Category Archives: U.S.

Impressions of Iran

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Iran. I spent time in the capital city of Tehran, the country’s largest city, and Mashhad, a large city in the northern part of Iran. I saw what I expected to see: each was a bustling city. The downtown area of each was crowded and busy, not unlike other cities I’ve visited in different parts of the world.

Where I gained the impression that Iran was a prosperous, modern nation before my visit, I don’t know. Prior to my departure, when I announced to friends and acquaintances that I would soon be visiting Iran, I was met with shocked reactions. Here are some of the questions I was asked at that time:

  • Is it safe?
  • Don’t you worry about being arrested?
  • Don’t people disappear there all the time?

Following my invitation to visit, but before the actual visit, Tehran experienced its first terrorist attack in several years. I was then asked if I was still going. My response: ‘London has had a few terrorist attacks, but if I were planning a visit there, I’d still go’. This seemed to make sense to my questioner.

Since my return, some of the questions I’ve been asked indicate that my view of Iran as a modern nation is not shared by everyone else. The following are some of the questions I’ve been asked about my visit to Iran:

  • How do the people there live?
  • Did you feel safe?
  • Did anyone stop you from taking pictures?
  • Were you afraid when visiting mosques?

The U.S. demonizes Iran, mainly because it is a powerful country in the Middle East, and Israel cannot countenance any challenge to its hegemony, and when Israel talks, the U.S. listens. Apparently, this demonization is working at least somewhat successfully, judging by the comments I received concerning my trip there.

I have to wonder how this is acceptable in the world community, but then again, there really isn’t much question. The U.S. uses its military might and its declining but still powerful economic strength to intimidate much of the world. This is why the Palestinians still suffer so unspeakably, but that is a topic for another conversation. The U.S. again, in the last few days, asserted that Iran is complying with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that regulates Iran’s nuclear development program. Yet it continues to sanction Iran; for some bizarre reason, Iran must comply with its part of this agreement, but the U.S. government doesn’t feel any obligation to maintain its part. If Iran’s leaders were to say that, since the U.S. was not keeping to its word, Iran has no obligation to do so, the U.S.’s leaders would then say, ‘See? We told you so! Iran isn’t living up to the agreement!’.

The U.S.’s continued criticism and sanctions of Iran adds to the impression that it is a rogue nation, funneling all its money into the military, while its oppressed citizens cower in the streets, awaiting arrest for just about anything.

How much, however, does this impression actually mirror the U.S? A few facts are instructive:

  • Currently, the U.S. is bombing 6 nations; Iran, none.
  • The U.S. has used nuclear weapons, resulting in the horrific deaths of hundreds of thousands of people; Iran has never used such weapons.
  • Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has invaded, destabilized and/or overthrown the governments of at least 30 countries; Iran hasn’t invaded another country in over 200 years.
  • The U.S. has the largest per capita prison population in the world: 25% of all people imprisoned in the world are in prisons in the U.S. In the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, 716 of every 100,000 people are in prison. Iran’s rate is 287 per 100,000.
  • The U.S. finances the brutal apartheid regime of Israel, and has full diplomatic relations with that rouge nation and Saudi Arabia, both of which have human rights records that are among the worst in the world. Iran supports Palestine, and the Palestinians’ struggle for independence.
  • The poverty rate in the U.S. is 13.1%; between 2009 and 2013, Iran’s poverty rate fell from 13.1% to 8.1% (that has increased somewhat since 2014, but details were not readily available).

Based on this limited information, it seems that despite its somewhat successful efforts to demonize Iran, the U.S. is, in fact, the more dangerous and threatening nation.

But such facts are not what interests Congress. Beholden first and foremost to the lobbies that finance election campaigns, and Israeli lobbies chief among them, truth, justice, human rights and international law all take a back seat. And so the propaganda continues, with Iran being portrayed as an evil empire, when all evidence contradicts that view.

It is unfortunate that not everyone in the U.S. is able to visit Iran, to learn for themselves that it is nothing like what the corporate-owned media, working hand-in-hand with the government, portrays. The U.S. government seems anxious to extend its wars to Iran; this would be a global disaster. It is to be hoped that such a catastrophe can be prevented.

Originally published by Aletho News.

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US is world’s largest source of terrorism, not Iran: American writer

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/08/527833/US-is-worlds-largest-source-of-terrorism-not-Iran

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The United States is the world’s largest source of terrorism, not the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Robert Fantina, an American writer and political analyst who is based in Ontario, Canada.

Fantina, the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of US Foreign Policy, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Saturday when asked why does the US want to convince the world that Iran is exporting terrorism, when it itself is doing so.

“The United States for generations has proclaimed, against all evidence, that it is a beacon of liberty and freedom, respecting human rights and assisting the downtrodden around the world. In that context, it accuses Iran of what it itself does, to convince the world that Iran is a terrorist regime, in order to gain widespread support for an invasion,” Fantina said.

“Such an invasion of Iran would serve many purposes for the United States,” he stated.

“First, the US is the world’s largest exporter of weaponry; the more wars it wages, the more use there is for its products. Weapons manufacturers in the US make significant donations to elected officials for their election and re-election campaigns. It has been reported that, in Syria, different factions, both supplied by the US, are actually fighting each other.

“Second, and more importantly for the US, is the Israeli lobby, which donates far more to elected officials than weapons manufacturers. Israel has nuclear weapons, and with $4 billion annually from the US, has become a very powerful force in the Middle East and the world. The US will not allow Iran, a large and powerful country, to challenge ‘sacred’ Israel in any way.

“In addition, US government officials and the corporate-owned media, which can be seen as a branch of the government, have long tried, with some success, to convince the populace to fear Islam. By accusing Iran, an Islamic country, of exporting ‘terrorism’, this fear can be enflamed. This will enable the US to more strongly support Israel, thus pleasing Israeli lobbies and continuing the flow of money to officials running for re-election.

“Also, if the US can convince the world that Iran is exporting ‘terrorism’, it moves the focus away from its own terrorist activities, and points them elsewhere. This allows the US to continue terrorizing the world.

“The US citizenry always seems ready to go to war; once the wars start, and disillusionment sets in, they learn that starting wars is much easier than ending them. But as the US has destroyed Libya and Iraq, and is trying desperately, with only a modicum of success, fortunately, to do the same thing to Syria, the citizenry doesn’t seem to notice; once the US goes to war, they will wave the flag, ‘support the troops’, and climb on the murderous US bandwagon.

“But what they don’t realize is that an invasion of Iran will not be the same as the invasion of Iraq; the names of the countries are similar, but that is about the only thing they have in common. With a population of over 72 million, Iran is twice the size of Iraq. The Iranian military is far stronger than the Iraqi military ever was. Additionally, Iran is allied with Russia, which is unlikely to sit back and watch the US destroy Iran.

“US officials can say what they will about Iran, but the facts are clear: it is the US that is the world’s largest source of terrorism.”

Originally published by Press TV.

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Tulsi Gabbard: the New Democratic ‘Savior’

The grossly misnamed Democratic Party has a brand new savior. Yes, with former Senator Hillary Clinton having been vanquished, and her ardent cheerleader, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, being ‘old news’, one Tulsi Gabbard, Representative from the state of Hawaii, has ridden in on her white stallion to save the day.

Ms. Gabbard gained the attention of the Democrats when she dared criticize President Donald Trump’s bombing of Syria, saying that without hard evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was, indeed, responsible for the alleged chemical attack that killed several Syrian citizens, there should be no retaliation. It is puzzling that Ms. Gabbard seemed to be almost alone in this assertion, since it would seem to be common sense that before punishing anyone for anything, it should be known that that person was responsible for whatever deed is being punished for. And why U.S. government officials feel the need to punish any international entity for anything is a topic for a different essay.

But this position has launched Ms. Gabbard’s new career in what passes for the progressive wing of the party, as a leader in the Democratic Party, and a potential contender for the White House.

Sadly, like many Democrats, Ms. Gabbard is ‘PEP’: Progressive except for Palestine. She has said that she believes Palestine and Israel must negotiate the terms of peace, and supports an independent, demitiliarized Palestine. A few quotations from her official website are instructive:

“I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is. My vote upholds my commitment to maintaining and strengthening this alliance, as well as my long-held position that the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.

“Ultimately, a negotiated solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, and can only happen when both parties are committed to peace, where they alone determine the terms of the settlement.  I co-sponsored H.Res.23 which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Israel, and a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two-state solution that re-affirms Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to support bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine in order to bring an end to this enduring conflict.”

As we dissect these few sentences, we must remember that between November, 2014 and November, 2016, the illustrious Ms. Gabbard received $21,975 from pro-Israeli lobbies. This is a mere pittance when compared to the contributions of some of her colleagues, with Illinois Representative Bradley Scott Schneider being the big winner, with a windfall of $300,932 during that same time period. But that grand prize is one that Ms. Gabbard, if she plays her Zionist cards right, can obtain, or even exceed.

+ “I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is.” Ms. Gabbard may know it, but would someone, anyone, please enlighten this writer? Why should the U.S. have any alliance with an apartheid state, one that spits in its eye and then demands, and receives, billions of dollars in aid?

+ “…the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.” Again, this writer needs to be enlightened. If I am in ‘negotiations’ with another party, and I am able to take from that party whatever I want, whenever I want, and give nothing in return, what would be the advantage to me in negotiating? Oh, I might proclaim to whatever idiotic entity is encouraging negotiations that I am willing to sit down with the other party, without preconditions (meaning I can continue taking whatever I want as we ‘negotiate’), and then actually do so, but it will have no meaning. I will never honestly negotiate, since doing so won’t be in my best interest.

+ Gabbard reaffirms “Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state.” That is a two-pronged sword, and we will try to prevent being stabbed by either one.

Like most Democrats, Ms. Gabbard does not seem to understand the root words from which the term originates. Basically, it means ‘citizen rule’, and implies equality. In a democracy, there are not separate rules for different ethnic and religious groups, as there are in Israel. Yet she is willing to spout the happy mantras that have served the party for so long, despite the fact that they have long since their luster among the populace.

She further affirms Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Again, the meaning of that term is unclear. The only reasonable definition contradicts the idea of a democracy. If Israel is to be a Jewish state, than non-Jews living there will not have the same rights, as is true today.

The concept of a ‘Jewish, democratic state’ is a contradiction in terms. For generations, the U.S. was, in effect, a ‘White European, democratic state’, meaning that all laws favored the predominately white population, and everyone else was a second-class citizen. Democracy? This writer thinks not.

+ Gabbard further wants to “establish a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state”. How is it possible for anyone to utter those words with a straight face? Set aside for a moment the fact that an independent Palestine will have a mortal enemy at its border, one that has been actively working on its destruction for decades. Leave out for just a minute the fact that that enemy has an extremely powerful military, and is backed by the strongest and most violent nation on the planet. Even without those considerations, why should any country be prevented by any other country from having the means to defend its land and citizens?

All of this indicates that Ms. Gabbard is either ignorant of international law, or cares nothing for it. International law states clearly, and this has been reiterated by numerous United Nations resolutions, that the occupation of Palestine by Israel is illegal. This, apparently, means nothing to Ms. Gabbard.

It’s also worth noting, that the celebrated Representative from Hawaii also condemns the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement.

And this is the new savior; this is the ‘new breed’ of ‘progressive’ Democrat who will carry the mantle of the war-mongering former President Barack Obama; former standard-bearer, the war-mongering Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the war-mongering Democrats.

This is what ‘progressive’ has come to mean in Democratic Party circles. The party has long been nothing but a cosmetically-different version of the Republican Party, with opposition to Republican policies only on display when the GOP is in power; the same policies, with few exceptions, are promoted when the Democrats are in power, and one constant is the bowing at the Israeli altar and the accompanying complete disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people. And with that, of course, is an equal disregard for international law.

As long as the government and the corporate-owned media are able to maintain their stranglehold on what passes for the two-party system in the U.S., nothing will change. Politicians will do the bidding of the lobbies that support them, ignoring the will of the people. Suffering in the U.S. and globally will be ignored, as long as the U.S.’s elected officials are able to keep their low-challenging, high-paying jobs.

To say that a third party movement, a real one not beholden to any outside interests but with the good of the people in mind, is long overdue, is a classic understatement.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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

Kerry, Netanyahu and the Settlements

Following the recent double-whammy against Israel, the first being the United Nations resolution condemning and demanding a stop to all settlement activity, and the second being United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech slamming Israeli policy, Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu seems beside himself in fury.  Mr. Kerry, he lamented shortly after the secretary’s speech, “obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict”. He then made this incredible statement: “No one wants peace more than the people of Israel”. Well, there you are.

Has it really come to this? Has reality really disappeared from the international radar? The leader of a wealthy, prominent nation, one that receives more foreign aid from the U.S. than all other nations combined, actually spouts such nonsense, and is not be laughed off the international stage. Well, since Donald Trump is president-elect of the U.S., this writer supposes he has answered his own questions.

Mr. Netanyahu also said that Mr. Kerry only paid ‘lip service’ to condemning what he called Palestinian terrorism, and accused the secretary of “attacking the only democracy in the Middle East”.

The speech contained other pearls of twisted wisdom, but time and space prevent a thorough study of each of them. But let’s do our own fact-checking on the few mentioned herein, and see what we might be able to learn.

  • “No one want peace more than the people of Israel”.  Let’s see now. Israelis evict Palestinians from their homes for a variety of reasons: to live in them themselves; to destroy them to make room for Israeli-only ‘communities’ (a new word being bandied about to sanitize illegal settlements); to create roads that non-Israelis can’t even cross over, let alone drive on; to extend the apartheid wall. Israeli settlers commit crimes, including murder, against Palestinians, with nearly complete impunity, often protected by Israeli soldiers, who themselves commit unspeakable crimes against Palestinians, again with nearly complete impunity.

Israelis are free to carry deadly weapons with them wherever they go; non-Israelis are not.

Somehow, this does not sound to this writer to be the actions of people who want peace as badly as the Prime Murderer would have us all believe.

  • Netanyahu said that Mr. Kerry only paid ‘lip service’ to Palestinian terrorism. The fact that the secretary said anything about so-called ‘terrorism’ committed by the Palestinians was just an appeasement to Israel. Mr. Kerry should know that, under international law, an occupied people have the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. He should also know that the so-called ‘rockets’ that Hamas occasionally fires into Gaza are, in the words of scholar Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel, nothing more than enhanced fireworks. These ‘rockets’ hardly compare to the deadly weapons the U.S. provides Israel to kill Palestinian men, women and children. And let’s be reminded that, in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more and far more deadly rockets into the Gaza Strip than Hamas had fired into Israel in the previous 14 years.

Mr. Netanyahu seems to have a very unusual definition of terrorism. One wonders if he would consider it terrorism if Palestinian soldiers routinely broke into the homes of Israelis in the middle of the night, ransacked the homes and arrested all the males in them over the age of 10. This writer feels that he would. Yet Israeli soldiers commit these crimes on a daily basis against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Would the Israeli Prime Murderer think it an act of terrorism, if Palestinians drove bulldozers up to the home of an Israeli family, and advised them to leave immediately, because their house was going to be demolished? Israel does this to Palestinians hundreds of times a year.

If Palestinians went to Israeli reservoirs, on which Israeli families relied for drinking water, and contaminated them with dead chickens and human feces, would the Prime Murderer feel that was an act of terrorism? Would he feel so if Palestinians simply destroyed those reservoirs? Israelis do this to Palestinians on a regular basis.

If Palestinians, in specially-equipped trucks, drove to a neighborhood elementary school, and sprayed sewage all over the school, adjacent residential buildings, and any people who couldn’t run out of the way quickly enough, would he object to that as terrorism? Palestinians suffer under this treatment from Israelis.

So, perhaps, in the twisted little mind of Mr. Netanyahu, it is only Israelis who can be victimized; after all, he will readily tell you, remember the Holocaust! Never again! Oh, that means ‘never again’ to Israelis; such crimes against others are just fine.

  • Kerry, according to the Prime Murderer, attacked “the only democracy in the Middle East”. One key element of democracy is this: “Guarantee of basic Human Rights to every individual person vis-à-vis the state and its authorities as well as vis-à-vis any social groups (especially religious institutions) and vis-à-vis other persons.” We have already mentioned roads that only Israelis can drive on. Also, non-Israelis in the judicial system have a separate set of rules. For people living under occupation, this includes arrest without charge; indefinite detention; no access to lawyers or family; lack of medical treatment, among others. Israelis, of course, cannot be arrested without charge, or held indefinitely. They have immediate and unfettered access to lawyers and family, and any medical needs they may have are fulfilled.

Another key element is freedom of speech and press. Israel glories in this freedom, as long as no one says anything critical of the state.

Democracy, indeed!

We have, perhaps, saved the best for last. Mr. Netanyahu said that Mr, Kerry:

  • “Obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict”. The Prime Murderer sounds like the bratty child in the school yard who, when asked why he struck another child, says “because he hit me back”. Palestine, with no army, navy or air force is occupied and oppressed by one of the most powerful nations in the world, back by the most powerful. Mr. Netanyahu says that Palestine refuses to recognize the Jewish state of Israel (how that concept squares with the idea of democracy has never been adequately explained to this writer), and that is key to the conflict. Yet Israel is slowly, although with increasing speed, annexing all of Palestine, with the ultimate goal of annihilating it, wiping it from existence, and replacing it with Israel.

With the election of the clown-like Mr. Trump as president of the U.S., there will no longer be any pretense that the U.S. is a neutral peace broker in the Middle East. Mr. Trump has said that Israel can build all the settlements it wants, and his political appointees are all in favor of destroying Palestine, as demanded by the wealthy and generous Israeli lobbies, AIPAC (Apartheid Israeli Political Affairs Committee) chief among them. Yet the recent vote in the U.N. Security Council shows international support for Palestine. Perhaps, just perhaps, with Mr. Trump as president, the rest of the world will recognize that it must act for the Palestinian people. Mr. Trump’s election, although an overall disaster for the world, may have a silver lining, if it motivates the global community to act for justice in Palestine.

Originally published on Counterpunch on January 6, 2017

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Trump and ‘Locker room talk’

As a United States citizen who fled the country for Canada after the 2004 presidential election, this writer looks with awe and horror at what is happening there now. He watched as the Democratic Party leaders arrogantly proclaimed their lack of interest in the will of the people, and anointed Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president, a highly flawed choice, one dragging tons of baggage from her long political career, who is disliked by large swaths of the public.

The Republicans, never a party to stray too far from the 1%, selected Donald Trump, an obnoxious billionaire businessman with no government experience, one whose record of so-called family values that the Party once held dear, is more than a bit shoddy. He, too, had a very low approval rating among voters, but it must have been somewhat higher that Secretary Clinton’s, since he was, sort of, victorious. Although he lost the popular vote, he won enough electoral college votes to be elected, and will assume office in January.

Weeks before the election, a taped conversation that Mr. Trump had with a television host by the name of Billy Bush, was made public. The now-President-elect discussed women somewhat extensively during this chat, and his words were shocking and crude, even for him.

Let’s look at a few of his statements.

  • Regarding groping women: “when you’re a star, they let you do it,”
  • Regarding an unnamed woman: “I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it, I did try and f— her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
  • In reference to actress Arianne Zucker, who was there to escort Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush onto the set. “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
  • “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

The backlash to this was swift, with several prominent Republicans condemning such statements, and withdrawing their endorsement of Mr. Trump. His spokeswoman, however, dismissed the controversy. Said she: “This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago”.

Other defenders of Mr. Trump have echoed the same sentiment. Retired surgeon, former candidate wannabe and darling of the Christian right, Ben Carson, in a CNN interview with Brianna Keilar, defended Mr. Trump’s comments as ‘normal banter between men’. This has been repeated, in one form or another, by his adoring, sexist fans, both men and women, in a variety of interviews.

This writer begs to differ. This is not ‘normal banter between men’. It is sexist in the extreme. Decent white men, in private, wouldn’t refer to Blacks using the ‘n’ word; nor would they make comical references to slavery, or the current trend of white police officers shooting unarmed Black men. Honorable straight men wouldn’t joke about the Matthew Shepard murder; respectable Christian men wouldn’t use derogatory terms to describe Muslims.  And principled men wouldn’t speak in such a way about women

But Mr. Trump isn’t decent, honorable, respectable or principled; he is the antithesis of these virtues, as he has repeatedly demonstrated.

So why does he get a free pass for his comments about women?

This says as much about half of the U.S. voting public as it does about Mr. Trump himself. Granted, many people who voted for him would do anything to keep Mrs. Clinton out of the White House, but choosing one awful candidate to prevent the election of one equally as awful has just gotten the U.S., and the world, in the mess it is now in. But there are some things that decent people simply can’t overlook, and Mr. Trump’s dismaying comments about women fall into that category.

Perhaps, although how escapes the comprehension of this writer, some people can overlook those comments. One supposes that if that is the case, one can also ignore his comments about Mexicans, including this gem: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

And, as long as one can ignore that, it’s not a stretch to say one could also ignore his statements that he would ‘absolutely’ require all Muslims to register in a national database.

It is more than troubling that enough people found those statements sufficiently easy to ignore that they were willing to cast their vote for Mr. Trump on election day.

Between November 9, the day after Mr. Trump’s election, and November 16, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a total of 701 incidents of what it describes as “hateful harassment” against  people of color, women, LGBT individuals, Muslims and other groups. Is this a coincidence? Shortly after the election, the KKK in North Carolina announced a parade in Mr. Trump’s honor. With that organization celebrating, the drastic increase in crimes against various minorities since the election cannot be seen as mere coincidence. His supporters have achieved what they wanted: a racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic candidate elected president of the United States.

What is to be done? With a compliant Congress that will provide no check on his worst impulses at home or abroad, and a government non-responsive to the will of the people, the options for those of us who do not share Mr. Trump’s narrow, twisted views are limited. But there are a few:

  • Defend victims. In whatever situation we see them, those who are being harassed due to their sex, nationality, religion or sexual orientation should have defenders outnumbering harassers. Whether in a restaurant, store, walking down a street or anywhere else, we need to speak up for those who, as of November 8, became far more vulnerable.
  • Put down hate speech. When among any acquaintances, if people demean women, gays, or any other minority,  they need to know that we will not tolerate such conversation. We will not listen to ‘locker room talk’, as defined by Mr. Trump’s supporters, or any demeaning conversation about anyone.
  • Contact Congress. This isn’t a one-time event. When any policy is introduced that would marginalize any group, such as the shocking, hateful idea of registering all Muslims, our elected so-called representatives must hear from us immediately, and in the strongest terms. As mentioned previously, the U.S. government isn’t responsive to the wishes of the citizenry, but if Congress members think some policy they support will cost them a significant number of votes in the next election, they will change. This, of course, is not due to integrity, but to the Congressional need for self-preservation.

The United States and the world are in for a difficult several years. Even if Mr. Trump leaves office in four years, significant damage will already have been done; the era of the 1950s, when a woman’s place was in the home, Blacks were still in the back of the bus, and being publicly gay was a death sentence, will have returned. And there is little hope that a Democratic president will do much to resolve these issues, partly because these attitudes will quickly become well-entrenched, and partly because no known Democrat has an ounce of integrity anyway.

But in our own spheres, we can, and must, make a difference.

 

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The Democrats’ Great Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each of these roles deserve some consideration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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The Olympics: Nationalism at its Worst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Originally published in MintPressNews.

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The First Amendment, BDS and Third Party Candidates

It seems sometimes that, like Alice, we have all tumbled down a rabbit hole and entered a bizarre new universe. However, Mr. Carroll could never have invented anything as peculiar as what is seen in United States politics and governance.

For reasons that only politicians and the lobbies who own them can completely understand, Israel, that brutal, apartheid nation, comes first and foremost in what passes for the minds of elected officials. It is reported that New Jersey is the latest in a string of states that is passing anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) laws. This, of course, will require endless hours of effort by some unfortunate bureaucrat to compile lists of organizations that support the boycott of Israel. Was it so long ago that other bureaucrats compiled lists of Communist ‘sympathizers’? We all know how well that turned out.

But anyway, why should politicians who bask in the largess of Israeli lobbies care about the First Amendment? That old thing! Let’s take a look at what is says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Supreme Court over the years has expanded this to include states; it isn’t just Congress that is so forbidden. In 1982, in the case of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) vs. Clairborne Hardware Co., the Court found that “the nonviolent elements of a boycott are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment”.

Now, what might the governing bodies of New Jersey, New York and nine other states that have passed anti-BDS legislation learn from this? The purpose of the BDS movement, as indicated on its webpage, is clear: in 2005, “Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law”. It would appear that all of these actions fall into the ‘non-violent’ category that the Supreme Court says is protected by the First Amendment.

During the long, drawn out, bitter campaign for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, which was only a forerunner to what promises to be an unparalleled circus of a campaign between Tweedle-Dum (Republican Donald Trump) and Tweedle-Dee (Democrat Hillary Clinton), most of the candidates from both parties made the obligatory visit to the AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) altar in Washington, D.C. in March of this year. There, they decried Palestinian resistance to the occupation, resistance that is sanctioned by the United Nations, and praised Israeli ‘restraint’, that only killed 500 innocent children in less than two months in the summer of 2014. They spoke of the strength of Israeli ‘democracy’, where there are separate laws for Jewish Israelis, and non-Jewish Israelis. They talked of Israel as the U.S.’s only ‘friend’ in the Middle East, a friendship that the U.S. purchases with more foreign aid than is given to all other countries combined. Such groveling by men and women who would ‘lead’ the United States is nothing less than repulsive to watch.

Fortunately, the U.S. voter isn’t limited to the two representatives of the Republicratic Party. Choices abound, although the corporate-owned media (fascism, anyone?) would have us all believe otherwise. The candidacy of Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) has been mentioned by this writer previously, but is worth noting again, as she is one of the third-party candidates who does not feel compelled to kiss the unholy ring of Israel.

A few phrases from the PSL webpage are telling:

* The “campaign stands in full solidarity with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign…”

* “The BDS movement demands that Israel: End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.  It fights for an end to Israeli apartheid.”

We learn from this some important differences between Ms. La Riva and Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. First, unlike her rivals, Ms. La Riva respects human rights. Second, she recognizes and respects international law. She understands the role of boycotting in bringing about change. Unlike the Republican and Democratic candidates, she recognizes apartheid when she sees it. Finally, she supports worldwide efforts to bring justice to the Palestinians, after decades of oppression.

But Ms. La Riva doesn’t stop there; she fully exposes the elephant (or perhaps, the donkey) in the room:

“Both of the presumptive major capitalist party candidates, Trump and Clinton, have expressed full support for Israel, outrageously painting Israel as ‘victim’ and the Palestinians as ‘aggressor,’ in keeping with the Israeli narrative that is constantly regurgitated by the corporate media here.”

As 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.” Ms. La Riva seems to recognize that odd fact, and is willing to do something about it.

It is unlikely that a third-party candidate will be victorious in the 2016 presidential election farce, where the major competitors are highly disliked by large swaths of the electorate, which will seek in vain to find the lesser of two evils. But this situation, where the 99% must choose between two members of the 1%, can begin to die this year, if increasing numbers of people decide to pull a lever for a candidate other than those of either the GOP or Democratic Party. If voters consider such things as human rights, international law, and justice, they will be unable to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. There are excellent alternatives, and Ms. La Riva is one of them.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Militarism, Palestine, Palestine, U.S., U.S. Politics

A Perfect Couple: Sanders and Clinton

Much to the surprise of absolutely no one but his most ardent fans, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has sold his soul and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Only time will tell what he received in return: a position in a Clinton Cabinet, or perhaps a prestigious assignment in the senate. One hopes he held out for more than a meaningless plank in the Democratic Party platform which, when combined with all the other meaningless planks, makes for a meaningless platform. More on that later. But this is all business as usual when the kingmakers are hard at work, plying their craft.

There was talk in the last several days about overtures the Green Party had made to Mr. Sanders, with the gross exaggeration that likely Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had offered to step aside to enable him to head the ticket. Dr. Stein herself issued a clarification, saying that while the party had reached out to the senator, there were a variety of issues that would need to have been discussed if there was any partnership to be established. She also said that, unlike the Democratic Party, the delegates to the Green Party convention would determine the nominee; it wasn’t hers to give away.

Mr. Sanders’ statement endorsing his former opponent is puzzling indeed. The constraints of time and space prevent a thorough analysis, but we will look at a few key points, and attempt to make sense of them.

“Together, we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution continues.”

I think not. Certainly, many people jumped on the Sanders bandwagon, hoping for such changes as a higher minimum wage and an end to astronomical student debt. But, while these are certainly desirable, they do not a revolution make. A good place to start a revolution might be to end war and international militarism, but the good senator had no intention of doing any such thing.

“Together, we continue the fight to create a government which represents all of us, and not just the one percent….”

Senator Sanders would have us believe that Mrs. Clinton, a woman with an estimated fortune of $45 million, is going to fight for the 99%. This is a woman who never met a corporate lobby she didn’t love. Perhaps Mr. Sanders thinks that his devoted followers will buy whatever it is he chooses to sell, so he decided to bring out the snake oil.

“It is easy to forget where we were seven and a half years ago when President Obama came into office. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Curiouser and Curiouser! Does Mr. Sanders forget that the woman whose praises he is now singing earned nearly $700,000 for three, yes three, speeches to Goldman Sachs? Does he expect anyone to believe that she will oppose corporate advantages in order to fight for the common worker? Favors, in the amount of fees and campaign donations, have been granted, and will certainly be called in during a Hillary Clinton administration.

Mrs. Clinton “…knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.”

Please see comment, above.

During this puzzling speech, Mr. Sanders referred to the Democratic Platform, and said this: “… we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” ‘Progressive’ is such an appealing term to pass around and make liberals feel good. And while this writer risks boring the reader with endless bullet points, he reviewed a draft of the platform, and would like to point out just two of the ‘progressive’ aspects of it:

“Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East.”

Iran is not the ‘leading state sponsor of terrorism; by any and all accounts, that dubious distinction belongs to the United States, which ‘has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East’.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Now, this paragraph deserves our close attention, so the writer will dissect it, like a scientist in a lab.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The U.S. has been unsuccessful in this endeavor or generations, and will continue to be as long as the government is bought and paid for by Israeli lobbies. And it is likely that the U.S. has no interest in ending this ‘conflict’.

“…negotiated directly by the parties…”

As this writer has pointed out previously,  negotiations can only take place between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, and that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes what it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. There can be no negotiations.

Additionally, does the Democratic Party have no respect for international law? Israel is in violation of that law by its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and blockade of Gaza. Why would anyone suggest negotiations?

Such negotiations are supposed to “…guarantee Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provide the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.” Shouldn’t any plan also guarantee Palestine’s future as a ‘secure and democratic state with recognized borders’?

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity”

Do not Palestinians deserve ‘security, recognition and a normal life free from terror and incitement’?

So much for Mr. Sanders’ ‘progressive’ platform.

Difficult as it is to say anything positive about the Republican Party, at least its voters thought ‘outside of the box’ this year. There was no decent candidate running, so rather than choosing some tired career politician, they selected a billionaire racist, homophobic, Islamophopic misogynist. The Democrats played by their rigged rulebook, and are about to nominate the quintessential Washington insider.

Is there a lesser evil between these two? Hardly! Each, in his or her own way, will cause untold suffering at home and abroad; do nothing to assist those who are struggling; enrich their friends and associates, and leave a trail of blood and carnage in their wake.

On July 12, this writer had the opportunity of interviewing Gloria La Riva, the presidential nominee of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He strongly encourages the reader to review her policy recommendations, which, unlike the Democratic Party platform, are filled with practical, common sense solutions to the complex problems facing the country and the world.

Never has the time been better than now to vote third party.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Militarism, Palestine, Palestine, U.S., U.S. Politics