Advice for the Democrats, That They Won’t Take

Yes, impossible as it sounds, Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. He of the multiple wives and revenge-fueled actions; misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic attitudes; an originator of the birther movement and xenophobe extraordinaire will soon inhabit the White House. That is a frightening thought, but add to that the fact that with both houses of Congress in Republican hands, there is no reasonable check on Mr. Trump’s impulses. And since many members of Congress disparaged, insulted and refused to support him during the campaign, they will be crawling on glass as penance as they approach him to regain favor, and will not want to thwart anything he may propose.

And what will this mean? Well, he has vowed to abolish the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, thus depriving at least 20 million people of basic health care. He said he will nullify the Iran nuclear deal, destroying the trust of European allies in the word of the U.S, and bringing the world closer to nuclear disaster. He will prevent any Muslims from entering the country, provide greater impunity (if that is even possible) to the nation’s racist police, put an end to same-sex marriage, and, in many ways, bring the nation back to the era of the 1950s. For those who don’t remember those days, segregation was the law of the land, a woman’s place was in the home, anyone suspected of any communist leanings was publicly persecuted, and the Cold War was in full swing. Ah, yes! The good old days!

Predictions of the demise of the Republican Party were certainly premature; it is now the Democrats who need to take a careful look in the mirror. The fact that they probably won’t is neither here nor there.  But, on the off chance that someone in the Party thinks doing so is a good idea, we will provide them with a bit of guidance, to send them on their way.

First, they might want to rethink this whole ‘super delegate’ thing. Yes, it seemed to them that Hillary Clinton somehow ‘deserved’ the nomination, and why let the people decide such a thing? What do they know? And while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders proved himself to be nothing more than a common politician, with no more integrity than that implies, this wasn’t necessarily common knowledge during the primary campaign. But, the Democratic Party, in a most undemocratic way, set about to torpedo his chances, and install Hillary Clinton as their chosen one.

We must ask: why did they think this was a good idea? What was it about Mrs. Clinton that made the powers-that-be in the Party think she was their savior? She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have enriched themselves through their ‘service’ to the nation. She carried along the campaign more baggage than a freight train. She was disliked and distrusted by large swaths of the population.  Yet this was the candidate who was going to break the glass ceiling, proving to all young girls that there were no gender-based limits. It would be she who would carry on President Obama’s legacy of healthcare for Americans, women’s’ rights, marriage equality, and other, less savory policies, like murder by drone, oppression of the Palestinians, etc., etc.

But. alas, the little people had other ideas about all this, and decided that a racist, misogynist, inexperienced blowhard was a better choice. We all know that, to hear the Democrats and their fawning minions tell it, the GOP is the Party of the rich, and the Democrats, of the working man and woman. Too bad those decision-makers have such an obstructed view from their ivory towers, and can’t quite see that, Republican or Democrat, they are different iterations of the same tired programs.

Second, the Democrats might try differentiating themselves from the Republicans in some significant ways. For example, both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and a variety of other candidates, bowed and scraped before their Israeli masters at the annual AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) convention in March; Mr. Sanders skipped that event, and instead sent a letter, criticizing Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. This did nothing to sink his candidacy; the internal workings of the Democratic Party did that to him. So, including as part of the platform, perhaps, some statement about making further financial assistance to Israel contingent upon that country adhering to international law and improving its dismal human rights record, might have been attractive to many voters. Mirroring the Republican policy doesn’t provide much choice.

Third, going back at least to the era of the 1960s and ‘70’s, as the Vietnam War raged, the Democratic Party eventually began to embrace the controversial concept of peace. Now, this, of course, was never fully adapted; who in their right mind wants peace over war? Whoever heard of such a thing? The U.S., we all know, must flex its military muscle almost constantly, in order to keep the arms manufacturers happy. But the idea of ending barbaric drone warfare, not interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and perhaps even dismantling some of the U.S’. nuclear arsenal might have had more appeal than the tired, pro-war policies of Hillary Clinton.

Following the defeat of the odious Mitt Romney by Mr. Obama in 2012, there was much talk about the need for the Republican Party to redefine itself, to, perhaps, even, become more inclusive. Nothing ever came of that high-sounding rhetoric, and remaining as it was seems now to have been a formula for success. So, perhaps the Democrats will do the same; look for someone to blame for this electoral disaster, talk about how to prevent it in the future, and then carry on with business as usual.

Politics in the U.S. isn’t about governing; it’s about keeping high-paying, low-responsibility jobs. After all, for most of us, there are a certain number of days required for us to attend our jobs; we may have a few weeks of paid vacation, but other than that, we are expected to be working. Not so for elected officials. Also, most of us have certain deliverables we need to produce: lesson plans, software programs, various products, etc. Again, elected officials have no such responsibilities. And if the wealthy individuals and organizations that donate to politicians’ election campaigns are happy, what else matters?

The next couple of months will prove interesting, and will provide us with a view of the next few years. From where this writer sits, it isn’t looking pretty. But the view of U.S. governance has never been very pleasant, since an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy can never conceal its true nature. And with the wild card called Donald Trump due to move into the White House, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Originally published by TheTruther.US.

 

 

 

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The Press and Palestine

That most illustrious of all publications, the New York Post, sounded a dire warning this week, announcing that Israel can no longer count on the unqualified support of the Democratic Party. In true, Zionist fashion, the rag said that the recent election “… could be the last US presidential election that Israelis don’t have to watch with existential dread”.

Well, we all know that just about everything is an existential threat to apartheid Israel, from the Iran nuclear deal, that regulates that nation’s nuclear advancement, to criticism by the world soccer organization.  And that is just one of the gems available in the article. As this writer is wont to do, he will look at a few more, in some detail.

  • Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, potentially the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is, apparently, not admired by The Post. The article says this: “Ellison ‘has organized letters urging pressure on Israel, and was an advocate of drawing lessons from the UN Goldstone Report following the 2009 Gaza War’.”

Does this seem bizarre? Should not lessons be learned from a report issued by the United Nations? The Post mentions, of course, that Richard Goldstone eventually backtracked on some aspects of the report, but didn’t mention the political pressure he was under to do so.

  • “On a trip to Israel last summer, Ellison posted a photo of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and land thief.”

Well, let’s see: ‘Israeli only’ roads, many of them that non-Israelis can’t even cross, let alone drive on; separate laws for Israelis and non-Israelis, with punishment for similar crimes being lenient for Israelis, and extremely harsh for everyone else; military protection of Israelis while in the act of committing crimes against non-Israelis; fostering of hatred, from elementary school on up, of anyone not Israeli. Sounds like apartheid to this writer.

And what about land theft? Well, forcing people to vacate houses they own, with no recompense or possible redress, taking the land and building new residences there that only Israelis can occupy, sounds like both land theft and apartheid. So what point, one asks, was The Post trying to make?

  • Mr. Ellison apparently adds insult to injury. The article states:  “He has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — despite the fact that Gaza-based terrorists have launched over 11,000 rocket attacks on Israeli civilians since Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005”.

But the article doesn’t mention the fact that during 52 days in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip that had been fired into Israel in the previous 14 years. Nor does it comment on the strength of the Palestinian ‘rockets’. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, calls those ‘rockets’, “enhanced fireworks”. Israel, on the other hand, has the most powerful, deadly weaponry on the planet today, provided by the United States.

  • “Israel discovered that Hamas had built a vast system of underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel in preparation for mass terror attacks.”

With the brutal blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel, such dangerous items as crayons and pasta have been prevented from entering Gaza. The tunnels have been a means of bringing supplies into the area.

It must also be remembered that an oppressed people, according to the United Nations, has both the right and the responsibility to resist the oppressor. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. Israel has the fourth most powerful military machine in the world, back by the most powerful. If one wants to discuss ‘mass terror attacks’, one might consider the 2014 Israeli bombing of schools, hospitals, UN refugee centers, houses of worship and press vehicles and buildings, that killed over 2,000 Palestinians, including over 500 children, as young a infancy.

  • The article also states the following, which seems to cause great dismay to The Post’s editors: “According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43-29 margin — but that’s far closer than just a few years ago. And among liberal Democrats, it flips: Liberals prefer the Palestinians by a 40-33 margin’. And further: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders “…had massive support among young liberals, who are increasingly hostile to Israel”.

The fish wrapper bemoans this trend, but somehow neglects to explore why it might be. Could some of those issues mentioned above – harsh discrimination in Israel against all non-Israelis, apartheid laws, violence against defenseless people, etc.  – perhaps have something to do with this growing hostility to Israel?

The new Republican administration is almost gleeful in its disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people, and the anticipated political appointees are all Israeli cheerleaders. Hopefully, Mr. Ellison and other progressives will be able to at least prevent the complete annexation of the West Bank by Israel, and stall another aerial bombardment. In two years, it is likely that the Democrats will regain control of Congress, and while one can hardly expect them to be champions of human rights (they are only champions of their own bottom lines), at least things may revert to the conditions currently existing under President Barack Obama. And, as more progressives gain office, which will hopefully occur now that the Clinton dynasty has finally been aborted, there may be a glimmer of hope for Palestine once more. That is, of course, assuming that the damage to that country can be minimized for the next two years. That, sadly, is not a sure thing by any means.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

 

 

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Romney and ‘Gravitas’

Romney and ‘Gravitas’

CNN, an entertainment venue masquerading as a news channel, reported on November 22 that President-elect Donald Trump (this writer still finds that, in itself, incredible), is giving serious consideration to naming former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as Secretary of State. CNN states that “a Romney appointment would give Trump instant gravitas abroad.”

This writer has never felt that his memory is superior to that of an average person; he reads or hears things, and many of them stay, somewhere, in his mind, available for recall when necessary. Reading this statement by CNN, he was reminded of Mr. Romney’s trip abroad during his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency. At that time, CNN didn’t appear to believe that said trip brought much ‘gravitas’ to the campaign. A quick internet search confirmed that for him.

On July 31, 2012, CNN issued this headline: “Was Romney’s trip ‘a great success’ or gaffe-filled disaster?” The article states the following: “In the estimation of Mitt Romney and his top campaign aides, there were no gaffes, no mistakes, no ill-advised statements on the Republican candidate’s overseas trip.

“The poorly timed comments at the Olympics? No big deal. The remarks in Israel that inflamed the Palestinians? Overblown. The off-color words to the press by a Romney aide Tuesday? In the heat of the moment.

“The trip that was supposed to show off the former governor’s foreign policy expertise during an election year has been plagued with distractions as well as marked by substantive highlights.”

How this adds ‘gravitas’ to the Trump Administration is a mystery to this writer, despite any coincidental ‘substantive highlights’.

However, let us attempt to unravel it, by looking more closely at CNN’s own words from four years ago. Perhaps, like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, we will be able to find the missing clue, and declare CNN accurate in its current estimation of this potential appointment. When pigs fly. But here goes, anyway.

  • “For Romney, the trouble began in Britain, when he publicly questioned whether London was ready to host the Summer Olympic Games. British Prime Minister David Cameron retorted that it was far more difficult to organize the Olympics in a world capital than in the ‘middle of nowhere,’ a not-so-subtle dig at Romney’s Games in Salt Lake City. London tabloids dubbed Romney ‘Mitt the Twit.’”

So, ‘Mitt the Twit’ as Secretary of State will be welcomed in the United Kingdom, despite putting his foot in his mouth during his last public visit there. David Cameron is gone, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately for the twit, however, the tabloids remain.

  • “…Romney also outraged Palestinians leaders with his talk of Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel. He commented at a fundraiser in the same city that “culture” can partly explain the economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians, inflaming the already raw feelings in the region.”       Kissing up to Israel is, of course, required fare for U.S. politicians. After all, AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Public Affairs Committee) funnels countless millions of dollars to their campaigns, and who cares about international law and human rights when campaign donations are on the line? So, Mr. Romney’s kowtowing to Israel is par for the course

But the U.S. stands almost alone in its belief that Jerusalem is the ‘undisputed capital of Israel’, so such a statement is bound to rankle foreign leaders outside of Mr. Romney’s Israeli audience. And the idea that ‘culture’ explains the economic disparity between Palestine and Israel would be laughable, if it didn’t demonstrate an incredible degree of ignorance. Do not occupation, blockade and apartheid laws, not to mention $4 billion in U.S. aid to Israel, compared to none to Palestine, have anything to do with this economic disparity.

  • “After Romney paid tribute at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, members of the traveling press attempted to ask about some of his perceived gaffes, only to be shouted down by the campaign’s traveling press secretary.

“’Kiss my ass. This is a holy site,’ Rick Gorka barked at one reporter. ‘Shove it, he said to another. Gorka later called two reporters and apologized.”

Well, what a high degree of professionalism! Just what any international leader would want from a U.S. president. It occurs to this writer more like juveniles on a middle-school playground, shouting insults about each other’s mother.

But now, four years later, this is the man who will add instant ‘gravitas’ to the stumbling, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist incoming administration of Donald Trump.

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows. The current article about Mr. Trump and Mr. Romney shows them cordially shaking hands after their meeting. Five short months ago, CNN reported that Mr. Romney was less than enthusiastic about the possibility of a Trump presidency. Said he: “Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.” Mr. Trump, now apparently one of his ‘besties’, Tweeted this in response:  “Mitt Romney had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog. Now he calls me racist-but I am least racist person there is.”

In an article from March, 2016, headed ‘Romney Implores: Bring Down Trump”, CNN reported this: “’Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,’ Romney said. ‘His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.

“Romney said that ‘dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark,’ pointing to his ‘bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.’”

This is the man that Mr. Romney, who this writer hoped was permanently relegated to a minor footnote in the annals of U.S. history, is willing to represent as the U.S.’s top diplomat.

We started this conversation to solve the mystery of CNN’s statement that Mr. Romney’s appointment as Secretary of State would bring ‘instant gravitas’ to Mr. Trump. Let’s summarize, and then draw conclusions:

  • Mr. Romney made of fool of himself internationally in 2012.
  • The former governor has made no bones about his utter disdain for Mr. Trump.
  • He campaigned hard to prevent Mr. Trump from obtaining the GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) nomination.

The conclusion that this writer draws from all this is that CNN does not report the news, but rather attempts to influence opinion. If CNN says that Mr. Romney is a statesman, who will be a great asset to a Trump Administration, and is respected the world over, then it must be so. Why look any deeper than that one, current news article?

CNN may say that the emperor is wearing a stunning new wardrobe, but that wouldn’t change that fact that he is, in fact, naked. The world is in for a rocky ride under a Trump presidency, and Mr. Romney will only worsen it. His arrogance, perhaps eclipsed by that of Mr. Trump, but perhaps not; his twisted worldview and his obvious hypocrisy do not bode well for a peaceful world where international law and human rights are held sacred. Yet his possible appointment as Secretary of State is only in keeping with Mr. Trump’s idea of how the world should be ordered. Heaven help us all.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Democrats’ Great Mistake

Donald Trump is president-elect. It is still difficult for this writer to string those words together. He watched the unfolding disaster on election night, knowing, when he sat down to his computer screen, that, regardless of who won, it would be a disaster. He had not, however, anticipated this particular one.

Democrat Hillary Clinton appears as of this writing to have won the popular vote, but Mr. Trump prevailed in the archaic, outdated and counterproductive electoral college. One hopes he doesn’t see his win as a mandate, but this is Donald Trump we are talking about, so we might as well forget that idea.

But how did this happen? How did an obnoxious, egotistical blowhard like Mr. Trump manage to be elected president of the United States? He discusses women in the most repulsive, derogatory manner. He has insulted Mexicans and wants to ban Muslims from entering the country. He has vowed to remove health care from at least 20 million U.S. citizens. He has wondered aloud why the country has nuclear weapons if it isn’t going to use them. The frightening list goes on.

Yet how this came to pass isn’t really a secret; self-deluding Democrats may wonder about it, but the evidence is clear: the Democratic Party offered a deeply flawed candidate.

Let’s go back even earlier than the primary season, to find the source of this crucial error. The Democrats created the ‘super delegate’ model, providing all Democratic members of Congress, party bigwigs and insiders with nominating votes that had no accountability to rank-and-file party members. As a result, Hillary Clinton entered the primary season with hundreds of pledged delegates. Then, regardless of the outcome in state primaries and caucuses, these delegates were not obligated to vote for the candidate who won; they were free to vote for anyone they chose, and nearly all of them were committed to Hillary Clinton.

This causes at least two problems: 1) a candidate who doesn’t have widespread support (Mrs. Clinton) can be nominated, and 2), if that happens, Democrats who voted for the opponent (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) for the nomination feel cheated, and, rather than falling into line like good little soldiers, seek out a third-party alternative, or just opt to stay home on election day.

Now, let’s look at the candidate herself. Hillary Clinton has a long and storied history in U.S. politics and governance. She was twice First Lady of Arkansas during her husband’s two, non-consecutive terms as governor there, and then was First Lady of the U.S. for eight years. She was twice elected to the senate, representing New York State, resigning midway through her second term to become Secretary of State, a role she held for four years.

Each of these roles deserve some consideration.

Following Governor Bill Clinton’s defeat for governor after his first term, it was Mrs. Clinton who engineered his comeback. This certainly indicates an ambitious and politically savvy woman, both traits needed for elective office. Yet during his time in office, it was more than subtly suggested that he directed lucrative government contracts to the law firm that employed her. There was never any proof; neither of them was charged with any wrongdoing, but this was just the first of the shadows of impropriety, bordering on illegality, that would haunt her through the 2016 election.

Additionally, during the time of Mr. Clinton’s tenure as governor, Mrs. Clinton invested the modest sum of $1,000.00 in cattle futures. At the end of ten months, when she decided to stop trading, without having any training or experience in this area, she had turned that amount into $100,000.00.

Now, that could be considered luck, or simply being a ‘quick study’. No one has ever accused Mrs. Clinton of being stupid.

At one period during this ten-month stretch of time, Mrs. Clinton was in debt for over $100,000 to a financial services firm. Typically, in such a circumstance, the financial services firm would require the investor to pay the funds, or offer some collateral against the debt. This, however, was not done in this case. What, one might have asked at the time, might the firm have received in return for its generosity towards the governor’s wife?  The shadow, therefore, lengthened.

As First Lady of the United States, she didn’t fulfill the traditional role. She was considered a close advisor for her husband, and was appointed by him to develop a healthcare plan. This also caused deep resentment against her; she had no official position in office, but was given a major responsibility.

During these years, she was accused of orchestrating the dismissal of the White House travel staff, so that her own friends and those of her husband could replace them. Although questioned, she was never charged, but the prosecutor said that, while many of her statements were ‘factually false’, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

In June of 1996, Mrs. Clinton was implicated in what became known as ‘Filegate’. Craig Livingstone, director of the White House’s Office of Personnel Security, had requested and received from the FBI information about a large number of individuals, mainly advisors from previous, Republican administrations. Mrs. Clinton was accused of requesting, or authorizing the request of, these files, for political purposes. She and the president were eventually exonerated.

During Mr. Clinton’s re-election campaign, Mrs. Clinton was implicated in a scheme to obtain donations to the Democratic National Committee from China, in violation of U.S. law.

In 1996, Mrs. Clinton became the first, and to date, only, First Lady to testify before a Federal grand jury. This was in the investigation into possible obstruction of justice at the White House regarding an inquiry into her former Arkansas law firm.

On the day before Mr. Clinton left office, he pardoned 450 people convicted of various crimes. Included in this number were two people who each paid Mrs. Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodman, $200,000.00 to represent their cases for clemency. One can imagine that Mr. Rodman may have had an ‘in’ to the president, that not every lawyer had.

When Mrs. Clinton decided to run for senate from New York, she had to make a change in her life: she had to establish residency in a state in which she had never lived. Despite the fact that she was the first and, thus far, only First Lady to run for elective office after her husband’s term as president ended, being a senator from Arkansas, where she lived for many years, apparently was not as potent a springboard to her further ambitions as being senator from NY would be. So, she and Mr. Clinton bought a house in New York, she announced her candidacy, and won.

Before she threw her hat into the ring, the most likely person to run was Representative Nita Lowey. However, as soon as Mrs. Clinton expressed an interest in running, Ms. Lowey stepped aside. This brought about more than a little criticism; Ms. Lowey had been a member of the House for ten years, and Mrs. Clinton had held no elective office.

It is interesting to note Ms. Lowey’s sentiments during the most recent primary season. She, of course, was a ‘super-delegate’, who had pledged to vote to nominate Mrs. Clinton. When her spokesperson was asked if she would switch her vote, should Mr. Sanders win the NY primary, this was the response: “Absolutely not… Hillary Clinton is Congresswoman Lowey’s friend, colleague and her constituent, and she is behind her 100%.” This ‘loyalty’, which disregards the will of the people does nothing to endear Mrs. Clinton to the average voter.

When Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received millions of dollars in donations, not only from huge, multinational corporations, but also from foreign governments. The appearance of conflicts of interest in this situation is too strong to be overlooked.

More recently, her use of a private server for highly-confidential emails, and the resulting FBI investigations, further cast doubt on her integrity, and added to the general consensus that she sees herself above the law.

The millions of people who despise Mrs. Clinton will say that no one can be under so many different clouds of suspicion, and be completely innocent. Her countless fawning minions will say that, despite all attempts to besmirch her good name, she has never been charged with anything.

Let’s look now at some of her policies that may have been troubling for the U.S. voter.

It is said that Mrs. Clinton was the mastermind of the decision to overthrow the government of Libya, which has caused untold suffering in that nation. No one believes that Muammar Gaddafi was a choir boy, but the death toll since his overthrow far exceeds the numbers that died during his reign. And Mrs. Clinton’s flippant attitude about his death also repels many people.

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. This invasion killed at least a million people, sent millions more into refugee camps, spawned a civil war, and left Iraqis in dire situations.

She fully supports Israel, despite its ongoing violations of numerous international laws, and ignores the legitimate claims to basic human rights of the Palestinian people. She says nothing in opposition of the draconian, apartheid laws of Israel, or the brutal killings of unarmed, innocent, Palestinian men, women and children by Israeli soldiers and settlers. She is silent about the illegal Israeli settlements.

Mrs. Clinton supports the foreign fighters opposing the government of Syria. She has accused Russia of crimes in Syria, ignoring the greater crimes of the U.S. in that country. She says nothing about the barbaric human rights record of Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations.

Now, there are many factors that impact the result of an election. The popularity of the incumbent; the state of the economy; the personality of the candidates, etc., all play into the decision-making process of the voters. This year, the Democrats offered a candidate:

  • Who is the quintessential Washington insider;
  • With a long history of activities that apparently were just short of illegal;
  • That had the demonstrated support of party bosses, but not of the rank-and-file voter;
  • Who supported a war that much of the world opposed, that was built on transparent lies, and
  • With a long record of supporting war.

This shouldn’t imply that the Republicans nominated an angel; seldom, if ever, has a more unsuitable candidate been elected president. But the voting public wasn’t interested in more Clinton: eight years of Bill, and Hillary being in the public eye for decades, was simply more than enough. She could not be seen as a ‘change agent’; no one perceives her as being able to ‘shake things up’.

Although Mr. Sanders showed his true colors when he gave Mrs. Clinton a glowing endorsement at the Democratic convention, after the nomination had been stolen from him, and after he’d said she was unfit to be president, he was by far the stronger candidate than she. But the strength of the ultimate U.S. ‘power couple’ far outweighed logical considerations. Mrs. Clinton had been waiting in the wings for years, the curtain was soon to rise, and she wasn’t going to miss her cue. She and the Democratic Party didn’t realize that the audience had already departed.

 

 

 

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The First Woman President: We Can Do Better than This

Well, with just a few weeks to the 2016 presidential election, the voters seem to be hesitantly lining up behind (‘rallying around’ denotes some level of enthusiasm, and is really too strong a term to use here) what many consider to be the less loathsome of two loathsome choices. These are people who overlook the blood, carnage and death that Hillary Clinton left in her wake from her time in the U.S. senate, and as Secretary of State. They focus, instead, on Donald Trump’s repugnant misogyny, his leaked comments about women, and the many women who have come forward to accuse him.

So, it does appear that the U.S. will follow-up on the history-making election of an African-American, with the history-making election of a woman. But does it have to be her? Surely, in a nation with hundreds of millions of people, there are women more qualified than one so wealthy, self-centered, and out of touch with the common man and woman, owned by corporate lobbyists, beholden to every individual or corporation whoever wrote her a check in excess of $50,000, who disdains human rights and international law. Somewhere, there must be a woman qualified to lead the United States out of the current corrupt, war-mongering mess it has gotten itself into.

Well, this writer wouldn’t bring up such a serious problem, unless he had an answer to it.  A woman who is the antithesis of Hillary Clinton is, in fact, running for president, not as a Republican or Democrat, two sides of the same ugly coin, but representing the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He refers, of course, to Gloria La Riva.

gloria_la_riva

He first learned of Ms. La Riva when looking for a third-party candidate for whom to vote, being ready to fling himself off a bridge before voting for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump. He subsequently had the opportunity of interviewing her, after studying her platform. Recently, she was interviewed by Abby Martin on ‘The Empire Files’, and once again demonstrated that she is an intelligent, articulate woman who is able to describe realistic solutions to the complex problems the U.S. has brought onto itself and the world.

On October 25, Ms. La Riva will be one of three (thus far) candidates scheduled for a presidential debate sponsored by ‘Free and Equal’, in Boulder, Colorado. She, of course, is not allowed into the three-ring circus known as the Republican and Democratic presidential debates. No, only the two aforementioned clowns can perform there, because Ms. La Riva, Dr. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson don’t qualify with a large enough standing in the polls. Of course, those rules are set by the Democrats and Republicans. One might think that some independent organization would sponsor debates to which all potentially-viable candidates were invited. Oh, wait; an organization has done so. It’s known as ‘Free and Equal’. Unfortunately, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are too busy with their own program to guest-star on another one. After all, aren’t three debates enough for the little people? What do they expect? Transparency? Choice? Ha!

So, does this writer think that, if the stars align just right, Ms. La Riva will be elected president? He is many things, but naïve is not one of them. Yet with the major parties offering repulsive candidates, a vote for Ms. La Riva and her sensible platform is the only vote that makes sense to him.

If we want to look for a glimmer of hope for the United States, perhaps we should look to the youth. In California, several high schools recently held a mock election (a good term for the farce that approaches on November 8). Of the nearly 190,000 votes cast, Ms. La Riva received about 7%, or approximately 13,000 votes. It is noteworthy that, despite the media blackout on all third parties except for Dr. Stein and Mr. Johnson, and media coverage of them being limited at best, fully 7% would vote for the Socialist Party candidate. As Ms. La Riva said: “Students are increasingly aware of the problems in their society. They know when their family is struggling to get by, or doesn’t have stable housing or enough food to live on. Students experience the pain and insecurity of capitalism.” The social media generation, which relies less on the corporate-owned media for news, may be what saves the U.S., if it isn’t simply too late to do so.

trump-and-clintonWhen this writer announces to friends and associates his intention to vote for Ms. La Riva, he hears the same tired objections to third-party voting that he himself made in previous years: you are throwing away your vote; you are drawing a vote from the lesser terrible candidate, thus ensuring the election of the more terrible one, etc., etc. You need to vote for Hillary Clinton, he is told, otherwise a racist, misogynist, Islamophobic, homophobic blowhard will be elected president, with his finger on the nuclear button! Or, you must vote for Donald Trump, otherwise a corrupt, war-mongering, hypocritical liar will be elected president, with her finger on the nuclear button! Blah, blah, blah.

Well, please allow this writer to repent and apologize; he sees clearly now that to which he was previously blind. Or, just perhaps, there was some semblance of choice in previous elections, but he will leave his justifications for another time.

Voting for either of the 1% candidates to which we are subjected by the so-called major parties only entrenches them further, and enables them to keep their monopoly on elections.

By voting for Gloria La Riva, this writer is endorsing significant change, and indicating to the powers that be that their crimes will no longer be universally overlooked. He is helping to lay the groundwork for a new party, not just something established or propped up by the Democrats to appear to offer the voters a choice, as the Republican Party self-destructs. With his vote for Ms. La Riva, he hopes to motivate others to look at alternatives, and not just for a more ‘liberal’ Democrat (does such a creature even exist today?), but someone who offers real change, who respects domestic and international law, and recognizes the basic human rights of every man, woman and child on the planet. This is not something we see among the Democrats or Republicans; they may be a somewhat distorted mirror image of each other, but they are a mirror image nonetheless.

Gloria La Riva proposes smashing that mirror, and establishing a United States based on justice for all, an end to the oligarchy, and making the country a responsible global citizen, rather than the frightening global thug it is today.

Throwing away his vote? Not at all. He is pleased to cast it for Ms. La Riva.

 

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The Olympics: Nationalism at its Worst

Once again the world is being subjected to the periodic nationalist orgy known as the Olympics. Here, we are told, participating nations around the globe are all equal, and send their best athletes for a friendly competition, where nothing but sportsmanship counts, and any and all other differences are not even considered. After trying their very best in each of many different sports, the top three are honored with a gold, silver or bronze medal, something he or she can look proudly on for generations to come.

This writer hates to burst such a pretty balloon (actually, he doesn’t hate doing so at all), but once one has passed the age where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy have all been relegated to the status of pleasant childhood memories, the same should be done with the farce of the Olympics.

Let’s look for a minute at a few examples.

Thirty-one-year old U.S. citizen Michael Phelps has now won more gold medals in Olympic games than any other athlete in history. Americans are so proud of his ability to swim faster than anyone else, and his savings account will no doubt increase greatly, as ever more companies seek his endorsement. This is certainly a success story; a young man who grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Maryland, and who began swimming after being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, as an outlet for his energies. We will forget for the moment his multiple arrests for impaired driving; what on earth does that matter, when he can swim so fast?

Now let us look at another Olympic swimmer, Yursa Mardini, age 18. Ms. Mardina is a Syrian refugee, who, perhaps, didn’t have the same advantages as Mr. Phelps. She refers to being in the Olympics as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity; please note that the current games are Mr. Phelp’s fifth foray into an Olympic pool. And training was sometimes difficult for Ms. Mardini, not because she didn’t have sufficient energy or motivation, but because of other factors. Said she: “…sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war. Or sometimes you had training but there was a bomb in the swimming pool.” Mr. Phelps, once caught with a bong in his mouth, never had a bomb in his pool.

But perhaps Ms. Mardini did have an advantage. When fleeing Turkey for Greece, along with nineteen other people in a boat designed to hold six, the motor failed. She and two others, the only people on the boat who could swim, entered the cold water and pushed the boat for three hours until reaching safety. Think of the lessons in endurance, stamina and determination! Poor Mr. Phelps was probably out getting high when Ms. Mardini was involved in this rigorous practice session.

Early on, it was reported that athletes from Lebanon riding a bus from one venue to another, refused to allow Israeli athletes to board. Is this not a lack of sportsmanship? Should not the Lebanese athletes have allowed representatives from a brutal, murderous, apartheid regime in violation of countless international laws to have ridden with them in the sacred name of sportsmanship? After all, aren’t there times when civilized people just put the thought of slaughtered children, blown apart when playing on a beach, or of families bombed when taking refuge in United Nations shelters, behind them? Shouldn’t there be occasions, such as sporting events, when such trivial things as carpet-bombing residences, hospitals and houses of worship should just be ignored?

Swimming and bus rides; where else should one ignore violations of human rights? Well, how about martial arts? Egyptian Olympian Islam Shihabi was defeated by an Israeli, and after the Judo match, refused to shake his hand. Again, shock and outrage by nationalists who, every few years, become enamored with the athletic world, and couldn’t countenance this breach of etiquette.

Why, one wonders, could not Mr. Shihabi ignore the barbarity of Israel in the name of sportsmanship?

Well, let’s move on a bit, and look at the glittering city of Rio de Janeiro, hosting the Olympics. Yes, the police said they couldn’t offer adequate protection, and yes, some athletes participating in sporting events in the water were told not to submerge their heads, but we’ll overlook those things and only watch the exciting competitions.

Oh, and should we bother to even think about the 60,000 Brazilians who were driven from their homes so the Olympic stadium, parking and other structures required for this penultimate sports activity could take place? Some received some compensation for their loss, but none of them had any choice in the matter. So what if they lived in a house built by a grandparent, where three generations had been raised? It only took a bulldozer a short time to make their cherished home nothing but rubble.

The Olympics, for some bizarre reason, attract the attention of people for whom watching an athletic event, let alone ever participating in one, does not occur outside of this periodic spectacle. But these are people who never let an opportunity pass for a flag to be waved, and to rejoice in anything that, in their narrow little minds, sets their nation above all the rest. There is no thought of the deadly, murderous horrors their country may inflict on innocent people (see: USA, Israel), no thought to the exploitation and abuse of the poor (see: USA, Brazil), no thought of blatant racism (see: USA, Israel). No, if a swimmer from one’s own country swims faster than the swimmers representing other countries, one’s country is the greatest! For such people, seeing an athlete representing their country stand atop the highest pedestal, accepting a gold medal, brings a tear to the eye as the chest swells with pride!

Ah, sportsmanship! Another distraction from reality! Just what the U.S. needs.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

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‘Newspeak’, the U.S. and Palestine

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, we are introduced to ‘Newspeak’, which can be described as speech or writing that uses words in such a way as to change their meaning, with the intent of persuading people to think a certain way. Often, the goal is to make it appear that black is white; that war is peace, or that corruption is honesty.

Mr. Orwell himself spoke of political speech, perhaps a subset of Newspeak, saying that, in our time, political speech and writing are largely used in the defense of the indefensible.

Let’s see how ‘Newspeak’ has been utilized in describing the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Rarely a day goes by that some Israeli politician isn’t screaming about an existential threat to that rogue nation. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which includes churches, labor unions and universities voting to divest from Israeli holdings; scholars refusing to take part in academic projects with Israel, and entertainers refusing to perform there, along with the ‘rank and file’ boycotting Israeli products, is decried as an ‘existential threat’. Criticism by any nation of illegal settlements is seen as an ‘existential threat’. Palestinian resistance, that of a poorly armed, starved, occupied and blockaded population, is seen as an existential threat. The list is really endless.

The United States government, of course, owned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee), buys right into this, with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going to Israel, and laws being passed in various states banning the boycotting of Israel. How any elected official thinks such a law will ever stand up to a court challenge, and how they think such a law can be enforced, is beyond the understanding of this writer. But they all agree that these and other criticisms of Israel threaten the very existence of that country.

Now, it must be remembered that Palestine has no army, navy or air force. Its imports are severely restricted, and its exports, thanks to the occupation and blockade, are almost non-existent. Israel continually ‘confiscates’ (read: steals) Palestinian land to build huge new housing developments, all in violation of international law. Palestine faces a very real existential threat, but is seen as threatening Israel. This is certainly Newspeak.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, summed up this example of Newspeak clearly. “We are the only people on earth asked to guarantee the security of our occupier, while Israel is the only country that calls for defense from its victims”.

Newspeak does not only inhabit the halls of Congress, where that august body constantly sends billions of dollars to Israel, despite its violations of international law, and in violation of U.S. law, which predicates foreign aid on adherence to basic human rights, standards which Israel doesn’t even come close to meeting. It isn’t restricted to State Houses, where governors sign into law restrictive measures in clear violation of the Constitution. No, it even lives in the White House. When Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip in 2014, President Barack Obama said that “if someone attacked my daughters in their home, I would retaliate, too”. Newspeak at its best! He simply ignored the reality that Israeli terrorists are constantly attacking Palestinians in their homes in the West Bank; the night raids, when males as young as ten years old are dragged out of their beds and thrown into police vehicles, as their anguished mothers attempt unsuccessfully to protect them, somehow don’t count as ‘attacking children in their homes’. The bombing of the illegally blockaded Gaza Strip, where, when Mr. Obama issued that statement, nearly 300 children had been killed in their homes, somehow doesn’t count. All that counts is the fabrications that are created to please apartheid Israel.

Israel’s general excuse for bombing Gaza is ‘rocket’ fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, calls these rockets, ‘enhanced fireworks’. The bombs from Israel, provided by the United States and including the most sophisticated, deadly weaponry on the planet, cannot be seen as ‘enhanced fireworks’. But in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., those ‘rockets’ from Gaza justify the carpet-bombing of homes, hospitals, mosques, press offices, and United Nations refugee centers.

It is also worth noting that in the summer of 2014, the number of bombs that Israel dropped on Gaza exceeded the number of so-called rockets that Gaza had fired into Israel in the previous fourteen years. Yet in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., and, of course, the corporate media, those ineffectual ‘rockets’ justified the killing of over 2000 Palestinians, nearly a quarter of whom were children, some as young as one month old.

Israel, we are told, is in great danger from Palestinian rockets. Yet the U.S. has provided Israel with the ‘Iron Dome’, which intercepts most of the rockets before they ever reach the ground. Palestine, of course, is defenseless against Israeli bombs. More Newspeak.

In many countries, an assailant with a knife is disarmed in a variety of ways. In the U.S. and Israel, being armed isn’t necessary to be threatening. In both nations, unarmed people are routinely killed by what is euphemistically called ‘law enforcement (more Newspeak), with the perpetrators being immune from prosecution. In the U.S., unarmed black men are fair game for any police office with an itchy trigger finger, and in Israel, any Palestinian, male or female, from children to the elderly, is fair game for IDF (Israeli Defense Forces; Israel’s state terrorists), if they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And minutes earlier, that might not have been the wrong place; it’s all up to the whim of the Israeli terrorists controlling the area.

Israel is now arresting and prosecuting anyone in Israel or Palestine who posts anything on social media critical of Israel. Big Brother is certainly alive and well in Israel. And it wasn’t so long ago that whistleblowers disclosed how the U.S. government was spying on millions of its own citizens.

In this election year, the U.S. is faced with two candidates who are fluent in Newspeak. Democrat Hillary Clinton declares her dedication to the 99%, when all her actions favor the super-rich. Republican Donald Trump proclaims the threat of Islam, a peaceful religion, the radical element of which is no more representative of it than the so-called Religious Right in the U.S. is of Christianity. And one of them will be the next president of the most powerful imperial nation in recent history.

Like Oceania in 1984, constantly fighting either Eastasia or Eurasia, the U.S. will wage deadly war in the Middle East and wherever else it invents an enemy. And like the people in Mr. Orwell’s Oceania, U.S. citizens will cheer with each death of an innocent victim, and take great pride in the might of their nation. They will boast of U.S. military strength; will ‘stand with Israel’, despite its unspeakable crimes against humanity, and will, in their own ways, proclaim their love for Big Brother.

In 2016, Mr. Orwell’s 1984 has arrived.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

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Of Republicrats and Third Parties

It has been said that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. Apparently, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wishes to fool all of the people, at least those who were once his loyal devotees, all of the time. This writer received an enthusiastic email from some organization talking about the next steps in Mr. Sanders ‘revolution’, and requesting that this writer hold a house party to watch a speech to be given by the senator, as part of the initiation of a new organization called ‘Our Revolution’.

Well, there is certainly something revolting about all this, but it has nothing to do with a social change.

Mr. Sanders, that avowed socialist with a long and undistinguished career in what passes in the U.S. for public service (well-paid ‘service’, that is), lost all credibility with any but his most blindly loyal followers when, after months of railing against everything that Hillary Clinton stands for, even to the point of calling her unfit to be president, he put on a happy face and gave her a glowing endorsement at the Democratic Convention. Does this sound to the reader like a man of integrity? Does endorsing Miss Wall Street 2016 have that ring of revolutionary fervor? Does such glowing support of the Princess of Israel sound like part of revolutionary change

Methinks not. No, his support for Mrs. Clinton, and his forthcoming address about ‘Our Revolution’, seem to be the work of a career politician who wants to bask in whatever remains of the adulation of his naive and enthusiastic youthful followers, while at the same time enjoying all the perquisites of ‘the good old boys’ club’. The only thing he sacrifices along the way (in addition, of course, to self-respect, but who in elected office has that anyway?), is credibility. Oh, and integrity. And honesty. Well, maybe he does make many sacrifices to enjoy both the prestige of change agent and maintainer of the status quo. But really, does anyone do it better than he?

Let’s look for a moment to the dismal sight on the right wing of this rather repulsive bird known as the Republocratic Party. While some of the Republican elected officials are running as fast as possible, like rats from a sinking ship, from their candidate, billionaire Donald Trump, others are grabbing whatever life-preservers they can find, as they attempt to ‘put Party first’ and support their repugnant candidate. So what if he insults every non-white, non-male, non-Christian group on the planet? Let’s see: women, mothers, Muslims, gays, poor people, Mexicans, Blacks; the list is really rather long. But, say the GOP bigwigs, we must put Party first, apparently before justice, equality and common decency, but who needs those old things anyway?

We are told that Mrs. Clinton holds an 8 – 10 point lead over Mr. Trump in current polls. Now, if one were to look just at Mr. Trump, one would wonder why his opponent’s lead isn’t 30 or 40 or more points in size. But, on the other hand, if one were to look only at Mrs. Clinton, one would wonder how bad her opponent would have to be, for her to be leading.

To hear the corporate-owned media tell it, this is the choice facing the U.S. voter today: two candidates so out of touch with most of the United States as to be laughable, if it weren’t so tragic. But allow this writer to offer a slight glimmer of hope, a possible ray of sunshine within ever-darkening clouds, and advise the reader of something he/she will not hear from MSNBC and its various corporate cohorts: there are dozens of third-party candidates running!

Now, for many years, this writer thought that a vote for a third party candidate was a throwaway, accomplishing nothing and possibly allowing the greater of the two ‘evil’ candidates to be elected. Isn’t it better, he argued, to vote for the ‘lesser evil’?

Well, he is singing a different song this time around, possibly because, much as he studies the issues and the candidates, he sees no ‘lesser’ evil. The U.S. and the world will be subjected to either a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency, and that’s like choosing between Satan and Bael; they are the same individual with different names.

So what can be accomplished by voting for a third-party candidate? Certainly, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Gloria La Riva and the other dozens running have no chance of ever seeing the inside of the White House unless they pay their fee and enter with the tour guide. But there are at least three good reasons for not voting for either the Republican or Democratic candidate:

1/ It enables the voter to express complete dissatisfaction with both the candidates, and the nominating process (which is particularly undemocratic in the Democratic Party, a fact that burned Mr. Sanders, but that he seems very willing to forgive and forget). An increasing number of votes for third-party candidates threatens the power of the GOP and Democrats, who will stop at nothing to hold onto that power. If they come to realize that they will lose it unless they change, they will eventually change; being relegated to inconsequence is the worst nightmare of all U.S. elected officials. However, as the GOP has proven after its three electoral losses in the last four presidential elections, that lesson doesn’t come quickly. And one is naïve indeed if one thinks the Democrats will be quick to adjust to changing voter sentiment. But it will happen.

2/ Voting for a third-party candidate enables the voter to enthusiastically select a candidate. No more thinking, “well this one is bad, and that one is terrible, so I guess I’ll vote for the bad one to minimize the damage”. The election of either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump will be equally disastrous: voters should select someone they would actually like to see as president.

3/ The voter who votes for a third-party candidate avoids being a party to whatever disasters occur after Inauguration Day of 2017. And the disasters will come, with either an irresponsible buffoon having his finger on the nuclear button, or a cold and calculating war-monger, seeking to readjust the world to her own and Israel’s twisted ways of thinking.

Does this writer sound cynical? Does it seem strange that he does not wish to continue President Obama’s legacy, as Mrs. Clinton has vowed to do? Yes, there will be more wars, more poverty, more injustice under a new Clinton administration, continuing Mr. Obama’s barbaric policies of drone warfare and support for nations with atrocious human rights records, like Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Or perhaps the reader is puzzled that, disliking Mrs. Clinton so much, this writer doesn’t throw his support behind the obnoxious, egotistical windbag the Republicans are running. No, since he understands that Blacks, women, Muslims, poor people, gays, etc. in this country, and everyone abroad, regardless of the government under which they live, are entitled to basic human dignity and self-determination, he cannot pull the lever for Mr. Trump.

So what is he to do, but take his own advice and vote for a third-party candidate. For him, that means pulling the lever (actually, marking the paper, since he lives in Canada and votes by absentee ballot), beside the name of Gloria La Riva. If one wants to talk about a revolution, it is Ms. La Riva, and not the ineffectual and hypocritical Mr. Sanders, that one should be studying. By so voting, he will, as mentioned above, express dissatisfaction with all things Republican and Democrat; vote for someone he is enthusiastic about, and not have to explain, when the death toll from U.S. wars in the Middle East and who knows where else skyrockets, how dead people under a Democratic administration are, somehow, not as tragic as under a Republican administration.

The upcoming election is a tragicomedy in many ways, but, ultimately, the laughter will cease, and only the tragedy will remain. This writer will not be a part of it.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

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Socialist Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva: ‘We Live Under The Dictatorship Of Big Capital’

SAN FRANCISCO — The two major parties have nominated deeply unpopular candidates, and third-party candidates are drawing nearly unprecedented amounts of attention this election season.

Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who is running on the Libertarian ticket, and Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein are leading the pack of third-party candidates in the polls, but they’re certainly not the only alternative candidates to throw their hats in the ring.

Gloria La Riva, a labor, community, and anti-war activist based in San Francisco, is running for president under the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This isn’t her first bid for public office; she ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1983, finishing third overall, and she was the Peace & Freedom Party’s candidate for governor of California in the 1994 and 1998 elections.

She has also been a key organizer of many mass demonstrations opposing war and occupation in Central America, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and the former Yugoslavia, among many others.

In addition to her decades of work to defend Cuba’s sovereignty against U.S. oppression, including her support for the Cuban 5, she has traveled to Venezuela multiple times since Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998, including a trip in 2014, three years after Chavez’s death.

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

La Riva is also an accomplished filmmaker. In 1998, she produced and directed “Genocide by Sanctions: The Case of Iraq,” a short film documenting the effects of the U.S./NATO blockade on Iraq. She accompanied former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark to Yugoslavia at the height of the U.S./NATO bombing of that country the following year, which led her to produce the video “NATO Targets.”

Her work, however, doesn’t just look beyond U.S. borders. A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, she has alsoorganized support for the Black Firefighters Association in their struggle against racism and sexism in the San Francisco Fire Department in the 1980s. Following a disastrous citrus freeze in California that left tens of thousands of agricultural workers with no income, she initiated the Farmworkers Emergency Relief Committee in 1991. Within a week of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, La Riva traveled to New Orleans, documenting injustices she encountered in the short film “Heroes Not Looters.”

She traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, and just last month she traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to show her support for the city’s residents as they protested systemic racism following the death of Alton Sterling, who was also killed by police. While filming a peaceful demonstration and police actions, La Riva was one of the hundreds of people arrested amid demonstrations in Baton Rouge.

Gloria La Riva, third party candidate, among 100 arrested in Baton Rouge police attack.

Gloria La Riva, third party candidate, among 100 arrested in Baton Rouge police attack.

She spoke to Robert Fantina about the two major parties and their candidates and her party’s foreign and domestic agendas.

 

MintPress News (MPN): How would you summarize the difference between the platform of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and those of the Republicans and Democrats?

Gloria La Riva (GLR): We couldn’t be more different!

Republican politicians continuously push legislation to attack women and immigrant’s rights. They are a right-wing conservative party; they were almost uniformly against marriage equality and were the ones behind the recent anti-trans laws in North Carolina.

The Democratic Party presents itself as a more liberal and friendly option for people, but it was the Democratic Party who put through free trade policies like NAFTA which destroyed thousands of jobs in the U.S. and ripped apart the Mexican economy, causing mass impoverishment there.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) stands for the things that people need. We would make jobs, free healthcare, free education and affordable housing constitutional rights.

But the fundamental difference is that the Republicans and Democrats are capitalist parties, and we are a socialist party. Capitalist parties are beholden to Wall Street and the monopoly banks and the giant multinational corporations who possess extreme wealth and influence. Our party is at its core diametrically different because we are a working class party, beholden only to the greater good of all workers and oppressed peoples here and around the world.

 

MPN: In your view, how has it come about that the two ‘major’ parties have nominated candidates that are so greatly disliked?

GLR: Donald Trump is using racist and sexist populist rhetoric to mobilize his base of support. He is taking advantage of the people who have suffered an economic downturn in recent years. In 2008 we suffered the biggest economic recession since the 1930s. The housing industry collapsed due to bank speculation and capitalist overproduction, causing millions to lose their jobs. The value of homes plummeted and many people were forced into homelessness. Today 93 percent of all U.S. counties have failed to fully recover from this crisis. Trump’s message to these people is misleading. He does not point out that it was the banks and Wall Street which caused this crisis.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was the Democratic Party machine’s solution to suppress the progressive Bernie Sanders movement. Millions of people voted for [Bernie] Sanders against Wall Street, but this goes against the core values of that party. Clinton was their only answer to the extreme right-wing threat, but Clinton is considered untrustworthy amongst the people. Her support for so many foreign wars, her close ties to Wall Street, her promoting of racist mass incarceration laws, and her general flip-flopping on issues throughout her career have made her extremely unpopular.

 

MPN: Do you see any advantages of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, or vice versa?

GLR: The capitalist propaganda says that in an election, there is no alternative but to vote for the “lesser evil,” which in this election means Hillary Clinton. This line of thinking has never been more disastrous. As bad as Donald Trump is, Clinton is just as bad in different ways — in many cases, worse. It was under Clinton’s leadership that the United States sponsored a coup in Honduras, leading to the destabilization of that country and making it the murder capital of the world. When children fled repression for the U.S.A., it was Clinton and the Obama administration that turned them away, adding to a record 2.5 million undocumented people deported — the most in U.S. history. She boasts that she was responsible for the United States taking military action against Libya — another state destroyed and thousands of people killed. Clinton has called for direct bombing to eliminate the elected [Bashar] Assad government [in Syria].

Clinton and her appointees supported the right-wing coup in Ukraine and confrontation with Russia, with potentially lethal consequences for the world. It was Hillary Clinton, who as “First Lady,” called Black youth “super predators” and championed the 1994 crime bill which led to the massive expansion of the racist prison-industrial complex. Both Trump and Clinton represent the same capitalist 1%. We call for people not to vote for the “lesser evil,” but to join us and build an independent movement and workers party.

 

MPN: Can you summarize how you, as president, would adjust the United States’ foreign policy?

GLR: Our foreign policy would be one based on solidarity and respect for the peoples of the world and the planet’s sustainability. We would treat other countries like sister countries, not as competitors. We would shut down all U.S. military bases abroad and bring all the troops, planes, and ships home. U.S. foreign policy uses the pretext of national security to enforce the imperialist interests of the biggest banks and corporations. We would use the $1 trillion military budget instead to provide for people’s needs.

We would begin the immediate dismantling of nuclear weapons and stop U.S. aid to Israel, as just the first step in concretely supporting the Palestinian people’s fight for self-determination, including the right to return to their homeland. We would immediately end the criminal U.S. blockade of Cuba, return Guantánamo territory and return the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico to the Puerto Rican people, while also providing for cancellation of its debt and for reparations. We would immediately end all covert operations around the world, as well as those agencies responsible: the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. We would stop immediately the U.S. attempts to isolate, destabilize, or destroy governments such as Syria, Russia, China, and would lift sanctions that are imposed on Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

 

MPN: What significant domestic policy changes would you make as president?

GLR: The capitalist politicians often lament that they are powerless to affect legislative or executive action that would benefit the people, but the reality is, their fundamental interest lies in promoting the corporations and banks. Even in the current political system, a president has a lot of power, the main one being to rally the masses to effect change — if he or she wanted to, but they don’t. My first act would be to pardon political prisoners Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mutulu Shakur, Oscar López Rivera, Chelsea Manning, and so many others wrongly imprisoned, and to release hundreds of thousands of prisoners, victims of the system who need true rehabilitation, jobs, and assistance to become productive members of society.

I would decree an economic emergency and declare a nationwide moratorium on evictions, use those emergency powers to declare eminent domain over millions of empty housing units to provide immediate housing for all who need. Instead, these days we see whole neighborhoods bulldozed because too many homes were built to make a profit for developers. The DOJ would take on the bankers and use all the massive evidence of their illegal, profiteering acts to try them for crimes against the people. We would use the “bully pulpit” of the White House to speak the truth: that all the workers of this country, citizen, resident and immigrant, create all the wealth, not the owners of capital. We would use all means to reach the people of the United States to declare that free health care, free education at all levels, decent truly affordable housing, guaranteed incomes for the poor and seniors — all these and more should be constitutional rights, and that it is all entirely possible, if together we unite for these changes.

I would rally the people to fill the streets of Washington and surround Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, surround Wall Street, encircle the Pentagon, and refuse to leave until immediate measures are adopted to provide immediate relief for all.

That is only a start. But helping empower the people, exposing the crimes of capitalism, and providing a vision of what is possible when the people are in power, these are the most important steps. No politician can effect change alone; to say otherwise is a deception. That is why our campaign as revolutionary socialists also uses the electoral platform to explain that the people [who have] organized have always been the real agents of change.

How can a president and party, such as Obama and the Democrats, lament that they are unable to pass legislation to legalize immigrants, and then deport more than 2.5 million? We would halt all detentions, family separations and deportations. The failure of the Democrats to act when they had majority control of the House and Senate as well as the presidency, provided the groundwork for the rise of anti-immigrant actions nationally and statewide. As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant — my mother — I know too well the difficulties that our communities experience every day. My presidency would encourage the labor unions, immigrant, and community organizations to mobilize by the millions and call for nationwide strikes, much like [what] took place on May Day 2006, and show who has the real power: the workers, including the 11 million undocumented workers and 15 million permanent residents.

I would act to defend and empower the Native American communities against the rapacious oil and mining corporations, bringing the full weight of prosecution and preventive protection against corporate polluters, whether in the Gold King mine spill in the Animas and San Juan rivers, or by forcing the overturning of the Army Corp of Engineers’ approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a disastrous project for the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal communities. The bottom line is the need for full respect of Native sovereignty, including the restoration and return of many Native lands, a massive increase in funding for housing, healthcare, education, social services, infrastructure, and jobs.

We would vigorously oppose the attacks on unions’ collective bargaining and work for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. We would fight for the immediate increase of the minimum wage to $20 an hour with annual cost of living increases. In most U.S. states, workers can be fired based on their sexual orientation. We would stop this state-sanctioned discriminatory practice, guarantee full rights for all LGBTQ people, and fight anti-LGBTQ violence.

Women still earn 22 percent less than men, and the gap is even more severe for black and Latina women. We would enforce full equality for women, close the wage gap, and end the gender division of labor. Women must have the fundamental right to choose and control their own bodies.

 

MPN: The Middle East is exploding, mainly because of U.S. interference. How would a La Riva presidency address this situation?

GLR: First of all, we would pull all of the tens of thousands of troops and planes and ships and military infrastructure out of the Middle East. We would cancel the $40 billion extra-aid package to Israel and use this money to pay reparations to all the victims of war in Iraq and Syria and Libya and in Iran. We would end all the covert operations in the Middle East and everywhere, lift the sanctions against Iran and all countries, overturn the sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba, and end all intervention. This is the only real road to peace.

 

MPN: Unarmed Blacks in the U.S. are routinely killed by the police, with nearly complete impunity. Why is this, and how would you address this problem?

GLR: First of all, we must hold all these murderous, racist cops accountable for their crimes. No politician, including President Obama or candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, dares speak out against the police. That is one of the biggest problems.

As president, I would direct the Department of Justice to prosecute police who gun the people down. It is an absolute outrage that politicians call for investigations instead of prosecution, and fail to act to protect black and brown youth and all working class people. I would use every power of the office to force prosecution, and immediately condemn the daily murders — almost three per day this year alone. I would demand the return of all military hardware, including tanks, from city departments.

I would order the DOJ and attorney general — a new AG who defends the people’s rights — to implement nationwide policy that prohibits the use of firearms against the population. The killers of Michael Brown, James Boyd, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Mario Woods, Andy López, and the more than 1,300 people killed by the police every year, must not be allowed to remain free. Look at Erick Gelhaus, who gunned down 13-year-old Andy López. He was just promoted to sergeant, his reward for murdering a young teen. We would abolish the so-called “Police Officers Bill of Rights,” which enshrines their impunity in law, implement true community control over police departments, including the power to prosecute.

But to truly end the epidemic of racist police violence we would have to fundamentally change the nature of the system and the police. We fight for a socialist revolution which would abolish the police force as we know it and create a whole new one to serve the people, not the rich and corporations.

 

MPN: U.S. banks operate above the law, to the detriment of millions of people. How would you, as president, address this problem?

GLR: We would seize the banks and jail Wall Street criminals. Power and wealth must be taken out of the hands of the super-rich. The banks’ vast wealth came from the people’s labor and the massive bank bailouts and other government subsidies. Capitalist banking is a form of organized crime, rewarding greed and fraud with obscene bonuses. These billionaires looted and destroyed the economy. It is time to seize their assets and use those resources in the interests of the vast majority. We would use the money seized to fund a massive overhaul and create job and other socially necessary programs across the country. We would nationalize all the economic resources in this country for the good of the all the people and the poor not just for a few rich people to exploit.

 

MPN: What do you see as the fundamental issue facing the United States today?

GLR: While we are constantly propagandized that we live in the “greatest democracy ever,” the reality is that we live under the dictatorship of big capital. Real power is in the hands of the banks, monopoly corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Fundamental change requires taking that power out of their hands and putting it in the hands of the people. That is why, while we fight for every reform that benefits the working class and the population as a whole, we know that what is ultimately needed is revolutionary change and the reorganization of the economy and society on a socialist basis.

Originally published in MintPressNews.

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Israel Lines Its Pockets With Palestinian Aid — And The US Helps Israel Keep It That Way

From severely limited water supplies to a blockade on even the most basic supplies, Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine has destroyed even the most basic infrastructure Palestinians need to survive, forcing residents of Gaza and the West Bank to struggle through a humanitarian disaster.

This was intensified in 2014 during Israel’s most recent genocidal attack on the Gaza Strip, which left over 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 100,000 homeless. During that onslaught, Operation Protective Edge, Israel deliberately targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, destroying factories and plants that posed no threat to the occupation.

In September 2015, The United Nations’ Roberto Valent estimated that, at the current rate, it will take 30 years to rebuild Gaza, not to mention the estimated $7.8 billion required to fund those efforts.

Now, just two years later, the unemployment rate in Palestine has neared an astronomical 27 percent, and Oxfam International operates a food voucher program that assists 71,000 people in Gaza alone.

And while the chief reason for Palestinian suffering is the brutal, illegal occupation of Israel there are a number of other compounding factors found in the deeply corrupt Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas.

In March, Mondoweiss reported that Mr. Abbas refused an opportunity to construct new electricity lines that would have supported the power sector in Gaza, where residents have electricity for just a few hours each day.

Ongoing “security cooperation” between Israel and the PA is another example of Mr. Abbas’ complicity in Palestinian suffering. There is also strong evidence that the PA shares information with Israel to prevent armed resistance to the occupation.

This complicity and corruption in Mr. Abbas’ PA plays into another major roadblock on Palestine’s path to recovery: International funds meant for reconstruction efforts in Gaza and other forms of humanitarian aid are routinely diluted by Israel.

 

Israel: A sieve for aid money intended for Palestine

Last month, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which regularly polls Palestinians on a range of issues, including their perception of corruption within the PA, reported that 80 percent perceive corruption and 52 percent view the PA as a burden.

An April report by Haaretz highlighted Palestinians’ long-standing grievances with the puppet government headed by Mr. Abbas and controlled by Israel and the United States:

“Outright theft of public funds, receiving of bribes and other favors in return for services, hugely inflated salaries and favors paid to senior NGO officials and high-level political interference in the replacement of senior civil servants.”

Monies donated to various NGOs operating in Palestine do not always reach their ultimate destination. This generally occurs for one of two reasons: corruption within the Palestinian government or theft by the Israeli government.

Over a five-year period, Rafiq al-Natsheh, chairman of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, recovered $70 million in state money which officials used to strike profitable deals abroad. While Al-Natsheh said tens of millions are still missing, he also refuted allegations that the missing monies total into the hundreds of millions. So the issue of corruption within Palestine, under the watchful eyes of the spineless Mr. Abbas, is significant, but it still isn’t the biggest component of the problem.

The main challenge to funding the needs of the Palestinians is caused by Israel. That apartheid nation demands that all aid to Palestine go through Israel. Therefore, such things as taxes, transportation costs and many other “fees” reduce the amount of aid that actually reaches Palestine, while enriching the occupiers.

And this causes international donations to decrease. Reuters reported in February:

“Over the past five years, direct support to the Palestinian budget from the EU and others has fallen from around $1.3 billion a year to less than $700 million, with the decline attributed in large part to frustration over money not being spent where it was intended or not being fully accounted for.”

It is interesting that while money “not being spent where it was intended or not being fully accounted for” is cause for the European Union and other entities to draw back their support, the model is not the same for the U.S. In the final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which reviewed monies ostensibly spent for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan following the United States’ devastation of those countries, it is estimated that between $31 billion and $60 billion had been lost to fraud and waste. However, U.S. money still flows to Iraq.

Indeed, the occupation of Palestine is a lucrative arrangement for Israel. Mondoweiss reported in March that Israel periodically tests new weaponry, usually provided by the U.S., on Palestinians. Then, after the testing is done, leaving thousands of innocent Palestinians dead or maimed, the weapons are ready to be sold on the international market.

 

Aid subversion and unfulfilled pledges

Since all aid to Palestine must go through Israel, as the Mondoweiss report highlighted, this provides endless opportunities for “aid subversion” or “aid diversion.” That is why studies indicate that 72 percent of that money remains in Israel, never benefitting Palestinians.

Another related issue is the lack of pledge fulfillment. After the 2014 Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the “Cairo Conference on Palestine – Reconstructing Gaza” was held on Oct. 14, 2014. Several nations pledged $5 billion — including $3.5 billion intended specifically for Gaza — to support the reconstruction of the more than 200,000 homes and businesses destroyed or damaged by Israel. Yet, as of March this year, less than half of the pledged monies had been sent.

Donations were to be made available between 2014 and 2017, but even allowing for the donations being sent periodically, rather than all at once, they are still behind. The following table shows the pledges, monies sent and shortfall from four Arab nations as of April, the most recent date for which this information is available:

aid graph

If one looks at the $232 million that has already been sent, far short of the nearly $2 billion pledged by these four nations, and considers that Israel skims at least 70 percent off that total, the amount actually received by Palestine is less than $70 million.

One of the international arguments against universal recognition of Palestine is that it cannot be self-sustaining. Yet as Al-Jazeera reported in April:

“The Palestinian Authority is being deprived of $285m in revenues annually, the World Bank reported, attributing these losses to arrangements outlined by the Paris Protocol, the Oslo Accord-era agreement that determined the economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The report further states that Israel is withholding $669 million in Palestinian revenue. Certainly, the influx of this money would greatly stimulate the Palestinian economy.

 

The 8th most powerful country in the world gets more US aid than Palestine

Israel is ranked as the eighth most powerful country in the world. Yet it still receives billions of dollars in foreign aid from the U.S. each year.

For fiscal year 2017, the U.S. has pledged $364 million to Palestine. Compare that to the proposal for foreign aid to Israel for 2017, which currently stands at $3.1 billion but could rise to as much as $4 billion. So the U.S. will give Palestine less than 10 percent of what it gives to the eighth most powerful country in the world.

And while the amount given to Israel is ever-increasing, the same is not true for Palestine. In October 2015, the U.S. reduced the $370 million promised to Palestine (less than what is pledged for 2017) to $290 million in order to send a “message” to that country in response to stabbing attacks in Jerusalem. Yet Israel kills hundreds of innocent Palestinians annually, and it continues to enjoy aid boosts from Washington.

Does it not appear that perhaps the international deck is stacked against Palestine? The U.S. sends it a fraction of what it sends to Israel, and Israel steals most of it anyway.

There can be no question that Mr. Abbas is far more beneficial to the U.S. and Israel than he is to Palestine, nor can it be questioned that the U.S. enables Israel’s apartheid regime. With billions required to rebuild Gaza, pledged donations only trickling in, Mr. Abbas cooperating with Israel, and the occupation continuing, the situation for Palestinians is dire.

Only when the rest of the world chooses to oppose the gross injustices that those two nations perpetrate on Palestine, will the Palestinians find peace and justice.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Palestine will not be a free and independent during his time in office, yet worldwide protest and condemnation appear to make it harder and harder for him to keep that promise.

 Originally published by MintPressNews.
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