Presentation in Conjunction with the U.N. International Day Against Racial Discrimination, in Kitchener, Ontario

Good afternoon. 

I would like to start with some basic definitions, so we all have the same understanding.

  1. Semitic. This word has two, related definitions:
  2. Relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and, Aramaic.
  3. Relating to the peoples who speak Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic.

Based on this generally-accepted definition, we can see that it isn’t only Jews who are victimized by anti-Semitism. Hostility or prejudice against Arabs, many of whom are Muslims, is also anti-Semitism.

A few more terms:

  • Judaism:

Judaism is a monotheistic religion. Jews believe that God appointed the Jews to be his chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behaviour to the world. They believe that Moses was the prophet of the Jews.

  • Islam

Islam is also a monotheistic religioin that is the third of the Abrahamic religions. It teaches that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world’s second-largest religion, with over 1.8 billion followers, or 24% of the world’s population. Adherents to Islam are most commoly knowns as Muslims. Muslims make up a mojority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, unique, and has guided humanking through prophets, reveald scriptures and natural signs.

  • Zionism

Zionism started as a movement for the establishment, development and protection of a Jewish nation. It was established as a political organization in 1897 by Theodor Herzl.

I have not mentioned Christianity, and I don’t want to imply that Christians are not persecuted anywhere in the world; this is simply not true. But my focus today is on the anti-Semitism, as described above, that seems to be growing within North America, how it is growing and the way it is or should be being combatted.

******

            In recent years, the term anti-Semitism has evolved slightly to denote prejudice against the Jewish people. This is only partially true, since Arabs are also Semitic. So prejudice, bigotry, and violence against Arabs, demonstrated most recently in the horrific massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where many of the victims were Arab, is anti-Semitism, and must be opposed as strongly as prejudice, bigotry and violence against Jews.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, envisioned a nation for the Jewish people, which eventually was established in Palestine. This action disregarded the basic human rights of the millions of mostly-Arab people already living in Palestine, so it was, by definition, anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism against Jews perhaps reached its peak in the years up to and including World War II, when an estimated 6,000,000 Jews were murdered by the Hitler regime. This unspeakable crime against humanity was, unfortunately, then used by Zionists to compound the crime by dispelling 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, with no recompense and no say in the decision, to establish the nation of Israel. Additionally, at least 10,000 Palestinians were slaughtered at that time. The victimization of one group, the Jews, in no way justifies the victimization of the Palestinians.

While one might say that, with persecution of the Jews a centuries-old problem, perhaps having its origins in some Christians or Christian sects blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Jews needed a protected homeland. But one could also argue quite reasonably that that homeland could have been established somewhere in which the displacement of 750,000 people, and the murders of at least 10,000 more, wouldn’t have been required.

How is anti-Semitism manifested today? I have already mentioned the recent slaughter of 50 people praying in mosques in New Zealand. But white nationalism seems to be on the rise in North America, too; note the white-nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017, in which people were chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, and which resulted in the death of one woman opposing the white nationalists. U.S. president Donald Trump, commenting on this event, said there were good people on both sides. This is hardly a ringing condemnation of the blatant anti-Semitism against Jews that was the foundation of this demonstration. One might expect better from the so-called ‘leader of the free world’.

Additionally, the U.S. government has worked with some success to block Muslims from travelling to the U.S. The regulation doesn’t say ‘Muslims’, but those prevented from such travel are from mainly Muslim countries, and this regulation keeps one of Trump’s campaign promises, that he would prevent Muslims from entering the country until the U.S. government could ‘figure out what was going on’. This is clearly, also, anti-Semitic.

In the U.S. and Canada, government officials are working to criminalize criticism of Israel. The government of Israel, with separate schools, roads, laws and regulations for Israelis and non-Israelis, is itself practicing anti-Semitism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year said this: “Israel is not the state of all of its citizens. According to the nation-state basic law that we passedc, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and of it alone.” This provides second-class status to nearly a quarter of the population of Israel. Imagine, if you will, the response in Canada and throughout the world if Canada determined that only 75% of its citizens could enjoy all the rights of citizenship. Would there not be widespread condemnation? Would other nations criticize Canada, or would they outlaw such criticism? Attempts in the U.S. and Canada to do the latter must be seen as supporting an apartheid regime, and are thus anti-Semitic, since the population being ostracized and oppressed is Semitic.

On a more anecdotal note, my wife and I have an old friend, a woman we’ve known for almost 30 years. She happens to be Jewish. She grew up in Chicago, but lived for the last 25 years or so in New York City. Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the rise in the number of swastikas and other anti-Jewish symbols and behaviors that she saw caused her to ask us if she could stay with us until she found a permanent place to live. She was with us for several months before moving to Columbia.

Whenever I attend a conference, I always want to come away not only with more information, but with specific things I can do to further the cause of justice. I will now list a few things each of us can do to fight racism in all its ugly forms here in Canada. My suggestions will focus on the topic of anti-Semitism, but can certainly be expanded to assist in combatting racism in whatever form we might encounter it.

  1. Talk about it. There is sometimes a tendency to avoid unpleasant topics, but this tendency has caused untold suffering throughout history. In the 1930s and 1940s, some people in Germany found it ‘unpleasant’ to recognize that their Jewish neighbors were disappearing. Today, some people find it ‘unpleasant’ to recognize that Palestinian homes in the West Bank are bulldozed to make room for new settlements that only Israelis can occupy. We must speak up.
  2. Defend. If you witness any act of racism, take immediate action. I’m not suggesting putting yourself at risk of physical harm, but often a few words from an uninvolved bystander will dispel an ugly situation, and bring it to an immediate end. Again, we must speak up.
  3. Take action. Demand the right to criticize racism in all its forms; don’t allow the government to take that from you. Let your government representatives hear from you, as you disagree with their support of any racist regime. We must make our voices heard.
  4. Look inward. Do you harbor any prejudices yourself? If someone makes a ‘raghead’ or similar insulting ethnic joke, to you smile, or do you immediately address it for what it is? Perhaps you have no prejudices, but are hesitant to speak out. I implore you once again to overcome your hesitancy, and speak.

Martin Niemöller was a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who was an outspoken critic of Hitler. As a result, he spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. You may not be familiar with his name, but you have probably heard his words:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”           

            I am neither Jewish nor Arabic; I’m not Muslim. I’m a Christian of European descent, and yet I feel compelled to speak out against the blatant and growing racism against Muslim, Arabs and Jews that I see today. Like everyone here, I have an obligation to do so, regardless of how unpleasant it might be. I can’t enjoy my own privilege, knowing that, here in Canada and around the world, other people are suffering horrifically, simply because they happen to be Palestinian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or African, or something else that doesn’t fall into a privileged category. I urge you, and all of us, to act.

Thank you.

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The Circus that Never Leaves Town

The circus that is called U.S. governance continues to entertain with its bizarre acts. This week, an awestruck public witnessed yet another one, this time with the Cohen clown testifying before Congress.

Yes, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ (is that really a thing?) Michael Cohen stood before a Congressional committee and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is the same man who, in May, will begin a prison sentence for, among other things, lying to Congress.

And what did we learn? Let’s look at just a few tidbits of information; we won’t call them facts, due to Cohen’s known record of lying to Congress.

+ Trump ordered Cohen to pay porn star and alleged former mistress (or perhaps one-night stand) Stormy Daniels, and then reimbursed him for that payment. Cohen claimed that his initial statements about that payment were not lies; he never said Trump didn’t reimburse him. He carefully said that no one from the Trump campaign reimbursed him. So there.

+ Cohen threatened people and organizations 500 times in ten years, under Trump’s direction.

+ Trump never tells people to lie, break the law, or even skirt it. He simply tells them what he expects as results. If achieving those results means his underlings must lie, or break or skirt the law, so be it. But Trump never tells them to do so.

+ When the infamous Billy Bush tape was made public, Cohen was immediately contacted by Trump aide Hope Hicks (a one-time member of his staff who, like so many others, became a victim of Trump’s employee revolving door), who told him to position Trump’s disgraceful, misogynist remarks as ‘locker room talk.’

Democrats on and off the House Oversight Committee, the hosts of this week’s spectacle, were gleeful; despite there being no actual smoking gun, there was enough innuendo for any normal person to conclude that Trump probably broke all kinds of laws, not only during his campaign for the presidency, but throughout his life as a real estate mogul.

These Democrats seem to forget that they were listening to testimony from someone who has been convicted of lying to them previously. Cohen may have been telling the truth, or he may not have been. His record in such things is not exemplary.

The Republicans, on the other hand, were filled with righteous indignation that anyone would dare to impugne the good name of St. Donald the Great. They were so outraged that they even arranged for one Matt Gaetz, a representative from Florida, to sit in the gallery, despite the fact that he isn’t a member of the House Oversight Committee. Gaetz, an ardent worshipper at the Trump altar, gained notoriety for threatening to expose Cohen’s extra-marital affairs, an accusation he made without any corroborating evidence. When asked for evidence, Gaetz replied: “As the President loves to say, ‘We’ll see.’“ One newscaster compared Gaetz presence in the gallery as akin to trials of organized crime figures, when enemies of witnesses were brought in to sit in the courtroom to intimidate the witness just by their very presence.

Today, some Republicans are referring Cohen and his testimony to the Justice Department, saying they have evidence that he committed perjury during his appearance this week. Whether or not their evidence falls into the Trump-Gaetz category of ‘we’ll see’, remains, ahem, to be seen.

Trump, meanwhile, was visiting his good friend Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, to discuss nuclear disarmament. We must understand that this disarmament only applied to North Korea; Trump and most, if not all, of the U.S.’s elected officials only want the ‘bad guys’ (as they define them) to get rid of nuclear weapons, while the ‘good guys’ (again, by their twisted definition), can keep theirs. In U.S. parlance, the one nation that has ever used nuclear weapons, and on a civilian population no less, falls into the ‘good guys’ category. Go figure.

That this endeavor wasn’t successful, and that the world’s self-proclaimed best deal-maker wasn’t able to make any progress, isn’t too surprising. Additionally, while in Vietnam, Trump limited press access, because those pesky reporters wanted to ask about Cohen’s testimony. Why waste the president’s time with such trivia? Who cares about his relationships with porn stars, or his threats against people and companies? How dare that Cohen upstart attempt to upstage him? No wonder he fell into disfavor. The former ‘fixer’ better not expect a presidential pardon now!

This writer, watching such happenings from the relative safety of the U.S.’s neighbor to the north, is continually astounded. Republicans in Congress rally around their incompetent, petulant president, despite his erratic behavior and the fact they he can barely string two words together coherently. They attempt to explain away his behaviors or, worse yet, justify them.

On the other side of the aisle, the reality-show buffoon is universally despised, as the Democrats react in horror to each of his shocking behaviors, conveniently forgetting their own, and those of their past leaders. Democratic stars in the polluted firmament slowly announce to a world that hardly wants to hear the news, that they have decided to seek the party’s nomination for president, thus offering a viable alternative to the Great Orange one. Sadly, they seem to be stuck in the rut of believing that the voters will choose anyone other the current incumbent, as they hesitate to make any bold proposals, not wanting to alienate any voting bloc, and content not to please any, either. There are some exceptions, but most of them try to ride in the middle of the road, some being PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine), but mainly presenting themselves as the anti-Trump candidate.

Can neither member of either party learn nothing? Must they put party over principle? Why is this writer even asking? Of course they must! That is how they get re-elected, and for them, that is the highest goal. Statesmanship, integrity, the good of the people and other such lofty principles don’t have powerful lobby groups, and so such things are beneath notice.

The 2020 election is still a long way off; Trump may still be president by then, but his vice-president, Michael Pence, could assume that office if The Donald is found guilty of criminal activity and is removed from office. Pence, a conservative Christian, would probably be worse than Trump, if such a thing can be imagined. But in 2020, this writer, still a U.S. citizen despite his fourteen years living in Canada, will probably vote for a third-party candidate. That is where one looks for integrity, honesty and real caring for the people.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”

It is a rare day that some member of Congress doesn’t expose him or herself as a hypocrite of the first order. This week, we have seen this done in spades.

On February 10, Representative Ilhan Omar (D- MN) said that U.S. Congressional support for Israel is “…all about the Benjamins…”, a reference to the U.S. denomination, $100.00 bills, that sport a picture of Benjamin Franklin. One would think that stating the obvious would not be met with such umbrage.

But no! Democratic leadership (how’s that for an oxymoron?) issued a statement condemning Omar’s “…use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters…’, and declaring her words ‘deeply offensive’.

Really? Was this, indeed, an ‘anti-Semitic trope’? Was it a ‘prejudicial accusation’? This writer, as is his custom, will attempt to make some sense of all this, a challenging undertaking, undeniably. We will do so first by looking at some of the members of Congress who voiced their objection.

+ Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who issued the statement condemning Omar’s remarks, has benefited from pro-Israel campaign contributions to the tune of $514,449.00.

+ Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) issued a concise statement to Omar: ‘STOP IT!”. Ms. Schakowsky has received $552,624.00 in campaign contributions from pro-Israel lobbies during her career.

+ Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Pelosi’s condemnation of Omar’s statement. His career take from pro-Israel lobbies: $804,215.00.

+ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who just last year suggested that wealthy Jews were trying to buy the mid-term elections, vowed that Republicans would “… take action this week to ensure the House speaks out against this hatred.” The hypocrisy of that statement, based on his own words of just a few months ago, is obvious. During his Congressional career, he has received $174,625.00 in contributions from pro-Israel groups.

These are just four examples; four members of Congress, whose total cash haul from pro-Israel lobbies equals $2,045,913.00, condemning Omar’s words. That is a significant number of ‘Benjamins’.

We will now move onto the pro-Israel attempt to conflate criticism of the apartheid state of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Currently, the Yellow-Vest protests continue in France. If one condemns the French austerity measures that have triggered them, and the brutal force that the French government is using to oppress those protests, does that mean that one hates all things French? Does it suggest that the person condemning these actions attributes repression and brutality to being inherent in the French persona? Does it suggest that, if one has French neighbors, one will take frozen French fries and fling them into one’s neighbor’s yard, all the while chanting ‘go home French person’?

No; it means that one disagrees with the policies of the French government. That’s it.

Let us look beyond all this, and review the reasons that so many august politicians in the U.S. proclaim their support of the apartheid, Zionist regime of Israel: shared values.

In Israel, there are separate laws for Israelis and everyone else. A crime committed by an Arab will received a far harsher sentence than the same crime committed by an Israeli. One supposes that is, indeed, a shared value, since in the U.S., crimes committed by people of color generally receive far harsher penalties than those committed by whites.

Throughout the illegally occupied West Bank, Israel has housed over 500,000 settlers, all of them living there in violation of international law. The U.S. has violated international law countless times, including by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). So again, disdain for the rule of law is a value shared by the U.S. and Israel.

Israel periodically bombs the Gaza Strip, an action that is routinely condemned by the United Nations. The U.S. bombs multiple countries on a nearly-constant basis. We see yet another commonality between the two nations.

During the 2014 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel bombed homes, houses of worship, hospitals, U.N. refugee centers and press offices. The U.S. said that Israel probably shouldn’t have bombed those refugee centers. Not what one would call an effective criticism for such barbaric actions.

While Israel was busy with active genocide in Gaza (in addition to its ongoing genocidal practices), some of its soldiers targeted four young Palestinian boys playing on a beach. Apparently sensing mortal danger from unarmed 10-year-olds kicking around a soccer ball, the soldiers shot and killed them. More recently, the U.S.’s other great ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, dropped a U.S.-made bomb on a school bus carrying 40 boys ranging in age from 8 – 12. The U.S. and Israel apparently hold the slaughter of innocent children as a ‘shared value’.

But what is any of this? U.S. spokespeople are forever asserting that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and since these same people also proclaim that the U.S. is a model democracy, that, they say, is the true shared value.

One must point out that democracy means more than allowing many citizens to vote. Yes, both Israel and the U.S. have periodic elections, but in both countries, voter suppression is actively practiced, effectively ensuring that potential voters who actually want change are ignored. And doesn’t democracy also include equal rights under the law? Israel had codified separate rights, and the U.S. Constitution, that document so revered by so many members of Congress, provided ‘equal’ rights for wealthy, white, landowning males; all other need not apply. There have been some changes in 200 years, but equality is still a dream for women, people of color, the poor, gays, etc.

Representative Omar, bowing to the weight of pressure from so many Israeli representatives in Congress, apologized for offending any Jewish people. She need not have done so. A spokesman for J Street, another pro-Israel organization in the U.S., while criticizing Omar’s words, further said that “…elected officials should also refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as ‘anti-Semitic’”.

Might Pelosi, McCarthy, et al take some advice from these words? No, probably not. With all those ‘Benjamins’ at stake, why risk rocking the campaign-contributions boat? Better to hysterically shout ‘anti-Semitism!’ any time anyone criticizes Israel’s cruel, barbaric, inhumane and illegal actions.

It’s interesting to note that polls consistently show that younger Americans support Palestine over Israel, and these people are, of course, the future of the country. If and when the current crop of elected officials ever decides to actually represent their constituencies remains to be seen, but this writer is not optimistic. But things are changing and Palestinians are finally being seen as human beings with the same right to self-determination as everyone else. We have people like Representative Ilhan Omar to thank for that progress, and we look to her and other young and truly progressive officials to continue this trend.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Afghanistan, Venezuela and U.S. Interference

In this troubling week, this writer has seen a variety of disturbing news stories. Ok, that’s nothing new, we all know. But there are two that he would like to focus on today.

First, he saw an editorial saying that the U.S. must not abandon Afghanistan.  He attempted to make some sense of this series of words, but while each is easily understood, when strung together, they lose all meaning. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and has been bombing and terrorizing that nation every day since then. What the U.S.’s goal there is one cannot say; the war is certainly, in the minds of many in the U.S., a forgotten war, although it is all too real for its Afghani victims. As of November, 2018, civilian deaths are conservatively estimated at 80,000. The infrastructure is destroyed, and the air quality has become one of the worst in the world. One would think that the people of Afghanistan would be desperate for the U.S. to ‘abandon’ their country.

With Venezuela currently big in the news, this writer saw a second article, another opinion piece, saying that U.S. President Donald Trump is right on Venezuela. Trump, in usual U.S. fashion, wants to ignore and thwart the will of the people, by declaring an opposition candidate as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. If the consequences were not so dire, this would be a laughable statement, coming from someone who can hardly be seen as the legitimate leader of the United States. There is an old adage that ‘majority rules’, but that doesn’t apply in the U.S. If it did, Trump would be back on his reality television show, where he belongs, and Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States (heaven help us all!).

Why does the U.S. government feel it needs to insert itself into every trouble spot in the world? Is it because of its sterling reputation in solving global problems? Is it because, wherever it chooses to intervene, after just a short time, the opposing forces in whatever nation it has ‘helped’ all join hands and sing Kumbaya around some giant campfire?

And as we consider these trouble spots, it’s certainly worthwhile to note that it is the U.S. that frequently causes these problems in the first place. Already it is being suspected that the U.S. is arming anti-government forces in Venezuela. In Afghanistan, it was the U.S. who armed and trained the Taliban when it was a rag-tag group opposing the Russians during that long and deadly war. When the Russians left, U.S. government officials seemed surprised and puzzled to learn that the people they supported against the Russians weren’t willing to hand over the government to some U.S. puppet. As a result, the U.S. is now engaged in Afghanistan in the longest war in its long and bloody history.

Where else has the U.S. caused untold suffering? Let’s consider Chile, where, under the rabid anti-Communist president, Richard Nixon, the U.S. government overthrew the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende, and supported the seventeen-year long reign of terror of dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

We could look to Iraq, where the U.S., in the 1963, overthrew the government of Abdel Karim Kassem, and threw its support behind a young, anti-Communist leader named Saddam Hussein. In the decades between that first support and the overthrow of Hussein in 2003, the U.S. ranged from naming Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism, to supporting it with advanced weaponry when Iraq was at war with Iran.

And while we’re speaking of Iran, let’s take a quick look at the U.S.’s violent history there.

In 1953, the U.S. overthrew the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with the brutal Shah of Iran. Relations between the U.S. and Iran were quite cozy during this time, although the people of Iran suffered horribly. The Shah’s oppressive, barbaric reign ended when the people of Iran overthrew him, and installed a government of their own choosing. The U.S. government has never forgiven Iranians for daring to indulge in the luxury of self-determination, and as of this writing, continues to threaten Iran as it continues with cruel sanctions (illegal under international law, since they violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)), and even threatening its closest allies with sanctions if they dare comply with the terms of the JCPOA.

Need we even mention Vietnam? Perhaps we should; there were many lessons to be learned from that imperial disaster that, if they had indeed been heeded, would have prevented much of the international suffering that has occurred since then. In the south, the U.S. first selected Bao Dai, who had a long record of collaboration with Vietnam’s previous colonial masters, the French and the Japanese. Later, the U.S. supported Ngo Dinh Diem, a repressive dictator, who provided many rights and privileges to the Catholics in that nation, but not so many to the vast number of Buddhists.  Ho Chi Minh, who, despite his education and international travel, never lost his native identity, led Communist North Vietnam, and sought to reunite the nation. But the U.S. was determined that Vietnam not ‘fall’ to Communism, despite the wishes of the Vietnamese people. And so it launched its war, which killed at least 2,000,000 people, decimated the countryside, nearly destroyed the U.S. economy and tore the U.S. apart. Despite all that, the people of Vietnam were victorious.

And now we have the brilliant pundits and politicians telling us that the U.S. must not ‘abandon’ Afghanistan; rather, it should continue to destroy the country. Certainly there are many people left to be killed. And the U.S., we are also told, is right to support an opposition candidate over the democratically-elected one in Venezuela. Will the outcome of either of these disastrous mistakes be as successful as, say, the U.S. intervention in Iraq? Will they bring the same ‘benefits’ to either country that U.S. ‘help’ brought to the people of Chile?

For two centuries, the U.S. has run amok on the world stage, killing millions upon millions of innocent people, causing the torture of millions more, and destroying prospects, hopes and dreams for more people than can be counted. The world will be a more peaceful and just planet when the U.S. is eventually eclipsed in terms of military and the economy by any other nation. This cannot occur soon enough for the people of Afghanistan, Venezuela, and too many other nations to mention here.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Venezuela, the United States and Hypocrisy

United States hypocrisy, thy name is legion.

The number of examples of this are truly stunning, and this writer has commented on them more than once. He will take this opportunity to shine his spotlight on yet another one that is currently prominent in the news.

In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro was elected president, in an election generally thought to have been fair. He is, horror of horrors, a leftist, much to the chagrin of that mighty moral arbiter of world values, the U.S. So what did President Donald Trump and his minions do, which was followed quickly by many other world leaders who march in lock-step with the U.S? They recognized his opponent, one Juan Guaido, as the president of Venezuela.

This brings up so many questions, that one almost hesitates to count them. But we will ask just one:

What right does the U.S. have to determine who is the leader of any other nation on the planet?

Let us consider a hypothetical situation. We will ask the reader to think back to the U.S. presidential election of November, 2016, when the county was faced with a choice between a vile, corporate-owned elitist candidate, and one that was even, incredibly, worse. The hapless voters selected the former, who won the popular vote by about 3,000,000 votes, yet the bizarre Electoral College installed the latter in the White House.

Now we will get to the hypothetical part. Imagine, if you will, the U.S. response if Russian’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Elizabeth May all declared that they recognized Hillary Clinton as U.S. president. What then-outgoing president Barack Obama would have said would have been nothing compared to the bellicose, belligerent Twitter storm that would sure have been unleashed by then president-elect Donald Trump.

The U.S. has, for months, been watching the Robert Mueller investigation into possible Trump collusion with Russia during the campaign; imagine the horror of a foreign nation attempting to influence the outcome of a U.S. election! How could such a thing possibly have happened?

Yet the U.S. is happy to recognize people other than duly-elected candidates as another nation’s leader. And if we are going to discuss foreign interference in U.S. elections, might we consider the millions upon millions of dollars donated to the campaigns of U.S. candidates and officials by pro-Israel groups? Is it mere coincidence that, once these candidates are elected, pro-Israel lobbies actually write legislation for them to introduce? The U.S. senate recently voted overwhelming for just such a bill that would make boycotting Israel illegal. These same senators proclaim their reverence for the U.S. constitution, but ignore Supreme Court rulings that clearly state that boycotts are protected by the constitution. What is that, when campaign contributions must be considered? The U.S. constitution? Who needs that old thing!

But let us return for a moment to Venezuela. The U.S. is concerned about ‘irregularities’ in the election that maintained Maduro in power. We have already mentioned that curious U.S. electoral ‘irregularity’, the Electoral College. However, that is just one of many.

In the U.S., in some states, government-issued photo identification is required in order to vote.

Despite what Trump says, U.S. citizens are not required to present photo identification when grocery shopping. One understands that preventing voter fraud is important, but, again despite the pronouncements of the raving lunatic in the White House, there is no evidence whatsoever of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the United States.

Where, one might ask, is photo identification most likely to be required for voting? This is a requirement in some states that have large minority (read: generally vote Democratic) populations, which include states with significant voters of African or Hispanic descent. Also, some university students study in states with such a requirement. Is it a simple coincidence that they, too, tend to vote for Democratic candidates?

A common form of photo identification is a driver’s license, which not every person of voting age has. One can get a government-issued photo identification card, but one must travel to a government office that provides them. Without a driver’s license, getting there is often a challenge.

In Canada, the nation to which this writer fled following the 2004 election of George Bush, everyone has medical coverage (which U.S. government officials seem to believe is Satan’s finest achievement), with an accompanying photo-identification card. We must present that when visiting a doctor, but it is not asked for when one presents oneself at one’s voting place. One states one’s name, the voting official looks it up on the list, and one signs that list, and then votes. If this writer, for example, returned later that same day to the polling place and attempted to vote a second time, the poll worker would note that his signature had already been placed on the appropriate line, and he would be prevented from voting a second time.

Some U.S. officials decry the large number of deceased people whose names appear on voting records. Yes, it is true that there are many such names. But this writer’s experience in this context may not be uncommon. When his parents died several months apart in 2016 and 2017, his first thought was not to contact the voting board, and remove their names. It was also not his second thought. He must confess that the thought never occurred to him. Is there a possibility that, in a future election, someone will go to the local polling place, give their name as that of his late mother or father, and vote? Yes, that is possible. Is it likely? When pigs fly.

Can voter repression, which is part of the U.S. electoral system, be seen as an ‘irregularity’? Can the Electoral College, which defeats the will of the people who actually vote, also be so seen? And we have not even mentioned the fact that, without being independently wealthy, it is almost impossible to run an effective campaign for public office (for exceptions, see Alexandra Ocasio Cortez). What has Venezuela done to deserve the wrath of the U.S., that is so much worse than what the U.S. routinely does?

While the U.S. condemns injustices around the world, it perpetrates its own that are usually far worse than those it criticizes. It also overlooks major violations of international law and human rights (see Israel; Saudi Arabia) if those countries provide it with some benefits.

The people of Venezuela do not need to be schooled in the art of democracy by a country whose government doesn’t know the meaning of the word. U.S. hypocrisy must be understood for what it is, and that country’s official pronouncements must be held up for ridicule. It is tempting to then ignore them; unfortunately, with the most powerful military on the planet, and leaders not hesitant to use it to force their will on other nations, ignoring the U.S. is not an option.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran

The United States’ international windbag, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been acting the imperial blowhard throughout the Middle East. With his boss busy denying that he’s a Russian agent, watching advisors and cabinet members come and go with dizzying alacrity, and dodging porn-star accusations, Pompeo is trotting through the Middle East, sounding war drums.

It seems that Iran, which has long been in the crosshairs of U.S. gunboat ‘diplomacy’, remains firmly targeted. In Cairo, Pompeo promised a “…campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world”.

It is with a firm shake of the head that this writer reads such statements, wondering how anyone with even a modicum of intelligence can take such pronouncements seriously. If one is to discuss ‘malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world’, shouldn’t one look, first and foremost, at the United States?

The U.S. currently gives unqualified support to Saudi Arabia, which is decimating the nation of Yemen. Currently, at least 10,000,000 Yemenis, most of them children, are at risk of death by starvation due to the U.S.-supported Saudi onslaught. Several weeks ago, the Saudis dropped a U.S.-made bomb on what they must have thought was a horrifying terrorist group: a school bus full of 10-year-old children. U.S. spokespeople had hardly a word to say about this. Not surprising: if 10,000,000 people at risk of starvation brings no halt to U.S. support of Saudi Arabia, what is one school bus full of little boys? Does none of this qualify as ‘malevolent influence and actions’?

When discussing the U.S.’s ‘malevolent influence and actions’, it is impossible not to mention  its support of apartheid Israel’s brutal, inhumane and totally illegal (under international law: remember that old thing?) treatment of the Palestinians. Home demolitions to make room for Israeli-only housing; road construction on which only Israelis can drive (and if such a road intersects an existing Palestinian road, Palestinians cannot cross the intersection); the murders of innocent men, women and children by IDF soldiers and illegal settlers; the complete occupation of the Gaza Strip, with Israel forbidding the import of many basic needs, and the export of almost anything, crippling the economy; the periodic carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip, with homes, mosques, United Nations refugee centers, hospitals and schools all targeted, all in violation of international law; the brutal harassment of Palestinians who only want to worship at Al Aqsa mosque, to name just a few of Israel’s constant atrocities. The U.S. responds to all this by giving Israel $4 billion in aid every year, more than all other nations receive from the U.S. combined. Is there nothing here that can be considered ‘malevolent influence and actions’?

For years, the United States supported rebel groups that fought for the overthrow of the Syrian government. It provided training and weapons to known terrorist groups, resulting in the death of at least half a million Syrians. With assistance from its allies Russia and Iran, Syria has been able to rid itself of most of these terrorists. Is U.S. financing and training of terrorist organizations not ‘malevolent influence and actions’?

For eighteen years, up to and including today, the U.S. has decimated and occupied Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Afghanis, and the destruction of the country. There is no end of this carnage in site. The reason for the invasion, ostensibly, was to capture Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Yet bin Laden has been dead for years, but the war rages on. The U.S. is determined to install a puppet government there, but the Taliban only came to power with U.S. support, when Russia was at war with Afghanistan. So the U.S. created the monster it is now fighting. Additionally, the Taliban was willing to surrender bin Laden to any nation other than the United States; he would easily and quickly have been extradited from that nation to the U.S. for trial. But an endless war seemed more appealing to the U.S. government. This all certainly sounds like ‘malevolent influence and actions’ to this writer.

The United States overthrew the functioning government of Libya, leaving that nation as a ‘failed state’. Today, there is no peace in Libya, poverty is rampant, and the country is divided by differing factions that are at constant war with each other. ‘Malevolent influence and actions’, anyone?

And despite all this, pompous Pompeo parades through the Middle East, condemning a nation that hasn’t invaded another country in over 200 years. Compare this to the more than 30 nations the United States has invaded and/or destabilized in just the last 50 years. Those imperial U.S. intrusions have killed an estimated 20,000,000 people, and the slaughter continues today, with no end in sight.

This is not a phenomena of the current incompetent, bombastic buffoon residing in the White House, or the result of the (until recently) Republican-controlled Congress. For generations, there have been few elected U.S. officials who ever met a war they didn’t love; rarely has there been a covert operation to overthrow a democratically-elected government that both Republicans and Democrats didn’t fully support. No, all this is business as usual for the globe’s most dangerous thug, which, were it an individual, would have long ago been found guilty of mass murder.

What is to be done? What can or will a mainly-ignorant public do, when most of its members prefer to wave a flag than look at reality? Like other imperial nations throughout history, the U.S. will eventually implode under the weight of its own ‘malevolent influence and actions’. It is hard to imagine any other nation emerging as the world’s superpower that will cause as much death, destruction and suffering as the U.S. has during its long and bloody history. The end of its reign of terror cannot come soon enough.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries

In two years, the world has become accustomed to being shocked by the words and actions of United States President Donald Trump. In January of this year, he again showed his lack of diplomacy, tack and common decency, when he referred to many poorer countries as “sh*ithole countries”, asking, “Why do we want all these people from sh*thole countries coming here?” Former member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney, in the new book she has edited, How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries, (Clarity Press) has gathered a collection of essays, including one of her own, that clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations.

McKinney

The first series of essays describes U.S. foreign policy, and its true motives. In the essay, The End of Washington’s ‘Wars on the Cheap’, The Saker sums up U.S. foreign policy as follows: “Here’s the template for typical Empire action: find some weak country, subvert it, accuse it of human right violations, slap economic sanctions, trigger riots and intervene militarily in ‘defense’ of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’ (or some other combo of equally pious and meaningless concepts).” The hypocrisy of such a policy is obvious. A weak and vulnerable nation is victimized by a far more powerful one. The U.S. has done this countless times in its history, and there appears to be no appetite in the government to change.

This introduction and explanation of U.S. foreign policy is followed by essays on some, but certainly not all, of the countries that have been victimized by the United States, usually following this template. As McKinney says in her essay, Somalia: Is Somalia the U.S. Template for All of Africa, “…while mouthing freedom, democracy, and liberty, the United States has denied these very aspirations to others, especially when it inconvenienced the US or its allies. In Mozambique and Angola, the US stood with Portugal until it was the Portuguese people, themselves, who threw off their government and voted in a socialist government that vowed to free Portugal of its colonies.”

In the essay, How the U.S. Perpetuates the Palestinian Tragedy’, Sami Al-Arian writes:

It might be understandable, if detestable, for Israel and its Zionist defenders to circulate false characterizations of history and myths to advance their political agenda. But it is incomprehensible, indeed reprehensible, for those who claim to advocate the rule of law, believe in the principle of self-determination, and call for freedom and justice to fall for this propaganda or to become its willing accomplices. In following much of American political leaders’ rhetoric or media coverage of the conflict, one is struck by the lack of historical context, the deliberate disregard of empirical facts, and the contempt for established legal constructs and precedents.”

The U.S. leads in these distortions, with its officials proclaiming, each time that Israel bombs Gaza, that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. There is hardly mention of the brutal, illegal occupation and blockade; never a discussion of the fact that Palestine has no army, navy or air force, and Israel’s military is one of the world’s most powerful thanks to the U.S. It is never stated that international law allows an occupied people to resist the occupation in any way possible, including armed struggle. The countless United Nations resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Palestine are ignored by U.S. officials.

Once again, U.S. hypocrisy is on very public display.

The third section of this informative book describes the United States’ mostly-successful efforts to camouflage its vile intentions and international crimes. Christopher Black, in his essay Western Imperialism and the Use of Propaganda”, clearly articulates how this is done:

The primary concern they [U.S. government officials] have, in order to preserve their control, is for the preservation of the new feudal mythology that they have created: that the world is a dangerous place, that they are the protectors, that the danger is omnipresent, eternal, and omnidirectional, comes from without, and comes from within. The mythology is constructed and presented through all media; journals, films, television, radio, music, advertising, books, the internet in all its variety. All available information systems are used to create and maintain scenarios and dramas to convince the people that they, the protectors, are the good and all others are the bad. We are bombarded with this message incessantly.”

Our memories are short, indeed, if we have forgotten both President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, telling the world from the United Nations the blatant lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, threatening civilization. We are not paying attention if we are unaware of the many innuendos given of the ‘dangers’ of all Muslims. Yes, the government fosters fear, proclaiming subtly and not so subtly that there is danger everywhere, and it is the role of the mighty United States to protect the world, whether or not such protection is wanted or needed.

Lastly, the U.S. Itself can be described as a ‘sh*thole’ country. Its many violations of international law, and crimes against humanity, are summarized by Richard Falk, in his essay The Sh*thole Phenomenon at Home and Abroad:

This kind of nationalist pride covered up and blindsided crimes of the greatest severity that were being committed from the time of the earliest settlements: genocide against native Americans, reliance on the barbarism of slavery to facilitate profitable cotton production and the supposedly genteel life style of the Southern plantations. This unflattering national picture should be enlarged to include the exploitation of the resources and good will of peoples throughout Latin America, who, once freed from Spanish colonial rule, quickly found themselves victimized by American gunboat diplomacy that paved the way for American investors or joined in crushing those bold and brave enough to engage in national resistance against the abuse of their homelands.”

The final essay is the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on his Mission to the United States of America, authored by Philip Alston. While Trump decries “sh*thole” countries, the conditions that the U.S. put those countries in are not unknown in the U.S. A few facts from Alston’s report will suffice:

  • The U.S.’s “…immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.”
  • The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
  • For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

The information in these essays is all rigorously documented with extensive footnotes. The writing is clear and the facts are presented in a concise manner that is highly beneficial for the average reader or academic.

For anyone who questions U.S. policies, at home or abroad, and who has perhaps become more aware of such issues since Trump’s election,

How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries is an indispensable read.

Originally published by Consortium News.

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Nicaragua: U.S. Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

A rather puzzling news item caught the eye of this writer today: “The US has imposed sanctions on Nicaragua’s Vice-President Rosario Murillo, the wife of President Daniel Ortega, accusing her of corruption and serious human rights abuses.”

As he read further, this puzzlement only increased: “On Tuesday, the US Treasury said it was using a new executive order issued by US President Donald Trump to punish Ms. Murillo, accusing her of undermining Nicaragua’s democracy.”

One of the crimes Murillo is purported to be guilty of is as follows: “She is believed to have held influence over a youth organization that the US says engaged in extra-judicial killings, torture and kidnapping.”

Let us all take a look at these brief statements, and see how many examples of hypocrisy can be found in them.

  • Murillo, the first lady of Nicaragua who rules the nation along with her husband, Daniel Ortega, is accused by the U.S. of ‘corruption’. President Trump, his son and daughter-in-law are believed to be benefiting financially by their positions in government, which, or course, is ‘corruption’ in the U.S. That this has not be seriously investigated is a mistake (to put it tactfully) that will no doubt be rectified in January, when the Democrats take control of the House, and will be looking for anything to discredit Trump. From all available evidence, such issues will not be difficult to find.
  • Murillo is also accused of ’serious human rights abuses’. Where do we start? In the U.S., white police officers shoot and kill unarmed teens and adults of African descent with nearly complete impunity. Tax laws in the U.S. hurt the poor, such that at least 40 million citizens, a third of them children, live in poverty. The U.S. supports the brutal regimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which are guilty of the most heinous human-rights abuses, yet the U.S. says nary a word of objection.
  • The Nicaraguan first lady is accused of behaviors that are “undermining Nicaragua’s democracy”. Trump was installed as president, despite losing the popular vote by 3,000,000 votes; that doesn’t seem to be very supportive of democracy. The U.S. Congress is beholden not to its constituents, but to the wealthy lobby groups representing business and foreign governments, that finance its members’ campaigns. U.S. law allows unlimited financial donations to these campaigns from any business or industry.

Prior to Trump’s election, the Republican-controlled Congress blocked the Supreme Court nominee of President Barack Obama until after the election, with the hope (eventually fulfilled) of putting a more conservative justice on the Supreme Court. This left a vacancy on the court for nearly a full year. To this writer, that sounds more like political maneuvering than democracy.

  • An organization in Nicaragua over which the first lady has ‘influence’ has been involved, it is said, in “extra-judicial killings, torture and kidnapping”. At this point, this writer had to re-read the article, to assure that it was about Nicaragua, and not the United States. The U.S. is notorious for kidnapping suspected ‘terrorists’, transporting them to ‘rendition’ sites, where they are tortured, sometimes for years. At the Cuban-based U.S. torture chamber in Guantanamo, countless people have been held without charge, denied access to family or legal services, and tortured for years. The U.S. government doesn’t merely have ‘influence’ over these activities: it is completely responsible for them. The current director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is Gina Haspel, known in some circles as ‘Bloody Gina’, due to not only her instruction to other agents on how to torture, but her experience torturing prisoners herself. These violations of international law, human rights and common decency are part and parcel of U.S. governance.

The United States is currently sending massive amounts of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, while that nation continues to decimate Yemen; millions of people, mostly children, are starving to death because of this ongoing assault. The fact that Saudi Arabia recently bombed a school bus full of children, and murdered a prominent journalist, mean nothing to Trump and many of his GOP cohorts.

Additionally, the U.S. provides apartheid Israel with $4 billion annually, while its own infrastructure is crumbling, its schools are failing, and the citizens of Flint, Michigan do not have clean water.

The U.S. has supported terrorist organizations in Syria that seek to overthrow the legitimate government, and bombed Syria when the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons. Yet the U.S. government says nothing when Israel uses chemical weapons against the Palestinians. And after the bombing of Syria to ‘punish’ the Syrian government for using such weapons, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there was no evidence to confirm that a chemical attack ever occurred..

The U.S.  violated international law by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that regulated Iran’s nuclear program, despite the fact that Iran was and always has been in complete compliance with the agreement. The U.S. has sanctioned Iran (again), and has threatened to sanction any nation that does business with Iran, including some of the U.S.’s oldest and closest allies. Only two nations supported the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA: Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One might ask why the U.S. government feels it is in any position to criticize Nicaragua, or any other nation, for any of its policies. The U.S. is and always has been very selective in how it supports human rights and international law. Why it has now chosen to focus on Nicaragua is anyone’s guess.

Slowly, around the world, other nations are gaining in economic and military strength, thus weakening the hegemony that the U.S. has long had on the planet. The Chinese economy will soon rival and overtake that of the U.S.; India is becoming a powerhouse as well. In the Middle East, despite U.S. efforts, Iranian influence is growing.

Once other nations equal or exceed the power of the United States on the world stage, the planet will become a more peaceful and just environment. One must be cautioned, however: a world power in decline is always dangerous, and the U.S. has been dangerous even when its power has been unrivaled. It is possible, even likely, that prior to more reasonable nations become world leaders, the U.S. will do significant damage around the globe. In the White House, there are no ‘adults’ in the room; there is little to prevent Trump’s worst urges from damaging or destroying the world.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections

Well, the mid-term elections are over, but the fallout from them, the constant verbal diarrhea from newscasters, pundits and other self-proclaimed experts, continues.

And what are they saying? For many of them on whatever passes for ‘leftist’ in the U.S. today (there is really no such thing in the two major parties or the so-called ‘mainstream’ news media), the glee is overwhelming. Democrats won control of the House and now, finally, we are told, much needed brakes will be applied to the speeding Donald Trump train wreck-in-the-making.

Ho hum. Is there really any cause for thinking people in the U.S., or anywhere in the world, for that matter, to suddenly think that the U.S. has begun to climb out of its long decline? Does any reasonable person actually think that Democrats controlling the House of Representatives will change anything?

Let’s look at some things that should change.

* War: the U.S. should stop bombing every nation it is now bombing; it should stop supporting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people, and Saudi Arabia’s genocide of the Yemeni people. It should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan.

Is this going to happen, now that the Democrats control one house of Congress? Will any of them even speak about these issues? Why do that, when doing so might annoy powerful lobby groups?  Such actions would require knowledge, compassion, an understanding of history, a commitment to the people who they purport to represent. Does any of this sound like the characteristics of U.S. politicians? Hardly!

* Environment: With Trump having no problems whatsoever with polluted water and air, and allowing mining and logging to take place in national parks, it would seem that the Democrats could take aim at these issues. After all, it is their children who must breath this air and drink this water. Oh wait, in the exclusive enclaves in which the members of the oligarch reside, such mundane issues are of no concern. They don’t live near factories, spewing their poisons into the air. The water that they drink, and that fills their swimming pools, is always from the most pristine of sources. So what if their constituents don’t have these same advantages? They simply need to work harder, and then they, too, will be able to join the 1%. Of course, how one is going to work harder than some people in the middle- and poverty-classes currently work, with multiple jobs just to make ends meet, is never quite explained.

* International agreements. Trump has proudly disgraced the United States, and proven again (if any additional proof was necessary) that agreements entered into by the U.S. are meaningless. The Paris Climate Accord was the first that Trump violated. He followed that up with pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and by reissuing sanctions against Iran, despite the fact that the entire international community recognizes that Iran has fully complied with the agreement. Even Saudi Arabia and Apartheid Israel, the only two countries on the planet that praised Trump’s decision, don’t deny that Iran is compliant. Perhaps the newly-empowered Democrats in the House might start by demanding that Trump honor this commitment. But no, Iran is the current bugaboo, so that isn’t going to happen, either. Please feel free to review the information stated above about knowledge and an understanding of history, and consider again how these traits are lacking in Congress.

* Taxes. During the first two years of Trumps increasingly disastrous administration, the U.S.’s upper crust, the members of the 1%, which includes the president himself, his wealthy supporters and most of the members of Congress, received a very generous tax cut. Prior to the mid-term elections, there was talk coming from the White House that such a cut for what’s left of the middle-class would be introduced ‘soon’. Of course, ‘soon’ is a relative word, which could mean anything from tomorrow to when hell freezes over. In this context, the latter meaning is the one we can all use.

Will the Democrats tackle this issue? Will they throw a bone to the people who actually vote for them? No, we must be very careful not to do anything that might cause the wealthy to feel some economic pinch; better to let the middle-class carry the burden. Once they are able to make huge donations to the campaign coffers of their own (or others; it hardly matters to whom the money goes, as long as some politician gets it), then, perhaps, they will receive some tax relief.

We must now ask: with the Democrats soon to control the House of Representatives, what, exactly, will they do? Well, they have made their plans clear. They will demand that Trump release his tax returns, something that weighs heavily, this writer is sure, on the minds of people attempting to make ends meet. They will investigate whether or not Trump broke the law by paying hush money to his erstwhile mistress, Stormy Daniels (among others). No doubt citizens across the U.S. have been busy writing their elected officials (this writer absolutely refuses to call them representatives), demanding to know the answer to this question, and telling them that, while they try not to go bankrupt paying for college education, their number one priority, the issue that Congress must tackle, before addressing the crumbling infrastructure, low-performing school, the opioid epidemic, or crippling taxes, is to determine where the funding came for Trump to silence that particular woman.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency pushed the U.S. through some strange portal, where the bizarre becomes the mundane, truth is fiction and the reality you see before you is denied. The country had long since been hovering at that portal, but Trump dove through it, taking Congress with him. A willing Democratic Party closed its eyes and took the plunge, too.

Within just a few short months, we must all endure the announcements of various Democrats that they have decided to take their level of ‘service’ to the nation to the next level, and seek the presidency in 2020. These dynamic agents of change (?) include former Vice President Joe Biden, an elderly white man who inspires absolutely no one, and none other than Hillary Clinton, she of the long and sullied resume and sufficient baggage to sink a freighter. Various other names are bandied about, and all of them are cut from the same mold: barely different from the Republicans, perhaps a tad PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine), but mostly male and entirely white.

And why should it be different? Those potential candidates live very well in their ivory towers, and the system is rigged so none of the little people can ever even dream of affording a political campaign.

And so the pattern continues: lots of talk, no action, and increasing suffering at home and abroad. Welcome to the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Candidates, Palestine and Pro-Israel Lobby Money

It is not unusual for this writer to receive solicitations for campaign contributions from Democratic candidates across the country. The fact that he lives in Canada, and is registered in Florida (his last U.S. place of residence), is of no concern to candidates with their hands out. When receiving such emails, or when hearing about other ‘progressive’ candidates, he checks online to learn if they are truly progressive, or are PEP  – Progressive Except for Palestine.

One such candidate, House member Krysten Sinema, was recently elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. In researching her background, this writer found a ‘position paper’ from 2009 that parrots many of the statements he’s heard from other PEP officials. We will look at a few of them in detail. While this ‘position paper’ is several years old, the candidate has worked hard since then to hone her racist, Zionist credentials.

As we look at these statements, let’s keep in the back of our minds that fact that, during the 2017 – 2018 elections cycle, Sinema received $233,667.00 in donations from pro-Israel lobbies. In the two years prior, her take was  a ‘mere’ $61,725.00.

  • “The United States and Israel have been allies for more than 60 years, and this relationship, born of common values, must continue to be strong. Our friendship is rooted in our mutual respect for democratic values, human rights and religious freedom.”

It is a marvel that any thinking person can speak these words, let alone believe them. Democracy, unlike what the U.S. government officials would have us all believe, is far more than periodic voting. But even by that superficial litmus test, both countries fail. In both Israel and the U.S., voter suppression works to maintain the status quo. In both countries, there is one ethnic group that is favored and privileged above all others. In the U.S., it is whites of European descent. In Israel, it is Zionist Jews. In the U.S., people of African descent are more likely to receive harsher prison sentences for the same crimes committed by their white peers; they are far more likely to be shot by white police officers. In Israel, people of Arab or African descent are brutally treated. Palestinians can be arrested without charge and held indefinitely with no access to lawyers, or even family. And like the U.S., in Israel, Palestinians or people of African descent receive far more severe penalties for crimes than their Jewish counterparts.

Israel is continually criticized by the international community for its human rights violations against Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The U.S. vetoes nearly all United Nations resolutions critical of Israel, while it finances its crimes.

The U.S. also supports Saudi Arabia, despite its atrocious human rights record.

Additionally, the U.S. tortures political prisoners at Guantanamo, and in ‘rendition’ sites around the world.

In the U.S., the favored religious status is Christian or Jewish; Muslims need not apply. Mosques surrounded by armed protesters during religious services barely register with the citizenry. One can only imagine how much blood would flow should armed Muslims ever surround a church or synagogue during worship services, and all of it would be from Muslim bodies.

Based on all this, Sinema may be right in saying the nations have shared values.

  • “While I had read about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it was only in Sderot that I saw first hand the danger in which many Israelis live each day. I will never forget the bomb shelter that was built at the site of a children’s playground after children had been killed by Hamas rockets.”

Is Sinema totally unaware of the danger in which all Palestinians live each day? Is she unaware of the brutality of checkpoints in the West Bank, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip? Is she completely ignorant of the brutal harassment that occurs on a daily basis at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? Is she blind to home demolitions, arrests without cause, assaults on and murders of unarmed men, women and children by IDF soldiers and illegal settlers? Does she not  know that since 2000, while 1,242 Israelis have been killed in conflicts with Palestinians, at least 9,510 Palestinians have been killed? Does she not know that this number includes 134 Israeli children and 2,167 Palestinian children? If she doesn’t know, she is too uninformed to be part of the U.S. Congress. If she does know, her racism makes her unfit for government ‘service’.

  • “I believe that Israel has the right to defend herself from her neighbors and from terrorist organizations.” One wonders if the illustrious Sinema also believes that a rapist has the right to defend himself when the woman he is raping fights back. The logic is the same in both situations. Israel brutally occupies Palestine, and according to international law, Palestine has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. Israel doesn’t ‘defend’ itself from Palestine; it simply increases the brutality of the occupation.
  • “I also believe that the best path to long-term peace for Israel is a two-state solution – one a secure Jewish state of Israel and the other, an independent, demilitarized Palestine.”

Does she not believe in a secure Palestinian state? And why, oh why, would any country, especially one adjacent to a nation that has spent seventy years trying to destroy it, be ‘demilitarized’? Does not Palestine have a right to defend itself from its neighbors and from terrorist organizations, such as the IDF?

  • “…lasting peace will only emerge from direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.” No, Ms. Sinema, this is not how “lasting peace” will emerge. If Israel is forced by the international community to adhere to international law, there will be peace. This means retreating to the pre-1967 borders, and ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

We will take a moment to state, once again, that negotiations can only be successful when each party wants something the other has, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. Why wouldn’t Israel say it’s willing to negotiate? It can ‘negotiate’ all it wants while it simply steals land from Palestine.

Sinema’s statement goes on, but time, along with this writer’s ability to read such garbage, are both limited. But it is clear that Sinema is reading a script from her pro-Israel owners.

She is certainly not the only one. While she ranks fourth in donations from pro-Israel lobbies during the 2017 – 2018 campaign season, Texas’s own PEP candidate, Beta O’Rourke, ranks number one, with a whopping $390,982.00.

There is a great hue and cry among the self-righteous Congressional hypocrites on both sides of the aisle that Russia, perhaps, attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election. Yet when pro-Israel lobbies spend millions and millions of dollars to elect candidates who will work for Israel’s best interest, these same people are silent. Prior to the 2016 Democratic convention, true progressives (the few that remain in the Democratic Party) attempted to remove the provision that the Democrats recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In its most un-Democratic way, the Party kept this provision, thus pleasing its Israeli owners.

Until any major party becomes truly progressive, this writer’s donations and votes will go to third-party candidates who believe in human rights and international law. He expects to be donating to, and voting for, third-party candidates for a long time to come.

Originally published by The Palestine News Network.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Military, Palestine, Palestine, Political Musings, U.S. Politics, Violence