Monthly Archives: August 2016

Of Republicrats and Third Parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on Counterpunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Gloria La Riva meets with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Originally published in MintPressNews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Israel: A sieve for aid money intended for Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Aid subversion and unfulfilled pledges

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

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

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

aid graph

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Originally published by MintPressNews.

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Black is White in the United States

It seems that United States society, somewhat like poor Alice, has eaten some kind of mushroom that is distorting reality. At first, this peculiar mushroom was a side dish, and those consuming it were considered the more bizarre elements of society. Today, however, it is the main course, greedily eaten whenever the opportunity presents itself.

And why does this writer think such a thing has happened? Let us look at what is, today, criticized, and what is embraced. The reader can then determine if a better explanation than the taking of some hallucinogenic exists.

  • Education: There was a time when it was thought beneficial to be educated. This would not only, it was said, get_a_brain_morans - resizedassure a better job, but would also make the educated person more well-rounded. While one may have focused on, say, accounting in college, required courses probably included world history, literature, a foreign language and other subjects not pertinent to balancing ledgers. Yet such a person could converse easily with a variety of people from different backgrounds; would have insights into different opinions, and would, it was thought, be open to new ideas.

Not so, say today’s politicians. Education is associated with ‘elitism’, an ‘I’m-better-than-you’ attitude that has no place in our society. After all, what good is ‘book learning’, when one can quote, out of context, a few passages of the Bible, and not need to think beyond that?

  • Tolerance: Many people can remember something referred to as ‘The Golden Rule’. This, simply stated, is: ‘Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you’. This is the foundation of most religious beliefs in the world today.

But in twenty-first century, U.S. society, why do we need such a thing as tolerance? What has it ever gotten us? Well, for one thing, it has gotten us foreigners! Yes, people who don’t speak English; people whose houses of worship don’t mosque - resizedhave crosses atop them; women so unenlightened as to want to keep their bodies covered, if one can imagine anything so backward!

And if that’s not bad enough, closets everywhere are opening, and gay people are coming out of them! Trying, by their very existence, to indoctrinate impressionable children into their way of life! Some of them even marry each other!

No, this tolerance thing has no place in U.S. society.

  • Respect: A general admiration for someone or something is usually thought of as a positive trait. One may disagree with a person, but still respect the thoughtful consideration of their position that has led them to draw the conclusions that they have. Respect is demonstrated by such things as not interrupting people; being able to disagree without criticizing, and treating them as one would like to be treated oneself (please see reference to ‘The Golden Rule’, above).

Today, who needs such old-fashioned things like respect? Much better to let one’s true feelings be known by referring to Hillary Clinton as ‘Crooked Hillary’ (this writer is not disputing that she is, indeed, crooked, but thinks there are better ways of getting that point across), or chanting ‘Dump Trump’. Clever, indeed, but not too respectful, but then again, like tolerance, respect is simply an outdated concept with no place in modern U.S. society.

  • Human rights: It is generally understood that certain rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence (remember that old thing?), are basic to every human being on the planet. The Declaration of Independence describes them broadly as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, human rights are all well and good for some, but let’s not go around giving them to everyone. What do human rights and young black men wearing hoodies have to do with each other? Nothing! And while we’re on the topic, who do any unarmed black men think they are that they should have human rights? If police officers want to shoot them, stop murder by police - resizedthey can and should be able to do so. How else are they going to improve their shooting skills, in case they are called to a real crime scene, if they don’t have innocent blacks to practice on?

Related to this is the privilege of health care. Now, one may believe, naively, that all people are entitled to medical care, that it, too, is a human right. Not so, say today’s talking heads. Candidates actually run for office with a pledge to reduce the number of people who get health care! This seems to this writer to be a most bizarre campaign promise.

  • Religion: For centuries, people have looked to a higher power, for comfort and guidance, in good times and bad. The various interpretations of sacred books such as the Bible and the Quran have resulted in multiple sects, most of them following the Golden Rule as well as they can. These religions taught tolerance and respect, so we can all see where they belong today.

But they are, actually, still around, and for most of those who choose to follow them, tolerance and respect are part of their daily lives. But others have chosen to use religion as a weapon with which to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with their position. This perversion has actually been used to pass anti-bullying laws that have exceptions for  ‘religious oriented bullying’. Now, this concept is most puzzling to this writer. He is a Christian, active in the religion he embraced in his twenties. His familiarity with scripture makes the entire concept of ‘religious oriented bullying’  one that gives him a headache. Are there actually people walking the streets of our towns and cities who believe Jesus Christ was intolerant? Do they truly think he would endorse any kind of bullying? Alas, such people exist, and are in positions of influence, in the government, and the corporate-owned media.

So, let’s review the new ‘virtues’ of U.S. society: ignorance, intolerance, disrespect, selective human rights, and religion as a weapon. This is the ‘great melting pot’ of the United States, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’.

These attitudes are the very reason the U.S. is faced with two of the worst candidates in history in this year’s presidential election.  For example, Mrs. Clinton relies on the ignorance of the people to foster the idea that Palestine is a threat to Israel, when the reverse is clearly true. Intolerance for and disrespect of Muslims allow her to threaten Iran and oppress Palestine, and deny Palestinians their basic human rights.

Mr. Trump appealed to the basest instincts of an ignorant, intolerant population to propel himself to the GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) nomination, and will continue this method as he attempts to gain the White House.

Can this be reversed? Although the situation has become dire, and the country seems to be at the brink of disaster, there is hope, and that hope resides in third party candidacies.  There are dozens of parties running candidates for president this year, and this writer encourages the reader to explore them. Of particular note is Gloria La Riva, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). The 10-Point Program of the PSL is a treatise of practical, common sense
solutions to the many problems plaguing the 99% in the U.S. today, problems that benefit the powerful, governing 1%, thus removing from them any incentive to resolve them.

In an election year where there is clearly no lesser of two evils, a vote for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton is a throwaway vote; it doesn’t really matter which of the two is victorious. But a vote for a third-party candidate is significant, as it sends a message, one that will grow with time, that the status quo, the nomination of members of the established oligarchy, will no longer be accepted as a fait accompli.

Change does not happen overnight, but with the current situation in the U.S., it must not be delayed.

Originally published in TheTruther.US.

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Filed under Palestine, Political Musings, U.S. Politics

The Time for Third Parties is Now!

The coronation of Hillary Clinton has now been completed. The farce of the primaries, in which millions of people voted for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, only to be told that they don’t know what’s best, and that the super-delegates would select the nominee, is behind us, and even Mr. Sanders has gotten into line like the good little corporate soldier that he is.  On opening night of the Democratic convention, he gave a shining endorsement of Mrs. Clinton, who stands for all the things that his ‘revolution’ seeks to destroy. But, what is any of that, when the need to keep a Democrat in the White House is so important, despite the fact that, in substance, there is little difference between the major policies of the two parties?

We keep hearing about the most ‘progressive’ Democratic platform in history, without any mention that it is completely non-binding, and is basically just the recycled blathering we’ve been hearing for months: more money for the military; more oppression of the Palestinians; less concern about the environment, etc. Oh yes, progressive indeed!

It is long past time for the United States to join the rest of the nations that purport to have some semblance of democracy (the fact that the U.S. simply doesn’t is a topic for another essay), and expand to more than two parties. The Libertarian Party traditionally wins the most votes, after the Republicans and Democrats. But with dozens of third parties fielding candidates for president, why on earth would any thinking person vote for either Mrs. Clinton, the epitome of elitism, corruption, arrogance and entitlement, or the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, a loud-mouthed windbag who appeals to the basest instincts of the most ignorant citizens? Why would anyone in the 99% vote for either of these charter members of the 1%?

Let’s look at just a few areas of concern:

+ Student debt: The average debt for a student who graduated in 2016 is $37,000. Seventy-one percent of students graduate with some debt, and the total student debt owed in the U.S. today exceeds $1 trillion. This cash cow for the government will continue under a Trump or Clinton presidency. However, the platform of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), headed this year by Gloria La Riva, calls for the cancelling of all student debt. The Green Party, with Jill Stein as its presidential nominee, also calls for abolishing student debt.

+ The Military: While at least a quarter of the children in the United States live in poverty, the government spends billions on the military. The PSL platform suggests redirecting that money “to provide for people’s needs here and around the world.” Hmm, what a novel idea! And from the Green Party: “cut military spending by at least 50%. “That amount of money over just a couple of years could wipe out poverty around the world.

+ Police Violence: Both the Green Party and the PSL support an end to the nearly absolute impunity that police officers have, regardless of their crimes.

+ Foreign Policy: Whenever politicians have an audience, if anything related to foreign policy arises, we hear about the great need to protect and defend Israel, a brutal, apartheid regime that has a powerful lobby in the U.S. The PSL’s 10-Point program clearly states the need to end all aid to that country.

+ Wall Street: Mrs. Clinton is the darling of the financial sector in the United States; its donations to her various campaigns total in the tens of millions; she received nearly $700,000 for three speeches to Goldman-Sachs. By endorsing her, Mr. Sanders has crawled into bed with them as well. Mr. Trump, like all good members of the 1%, also bows down at the Wall Street altar. The PSL considers capitalist banking “a form of organized crime, rewarding greed and fraud with obscene bonuses,” and calls for seizing these assets to be used for the good of the people. The Green Party seeks to break up the large banks. Both of these views are heretical to the two-headed Repubocratic Party.

 

This information provides the reader with a view of alternative candidates; in this case, two women of integrity and common sense. The platform of the Green Party, in the context of the Republicans and Democrats, is radical, but in terms of being reasonable, it is a moderate, workable plan.

The PSL, on the other hand, goes farther in demanding basic rights for all people, at home and abroad, in smashing the failed capitalistic model, and replacing it with one in which all people can prosper, possibly at different levels, but without the stark extremes that the U.S. now experiences, with the extremely, obscenely rich on one end, and the destitute poor on the other.

With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the current major-party candidates to inhabit the White House and wreak international havoc for the next four years, could there be any better time to elect a president who would change the fundamentally flawed paradigm that the U.S. has operated under for two centuries? Is this not the time for a real revolution, not the artificial rhetoric, the ‘meet-the-new- boss-same-as-the-old-boss’, pretty sounding but empty words of the likes of Bernie Sanders?

It is unlikely that a third-party candidate will be elected president this year, although with both candidates highly disliked, and new embarrassments being forever revealed, anything is possible. But even lacking that, when faced with two awful candidates, and one shrinks in horror to consider candidates more awful that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voting for a candidate who cares about people makes perfect sense.

Although this writer’s ballot will probably not be counted (absentee ballots are only counted if the vote in the state in which they are cast is sufficiently close that such ballots could impact the outcome), he will vote for Ms. La Riva. Much as he likes and respects Dr. Stein and the platform of the Green Party, he supports greater change than even the substantial change that they offer. And while he encourages the reader to vote for Ms. La Riva, he implores everyone to find a third party candidate, and vote accordingly. A vote for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton will only bring more suffering around the world, more poverty, and more riches into the foreign bank accounts of the already super-rich. Third-party votes represent the voices of those who oppose the continuation of the repressive status-quo. It is high time we make our voices heard.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Militarism, U.S. Politics