Sunday, June 12, 2022

What India Can Teach Us About Homelessness

by Cecile Pineda

(Fact checking by Srinivas Reddy)


I arrived in India in 1988 after a 16-hour flight, my body so allergic to aniline dye, it had broken out in hives. I was met at 2 AM by a turbaned taxist who attempted to take me to my “hotel.” 


I was not too tired, and my body not too riddled with hives that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. We must have travelled many miles on the approach to Bombay proper. They were all  lined with shanty towns, “towns”  people had cobbled together from corrugated roofing plastic, corrugated cardboard, and wooden planks that had seen much better wear. I asked my taxist about them.


Welcome to India


My taxist replied that they were bull dosed at regular intervals, turned to dust essentially, although the people living there had nowhere  left to go. Within less than a day, my well-meaning taxist assured me, they would be rebuilt and life there would go on.


By now it was close to 3 AM. My “hotel”  (which turned out to be something of a flop house although the people there would take good care of me, as my friend Pearl, an actress with the Bombay Talkies, would assure me) was off Ashoke Kumar in a little side street which for one block only had been whimsically named Jump Rope Walk. After multiple tries not finding it, my taxist took me to the middle class hotel district where at that hour every doorman was sleeping on the threshold and didn’t want to be disturbed. We  tried several threshold-sleeping doormen before I began wondering why I let myself be pushed about by this upstart taxist of 25. “Take me to the Taj,” I said. Replied he, ”you can’t afford the Taj.”  I summoned my most persuasive tone, “take me to the Taj, there’s eight rupees in it for you.”


Although by then it was approaching 4 AM, at the Taj I knew there’d be a telephone. I phoned. “Oh, Madam, we have been waiting for you. Just lift the corrugated iron door,” and the voice described how Jump Rope Walk was to be found. “It’s just off Ashoke Kumar.”  


When I lifted that impossibly heavy door, I found a dhoti- clad boy waiting for me. The foyer was  without light of any kind but he didn’t seem to care.  He disdained carrying my bags so, flashlight held securely in my mouth, we started the ascent of what turned out to be seven floors of factories before reaching the “hotel.” On the first riser, I felt the stair move. Someone was sleeping there. The “rent” was one ana a night. Each sleeping person had paid one ana to sleep on those stairs, all seven flights, every single riser occupied.


While I waited for USIA to make ready to have me read from my newly Viking-published novel, Frieze, I made the short trip to Aurangabad (site of the Buddhist Ajanta caves, and the Hindu Ellora Caves). There was only one train, and it left late at night.  Arrived on the platform, I had to step  over hundreds  if not thousands of sleeping bodies wrapped in burlap all huddled together as I imagine a Middle Passage tight-pack to have been.



The “Golden” Age of The Maharajas


Even before the Age of the Maharajahs, the 9th century Cholas of South India would think nothing of gifting a human being who happened to be a skilled stone carver to the Sanjaya dynast to decorate his harem in what is now known as Java.  Frieze, my second published novel, chronicles the story of one such carver. 


 Regional Aristocractic Palaces Lining Holy River Ganga

By the Age of the Maharajas (17th century to the end of the Raj in 1947) with the collusion of the British and Dutch East India Company, stealing from the common people had become predictably routine. Maharajas made war against other Maharajahs for territorial gains, kept entire stables just for housing war elephants, erected forts, temples and palaces, harems for wives and concubines, sometimes as many as 1000 (according to rumor they kept them all satisfied, each and every one) and established foundations to benefit widows and orphans. 


Jantar Mantar Staircases in Jaipur

In the 18th century Rajput King Sawal Jai Singh even built the Jantar Mantar, an observatory located in the Rajasthan city of Jaipur. Some Maharajas built multiple royal cities. Akbar built Agra Fort and the royal city of Fatepur Sikri 


Inner Courtyard of Fatepur Sikri

based on a saint’s guarantee that he would sire a  desired male heir. 


Inner Coridor at Fatepur Sikri

The city would run out of water ten years later, but it was Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, who took his erection complex to a whole new level, but building the Taj beggared his treasury so Aurangzeb, s]shah Jahan son after declaring his father incompetent, had him imprisoned in Agra Fort. He made sure there would be no more erection complex as long as his father lived. On a clear day Shah Jahan could still admire the Taj from its distant view across the Yamuna River till eight years later when he died.



Paddeling along the Yamuma at dawn

By the 19th century India had sunk into a state of gothic decay. When the Maharajah of Bangalore built his palace, its walls were studded with precious stones and in vile Trumpian style, he had it fitted it with solid gold furniture.


In cahoots with the British, all the wealth the Maharajas managed to accumulate they did by stealing from the common people. Which is why after 300 years of stealing, you feel stairs that move in the dark, you step over people wrapped in burlap sleeping in tight-pack formation along railway station platforms, and you see miles and miles of cobbled together shanty towns piling up along the highways in all of India’s big cities, of which Bombay is but one example.


What Three Hundred Years of Stealing from the American Taxpayer by a Congress Held Captive by the Pentagon Will Look Like


The Pentagon is not interested in building temples or palaces, some in far better taste than Bangalore’s. It isn’t interested in founding institutions to benefit all the widows and orphans it immiserates throughout the world. It’s only interested in more silos from which to launch intercontinental missiles, more bunker busters, more supersonic bombers, more drones, more trident-armed nuclear submarines, more tanks, more weapons of mass destruction, more nuclear bombs, more ordnance to use to contaminate Basra, Fallujah and other areas with nuclear dust in its covert nuclear wars.


Which is why people stateside still wait for state-subsidized child care, why people have yet to see the dawn of state-subsidized Medicare-for-All, why the rights of women to make their own decisions about the use of contraception and abortion is still being contested (where else would the Pentagon get the cannon fodder manpower for operating all that military hardware), why people are forced to live in tents all along the highways and railway rights of way of the world’s Number One nation, why incarcerated people are forced to work for slave wages for major corporations (Victoria’s Secrets, Aunt Jemima, Tampax Tampons, Crest Toothpaste, and Angel Soft Toilet Paper to name but a few of hundreds) and what in true slave patrol style, mostly Black, Brown, Asian and trans people are routinely sacrificed by municipal police trained in Israel.


Just imagine what 300 more years of stealing by a Congress held captive by the Pentagon might look like. But as it stands immiseration and homelessness in the U. S. of A., despite their swelling numbers, remain in their infancy.


Homelessness by the numbers

By Lisa Savage

(Lisa was chosen by Cecile as her successor blog writer.)


The United States is believed to have more than half a million people unhoused. Accurately counting people experiencing homelessness is challenging, and the most recent effort at the national level dates back to January 2020. The SARS-COV-2 pandemic that followed complicated counting, resulted in innovative shelter arrangements using vacant hotel rooms, and may have lowered the actual number unhoused in part due to a moratorium on evictions, increased unemployment compensation, and limited cash subsidies.


“Over a period lasting more than a decade, the nation has not made any real progress in reducing the number of Americans at risk of homelessness.”

State of Homelessness: 2021 Edition


But it’s likely that the dip in total numbers unhoused was temporary. Evictions and foreclosures resumed and cash subsidies dried up under the Biden administration, and medical debt in the absence of universal health care continues as the leading cause of default on homeowner mortgages. Housing costs, both rent and purchase prices, are now skyrocketing, pricing people out of housing they have relied upon for years. As of March 2020 home prices in the U.S. had risen 21% over the previous year.



“A clear question is whether or not it should take a public health emergency to galvanise governments and support systems into making an intense effort to end street homelessness.”

Homelessness and the pandemic (March 2022)


Now that inflation is galloping while wages fail to keep up, we can expect even more people will be unable to obtain housing they can afford in the coming years.


Who can afford housing?


The uber wealthy and those who serve them in government seem to have no difficulty supporting several mansions in different locations.


Obama's $12 million Home on Martha’s Vineyard


The increase in net worth of the 1% has skyrocketed during the pandemic.


“As the U.S. crosses the grim milestone of 1 million deaths from Covid-19, U.S. billionaires have seen their combined wealth rise over $1.7 trillion, a gain of over 58 percent during the pandemic.” (May 2022)


And specifically the war in Ukraine has proven highly profitable for big weapons manufacturers, with most posting record profits. This should surprise no one paying attention to their having been called to the White House for a classified planning session and the U.S. sending roughly $53 billion of U.S. public funds for “aid” to Ukraine, i.e. mostly weapon systems.


Meanwhile President Biden tweets every day that the U.S. economy has never been better (and is ratioed daily on Twitter for these absurd claims).


Most of us have anecdotal experience of the burgeoning tents and encampments of people who are unhoused  in cities across the nation. From Oakland, California to Portland, Maine those who work with the unhoused say their numbers are increasing rapidly.


Much has been made of Russian oligarchs and, particularly, their yachts. What of U.S. oligarchs? Senator Joe Manchin has a houseboat so lavish it might reasonably be considered a home, and it’s hard to determine how many other mansions Manchin owns.


Will the oligarchs of the U.S. go the way of the Maharajas of India? Stay tuned.


Housing the Houseless

by Mimi German

(I first met Mimi at an anti-nuclear conference in San Lius Obispo, the site of the Diablo Canyon NPP bordering the Pacific. Her recently published chapbook, Beneath the Gavel Weight of Stars,
is dedicated to restoring dignity to the persons she helps on the steet.)


As a volunteer advocate for unhoused people and a co-founder of Jason Barns Landing, a transitional community for unhoused people,  I think we can help the “homeless  two ways: first, house people, second love more.


We know that we can house people if we choose to house people. Inventory is available if you know where to look and you understand how to use money in a way that actually benefits those who are its intended population.


We can do even better by placing people “in already-built motels and existing housing, which can be quickly converted into the supported permanent housing that people need and want.” 


Many people think that building more shelters is the answer. Shelters do absolutely nothing about getting people into housing and off the streets. They are overcrowded, prey to theft, have addiction barriers, are dangerous places for women, lack support services, have rules about leavng from early morning to late at night, and open-and-close times that do not work for everyone.   


Support the Efforts of the Unhoused Instead of Disrupting or Ignoring Them

A further response is to “recognize the leadership of autonomous villages governed by people experiencing homelessness,” outreach to organized villages and camps working on their autonomous structure to facilitate toilets, dumpsters and trash hauling, food support, and medical services along with housing advocacy.  

In the recent past, we've built "tarpees" for folks to live in. Designed by Paul Paul Cheyok'ten Wagner — a member of the Saanich First Nations of Vancouver Island, an artist and inventor whom we met at Standing Rock—he has designed a contemporary teepee that costs thousands of dollars less than a traditional teepee and uses materials found in any hardware store. 


Because we deeply respected the Sioux and other First Nations people who were there, we first discussed the tarpee idea with them. We agreed that no money would ever be exchanged for the tarpees and that we would make every concerted effort to house BIPOC houseless people first. Under those conditions they agreed to let us build them where back home in Portland where I live. 


It is because the HIC makes so much money off the unhoused that we have homeless folks still living on the street. It’s cheaper to let the unhoused live in the street and simply pay for emergency room visits when people get sick.


In Portland, Rapid Response is the largest contractor  conducting "sweeps" within the city. It employs people who have just been released from the Prison Industrial Complex to do the dirty work of "sweeping" people and stealing their meager belongings. But without the  existence of the unhoused, the "sweeps" companies would be out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Houseless Industrial Complex (HIC) needs to be stomped and booted from having anything to do with the homeless. 


The Joint Office of Houseless Services (JOHS), the parnership pairing the County and City ‘efforts’ to house people makes billions of dollars to make sure houseless people continue to be homeless instead of housing them. It exists only if houseless people exist

Mitigation starts with love and a true understanding of what is needed by unhoused people. How do we get to that understanding? By listening to the people who are in need of housing. We can house everyone over a relatively short period of time. From there, we can bring in the support needed. We need transitional housing that leads directly to permanent housing. The steps are clear. The money is there and has been voted on, at least in Portland, Oregon where I live. We can move forward with the 3000 Challenge or just follow its guidelines. Or we can do nothing and perpetuate the inhumanity of local and State governments across the U.S. Which is it going to be? I choose housing. I choose love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Retirement and Passing the Baton

 "Here's the awful truth: even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the Earth would still be headen full speed towards total disaster for one major reason: The military produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all of its inhabitants large and small, in the most imminent danger of extinction." Barry Saunders, The Green Zone

The author forest graziing

For some time I have wanted to retire. My take on human affairs has becomes more distanced with the passing of time, although you can tell from the line up of articles cited below, I still keep a close watch. And part of me always will, but at 90 (I am not quite there, give me a few more months) the time to retire from writing anything but personal messages to friends all around the globe takes precedence.

Here to take my place is Lisa Savage. Lisa Savage is a retired educator, published author, and antiwar activist. She led the national Bring Our War $$ Home campaign during the Obama administration, and subsequently founded the Maine Natural Guard to connect the dots between climate crisis and the Pentagon's enormous carbon bootprint. In 2020 she ran for the U.S. Senate under ranked choice voting in Maine and earned 5% of votes cast. She describes the purpose of her popular blog Went 2 the Bridge, as: Organizing and actions to resist the moral, environmental, and financial bankrupting of the U.S. through wars against the poor, at home and abroad.




What You Should You Really Know About Ukaine

A Conversation with Scott Ritter

The Pentagon Drops Truth Bombs

Former NATO Military Analyst Blows the Whistle on West’s Ukraine Invasion Narrative

Organizing Notes: Interview: War in Urkaine is Really About U.S. Pursuing Regime Change in Russia

Average U.S. Taxpayer Gave $900 to Military Contractors Last Year


Siding with Ukraine's far right, U.S.sabotaged Zelenskys historic mandate for peace

The Red Scare

Portside: Delusion and The U.S. Foreign Polic

Is the U.S Fighting for Democracy in Ukraine

NATO's  Global History of Reaction

NATO's 300 Delivery to Ukraine


Pentagon Convenes U.S. Weapons Makers to Increase Supply for Urkaine War

Biden Answers Zelensky's Plea to Arm Ukraine Now with $800 Millions in Weapons

What  Would it Take for Military Spending to Do Down

Is the U.S. Hindering Much Needed Diplomatic Efforts


Nonstop Corporate News of Ukraine is Fueling Support for Unchecked U.S. Militarism

The Weapons Industry Sees the War in Ukraine as a Goldmine

“I do think this is a very protracted conflict and I think it’s at least measured in years. I don’t know about decades, but at least years for sure,” said Milley. “I think that NATO, the United States, Ukraine and all of the allies and partners that are supporting Ukraine are going to be involved in this for quite some time.”

LA Progressive: The Media in the U.S. Mainstream Media and War

New Reporting Details Corporate Media's War Industry Pundits

The West Ukraine Invasion Narrative

United States Admits To Spreading Lies About Ukraine War -


Questions Abound About the Bucha Massacre

Ukriane tochka-U Missile killed Dozens at Kramatorsk Train Station

New Witness Testimony About Mariupol Maternity Hopistal "Airstrike"

Eva Bartlett in Ukraine Tells A Very Different Factual Story that is Opposite from the Official Narrative - Mark Taliano

Ukraine Crisis Splitting the Peace Movement When It's Needed Most





Merrrick Garland Doesn"t want to bring criminal charges against #45. Why Not?

"A Plot to Destroy Demacracy": Civil Rights Group Raises Alarm at Threats to U.S. Elections

TELL congress war is not green:

TELL Lockheed Martin to begin conversion to peaceful industries.

DONATE to help the intercept uncover how companies llke Facebook and Google are controlling what people around the world see and hear about the war in Ukraine.

STOP #45 from interfering in future elections: Louis Dejoy must go. Demand Progress is helping make that possible.

Stop war proteers by banning members of Congress from Trading   Defense  Contractor stock now.

DO NOT DUMP Radioactive Water Into the Ocean

LISTEN: April 21, 5 PM Pacific Time

When she protested drone

warfare at Creech AFB the author got to know Garett


At last: some rare good news in a ravaged world: a truce in Yemen

Ecuador grants wild animals legal rights in a world first

Texas DA Gocha Allen Ramirez has elected to release Lizette Herrera and drop the criminal charges against her-including murder-after she was accused of preforming a self-induced abortion

Venezuela's great housing mission achieves major milestone with the four millionth house

Democrats introduce bill guaranteeing workers paid time off to vote

U.S’s flaunting of diplomatic immunity challenged in court in the trial of Alex Saab, Venezuela‘s diplomat

In the UK, Palestine Action Activists Deface and Blockade London HQ of Elbit Systems

Confrontng the Israeli Service Servce, 76 Israeli Anti-Aparthied activists declare refusal to cooperate wth the Israeli legal system, in solidarity with Palestinian administative detainees.

Activists celebrate after Biden grants TPS ststatus to Cameroonian immigrants.

Top signs you could be a Repubican at a passover dinner

1. They refuse to answer the four questions without a subpoena.

2. They demand a recount of the ten plagues.

3. They defend not increasing the minimum wage on the grounds that according to Chad Gadya it still costs only two zuzzim to buy a goat.

4. The afikomen is hidden in the Cayman Islands.

5. They refuse to open the door for Elijah until they see his immigration papers.

6. They attack Moses for negotiating a deal with  Pharoah because why would we negotiate with our enemies?

7. They don't understand why the Egyptians didn’t cure the plagues with hydroxychloroquine.

8. They omit the parts about slavery from the Haggadah because it reminds them of Critical Race Theory.

9. They keep saying “when do we get to the miracle
of the Jewish space lasers?”

10. They end the Passover Dinner by singing "Next year in Mar-a-Lago."

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Speaking Truth to Power

This week's newsletter is the expression of my deep grief and outrage at my country’s continuing piracy. First, the text of paragraph one of Mr. Biden’s letter to me from the White House:


Thank you for writing.  The United States went to Afghanistan two decades ago with clear goals:  to take out the terrorists who attacked us on September 11, 2001, to deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, and to keep Afghanistan from being used again as a base for attacks against the United States.  We eliminated bin Laden a decade ago, and al Qaeda has been severely diminished.  Our only vital national security interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been:  preventing another terrorist attack on American homeland.  That mission is enduring, and we will continue to monitor and disrupt terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan with our over-the-horizon capability, just as we do to meet the terrorist threat in countries all around the world. 



What follows is my response:


Pres. Joseph Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500


Mr. President:


I am taking the liberty of returning your letter.  I am not sure who may have written this letter, whether it comes directly from you, or an official letter writer, or a speech writer, but it is written over your signature, suggesting my response needs to be addressed to you.


Regardless, whoever is its author needs to be set straight: by now too many U.S. citizens know the facts as outlined in your paragraph one to be entirely otherwise viz.

This poor country was NOT attacked by Afghanistan on 9/11.  All but two of those so-called “box cutters” were Saudis, not Afghans. 50% of New Yorkers knew the day of 9/11 that something was amiss, and the official narrative of the United States about the demise of bin Laden does not align with what really happened either viz. Seymour Hersh:


Quite frankly, to receive a letter under the seal of the White House, containing such a web of fabrication is an embarrassment and an insult to the intelligence of the citizens of this country, and a sure fire way of ushering in Mr. Trumpster for another x  years, (because 4 will not contain him).


I am perhaps naïve to insist on love of my country’s people, and to receive a letter containing such egregious falsehoods betrays my faith in my own country. I believe I am within my rights as a citizen to insist upon a public retraction.



...and to the U.S. people as well. (courtesy Paki Wieland)

Collective punishment as visited on the Afghan people by impounding their treasury is an act of piracy and an outrage against humanity: their treasury remains theirs no matter how it is divied up between squabbling lawyers and lobbyists (viz, the victims of 9/11, and the U.S. government. That my country is the agent of nation-wide Afghani starvation, of people needing to sell their own children and their kidneys to stay alive and that such criminality happened on your watch is beyond shamefully unconscionable. For anyone who has ever known hunger, such collective punishment is beyond unthinkable: it’s a towering crime against humanity. 


 "Biden: world thief of 2022." Kabul Feb. 15

May the United States never see such days of destitution and desperation visited upon its people, with the exception of 41% of our children now cast into poverty with the expiration of the Child Tax Credit and the official half million of us who now have to make our homes in tents along the railway rights of way and byways of this country.




TELL U.S. Pres. Biden & Congress to provide economic and humanitarian relief for Afghans.


DONATE to the Earth Activists Emergency Fund for Afghan Relief.


READ “Death Sentence for Untold civilians: Biden to permanently seize Afghan assets.”


READ “UN has millions  in Afghanistan bank, but cannot use it.”


READ Kathy Kelly on “Americans Must Realize the Pain They are Causing the Afghan People.”


READ Phyllis Bennis on: “Washington’s War in Afghanistan is Over, What Happens Now?”


READ Hedges on “Democrats, the More Effective Evil.”


WATCH the National Priorities Project ‘Trade-Offs’ 2 min. video showing how military dollars could be redirected to human needs.


LEARN about the Ban Killer drones campaign and taking action.


Ukraine could drop NATO bid to avert war.


Germany sees ‘moment of truth’ for Iran nuclear talks.


UK protesters nationwide say ‘enough is enough’ to austerity


Peru community restarts blockading mine road amid truce.


Mexico coaltion of indigenous activists prevent water extraction by transforming bottling plant into community space.


Puerto Ricans take to San Juans’s streets protesting debt restructuring plan.


Winnemucca Indian Colony sues Bureau of Land Management and lithium corporation.


Guantanamo torture survivor Mohammed al_Qahtani cleared for transfer.


‘Cancel this project’: campaigners point out price tag of Trans Mountain expansion nearly doubles.


Progressive International organizes second Belmarsh Tribunal in New York.


Biden urged to cancel student debt during SoFi stadium super bowl.


House progressives urge Biden to release Afghan funds ‘before it’s too late.’


Sen. Ossoff files first bill in U.S. history ever guaranteeing the voting rights of every American.


Sanders rips into billionaires for creating U.S. ‘oligarchic’ society.


‘Morally obscene’: Sanders blasts GOP, Manchin over 41% spike in child poverty with lapse of Child Credit Tax.


California bill would allow citizens to enforce assault weapon ban.


Nevada Dems sound alarm over ‘single most vicious vote-suppression attempt yet by GOP.


Atlanta activists protest new police training facility, calling it ‘cop city.’


Seattle Teachers rally for a thriving wage.


Teachers in Puerto Rico and Minnesota take to streets demanding better pay, benefits, and greater school funding.


North Dakota farmers file class action  ag. John  Deere for monopolizing and capitalizing equipment repair.


New Orleans teacher creates school for unaccompanied migrant kids.


Students sue school district over 8 books pulled from library.


In DC demonstration activists mark Day Without Immigrants.


Archbishop of Miami slams DeSantis’ war on asylum-seeking kids.


Physicians slam industry push to ‘fix’ medicare privatization scheme.


Students at top universities push ‘legal imperative’ of fossil fuel divestment.


Demonstrators call to #BoycottPuma outside brand’s flagship store.


High School students organize thousands to walk out for cop murder victim, Amir Locke.


To protect ‘web of life.’ California proposal would ban bee-killing neonics.


Four scientists, a few small nations making unthinkable climate action possible.