Cuba Prepares for Disaster / by Don Fitz

Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photograph Source: Alistair Kitchen – CC BY 2.0

The September 2021 Scientific American included a description by the editors of the deplorable state of disaster relief in the US.  They traced the root cause of problems with relief programs as their “focus on restoring private property,” which results in little attention to those “with the least capacity to deal with disasters.”  The book Disaster Preparedness and Climate Change in Cuba: Adaptation and Management (2021) came out the next month. It traced the highly successful source of the island nation’s efforts to the way it put human welfare above property.  This collection of 14 essays by Emily J. Kirk, Isabel Story, and Anna Clayfield is an extraordinary assemblage of articles, each addressing specific issues.

Writers are well aware that Cuban approaches are adapted to the unique geography and history of the island.  What readers should take away is not so much the specific actions of Cuba as its method of studying a wide array of approaches and actually putting the best into effect (as opposed to merely talking about their strengths and weaknesses).  The book traces Cuba’s preparedness from the threat of a US invasion following its revolution through its resistance to hurricanes and diseases, which all laid the foundation for current adaptions to climate change.

Only four years after the revolution, in 1963, Hurricane Flora hit the Caribbean, killing 7000-8000.  Cubans who are old enough remember homes being washed away by waters carrying rotten food, animal carcasses and human bodies.  It sparked a complete redesign of health systems, intensifying their integration from the highest decision-making bodies to local health centers.  Construction standards were strengthened, requiring houses to have reinforced concrete and metal roofs to resist strong winds.

Decades of re-designing proved successful.  In September 2017 Category 5 Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico, leading to 2975 deaths.  The same month, Irma, also a Category 5 Hurricane, arrived in Cuba, causing 10 deaths.  The dedication to actually preparing the country for a hurricane (as opposed to merely talking about preparedness) became a model for coping with climate change.  Projecting potential future damage led Cubans to to realize that by 2050, rising water levels could destroy 122 coastal towns.  By 2017, Cuba had become the only country with a government-led plan (Project Life, or Tarea Vida) to combat climate change which includes a 100 year projection.

Disaster Planning

Several aspects merged to form the core of Cuban disaster planning.  They included education, the military, and social relationships.  During 1961, Cuba’s signature campaign raised literacy to 96%, one of the world’s highest rates.  This has been central to every aspect of disaster preparation – government officials and educators travel throughout the island, explaining consequences of inaction and everyone’s role in avoiding catastrophe.

Less obvious is the critical role of the military.  From the first days they took power, leaders such as Fidel and Che explained that the only way the revolution could defend itself from overwhelming US force would be to become a “nation in arms.”  Soon self-defense from hurricanes combined with self-defense from attack and Cuban armed forces became a permanent part of fighting natural disasters.  By 1980, exercises called Bastión (bulwark) fused natural disaster management with defense rehearsals.

As many as 4 million Cubans (in a population of 11 million) were involved in activities to practice and carry out food production, disease control, sanitation and safeguarding medical supplies.  A culture based on understanding the need to create a new society has glued these actions together.  When a policy change is introduced, government representatives go to each community, including the most remote rural ones, to make sure that everyone knows the threats that climate change poses to their lives and how they can alter behaviors to minimize them.  Developing a sense of responsibility for ecosystems includes such diverse actions as conserving energy, saving water, preventing fires and using medical products sparingly.


One aspect of the book may confuse readers.  Some authors refer to the Cuban disaster prevention system as “centralized;” others refer to it as “decentralized;” and some describe it as both “centralized” and “decentralized” on different pages of their essay.  The collection reflects a methodology of “dialectical materialism” which often employs the unity of opposite processes (“heads” and “tails” are opposite static states united in the concept of “coin”).  As multiple authors have explained, including Ross Danielson in his classic Cuban Medicine (1979), centralization and decentralization of medicine have gone hand-in-hand since the earliest days of the revolution.  This may appear as centralization of inpatient care and decentralization of outpatient care (p. 165) but more often as centralization at the highest level of norms and decentralization of ways to implement care to the local level.  The decision to create doctor-nurse offices was made by the ministry which provided guidelines for each area to implement according to local conditions.

A national plan for coping with Covid-19 was developed before the first Cuban died of the affliction and each area designed ways to to get needed medicines, vaccines and other necessities to their communities.  Proposals for preventing water salinization in coastal areas will be very different from schemas for coping with rises in temperature in inland communities.

Challenges for Producing Energy: The Good

As non-stop use of fossil fuels renders the continued existence of humanity questionable, the issue of how to obtain energy rationally looms as a core problem of the twenty-first century.  Disaster Preparedness explores an intriguing variety of energy sources.  Some of them are outstandingly good; a few are bad; and, many provoke closer examination.

Raúl Castro proposed in 1980 that it was necessary to protect the countryside from impacts of nickel mining.  What was critical in this early approach was an understanding that every type of metal extraction has negatives that must be weighed against its usefulness in order to minimize those negatives.  What did not appear in his approach was making a virtue of necessity, which would have read “Cuba needs nickel for trade; therefore, extracting Cuban nickel is good; and, thus, problems with producing nickel should be ignored or trivialized.”

In 1991, when the USSR collapsed and Cuba lost its subsidies and many of its trading partners, its economy was devastated, adult males lost an average of 20 pounds, and health problems became widespread.  This was Cuba’s “Special Period.”  Not having oil meant that Cuba had to abandon machine-intensive agriculture for agroecology and urban farming.

Laws prohibited use of agrochemicals in urban gardens.  Vegetable and herb production exploded from 4000 tons in 1994 to over 4 million tons by 2006.  By 2019, Jason Hickel’s Sustainable Development Index rated Cuba’s ecological efficiency as the best in the world.

By far the most important part of Cuba’s energy program was using less energy via conservation, an idea abandoned by Western “environmentalists” who began endorsing unlimited expansion of energy produced by “alternative” sources.  In 2005, Fidel began pushing conservation policies projected to reduce Cuba’s energy consumption by two-thirds.  Ideas such these had blossomed during the first few years of the revolution.

What one author refers to as “bioclimatic architecture” is not clear, but it could include tile vaulting, which was studied extensively by the Cuban government in the early 1960s.  It is based on arched ceilings formed by lightweight terra cotta tiles.  The technique is low-carbon because it does not require expensive machinery and uses mainly local material such as terra cotta tiles from Camagüey province.  Though used to construct buildings throughout the island, it was abandoned due to its need for skilled and specialized labor.

Challenges for Producing Energy: The Bad

Though there are negative aspects to Cuba’s energy perspectives, it is important to consider one which is anything but negative: energy efficiency (EE).  Ever since Stanley Jevons predicted in 1865 that a more efficient steam engine design would result in more (not less) coal being used, it has been widely understood that if the price of energy (such as burning coal) is cheaper, then people will use more energy.

A considerable amount of research verifies that, at the level of the entire economy, efficiency makes energy cheaper and its use goes up.  Some claim that if an individual uses a more EE option, then that person will use less energy.  But that is not necessarily so.  Someone buying a car might look for one that is more EE.  If the person replaces a non-EE sedan with an EE SUV, the fact that SUVs use more energy than sedans would mean that the person is using more energy to get around. Similarly, rich people use money saved from EE devices to buy more gadgets while poor people might not buy anything additional or buy low-energy necessities.

This is why Cuba, a poor country with a planned economy, can design policies to reduce energy use.  Whatever is saved from EE can lead to less or low-energy production, resulting in a spiraling down of energy usage.  In contrast, competition drives capitalist economies toward investing funds saved from EE toward economic expansion, resulting in perpetual growth.

Though a planned economy allows for decisions that are healthier for people and ecosystems, bad choices can be made.  One consideration in Cuba is the goal to “efficiently apply pesticides” (p. 171).  The focus should actually be on how to farm without pesticides.  Also under consideration is “solid waste energy capacities,” which is typically a euphemism for burning waste in incinerators.  Incinerators are a terrible way to produce energy since they merely reduce the volume of trash to 10% of its original size while releasing poisonous gases, heavy metals (such as mercury and lead), and cancer-causing dioxins and furans.

The worst energy alternative was favored by Fidel, who supported a nuclear power plant which would supposedly “greatly reduce the cost of producing electricity.” (p. 187)  Had the Soviets built a Chernobyl-type nuclear reactor, an explosion or two would not have contributed to disaster prevention.  Once when I was discussing the suffering following the USSR collapse with a friend who writes technical documents for the Cuban government, he suddenly blurted out, “The only good thing coming out of the Special Period was that, without the Soviets, Fidel could not build his damned nuclear plant!”

Challenges for Producing Energy: The Uncertain

Between the poles of positive and negative lies a vast array of alternatives mentioned in Disaster Preparedness that most are unfamiliar with.  There are probably few who know of bagasse, which is left over sugar cane stalks that have been squeezed for juice.  Burning it for fuel might arouse concern because it is not plowed into soil like what should be done for wheat stems and corn stalks.  Sugar cane is different because the entire plant is hauled away – it would waste fuel to transport it to squeezing machinery and then haul it back to the farm.

While fuel from bagasse is an overall environmental plus, the same cannot be said for oilseeds such as Jatropha curcas.  Despite the book suggesting the they might be researched more, they are a dead end for energy production.

Another energy positive being expanded in Cuba is farms being run entirely on agroecology principles.  The book claims that such farms can produce 12 times the energy they consume, which might seem like a lot.  Yet, similar findings occur in other countries, notably Sweden.  In contrast, at least one author holds out hope of obtaining energy from microalgae, almost certainly another dead end.

Potentially, a very promising source for energy is the use of biogas from biodigesters.  Biodigesters break down manure and other biomass to create biogas which is used for tractors or transportation.  Leftover solid waste material can be used as a (non-fossil fuel) fertilizer.  On the other hand, an energy source which one author lists as viable is highly dubious: “solar cells built with gallum arsenide.”  Compounds with arsenic are cancer-causing and not healthy for humans and other living species.

The word “biomass” is highly charged because it is one of Europe’s “clean, green” energy sources despite the fact that burning wood pellets is leading to deforestation in Estonia and the US.  This does not seem to be the case in Cuba, where “biomass” refers to sawdust and weedy marabú trees.  It remains important to distinguish positive biomass from highly destructive biomass.

Many other forms of alternative energy could be covered and there is a critical point applying to all of them.  Each source of energy must be analyzed separately without ever assuming that if energy does not come from fossil fuels it is therefore useful and safe.

Depending on How You Get It

The three major sources of alternative energy – hydroturbines (dams), solar, and wind – share the characteristic that how positive or negative they are depends on the way they are obtained.

The simplest form of hydro power is the paddle wheel, which probably causes zero environmental damage and produces very little energy.  At the other extreme is hydro-electric dams which cross entire rivers and are incredibly destructive towards human cultures and aquatic and terrestrial species.  In between are methods such as diverting a portion of the river to harness its power. The book mentions pico-hydroturbines which affect only a portion of a river, generating less than 5kW and are extremely useful for remote areas.  They have minimal environmental effects.  But if a large number of these turbines were placed together in a river, that would be a different matter.  The general rule for water power is that causing less environmental damage means producing less energy.

Many ways to produce energy start with the sun.  Cuba uses passive solar techniques, which do not have toxic processes associated with electricity.  A passivehaus design provides warmth largely via insulation and placement of windows.  Extremely important is body heat.  This makes a passivhaus difficult for Americans, whose homes typically have much more space per person than other countries.  But the design could work better in Cuba, where having three generations living together in a smaller space would contribute to heating quite well.

At the negative extreme of solar energy are the land-hungry electricity-generating arrays.  In between these poles is low-intensity solar power, also being studied by Cuba.

The vast majority of Cubans heat their water for bathing.  Water heaters can depend on solar panels which turn sunlight into electricity.  An even better non-electric design would be to use a box with glass doors and a black tank to collect heat, or to use “flat plate collectors” and then pipe the heated water to an indoor storage tank.  As with hydro-power, simpler designs produce fewer problems but generate less energy.

Wind power is highly similar.  Centuries ago, windmills were constructed with materials from the surrounding areaand did not rely on or produce toxins.  Today’s industrial wind turbines are toxic in every phase of their existence.  In the ambiguous category are small wind turbines and wind pumps, both of which Cuba is exploring.  What hydro, solar and wind power have in common is that non-destructive forms exist but produce less energy.  The more energy-producing a system is, the more problematic it becomes.

Scuttling the Fetish

Since hydro, solar and wind power have reputations as “renewable, clean, green” sources of energy, it is necessary to examine them closely.  Hydro, solar and wind power each require destructive extraction of materials such as lithium, cobalt, silver, aluminum, cadmium, indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, neodymium, and dysprosium.  All three lead to mountains of toxic waste that vastly exceed the amount obtained for use.  And all require withdrawal of immense amounts of water (a rapidly vanishing substance) during the mining and construction.

Hydro-power also disrupts aquatic species (as well as several terrestrial ones), causes large releases of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from reservoirs, increases mercury poisoning, pushes people out of their homes during construction, intensifies international conflicts, and have killed up to 26,000 people from breakage.  Silicon-based solar panels involves an additional list of toxic chemicals that can poison workers during manufacture, gargantuan loss of farm and forest land for installing “arrays” (which rapidly increases over time), and still more land loss for disposal after their 25-30 year life spans.  Industrial wind turbines require loss of forest land for roads to haul 160 foot blades to mountain tops, land loss for depositing those mammoth blades after use, and energy-intensive storage capacity when there is no wind.

Hydro, solar and wind power are definitely NOT renewable, since they all are based on heavy usage  of materials that are exhausted following continuous mining.  Neither are they “carbon neutral” because all use fossil fuels for extraction of necessary building materials and end-of-life demolition.  The most important point is that the issues listed here are a tiny fraction of total problems, which would require a very thick book to enumerate.

Why use the word “fetish” for approaches to hydro, solar and wind power?  A “fetish” can be described as “a material object regarded with extravagant trust or reverence”  These sources of energy have positive characteristics, but nothing like the reverence often bestowed upon them.

Cuba’s approach to alternative energy is quite different.  Helen Yaffe wrote two of the major articles in Disaster Preparedness.  She also put together the 2021 documentary, Cuba’s life task: Combatting climate change, which includes the following from advisor Orlando Rey Santos:

“One problem today is that you cannot convert the world’s energy matrix, with current consumption levels, from fossil fuels to renewable energies.  There are not enough resources for the panels and wind turbines, nor the space for them.  There are insufficient resources for all this.  If you automatically made all transportation electric tomorrow, you will continue to have the same problems of congestion, parking, highways, heavy consumption of steel and cement.”

Cuba maps out many different outlines for energy in order to focus on those that are the most productive while causing the least damage.  A genuine environmental approach requires a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA, also known as cradle-to-grave accounting) which includes all mining, milling, construction and transport of materials; the energy-gathering process itself (including environmental disruption); along with after-effects such as continuing environmental damage and disposal of waste.  To these must be added social effects such as relocating people, injury and death of those resisting relocation, destruction of sacred cites and disruption of affected cultures.

A “fetish” on a specific energy source denotes tunnel-visioning on its use phase while ignoring preparatory and end-of-life phases and social disruption.  While LCAs are often propounded by corporations, they are typically nothing but window-dressing, to be pitched out of window during actual decision-making.  With an eternal growth dynamic, capitalism has a built-in tendency to downplay negatives when there is an opportunity to add new energy sources to the mix of fossil fuels.

Is It an Obscene Word?

Cuba has no such internal dynamics forcing it to expand the economy if it can provide better lives for all.  The island could be a case study of degrowth economics.  Since “degrowth” is shunned as a quasi-obscenity by many who insist that it would cause immeasurable suffering for the world’s poor, it is necessary to state what it would be.  The best definition is that Global Economic Degrowth means (a) reduction of unnecessary and destructive production by and for rich countries (and people), (b) which exceeds the (c) growth of production of necessities by and for poor countries (and people).

This might not be as economically difficult as some imagine because …

1) The rich world spends such gargantuan wealth on that which is useless and deadly, including war toys, chemical poisons, planned obsolescence, creative destruction of goods, insurance, automobile addiction, among a mass of examples; and,

2) Providing the basic necessities of life can often be relatively cheap, such as health care in Cuba being less than 10% of US expenses (with Cubans having a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate).

Some mischaracterize degrowth, claiming that “Cuba experienced ‘degrowth’ during its ‘Special Period’ and it was horrible.”  Wrong!  Degrowth did not immiserate Cuba – the US embargo did.  US sanctions (or embargo or blockade) of Cuba creates barriers to trade which force absurdly high prices for many goods.  One small example: If Cubans need a spare part manufactured in the US, it cannot be merely shipped from the US, but more likely, arrives via Europe.  That means its cost will reflect: [manufacture] + [cost of shipping to Europe] + [cost of shipping from Europe to Cuba].

What is amazing is that Cuba has developed so many techniques of medical care and disaster management for hurricanes and climate change, despite its double impoverishment from colonial days and neo-colonial attacks from the US.


Cuba realizes the responsibility it has to protect its extraordinary biodiversity.  Its extensive coral reefs are more resistant to bleaching than most and must be investigated to discover why.  They are accompanied by healthy marine systems which include mangroves and seagrass beds.  Its flora and fauna boast 3022 distinct plant species plus dozens of reptiles, amphibians and bird species which exist only on the island.

For Cuba to implement global environmental protection and degrowth policies it would need to receive financing both to research new techniques and to train the world’s poor in how to develop their own ways to live better.  Such financial support would include …

1) Reparations for centuries of colonial plunder;

2) Reparations for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, multiple attacks which killed Cuban citizens, hundreds of attempts on Fidel’s life, and decades of slanderous propaganda; and,

3) At least $1 trillion in reparations for losses due to the embargo since 1962.

Why reparations? It is far more than the fact that Cuba has been harmed intensely by the US.  Cuba has a track record proving that it could develop amazing technologies if it were left alone and received the money it deserves.

Like all poor countries, Cuba is forced to employ dubious methods of producing energy in order to survive.  It is unacceptable for rich countries to tell poor countries that they must not use energy techniques which have historically been employed to obtain what is necessary for living.  It is unconscionable for rich countries to fail to forewarn poor countries that repeating practices which we now know are dangerous will leave horrible legacies for their descendants.

Cuba has acknowledged past misdirections including an economy based on sugar, a belief in the need of humanity to dominate nature, support for the “Green Revolution” with its reliance on toxic chemicals, tobacco in food rations, and the repression of homosexuals.  Unless it is sidetracked by by advocates of infinite economic growth, its pattern suggests that it will recognize problems with alternative energy and seek to avoid them.

In the video Cuba’s Life Task, Orlando Rey also observes that “There must be a change in the way of life, in our aspirations.  This is a part of Che Guevara’s ideas on the ‘new man.’  Without forming that new human, it is very difficult to confront the climate issue.”

Integration of poor countries into the global market has meant that areas which were once able to feed themselves are are now unable to do so. Neo-liberalism forces them to use energy sources that are life-preservers in the short run but are death machines for their descendants.  The world must remember that Che’s “new man” will not clamor for frivolous luxuries while others starve.  For humanity to survive, a global epiphany rejecting consumer capitalism must become a material force in energy production.  Was Che only dreaming?  If so, then keep that dream alive!

Don Fitz  is on the Editorial Board of Green Social Thought where a version of this article first appeared. He was the 2016 candidate of the Missouri Green Party for Governor. He is author of Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution. He can be reached at:

Counterpunch, March 28, 2022,

Joe Biden Is Privatizing Medicare / by Matthew Cunningham-Cook

Joe Biden speaking at the White House on February 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

The Biden administration is expanding Donald Trump’s Medicare privatization scheme that is forcing hundreds of thousands of seniors onto for-profit health plans.

A new Medicare privatization scheme developed under President Donald Trump and now being expanded under President Joe Biden is forcing hundreds of thousands of seniors onto new private Medicare plans without their consent.

The development represents a troubling new dimension in the fight by corporate interests to privatize Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people sixty-five or older. Medicare Advantage, which allows for-profit health insurers to offer privatized benefits through Medicare, already results in unexpected costs for routine procedures and wrongful denials of care. Private plans have cost Medicare an astonishing $143 billion since 2008and are now driving some health insurers’ record profits.

The new Direct Contracting Entity (DCE) program similarly adds a private sector third party between patients and Medicare services. Medicare allows these intermediary companies to offer unique benefits, like gym membership coverage. But as for-profit operations ranging from private insurers to publicly traded companies to private equity firms, these intermediaries are incentivized to limit the care that patients receive, especially when they are very sick.

While Medicare Advantage patients choose to sign up for private insurance plans, patients are being enrolled in these DCE health care plans without their informed consent. As Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) noted in a January op-ed, “Seniors in traditional Medicare may be ‘auto-aligned’ to a DCE if any primary care physician they’ve visited in the past two years is affiliated with that DCE. That means Medicare automatically searches two years of seniors’ claims history without their full consent to find any visits with a participating DCE provider as the basis for enrollment.”

Among those who unexpectedly found themselves caught up in one of these new DCE plans is Suzanne Gordon, a policy analyst based in Richmond, California. Gordon spent her entire professional career studying the US health care system and advocating for Medicare for All. As a firm opponent of privatization in Medicare, she has never signed up for a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan.

That’s why she was so surprised when she got an email in January from her doctor at One Medical, a for-profit primary care practice on the West Coast backed by the private equity giant Carlyle Group. While the email message wasn’t particularly clear, she eventually realized that she was being enrolled without her informed consent in a new private DCE plan run by Iora Health, a primary care provider One Medical purchased last year.

“I got the email, I clicked on it and began a signing process that didn’t tell me what I was signing,” said Gordon. “You sign, you click in, and they tell you that they want you to sign up for a DCE with Iora Health. I wrote back to my doc and said I won’t do this . . . I felt that a line had been crossed.”

Gordon, a health policy expert, was able to get out of the plan — but others have not been so lucky. Jayapal’s office told the Lever that three hundred fifty thousand seniors were in DCE plans as of January 2022 — none of whom elected to sign up voluntarily.

This latest Medicare privatization scheme was started under the leadership of a Trump official who has since launched his own “entrepreneurial firm focused on building and growing transformational health care companies,” with support from private equity firms. Now, the effort is quietly being expanded by the Biden administration through its new ACO REACH program, under the direction of two former Obama administration officials who have revolved between jobs in government and the corporate health care industry.

The development means that even more of the country’s most vulnerable will be at the mercy of corporate arbiters that they know little or nothing about.

“Seniors and people with disabilities are, without their consent or full knowledge, being put into a program that has as its center the profit of the investment community rather than the health of Medicare members,” said Ed Weisbart, a physician who chairs the Missouri chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a doctors organization that advocates for single-payer health care. “The investment community has proven that they know how to work around the guardrails of any program that has been set up. They know how to do it.”

Privatizing Medicare

The DCE program was originally launched in April 2019 by Trump’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), under the auspices of the CMS Innovation Center, known as CMMI.

CMMI was created under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to pilot new payment models in Medicare and Medicaid without going through the formal rulemaking process that requires public comment. As a result, the new DCE program, which assigns seniors to a privatized model without their consent, has never been subject to any public scrutiny whatsoever.

“All that DCEs do is privatize traditional Medicare,” said Diane Archer, the CEO of Just Care USA, which works to fight Medicare privatization.

Meanwhile, Adam Boehler, who Trump tapped to run CMS’s Innovation Center, has since formed his own firm, Rubicon Founders. The firm’s website claims it will “architect transformational companies and are deliberate in creating the foundation necessary to lead an industry,” but provides few details on how it will do so. Rubicon did not respond to a request for comment.

Boehler’s firm launched with the backing of longtime private equity executive Annie Lamont, who is married to Connecticut governor Ned Lamont (D), as well as support from the health care–focused private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe (WCAS). WCAS is developing a series of primary care centers for Medicare Advantage patients with the help of Humana, a private health insurer that has also launched a DCE program.

For Archer, the evidence is clear: “Adam Boehler . . . launched this [DCE] program to enrich his friends in the private equity world.”

“We Needed to Make Sure That CMS Continues This Journey”

Late last month, critics of DCEs say the Biden administration effectively expanded the DCE effort under a new name — the “ACO REACH” program.

The new program — which stands for Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH) Model — allows hospital-led managed care organizations to access the new Medicare privatization scheme, too. ACO REACH similarly assigns patients with little informed consent to for-profit plans that benefit health care profiteers and creates incentives to deny care.

The DCE and ACO REACH programs are being spearheaded in part by CMMI head Liz Fowler, a former Obama administration official who helped write Obama’s signature health care act as the chief health counsel to former US Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). Earlier, she helped write the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, legislation that barred the government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices.

Fowler served as vice president of public policy for the health insurer WellPoint, now part of Anthem, before moving to Baucus’s office. She later became a health care aide in the Obama administration, before spending nearly seven years as a vice president for pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson.

Neither Anthem nor Johnson & Johnson are currently active in the DCE market. But considering other major insurers like Humana are pursuing DCE contracts, and that Anthem already offers Medicare Advantage plans, it is conceivable that these insurance giants could get into the business at some point in the future.

In a February 24 press call announcing ACO REACH, CMS administrator Jonathan Blum said that the Biden administration had always been committed to continuing with the DCE program.

“We want to make sure that we see these programs as continuing to grow . . . we have had many conversations with the public and with stakeholders that started with the new CMS team coming on board,” said Blum. “We have felt from the start that we needed to make sure that CMS continues this journey.”

Blum served as the deputy administrator and later principal deputy administrator of CMS under Obama, before joining CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield as an executive vice president, according to Legistorm.

Fowler and Blum’s boss, CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, is a former health care partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a lobbying firm that worked to launch Medicare Advantage plans as recently as 2020

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips also played an integral role in reducing fines for nursing home violations in California by as much as 99.9 percent in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency declined requests for comment.

A Dangerous New Stage of Medicare Privatization

Kip Sullivan, an attorney who is active with Physicians for a National Healthcare Program, said that the DCE program relies on ensuring that elderly or disabled patients don’t have an informed choice about enrolling in the private health care plans.

“Seniors have been swept into DCEs without their knowledge,” he said. “Many — probably most — beneficiaries are in traditional Medicare as opposed to Medicare Advantage because they did not want to be in a plan run by an insurer.”

Sullivan pointed out that the publicly traded DCEs, like Oak Street Health, brag in investor filings that between 13 and 30 percent of the money they get from Medicare goes into profits. By comparison, according to Sullivan, traditional Medicare plans have overhead of just 2 percent.

“When Medicare passed in 1965, there was never an intention to enrich the insurance industry,” he said. “But that’s exactly what’s happening.”

Weisbart, from the Missouri chapter of PNHP, is especially concerned that the Medicare and Medicaid agency “does not need to get congressional consent, discussion or approval for any of these programs. They’re able to do it on their own.”

Under Trump, the agency even issued a waiver that exempts DCE programs from anti-kickback rules that normally prohibit doctors from entering their patients into such for-profit plans. As a result, doctors can be compensated for involuntarily entering their patients into DCE programs.

In recent months, advocates have been waging a full-court campaign against the DCE scheme. In January, fifty-four members of the House submitted a letter voicing similar concerns to Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS administrator Brooks-LaSure.

What, then, explains the Biden administration’s recent decision to expand the program?

As always in our campaign finance system, money could play a role. In 2020, the leadership of DCE contractor Clover Health donated $500,000 to the main super PAC for Senate Democrats, while the company’s financier Chamath Palihapitiya donated $750,000 to the same super PAC plus $250,000 to the Biden Victory Fund.

One Medical — which employed Suzanne Gordon’s doctor and owns Iora Health, the company that tried to enroll her in a DCE — is backed by the Carlyle Group, a prodigious donor to both parties. Biden enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner last year at the $30 million Nantucket home of Carlyle cofounder David Rubenstein.

Bill Kadereit, the president of the National Retiree Legislative Network, said that the DCE program could usher in a dangerous new stage of Medicare privatization.

“Medicare Advantage plans have failed,” he said. “Privatization has failed. The cost of Medicare is doubling every ten years because of the health care sector campaign contributions. We’re seeing the disassembly and destruction of our precious public health system. Every place where the profiteers have stepped in costs have gone up and health outcomes have gone down.”

Matthew Cunningham-Cook has written for Labor Notes, the Public Employee Press, Al Jazeera America, and the Nation.

Jacobin, March 24, 2022,

How the Starbucks Worker Organizing Model Can Accelerate Unionization Across the Country / by Shuvu Bhattarai

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez meets with Starbucks Workers United members who are working to unionize their store in Astoria, Queens, New York, on March 27, 2022. (Starbucks Astoria Blvd / Twitter)

A Starbucks union drive is sweeping across the country. In an industry that has been all but impossible to unionize, these baristas have created an organizing model that can be replicated at similar corporate chains everywhere.

The Starbucks Workers United campaign, having secured National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election victories at six out of seven stores, with well over 150 stores filing for an NLRB election as of last week, is one of the most invigorating labor campaigns in recent US history.

The Starbucks workers currently spearheading the SB Workers United drive have charted a way forward for organizing corporate chain stores. Their strategy should be carefully studied and implemented across other corporate chains and adjusted according to context.

The story of SB Workers United begins in Elmwood Park, Buffalo, in 2019, when some Starbucks workers, many of them inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign and affiliated with socialist organizations, reached out to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)–affiliated union Workers United to talk about unionizing.

After over a year of underground organizing, the campaign went public on August 23, with the workers posting a declaration of the intent to unionize to Starbucks Corporate on Twitter through their own account. The workers chose to call themselves Starbucks Workers United and created a website with basic educational resources for Starbucks workers across the country about why they should form a union, as well as contact information for workers seeking to organize.

With their declaration made public, the union drive drew the coverage of various corporate media outlets and entered into public consciousness. Interest in unionizing Starbucks was sparked across the country, with workers reaching out to Starbucks Workers United and Starbucks customers directly talking to workers about the importance of unions.

With the victory of the first NLRB election at the Elmwood Park store on December 6, 2021, the first Starbucks store in the United States was unionized. This generated enormous media attention, and Starbucks Workers United received a flurry of unionization requests from workers around the country. The media attention of the union effort generated mass interest from workers, and the website allowed for this interest to be converted to action.

After the NLRB ruled on February 26 in a decision involving the Mesa, Arizona, Starbucks that organizing a union in a single store is appropriate, SB Workers United’s particular method of organizing through rapid NLRB elections was legitimized, paving the way in the short term for similar drives to take place. This must be exploited.

Baristas Take the Lead

From its beginning to the present, the SB Workers United union campaign has been a worker-driven project. The union staff of Workers United, the union which SB Workers United is seeking to join, have played a critical but supporting role during this drive. Workers United is given the leads of workers seeking to unionize by Starbucks Workers United. The staff organizers set up meetings with the union-interested workers, taking them through the process of charting their stores, preparing themselves for management backlash, and filing for a union election.

In stark contrast to some other union campaigns in fast food in which the staff organizers handle the bulk of organizing activity, in the case of Starbucks Workers United, the staff function as an educational resource for the Starbucks workers. The primary organizers of the SB Workers United campaign are the Starbucks workers themselves.

As of this writing, workers in only six stores are members of the Workers United union, but all of the Starbucks workers who have filed NLRB petitions and many more who have begun the process of organizing are all members of SB Workers United. SB Workers United is independent of Workers United. While not legally recognized, SB Workers United is already a union with over a thousand members across the country.

The SB Workers United union has its own national steering committee and various working groups that direct the strategy of the campaign. Through the creation of a space that encourages the creative talents and energies of enthusiastic workers, SB Workers United has been able to create a wealth of material, including community support guides, various social media outlets, and pro-union artwork, to build a highly resilient and capable movement that only continues to grow.

Though SB Workers United represents a small minority of all Starbucks workers, it has enough of a force to compel Starbucks to spend millions of dollars in its growing anti-union campaign, announce wage increases to try to head off the threat of a union contract, and even force former CEO Howard Schultz out of retirement. With a recent strike in Denver and the organization of rallies around the country in defense of fired pro-union workers, SB Workers United has already demonstrated that it can use weapons like strikes and community mobilization to win its demands.

A Reproducible Method

If we boil the SB Workers United Campaign down to its essentials, we’re left with a worker organizing method for corporate chains that can be sparked by any organization with sufficient labor and resources. The SB Workers United organizing history is summarized as follows:

  • A core group of class-conscious workers reaches out to a local union to take steps towards winning legal union recognition.
  • Workers create a separate, independent, and informal union called Starbucks Workers United, which handles media strategy and creates a central point of contact (a website) to which inspired workers around the country can reach out.
  • SB Workers United goes public with the notice of NLRB elections, which draws media attention.
  • Each victory is highly publicized, drawing in new worker leads through the SB Workers United website, which then sends them to professional union staff for training and support in organizing local stores.

The key to the success of SB Workers United is that they have built an independent organization of workers seeking to unionize, so that the workers themselves are the ones who lead the campaign. The critical role of outside organizations (Workers United) is to provide the Starbucks workers with the strategic advice and the technical tools necessary to win.

How can their strategy be utilized to spark strong union campaigns for other corporate chains?

The answer to this question is that a method must be developed to build a core of class-conscious and militant workers across the corporate chain and to develop those workers to be effective organizers and leaders of the campaign. The greatest barrier to organizing chain stores is that class-conscious workers are isolated from one another. For this reason, developing a central point of contact should be the first step to unionizing, so that the workers who have the greatest interest in organizing will reach out to the central organizing body.

The method to organize corporate chains is as follows:

  • Build a central point of contact that workers seeking unionization can reach out to (like a website, email address, and social media accounts).
  • Focus on worker education, arming workers with knowledge of the steps to form a union and methods of creating support for unions within their workplace.
  • Having gathered and developed a core group of worker-organizers, connect the workers to each other to create the formation of a union outside the bounds of legality. At this stage, the workers must be prepared to take leadership of their union.
  • Build methods of public outreach for the new union group. Every chance to increase the visibility of the campaign, such as high-profile NLRB election victories, must be seized so that the most militant and inspired workers begin to reach out to the newly formed union.

With these basic steps, a new union will be birthed into existence. The nuances of the organization — its strategy, its ultimate mission, its leadership, its working groups — must be decided democratically by the workers themselves and are always subject to change depending on the changing conditions of the campaign.

Workers Themselves at the Helm

There are practical reasons why workers must be the ones driving and leading the unionization drive. For one, they are the ones who best understand and feel the numerous ways they are exploited by their management and thus are best able to develop tactics to use their shared conditions as a point of unity. Second, the common driving factor for workers seeking unionization is a lack of agency, which manifests itself in numerous forms: management abuse, poor pay, and unstable schedules. By creating a space where the workers are able to exert control over their workplace, through leadership of their unionization campaign, a space of empowerment is created that can bring forward the best from every worker. To create a force of highly motivated worker-organizers, worker control over strategy is an absolute precondition.

The SB Workers United drive is a clear reminder of what a union is in its essence. A union is formed not when the state recognizes it, but when the workers recognize it. A union is formed when workers have connected with each other and created an organization that reflects their collective will.

It is important to note that Workers United has only a handful of staff to help assist the Starbucks workers. With the ongoing success of the SB Workers United drive, volunteer- and resource-rich organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) could take it upon themselves to apply this model to other unorganized chains. Through initiatives like the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC) and numerous successful electoral campaigns, as well as DSA’s presence throughout the United States, the organization’s skilled members could help create a central point of contact for aspiring pro-union workers, provide education for the workers to organize and protect themselves from retaliation, fundraise for the workers, help workers with legal issues, and use its media expertise and connections to make sure the workers’ voices are heard far and wide. DSA could thus help workers organize across corporate chains, as EWOC has already begun to do.

The stunning growth of the SB Workers United movement has attracted support from labor unions, socialist organizations, community activists, and progressive forces throughout the country and has inspired numerous workers to challenge their bosses and reclaim their dignity. As this movement gains momentum, we can and should put our foot on the gas. Who knows where it could lead?

Shuvu Bhattarai is a Nepali-American labor organizer and a member of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America in Queens.

Jacobin, March 28, 2022,

The United States is Exceptional, Just Not in the Ways Any of Us Should Want / by Aviva Chomsky

Debunking the Myth of American Exceptionalism | Credit: TRANSCEND Media Service

Three years after the end of World War II, diplomat George Kennan outlined the challenges the country faced this way:

We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.

That, in a nutshell, was the postwar version of U.S. exceptionalism and Washington was then planning to manage the world in such a way as to maintain that remarkably grotesque disparity. The only obstacle Kennan saw was poor people demanding a share of the wealth.

Today, as humanity confronts a looming climate catastrophe, what’s needed is a new political-economic project. Its aim would be to replace such exceptionalism and the hoarding of the earth’s resources with what’s been called “a good life for all within planetary boundaries.”

Back in 1948, few if any here were thinking about the environmental effects of the over-consumption of available resources. Yet even then, however unknown, this country’s growing wealth had a dark underside: the slow-brewing crisis of climate change. Wealth all too literally meant the intensified extraction of resources and the production of goods. As it happened, fossil fuels (and the greenhouse gases that went with their burning) were essential to every step in the process.

Today, the situation has shifted — at least a bit. With approximately 4% of the world’s population, the United States still holds about 30% of its wealth, while its commitment to over-consumption and maintaining global dominance remains remarkably unshaken. To grasp that, all you have to do is consider the Biden White House’s recent Indo-Pacific Strategy policy brief, which begins in this telling way: “The United States is an Indo-Pacific power.” Indeed.

In 2022, the relationship between wealth, emissions, and climate catastrophe has become ever clearer. In the crucial years between 1990 and 2015, the global economy expanded from $47 trillion to $108 trillion. During that same period, global annual greenhouse-gas emissions grew by more than 60%. Mind you, 1990 was the year in which atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) first surpassed what many scientists believed was the level of safety — 350 parts per million, or ppm. Yet in the 22 years since then, more CO2 and other greenhouse gases have been emitted into the atmosphere than in all of history prior to that date, as atmospheric CO2 careened past 400 ppm in 2016 with 420 ppm now fast approaching.

Inequality and Emissions

Growing global wealth is closely associated with growing emissions. But the wealth and responsibility for those emissions are not shared equally among the planet’s population. On an individual level, the wealthiest people on Earth consume — and emit — far more than their poorer counterparts. The richest 10% of the world’s population, or about 630 million people, were responsible for more than half of the increase in greenhouse-gas emissions over the last quarter-century. On a national level, rich countries are, of course, home to far more people with high levels of consumption, which means that the larger and wealthier the country, the greater its emissions.

In terms of per capita income, the United States ranks 13th in the world. But the countries above it on the list are mostly tiny, including some of the Persian Gulf states, Ireland, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Switzerland. So, despite their high per-capita emissions, their overall contribution isn’t that big. As the third largest country on this planet, our soaring per-capita emissions have, on the other hand, had a devastating effect.

With a population of around 330 million, the United States today has less than a quarter of either China’s population of more than 1.4 billion or India’s, which is just under that figure. Four other countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan — fall into the population range of 200 to 300 million, but their per-capita gross domestic products (GDPs) and their per-capita emissions are far below ours. In fact, the total U.S. GDP of more than $19 trillion far exceeds that of any other country, followed by China at $12 trillion and Japan at $5 trillion.

In sum, the United States is exceptional when it comes to both its size and wealth. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn then that, until 2006, it was also by far the world’s top CO2 emitter. After that, it was surpassed by a fast-developing China (though that country’s per capita emissions remain less than half of ours) and no other country’s greenhouse gas emissions come close to either of those two.

To fully understand different countries’ responsibility, it’s necessary to go past yearly numbers and look at how much they’ve emitted over time, since the greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere don’t disappear at the end of the year. Here again, one country stands out above all the others: the United States, whose cumulative emissions reached 416 billion tons by the end of 2020. China’s, which didn’t start rising rapidly until the 1980s, reached 235 billion tons in that year, while India trailed at 54 billion.

Having first hit 20 billion tons in 1910, U.S. cumulative emissions have only shot up ever since, while China’s didn’t hit that 20 billion mark until 1979. So the U.S. got a big head start and, cumulatively speaking, is still way ahead when it comes to taking down this planet.

The U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN) arguesthat excessive emitters like the United States have already used up far more than their “fair share” of this planet’s carbon budget and so, in fact, owe a huge carbon debt to the rest of the world to make up for their outsized contribution to the problem of climate change over the past two centuries. Unfortunately, the 2015 Paris Agreement’s voluntary, non-enforceable, and nationally determined limits on emissions functionally let rich countries continue on their damaging ways.

In fact, nations should be held responsible for repaying their carbon debt. The world’s poorest people, who have contributed practically nothing to the problem, deserve access to a portion of the remaining budget and to the sort of aid that would enable them to develop alternative forms of energy to meet their basic needs.

Under the fair-share proposal, it’s not enough for the United States just to stop adding emissions. This country needs to repay the climate debt it’s already incurred. USCAN calculates that to pay back its fair share the United States must cut its emissions by 70% by 2030, while contributing the cash equivalent of another 125% of its current emissions every year through technical and financial support to energy-poor nations.

Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal proposal adopted the concept of the “fair share.” True leadership in the global climate fight, Sanders has argued, means recognizing that “the United States has for over a century spewed carbon pollution emissions into the atmosphere in order to gain economic standing in the world. Therefore, we have an outsized obligation to help less industrialized nations meet their targets while improving quality of life.”

On this subject, however, his voice and others like it sadly remain far outside the all-too-right-wing mainstream. (And if you doubt that, just check Joe Manchin’s recent voting record.)

Are We Making Progress Thanks to New Technologies?

In 2018, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report on our chances of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade — the goal that the countries involved in the Paris Agreement, including the United States, accepted as their baseline for action. It concluded that, to have a 50% chance of staying below that temperature increase, our future collective emissions couldn’t exceed 480 gigatons (or 480 billion tons). That, in other words, was humanity’s remaining carbon budget.

Unfortunately, as of 2018, global emissions were exceeding 40 gigatons a year, which meant that even if they were flattened almost immediately (not exactly a likelihood), we would use up that budget in a mere dozen years or so. Worse yet, despite a Covid-induced decline in 2020, global emissions actually rebounded sharply in 2021.

Most scenarios for emission reductions, including those proposed by the IPCC, rely optimistically on new technologies to enable us to get there without making substantive changes in the global economy or in the excessive consumption of the world’s richest people and countries. Such technological advances, it’s hoped, would allow us to produce as much, or possibly more energy from renewable sources and even possibly begin removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence to support the likelihood of such progress, especially in the time we have left. No matter how much new technology we develop, there seems to be no completely “clean” form of energy. All of them — nuclear, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, biomass, and perhaps others still to be developed — rely on massive industrial operations to extract finite resources from the earth; factories to process them; facilities to create, store, and transmit energy; and, in the end, some form of waste (think batteries, solar panels, old electric cars, and so on). Every form of energy will have multiple dangerous environmental impacts. Meanwhile, as the use of alternative forms of energy production increases worldwide, it hasn’t yet reduced fossil-fuel use. Instead, it’s just added to our growing energy consumption.

It’s true that the world’s wealthiest countries have achieved some gains in decouplingeconomic growth from rising emissions. But much of this relatively minor decoupling is attributable to a shift from the use of coal to natural gas, along with the outsourcing of particularly dirty industries. Decoupling has, as yet, made no dent in global greenhouse gas emissions and seems unlikely to accelerate or even continue at a meaningful enough pace after these first and easiest steps have been taken. So almost all climate modeling, like that of the IPCC, suggests that new technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere will also be needed to counter rising emissions.

But negative emissions technologies are largely aspirational at this point. Instead of counting on what still to a significant extent remain technological fantasies, while the wealthy continue their profligacy, it’s time to shift our thinking more radically and focus, as I do in my new book Is Science Enough? Forty Critical Questions About Climate Justice, on how to reduce extraction, production, and consumption in far more socially just ways, so that we can indeed begin to live within our planet’s means. Call it “post-growth” or “degrowth” thinking.

Make no mistake: we can’t live without energy and we desperately do need to turn to alternatives to fossil fuels. But alternative energies are only going to be truly viable if we can also greatly reduce our energy needs, which means reconfiguring the global economy. If energy is a scarce and precious resource, then ways must be found to prioritize its use to meet the urgent needs of the world’s poor, rather than endlessly expanding the luxuries of the wealthiest among us. And that’s precisely what degrowth thinking is all about: scaling back the mindless pursuit of production, consumption, and profit in favor of “human wellbeing and ecological stability.”

Abandoning Exceptionalism

In April 2021, President Biden made a dramatic announcement, setting a new goal for U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions — to reduce them 50% from 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. Sounds pretty good, right?

But given that this country’s CO2 emissions had hit a high of 6.13 billion tons in 2005, that means by 2030 we’d still be emitting three billion tons of CO2 a year. Even if we could reach net-zero by 2050, our country alone would, by then, have used up one quarter of the entire remaining carbon budget for the planet. And right now, given the state of the American political system, there’s neither a genuine plan nor an obvious way to reach Biden’s goal. If we stay on our current path — and don’t count on that if the Republicans take Congress in 2022 and the White House again in 2024 — we would barely achieve a 30% reduction by 2030.

At this point, there’s no guarantee we’ll stay on that path, no matter the political party in power. After all, consider just this:

+ In 2010, about half of the new vehicles sold in the United States were cars and half were SUVs or trucks. By 2021, close to 80% were SUVs or trucks.

+ In 2020, more than 900,000 new houses were built in this country, their median size, 2,261 square feet. Most of them had four or more bedrooms and 870,000 had central air conditioning.

+ President Biden’s infrastructure bill, signed in November 2021, included $763 billion for new highways.

And let’s not even talk about the military-industrial-congressional complex and war. After all, the Department of Defense is the single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels and emitter of CO2 in the world. Between its worldwide bases, promotion of the arms industry, and ongoing global wars, our military alone produces annual emissions greater than those of wealthy countries like Sweden and Denmark.

Meanwhile, in the run-up to the climate-change meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, in the fall of 2021, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry insisted repeatedlythat the United States must work to bring China on board. Joe Biden too kept his attention focused on China. And indeed, given its greenhouse gas emissions and still-expanding use of coal, China does have a big role to play. But to the rest of the world, such an insistence on diverting attention from our own role in the climate crisis rings hollow indeed.

A 2021 study shows that almost all of the world’s remaining coal, not to speak of most of its gas and oil reserves, will need to stay in the ground if global warming is to be kept below 1.5 degrees centigrade. Back in 2018, another study found that even to meet a 2-degree centigrade goal, which it’s now all too clear would be catastrophic in climate-change terms, humanity would have to halt all new fossil-fuel-based infrastructure and immediately start decommissioning fossil-fuel-burning plants. Instead, such new facilities continue to be built in a relentless fashion globally. Unless the United States, which bears by far the greatest responsibility for our climate emergency, is ready to radically change course, how can it demand that others do so?

But to change course would mean to abandon exceptionalism.

Degrowth scholars argue that, rather than risking all of our futures on as-yet-unproven technologies in order to cling to economic growth, we should seek social and political solutions that would involve redistributing the planet’s wealth, its scarce resources, and its carbon budget in ways that prioritize basic needs and social wellbeing globally.

That, however, would require the United States to acknowledge the dark side of its exceptionalism and agree to relinquish it, something that, in March 2022, still seems highly unlikely.

Aviva Chomsky is an American teacher, historian, author, and activist. She is a professor of history and the Coordinator of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts

Source: Counterpunch, March 25, 2022,

Sanders Intros Revival of 95% Windfall Profits Tax From WWII to Curb Corporate Greed / by Jessica Corbett

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to striking Kellogg’s workers in downtown Battle Creek, Michigan, on December 17, 2021. (Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)

“We cannot allow big oil companies and other large, profitable corporations to continue to use the war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the specter of inflation to make obscene profits by price gouging Americans.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday unveiled the Ending Corporate Greed Act, which aims to end corporate price gouging in the midst of multiple global crises by imposing a 95% tax on the windfall profits of major companies.

The bill—spearheaded by Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.)—is inspired by previous windfall profits tax plans implemented during World Wars I and II as well as the Korean War. During WWII, Sanders’ office noted, “the tax rate reached as high as 95%, which ensured that companies could not profiteer off the war.”

“The American people are sick and tired of the unprecedented corporate greed that exists all over this country. They are sick and tired of being ripped off by corporations making record-breaking profits while working families are forced to pay outrageously high prices for gas, rent, food, and prescription drugs,” Sanders said in a statement.

The Senate Budget Committee chair argued that “we cannot allow Big Oil companies and other large, profitable corporations to continue to use the war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the specter of inflation to make obscene profits by price gouging Americans at the gas pump, the grocery store, or any other sector of our economy.”

“During these troubling times, the working class cannot bear the brunt of this economic crisis, while corporate CEOs, wealthy shareholders, and the billionaire class make out like bandits,” he added. “The time has come for Congress to work for working families and demand that large, profitable corporations make a little bit less money and pay their fair share of taxes.”

In addition to the existing federal tax rate—which congressional Republicans cut from 35% to 21% under former President Donald Trump—Sanders’ bill would establish a 95% tax on a company’s profits that exceed its average profit level for 2015-19, adjusted for inflation.

The new tax would only apply only to companies with $500 million or more in annual revenue and would be limited to 75% of income per year. Sanders’ office estimates that the temporary emergency measure, which would only apply in 2022-24, “coud raise an estimated $400 billion in one year from 30 of the largest corporate profiteers alone.”

summary from the senator’s office details how the proposal would likely impact major corporations in various industries: automobile manufacturing, banking, Big Pharma, Big Tech, food and retail, fossil fuels, and housing.

“My constituents are hurting, and they are rightly asking what Congress can do about surging prices for food, energy, and other necessities,” Bowman said Friday. “What we cannot do is ask working Americans to shoulder any more of this burden.”

“Corporate price gouging is playing a big role in the inflation we are experiencing right now, putting families in a financial squeeze in the middle of an ongoing pandemic,” he emphasized. “These are the same corporations that are eroding our democracy, eviscerating workers’ rights, and fueling the climate crisis—and it is time to make them pay.”

According to Bowman, “The Ending Corporate Greed Act will take away any incentive for large companies to exploit our current crisis for profit, and it will protect workers, families, and small businesses in New York and across the country.”

Big Oil, in particular, is “raking in record profits, while Americans are facing price hikes at the pump,” Markey pointed out, declaring that “something is fundamentally broken when the biggest corporations in the country are leveraging a pandemic and a war to pad their profit margins as average Americans suffer.”

Recent polling found that 82% of U.S. voters believe inflation is fueled by corporations “jacking up prices.” Another survey showed that 80% of voters—including 73% of Republicans—support a windfall profits tax on fossil fuel giants and 87% of them want Congress and President Joe Biden to “crack down on price gouging and excessive price increases by oil companies that result in higher gas prices at the pump.”

Some advocacy groups supporting Sanders’ proposal directed attention at the industry on Friday. As Friends of the Earth’s Lukas Ross put it: “Big Oil is teaching a master class in war profiteering and disaster capitalism. Near record stock buybacks are reprehensible while war rages and consumers suffer. It’s time for a windfall profits tax.”

Sunrise Movement advocacy director Lauren Maunus agreed while calling out “fossil corporations” for “capitalizing on this crisis to loot working people at the gas pump.”

“It’s despicable that corporations can hold us hostage during a pandemic and a deadly conflict to make record profits and line the pockets of their executives at our expense,” she said. “If our politicians are serious about helping everyday people and making corporations pay their fair share, they must pass the Ending Corporate Greed Act.”

Other backers of the bill include tax scholar Reuven Avi-Yonah, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, and experts and campaigners at the American Economic Liberties Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Economic Policy Institute, Groundwork Action, Patriotic Millionaires, and Roosevelt Institute.

Sanders’ proposal comes as “the White House is studying a range of potential responses to rising gas prices” and engaging in “wide-ranging internal talks about potential ideas for bringing relief to consumers,” according to The Washington Post.

As Jeff Stein reported Friday at the Post:

‘The ideas they have discussed include a major release of the nation’s oil reserves, loans and other incentives to energy producers to encourage production, and a federal gas tax holiday, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

Biden aides have also discussed ideas that they are less likely to advance. These ideas include rebate checks for motorists and using decommissioned buses in major cities to promote public transit and reduce gas demand, the people said.’

“Additionally, White House officials have had preliminary conversations about a potential ‘windfall tax’ on the profits of large oil and gas producers,” Stein noted, “although it is unclear if they will embrace such a measure. “

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

Common Dreams, March 25, 2022,

House Democrats to Hold First Medicare for All Hearing Since Pandemic / by Julia Conley

Protesters supporting Medicare for All hold a rally outside PhRMA headquarters April 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. The rally was held by the group Progressive Democrats of America. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“Congress must implement a system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation,” said Rep. Cori Bush.

Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic suddenly left an estimated 14.6 million Americans without employer-sponsored health insurance due to economic shutdowns and layoffs, the House Oversight Committee next week will hold the first hearing since the pandemic began on Medicare for All, with witnesses expected to testify on numerous ways the public health crisis has made the need for such a system clearer than ever.

Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will be joined Tuesday by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in leading the hearing, which will be the third congressional ever to focus on Medicare for All.

Several progressive lawmakers, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), are also members of the committee.

Medicare for All advocate Ady Barkan, who suffers from ALS, is set to testify at the hearing, along other witnesses including with emergency physician Dr. Uché Blackstock and economist Jeffrey D. Sachs.

The hearing will focus partially on how universal healthcare coverage, with all types of medical care free at the point of service as it is in other wealthy nations, would help close health disparity gaps for people with disabilities, people of color, low-income and poor people, and other marginalized groups.

According to a report released just before the pandemic by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), Hispanic and Black Americans have significantly higher uninsured rates, at 19% and 11%, respectively, than white Americans, 8% of whom are uninsured.

Black Americans are also twice as likely as white people to die of diabetes, 22% more likely to die of heart disease, and 71% more likely to die of cervical cancer.

In the country’s healthcare system established for all veterans, though, Black men are significantly less likely to develop heart disease, while high-quality health coverage erases nearly half the racial disparities for women with breast cancer.

“This policy will save lives, I want to make that clear,” Bush told The Nation on Thursday. “I hope this hearing will be one more step forward in our commitment to ensuring everyone in this country, and particularly our Black, brown, and Indigenous communities, have the medical care they need to thrive.”

In addition to showing how quickly a for-profit healthcare system—in which medical coverage is tied to employment for more than half the country—can leave millions without care, progressives have said since the pandemic began that the crisis demonstrated the need for Medicare for All in other ways.

As Common Dreams reported in 2020, for-profit health insurers have illegally hit Americans with surprise medical bills for Covid-19 testing and treatment, with some being billed for thousands of dollars for services advertised as free—and necessary for public health.

“Americans deserve a healthcare system that guarantees health and medical services to all. Congress must implement a system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation,” Bush told The Nation.

The announcement of the hearing comes two weeks after House Democrats pulled $15.6 billion in pandemic response funding from an omnibus spending bill, a move that forced the federal government to end coverage of Covid-19 tests and treatment for uninsured Americans.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is moving ahead with a scheme to privatize the existing Medicare program, continuing an experiment first pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump.

In the Senate this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that he soon plans to reintroduce a Medicare for All proposal. Next week’s hearing will consider a shift to the Medicare for All proposal put forward in the House by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Marking the twelfth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson said Wednesday, “It is more clear than ever that we need improved and expanded Medicare for All.”

Common Dreams, March 24, 2022,

Biden administration bent on privatizing traditional Medicare / by Diane Archer

There appears to be little light any more between corporate health care and government health care or even between government health care-speak and corporate health care-speak. In the latest government push to privatize traditional Medicare–“ACO REACH”–insurer and investor middlemen will responsible for assuming risk and paying claims. The Biden administration claims its goal is “value-based care,” though decades of evidence show that corporate middlemen drive up costs and do not deliver value for patients.

What’s happening? The Biden administration is continuing a Trump administration experiment to pay middlemen–often entities with no meaningful medical expertise–a flat fee per patient to “manage care” for people in traditional Medicare. The administration just renamed the “Global Professional Direct Contracting” experiment–which works like Medicare Advantage–ACO REACH. It will privatize traditional Medicare by turning over “care management” read “money management,” to investors and insurers.

Who will be in the experiment? People with Medicare whose primary care physicians are working for a middleman that contracts with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of “ACO REACH.”

What’s the value to patients? If you look at the role insurer middlemen play in Medicare Advantage, it is hard to see that ACO REACH offers any possibility of value to patients and easy to see huge risk. Given the scant data available in Medicare Advantage, no one can demonstrate value in the care patients receive. MedPAC, the government’s Medicare oversight agency, has never been able to assess care quality in Medicare Advantage plans because the plans have never given it complete and accurate information that would permit MedPAC to assess value. At the same time, government agencies have found widespread and persistent inappropriate delays and denials of care and coverage putting patients at serious health risk.

ACO REACH will offer “care coordination,” but what does that mean?  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) claims the ACO REACH model is somehow going to ensure people in traditional Medicare have their care coordinated in ways that improve health outcomes. But, there is no evidence that people in managed care plans have better health outcomes than people in traditional Medicare. In fact, “care coordination” is often a euphemism for delayed care, less care, and referrals to low-cost providers, none of which is by definition a good thing. Primary care doctors will have financial incentives to minimize costs.

Will ACO REACH promote health equity? CMMI also says it is promoting health equity through ACO REACH, but there’s no evidence to support that claim. Participants will need to have health equity plans. But health equity plans are far different from results and, so long as cost is a barrier to care, it’s hard to see how participants can reduce health disparities. It’s also hard to imagine how CMS will ensure compliance by participants with model requirements.

Diane Archer has been helping people navigate Medicare and retirement issues for more than 25 years. Just Care is her latest venture, which she is volunteering her time to build and test. Diane is creating Just Care in order to share helpful consumer-friendly information and to promote the organizations doing the best work.

JustCare, March 9, 2022,

Maine News: Report calls for Maine to decriminalize drugs, outlines dangers of punishing substance use / by Evan Popp

A State House rally in 2021 for drug decriminalization | Beacon 

Drug decriminalization would lead to far better health outcomes for people with substance use disorder while also saving Maine millions currently spent on punishment and incarceration rather than helping those who use drugs get treatment, a report released Monday found.

The study was produced by the ACLU of Maine and the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP). Based on conversations with more than 150 people — including those who have been arrested for drug crimes as well as treatment professionals, harm reduction workers, prosecutors and defense attorneys — along with data from public records requests and academic research, the report makes the case for decriminalizing the use and possession of drugs in Maine. 

The state’s current system, which harshly criminalizes the possession of even small amounts of illegal substances, has amassed a staggering social and economic toll, the authors of the report argue, and must change if the state is to truly address an overdose epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly two Mainers a day in 2021.  

The study found that criminalization makes drug use more dangerous and creates conditions that mean those with substance use disorder — a disease — are less able to attain treatment.

“The isolation and disconnection of prison or jail time can interrupt treatment and lead to an increased likelihood of overdose after release,” the authors of the report write. “And the criminal records that people get from drug charges means they are forever branded as criminals, making employment, housing and other necessary processes very difficult to get and keep. People who use drugs face stigma because of all this criminal punishment.” 

Those in the state’s recovery community have repeatedly made similar arguments. The report quoted the testimony of Chantel St. Laurent of Lewiston, who told lawmakers on Maine’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in 2021 that imprisonment is often a barrier to recovery. 

“I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to watch people be incarcerated for their substance use disorder,” St. Laurent said. “I see people get their foot in the door at treatment, just to be pulled out by the justice system.” 

Along with its harmful impact on access to treatment, the report also outlined how the current system disproportionately punishes certain people. The authors stated that while white and Black people use drugs at similar rates, Black Mainers are more than 3.5 times as likely to be arrested for drug possession as white people in the state who use substances. 

Along with being ineffective and discriminatory, the current system is also expensive, the study found. In 2019 alone, about one in eleven arrests made by Maine law enforcement were for drug-related crimes, with state and local governments spending $111 million yearly to criminalize drug use. In addition, impacted individuals themselves pay another $33 million to cover the cost of criminalization and incarceration. 

A sign at a 2021 State House rally in support of drug decriminalization | Beacon

When drug arrests lead to incarceration, the report authors stated that the price of a year in state prison is more than twice the cost of providing housing, weekly counseling and medication-assisted treatment for a year to those who use substances.  

The emphasis in Maine on incarceration and punishment rather than treatment and social support is the result of long-standing policy decisions, the report found. For example, between 2014 and 2019, funding of substance use treatment through MaineCare increased 2%. But during that same time period, the authors identified a 13% rise in allocations for state and local corrections and a 14% increase in money for policing. 

“Year over year, Maine has prioritized incarcerating and criminalizing people who use drugs over making treatment for drug use more available,” said James Myall, a co-author of the report and economic policy analyst at MECEP. “Not only is this approach ineffective, but it’s extremely costly.” 

This points to the need for a better approach, the authors write. Along with decriminalizing drug use and possession, the report calls for investing the money saved by moving away from incarceration in social supports that address the underlying reasons people use substances. Such programs include treatment services and recovery-based housing, mental health counseling and community connection initiatives. 

“There is a clear consensus for a public health approach to address the needs of people with substance use disorder. It is time to ensure our policies center and support that approach,” said lead report author Winifred Tate, an associate professor of anthropology and the director of the Maine Drug Policy Lab at Colby College. “In order to do so, we must decriminalize the possession and use of drugs in our state and invest in our communities.” 

Given that Maine has a historic budget surplus of about $1.2 billion, now is the time to make such investments, the authors argued. During a press conference Monday outlining the report, Tate said using some of the surplus to create more treatment options and community networks are important to addressing the overdose crisis. She added that advocates have also repeatedly emphasized the need for supportive and affordable housing as a crucial step toward keeping those in recovery and active use safe and able to access services. Maine is currently facing an affordable housing crisis, with myriad bills introduced this legislative session on the issue. 

There is strong evidence to support an alternative approach centered around decriminalization and community investment, ACLU policy director Meagan Sway added during the press conference. She pointed to the example of Portugal, which decriminalized drugs in 2001 and instead spent money on creating health programs for those who use substances. By 2008, about 75% of people using opioids in the country were opting into treatment, Sway said. 

In addition to Portugal, the momentum behind decriminalizing drugs has spread to some states in the U.S., with Sway citing the decision by Oregon voters in 2020 to approve a ballot measure doing so. 

The decriminalization movement is also building power in Maine. In 2021, a grassroots campaign led by the recovery community and backed by public health professionals and advocacy groups succeeded in pushing LD 967, a drug decriminalization bill, through the Maine House. Although the measure was ultimately voted down in the Senate and was opposed by Gov. Janet Mills, advocates saw the successful House vote as a significant step forward in the fight to move Maine away from failed “War on Drugs” policies.

“A majority of people in Maine support removing criminal penalties for those who use drugs,” Sway said. “This is a move that Maine is ready for, and as the report shows, it is a necessary move to end the harms of criminalization.” 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)

Beacon, March 22, 2022,

Brazilian Communist Party marks its 100th anniversary / by In Defense of Communism

Today, 25th March 2022, the political vanguard of Brazil’s working class, the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro-PCB), marks its 100th anniversary.

“Created in 1922 by militant workers and intellectuals who organized the first strikes of the working class at the beginning of the 20th century against capitalist exploitation and the oppression of the bourgeois state, inspired by the victorious socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 and its achievements, the communists of the PCB built a new benchmark for the political struggle of the working class, establishing itself as an organization that sought to boost the class struggle under a revolutionary perspective towards socialism”, reads a declaration by the Party’s National Political Committee. 

“The PCB is part of the history of our people, of their struggles and social achievements and remains alive, firm and convinced in the face of the actions of the bourgeoisie against the working class, the scrapping and dismantling of public services and the imperialist attack on national sovereignty. Thirty years after the beginning of our Revolutionary Reconstruction (almost a third of our 100 years), having bravely resisted the attempts at liquidation by revisionists and reformists, the PCB today remains loyal to this century-old trajectory of the revolutionary struggle of the Brazilian proletariat – and , as such, legitimate heir to that legacy”, the declaration adds. 

As the PCB National Political Committee stresses out “there is only one way that can overcome all the injustices and contradictions that capitalist society produces” and that is the  “revolutionary struggle for the end of capitalist society and the construction of a society without exploited and exploiters, without inequalities in the conditions of existence, without exploitation of the workforce and without oppression of the rich over the poor. A society that values ​​all human potential and does not reduce us to objects. A socialist society!”.

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, PCB has organized several events throughout Brazil. Check out the Party’s Facebook Page for more.

In Defense of Communism: The Marxist-Leninist Blog,

Three musts worldwide: Oppose war, dismantle weapons, and prevent nuclear annihilation / Victor Grossman

CodePink activists unfurl an anti-war banner in Washington. | CodePink

BERLIN – I see three necessities in today’s world. Most urgently; oppose war, a source of immeasurable misery. Condemn the use of deadly weapons, all those hitting civilians – indeed, any human beings. And prevent in every way possible the worst menace to life – all life – since that asteroid hit the earth 66 million years ago; the total eradication by nuclear explosions, ignited on purpose or by accident. Thus we need negotiations, agreements – and not ever more new threats, armaments, soldiers, and refugees.

But while I sharply and emotionally oppose the waging of war by Vladimir Putin, or by anyone else, I believe that hypocrisy must also be opposed, above all when it creates an atmosphere further increasing those very dangers I have mentioned.

Both mass media and social media are flooding us with heart-breaking depictions of death, sorrow, and destruction in Ukraine. When they are truthful I cannot object. But nor can I overcome my inherent leaning toward occasional skepticism and suspicion: Last week a video on Germany’s public TV channel ZDF showed a Russian tank lumbering through Ukraine – and carrying a big red Soviet flag with hammer and sickle – so obviously outdated. It’s hard to believe this was a mistake.

And despite the universal wave of condemnation of Putin, Putinism, Putin-Stalinism or terms like Putler, and despite my horror at the war, my overly active memory revives recollections from the past, even such which rarely made the front pages were often ignored and have been almost totally expunged from memory. In recalling them now I may be risking possible losses of readers or even friends; after my last Berlin Bulletin, two readers canceled further mailings.

But it also won me fifteen new readers. I do not wish to outnumber current death and destruction, but only to urge that insistent official calls to protect freedom, democracy, and humanitarianism tied to demands for war crime trials are too often based on hypocrisy, distortion, greed – one-way streets covering up bitter evidence of earlier bloodshed and tears.

So here is a random – but lengthy, painful selection from the past, with help from Google. It does not remove any of the guilt for devastation and death in Ukraine – but seeks to find some balance in its reporting and evaluation.

“NATO is the only way to end the war in the Donbas,” according to Volodymyr Zelensky in March 2021, for whom a quick membership for Ukraine in the light of the unrest in eastern Ukraine would be “a genuine signal to Russia.”

When two “special” U.S. bombs hit a bunker

On February 13, 1991, two U.S. “special” bombs from American stealth aircraft hit a civilian bunker in Baghdad. Both goals were perfectly on target … the laser-guided bombs penetrated the meter-thick reinforced concrete ceiling of the bunker … But the goal around 4.30 a.m. was full of women, children, and old men. Probably 408 of them died in the explosion of almost half a ton of highly explosive explosives – shredded by splinters, slain by debris, or crushed by the enormous shock wave. 

 The U.S. government spokesman said: “It makes us all sad to suspect that innocent people may have died in the course of a military conflict.” – And the Pentagon: “It looks like civilians have been injured here. We will investigate the incident very closely and determine what we can do differently in the future to rule out a recurrence.”

VP Biden offered condolences

An AP report from Belgrade, August 16, 2016”: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden offered condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the Balkan wars, including the victims of the NATO air war against Serbia. As a senator, Biden was a strong advocate of the NATO bombing of Serbia … The US-led bombardment in 1999 stopped Serbia’s crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists, ending Belgrade’s rule over its former province of Kosovo… “I would like to add my condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost during the wars in the 1990s, including those whose lives were lost as the result of the NATO campaign,” he said. The bloody breakup of former Yugoslavia claimed tens of thousands of lives and left millions homeless in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.

“We knew that it would start in a few hours – the war against NATO. Or rather, NATO against Serbia. I was in a state of expectant disbelief. How will it look if NATO, and once again Germany, bomb Serbia? …

“In the evening, for the first time, I heard the howling of the air raid alarm. Today I recall how varied the sounds of air warfare are: the deep hum of invisible bombers, the hissing of the cruise missiles seeking their target, the rattling of Serbian anti-aircraft guns, the dull or glaring explosions that followed. And the nocturnal scenery: bright traces of Serbian anti-aircraft missiles on a black sky, orange-reddish flames after the impact of the bombs.

“We learned terms like: ‘graphite bombs’, ‘guided missiles’, ‘stealth aircraft’, ‘uranium ammunition’, ‘cluster bombs’. … And ‘collateral damage.’ That was my favorite term. It was used when NATO hit a line of Albanian refugees in Kosovo, a civilian train, the farmers’ market in Niš, the neurological clinic or the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.“ Andrej Ivanji, TAZ

Some Shock and Awe in Iraq again

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, United States armed forces officials described their plan as employing Shock and Awe…Continuous bombing began on March 19, 2003 …Attacks continued against a small number of targets until March 21, when the main bombing campaign of the U.S. and their allies began. Its forces launched approximately 1,700 air sorties (504 using cruise missiles)….

According to The Guardian correspondent Brian Whitaker, “To some in the Arab and Muslim countries, Shock and Awe is terrorism by another name; to others, a crime that compares unfavorably with September 11…A dossier released by Iraq Body Count, a project of the UK non-governmental Oxford Research Group, attributed approximately 6,616 civilian deaths to the actions of U.S.-led forces during the ‘invasion phase,’ including the Shock and Awe bombing of Baghdad.

“Lt. Col Steve Boylan, spokesman for the U.S. military, stated, “I …can’t talk to how they calculate their numbers…we do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties in all of our operations.”

Between 151,000 and 1,033,000 dead

Population-based studies produce estimates of the number of Iraq War casualties ranging from 151,000 violent deaths as of June 2006 to 1,033,000 excess deaths …Roughly 40 percent of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled… An estimated 331 school teachers were slain in the first four months of 2006, according to Human Rights Watch, and at least 2,000 Iraqi doctors have been killed and 250 kidnapped since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

 Killed for stopping to rest

On July 6, 2008, a large number of Afghan civilians were walking in an area called Kamala …When the group stopped for a rest it was hit in succession by three bombs from United States military aircraft. The first bomb hit a group of children who were ahead of the main procession, killing them instantly. A few minutes later the aircraft returned and dropped a second bomb in the center of the group, killing a large number of women. The bride and two girls survived the second bomb but were killed by a third bomb while trying to escape from the area. Hajj Khan, one of four elderly men escorting the party, stated that his grandson was killed and that there were body parts everywhere

Admits significant errors

The Granai Massacre refers to the airstrike by a U.S. Air Force B-1 Bomber on May 4, 2009. The United States admitted significant errors were made in carrying out the airstrike, stating “the inability to discern the presence of civilians and avoid and/or minimize accompanying collateral damage resulted in the unintended consequence of civilian casualties.” The Afghan government said that around 140 civilians were killed, 22 were adult males, and 93 were children.

In the early morning hours

The raid on Narang was in the early morning hours of December 27, 2009. According to an Afghan investigation, at around 1 a.m., American troops with helicopters landed around 2 km. away. The raiding party allegedly dragged the victims out of their beds and shot them in the head or chest. Most of the victims were aged between 12 and 18 years and were enrolled in local schools.

A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” he said. NATO reiterated that the forces conducting the attack were not under NATO command and were of a “non-military” nature. Colonel Gross said U.S. forces were present but did not lead the operation. NATO did, though, concede it authorized the operation and apologized for doing so, admitting the dead were likely civilians and that the intelligence on which the authorization was based was faulty…It became known in 2015 that, as part of the U.S. covert Omega Program, SEAL Team Six members carried out the assault in conjunction with CIA paramilitary officers and Afghan troops trained by the CIA.

In three buses in broad daylight

On February 21, 2010, the victims were traveling in three buses in broad daylight on a main road in the village of Zerma when they came under attack from U.S. Special Forces piloting Little Bird helicopters using “airborne weapons.” NATO later stated that they believed at the time that the minibusses were carrying insurgents. Twenty-seven civilians including four women and one child were killed in the attack while another 12 were wounded. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said he was “extremely saddened…I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people, and inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission. We will re-double our efforts to regain that trust.”

 Amanullah Hotak, head of Uruzgan’s provincial council said: “We don’t want their apologies or the money they always give after every attack. We want them to kill all of us together instead of doing it to us one by one.” Haji Ghulam Rasoul, whose cousins died in the attack, said, “They came here to bring security but they kill our children, they kill our brothers and they kill our people.”

Opened a trauma hospital

From Doctors Without Borders:

In August 2011 we, Médecins Sans Frontières, opened a trauma hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. The hospital provided high-quality, free surgical care to victims of all types of trauma.

Starting with converting shipping containers, our hospital soon moved into a building in the city center. By the time of the airstrikes in October 2015, the hospital was equipped with 92 beds, an emergency room, two operating theatres, an intensive care unit, an outpatient department, mental health, and physiotherapy wards, as well as X-ray and laboratory facilities.

 Our hospital was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan; beforehand, severely injured people were forced to make long and dangerous journeys to the capital Kabul or Pakistan to receive the care they needed. Since opening the hospital in 2011, more than 15,000 surgeries were conducted and more than 68,000 emergency patients were treated…

On the night of the attack, there were 105 patients in the hospital and 140 of our international and national staff were present, of whom 80 were on duty.

Starting at 2:08 a.m. on 3 October, a United States AC-130 gunship fired 211 shells on the main hospital building where patients were sleeping in their beds or being operated on…

 At least 42 people were killed, including 24 patients, 14 staff, and 4 caretakers. Thirty-seven were injured. Our patients burned in their beds, our medical staff were decapitated or lost limbs. Others were shot from the air while they fled the burning building. The attack lasted for around one hour… Throughout the airstrikes, our teams desperately called military authorities to stop them. They took place despite the fact that we had provided the GPS coordinates of the hospital to the U.S. Department of Defense, Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense, and U.S. Army in Kabul as recently as 29 September.

 In the days after the attack, the United States military eventually claimed responsibility for the airstrikes, saying that it had been an accident. The U.S. military claimed they had received reports that the hospital building was holding active Taliban militia. Our staff reported no armed combatants or fighting in the compound prior to the airstrike.

Senate reports on torture

December 10, 2014: The U.S. Senate report summary on CIA torture does more than expose serious human rights violations in the U.S. “War on Terror.” … Of the sites identified in the report, four are in Afghanistan, where detainees in U.S. custody were subjected to “sleep deprivation, auditory overload, total darkness, isolation, beatings and shackling.” Feeding tubes inserted anally in detainees, resulting in rectal prolapse in at least one case, represented sexual assaults analogous to rape with an object. Many of these abuses occurred as early as 2002 when Afghan detainee Gul Rahman died from hypothermia after being shackled to a freezing concrete floor at the infamous “Salt Pit” detention center. Ultimately, the prison housed nearly half of the 119 detainees identified by the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture…

The prison was dark at all times, with curtains and painted exterior windows. Loud music was played constantly. The prisoners were kept in total darkness and isolation, with only a bucket for human waste and without sufficient heat in winter months. Nude prisoners were kept in a central area and walked around as a form of humiliation. The detainees were hosed down with water while shackled naked and placed in cold cells. They were subject to sleep deprivation, shackled to bars with their hands above their heads…One senior interrogator said that his team found a detainee who had been chained in a standing position for 17 days, “as far as we could determine.” A senior CIA debriefer told the CIA Inspector General that she heard stories of detainees hung for days on end with their toes barely touching the ground, choked, deprived of food, and made the subject of a mock execution.

Eleven days in Syria

The Battle of Raqqa lasted from 6 June through 17 October 2017, launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces and supported by massive airstrikes and ground troops of a U.S.-led coalition. A relentless bombing campaign resulted not only in the collapse of Islamic State (IS) but also in the total destruction of the city, with up to 6,000 civilian casualties, according to human rights organizations.

 “Raqqa is the most destroyed city in modern times,” says Donatella Rovera, a veteran researcher with Amnesty International…Certainly much more destroyed than Aleppo, in percentage terms, “…American soldiers were interviewed, and they said, ‘for us, everybody who was within Raqqa was regarded to be a fighter of Isis.’ The result: whole families who tried to flee the violence were massacred indiscriminately…On top of that, artillery shells used by the U.S.-led coalition were “basically unguided with a margin of error of over 100 meters…”

The market in Yemen gets hit at noon

At about noon on March 15, 2016, two aerial bombs hit the market in Mastaba, approximately 45 kilometers from the Saudi border. The first bomb landed directly in front of a complex of shops and a restaurant. The second struck beside a covered area near the entrance to the market, killing and wounding people escaping, as well as others trying to help the wounded. Human Rights Watch interviewed 23 witnesses to the airstrikes, as well as medical workers at two area hospitals that received the wounded. At least 50 people were killed, most of them children and teenagers, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Another 77 people were injured, said the spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Yussef al-Hadri. The ministry blames the airstrike on the Saudi-led military alliance…

Human Rights Watch conducted on-site investigations on March 28 and found remnants at the market of a GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which consists of a U.S.-supplied MK-84 2,000-pound bomb mated with a JDAM satellite guidance kit, also U.S.-supplied. Human Rights Watch has called on the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other countries to suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia until it curtails its unlawful airstrikes in Yemen, credibly investigates alleged violations and holds those responsible to account. Selling weapons to Saudi Arabia may make these countries complicit in violations, Human Rights Watch said.

A hit just before dawn

Before dawn on September 10, 2016 coalition aircraft struck the site of a water drilling rig near Beit Saadan village 30 km north of Sanaa. The drill rig was in an unpopulated area reachable only by dirt road. The first strike hit near a workers’ shelter, killing six and wounding five others. At about 9 a.m., after several dozen villagers came to remove the bodies of those killed, three planes returned and bombed the vicinity at least 12 more times, about 15 minutes apart. Human Rights Watch confirmed the names and ages of 21 people who died, including three boys ages 12, 14, and 15.

 Yehia Abdullah, a 34-year-old teacher, was on his way back when he heard the bombing: “I saw scattered and charred bodies… I saw five bodies including my brother Muhamad. First I found my brother’s severed leg outside the workers’ shelter, his arm on the door … and half his body buried in the ruins… About 300 people were there to remove the bodies. … I saw two warplanes arriving from the south. Between 8 and 9 a.m., I saw the missile coming down to the ground as I was next to my uncle’s body.”

 Several witnesses said that three coalition planes circled overhead, striking the area in widening circles as those gathered attempted to escape. People ran in all directions to escape the bombing,

 Human Rights Watch examined and photographed remnants of a U.S.-made GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided 500-pound bomb. A part of the guidance system (wing assembly) was produced by Raytheon in the US in October 2015, according to markings on the remnants.

 Residents of Beit Saadan said that they had pooled together 22 million Yemeni Rials (US$88,000) of their personal funds to pay to drill the well to supply drinking water to their village. The bombing occurred on the last day of planned drilling after the villagers had struck water, a local farmer said.

Prepared to make an “adjustment”?

Immediately following the October 8 funeral hall attack, the U.S. National Security Council announced the U.S. had “initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support” to the coalition and was “prepared to adjust our support.” The U.S. has made no further announcements regarding how it planned to alter support for the war in Yemen nor released any findings from the review. President Obama should ensure that the review examines whether U.S. forces participated in any unlawful coalition attacks in Yemen, and release the review findings before leaving office, Human Rights Watch said.

 The United Kingdom also sells arms to Saudi Arabia, despite growing parliamentary pressure over its support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen and evidence of the use of British-made weapons. Human Rights Watch has documented the use of UK-made weapons in three apparently unlawful coalition attacks in Yemen. Since March 2015, the UK has approved £3.3 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia, according to the London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Somali drone victim wanted justice

Sept 22, 2015: Somali Drone Victim Seeks Justice for U.S. Strike in German Courts.

A legal challenge alleges that German officials may be liable for murder, in part for allowing the U.S. to relay drone data from an airbase in Ramstein. A man whose father was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Somalia is seeking to hold Germany accountable for allowing the United States to use its territory for military bases that play a key role in overseas airstrikes.

 The Somali man, whose name was given only as “C.D.,” described his father, “A.B.,” as a herdsman who raised goats and camels in southern Somalia, not far from the coast of the Indian Ocean. According to his son’s testimony, A.B. left home on the morning of February 24, 2012, to graze his livestock. But that night several of his camels came home without him. The next day C.D. found his father’s body severed in two, near a burnt-out car and several dead camels.

The strike that killed A.B. was apparently aimed at Mohamed Sakr, a London-born alleged member of the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab… By some accounts, several other unidentified people also died.

C.D.’s lawyers …ask for an investigation by the public prosecutor in the district that hosts Ramstein, the enormous U.S. airbase that serves as a satellite relay station connecting drone pilots in the United States with their aircraft flying over Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The complaint … detailing Ramstein’s critical logistical role in the U.S. drone war also points to the fact that U.S. Africa Command, or Africom, headquartered in Stuttgart, oversees operations in Somalia like the one that killed A.B.

In April Obama had admitted the death of innocent civilians in drone strikes. Some criticism of these missions was “legitimate,” he said at the time. There is “no doubt that civilians were killed who should not be killed.” However, the rules of use for the combat drones are “as strict as never before,” said the U.S. President.

Intervention begins in Libya

 July 1, 2006, Die Zeit

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya … imposing a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace — a no-fly zone…

U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S. was taking “limited military action” as part of a “broad coalition.” “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said.

 The total number of sorties flown by NATO numbered more than 26,000, an average of 120 sorties per day. Forty-two percent of the sorties were strike sorties, which damaged or destroyed approximately 6,000 military targets. At its peak, the operation involved 21 NATO ships and more than 250 aircraft… Of these Denmark, Canada, and Norway together were responsible for 31%, the United States was responsible for 16%, Italy 10%, France 33%, Britain 21%, and Belgium, Qatar, and the UAE the remainder…

Journalists go after NATO strikes

August 3, 2011: BRUSSELS – An international journalists’ group sharply criticized NATO airstrikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15, saying Wednesday they violated international law and U.N. resolutions.

Sixtieth day of U.S, combat in Libya

May 20, 2011, marked the 60th day of U.S. combat in Libya. President Obama notified Congress that no congressional authorization was needed since the U.S. leadership had been transferred to NATO and since U.S. involvement was somewhat “limited.” In fact, as of April 28, 2011, the U.S. had conducted 75 percent of all aerial refueling sorties, supplied 70 percent of the operation’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and contributed 24 percent of the total aircraft used, more resources than any other NATO country. The U.S. deployed a naval force of 11 ships, A-10 ground-attack aircraft, two B-1B bombers, three Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, P-3 Orions, and both McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 fighters. The Libyan government’s response to the campaign was totally ineffectual, with Gaddafi’s forces not managing to shoot down a single NATO plane.

Journalists condemn hits on TV station

BRUSSELS – An international journalists’ group sharply criticized NATO airstrikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15, saying Wednesday they violated international law and U.N. resolutions.

Sodomized with a bayonet

The National Transitional Council (NTC) forces initially claimed Gaddafi died from injuries sustained in a firefight … although a graphic video of his last moments shows rebel fighters beating him and one of them sodomizing him with a bayonet before he was shot several times.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared a laugh with a TV news reporter moments after hearing deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had been killed. “We came, we saw, he died,” she joked.

Libyan intervention investigated

An in-depth investigation into the Libyan intervention was started in July 2015 by the U.K. Parliament’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the final conclusions of which on 14 September 2016 were strongly critical of the British government’s role in the intervention. The report concluded that …Gaddafi was not planning to massacre civilians, and that reports to the contrary were propagated by rebels and Western governments. The feared threat of the massacre of civilians was not supported by the available evidence… For example, on 17 March 2011 Gaddafi had given Benghazi rebels the offer of peaceful surrender and when Gaddafi had earlier retaken Ajdabiya from rebel forces … they did not attack civilians, and this had taken place in February 2011, shortly before the NATO intervention. Gaddafi’s approach towards the rebels had been one of “appeasement”, with the release of Islamist prisoners and promises of significant development assistance for Benghazi.

A final note

One final note. On June 26, 1997, a group of fifty prominent U.S. Americans, none leftists, had written Pres. William Clinton a message including the following words:

“Dear Mr. President,

We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S. led effort to expand NATO, the focus of the recent Helsinki and Paris Summits, is a policy error of historic proportions. We believe that NATO expansion will decrease allied security and unsettle European stability… for the following reasons:

“In Russia, NATO expansion, which continues to be opposed across the entire political spectrum, will strengthen the nondemocratic opposition, undercut those who favor reform and cooperation with the West, bring the Russians to question the entire post-Cold War settlement, and galvanize resistance in the Duma to the START II and III treaties…

“Russia does not now pose a threat to its western neighbors and the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are not in danger. For this reason, and the others cited above, we believe that NATO expansion is neither necessary nor desirable and that this ill-conceived policy can and should be put on hold.


The list was signed by former Senators Sam Nunn, Bill Bradley, Mark Hatfield, Gary Hart, former CIA Director Adm. Stansfield Turner, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Navy Secretary Paul H. Nitze, ex-ambassadors, entertainers, business leaders, Prof. Richard Pipes, author Susan Eisenhower…

Perhaps, if Clinton and even one of the presidents who followed him had listened to their advice, Vladimir Putin would not have feared a tightening NATO military noose encircling and threatening Russia – and the current bloody warfare would never have been risked and waged. Who knows?

Victor Grossman is a journalist from the U.S. now living in Berlin. He fled his U.S. Army post in the 1950s in danger of reprisals for his left-wing activities at Harvard and in Buffalo, New York. He landed in the former German Democratic Republic (Socialist East Germany), studied journalism, founded a Paul Robeson Archive, and became a freelance journalist and author. His books available in English: Crossing the River. A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany. His latest book,  A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, is about his life in the German Democratic Republic from 1949 – 1990, tremendous improvements for the people under socialism, reasons for the fall of socialism, and importance of today’s struggles.

People’s World, March 25, 2022,