Trump and Chaos

Once again, the political world is agog over new, ‘shocking’ revelations about the Donald Trump presidency. With excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Fear: Trump in the White House’, being leaked, and an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times supporting some of the book’s major premises, there is, once again, talk of impeachment, this time focusing more on the mental state of the president.

This entire bruhaha brings up many questions, which this writer will attempt to answer.

  1. Is any of this new?

No. This is business as usual in the Trump White House. The chaos surrounding this administration is obvious to anyone who follows any news; even aficionados of FOX news must surely have gleaned that all is not well at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With contradictory announcements, multiple bizarre tweets, top advisors arriving and departing with lightening speed, and trusted allies shunned, surely it’s clear to everyone that something is rotten in the state of D.C.

  1. Where is the Republican opposition?

Hiding under their desks, hoping the storm blows over while they still have their high-paying, low responsibility jobs. South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham has basically said ‘so what?’ to the NYT op-ed. House Speaker Paul Ryan declined to comment on the book, other than to say that he didn’t provide Woodward with any information; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel did the same.

Wouldn’t one think that, perhaps, the nation’s ‘leaders’ would show some concern about this? It isn’t as if there aren’t piles of public evidence that support the idea of major dysfunction in the White House. Like an ostrich when it senses danger, do they simply bury their empty heads in the ground, hoping it will all blow over?

We all know, of course, that politicians on both sides of the aisle will only take a ‘brave’ stand once they have measured the direction of the political winds, and consulted with the special interest groups which are their true constituency. With the GOP base still gaga over their racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic president, they are grabbing onto his tattered coattails for all they’re worth.

  1. Was the NYT op-ed a real picture of reality?

In the ‘through-the-looking-glass’ world of U.S. politics and governance, it is never a good idea to seek reality. That anonymous writer praises some of Trump’s ‘accomplishments’. We will digress for just a moment to review them.

  1. “Effective deregulation”. What this actually means is that protections for the public against air and water pollution have been relaxed, resulting in increased profits for big corporations, and increased cancer and other diseases for the common man and woman (you know, those people like you and me who pay taxes and vote, for whatever that’s worth).
  2. “Historic tax reform”. One wonders how ‘historic’ this actually was, since during the administration of George W. Bush the rich also got a huge tax benefit. Again, for the common man and woman? Not so much.
  3. “A more robust military”. The U.S. spends more on the military than the next eight largest nations combined. The infrastructure is collapsing, public schools are in shambles, health care is beyond the reach of most citizens, and a university education leaves students with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Was the military not sufficiently ‘robust’ under the presidency of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, when seven nations were being bombed, and troops were in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are not hundreds of military bases threatening the world, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers manning them, sufficiently ‘robust’?
  4. Is Trump going to purge the White House to remove the leakers?

Why not? Employment in the current administration is a revolving-door anyway, so why not simply increase the speed? According to preliminary reports, Trump has accepted the proclamation by Chief of Staff John Kelly, widely considered on of the ‘adults’ in the room (heaven help us), that he didn’t provide information to Woodward. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration of unbreached loyalty has also been accepted.

We will note, however, that what Trump accepts and believes today has no bearing on what he may accept or believe tomorrow; actually, we must look at the present minute, not the day, and consider the next one. So, Kelly and Pompeo are naïve indeed if they consider their positions in the administration safe. But if they are fired, just think of the books each will write.

  1. With the Republicans so cowed by Trump, will the Democrats unite to stop the madman president?

The chances of this happening, even should they gain majorities in the House and/or Senate with the November elections, are slim and none. Doing so would demonstrate courage and statesmanship, something that has been lacking on either side of the aisle since at least the presidential campaign of George McGovern (1972, just in case you were wondering). And that wasn’t a typical circumstance (please remember Lyndon Johnson, much as we’d all like to forget him).

  1. Lastly, are we actually doomed?

Probably. As much as this writer likes to consider himself an optimist, he doesn’t see any positive outcome from the current mess the U.S. has gotten itself into. Perhaps Trump will be removed from office; then the country and the world will be stuck with Mike Pence as president, someone less disturbed but certainly as dangerous as Trump. If Trump manages to muddle along and run for re-election in 2020, it’s highly possible that the Democrats, hardly the saviors of anything at all, will repeat their colossal mistake from 2016 and again nominate someone who has a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. And with Donald Trump as the opponent, that should be difficult to do, although the Democrats managed it two years ago.

Yes, this writer will continue to vote for third-party candidates who have no chance of winning, because the Democrats and Republicans have arranged things so they maintain their stranglehold on public office. Yes, Democrats in the mold of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will continue to topple long-term, entrenched Democrats, but will be silenced or marginalized by the party’s power-brokers. And yes, the oligarchy that masquerades as a democracy, an illusion perpetrated by members of the oligarchy for their own benefit, and not believed much outside of U.S. borders, will continue to run the show.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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John McCain: A Hero? Let’s Take a Closer Look

One of the United State’s sacred cows has shed this mortal coil; we will not take the time to speculate on where his next stop might be. But we are all being bombarded with accolades on the legendary, although mythical, ‘greatness’ of the dearly departed Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain.

We will attempt here to take a more unbiased look at McCain, and see 1) where all this hero worship is coming from, and 2), why it is completely undeserved.

McCain seems to have acquired his legendary ‘greatness’ by being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years. His plane was shot down while he was dropping bombs on innocent farmers and their families, in a country that in no way threatened the mighty U.S., and where McCain and the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that were sent to terrorize Vietnam never had any business being. One might say he was a victim of U.S. imperialism, but if so, he was a willing victim. But none of this denotes heroism.

Now let us look behind the myth, at the reality. There are a number of areas worth exploring, but time and space will limit us to just a few.

  • Civil Rights:
    • When Congress was voting to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, then member of the House of Representatives McCain joined 89 of his colleagues in opposing it. The bill passed by a vote of 338 to 90. When he was running for president in 2008, he stated that his position had ‘evolved’, and “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due….” But it does appear that he wasn’t slow to give political expediency its due.
    • In 2008, while the U.S. was being threatened with the possibility of a McCain presidency, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rates released its annual rating of all members of Congress. McCain scored 22%; his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, scored 100%.
  • Gay Rights:
    • The great hero opposed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, a highly-flawed law but better than what was previously codified.
    • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    • He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, and supported an initiative in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona (the ban failed).
  • Human Rights:
    • He supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights (at that time), having killed thousands of Chilean civilians and having incarcerated tens of thousands more, all for political reasons.
    • McCain was considered a ‘great friend’ of Israel, a nation that has violated the basic human rights of the Palestinians in the most unspeakable ways for decades. He was described the same way by officials of the Saudi Arabian government, another nation noted for it abominable human rights violations.
    • He opposed efforts to close the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay, thereby endorsing the use of torture.
  • Ethics:
    • This man who is being lauded as a hero was a member of the Keating Five, a scandal in which five U.S. senators were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Jr., who was the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. When Lincoln collapsed, over 20,000 bond holders lost all or part of their life savings, and the collapse cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion. Keating’s prior political contributions to McCain totalled at least $112,000, not including elaborate trips for McCain and his family that Keating provided at his palatial estate in the Bahamas, flying them there in his private jet. Although McCain was not charged, he was criticized by the investigating committee for using ‘poor judgment’.
    • McCain supported the illegal sale of weapons to U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained terrorist groups seeking the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. The Iran-Contra scandal was a major blot (among others) on the administration of Ronald Reagan.
  • Hypocrisy
    • McCain once referred to the Confederate flag as ‘very offensive’, but later called it a ‘symbol of heritage’.
    • He called Jerry Falwell an ‘agent of intolerance’ in 2000, but gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.
    • He first supported an immigration policy that included guest workers and amnesty, but later said that, if elected president, he’d call out the U.S. army to close off the Mexican border.
    • McCain moved from opposing President George Bush’s ‘temporary’ tax cuts for the rich to supporting making them permanent.

We could add McCain’s opposition to health care for all U.S. citizens, and his opposition to net neutrality and a federal minimum wage. And we have him to thank for propelling that national embarssment, Sarah Palin, onto the world stage.

This writer has commented previously on the U.S.’s very successful public relations operation, the one that proclaims the nation to be a beacon of peace and security, a bastion of human rights and the envy of the world. These fairy tales aren’t believed much outside of U.S. borders, but are swallowed, hook, line and sinker, within them. That PR expertise has worked overtime to portray a corrupt, opportunistic official with a history of serial murder and support for the war crimes of others as a ‘hero’.

A quick online search for a definition of ‘hero’ results in this: “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

How much courage does it take to fly over farm fields and drop bombs on defenseless people?

What achievements has McCain accomplished? He has helped prevent citizens from obtaining health care or marrying the person of their choice; he worked to slow the progress of civil rights for people of African descent; he supported nations guilty of the most heinous of war crimes; he enabled the torture of political prisoners.

What ‘noble qualities’ has he demonstrated? He treated himself and his family to lavish vacations in exchange for quashing a federal investigation of his benefactor. He traded in a faithful wife for a younger, more attractive version.

John McCain is dead; his family may have reason to grieve but, from this writer’s perspective, no one else does.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Partisanship in the Extreme

Is there some point in time when elected Republican officials will say ‘enough’? Is there any boundary that their beloved president, Donald Trump, can cross that will be the last straw on the back of the much-overburdened camel? Is there absolutely nothing he can say or do that will tarnish their willingness to look the other way?

This isn’t a new dilemma. During the campaign, Trump disparaged women, Mexicans, Muslims, gays, the poor, the handicapped and just about everyone who wasn’t white. Since his election, he hasn’t stopped, but has praised racists, filled his cabinet with the super-rich, several of whom have resigned in disgrace, and alienated many of the country’s oldest and strongest allies.

He has relaxed laws protecting waterways and air, weakened protection for sexual assault victims on campus, and proclaimed that a free press (not that the U.S. has one, but that’s a topic for another essay) is the enemy of the people.

Now, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been convicted of eight felonies, and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, a man who once said he’d take a bullet for Trump, has confessed to eight of his own. This includes misuse of campaign funds to pay off women who ‘allegedly’ (Nod! Nod! Wink! Wink!) had affairs with Trump.

This is the man that most, but not all, Republican officials praise and defend.

Is that not bizarre? How would you react, if your next-door neighbor was a loud mouth, arrogant, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic misogynist? Would you be comfortable if convicted felons were visiting his home day and night? Would you not worry about your safety, let alone your peace of mind?

But for Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives, this is all just fine. A spokesperson for that most illustrious Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said this: “We are aware of Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea to these serious charges. We will need more information than is currently available at this point.” It seems to this writer that there is certainly sufficient information to make a more definite statement than that.

Senator Lindsay Graham, R-SC, dropped this pearl of wisdom:  “The American legal system is working its will in both the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases”. This seems to be a strange choice of words; perhaps working its way, or working as it is meant to, but working its ‘will’ does put an odd connotation on it. But that is neither here nor there; the main point is that neither of these august politicians mentioned Trump.

Partisanship is a hallmark of U.S. governance. Often, when a major bill passes, it is said to be a ‘victory’ for the president, or the party that rammed it through. Never is it said to be a victory for the citizenry. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed into law on March 23, 2010, it was pronounced a major victory for President Obama. There was little mention of how this was a victory for over 20 million U.S. citizens who were previously without health care.

The recent tax bill, a major giveaway to the rich, was viewed as a victory not only for Trump, but for Ryan also, since enactment of a tax law to screw the poor, squeeze the middle class and shower treasures on the rich was long a goal of his. It wasn’t proclaimed a stunning defeat for the common man and woman; the fact that a difficult bill passed, regardless of its merits (or lack thereof), was a great victory for the Republicans.

This is U.S. governance; not Monday Night Football. In the latter instance, it’s fine (although perhaps a tad bizarre) to pick a side, and cheer and shout at the television screen as one’s selected team gains yardage or makes a touchdown. Your side can be praised to the skies, while the opponent is vilified, because it doesn’t matter. At the end of the season, one team will win the Super Bowl, and the winning quarterback will make millions more than he’s already earned. Big deal.

But running a country is not playing a football game; there are serious consequences within the country, and around the world. One Party doesn’t ‘win’ as the other ‘loses’; they are, in theory, people voted into office to represent constituents with differing philosophies on how life should be. It is their responsibility to work together to reach compromise on many topics, and to unite to defend the ‘sacred’ Constitution. So when the Supreme Court says, for example, that marriage equality must be the law of the land, these politicians might say that they disagree with it, but must uphold it nonetheless.

Also, while football fans can criticize and disparage the fans of other teams, this is not an option for elected officials. Republicans and Democrats might respectfully disagree with each other; but name-calling and juvenile criticisms have no place in the White House or the hallowed halls of Congress.

We could take the time and space to list the many, many names Trump has called his opponents, but we will not; suffice it to say that saying other politicians have low IQs; calling former aides ‘dogs’, or referring to a U.S. senator as ‘Pocahontas’ are simply not acceptable.

Yet while Trump runs amok on the world stage, slowly descending into apparent madness, ‘tweeting’ his wrath on an almost-daily basis, his fawning minions in Congress either look the other way, or jump on his bandwagon, oblivious to the fact that the wheels are all loose and a major crash seems to be in the offing.

It is beyond terrifying to think that this is the most powerful country in the world, one whose power and influence are waning, making it all the more dangerous. While it is horrifying to think of what Trump has said and done to date, it is chilling to think that he acts with near impunity, and to imagine what Congress and the yes-men and women who surround him might allow, considering all they have condoned thus far.

Mid-term elections are a scant three months away, but they will be, as always, nearly meaningless. Democrats may win; they will verbally criticize Trump, but support every war, every tax bill and every sanction he proposes, all to the detriment of the U.S. and the world.

This is the much-vaunted ‘land of the free and home of the brave’; a more honest assessment would call it an oligarchy, the land for the rich and the home of the oppressor.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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The Hypocrisy of Trump on Iran

As United States President Donald Trump slowly descends into madness in front of the entire world, he seems determined to destroy Iran in the process. This would keep intact the U.S. government’s age-old policy of destroying countries that dare to defy it in any way, regardless of the toll in human suffering that that causes.

We’ll look at a few of the statements made by Trump and his various minions, and then compare them to that illusive concept that he seems to be completely unaware of: reality.

  • S. Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas ‘tweeted’ this: “The U.S. stands shoulder to shoulder with the courageous Iranian people protesting their corrupt regime.”

Apparently, according to the august Mr. Cotton, standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with people means issuing brutal sanctions that cause untold suffering.

Government officials say that sanctions are benign, that they only target the government.

However, the U.S. has been highly critical of an organization called ‘Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order’ (EIKO). When EIKO was established, the Ayatollah said this: “I’m concerned about solving problems of the deprived classes of the society. For instance, solve problems of 1000 villages completely. How good would be if 1000 points of the country are solved or 1000 schools are built in the country; prepare this organization for this purpose.” By targeting EIKO, the U.S. is intentionally targeting the innocent people of Iran.

In this regard, author David Swanson said this: “The U.S. does not present sanctions as tools of murder and cruelty, but that’s what they are. The Russian and Iranian people are already suffering under U.S. sanctions, the Iranians most severely. But both take pride in and find resolve in the struggle, just as do people under military attack.” Two points are worth considering here: 1) sanctions hurt the common man and woman more than they do any government, and 2) the Iranian people have a fierce pride in their nation, and will not succumb to U.S. blackmail.

And let’s pause for a moment and consider Cotton’s idea of Iran’s ‘corrupt’ regime. Was it not elected in free and democratic elections? Did the Iranian government not work smoothly with the previous U.S. administration, several other nations and the European Union to develop the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the U.S., under Trump, violated?

If Cotton wants to discuss ‘corrupt’ regimes, he’d be better served to start at home. Did not Trump assume office after losing the popular vote by 3,000,000 votes? Is not the Trump administration involved in numerous scandals reflecting the president’s own personal corruption, as well as that of several of his appointees? Has not the U.S. government supported terrorist groups in Syria? If Cotton believes that Iran is corrupt and the U.S. isn’t, he has an odd opinion of a ‘corrupt regime, indeed!

  • Trump himself seems to govern by ‘tweet’. On July 24, he ‘tweeted’ the following in response to a ‘tweet’ from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who, unlike Trump, was elected with the majority vote: “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” (Please note that the upper-case letters are Trump’s, not this writer’s).

Trump is hardly one to be talking about ‘demented words of violence and death’. The U.S. is bombing several countries, continues its brutality in Afghanistan, and is threatening Iran.

And what was it that Rouhani said that was so terribly offensive? Exactly this: Americans “must understand that war with Iran is the mother of all wars and peace with Iran is the mother of all peace.” These words seem to invite the U.S. to make its own selection: start a deadly and devastating war with Iran, or reach out in peace for trade and mutual security. Trump, obviously, is far more interested in the former.

  • The U.S.’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, said this: “President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

Let’s look at another country that does things ‘to the negative’ and suffers no consequences. Israel occupies the West Bank of Palestine in violation of international law; it blockades the Gaza Strip in violation of international law; it targets medics and members of the press, in violation of international law. During its periodic bombing campaigns in Gaza, it targets schools, places of worship, residential neighborhoods and United Nations refugee centers, all in violation of international law. It arrests and holds without charge men, women and children,  all in violation of international law. Why does Israel not “pay a price like few countries have ever before”? Instead, it gets more financial aid from the U.S. than all other nations combined. Could the vast amounts of money that pro-Israel lobbies contribute to U.S. government officials possibly be the cause of this?

And should we mention Saudi Arabia? Women are stoned for adultery, and public executions are common. Its human rights record is as bad as Israel’s, and it is run by a crown prince, rather than a democratically-elected leader, but the U.S. says nothing critical of it.

Additionally, the U.S. is backing the terrorist group, Mujahedeed-e-Khalq (MEK). This group is external to Iran, and its stated goal is the overthrow of the Iranian government. Perhaps Trump wants to replicate the ‘success’ of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who overthrew the stable government of Iraq, thus causing the deaths of at least a million people (some estimates are much higher), the displacement of at least two million more, and who never cared about the chaos he left behind that remains today. This is what Trump wants for Iran.

With the U.S. violating the internationally-accepted JCPOA, which was endorsed by the United Nations, the country has reimposed sanctions on Iran. Diplomatically, this is a problem for the other nations that are part of the JCPOA, since they all wish to remain in the agreement, but Trump has threatened them with sanctions if they continue to trade with Iran. In Iran, the sanctions damage the economy, which is Trump’s goal; he hopes, naively, that the Iranian people will blame their government, rather than the real culprit – the United States – for these problems.

What is behind Trump’s hostility to Iran? Prior to the signing of the JCPOA, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress, urging that body to disapprove of the agreement. He is the leader of one of the only two countries on the planet that endorsed Trump’s violation of international law in his withdrawal from the JCPOA (Saudi Arabia was the other country that supported Trump’s decision). Trump has surrounded himself with Zionists: his incompetent and corrupt son-in-law, Jared Kushner; John Bolton, and his vice-president, Mike Pence, to name only a few. These are the people who are in Trump’s inner circle, and whose advice and counsel he seems to take at face value. These are the people who support the concept of Israel as a nation-state for the Jews, which by definition makes it apartheid. These are the people who disdain international law, and want to continue ‘negotiations’ that only buy time for Israel to steal more and more Palestinian land. And these are the people who want Israel to have complete hegemony in the Middle East; its main rival is Iran, so in their twisted, Zionist minds, Iran must be destroyed. The amount of suffering that would cause is never factored into their deadly equations.

With a president as unstable and erratic as Trump, it’s impossible to predict with any accuracy what he will do next. But hostility toward Iran is one thing if it is just words; any attack on that nation would cause more trouble and problems than Trump can possibly imagine. Iran is a powerful country in its own right, but is also allied with Russia, and any aggression towards Iran will bring the strength of the Russian military into play. This is the Pandora’s box that Trump is threatening to open.

Originally published by The Balkan Post.

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Pity the Democrats and Republicans

It is a rare occasion when one can only pity both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) has hitched its rather dilapidated wagon to a racist, sexist, narcissistic man-child of a star who has only the most tenuous grasp on reality. But it is not them we are here to discuss today. It is the Democrats, the Party that, had it been a person, would never have been voted most likely to succeed upon graduation from high school.

Currently, one would think that the Democrats would be poised for great success. Mid-term elections are approaching; the president, Donald Trump, has record-breaking low approval scores, and there is dissatisfaction with him from coast to coast. Now, one might think, is the time for the Democrats to clearly articulate their platform, allowing the populace to know exactly where the party stands, and what it will do to achieve its goals. This might include such popular items as sensible gun-control; recognition of Palestine’s human-rights struggles and Israel’s violations of international law; income equality, gender equality, and an end to institutionalized racism, among other things. These, according to public opinion polls, are topics that resonate with voters who mainly identify as Democratic.

But no! Horror of horrors! Best, according to the Party leaders, to lay low, and allow dissatisfaction with the Republicans to drive voters into the arms of the Democratic Party. Maintain the status quo, don’t rock the boat, steady as she goes, and adhere to every other tired out cliché that means don’t show any backbone. So what if voters enthusiastically evicted a ten-term, good-old-boy Congress member from New York, in favor of a socialist Democrat! Who cares that a large swath of the Party still feels the deep wounds of betrayal from the Party’s manipulation of delegates to give the 2016 presidential nomination to the candidate who is corporate America incarnate, Hillary Clinton, instead of the (somewhat) more progressive Bernie Sanders! The power brokers, such as they are, in the Democratic Party are not willing to surrender their positions, and are terrified to risk what they have by showing anything related to statesmanship. Those currently in power have been elected and re-elected despite their namby-pamby positions, or non-positions, on the current issues of the day. Why do anything differently now?

Well, we can answer that question, although the people who really need to hear the answer won’t bother to pay any attention. We’ll look at a few factors that one would think would cause the Party that claims to be progressive (you can stop laughing now) to take careful note.

  • Following a long series of mass shootings, high school students in Florida finally said ‘enough’. Several of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre travelled around the country, saying that if the current Congress won’t act, a new Congress must be installed. Millions of people in this age cohort will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2018. Study after study shows that they are overwhelmingly to the left of where the Democratic Party is today. They probably won’t stay home, but they may seek third-party candidates, so they can vote for someone they actually believe in, rather than the slightly lesser of two evils. But if Democrats renew calls for sensible gun control, including the banning of semi-automatic weapons, they may find these new voters flocking to the polls to vote for them.
  • Israeli government officials are having apoplexy over what they correctly see as an increasing disconnect between Jewish-Americans and the racist, apartheid Jewish state of Israel. In the aforementioned 14th Congressional district of New York, twenty-year incumbent Joe Crowley, financed in part by AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) went down to a crushing defeat at the hands of newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been highly critical of Israel. Might not some other candidates want to take a page from her playbook, and speak out for human rights and international law? Or are even those topics too controversial for Democrats to address?
  • Polls indicate that most voters aren’t thrilled with the newly-enacted tax reform (Surprise! Surprise!), which was an early Christmas present to the rich. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan showed how out-of-touch he was after the tax bill became law, when he ‘tweeted’ this: “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week… she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for a year.” So while this secretary received a whopping $78.00 annual raise, the richest 1% of the nation’s population receive about 34% of the total benefits from the multi-billion dollar tax reform. A platform by the Democrats to really reform taxes would probably resonate, even with people who are $78.00 richer as a result of the GOP version.
  • Trump and Company are beating the war drums for ‘regime change’ of the democratically-elected government of Iran. Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) against the wishes and advice of nearly the entire international community, and his own military advisors. Wouldn’t a plank in the Democratic platform that says that Democrats will work to reinstate U.S. involvement in the JCPOA, and attempt to prevent chaos in yet another Middle Eastern country, possibly have wide appeal? Yes, U.S. citizens, inexplicably, seem to love their wars, but a new breed of voter is on the horizon, and will be pulling levers in voting booths in just three short months. They may be a bit less enthused about sending U.S. soldiers to die for Israel, whose influence was a main factor in Trump’s decision to abandon the JCPOA.
  • The Republicans have made good on their promise to deprive millions of people of health care. Democrats who will unflinchingly condemn those actions, and vow to reinstate the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), or something better, may find unexpected popularity.
  • Young people often graduate from universities and colleges in the U.S. with crippling debt. Even if the free tuition advocated by Ocasio-Cortez and others isn’t possible at present (it is, but this writer doesn’t see the Democratic Party ever going that far), couldn’t interest rates be lowered? Why is it necessary for lenders to make huge profits from the efforts of the next generation to become educated? And couldn’t there be some kind of debt forgiveness program? Even 25% would be a windfall to many people.

These are just a few of the many areas in which the Democrats could differentiate themselves from the Republicans. Will they do it? Will the Party unite, look at not only what the people want, but also what is morally right, and stand up for those principles? When pigs fly. Government officials today (this writer refuses to refer to them as ‘representatives’, since they represent only special interests and anything that will benefit them personally, and not the voting populace) are only concerned with keeping their high-paying jobs with almost unlimited benefits. The idea of public service, working for the greater good, or sacrificing for those who are less fortunate are alien concepts to them.

It is possible that the Democratic Party will take control of one or both houses of Congress as a result of the November elections. If that happens, not much will change. The NRA (National Rifle Association), AIPAC, various military lobbies and others will still be the ones actually in control. The U.S. voters will have participated once again in what government officials proudly and disingenuously point to as a hallmark of U.S. democracy, but what is in reality an exercise in futility. With each election, the names may change, but all the injustice, domestically and internationally, continues.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Presidential Candidates 2020: a Preview of the Democratic Contenders

Apparently, two years out isn’t too early to start speculating on who the hapless Democrats may run for president in 2020. Let’s remember that in the last seven elections, they have only been able to elect two presidents (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), despite only losing the popular vote once (George Bush’s second term, and the legitimacy of that is not something we will explore right now). Whoever they run may in two years may win the popular vote, but still not move into the White House. This is democracy, U.S. style.

So who are the candidates currently on the horizon? Please take a moment to prepare yourselves emotionally, since the picture this writer is about to paint is not a pretty one. In fact, it is downright terrifying.

  • Bernie Sanders. Yes, the darling of whatever remains of the leftist part of the Democratic Party still sees Sanders as the savior. The ‘Bernistas’ received a shot in the arm with the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York’s 14th district primary in June, when the much-feared word ‘socialism’ began its rehabilitation.

What does Bernie have going against him? For one thing, by the time the 2020 election rolls around, he will be 79 years old. Secondly, it will be difficult for some people to forget his enthusiastic endorsement of the woman who cheated him out of the nomination in 2016. It’s not as if there were no other candidates he could have endorsed. Gloria La Riva, who represented the Party for Socialism and Liberation, comes to mind. Her platform was one that anyone of intelligence and compassion would support.

  • Joe Biden. Now there’s a name to bring excitement to any dedicated Democrat. Don’t the words ‘Joe Biden’ conjure up change, dynamism and charisma? Can’t the reader imagine young people throwing themselves enthusiastically behind a ticket led by the former vice president? No, this writer can’t, either. If the party wants to once again shoot itself in the foot, nominating Biden might be just the ticket.

We will also mention that the former vice president will be a few weeks shy of his 78th birthday when some small percent of eligible voters next cast a presidential ballot. This is not to imply that a 78-year-old can’t be energic, sharp as a whip and ready to run the U.S; but that doesn’t describe Biden.

  • Hillary Clinton. You were warned; a terrifying picture was about to unfold to your view. Yes, there are rumors abounding now that Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State, will once again toss her tiara into the ring for another go-round with Donald Trump. If the Democratic Party really wants to commit suicide, surely there are less painful ways of doing so. Clinton lost the election (granted, she won the popular vote by over 3 million votes; see note above about U.S-style democracy) to one of the least qualified, most dangerous candidates ever nominated for president, and now she may actually think she has a chance of beating him. The election of Trump was never an endorsement of his policies; his approval rating has rarely gone above 40%, and never above 50%. No, his election was not an endorsement of Trump, but a startling repudiation of Clinton. Her blatant greed, blind ambition, disdain for the poor and less fortunate, her ties to Wall Street and her questionable ethics all led large swaths of the population to vote for the odious Trump.

Why, one might reasonably ask, would the Democrats want to nominate someone who so un-democratically manipulated the delegates in 2016 to wrest the nomination from Bernie Sanders? Does the word ‘democracy’ mean nothing to the Democrats?

On the plus side, of these three potential candidates, Clinton is the most ‘youthful’. She will turn a mere 73 a few weeks before the next election. Does anyone remember a time, perhaps back in the days of George McGovern (only 50 when he ran for president), when the Democrats were the party of the young people? Has that entire age cohort now been dismissed from consideration?

  • Elizabeth Warren. The junior senator from Massachusetts is forever saying she isn’t interested in the presidency. We’ll see. She gets publicity every time Trump notices her, since he insists, in his juvenile way, on calling her ‘Pocahontas’. She did give a very good impression when questioning bankers following the bailout during the administration of Barack Obama, and she certainly put several of Trump’s Cabinet appointees on the hot seat during their appearances before the senate, but none of that has really resulted in very much. All form; no substance. And can one ever forget, in 2014, when Apartheid Israel was bombing Gaza, and she was asked her opinion on the matter, she actually ran away from the reporter! Later, apparently after seeing that pro-Israel lobbies donated $115,203.00 to her campaign, she endorsed that genocidal activity. But to give her the minimal credit she may be due, she has been critical of Israeli actions against unarmed Palestinians demonstrating at the border.

And just to keep things consistent, Warren will be 71 on the next presidential election day.

It is still very early days. No one has actually declared for the nomination yet, and these four, and who knows how many others, may rise like a phoenix, and then flame out, adding to the debris that always litters the campaign trail. This writer, unfortunately, can think of no Democrat whose name he can suggest; being an elected member of the House or Senate in the U.S. automatically means that one has sold one’s soul to the highest corporate or lobby bidder. This is nothing new; as Matthew said in the New Testament, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”.  Congressional members have shown that their ‘treasure’ is the money they get for their campaigns, and these are not the $5.00 and $10.00 donations that some misguided citizens occasionally send them. During her muddied career, Clinton received $2,473.367 from pro-Israeli lobbies. That’s quite a treasure, and there can be no doubt about where it leads her heart.

What is to be done? Surely, Trump must be prevented from another term in office, but what are, or will be, the alternatives? Probably, on the Democratic side, another old or aging white man or woman who is bought and paid for by corporations and lobby groups.

As mentioned earlier, the world is still more than two years away from the quadrennial circus known as U.S. presidential elections; it is probably about six months away from the first candidates to declare their candidacy. Is it too early for this writer to encourage readers to look to third-party candidates? The futility of voting for the lesser of two evils was brought home to him clearly in 2016, when there didn’t seem to be one. So he found the candidacy of Ms. La Riva, and voted for her.

While the outcome of any U.S. election probably doesn’t impact this writer as much as it does other U.S. citizens (he fled to Canada after the 2004 election; things were that bad then. He can’t imagine how fast he’d have left if he’d still been in the U.S. in 2016!), the leader of a war-mongering, nuclear-armed nation is of concern to everyone on the planet. If enough people take a stand, and say a resounding ‘no’ to both major parties, perhaps, just perhaps, there is a chance for change. The probability is small, but the consequences of not acting are too great.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Israel Enshrines Apartheid

Remarkably, there are still those on the planet, many of them members of the United States Congress, who believe that Israel is not an apartheid state. Why they can believe such a fantasy is a mystery, unless one considers that they are somehow befuddled by the amount of money pro-Israeli lobbies contribute to their election campaigns. But let us take a few minutes to see what apartheid actually means, and if it is, indeed, fair to apply that ugly label to Israel.

We will accept the definition of apartheid as stated by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. While the definition is detailed and lengthy, we will look only at a few of the key provisions.

Basically, apartheid consists of “… inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” We really need to no farther; based solely on this one phrase, Israel is an apartheid regime.

But the Convention goes into specifics, and so shall we. The following are just some of the things that typify an apartheid regime.

  • “Murder of members of a racial group or groups”. Israeli soldiers and settlers kill Palestinian men, women and children indiscriminately, and with nearly complete impunity. Since 2000, nearly 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. In that same time, about 1,200 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. These numbers include about 120 Israeli children, but at least 2,200 Palestinian children. For example, in July of 2015, settlers living illegally in the West Bank firebombed a Palestinian home, killing three people. An 18-month old toddler was burned alive; his brother spent nearly a year in the hospital. The perpetrator received a 10-month sentence.
  • “Arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups.” Palestinians living in the West Bank are subject to home raids at any time of the day or night. Israeli soldiers break in, ransack the house, steal belongings and arrest any males over the age of twelve. Often there are no charges issued, and those arrested can be detained for years without charge.
  • “Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.” The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which is gaining traction worldwide, has come to the attention of the Israeli government. Those who support it are forbidden from entering Israel, and churches, businesses and labor unions around the world who withdraw from doing business with Israel because of its apartheid practices are condemned by Israeli government officials.

All this is certainly bad enough, but Israel’s leaders were not content to just wear the ugly badge of apartheid; they wanted to make it official. On July 19, the government passed a law declaring that Israel is ‘the nation state of the Jewish people’. It makes Hebrew the only official language, downgrading Arabic to the position of ‘having a special status’ in Israel.

With Israel now officially the nation-state of the Jewish people, what happens to the Arabs and people of African descent who reside there? Many of the Arabs, or their families, it must be remembered, have been there since before Israel ever existed, and they now find themselves in foreign and hostile territory.

What might this mean in practical application? The Israeli Minister for Social Equality said that the law could assist Israel’s efforts to deport asylum seekers from Africa. Such efforts have been struck down by the Supreme Court, but the new law carries roughly the same weight that an amendment to the U.S. constitution has, so future efforts may be seen as legal.

For Palestinians, representing about 20% of Israel’s population, who demand equal rights, the new law simply tells them ‘no’. They are not Jewish, and have no business living in the Jewish nation-state. Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List, said that Israel “… has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us (Arabs) that we will always be second-class citizens.”

Even Benny Begin, the son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, criticized the bill before abstaining from voting. “This is not a decision I expected from the Likud leadership,” he said, referring to the party that his father founded.

In the United States, which is slowly evolving to see Israel as the perpetrator and Palestine as the victim, Jewish groups expressed disapproval. The American Jewish Committee said that the law “puts at risk the commitment of Israel’s founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic.”

Jeremy Ben Ami, president of J Street, another U.S., pro-Israel group, said that the bill sends “… a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens.”

We will return now to our original question: how is it possible that anyone can believe that Israel isn’t an apartheid state? Not convinced? Let’s look at a few more facts on the ground.

  • Israel builds roads in the West Bank that only Israelis can drive on. If a new Israeli road crosses an existing road that Palestinians use, Palestinian are not able to cross the new road.
  • Palestinians are subject to different laws than Israelis.
  • If a Palestinian is accused of a crime, his home, and the homes of his relatives, will be bulldozed. This never happens to Israelis accused of crimes.

All of this describes a brutal, cruel, rogue, apartheid regime, and it all describes Israel. U.S. money and support can’t hide the facts any more, despite their past success in doing so.

What is to be done? Why isn’t apartheid in Israel criticized, sanctioned and shunned as it was a generation ago in South Africa? The only difference is the power of pro-Israel lobbies, which cause U.S. politicians to overlook human rights, international law and basic common decency. This power is reflected in the corporate-owned news media, which seldom reports any crimes against the Palestinians committed by Israel, and ignores the dismal, horrific conditions in which Israel forces Palestinians to live.

Social media has gone a long way toward changing this, by enabling people to see what’s happening without depending on the evening news. Efforts by Facebook and Twitter to censor news of Palestine must be opposed, and new channels of information must be built.

Apartheid was defeated in South Africa; it must be defeated in Israel, too. The lives of millions of Palestinians depend on it.

Originally published in RPFront.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More Lies about Palestine from the United States

Just last week, an unholy quartet, driven by the ugly racism known as Zionism, published an opinion piece on the pro-Israel ‘news’ site, CNN. This group included the U.S.’s clown-like ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley; the rabidly racist U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman; the incompetent and unqualified ‘senior advisor’ to President Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and finally, to round it all out, Jason Greenblatt, the ‘special representative for international negotiations’.

The title of this piece was quite provocative: “For Gaza peace, tell the truth about Hamas.” We will dissect a few of the most interesting statements from this article, and comment on them.

·         “Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza….” The esteemed writers seem to forget that Hamas ‘controls’ Gaza, because it was voted in, during elections that the international community said were democratic. The U.S. and some other nations have designated Hamas a ‘terrorist’ organization, although they say nothing about IDF violence which causes suffering and death far beyond anything Hamas is capable of, even if that were its goal.

Also, to say that Hamas ‘controls’ Gaza is a blatant lie. It is Israel that controls Gaza, blockading it by land, sea and air, preventing much-needed supplies, including medicines and building equipment, from entering. At present, Israel will not allow cooking oil to be imported into Gaza, causing hundreds of thousands of people to be forced to cook over open fires.

·         Hamas “…has been inciting the violence at the Israeli boundary fence for months….” It does seem that Haley and Company have not been acquainted with those inconvenient things called ‘facts’. Peaceful demonstrations at the border of Israel have been met with sniper fire, wherein hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including clearly marked medics and members of the press, have been killed. These killings, in case anyone is unaware, are considered war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Why don’t Haley and her cohorts comment on that?

Also, Palestinians never breached the border; they were demonstrating on Palestinian land; they were shot while standing in their own country.

·         “…using Palestinian civilians as human shields.” This is simply untrue; there is no evidence whatsoever to support this charge.

·         “And Hamas and other terror groups have fired more than 100 rockets….” We have already commented on these politicians’ designation of Hamas as a terrorist group. But regarding those ‘rockets’: Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent critic of Israel, refers to them as ‘enhanced fireworks’. Calling them ‘rockets’ serves a purpose for both sides: Palestinians know that something is being done on their behalf, and Israel can ‘defend’ itself against rocket fire.

Also, it is worth noting that in less than 60 days in 2014, Israel fired more rockets into Palestine than Palestine had fired into Israel in the previous 14 years.

·          “…and sent untold numbers of flaming kites, some displaying swastikas, into Israel in the past month, hoping to kill as many Israeli civilians and destroy as much property as possible.” Flaming kites! Imagine! And all Israel has is the most advanced weaponry in the world, some if it illegal under international law, which it routinely uses against the Palestinians.

Perhaps Haley and her minions have forgotten that, according to international law, an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. The sending of flaming kites is within the legal right of the Palestinians.

But if they have forgotten about international law, perhaps we could remind them that it is also a violation of international law to for the occupier to move residents of the occupier’s nation permanently onto the occupied land. Over half a million illegal settlers are now living on land stolen from the Palestinians, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that not one of them will ever be removed.

 

So, perhaps we need an article entitled ‘For Gaza peace, tell the truth about Israel’. And what is that truth?

·         Israel occupies the West Bank, Jerusalem and blockades the Gaza Strip in violation of international law.

·         The people in Gaza live in near-starvation conditions, because Israel refuses to allow them to import sufficient food.

·         In the West Bank, Israel has constructed hundreds of illegal check points, arbitrarily opened and closed, making what should be a short commute an hours-long ordeal for Palestinians. Palestinians have been denied timely medical care, because they were blocked from crossing a checkpoint established in their own land. Babies have been born at check points because of this, with some of them dying because they were forbidden to cross to obtain acutely needed treatment.

·         In the West Bank, there are well-maintained roads that are for the exclusive use of Israelis; Palestinian are not allowed to drive on them. If a new Israeli road crosses over a Palestinian road, Palestinians are not allowed to cross the new intersection. This, in common language, is known as ‘apartheid’.

The list goes on.

Let us take a minute to talk about the role of Greenblatt, the ‘special representative for international negotiations’.  Negotiations between Israel and Palestine, brokered for decades by the United States, have been worse than worthless. They have enabled the U.S. to say that Israel is willing to sit at the table, but Palestine’s leaders are not being reasonable. It must be remembered that negotiations can only occur between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. The U.S. allows Israel to take whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity.

Additionally, negotiations are not necessary. All that is required is for Israel to adhere to international law. If a man robs a bank and is then caught by the police, he is not asked to negotiate with the manager of the bank regarding home much of the stolen money to return. He must return it all, and pay the penalties for his crime. Israel must be required by the international community to vacate the West Bank and remove the blockade of the Gaza Strip. There is nothing to negotiate.

There have been reports that Trump will soon release his ‘deal of the century’ regarding Palestine and Israel. The few aspects of it that have been leaked to the press indicate that it provides Israel with everything it wants, and Palestine with nothing it wants. Currently, Israel is tightening its already brutal and deadly siege on the Gaza Strip, in an apparent effort to make things so difficult there that Palestine’s leaders will agree to anything. It is unlikely that even the weak, spineless traitor Mahmoud Abbas, the ‘leader’ of Fatah in the West Bank, would agree to this farce; there is no way the people of Palestine ever would.

Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi has said: “The Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims.” This bizarre philosophy is fully embraced by the mighty United States.

But Haley, Greenblatt, Kushner and Friedman can write all the nonsense they want; international condemnation of Israel is ever-increasing, as more people see the reality of the situation, rather than accepting the lies the governments of the U.S. and Israel insist on perpetrating. The suffering of the Palestinian people continues, but, like in South Africa a generation ago, apartheid will be defeated, and Palestine will be free.

 

Originally published by the USJournal.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ocasio-Cortez, Palestine and Occupation

A slight glimmer of hope appeared on the dismal Democratic Party horizon in June when newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated ten-term Congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s fourteenth Congressional district. Outspent but not out-maneuvered, Ocasio-Cortez won the primary in a landslide.

Unlike her AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee)-owned primary opponent, Ocasio-Cortez has been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestine and Palestinians. For generations this has been a complete no-no within Democratic Party circles (as unqualified support for that apartheid nations remains an article of faith for the Republican Party), but the last several months have seen cracks in the Israeli veneer. Yet Ocasio-Cortez has been the strongest in her condemnation.

In an interview following her victory, Ocasio-Cortez was taken to task for referring to the situation in Palestine as an occupation. Her questioner demanded to know just what she meant. Admitting that she wasn’t an expert on the topic, she referred to the illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Well! One would think she committed the worst kind of blasphemy known to man. Zionists everywhere are condemning her use of the vile word ‘occupation’ to describe Israel’s actions in Palestine. She is being pilloried for conceding that she wasn’t an expert on every topic under the sun, unlike so many politicians who are willing to wax eloquently and endlessly on topics about which they know nothing. And this very topic, the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel, is one on which many of them know very little, their knowledge colored by how much AIPAC donates to them, and about which they feel free to speak.

It seems that Israel and its many Zionist (read: racist) followers are now trying to deny reality; this isn’t surprising, since U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are best buds, and Trump barely has a nodding acquaintance with reality, and Netanyahu is happy to take whatever advantage he can of Trump and the U.S. It seems that now Israel is denying that it occupies Palestine.

Let us look at the situation in the context of international law. Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states the following: “a territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.”

Now we will look at the situation in Palestine. Israel’s army controls every aspect of life in the West Bank. Palestinians have their movements restricted; they cannot farm their fields without Israel permission, go to work without Israeli permission, attend school, visit family or friends, or generally move about without Israeli permission. Palestinians are subject to arrest and detention without charge at the whim of Israel soldiers/terrorists.

The Gaza Strip, separated from the West Bank, is completely controlled by the hostile Israeli army. It is blockaded on all sides by land, sea and air. Imports and exports are heavily restricted by Israel. It is extremely rare for a resident of Gaza to be able to leave the strip, even to visit family or friends in the West Bank.

Does this not, even to the untrained eye, look like occupation?

As long as we are looking at ugly concepts, let’s chat for a moment about apartheid. The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid describes these conditions as constituting that particular crime: “… inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” We will look at some of the specifics from the International Convention, and comment on them in relation to Israel and Palestine. While this is only a partial list, a review of the complete list would only enhance one’s belief that Israel is an apartheid regime.

  • “Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of

Person.”

Israeli soldiers and settlers, living illegally on stolen Palestinian land, routinely kill Palestinians. Palestinians have been shot in the back, run over by vehicles, shot while attending the wounded or reporting on Israel’s actions. Palestinians are routinely arrested and held indefinitely, often without charge.

  • “By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental

harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to

cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Where does one start? Palestinian children report physical and sexual abuse in Israel’s prisons, where they should never be in the first place. Farmers are often only granted permission to plant or harvest crops, long after the season for planting or harvesting has passed. Palestinian homes in the West Bank are raided in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, with the houses ransacked, valuable goods within them stolen, and any and all males over the age of 12 taken in to custody.

  • “Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its

or their physical destruction in whole or in part.”

In the West Bank, Palestinians are driven from their homes to make room for illegal, Israeli-only housing settlements. In the Gaza Strip, food is restricted such that Palestinians live just above starvation. Import and export restrictions cause severe unemployment, and lack of medical supplies. Periodic bombing of the Gaza Strip leaves tens of thousands of people homeless, and Israel forbids the importing of construction materials, so Palestinians are unable to rebuild.

  • “Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or

groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country.”

Israel recently passed a law declaring it a Jewish state; proposals to ensure equal rights for others living within its borders were defeated. Arabs and people of African descent living within Jerusalem are discriminated against in housing, education and employment.

  • “The deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or

groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights

and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to

education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to

freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the

right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Most of these have been covered earlier, but we will comment here on “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. Starting in March, Palestinians peacefully protested at Israel’s border, demanding the internationally-granted right of return. Hundreds of demonstrators, including medics and members of the press, have been killed by Israeli snipers.

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez isn’t an expert on the situation in Palestine, but that need not prevent her from speaking out against the injustices that she clearly sees. Neither should it prevent anyone from opposing arbitrary arrests of men, women and children without charge; land theft; killing with impunity and the many other crimes against humanity of which Israel is guilty.

As more and more organizations, including churches, businesses and labor unions, shun dealing with Israel; as more nations take action against its crimes, and as the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement chalks up success after success, Israel and its Zionist supports are desperate to retake the narrative that they controlled for so long. It isn’t working. Truth, justice, international law and human rights have been ignored by Israel and its U.S. sponsor for too long. The ‘alternate facts’ that Trump, Netanyahu and others of their ilk would have us hear are simply no longer acceptable.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

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Has It Really Come to This?

As a United States citizen who fled the country when George Bush (a great statesman compared to the orange buffoon now in the White House) was elected president in 2004, this writer has since observed conditions in the land of his nativity from the relative comfort and safety of his adopted home in Canada. To say that he is puzzled would be to understate matters.

Let us look at just a few of the items causing his bewilderment.

  • President Donald Trump embraces racism, and has never, from the start of his campaign for the presidency, attempted to hide that fact. Indeed, he has broadcast it proudly, from insulting Mexican immigrants, to attempting to ban Muslims from entering the country, to saying that, when violence broke out at a racist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were people to blame on all sides.
  • Trump makes up things as he goes along, and not just in the category of trivia. In that category, he proclaimed proudly that his inauguration was viewed by more people than any other presidential inauguration in history, despite the fact that that was a blatant falsehood. But he also says that he lost the popular vote due to voter fraud (no evidence), denied making misogynist statements he was videotaped making, brags about accomplishing more in one year than all his predecessors did in their entire terms, with the possible exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and calls every news item he doesn’t like ‘fake news’.
  • He denounces U.S. intelligence agencies (more than worthy of denunciation, this writer might add), not based on evidence, although there is plenty available, but because that’s his gut feeling.
  • Trump has stated that the free press is an enemy of democracy.
  • He criticized football players for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism in the U.S. One might think that, 1) shining a light on racism would be a good thing; 2) the president of the United States might want to take seriously such charges, and 3) the president might have more important considerations than what happens at football games.
  • One hesitates to criticize a member of Trump’s family, but First Lady Melania Trump, whose sartorial choices are observed the world over, went to visit children in U.S. ‘tender age facilities’, where children and toddlers who were cruelly ripped from their parents’ arms by her husband’s henchmen are stored like so much cattle, wearing a coat saying “I really don’t care; do you?” To whom is this acceptable?
  • Lobbies run the government. This includes pro-Israel lobbies, which are so powerful as to get U.S. elected officials to overlook the most shocking violations of international law and human rights that exist on the planet today.
  • A special investigation is underway to explore possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, yet there have been no Congressional or special investigations to explore U.S. meddling in elections around the world, meddling that has cost millions of lives.
  • Opinion polls that repeatedly show support or opposition to something are ignored, if certain powerful lobby groups find them displeasing. For example, surveys continually indicate that an overwhelming majority of citizens support sensible gun laws, including banning semi-automatic weapons, but the NRA (National Rifle Association) will not tolerate any such thing. And the NRA is one of the lobby groups that is very generous to the members of Congress that it has purchased.
  • Congress accepts, with only the most minimal grumbling, all of the above.
  • Trump’s approval rating continues to hover around 40%, with that number much higher among Republicans. What is wrong with these people?
  • And to top it all off, these very members of Congress, who ignore the will of the people, sell themselves to the highest bidder, and kiss up to the abominable president, all announce at every possible occasion that U.S. ‘democracy’ is the envy of the world.

This writer doesn’t know exactly when he fell down the rabbit hole, but it seems he’s drinking tea with Alice while the Mad Hatter runs the show.

With the mid-term elections, and control of the House of Representatives and the Senate possibly hanging in the balance, fast approaching, various candidates have obtained this writer’s email address, and are constantly imploring him to send money, in order to defeat Republicans. Sometimes they send him a lengthy survey; after dutifully answering the questions (probably in ways unexpected by the sender), he reaches the end, and learns that, in order for him to be able to send in his completed questionnaire, he must donate to the Party. This makes him most suspicious about how interested they really are in his views, as opposed to his money. They receive neither.

Yet seldom do they state what they will do; they seem to assume that registered Democrats (this writer hasn’t yet bothered to register with the Socialist Party; he enjoys seeing the stupid things Democratic leaders and candidates say to him in their solicitation letters) see the GOP as evil incarnate, from which only the angelic Democrats can save the country. Sadly for them, this writer doesn’t adhere to this view.

Trump has fallen into some disfavor even with Republican officials, due to what is seen as complete capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is darkly suggest that perhaps Putin ‘has something’ on Trump, that the great orange one doesn’t want exposed. What on earth, we might ask, could that possibly be? For a man whose public behavior would humiliate the most delusionally- narcissistic individuals among us, but who seems to bask and glory in it, what could possibly coerce him to behave in any way against his own wishes?

Can anyone wonder why this writer views the currently happenings in the U.S with horror-stricken amazement? Is there some logical explanation that he’s overlooking?

This is how Trump would ‘make America great again’, although the U.S. never achieved anything near the mythical greatness that he and his minions claim to want to replicate. That so-called ‘greatness’ was based on genocide, slavery, racism and unparalleled death and worldwide injustice. Members of both parties only recoil in horror at such atrocities when perpetrated by the other party, if they object at all.

Much of the world’s leaders seem only interested in money and power, to the detriment of much of the world’s population. It will take more than farcical elections in the U.S. to change that tragic situation.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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