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Presidential Candidates 2020: a Preview of the Democratic Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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What’s Wrong With the United States?

Despite the myth perpetrated by United States spokespersons, the country is not, and never has been, a beacon of peace and freedom, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, or a democracy that is the envy of the word. It is, and always has been, a racist, imperialist society, an oligarchy and, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

Today it is living up to violent, bloody truths that comprise its existence. We will look at just a few of the circumstance today that embody that violence.

The U.S. has just violated an international treaty, by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement also signed by Russia, China, England, France, Germany, the European Union and Iran. The purpose of this agreement was to regulate Iran’s nuclear ambitions (such as they are), in return for the lifting of sanctions imposed upon that country. The JCPOA was signed by the U.S under President Barack Obama, but it was not an agreement between him and the other nations; it was a binding agreement under international law. By violating it, the U.S. has send a strong message to the world that its word cannot be relied upon; has betrayed some of the country’s closest and oldest allies, and may even sanction them if they continue to do business with Iran, which each of the other signatories says they will do, since Iran is and has been in complete compliance with the agreement.

Additionally, the U.S., which has been at war for 225 years of its 242 year history, and which is currently bombing seven countries and supporting terrorist groups in Syria, accuses Iran, which has not invaded another country since 1798, of being the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. This is Orwellianism at its best.

The current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, previously oversaw the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S.’s major torture apparatus. His assistant, one Gina Haspel, who actually directed and oversaw the torture of political prisoners, and then destroyed the evidence, is just about to be confirmed by Congress to head the CIA. This tells volumes about Congress’s disregard for international law, civil rights and even common human decency.

Against the advice of nearly the entire international community, and again in violation of international law, President Donald Trump has established the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. As this was planned, demonstrations were being held every Friday in Gaza, demanding the internationally-recognized right of return, on the border of Gaza and Israel, but on the Palestinian side. Hundreds of unarmed Palestinians have been killed by Israeli sniper fire; thousands more have been injured. Israel has dropped endless amounts of tear gas on peaceful demonstrators. Yet Trump has said nothing, and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the incompetent and clown-like Nikki Haley has blamed the Palestinians for the violence. To add to her endless stupidity, when the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N. began addressing that body, she walked out!

Let’s look at all this from an international perspective. Every other nation that is a party to the JCPOA attempted to convince Trump to maintain the agreement. The only two nations on the planet that praised his decision are Saudi Arabia and Israel, two nations with human rights records that are among the most dismal in the world. Hardly the company any respectable country would want to keep.

When the shocking information of Bush-era torture was first revealed, the world recoiled in horror. President George Bush’s Attorney General determined that what the rest of the world, and international law, defined as torture was not so if the U.S. did it. This was a crock that no other nation was willing to buy.

And let’s look at the situation in Palestine. Finally, nearly the entire international community has condemned Israeli violence in Gaza. The U.S. vetoed a resolution calling for an independent investigation of that violence. One must wonder why that is: if Israel did, in face, exercise the great restraint that Haley proclaims it did, and if Israel has nothing to hide, why not have an independent investigation? Wouldn’t such an investigation exonerate Israel, and immediately silence all its critics? Perhaps the U.S., an extremely violent society itself, knows, as well as the rest of the world, that Israel is in violation of countless international laws, and even the most cursory investigation would clearly reveal and officially determine what the world already knows.

Even in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress, there seems to be more than a little disquiet about Israel’s apartheid regime. As Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, the ceremony was attended by a variety of U.S. members of Congress, yet not a single Democrat showed up. This is a seismic shift in Congress, and one that bodes well for Palestine.

While three, current atrocities that the U.S. is committing on the international stage have been discussed herein, they are not the only ones. Unarmed people of color continue to be gunned down in the streets by the racist police force, with nearly complete impunity. The U.S., with its increasing number of for-profit prisons, incarcerates its citizens at a higher rate than any other country on earth. Tax dollars feed the bloated military budget, as more and more people fall into poverty, where they find decreasing government services available to them. The government serves the needs of powerful lobbies over constituents. Political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, after studying thousands of policy decisions, said this: “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preference of the average American appears to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

This is the United States today. This is the much-touted ‘democracy’ of which its ignorant and uninformed citizens are so proud. This is the model to which, we are told, the whole world aspires.

Many lies are believed for years; the lies of the U.S. are finally being exposed, showing the nation for what it really is. As its power declines, it will go through a period where it is more dangerous than it has ever been, and this seems to be what the world is now experiencing. One hopes the trigger-happy, war-mongering U.S. doesn’t destroy the entire world as it quickly loses power, influence and international legitimacy.

Originally published by AHTribune.

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

CNN: Blaming the Palestinian Victim

As Palestinians continue to struggle under the heavy, deadly hand of U.S.-sponsored Israeli oppression, the world’s governments mainly ignore them. This is business as usual for most governments, including U.S. officials, many of whom are ‘PEP’ – Progressive Except for Palestine.

March 30 is Land Day in Palestine, a day commemorated annually to mark events first held in 1976, in response to a major land theft announced by Israel. This year, tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators camped and marched on the Palestinian side of the Palestine – Israel border, once again demanding the basic human rights that the world community has refused them. In response, Israeli snipers killed at least 18 unarmed Palestinians.

On April 1, CNN’s loftily titled ‘International Diplomatic Editor’, Nic Robertson, offered his pearls of wisdom on this situation. He wasted no time in both showing his ignorance of the current events, and his desire to blame the victim.

We will look at just a few quotations from his ill-informed editorial. We will start with the title of the article.

“The Timing of the Gaza Protest is No Coincidence.”

Is there anyone who is familiar with the situation in Palestine who thought it was a coincidence? The organizers were clear from the start: the demonstration would start on Land Day and continue to May 15, the day of the Nakba, or catastrophe, when, on that date in 1948, three-quarters of a million Palestinians were displaced from their homes, with no voice in the matter, no choice and no recompense. Does Robertson not know that this current protest was to be a major event, planned carefully to hopefully draw international attention to the plight of the Palestinians? Or did he, in his oh-so-insightful way, see that those crafty Palestinians were up to something, hidden from view but obvious to his particular brand of cleverness?

In this bizarre article. Roberson recognized that the scheduled end of the protest coincides with the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something which the Palestinians and the vast majority of the world oppose. Said he, again demonstrating that particular intelligence that is clear throughout his article: “Given that Palestinians oppose this move, the timing of the protest is not likely a coincidence.” Right.

“Like so many battles of yesteryear, both sides arrive to this current field of conflict carrying a weight of historic grievances, armed with today’s political imperatives.”

Let’s look for a moment at some of these ‘historic grievances’. Palestinians were driven from their homes so the United Nations could establish the state of Israel.  Hundreds of ancient Palestinians villages were bulldozed, leaving not a trace. Sacred shrines and cemeteries received the same fate. Since that time, using the advanced weaponry that the U.S. provides to Israel, thousands of additional Palestinian men, women and children have been killed, arrested, illegally jailed, displaced, beaten, abused and disregarded by Israeli law. This is ongoing to this day.

On the other hand, Israel must contend with Palestinians throwing stones at its occupying soldiers, and occasionally even slapping one of them. Yes, as Robertson said, there are grievances on both sides.

“Israeli officials are convinced Hamas is challenging the status quo of Gaza’s limits and is ready to throw down civilian lives to achieve it.”

Yes, the murders of at least 18 unarmed Palestinians by Israeli snipers, and the injury to at least 700 more, injured with live ammunition, is all Palestine’s fault!

“In public statements before the confrontation, Israeli officials said an attack on the border fence is an attack on Israel’s sovereignty and pulled no punches on what a response could look like.”

Robertson neglects a few pertinent facts here, so we will inform him. The vast majority of the protesters were hundreds of yards away from the fence, ON PALESTINIAN LAND. Yet many were shot by Israeli snipers. To read Robertson’s words, one would think that hundreds or even thousands of Palestinians stormed the fence. Yes, a few dozen did approach the fence, but at all times they remained on Palestinian land. And, as mentioned earlier, some of the pesky Palestinians actually threw stones at the ‘brave’ Israeli snipers, who were heavily armed and outfitted against them. All this was happening while Israeli drones dropped tear gas on unarmed and defenseless Palestinians on their own land.

“To make their message clear, the Israel Defense Forces’ Arabic website posted a video of a young man being shot in the leg; it was accompanied by the caption: ‘This is what will happen to you if you try to get close to our border.’”

Robertson sees no problem with Palestinians being threatened for committing the ‘crime’ of being ‘close’ to the Israeli border. He did not choose to comment on that at all.

“It is hard to ignore the calculation on Hamas’s part that some of their protesters would get killed.”

Was this Hamas’ ‘calculation’, or an expectation, based on Hamas’, and the world’s, knowledge of the savagery of Israel? Robertson, like most U.S. government officials, seems to see Palestinians demanding equal rights from their apartheid oppressor as something that is ‘calculated’ by a scheming ‘terror’ organization.

In 2014, Robertson met with Khaled Meshaal Hamas’ political leader. In the current article, he says this: “He told me that Hamas does not seek international sympathy through its own victims. Today, that notion is increasingly questioned amid criticism that the group is once again sacrificing civilians for political gain.”

Once again, he is blaming the victim. The government of Gaza is right to encourage its citizens to peacefully demonstrate for their rights. The government of Israel is in violation of international law by shooting them and tear-gassing them. Yet it is the Palestinians in whom Robertson sees culpability.

It has been some time since this writer has seen such a blatantly one-sided, biased article about Palestinian’s struggles on a ‘mainstream’ news site. Generally, although Israel is usually seen as defending its ‘national security’, there is usually some bone thrown to Palestinian aspirations for peace, freedom and human rights. But CNN’s ‘International Diplomatic Editor’ was content to find fault only with the Palestinians, a people who have been brutally oppressed by Israel for decades.

Thankfully, Robertson is in the minority, although it is far more than a shame that he is given a national audience. The unspeakable injustices committed against the Palestinians seem to not only continue, but also increase, as more of the world stands up to Israel. Eventually, however, justice will prevail; it’s tragic that so many innocent Palestinians must suffer and die before that occurs.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Militarism, Palestine, Political Musings, Uncategorized

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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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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Fighting Back in Dallas

This past week, the nation witnessed, not once, but twice, the apparently unjustified killing of two Black men by white police officers. This no longer shocks anyone; young, usually unarmed Black men serve as target practice for the mainly white police force, so the fact that two more officers were simply practicing their shooting skills is hardly even news.

Dont shoot

Then, on Friday, we all awoke to the national uproar over the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas. This writer heard some news about it when at the fitness center in the morning; forgetting to bring his mobile device, he had no music to listen to as he used the stepper, and watched that well-known entertainment station, CTV-News, report its version of the news.

One ‘expert’, the name of whom this writer didn’t notice, since said ‘expert’ was already speaking as this writer was setting the adjustments on the stepper he was to use, said mournfully that this shocking event had cast a pall over the entire country.

Now, this writer is sorry for any murder victim, whether that person has been killed by a drone strike in Yemen, a bomb in Syria, an Israeli terrorist in Palestine, a police officer in Baton Rouge or a sniper in Dallas. He feels for the grieving survivors, and sympathizes with their anger at the perpetrator. Yet he feels it is unfair, at the very least, and criminal at the very worst, to classify the killing of five police officers in Dallas as any more tragic than the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge or Philando Castile in Minneapolis. If a pall has been cast over the nation, it is the pall of blatant, unchecked racism.

And while there is nothing surprising about the constant murders of unarmed Black men by the police, there should be little surprise that, finally, people are fighting back. This does not excuse the murders of these officers, but one must consider that, sooner or later, with no recourse from the courts or the government, victimized people would, eventually, strike back.

After the shootings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this:”We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days. Please, we need your support to be able to protect you from men like these, who carried out this tragic, tragic event.” Well, who,one might reasonably ask, is going to protect members of the Black community from the police? When the police shoot unarmed Black men, internal investigations almost always find the killing justified. No wonder many police departments “don’t feel much support most days”.

As of this writing, a suspect in the Dallas shootings has been identified. Needless to say, he has also been killed. Micah Xavier Johnson is said to have acted alone, unlike the white police officers who routinely kill Black men; they usually have partners and extensive back up, as they approach and shoot their victims.

Had Mr. Johnson not been killed, he, unlike the murderers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the many others shot by police, would have felt the full effects of the law. Snipers, unlike police officers, cannot kill innocent people with complete impunity.

Let us return for a moment to this writer’s brief exposure to CTV-’News’. In the past, he has seen how the corporate-owned media tells the vapid-minded viewer what to think. For example, when four Israelis were killed in a Tel Aviv cafe, this event was widely broadcast. But when two unarmed Palestinian teenagers, observing but not participating in a demonstration against Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, were shot by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces. Read: terrorists), in a crime taped by a security camera mounted outside a nearby store, there was no CTV ‘expert’ decrying this horrendous crime, no interviews with the survivors, and, therefore, no instructions to the viewers that they should be angry, sorrowful, etc. A teenage girl, intentionally hit and seriously injured by car driven by an illegal Israeli settler, and then shot by that settler, is not, in the minds of the corporations who own CTV, worthy of being reported. There is, in this view, no reason to shed any tears for her.

With a name like Micah Xavier Johnson, it will be difficult for the media to associate Mr. Johnson with Islam, to which it is almost mandatory for the corporate-owned shills that pass as news outlets to tie to any violent crime. We must all remember, when anyone proclaiming to be Muslim commits a crime, he is a radical jihadist, representative of the entire 1.8 billion people who are Muslims, and who, by definition, are all terrorists. If a Black man commits a crime, it is simply representative of the criminal element that is inherent in the race. If a white man commits a crime, he is mentally unstable, acting alone and, if not shot and killed by police, deserving of the best psychiatric help there is, so he can be rehabilitated, and live the productive, peaceful, law-abiding life typical of all whites.

When the funerals are held for these police officers, we will see thousands of other police officers in attendance. That the police forces in the United States are a ‘brotherhood’ bordering on a cult can hardly be disputed. One episode is telling:

This writer lived for many years in New Jersey. While there, a police officer’s estranged wife obtained a restraining order against her husband, due to domestic violence. He was forbidden from contacting her, or coming to her home. While this order was in effect, she began living with another man. One day, when she was at work, the police officer, her estranged husband, broke into her home. He found her boyfriend naked, sleeping in the bed. He confronted him and shot and killed him. He was subsequently arrested for murder.

As soon as he was arrested, several of his ‘fellow-officers’ mortgaged their homes to pay his bail. He was tried and acquitted of all charges.

Let’s remember that the officer was illegally in his estranged wife’s home. The man he shot had just awakened from sleep, and could hardly have been concealing a weapon; he was wearing nothing to conceal it with. Yet other police officers rushed to his defense, and maintained their belief that he was innocent, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Or perhaps the matter of innocence or guilt didn’t enter their minds: he was a police office, and therefore anything he did, even killing an unarmed, defenseless man, wasn’t wrong..

Mr. Eric Garner, mentioned above, begged for his life as police officers choked him to death. Mr. Brown’s bullet-riddled body lay in the street for hours, before police officers allowed him to be removed, so he could find some dignity in his brutal, untimely and unjustified death.

Numerous stories have been relayed about Black parents warning their teenage sons how to behave if confronted by a police officer, but such guidance is probably given in vain. Mr. Castile informed the police officers that he had a legally-obtained and registered gun in one pocket, and would retrieve his wallet from the other. That was insufficient to save his life.

Can anyone truly say and believe that racism is not rampant in the United States? Can they not say that separate laws exist, if not officially on the books, but certainly in practice, for people of color, and whites?

Violence is seldom justified (note that this writer will not say it’s never justified), but in the current situation, it should not be a surprise. In any racist oligarchy, where power is consolidated among the wealthy few, and the rest are second class citizens, with people of color being in the lowest tier of that lower category, the status quo cannot be expected to be maintained forever. Today’s violence in Dallas will be met with increased violence towards Blacks by the white establishment, which can only increase the cycle of violence. Where this will all end is anyone’s guess, but it will leave a trail of blood and sorrow in its wake.

Originally published by TheTruther.

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US Pads Defense Industry Profits By Arming Both Sides In Conflict

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) The United States has long billed itself as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This fairytale receives credence within the country’s own borders, as its lemming-like citizens place hand on heart, look at the waving flag, and wipe tears from their eyes.

Yet a good story doesn’t often play quite as well when cultures and traditions are different, and for countries that have a free press or that have been victimized by the U.S. — and their name is legion — the lofty statements about liberty and equality that U.S. spokespeople are forever mouthing don’t hold much water.

From the Philippines, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Nicaragua, right through Korea, Vietnam and Grenada, to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine today, the United States’ blatant hypocrisy is on full display, as the citizens of those nations paid or continue to pay a high price for daring to be independent when the U.S. wanted their natural resources, or who had the temerity to democratically elect leadership that was too far to the left to accommodate U.S. corporate interests. And in the case of Palestine, being on the opposite end of a powerful political lobby causes their suffering at the hands of the U.S.

And even within the U.S., the fantasy of freedom and equality proclaimed by the corporate-owned media falls far short of the experience of many citizens:

Unarmed young black men serve as target practice for white police officers, with the nearly complete compliance of the judiciary and political establishment.

Women are paid, on average, 80 percent of what men earn in comparable positions.

Students graduate from colleges and universities burdened by tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, of debt, payable to the U.S. government; meanwhile, corporations borrow at a fraction of the student rate.

Children live in poverty at shocking levels for an industrial nation.

 There are 1.49 million homeless people in this country, including scores of veterans who naively thought they were fighting for liberty. On any given night, more than 578,000 homeless people are without shelter — that’s more than half a million Americans sleeping on streets, in cars, under tents and in other exposed places every night.

But what is any of that when the bottom line is and always has been the almighty dollar? While exporting death by bombing nations around the world, the U.S. also does a brisk business in the international weapons market, making it the world’s top arms exporter. It buys these weapons from domestic manufacturers and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin — companies with deep pockets that contribute generously to the campaign coffers of elected officials who do their bidding, and thus keep their profits high.

It only makes sense that the need for such armaments will grow as wars are waged. And the U.S. wages more wars than all other nations combined.

 

Maximizing profits for a deep-pocketed defense industry

But someone in the hallowed halls of Congress figured out that it isn’t really necessary to take sides in international conflicts or internal uprisings around the world. Doing so risks being on the losing side. Losing, of course, isn’t all that important as long as there is money to be made, but it does limit profit margins. So why not provide weapons to both sides? This would keep the arms manufacturers happy and maintain the flow of contributions to political campaigns.

Now, this strategy is not without risk; one must consider what U.S. citizens would think if they knew that their beloved government was siding with both sides of a conflict. But, as with any good business model, risk mitigation strategies are developed. With the corporate-owned media in the pocket of the government (fascism, anyone?), the people will only know what the government wants them to know. Any conflict can be spun as a contest of good versus evil, freedom versus oppression, or whatever buzzwords U.S. public relations specialists — certainly experts in their field — toss out.

Let us look at the complex situation in Syria. The government of President Bashar Assad is far from democratic, but it did offer stability in the nation. However, demands for democratic reforms were repulsed, and conflicts between the reformers and the government escalated. Reform groups, once united, began to split apart due to ideological differences, spawning the rise of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL). As the government attempted to repress growing demonstrations, violence continued to escalate.

Enter the United States, always ready to drop bombs on any nation. In August of 2013, the U.S. claimed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own citizens, killing 1,400 people. This in itself is an example of U.S. hypocrisy, since Israel uses chemical weapons against the Palestinians, with nary a word of protest from the U.S.

Those who rely on the corporate media for their news have never heard of this. But they did hear of Syria’s alleged use of such weapons, because that’s what the U.S. wanted them to hear. So a year after this alleged incident, the U.S. started bombing.

The U.S.has been funding Syrian rebels since at least 2011. But as mentioned above, there are several rebel groups, and the U.S. isn’t particularly discriminating where it lends its support. Additionally, various U.S. agencies don’t appear to consult with each other on the topic. In March of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make?

 

A history of arming both sides

Of course, this is nothing new, as a look back at World War II shows.

In 1917, the U.S. passed the “Trading with the Enemy Act,” which granted the president the power to restrict all trade between the U.S. and its enemies in times of war. On Dec. 13, 1941, less than a week after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an amendment to the act. The crux of the amendment is:

“A general license is hereby granted, licensing any transaction or act proscribed by section 3(a) of The Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, provided, however, that such transaction or act is authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury by means of regulations, rulings, instructions, licenses or otherwise, pursuant to the Executive order No. 8389, as amended.”

In his 1983 book, “Trading with the Enemy,” Charles Hingham describes the activities of the major U.S. automobile companies during World War II:

”The substantial contribution of these firms to the American war effort in terms of tanks, aircraft components, and other military equipment is widely acknowledged. Less well known are the simultaneous contributions of their foreign subsidiaries to the Axis Powers. In sum, they maximized profits by supplying both sides with the materiel needed to conduct the war.”

Further:

“In Germany, for example, General Motors and Ford became an integral part of the Nazi war efforts. GM’s plants in Germany built thousands of bomber and jet fighter propulsion systems for the Luftwaffe at the same time that its American plants produced aircraft engines for the U.S. Army Air Corps … ”

And lastly:

“The outbreak of war in September 1939 resulted inevitably in the full conversion by GM and Ford of their Axis plants to the production of military aircraft and trucks. … On the ground, GM and Ford subsidiaries built nearly 90 percent of the armored ‘mule’ 3-ton half-trucks and more than 70 percent of the Reich’s medium and heavy-duty trucks. These vehicles, according to American intelligence reports, served as ‘the backbone of the German Army transportation system’.”

The U.S. was willing then, as now, to support both sides in its worship of the almighty dollar. In 1963, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein, a leader of a rebel group opposing the government of Iraq that had previously been supported by the U.S. In 1979, when Russia invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. armed radical extremists who eventually became Al-Qaida, with whom the U.S. has now been at war for years.

 

No reason for change and hope

Despite the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” and that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the U.S. deprives countless millions of people around the world of these basic rights in its quest to enrich the already super-wealthy.

Will this change? Will the upcoming presidential election bring fruition of the unrealized “hope and change” promise of eight years ago?

Hardly.

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two likely contenders for president from the major parties, only promise more of the same, or worse, there can be no optimism about 2017. The U.S. will continue to arm rebel groups against legitimate governments, resulting in the suffering of innocent people around the world and sky-high profits for U.S. arms manufacturers.

No one is talking about hope or change this year. There is, sadly, no reason to.

Originally published by MintPressNews.

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A closer look at Sanders’ letter to AIPAC

 There seems to be a great deal of excitement surrounding Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ absence from last month’s American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention, the letter he sent, and the recently-released draft of the speech he would have given.

In the letter, which is, basically, the speech, Mr Sanders does two remarkable things that no other presidential candidate has done in recent memory: he acknowledged the existence of Palestinians, and recognised their right to self-determination.

This is, of course, to be commended, but, other than his pronouncements about Palestine, the good senator did not stray too far from the usual pro-Israel talking points regurgitated by politicians in the United States.

Let’s look at just some of the pandering Mr Sanders did for his Zionist audience.

“America and Israel are united … by our values, including a deep commitment to democratic principles, civil rights, and the rule of law.

At this point, any but a zealous Zionist should have tuned out, and accepted Mr Sanders as what he is: a politician, bowing down, perhaps not as deeply, but bowing nonetheless, to the Israeli master. It is difficult to know where each of the lofty concepts he listed – democratic principles, civil rights, or the rule of law –is more routinely violated, in the US or Israel. In the US, ‘democratic principles’ apparently mean thwarting the will of the people when they elect a president, by calling in the Supreme Court to award the presidency to someone else, as was done in 2000. It means, as Mr Sanders of all people should know, allowing the so-called ‘Super Delegates’ to vote to nominate whoever they choose, despite the will of the people. In Israel, ‘democratic principles’ means having separate laws for Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Israelis, with those for non-Jewish Israelis far more restrictive and punitive than the others.

The concept of ‘civil rights’ in either country could be considered a joke, except that no one is laughing. In the US, white police officers use unarmed young Black men as target practice, with nearly complete impunity. IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers use unarmed Palestinian men, women and children the same way.

And now we get to ‘the rule of law’. Well, in the US while the rules may appear to be the same for everyone, the more money one has, the more one is able to circumvent the law. In Israel, any laws, including murder, that apply to both Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are enforced very differently.

“Israel is one of America’s closest allies, and we – as a nation – are committed not just to guaranteeing Israel’s survival, but also to its people’s right to live in peace and security.”

The concept of ‘ally’ seems to indicate that each side benefits. What the US gets from this peculiar alliance, beyond a seemingly endless source of money for political campaigns, is anybody’s guess.

And why is it that the US is committed to ‘guaranteeing Israel’s survival’, any more than that of Iraq, France, Guatemala, or any other nation? What has Israel done to warrant this paternal protection?

One might also ask why the US, busy depriving the people of Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and who knows how many other places of their ‘right to live in peace and security’, should be so concerned about Israel’s.

“I believe firmly that the only prospect for peace is the successful negotiation of a two-state solution.”

This begs two questions: First, since negotiations can only be successful between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has, why would Israel be interested in negotiations? For decades it has taken from Palestine whatever it wants, with complete impunity. Why would it want to kill the goose that is laying the golden eggs?

Second, why are negotiations even required? International law recognises Palestine’s and Israel’s borders as those that existed prior to 1967. What was it Mr Sanders said about ‘the rule of law’? If someone robs a bank, the police do not contact the robber and the bank manager, and ask them to sit down and determine how much of the money the robber will return. The money is all returned to the bank, and the robber is punished as the laws of that particular community demand. Why is it so different for Israel?

“Peace will require the unconditional recognition by all of Israel’s right to exist. “

Mr Sanders seemed to have omitted ‘unconditional recognition by all’ of Palestine’s right to exist. Palestine, with no army, no navy and no air force is in no position to destroy Israel. Yet by its continued illegal settlement expansion, Israel is slowly denying Palestine’s right to exist.

“It will require an end to attacks of all kinds against Israel. “

But will it not also require an end to ‘attacks of all kinds’ against Palestine? Yes, Palestine occasionally fires ‘rockets’ into Israel, rockets that Dr Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, refers to as ‘enhanced fireworks’. Israel has the fourth most powerful military in the world, backed by the most powerful. And in fifty-one days in the summer of 2014, Israel launched more rockets into the Gaza Strip than Palestine launched into Israel in the previous fourteen years.

“The third major challenge in the region is Iran, which routinely destabilises the Middle East and threatens the security of Israel. Now, we all agree that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.”

Does it, and do we? It seems to this writer that the United States, with its training, arming and funding of various rebel groups, does far more than Iran to destabilise the Middle East.

And why is it that Israel is permitted to have nuclear weapons, completed unregulated by the international community, and Iran’s peaceful nuclear program must be scrutinised by the world’s self-appointed police force?

As anyone who is interested in Palestinian rights and self-determination looks with some hope to Mr Sanders, it is also important to note that, in this letter, he referred to ‘Israel’ forty-one times, but only said the word ‘Palestine’ once.

The senator from Vermont is waging a battle against former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, and it is an uphill one, since there seems to be a feeling among Democratic Party bigwigs that he is just an annoyance on the road to her coronation at the Democratic convention. He has, to some extent, differentiated himself on the Palestine issue, but he seems to have worked hard to compensate for that sin by echoing the words that are music to Zionists’ ears.

In all likelihood, the next president of the United States will be a puppet of Israel, dancing to its tune as it pulls all the strings. Freedom and justice for Palestine, like that for South Africans a generation ago, will not initiate within the hallowed halls of the US Congress, or the White House. No, it will come from other nations with a more democratic, and less oligarchical, nature than the US.  But Mr Sanders skipping of the AIPAC convention, and his acknowledgement of Palestinian rights, represents a sea change in the US. It is just one of many in the US and internationally. Progress toward freedom and justice for Palestine is happening; the outcome of the US election may slow it, but cannot stop it.

Originally published by Days of Palestine.

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AIPAC, Israel and the U.S: an Unholy Alliance

The annual Israeli-lobby love fest is in full swing, the highlight of which may be the sight of most of the candidates for the highest office in the land groveling before their financial masters. The annual AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee; oops! That is, officially, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee) orgy always draws the United States president and every member of Congress worthy to be called a lackey for Israel, and their name is legion.

But during what the U.S. calls an election year, that quadrennial event when a four-year lease for the White House is auctioned off to the highest bidder, excitement at AIPAC is at a fever pitch. And this year, the thrill is even greater, since this is the first major meeting of this unholy lobby since the passage of the Iran agreement that moderates that nation’s nuclear ambitions, an agreement that the Israeli lobby found most unpalatable. Also, in January of next year, Israel will have a brand new president, when that odious Barack Obama, with whom Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has a most uncordial relationship, will be replaced.

It is amazing to anyone who is not besotted with Israel, anyone who recognizes its constant, ongoing war crimes and violations of international law, to observe this spectacle. And what a spectacle has been brought to us thus far this year! A few gems will suffice to help the reader know what he or she is missing.

*The frontrunner for the GOP nomination, businessman and erstwhile reality television star Donald Trump, wowed the audience by promising to dismantle the nuclear agreement with Iran, and condemning Palestinian violence while he commended Israeli moderation. ‘The Donald’, famous for saying whatever his racist audience, be it an all-white one in Middle-America or a Zionist one in the nation’s capital, wants to hear, certainly delivered for AIPAC.

*Republican candidate wannabe Senator Ted Cruz, the obnoxious junior senator from Texas, who received $100,354 from various Israeli lobbies between 2009 and 2015, proclaimed, in response to Mr. Trump’s remarks, the amazing statement that the nation of Palestine doesn’t exist, and hasn’t since 1948! Well, aren’t we all enlightened by such a geography lesson from Mr. Cruz? Never mind that Palestine is recognized by at least 193 member states of the United Nations, and the United Nations itself. What is any of that, against the proclamations of a U.S. senator? Mr. Cruz announced to his anticipated AIPAC financiers that he would personally, as U.S. president, veto any move by the U.N. to enhance its recognition of Palestine, and would withhold federal funding from any institution, including universities, that boycotts Israel. Finally, he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something opposed by the world community. It is difficult to imagine a speech more pleasing to the Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee.

*On the Democratic side, former First Lady Hillary Clinton also pleased her financiers. She vowed to strengthen U.S.-Israel ties, fight BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction), and strengthen the Israeli military machine. Nothing surprising from the woman who would be queen (or in this case, president), and who is beholden to every major lobby group and 1% special interest group in the country.

*Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the only Jewish candidate in the race, skipped the convention in order to campaign in the west. This, in itself, was an affront to Zionists everywhere. His offer to appear via video was refused, so he sent a letter instead. In this missive, he did, unlike his various competitors, throw a bone to the Palestinians, saying that the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip must end. But he talked about Israeli democracy, which is a figment of the imagination of U.S. and Israel public relations campaigns, and was careful to refer to the safety of the ‘Palestinians’, but never to a safe and secure Palestine, although a safe and secure Israel was uppermost in his words.

Mr. Sanders also talked about the shared values between the U.S. and Israel. He was, quite possibly, referring to racism, disdain for international law, a ‘might makes right’ attitude and other ‘values’ that the two nations share.

So that is what is being served at the AIPAC convention this year, and it is certainly a foul-tasting meal. More racism, more genocide, more apartheid, all financed and supported by the U.S., that bastion of liberty and freedom (see earlier comment about public relations). Yet for the Zionist population, the words of all the candidates, with the exception of Mr. Sanders, were music to their ears.

But do Mr. Sanders words really represent some hope for Palestine? Well, he does seem to recognize that the concepts of human rights and self-determination do apply to them, a fact that escapes all the other presidential candidates, and that is a good sign. But talk is cheap, and the senator has a long history of supporting Israel’s periodic carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip. But with an election year offering the likes of Messrs. Cruz and Trump, and her highness, Mrs. Clinton, we should be grateful for any small favors such as those offered by Mr. Sanders.

On March 20 of this year, I attended the AIPAC convention, but only from the outside; he had no desire to join the racist Zionist hoodlums in the convention center. He listened to the thoughtful words of Rabbi Dovid Weiss; author Miko Peled, son of a prominent Israeli general, and many others who oppose Zionism. The number of attendees was not large; certainly, it was dwarfed by the 18,000 attending the convention. But the numbers don’t tell the story; what is telling is that at least two of the major party candidates singled out BDS for mention, indicating the growing strength and effectiveness of that movement.

Criticism of Palestinian resistance, with no acknowledgement that Israeli oppression is the cause, a fact that even United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke clearly of in January of this year, falls increasingly on deaf ears in any but a Zionist audience. International impatience with Apartheid Israel, seen in the increasing number of resolutions to recognize Palestine, and growing numbers of laws to clearly label products made in the occupied West Bank as Israeli, and not Palestinian, continues to expand. Time is on the side of justice; Israel and the U.S. will not prevail against it forever.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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