MEDIA BENJAMIN’S 10 GOOD THINGS ABOUT 2018

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By Media Benjamin

December 29, 2018 (codepink.org)

Yes, you could say I’m trying to put lipstick on a pig. 2018 was a year of whiplash, a never-ending series of assaults on our environment, immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, the poor, international law. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and here are some rousing points of light from 2018, both domestic and international.

  1. The election of the progressive new members of Congress, particularly women of color such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar,  Deb Haaland, Ayanna Pressley and Sharice Davids. Before even taking office they are shaking up the DC establishment: Calling out lobbyists for briefing new members of Congress? Refusing to take the “mandatory” AIPAC trip to Israel? Paying congressional interns? Calling for a Green New Deal and Medicare for All? It’s head-spinning for the establishment and thrilling for the rest of us. With these new progressive allies, with Democrats now controlling the House, and with an expanded and invigorated Progressive Caucus, we have a chance to drag centrist Democrats into supporting policies that might not be popular with their big-dollar donors but are wildly popular with the public.
  2. 2018 was a year of awe-inspiring youth activism. The Parkland school shooting on Valentine’s Day led to a massive student-led movement for tougher gun laws. Students mobilized in Washington DC at March for Our Lives and in schools across the country. This same kind of energy and creativity exploded with the Sunrise Movement, a youth movement determined to make climate change an urgent priority for US elected officials with a Green New Deal. And just as the year was coming to an end, a sensational a 15-year-old student from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, captured world attention at the UN climate summit with her call for youth to hold adults accountable for the mess they’ve created. In a fabulous example of synergy between young activists, Greta’s school strike (she sat in front of the Swedish Parliament instead of going to school) was itself inspired by the walkouts initiated by the Parkland students.
  3. An historical turning point was reached this year to start breaking up the 75-year US-Saudi alliance. With three years of relentless Saudi bombing of Yemen leading to the world’s greatest human catastrophe and the barbaric murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Congress and business leaders finally began to question their relationship with this retrograde kingdom and its brutal de facto leader Mohammad bin Salman. In an unprecedented vote, the Senate approved a measure to halt US support to the Saudis in Yemen, which is helping promote a negotiated settlement. The effort to curb Trump’s support for the Saudi war in Yemen comes at the same time that Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and a halving of US troops in Afghanistan. Maybe, just maybe, 2019 will mark the winding down of the disastrous wars that have marked US policy since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
  4. Labor organizing has been on the rise, from teachers to high-tech workers. The audacious 13-day strike by teachers in West Virginiawon a 5 percent pay increase and launched a wave of similar actions from Oklahoma to Arizona. West Virginia teachers stood with bus drivers, janitors, school kitchen staff before calling an end to the strike, refusing to take a pay increase until everyone’s demands were met. In the tech industry, Google employees pushed the company to end its contract to help with Pentagon with artificial intelligence that could be used in drone strikes. They also demanded that Google not cooperate with Chinese censorship. Microsoft employees are pushing the company to break its contract with ICE; Amazon workers want Jeff Bezos to stop supplying facial recognition technology to the police.
  5. Florida’s restoration of voting rights through Amendment 4, the ballot measure lifting the state’s permanent ban on voting by anyone with a felony conviction, received overwhelming support from nearly 65% of voters. It restores voting rights for some 1.4 million people, potentially changing the Florida–and national–electoral landscape, since most formerly incarcerated people vote Democratic and the 2000 president election was determined in Florida by a mere 537 votes. Iowa and Kentucky are now the only states that must change this retrograde lifetime ban. But with the myriad examples of voter suppression in the 2018 election, voter rights must be a key focus before 2020!
  6. Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups that have been opposing the pipeline for years. Among the opponents is the Cheyenne River tribe. Like Standing Rock in the case of the Dakota pipeline, the Cheyenne River tribe fears a tar sands oil spill from the pipeline would contaminate its waters. President Obama, under tremendous pressure from the grassroots, halted further work in 2015 but Trump started it up again in 2017. Thanks to legal challenges, in November a federal court blocked any further work until the Trump administration undertakes a serious review of its climate impact. This reprieve gives organizers more time…to organize!
  7. Medicare for All has the highest level of public support ever recorded. An August poll found that a whopping 70 percent of Americans, including 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans, back the single-payer plan. When Senator Bernie Sanders promoted this idea during his presidential campaign, he was pilloried by liberal commentators. Well, guess what? Medicare for All now has support from 124 House members and 16 senators, including most of the high-profile likely 2020 presidential contenders. Even Barack Obama, who eschewed single-payer in favor of the Affordable Care Act during his Presidency, has now endorsed Medicare for All. In 2018, the Congressional “Medicare For All Caucus” was launched with 76 members. Since healthcare was the top concern for voters in the 2018 midterms, Medicare for All should be a no-brainer for politicians who care more about their constituents than Big Pharma.
  8. The election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) in Mexico is a bright spot in a dismal landscape in Latin America, where rightwing governments are on the rise. Crushing the two old dynastic political parties, the PAN the PRI, AMLO’s Movement for National Regeneration, or Morena, was just founded in 2014. Ruling a nation mired in drugs, violence and poverty will be tough, but check out the incredible policies he has already put in place! Also, Mexico City elected its first woman mayor, who is also Sephardic Jewish, a leftist, a climate scientist, and a Nobel Peace prize winner. Her first act was to disband the riot police, who have been responsible for much of the political violence in Mexico City.
  9. Ethiopia’s new prime minister, 42-year-old Abiy Ahmed, took office in April and immediately went to work ending the 20-year war with Eritrea, releasing thousands of prisoners, allowing dissidents to return home and lifting censorship. Then he appointed a cabinet with 50 percent women and the nation’s first female president! His astounding reforms have won him adoration among millions, but he has been challenged with an assassination attempt by the old guard and ethnic clashes. His message to the nation’s 90 ethnic groups remains one that Donald Trump should hear: “Take down the wall, build the bridge.”
  10. Armenia experienced a dramatic, people power uprising against corrupt, autocratic rulers, in which one out of every three Armenians participated. The campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience was led by a young member of parliament, Nikol Pashinyan. After initially attacking the protesters, the police later joined them. In April, the massive street protests were so powerful they pushed the prime minister to resign and coerced the ruling party to elect the opposition street leader, Pashinyan, as prime minister. In December, the new political bloc went on to trounce the former ruling party 70 percent to 5 percent in parliamentary elections. This “velvet revolution,” which represented the climax of a decade of peaceful protest focused on human rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and environmentalism, succeeded in taking power without shedding a drop of blood!

So there you have it. Despite Trump in the White House and the rise of right-wing movements around the globe, 2018 was chock full of good things… most of which went underreported because of all the attention on Donald Trump. And oh, speaking of Trump, I left out probably the most important development of all: the wagons encircling Trump, making his presidency seems less and less tenable. So… put on your seatbelts and hold tight — or better yet, prepare to take to the streets. If you thought 2018 was frenetic, 2019 promises to be one helluva ride. 

China’s reeducation camps for Muslims are beginning to look like concentration camps

The government is buying cattle prods and police batons to use in Xinjiang.

A woman takes part in a rally urging the European Union to pressure China to close its reeducation camps in Xinjiang, where nearly 1 million Uighur Muslims are detained. The rally was held in Brussels on April 27, 2018.
 Emmanuel Dunande/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese government recently admitted that it’s forcing religious minorities into “reeducation camps” as part of its crackdown on extremism — but new details show that these centers have a lot more in common with concentration camps.

Thousands of guards carrying spiked clubs, tear gas, and stun guns surveil the government’s “students,” who are held in buildings ringed with razor wire and infrared cameras, according to a report published Wednesday by the French news service Agence France-Presse.

AFP journalists who reviewed more than 1,500 publicly available government documents also describe disturbing purchases made by government agencies that oversee the so-called education centers: 2,768 police batons, 550 electric cattle prods, 1,367 pairs of handcuffs, and 2,792 cans of pepper spray.

These descriptions are a far cry from Chinese government propaganda that claims these centers in Xinjiang, the autonomous region in northwestern China where most Uighur Muslims live, provide “free” education and job training to counter the spread of terrorism and religious extremism.

In one of the government documents, officials argued that to build new, better Chinese citizens, the reeducation centers must first “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.”

The new report supports what human rights groups and journalists have been saying for a while now: China’s authoritarian government has grown increasingly brutal, and its detention and torture of Uighur Muslims amounts to crimes against humanity under international law.

China recently legalized the “reeducation centers”

Earlier this month, the BBC reported that Chinese authorities in Xinjiang had revised a law designed to promote the use of detention centers “to carry out the educational transformation of those affected by extremism.”

As Vox’s Jen Kirby notes, China has previously tried to deny or downplay the existence of these centers. But human rights groups, witness testimony, and media reports have shown Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region being detained and tortured in mass numbers, and forced to undergo psychological indoctrination — like studying communist propaganda and giving thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A United Nations human rights panel estimates that Chinese authorities have imprisonedas many as 1 million Uighurs. But a Hong-Kong based human rights group puts the number even higher: between 2 million and 3 million.

Members of Congress have been pressuring the Trump administration to take action. The bipartisan Congressional Executive Committee on China, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), released a report earlier this month outlining China’s serious human rights abuses and its campaign of “state-sponsored repression.”

Here’s one of the most chilling paragraphs in the committee’s report:

Of particular concern is the mass, arbitrary, internment of as many as 1 million or more Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in ‘‘political reeducation’’ camps in western China. Reports indicate that this may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity.

Rubio and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who oversee the committee, proposed a bill earlier this month called the Xinjiang Uyghur Human Rights Act of 2018. The proposed legislation would give the US State Department resources to work with the UN to develop a response, leading to potential targeted sanctions on Chinese officials and broader economic sanctions against China.

“These are detention camps, these are reeducation camps, where people are killed, where they are tortured and they are brutalized in so many, many ways,” Smith said during a press conference announcing the committee’s findings earlier this month.

A State Department official told reporters back in April that the administration was considering sanctions against China in response to the camps, but six months has passed and the administration has done nothing.

President Donald Trump hasn’t even publicly acknowledged the fact that the camps exist.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are rounding up entire villages in Xinjiang, according to interviews conducted this summer by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of Chinese and international human rights groups. Here is just one alarming quote from a Chinese business executive, who is not an ethnic Uighur but who has lived in the region for decades:

“Entire villages in Southern Xinjiang have been emptied of young and middle-aged people — all rounded up into re-education classes,” he said. “Only the elderly and the very docile are left in the villages.”

The organization urged the United States, the European Union, and other nations “to sanction top Chinese officials responsible for mass extrajudicial incarceration, discriminately targeting Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

Universal Basic Income Is Easier Than It Looks

Calls for a Universal Basic Income have been increasing, most recently as part of the Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported in the last month by at least 40 members of Congress. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a monthly payment to all adults with no strings attached, similar to Social Security. Critics say the Green New Deal asks too much of the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the resolution proposes. It says funding would primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” and other vehicles.

The Federal Reserve alone could do the job. It could buy “Green” federal bonds with money created on its balance sheet, just as the Fed funded the purchase of $3.7 trillion in bonds in its “quantitative easing” program to save the banks. The Treasury could also do it. The Treasury has the constitutional power to issue coins in any denomination, even trillion dollar coins. What prevents legislators from pursuing those options is the fear of hyperinflation from excess “demand” (spendable income) driving prices up. But in fact the consumer economy is chronically short of spendable income, due to the way money enters the consumer economy. We actually need regular injections of money to avoid a “balance sheet recession” and allow for growth, and a UBI is one way to do it.

The pros and cons of a UBI are hotly debated and have been discussed elsewhere. The point here is to show that it could actually be funded year after year without driving up taxes or prices. New money is continually being added to the money supply, but it is added as debt created privately by banks. (How banks rather than the government create most of the money supply today is explained on the Bank of England website here.) A UBI would replace money-created-as-debt with debt-free money – a “debt jubilee” for consumers – while leaving the money supply for the most part unchanged; and to the extent that new money was added, it could help create the demand needed to fill the gap between actual and potential productivity.

The Debt Overhang Crippling Economies

The “bank money” composing most of the money in circulation is created only when someone borrows, and today businesses and consumers are burdened with debts that are higher than ever before. In 2018, credit card debt alone exceeded $1 trillion, student debt exceeded $1.5 trillion, auto loan debt exceeded $1.1 trillion, and non-financial corporate debt hit $5.7 trillion. When businesses and individuals pay down old loans rather than taking out new loans, the money supply shrinks, causing a “balance sheet recession.” In that situation, the central bank, rather than removing money from the economy (as the Fed is doing now), needs to add money to fill the gap between debt and the spendable income available to repay it.

Debt always grows faster than the money available to repay it. One problem is the interest, which is not created along with the principal, so more money is always owed back than was created in the original loan. Beyond that, some of the money created as debt is held off the consumer market by “savers” and investors who place it elsewhere, making it unavailable to companies selling their wares and the wage-earners they employ. The result is a debt bubble that continues to grow until it is not sustainable and the system collapses, in the familiar death spiral euphemistically called the “business cycle.” As economist Michael Hudson shows in his 2018 book And Forgive Them Their Debtsthis inevitable debt overhang was corrected historically with periodic “debt jubilees” – debt forgiveness – something he argues we need to do again today.

For governments, a debt jubilee could be effected by allowing the central bank to buy government securities and hold them on its books. For individuals, one way to do it fairly across the board would be with a UBI.

Why a UBI Need Not Be Inflationary

In a 2018 book called The Road to Debt Bondage: How Banks Create Unpayable Debt, political economist Derryl Hermanutz proposes a central-bank-issued UBI of one thousand dollars per month, credited directly to people’s bank accounts. Assuming this payment went to all US residents over 18, or about 241 million people, the outlay would be close to $3 trillion annually. For people with overdue debt, Hermanutz proposes that it automatically go to pay down those debts. Since money is created as loans and extinguished when they are repaid, that portion of a UBI disbursement would be extinguished along with the debt.

People who were current on their debts could choose whether or not to pay them down, but many would also no doubt go for that option. Hermanutz estimates that roughly half of a UBI payout could be extinguished in this way through mandatory and voluntary loan repayments. That money would not increase the money supply or demand. It would just allow debtors to spend on necessities with debt-free money rather than hocking their futures with unrepayable debt.

He estimates that another third of a UBI disbursement would go to “savers” who did not need the money for expenditures. This money, too, would not be likely to drive up consumer prices, since it would go into investment and savings vehicles rather than circulating in the consumer economy. That leaves only about one-sixth of payouts, or $500 billion, that would actually be competing for goods and services; and that sum could easily be absorbed by the “output gap” between actual and forecasted productivity.

According to a July 2017 paper from the Roosevelt Institute called “What Recovery? The Case for Continued Expansionary Policy at the Fed”:

GDP remains well below both the long-run trend and the level predicted by forecasters a decade ago. In 2016, real per capita GDP was 10% below the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2006 forecast, and shows no signs of returning to the predicted level.

The report showed that the most likely explanation for this lackluster growth was inadequate demand. Wages have remained stagnant; and before producers will produce, they need customers knocking on their doors.

In 2017, the US Gross Domestic Product was $19.4 trillion. If the economy is running at 10% below full capacity, $2 trillion could be injected into the economy every year without creating price inflation. It would just generate the demand needed to stimulate an additional $2 trillion in GDP. In fact a UBI might pay for itself, just as the G.I. Bill produced a sevenfold return from increased productivity after World War II.

The Evidence of China

That new money can be injected year after year without triggering price inflation is evident from a look at China. In the last 20 years, its M2 money supply has grown from just over 10 trillion yuan to 80 trillion yuan ($11.6T), a nearly 800% increase. Yet the inflation rate of its Consumer Price Index (CPI) remains a modest 2.2%.

Why has all that excess money not driven prices up? The answer is that China’s Gross Domestic Product has grown at the same fast clip as its money supply. When supply (GDP) and demand (money) increase together, prices remain stable.

Whether or not the Chinese government would approve of a UBI, it does recognize that to stimulate productivity, the money must get out there first; and since the government owns 80% of China’s banks, it is in a position to borrow money into existence as needed. For “self-funding” loans – those that generate income (fees for rail travel and electricity, rents for real estate) – repayment extinguishes the debt along with the money it created, leaving the net money supply unchanged. When loans are not repaid, the money they created is not extinguished; but if it goes to consumers and businesses that then buy goods and services with it, demand will still stimulate the production of supply, so that supply and demand rise together and prices remain stable.

Without demand, producers will not produce and workers will not get hired, leaving them without the funds to generate supply, in a vicious cycle that leads to recession and depression. And that cycle is what our own central bank is triggering now.

The Fed Tightens the Screws

Rather than stimulating the economy with new demand, the Fed has been engaging in “quantitative tightening.” On December 19, 2018, it raised the fed funds rate for the ninth time in 3 years, despite a “brutal” stock market in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average had already lost 3,000 points in 2-½ months. The Fed is still struggling to reach even its modest 2% inflation target, and GDP growth is trending down, with estimates at only 2-2.7% for 2019. So why did it again raise rates, over the protests of commentators including the president himself?

For its barometer, the Fed looks at whether the economy has hit “full employment,” which it considers to be 4.7% unemployment, taking into account the “natural rate of unemployment” of people between jobs or voluntarily out of work. At full employment, workers are expected to demand more wages, causing prices to rise. But unemployment is now officially at 3.7% – beyond technical full employment – and neither wages nor consumer prices have shot up. There is obviously something wrong with the theory, as is evident from a look at Japan, where prices have long refused to rise despite a serious lack of workers.

The official unemployment figures are actually misleading. Including short-term discouraged workers, the rate of US unemployed or underemployed workers as of May 2018 was 7.6%, double the widely reported rate. When long-term discouraged workers are included, the real unemployment figure was 21.5%. Beyond that large untapped pool of workers, there is the seemingly endless supply of cheap labor from abroad and the expanding labor potential of robots, computers and machines. In fact the economy’s ability to generate supply in response to demand is far from reaching full capacity today.

Our central bank is driving us into another recession based on bad economic theory. Adding money to the economy for productive, non-speculative purposes will not drive up prices so long as materials and workers (human or mechanical) are available to create the supply necessary to meet demand; and they are available now. There will always be price increases in particular markets when there are shortages, bottlenecks, monopolies or patents limiting competition, but these increases are not due to an economy awash with money. Housing, healthcare, education and gas have all gone up, but it is not because people have too much money to spend. In fact it is those necessary expenses that are driving people into unrepayable debt, and it is this massive debt overhang that is preventing economic growth.

Without some form of debt jubilee, the debt bubble will continue to grow until it can again no longer be sustained. A UBI can help correct that problem without fear of “overheating” the economy, so long as the new money is limited to filling the gap between real and potential productivity and goes into generating jobs, building infrastructure and providing for the needs of the people, rather than being diverted into the speculative, parasitic economy that feeds off them.

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This article was first published on Truthdig.com. Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. A 13th book titled Banking on the People: Democratizing Finance in the Digital Age is due out early next year. She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com.

‘Not the Leadership This Moment Calls For’: Progressives Slam Pelosi for Pushing ‘Weak’ Climate Panel Over Green New Deal Committee

“The party of the resistance is recklessly taking the path of least resistance on climate and inequality.”

Presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during her weekly news conference December 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

 

Following presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) official announcementon Friday that Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) will chair the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, progressives accused the Democratic leadership of moving ahead with a “weak” congressional panel instead of listening to grassroots demands for a more bold and visionary Green New Deal Select Committee.

Justice Democrats—an advocacy group that helped organize recent mobilizations in support of a Green New Deal—declared in a statement that the Democratic leadership appears dead-set on taking the “path of least resistance” when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.

“Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership seem to be pushing forward a weak Select Committee that has no subpoena power, that allows participation from members of Congress who take donations from the fossil fuel industry, and that has no explicit goals regarding the mass economic mobilization needed to match the [United Nations’] recommendations on scale and timeline,” Justice Democrats spokesman Waleed Shahid said in a statement.

Varshini Prakash, founder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said refusal to embrace a Green New Deal “would be a dereliction of duty from Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership.”

As Common Dreams reported last week, green groups and youth climate leaders warned that the Democratic leadership is working to undermine the surging demand for a Green New Deal Select Committee by reviving an old climate panel that could have even less authority than its previous iteration, which had subpoena power.

Without this power, critics argue, the committee will be unable to compel fossil fuel executives to testify and turn over key documents.

“It’s extremely disappointing that the current proposal may be even weaker than Pelosi’s previous Select Committee on climate in 2007,” Shahid said on Friday. “Democratic leadership still has time to create a Select Committee on a Green New Deal and support a serious proposal that holds fossil fuel billionaires accountable and is based on what science demands.”

“We have yet to hear from leader Nancy Pelosi what the mandate of the ‘Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ will be,” added Prakash. “If what we’re hearing is true… then such a committee will be even weaker than the one from a decade ago. This is not the leadership this moment calls for.”

According to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), carbon emissions must be cut in half by 2030 if the world is to avert catastrophe.

After Pelosi’s announcement on Friday, critics argued once more that Democrats must commit to pushing ahead with a bold climate plan that matches the alarming scientific reality, not just more hearings:

Thanks to a groundswell of organizing and protests at the offices of key congressional leaders like Pelosi and incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), nearly 40 House Democrats have expressed support for a Green New Deal Select Committee.

“By developing a plan for a Green New Deal, we have an opportunity to create millions of good-paying jobs, virtually eliminate poverty in the United States, and invest in a just transition for communities that have been left behind by racism and corporate greed,” Prakash said.

But in an interview with E&E News last week, Castor said that while Green New Deal proponents “have some terrific ideas,” the bold proposal supported by 81 percent of Americans will not be the “sole focus” of the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

In response, Justice Democrats asked, “Your sole focus won’t be to propose solutions that match the urgency and scale recommended by the U.N.’s IPCC climate report?”

 

This Radical Plan to Fund the Green New Deal Just Might Work

A network of public banks could underwrite the new New Deal in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt financed the original.

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With what Naomi Klein calls “galloping momentum,” the “Green New Deal” promoted by newly elected U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) appears to be forging a political pathway for solving all of the ills of society and the planet in one fell swoop. It would give a House Select Committee “a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing and construction, as well as health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee” and more. But tocritics even on the left, it is just political theater, since “everyone knows” a program of that scope cannot be funded without a massive redistribution of wealth and slashing of other programs (notably the military), which is not politically feasible.

Perhaps, but Ocasio-Cortez and the 22 representatives joining her in calling for a Select Committee are also proposing a novel way to fund the program, one which could actually work. The resolution says funding will primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.”

A network of public banks could fund the Green New Deal in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt funded the original New Deal. At a time when the banks were bankrupt, he used the publicly owned Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a public infrastructure bank. The Federal Reserve could also fund any program Congress wanted, if mandated to do it. Congress wrote the Federal Reserve Act and can amend it. Or the Treasury itself could do it, without the need even to change any laws. The Constitution authorizes Congress to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof,” and that power has been delegated to the Treasury. It could mint a few trillion dollar platinum coins, put them in its bank account, and start writing checks against them. What stops legislators from exercising those constitutional powers is simply that “everyone knows” Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation will result. But will it? Compelling historical precedent shows that this need not be the case.

 

Michael Hudson, professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, has studied the hyperinflation question extensively. He writes that those disasters were not because of government money-printing to stimulate the economy. Rather, “Every hyperinflation in history has been caused by foreign debt service collapsing the exchange rate. The problem almost always has resulted from wartime foreign currency strains, not domestic spending.”

As long as workers and materials are available and the money is added in a way that reaches consumers, adding money will create the demand necessary to prompt producers to create more supply. Supply and demand will rise together and prices will remain stable. The reverse is also true. If demand (money) is not increased, supply and GDP will not go up. New demand needs to precede new supply.

The public bank option: The precedent of Roosevelt’s New Deal

Infrastructure projects of the sort proposed in the Green New Deal are “self-funding,” generating resources and fees that can repay the loans. For these loans, advancing funds through a network of publicly owned banks will not require taxpayer money and can actually generate a profit for the government. That was how the original New Deal rebuilt the country in the 1930s, when the economy was desperately short of money.

The publicly owned Reconstruction Finance Corporation was a remarkable publicly owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. First instituted in 1932 by President Herbert Hoover, the RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged andmodified by President Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times, until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose.

The RFC Act of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was borrowed, chiefly from the government itself. Bonds were sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public; but most were held by the Treasury. The RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.

Thus the Treasury was the lender, not the borrower, in this arrangement. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of $690,017,232 on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more; and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

The central bank option: How Japan is funding Abenomics with quantitative easing

The Federal Reserve is another funding option before the Green New Deal. The Fed showed what it can do with “quantitative easing” when it created the funds to buy $2.46 trillion in federal debt and $1.77 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, all without inflating consumer prices. The Fed could use the same tool to buy bonds earmarked for a Green New Deal; and since it returns its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs, the bonds would be nearly interest-free. If they were rolled over from year to year, the government would in effect be issuing new money.

This is not just theory. Japan is actually doing it, without creating even the modest 2 percent inflation the government is aiming for. “Abenomics,” the economic agenda of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, combines central bank quantitative easing with fiscal stimulus (large-scale increases in government spending). Since Abe came into power in 2012, Japan has seen steady economic growth, and its unemployment rate has fallen by nearly half; yet inflation remains very low, at 0.7 percent. Social Security-related expenses accounted for 55 percent of general expenditure in the 2018 federal budget, and a universal health care insurance system is maintained for all citizens. Nominal GDP is up 11 percent since the end of the first quarter of 2013, a much better record than during the prior two decades of Japanese stagnation; and the Nikkei stock market is at levels not seen since the early 1990s, driven by improved company earnings. Growth remains below targeted levels, butaccording to The Financial Times in May 2018, this is because fiscal stimulus has actually been too small. While spending with the left hand, the government has been taking the money back with the right, increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Abenomics has been declared a success even by the once-critical International Monetary Fund. After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe crushed his opponents in October 2017, Noah Smith wrote in Bloomberg Opinion, “Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party has figured out a novel and interesting way to stay in power—govern pragmatically, focus on the economy and give people what they want.” He said everyone who wanted a job had one; small and midsize businesses were doing well; and the BOJ’s unprecedented program of monetary easing had provided easy credit for corporate restructuring without generating inflation. Abe had also vowed to make both preschool and college free.

Not that all is idyllic in Japan. Forty percent of Japanese workers lack secure full-time employment and adequate pensions. But the point underscored here is that large-scale digital money-printing by the central bank to buy back the government’s debt combined with fiscal stimulus by the government (spending on “what the people want”) has not inflated Japanese prices, the alleged concern preventing other countries from doing it.

Abe’s novel economic program has achieved more than just stimulating growth. By selling its debt to its own central bank, which returns the interest to the government, the Japanese government has in effect been canceling its debt; and until recently, it was doing this at the rate of a whopping $720 billion (¥80tn) per year. According to fund manager Eric Lonergan in a February 2017 article:

The Bank of Japan is in the process of owning most of the outstanding government debt of Japan (it currently owns around 40 percent). BOJ holdings are part of the consolidated government balance sheet. So its holdings are in fact the accounting equivalent of a debt cancellation. If I buy back my own mortgage, I don’t have a mortgage.

If the Federal Reserve followed suit and bought 40 percent of the U.S. national debt, it would be holding $8 trillion in federal securities, three times its current holdings from its quantitative easing programs. Yet liquidating a full 40 percent of Japan’s government debt has not triggered price inflation.

Filling the gap between wages, debt, and GDP

Rather than stepping up its bond-buying, the Federal Reserve is now bent on “quantitative tightening,” raising interest rates and reducing the money supply by selling its bonds into the market in anticipation of “full employment” driving up prices. “Full employment” is considered to be 4.7 percent unemployment, taking into account the “natural rate of unemployment” of people between jobs or voluntarily out of work. But the economy has now hit that level and prices are not in the danger zone, despite nearly 10 years of “accommodative” monetary policy. In fact, the economy is not near either true full employment or full productive capacity, with gross domestic product remaining well below both the long-run trend and the level predicted by forecasters a decade ago. In 2016, real per capita GDP was 10 percent below the 2006 forecast of the Congressional Budget Office, and it shows no signs of returning to the predicted level.

In 2017, U.S. gross domestic product was $19.4 trillion. Assuming that sum is 10 percent below full productive capacity, the money circulating in the economy needs to be increased by an added $2 trillion to create the demand to bring it up to full capacity. That means $2 trillion could be injected into the economy every year without creating price inflation. New supply would just be generated to meet the new demand, bringing GDP to full capacity while keeping prices stable.

This annual injection of new money not only can be done without creating price inflation; it actually needs to be done to reverse the massive debt bubble now threatening to propel the economy into another Great Recession. Moreover, the money can be added in such a way that the net effect will not be to increase the money supply. Virtually our entire money supply is created by banks as loans, and any money used to pay down those loans will be extinguished along with the debt. Other money will be extinguished when it returns to the government in the form of taxes. The mechanics of that process, and what could be done with another $2 trillion injected directly into the economy yearly, will be explored in Part 2 of this article.

This article was originally published on ellenbrown.com. It has been published here with permission.

The Republican Party as Presently Constituted Must Be Torn Down to Its Foundations. The Planet Depends on It.

Our new environmental reality was not inevitable. It is, in many cases, the result of public policy.

Even a stunning defeat in the 2020 election will not be enough. (Photo: Win McNamee/ Getty Images)

Even a stunning defeat in the 2020 election will not be enough. (Photo: Win McNamee/ Getty Images) 

 

So, over the weekend, another child died in the custody of the United States because of the president*’s brainless immigration policy. The president* flew halfway around the world for a 30-minute photo-op with some soldiers because he was shamed into doing so, and this was shortly after he was shamed into submarining a deal on the southern border by Rush Limbaugh and a chorus of lower primates. At this point, I think he could be shamed into jumping off the Truman Balcony dressed as Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

Nonetheless, out in the country, his administration is doing damage that will take years to reverse, even assuming we can, and likely will cost the lives of people he sees only as members of his most recent constituency of suckers.

On Thursday, The New York Times took a vast and comprehensive look at the consequences of this administration’s assault on decades of environmental regulation and protection. It is an incredible compendium of neglect and deliberate vandalism. It is a calendar of destruction and disease. And it’s only a snapshot. None of these horrors are going to stop until the political power of this administration is broken and scattered to the four winds.

With this running start, Mr. Trump is already on track to leave an indelible mark on the American landscape, even with a decline in some major pollutants from the ever-shrinking coal industry. While Washington has been consumed by scandals surrounding the president’s top officials on environmental policy — both the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior secretary have been driven from his cabinet — Mr. Trump’s vision is taking root in places as diverse as rural California, urban Texas, West Virginian coal country and North Dakota’s energy corridor.

While the Obama administration sought to tackle pollution problems in all four states and nationally, Mr. Trump’s regulatory ambitions extend beyond Republican distaste for what they considered unilateral overreach by his Democratic predecessor; pursuing them in full force, Mr. Trump would shift the debate about the environment sharply in the direction of industry interests, further unraveling what had been, before the Obama administration, a loose bipartisan consensus dating in part to the Nixon administration.

The feature is broken up into several parts, each of them concentrating on a specific environmental debacle affecting specific people. There are California farmworkers sickened by the use of a once-banned pesticide. There are neighborhoods in Houston running out of breathable air because the administration* has gone long on reviving the doomed coal industry. There’s a river in West Virginia that was becoming less of a chemistry set until the country went crazy in November of 2016.

And there is a particularly grim tale of how a Native American community in North Dakota got caught in the nutcracker between short-term money and long-term illness over natural gas drilling on its land.

A 75 percent surge in oil production in the past two years has left Fort Berthold lighted by towering shafts of flame. Hundreds of controlled flares burn so bright in the cold night air that the sky turns a weird orange yellow, even as snow falls onto the frozen ground. An estimated three billion cubic feet of gas is burned or released each month here — a volume that could heat about 600,000 homes. Energy companies have figured out a way to capture the oil, but their pipelines are not big enough to handle all the less valuable gas that comes out of the ground. Much of the excess is torched.

As oil and gas operations have intensified in this isolated stretch of North Dakota, so have residents’ concerns. The venting of unburned methane fouls the air with chemicals that are not only in some cases carcinogenic but over the next 100 years will be 30 times as potent a cause of global warming as carbon dioxide. At the same time, the improper burning of methane can create pollutants that cause a variety of respiratory problems

The Obama administration, concerned about the effects on health and global warming as well as the wasteful practice of simply burning off energy, moved to curtail leaks and flaring on federal lands and Indian reservations. But in September, under pressure from the energy industry, President Trump’s Interior Department eliminated the rule’s most important provisions.

The leaks and flaring are an increasing source of tension at Fort Berthold. Many are focused on the cash from the energy industry that is pouring into community and tribal government coffers. The tribes and some families are paid royalties for each barrel of oil pulled from the ground, revenue that has changed many lives for the better.

“Sovereignty by the barrel,” is the slogan used by the M.H.A. Nation’s Energy Division, which both regulates and promotes oil and gas drilling here. Yet others are backing a lawsuit challenging Mr. Trump’s rollback of the federal rule, while also pressing tribal leaders to move aggressively on their own to confront the consequences of the burning and leaking of gas.

It used to be something of a consensus that the country at least could try to straddle economic progress and environmental protections. Those people hand-waving away the idea of a Green New Deal simply because it involves massive systemic changes are ignoring the fact that at the moment, in the middle of a global environmental calamity edging up very quickly on an existential crisis, massive systemic changes are going on in a hundred different places, and many of them are being exacerbated and encouraged by deliberate public policy.

Even a stunning defeat in the 2020 election will not be enough. The philosophy behind these acts of destruction has to be wrung out of our politics, and the vehicle that is the Republican Party as it is presently constituted has to be torn down to its foundations and rebuilt before that philosophy and that vehicle destroy the viability of the planet.

In the words of Walter DeVille, who lives on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, “This is our reality now.”

It didn’t have to be.

 

From Berkeley’s Streets to Oakland’s Slums

An Oakland slumlord is housing a formerly homeless Berkeley resident in a dilapidated building while collecting city and federal subsidies.

by  (eastbayexpress.com)

Mike Zint looks up at a basketball-sized water bubble in his ceiling last week.

  • Mike Zint looks up at a basketball-sized water bubble in his ceiling last week.

Mike Zint used to be one of Berkeley’s chronically homeless. He’s also a well-known activist who spent the last half-decade protesting the city of Berkeley’s response to the homelessness crisis. So, in 2017 when Berkeley and its nonprofit homeless navigation center, the Hub, placed Zint in a permanent home, he became a high-profile success story. His transition off the streets into a studio apartment helped demonstrate that Berkeley’s program works.

“We put a lot of pressure on them,” Zint said in an interview. “They housed me.”

But last week, Zint was forced to move out of his apartment after gallons of foul, rust-colored water leaked through his roof during a rainstorm. Zint, who is disabled and has respiratory problems, collected the tainted liquid in buckets and emptied in his toilet before it flooded his kitchen. The air in his studio smelled humid and moldy.

“My tent never leaked for five years,” said Zint about the time he spent living on Berkeley’s streets. “I’m in more danger right now because of this roof leaking and the mold that’s probably in there.”

Zint said that he first noticed water marks on the ceiling indicating leakage in April 2017 when he moved into the deep East Oakland apartment. After a spring rainstorm, he documented water coming in through the roof and asked his landlord and the Hub to fix it.

“A guy came out once, walked on the roof,” said Zint, “but the rainy season was over and getting it fixed kind of vanished.”

In November, it started to leak again, worse this time. Again, he notified his landlord and the Hub, but he didn’t think either was moving fast enough, so Zint protested. He filmed rain dripping into his kitchen and he photographed a basketball-sized water bubble growing under his ceiling’s paint. He sent the pictures and videos to Berkeley city councilmembers and his case workers at the Hub. Zint also began publicly posting videos of the leaking roof to his Facebook page where he provided updates to his followers.

In response, the Hub moved him into a hotel room last Thursday. And his landlord, under pressure from the Hub and city of Berkeley, agreed to repair the roof.

But Zint’s experience raises questions about the quality of housing that formerly homeless people are being placed in as cities like Berkeley rush to address the shelter crisis. The incredible shortage of affordable housing units designed and priced for very low-income populations has forced nonprofit service providers and cities to increasingly rely on private landlords, some with checkered pasts of renting out substandard and dangerous housing.

In Zint’s case, his apartment is in a six-unit building owned by DODG Corporation, which is managed by another company, RentOak, LLC. Behind both companies is one of Oakland’s biggest landlords, the Singhs, a politically connected family that long-held a monopoly on the city’s taxicab industry.

Over the past several decades, Baljit Singh, his wife Surindar Mann, and their sons Harmit Mann and Dharminder Mann have acquired ownership of over 150 homes and apartment buildings throughout Oakland. At the same time, their tenants have complained of almost every imaginable problem. But according to city records, after building inspectors identify health hazards and code violations, the problems persist.

In just the past several years, inspectors have found mountains of trash infested with vermin outside of apartment buildings owned by the Singhs. Other buildings suffer from dangerously exposed wiring, sinking foundations, missing smoke detectors, water leaking through ceilings and walls, broken windows and locks, broken elevators, dangerous stairways with broken handrails, leaking plumbing, and mold and mildew.

At one downtown Oakland property owned by the Singhs, a city inspector verified in 2017 a disturbing list of problems: “Heater is inoperable. There is a hole in the ceiling. Mold throughout the unit. Oven shoots out fire even when it’s not on. Low water pressure. Windows don’t function properly,” the inspector wrote in his notes.

At another rental property on 71st Avenue, county inspectors found in 2014 “standing water” under a home that was causing mold. “Health of child impacted,” the county inspectors wrote in a referral sent to city inspectors.

At a Singh-owned apartment building on International Boulevard near 99th Avenue, tenants complained in 2017 of accumulating trash and unsanitary conditions causing a “rodent infestation.” This year, tenants at the same property complained again to the city about “trash in the backyard causing rats and roaches,” as well as inoperable smoke detectors.

According to city records, tenants at about half of the properties owned by the Singhs have complained of unsanitary and substandard conditions over the past decade. City inspectors verified violations in many of the cases.

Water leaks in Zint's kitchen corroded his refrigerator.

  • Water leaks in Zint’s kitchen corroded his refrigerator.

In Zint’s building, the roof has been leaking for at least three years. In 2015, tenants complained of dry rot in the ceiling that caused a hole to form, letting in water and pests. City inspectors wrote in reports that the building’s foundation might have shifted causing plumbing problems. In 2017, tenants again complaint of leaky roofs. Another complaint about the roof was lodged with the city in February 2018.

Zint said he complained directly to DODG and RentOak and to the Hub in April and again in November about his studio’s leaking roof. “A mouse fell out of a crack in the ceiling,” Zint said about one of the water-damaged areas that recently ruptured.

Aaron Hancock, an attorney for DODG Corporation, told the Express that the company usually buys distressed real estate that is already in bad shape and then “pours” money into the properties to improve them. DODG also attempts to address problems at their residential properties as soon as they arise or are brought to the attention of management by tenants, he said. DODG also recently hired a professional property manager, Michael Trang, and has made other changes.

Jim Huntley, a spokesperson for the Hub, said his organization does its best to inspect units and ensure landlords keep them up to code and that the Hub also tries to get problems fixed quickly when a tenant complains. “We inspected that unit,” Huntley said about Zint’s studio. “We’re not always able to get up on top of a roof and anticipate something’s going to leak.”

Zint pays the $1,500 a month in rent for his studio using a Shelter Plus Care voucher that is funded through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by Alameda County with assistance from the Hub and city of Berkeley. The voucher covers $1,374 of the total, and Zint, who earns about $900 in income a month, pays the rest. DODG rents about a dozen other apartments to low-income tenants through the Shelter Plus Care program.

According to Huntley, Berkeley’s Hub was able to house about 63 people in 2016 through this program. Last year, the Hub housed another 93 people, and this year the number housed will be slightly lower. Many of these homeless people are placed in homes in the Central Valley due to the shortage of affordable housing in the East Bay, however. For those who stay in the East Bay, the quality of housing can be poorer due to the tight real estate market, as well as the older housing stock that’s common in cities like Berkeley and Oakland.

Berkeley’s “coordinated entry system” was set up in 2016 to serve about 1,000 homeless people living on the city’s streets with the goal of placing every individual into transitional or longterm homes. But because of the shortage of very-low income affordable housing, usually built and operated by nonprofits, navigation centers like Berkeley’s Hub increasingly have to rely on private landlords to house the homeless. While many landlords participating in these types of programs keep their properties in good shape, some don’t.

Zint insisted on staying near his community in Berkeley, but that meant it was more difficult to find a relatively affordable apartment in good shape. “At first, they tried to get me to move out to Antioch and Stockton,” he said.

“As you well know, we’re up against a difficult housing market where it’s hard to place clients,” Huntley said. “We’re scrambling to find landlords who will take this subsidy, and it places nonprofits such as the Hub in really difficult positions.”

Huntley said that because the Hub is a nonprofit service provider, it doesn’t have the power to compel landlords to fix problems. “If it’s an egregious code violation, it’s ultimately up to the city to enforce the law,” he said.

The city of Oakland has cracked down on the Singhs for several especially egregious cases of housing and building code violations, according to city of Oakland records. But even while Oakland’s Planning and Building Department has cited the Singhs for operating dangerous housing, the Singhs have also benefitted from public grants distributed by another city department.

According to city records, companies owned by the Singh family has received at least $254,000 through Oakland’s “Tenant and Façade Improvement Program” since 2009. In some cases, the Singhs have used this money to pay for renovations of properties where city building inspectors later found serious code violations.

For example, in 2009, the city provided the Singhs with $65,000 in subsidies to fix up one of their buildings located on Foothill Boulevard in Oakland’s Fairfax neighborhood. City records show that there have been five code enforcement cases at the property since 2013, with problems such as broken windows and cracked glass doors, exposed electrical wiring, and trash stored in unapproved bins on the sidewalk for weeks at a time. In September of this year, city inspectors found “holes in the walls, lighting issues, cracks in the stairs,” along with a broken water heater, a dangerous stairway, and no locks on exterior doors.

Oakland’s Tenant and Façade Improvement Program has been the subject of controversy in the past due to grants made to one member of the Singh family. In 2014, Dharminder Mann pleaded no contest to charges of defrauding the city of Oakland of grants made through the program to a company he controlled instead of using it to fix up properties.

There is no evidence that any other members of the Singh family have misappropriated city grants through the program. But since 2015, Dharminder’s brother, Harmit Mann, has applied for at least 5 more Tenant and Façade Improvement Program grants from the city’s Community and Economic Development Agency to pay for construction at properties owned by his family. They include proposed renovations to an airport parking facility on 98th Avenue and an old garage converted into a strip mall on Hegenberger Road.

Even while they apply for city grants, the Singh family continues to be cited by the city’s Planning and Building Department for operating dangerous and illegal housing in the city. In one case from January 2018, a city inspector found an unpermitted living space in the warehouse. The makeshift homes were partially flooded with water that was leaking through the roof. There was no heat in the units, and they smelled of mold.

A month later, the same city inspector returned to the property and noted “several life safety violations,” including no smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, no means of egress from the bedrooms, and carbon monoxide ventilation violations. The problems were so bad that the Oakland Fire Department put the building under watch.

By March, city inspectors observed that “families are still living in the warehouse building,” including young children. In May, Baljit Singh, Harmit Mann, their architect, and lobbyist Ignacio De La Fuente, former longtime city council president — who now runs his own lobbying firm — met with city officials at the Planning and Building Department offices in downtown Oakland.

City officials ordered the Singhs relocate all of the families living in the building, mostly Latino immigrants, by June 11. But according to city records, when building inspectors arrived on the 14th, after they already red-tagged the building, they observed that there were still multiple tenants residing there, including a pregnant woman and a small boy. By July, the building had finally been emptied.

Tenants living in other properties owned by the Singhs have complained of harassment and retaliation when they filed complaints to the city about the poor condition of their homes. In 2017, residents of an apartment complex on 105th Avenue owned by the Singhs filed a complaint with the city about piles of trash around the garbage bins that were attracting vermin.

One resident wrote in an application for a restraining order that the Singh’s employees “screamed” at them about the complaint and that Baljit Singh showed up one day and allegedly threatened to throw away all of their belongings. County health inspector Celina Guerra-Martinez wrote in a report that tenants told her Singh threatened to throw out children’s bicycles “and blamed the tenants for the garbage issues at the property.”

Another health inspector, Bruce Kirkpatrick, visited the apartment complex in June 2017 and observed a pile of trash in the parking lot. “The flies were everywhere and tenants described that the flies were entering apartments,” he wrote. “Raccoons and seagulls have been seen in the area.”

Last Sunday, after three days in a hotel, Zint was able to move back into his apartment which got a new ceiling. “It’s a shame it took it all of this to do it,” he said about his online protest against his landlord and the Hub.

At the same time, Zint said he’s concerned about what other, less vocal homeless people might experience as they search for landlords who will accept homeless program housing vouchers. He fears that some formerly homeless people might be getting off the streets, but they’re possibly being pushed into substandard housing in the East Bay’s tighter-than-ever rental market.
“There’s not enough affordable units,” said Zint. “I get it. They’ve got to go with what’s available and they think that in order to save lives they feel this is the most efficient way to do it.”

Now with winter well underway, Zint is hoping the leaks don’t start up again.

Comments (9)

JP MASSAR

12/27/2018 AT 9:56 AM

Any business with that kind of track record should be denied license to operate and be subject to having some of their properties seized and sold to pay for repairs to bring conditions up to code.

The owners should be personally responsible for any deaths or illnesses due to these outrageous, dangerous and unhealthy conditions.

Note from Mike Zint, First They Came for the Homeless:

Be happy for the housing we bless you with. You are one of the lucky few. Now, go away and die!

Book: “American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism”

American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism

American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism

by Henry A. Giroux

Are we in the beginning of a new fascist era?

As white supremacy, ultra-nationalism, rabid misogyny and anti-immigrant fervor coalesce, a new and uniquely American form of fascism looms. Could our current moment actually bring about the end of democracy in the United States? Are Americans willing to surrender their freedom and dignity, along with their ongoing struggle for equality, justice and mutual respect in the face of the rising tide of political and ideological extremism?

In this provocative collection of essays, Henry Giroux warns of the consequences of doing too little as Trump and the so-called alt-right relentlessly attack critics, journalists, and target the hard-earned civil rights of women, people of color, immigrants, the working class, and low-income Americans. As we face down the frightening reality of living under a system that serves only the interests of the wealthy few, Giroux makes a passionate call for ordinary citizens to organize, educate, and resist by all available means.

Praise for American Nightmare 

“In this current era of corporate media misdirection and misinformation . . . Henry Giroux is one of the few great political voices of today, with powerful insight into the truth. Dr. Giroux is defiantly explaining, against the grain, what’s REALLY going on right now, and doing so quite undeniably. Simply put, the ideas he brings forth are a beacon that need to be seen and heard and understood in order for the world to progress.”–Julian Casablancas, lead vocalist for The Strokes

“In frightening times like these, what is desperately needed is an informed and wise voice that speaks clearly and with conviction about the situation we are in, and what can be done. Henry Giroux is one of the great public intellectuals of our times, and American Nightmare is exactly the book for people grappling with how to understand the Trump era and how to proceed. This is precisely the book that needs to be shared with friends and acquaintances. It will provoke hard thinking, bring clarity, and stimulate much needed conversation and action.”–Robert W. McChesney, co-author of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy

“We have no greater chronicler of these dystopian times. Giroux’s critique cuts to the crux of today’s authoritarian crisis, yet his voice remains of one hope that the people may collectively regain control. Even while living though systemic efforts to privatize hope, Giroux’s critique enacts the sort of shared resistance that can effectively challenge authoritarianism. American Nightmare demonstrates how we can resist the normalization of hate, authoritarianism and alienation in Trump’s America. He shows us that not only are we not alone, but we are among a majority who oppose the cruelties of American social policies.”–David H. Price, author of Cold War Anthropology: The CIA and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology

“At a moment when the news cycle presents the dangers of Trumpian authoritarianism through disjointed and discrete hottakes, Giroux’s wide-reaching analysis accounts for our current American nightmare with necessary historical context, and in so doing creates an aperture for resistance more meaningful than a hashtag.”–Natasha Lennard, contributing writer for The Intercept, co-editor of Violence: Humans in Dark Times

“In this passionately argued volume, Henry Giroux, long known for his critical commentaries on the de-democratization of the U.S.A., on its rising inequ(al)ity and neoliberal excesses, reflects very thoughtfully on the specter of Trump’s America: on its violence, cruelty, and incivility, its burgeoning authoritarianism, its inexorable edging toward a Grave Neo World: in short, a rising specter that demands to be countered at all cost if the U.S. is to be rescued from itself.”–John Comaroff, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, Harvard University

(Goodreads.com)

Articles ~ Message fr. Aldolfo Delgado’s brother ~ Announcements, Wed. 12/26, Thur. 12/27, Fri. 12/28, Tue.. 1/1, Thurs. 1/3 (from Adrienne Fong)

Won’t be back till sometime next year. Few actions are listed.

Please encourage groups you are involved in to post events on Indybay: https://www.indybay.org/calendar/?page_id=12

Thank you to those who are posting on Indybay! 

  Check Indybay for events not listed here that might interest you.

ACCESSIBILITY: Please include Accessibility Information on events! This is a JUSTICE  ISSUE!  

KID FRIENDLY / CHILDCARE Please indicate for events. This is also a JUSTICE ISSUE! 

ARTICLES / YOUTUBES

A. 5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives – December 26, 2018

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201812260052.html?fbclid=IwAR09VfR6s6RMiDgJ8-8rrAaNP-iVy420UAeG2XyHq1UCiJIjqHvPFWCYxso 

B. 8-year-old Guatemalan boy dies in US custody – December 25, 2018

https://youtu.be/W31igfr4KwE

C. CA Gov. Brown Orders New DNA Testing In Murder Case Involving Kevin Cooper – December 25, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0P6IcIancs

D. Israel green-lights plans for 1,300 settlement homes, hundreds more pending – December 25, 2018

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-green-lights-plans-for-1300-settlement-homes-hundreds-more-pending/?fbclid=IwAR3bkGydhbT09-gQwnzO8cKfLVDAoob6vWAWDokexpuQPE-DKX-COzowq9U 

E. WE ARE A U.S. CONGRESSMAN AND A U.S. CITIZEN, AND BORDER AGENTS BUILT A CAGE AROUND US

https://www.newsweek.com/cage-congressman-citizen-migrants-border-teargas-1269621?fbclid=IwAR3VYyF9S385SDjrKJRiz2bR1XEuhsX6pEI6KfVj-BRDfwyuQZvRYL_KJ7o

~   ~   ~    ~    ~    ~   ~

December 25th (Christmas) is Adolfo Delgado Duarte’s born day. He was murdered by SFPD on March 6, 2018, at the age of 19 years old. May he rest in peace. Please keep his family in your thoughts during this holiday season.

Written by Victor, Aldolfo’s brother:

“I’ve been struggling all day to figure out what to write, but nothing seems enough, there are really no words to express all the emptiness we feel inside. There is no reason big enough for you to not be here today on your birthday. Celebrating your life through your bday today was one of the saddest thing i have experieced. Marry Christmas and happy BDay ‘DOPH’ all the way to the sky. Miss and love you always.”

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

FEW ANNOUNCEMENTS

Wed. 12/26, Thurs. 12/27, Fri. 12/28  

2019:

Tue. 1/1, Thurs. 1/3 

Wednesday, December 26

Wednesday, 6:30pm – 8:00pm, Boycott Manny’s and its “Woke Washing” of the Mission – Every Wednesday

3092 16th St. (@ Valencia.)
SF

We call for a community boycott of “Manny’s”. “Manny’s” as a gentrifying wine-bar, cafe and fake “social justice” space in the Mission District, will only accelerate the raising of rents and the displacement of Black, Latinx, disabled and trans/queer people in the Mission. Additionally, the proprietor of Manny’s, Emmanuel Yekutiel, has unequivocally espoused racist, Zionist, pro-Israel ideals that we will not tolerate or accept in our community.

Further, “Manny’s:

Claims to be a “community” space, yet no one in the Mission, long a poor and working-class, Latinx and black community, asked him to open this gentrifier wine bar. In fact, Emmanuel Yekutiel previously attempted to open Manny’s in the Bayview and the Tenderloin but was told to leave by community members and organizations.

· Even with no community support and no connection to the Mission, Manny’s was given a “reduced rate rent” by Sam Moss, executive director of Mission Housing, the landlord of the space.

Claims to be a “cultural space” specifically for the local community of San Francisco and the Mission District. However, so far, the space has almost exclusively hosted Washington DC politicos TED-talks catering to the ruling-class Tech-elite. As longstanding Mission District cultural spaces like Galería de la Raza are forced out of their spaces due to the eviction crisis, the owner of Manny’s, a well-connected, Washington DC corporate and political consultant for companies like Facebook and the Hilary Clinton campaign are helping turn the Mission into a rich-only zone fueled by tech-gentrification.

We will not tolerate gentrifiers and Zionists attempts at invading and destroying our community through “woke-washing”!! The Lucy Parsons Project from this moment forth is calling for a boycott of Manny’s, until it is shut down!

Info: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2018/12/21/18819913.php 

Thursday, December 27

Thursday, 8:00am, Court support for Nia Wilson

Rene C. Davidson Courthouse
1225 Fallon St., 7th Floor, Department 11
Oakland

This Court could Decide to Dismiss The Criminal Case Against John Coward For The Death Of Nia Wilson. His Lawyer’s are Gonna Be Claiming Mental Insanity.

Nia Wilson is the young woman who was stabbed to death by John Lee Cowell at the MacArthur BART Station in July 2018. Her sister was also injured by him.

Article:

Nia Wilson’s suspected killer unfit to stand trial, attorney argues

https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Nia-Wilson-s-suspected-killer-unfit-to-stand-13481238.php

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/2301740263179301/

Thursday, 6:00pm, SF Food Not Bombs Food Share 

16th & Mission BART Plaza
SF

For information or to volunteer:  send email to sffnbvolunteers@riseup.net.

Cookhouse:  Station 40, 3030B 16th Street (between Mission and Julian).

Food Pickups: Help Needed!

Cooking:  3030B 16th Street–3:00 pm to 6:00 pm–Ring doorbell for entry–Help Needed!

Sharing: 16th and Mission BART Plaza — 6:00 pm–Help Needed!

Webpage: https://sffnb.org/serving-schedule/

Friday, December 28 

Friday, 12Noon – 2:00pm, Mothers on the March Against Police Murders – Week 116

Hall of Injustice
850 Bryant St.
SF

All are invited to join us  to demand that District Attorney George Gascon charge police officers with murder. Stand with ALL families who have lost loved ones to police murders. Since Gascon has been the DA in San Francisco, he has not charged any police officers

January 1, 2019

 Tuesday, 12Noon – 4:00pm, 10th Annual Oscar Grant Vigil: Gone But Not Forgotten

Grant Station
(Fruitvale BART Station)
Oakland

“Keep Fighting Until Victory is Won!”

Come out and support

Youth Speakers | Poets | Artists | Community Leaders | Activists | Lawyers | Educators | Family & Friends

Commemorating the Life of Oscar Grant. We are ALL Oscar Grant.

Host: Oscar Grant Foundation

Info: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2018/12/19/18819875.php

Thursday, January 3

Thursday, 4:00pm, One Year Later…We Still Want Justice 4 Sahleem Tindle

West Oakland BART Station
Oakland

We don’t celebrate the death or the day Sahleem was murdered,but we want to let them know on the same day that he was tragically taking from us,Jan 3rd 2018,that we still want JUSTICE,We STILL WANT ACCOUNTABILITY,and REMEMBRANCE of the life that is no longer here with ourselves.We love Sahleem,we miss Sahleem and we want to remind them that we will never forget the day Joseph Mateu took him away!Join us for a protest in Sahleem’s Honor followed by a Candlelight Vigil…More Details to follow.(Please Wear All White)

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/2428459927232031/

Thursday, 7:30pm – 9:30pm, Planning Meeting: The Peoples March-5th Annual Reclaim MLK 

Greenlining Institute
360 14th St.
Oakland

At the first planning meeting on 12/12,  we were able to establish several committees to begin the work of planning this major event.

We’ve established committees working on policy & program, outreach, logistics and security, media, and fundraising. If you have some time before the 3rd, please dm us if you’d like to jump in to one of these committees right away.

Host: APTP

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/2167866963466995/

Christmas Message from First They Came for the Homeless

First they came for the homeless

16 hrs

The holidays are here. Best wishes to all.

Stay strong, America’s homeless. The spirit is within all of you. Follow the positive, get rid of the negative, and have faith in yourselves. The fight starts with the poorest saying enough is enough. 2019, the year of?

We get to decide. Stand up, fight back, make history.

–Mike Zint