Sunday, March 29, 2020

Laboratory Humans

What would your reaction be if scientists were suddenly to come out with the recommendation that we need to encourage the spread of the COVID-19 virus by concentrating human populations in extremely tight quarters while allowing them minimum sanitation facilities in order to incubate the disease. You’d most likely speculate they’d been recruited by the present administration as publicists.

In fact that misguidedness is exactly what we confront in the United States and in other parts of the world as well, namely the concentration of humans that allows the wildfire spread of a disease that affects certain at risk populations severely and at times fatally. In the U.S. we are talking about the most obvious: prisons, jails, detention centers, homeless encampments and shelters and homes for the aged.  

Abroad, we are talking about places like Gaza which has the most concentrated human population in the world, the West Bank, and countries like Iran and Venezuela on the U.S. economic war sanctions wish list, and Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and a number of others on the Pentagon wish list of countries convulsed by shooting war. And there’s the White House revenge list which among others includes Italy whose population is fairly concentrated, and extended-family oriented.

The U.S. has the highest percentage of incarcerated people in the world. 

Prisons and Jails: (“Elected Prosecutors Call for Dramatic Reduction in Prison Populations”) There are 2.2 million people locked up in American jails, and 11 million go through prison or jail gates every single year as a result of more people being prosecuted for minor offenses. Many of these people are there because they cannot afford bail. Already prisoners or guards have tested positive in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Washington, forcing inmate quarantines. Social distancing is not possible in American jails where many are double, triple and multiple bunked. This is catastrophe waiting to happen. Some elected officials, even prosecutors remind us of that. Punishment may not be such a good idea.

Immigrant Detention: (“Because Anne Frank Did not Die in a Gas Chamber, Jewish Activists Cite Disease in Nazi Death Camps in Call to Free Detained Immigrants”) As the N.Y. Subway ad read: You don’t have to be Jewish to like rye bread, and you don’t have to be Jewish to see the obvious: there are 52,000 undocumented immigrants detained in ICE jails. Concentration camps run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) threaten to become de-facto death camps for all their inmates, many of them children, and pregnant mothers. In New Jersey, detainees staged a hunger strike for soap. Activists are surrounding Governor’s residences in California and that immigrant jail in New Jersey demanding immigrants’ release. Fanatic, racist-based border control may bite Americans in the butt while they’re scrambling for the last roll of TP.

Homeless shelters and homeless encampments: (“Governments Say Stay at Home, but thousands don’t have a home”) Fear of contagion would not apply if as a society, we had understood that the human biome knows no borders. We are all one flesh. Literally. Fear of contagion would not apply if we still enjoyed a family structure that took care of its aged as it still manages to do of its infants.

There are some bright lights:
In LA, Justice LA managed to get hundreds of people released from LA jails. In Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a shut down well ahead of all other states. In New York and California Governors Cuomo and Newsome respectively are marshaling resources, negotiating directly with private companies to plug gaps in medical supply chains, ordering creation of additional hospital spaces, and housing the homeless in SROs and trailers. Read State Governments Step in as Trump Makes Lethal Mistakes at

Designing our wars to kill others might kill us instead

Abroad, President Assad decreed a general amnesty for crimes committed before March 22, and Iran, with its bloody history of incarcerating and torturing political prisoners (Read: Ghosts by Shahla Talebi) temporarily freed all its prisoners, including political prisoners.
U.S. led coalition troops pulled out of a base in Western Iraq, France has withdrawn all its troops, and thanks to activists, many of them Physicians for Social Responsibility, Congress passed legislation in both houses on a War Powers Resolution that requires congressional approval before Trump can OK further military action against Iran.  Citing the folly of war in a time of contagion, UN Secretary General António Guterres called for a Global Ceasefire.  

End Yemen war now before COVID19 strikes at

Demand COVID19 sanctions on Iran be suspended immediately at

Release Julian Assange from Belmarsh prison before C-19 spreads at

Release incarcerated people before infection rates rise further at

#EndCOVIDSanctions on Iran at

Protect incarcerated loved ones at:

Demand Israel release all Palestinian child detainees mid COVID19 at:

President Assad decrees general amnesty for crimes committed before March 22.

UN Secretary General António Guterres calls for a global cease fire.

Eights countries (Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela) write to UN chief demanding lifting of unilateral illegal sanctions which, along with Zimbabwe, are impeding their efforts to battle pandemic.

London rough sleepers given hotel rooms.

UK pledges to pay up to 80% of individuals’ wages during shutdowns.

UK holds mass applause for NHS staff fighting C19.

Denmark pledges to pay 90% of hourly workers loss of income.

Ireland nationalizes hospitals for duration of C-19 crisis.

France pulls their military out of Iraq.

Although French strike wane, outrage burns bright.

Cuba leads world in  fight against C-19 (practice makes perfect.)

China joins Cuba providing international aid.

Germany extends arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

Norway workers win struggle against bosses, refusing to pay for C-19 with layoffs.

Just think: a year of U.S. nuclear spending could provide 300,000 ICU beds, 35,000 ventilators and 75,000 doctor salaries.

Magic: #45 uses Defense Production Act to force General Motors to make ventilators—without a contract.

40,000 N.Y. health professionals volunteer to join healthcare force.

US-led coalition transfers second military base to Iraqi forces.

Iran’s army set up hospital for C19 patients in 48 hours.

San Francisco DA joins calls to release ICE detainees during pandemic.

JusticeLA gets hundreds of people release from jails in response to threat of C-19 spread.

Judge urges release of migrant children after 4 test positive for C-19 in detention.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in LA issued temporary restraining order requiring administration to release all minors and unaccompanied minors from detention and from the HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Standing Rock Sioux tribe wins as federal court rules DAPL permits violated law.

Conflict brewing in N.Y.C. over lawyers’ committee grand jury petition to hear evidence of federal crimes involving the use of explosive and incendiaries at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

N.Y.C. plans city-wide clap for essential workers.

Activists force minimal amendment giving assistance and access qualifying 140 million poor folk for health care, paid leave, and living wages.

Scientists said to discover property of coronavirus that will make a long-term vaccine possible, but not necessarily affordable.

In face of federal vacuum and #45 blunders, some state governments respond to C-19.

Seattle NPR station announces no more airing of #45 press briefings.

House and Senate pass War Powers Resolution enjoining #45 to seek Congressional OK for any further military action against Iran.

PEN’s lawsuit against #45 in the defense of journalism can proceed.

New “stimulus package” (highway robbery) would enjoin #45 or his offspring from lapping up any of that bailout money, if Mnuchin agrees.

Writing for Popular Resistance, Michael Hudson suggests a debt jubilee is the only way to avoid world depression.

Pitzer College students call for university divestment from BlackRock.

Microsoft divests from Israeli facial- recognition startup.

In Pennsylvania township Rights of Nature law forces revocation of fracking permit.

S.F. Gate publishes 23 pieces of good news about COVID19 but blocks reading about it.

Detroit bus drivers win protections against virus through strike.

Boston school bus drivers win emergency full pay during school closure.

Strikes and protests spread as U.S. workers demand protection from C-19.

Colorado repeals death penalty.

Before selling out, Sanders fought for worker protections in gonzo $2 trillion “stimulus” (highway robbery) package.

Parents of son who died of cancer open their restaurant to School kids who depend on school for food.

Worker strikes over concern about spread of C-19 reported: Fiat Chrysler Windsor Assembly Plant; Pittsburgh garbage collectors; Chipotle employees; Perdue university workers, and Whole Foods.


And here's to the spring we're missing while we stay at home:

Mexican protesters try blocking Americans from entering Mexico on Arizona border.

Unclogging toilets at $400,00 a pop hits Navy in the pocket.

Old chestnut plane with five aboard, #45, the Pope, Dr. Fauci, Oprah Winfrey and ten-year-old school girl. Only 4 parachutes aboard. Plane is about to crash.

Dr. Fauci: "I certainly need one. I’m on my way to deliver a cure for the global health crisis." He helps himself and jumps.

Pope: "I need one, too. I have to guide the flock through the pandemic." He helps himself and jumps.

#45 says: "Gimme. I have to have one because I am the smartest man in  the universe." He helps himself and jumps.

Oprah turns to the ten-year-old: “Take the last one, dear. I’ve had a life, yours hasn’t even started.”

Says ten-year-old: “No worries. There are 2 chutes left. The smartest man in the universe took my backpack.”

Saturday, March 28, 2020

EXTRA, EXTRA: Public Awaress C-19's biggest victim

This issue comes to you from Roger Herried at

The first and biggest victim of C19 is  public awareness of what is happening.  Stories that are immense in their impact 
  1. Trump taps emergency powers as virus relief plan proceeds
The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—he is able to set aside many of the legal limits on his authority.
3.  Our Politics die as authoritarian actions take over - voting in danger.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

How To Think About A 7 Headed Hydra With 8 Heads

Facing this week’s COVID-19 conundrum requires serious thought. An approach I find helpful is to view the altered way of life imposed on our species through a number of lenses.

Here are some of them:

1) Who or what might be responsible for the introduction and spread of this virus in the human biome? And why?

Might it be intended to bankrupt social security or privatize it; might it be to cancel democracy, and suspend fair elections?  Might it be to implement an economic war against China? We can examine a number of theories about how and where this virus originated.

We can, for example trace it to a U.S. Olympic team assigned to Wuhan, China in 2019; we can point out that the pandemic was expected as early as 2016 when the Obama transition team passed its institutional memory to the Trump team that would take over following that inauguration. We can point out how Trump annulled the very organization meant to address such a pandemic, and how all or most of these functionaries are gone, dismissed by Trump, and their institutional memory lost; but the most comprehensive article on the origins of the virus is at

2)  What does spread of this disease really do?

Is it real? or perceived. What is real? The Buddhists prioritize seeing things as they are. Even more alarming than the disease itself is our loss of civil rights. You are incarcerated.  You are incarcerated with your books, and your fish tanks, your bookcases, your TV, and your washing machine, call it soft incarceration, but you are incarcerated. You are in a concentration camp for gentlemen. What is the fallout for you as a political animal? You have just had your Right of Assembly taken from you. You have just had your Right to Bear Grievance Against Your Government taken away from you (you can’t go out this week with your sign to demonstrate, or attend a political meeting, or organize a demonstration).  If you live beyond one paycheck, you have had your savings seriously eroded while lawmakers, knowing in advance, made sure to dump their stock. And you have just had the Voke (That’s the Vote-as-a-Joke) taken from you by the media and DNC that made sure you’d have to elect Joe Biden. Could this possibly benefit the folks who legislated an even more restrictive spying law on you just last week? Or the president who has aspirations way beyond 2020, and even 2026?  Whatever the Trump role in creating this brave new world, we can rest assured that he will take full advantage of the chaos that results.


3) What is the psychological impact and how do we cope with its toll?

I shut the door of the cab delivering me home from the Oakland Airport a week ago to see big warning signs posted on the building where I live: Senior Residence. Entrance Restricted. For one disoriented moment, I wondered if my key would fit the lock. This new form of existence comes as more of a shock than 9-ll. If we follow the mandates of the state, we must stay indoors. If we sight another human being, we must keep a wary distance of between 6 to 10 feet; we can escape confinement only for essential things like shopping to feed ourselves, or exercising, or keeping a medical appointment—if we’re covered and can get one at all from our clueless and unprepared medical system. 

Drone warfare does to a society such as exists in Iraq and Afghanistan exactly what this virus does to us: Because of fear that we might die, we can’t assemble, we can’t attend school, or mosque, or church, we can’t attend a gathering, a meeting or a music concert, or find an open library, and we can’t have public ceremonies like weddings, or funerals. We are victims of war.

4) How do we cope?

As a young person living in New York, I came in contact with a few people who had survived concentration camp.  We had long heated discussions about what survival meant.  It always came down to one thing: discipline. Strict self-scheduling of activities by the hour, and no deviation. And having a focus, whether learning a new language, or learning a new skill, or writing a book, or making Gaman (like this  drawing of Tule Lake in 1942 by an incarcertaed Jalanese) or designing tombstones commemorating all the millions of species lost to the Sixth Extinction. And taking vitamin C. If you lived in Costa Rica you might get tested if you are sick, but testing in the U.S. is behind the learning curve. And there’s a good reason for that.

"Enduring the unbearable with dignity and patience"
5) What might be some unexpected consequences? 

The choice is stark: natural population selection and authoritarianism and social control, or, by contrast, as Naomi Kline in Corona Virus Capitalism underscores, benefitting from the potential of new ideas. More than ever, we have a compelling reminder of what universal healthcare might mean. And even Forbes is saying it’s time for a Green New Deal. Similarly, because prison overcrowding is a Petry dish for incubating and spreading the virus, we might question the value of prison altogether.  We might look at what the Iranians with their long and bloody history of incarcerating political prisoners have done releasing all prisoners back into society to protect them and the society at large, which is part of the same biome. We might consider that the homeless are also part of the biome we share. We might create hand washing stations for them, we might even consider housing them! We might discover the benefits of de-growth: less flying; less driving, less use of fossil fuel, less consumption. We might discover the need for a guaranteed minimum wage so that sick people would not be forced to go to work during the pandemic. We might reconsider socialism and its benefits now, especially now, in the absence of democracy, when the media and the DNC voked Biden in for us. These are just some of the new ideas which circumstances are forcing to the foreground.

One thing is certain: living (and dying, too) will never be the same. One consequence is that the rich will prey on the poor as they always have; another consequence is that the poor will finally have their chance to teach the rich the lesson they richly need to know: how to live sustainably, on a beautiful blue and green ball.

Demand Congress take measures to prepare the US healthcare system for a pandemic at

Sign now: Coronavirus test should be free and available to all at

Protect frontline workers essential to protecting all at

Petition Congress to implement a national moratorium on foreclosures and evictions at

Petition to release Assange before coronavirus spreads at
Demand Workers First in any airline and airport bailout at

Petition Congress to ban practice of government officials selling stock while in office. at

Tell Trump to employ Defense Production Act to drive the supplies, treatments and capacity our healthcare system needs at

Resisting U.S. bullying, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC unanimously overruled the Pretrial Chamber on March 5, 2020, and ordered a formal investigation of U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials for war crimes, including torture, committed in the “war on terror.”

Chile witnesses a week of renewed protests demanding the resignation of billionaire President Sebastián Piñera and calling for a Peoples’ Convention to scrap former dictator Augusto Pinochet’s 1980 neoliberal laws, replacing them with a new Constitution.

Iran temporarily releases 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, to slow the virus’ spread.

‘Bolsonaro Out!’ from balconies and windows, millions demand ouster of Brazilian president over handing of COVID-19.

London postal workers take strike action over COVID-19 concerns.

Italians find way to 3-D print key ventilator piece for $1.00 to help battle coronavirus.

Federal Judge Anthony Trenga orders Chelsea Manning released from jail.  Her supporters raise the full $250,00 of her fine in 24 hours.

Detroit pauses water shutoff in COVID-19 outbreak.

Homeless moms take over a house in LA.

San Francisco to offer RVs to homeless people needing coronavirus quarantine.U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell blocks rules that would have denied 700,000 people food stamps.

Chef José Andrés converts his closed restaurants into to-go kitchens for feed public during COVID-19 outbreak.

Harvard students sue university over its investments in the prison industrial complex.

New York to pay incarcerated laborers 65 cents an hour to make hand sanitizer to fight COVID-19.

Virus fears prompt call for SF police to halt arrests in non-violent cases.

Muslim running for Congress helps pay medical debt of man who sent him anti-Muslim tweets.

Big 3 automakers shut down as COVID-19 grinds U.S. industry to  halt; Italian workers stage wildcat strikes.

Don’t hold your breath: Economists demand Trump immediately lift Iran, Cuba, Venezuela sanctions.

‘Now make it national” as Vermont and Minnesota classify grocery store staff as emergency personnel.

Progressive Marie Newman unseats anti-choice Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois Democratic primary.

U.S. finally looking out for Number #2 as it stocks toilet paper.

And in the same vein:

Monday, March 16, 2020


Photos courtesy of Laroye Aña

Architecture is one of many avenues into the heart of a people. I remember my first impression during my 1991 book tour of London’s streets. They told me the story of empire, of exploitation of subject people under the colonialism allowing the massive upward accumulation of wealth that would make those orderly streets possible.

On a recent vacation in Cuba, mostly in La Habana, I glimpsed a city in which a great many of its streets are a photographic negative of London, streets that resemble the bombed-out streets of Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza, streets that bleed from a 61-year-old economic war that is every bit as deadly and destructive of a country and its people as any shooting war; and just as decay is a slower form of combustion, so economic war is just as savage. It just takes a little longer.

Calle de la Salud, La Habana
This statement by Bruno Rodrigues Parrilla, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign affairs, speaking to the UN General Assembly in 2011 sums it up:

“The direct economic damage caused to the Cuban people as a result of the…blockade exceeds a figure of 975 billion dollars, estimated at the depreciated U.S. dollar value in comparison with the gold standard.

“Article 2(b) and 2(c) of the Convention of Genocide of 1948 define ‘serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group’ and ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’ as acts of genocide….

“The objective pursued by the blockade [is to]…weaken the economic life of Cuba, denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease…monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of government.”

Although many of my readers have made more frequent visits to Cuba than my own single one, (under the “family visit” provision) and will have had far more telling experiences than  I, I can’t help wondering why not one of them has ever described this devastation, nor have they shared details of its human toll: a population that manages to live on an average salary of $27.00 a month. That includes its doctors, which currently have sent a brigade to Italy to deal with the pandemic du jour. Cuba has medicines to treat thousands of possible cases of COVID-19.

Cuba is a society  blessed with a phenomenal degree of connectivity, the fruit of a vital culture consisting of art, music, dancing, and song as its main expressions. No one is homeless in Cuba, there is no opioid crisis, there is not the hopeless despair one sees in a country hollowed out from within. Because the forces attempting to hollow it out and defeat its revolution, codified by the Toricelli Act (1992; and the Helms-Burton Act (1996) come from without.

In contrast to the dereliction of many of its buildings, in La Habana one sees an amazing reconstructive effort underway, certainly in the prime tourist centers of Plaza de la Cathedral, and Plaza Vieja especially, where one finds a curious array of museums including an automobile museum, a Simon Bolivar museum, a firemen’s museum, a museum dedicated to the history of rum, and the one I found most spectacular, a science museum dedicated to the 19th century life and discoveries of von Humboldt whose Renaissance mind occupied itself satisfying its curiosities about meteorology, geography, and air chemistry among many others. He collected over 70,000 botanical specimens from all over Latin America. The amazingly rich variety of Cuba’s unique vegetation, which triggered von Humboldt’s imagination with its beauty will never desert the Cubans, no matter how damaging 61 years of the U.S. blockade has been  to its economy.

The state of the art museum occupies a neatly restored colonial palace, each exhibit designed to engage the viewer actively, and there are occasional mock ups of the instruments von Humboldt favored for his explorations. How was this museum financed despite the U.S. blockade? By the German government. It displays all the fastidiousness one finds in any Goethe Institute. La Habana’s main museum, Las Bellas Artes, rivals any museum in the world for the richness of its modern art collection.

Saturn teaching his children to walk by Pedro Pablo Oliva

Ever since 1982 when UNESCO declared La Habana a world heritage site as having the most colonial buildings left standing in all of the Americas, various creative ways have been discovered by some of the 186  vs. 2 countries which routinely oppose the U.S. blockade to circumvent its strictures. We see some of those results in the revitalized Habana of the Plaza Vieja district, and the efforts of the State itself capitalizing on tourist revenue. One of the most noteworthy developments is the repurposing of Nuestra Señora de Belen, whose convent and church have been reconfigured into senior housing with 18 apartments, a swimming pool, a physiotherapy center, and an ophthalmology clinic.

Nuestra Señora de Belen

One unforeseen result of the the U.S. blockade has turned Cuba into a living laboratory of the kind of de-growth with which, if we are to realize a planetary future, we must engage in worldwide:

•universal health care (Americans might get ideas if that continues.)

•transportation by horse and human pedaling in Habana which increases as one ventures into the agricultural districts to the East.

•city center banned to traffic.

•bookkeeping and inventorying by hand, a skill which may come in handy when power fails.

•scarcity of fossil fuels.

•dearth of material goods, which stimulates creative ingenuity, and eliminates “shopping” as a palliative compensation  for depression brought on by government-originated depression.

•active programs of education and general literacy.

•and despite deprivation, no one is homeless in Cuba, no miles and miles of tent cities, there are no opioid or suicide crises, and no traffic jams.

(For a full bibliography and timeline up to 2011 of 117 U.S. initiatives to stifle Cuba, see Rodolfo Davalos-Fernandez: Embargo or Blockade: the instrumentation of a crime against Cuba, Havana, Editorial Capitán San Luis, 2018.)

Demand Congress take immediate measures to prepare the American healthcare system for a pandemic at

Stop Sentate from extending PATRIOT Act surveillance at

Or call your Senators and urge them to vote NO at 202 930-8115

Lift sanctions on Iran  which is experiencing the worst outbreak of COVID-19 at

Note: The Bay Area is now on full "shelter in place" order after earlier orders on Sunday saying that people over 65 should self quarantine. 
Travel is restricted except for essential needs - food.