Death Matters

One of the most confounding aspects of this pandemic and the political reaction to it (in terms of policy and public acceptance) is how little people know about the numbers.

I ask these questions to people in my circle and now to students: What is the average age of death in Massachusetts? What is the average age of Covid-related death in Massachusetts?

Even the public health majors in my class had absolutely no idea.

The difference is about a year and a half. Life expectancy in MA is 80.8. The average age of Covid-related death here is 82 (https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-august-9-2020/download, (accessed 8/9/20).

screen shot of https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-august-9-2020/download accessed 9/22/20

I included a screenshot of the dashboard from the August 9th report above because now, on 9/22/20, they’ve removed the vital statistic on age in covid-related deaths. Why did they stop displaying that crucial number?

Massachusetts State officials have just designated the city of Worcester “red” because we have a case-positivity rate of 8/100,000… We don’t know if those positive cases are people who are sick or a-symptomatic.

According to the CDC, the number of Covid-related deaths in the U.S. was 164,280 (as of 8/26/20, it’s higher now), That number is scary but when you look at it within a constellation of mortality and disease statistics, it seems low considering the measures we’ve taken to contain the disease. For example, consider that number with respect to the total number of deaths in the US every year: In 2017, 2,813,503 people died in the United States. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm (accessed 8/9/20). This is one headline you do not see:

Nearly 3 Million People Die in the U.S. Every Year!

But only the Covid-related deaths matter. The Democratic National Convention in the US had much to say about “170,000” Covid-related deaths. They blamed Trump. –And that’s a common talking point. However, the media isn’t talking about the current Covid-related deaths; they are focused intently on the number of cases. –And there are a lot of cases, especially, in Republican-led States. These are the states that opened up too soon. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now reported on the surge of cases in those states, incidentally reminding us that they are the former confederate states.

In these states with surging numbers, the case mortality rate is plummeting. That story is not reported or investigated by the mainstream media with its pharma funding and focus on perpetuating fear.

In Massachusetts, where the case-positivity rate is currently less than 1%, the case-fatality rate is/was around 7.4%. In Texas, Florida and Georgia, together, the case-fatality rate appears around 2%.

The virus came to those states later and their shut-down was shorter. Those states came under sharp criticism from Democrats, Fouci and mainstream media. –But their strategy looks similar to Sweden’s (another sharply criticized strategy), which did not entirely shut down its economy.

The data in these states isn’t as well displayed as the data for Massachusetts (no plain layout or average age of death offered) but it looks like their long-term care facilities have been less hard hit than Northeastern US states including in NY and Massachusetts where over 66.6% of the Covid-related deaths were among residents of long-term care facilities.

In Texas with 663,246 cases and 13,660 Covid-related deaths, Florida with 644,000 and 11,810 Covid-related deaths, and Geogria with 265,00 and 5,842 Covid-related deaths (https://news.google.com/covid19/map accessed 9/6/20) the death rate appears around 2%, 1.8% in Florida. This is partly because younger, less sick (or asymptomatic) people are being tested en-mass but it doesn’t appear that the higher-risk populations are dying at as great a rate as they did in NY and MA.

There may be other explanations for decreased case-mortality rate (the most recent of which could be a high degree of false positive test results, as suggested by the NY Times may be the case in MA, NEV and NJ) and Bose Ravenel. The simplest, of course is that more tests = more cases but with the same number of deaths (people who aren’t sick get tested). Another could be that as the virus mutates, it weakens and kills fewer people; another explanation could be better preparation in medical facilities (more PPE etc) or even the unholy treatment (hydrochloriquin, azrithramaacin and zinc). Why isn’t the media asking these questions?

Let’s look at some more death and disease statistics.

Life expectancy nationwide is about 78.6 ( https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/life-expectancy.htmaccessed 9/6/20). Remember, the average age of Covid-related death in MA is 82. In 2018 over two million people died of the top 10 causes of death alone (about 2,094,893 if my math is right https://www.cdc.gov/injury/images/lc-charts/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2018_1100w850h.jpg (accessed 8/9/20).

The top 10 causes of death are: 1) Heart Disease; 2) Cancer; 3) Unintentional Injuries; 4) Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease; 5) Stroke/Cerebrovascular Disease; 6) Alzheimer’s; 7) Diabetes; 8) Influenza & Pneumonia; 9) Nephritis (kidney disease); 10) Suicide.

With the (possible) exception of suicide, all of these top ten killers are co-morbidities of the novel coronavirus. The number of people who died of heart disease alone in 2018 was 655,381. That is about 54,615 deaths per month. –And from cancer? About 49,939.5 per month. Based on 2018 data, we can expect about 104 thousand people to die of those top two leading causes of death alone each month this year–over 500,000 since the economic lock-down began. That’s just the top two…

When I think about these numbers and look at the co-morbidities of Covid-related deaths, I feel like something is missing.

Let’s look more closely. “Intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events” (#3 of the top 10 killers) is a also a comorbidity of Covid-related deaths at least for 5,133 Covid-related deaths according to the CDC (accessed 8/29/20) . Of the 330 Covid-related deaths among 0-24 year-olds, 36, over 10 percent were at least partially due to intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning or other adverse event. Take a look at table 3 closely–if you don’t scroll to the right at the bottom of the page, you’ll miss the last age category–85+ accounting for 50,867 of the deaths (almost a third) to date (as of Aug 26).

When I bring up my confusion with my mother, a long-time ER nurse, a good friend who was an ICU nurse for 30 years, and several friends who have told me that I can’t deny the experiences of nurses on the ground, I agree. Indeed. I cannot.

The media often portrays the surge capacity of ICU (intensive care units) as critical. The Massachusetts dashboard includes charts of hospital ICU capacity. Midsummer, I asked my friend (retired ICU-nurse) what was going on in the ICU at her former hospital because she had told me they had asked her to come back. She said it was a war zone and they were at 150% capacity. When I asked how many beds they had, she said there were 13 in her unit (then designated for covid patients).

I’ve been thinking about this, remembering my mother’s Emergency Room (ER) stress and stories growing up and into my young adulthood until she moved out of the ER.

In non-Covid times, the state of affairs in emergency rooms (and maybe ICU’s as I understand them) is one of emergency.

They are perpetually under-funded, understaffed and under-supplied (as evidenced by many things including the lack of PPE at the beginning of this epidemic). It is a stressful job in any state. –But take those conditions and divide the resources in half (rooms, staff and equipment) because you cannot mix Covid patients with non-Covid patients, and add a case load of, say 5 to 10%. War zone indeed!

A friend of mine lost two grandparents from two different nursing homes in Central Massachusetts. They and their parents couldn’t be with their dying relatives and they couldn’t morn together after they had passed.

Like influenza, this virus clearly affects elderly and people with heart disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disease more drastically than younger, healthy people. It is clearly a horrible disease. However, with our sole public health focus on covid, we should be seriously concerned with problems including PCR testing results, false positive notifications, the substantial sums awarded to hospitals per patient (up to $380,000 per case in some states, like Minnesota according to the “Becker Health Review). Something is off. From the corporate influence on the WHO, CDC and the NIH, to a news media that seems absolutely intent on inciting fear and censorship of social media posts that might lead us to question the dominant narrative, we’re looking at power and consolidation of capital that we have never seen before. Well, not quite. If we look at what happened in 2009-10, Swine Flu pandemic, we find the same actors with the same playbook. It just didn’t get to the point of lockdowns, mandatory masks and the kind of social shaming we see today.

One of the saddest parts of this whole experience for me is that when I question our approach to the pandemic, bring up these statistics, or my concern about the vaccine, censorship, pcr testing or the influence of Gates and pharmaceutical companies in media or government (getting there), my parents think I’m grossly misguided and unconcerned about their safety.

My old hippy parents who raised me to fight for justice, love and morality don’t have the hypertension, diabetes, kidney or chronic respiratory disease that would make anyone, especially people of their age most vulnerable. –But they are old and my mother reminds me of the ways in which she is vulnerable. I don’t take their health or my elderly or other vulnerable neighbors’ health for granted. However, I believe asking these questions is critical, especially when I think about the future of my son.

It’s crazy to me that my close circle immediately jumps to Trump whenever I try to talk about this. They bristle and begin to associate my questioning with that racist base. I am exasperated with my lefty friends but even more so with my academic colleagues who don’t seem to question any of this. Isn’t it your job to be skeptical!? I don’t have an academic job but I’m up tirelessly trying to figure out what is going on. Then I remember, I had input from the other side.

Monopoly

My “entry point,” as Resnick and Wolfe might say, into the black box was vaccines.

When you follow the thread of vaccines, it leads you to Bill Gates, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, now the GAVI Alliance). It also leads you to the World Health Organization, Monsanto, GMOs, nuclear power, and the World Bank.

Let’s begin with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its funding. The WHO is the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system (https://www.who.int/about/who-we-are/our-values accessed 9/17). They declared the Novel Corona Virus a pandemic on March 11th 2020. By far and away, the largest donor to the WHO is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As noted on the WHO website, they contributed 14.8% of its funding for 2020-2021. Together, with the financial contributions of the global vaccine alliance GAVI (which, partners with the Gates Foundation), and Rotary International (also partnered with the Gates Foundation), they control 22.68% of the WHO’s funding. In the current global crisis, that’s a lot of power. When Bill Gates says nothing can go back to normal until six billion people are vaccinated (incidentally exponentially expanding his for-profit vaccine investments), we had better listen. –And we do.

Screen shot of http://open.who.int/2020-21/contributors/contributor (accessed 8/26/20)
screen shot from https://www.gavi.org/our-alliance/about (accessed 9/15/20)

Member-state contributions cover less than 20% of WHO’s budget, the rest comes from a variety of public and private partnerships. The GAVI vaccine alliance, is the fourth-largest donor after the US, UK and the Gates Foundation. They donated $388.7 million dollars in 2018/19. They donated more than Germany, the fifth, Japan the 7th, and the European Commission the 8th largest donors.

Return on Investment

Vaccines are an extremely lucrative investment. As Gates says, “look at the economics of it;” According to Gates:

It’s been $100 billion overall that the world’s put in, our foundation it’s a bit more than $10 billion, but we feel there’s been over a 20 to 1 return. So, if you just look at the economic benefit, that’s a pretty strong number compared to anything else.

Interview with Bill Gates. CBS coverage of the DAVOS World Economic Forum (see hyperlink, accessed 9/16/20).

Gates suggests that misinformation leading to anti-vaxx sentiments could risk the entire endeavor. This may explain his foundation’s donations to journalism and Fact Checkers.

Tim Swhab found that among “twenty thousand grants through the end of June”:

more than $250 million going toward journalism. Recipients included news operations like the BBC, NBC, Al Jazeera, ProPublicaNational JournalThe Guardian, Univision, Medium, the Financial TimesThe Atlantic, the Texas Tribune, Gannett, Washington MonthlyLe Monde, and the Center for Investigative Reporting; charitable organizations affiliated with news outlets, like BBC Media Action and the New York Times’ Neediest Cases Fund; media companies such as Participant, whose documentary Waiting for “Superman” supports Gates’s agenda on charter schools; journalistic organizations such as the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the National Press Foundation, and the International Center for Journalists…

Shwab 2020 “Journalism’s Gates Keepers.” Columbia Journalism Review. 8//21/20. https://www.cjr.org/criticism/gates-foundation-journalism-funding.php (accessed 9/16/20)

At least $17 million of these dollars went to National Public Radio (NPR) in the US.

Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has given NPR $17.5 million through ten charitable grants—all of them earmarked for coverage of global health and education, specific issues on which Gates works.

NPR covers the Gates Foundation extensively. By the end of 2019, a spokesperson said, NPR had mentioned the foundation more than 560 times in its reporting, including 95 times on Goats and Soda, the outlet’s “global health and development blog,” which Gates helps fund.

IBID (accessed 9/16/20)

I now have two or three five minute commutes per day and I’ve heard Gates twice during this time on NPR in the last 3 days.

The Gates Foundation also funds the fact checkers.

During the pandemic, news outlets have widely looked to Bill Gates as a public health expert on covid—even though Gates has no medical training and is not a public official. PolitiFact and USA Today (run by the Poynter Institute and Gannett, respectively—both of which have received funds from the Gates Foundation) have even used their fact-checking platforms to defend Gates from “false conspiracy theories” and “misinformation,” like the idea that the foundation has financial investments in companies developing covid vaccines and therapies. In fact, the foundation’s website and most recent tax forms clearly show investments in such companies, including Gilead and CureVac.

… [I]n 2015 Gates gave $383,000 to the Poynter Institute, a widely cited authority on journalism ethics (and an occasional partner of CJR’s), earmarking the funds “to improve the accuracy in worldwide media of claims related to global health and development.”

Poynter senior vice president Kelly McBride said Gates’s money was passed on to media fact-checking sites, including Africa Check, and noted that she is “absolutely confident” that no bias or blind spots emerged from the work, though she acknowledged that she has not reviewed it herself. 

[Shwab] found sixteen examples of Africa Check examining media claims related to Gates. This body of work overwhelmingly seems to support or defend Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation, which has spent billions of dollars on development efforts in Africa…

Africa Check says it went on to receive an additional $1.5 million from Gates in 2017 and 2019. 

IBID (accessed 9/16/20

The global agenda of pharmaceutical companies and their vaccine investors have significant power to shape the mainstream narrative of what we consider science. –And for those who love science, this is a dangerous game we’re allowing them to play.

While incidence may be relatively small, we don’t hear about the Gates’ Foundation’s darling polio vaccine, an oral version that doesn’t provide complete immunity and is responsible for spreading vaccine-strain polio a small but greater rate than the wild strain of the polio virus.

When this injectable alternative exists it would be unethical to continue with the live oral vaccine that might be causing more polio cases—from vaccine associated polio paralysis—than the wild polio virus itself

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570019/ (accessed 9/17/20) Dr John Jacob Quoted in Doctors question India’s polio strategy after surge in number of cases

The problem with hiding the problems with vaccines is that only makes skeptics more skeptical.

With no wild polio cases reported in Africa since 2016, the WHO admitted that the oral polio vaccines that its top sponsor, Bill Gates, so generously finances and so avidly promotes are giving African children polio. In addition to officially acknowledged vaccine-derived polio cases, which increased substantially from 2018 to 2019, the African region also annually reports tens of thousands of cases—over 31,500 from just 18 countries in 2017—of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), a debilitating condition with a clinical picture virtually identical to polio. Many other countries—ranging from India to Italy—also record significant numbers of AFP cases.

Children’s Health Defense https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/the-polio-and-non-polio-shell-game-in-africa-and-the-u-s-2020-update/?itm_term=home (accessed 9/17/20)

The plot thickens. What else is the benevolent Gates Foundation invested in? MONSANTO and GMO seeds.

In August the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the $33.5 billion asset trust endowment that funds the Foundation’s philanthropic projects (and to which Bill & Melinda are trustees) disclosed that it purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto shares for just over $23 million.(1) According to Dena Hoff, a diversified family farmer in Glendive, Montana and North American coordinator of La Via Campesina, “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s purchase of Monsanto shares indicates that the Gates Foundation’s interest in promoting the company’s seed is less about philanthropy than about profit-making. The Foundation is helping to open new markets for Monsanto, which is already the largest seed company in the world.”

Since 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has collaborated with the Rockefeller Foundation, an ardent promoter of GE crops for the world’s poor, to implement the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which is opening up the continent to GE seed and chemicals sold by Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. The Foundation has given $456 million to AGRA, and in 2006 hired Robert Horsch, a Monsanto executive for 25 years, to work on the project. In Kenya about 70 percent of AGRA grantees work directly with Monsanto (2) , nearly 80 percent of Gates’ funding in the country involves biotech, and over $100 million in grants has been made to Kenyan organizations connected to Monsanto. In 2008, some 30 percent of the Foundation’s agricultural development funds went to promoting or developing GE seed varieties (3).

Pambazuka News https://www.pambazuka.org/security-icts/denouncing-gates-foundation-purchase-monsanto-company-shares#:~:text=In%20August%20the%20Bill%20%26%20Melinda,for%20just%20over%20%2423%20million. (accessed 9/16/20)

While the mainstream media in the US and several lefties I know are bemoaning the lack of diversity in US vaccine trial subjects, Gates’ darling AstraZeneca vaccine Oxford study rolled out one of the first human subject studies in South Africa in mid June. The Gates Foundation has funded this study to the tune of $150 million–a mere drop in the bucket of $10 billion invested in vaccines. –But, with a 20 to 1 return, that investment offers a 200 billion return.

Oxford and AstraZeneca are collaborating with clinical partners around the world as part of a global clinical programme to trial the Oxford vaccine. The global programme is made up of a Phase III trial in the US enrolling 30,000 patients, a paediatric study, as well as Phase III trials in low-to-middle income countries including Brazil and South Africa which are already underway.

“New study reveals reveals caronavirus vaccine produces strong immune respons” https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-07-20-new-study-reveals-oxford-coronavirus-vaccine-produces-strong-immune-response (accessed 9/19/20)

Fake News

The mainstream media (including television stations like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox) get some 70% of their advertising revenue from pharmaceutical companies. No wonder the news media immediately took advantage of Trump hate to disparage the potential value of hydroxychloroquine (a drug with a 50 year history with and expired patent that costs about $2.5 per dose).

The Gates Foundation invests substantially in research and manufacturing of vaccines (again $10 billion by his own estimation), including about $150 million for the AstraZenaca vaccine being tested in poor countries. It has donated substantially to news networks, (including $17 million to my favorite, NPR, alone), journals (like the Guardian and Atlantic) and factcheckers.

Researchers and graduate students too benefit from the benevolence of the Foundation. For instance, a $20 million dollar gift to Johns Hopkins University for the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health Institute. As noted on the Gates Foundation website:

Global population grows by 100 million each year, Zabin [program director] said. More than 100 million women who want to delay childbearing or have no more children do not have access to contraception, she said. Death and disability due to childbearing are major health problems in the developing world.

Press release on Foundation donation page [not linked here because I didn’t want cookies]

Most lefties diverge from Gates’ perspective on the value of GMO technology and the new green revolution. However, many would agree with two other key concerns of his (overpopulation) and surely they agree with his advocacy for green energy to fight climate change. Most conservatives do not. They think of the early connections between Planned Parenthood and eugenics movement (for example see this article by its founder Margaret Sanger from NYU.edu). If you consider those early documents, consider too the fact that Gates’ father was an early board member of Planned Parenthood in the same era with the Rockefeller eugenics interests (and remember, eugenics was the science of its time). It’s not a stretch for conservatives think of reproductive rights as a simple rebranding of ‘population control’ and its early eugenic aims. From Sanger:

In the limited space of the present paper, I have time only to touch upon some of the fundamental convictions that form the basis of our Birth Control propaganda, and which, as I think you must agree, indicate that the campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal, with the final aims of Eugenics.

First: we are convinced that racial regeneration like individual regeneration, must come “from within.” …

Margaret Sanger (1921). “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.” Birth Control Review. https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=238946.xml (accessed 9/19/20)

The most effective tool for decreasing fertility rates is education and the Gates Foundation is heavily invested in this endeavor. I would guess that $100-million goes a long way for John’s Hopkins-trained organizers who come from the impoverished communities and return to educate women about birth control in their countries.

Gates’ is also heavily invested in green technologies (and recently wrote a book about climate change). One of his investments is nuclear power. In this interview with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait at Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Beijing, Gates describes his concerns with getting public support for climate policies via research models that demonstrate the need to get to 0 emissions by 2050. He’s made bad investments (batteries) but, he says, his investment in Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods may pay off more than anything else.

He’s put “many hundreds of millions of dollars” into nuclear. He thinks there needs to be a “new generation” of nuclear power. “In this innovation portfolio, we have to have a lot of bets knowing some of them won’t succeed.”

We need to build a demo plant. At one point um, we planned to do that in China. The US government decided that we shouldn’t do that. So now, the back up plan now is that we’ll try and build that demo plant in the United States. It’s not an easy endeavor but none of the paths to climate success are risk free.

John Micklethwait (Bloomberg chief editor) asks: How frustrating was that for you? You put all this money into setting up this technology; you had the Chinese on board to test it and the Trump administration stopped it.

Gates: Well, it’s frustrating because I had gone for a decade, meeting with every secretary of energy who had encouraged us and actually the US government had created an agreement because you need an explicit permission to do this type of collaboration. So it was a surprise when that was withdrawn… It was a setback. In the very best case it was a five year delay…

John Micklethwait interview at Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vapTJLUSvpQ (Nov 2019, accessed 9/17/20) Emphasis mine

Does the Green New Deal mean that Gates gets his trump card and nuclear demo plant? I don’t know because the only things I ever hear the Democrats saying is that the climate apocalypse is coming (the world is already on fire!). But they don’t have to talk about details. They just talk about Trump.

Whether or not you agree with Gates’ views on Monsanto, climate, nuclear power, population, or vaccines, he and his agenda have way too much power…

The Betrayal

Every prescription medication comes with “inserts.” These are required (by the FDA in the US) to present information about effectiveness and risk. Antibiotics, anti-depressants, even prescription fungal creme and many over-the-counter medications come with package inserts, with consumption instructions and risk assessment. That is, every prescription drug except vaccines. Vaccines come with the “Vaccine Information Sheet.”

I might have gotten these Vaccine Information Sheets when my son was vaccinated but, I don’t remember seeing one. Mothers I’ve asked had no recollection of the Vaccine Information Sheet either. Maybe I glossed over it because the first page is all about why you should vaccinate and I was skeptical and wanted the reasons I might not want to vaccinate. I had heard rumors of a link between autism and vaccines but never found anything conclusive.

I learned about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) in the early days of the coronavirus shutdown. This program began in 1986 to provide impunity to vaccine manufactures. It compensates people for vaccine injuries. Seventy five cents from every vaccine goes into the fund. We can credit this program with the massive expansion in the number and frequency of vaccines (many of which are mandated) in children (now over 30 by age 5).

The history of the Program, as I understand it, is that a particularly dangerous vaccine (the former version of the pertussis vaccine, which killed a lot of babies), led manufacturers to evaluate the risks and decide or at least say that they would stop producing vaccines without impunity (exemption from legal liability). This Compensation Program gives them impunity.

In 2018, the payouts since its inception totaled $4.4 BILLION dollars.

When I learned that dollar amount, I felt completely betrayed.

For three years had I looked for information on vaccine safety. The best I found was a book by Dr Sears that cautiously described some of the values and problems associated with vaccines. My decisions were positively informed by that book. The Vaccine Compensation Program was mentioned in a paragraph on page 208 of my version but I missed it (with my 4 jobs and focus on the individual vaccines as they came up with each appointment). My take-away concerning the vaccine schedule was that there isn’t enough research concerning the safety of adjuvants and the efficacy and risks of multiple vaccination (babies and kids might be getting too many at once). So, I delayed and spaced out the vaccines that I thought were relatively safe and important and skipped several others that I thought were unnecessary and risky.

As a parent having heard rumors of vaccine-related autism, my fears were most frequently met with disdain. Yet there is some research that suggests my fears were valid. I had also heard that research linking autism with measles vaccine had been discredited and that studies have proven that vaccines don’t cause autism. That claim, however, is dubious if not false.

If a scientist was genuinely curious about whether or not this vaccine and autism were related, the first thing they [would] do is they would do an epidemiological study looking backward at kids who had never gotten any vaccines and those who had. And second thing they would do is they would take an animal model, like monkeys, chimpanzees — something close to us — and they’d give a group no vaccines and they’d give the other group the vaccines on the same kind of schedule that we give. Neither of those relatively simple acts of science have been done, because the results may devastate the public health program

“JB Handley, “No Study Shows Vaccines Didn’t Cause My Son’s Autism” PBS Frontline March 15, 2015 https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/j-b-handley-no-study-shows-vaccines-didnt-cause-my-sons-autism/ (accessed 9/19/20) “Vaccines and Autism — Is the Science Really Settled?” .

At the beginning of the pandemic, I discovered a body of information via the Children’s Health Defense (including a database of research) and people who seemed to share my concern about vaccine safety). With each article, I climbed out of a vacuum of censorship and with each step, I became more and more upset.

The Vaccine Injury Table and vaccine inserts (including pages of postmarked risks) and the payout total of the Compensation program were enough to send me to the edge. Never, ever again! I felt completely betrayed.

Robert Kennedy Jr., argues (in this interview) that vaccines should be tested like any other drug. He thinks that if people could hear his commonsense position they would agree but they can’t because he’s censored. This is a screen shot from my phone a few weeks ago:

He says Google, Facebook and Instagram censor what his organization is saying. The reason he describes is the entanglement of these organizations with the pharmaceutical industry including Googles’ $715 million dollar deal with GlaxoSmithKline, harvesting medical data, and its partnership with Alphabet that has subsidiaries that manufacture vaccines. He says, (and my experience supports this) that Google deliberately directs searches away from anything that harms the pharmaceutical industry.

During the early days of the quarantine (in March), these points were incredibly clear to me. Whenever I opened the “People of Leicester” Facebook page and clicked on an off-the-norm covid-related post from a person in Leicester (my town), it had been blocked. From questions about the origin of the virus to questions concerning our response, Facebook blocked content that diverged from the mainstream narrative, which, at this time could be summarized by Dr. Fauci’s position and recommendations.

During the early onset of the pandemic there may have been no time for discussion and democracy but we’re now in month nine. And, there are dissenting opinions among man including scientists.

In a US House Financial Services Committee (in October 2019, addressing Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans), representative Posey challenged Zuckerberg on Facebook’s practice of censoring information about vaccine injury, Zuckerberg responded: “people want us to stop the spread of misinformation…” Posey rebuffed that vaccine injury is real (to the tune of more than $4 Billion to the Fund, ie: not “misinformation”) and pressed him to describe Facebook’s practice for suppressing that information on their platform. Zuckerberg said they allow people to post anything they want but they direct searches away from anti-vaxx posts and anti-vaxx pages.

Since the vaccine manufactures gained impunity in 1986, the number of vaccine doses a child gets before the age of five has risen from 10 to 38. Given their impunity and the fact that many of the vaccines on the schedule are mandatory for school, babies and kids are a lucrative, captive market. Imagine the profits!

On the brighter side, the 2018 report on VICP payouts from the Health and Human Resources Service Administration, demonstrates that the number of people compensated for vaccine injury is low. According to the CDC, there were 3.7 billion doses of vaccines issued between 2006 and 2018 with only 1 compensated claim per 1 million doses of the covered vaccines.

Since 1988, there have only been 22,239 petitions filed to the Program.

I remember my experience. For three years of my son’s life never knowing about “the Program” and my friends, who, like me, had never heard of the Vaccine Information Sheet, the Compensation Program or the Vaccine Inserts. I think of my friends whose kids suffer from autism and the kids in school with “hyper sensitivity disorder” (listed on postmarking surveillance in vaccine inserts) who, like our health professionals, avow an absolute allegiance to the safety of vaccines. Given the upward trend in autism since 1986, the prevalence of autism among kids in the US (1 in 54 in 2016, even higher for boys), the science concerning the possible connection should be robust! And it’s far, far from it.

I think of my knitting friend whose daughter is autistic who said, “it’s been proven that vaccines don’t cause autism,” (she’s going by the experts and their 27 terribly imperfect studies) and several other parents I know who don’t or can’t question the possible link between their kids’ developmental or neurological disorder and vaccines. They say it’s SCIENCE! But, the research concerning the potential link between autism and vaccines seems to be deliberately neglected (Dr. Bernadine Healy on CBS News 2008).

It’s not outlandish to suggest (as RFK Jr has) that the science is skewed toward its major funding sources and beneficiaries (vaccine manufactures and their allies at the NIH and CDC). Maybe their intentions are good; maybe they are just too far down the rabbit hole to ask if the system they’ve invested their careers in might be doing more harm than good. I know my son’s doctor has good intentions. Maybe they won’t invest in research on the potential relationship between autism and vaccines because they’re scared to death of what might come out.

Whatever the reason, the people in positions of power (that my son’s doctor listens to) in our national and state health agencies (including the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease) have conflicts of interest that include vaccine patent payouts and current and former positions and/or entanglements with pharmaceutical companies. Why wouldn’t they fund appropriate and necessary research to investigate the potential link between neurological, developmental conditions and vaccines? If there turns out to be no connection, people who are concerned with this question would feel a lot better about vaccines!

As Dr. Larry Palevsky testified in a Connecticut state hearing (2/19/20) on removing religious exemptions from vaccine mandates, we hear that vaccines are unequivocally safe. Yet:

We have a public health crisis in our midst, chronic illness, brain damage, neuro developmental disability. And there are chemicals in the vaccines that are shown in animal studies to contribute to this kind of brain inflammation that we are turning our backs on… we are ignoring it for the sake of continuing to vaccinate… [State Rep asks a question, Palevsky responds]

[Y]ou heard earlier that there is no real concern about aluminum because it’s such a small amount. And so it really shouldn’t matter. But the kind of aluminum that we put into vaccines is a different kind of aluminum than we see
environmentally. This is called a nanoparticle. And nanoparticles bind really tightly to the bacteria antigens, the virus antigens, the food protein antigens, and any other contaminants that are in the vaccines that we may not know about. And we know that the biochemical properties of nanoparticles is that they are capable of entering the brain. And so we have not evaluated the safety of the aluminum nanoparticle and its injection and where it goes when it gets into the body and whether it gets into the brain…

There have been numerous studies by people outside the mainstream medical community who have attempted to look at what happens to the nanoaprticle when its intended into the body. And they have found that not only does it penetrate the brain, it persists for years. And so, again if we are seeing a public health emergency of chronically disabled and chronically ill children, and we know that there are ingredients in vaccines that can potentially contribute to that happening and we don’t have any scientific studies examining whether or not any of these ingredients contribute to the development of these chronic inflammatory conditions, we have a problem.

Transcript of Connecticut Public Health Committee Public Hearing Feb. 19th 2020 (https://www.cga.ct.gov/2020/phdata/chr/pdf/2020PH-00219-R011030-CHR.pdf accessed 9/15/20) See the Palevsky’s full testimony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT6I864vwbE (accessed 9/15/20)

As I told my son’s doctor on Tuesday, if the current vaccine safety advocates are censored, and the research that needs to happen isn’t funded (because the people at the NIH, CDC and WHO are literally currently or formerly on the payroll or patents of vaccine manufacturing industries), and vaccine safety information (from parents and inserts) continues to be obscured, NO ONE IS GOING TO BELIEVE ANY of it!

And by this, I meant ALL of it including, at this point: the vaccines (like the flu vaccine that the governor of MA just mandated for my son and the upcoming coronavirus vaccines), masks, shutdowns, models and tests.

What happens we relinquish the power of science to the funding, will and media exploits of monopolistic power? Whose interests are shaping the discourses of the most fundamental public and personal health decisions right now?

The computer models of Covid scenarios that necessitated the rush of 45,000 ventilators to NYC were flawed! I hold no fault here. I think the abundance of caution including the quarantines were in order. But I also think it would be interesting to dissect the predictions and the precautions taken based on them, not to mention the outcomes of other strategies.

The outcomes and case-fatality ratios in Sweden (no full lock-down) as compared to the UK (strict lock-down) are not that different. Sweden has a lower case-fatality rate than UK. But the mainstream media is not talking about that. They were (and perhaps are), however, talking about hydroxychloroquine and the problematic (subsequently withdrawn) study that justified the ongoing rush towards vaccine trials because there was no alternative treatment. If hydroxychloroquine, with zinc and azithromycin works, the press here will never cover it. Indeed, the crazy frontline doctors who spoke out about it were censored and scrubbed from the internet (even their wordpress page was taken down) for suggesting it works.

If you need to send your kid to school (as most of us do) they have you by the proverbial balls (at least in NY and CA).

If you listen to Bill Gates (as many Americans do, on NPR or on the nightly news), we will never go back to normal until there’s a vaccine. We need to vaccinate 6 billion people (including healthy kids who have no statistical likelihood of dying from this disease)

The problem is that if, in the current context, you question (like I have) the efficacy, necessity or safety of the vaccines on the current vaccine schedule (and thus vaccine mandates), or the governmental response to the current pandemic (such as the recent flu vaccine mandate for school children including daycare and preschool), your questions alone somehow align you with white supremacist, anti-vaxx, deep state conspiracy theorists. Worse, these questions align you with Trump and his anti-science base.

That was my experience at the beginning of this crisis but it’s changing in a hilarious way now. As the president began talking up the vaccines, the anti-Trump left might be getting curious about vaccine safety.

What if you respect and value science but you believe (and can demonstrate with evidence) that scientific narratives are being monopolized by a minority of powerful, corrupt beneficiaries?

Questions concerning vaccine safety, media censorship and corruption at the highest levels are deeply intertwined and more important than ever.

So I enter the black box

Coronavirus

At the beginning of the shutdown, my bedfellow (and his mom) had bronchitis. My mother had pneumonia and I was sick with body aches, shortness of breath and low fever. I couldn’t get a ‘test’ because my temperature wasn’t high enough.

I called my sister: “They’ve literally convinced the whole world that the flu is the plague!”

For the first time, it occurred to me that this was political.

I felt better until I talked to my mother the next morning. She would get a test if she didn’t respond to the antibiotics. The last place she wanted to be was the hospital (where she could get a test) but they were supposed to have the drive-through tests available within a couple of days. I told her what my sister had said. As any 70 with pneumonia at this time might have been, my mother was pissed!

The coming days were difficult. I was sick with my son full time and thought my mother was going to die.

I couldn’t sleep. The bedfellow hacked incessantly. Sleep deprivation… I’m going to die! Confusion (one of the symptoms of covid), what if this is my last breath? If my mother has it, my father will soon, my bedfellow too.

Who will raise my son?

I had make a will, talk to relatives, call friends. Who would introduce my son to yoga and co-operatives and tell him how much I love him?

I had to discipline my child (for the first time ever). I had to teach him not to waste food and use his manners. In case I didn’t wake up, I had to write a note to him. –And a note for his future guardian. I didn’t sleep.

I tried to act normal and enjoy the cold outside time with him.

After a few days without sleep, my behavior was scary enough for the bedfellow to take a an afternoon off (despite how badly he was needed at work). I talked to my yoga teacher and fell asleep for 2 hours. When I woke up, I knew I was not going to die (at least not from covid that day).

I checked coronavirus statistics on the Worldometer whenever I could. It didn’t make sense.

The bedfellow didn’t think I should close the studio. But he also didn’t think I should teach sick and there was no other option. When the shutdown became mandatory, he said, “You made the right decision.” He remained skeptical (of course, he had also ordered dehydrated meals).

With my little monster on deck, I had even less media consumption. When I had a few minutes, I worked on my class. I got the mainstream perspective from my parents who were very fearful (I didn’t see them for 6 weeks but we talked in spurts by phone). Without my commute, I didn’t listen to NPR.

One of the media sources that fueled my bedfellow’s skepticism is “No Agenda.” It is a somewhat academic (references posted), anti-academic podcast that claims to be a media deconstruction (title of this week’s show is “Trained Marixsts”). A perspective on the right.

I had listened to bits of the show but before thought they were misogynistic and, that they had an agenda. We all do! In retrospect, I think their discussions on overpopulation, climate change and vaccines informed my bedfellow’s perspective and provided us with points of connection.

I was skeptical of vaccines but my research into vaccine safety was arduous (I was working 4 part-time jobs). I had refused Hep B when he was born (because, really, why? the only person my newborn could get that from was me and I had been tested…) and delay a few others that were clearly unnecessary. Several good friends berated my skepticism but thank god, my son’s father did not.

It was from No Agenda (some would say right-wing podcast) that I heard a clip of Robert F Kennedy Junior talking about vaccine safety and learned of the Children’s Health Defense, the single greatest resource on vaccine safety.

For three years I had searched for information and articles on vaccine safety and found little if anything. At every doctors appointment I asked questions and brought my fears concerning vaccinating my boy. As my slow research progressed I brought up concerns with adjvants (the additives they use to make vaccines more effective), and multiple vaccines injections. My son’s doctor knew my fears and was willing to work with me in terms of a schedule (so long as we could get his mandatory shots in by kindergarten). But, never, never did she ever mention the most important words concerning my search: “vaccine injury,” the Vaccine Compensation Program; and “vaccine inserts.” These were the phrases that unlocked the floodgate of information concerning vaccine safety.

Thanks to RFK Jr and my bedfellow’s (kind of) right-wing podcast, the black box began to open…

A politics of possibility in the Age of Global Bio-Security?

It’s funny to think of a politics of possibility in the current context.

During my days of research with co-operatives, people from a prevalent school of thinking on the left often belittled my investigations (and the enterprises themselves) as weak, privileged, vulnerable and incapable of standing up to the global capitalist economy. By contrast, people on the right (none of whom I found in academia) thought co-ops were cool. Maybe that’s because they didn’t come from a critical (academic) perspective or maybe, they didn’t think that my project should be taking down the forces of capitalism.

As a doctoral student (2005-11) much of the left seemed invested in the idea that we needed a global alternative to fight global capitalism. My reading of Gibson-Graham and the Community Economies Collective offered a critique of and alternative to this view. Remember “Beyond the Global vs Local”? That perspective lead me to Western MA to work with Julie Graham.

The narrative of empire and fear seems to be even more prevalent and more salient today. The mainstream media demands that the public listens to “science” while censoring dissenting alternative scientific perspectives. Had it not been for consorting with people whose perspectives are on the other side, I might not have questioned the scientific and political discourses offered by mainstream media and academy in the present context.

Very rational people on the right and the left compare the current political climate in the US to Nazi Germany. The left sees federal forces arresting peaceful protesters in Portland and thinks of the Nazis. The right sees rioters vandalizing and taking over city blocks in Seattle and Portland (while Democrat politicians excuse them) and sees federal forces protecting American democracy. People on the left fear guns held by second amendment supporters, while, people on the right think they may need guns to protect their property, their rights to speech, protest and even to work and go to the gym.

Many of my lefty friends and colleagues are very socially distant so I can’t be sure but it seems that the left broadly speaking, has fully invested in the mainstream narrative of the global pandemic and its necessary global response which follows these steps: 1) Shutdown; 2) Outlaw or belittle alternative treatments; 3) Invest in vaccines; 4) Secure lives by limiting personal liberties and closing enterprises, schools and many public services until there’s a vaccine.

Protesting is fine but going to church is not.

Many people on the right view this as: shutdown, shut up and behave (wear masks, social distance) or things will never go back to normal. –Until there’s a vaccine.

If you question these goals, you cross into the territory of white supremacy, anti-vax, deep state conspiracy theories. Maybe worse, if you question these goals, you appear indifferent to the exposure of your parents and friends in vulnerable populations.

The governor of Massachusetts just mandated the flu vaccine for children to attend school. This is just the beginning. The next one up is the experimental, pre-purchased corona-virus vaccine.

Strange Bedfellows

We met in January of 2015 and our son was born in May 2016. Our biggest fight was the day after the 2016 presidential election. I called him a racist (at least that’s what he heard) and he committed not to talk about politics with me again. “Really!? I screamed, “Coward!” I thought.

I looked at him and felt bad. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I feel very passionate about this.” “Yeah.” He said, “passionate is a good word to describe it.”

How could this man have voted for Trump?

Even when I baited him, he avoided talking with me about (presidential) politics. Until the lock-down.

But for nearly 4 years, I was on high alert. Given my bedfellow’s explanation for our differing opinions (“It’s the media!”) and my befuddlement concerning his (and many other people’s) choice in the election, I began to notice things in my limited media consumption (we don’t have cable TV and I don’t twitter).

A half-assed academic, mother, variously teaching 3 courses for hire as an adjunct, proctoring tests for hourly wages, authoring textbook questions as an independent contractor and teaching yoga on the side, I had short but regular commutes to listen to National Public Radio (NPR). Not long after the election, they reported that the president was enacting protectionist policies that would hurt The Economy. He was pulling out from international trade agreements that his democrat predecessors had supported. Interesting, I thought. Most lefties in my circle opposed those neoliberal institutions. Maybe at least this is a good thing? I wondered what my academic friends would think of it. NPR reported the moves as backward and threatening to American farmers and The Economy.

I hated Trump. He was a symbol of capitalist greed. But, the left seemed to be moving full swing in the other direction. Now NAFTA is good? I brought up the protectionist policies with an French academic friend of mine who was teaching at Brown. Her passionate response: “But he’s doing that for the purpose of American hegemony!”

My former roommate who lives in a black neighborhood in Baltimore visited shortly after the election. She said her neighbors “think Trump is literally involved with the KKK.” “Do you think he is?” I asked. “I don’t know but he definitely sucks.”

Democrats began calling for impeachment. NPR reported the “intelligence community” was at odds with the president. Since when does NPR, or anyone on the left call the CIA or the FBI a “community?”

The bedfellow was silent on the topic.

In contrast, my students brought most any question back to the president. Inequality, racism, climate change, colonialism? Trump. If any of them supported the president, they wouldn’t dare admit it. I tried to invite perspectives from the right but it was dangerous territory. My own bedfellow wouldn’t talk to me about the president, why would my students?

It reminded me of climate change debates of the past. I’ve been teaching for 14 years. This was the first year there seemed to be a genuine consensus among the students. Only their parents doubted the threat of anthropogenic climate change. Today, students in their late teens / early 20’s don’t question climate change. –But before when they did, they were shamed for disagreeing with science. Among colleagues and friends, I was fearful to voice my skepticism of global climate change narratives which stemmed from questions concerning the methodology of models generating numbers forward and back thousands of years. I think of myself as a hard core environmentalist but the dominant climate change narrative (along with the dominant narrative on overpopulation) was too apocalyptic for me.

Since when is there a ‘consensus’ of scientists? I know how hard consensus is to achieve, even in a small co-op! Don’t get me started on ‘over-population’–the subject I tried to deconstruct/teach and failed so many times…

I hated Trump, why would I care if his supporters had space to share that view in my class? I guess I wanted open debate in my classes. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they couldn’t speak. Also, I love learning from my students and I love it when they learn from each other. The same principal applies in my household. I love a good debate that helps me understand another person’s view. Unfortunately, the patriarch of my household refused to share his perspective.

There was also a ‘consensus’ about the president among the ladies in my knitting group. They were angry about the outcome of the election and very vocal about it. I was knitting a pussy hat (to be worn at the Women’s March that I couldn’t go to with the baby). The pattern was easy.

Amid the ranting, two of the women were quiet. I thought they might have supported the president.

I asked my ranting friends, “Don’t you wonder why a decent person would vote for him?” They looked at me horrified. Clearly, no decent person could have voted for the president.

I admitted my bedfellow’s secret.

“Janelle, I wouldn’t have guessed you…” The wealthiest, most beautiful elder of the group interrupted, “I told Randy, [her husband] I would divorce him if he voted for Trump.”

When I told the bedfellow, he laughed, “That’s the silent majority!”

I had been on the visiting and adjunct market since earning my PhD in 2011 and my work was insecure and poorly compensated. In the fall of 2019, I quit my staple courses and contract work and invested everything I had (and more) into opening a small yoga studio.

Fast forward to coronavirus:

I closed the studio on March 16th (a full week before the official shutdown) because I was sick.

I didn’t want to close but I really couldn’t teach sick and the other teachers were already quarantined. I thought we’d open up in a few days, maybe a week or two. The university extended its spring break.

My son’s preschool closed on the 17th. I know it was the 17th because that was supposed to be our day (bedfellow and mine), off from work together without our son, really the first we’d had… since he was born.

No daylong holiday for us!

Bedfellow works from home. –And work was exploding (he works in IT and companies were scrambling to get employees online from home and the trucking company was scrambling with cancelled orders…).

I took Julian (who was three) to the grocery store that day, He ran around and touched everything. As elders smiled at him adoringly, I thought, omg, the plague is already here and I’m a carrier. –And, we need beans and root vegetables.

I met a lefty friend in one of the aisles (a collective worker who lives off the grid in a tiny house). Not knowing it was mine, she made fun of the contents of my cart that was about 20 feet away. It was filled with 4 12-packs of Diet Coke. “That’s for Kris.” I said, understanding but embarrassed.

This is the man that I love. He voted for Trump and he drinks diet Coke.

I wouldn’t be back in the grocery store until May. Coronavirus…

Interview with Andres Toledo, President of Cooperativa Alé Alé

Featured

People often associate the movement of recovered businesses in Argentina with the crisis of 2001 – 2002 and indeed, during that time, many businesses were occupied and recovered to be run under worker self-management. However, this movement is ongoing. According to Andres Ruggeri of Facultad Abierta (reporting on the fourth survey of worker recovered businesses in Argentina which you can find on their website), as of the close of 2013, there were 311 worker recovered businesses in Argentina. Among those 311 worker recovered businesses, 63 began during the period between 2010 and 2013! This interview with Andres Adrian Toledo, below, highlights one of those: Cooperativa Alé Alé.

First, here’s a brief background:

Alé Alé was one of six in a chain of restaurants under the same owner in Buenos Aires. In December 2012, the workers learned that the owners were planning close all of the restaurants. They were behind in receiving their salaries by some four months and one of the restaurants, La Zaranda, had already closed. The workers didn’t want to be out on the streets and they knew Alé Alé could be a viable business so they got together, formed a co-operative and took it under their control. They convinced the other four remaining restaurants to do the same but because of an impending eviction Alé Alé’s struggle would long outlast the others. They had to occupy the restaurant and hold their ground for a year, learning how to manage their business collectively all the while navigating the court system and fighting eviction attempts.

Yes, we’d heard of many of them, co-operatives like Hotel Bauen, Brukman, Chilavert… I had always heard. But one always listens to these things and says, ‘Wow, poor people!’ no? But you never know that it’s going to happen to you and you’re going to face all of this!

We were the first… Had we not done this, all of the restaurants would have been closed and 180 workers would have been in the streets.  Andres Adrian Toledo

The workers of  Alé Alé guarded the restaurant 24 hours a day, running their business by day and sleeping on makeshift mattresses and chairs wherever they could by night. They stood ground and fought the eviction for a year. In December 2013, having secured another location, they finally reached an agreement with the owners of the building to vacate in sixth months. Now just as other co-operatives helped them, they’re helping the workers of Lalo who have formed a co-operative and are facing eviction from their restaurant.

I conducted this interview with Andres Adrian Toledo, president of the co-operative Alé Alé in August 2013 during their long period of resisting eviction. I had met him for the first time on ‘children’s day’ (dia de los ninos). My friend Lisandro and I had gone to lunch and afterwards (see post), while we were waiting for a rich desert of whiskey and ice cream, we asked if we could talk to someone about the co-operative and their experience in it. The waiter said, yes, he would get someone. Five minutes later Andres came over and introduced himself. He said, ‘I’m always here, you can come any time’. Monday was a holiday, so I made an appointment for Thursday.

Alé Alé wasn’t yet open when I got there but the door was open so I went in. I told one of IMG_2216a gentlemen in black and white that I was there to meet Andres Toledo. He said he would get him and asked if I would like a cup of coffee. He returned with a fresh cup of coffee and said Andres would be out in a few minutes. I was relieved. I had a some coffee while I waited for him.

I’ve had some great interviews in Buenos Aries but this one was one of the most inspirational. What you see here is a rough translation that I did myself. I hope to have it transcribed by a native Spanish speaker in both languages to but for now, please excuse the mistakes.

Interview with Andres Adrian Toledo of Cooperativa Alé Alé

August 22, 2013

IMG_2233Andres- My name is Andres Adrian Toledo, President of Co-operative Alé Alé. I’m going to tell you more or less how all of this happened, so you understand us. As we say it was one day after another. There was a process that lead up to all of this. The whole year 2012 we were coming in three or four months behind on our salaries. We would go to the office to try and claim our salaries. We would say “we would like our salaries” and they would say “If you don’t like it, you know what you have to do. You have to leave. That’s how it is”. Things like that were happening that year.

In the middle of December 2012 (more or less), a supervisor came to us and said the restaurant was going close one of these days and that we wouldn’t have the possibility to recover our salary. They owed us four months salary, vacation time, seven years of retirement contributions… So we started thinking. –Because this same year, June of last year (2012) one of the other restaurants closed. We were six restaurants, a chain of restaurants. La Zaranda is the one that closed in June. The others are La Soleada, Don Battaglia, Los Chanchitos, Mangiata, and Alé Alé. When we heard that La Zaranda closed and left everyone in the street, what could I do? I was the first to say, we have to do something. It can’t be that we forty workers are thrown out into the streets without the possibility of doing anything! From some point of view, we’ve got to see an open door.

So we went to the union–the Gastronomy Union–and they dropped the ball [translation?]. They didn’t help us. They said the businesses owed a lot of money and it would be very expensive so they didn’t give us a hand. After all this we left, indignant, upset and crying saying what can we do? And then we looked at the page from the recovered businesses.

Me- You had heard about the other recovered businesses?

Andres- Yes, we’d heard of many of them, co-operatives like Hotel Bauen, Brukman, Chilavert. I had always heard. But one always listens to these things and says “wow, poor people” no? But you never know that’s its going to happen to you and you’re going to have to face all of this!

That’s how I arrived at Hotel Bauen and talked with the President, Frederico Tonarelli. He helped me, he advised us because they’re also with the association of co-operatives. FACTA. So, we talked with a lawyer. We started to use the paperwork to see exactly what was the situation of the business. The business was at the point to close everything. So there wasn’t an alternative; we didn’t have another option other than to take the place. I found out everything. The rental agreement had expired, there was an eviction agreement, and contest of creditors. Everything indicated that Alé Alé was going to close the first days of January and no matter what, we’d be in the street.

Me- And the owners hadn’t told you anything?

Andres- No, they hadn’t told us anything. That’s when I saw that the only open door to get out of this was form a co-operative. So I had to talk to the group. We had to talk because we’re 40! It’s not easy. We had to convince everyone that the only exit we had was this: to be united, form a co-operative and this way we’ll face an employer who only saw fit to close the restaurant. If we stay together, we’ll solve this. If we’re going one way and the other–if this one says yes and that one says no, we won’t get anywhere. If we, the workers, get together and say, “look let’s form a co-operative and show them that Alé Alé always grew thanks to us, not them.” Because it was us who came and cooked, cleaned and attended the tables and did everything. All they did was the capital. Nothing more.

So there I was gnawing away at the head [“carcomiendo la cabeza” not sure what this expression means… maybe bugging everyone?]. And everyone began thinking and saying is this true or is anything this kid saying true? It was difficult because there are workers who’ve been here 15 years and then just like that someone comes and says, “let’s form a co-operative or the business isn’t going to be anything.” It was hard to believe. It’s like, “what do I do?” Is he saying things that aren’t true? Or is it true what he’s saying?”

The truth is I knew it was the only option we had but I didn’t know what was going to happen, if they were going to put me in chains and send me to prison or what. I didn’t know anything. But I did it. With all of this they said do it, let’s do it together. So everybody, the forty workers, said, let’s go with the co-operative.

The first thing we did was to get rid of the supervisor and say they couldn’t come back. Then the owner called and they passed the phone to me. He said they were going to evict us and I would go to prison. I had been advised on this. I said to him, so if this is your business and you’re doing things right, come here and defend it. Come here, I’m waiting for you here. In the meantime I’ll be managing it. Self managing. We asked the owners to come and talk to us but they never appeared. Never. So we did everything.

The 13th of January we started to working together on everything. The owner called and said whoever is responsible for the accounts is doing it with a criminal charge against them and going to jail, things like that. So the cashiers left and I said no problem. Now I manage the accounts.

After a bit, the the police came. Imagine! That first day we were all sure they were going to come and evict us. By chance, I was here alone talking to a lawyer, saying what do I do? She was saying, you have to do this and that. I mean, we were all excited and saying up with Alé Alé but there I was alone with the lawyer. Really this was beautiful, because I faced policeman and he asked me what was happening and I told him the story. I said, “look, this happened and the other thing… they owe us four months salary, seven years retirement contributions… and now we’ve taken the place and we’re going to work as a co-operative.” The police man looked at me and said, “You know what? Don’t leave here. Stay here. I’m a worker like you. The only thing we’re going to do… These people want us to get you out of here but we can’t without the order from a judge. So, I only came to give you this paper and I’m going. I’m going to collaborate with you peacefully. But move forward, don’t leave here. Stay here and you’re going to win.”  I said, “Wow!”

ME- laughing hysterically.

Andres- So we started. We got everything together for the first eviction attempt. Everyone came, all of the worker co-operatives from everywhere from all the provinces came to help give us a hand so we weren’t evicted. The first attempt to evict us that happened on the first of March really made an impression on me. There were 300 people from all the recovered businesses–Hotel Bauen, Brukman, Chilavert… all of them and businesses that came in from the provinces. Because during those first days and that month when we started self managing (autogestionar)  all of this, we were talking to them.

Me- All these days were you open?

The didn't leave. One worker seen in this photo is still asleep after his night on guard.

They didn’t leave. One worker seen in this photo is still asleep after his night on guard.

Andres- Yes, always. We never closed. We only closed when they made the intent to evict us, mid day but by night we were open again. –Because this is the idea: You’re going to try and evict us. We’re going to resist. We’re going to resist because you’re not going to get us out of here.

The idea is not to fall. If we have to go to battle, we’ll go to battle. The month we began to self manage, the owner called and said, these “negros” aren’t going to last long. They’re going to kill themselves. And I said, ‘Really?’ for me, this is a real vindication. –Even more because we’re five restaurants with the same owner.

So my plan was to talk to the other restaurants, talk to the compañeros so they would be united with us and form co-operatives as well. –Because they were going to be thrown in the street no matter what. All the restaurants were going to close. So I went first one night to Don Bataglia at 12 or 1 a.m. and when they came out, I started to talk. I said, “look, one month ago we started a co-operative and we’re covering our salaries. We know the abuses you are facing, that you’re three months behind on your salaries and that you’re going to close any minute. All of the restaurants are in the same situation. Look, if you guys get together with us, us workers, we’re going to have much more force and we’re going to show them that the workers can do it. Think about it, call me. We’ll make a meeting and together we’ll make it work.”

Two days later they called me: “Hey Andres, you know you’re right. They’re going to close the restaurant.”

[Missing a few sentences and laughter that I can’t hear to transcribe].

So we went to Don Battaglia and from there we were two. We had more power. We had more volume, more force. –And from there, we did it again. I did the same thing with La Soleada. I went to talk with them. “Look man, it’s going to close and now we’re two already…”

They began to check and they called me and said, “Andres,” he said, “you’re right, come here.” So we went to La Soleada. We went to La Soleada but, eh… it was like a bucket of ‘cold water’

Me- Cold water? Why?

Andres- This was more difficult. La Soleada is a little bigger than this. Then Los Chanchitos and Mangiata were the last eh, to come out because they were employees with many more years–with 30 years of history. And it was more difficult for them to understand what was happening. But from there, they’ve been with us and all five restaurants are co-operatives. All five restaurants are functioning as worker co-operatives legally. The only one that’s having conflict is us.

We were the first that started all of this and drove all of this. Had we not done this, all of the restaurants would have been closed and the 180 workers would have been in the streets.

So, all of the restaurants on are on the path to form co-operatives. All of the others are there with the membership enrollment and their ownership and accounting paperwork. The exception is us because we have the problem of location. The other restaurants are fine because the owners of the buildings are glad to have the rent from the co-operatives. Here no. The owner of the building wants us out. So afterwards, what happens?

The first attempt at eviction here at  Alé Alé. We made an announcement to call all of the worker co-operatives, recovered businesses to come here in solidarity. We invited them to help prevent the eviction. When the day came, we had the four other restaurants and all the co-operatives of the whole province! We were–this is what I was telling you–we were more than 300 people! From the column to column and corner to corner [he’s showing me with his hands], filled with people! –And all of the newspapers and media! They brought [or ‘got’ couldn’t hear] everything.

Waiting for the official judgement to come and make the eviction, we had gone to give notice to the police station because they were friendly with us and they had told us that tomorrow would be the eviction. ‘Prepare yourselves.’ They didn’t want to force us out because they’re workers as well… From there we were ready.

Four or five months ago, it was just me and my ‘compañeros’ and now 500 people, or more were here helping us! We had media–which lent us real hand–and all around the building it was the same. The whole world was here and inside and out. There were easily 700 people here in total. It was intense. There were national representatives, a mayor, registrars… [A name I can’t hear, Jelele?] Juan Carlos Junio a mountain of people were here inside. In the moment, this makes you think, ‘Wow!” No? The people in solidarity. They came to lend a hand to prevent the eviction. Without them we would have been evicted. This was brilliant.

It’s not that you win all of the battles. If you lose one of the battles, you get back up for

Andres shows me one of the beds they use.

the next battle. –And attitude is a big part of it. This is a big force and difficult too. Because in my case, I’m the elected president so I have to stay motivated and beyond that, I have to motivate everyone around me. It’s work but in some way I have to maintain motivation. Sometimes the only motivation is to help when one of the compañeros are falling and encourage them because moments happen when you fall. After so much time guarding the place and ah… It’s tough. So many days without going home… It’s tough. Sometimes I fall and I have my forty compañeros to pick me up.

We’re strong because the time came when I was working on prices and improving the quality of the meat and vegetables, we were improving the quality of service–the attention people were getting–and the people kept coming and they said to us that we had changed but for the better. They could tell the climate had changed for the better. There’s a great environment here now–the attention to clients, the food, the ability to have everything for you and your experience be perfect. Before we really didn’t give a dam. We were working three or fourth months behind on salary so we were like, whatever. We didn’t care about much and the cook didn’t even want to cook! What do you think? –Four months behind on your salary, you wouldn’t to want to cook…

Everything was done grudgingly. But now that it’s ours, we know that we can do it and that in reality, the workers can do it alone. How can I explain it to you. It’s so good what’s happening. Well, good and bad. Good because we’re a co-operative, we’re doing it ourselves. The bad part is that we have the eviction pending, nothing more. The companionship and the unity is going to change that. The only way to solve all of this is to be united, to resist together strong as a rock and face everything in the path and move ahead. Together is the only way we’re going to solve it.

Like this! Week after week people who had stopped coming because the food was bad or the service was bad, have returned to try and see what has happened. –And they’ve said, ‘Wow! We’re going to keep coming back and we’re going to recommend it to others.’ So, we’re getting more clients. And sometimes I sit a table to talk with the guests and I say to them that when they come to have lunch or dinner, they are part of this fight with us. Without them, we’re nothing.

So when we see people having dinner or lunch, they form part of this struggle because they come to contribute so that we can bring our salaries home. We couldn’t come to this struggle alone. Without clients, we couldn’t do this. So we try to do our best. Every day.

And we’re here every night with the guarding. We get together over there and play ‘Clue’ or cards because it can get boring. We try not to have much internal conflict because this could separate us. So what do we do?

We are friendly because during the week we agree not to have any type of ‘discussion’. No disagreements. For example, if someone wants to complain about something, whatever it is, they say nothing. On Sunday at 4 in the afternoon we have our assembly. Every Sunday. We all get together for the meeting discuss and deal with everything that happened during the week. We present the numbers so everything is transparent. Everyone knows how much money came in, how much money went out, what was paid and what hasn’t been paid, and the money we’re saving or spending. The most important thing about all this is that here we all earn equal pay. Nobody is going to earn one cent more than another. —From the dishwasher to the waitstaff chefs and myself, the president. I don’t want to earn earn one cent more than anybody else. I put more effort in planting the seed but I do it because I care about it, not for the money.

So, if we’re going to grow, we’re going to grow together, side by side as equals. For me, this is a co-operative. We had to change that system of shit that gives each one a different pay… the person who washes dishes earns less than the cook and the cook earns less than the manager. We changed this system. Here we earn exactly the same. So, everybody helps. Thank God. This way is working.

Anyway, on Sundays we go through the numbers and business and then we start our discussions. ‘This happened and that happened during the week…’ Sometimes we have blocks and tensions and arguments… all of this. But, for Monday we have everything out and repaired without anger or bad feelings. You don’t have to bring things up on Monday because you had your time on Sunday to say it. This is the life here at Alé Alé.

I suggested that idea but other restaurants don’t do it that way. The only thing I was able help convince them of was to take over their locations. Each one runs it the way they want. –And some things I don’t agree with, like the pay scales [can’t hear]. One earns more because he’s president… So we had a meeting with all the presidents [of all five restaurants] and I suggested that if they’re going to be the president, the leader, that they should do it because they care about it, not for the money. It should be, as we say, the blood of the leadership of the group. That’s how it should be because if not, it doesn’t work.

Me- And now, in general do you think you earn more than they did before?

Andres- Money?

Me- Yes.

Andres- Yes, we earn much more. [can’t hear]

Me- Really? [laughing]

Andres- Yes because they weren’t paying us and anyway, the money that the owners used to take from us isn’t taken away anymore. But I thought you were asking me if we’re all equal here in the context of the eviction.

No about the money, we earn a lot more. We earn a lot more because we put in double the effort, we’re working harder, people are helping more. People are in solidarity. The people come in for dinner and lunch. They’re helping us more. We’re earning more and well, the money they [the owners] took for themselves before, now it stays here. We’re earning more and saving more… [me- to invest?]. To invest in other things. Invest and open another Alé Alé. For December, November–December or March at the latest.

Me- to move this one or to have two?

Andres- Two. From here, we’re not leaving. [His index finger points down to the table with conviction] From here, we’re not leaving.

But, okay. For me this is a co-operative: Equality for everyone, forget about the individualistic work, and work in companionship. Work in companionship, discipline, charge everyone the same, everyone takes the same pay. Change of the system of shit where one earns more because he’s doing the books and another earns less because he’s washing dishes.

Me- Are you guys associated members of FACTA? [Federación Argentina de Cooperativas de Trabajadores Autogestionados–the Federation of Self-managed Worker Co-operatives in Argentina]. –And do you have to pay dues?

Andres- No, no. We contribute to FACTA but we’re not ‘associated’ yet. We’re not yet associated with FACTA. What we hope moving forward is that we’re five restaurants. With one more co-operative we’ll make a federation. That way we’ll be able to generate more work force and more… and, as we say, power to do more.

This is a struggle and to show everyone that we can do it.

Me- It’s important because there are struggles here and in all parts of the world. And, they’re watching, right? Well, we hope they’re seeing what one can do. What you’ve done here is amazing.

Andres- Of course. For example, here we’re 40. One person can’t do it a lone but one person can look for a solution, find the information and find out what they can do. And when they know, they can do it. They can form the group and the group can do it. Hopefully, people see that there’s a solution, there’s an open door and an exit that they know there’s something to face the management. The only thing they have to do is unite the workers. Nothing more.

[another worker comes to ask Andres a question]

Me- I imagine you have to get to work with other things.

Andres- Well, yeah. I have to talk to a woman with the radio. We are consciously trying to get publicity because it’s important to have more people, and so workers know they can do it. It’s important.

Me- Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ll be looking for your news by internet, facebook and sharing your story with friends, colleagues and my blog.

This interview with Andres Adrian Toledo was conducted by Janelle Cornwell at Cooperativa Alé Alé in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 22nd 2013. Thank you to Andres Adrian Toledo and all of the workers of Alé Alé for sharing your story. 

IMG_2218Get updates about Alé Alé (including daily specials!) and see pictures of their new location on their Facebook page and learn more about Lalo on their Facebook page and in news on the web.

 

 

Manifesto

We, me, myself and I, hereby declare liberation from the paper formerly titled: Subjects of Scale: Worker Co-operatives… By making this declaration, I free myself from the mind-numbing project of trying to publish in a top-tier geography journal in order to get a job in my field of geography.

My professor always said, “Well, you know honey, geography is what we make it. Yes indeed, Julie Graham! She wouldn’t have wanted me to spend countless unpaid hours struggling against feelings of insecurity cultivated by rejection at the expense of telling the stories I want to tell!

At this moment, I commit to publish the private posts I was too ashamed to publish, tell the stories I want to tell and stop wasting precious time on a field that doesn’t want to publish my shit!

For at least two weeks, I shall spend all of my additional time cleaning up the stories I want to tell, working on new ones and getting them out there regardless of the consequences because it is clear to me that this paper has done but suck the life out of me ever since Katherin Gibson said, “I don’t get it” and I spent the next week in bed. Yes, I’m sensitive but remember, I spent dam near a year on this paper!

I will tell you what I really want to tell you–the trials and tribulations of the contingent labor force from my experience as an adjunct professor with aspirations of having a family. I will tell you what inspires me: My students! They have taught me so much this semester.I will tell you what I’m grateful for! Three women who led my class in discussion–two black, one white. Who encouraged me to spend time on and learn more about structural racism and be honest with them, with everyone including you(!) about who I am. Vulnerable, powerful and absolutely honest. These are the values we want to cultivate. These are the qualities we need to encourage in ourselves and in our co-conspirators. I don’t have the answers! We don’t have the answers but we can come up with them together.

Thank you Jami Hoffman for the inspiration.

Coming Soon

I am very excited to write about my visits to occupied and recovered factories in Argentina as well as the interviews I conducted there. Transcription takes time, however, and I don’t have much of that so these posts are forthcoming:

1) Interview with Andres Adrian Toledo, President of Cooperativa Ale Ale

2) Interview with Diego de Prensa of Bauen Hotel

3) Site visit Chilavert and El Centro and lunch with the workers

4) Interview with Andres Ruggerri

5) Site visit and informal interview with Eloisa Cartonera

6) Site visit and update on IMPAH

7) Interview with Vera Zagmani

8) Interview with Carlo Borzaga

Interview with Andres Ruggeri

photo 1 (75)I met Andres Ruggeri at Bauen Hotel in the Cafe Utopia. Hotel Bauen is a famous 20 story self-managed hotel, recovered by its 40+ workers ten years ago. I was excited to visit the hotel and talk to its workers before coming to Buenos Aires but it was Andres who suggested that we meet there. I was thankful for it. My heart skipped half a beat when I saw the Hotel from the corner of Corrientes and Callao. I resisted taking a photo of in the middle of the street.

We’d agreed to meet at 2pm and I walked into the lobby at 1:58. Bauen has 70’/ 80’s chic elegance: mirrors, metal, marble, a piano in the center of the lobby. Its charm is ‘velvetine”, like the rabbit in the children’s story. Much of its newness and shine has been ‘loved’ away.

I expected to recognize Andres because I’d watched a video of a talk he gave on the internet but as I waited, I became doubtful. I asked a couple of strangers if they were Andres. No. No.

After 10 minutes, I asked the woman at reception for the wifi security code: “Hotel Bauen 360” she responded.

“Tres, como?” I asked, needing her to repeat the number, afraid to mix up the Spanish numbers for 60 and 70. She rolled her eyes and snapped at me: “Tres cientos sesenta! Good thing they’re their own bosses, I thought. She must having a bad day.

I sent Andres a text and then called him with no response and looked in the café again. There he was. How could I have missed him before? Without a doubt, that was him. I was nervous and embarrassed because I was now ten minutes late and felt shaky about giving my first interview in Spanish.

“Do you speak English?” I asked

‘Yes, but it’s worse than your Spanish” he said.

So, we had the interview in Spanish, recorded for future reference and (someday) transcription. A piece of me was excited to have a conversation in Spanish. I’ve spoken so much English with my friends since I’ve been here.

Andres Ruggeri is a professor and the director of la Facultad Abierta of the University of Buenos Aires. When Andres and the co-founders of La Facultad Abierta began their work, they had no intention of working with recovered factories. Their focus was political. They planned to link to popular political movements. But when they began in 2002, the economic crisis was in full swing and the movement of recovered businesses was new and extremely important. From that beginning, as he states in the beginning of 10 Anos del Programa Facultad Abierta, la Universidad, los Trabajadores y la Autogestion , (Ten Years of the Open Faculty Program: University, Workers and Self Managment), they aimed to accompany, study, document and collaborate with the workers of the recovered factories. Prior to that time, Ruggeri himself didn’t really think about the co-operative movement. His interest came from the experience of fighting along side the workers during the early years and it continues because the movement is still relevant and growing. He believes it’s important.

During the interview he said, it’s not that these 250 businesses themselves are going to change the economy overnight but they are setting an example for workers everywhere. We can learn from their experience, what does and doesn’t work, some things that are particular to Argentina and somethings that can be replicated. The world outside Argentina can take lessons the movement here.