August 6, 2020

Throwing the neoliberal money makers out from the start

July 30

GUEST: Ed Haffmans, local peace and environmental activist who has spent decades living well without fossil fuels, talks about the growing consensus for renewable energy, and Michael Moore's new documentary, Planet of the Humans.

SUNY New Paltz did not make the cut for greenest campuses

The only thing ‘green’ about nuclear power

Ed has been around the Hudson Valley for a long time. I remember him from the 1980s selling buttons about US imperialism in Central America. The buttons were right on; our government was lying through its teeth.

I had not really known about the local wars for environmental justice, so Ed was a source of some good stories. The turnaround of SUNY New Paltz was sort of a shocker. The college had gone from environmental innovation to a board of trustees filled with oil and banking executives. The college had even torn down its environmental center.

The story about Indian Point nuclear power plant is even more troubling. How did a few investors prevail over the safety of millions of people up and down the Hudson River? The NY Times was certainly part of it, with never a discouraging word about nuclear power.

Indian Point is still with us, of course. As is global warming. Profit making from the environment creates an ever larger dead zone. Indian Point can never really be deactivated because there is no place to send the spent fuel. It will sit there forever like a huge undetonated bomb, waiting for a time when the cooling tanks plug up or shut down.

I put the picture of a wind farm up because there were better answers all along, if we could have thrown the neoliberal money makers out of the equation from the start. 

Were our government made up of Laurette Giardinos

July 23

GUEST: Laurette Giardino, human rights activist and 2020 Democratic candidate running for New York State Assembly of the 105th district, talks about why she supports the NY Healthcare Act, green jobs, alternative energy, criminal justice reform, and getting the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.

Laurette Giardino for NY State Assembly 105th District

Harckham Honors Two District LGBTQ Leaders for Pride Month

Laurette was a joy to interview. She has strong beliefs in justice, equality, and personal freedom. She is even willing to run on that platform for the NYS Assembly. She wants universal healthcare, and hasn't been bought off by the big insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. She is for the Green New Deal, and hasn't taken any money from Big Oil. She is for racial justice and not afraid to talk about what changes need to be made.

In short, she is putting forth a people's agenda, free from the dominance of the nation's billionaires. How is this even possible in a society so inundated with the filthy money of the privileged few?

I think it comes down to Barnie and the progressive movement in this country that just never stopped saying what should be said. That the very rich incite racial hatreds as a way to maintain their power and money. That working people can stand together and make the rich pay their fair share if they expect to enjoy the benefits and protections of our society.

Were our government made up of Laurette Giardinos. 

Recovering some of our lost humanity by being honest

July 16

GUEST: Kwame Holmes, PhD, Scholar in Residence, Human Rights Program, Bard College, and author of numerous articles about race and LGBTQ rights, talks about Black Lives Matter and how local actions can create lasting change.

Why Abolish the Police? - Chronogram

Scholar in Residence, Human Rights

Kwame is a delightful guest. He is able to keep his sense of humor as he talks about the prevailing racism that has plagued our society since way before the US Constitution. Ours is a nation built on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples as well as the importation of millions of Black slaves. As a white person, what does one do? What reparations will ever make those wrongs less of a curse on our national pride? Why do whites have national pride?

Discussing all this with a Black person willing to talk about race can be anxiety producing. Am I saying racist things because my society has been awash in racist sentiments for my whole life? Or am I simply a racist because my standard of living and virtual freedom from police killings has always made my life easier. Ok, much easier. I have been a member of the chosen people in a country perpetually stained by its continued assault on people of color.

So humor makes things easier. It allows me to express my support for human rights without thinking of what I should have been doing all along. Humor makes me laugh about racist assumptions too. Assumptions that are simply stupid and small minded, like our president. But is it enough to condemn Trump? What is enough for a white man in our society?

It is a question that the Germans have asked since the Holocaust. Did they know what was going on as Jews were disappearing? Were they in the German Army, defending a state that was committing genocide? And when can Germans expect to rejoin the human race?

I don't know about white people being "fragile," the conclusion of "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism." The book is well worth reading, of course. But why not say that like the Germans who lived through World War II, white people in America are simply guilty in some degree, and that we can recover some of our lost humanity by simply being honest?

August 4, 2020

PANOPTICON August 4, 2020 - Raphaelle

PANOPTICON August 4, 2020

Ever since the first day of the lock down, people around the world have had one burning question: how do we get out of lockdown and back to our former lives?  

Two widely touted ways we are told we will regain our freedom are either a vaccine and failing that - or incorporating that - some kind of “papers-please” pass containing our personal health data as it relates to COVID19.

And of course given how much money is swirling around all things COVID related, oligarchs are jumping on both of these challenges.  I’ll leave the vaccine conversation for another program, (here’s where Fred breathes a sigh of relief!!) and focus in today’s episode of Panopticon on some of the tracking apps which we are being told will be a big part of our future new normal.

And just on a personal note, as a child of apartheid in South Africa, growing up watching people being pulled off the streets into police vans because their papers weren’t in order, it is particularly painful for me to talk about this.  

So first up is a Swedish company called Sidehide that say they are testing their biometric ID product in Miami hotels this summer.   Sidehide uses a QR code embedded with a selfie and your government issued ID to provide faster authentication during hotel check ins and could in the future include your covid19 test results and your vaccine status.

Delta and Heathrow Airport have both expressed interest in this product – which leads me to another early entrant in this space, Onfido, which raised a hundred million dollars in venture capital in April, including from M12, Microsoft’s venture fund.  Like Sidehide, Onfido uses a QR code embedded with your government ID, a selfie and AI to authenticate you.

Onfido recently submitted a proposal to Britain’s parliamentary Science and Technology committee, so I suspect we will be hearing more from Onfido in the future.

And finally I want to talk about COVI-Pass which uses a VCode—similar to a QR code—that flashes green if a person has tested negative for the virus, red if tests show that they have the virus or don’t have antibodies, or if their test result has expired and yellow when it’s time to be retested. The app can “geo-fence” an entrance, prohibiting visitors with a red light from entering a building, stadium or school. 

The COO of COVI-Pass, Adam Palmer, believes all governments will move toward a global health passport, and they will be as common as carrying a driver’s license or a passport.  The company says they are shipping passes to both the private sector and governments in over fifteen countries, including Italy, France, India, and the United States.

So how close are we to having these products rolled out?

Well the sticking point at the moment is not getting governments and corporations to jump all over this, but the inconvenient fact that science simply can’t match the ambitions of the people who want to control us.

Let’s start with the basics.  What constitutes a positive COVID19 test?  I’m not going to delve into the controversy about the accuracy of swab tests, but even a positive COVID19 antibody test is potentially meaningless.  According to the CDC, antibody tests don’t test specifically for COVID19 so a positive antibody test could just mean you’ve been exposed to a similar corona virus in the past.  (And we will provide a CDC link in the show notes)

A second sticking point is that scientists are coming to understand the limitations of antibody testing, because immunity to corona virus infections is coded on what are called T-cells.  Testing for T-cell immunity to COVID19 is possible – but it’s hard to scale.  The other problem with testing for COVID19 immunity on T-cells is scientists are finding that large percentages of the US population already have T-cell immunity to COVID19, based on prior exposure to corona viruses (and again, we will be posting those research papers in the show notes).

But using these immunity passes to track test results could become moot once governments start rolling out warp speed vaccines.  These immunity passes could then be used to record our vaccination history - and Mastercard will likely have a jump start on their competitors in this space.  In a joint venture with the Bill Gates-backed GAVI vaccine alliance and the AI-powered “identity authentication” company Trust Stamp, Mastercard is rolling out the “Wellness Pass” in “low-income, remote communities” in West Africa.  The Wellness Pass is a digital vaccination record and identity platform linked to Mastercard’s payment system.

Trust Stamp uses biometric identity data and the company says their system can operate in areas of the world without internet or cellular connectivity. And because it uses biometric data, it doesn’t need a person’s legal name or identity to function.

So is the Wellness Pass a super awesome, cool little app that enables you to roll up to the check in desk, show your face, be greeted by name, and then step onto a plane safe in the knowledge that everyone onboard is as up to date with their vaccines as you are?

How comfortable are we with a payment system that’s linked to our personal health information?

What happens if we fall behind with our vaccines?  Or find out we react badly to them.  Will we find ourselves being locked out of our payment system?  Or other systems?  Will our pass prevent us from boarding planes and trains - or even entering supermarkets - because it’s flashing red instead of green?

Are these apps the beginning of a western style social credit system?

Is this a Brave New World?  And if it is, are you brave enough to stand up to it?  

Or are you going to roll up your sleeve and roll over? 

CDC Guidance on Positive Tests:

Research Papers on Widespread T-cell Immunity

Articles and Blogs on T-cell Immunity

July 14, 2020

Trained as killers in American colonies abroad

July 9

GUEST: Stuart Schrader, research scientist in sociology at Johns Hopkins University, Associate Director of the Program in Racism, Immigration and Citizenship, and author of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing, talks about the racist connections between foreign and domestic policy when it comes to law enforcement.

Badges Without Borders

I know many reformers are hesitant to go beyond immediate problems. They have good, liberal instincts, but worry about diluting their causes by looking at other societies or countries. Finding the common threads between the racist police in Baltimore and the racist IDF soldiers in the West Bank is simply off the table.

Of course, both probably received the same training. The Baltimore police even traveled to Israel to study tactics, in a country where racist brutality is reserved for the underclass of Palestinians. Are there further connections between racist cops and US foreign policy? Our country has invaded and occupied any number of countries since the World War II. Did we learn a racist viciousness killing Koreans in the 1950s, or Vietnamese in the 1960s? We certainly killed enough to learn all the tricks of subjugation and repression. The young men and women who were lucky enough to come home often enrolled in police departments, to turn their service experiences into careers. The same is true for our endless wars in the Middle East. Shooting "ragtops" in Iraq and Afghanistan is as good training as they could get in punishing people of color in the US.

So is reform the answer? Or is the question broader than that? What does American militarism in the rest of the world do to our own country's standards of social justice? Trained as killers in American colonies abroad, and sent to Israel for additional skills, what other type of policing are these new recruits capable of providing to US citizens who happen to be Black.

Our leaders and our mainstream media will never connect these dots for us. We have to work it out for ourselves, with the help of writers like Stuart Schrader.  

Those who know

July 2

GUESTS: Emily Yamasaki and Nga Bul, members of Radical Women, the National Comrades of Color Caucus, and the Freedom Socialist Party, talk about the psychology of oppression and the NYC Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board.

Radical Women - U.S. on Facebook

We had a nuts and bolts review of what reforms can be made in our criminal justice system. At times, we explored the "bourgeois" women's organizations that are mostly white and mostly focused on electing more Democrats to office. Newer movements have a different color as well as a different socioeconomic makeup. These groups fault both parties as favoring the rich, white capitalists over the majority of the American people.

Both Emily and Nga stressed that The Freedom Socialist Party looked at capitalism as the underlying issue, and not a symptom of a country with the wrong party in control. That's fine to believe if you are white and middle class. The police won't shoot you in the streets. You will get a good education and a good job without worrying about having a criminal record. Neoliberal fixes don't really fix anything. The racism will persist below the surface, and whites will remain unaware of the injustices of their own society. 

A system that puts greed ahead of what is best for the majority of people is bound to turn out this way. We have a moment, according to Emily and Nga, when almost everyone in our society can figure out the theft of the very few and the suffering of the very many. 

Elected civilian review boards for the police are necessary to correct some egregious wrongs. But a system built on exploitation will always be racist and unjust. And the people hired to do policing will always serve the richest property owners, before turning attention to the rest of us. 

I really enjoyed doing this interview. Both Emily and Nga are radical women of color, and their analysis of our system goes far beyond anything that the New York Times is capable of providing. It is time for the rest of us to stop reading the corporate press and listen to those who know. 

July 10, 2020

To the editor:

Police violence is probably the most obvious state-sanctioned,  “in your face” violence -particularly if your face is black or brown.     Defunding the police is a good  beginning - but just scratches the surface.    Martin Luther King reminded us that  the largest purveyor  of violence in the world is the US military.   Military violence causes unspeakable suffering  for all living creatures - human and otherwise.  Irag, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Congo, Kashmir, and Palestine.  It’s the violence of guns,  bombs, napalm, land mines,  tanks,  jet fighters,  Cruise missiles, submarines, battle ships,  Apache helicopters,   and  ultimately nuclear bombs which cause  horrifying  death, suffering, sickness, and starvation  for millions around the globe.  It  also causes devastating   environmental  contamination from substances like depleted uranium and  agent orange in Vietnam. 

So yes , let’s  start with defunding racist police violence.  But we must  move on to address the real threats to  life on this planet.  Let’s  defund our military  (ideally, ALL militaries).   And while we’re at it, let’s  defund all the violent enterprises -  like   mining,  logging, and oil drilling.  Defund all activities that hurt mother earth,  we humans,  and all the helpless and voiceless creatures on this planet. 

Our  tax dollars for military  spending are bankrupting us financially and  morally.   It’s why  we can’t afford  universal free health care,  good housing, decent public transportation,  and free education.  Maybe if  Americans had  programs  like these we wouldn’t need to live in a police state. Defunding our military and instituting programs to help and support people  -   that would truly make America great. 

Eli Kassirer