Tag Archives: Robert Fantina

The Democrats’ Great Mistake

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

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 Trump prevailed in the archaic, outdated and counterproductive electoral college.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

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

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

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

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

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

Each of these roles deserve some consideration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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U.S. Hypocrisy: Front and Center, as Always

In its never-ending need to flex military muscle around the world, the United States, not content with creating chaos in the Middle East, has now decided to bait China. If ever a country was itching to start World War III, the U.S. seems to be that country.

Let us look at the current situation, and see not only the U.S.’s typical saber-rattling, but its astounding hypocrisy as well.

The ownership of the Nanshan Islands (also known as the Spratly Islands) in the South China Sea is unclear. China claims ownership, and has built an airstrip there, but the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim ownership. The U.S. does not support China’s claim. On May 10, the U.S. sent a destroyer to the South China Sea, going within the 12-mile limit of Nanshan, which is the internationally-recognized distance of which a nation’s rule extends beyond its own shores. This 12-mile limit is compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A Pentagon statement regarding the entry of this ship into the 12-mile limit said this: The “USS William P. Lawrence exercised the right of innocent passage while transiting inside 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross Reef, a high-tide feature that is occupied by China, but also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.” Further: “This operation challenged attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigation rights around the features they claim … contrary to international law.”

There are two astounding claims in these statements:

“The “USS William P. Lawrence exercised the right of innocent passage.”

The ship in question is a guided missile destroyer. It is difficult for this writer to connect the phrase ‘innocent passage’ with such a vessel. This was not a cruise ship traveling from one leisure point to another, and innocently passing through the South China Sea as it did so. It was a battleship, sent there with the specific purpose of warning three of the four countries claiming ownership of the Islands.

“This operation challenged attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigation rights around the features they claim … contrary to international law.”

Once again, we have the U.S. citing international law, as if it has any respect for it. Such law, for the U.S., is to be followed or invoked only when convenient. We will take just a moment to review some instances where international law wasn’t, or isn’t, quite so important to the U.S.

*The U.S. has a long history of supporting right-wing rebels against their leftist governments. In Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil and countless other countries in the past, to Syria and Afghanistan today, the U.S. is in violation of international law by supporting ‘proxy’ armies fighting their governments.

*The U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan violated international law.

*The unqualified, financial and military support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is in violation of international law. Without U.S. backing, Israel would be unable to maintain the internationally-condemned blockade of the Gaza Strip (also defined as occupation by the United Nations), and the brutal occupation of the West Bank. Israel would be unable to bomb mosques, residential centers, hospitals and press vehicles with impunity, all violations of international law.

*Assassinations or attempted assassinations of various leaders and military personnel around the world violate international law. Yet the U.S. has done this countless times, including, but not limited to, Fidel Castro (Cuba); Salvador Allende (Chile); Muammar Qaddafi (Libya); Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier (Chile); Che Guevara (Bolivia); Ngo Dinh Diem (South Vietnam). This is just a small sampling of U.S. victims and attempted victims.

 

Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. cited Iraqi violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. This, according to the U.S., was sufficient to cause a ‘coalition of nations’ (please note that 90% of the invading soldiers/terrorists were from the U.S.) to invade Iraq. Yet Israel is in violation of over 50 such resolutions, and the U.S. still funds it with $4 billion annually. Since World War II, Israel has received more foreign aid from the U.S. than all other nations combined. And Israel, again in violation of international law, only allows Gaza fishermen to fish within a 3-mile limit, and often shoots them within that range. So much for respect for international law.

Let us look at just one additional example of U.S. hypocrisy. The U.S. government condemned, and rightly so, the beheadings carried out by Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS) in 2014. Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations, uses public beheading as a means of capital punishment, and executes dozens of people annually in that manner. In August of 2014, at least 22 people were executed in Saudi Arabia, with at least eight of them beheaded. And the following month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an official state visit to Saudi Arabia. If Daesh ever establishes itself as a nation on oil-rich lands, perhaps the U.S. will establish full diplomatic relations with it, and overlook any continued beheading. The other option the U.S. has is to invade it. As has been asked before, what business does any country have being situated about oil that the U.S. covets?

This is the nation that lectures other countries on democracy. The nation that, by its own laws, is forbidden from sending foreign aid to countries that violate human rights, sends billions to one of the world’s worst violators: Israel. The nation that forces its odd brand of democracy wherever it is financially advantageous to do so, is serving up presidential candidates bought and paid for by the wealthiest citizens.

Nowhere outside of its own borders is the U.S. perceived as anything but a rogue, imperial nation, jeopardizing the very existence of the world with its military might and nuclear weaponry. Its soldiers are seen as terrorists, whose power and ability to harm far exceeds anything Daesh, Al-Qaeda or any other identified so-called terrorist group is capable of.

Eight years ago, the nation naively looked for ‘hope and change’, following the disastrous Bush years. This year, there is no such catchy phrase, or novel candidate, as President Barack Obama was then. The coming presidential election will bring more war abroad and suffering both at home and around the world. Hope and change, never part of the equation in U.S. politics or governance, are not even an illusion this time around.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Apartheid South Africa And Apartheid Israel: One Was Shunned, The Other, Embraced

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) In 1948, the same year as the founding of the state of Israel, South Africa made a policy of apartheid the law of the land. This policy of racial discrimination would remain in place for 55 years, causing untold suffering for millions of people.
Conditions under apartheid in South Africa may not be widely known or understood. It meant separate and inferior public services, benches and building entrances for anyone who was not white (European). Writing for The Associated Press, Michelle Faul described life in apartheid South Africa: Train carriages for black people (Africans) and people of mixed race or other non-white ethnicity (colored) were “decrepit,” and while gas stations would sell fuel to non-white drivers, these drivers were not allowed to use the restrooms.
But that was certainly not the extent of it. Under this racist policy, the non-white population was stripped of citizenship, and any and all non-white political representation was abolished, thus depriving the majority of the population of having any voice in the government.
Under apartheid, the minority white population (4.5 million people) owned 87 percent of the property, while the majority non-white population (19 million people) owned the remaining 13 percent.
Additionally, non-whites were forced into bantustans, where water was hard to come by and sanitation almost unheard of. As a result, it is estimated that 15 million South Africans were without safe water and 20 million without sanitation. Meanwhile, the white majority had all the water they wanted, and sanitation was not a problem for them.
Deciding the race of an individual was hardly scientific. One test was to see if a pencil would stay in a person’s hair. If the pencil slid through, the person was considered white.
“Under such rules of apartheid, Chinese were classified colored despite their straight hair; Japanese were white,” Faul wrote. “Blacks who wanted to be reclassified as colored also could undergo the pencil test: if it fell out when you shook your head, you could be become colored.”
It was not unusual for families to be separated due to such tests, including the removal of children from their parents.
 Violence against the non-white population was endemic. Random shootings by white police of non-whites, kidnapping of non-whites, despite having the necessary paperwork that identified them, and rampant torture were all part of life in apartheid South Africa.
Boycotting South African apartheid
This system of apartheid didn’t sit well with the international community. In 1962 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, which declared apartheid to be a violation of South Africa’s obligations under the UN Charter and a threat to international peace and security. Member states were asked to voluntarily boycott South Africa and break diplomatic relations. Though initially ignored by most nations, this action, along with the creation of the U.N. Special Committee Against Apartheid, greatly encouraged the growing civil society-based, international solidarity campaign.
An academic boycott, begun in 1965, empowered principled academics from around the world to refuse invitations to South Africa to lecture and to pass on collaborating on scholarly projects with South African academics.
Athletics are an important component of South African society, and the sports boycott, begun in 1961 with South Africa’s expulsion from FIFA, the international soccer governing body, proved effective. South Africa was excluded from many international rugby and cricket competitions, not to mention the 1964 Olympics. After nearly 50 countries threatened to boycott the 1970 Olympics in protest of possible involvement by South Africa, the country was expelled from the Games.
Starting from the mid-1980s, the European Community and Commonwealth countries imposed some trade and financial sanctions. In the United States, President Ronald Reagan opposed sanctions, but, to appease Congress, did agree to a limited ban on exports. (It must be remembered that the U.S., never at the forefront of human rights when power or economic strength may be compromised, considered Nelson Mandela, the longtime leader of efforts to overturn South African apartheid, a terrorist. Indeed, Mandela was on a “terrorism watch list” as late as 2008, decades after some semblance of democracy had been initiated in South Africa.)
Another major effort was the grassroots campaign to encourage institutional investors to withdraw all investment from countries based in South Africa. American university campuses became a focal point for such efforts.
Now and then
Apartheid in South Africa officially ended with the 1994 elections in which members of all races were allowed to vote.
Yet the ugliness of apartheid still exists elsewhere, most notably in Israel. A few examples highlight the similarities of South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid:
Capture
Congress condemned apartheid in South Africa, even overriding a presidential veto to sanction that country, but Congress cannot seem to praise Israel enough. What is different now than it was 30 years ago?Although there are stark similarities, conditions for Palestinians under Israeli apartheid are considered far worse than they ever were for non-whites under South African apartheid. Yet there does not appear to be the same international outcry against Israeli apartheid as there was against South African apartheid.
One hates to sound cynical, but, as with so much in U.S. governance, it all seems to come down to money. Between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2015, Israel lobbies contributed $12.6 million to U.S. senators for election, re-election and presidential campaigns. From April 13, 2013 to March 31, 2015, Israel lobbies contributed $4.3 million to members of the House of Representatives for election, re-election and presidential campaigns. A 2013 report indicates that, at that time, winning a senate seat in the U.S. cost about $10.5 million, while a seat in the House of Representatives cost about $1.7 million. It is much easier, certainly, to obtain a single contribution of tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars, than to collect that amount with donations of $5 or $10 from working people.
The impact of the Israel lobby on American politics is nothing new, though. In 1984, incumbent Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois was defeated for re-election by Paul Simon. Mr. Simon was tapped by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee to run against Mr. Percy, who had acknowledged not on
ly the existence of the Palestinians, but also that they had rights. This was untenable in a U.S. senator, and with backing from the powerful AIPAC, Mr. Percy was defeated. Congressional dissent from the AIPAC party line will not be tolerated.
At the recent AIPAC convention, GOP presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who, during the six-year period mentioned above received $100,354 from Israel lobbies, actually told his receptive audience that “Palestine has not existed since 1948.” This was perhaps the most extreme statement made to AIPAC audience by anyone seeking the U.S. presidency this year.
Money and fear fuel support for Israel
In February of 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme participated in “The Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid,” during which he described apartheid as “this despicable, doomed system.” He was assassinated one week later. After Sweden officially recognized Palestine in 2014, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, received numerous death threats.
France and Belgium are two additional countries that seem, at least in some regards, favorable to Palestine, and there has been talk in both nations about recognition of Palestine. Some pundits note that it is, at best, an odd coincidence that each experienced a “terrorist” attack after making known their intentions about recognizing Palestine.
So it appears that money and fear play a significant role in global support for Israel, but that support is quickly fading, as more countries recognize Palestine and condemn Israel. Steps by the European Union requiring appropriate labeling of Israeli goods produced on occupied land; the increasing academic, economic and entertainment boycott of Israel; and even the U.S., Israel’s main financier, approval of the Iran nuclear agreement that Israel spent as much as $40 million opposing, all point to a major change in world opinion.
Today, with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement gaining traction at universities, religious organizations and labor unions, the same methods that ended apartheid in South Africa are being implemented to accomplish the same thing in Israel.
Frederick Douglass, who fled slavery and went on to become a leader in the abolitionist movement and American statesman, once said, “Power never concedes anything without a demand; it never has and it never will.” The world is now demanding that Israel surrender its power over Palestinians. Israel is resisting, as it has for decades, but as the weight of the demand increases, Israel will eventually bow beneath it.
Originally published by MintPressNews.

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