Do you really want a ‘groundswell for reform’?

29 Aug

You may have seen my article for Citizen Vox, a blog put out by the consumer nonprofit, Public Citizen, which says there is a “groundswell for reform” and support for reformist initiatives. In order to be clear, this article aims to clarify my positions on issues, so someone believes I hold one view when I really do not.

In my Citizen Vox article I write:

Recently, Every Voice came out with a new poll on money in politics, showing how American voters spanning political spectrum in twelve battleground states reject the idea the huge amount of money spent in the political system is “business as usual.” The poll shows intense dislike of money interfering with elections. The poll shows that while more than 62 percent of voters support plans to reform campaign finance to empower small donors, super PACs are seen negatively. Additionally, 65 percent of voters feel that spending lots of money on elections “is wrong and leads to our elected officials representing the views of the wealthy.” The results of this poll should be no surprise. After all, Americans have expressed a desire to reform the campaign finance system in the past. For example, in a 2011 Washington-ABC News poll, 69 percent of American voters said that they would like super PACs to be illegal and in a June 2013 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans said they would support “limiting the amount of money that U.S. House and Senate candidates can raise and spend for their campaigns.” A Rasmussen poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that “elections are rigged in favor of incumbents.” Commentator Ezra Klein says that while the game is indeed rigged in favor of incumbents, voters could fix many of the problems that ail our election system by being more active on the issue.

These views of the American public are written about in my article questioning if there is a new American political order and looking at majoritarian views on numerous issues.

The next part of the article is where I say that reforms are the way to go (bolded parts are emphasis):

The time for action is now. The American people already overwhelmingly support campaign finance reform. In polls by the Washington Post and Free Speech for People, a majority of the Americans have shown that they oppose the Citizens United decision, want to see a return to reasonable limits on campaign spending, and would like to see a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision.

 

If we are really serious about limiting the influence of major corporations and the super-rich in the political arena then a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and pushing forward campaign finance reforms like small-donor focused public financing and transparency reforms (i.e. the DISCLOSE Act), and the SEC rule requiring corporate political spending disclosure is the way to go.

 

People are motivated to stem the tide of money flooding the political arena. A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is needed to reclaim our political system from the wealthy few.

From here, I go on to list Public Citizen campaigns to encourage people to “add to the groundswell of reform,” which I will not reprint here. While I could easily write an article using the same polls which show American anger with the current amount of money in the capitalist political system, the last two paragraphs are different. These paragraphs I fundamentally do not agree with. The reason they are there in the article is that I wanted to tailor my article to the views of Public Citizen. There is no way I could have said that reforms are bullshit and able to have the post published in the first place. I wouldn’t happen. Since my immediate boss and her boss agreed with my post, it was published. But, if I was writing outside Public Citizen, I would have expressed my true view. What I really think about reforms is noted in part in last two paragraphs of my article about a transpartisan consensus in the United States (bolded parts are my emphasis):

The phenomenon of a transpartisan consensus, which a relatively new in the American experience (perhaps since the 1980s or 1990s) is what can be called a new political order which I said in the past is not arising (link) but now it seems to be a reality. If it is true that Americans are centrists, then they fall into what Husseini calls “the anti-establishment center,” which is anti-corporate and ultimately socially democratic, rather than the “establishment center” of corporatist politicians of both parties. With people of the “left” and “right” uniting in favor of a rise in the minimum wage, opposing the Keystone XL pipeline on the ground, anti-drone bills across the country, and measures to rein in government surveillance, the transpartisan consensus has shown its usefulness. It is clear that this consensus can be used to stop the egregious assaults by the corporate sector and the state. It is always easy to unite people together on reforms, even if they, in theory oppose each other, on the “left” and “right.”

 

As Howard Zinn once wrote, fundamental problems in the United States including economic insecurity, violence, family disarray and environmental destruction “could not be solved without bold changes in the social and economic structure” of the country, which he said was not supported by major party candidates in the 1970s. It seems that even the transpartisan consensus, a new political center, wouldn’t support such “bold changes.” Instead, there would only be changes to the existing capitalist system but no questioning of that system or considering alternatives that would put more power in the hands of the people. This doesn’t mean groups and individuals should not look to make left-right alliances, allowing them to be part of this new consensus, but that they should realize its limitations. While a transpartisan consensus can be used to counter the abuses and policies of government and industry in the short term, in the long-term it is not the solution that would assure fundamental change. The solution, in the long-term rather relies on revolutionary action that is imaginative and proposes new alternatives to the predicament of a world that is, in the words of corporate magnate Arthur Jensen in the 1976 movie Network, “a business.”

To be frank about the constitutional amendment and campaign finance reforms, I think those measures are absolute bullshit. The constitutional amendment is too legalistic and has words like “political equality” which are too open to interpretation. Additionally, the amendment does not deal AT ALL with corporate personhood, which as I remember from a staff meeting at Public Citizen, they seemed completely fine with, saying that compromise was necessary. Also, just targeting Citizens United is silly since there have been fights over campaign finance since Buckley V. Valeo in 1976 and even farther back, the Tillman Act of 1907. As for the campaign finance reforms, they might do a little good at slowing down the flow of money, but the system as a whole is corrupt and tinkering it will not loosen the grip of the rich and powerful over the United States government and the politics within the U.S. There must be more than such moderate, feel-good measures, maybe even bringing back the $1 per person contribution rule floated by US Day of Rage years ago.

That is all. I just thought I might be truthful for once.

 

What are global energy markets anyway?

26 Aug

 

Obama june 19
 
Words politicians, especially people such as presidents say can sometimes be deceptive and have a hidden meaning that viewers may not understand. On June 19th, at the beginning of this summer, President Obama said that not only are “humanitarian reasons” and the destabilization of the region not supposed “national security interests,” but that the U.S. government is “committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.” At the time, I kept wondering…what does this term “global energy markets” really mean?
 
I looked into it further and found administration officials had mentioned it far back as 2009:

2009 U.S.-EU Summit Declaration [November 3, 2009]: “The Energy Council will study diversification of energy sources, such as through increased use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), solar power, wind power and biofuels, and the use of nuclear power. It will discuss how to effectively promote global energy security on the basis of transparent, stable and non-discriminatory global energy markets and diversified energy sources. Diverse supplies and sources, as well as enhanced energy efficiency and transparent markets, are the surest route to energy security. The Council will foster energy policy cooperation, bilaterally and with third countries, aimed at improving energy security, enhancing energy efficiency, and deepening research, development, demonstration and deployment of sustainable and clean energy technologies.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in March 2011: “And let me just flag a couple areas where we think there’s particular potential.  One is in the area of energy, broadly defined.  Brazil is going to become a major player in the global energy markets with its recent discovery of offshore oil.  It’s already a partner and a leader in the renewables area, and we have a deep relationship with them on biofuels, on wind, on solar, on a number of other issues.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in June 2012:  “Let me just add one more thing.  We will be talking more about energy this afternoon, but the G8 leaders agreed to a statement on global energy markets, and we’ll be making this available to you right after this briefing, but let me just read it to you: “There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which poses substantial risk to global economic growth.  In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity.  Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.” And obviously that’s a — it’s a key statement, it’s an unusual statement.”

Obama at G8 summit in May 2012: “Leaders agreed to join a new U.S.-led coalition to address climate change, in part by reducing short-lived pollutants.  And in the face of increasing disruptions in the supply of oil, we agreed that we must closely monitor global energy markets.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL in June 2012: “we deliberately set about implementing these sanctions in a way that would have the maximum impact on Iran. And so that of course includes working to get major oil importers of Iranian oil to take steps to reduce or in some instances to stop their import of Iranian oil. That’s both something that allows us to broaden the impact in terms of the number of countries that are again taking action to reduce imports from Iran. But also it allows us to phase in these sanctions in a way that has minimal impact on global energy markets because we don’t want to — we want to take steps to ensure that the — they’re phased in a way that doesn’t drive up the price of oil, which would again ultimately end up benefiting the Iranians, because as more of their oil is taken off the market, they would of course have revenue from the oil that they do continue to sell.”

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future: “We are working with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others to ensure that our international institutions and processes reflect changes in global energy markets.”

Former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon: “Global energy markets are part of a deeply interdependent world economy.  The United States continues to have an enduring interest in stable supplies of energy and the free flow of commerce everywhere.”

Fact sheet on U.S.-China relations: “Vice President Joe Biden discussed with President Xi and senior Chinese officials ways to strengthen U.S.-China cooperation to benefit the citizens of both of our countries and address global challenges.  They decided to expand U.S.-China cooperation in addressing climate change, enhancing transparency and resilience in global energy markets, and ensuring safe and well-regulated bilateral trade in food and pharmaceuticals.”

Joint fact sheet on US-China relations: “Building on the climate accord announced by the two Presidents at Sunnylands, and the S&ED in July 2013, the United States and China affirm the importance of deepening cooperation to address climate change, reduce local air pollution, transition to a low carbon energy economy, and strengthen the resilience of global energy markets.”

 

 I looked into other websites to find if there was an answer to what global energy markets are all about. BP, the multinational oil company, or “Beyond Business“, writes about global energy markets, yet they don’t really define it, they just declare: “Energy is a topic that is hotly debated around the world—in the halls of government and corporate boardrooms; on the TV and around kitchen tables. It is often said that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts!” Chatham House does a better job at defining the term itself. They write on their description of an event about global energy markets, that “Global energy markets are changing. Demand for energy resources is increasingly led by growth economies in Asia, unconventional oil and gas production continues to rewrite market forecasts and new production frontiers are emerging.” So, this makes it seem that the term applies to energy markets for oil & natural gas in places such as Asia. This is confirmed by the fact that OPEC wants to be part of the discussion for these said markets, specifically in regards to oil and a Financial Post article about US oil producers. The International Energy Agency notes that such markets would also include those for coal and maybe alternative energies like wind & solar and maybe biofuels as well. Overall, the term global energy markets seem to apply to ALL fossil fuels and definitely renewables. Still, there is no one site that defines the term “global energy markets.”
 
Investopedia on their website writes that “the energy market influences almost everything that we do.” PJM adds that “energy markets are used to coordinate the continuous buying, selling, and delivery of electricity” and Adam Jones of The Energy Collective write that in energy markets, “electricity is like any other commodity, bought wholesale and resold to consumers at retail prices.” In this way, every single type of energy under the Sun can be sold and bought on the market. That is the definition of a global energy market.
 
I end with a speech with by the CEO of one of the most evil corporations in the world, ExxonMobil, professing that they need to drill more and screw up the world more (until the earth becomes a fiery hell of course):
“North America’s new supplies of natural gas are coming at a time when the energy industry’s technologies are opening new opportunities for the global transport of natural gas to the rest of the world…We must embrace the free flow of energy, capital, and human talent across oceans and borders.We will strengthen energy security for all nations.  And we will build new bridges of trade and progress between countries and continents.”

 

 

Flashback: controversy over my Gay Inc. piece

20 Aug

A store of the Human Rights Campaign which had been “trashed” by a bunch of radical queers due to the organization’s disregard of homelessness and other issues which is bold, even if I don’t agree with everything they say here (http://pastebin.com/JwZqcJ1i)

Back in May 2013, I sent an editor of a publication a draft of my article which criticized big gay groups, or Gay Inc. which was eventually published on Nation of Change. I was originally going to publish the whole email conversation, but there is no need for that. Rather, it is best to quote what the editor-in-chief said in emails to me.

After three emails, when I had said I was open to change on my piece “about the mainstream LGBTQ movement” including edits, rewrites, etc… and saying I would publish it somewhere else if I did not get a response, the editor responded. Here is what he had to say (bolded parts are emphasized) on May 15, 2013:

Hi Burkely –Sorry to keep you waiting! I’ve been on killer deadline for the last week+ — and it’s not quite over yet. I do have your essay and I’ve spent a bit of time with it, but haven’t made a decision. It would certainly be controversial, given the nature of your critique of “Gay Inc.” It’s the kind of piece that would have to be extremely well-documented and ironclad in its assertions, as I assume it would raise the hackles of the many people who have a vested interest in these orgs. Consquently, I need to spend some more time with the piece before reaching a decision. But I don’t want to hold you up, so I would certainly understand if you decided to shop it elsewhere. I’ll be much freer next week, so please feel free to get in touch then. Thanks for your patience!

At the time, I told this editor that I knew the piece would be controversial but that I could deal with controversy, even publishing a response piece afterwards. Clearly, looking back, the editor did not share my point of view and was concerned about “controversy” and wanted it to be “well-documented” and “ironclad in its assertions.” I sent two more emails to this editor, and he finally responded at the end of May, asking if he had made a decision about my essay. Here is what he said, apologizing for his slow response, on May 31, 2013, saying he had made a decision and “put the issue to rest:”:

Dear Burkely –

Finally put the next issue to rest this AM, so now I can turn my sights to other matters. Apologies for my slowness in getting you an answer on the piece. I think you’ve done some good research and drawn some interesting connections between “Gay Inc.” and the corporate world — which, by the way, is far from a new discovery. The very coinage “Gay Inc.” suggests that many others have complained about corporate involvement in GLBT orgs. But I have a number of substantive concerns about the piece beyond the question of originality: It seems to me the kind of piece that should carefully lay out the evidence without judgment, then ponder what it means to be so dependent on corporate sponsorship, and finally conclude that this has a corrupting influence. Instead, you begin with the judgment that corporate sponsorship — indeed corporations themselves — is bad, so the rest is just backup material. Everyone knows that the major GLBT orgs rely heavily on corporate sponsorship — it’s the way of the world. Another problem is this: while you document lots of cases of corporate sponsorship of mainstream GLBT orgs, I don’t think you’ve made the case that this is ipso facto a terrible thing. Certainly the potential for abuse is there, but I’m sure all of these orgs would tell you that they couldn’t survive without corporate sponsorship. If true, the question becomes whether we’d be better off without them. Another question: is this any different from every other public interest group in America, whether disaster relief or animal rights? I think they all rely on corporate sponsors to some extent — but feel free to prove me wrong. In any case, I think you need to make the argument that the GLBT movement is uniquely corrupted by corporate influence. BTW the companies that tend to sponsor gay orgs — Microsoft, the airlines, etc. — tend to be the ones with the best policies on gay rights. You don’t see Exxon/Mobil as a major sponsor, am I right? I’m just sayin’. So, I will have to pass on the piece as written. As implied in paragraph 3, perhaps there’s an article there based upon your research. It might be useful for our readers to know exactly which companies are sponsoring which organizations. And certainly if you can document any examples of how this influence has affected their actions or policies, that would be of great interest. I guess your complaint is that Gay Inc. doesn’t criticize big corporations for their many sins. But who does? This is America. In any case, why is it up to the GLBT movement to provide this critique? I’ll stop there and let you reply — if you’ve made it this far!

Thanks much,

As you can expect, this response made me annoyed and madder, especially when he said that corporate sponsorship of GLBT organizations, as he called them, was “the way of the world” which later was used as the title of my article for Nation of Change. His assertion that certain corporations have “good policies” on gay rights is bull. That ignores the fact that such policies do not make them better corporations but rather more mischievous, I would argue. If other groups are funded by corporate sponsors, they definitely should be criticized too.  If I was to find evidence of any corporate sponsor influencing any of the big gay organizations in a direct and a notable way, then I’d have to probably request internal documents or something which they would never give me. As a result, such an endeavor is literally impossible. Despite this, I am glad he praised my research…

At the time, in response to this editor, I said that if corporate sponsorship is the way of the world, it should change and I said that the organizations must be rejected as corporate leeches, just like I said in my article for State of Nature and that since “corporations control and dictate our lives…it seems fair to criticize them.”  Months later, he responded with much of his critique still intact, responding to an email I can’t seem to find (bolded parts are my emphasis):

Hi Burkely,

Thanks for your follow-up to our earlier correspondence, with apologies for my very slow reply. There’s not much I can add to my earlier critique of the piece, which still stands. Yes, corporations are powerful and pervasive in our lives — so much so that they are indeed unavoidable in all walks of life. The idea that orgs. like the HRC and Task Force would have no corporate sponsorship is quixotic in this day and age. Your war is with the corporate state, as it used to be called, of which the current gay movement is but one manifestation. But how is the GLBT rights movement more corrupted by corps. than anyone else? Also, for what it’s worth, corps. that sponsor gay orgs invariably have very gay-friendly policies. So it goes. I still think there could be the nub of an article there, but it would require some down-and-dirty research to make it work IMHO.

So, the idea that these organizations could have no corporate sponsorship is silly? Come on. Even though I would not argue that, I would say that there are non-profits and orgs. out there that do good work and don’t have ANY corporate sponsors. To have a corporate sponsor is to be corrupted in and of itself. I don’t see why “down-and-dirty research” is needed to prove that. Once again, who cares if they have “gay-friendly policies.” That type of stuff is just BS and PR to promote themselves as caring about “equality.” In my response to the email at the time, I said that having corporate sponsorship leads to what one can call “manufactured equality” which I argued “won’t address the root causes of discrimination against them and numerous other problems facing them. And I made an even more powerful point: “as long as Gay Inc. has corporate sponsors, they will never push for what LGBTQ people need but rather for corporate-friendly equality.”

I reprint my article which I published on Nation of Change below which hit back at a number of criticisms by the editor. I also welcome comments about what the editor said and what you think about all of this.

Its the Way of the World: Bradley Manning and Gay Inc.

By Burkely Hermann

At a recent DNC fundraiser 56- year old LGBTQ advocate Ellen Sturt heckled Michelle Obama  to ask for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to be signed via executive order. This was a simple demand, as she notes in her Washington Post op-ed where she says she could no “longer remain silent.” Although this was brave, what about famed gay whistleblower PFC Bradley Manning? Would he get the same treatment? Glenn Greenwald wrote that Chair of the San Francisco Pride Parade overode the board’s decision declaring that Manning would not be one of the Grand Marshals of the parade while huge corporations like AT&T, Verizon, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, sponsored the Parade. What he wrote next was a bombshell: “[the] remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality…is less significant than it seems because…gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions…If anything, it bolsters those power structures.” One must ask: does the cause of gay equality “pose no threat” to the ruling elite?

First one, one must understand, that the LGBTQ rights movement has changed over time. BusinessWeek calls the gay rights movement, “one of the most successful political enterprises in history” because of its contributions in the last 40 years. However, this “enterprise” has led people to worry: lesbian host Ellen DeGeneres is perceived as the mainstream gay perspective, that there is a slow response of the movement to lynching of LGBT people in Honduras, how liberals support equal rights in rhetoric but refuse to support legislation putting it place and finally how from the 1970s on, the movement allied with the Democratic Party while the current “LGBT leadership…abandons…an agenda that stresse[s]…social [and]…economic justice…[like] the Human Rights Campaign [HRC]…ignor[ing] homelessness and poverty altogether.”

From this, I began to look into Gay Inc.  Andy Thayer defines this term as encompassing all of the big gay non-profits, from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) to the HRC but I would expand it to include the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Out and Equal Workplace Advocates (Out and Equal), GLAAD,  Family Equality Council, and the National Gay and Lesbian Center of Commerce (NGLCC). Also it would includes other groups like the Arcus Foundation, the Gill Foundation, Log Cabin Republicans, Freedom To Marry, Equality Forum, Lesbian Victory Fund, and American Foundation for Equal Rights. Is it the way of the world that major LGBTQ organizations rely heavily on corporate sponsorship?

Before I get into the organizations themselves, as the saying goes, follow the money. The sponsorships of Gay Inc. give a further insight. The banksters who helped plunge the world economy into economic crisis sponsored a number of organizations including the HRC, NGLTF, GLAD, PFLAG,  NGLCC, Out and Equal, GLSEN, and GLAAD. As for the companies that are part of the Center for Copyright Information that devised the authoritarian copyright alert system which is commonly called “Six Strikes,” they back Equality Forum, Out and Equal, NGLTF, and GLAAD. There are many other egregious corporate sponsors of the NGLTF, HRC, GLAD, PFLAG, Equality Forum, Family Equality Council, NGLCC, Out and Equal (has 55 sponsors!), GLSEN, and GLAAD (here and here). Some might say that this is no different from any other public interest group in America, but Gay Inc. is uniquely corrupted by the business community.

How do these groups pay back their sponsors? It differs from group to group. The NGLTF inadvertently call for people to vote for Democrats and backed the healthcare “reform” bill while the HRC’s ‘corporate equality index’ praises Corporate America as this year’s report gave the highest ratings possible to some of those who sponsored them! GLAD has a Board of Directors including including former employees of Verizon, HRC, and GlaxoSmithKline while the GLSEN, who came up with the idea of Gay-Straight Alliances, has a Board of Directors comprised of most of their corporate sponsors. Out & Equal tries to help LGBTQ people find jobs has groups on their “LGBTCareerLink” page including BP, Bank of America, GE, Comcast, PNC, and Clorox, half of whom are their sponsors.  NGLCC is even worse as they making an effort to make corporate America LGBTQ “certified” and the Equality Forum has a former Comcast CEO on their Board of Governors while their major sponsor is Comcast itself.

The other groups that have less of a roll in Gay Inc. are also corrupted. The Arcus Foundation has a former member of the Rockefeller Foundation, a CNN correspondent, and IBM employee on their Board while the Gill Foundation has similar board members. Freedom To Marry, which wants gay marriage and DOMA repealed, has the vice-president of Amazon.com, and a surrogate speaker for President Obama on their board of directors while they praising Mayor 1% Emanuel, Mayor Bloomberg, and Glenn Beck, as voices for equality! The American Foundation for Equal Rights which claims to want equal rights for all has a board of Directors including the HRC president, and the Chairman of the CATO institute. Other groups just follow along like the Log Cabin Republicans and the Stonewall Democrats which advocate for gay policy in their respective parties while the Lesbian Victory Fund endorses LGBT candidates.

 

By now, it should be clear that Greenwald was right. I’d say we’d be better off without these groups, just like the Gang Green groups that dominate the mainstream environmental movement. People must remember this is not the way it was supposed to be because the movement itself began with queer sit-ins in 1965 which morphed into a protest rally, not with Stonewall riots in 1968. As Gay Inc., the corporate leeches, has been timid, there is hope: the Gay Liberation Network, which pushes for a grassroots direct action to help LGBTQ people. The corporate leeches must be thrown away and LGBTQ and allies must stand next to each other and push for full liberation not simply policies that promote assimilation like gay marriage and ENDA.

 

And here is the submission I sent to the editor, which I believe is a bit different, but still good:

Gay Inc., Bradley Manning and corporate power

 

Yesterday, I was just browsing across twitter and I stumbled across an article by Glenn Greenwald. It explained that the famed whistleblower Bradley Manning was not made one of the Grand Marshals of the San Francisco Pride Parade. He explained that while “even a hint of support for Manning will not be tolerated, there is a long roster of large corporations serving as the event’s sponsors who are welcomed with open arms…[including] AT&T and Verizon…Bank of America…Wells Fargo…Clear Channel…[and] Kaiser Permanente…Even at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, once an iconic symbol of cultural dissent and disregard for stifling pieties, nothing can happen that might offend AT&T and the Bank of America…Thus, while Bradley Manning is persona non grata at SF Pride, illegal eavesdropping telecoms, scheming banks, and hedge-fund purveyors of the nation’s worst right-wing agitprop are more than welcome.” What he wrote next was startling to me. He said that while there has been a “remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality…this development is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset.” This is proved by simply looking at the full list of the parade’s sponsors which includes Bud Light, Virgin Mobile, Toyota, and Hilton Hotels as well. Additionally, President Obama declared in his inaugural address that “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law…for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” but has not taken any concrete steps to even put his ideas into practice because what he said was a bunch of meaningless liberal rhetoric. Greenwald’s observation is what led me to investigate more to see if he was correct.

 

One needs an informed perspective on the mainstream organizations of the LGBTQ rights movement, which have developed very much over time, becoming subsumed by the establishment. Caleb Castañeda writes that it worrying that the movement is treating Ellen DeGeneres as the mainstream gay perspective, the slow approach of the movement in response to lynching of LGBT people, the irony that in the words of the late Alexander Coleburn that the movement is trying to save the sinking ship of marriage and how in Ron Jacobs’s words that on the “liberal side of the US political spectrum one hears words in support of equal rights only to be all to often followed by a refusal to support those rights when it comes to actually passing legislation.” To cap it off, there’s an article by Tommi Avicolli Mecca noting that “by the late 70s, a more mainstream movement had emerged. Gay rights bills were pushed through legislatures, inroads made with certain Protestant denominations, support gained from the Democratic Party…[now] the new LGBT leadership often abandons multi-issue coalitions and an agenda that stressed social as well as economic justice…[for instance] the Human Rights Campaign [HRC]…ignores homelessness and poverty altogether, and wants Congress to pass a federal gay rights bill that doesn’t include transgenders, the group that needs protection the most.”

From this, I began to look into Gay Inc. Andy Thayer defines this term as encompassing all of the big gay non-profits, from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) to the HRC but I would expand it to include the Arcus Foundation, the Gill Foundation, Log Cabin Republicans, Freedom To Marry, Equality Forum, Lesbian Victory Fund, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Out and Equal, GLAAD, Family Equality Council, and the National Gay and Lesbian Center of Commerce (NGLCC).

I start with the HRC. This organization is the most celebrated LGBTQ organization in the United States, which according to a back of one of their stickers, “envisions an America where all LGBT people are ensured equality and are embraced as full members of the American family at home, at work and in every community.” However, a further look at their website puts this into question. Looking at their “platinum,” “gold,” “silver,” and “bronze” corporate partners there are some startling companies that are helping them. Such companies include: Citigroup which participated in a conference that is hosted by an organization that denies the horrible Armenian genocide, Microsoft which increased their offshore profit holdings by $16 billion last year, American Airlines which will probably merge with US Airways creating the world’s largest airline, Bank of America which is currently in court over lost mortgage investments, Coca-Cola which needs excessive water use to make their products, the Toyota-made Lexus which was sued by customers because of sudden acceleration, Chevron which was issued criminal charges by Brazilian prosecutors for massive environmental damage, BP which paid no corporate income taxes but got a rebate, Google which admitted that its “Street View” program violates privacy, Nike which runs sweatshops for profit in the Southeast Asia, IBM which put over $6.5 billion dollars offshore last year, TD Bank which has investments in TransCanada which is building the Keystone XL Pipeline, Goldman Sachs which paid no corporate income tax, Shell Oil which is now responsible for all of the oil spills in the Niger Delta, Starbucks which was fined by a Chilean Court $50,000 for anti-union practices in the country, Dell which was found by a New York Court to be guilty of fraud, JPMorganChase which has recently been more vigorously investigated by federal authorities in cases including a flawed review of loans and lying to investors, and Morgan Stanley which admitted that it knew about the housing bubble in 2005 before it burst but did nothing to stop it. Also, one can even get a BankAmericard for the organization! All of these partners make it seem that the HRC really doesn’t really care about equality, but that it’s just a façade. They say their ‘corporate equality index’[CEI] will “propel equality” and their President writes that “Corporate America continues to raise the bar in workplace fairness. we hope Congress will follow corporate America’s lead and create a level playing field – including passing fully-inclusive workplace non-discrimination legislation.” This year’s CEI report gave high ratings to General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., IBM, and Freddie Mac, among others.

 

The next biggest part of Gay, Inc. is the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force or NGLTF. First off, one should consider their sponsors include one major group of banksters (Wells Fargo), a bus line that is owned by Greyhound (Grey Goose), a CBS-owned television network (Showtime), Comcast-NBCUniversal, a major US airline (Southwest) and an LGBTQ weekly called the Washington Blade. In the issues section of their website, they take a stand against the “anti-gay industry,” they have a vote guide that lists their positions but doesn’t mention the Democratic Party even though they clearly are telling people to vote for the Democrats, they want the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to pass which is backed by groups ranging from the HRC, NAACP, American Bar Association and yes, Nike, which are the same in both Houses of Congress. The same goes with the Matthew Shepard Act which was backed by numerous gay rights organizations in the Senate and was tied to a military spending bill in the House which further shows the non-threatening nature of the bill. Then, they praised the Affordable Care Act which was a bailout for the healthcare industry. None of this is surprising considering the Board of their Action fund includes a pro-Obama message service (Progressive Victory), a holding company of diversified commercial and industrial businesses (CIC Group), and an organization that consults different groups on gender issues (Botzer Consulting). One shouldn’t forget that their Board of Directors includes members of a global consulting firm (McKinsey and Company), a huge hospital company (Brinker International), and the program officer of the Gates Foundation.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is one of the most corrupt of them all. Their Board of Directors includes a former employee of GE Healthcare, the US Treasury Department, Verizon, HRC, and GlaxoSmithKline. From this it’s no surprise their sponsors include Macy’s, Bank of America, Liberty Mutual, and DLA Piper. Maybe this is why they don’t have much in the realm of legislative advocacy. A similar organization, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has a similar situation. They have corporate sponsors including AT&T, Wells Fargo, Disney, Target, Disney, IBM, HP, Goldman Sachs, Google, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. As a result, their Board of Directors includes members of Disney, Kodak, Sodexo, JPMorgan Chase, Cisco Systems, Wells Fargo, DreamWorks, and IBM. This is a major problem because they are the originators of the whole idea of Gay-Straight Alliances in secondary educational institutions (I had one in my high school).

 

Consider an organization that doesn’t seem that bad: it advocates to help LGBTQ people find jobs. This group called Out & Equal has its problems. These stem from the companies that group lists on its “LGBTCareerLink” page which include a company that helped George W. Bush fix the Florida elections (WellPoint), BP, Bank of America, GE, Comcast, PNC, and Clorox among others. This won’t really help the well-being of LGBTQ folk and improve their place in society. Then there’s the organization named GLAAD which officially says it will secure “full and lasting equality.” However, this is put seriously into question when Comcast and Wells Fargo are two of their “premier partners” and their other sponsors include AT&T, IBM  and Microsoft.

 

One of the biggest foundations that funds much of the movement called the Arcus Foundation doesn’t seem to have direct connections to Big Business. However, on their Board of Directors they have a person who founded a group that “advances corporate, philanthropic and legislative efforts” for social justice causes, the CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, one who formerly worked at the Rockefeller Foundation, a former CNN correspondent, a former IBM employee, former Director of Board Affairs for Planned Parenthood, and a former accountant. As for the Gill Foundation, it’s pretty similar. Its board members include the founder of Quark, Inc. and a former Google employee. Also, they promote a project by Out & Equal which once again promotes big business.

In a completely different realm is a family-oriented organization called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays or PFLAG. It sounds all nice and dandy but there’s one major problem: its sponsors. Those that back this organization include Wells Fargo, UPS, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Sodexo, Dow, Northrop Grumman, and Finra, the self-regulating body of the financial industry. This is then why their policy positions don’t really challenge business. On the other hand, Freedom To Marry, which pushes for Gay Marriage and ending “federal marriage discrimination” is similarly backed by business interests. The organization’s board of directors includes former members of an asset management company, vice-president of Amazon.com, surrogate speaker for President Obama, a person who has coached hundreds of corporate CEOs. These are even worse than the competing Log Cabin Republicans which advocates for gay policy in the GOP and the Stonewall Democrats doing the same in the Democratic Party along with the Lesbian Victory Fund endorses LGBT candidates in office. And don’t forget the Equality Forum which has a former Comcast CEO on their Board of Governors, and a Wealth Advisor for Merrill Lynch on their Board of Directors. Good ole’ Comcast and AT&T sponsor them as well. Then there’s the Family Equality Council which officially “represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender in this country and their six million children.” However, I’m not sure how those that are “represented” would like to see that the organization is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, HBO, Target, Capitol One, PepsiCo, and General Mills. The last organization I focused on was the National Gay and Lesbian Center of Commerce. This is one of the worst: it has corporate partners including Wells Fargo, UnitedHealthcare, and MillerCoors while they have an effort to reach corporate America and help make them LGBTQ “certified.”

By now, it should be clear that Greenwald was right when he said that gay equality does not threaten the American power structure and possibly even bolsters their power through the backing of Gay, Inc. by the Business Community. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. The LGBTQ rights movement which didn’t begin in Stonewall but actually in “in 1965 [in] the first queer sit-ins on record took place at a late-night Philadelphia coffee shop and lunch counter called Dewey’s, a popular hangout for young gays, lesbians and drag queens.” This action morphed into a protest rally, “an informational picket line protesting the lunch counter’s treatment of gender-variant youth….[and] another sit-in” which spread across the country in numerous incidents as described in a history of the movement by Tommi Avicolli Mecca. However, Stonewall was marked as the beginning by many because after it was the founding of the militant Gay Liberation Front or GLF which tied gay liberation to other struggles for liberation. This has been lost in Gay Inc. There has been no confrontation of heterosexism or fostering of understanding to mitigate homophobic violence or an end for all restrictions for LGBT people in the workplace. A new path must be forged, by using the direct action organization called the Gay Liberation Network run by Andy Thayer, which aims for a grassroots approach to help LGBTQ people as basis for the new movement which would reject the establishment parties and the power of the business community. Otherwise, this social movement will increase the power of those who are screwing the world every day.

 

Does Elizabeth Warren really care about the average American?

5 Aug

The title of this article may be a shock to those supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren. There is no doubt that she has engaged in some good initiatives like pushing for: transparency on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling out the too-big-to-fail banks, speaking out on student loan debt, and so on. But, one should not put that much trust in her. As I have written about on this blog numerous times and elsewhere, it is important to be critical of Elizabeth Warren, who I consider a capitalist reformer and not being as populist as it may seem from the surface. [1]

Recently, conservative media have been up and arms, saying that Warren is a hypocrite for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which has been nicknamed the ‘Boeing Bank’ or the ‘corporate welfare bank.’ Here is a sampling of the headlines from those media sites:

Elizabeth Warren’s, ahem, ‘Crony Capitalism.’ | RedState

Crony Corporatist: Elizabeth Warren and the Export-Import Bank| Lew Rockwell

Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank | againstcronycapitalism.org

Oh, look, phony populist Elizabeth Warren backs the Export-Import Bank’s brand of corporate welfare | unitedliberty.org

Elizabeth Warren Is Overrated: Why the progressive favorite is a downer| The Federalist

Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank| Reason.com

Elizabeth Warren Backs Corporate Welfare Bank| Town Hall

Now, what did Warren really say? What is the real story? Well, the quotes from Warren comes from an exchange reported on by Bloomberg News. Here’s that story, with bolded emphasis from me:

Every so often, the political spectrum in Washington bends to the point that erstwhile opponents find themselves walking in lockstep.

Last year, one of the House’s most outspoken Democrats, Arizona’s Raul Grijalva, agreed with Tea Party favorite Justin Amash on an amendment that would have restricted the National Security Agency’s spying powers. Tea Party groups and peaceniks both opposed U.S. intervention in Syria.

This week, Democrats such as Colorado’s Jared Polis teamed with Kentucky’s Thomas Massie and fellow libertarians to approve a House amendment that would let U.S. banks accept cash from marijuana businesses in states where pot is legal.

Could the dynamic repeat itself on the question of whether to renew the U.S. Export-Import Bank? Heritage Action of America thinks so.

The Tea Party-aligned group sent a letter today to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat known for taking populist stands against corporate America, inviting her to speak about  ending the lender “and the political favoritism it engenders.”

“We, like you, are frustrated with a political economy that benefits well-connected elites at the expense of all Americans,” Heritage Action Chief Executive Officer Michael Needham wrote. “Your presence will send a clear signal that you are going to fight the most pressing example of corporate welfare and cronyism pending before Congress right now.”

Alas, it doesn’t sound like the former Harvard law professor will be lecturing to Heritage audiences any time soon.

“Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth, but recognizes that there is room for improvement in the bank’s operations,” Warren spokesman Lacey Rose tells us in an e-mail. “She looks forward to reviewing re-authorization legislation if and when it is introduced.”

This means that she supports the Export-Import Bank. While the Washington Examiner is a conservative publication, a recent article by one of their writers, Timothy B. Carney, makes a good point about her support of this bank:

“Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren loves to shoot barbs at Wall Street. She also enjoys forcing taxpayers to absorb Wall Street’s risks while the banks pocket the profits…The Export-Import Bank puts taxpayer money behind the loans Citibank and Goldman Sachs make to foreign companies and foreign governments buying U.S. goods. President Obama is a huge champion of Ex-Im. Wall Street LOVES Ex-Im. Conservative Republicans oppose Ex-Im. Elizabeth Warren apparently sides with Wall Street. At Ex-Im’s annual conference, one Wall Streeter described Ex-Im’s loan guarantees to me as “free money.” Is Elizabeth Warren really fine with free money to Wall Street?

Apparently according to her campaign rhetoric, Warren is not fine with free money to Wall Street, but seemingly she picks and chooses her battles with Wall Street, which is troubling. The letter that Heritage Action, part of the Heritage Foundation, they posted it on their website and it seems to channel conservative populism. After Warren responded, they had a response that seems to attack crony capitalism and other top Democrats for supporting the bank (important parts are bolded):

“…Warren’s response is not quite what you would expect from someone who claims to be working “on the side of American families.” Especially when the corporate-welfare machine she is in support of “guarantees ‘free money,’ allowing [banks] to be more aggressive in financing exports because taxpayers serve as the backstop if a deal fails.” Warren is not the first on the so-called populist left to support the Export-Import Bank. Others [sic]  liberal leaders in favor of reauthorization include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senator Chuck Schumer. In response to her decision, Heritage Action has made sure that all of the followers of the self proclaimed “enemy of greedy corporations” see her position when it comes to actually fighting against corporate welfare…The expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s charter is approaching quickly.  What can you do? Share this page with your friends and neighbors an spread the message about ending the Export-Import Bank and the culture of cronyism in Washington.”

They even created an ad criticizing for her support of the bank. Now, her support of this bank is only one issue of many. Recently, a reporter tried to ask Warren her view on Israel’s invasion of Gaza and she literally ran away:

Later on, she did not even let out peep (and neither did other ‘progressives’ like Bernie Sanders) when $225 million in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system was approved by unanimous consent (also see here). Hence, there is no record of a vote.This is not very surprising considering, in the words of Jeff Klein, she was persuaded to sponsor Senate Res. 65, which mandated “a new round of sanctions against Iran and promising to support Israel if it should choose to launch a unilateral war” in May 2013, joining the “unanimous vote in favor of the bill.” Furthermore, Kelin wrote that her vote, she he possible rationalized pragmatically means that her senate seat “is worth the price of a vote for AIPAC.”

This isn’t all. She has also been ok with a number of corporate-friendly nominations of the Obama administration, as she voted for:

      1. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who previously was the president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, was president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was an aide to neoliberal Treasury Secretary Robert Robin for two years, for Secretary of Health and Human Services (see here)
      2. Sharon Y. Bowen, who was previously a partner at the corporate law firm, Latham & Wilkins, with her practice including “corporate, finance and securities transactions for large global corporations and financial institutions” for the commissioner of the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] (see here)
      3. Stanley Fischer, who worked at the World Bank from 1988 to 1990 and the IMF from 1994 to 2001, after which he served as the Vice Chairman of Citigroup (2002-2005) for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (see here)
      4. Robert A. “Bob” McDonald, was was a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, replacing Eric Shiniski who had worked for Honeywell International before he was Secretary (see here)
      5. Wanda Felton, who formerly worked for investment firms and was a director at Credit Suisse First Boston, to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (see here)
      6. Catherine Ann Novelli, who was formerly a partner for Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP “where she assisted Fortune 100 clients on issues involving international trade and investment,” to be the United States Alternate Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (see here)
      7. Richard Stengel, who wrote for Time magazine and was its managing editor for years, to be an Under Secretary of State (see here)
      8. Max Baucus, a corporate-friendly senator who pushed through Obamacare, supported fast track, had a high business-friendly voting record as ranked by the US Chamber of Commerce, voted for the Iraq war, opposed single-payer healthcare, and voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001, to be ambassador to China (see here)
      9. Mel Watt, a corporate-friendly senator as I noted here, to be the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (see here)

She could have or could have not voted for Maria Contreras-Sweet for SBA Administrator, who formerly served on Well Point, which defrauded black Florida voters in 2000, and the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield in California because it was a voice vote.Warren just happened to not vote for Janet Yellen, who has a pro-business record supporting business-friendly measures like Quantitative Easing and supports continuing to fork over tax dollars to the big banks, for chairman of the Federal Reserve. If that’s not enough, Warren also voted for a bill which imposed sanctions on Russia, or any person that is complicit in violence or corruption in Ukraine, and guaranteed economic assistance to Ukraine. For more, read the bill itself. Then there was Warren’s vote for Jeh Johnson (for Secretary of the DHS) who was not only a big donor to Obama in the past, but “an unapologetic supporter and enabler of President Obama’s policy of drone warfare,” saying that its fine if US citizens are targeted by drone strikes. Oh yeah, and Johnson was outspoken in saying that Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning should be criminally prosecuted.

The positions of Warren don’t get any better. While she, along with Tom Coburn, have a “bipartisan proposal…to increase transparency around settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies,” there is nothing I can find of her rejecting the recent settlement and calling for prosecutions of those responsible. In March 2013, in the news section of Warren’s website was an article talking about an event “attended by about 200 Massachusetts small businesses at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center” which featured “25 government agencies and prime contractors – including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation…Raytheon, BAE Systems and Booz Allen Hamilton” so that businesses “had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with agency representatives and contractors to learn about possible contracts in the region.” To me, this sounds like she supports the production of “some jobs” by the military-industrial-complex, the permanent war economy, not even questioning this at all. Warren seemed to promote this in the month preceeding it as noted here, here, and here. The biggest news I found was a national security speech she made in February of this year. In that speech, as reprinted in the Huffington Post, part of which I’ll quote below (I bolded a number of important parts):

…It’s been thirteen years since the events of September 11, 2001…For thirteen years, we have lived through the repercussions of that terrible day. Now, the first chapter in our nation’s post-9/11 history is coming to an end. We are out of Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan is underway. We are ending two wars, but this does not mean that we will withdraw from the world beyond our shores, or pretend that there are no threats to our safety and security. As we start a new chapter, we still live in an unstable and unpredictable world: a world with terrorists plotting to cause catastrophic destruction, a world with dictators and tyrants, a world with threats in cyberspace and from new technologies. We know that we must remain vigilant and engaged abroad, taking steps to defend our allies and to protect our people. But as these two wars come to an end, we also have an opportunity to think about what we can learn from the last decade of conflict. There are many questions worth asking about how to make sure our actions advance our national interests…Today, I want to focus on a related question about how we advance our national interests – a question that is discussed less often than many of the others, but one that I think deserves our attention. How should we think about civilian casualties and their effect on our strategic decisions?…

Civilian casualties are an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of war, and modern conflict has made it more difficult to know who is innocent. We can’t always distinguish between civilians and combatants..Seriously addressing the issue of civilian casualties is essential to upholding our values at home and advancing our interests overseas. Our military is the most professional and honorable fighting force in the world, and I know first-hand how creative and tough our armed forces are...We take pride in the way that our servicemembers conduct themselves, but some people assume that when the shooting starts, military law, domestic law, and international law are left behind. The reality is the opposite. Law is an integral part of American warfare. Our soldiers learn basic legal principles as part of their training.

Military lawyers are embedded into our fighting units, working alongside commanders to evaluate the legality of even the most sensitive decisions. We follow the law because our national values – and our national interests – demand it…the laws of war require us to consider not just expediency, but also humanity…General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of our armed forces in Afghanistan, described this lesson a few years ago…McChrystal describes this dynamic with insurgents, but the same dynamic is at work with the collateral deaths of innocent civilians – and the same dynamic can apply during all kinds of military operations – Special Forces missions, counterterrorism operations, and efforts to train security forces. Over the past decade, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, military commanders increasingly tried to address this problem… The military increased its efforts to educate and train our soldiers and Marines on civilian protection. And leaders in the military started tracking the number of civilian casualties, so they could learn from the statistics and identify ways to lower civilian casualty rates…

As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed, our military leaders increasingly took seriously the costs of civilian casualties in military engagements, and they learned how important it is to prevent civilian casualties. But now it is time for the next question: when our country considers military interventions abroad – and especially when leaders publicly debate the costs and benefits of using force – do we factor in this same lesson? Do we fully consider the costs of civilian casualties?…Many policymakers in Washington seem hesitant to…acknowledge the reality that military commanders deal with every day, the reality that civilian casualties affect U.S. interests abroad. And when we debate the costs and benefits of intervention – when we discuss potential military action around the world – the talk about collateral damage and civilian casualties too often seems quiet. The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous…Our decision-making suffers – and our ability to effectively advance our interests suffers – when we do not grapple fully and honestly with all of the costs and benefits, all the risks, all the intended and unintended consequences of military action.

When our country considers military intervention, we must be hard-headed and clear-eyed…Unintended consequences can have a profound impact. Whatever our righteous intentions, the world does not hold us blameless when civilians die…We must begin by establishing training programs that directly address civilian casualties. The military has begun to put together educational and training materials based on experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq…Next, we need to improve our efforts to track civilian casualties during any military engagement…While secrecy – particularly as it relates to operational plans – is necessary in some cases, tracking casualties and making those data publicly available will help us make the best decisions here at home and demonstrate to the world that America takes civilian casualties seriously…Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people. In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners…Our military leaders recognize that our moral values need not conflict with our strategy. As we reflect on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as we prepare for the future use of military force, we must remember this as well.

We are a great country, a country rooted in the values of liberty and justice, compassion and community. We cannot turn a blind eye to the rest of the world – pretending that dangerous dictators pose no threat to us or that atrocities committed outside our borders don’t matter. But when we consider whether using force is in our national interest, we also should not – we cannot – turn a blind eye to the impact of unintended civilian casualties. The decision to use military force is one of the most important any country can make. If we openly consider all the costs and benefits, all the intended and unintended consequences, we will make better decisions – decisions that will live up to our nation’s core values, advance our national interests, and preserve our role as a moral leader in the world.”

Clearly, Warren is showing that she supports the imperialistic, militaristic foreign policy, echoing what Obama says. However, I commend her on considering the “intended and unintended consequences of military action” (esp. with civilian casualties) with the latter constituting a word she strangely does not use, but is used by many critiquing the American empire: blowback. At the same time, it disturbing that he argument is nationalistic and almost uber-patriotic as she holds up the US as a paragon of virtue (it is not) and she defends the military as professional (and other BS), not recognizing they are one thing, and one thing only: an army of trained, cold-blooded killers. This does not mean that no one in the army has a conscience, but rather that such a conscience, that makes one question their actions, is suppressed by the internal mechanizations of the military itself.

There is one more aspect I’ll cover in this article, and that is Warren’s bill titled Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act introduced in 2013, with a companion bill in the House of Representatives introduced by Rep. John F. Tierney. Ellen Brown, in a June 2013 article for CounterPunch writes about the bill, noting that:

“…Students are considered risky investments because they don’t own valuable assets against which the debt can be collected. But this argument overlooks the fact that these young trainees are assets themselves. They represent an investment in “human capital” that can pay for itself many times over, if properly supported and developed.  This was demonstrated in the 1940s with the G.I. Bill, which provided free technical training and educational support for nearly 16 million returning servicemen, along with government-subsidized loans and unemployment benefits…Investing in our young people has worked before and can work again; and if Congress orders the Fed to fund this investment in our collective futures by “quantitative easing,” it need cost the taxpayers nothing at all. The Japanese have finally seen the light and are using their QE tool as economic stimulus rather than just to keep their banks afloat. We need to do the same.”

Still, I find it worrisome that Warren’s bill is based around the idea of Quantitative Easing, a program, that helps big banks. Additionally, the proposal seems to help students but not get them out of their horrible predicament, only making their horrible predicament just a little bit better. I think its also worth remembering that she falsely and absurdly said that the Tea Party are anarchists (they aren’t) in a October 2013 post (which was seemingly a senate speech) titled ‘We are not a country of anarchists':

If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you’d think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn’t exist at all. But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don’t want a future without government…In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens…Government is real, and it has three basic functions:Provide for the national defense. [and] Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent. [and] Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed. These things did not appear by magic. In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together…We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together. We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues…We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation. The political minority in the House that condemns government and begged for this shutdown has its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, its day will pass – and the government will get back to the work we have chosen to do together.

 

Now, while it is worthy to condemn the shutdown, to connect anarchism with the Tea Party is utterly absurd and idiotic. As wrote a great critique of this use of the term  ‘anarchist’ (also by Harry Reid) in a wonderful Washington Post opinion piece:

“Real anarchist communities operate according to radically democratic principles. They theorize, and even organize, with egalitarian political and social visions in mind. Unlike tea party obstinacy, anarchism promotes cooperative forms of decision-making—not only in political life, but in social and economic institutions as well. Co-op book and grocery stores, community gardens, employee-owned businesses, land trusts and cooperative housing projects, as well as grassroots relief efforts like Occupy Sandy, are just a few examples of anarchist praxis at work in our society. Anarchism is not lawless, but it does involve a critique of the state. Anarchists encourage us to place a burden of proof on existing authority structures, and push us to limit, or even dismantle, the power of institutions, regulations and individuals whose authority proves to be illegitimate. The tea party is trying to diffuse the power of centralized government, but, paradoxically, they’re using big corporate heads and political figures within centralized government to get there…Despite their anti-authoritarianism, some of today’s anarchists concede that states can serve socially important functions like ensuring sound infrastructure, basic consumer protections and comprehensive social welfare (though they believe such services are better executed with decentralized communities)…So if the tea party is not anarchist, what is? It’s closer to what we’ve seen with pro-democracy movements around the world...Anarchists believe, ultimately, in the power of people, not the people in power. The truth is, our top political and economic institutions are not really structured as representative bodies. The idea of representation is being used today to legitimize the vast decision-making powers of a ruling elite, of which tea party politicians are a part, who exercise an inordinate level of influence in our political and social system…If anarchists had indeed taken over Congress, then the American people might be invited to collectively decide our fate, rather than entrust it to representatives of a powerful few…Anarchism seeks to diffuse power based on hubris, superiority and the conceited pursuit of wealth, and re-root it in democratic principles and egalitarian ethics. Given our current situation, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.

A post on Daily Kos had a different but interesting critique, arguing that “anarchism and conservatism are fundamentally at odds with each other,” while Nathan Goodman of the Center for a Stateless Society writes that “…the “shutdown” has kept intact most of the state violence that anarchists oppose, including militarism, police violence, crony capitalist patent monopolies, mass incarceration, mass surveillance and deportations…State regulations, in contrast, are often used by big business as a way to restrict competition, consolidate power, and dodge accountability. This is a pervasive problem called regulatory capture.”

This isn’t all. There is the fact that Warren ran as a hawkish politician, against another hawkish politician Scott Brown, by advocating for Iranian sanctions,  leaving Afghanistan only once ‘the puppet government is secured,” continuing drone strikes and “clandestine wars” to continue the war on terror, continuing to fund Israel with US tax money which allows it  “to continue its slaughter of Gazans and others.” Oh, and let not forget the thousands of dollars she has in checking and savings accounts at Bank of America, or her thousands of dollars in TIAA-CREF funds, as according to her financial disclosures in early 2014. If that’s not enough, she already received $38,575 from Google, $19,500 from National Amusements (owns Viacom), $18,400 from Microsoft Corp, $18,000 from Goldman Sachs, $17,700 from Bain Capital, $16,000 from Time Warner, $14,825 from IBM, and $13,050 from Walt Disney Co., and $12,575 from Rayethon in individual contributions in 2014 alone. I know that individual contributions on their own does not indicate a company supports a certain candidate, rather only certain people in that company. Looking at her contributors during her whole legislative career shows a number of universities and liberal political groups have given her money. For her PAC money, she’d received $22,000 in 2013-2014 and most of it is either labor groups or single-issue groups. But there are some business groups as well, centering around Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, the National Assn of Realtors and Camp, Dresser & McKee.  There is more to Warren’s record, more than one could pick away, but I’m done for now since this is all I can say at this time.

Notes

[1] See my articles ‘The truth about Elizabeth Warren‘ , ‘An update about the capitalist reformer Elizabeth Warren‘, ‘Elizabeth Warren is not a savior’, ‘Elizabeth Warren is a fraud‘, part of this article and a following one I wrote responding to comments,

Death, Destruction, and Hope for Palestinians

3 Aug

This was originally posted on Nation of Change and has been reprinted here. Some numbers and specifics have been corrected.

Over 1200 1400 Palestinians massacred, and 53 63 Israeli soldiers are dead, which is more than twenty-two times less deaths than Palestinians. These deaths were not due to a set of attacks by rogue, paramilitary elements. Rather they were caused by the military of what FLAME, a pro-Israeli group, even calls, “America’s unsinkable aircraft in the Middle East,” in a recent ad in The Nation: Israel. Since June, the Israeli military has pummeled the citizens of the Gaza Strip with bombs, naval bombardment, mortars, white phosphorous, and more. As a result, thousands have been displaced, six UNRWA schools have been bombed, Gaza’s only power plant has been destroyed, meaning the thousands will not have electricity and are plunged into darkness, and hospitals have been bombed. On July 22nd, the UN’s Office of Humanitarian Affairs painted a bleak picture of conditions in the Gaza Strip, saying there is “no safe place for civilians,” and that there are “critical shortages of hospital supplies and medicines,” at least 107,000 children requiring “specialized psychosocial support to deal with the trauma” from the attacks, “no or limited access to water” because of power systems being destroyed or “no fuel to generate them,” and reports “of sewage flooding.” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said recently that Israel’s non-respect for the “life of civilians, including children…may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” It is without doubt that Hamas firing rockets into Israel constitutes war crimes. But, it is absurd to think that, as a moderate opinion by the editors of The Nation  states, firing rockets into Israel is “just as atrocious as the far more deadly Israeli barrages” or that the invasion of Gaza is an act of self-defense. Both ideas are false and both sides have committed war crimes that run afoul of the established laws of war. Under the UN Charter, every sovereign state has a right to self-defense, including Israel. However, the bombing and invasion of Gaza does not follow this right, mainly expressed in Article 51 of the UN Charter. In fact, Hamas did not even kidnap the three children as Israel claims, meaning that Israel is clearly committing a war of aggression, the “supreme international crime.” Palestine has the right to self-defense as well, but as social activist Howard Zinn once said, “I don’t think that terrorism is justified even though the end is a just one. The demands of the Palestinians are just, but I don’t think that terrorist acts are justified, on both moral and pragmatic grounds,” and he goes on to explain the specifics of his reasoning. [1] This article does not tread on ground that others have written about extensively, instead it summarizes the history of Israel and occupied Palestine, how we got where we are today and what we can do to make the situation better for all those touched by the bloodshed.

The formation of the Israeli state

First it was the classic Neanderthal man; then it was: sedentary farmers; Amorites; early Mesopotamian empires; ‘sea peoples;’ Egyptians; Assyrians; Persians; Alexander ‘the Great;’ Romans; Arabs; Timor; Mamluks; Ottomans; and the British. These are most of the groups that ruled over the “Holy Land” or the British mandate of Palestine as it was once called. This all came from a dusty book with tattered covers titled The Times Concise Atlas of World History which was published a while ago, back in the Reagan era, in 1982. Sometimes old books can help as much if not more than the digital libraries in the present, like those of Wikipedia. As one Washington post columnist Richard Cohen recently admitted, state of Israel “is the legal creation of the United Nations,” and did not exist prior to 1948. This section will examine the early history of Israel in order to gain a greater understanding.

For years, people had been advocating for a Jewish settlement in Palestine. The British had committed themselves to a Jewish national homeland in Palestine in the Balfour Declaration, as had others on their own accord, like one of the so-called “Paris Rothschilds” [2]. By the 1940s, the British became “fearful that the Americans would try to eject them from the Middle East” and deny them control of the oil reserves in a region “considered central to [British] imperial strategy.”[3] Ibn Saud, the ruler of Saudi Arabia, came as an important person to the British Empire who could possibly play an “important factor” in the empire’s efforts to escape their “dilemma in Palestine” which was then a British mandate “torn by mounting strife between Jews and Arabs.” [4] However, Saud was not in favor of a new Jewish state in Palestine, strongly opposing the establishment of a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine. He was even reassured by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 that the U.S. government would not “change its Palestine policy without consulting the Arabs.” [5] American relations with the Arab world were aggravated as the state of Israel came into being. Saud, who was “outspoken…against Zionism and Israel,” said that if the US supported Israel, then it “would be a death to American interests in the Arab world,” further saying that Arabs would destroy the new state. [6] Additionally, Saud waived his ability to punish the US “by canceling the Aramco [Arab-American Oil Company] concession,” a threat which alarmed interested companies along with the military and foreign policy establishment. [7] By 1948, the UN’s General Assembly and other organs had recommended the “partition of Palestine” but it was rejected by the Arab states. [8] Subsequent violence gripped Palestine and when the British withdrew from their mandate in 1948, chaos soon followed. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed by the Jewish National Council and was quickly recognized by the Soviet Union and the US. [9] The Arab states surrounding Israel did not like this at all. War quickly begun as the Arab League “launched a full-scale attack” against Israel and Ibn Saud even threatened to “apply sanctions against American oil concessions,” but luckily for the US, a rushed State Department study at the time showed this strategy would not be very effective. [10] Eventually, even though the government of Saudi Arabia was formally hostile toward Zionism, Saud found he could distinguish between Aramco and the “policy of the U.S. government elsewhere in the region,” even arguing that oil royalties helped Arab states resist “Jewish pretensions.” [11]

There is one more angle to the creation of the state of Israel: the change of the demographic makeup. The colonial British, which had control of the mandate of Palestine since 1917, saw their role as an “arbitrator between the Arab and Jewish communities,” and they were persuaded in 1939 by Palestinian Arabs protesting to “put a ceiling on Jewish immigration,” which was reversed as a result of the “horror of the Holocaust.” [12] Furthermore, the war with Arab states which began in 1948 with Israel’s creation, led to hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of whom were Muslim and Palestinian, further concentrating the “opposition of Arab states.” [13] There was something even more telling. This was the emigration of 750,000 Arabs between 1946 and 1967 into Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, while 894,000 Jewish people immigrated to Israel from 1948 to 1964 from across the Mediterranean and Europe. [14] This meant that 194,500 more Jews came to Israel than Arabs who left. The effect of changed demographics affected Israel for years to come.

Israel’s military aggression: a bloody history

As American sociologist and political scientist Charles Tilly famously suggested, “war made the state, and the state made war.” This is true of the creation of Israel, a state founded on war itself, which can’t even be denied by hard-nosed defenders of Israel. By end of their ‘war of independence’ in 1948, Israel had control of many lands which were not given to them under the UN’s partition plan, and by 1967 they had control of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula (which they later relinquished back to Egypt). [15] Israel has not, in its sixty-six year history, heeded the suggestion by President Harry S. Truman in December 1947, on the eve of a UN vote, that “…the Jews must now display tolerance and consideration for the other people in Palestine with whom they will necessarily have to be neighbors.” At the same time, there is something more absurd: the explaining of the “question of Israel…by a dispute with Biblical origins” as claimed in one episode in the popular TV series, The West Wing, since that means that the conflict in that region cannot be solved by real “political or policy-based solutions.” [16]

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Israeli military carried out raids in the Gaza Strip then under Egypt’s control, the West Bank then under Jordanian control, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. These raids, which were officially meant to respond to terror attacks and declared as “retribution operations” which Ariel Sharon described years later as having an objective “to create in Arabs a psychology of defeat, to beat them every time and…decisively [enough] that they would develop the conviction they would never win.” [17] Even the likely Zionist Uzi Eilam, wrote that the retribution operations, also called reprisal operations, “were not overly effective in curbing infiltration and attacks,” saying that Israel often “provoked the enemy…and incited war.” [18] While thousands of Arab soldiers and Palestinians were killed, only hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed by terror attacks during the same period. The violence in the 1948 war which involved numerous killings and massacres occurred again in the 1950s, with incidents like the one in Qibya, in the West Bank, in 1953, when sixty-nine Palestinian villagers, most of whom were civilians, were massacred, which was internationally condemned at the time. [19]

By 1967, a new war was on the horizon. Gamal Abdel Nasser, then the strongman of Egypt and Arab nationalist, wanted to “assert his will” through military force, since he had no oil, to avenge “Israel’s battlefield successes in 1956.” [20] In 1956, during Israel’s invasion of Egypt, Israeli soldiers massacred 49 Palestinians in cold blood, which Noam Chomsky argued is “kind of like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.” [21] Soon, in 1967, Jordanian armed forces were under Egyptian command and the Iraqis were helping as well, completing the “mobilization of Arab military might,” and then beginning the attack on June 5th. [22] Israel’s military put on the defensive, made an offensive move. Within the first hours of the war, Israel “quickly obliterated” the air forces of Egypt and those of fellow Arab states. [23] With Israel coming out victorious from the war, gaining control of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula, Arab oil ministers “banned shipments to the United States and Britain,” and to a small degree West Germany, for a period of four months since the ban failed since oil was taken from elsewhere as a result. [24] This was only part of the story. When the smoke cleared, 20 Israeli civilians were killed, 10,000-15,000 Egyptians were killed or missing, 6,000 Jordanians were killed or missing, 2,500 Syrians were killed, and 10 Iraqis were killed. In total, that means that at minimum, 21,030 were killed in the war. That’s over three times the number of Israelis killed in their ‘war for independence,’ which started as “a civil war within the Palestinian British mandate” with 300,000 Palestinians fleeing or being expelled by the time Israel was created. [25]

With the war ended, the US government pushed for Arabic countries to work within UN Security Council Resolution 242, which “would return Israel to its 1967 borders” and President Nixon even offered the “services of Henry Kissinger as negotiator.” [26] Although Henry Kissinger claimed it was “unlikely the Arabs would use the oil weapon against the United States,” he was dead wrong. [27] In 1973, Sadat launched an attack on Yom Kippur to “catch Israel when it was least prepared,” and the Arabs scored key victories in the first days of the war. [28] The US government seemed to purportedly arrange a truce in this war, but also resupplied the Israelis, officially to counter the Soviets, which portrayed the US “as an active ally of Israel.” [29] This move did not please Arab countries. Egypt and other Arab states called for implementing an oil embargo against the United States for its support of Israel, rejecting a “radical” Iraqi proposal to “nationalize all American business in the Arab world” and “institute a full oil embargo.” [30] The Nixon administration said they wanted “movement toward a peace settlement” and announced a $2.2 billion aid package to Israel, which provided Arab leaders with “a sufficient pretext to take on the United States.” [31]

By 1978, the Camp David Accords had brought Israel and Egypt together. Anwar Sadat, who had begun the Yom Kippur war against Israel, wanted to “create a settlement acceptable to the Palestinians” but economic policies implemented as part of the agreement exposed the country to the full force of Western capitalism. [32] Just like the military dictatorship in Egypt today, Sadat had 1,500 opponents arrested and purged “the army of 200 officers friendly to the Muslim Brotherhood” while countering growing opposition from Islamists, already dissatisfied by Israel’s victory over Egypt in 1967, who assassinated him in October 1981. [33] After Sadat was gone, Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, came to power. If it couldn’t get any worse, by the 1980s, the reactionary and theocratic government of Iran backed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with the Iranian Revolution providing “practical and moral support” to the “remarkable intifada (uprising) of Palestinian youth” in 1987. [34]

By 1967, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights had begun. These conquests, these seizures of territory, were just some of the stolen land that Israel claimed authority over. Since 2006, Israel has engaged in a conflict with Gaza, resulting in the killing of thousands. During the 2008-9 war in Gaza, Richard Goldstone, a Jewish and South African judge was part of a “fact-finding mission…to investigate violations of humanitarian and human rights law” during the war, which Israel refused to cooperate with. [35] The report, called for short the Goldstone Report, detailed human rights violations by both sides, finding that “Israel used disproportionate military force against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip” and indicting the occupation itself by condemning “Israel for border closures, the blockade, and for the wall…in the West Bank.” [36] The result was vilification of his name, with denouncement by Israeli Parliament and by what Chris Hedges calls the liberal class, despite the fact that he was “the quintessential Jewish liberal” who was a “champion of human rights and international law.” [37]

US aid to Israel and blowback

Some years ago, a retired US naval officer told British journalist Robert Frisk, his reflections on Israel’s 2002 invasion of Palestinian Authority’s territory: “when I see on television our planes and our tanks used to attack Palestinians, I can understand why people hate Americans.” [38] In 1998, Chris Toensing, the editor of Middle East Report had an encounter with a waiter which mirrored what the retired naval officer had to say, but the waiter went further, explaining that while “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem” are illegal, Israel takes in 40 percent of US aid, which it uses to “build new settlements on Palestinian land and buy US-made warplanes and helicopter gunships.” [39] Not surprisingly, Palestinian rulers “hate America for not supporting their cause and [for] not restraining Israel.” [40] This section brings such concerns to light, looking at U.S. financial support for Israel and the blowback it causes.

In his book, What We Say Goes, Noam Chomsky writes that “you can date the beginning of enthusiastic support for Israel” by the US government to 1967. [41] He further mentions that after “Israel’s huge military success” in the 1967 war, the US government saw Israel as “the most reliable base for U.S. power in that part of the world.” [42] Importantly, Nasser, who helped launch the war to begin with, was the “symbol…of secular Arab nationalism” and when he was smashed by Israel, it doomed hopes of it spreading, all while US aid began to skyrocket along with increased concern about the Holocaust. [43] Interestingly, support for Israel was easily exploited as a “weapon to beat back the hated New Left” since there were numerous radical Jewish-Americans active in social movements. [44] Chomsky continues, arguing that he believes that “U.S. policies toward Israel are very harmful to the American people and to future generations” but that the Israeli lobby doesn’t determine policy, since “serious U.S. state interests” win out against Israeli interests when the two are in conflict. [45]

It wasn’t always this way. During the 1940s and 1950s, many American political elites supported Arab states due to their oil with President Eisenhower even ordering Israel to withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula in 1956, to which Israel complied. [46] By the mid-1960s, this changed as Soviet ties to Arab states pushed the U.S. government closer to Israel with the first “offensive weapons system sale to Israel” approved in 1965. [47] The six-day war brought the Israeli and US governments closer together. After the war in 1967, the US sold “phantom jets to Israel,” with US military sales jumping from $140 million between 1968 and 1970 to $2.57 billion in 1974, after the Yom Kippur War. [48] Furthermore, from 1949 to 2004, the US gave Israel $97.5 billion, resulting in Israel becoming a “military giant” which possesses nuclear weapons, and whose security “resides in military might and the colonial occupation of Palestinians.” [49] The US government has been so dedicated to such aid that it has shown that it doesn’t care about “liberty and justice for all.” In 2002, a Palestinian independent weekly, Hebron Times, was closed down by the CIA for “being overly critical of Israel and US policy towards Palestinian people” and the editor said in response that the US didn’t value press freedom. [50] The US government, as noted by William Blum, habitually supports “Israeli belligerence and torture,” condemning Arab resistance toward it while a different standard applies to “Israeli terrorism.” [51] Such action by the US government is only one of the many that are supportive of Israel. Since the first time the US used its permanent veto power in 1970, the US has vetoed at least 30 resolutions which either concern the “Palestinian question,” problems in the “occupied territories,” or try to hold Israel accountable for their war crimes. This pattern has continued, as the State Department spokesperson recently declared it was the “only one” defending Israel when the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate Israeli war crimes in the recent invasion of Gaza, in a manner possibly similar to the Goldstone Report.

The support of Israel by the US government didn’t just lead to billions of dollars and smiles. Rather, it led to blowback, which means reactions to “clandestine operations carried out by the U.S. government” to overthrow foreign regimes, execute certain people or helping to launch “state terrorist operations” against target populations. [52] In simpler terms, it means that “a nation reaps what it sows,” and for the US it is connected to “unintended consequences of American policies and acts.” [53] US support of Israel led to a horrible consequence: fundamentalist terrorist acts. Osama Bin Laden, the former leader of Al-Qaeda, said, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, that one of his reasons for hating the US, other than US sanctions against Iraq and stationing of U.S. troops along with US bases in Saudi Arabia, was “American policies toward Israel and the occupied territories.” [54] After the 9/11 attacks, Bin Laden told journalist Robert Frisk that he was not only infuriated by U.S. troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia but also US “policies regarding Israel and Iraq.” [55] It is important to remember that Bin Laden was on the side of the US until 1990 and 1991 because of a change in U.S. policy.

A book by an anonymous senior U.S. intelligence official titled Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, provides important insights on the depths on how Bin Laden’s thinking on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was influenced by anger over US policy. As argued in Imperial Hubris, that “Washington’s maintenance of a policy status quo toward the Muslim world” and basically a constant green light “for Israel’s action against Palestinians would have resulted in more young men volunteering for jihad” even if Bin Laden never existed or if Iraq had never been invaded. [56] After all, young Palestinian suicide bombers “who are willing to sacrifice their lives” are seen as heroes who are engaging in a “just military response” to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the “relegation of three generations of Palestinians to refugee camps.” [57] As the U.S. government stands along with Israel to “free it from obeying UN resolutions and nonproliferation treaties,” it also helps Israel “develop and deploy weapons of mass destruction.” [58] The response by Al-Qaeda to such actions was to describe the “U.S.-Israel relationship as a detriment to America.” [59] Following in the footsteps of Hamas, Islamist organizations and others, Bin Laden declared, along with other Al Qaeda leaders, that he desired a terrorist “attack inside Israel” and through this process Al Qaeda played a role in “internationalizing the issue” of the Israeli-Palestinian war. [60] There is something deeper. Based on the issues that are at the core of Bin Laden’s foreign policy, Imperial Hubris claims that the “status quo U.S. policy toward Israel will result in an unending war with Islam.” [61] While such a claim is an over-exaggeration and misconstruing of facts, it is clear that if U.S. foreign policy toward Israel is perceived that way then it must be changed to be beneficial to Palestinians, not policy that has a murderous intent.

The current tragedy in occupied Palestine

Currently the “brutalization of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces,” as Chris Hedges calls it, continues. [62] As UN Security Council Resolution 478 states, the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to “Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem,” and that Israel is “the occupying power.” Such an occupation is simply a manifestation of what Hedges calls “Israel’s brutal apartheid regime.” [63] Israel is a country that: the U.S. used to transfer Stinger missiles to the Afghani mujahedeen, which later merged with other groups to form the Taliban; voted against the establishment of the International Criminal Court; and has a nuclear weapons program which is bound to cause problems. [64] Israel is also one of the world’s biggest purchasers of US weapons, is a nuclear weapons nation, and was encouraged by the U.S. to construct uranium weapons. [65] Horrifyingly, Israel has used “uranium armor plated tanks and uranium weapons against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” [66] Likely, the health effects of using such weapons are bad, if not worse than the U.S.’s use of depleted uranium in Iraq. Such actions, among other brutalities, are why Israel’s actions, like those of any aggressive power or terror group, seem to fall under the definition of terrorism outlined by Black’s Law Dictionary: “the use or threat of violence to intimidate or cause panic; esp. as a means of affecting political conduct.” [67]

The wars and brutality against Palestinians and other marginalized groups is connected to something bigger: the Israeli war economy. Kevin Phillips, in his history of wealth in America titled Wealth and Democracy, briefly covers the subject. Phillips writes that by 2000, high technology “accounted for 40 percent of Israeli exports,” leading to what Shali Tshuva, then supervising “government studies of the technology sector,” then called “two economies in the same country,” the old and the new. [68] For Israel, the newer economy “largely left out Arabs and Orthodox Jews” who were “two large, poor minorities.” [69] What was this “new economy” anyway? Naomi Klein dedicates eighteen pages to it in her bestseller, The Shock Doctrine. She writes that the Israeli economy is “resilient in the face of major political shocks” and that it “expands markedly in direct response to escalating violence.” [70] The foundation for a new Israeli economy which is “based on the promise of continual war and deepening disasters” were laid in the 1990s as Israel’s government believed a peace agreement with the Palestinians would allow the country to be “the Middle East’s trade hub” since Israel’s neighbors “would have to lift their boycotts.” [71] While this did not happen, Israel’s economy became very tech-dependent while a small elite including “corrupt elite around Arafat” benefited from the economy. [72] However, the makeup of the economy soon changed. In 2002, the state of Israel faced a recession. In response, the government intervened with a “10.7 percent increase in military spending,” funded by slashing spending on social services, which also resulted in the Israeli military serving a role almost as a “business incubator.” [73] In the years after 9/11 the Israeli state had already embraced “a national economic vision” replacing the dot-com bubble with a “homeland security bubble,” uniting the hawkish Likud Party, and an embrace of “Chicago style economics” which was embodied by current Prime Minister and then-finance minister for Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu. [74] By 2004, the Israeli economy was “performing better than almost any Western economy” with the country positioning itself “as a kind of shopping mall for homeland security technologies” which brought law enforcement, corporate CEOs, public officials and others from around the world. [75] Conclusions about Israel’s economy go further. A prominent Israeli investment banker, Len Rosen, was quoted in Fortune magazine as saying that “security matters more than peace,” which is connected to the saving of Israel’s economy by the “war on terror industry” and the reframing of the conflict with Palestinians as part of the war on terror, not about “specific goals for land and rights.” [76] Furthermore, the gap between the rich and poor has expanded. By 2007, over 24 percent of Israelis were living “below the poverty line” and 35.2 percent of Israeli children were “in poverty—compared with 8 percent twenty years earlier” all while a “small sector of Israelis” has benefited from the boom. [77] There is one result of this new economy which is even scarier. The “Israeli industry no longer has a reason to fear war” and at the same time, the Palestinian economy is in trouble, with high poverty. [78] As some have said, Israel has an economy hijacked by military and security interests. Klein concludes in writing that Israel has “turned itself into a fortified gated community, surrounded by blocked-out people living in permanently excluded red zones,” with a few  “profiting from the endless and unwinnable war on terror” and a society losing their “economic incentive for peace.” [79]

As Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Chapter 4 of On Social Contract, “the state of war cannot arise from simple personal relations, but only from proprietary relations.” For the Israeli government, this applies to conflicts with Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Some, such as Nafeez Ahmed and retired Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon, have argued that Israel’s war in Gaza is driven by a goal to gain control of natural gas. Even if this is exaggerated, it is true that Israel’s war economy is dependent on the conflict with Palestine. Just as Anti-Flag sings in Anatomy of the Enemy, Israel has formed the idea of a brutal enemy (Hamas, Hizballah, etc…) and suppressed dissent, as they recently did when police harassed those protesting against the invasion of Gaza inside Israel (also see here) and killed some in the West Bank. There is an incentive to continue militaristic policies as long as there is some real or constructed enemy to fight but once the enemy is gone, the justification for increased military spending and security measures cannot be completely justified, and can be easily questioned. At such a point, the state of fear and terror present in Israel, which makes many support the government’s policies, would be more open to scorn as the basis of fear and terror would be gone. Lest us forget that Israel helped create Hamas, which former Israeli official Avner Cohen called an “enormous, stupid mistake” and said, “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.” Glenn Kessler wrote in the Washington Post, that in the 1980s, the Israeli government wanted to weaken the PLO so they promoted “the rise of Islamic parties as a counterweight, on the theory that Islamic groups would not have the same nationalistic impulses” which eventually “fueled the rise of Hamas as a political force.” American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein added to this that support for Hamas goes back even farther than the 1980s, with Israel giving “financial aid to the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, known as Hamas” in the 1970s in order to “weaken the strength of the PLO among Palestinians,” but eventually Hamas “became an even more vehement and effective opponent of the Israeli state than…the PLO.”

What can be done?

The current violence seems to be never-ending. Israel continues its wars of aggression and violent militants fire rockets and use suicide bombs. But, there is something that can be done other than twiddling your thumbs all day. This section will focus on solutions to stemming the current violence, many which are moderate in nature but will help in some way or another.

Recently, there has been a push even by adamant pro-Israel supporters to end U.S. aid to Israel. A recent poll by Rasmussen shows that the US public supports taking away U.S. aid for both sides (Israel and Palestine) in an effort to bring peace. In his 2001 book, Stupid White Men, liberal billionaire and filmmaker Michael Moore, before he had begun to virulently and blindly favor the Democratic Party, wrote a bit about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Using words I doubt he would use today, he said that he didn’t want “apartheid being funded in my name,” and made four propositions: Congress informing Israelis that “it has thirty days to end the bloodshed perpetrated in…our name” or aid is cut off; making Israel work with Palestinians to create a Palestinian state; the US giving Palestine double what it gives Israel; and the UN committing to defend Israelis and Palestinians. [80] Moore goes on to recommend a general strike and civil disobedience, in an almost joke letter to Yasser Arafat, as strategies to combat Israeli aggression. The path of nonviolent resistance, which is rarely, if ever, covered in the Western media, is already being taken by many Palestinians, with recent protests in the West Bank and even inside Israel. The movie Five Broken Cameras focuses on such acts of nonviolent resistance in a town in the West Bank.

Moore is not the only one that proposes that U.S. aid to Israel be cut, among other measures. Melvin Goodman, a national security insider, engages in moderate criticism of militarism in his book, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. Goodman writes that “the United States gives assistance to numerous countries that do not need it or do not deserve it because of serious human rights violations,” pointing out Israel as one such country, saying that it gets “military assistance, although it has military superiority in the region,” which he argues doesn’t contribute to “regional stability in the Middle East or Europe.” [81] He later brings up the topic again, writing that the U.S. government has been “constantly and deliberately embarrassed by the Israeli government,” despite the huge amount of US economic and military aid to the government, which often times “announcements of settlement expansion to do the most harm to U.S. interests in the region.” [82]

Beyond cutting U.S. aid to Israel and using money given to Israel as leverage, there is another solution: Jewish groups critiquing Israel and putting forward “less violent, more democratic ways forward.” [83] It is important to remember that to be a Jewish person you do not have to support Israel and by extension not all Jewish people support Israel. Back in the 1970s, between 1973 and 1978, a group of American Jews, called Breira, worked to “create a democratic space that allowed serious debate about the fate of Israelis and Palestinians beyond the narrow consensus of mainstream American Jewish leadership” and they were “viciously attacked and mercilessly crushed” with people falsely calling them heretics or traitors. [84] In the present, numerous Jewish publications, in Cornel West’s view, are “slowly beginning to turn against mainstream Jewish imperial identity,” recognizing that the “Israeli colonial occupation of Palestinians and deference to American imperial strategic interests produce neither security for Israel nor justice for Palestinians.” [85] Such groups stand against what West calls the “major groups of the Jewish lobby,” which could more accurately called the Israeli imperial lobby, including AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. At the present, there have not only been efforts by groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace but also an effort by Israeli reservists to not fight in the recent invasion of Gaza.

There are many measures that can be taken to counter and stop Israel’s oppressive policies and military aggression driven by a war economy. The UNRWA has advocated for two measures: ending the “crippling blockade” of Gaza and demolishing the West Bank wall, which some call the “apartheid wall.” [86] It is clear that there is a bipartisan consensus on giving Israel weapons of war, shown by $351 million to expand the Iron Dome system and Congressional resolutions blaming Hamas, with Israel taking no blame, for the current invasion. There is hope yet. While a recent Gallup poll shows slim majority support for Israel’s invasion of Gaza among Americans, there are growing numbers of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans who do not feel the invasion is justified. Additionally, according to a CNN/ORC poll, 38% of Americans “have an unfavorable opinion of Israel, up 14 percentage points from February.” The pro-Israeli propaganda and views which dominate the mainstream media and “national conversation” are being chipped away. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, although controversial among people across the political spectrum, is going a good job at helping advance consciousness of Israeli crimes, outlining the brutality of the occupation, highlighting what companies are profiting off the occupation, and so on. These efforts, which rabid pro-Israeli supporters are desperately trying to suppress, are helping to change US opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are a helpful way to express solidarity with struggling Palestinians. In the end, there is much that can be done and what happens next is up to you.

Notes

[1] Zinn, H. (2002) Terrorism and War (p. 26). New York: Seven Stories Press.

[2] Yergin, D. (1992). The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (p. 61). New York: Simon & Schuster.

[3] Ibid, 396

[4] Ibid.

[5] Zinn, H. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (Fifth ed., p. 414). New York: HarperCollins.

[6] The Prize, 425.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 425-6.

[9] Ibid, 426. Former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, in his account of the US recognition of Israel, quotes then-Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett as saying that “it would be highly injurious to the United Nations to announce the recognition of the Jewish state even before it had come into existence…such a move would be injurious to the prestige of the President. It is obviously designed to win the Jewish vote, but in my opinion it would lose more votes than it would gain.” Other historians have written that even if the policy of endorsing Israel was “an attempt to win Jewish votes, it failed” since he “squeaked through in the 1948 election” and that President Truman’s advisers seemingly exaggerated “the importance of the “Jewish vote” for the next presidential election,” convincing Truman that all Jewish voters supported a new Jewish state in Palestine.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Robinson, F. (2009). The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World (Reprint, p. 105-6). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[13] Ibid, 106.

[14] Barraclough, G. (1982). The Times Concise Atlas of World History (p. 141). London: Times Books Limited.

[15] Cambridge, 141.

[16] Sardar, Z. and Davies, M.W. (2002) Why Do People Hate America? (p. 36-7). New York: The Disinformation Company.

[17] Kober, A. (2009). Israel’s Wars of Attrition: Attrition Challenges to Democratic States (p. 55). New York: Routledge.

[18] Eilam, U. (2011). Eilam’s Arc: How Israel Became a Military Technology Powerhouse (p. 27). Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.

[19] Ganin, Z. (2005). An Uneasy Relationship: American Jewish Leadership And Israel, 1948–1957 (p. 191). Syracuse University Press; Shlaim, A. (1999). The Iron Wall (p. 91). Norton; and Morris, B. (1993). Israel’s Border Wars, 1949–1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War (p. 258-9). Oxford University Press.

[20] The Prize, 554.

[21] Chomsky, N. (2001). Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations with Noam Chomsky, pp. 45. Cambridge: South End Press.

[22] The Prize, 554.

[23] Ibid, 555.

[24] Ibid, 555-8.

[25] Propaganda and the Public Mind, pp. 196-7.

[26] The Prize, 606-7.

[27] Ibid, 607.

[28] Ibid, 602-3.

[29] Ibid, 663-5.

[30] Ibid, 607.

[31] Ibid, 608-9.

[32] Cambridge, 113.

[33] Ibid, 113-9.

[34] Ibid, 119.

[35] Hedges, C. (2010). Death of the Liberal Class (p. 148). New York: Nation Books.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid, 149-156.

[38] Why Do People Hate America?, pp. 5-6.

[39] Ibid, pp. 47-8.

[40] Ibid, pp 51.

[41] Chomsky, N (2007). What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. power in a changing world (p. 126). New York: Metropolitan Books.

[42] Ibid, 127.

[43] Ibid, 128-9.

[44] Ibid, 129.

[45] Ibid, 134, 136-7.

[46] West, C. (2004). Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism (p. 116). New York: Penguin Books.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid, 117.

[49] Ibid, 118-9.

[50] Why Do People Hate America?, p. 203.

[51] Blum, W. (2000). Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (p. 30). Monroe: Common Courage Press.

[52] Johnson, C. (2004). Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Second ed., p. xi). New York: Henry Holt & Company.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid, 3.

[55] Terrorism and War, p. 13.

[56] Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (p. 134).Washington, D.C.: Brassley’s Inc.

[57] Ibid, 135.

[58] Ibid, 227.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid, 229-30.

[61] Ibid, 257.

[62] Hedges, C. (2010) Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (p. 142). New York: Nation Books.

[63] Death of the Liberal Class, pp. 28.

[64] Blowback, pp. 13, 66, 123.

[65] Caldicott, H. (2002). The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s military-industrial-complex (p. xxxi, 44, 157). New York: New Press.

[66] Ibid, 158.

[67] Garner, B. A. (2006). Black’s Law Dictionary (Third Pocket Ed., p. 713). St. Paul: Thomson West.

[68] Phillips, K. (2002) Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (p. 269). New York: Broadway Books.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (p. 541-2). New York: Picador.

[71] Ibid, 542-3.

[72] Ibid, 547-8, 550.

[73] Ibid, 550.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid, 551.

[76] Ibid, 552, 555.

[77] Ibid, 556.

[78] Ibid, 557.

[79] Ibid, 558.

[80] Moore, M. (2001) Stupid White Men … and other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! (p. 179-181). New York: HarperCollins.

[81] Goodman, M. (2013). National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism (p. 349). San Francisco: Open Media Series. Goodman is arguing here that military assistance to Israel doesn’t contribute to regional stability.

[82] Ibid, 381.

[83] Democracy Matters, pp. 121.

[84] Ibid, 120-1.

[85] Ibid, 121-2.

[86] See tweets by UNRWA here, here, here and here.

Franklin Pierce’s expansionism?

1 Aug

In a blog post on the old Interesting Blogger in June 2011, I questioned whether the United States was isolationist in its foreign policy. At one point, I quoted Franklin Pierce to show the expansionist and interventionist impulses of the United States. At the time, I wrote:

To most people, they believe that America began to start intervening in the affairs of other countries in the Cold War. Students of history would say U.S. interventions are false in the beginning of the 1900s. Both ideas are false, as confirmed by the fateful words of President Franklin Pierce in 1853, “our attitude as a nation [is to] render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection…[They] should…be obtained…in a manner entirely consistent with the strictest observance of national faith…no act within the legitimate scope of my constitutional control will be tolerated.”…I had no idea it stretched back that far and was shocked when I found out the truth. A Congressional Research report confirmed that what Mr. Pierce had stated was correct.

After that point, I quoted from a Congressional Research Service report detailing all the U.S. interventions since 1798. Earlier this year, I broke down that report, detailing meticulously where U.S. troops have intervened. I first included this map:

Then, I said this:

Franklin Pierce continued the intervention frenzy, beginning a short period where the US intervened in China numerous times. He interestingly set the tone for the rhetoric later used to justify the American empire, saying that “acquisitions of certain possessions [countries] not in our jurisdiction” were important for US. This was proved since he had US armed forces entered the countries of Panama, Uruguay, and Nicaragua, continuing the Monroe Doctrine, while also sending troops to the Samoa Islands as well.

I come back to this topic wondering what the basis for Fillmore’s words were, in many years before the American empire expanded beyond the bounds of the North American continent. This article is a continuation of what I wrote over three years ago, and looking at the topic with fresh eyes.

On March 4, 1853, Franklin Pierce gave his inaugural address .(also published on pages 243- 245 of the Congressional Globe) He talked about expansionism numerous times in his speech, almost saying the US had a ‘god-given’ right to the continent:

“Whether the elements of inherent force in the Republic have kept pace with its unparalleled progression in territory, population, and wealth has been the subject of earnest thought and discussion on both sides of the ocean…The apprehension of dangers from extended territory, multiplied States,accumulated wealth, and augmented population has proved to be unfounded…this vast increase of people and territory has notonly shown itself compatible with the harmonious action of the States and Federal Government in their respective constitutional spheres, but has afforded an additional guaranty of the strength and integrity of both…With an experience thus suggestive and cheering, the policy of my Administrationwill not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion. Indeed, it is not to be disguised that our attitude as a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection, if notin the future essential for the preservation of the rights of commerce and the peace of the world. Should they be obtained, it will be through no grasping spirit, but with a view to obvious national interest and security,and in a manner entirely consistent with the strictest observance of national faith. We have nothing in our history or position to invite aggression;we have everything to beckon us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations. Purposes, therefore, at once just and pacific will be significantly marked in the conduct of our foreign affairs…I intend that my Administration shall leave no blot upon our fair record, and trust I may safely give the assurance that no act within the legitimate scope of my constitutional control will be tolerated on the part of any portion of our citizens which can not challenge a ready justification before the tribunal of the civilized world…if your past is limited,your future is boundless. Its obligations throng the unexplored pathway of advancement, and will be limitless as duration. Hence a sound and comprehensive policy should embrace not less the distant future than the urgent present…the vast interests of commerce are common to all mankind, and the advantages of trade and international intercourse must always present a noble field for the moral influence of a great people…on every soil where our enterprise may rightfully seek the protection of our flag American citizenship is an inviolable panoply for the security of American rights…The rights, security,and repose of this Confederacy reject the idea of interference or colonization on this side of the ocean by any foreign power beyond present jurisdiction as utterly inadmissible [referring to the Monroe Doctrine]…I believe that involuntary servitude [slavery], as it exists indifferent States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution.I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions.”

Pierce clearly showed his pro-slavery and expansionist views in this speech. Historian Paul Calcore wrote in his book, The Causes of the Civil War wrote that Pierce “clearly outlined his position on territorial expansion in this speech.” (pp. 198). M. Karen Walker  wrote something a bit different, saying that Pierce “illustrated the layering of meanings then associated with America as a land” and that the “directional force of Pierce’s words are outward from America’s shores to extraterritorial claims.” (Edwards, J.A. and Weiss, D. (2011). The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism: Critical Essays (p. 35)). Others said that the section in the speech about acquiring “certain possessions” was “generally recognized as a veiled announcement of a resolve to make a fresh bid for Cuba and, if possible, the Hawaiian Islands.” (American Crisis Diplomacy: The Quest for Collective Security, 1918-1952, pp. 603). Lars Schoultz said the same thing, writing that Cuba was “the obvious but unspoken target” and that Pierce used “national security to justify his policy.” (Beneath the United States: A History of U. S. Policy Toward Latin America, pp. 52). Marion Mills Miller followed this, writing that Pierce was referring to “the desirability of annexing Cuba” in the speech (Great Debates in American History: Foreign relations, part 2, pp. 73). Yet, Pierce rejected the treaty with Hawaii, because it made Hawaii a state, not a territory controlled directly by the U.S. government (Lowe, E. T.L., Race Over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865-1900 (pp. 99).

As a result of Pierce’s expansionist rhetoric, it is no surprise that The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (for short, the Democratic Review), published by John L. O’Sullivan who had coined the words ‘manifest destiny’ in 1845, claiming that is “by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us,” would endorse Pierce’s speech. The article titled ‘The Inaugural,’ (pp. 368-381) the Democratic Review, likely by the editor (O’Sullivan), was such an endorsement:

“The fourth of 1853…was the commencement…of a new era in the history in the United States. The democracy resumed their empire, and destinies of the country have…passed under their hands…The Southern States having been “compromised” out of their share of the territory, partly purchased in blood…and had every reason to apprehend, that they will in like manner be compromised out of all share in future acquisition…because they see in an extension of territory, only an extension of that power…should circumstances…require the government of the United States to take possession, or receive annexation of any territory…it will be opposed by that section [the South?] from motives so strong as to overcome all other considerations except that of the general safety of the country…it will thus be seen that abolition has…great influence on our domestic…[and] foreign policy…[the] faculty of expansion…is…the destiny of the United States, because it has an unoccupied world for its sphere of action [and] would continue to be…the great instrument not only of our power but our happiness and freedom…we deeply regret that abolition has thrown almost inseparable obstacles in the way of the great faculty of expansion…we have…a clear explicit pledge that the President will studiously refrain from all intervention in…Europe…[and] resist any such intervention on the part of those powers [in Europe]…at renewing the old system of colonization…we cordially wish him a long life of happiness and honor.”

The endorsement which also included a bit about the acquisition of Cuba as well was not the only response to this speech, by a Pierce, a general who had served in the expansionist Mexican-American war. Such expansionist views by Pierce makes sense when taking into context that during his administration, for one, he bought “a strip of land along Mexico,”  for $10 million dollars (later called the Gadsden Purchase) in order to create a “transcontinental railroad through Southern states and territories,” which was part of a broader plan to “expand the Southern empire.” (Jordan, B.M. (2003) Triumphant Mourner: The Tragic Dimension of Franklin Pierce (pp.88)).

For years, since the presidency of expansionist and southerner James K. Polk in the mid-1840s, attempts to purchase or take Cuba from the Spanish had been rebuffed even though it was supported by individuals such as John C. Calhoun and John D. O’Sullivan. In 1853, when Pierce took office, he was committed to annexing Cuba. In 1854, after the so-called Black Warrior incident where Cuban officials seized the cargo, the crew and the ship itself, a few American diplomats went to France to meet with the US’s Minister to France and James Buchanan. The report of their proceedings became what was known as the  Ostend Manifesto, which was eventually leaked to the press, and damaged the foreign relations of the Pierce Administration for years to come. Here is some of that manifesto by James Buchanan, J.Y. Mason and Pierre Soule written in October 1854:

We have arrived at the conclusion, and are thoroughly convinced, that an immediate and earnest effort ought to be made by the government of the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain at any price for which it can be obtained…We firmly believe that, in the progress of human events, the time has arrived when the vital interests of Spain are as seriously involved in the sale, as those of the United States in the purchase of the island, and that the transaction will prove equally honorable to both nations…The United States ought, if practicable, to purchase Cuba with as little delay as possible…Cuba is as necessary to the North American republic as any of its present members, and that it belongs naturally to that great family of states of which the Union is the providential nursery.From its locality it commands the mouth of the Mississippi and the immense and annually increasing trade which must seek this avenue to the ocean…Indeed the Union can never enjoy repose, nor possess reliable security, as long as Cuba is not embraced within its boundaries. Its immediate acquisition by our government is of paramount importance, and we cannot doubt but that it is a consummation devoutly wished for by its inhabitants…The system of immigration and labor, lately organized within its limits, and the tyranny and oppression which characterize its immediate rulers, threaten an insurrection at every moment which may result in direful consequences to the American people…Extreme oppression, it s now admitted, justifies any people in endeavoring to relieve themselves from the yoke of their oppressors…should the Cubans themselves rise n revolt against the oppression which they suffer, no human power could prevent the citizens of the United States and liberal-minded men of other countries from rushing to their assistance…It is certain that, should the Cubans themselves organize an insurrection against the Spanish government, and should other independent nations come to the aid of Spain in the contest, no human power could, in our opinion, prevent the people and the government of the United States from taking part in such a civil war, in support of their neighbors and friends…does Cuba, in the possession of Spain, seriously endanger our internal peace and the existence of our cherished Union? Should this question be answered in the affirmative, then, by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain, if we possess the power…We should, however, be recreant to our duty, be unworthy of our gallant forefathers, and commit base treason against our posterity, should we permit Cuba to be Africanized and become a second St. Domingo, with all its attendant horrors to the white race, and suffer the flames to extend to our own neighboring shores, seriously to endanger our actually to consume the fair fabric of our Union…But this course cannot, with due regard to their own dignity as an independent nation, continue; and our recommendations, now submitted, are dictated by the firm belief that the cession of Cuba to the United States, with stipulations as beneficial to Spain as those suggested, is the only effective mode of settling all past differences, and of the securing the two countries against future collisions.

Basically this manifesto says the US has a right to Cuba, which was crushed when this manifesto which has likely racial undertones (i.e. “permit Cuba to be Africanized”), was leaked.  Eventually, the US was control Cuba after the Spanish-American War of  1898. But what came of Pierce’s expansionism? In his second annual message in 1854 (pp. 279 of this book) Pierce talked about a “naval expedition…[with] the purpose of establishing relations with the Empire of Japan” that he said had been “aptly and skillfully conducted.” The expedition he was talking about was also called the ‘Perry Expedition’ and people’s historian Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States described it as “the use of warships to force Japan to open its ports to the United States.” In the CRS document, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014, it describes further three visits by US warships in 1854 as making a “a naval demonstration, landing marines twice, and secur[ing]…a coaling concession from the ruler of Naha on Okinawa” in order to “secure facilities for commerce.” Seemingly ‘democratic nationalist,’ Michael Lind wrote in 2006 about ideas territorial expansion expanding beyond Pierce, noting that “while territorial expansion did not violate America’s democratic republican principles, imperial conquest did. For this reason, purchase was the preferred method of obtaining foreign territory.” (The American Way of Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Way of Life (17 pages into Chapter 4: Averting a Balance of Power in North America: Power Politics and American Expansionism). I’m not sure I completely agree with this considering the Mexican-American War from 1846-1848, but I understand his point.

There is not much else that can be said on this topic, other than the fact that expansionist tendencies were somewhat hampered by the Civil War and resumed full force in the waning days of one of America’s bloodiest domestic conflicts, with the US engaging in genocide against the American Indians pushing the remaining ones to tiny bits of land called ‘reservations,’ then looking to places abroad to conquer (Philippines, Guam, Puerto Ric0, etc…) in order to satisfy corporate profit.

Why I oppose ENDA

29 Jul

An example of the rhetoric of those opposing exemptions to ENDA

This has been reposted from ZBlogs.

There has been a recent ruse over ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As Katie McDonough noted in Salon, after the recent Hobby Lobby decision “progressive and LGBTQ groups one-by-one withdrew their support from the measure” including groups like the “National Gay and Lesbian Task Force [NGLTF], the Transgender Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.” What was their reason for not supporting the bill? The measure’s “gaping exemptions for religious organizations” specifically, making the bill, in their view, worthless. At worst, some said that this exemption locked in discrimination for millions as argued by groups like the Center for Inquiry in their statement withdrawing support of ENDA. Even 100 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama telling him to remove a religious exemption from an ENDA-like executive order (Obama has since signed the executive order). On the religious exemption in ENDA alone, one of my friends, who is trans*, told me that she did not want to participate in lobbying for the law, after I had sent her an article about groups dropping their support since I thought she’d be interested in the subject.

One group remained a strong supporter of ENDA: the Human Rights Campaign or HRC, the biggest Gay Inc. organ, with Fred Sainz, as noted in the liberal gay publication The Advocate, saying that they support ENDA “because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”Other groups such as Freedom to Work and the National Center for Transgender Equality still support the bill, as do weird allies: Republican backers like the gay conservative group Log Cabin Republicans and the American Unity Fund. Even gay conservative Andrew Sullivan, who has some reservations about the law, supports it. In contrast, Matt Barber, who has previously claimed that homosexuals openly ridicule Christianity and engaged in fearmongering by falsely claiming that a House bill on HIV/AIDs prevention paid for gender-reassignment surgery, absurdly claimed that ENDA was “the crown jewel of homofascism” and that left-leaning groups were mad since it did not “outlaw” Christianity.

It is strange that the religious exemption in the law is being brought up as an issue now. Back in April of last year, if not earlier, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and others criticized the law’s religious exemption but they did not withdraw their support for the bill. If the Hobby Lobby decision had never happened, it is a likely that these groups would still be supporting the bill, despite their ‘reservations.’ Lest us forget that even though the Democratic Party theoretically supports ENDA, but they “have allowed it to languish on paper for a decade without ever hitting the floor of Congress,” as noted by Sherry Wolf in CounterPunch. More importantly, as Wolf noted in the same article, then-President Bill Clinton “held a closed-door meeting in 1997 with advocates of ENDA” which she said had “been chiseled away at to include notable exemptions for small businesses, the armed forces and religious organizations.”

In my critique of ENDA, in an article I wrote for Dissident Voice last November, I said I was uneasy with a section that showed that the law applied “to a great majority of the workforce, but only to a sliver of the overall businesses.” I further noted that volunteers are not covered by the law, that “those fired for gender ID or sexual orientation before the act is enacted will not benefit from the legal repercussions of the law” and a section of the law I still find utterly chilling, since it “allows employers to continue (or begin) to set ‘dress or grooming standards’ of employees.” In this article, I also went through all of the corporate sponsors of the bill, most of whom were part of the so-called “Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness,” ranging from Intel to Microsoft to Chevron, showing that the corporate sector believes that the lesbians and gays (mainly) constitute a new “marketplace to sell goods and services.” I concluded the article saying that ENDA reinforces “the capitalistic status quo by not challenging corporate power or the power elite in any serious way” and I warned that the “the corporate sector is going full-speed ahead” as they try to rapidly turn the whole community of gender, sexual and radical diversity “into a market so they can get millions of dollars in profits.” Looking back, my argument was a moderate one which didn’t even oppose ENDA, but I still agree with most of what I wrote, other than the multiple uses of the term GSRM, which I’ve since learned is not a positive term.

Most supporters of the law do not realize the obvious reality that surrounds the law itself. The business community wants to tap a new market, while using it boost their profits with policies of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ that follow the law’s enactment and subsequent implementation. Still, the law itself, as I noted in the previous paragraph, has deep problems. People like Robyn Pennacchia of Death and Taxes magazine say that ENDA should be passed because it is “geared towards protecting the rights of American citizens” but not with any of the religious exemptions, because it is an “exercise in futility.” Even if there was no religious exemption in the law, there would still be the section allowing “an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee’s hours at work, to adhere to reasonable dress or grooming standards,” or another defining one’s sexual orientation as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality,” rather than using an open definition like that of the American Psychological Association. A pro-ENDA article, in Gay Star News, interestingly enough, notes that the law “bars significant remedies available under the Civil Rights Act in cases of race or sex discrimination” and doesn’t allow LGBT plaintiffs to “file disparate impact claims seeking to show that an employer’s policy has disproportionately negative consequences on [their] community.” Any sort of program that mimics affirmative action for gays, lesbians, trans* people, bisexuals and others, is also not required under the law which declares that

“nothing…shall be construed or interpreted to require or permit…any covered entity to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity…[or] the adoption or implementation by a covered entity of a quota on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Georgetown University law student Noah Baron brought this up in an article published last month in the Huffington Post, and went even further. He argued that the law was awful before the Hobby Lobby decision, noting that it “prohibits both public and private employers from making use of most affirmative action programs” but only when it is “applied to LGBT people” and it “may roll back significant progress made in protecting transgender Americans from employment discrimination.” Baron later called ENDA “a token, but ultimately simply another reminder that LGBT persons are regarded as less-that,” while noting that the Title VII protection that has been won by transgender people could be lost with ENDA’s passing. In the final sentence of his article, he remarked that ENDA “would achieve” something that is deeply disconcerting: the “enshrining into federal law anti-LGBT bias as an officially more-acceptable form of bigotry.”

There is something disturbing that is getting little coverage: how restrictions put in place by President George W. Bush which allow “faith-based hiring” would not be affected by the law or by Obama’s executive order. Additionally, the law basically institutionalizes discrimination not only through the religious exemption, but it also does so through “dress and grooming standards” which infringes on the freedom of expression of individuals especially those such as trans* or queer people, who are not as accepted by society than others, could be forced to groom or dress a certain way that would be harmful to their well-being. Why are groups not putting up a fuss about that? Why just this religious exemption? And why now?

There is another deeper problem with ENDA, which could easily be called the Ensuring National Discrimination Act. It could be an example of how efforts to make “social injury” illegal “powerfully legitimizes law and the state as appropriate protectors against injury and casts injured individuals as needing such protection by such protectors,” as argued by political theorist and political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Wendy Brown, in the introduction to her book, States of Injury (see page 27). If applied to ENDA, the “injured individuals” would be people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, etc… and the mechanisms of enforcing the anti-discrimination measures would be the legitimization of the state. In the instance of ENDA, it is hard to apply this idea completely since the law has many exemptions and leaves out the power of the state in many instances, giving individuals more leeway at times.

Some folks in the vast community of gender, sexual and radical diversity will be angry and enraged at this article, saying that there must be non-discrimination measures that protect their community. I agree that such measures can be useful and can help. Stopping discrimination of people of any sexual orientation, color or creed is a laudable goal. However, ENDA as it currently stands, is a bill that institutionalizes discrimination, even without the religious exemption, whether supporters of the law will admit it or not. The nature of ENDA and the corporate support behind it, which is connected to an exploitation of ‘new’ market of ‘wanting’ consumers, is why I cannot lend my support to this legislation. There are a number of questions you could ask of the legislation (What will the law do about homelessness and poverty? What will it do to address the harassment of trans* individuals by police? What will it do to stop the criminalization of young trans* and queer people?) and the answer is always: NOTHING. In the end, it is best to remember what Linda Zerilli, a professor at the University of Chicago, writes in her book, Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom (page 122), something that supporters and their allies pushing ENDA often forget, but should not be forgotten: “rights are not things to be distributed from above, but a demand for something more made from below.”

Dictators, celebrities, and musicians: a sad but not surprising story

24 Jul

This was originally posted on Z Blogs and has been reprinted here.

Recently, I was researching for an article looking at all the dictatorships in the world (which will soon be published) and I found something that made me interested. This was the conflation of dictators, celebrities and musicians. Some groups have been holding musicians and celebrities accountable for entertaining dictators like the Human Rights Foundation. This article will highlight which countries celebrities and musicians performed at as to show that such people are accepting blood money whether they agree or not.

First off, its important to look at which musicians and celebrities performed in which dictatorial countries. Here’s a list of the top three people who entertained dictators:

  1. Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) [Turkmenistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya]
  2. (the Late) Michael Jackson [Bahrain and Brunei]
  3. Mariah Carey [Libya (pre-2011) and Angola]

There are more dictator-entertainers as I’ll call them, including: Julio Iglesias (Equatorial Guinea), Dennis Rodman (North Korea), Erykah Badu (Swaziland), Kanye West (Kazakhstan) and Sting (Uzbekistan).

And here’s a map where all the dictator-entertainers entertained…

That’s not all… Breaking this down further one can see that Libya (pre-2011), Chechnya, and then-named Zaire (now DRC) brought in the most celebrities and musicians to entertain them.

What does this all mean? Well it means that all of these people took blood money. There are some who have given their money back, but there is really no excuse for performing for a dictator (and maybe their family). These people, as Human Rights Foundation, noted about Jennifer Lopez, have “the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of [their] choice and his circle of cronies.” Yet, such a right means they are greedy, just wanting more money in their pockets even if it comes with the people who are oppressed smeared all over it, as they DO NOT have to perform for dictatorships. These musicians and celebrities must be held accountable for their actions in whatever form they take. For me, I’ll be boycotting all these people and never again listening to their music.

P.S.  And please, if you have anything to add, that would be great.

 

Sources for info. presented here:

  1. http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/13-pop-stars-who-sang-for-dictators.html
  2. http://humanrightsfoundation.org/news/jennifer-lopez-celebrates-turkmenistans-dictator-00177
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20121016072534/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/equatorialguinea/9610021/Julio-Iglesias-criticised-for-peforming-at-Equatorial-Guinea-concert.html
  4. http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/02/23/stars-who-hang-with-dictators.html#b68b880c-3800-4782-af0b-dc21cea9be88
  5. http://www.thedailybeast.com/content/dailybeast/cheats/2013/06/29/j-lo-headlines-dictator-s-birthday-party.html
  6. http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/02/23/stars-who-hang-with-dictators.html
  7. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12993#.U9A9oqbJWb4
  8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alejandro-tarre/what-celebrities-should-k_b_5297618.html
  9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8371731/Divas-and-despots-the-stars-who-sing-for-dictators.html
  10. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/07/02/hey_jlo_thanks_for_serenading_that_dictator
  11. http://theblot.com/celebs-who-took-money-from-dictators-775289
  12. http://mariodiazbalart.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/another-american-celebrity-used-as-propaganda-by-brutal-dictatorship
  13. http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/07/jennifer-lopez-turkmenistan/
  14. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/celebrities-who-perform-for-tyrants/2013/07/03/ff05f478-e271-11e2-aef3-339619eab080_gallery.html
  15. http://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/life/music/2013/12/20/stars-who-played-for-dictators/4142991/
  16. http://www.bet.com/news/music/2013/07/16/jennifer-lopez-made-over-10-million-performing-for-dictators.html
  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20130716161554/http://humanrightsfoundation.org/Jennifer-Lopez-HRF-uncovers-more-paid-performances-for-dictators-ignorance-greed-12-07-2013.php
  18. http://www.rferl.org/media/photogallery/25097621.html
  19. http://theweek.com/article/index/249053/kanye-west-and-4-other-pop-stars-who-performed-for-dictators
  20. http://www.eonline.com/photos/3855/celebrities-and-dictators/144759
  21. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/06/stars-dance-tyrants-tunes
  22. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/celebrities-who-entertain-dictators
  23. http://money.msn.com/now/post–performing-for-dictators-jlo-keeps-the-tradition-alive
  24. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/10/entertainment/la-et-music-dictators-20110311
  25. http://radaronline.com/photos/celebrities-dictators-jennifer-lopez-kim-kardashian-dennis-rodman/photo/664063/
  26. http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/24/celebrities-chummy-with-dictators-risk-damaging-their-brand/
  27. http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/mariah-carey-performs-private-gig-for-angola-dictator/story-fnk822dn-1226787123934

A new American political order?

15 Jul

This was originally posted on Z Blogs and has been reposted here.

Recently, pollsters found out, via ‘We Need Smith,’ which is a self-declared “movement of Americans who believe we need new leaders because our country is badly headed in the wrong direction” and not relying on the “usual politics,” what they called the “battlelines of a new political order.” I’m not sure how I feel about this whole ‘We Need Smith’ movement, and as a result I will continue to be critical. This article will not only debut my new chart, the ‘People Policy Counter,’ but it will include charts and data on overarching views of the American public presented by the said pollsters, and other polls. And if you have any suggestions, please share them below.

The People Policy Counter

Basically, the People Policy Counter is a list of 100 issues that a majority of the American people believe[1], which is then compared to the positions of politicians (hopefully) and political parties. From my tabulations, I found that (numbers ordered by amount of agreement with the American people):

  1. The Green Party agrees with the American people 79% of the time
  2. The Justice Party agrees with the American people 61% of the time
  3. President Obama agrees with the American people 28% of the time
  4. The Democratic Party agrees with the American people 25% of the time
  5. The Libertarian Party agrees with the American people 24% of the time
  6. The Constitution Party agrees with the American people 21% of the time
  7. The Republican Party agrees with the American people 6% of the time

These results are not trying to advocate for any of the said parties, or President Obama. I tried to take my bias toward certain issues out of the equation, and I mostly just searched on the Gallup website, snatching up poll results as I went. Rather, taken from a number of polls (probably over 50)[2], it is meant to show how in line these political parties are with the opinions of the American people. As it turns out, only the centre-left Justice Party and the Green Party agree with the American public most of the time, more often than most. There were also a number of issues that I did not know the opinions of the said parties, so I did not fill them out, meaning that the percentages came out of the total of 100 issues. Hopefully, I can expand this to other politicians in the future. Here are some interesting positions that NONE of the parties took (to my knowledge) but the American people believe:

  • national referendum on key issues if voters request it
  • shorten primary season to five months
  • have a nationwide primary election, not individual state primaries
  • term limits for politicians in US Senate and US House
  • Super PACs should be illegal and there would be less corruption in the political system if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs
  • attack social problems as a way to lower the crime rate

Before I get to the polls conducted by ‘We Need Smith,’ here are some polls which I didn’t use in my People’s Policy Counter but are still interesting, adding questions about a ‘new political order’ emerging in the United States:

(see this poll for details)

Results from a recent poll by Rasmussen, which is usually a conservative polling organization:

Here’s a graph from Gallup showing Americans are losing confidence in ALL branches of federal government:

Polls by ‘We Need Smith’

Now for some of the polls from ‘We Need Smith’ which I turned into a graphic:

Further analysis

Yet, while these poll results are encouraging, one must remember that it is only applying to American voters. What about the Americans who don’t vote! That’s what makes this polling troubling. Americans in general, one should not forget still view socialism negatively, even though 36% view it positively, including a good amount of liberals, and even some conservatives and moderates. Still, as Gallup notes,

“Socialism” is not a completely negative term in today’s America. About a third of Americans respond positively when they hear the term. Some of this reaction may reflect unusual or unclear understandings of what socialism means. Reaction to the term is not random, however, as attested by the finding that positive images are significantly differentiated by politics and ideology.

However, what Gallup says about an “unusual and unclear understanding” of socialism is silly as they provide no evidence to back up that claim, and criticizing those who think of the word positively just reinforces their moderate position as a polling organization.

There is more. It is clear that Americans are wary of Big Business and rightly critical of it. After all, US banks and financial institutions are trusted more than two times less than small business, as noted in a Gallup poll. Similarly, Americans do not have a great of confidence in other parts of American society as well: big business, the U.S. Supreme Court, the criminal justice system, the medical system, newspapers,  the presidency, the healthcare system, public schools, television news and news on the internet, and Congress. Even organized religion/the church does not have a great deal of confidence from the American people. Sadly, there is low confidence in organized labor while there is high confidence in the military (74% have confidence) and a majority having confidence in the police (53% have confidence).

With the American people having a great deal of confidence in the military and the police, two of the institutions in established society which work to maintain the existing order, makes me question that we are on the “battlelines of a new political order.” Yes, the American people clearly believe in policies which I would say are overwhelmingly social democratic and yes, this is a basis for a transpartisan coalition (a ‘left-right coalition’) against the powers that be. After all, Americans do in some sense or another constitute a “silent radical majority” compared to those currently in power. But, this does not mean that Americans want to overturn the existing system and put in something like, say ‘modified socialism’ as Martin Luther King mentioned once. Rather, the people want reforms that would tweak the existing system. There are definitely some ideas that should be pushed forward, like single-payer healthcare and ending the wars  (and general anti-interventionism) that the American people definitely support. However, no one should be fooled into thinking that these polls evidence a new political order, but rather that they show the need for the removing of the shackles of capitalists in order to confront the climate catastrophe and capitalist system itself.

 

Notes:

[1] Here’s a screenshot of the issues I used for the people’s policy counter compared to the different parties (and president Obama):

datainputedintopeoplepolicycounter

[2] Here’s the sources I used for the people’s policy counter, with some unfortunately cut off:

sourcescuttoffbutbetterthannothing

VT socialist party comments on ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders

8 Jul

Originally posted on ZBlogs

Article after article in ‘left’ publications have advocated for US Senator Bernie Sanders to run. Even Socialist Alternative which helped Kshama Sawant, the first Socialist member of the Seattle City Council, get into office, had a recent article describing Senator Sanders as “a genuine progressive and champion of ordinary people” and said he should run as an independent for President, while they criticized his ties to the Democratic Party, vote for the war in Afghanistan and much more. Author Ron Jacobs had a different take, writing about how Bernie Sanders supported the bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999, voting to create to Department of Homeland Security, voting for the Authorization of Military Force (AUMF I), later voting to make certain provisions of the Patriot Act permanent, supporting an F-35 base in Vermont despite public opposition, and so on.

Last month, I sent questions to a small self-described “nonviolent socialist” Vermont-based party called the Liberty Union Party to see what they thought of the self-declared ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders. This article, with relevant links and corrections added in, consists my questions and answers, to them by Marina Brown, a Liberty Union Party Member who is “working to get on the ballot for the position of Lt. Governor.” After it was rejected by CounterPunch and/or ignored by the editors, I decided to publish it here. The point of this interview is to challenge the idea that Senator Sanders acts in the interest of ordinary Americans while also covering subjects such as socialism.[1] After reading this interview, if you have any further questions for Marina Brown or anyone else of the Liberty Union Partu, please send them along by commenting below I’ll add them in later on.

Burkely Hermann (BH): Numerous articles have advocated for US Senator Bernie Sanders to run as President. However, in a recent article in Salon, Charles Davis wrote that “Sanders tosses rhetorical Molotovs at America’s 21st century robber barons like few other national politicians. But he’s also rather non-threatening, his politics reformist, not revolutionary – more old-school liberal than Leninist. His words comfort those on the left desperate for a voice within the electoral system, while his actions – caucusing, campaigning and voting with the Democratic Party – show the liberal mainstream that he is no Ralph Nader.” How does your party perceive Senator Sanders? What do you think ordinary Americans should know about Senator Sanders which they don’t already know?

Marina Brown (MB): Bernie Sanders votes a little more conservatively than the most liberal of the Democrats. I oppose him because he operates as a Democratic politician. He supported Barack Obama, a politician who has spearheaded multiple wars and interventions in literally dozens of countries. We oppose war. There has to be a better way. In standing with Democratic politicians in their wars of aggression he shares in their guilt.

Here are a few points of concern i have with Sanders’s performance:

Sanders has supported basing the F-35 warplanes in Burlington. Weapons of mass destruction do not belong in Vt. Not only is the creation of these war machines unethical their presence makes Burlington a target.

Sanders supported the creation of a new position in the US of Director of National Intelligence. I view the CIA, NSA and other intelligence organizations with suspicion. I feel this much power shrouded in secrecy can only lead to bad things. The FISA warrants that Sanders voted for are nothing more than rubber stamps by the most corrupt judges. Only once in the history of the FISA court has a warrant been denied.

Sanders has supported forcing states to do standardized testing on students. The current regime of ‘No Child Left Behind’ has created a school system that is often forced to teach kids just to pass the tests. Tests do not necessarily reflect the quality of education.

BH: Many people on the left paint Senator Sanders as a person crusading for justice and in a long line of progressive politicians including Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and others since he advocates for causes such as single-payer healthcare and positions himself as standing for the worker and commoner, not big business. How progressive, in your view, is Senator Sanders? What does progressivism mean to you? Is your party based on the ideas of progressivism or is it something else?

MB: Progressivism is the belief that change that is good for the people of a country can be enacted from the top down. On the surface it seems like we agree with progressive ideals however point 2 of our party platform is where there is a radical departure.

“2. Democracy should exist at all times in all the processes of society, including in the workplace and school system.”

Democracy in this context does not mean electing a high, mighty and distant politician to manage things for us. It means that WE the people should control the workplace. This implies that the stakeholders own the workplace. You cannot have democracy in the workplace if you do not own the workplace.

We advocate democracy in medicine as well as Socialized medicine but our position really is closer to point 5 of the Young Lords Party [a short-lived Puerto Rican nationalist party] 13 point platform than it is to politicians who support the Obamacare insurance scheme.

“5. We want community control of our institutions and land.

We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people. People’s control of police, health services, churches, schools, housing, transportation and welfare are needed. We want an end to attacks on our land by urban removal, highway destruction, universities and corporations.”

I also support Internet Neutrality and advocate the there be free public wireless internet wherever there is electric service. The internet is a public good like the roads. It should not become simply a conduit for wealthy corporations to peddle their goods.

Under many cities are unused fiber optic cables. I advocate putting these under community control and ownership. It is not acceptable that the US has a very substandard internet system in many areas and that access is very expensive.

BH: Looking at his voting record, Senator Sanders seems to overwhelmingly vote in line with the Democrats. This begs the question if Senator Sanders uses his status as an independent is, in Charles Davis’s words, “a narcissistic formality.” In your view, is Senator Sanders masquerading as an ‘independent’ in order to avoid calling himself a progressive or liberal Democrat? Additionally, why do you think Sanders calls himself an ‘independent’ instead of a Democrat?

MB: I am not privy to Sanders’s thought processes. I assume he runs as an Independent because it appeals best to his voters.

BH: In November 2006, progressive news show Democracy Now! declared that “Vermont’s Bernie Sanders Becomes First Socialist Elected to U.S. Senate” and in the following interview, Sen. Sanders described his brand of socialism as learning a lot from Scandinavia and “some of the work, very good work that people have done in Europe” and in his view, have “created more egalitarian societies than…the United States of America.” Despite the laudable work of Democracy Now! in covering issues that the mainstream media does not cover, in this interview, there was no mention of the past history of the socialist movement in the United States or mentioning the debate of whether social democracy under a capitalism can even be considered socialism at all. Your party considers itself “a nonviolent socialist party.” How does your party define socialism (if it can be defined) to a ordinary American? Is Senator Sanders really a socialist or is that just posturing?

MB: Without community control of institutions and worker ownership of workplaces there is no real socialism. I have not heard Bernie Sanders advocating the nationalization of very many companies or resources.

BH: At the Left Forum this past weekend [this past month], Kshama Sawant, an actual socialist who is a member of the Seattle City Council and a member of Socialist Alternative said that the Left is abdicating its responsibility if it does not provide alternatives to what she terms the “Big Business parties” (Democrats and Republicans). In your view, is electoral action (electing candidates, supporting alternative parties, etc…) a good and effective avenue to challenge these two corporate parties? If so, is it sufficient on its own or should it be accompanied by political action like that manifested in the Occupy Movement (creative acts of protest, direct action, having a dialogue with others)?

MB: The very existence of the Liberty Union Party and the fact that we have provided an uncompromising anti-war socialist option for voters IS a creative act of protest. It also allows us to have dialogs with many people while we are collecting the needed signatures to get ballot access and it sometimes opens the doors for us to speak on the issues.

 

Notes:

[1] In the past, I’ve criticized Bernie Sanders as a “fake socialist and closet progressive” or as having a “dark side” in a blog post citing CounterPunch articles about Sanders, but I haven’t had a full-blown or encompassing critique and that is why I pushed for this interview with a member of the Liberty Union Party, even if I don’t completely agree with them.

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