if the golden rice researchers do eventually manage to get some GM pro-Vitamin A rice varieties to perform agronomically, there seems to be no roll-out plan to ensure that it gets to those who need it. Those reasons have nothing to do with regulations and everything to do with logistics, institutions and finances.
Will the golden rice developers truck their harvest into the urban slums and remote rural areas of Asia or Africa, or at least the Philippines, every day? Will they bring with them also the fat that malnourished people need to eat along with the rice to ensure they absorb the beta-carotene and convert it to vitamin A? And if they can do that, why aren’t they bringing existing foods into those areas already? Why wait until a patented GM food is ready for delivery? There is no shortage of vitamin-rich foods on this planet and beta-carotene is one of the commonest molecules in nature.
Frequently, vitamin A-rich food exists in abundance and rots in storage or under trees not that far away from the places where people suffer from malnutrition. An alternative already in the field is, for example, a non-GMO orange sweet potato, a root crop compatible with improved crop rotations whose developers have been awarded the 2016 World Food Prize. Without a massive and expensive roll-out plan, golden rice will not even leave the field station of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is overseeing the golden rice project.
If their plan is to cross the pro-vitamin A trait into the rice varieties that farmers grow in hunger-stricken areas, they face an uphill logistic, financial, scientific and institutional battle. How will they get the transgenic trait reliably expressed in all of these varieties at the necessary concentrations over many generations of rice plantings and seed recycling? Who will pay for this epic endeavour?
If they decide instead to only put the pro-vitamin A trait into a handful of, say, IRRI rice varieties (which we believe is the most likely plan – if there is a plan in the first place), many will fail because they will not perform in different local conditions and they typically require fertilizers and pesticides. If the plan is to switch farmers to growing a handful of patented biofortified varieties all over Asia and Africa, how will this be implemented? Who will deliver the seeds and accompanying chemicals to farmers – year after year, everywhere where it’s needed, for free? And is this a sustainable solution?
And what will happen to the thousands of existing ecologically and culturally well adapted varieties? The genetic diversity of crops and animals is our life-support system.
Furthermore, have they asked the rice producers and consumers of Asia and Africa if they want many of their rice varieties to be yellow forever – even in times when the food shortages and nutrition deficiencies are over?
Unresolved patent and ownership issues
According to the website www.goldenrice.org., a resource-poor farmer will be allowed to grow golden rice without license fees as long as his/her income is less than $10,000 per year. But, in practice, who decides which farmers are eligible? Who decides which income limit is appropriate in what country or region, and who enforces it on what authority and criteria? What about those farmers whose incomes exceed $10,000 per year? Who will decide when to collect fees, from whom, and for how long? How will the finances be arranged between Syngenta, which owns GR2, the seed multipliers and distributors, and the government? And if all this can be settled with Syngenta – how about the next-in-line patented, biofortified GM crops? In case of dispute, will there be free access to lawyers for the resource-poor farmers?
In their weekly column Schaffer and Ray (2016) reported about a meeting with an employee of the US State Department and discussing the benefits of GM crops for farmers and consumers in the Global South and whether or not farmers would have to pay a technology fee and purchase, for example, the golden rice seed each year. The State Department representative stated that the companies that own the patents would be willing to make the golden rice (or virus-resistant cassava) available at no cost provided that the countries adopted US patent regimes to protect other GM crops. From a policy perspective, such a ‘humanitarian’ license agreement would thereby present a highly profitable transaction, a means to ‘encourage’ developing countries that often do not even have patent laws of their own to accept the US patent regime and so ensure the profits of US companies and patent holders in perpetuity. In corporate agriculture it seems, nothing is really for free.
These are just a few of the tough questions that have never been addressed or even acknowledged by promoters of golden rice or any other such projects. Shooting genes into nuclei and getting a few varieties to express a transgene is the easy part – although even that has proved elusive so far for GR2.
Fact 5: Colonial mindset
Blaming Greenpeace for the failure of not only golden rice but other patented products of genetic engineering has been an irrational (or maybe calculated) obsession of some proponents and developers since the discussion began decades ago. Yet, it also reveals more subtle issues. Farmers and indigenous people are outraged when gene technology proponents accuse them of being instructed or manipulated by big Western NGOs like Greenpeace. They say that promoters of golden rice and other techno-solutions offered by developed countries rarely ask for or listen to their views and, thereby, reveal their lack of respect and comprehension.
This attitude towards peasant farmers and indigenous peoples is typical of the still prevailing colonial, Western mindset – hidden or open. It assumes that the peasant farmers are ignorant people without the relevant knowledge entitling them to make informed decisions based on their own values and visions for their future. Sadly, the letter signed by Nobel laureates appears to be a continuation of this way of thinking. It reveals an attitude of supremacy over, and disrespect for, traditional and indigenous knowledge and peoples who want to have a say in their lives and communities and which path to take to ‘development’.
Take-home message: Hungry (and poor) people deserve better. And Nobel laureates can do better!
Dr Angelika Hilbeck is Chair, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER). She is a researcher and lecturer on biosafety and agroecology at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) who has worked closely with farmers and civil societies in many developing countries for more than two decades, including the Philippines, the country targeted for the rollout of GM golden rice. She is a member of the Board of Directors of ‘Bread for All’. She was a lead author of the International Assessment of Agricultural Sciences, Knowledge and Technology for Development (IAASTD)
Dr. Hans R Herren, Agronomist/Entomologist (ETHZ) who worked in agricultural research and development for 27 years in Africa. Member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, President and Founder Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development www.biovision.ch, president and CEO www.Millennium-Institute.org.
Laureate: Sustainability Prize, Germany 2016, Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize 2013; One World Award 2010; World Food Prize 1995; Kilby Award 1995; Brandenberger Prize 2002; Tyler Prize 2003.
Foreign Associate of the US Academy of Sciences 1999; Member of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) 2005
Co-Chair International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), Member CGIAR Science Council (2005-2010)
 “On 13 August 2013, after farmers had got nowhere in their arguments with the Philippine government, they uprooted an experimental field of Golden Rice in Pili, Camarines Sur, where trials were taking place. By taking this action, they sent a clear signal that they would not tolerate the advance of GMOs. However, the Filipino farmers were outraged when the media, accusing them of ‘vandalism’, made it appear that the uprooting had been orchestrated by international NGOs which had supposedly made use of the farmers to uproot the rice. Farmers explained that it was their decision to turn to civil disobedience to defend rice, a crop that is central to their diet, their livelihood and their culture. While the funders and supporters of Golden Rice carry on with their goal of commercialising the crop in the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh in the near future, Filipino farmers continue to mobilise and protest, vowing that they will go on opposing the advance of GMOs.”
The GOP is trying to oust Donald Trump from the Presidential campaign trail. Numerous GOP officials and corporate media reports have indicated that Donald Trump may drop out of the race. Curiously, the news comes just weeks after Trump walked away from the Republican National Convention with the nomination. No other candidate came close in total number of delegates in the state primaries and the proposed roll call from dissenting delegates failed to bring results. The attempted ousting of Trump reflects both the fracturing of the Republican Party and the rupture of the two-party corporate duopoly generally in this election cycle.
This isn’t the first time establishment Republicans have attempted to push Trump out of the race. When Trump began picking up momentum earlier in 2016, many well-known Republicans refused to endorse him. Republican Mitt Romney made a video appearance at the Democratic Party National Convention to warn of the dangers of a Trump presidency. The Business Round Table, a collection of corporate executives, also warned New York Times readers of Trump’s possible Presidential victory. Even the Koch Brothers are sabotaging Republican Party supporters of Trump by pulling their funding from his supporters in Washington.
The reason for the ruling class’s fear of Trump is clearly articulated from the source. Trump is unpredictable and his message uncontrolled. There are times when Trump speaks to working class anxiety by repudiating trade deals and calling to re-regulate the financial sector. There are others when Trump is easily baited into traps set by the Democratic Party. In recent weeks, the Democratic Party has attempted to frame Trump as an unpatriotic traitor. Trump has reaffirmed his support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and refused to take back remarks regarding the heroism of a Muslim American soldier who died in combat in Iraq.
While power struggle between the Democratic Party and Republican Party is nothing new, Trump’s impact on the two-party corporate duopoly should not be understated. Trump has destroyed the GOP’s infrastructure. His rhetoric has inspired emboldened racist elements of the working class as well as legitimate class grievances among the Republican Party base. Trump has occupied a vacuum that its corporate-backers have refused to fill. No longer can the Republican Party operate as it did in the past without losing ground to the increasingly conservative Democratic Party.
For nearly five decades, the Republican Party has positioned itself the party of white supremacy. The Democratic Party has been able to place unions, Black voters, and white liberals under its tent over this period. However, the neo-liberal crisis of capitalism has changed this dynamic dramatically. The gap between Democratic Party rhetoric and policy has widened since the early 1980s. This has forced Republicans to move further to the right in the midst of Democratic Party-led wars, austerity measures, and assaults on civil liberties.
Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the very existence of the GOP. In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton herself admitted that she would be a President for “Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.” She was thus very forthright in extending an invitation to refugee Republicans into her “big tent” campaign. Clinton’s neo-liberal, imperialist agenda is attractive to a Republican Party establishment that has effectively lost its base to Trump. Trump’s erratic behavior only further endangers his ability to defeat Clinton’s strategy and bring victory to what is left of the Republican Party.
A series of interviews on “Democracy Now!” have clarified the depths to which the Clinton campaign seeks to use fear of Donald Trump as its catalyst for victory. In two separate debates, Green Party supporters Kshama Sawant and Chris Hedges confronted Clinton operatives Rebecca Traiser and Robert Reich. Traitser and Reich refused to address concrete policy and instead promoted a Clinton Presidency on the basis of the dangers of Donald Trump. The debates confirmed that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party have become virtuously indefensible. Such a realization has forced the two-party corporate duopoly into a crisis situation, especially on the Republican Party side. Either the Republican Party establishment gets behind Trump or it joins forces with the increasingly conservative Democratic Party machinery led by Clinton to defeat the “fascist” casino capitalist.
The fact the Republican Party has not distanced itself from rumors of Trump’s departure indicates that there is a significant portion of GOP leaders who would prefer a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Hillary Clinton is, after all, the chosen politician to serve the capitalist oligarchy. Clinton has received tens of millions of dollars in donations from hedge funds and various other Wall Street donors. This places Trump at a glaring disadvantage. Yet this disadvantage has been mitigated by the open rebellion both Democratic and Republican Party bases are waging against the establishment.
The conditions that created the revolt of young voters in the Democratic Party and the entire base of the Republican Party are not going away. Trump may step down, or he may continue on in his campaign. Whatever the case, the legitimacy of the two-party duopoly will remain tenuous at best. Millions of people are sick and tired of war, austerity, poverty, and a system that represents no one but the elite. A mass break with the two-party system is on the horizon and Trump’s campaign has played a significant role in speeding up the process. So the conversation about Trump should not be confined to his personality or his reactionary character. It should center on the root causes of his rise to the GOP nomination and what that means for the future of US political landscape.
Churchill has been chosen by the Bank of England’s to be the face on their new £5 note set to be in circulation from September 2016.
The Governor of the Bank of England stated “Our banknotes acknowledge the life and work of great Britons. Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world. His energy, courage, eloquence, wit and public service are an inspiration to us all. I am proud to announce that he will appear on our next banknote”.
Churchill is fawned over in Britain. He was voted ‘Greatest Briton’ of all time in a poll run by the BBC in 2002. He is praised across the political spectrum, held up as the man who stopped Brits speaking German. When the truth is Churchill was never an opponent of fascism. He was a white supremacist who talked of the need of non-Anglo Saxons to “recognise the superiority of race”. In 1927 he praised Mussolini, “What a man! I have lost my heart!… Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world”. He went on to hold Hitler up as the ideal figure to lead Britain if they were to be defeated, “If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations”.
Winnie was still swilling champagne when he engineered a famine in Bengal which saw at least 4 million men, women and children to starve to death. Food literally taken from the mouths of starving people to ship it where it wasn’t even needed. The Black and Tan thugs were his brainchild. An advocate for the use of poison gases whilst Secretary for War and Air. He assisted greatly in the looting of Iran which kept Britain afloat. And when the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh threatened British ‘interests’, Churchill was there ready to desecrate democracy. He believed that Kenya’s fertile highlands should be only for white colonial settlers, and approved the removal of the local population. Over 150,000 men, women and children were forced into concentration camps. It was Churchill who arranged for Ibn Saud to receive a subsidy of £100,000 a year in 1922. He later gifted the founder of Saudi Arabia a Rolls Royce and lamented that his “admiration for him was deep, because of his unfailing loyalty to us”. When the democratically elected government in ‘British Guiana’ rolled out their nationalisation plan Churchill sent war ships and 700 British troops to put a stop to that. He assisted Zionism and was rewarded with a bust in Al Quds for his contribution in helping create the colonial settler state of ‘Israel’. Winston and his cabinet were deeply concerned about British people viewing Black American GIs favourably in WW2. He was obsessed so much that he wanted to get the Americans to stop sending Black soldiers to Britain. His racism didn’t stop there, when debating the adoption of new laws limiting immigration from the Caribbean he suggested the use of the motto “Keep England White”. All of Churchill’s wars were for defending and preserving the thieving British Empire.
I am releasing an in depth piece on his genocidal campaigns in the coming weeks. The British press have churned out a few articles here and there on Churchill but have glossed over the true extent of his crimes. Presenting them as OK because he led the Brits in their ‘finest hour’.
It really is no surprise that he is to decorate English currency, he is your archetypal Brit at the end of the day.
July 28, 2016 Posted by aletho | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Africa, Human rights, Middle East, UK, Zionism | 1 Comment
Part I – From Bad to Worse
Zionism’s range of influence is shrinking. One can see this progression worldwide. At a popular level the Israelis have lost control of the historical storyline of Israel-Palestine. They may teach their own citizens their version of the story, the one wherein the Jews have a divine and/or historical right to all of Palestine’s territory. But beyond their fellow Zionists and the loony Christian right, no one else believes this story. Significantly, an increasing number of Jews no longer accept it either.
None of this means that the Zionists are not still influential. Yet their influence no longer has a broad popular base. It is now largely restricted to Western government circles. Of course, that is still impressive, and such lobby power does a lot of damage in the West through the corruption of elites and the perversion of state policies. We are seeing examples of this in the many stories of American police officers being trained by Israelis while (coincidently?) episodes of police brutality in the U.S. multiply.
It is to be noted, however, the Zionist ability to maintain a close connection between Western governments and Israel is now based on their ability to spread around enormous sums of money, and not on what once was popular emotional admiration for the “Israeli experiment.” In truth the Zionists are left with a narrowing base of support for a country that is increasingly seen as, at best, inhumane and racist and, at worst, ruthless and criminal.
Zionism’s internal reaction to the loss of popular support is to defensively circle the wagons ever more tightly and press on with transparently illegal policies of settlement expansion and oppression. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the secular-political leader of this hunker-down strategy. However, for Jews worldwide what is perhaps more alarming, and certainly as depressing, is the role played by Judaism’s religious representatives – members of Israel’s rabbinic officialdom – who keep publicly calling for, and religiously justifying, the slaughter of Palestinians. Here are some recent examples:
In early March of 2016 Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, announced that it is “a religious imperative” to execute “Palestinian assailants” as soon as they are apprehended, despite more judicious directives given by Israel’s military high command and law courts. Yosef then managed to show himself utterly out of touch with the history of Palestinian resistance (which he incorrectly mixes up with modern terrorism) when he declared that “It deters them too. The moment a terrorist knows that if he comes with a knife he won’t return alive, that will deter them. That’s why it’s a mitzvah [a blessing] to kill him.” There is, of course, no evidence that such a policy of on-the-spot executions deters Palestinian violence.
Yosef’s call for on-the-spot executions is actually a follow-up to a statement made by his predecessor, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, in 2007. At that time Eliyahu pronounced that “there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza.”
In December 2015 Chaim Kanievsky, an important “ultra-Orthodox” Israeli rabbi, instructed the members of United Hatzalah, a West Bank settler-run ambulance service, that when confronted with a Palestinian “terrorist” who has “a life-threatening condition, they should leave him or her to die.” This pronouncement has sparked a lively debate among some Israeli rabbis, but the resulting impact on the practice on Israeli ambulance crews has been to give them an excuse to disregard their obligations under international law, and leave injured Palestinians untreated.
This attitude has long been evolving, and it has even produced the equivalent of “saintly” figures. For instance, there is the American Zionist settler Baruch Goldstein who in 1994 killed 24 Palestinian worshipers and injured another 125, at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The settler community at Kiryat Arba has erected an elaborate tomb to Goldstein with an epitaph that reads, in part, that he had “clean hands and a pure heart.” The tomb remains today a site of pilgrimage for Zionists of genocidal inclination.
All those Zionists who justify the murder of Palestinians lawfully resisting unlawful occupation are themselves in violation of international law. Those who rationalize this behavior by evoking violent and wrathful biblical images go further and put themselves in the same category as al-Qaeda and ISIS fanatics.
Part II – An Existential Dilemma
Zionism did not start out advocating slaughter. The original Zionist preference for the disposal of the Palestinians was “transfer” – the removal by force or economic inducement of the Palestinians from conquered Israeli territory into the surrounding Arab lands. This scheme, in its forceful guise, was put into effect during the 1948 and 1967 wars. This certainly cleared out some of the indigenous population, but by no means everyone: there are today some 6 million Palestinians living under Israeli control.
For most of those who have remained, policies of enforced poverty, enforced immobility and daily harassment have made life miserable. It has also encouraged continuous violent resistance among Palestinians and a corresponding growing frustration among Israeli Jews. This frustration soon began to encourage Zionists, both secular and religious, to replace the traditional notion of transfer with newer visions of slaughter.
The participation of the rabbis, who play the role of “spiritual guides” for millions of Orthodox Jews, in preaching a call to murder creates an existential dilemma for the adherents of the Jewish religion – existential because it speaks to the religion’s evolving nature. In terms of its present adherents, it places them in the same situation experienced by many Catholics and Protestants during the eras of the Crusades and Reformation wars. It was in those eras that official religious institutions and leaders espoused and religiously rationalized wholesale slaughter. Today we have created standards, supported by international law, that render such repulsive behavior illegal. But the Zionist leadership seems not to care about such standards and laws.
There are certainly those among today’s Jewry who understand the watershed nature of this turn of events. In August 2014 the American rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, called on his fellow Jews to “mourn for the Judaism of love and generosity that is being murdered by Israel and its worshipers around the world, the same kind of idol-worshipers who, pretending to be Jewish [are] actually assimilated into the world of power.” The organization of Rabbis For Human Rights attempts to ally with Palestinians so as to keep alive the notion that there are still Jewish religious leaders who understand the potentially humane essence of their religion. Organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace give an alternative for Jewish laity who want to work against [extremist] Zionist policies. In the meantime, increasing numbers of Western Jews have silently broken with Israel and the Zionist movement. They have retreated to a passive apolitical position, rendering Israel no aid. Unfortunately, Jews in active opposition to Zionism, be they rabbis or laity, while growing in number, are still insufficiently organized to challenge Zionist political influence in official circles.
Part III – Conclusion
The existential problem that now confronts Judaism is the logical consequence of the World War II era alliance made by the religion’s leadership and the secular ideology of Zionism. There are clear historical reasons why this alliance was made: a millennium of anti-Semitic persecution in the West culminating in the Nazi Holocaust; the existence of the national state as the premier model for collective self-protection; the colonial tradition that rationalized European control of non-European lands; and finally an age-old religious devotion to biblical tales of wandering and conquering Israelite tribes.
This offers the context within which the modern Jewish religion got captured by the Zionist movement, but whatever you think of these reasons, none of them, nor all of them together, mitigate the predictable disastrous consequences, laced with racism, chauvinism, intolerance, and violence, that was bound to follow Judaism’s collaboration with Zionism. As Rabbi Lerner says, the end product of all of this sends him into mourning.
In the eyes of increasing numbers, the country of Israel is a pariah state, and the behavior of its rabbinical officialdom may have already thrown its religious establishment into similar disgrace. Those Jewish organizations that stand against the Israeli debacle are like candles burning in an otherwise political-religious darkness. Their struggle will go on. Indeed, it may never cease until Israel’s racist behavior ceases. But right now, it has become evident that it is not only the existence of the Palestinians that Zionism threatens. It also has put in danger whatever humane instincts are left within organized Judaism.
Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history from West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic research focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He taught courses in Middle East history, the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
In an interview with Hala Gorani of CNN, the man who served as Tony (the war criminal) Blair’s Director of Communications from 1997 to 2003, Alastair Campbell, denounced referendums as a danger to democracy. Campbell is clearly enraged that the British people had the audacity to vote against the wishes of the establishment; and his remarks are the epitome of elitist thinking – which holds that ordinary people are too stupid to make important decisions on their own.
We pick the conversation up just after Campbell discusses the surge in working class people who voted for Brexit in the UK, and are supporting Donald Trump in the US:
Gorani: “Is that a failure of the establishment in not having responded for decades to real concerns of how globalisation has hurt common, ordinary workers?”
Campbell: “Absolutely it is. But the point is… this is why referendums… I said this the day after the last general election; I was on BBC Question Time and the first question was will Britain leave the EU? I said I hoped not, because I hope the British people will save the politicians from themselves; and I said then and was howled down for being anti-democratic: referendums are dangerous in a parliamentary democracy.”
Gorani: “Why is that?”
Campbell: “Because we’ve had a referendum in one of the most ill-informed, lying debates that I can ever recall anywhere in the world. We’ve been like a banana republic in the last few days; this has been a joke.”
So in Campbell’s view, the Brexit referendum is “dangerous” because the people of Britain had been lied to by the leave campaign in the run-up to the vote. This is coming from the man who was a pivotal figure in disseminating the tsunami of lies, fear and war propaganda in order to convince the public that Britain had to launch the most destructive war of the 21st century: the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. The man who was an integral part of pushing the slogan that the West was ‘bringing democracy to the Middle East;’ believes a democratic vote in Britain is “dangerous.”
Campbell was responsible for circulating the two fraudulent dossiers – the September and the Iraq – into the mainstream media in order to convince the British people that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ It was revealed in 2010 that Campbell had ordered the September dossier to be altered to fit more in line with a speech from George (the war criminal) Bush in 2002, after Bush stated that Iraq would be able to build a nuclear bomb within a year, whereas the initial draft of the British dossier said it would be at least two years.
Campbell is also regurgitating the Orwellian propaganda line that is being spread throughout the Western media: that somehow a democratic referendum is undemocratic. Just because the vote flew in the face of the British establishment, the presstitutes are engaging in intellectual jujitsu in order to demonise the leave vote. Would they be doing so if Britain voted to remain in the EU? I think not.
The Guardian (which was pro-remain) is at the forefront of pushing this narrative. This is evident in their article titled: Can we have our parliamentary democracy back please? The article actually quotes former British PM, Clement Attlee, who said referendums have too “often been the instrument of Nazism and fascism.” It’s just ridiculous; this is spin on steroids – trying to associate a democratic referendum with fascism.
Considering the fact that Britain commits incessant crimes overseas in the name of democracy, it is abhorrent that the democratic wishes of the British people are being marginalized by the establishment.
The establishment is terrified of direct democracy, and giving the people votes on issues that actually matter. The majority of parliamentarians in the UK are in the pocket of special interests, and represent the interests of the people in no way, shape, or form.
In Britain’s ‘great parliamentary democracy,’ the people were taken into a war (despite widespread public opposition) that killed and destroyed the lives of millions of innocent people in 2003. Britain’s ‘great parliamentary democracy’ has brought the people a surveillance state beyond the Stasi’s wildest dreams, in addition to involving Britain in Libya, Syria and countless other abominations. How can the people do any worse than our great parliamentarians?
The Western elite are terrified of democracy, and they view the wishes of the people as a danger to their rule. If the British people voted in favour of remaining within the EU, the establishment would not be demonising the vote as “dangerous” and fascistic.
Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of The Analyst Report.
The white working class in the US has been decimated through an epidemic of ‘premature deaths’ – a bland term to cover-up the drop in life expectancy in this historically important demographic. There have been quiet studies and reports peripherally describing this trend – but their conclusions have not yet entered the national consciousness for reasons we will try to explore in this essay.
Indeed this is the first time in the country’s ‘peacetime’ history that its traditional core productive sector has experienced such a dramatic demographic decline – and the epicenter is in the small towns and rural communities of the United States.
The causes for ‘premature death’ (dying before normal life expectancy – usually of preventable conditions) include the sharply increasing incidence of suicide, untreated complications of diabetes and obesity and above all ‘accidental poisoning’ – a euphemism used to describe what are mostly prescription and illegal drug overdoses and toxic drug interactions.
No one knows the total number of deaths of American citizens due to drug overdose and fatal drug interactions over the past 20 years, just as no central body has kept track of the numbers of poor people killed by police nationwide, but let’s start with a conservative round number – 500,000 mostly white working class victims, and challenge the authorities to come up with some real statistics with real definitions. Indeed such a number could be much higher – if they included fatal poly-pharmacy deaths and ‘medication errors’ occurring in the hospital and nursing home setting.
In the last few years, scores of thousands of Americas have died prematurely because of drug overdoses or toxic drug interactions, mostly related to narcotic pain medications prescribed by doctors and other providers. Among those who have increasingly died of illegal opioid, mostly heroin, fentanyl and methadone, overdose, the vast majority first became addicted to the powerful synthetic opioids prescribed by the medical community, supplied by big chain pharmacies and manufactured at incredible profit margins by the leading pharmaceutical companies. In essence, this epidemic has been promoted, subsidized and protected by the government at all levels and reflects the protection of a profit-maximizing private medical-pharmaceutical market gone wild.
This is not seen elsewhere in the world at such a level. For example, despite their proclivity for alcohol, obesity and tobacco – the British patient population has been essentially spared this epidemic because their National Health System is regulated and functions with a different ethic: patient well being is valued over naked profit. This arguably would not have developed in the US if a single-payer national health system had been implemented.
Faced with the increasing incidence of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans dying from overdose and suicide to prescription opioids and mixed drug reactions, the Armed Forces Surgeon General and medical corps convened ‘emergency’ US Senate Hearings in March 2010 where testimony showed military doctors had written 4 million prescriptions of powerful narcotics in 2009, a 4 fold increase from 2001. Senate members of the hearings, led by Virginia’s Jim Webb, cautioned not casting a negative light on ‘Big Pharma’ among the largest donors to political campaigns.
The 1960’s public image of the heroin-addicted returning Vietnam War soldier that shocked the nation had morphed into the Oxycontin/Xanax dependent veteran of the new millennium, thanks to ‘Big Pharma’s’ enormous contracts with the US Armed Forces and the mass media looked away. Suicides, overdoses and ’sudden deaths’ killed many more soldiers than combat.
No other peaceful population, probably since the 1839 Opium Wars, has been so devastated by a drug epidemic encouraged by a government. In the case of the Opium Wars, the British Empire and its commercial arm, The East India Company, sought a market for their huge South Asian opium crops and used its military and allied Chinese warlord mercenaries to force a massive opium distribution on the Chinese people, seizing Hong Kong in the process as a hub for its imperial opium trade. Alarmed at the destructive effects of addiction on its productive population, the Chinese government tried to ban or regulate narcotic use. Its defeat at British hands marked China’s decline into semi-colonial status for the next century – such are the wider consequences of having an addicted population.
This paper will identify the (1) the nature of the long-term, large-scale drug induced deaths, (2) the dynamics of ‘demographic transition by overdose’, and (3) the political economy of opioid addiction. This paper will not cite numbers or reports – these are widely available. However they are scattered, incomplete and generally lack any theoretical framework to understand, let alone confront, the phenomenon.
We will conclude by discussing whether each ‘death by prescription’ is to be viewed as an individual tragedy, mourned in private, or a corporate crime fueled by greed or even a pattern of ‘Social-Darwinism-writ-large’ by an elite-run decision making apparatus.
Since the advent of major political-economic changes induced by neoliberalism, America’s oligarchic class confronts the problem of a large and potentially restive population of millions of marginalized workers and downwardly mobile members of the middle class made redundant by ‘globalization’ and an armed rural poor sinking ever deeper into squalor. In other words, when finance capital and elite ruling bodies view an increasing ‘useless’ population of white workers, employees and the poor in this geographic context, what ‘peaceful’ measures can be taken to ease and encourage their ‘natural decline’?
A similar pattern emerged in the early ‘AIDS’ crisis where the Reagan Administration deliberately ignored the soaring deaths among young Americans, especially minorities, adopting a moralistic ‘blame the victim’ approach until the influential gay community organized and demanded government action.
The Scale and Scope of Drug Deaths
In the past two decades, hundreds of thousands of working age Americans have died from drugs. The lack of hard data is a scandal. The scarcity is due to a fragmented, incompetent and deliberately incomplete system of medical records and death certificates – especially from the poorer rural areas and small towns where there is virtually no support for producing and maintaining quality records. This great data void is multi-faceted and hampered by the problems of regionalism and a lack of clear governmental public health direction.
Early in the crisis, medical professionals and coroners were largely in ‘denial’ and under pressure to certify ‘unexpected’ deaths as ‘natural due to pre-existing conditions’ – despite overwhelming evidence that there had been reckless over-prescribing by the local medical community. Fifteen to twenty years ago, the victims’ families, isolated in their little towns, may have derived some short-term comfort from seeing the term ‘natural’ attached to their loved-one’s untimely death. Understandably, a diagnosis of ‘death by drug overdose’ would evoke tremendous social and personal shame among the rural and small-town white working class families who had traditionally associated narcotics with the urban minority and criminal populations. They thought themselves immune to such ‘big city’ problems. They trusted ‘their’ doctors who, in turn, trusted ‘Big Pharma’s’ assurances that the new synthetic opioids were not addicting and could be prescribed in large quantities.
Despite the local medical community’s slowly growing awareness of this problem, there was little public attempt to educate the at-risk population and still fewer attempts to rein in the over-prescribing brethren physicians and private ‘pain-clinics’. They, or their nurse practitioners and PA’s, did not counsel patients on the immense dangers of combining opioids and alcohol or tranquilizers. Many, in fact, were not even aware of what their patients were prescribed by other providers. It would not have been unusual to see healthy younger adults with multiple prescriptions from multiple providers.
Through the last few decades under neo-liberalism, rural county heath department budgets were stripped through business-promoted austerity programs. Instead, the federal government has mandated that they implement expensive and absurd plans to confront ‘bio-terrorism’. Often, health departments lacked the necessary budget to pay for the costly forensic toxicology testing required for documenting drug levels in suspect overdose cases among their own population.
Further compounding this lack of quality data, there was no guidance or coordination from the federal and state government or regional DEA regarding systematic documentation and the development of a usable database for analyzing the widespread consequences of over-prescribing legal narcotics. The early crisis received minimal attention from these bodies.
All official eyes were focused on the ‘war on drugs’ as it was being waged against the poor, urban minority population. The small towns, where over-prescribing doctors formed the pillars of the local churches or country clubs, suffered in silence. The greater public was lulled by media mis-education into thinking that addiction and related deaths were an ‘inner city’ problem, one that required the usual racist response of filling up the prisons with young blacks and Hispanics for petty crimes or drug possession.
But within this vacuum, white working class children were starting to dial ‘911′… because, ‘Mommy won’t wake up…’. Mommy with her ‘prescribed Fentanyl patches’ took just one Xanax too many and devastated an entire family unit. This was a prototype of a raging epidemic. All throughout the country these alarming cases were growing. Some rural counties saw the proportion of addicted infants born to addicted mothers overwhelm their unprepared hospital systems. And the local obituary pages published increasing numbers of young names and faces besides the very elderly -never printing any ’cause’ for the untimely demise while devoting paragraphs for a departed octogenarian.
Recent trends demonstrate that drug deaths (both opiate overdose and fatal mixed interactions with other drugs and alcohol) have had a major impact on the composition of the local labor force, families, communities and neighborhoods. The traditional support systems, which provided aid to workers damaged by these trends, such as trade unions, public social workers and mental health professionals, were either unable or unwilling to intervene before or after the scourge of drug addiction had come into play. This is reflected in the lives of workers, whose personal life and employment has been severely impaired by corporate plant relocations, downsizing, cuts in wages and health benefits.
The Dynamic Demography of Drug-Induced Death
Almost all publicized reports ignore the demography and differential class impacts of prescription-related drug deaths. The majority of those killed by illegal drugs were first addicted to legal narcotics prescribed by their providers. Only the overdose deaths of celebrities manage to hit the headlines.
Most of the victims have been low wage, unemployed or under-employed members of the white working class. Their prospects for the future are dismal. Any dream of establishing a healthy family life on one salary in ‘Heartland America’ would be met with laughter. This is a huge national population, which has experienced a steep decline in its living standards because of deindustrialization. The majority of fatal overdose victims are white working age males, but with a large proportion of working class women, often mothers with children. There has been little discussion about the impact of an overdose death of a working age person on the extended family. This includes grandmothers in their 50’s. In this demographic, women often provide critical cohesion and stability for several generations at risk.
Apparently the US minority population has so far escaped this epidemic. Black and Hispanic Americans had already been depressed and economically marginalized for a much longer period – and the lower rate of prescription drug deaths among their populations may reflect greater resilience. It certainly reflects their reduced access to the over-prescribing private-sector medical community – a grim paradox where medical ‘neglect’ might indeed have been ‘benign’.
While there may be few class-based studies looking at comparative trends in ‘overdose deaths’ among urban minorities and rural/small town whites from sociology, public health or minority-studies university departments, anecdotal evidence and personal observation suggest that minority urban populations are more likely to provide assistance to an overdosing neighbor or friend than in the white community where addicts are more likely to be isolated and abandoned by family members ashamed of their ‘weakness’. Even the practice of ‘dumping’ an overdosed friend at the entrance of an emergency department and walking away has saved many lives. Urban minorities have greater access and familiarity with the chaotic big-city emergency rooms where medical personnel are skilled at recognizing and treating overdose. After decades of civil rights struggles, minorities are possibly more sophisticated in asserting their rights regarding use of such public resources. There may even be a relatively stronger culture of solidarity among the marginalized minorities in rendering assistance or an awareness of the consequences of not taking someone’s neighbor to the ER. These urban survival mechanisms have been largely absent in the white rural areas.
Nationwide, US doctors had long been dissuaded from prescribing powerful synthetic opioids to minority patients, even those in significant pain. There are various factors here, but the medical community has not been immune to the stereotype of the Hispanic or black urban addict or dealer. Perhaps, this widespread medical ‘racism’ in the context of the prescription opioid epidemic has had some paradoxical benefit.
Whatever the reason, urban minority addicts, while experiencing overdose in large numbers are more likely to survive an opiate overdose than small town or rural whites, unfamiliar with narcotics and their effects.
In the rural and small-town (deindustrialized) US heartland there has been an enormous breakdown in community and family solidarity. This has followed the destruction of a century-old stable employment base, especially in the manufacturing, mining and productive agricultural sectors. Only post-Soviet Russia experienced a similar pattern of declining life expectancy from ‘poisoning’ (alcohol and drugs) following the nationwide destruction of its socialized full employment system and the breakdown of all social services. Furthermore the loss of the tough Soviet police apparatus and the growth of an oligarch-mafia class saw the tremendous in-flooding of heroin from Afghanistan.
The growth of opioid addiction is not based on ‘personal choice’, nor is it the result of shifts in cultural life styles. While all class and educational levels are included among the victims, the overwhelming majority are younger white working class and the poor. They cover all age groups, including adolescents recovering from sports injuries, as well as the elderly with joint and back pain. The surge of addiction is a result of major shifts in the economy and the social structure. The regions most affected by overdose deaths are those in deep, prolonged and permanent decline, including the former ‘rust belt’ regions, small manufacturing towns of New England, Upstate New York, Pennsylvania and the rural South and agricultural, mining and forestry regions of the west.
This is the product of private executive decisions to (1) relocate productive US companies overseas or to distant, non-union regions of the country, (2) force once well-paid employees into lower paid jobs, (3) replace American workers with skilled and unskilled foreign immigrants or poorly paid ‘temps’, (4) eliminate pension and health benefits and (5) introduce new technology – including robots- which cuts the labor force by rendering human workers redundant. These changes in the relationship of capital to labor have created enormous profits for senior executives and investors, while producing a surplus labor force, which puts even greater pressure on young first-time workers and workers with seniority. There have been no effective job protection/ sustainable job creation programs to address the decades of declining well-paid employment. Good jobs have been replaced by minimum wage, service sector ‘MacJobs’ or temporary poorly paid manufacturing jobs with no benefits or protections. All across this devastated heartland, expensively touted programs, such as ‘Start-Up New York’, have failed to bring decent jobs while spending hundreds of millions of public money in free PR for state politicians.
The drug addiction epidemic has been most deadly precisely in those regions of industrial job loss and working wage decline, as well as in the depressed, once protected, agricultural and food processing sectors where union jobs have been replaced by minimum wage immigrants. The loss of stable employment has been accompanied by a slashing of social services and tremendous cuts in benefits – just when such services should have been bolstered.
Precisely because the so-called ‘drug problem’ is linked to major demographic changes resulting from dynamic capitalist shifts, it has never been the focus of elite-run government and corporate foundation grant research – unlike their fixation on the ‘radicalization of Muslims’ or ‘trends in urban crime’. Research tended to focus on ‘minorities’ or merely nibbled at the periphery of the current phenomenon. Good studies and data would have provided the rationale and basis for major public programs aimed at protecting the lives of marginalized white workers and reversing the deadly trends. The decade-long, nation-wide absence of research and data into this phenomenon has justified the glaring absence of an effective governmental response. Here the ‘neglect’ has not been ‘benign’.
In parallel with the increase in opioid addiction, there has been an astronomical increase in the prescription of psychotropic drugs and anti-depressants to the same population – also highly profitable to ‘Big Pharma’. The pattern of prescribing such powerful, and potentially dangerous, mood altering medications to downwardly mobile Americans to ‘treat’ or numb normal anxieties and reactions to the deterioration in their material condition has had profound consequences. Such individuals, often on unemployment assistance or MEDICAID, may be expected to follow a complex daily regimen of up to nine medications – besides their narcotic pain medications, while trying to cope with their crumbling world.
Where a dignified job with a decent wage would effectively treat a marginalized worker’s despair without unpleasant or dangerous ’side effects’, the medical and mental health community has consistently sent their patients to ‘Big Pharma’. As a result, post-mortem toxicological analyses show multiple prescribed psychotropic medications and anti-depressants in addition to narcotics in cases of opioid overdose deaths. While this may constitute an abdication of the medical provider’s responsibility to patients, it is also a reflection of the medical community’s utter helplessness in the face of systemic social breakdown – as has occurred in the marginalized communities where drug overdose deaths concentrate.
Demographic studies, at best, identify the victims of drug addiction. But their choice to treat their despair as an ‘individual problem’ occurring in a ’specific, immediate context’ overlooks the greater political and economic structures, which set the stage for premature death.
The Political Economy of Overdose Deaths
When the remains of a young working class overdose victim is wheeled into a morgue, his or her untimely demise is labelled ’self-inflicted’ or ‘accidental’ opioid overdose and a great cover-up machine is turned on: The sequence leading up to the death is shrouded in mystery, no deeper understanding of the socio-cultural and economic factors are sought. Instead, the victim or his/her culture is blamed for the end-result of a complex chain of elite capitalist economic decisions and political maneuverings in which a worker’s premature death is a mere collateral event. The medical community has merely functioned as the transmission belt in this process, rather than an agent for serving the public.
The vast majority of overdose fatalities are, in reality, victims of decisions and losses far beyond their control. Their addictions have shortened their lives as well as clouded their understanding of events and undermined their capacity to engage in class struggle to reverse this trend. It has been a perfect solution to the predictable demographic problems of brutal neoliberalism in America.
Wall Street and Washington designed the macro-economy that has eliminated decent jobs, cut wages and slashed benefits. As a result millions of marginalized workers and the unemployed are under tremendous tension and resort to pharmacologic solutions to endure their pain because they are not organized. The historical leading role of trade union and community organizations has been eliminated. Instead, redundant workers are ‘charged by Big Pharma’ to dig their own graves and class leaders are nowhere to be found.
Secondly, the workplace has become much more dangerous under the ‘new economic order’. Bosses no longer fear unions and safety regulations: many workers are injured by the acceleration of the pace of work, longer hours, faulty job training and lack of federal supervision of working conditions. Injured workers lacking any judicial, trade union, or public agency protection rightly fear retaliation for reporting their work injury and increasingly resort to prescription narcotics to cope with acute and chronic pain while continuing to work.
When employers allow workers to report their injuries, the low coverage and limited treatments available, encourage providers to over-prescribe narcotics on top of other medications with potentially dangerous interactions. Many pain clinics, contracted by employers, are eager to profit from injured clients while pharmaceutical companies actively promote powerful synthetic narcotics.
A vicious chain is formed: The pharmaceutical industry’s mass production of narcotics has been among its most profitable products. Corporate pharmacy chains fill the prescriptions written by tens of thousands of ‘providers’ (doctors, dentists, nurses and physician assistants) who have only a limited amount of time to actually examine an injured worker. The deteriorating work conditions create the injury and the workers become consumers of Big Pharma’s miracle relief – Oxycontin or its cousins – which a decade of drug salesmen had touted as ‘non-addicting’. A long line of highly educated professionals, including doctors and other providers, pathologists, medical examiners and coroners carefully paper over the real cause, the corporate decision makers, in order to protect themselves from corporate reprisals should they ‘blow the whistle’. Behind the scientific façade there is a Social Darwinism that few are willing to confront.
Only recently, in the face of incredible numbers of hospitalizations and deaths from narcotic overdose, the federal government has started to release funds for research. Academic-medical researchers have started to collect and publicize data on the growing epidemic of opiate deaths; they provide shocking maps of the most affected counties and regions. They join the chorus in urging the federal and state agencies to become more actively involved in the usual panacea: ‘education and prevention’. This beehive of activity has come two decades too late into the epidemic and reeks of cynicism.
Funding for research into this phenomenon will not result in any effective long-term programs for confronting these small community-based ‘crises of capitalism’. There is no institution willing to confront the basic cause: the devastation of capitalist– labor relations in post-millennial America, the corrupt nature of state-corporate-pharmaceutical linkages and the chaotic, profit-driven character of our private medical system. Very few writers ever explore how a national, public, single-payer, health system would have clearly prevented with epidemic from the beginning.
Why does the capitalist-state and pharmaceutical elite sustain a socio-economic process, which has led to the large-scale, long-term death of workers and their family members in rural and small town America?
One ready and convincing hypothesis is that the modern dynamic corporate elite profits from the results of ‘demographic change by overdose.’
Corporations gain billions of dollars in profits from the ‘natural decline’ of redundant workers: slashing social and job benefits, such as health plans, pension, vacation, job training programs, allowing employers to increase rates of profits, capital gains, executive bonuses and raises. Public services are eliminated, taxes are reduced and workers, when needed, can be imported – fully formed – from abroad for temporary employment in a ‘free labor market’.
Capitalists profit even more from the technology gains – robots, computerization, etc. – by ensuring that workers do not enjoy reduced hours or increased vacations resulting from their increased productivity. Why share the results of productivity gains with the workers, when the workers can just be eliminated? Dissatisfied workers can turn inward or ‘pop a pill’, but never organize to retake control of their lives and future.
Election experts and political pundits can claim that white American workers reject the major establishment parties because they are ‘angry’ and ‘racist’. These are the workers who now turn to a ‘Donald Trump’. But a deeper analysis would reveal their rational rejection of political leaders who have refused to condemn capitalist exploitation and confront the epidemic of death by overdose.
There is a class basis for this veritable genocide by narcotics raging among white workers and the unemployed in the small towns and rural areas of American: it is the ‘perfect’ corporate solution to a surplus labor force. It is time for American workers and their leaders to wake up to this cruel fact and resist this one-sided class war or continue to mourn more untimely deaths in their own drug-numbed silence.
And it is time for the medical community to demand a ‘patient-first’ publically accountable national health system that rewards service over profit, and responsibility over silent complicity.
Please note James Petras new collection of essays with Clarity Press:
THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE DELUSION OF EMPIRE
$24.95 / 252 pp. / 2016
July 12, 2016 Posted by aletho | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Fentanyl, Oxycontin, United States, Xanax | 1 Comment
President Hassan Rouhani has accepted the mass resignation of those on the board of trustees of Iran’s sovereign wealth fund as revelations about high compensation packages at state-owned firms take new casualties.
“Minutes ago, the board of trustees of the National Development Fund held a session with President Rouhani in attendance, where the mass resignation of the director and executive board members was accepted,” the Fars news agency said Saturday.
Several senior officials, including ministers of economy, petroleum and labor, as well as the country’s attorney general also attended the session, the news agency reported.
Among those who stepped down on Saturday was Safdar Hosseini, the managing director of the National Development Fund, who is said to have received $18,700 a month in salary and other compensation.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia had already removed the heads of Mellat, Bank Saderat, Refah Bank and Mehr banks for receiving “unconventionally” high salaries.
The head of another bank is also to be fired, but the decision has been delayed for “further review,” the IRNA news agency said on Thursday.
Those implicated in the paycheck palaver are accused of receiving large bonuses, interest-free loans and, in some cases, tax evasion.
Investigations were launched after Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei called for immediate action amid reports that executives at some state-owned firms were earning more than 50 times the base government salary.
Iranian law states that the top salary in the government should not be more than seven times that of the lowest-paid government employee.
The paycheck leaks showed some senior managers at a company were paid up to 870 million rials ($28,339 at the official exchange rate) in March.
Rouhani has pledged to investigate and punish government employees receiving excessive salaries.
The government has made weeding out corruption a top goal. In March, Iranian tycoon Babak Zanjani was sentenced to death over fraudulently pocketing $2.8 billion.
Brazil’s new unelected government is looking to introduce new measures that would “soften the definition of slavery” in the country in what is being seen as a roll-back of many of the reforms introduced by the leftist government of President Dilma Rousseff.
The new measures will be introduced by the newly appointed Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi and are expected to worsen conditions for vulnerable workers in farming and food processing, according to a report by The Guardian Friday.
Maggi, one of the richest men in Brazil who owns the world’s largest Soya company, has proposed legislation that would separate “degrading conditions” and “exhausting shifts” from the definition of slavery, the newspaper reported, citing public record documents available online.
In February, Brazil’s Ministry of Labor fined 340 Brazilian companies for slave labor practices, including forced labor and people working in degrading conditions for little or no pay in rural and urban areas.
The companies were included in a “dirty list” published by the Ministry of Labor of employers benefiting from modern slavery in the country. The list was part of the Rousseff government’s efforts to crack down on modern day slavery practices.
About 400 workers have been freed from slave-like conditions in Brazilian coffee plantations since 2002, according to rights groups and activists.
The Guardian also reported that the controversial billionaire and his lobby group have also been seeking to reverse measures introduced by Rousseff that acknowledged several quilombolos (territories inhabited by the descendants of runaway slaves), created 56 million hectares of conservation land and recognized Indigenous claims on other areas.
Maggi and the new government want to retake these lands and territories from their rightful owners and open them up for large-scale agriculture and cattle-ranching by massive corporations.
Maggi is an agribusiness mogul, known as the “Soybean King,” who has been accused of destroying large portions of the the Amazon rainforest in order to turn it into areas for soybean production.
Maggi received the Golden Chainsaw Award in 2006 from Greenpeace for being the Brazilian who most contributed to the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest.
The EU is on the brink of collapse, as two of its main “pillars” are “crumbling” despite the billions of euros spent on keeping the structure from falling, far-right French leader Marine Le Pen told RT, adding that the union would fail if France left it.
“The two pillars on which it’s founded – Schengen and the euro – are in the process of crumbling,” Le Pen told Marie De Douhet of RT France in an exclusive interview. “So they’re in a sort of mad downward spiral in which they’re capable of anything today to try and keep this building standing.”
The leader of France’s hard-right Front National party believes the collapse is not a matter of “if” but “when,” saying the EU “shines from the light of a dead star” while its leaders are struggling to play for time “at the cost of billions trying to hold this structure up.”
As a “revealing” piece of evidence supporting her opinion, Le Pen cited one of Brussels’ recent punitive measures.
“The threat of condemnation of countries which do not accept migrants – a €250,000 fine for each migrant not taken in – is in itself revealing,” Le Pen said.
The European Commission unveiled plans earlier in May to impose a penalty of around €250,000 per rejected refugee on countries that refuse to share the burden of Europe’s migrant crisis.
For countries such as Poland, which is adamantly opposed to taking in refugees, the new compulsory measure would result in a fine of over €1 billion ($1.1 billion), given its existing quota of 6,500 people.
“The threats, the blackmail, now used systematically by the European Union is, above all, a gigantic problem of weakness,” Le Pen said.
Commenting on the migrant crisis, Le Pen said the EU is using immigrants as a tool to drive down labor costs across the 28-country bloc.
“That’s why the European Union supports tens of millions of immigrants in the coming years which will come onto the European Union labor market to push down wages,” she said. “So, in fact they have betrayed, if you like, the working class.”
Marine Le Pen has been a vocal supporter of the UK leaving the European Union, a move that the National Front hopes would inspire a similar “Frexit” campaign.
According to a March poll, 53 percent of French citizens surveyed would like to hold a Brexit-like referendum on France’s membership in the EU.
When asked if she feared any consequences for a “Frexit,” or Brussels’ retribution if it should go through, Le Pen said, “If France leaves the European Union, the European Union no longer exists.”
Addressing the EU’s foreign policy towards Russia, Le Pen stressed that her party has consistently opposed economic sanctions and find them “stupid.”
“From the very start when these sanctions were announced, we spoke out against them in the strongest possible terms… We find them to be completely stupid, obviously I can’t but welcome the National Assembly vote that has allowed the expression of refusal of these sanctions,” Le Pen said.
She expressed doubts that President Francois Hollande will “have the courage to go against the demands of the European Union” and scrap the sanctions, however.
Le Pen added that France’s recognition of Crimea as part of Russia is “quite clear and even quite credible possibility,” particularly if she wins the 2017 presidential election.
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Building on an over five-year, almost entirely fictional narrative about a popular uprising in Syria, recent developments on the ground in Aleppo have triggered a new propaganda blitz complete with a new set of provable lies. The following are ten facts about Aleppo that must be accepted by any objective, informed and rational observer regardless of one’s political views and opinions regarding Syria. … continue
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