get your mind working with various things from black agenda report

The US Dictatorship of (White) Capital and its Tools of Bamboozlement
Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, Sep 24 2020

Like three-card monte scammers everywhere, the oligarchs that rule the United States strive constantly to keep the populace guessing where the “money card,” in this case, the real power in society, is located. The whole point of the corporate scam is to dazzle and confuse the rest of us, the “marks” in this con game of corporate owned-and-operated phony democracy, so that we never know who the “Powers-That-Be” really are. Thus, public anger is diffused, as the identities of the actual villains at the top of the wealth pyramid are lost in the shuffle of cards. Off with whose head? Of course, the oligarchs themselves don’t stand in front of the portable card table on the street corner. They delegate that task to their shills and minions in media, universities and other corporate propaganda dispensing enterprises, like the NYT, which earlier this month attempted to bamboozle the public (as Malcolm X would say) into believing that its list of “922 of the most powerful people in America” reflected the actual power relationships in the belly of the racist capitalist beast. For an extra spin of the wheel of confusion, the NYT pretended that the racial make-up of its list of the “most powerful” was of paramount importance, as if individual ethnicity is the determining factor in how cogs in a corporate wheel operate. If only Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were Black, then racial justice would prevail in the land. Capitalism, however, seeks only its own accumulation, not social justice.

The NYT insisted that these 922 individuals are the most “powerful,” not the most “influential.” That’s an important distinction, since many voices can exert some kind of influence on the public, like Elvis Pressley or James Brown, Muhammad Ali or Alex Rodriguez, Walter Conkrite or Rush Limbaugh, but real power in a capitalist society resides in the Lords of Capital, who shape the social, legal and economic structures to their own benefit. Therefore, we need to delete from the NYT list of “most powerful” the entire cast of 100 senators, 431 congress critturs (four vacancies) and 50 governors, since all are creatures of the two corporate political parties that are wholly owned by their deep-pocket donors. All of these elected officials have some influence with the public, but their power to affect change is severely constrained by corporate-dominated party structures, as the “progressives” in the Democratic “Squad” can attest. Scratch 581 not-really-powerful people from the list. The behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus, 80% of whom voted for continued militarization of the police in 2014, while 75% opted to elevate cops to the status of “protected class” in 2018, only makes sense when they are recognized as operatives of a corporate party, not “powerful” people in their own right, or as representatives of Black constituencies whom they refuse to serve.

We must also delete the 29 police chiefs and 25 prosecutors from the NYT list. These men and women are cogs in the wheels of the machinery of the world’s biggest police state. None of the top cops, including the 14 Black and Hispanic chiefs, have the power to dismantle the deeply embedded Mass Black Incarceration State, even if they wanted to. And although it’s good that two of the 29 big city prosecutors are considered “progressive” (Lawrence Krasner in Philadelphia and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco), their presence alone does not alter the nature of the racist and predatory US State. The same goes for all 24 top Trump administrators, including the three Black, Hispanic and Asian operatives, who are functionaries of a corporate party apparatus that is a tool of at least one wing of a feuding corporate ruling oligarchy. The exceptions would be administrators like Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and a few others who are bonafide members of the billionaire ruling class. But most of the others, although relatively rich, made their bones by serving the ruling class, not as Lords of Capital. Any Democratic Administration contains a similar mix, like President Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin who accumulated a net worth of $100m serving the banks in and out of public office, and Obama’s man at the Treasury, Timothy Franz Geithner, a younger servant of the banks (as Federal Reserve of New York CEO) whose lifetime cut of the corporate cake is a modest $2m. Some servants of Power earn more than others, but the oligarchs have plenty of eager operatives to watch out for their interests on both sides of the duopoly.

The same corporate duopoly that shapes the Congress fills the ranks of federal judges, including the US Supreme Court, whether Black, white, Asian or Hispanic, so delete all nine SCOTUS justices from the power list. Their political leanings reflect differences within the ruling class, but all are products of the oligarchs’ entrenched and pervasive Power. The NYT includes among its tally of the “most powerful” eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military, one of whom is Black. This is an easy delete: the military take orders from civilian officials chosen by the corporate duopoly parties. They are the quintessential servants and enforcers of global capitalist Power, nearly all of whom will directly serve the military industrial corporate complex on retirement. A few might head up universities, like the 25 NYT-designated “most powerful” university chieftains, one Black among them. But these higher education executives serve Power, not students or communities (other than the “community” of donors). They are trusted operatives for their funders and corporate collaborators, which is why their institutions are among the biggest gentrifyers in the nation. The directors of the country’s 15 largest news organizations are pure servants of power. All are identifiably allied with one or the other party (at this stage in the ruling class internecine split, most favor Democrats, but that will change somewhat once Trump is out of office), and all are pro-capital and dependent, directly or indirectly, on corporate ad dollars. The ten most-read magazine editors, as opposed to publishers, are also political operatives of the business end of their bosses’ enterprises.

Having winnowed out the servants, we are left with the Lords of Capital or their corporate chief executives in the flesh, wielding Power on behalf of their own class. That includes the 25 corporate CEOs on the NYT list. Only one of them is Black and five are Asian, but the NYT is quick to add that there are four Black chief executives heading up smaller Fortune 500 companies, as if that makes a huge difference in the wider societal scheme of things. The five book publishers on the NYT list also deserve to be there, because they head up huge communications conglomerates, are directly answerable to the shareholder class, and likely have a large stake in stock, themselves. The same goes for the 14 CEOs of music conglomerates, the 25 people at top Hollywood studios, and a similar number at fashion corporations: Nike, Prada, H&M, etc. The 99 owners of professional baseball, football and basketball teams were all oligarchs before they bought into the franchises, or teamed up with the super-rich to buy in. The ethnicity of the owners doesn’t matter much; all soak the public for stadiums and other subsidies. Stripped of the corporate go-fers and servants, the NYT list of the “most powerful “shrinks from 922 to 168. But that’s deceptive, because the newspaper only showcased the top 25 corporate CEOs, thus giving the impression that the oligarchy’s share of Power in society is dwarfed by the combined weight of the top elected and appointed officials, cultural , military, and higher education leaders, and corporate magazine and news overseers: people that haveinfluence among the population only as long as they keep their jobs, but who are ultimately answerable to the Lords of Capital, the “most powerful” ruling class.

Conspicuously missing from the NYT tally were leaders of organized labor who, at least nominally, speak for 16.4m dues-paying union members. Equally telling was the absence of leaders of the broad-based “Black Lives Matter” movement that inspired over 20m people to take to the streets in every nook and cranny of the country in June, possibly the biggest and most widespread wave of protests on US soil ever. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars the real ruling class has allocated to buy off organizations associated with the words “Black Lives Matter,” it appears the ruling class is very much aware that the only force capable of countering the power of Capital is the Power of the People in motion. Like the three-card monte hustler, the guardians of corporate hegemony at the NYT seek to divert attention from the real root of the nation and world’s problems, the Dictatorship of (white) Capital, by narrowing the definition of “power” to what can be achieved by climbing the corporate (or corporate party) ladder. They want us to look for the “money card,” when what we really need is enough People Power to put a stop to rich men’s schemes, forever.

The Democrats’ Supreme Failure
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

The issue most often used to silence criticism of Democrats is the presidential authority to appoint federal judges. Yet the Democrats are caught in yet another debacle of their own making regarding this very issue. Anyone who even attempts to question the Democratic Party is immediately met with the words, “What about the Supreme Court?” The question itself, a variant on the lesser evilism argument, is an admission of guilt. The death of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has exposed the corruption which led to defeat at the hands of Donald Trump and now to a Republican appointed super majority on the court. The fake Democratic Party is nothing more than a marketing scheme for political operatives. Their donor class, comprised of big pharma, insurance companies, banks, hedge funds, social media and technology, and other corporate interests give money and call the shots. The needs of their voters are explained away and excuse after excuse is given to tell them why they can never get what they want. Democratic propagandists do nothing except repeat ad nauseum that the Republicans are worse and in return they get unenthusiastic and ever weakening levels of support.

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the issue that ends all arguments. The fact that the Democrats mishandled this situation so badly is one of the reasons they have deified the late justice Ginsburg. They have to divert attention from the mess they created. The federal courts would not play such a large political role if the Democrats were serious about winning and keeping legislative majorities. When Barack Obama was president they lost more than 900 seats in state legislatures, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The loss of the Senate was particularly devastating. Ginsburg should have stepped down when Obama still had the Democratic Party control needed to nominate a replacement. Instead, the 80-year old who had already been diagnosed with cancer was supremely arrogant. In 2014 Ginsburg was dismissive of prudent calls for her to retire and said so publicly:

So tell me who the president could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?

Thanks to her hubris, Democrats are now caught in a mixture of panic and overly deferential mourning. Of course Republicans played hardball when conservative Antonin Scalia died in 2016. They controlled the Senate and simply refused to allow Obama’s nomination of Merritt Garland to proceed. Despite their constant browbeating over judicial nominations, the Democrats are now coasting along with bizarre nonchalance during a presidential campaign season and behaving with the same lackadaisical attitude that cost them the 2016 election. In the must-win state of Michigan, the Biden campaign has no in-person voter outreach, and no one that people who want to help can talk to. Of course there are no field offices because an on the ground campaign doesn’t really exist.

Democrats already had the campaign that was most important to them. Making certain that Bernie Sanders was not the nominee was their primary consideration. Beating Trump obviously doesn’t count for very much. Hand wringing about Ginsburg’s death is all that Democrats have to make their case. If they were serious about getting and holding power, the courts would be of lesser significance. So-called down ballot races get little attention or funding while control of state houses and Congress hang in the balance. Of course the Supreme Court is important, but less so if a party has an agenda to fight for. But the Democrats’ agenda has nothing to do with what the people’s needs. Raising money and mobilizing over issues are of no interest to them. Raising millions of dollars for the presidency, the office they use for their deal making, is all that matters. In 2016 the $1b that Hillary Clinton raised was all for naught. Donald Trump captured the imagination of the masses of self-identified white people and combined their enthusiasm with vote theft and suppression to flip Michigan and other states. The rest is history.

Now liberals do nothing except make entreaties to the spirit of the departed Ginsburg and send money to Democratic political action committees like ActBlue. Small donations totaling $100m were made to ActBlue in the three days after Ginsburg died. Of course, Hillary Clinton raised more money than Donald Trump, but four years of propaganda have rendered most Democrats incapable of critical thought. They believe that repeating a losing strategy will somehow work this time around. Meanwhile Donald Trump is sending unidentified Border Patrol and other agents into cities to make arrests, designating New York, Portland and Seattle as “anarchist jurisdictions” that no longer qualify for federal funding, and ginning up redneck supporters to vote twice and block entrances to early voting sites.

If Trump succeeds in pursuing fascist policies, it is because he has no real opposition. Democrats don’t mobilize because they don’t want to. They don’t care very much if they win any office except the presidency, but if that is threatened by someone even slightly to the left they will reject that too. Vote shaming and scolding are no substitute for policy but they don’t want to change any policy. That is why finger pointing and prayers to St Ruth are all they have. The Republican Supreme Court super majority is a very bad thing for the country. But it all came about because of the Democratic Party. The sooner voters abandon them and build progressive politics for themselves, the better. The people must save themselves and the first thing they can do is detach themselves from the losers. Giving money to their PACs is a waste and so is idolizing a dead justice. For that matter, idolizing a dead political party is equally foolish.

Biden and the Democrats Have No Plan to Stop the Bleeding—at Home or Abroad
Danny Haiphong, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

The 2020 election has no bearing on the crisis of US capitalism. None. Neither Trump nor Biden have any plan to stop the bleeding that this crisis has produced. The corporate media has made the 2020 election into a referendum on Trump’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the real story behind the 2020 election is that of the precipitous and permanent decline in the legitimacy of US politics as a whole. Politics in the US are almost entirely discussed from the vantage point of personalities and choices. For Republicans, Trump is the preferred personality because of his willingness to serve the rich with an intense amount of racist scapegoating and open contention with the so-called “left”-leaning values of the Democratic Party. Democrats have embraced Joe Biden because of his willingness to serve the rich with an emphasis on scapegoating Donald Trump for the countless ills of US capitalism. Neither conclusion is correct. Trump is the symptom of the US’ racist and imperialist system and Biden is no threat to the dictators of capital. In fact, Biden and the Democrats are so wedded to the capitalist class that the 2020 election has quickly morphed into little more than a contest between which kind of political poison the masses can tolerate best. As the election inches closer, the pressure to support Joe Biden over Donald Trump intensifies for much of the so-called “left”-leaning sections of the US. Hardliners in the Democratic Party are using fear of Trump as the principle argument for why Biden should be the next president. Susan Sarandon and other Sanders surrogates have proclaimed that a vote for Biden is a vote against fascism. Bernie Sanders has allegedly voiced concerns in private about Biden’s obsession with courting Republican Party mainstays into the Democratic Party’s crowded tent of corporate donors and intelligence operatives. Still, Sanders and the rest of the Democratic Party have upheld the slogan that Trump is the most “dangerous president in modern American history” without any clarity as to how a Biden administration would resolve the numerous crises facing working class people, especially Black Americans.

Workers are currently struggling with a mass eviction and joblessness crisis on top of the health crisis posed by COVID-19. Over 80% of people at risk of eviction from the economic crisis reside in Black or Latino neighborhoods. Official unemployment remains close to nine percent and Black unemployment a full 2% higher than white unemployment despite Black Americans making up a disproportionate number of workers employed in jobs deemed too “essential” to shut down during a pandemic. Black wealth was already heading toward zero prior to the pandemic, with the average Black family possessing just $1700 in total assets. The trend toward zero wealth is likely to accelerate as the myriad of debts incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic siphon what is left of Black assets into the coffers of the finance capitalist class.

Biden has opposed any kind of significant relief for working people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has thoroughly exposed the limitations of the US for-profit health-care system yet Biden has remained firm in his opposition to Medicare for All. He has also rejected or outright ignored the possibility of a federal jobs program or a universal basic income to ensure that the basic needs of a vast majority of the population are met. Instead, Biden and the Democrats say they want to restore “the soul of the nation.” The 2020 election is thus more of a religious crusade to politically purify Faschingstein of its Trumpian elements in a bid to make America “great” again. American exceptionalism, once a durable ideology with significant traction worldwide, has become a crutch employed by the ruling class to mask the shortcomings of its system and project hegemony in a period of imperial decline. The United States is in a concession-free state of crisis. Biden and the Democrats are principally concerned with salvaging social peace while extending the empire’s reach abroad. Any alleviation to the suffering of the masses is considered by all sections of the ruling class to be a fetter on the maximum accumulation of private profit. This is why Biden has promised to increase the $740b military budget while offering nothing of substance to the starving masses.

For Democratic Party operatives in the liberal class, Biden represents a return to neoliberal “normalcy.” Biden’s promise to expand the US military is a non-story in the US’ corporate media but has significant consequences for the future of humanity. The pursuit of full spectrum dominance and a bloated military budget exposes “normalcy” as nothing more than an extension of the crisis of American empire by other means. A bigger military budget means more opportunities to wage endless war on the planet and starve the U.S. state of any capacity to reverse the course of austerity. Joe Biden has already signaled in his critiques of Trump that a Democratic Party victory in November will change little about the US’ expansionist foreign policy. Biden has condemned Trump for being “weak” on Venezuela, Russia, the DPRK, and China. National security officials such as John Negroponte, George W Bush’s bully at the UN during the push to invade Iraq, have flocked in droves to support the Biden campaign. Military contractors such as Boeing have already expressed their confidence that military spending will increase regardless of who is (s)elected president.

Elections in the US produce insidious lies that overshadow the bipartisan consensus on militarism. Trump has repeatedly lied to the masses by calling the Democratic Party a far-left agent of the Communist Party of China. Democrats have lied just as passionately about Trump by labeling him an agent of the Kremlin. Such political theater usefully creates an atmosphere of war abroad while creating a diversion for billionaires to use their money to control both the Biden and Trump campaigns. For Wall Street and the war machine, the 2020 election is a guaranteed victory. The exact opposite is true for people struggling to survive amid a global pandemic and a great depression. There are many within progressive circles who believe that Biden will roll back the excesses of the Trump administration such as its hostile policy toward China. This is pure subjective speculation that has no basis in fact. While influential elements of the US capitalist class have already rejected Trump’s attempt to economically isolate China at their expense, Biden’s promise to increase the military budget ensures that the Pentagon will likely maintain its mission to contain China and use whatever aggressive means are feasible to carry it out.

A Biden victory in November will bring the Obama legacy back into the driver’s seat of politics. This is its own kind of nightmare. Obama’s legacy was principally characterized by the inheritance of a massive military and austerity machine that was expanded to new heights under the auspices of a Democratic Party administration. Drone strikes, bank bail-outs, public school closures, witch hunts of whistleblowers, deportations of undocumented immigrants, and overseas wars all grew under the rule of the Obama-Biden presidency. So did the militarization of US police departments and the wealth gap between white and Black America. The Democratic Party and Joe Biden have more than proven their commitment to worsening, not alleviating, the pain of the masses. More of the same can be expected from a Biden administration. The only bright side to the 2020 election is that both Biden and Trump are far less effective than prior administrations in mobilizing the masses to support the ruling consensus of endless war and austerity. After six-plus months of a pandemic that has yet to be contained, an economic crisis that never ends, and a growth in mass awareness of the repressive and racist character of US policing, it should be clear by now that only the power of the people can chart a path out of the deep rot of the US capitalist and imperialist system.

Organizers in the Black Alliance for Peace and No Cold War are attempting to build such power on an international scale in their upcoming activities. Join Black Alliance for Peace on Sep 24 for a symposium opposing the doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance and US Indo-Pacific Command’s military build-up in the Asia Pacific. On Sep 26, Black Alliance for Peace will join a number of peace organizations from around the globe in an International Peace Forum to reject the US’ New Cold War against China.

The Difference Between the US and China’s Response to COVID-19 is Staggering
Vijay Prashad, John Ross, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

In WaPo reporter Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, he reports on interviews he did in February and March with US President Donald Trump about the coronavirus. Trump admitted that the virus was virulent, but he decided to underplay its danger. Trump said:

I wanted to always play it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.

Despite months of warnings from the Chinese authorities, Trump and his health secretary Alex Azar completely failed to prepare for the global pandemic. The US continues to have the largest total number of cases of COVID-19. The government continues to flounder as the number of cases escalates. Not one state in the country seems immune to the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, in China, ever since the virus was crushed in Wuhan, the government merely has had to contain small-scale localized outbreaks; in the last month, China has had zero domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases. Martin Wolf wrote in the Financial Times on Mar 31 that China was successful in “bringing the disease under control in Hubei and halting its spread across China.” There was never a pan-China outbreak. It is more accurate to call it a Hubei outbreak.

While Trump lied to his own citizens about the disease, China’s president Xi Jinping said that his government would be “putting people first.” China hastily subordinated its economic priorities to the task of saving lives. As a consequence of a science-based approach, China’s government broke the chain of infection very quickly. By early September, this country of 1.4b had 85,194 COVID-19 cases and 4,634 deaths. India , with a comparable population, had 4.8m cases and 80k deaths. India is losing more lives each week than the total deaths in China. The US has suffered from 198,680 deaths and 6.7m cases. In absolute numbers, US deaths are about 43 times China’s, and the number of cases is about 79 times higher. The US government, unlike the government in China, hesitated to properly craft a lockdown and test the population. That is why, proportionally to population, US deaths are about 186 times higher than those in China and the cases are about 343 times higher. Trump’s racist attempt to pin the blame on China is pure diversion. China contained the virus. The US has totally failed to do so. The enormous number of US deaths were ‘Made in Washington,’ not ‘Made in China.’

In the first quarter of 2020, the Chinese GDP fell by 6.8% compared to a year earlier. Due to the fast elimination of domestic transmission of the virus, economic recovery in China has been rapid. By the second quarter, China’s GDP has been up 3.2% compared to the same period in 2019. The IMF projects that China will be the only major economy to experience positive growth. How did China’s economy rebound so fast? The answer is clear: the socialist character of the economy. By July, China’s state investment was 3.8% above its level of a year ago, while private investment is still 5.7% below 2019. China has used its powerful state sector to boost itself out of recession. This illustrates the macro-efficiency of the state sector. In mid-August , the CCP’s theoretical journal Qiushi (Seeking Truth) published a speech by Xi Jinping in which he said, “The foundation of China’s political economy can only be a Marxist political economy, and not be based on other economic theories.” The main principles of this are “people-centered development thinking.” This was the foundation of the government’s response to the pandemic and the economy in its context.

Trump, meanwhile, made it very clear that his administration would not conduct anything near a national lockdown; it seems his priority was to protect the economy over American lives. As early as March, when there was no sign that the pandemic could be controlled in the US, Trump announced :

America will again and soon be open for business. Very soon.

Inefficient policies in the US resulted in runaway COVID-19 infection rates. The basic protocols, masks, hand sanitizers, were not taken seriously. The impact on the US economy has been catastrophic. The US made it clear that it was not going to pursue anything near a people-centered approach. Trump’s entire emphasis was to keep the economy open, largely because he remains of the view that his election victory will come via the pocketbook; the human cost of this policy is ignored. The US only had half a lockdown, and little testing and contact-tracing. The GDP of the US in the second quarter fell by 9.5% compared to a year earlier. There is no indication of strong improvement. The IMF estimates that US economic contraction will be about 6.6% for the year, writing:

The risk ahead is that a large share of the US population will have to contend with an important deterioration of living standards and significant economic hardship for several years to come.

The disruption will have long-term implications. These problems are laid out clearly by the IMF: “preventing the accumulation of human capital, eroding labor force participation, or contributing to social unrest.” This is the exact opposite of the scenario unfolding in China. It is as if we live on two planets. On one planet, there is outrage about the hypocrisy in what Trump said to Woodward, and outrage about the collapse of both the health system and the economy, with a harsh road forward to rebuild either. On the other planet, the chain of infection has been broken, although the Chinese government remains vigilant and is willing to sacrifice short-term economic growth to save the lives of its citizenry. Trump’s attack on China, his threats to decouple the US from China, his racist noises about the “Chinese virus,” all this is bluster designed as part of an information war to delegitimize China. Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has focused on “dual circulation” which means domestic measures to raise living standards and eliminate poverty, and on the Belt and Road Initiative. Both of these will lessen Chinese dependence on the US. Two planets might begin to drift apart, one moving in the direction of the future, the other out of control.

Expanding Monstrous US Drone War to Kenya is Bi-Partisan Madness
Netfa Freeman, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

Instead of being a remnant of its past, US genocidal repression, labor exploitation and resource plundering against Indigenous and African (Black) people now extends to peoples across the planet. The tyranny of US racial capitalism over Black people stretches to the African motherland, without the bat of an eye by Black misleaders. Side by side with domestic militarized police repression and racist vigilante violence in reaction to the George Floyd uprisings are persistent US air strikes  and “special operations” in Africa. Despite the fact that US military efforts to “combat terrorism” actually encourages  it, and that the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) is guilty of untold numbers of civilian deaths , the Pentagon is now seeking authority  to expand its drone war into Kenya. This would potentially expand a war zone across the border from Somalia. Deploying US troops to combat terrorism tends to encourage asymmetric types of resistance like terrorism. The more bombing there is, the more terrorism is inspired, which justifies more bombing. Just like in cases when US domestic police kill people, the criminals reserve the authority to investigate themselves, which too often means impunity. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa, said after AFRICOM’s last quarterly report on civilian casualties was released on Jul 28:

Not only does AFRICOM utterly fail at its mission to report civilian casualties in Somalia, it doesn’t seem to care about the fate of the numerous families it has completely torn apart.

Waging war and militarization is the intransigent response to any form of resistance in both US foreign and domestic policy. Activists protesting fascism and racist policing within the US are met with Gestapo-like arrests and extra-judicial execution by militarized police (murder). Concurrently, AFRICOM carries out counterpart anti-Black operations in Africa with the complicity of comprador leaders. The Muriel Bowers and Uhuru Kenyattas of the world do not enjoy the popular political legitimacy needed to keep them in power without a MDP and a KDF to impose their authority. Like all compradors they are obliged to the parasitic global capitalist class, not to the people. In the capital city of the US, Democratic Mayor Bowser postures as being opposed to Republican President Trump on issues of police brutality, while presiding over police killings of her own  and insisting on the prosecution of so-called “violent” activists. The violence that the ruling class is concerned with is actually damage to inanimate property of capitalists. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya betrays his people’s interest with subservient requests to the racist US President Trump. In addition to AFRICOM’s desire for expanded authorities, President Kenyatta asked Trump during a White House visit  in February for additional counter-terrorism assistance, including “armed aerial support” to help combat Al Shabaab.

The persistence of the civil disobedience against racist police terror in the US is admirable. That the US, however, can at the same time expand a murderous predator drone war in Africa without a concomitant denunciation shows a collective disconnect in the understanding of the essential problem. The absence of a domestic backlash against US Africa policy is testament to the blind spots of our movement. How can the US, whose wealth and power is based on economic exploitation and repression of the indigenous and Black working class, gain tacit permission to police our motherland? Imagine another country conducting 46 airstrikes  on the US in eight months, as the US has done against Somalia. The intent to expand Washington’s massively lethal predator drone wars should spark immediate condemnation from decent lawmakers on Capitol Hill, especially Black lawmakers. And not only does there need to be a mass movement in the US to shut down AFRICOM and the US drone war, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts. The US public must come to realize that no matter which party controls the legislature, no matter whether the POTUS is Republican or a Democrat, the greatest existential threat to the planet is the US oligarchy. Peace, human cooperation, substantive equality and commitment to People(s)-Centered Human Rights are possible. These values represent the only rational basis for sustaining human life on the planet. Join Black Alliance for Peace at 4 pm EST on Sep 24 for our webinar, Full Spectrum Dominance: From AFRICOM to Indo-Pacific Command, where we will discuss and strategize on how we can put a brake on the global bipartisan war machine.

Whitewashing the Destruction of Libya: Douglas Murray’s Libya Whitewash
Nu’man Abd al-Wahid, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

The British, both left and right, simply do not want to acknowledge the role their government played in destroying Libya and the attendant migration crises. Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe identifies three waves of migration to western Europe in the post-war period. Initially, migration to Britain and France came from their former colonies, to assist in the reconstruction in the 1950s and 1960s. Other western European countries also invited people from elsewhere to assist with reconstruction. Secondly, a wave of east European citizens arrived in the late 1990s and 2000s due to the expansive reach of the EU. Murray’s book was written in the wake of the third and most recent migration wave in the past decade which was exacerbated by Angela Merkel’s announcement on the last day of Aug 2015 welcoming refugees from the war in Syria. In contrast to Merkel’s decision to allow Syrian refugees into Germany, Murray notes that countries who were fueling the war in Syria were not as hospitable as European nations. As he writes:

Throughout the Syrian portion of the refugee crises alone, next to nobody blamed the countries actually involved in that civil war, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russia, for the human cost of the conflict. There was no wide European call for Iran to take in the refugees from the conflict, anymore than there was any pressure to insist Qatar take its fair share proportion of refugees.

Let’s take Murray at his word and put aside that there were reports of British support for the so-called Syrian rebels as early as 2012. If one reads between the lines of this excerpt and unpacks what he refers to as the “Syrian portion,” then we come face to face to the other portion of the migration crises. Namely, the one spurred by the NATO led campaign to remove Colonel Ghadhaffi from power in Libya. The so-called “Arab Spring” which began with the relatively peaceful overthrow the governments of Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 was followed by an uprising in Benghazi, in eastern Libya which quickly turned into an insurgency. Western media concocted scenarios on how Ghadhaffi was on the verge of carrying out massacre after massacre if the West didn’t intervene. As such, Douglas Murray’s fellow Etonian David Cameron, who was then British Prime Minister, led the global campaign to military intervene in Libya in 2011 to supposedly prevent this horrible retribution. Cameron was supported by his calls to intervene in Libya by the entire British media. Especially in the right-wing media Mr Murray currently furnishes readers with his latest opines. In 2011, the Daily Telegraph wanted to see military action in support of the “opposition” and against Colonel Ghadhaffi. For example, in early Mar 2011, the British urge to drop bombs on Libya was dressed up as a western initiative to do so. A report claimed:

The West is ready to use force against Ghadhaffi. For Cameron, Gaddafi’s departure is Britain’s ‘highest priority.’ He says: ‘If helping the opposition would somehow bring that about, it is certainly something we should be considering.

Certain individuals close to the British military informed the readership that it was ready for a ‘Libyan mission.’ British plans for intervention hit a stumbling block, according to Christopher Hope of the Telegraph, other world leaders shunned the idea. A spotlight was then placed on what the right-wing media perceived to be Obama’s foot-dragging. Obama was clearly singled out as an obstacle to the British urge for military intervention, or rather a no-fly zone. On Mar 11 2011, another report in the Daily Telegraph openly queried the nature of Obama’s strategy:

Is it cowardice? Is it indecisiveness? Or is it clever diplomacy? Given America’s size and military power, the American president does not have the option to remain neutral indefinitely.

As we all know, Great Britain has always known what direction American foreign policy should take. A comment piece in the Sunday Telegraph on Mar 13, contrasted Cameron’s urge to intervene in Libya with Obama’s “paralysis.” The author goes go on to “hope” that Obama “follows Cameron’s lead, as Clinton followed Blair’s lead in Kosovo.” However, the writer does possess the honesty to argue that intervention is in Britain’s interests:

The argument for intervention in Libya is not purely or even primarily humanitarian, however. Even if one sets aside its importance as an oil-producing nation, Libya remains central to Britain’s strategic and commercial interests in the region.

It is only natural the Telegraph editorialized over the next couple of days that Obama’s “silence” is “hurting the West” (the “West” here is a generic metaphor meaning British interests). One of the ways the silence is hurting the ‘West’ is because:

Staying out of other people’s quarrels in the most volatile and oil-rich region on the planet is not a realistic foreign policy.

More so, the Daily Telegraph reported that Cameron is finding it “frustrating” working with Obama. This is now further confirmed in Cameron’s autobiography, where he unapologetically writes that he wanted to establish a no fly zone to prevent a supposed potential massacre but found that Obama was an obstacle and needed convincing to militarily intervene in Libya. In 2016, a British Parliamentary report into the Libyan intervention conceded that it “could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Ghadhaffi regime; it selectively took elements of Muammar Ghadhaffi’s rhetoric at face value.” The British government, “failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion.” As such the intervention was based on “erroneous assumptions .” As a result, the destruction of Libya caused the first migration flow across the Mediterranean into Europe. Before 2011, according to open sources, Libya was a point of destination for millions of African migrant workers. The figures are not definite, but on my trips to Tunisia, I was reliably informed that at least 900k Tunisians were working in Libya. Other nationals working in Libya before the NATO intervention included up to 1.5m Egyptians , roughly 1.5m from sub-Saharan Africa and many more. More so, the NATO intervention then compelled millions of Libyans to flee their country and internally displaced hundreds of thousands of others. The French newspaper Le Monde reported that as of 2014, there were between 600k and 1m Libyan refugees in Tunisia. This “portion” of the Arab Spring is understated in Murray’s book. The human fall-out from Cameron’s Libya intervention amounted to millions of refugees. Millions of Africans either went back to their countries of origin or made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean into Europe.

Another dimension to the Libya intervention was, as the historian Mark Curtis argues, the de facto alliance between the bombing campaign led by Britain and France and Islamist fighters . Also, according to Curtis, post-Ghadhaffi Libya became a training a hub for jihadis who then went on to Syria. About 3k Tunisian and Libyan fighters travelled to Syria to join an al-Qaeda type group called Katibat al-Battar al-Libi which was founded by Libyans . Before 2015, Murray states that more people were landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa because in “part this was because of the number of people fleeing changes of government and civil unrest.” Which I assume is an underhanded way of saying that they were fleeing Cameron’s regime-change operation in Libya. He then observes that the “first year of the Arab Spring was an especially bad time for the island.” No shit, Sherlock! Three years later in 2014, “the year before the migrant crises began,” 170k people arrived [in Lampedusa, Malta or Sicily]. Officials talk of solving the problem by filling Libya’s recent government vacuum. This vacuum arrived by air, landed on the Libyan coastline and had nothing to do with David Cameron.

Murray constantly regales his readers of acts of terrorism and rapes allegedly committed by migrants. Yet for some reason he seems to have no space or time to inform his readers of one of the most heinous and depraved acts of sexual terrorism of the last decade. Namely, the British government invited hundreds of Libyans, who seem to have done British bidding against Colonel Ghadhaffi in 2011, to Britain for training in 2014. Small groups of these Libyan traitors (or “cadets” as the Guardian referred to them ) left their Bassingbourn barracks to assault the local population and three were found guilty of raping a man . Indeed, since they had arrived in the summer of 2014, the police were forced to conduct, “frequent patrols around the Bassingbourn base as residents of the nearby village fear more “escapes” and attacks.”” One can only wonder why Murray quite deliberately avoided mentioning this very nasty episode. Was it because the finger of blame would ultimately point at then British Prime Minister, David Cameron? Overall, Curtis argues, the Cameron-led intervention in Libya has so far spurred terrorist attacks in 14 different countries including the most horrific in Europe which was in Paris in 2015. Abd’el-Hamid Abaaoud, the ring-leader of the Paris Bataclan terrorist attacks which killed 129 people, is said to have received his training with a group that has its origins in the turmoil caused by the Libyan intervention .

Returning to 2011, no sooner had Cameron led the charge to destroy Libya than he began beating the drum for military intervention in Syria. Once again, this story is not covered in Murray’s reading of the Syria war. For him, the main external actors in that war were Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russia. Yet in Mar 2012, Cameron flew to the US to attempt to convince the US to further engage in the war on Syria. In a preparatory interview with the historian Niall Ferguson he bemoaned Washington’s lack of interest in intervening in Syria. In the summer of 2012 after the eastern half of Aleppo had been overrun and fallen to the opposition (the jihadis), a report in the Independent noted that UK intelligence was assisting the jihadis by indirectly informing them of Syrian army troop movements. The Times further stated:

MI6 and the CIA are understood to be tacitly condoning the supply of heavy machine-guns from Gulf countries to the rebels. One diplomat denied that the British were ‘facilitating’ the supply of heavy machine-guns. But he said he could not rule out the possibility that private contractors financed by countries such as Qatar were involved in providing arms.

The Strange of Death Europe mentions Merkel by name no fewer than 58 times, while mentioning Cameron’s name only five. It’s quite clear Murray’s aim is to whitewash and absolve British culpability for the migration crises and the ensuing mayhem. For Murray, the migration crises of the last decade pivots and singles out Merkel for opprobrium especially after her speech on Aug 31 2015 which allowed for refugees from Syria to enter Europe. As a neoconservative, it would be an anathema for him to even suggest that British foreign policy, or specifically the Cameron led military intervention in Libya, was even a factor in the migration crises. One is compelled to ask whether the main aim of the book is to nonchalantly, even pathologically, pin the blame of the migration crises on Merkel rather than his fellow Etonian, David Cameron. In the Afterword of the paperback edition of the book, Murray boasts that no one can find fault with the facts in the book or “has even tried to contest or deny them.” Maybe the reason for this is that many of the people who became his detractors, agreed or acquiesced to the Libyan intervention. If they were to argue that the Libyan intervention caused and spurred the migration crises, then this would mean their support or acquiesce was wrong. For example, the left-wing comrades who run UK ant-war group, Stop the War Coalition couldn’t bring themselves to vocally oppose the Libyan war. All during the seven-month NATO bombing campaign, they managed to organize a grand total of one demonstration in London, in mid-week attended by no more than 35 people. The entire British media supported the Libyan intervention and when the Islamist rebels finally captured Ghadhaffi after NATO had located and bombed him, they lynched and raped him, the Guardian celebrated and gloated the following day on its front page that this was the “Death of a Dictator.”

High-profile British Muslim organisations were fully on board with the intervention. The Muslim Brotherhood linked, Muslim Association of Britain endorsed the NATO intervention and the Outreach Director of the human rights group, Cage, Moazzam Begg , a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, not only was supportive of the insurgency but confirmed Curtis’s findings that many of the Libyan jihadis who were NATO’s foot-soldiers immediately went on to form groups for regime change in Syria. Begg claims:

Many of the people who had started the revolution in Libya and taken part in it militarily, had some experience, actually went on to set up and support some of the first resistance movements in Syria.

Begg further elaborated that when he was in Libya in 2012, then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited and delivered a speech which he recorded. He said:

Erdogan said “Today Libya, ghaddan (tomorrow) Syria,” clearly supporting regime change, to do in Syria what they did in Libya.

Before travelling to Syria, Begg met with UK intelligence agency MI5. Furthermore, an entire socio-cultural movement of academic intellectuals associated with the study of resistance to western imperialism in the Global South in western universities kept quiet. Professor Laleh Khalili has referred to Murray as an “unconstructed posh racist ” but jibes like this are much easier to deliver than ask self-probing questions about your acquiescence to the military intervention in Libya. Murray’s current nemesis, Professor Priyamvada Gopal simply denounces and categorises as “Ghadhaffist” anyone who questions the so-called rebellion in Libya or the NATO intervention. It’s amazing how these and many other intellectuals were reticent and withdrawn as an African country was destroyed by NATO creating millions of refugees, both Libyan and non-Libyan, yet boast about how their latest publications celebrate resistance to Western imperialism or how they use quotes from Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa ”.

For all his faults, Ghadhaffi’s Libya had increased life expectancy from 51 years to 74. Illiteracy was almost wiped out and homelessness was near non-existent. The average per capita income was one of the highest in Africa at $16.5k. He had actually supported Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in their struggle against Apartheid South Africa. But all this means nothing for these and other cultural warriors ensconced in western ivory towers continuously exchanging school yard jibes with people who they feel threaten their jobs. Also, in the Afterword of the book Murray briefly covers of the murder of 22 people in Manchester by a terrorist who seems to have received his training in Libya. It is only natural that Murray doesn’t bring to his readers attention that the terrorist’s family quickly travelled from Manchester, where he had been awarded exile, and joined the rebellion in Libya against Colonel Ghadhaffi and may have received his training after Libya was turned into a no-man’s land with competing jihadi groups fighting their turf war.

In conclusion, the Cameron led intervention is very similar to the Iran coup 1953 which was also initiated and led by the British. Iranian Prime Minister Mossedegh had taken the oil industry out of British multinational hands and nationalised this resource. The British back then needed to convince the Americans that Mossedegh warrants removing. The repercussions of the 1953 coup led to the not only to the Iranian revolution but the rise of militant movements in Germany such as the Red Army Faction. If there was no Iranian revolution then, there may not have been an Iran-Iraq war and the rest is history. Like the Iran coup, the British, both left and right, simply do not want to acknowledge and even whitewash the role the British government played in the destruction of Libya and the attendant migration crises. So far, the Libyan intervention has led to a migration windfall in Europe, a Syrian regime change operation which led to more refugees and terrorist attacks in Europe. Who knows where the ricochet will land next. According to Murray, migrants flock to Europe because they want to enjoy a better standard of living, receive state support and because the continent is a lot more peaceful and tolerant than other places in the world. Or, evidently, it could be that in the last decade migrants flocked to Europe because British led military interventions (in collusion with jihadis or states that support jihadis) destroyed their countries and they had no choice but to search for another place to live.

Sources
Douglas Murray, “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam” (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2018)
Nu’man Abd al-Wahid, “Britain’s Libya Adventure” (accessed Aug 25 2020)
Maximilian Forte, “Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa” (Montreal: Baraka Books, 2012), pg.143-144.
Nu’man Abd al-Wahid, “Debunking the Myth of America’s Poodle: Great Britain Wants War” (Winchester: Zero Books, 2020), pg.108-110.

​​​​​​​Make Corporate Landlords Pay the Bills During the Pandemic
Sofia Lopez, Sara Myklebust, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

Elected officials and corporate landlords haven’t taken any meaningful action to prevent the crisis from hitting poor people of color hardest. The Covid-19 crisis has both exposed and exacerbated racial and wealth inequality in the US. As unemployment skyrockets and tens of millions of Americans struggle with a sudden loss of income, many are unable to pay rents or mortgages and are facing eviction, foreclosure, and possible homelessness. We’ve seen this eviction crisis brewing for months, and despite platitudes about racial justice, our elected officials and corporate landlords haven’t taken any meaningful action to prevent it from hitting poor people of color hardest. Latinx and Black workers have been hit hardest by job losses and are more likely to suffer evictions. In Jul 2020, Latinx unemployment was 12.9%, and Black unemployment was 14.6%, compared to 9.2% for white Americans. Given this, it’s not surprising that an Urban Institute analysis of US Census survey data indicates about 44% and 41% of adult Latinx and Black renters, respectively, had little to no confidence they could pay next month’s rent, compared with about 21% of white renters who felt the same. These job losses and higher eviction risk in addition to historic housing segregation and environmental racism, have contributed to greater risk of contracting Covid-19 for communities of color.

While so many of us struggle to survive, some of the richest billionaires in the world dominate the residential real estate industry in the US. These corporate landlords are companies owned by extremely wealthy individuals, Wall Street entities like private equity firms and hedge funds, and institutional investors. At least six leading residential property owners, (Essex Property Trust, Brookfield Property Partners, Equity Residential, Related Companies, Irvine Company and Blackstone) have top executives on the Forbes billionaires list. Other prominent corporate landlords include Kushner Companies, Mosser Capital, Starwood Capital and CBRE. Across the country, these companies own large apartment complexes, office buildings, hotels, single family homes, and a significant chunk of our mortgage debt. Corporate landlords do not pay their fair share in taxes at the local, state or federal level. Here’s why: for decades, they have successfully lobbied City Halls, state legislatures, and Congress to put their needs first, to create loopholes, special statuses, corporate welfare programs and other schemes to avoid taxes and regulation and boost their profits. Amid the current crisis, some of these obscenely wealthy companies and individuals, many of which profited immensely during the Great Recession, are lobbying aggressively for taxpayer funded assistance programs and making plans to exploit the pain of so many to grow even wealthier.

With millions of tenants, homeowners, and small property owners struggling to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of tenants, organized by low income people of color, are taking action across the country to demand that Congress and state governments act immediately to require corporate landlords to pay for the cancellation of rent, mortgages and utilities, and to provide financial relief to small property owners facing foreclosure. These corporations are sitting on billions of dollars and will keep getting richer through tax breaks and giveaways, including in the federal stimulus packages. They can easily afford to cancel monthly housing-related expenses and debts for millions of Americans whose jobs and incomes have been destroyed by Covid-19. Making them pay will help stabilize the housing market, the national economy, and communities across the country. Relief can’t come soon enough. This is the fairest and most pragmatic way to address the financial crisis that so many households face right now. It’s likely that many Americans will have no ability to pay rent, mortgages, and utilities for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who can’t afford housing-related costs today won’t be able to afford them for the foreseeable future.

Well before the Covid-19 crisis hit, many American households, especially households of color, were spending huge proportions of their income on housing, leaving little left over for other necessities, and nothing for savings. For example, one in four Black households spent more than half their income on housing (compared to one in ten white households). Many cities were already experiencing housing affordability crises, with renters and owners struggling to pay rents and mortgages and homelessness skyrocketing, while corporate landlords and lenders prospered. The pandemic is turning the housing affordability crisis into a national catastrophe. That’s why the full cancellation of housing-related expenses and debt is so important. Low-income Americans can’t afford to stay home from work, even if they’re feeling sick, unless their rent, mortgages, and utilities are canceled. And if low-income and unemployed people lose their homes to eviction or foreclosure, they will not be able to “stay home” at all. With Congress deadlocked on a new stimulus package, President Trump attempted to give the impression that he’d taken executive action to extend the current eviction moratorium. In reality, his memorandum merely directs federal agencies to “consider” measures to prevent evictions. But even extending the moratorium wouldn’t be enough. Moratoriums do not alleviate the growing financial burden of unpaid rent, mortgage, utility, and other housing-related bills that will come due in the near future. Tenants are demanding that Congress and state governments instead make corporate landlords pay for the cancellation of all housing-related expenses incurred during this pandemic, so households — and the economy more generally — can begin to recover financially. That’s the real policy response and solution to the current crisis. Anything short of full cancellation will continue to trigger mass evictions and an explosion in predatory debt, both of which hit communities of color hardest before Covid-19, and will only be compounded. And wealthy corporate landlords can afford it.

The largest corporate landlords have siphoned money out of public budgets at all levels of government and are using Covid-19 as an opportunity to expand their riches even further. The stimulus package Congress passed in March gives $170b in immediate tax benefits to real estate and millionaires. The CARES Act permits all businesses’ losses to be carried back for five years from 2018, 2019, and 2020, which allows immediate tax refunds. Losses carried back to years before 2018 will generate refunds of already paid income taxes at the older higher rates, previously 35% maximum for corporations (compared to current 21%) and 39.6% maximum for individuals (37% today). The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that owners of pass-through businesses will receive $170b in tax benefits over the next 10 years. For 2020, the JCT estimates that roughly 43,000 taxpayers with at least $1m in annual income will reap 82% of the benefits, with an average tax cut of more than $1.6m. Which millionaires will come out on top? According to the Tax Policy Center, the key groups include real estate professionals and hedge fund investors, including developers, in other words corporate landlords. Real estate companies had already received nearly $50 billion from President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The TCJA allowed real estate investors to deduct 20 percent of pass-through business income to lower the effective tax rate on income if they have sufficient real estate assets. This benefits real estate companies as well as those investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Experts estimate this is worth $29b over the next 10 years.

The TCJA also created “opportunity zones,” zip codes where one can invest capital gains in real estate and businesses through designated opportunity funds and receive huge tax breaks. The tax cut was purportedly aimed at fostering economic rejuvenation of lower income areas but was so poorly designed and implemented that it provides tax breaks for developments that were already underway or in rapidly gentrifying areas, including corporate landlords like Related Companies and Stephen Ross. Real estate firms and developers are raising up to $5b for each opportunity fund and the JCT estimates opportunity zones will cost $3.5b/yr from 2019 through 2022, for a total of $14b over those 4 years. The TCJA also allowed real estate investors to deduct all of their interest payments on buildings from their income while other large businesses could only deduct 30% of their interest payments. Experts estimate this tax break is worth $16b over the next 10 years. Even before the corporate tax giveaway of 2017, the federal tax code included real estate industry tax benefits that are worth nearly $250b over the next 10 years. For example, real estate investors have a special loophole, “like-kind exchanges,” to avoid paying capital gains taxes on profits from the sale of assets as long as these profits were reinvested in comparable assets. Essentially, profits from the sale of a building can be used to buy another building without paying any taxes. Experts believe this tax break is worth almost $134b over the next 10 years.

In 1986, tax reform prohibited businesses from investing in other business which generated losses in order to reduce their income for tax purposes. But in 1993, the real estate industry lobbied to exempt rental income from these passive loss rules, creating a tax benefit for these “money-losing” real estate investments. The Treasury estimates this tax break is worth $79b over 10 years. Businesses can depreciate assets that lose value over time as the assets age, reflecting declining value of things like machinery or vehicles. Real estate investors can depreciate their assets and reduce their taxes even though real estate values often rise over time, especially in more expensive or rising markets. This depreciation is counted against the value of the property when it is sold, reducing the capital gains taxes. The JCT estimates rental and other real estate at $21b over 5 years. With a standard corporate structure, the government levies taxes twice, on the corporation’s profits and on employees’ incomes. But nearly all real estate operations are run through limited liability corporations, which are allowed to pass profits to the owners who then pay income taxes on the money, while the corporation does not pay any taxes on the money at all. Real Estate investment Trusts, created in the 1980s to encourage investment in real estate, are also treated as pass-through entities for tax purposes, which means they pay no corporate taxes in exchange for paying 90 percent of their taxable income to shareholders as dividends. As described above, the TCJA also allowed those that do have to pay tax on this “income” to deduct 20%.

Many federal tax breaks for real estate firms have already been or will be enacted at the state level as well. For example, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities describes how, because nearly all states piggyback on the federal tax code’s definition of “gross income,” the opportunity zone tax breaks outlined above will automatically flow through to state individual and corporate income taxes unless states proactively “decouple” their law from these provisions. Corporate landlords and real estate investors are likely to see billions more at the state level from the giveaways described above, as well as others they have lobbied to create in each state. Corporate landlords frequently also benefit from Tax Increment Financing, Payment in Lieu of Taxes, bonding, and other schemes at the municipal and local level connected both to single projects and broader development work. One example of this is Related Companies’ Hudson Yards in New York City. Research shows that Related’s project cost the city $2.2b, through a combination of subsidies, including over $350m in property tax breaks for residential developers. The tax breaks and schemes described above are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the myriad ways that corporate landlords, real estate investors, private equity and financial actors are and will continue to profit off the rental housing market in the US Debt and mortgages are other key areas the industry exploits, including through government-financed agencies and programs, to maximize profit margins. These schemes are all the more galling in a moment when people don’t have enough money just to make ends meet and are being forced from their homes as a result.

On top of these many hand-outs, industry lobbyists are using Covid-19 to ask for even more support. The National Multi-Family Housing Council and National Apartment Association, which corporate landlords dominate, are pushing their wish-list of measures, including taxpayer-funded rental assistance, narrowing the already-limited eviction moratorium criteria, expanding Payment Protection Program eligibility to all multi-family businesses, including the largest corporate landlords, and increasing tax relief for all multi-family residential businesses, which could go to corporate landlords that clearly don’t need it. Their pitch also calls for expanding low-income housing tax credits, creating middle-income housing tax credits, increasing the breadth of opportunity zones, and enacting legislation to clear regulatory barriers for construction of more multi-family housing irrespective of cost. All of these would be immensely lucrative for the industry overall and corporate landlords in particular. They are examples of the broken “trickle-down” housing models that enrich those dominating residential real estate while exploiting our racialized housing system, hurting workers and families and putting communities at risk across the country. Corporate landlords amassed enormous fortunes during the Great Recession and are now expressing excitement about the potential for profiteering post-pandemic. The president of a division of Fortress Investment Group said of the coming pain:

It’s kind of exciting times. I mean, this is what you live for.

These landlords certainly have the resources to exploit this new crisis. According to the WSJ at the end of Dec 2019, real estate investment funds had $142b ready to spend on distressed and opportunistic real estate investments. The Blackstone Group, Brookfield Asset Management and Starwood Capital Group are “sitting on billions of dollars in cash and capital commitments they have raised from pensions, sovereign wealth funds and other big institutions” as the industry eyes hotels, retail properties, mortgage-backed securities and defaulting borrowers. On a 2020 Q1 Earnings call, Starwood Capital CEO Barry Stenlicht said, “when it’s really ugly, it’s a good time to invest.” Blackstone raised the largest commercial real estate fund ever in Sep 2019 with $20.5b, and as of Dec 2019 Brookfield held $15b. People within the industry were saying “many investors have been waiting for this for a decade.” The Kushner family announced they were putting together a fund through Cadre, their real-estate investment vehicle, to take advantage of “opportunities” during the pandemic. While Jared Kushner himself formally divested from the fund in Feb 2020, it’s clear that a prominent corporate landlord with very close ties to the White House is gearing up to profit from the crisis and its effect on the real estate market. The US real estate industry is led by some of the richest and most powerful people in the world. They have profited handsomely from the last foreclosure crisis, the commodification of housing and decades of racist housing policy, all the while actively lobbying to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified what we already knew: Corporate landlords’ bill is long past due. It’s time to make them pay for the cancellation of rent, mortgages and utilities for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. Making them pay will help millions of tenants, homeowners and struggling property owners who are struggling to survive.

Demilitarizing the NFL
Ann Garrison, Black Agenda Report, Sep 23 2020

Photo: A stealth bomber flew over the 2018 Rose Bowl game between the U of GA and the U of OK to promote the US military.

Will the current sports activism around racial justice extend to the global, neocolonial racial injustice that the US and its NATO partners impose on Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia? Is there any chance it’ll go so far as to reject the Pentagon’s claim to an inherent right to rule the world with five geographic commands, plus Cyber, Transportation, Special Operations, Strategic, and Space Commands? I asked Nation Magazine Sports Editor Dave Zirin.

Q:: Dave, I’m going to start by quoting comedian George Carlin from his “Baseball and Football” routine, where he says:

In football, the object is for the quarterback, otherwise known as the field general, to be on target with his area of assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun with short bullet passes and long bombs. He marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack, which punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

Do you think Carlin nailed the essence of America’s favorite sport?
A: I really do think that George Carlin did, because there’s so much militarism that’s baked into the cake of football in this country. I mean, football really begins at the start of the US imperial project. And it was something that was popularized by Teddy Roosevelt. So you have this one person, Teddy Roosevelt, who was of course very famous before he was ever president, and who was the number one cheerleader for both football and empire. That’s not just a coincidence, because he thought one would prepare young people to support the other. Now that being said, I don’t think that football has to be so militaristic. It could certainly be less militaristic than it currently is, but it’s a big feature of football. It’s not just a bug.
Q: Last January, when the Pentagon assassinated Iran’s hero, General Qasem Soleimani, Colin Kaepernick made headlines simply by tweeting:

America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad. American militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non-white world. There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism.

That’s what he said, most eloquently, but he still seems to be putting in all the hours it takes to play football, still hoping for that call back into the NFL, so I’m imagining that he doesn’t believe the sport is inseparable from all its militarist, imperialist trappings. Can you imagine more players developing and expressing a similar global and historical understanding of racial injustice and actually surviving in the game?
A: Well, we’ve seen it in the past. There were certainly players who were against the war in Vietnam, most famously Dave Meggyesy, who quit the NFL in his prime because he believed that the war in Vietnam and the National Football League were really one and the same. And that professional football and college football were gearing people up for war. And then also during the “War on Terror,” specifically the Iraq War, you had players like Scott Fujita, Adalius Thomas, and other football players speak out against war. So it’s already real, but we have to remember that these players are part of the world. They don’t exist on a separate planet called Planet Athlete, come down to entertain us, then return to Planet Athlete on their spaceships. These are people who are part of the world. And when there are movements against war, they’re affected by those movements. What I think we have to remember is that it always starts with the movements. It always starts with what’s happening off the field. We shouldn’t expect athletes to develop a kind of political consciousness, independent of movements and ideas, away from the field of play.
Q: Can you imagine the rules of the game remaining the same without all the military packaging? I’m talking about basketball and football, most of all football, since these two sports are most given to combat and territorial metaphors and are also by far the most saturated with military display and recruiting. As George Carlin said, in “Baseball vs. Football,” “baseball is a 19th-century pastoral game.”
A: Well, first and foremost, in our incredibly war-like society, every instrument of pop culture, not just sports, can be geared towards war efforts. And we’ve seen that baseball has a rich history of being part of war and imperialism, from Latin America to East Asia and back to World War II, and all the players who’ve enlisted and done all sorts of things for the USO. Baseball is not as pure and football as solely impure as Carlin’s routine suggests. The history of US team sports in the 20th century refutes that pretty well. I do think, though, that it is certainly possible that in a different kind of society, that you could have these sports and not have them dominated by war and that play could happen for the sake of play, for the sake of joy, for the sake of exercise. And you wouldn’t have the kind of foghorn of militarism that exists way too often in professional and often collegiate sports.
Q: I was getting optimistic about NBA activism till 09/11, when “Inside the NBA” hit bottom with all the 09/11 military jingoism. They didn’t mention that the US-led “Global War on Terror” has displaced at least 37m people in eight countries since 2001. Or that it’s left at least 800k dead, at a cost of $6.4t to US taxpayers. This is according to the report “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the US’ Post-9/11 Wars” released by Brown University scholars on Sep 8, and I have to add that 800k dead seems like a conservative estimate, given that credible outlets have estimated as many as 2.4m Iraqis dead in the Iraq War alone. “Inside the NBA” is one of my favorite TV shows, but I had to turn it off on 9/11. I couldn’t take it. Did you see that?
A: Well, I honestly don’t remember. I mean, it’s been almost 20 years and I consumed a tremendous amount of sports media on 9/11 and thereafter. So I assume this “Inside the NBA” episode was very similar to what I’ve seen elsewhere, with the volume cranked way up by people who’ve been there to turn tragedy into war, into a massive mobilization to bomb and occupy other countries. I mean it was a terrible, terrible tragedy and it’s been a terrible misuse of sports from then to now. I think it’s hugely important that we need to have an antiwar movement in this country, one that’s consistent, because otherwise, when these conflagrations take place, we’ll find ourselves with things that we look to for escape like sports all of a sudden mobilized against us, and not only us but also the people of the world who bear the brunt of US militarism.
Q: Can you explain what you mean by a “consistent antiwar movement”?
A: An anti-war movement that opposes all imperial interventions, no matter what imperial country is engaged in it, and as for this country, no matter if a Democrat or Republican president is in office.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about this?
A: Just that I think we should fight for a better sports world. We shouldn’t assume that the sports world is somehow intrinsically militaristic or that we should reject it the way a vegetarian might reject a leg of lamb. I think we should get away from that mentality and think about how, instead of rejecting sports, we can reclaim it because there’s a lot of good in sports. We’ve got to remember that sports has given us a lot of things that we do want to reject, but it’s also given us Muhammad Ali. It’s given us Billie Jean King. It’s given us Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe, and it’s given us some moments of absolute poetry. So, and I would say this about art as well, we shouldn’t reject sports. We should try to reclaim it.
Q: One thing I like about it is that you have to play by the rules to win.
A: Very different from politics.

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