Saturday, March 28, 2015

The 1%'s Class War on the 99%


By David Starr

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."

-- Frederick Douglass

As globalization under capitalism continues, so does the increase in economic inequality. Touted as a means for EVERYONE to live a better life, capitalism-particularly in the form of trickle-down economics-has drawn sharper class distinctions between those at the top, i.e., the 1%, and those at the bottom, i.e., the 99%.

The richest 1% control almost 50% of the world's wealth, reveals an Oxfam International study. Furthermore, 80 of the wealthiest people own $1.9 trillion, a figure almost the same as what 3.5 billion people share.

In the United States itself, the 2008 bank bailout of Wall Street elites cost $1.2 trillion. (So much for Main Street.)

The effects of this lopsided share of wealth has of course been devastating to workers, the poor, etc., worldwide. For example, a 2013 Economic Institute study found that between 1983 and 2010, 60% of people in the U.S. experienced declining wealth.

In other parts of the world, like Mexico, Europe and China, there is further tension between capital and labor due to the current world economy.

The 1% has committed class war on the 99% through the very nature of capitalism, i.e., a voracious appetite for profits.  Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, "It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be."

While the  theories of John Maynard Keynes, i.e., regulating capitalism, have had positive effects, Keynesianism seems to be a thing of the past. It's the nature of the capitalist beast. Not that the situation is hopeless.

In the U.S., class conflict is recognized by a majority of the population. A Pew Research Center poll found that in 2011, 66% of U.S. citizens thought that there is "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between the rich and poor. Regarding political affiliation, in 2011, 55% of Republicans, 73% of Democrats and 68% of independents thought class conflict was a major problem. (Regarding how the rich got richer, 46% thought it was through connections and inheritance, while 43% thought hard work, ambition and/or education. Eight percent thought both.)

With economic crises continuing, a spectre may now be haunting the world: the spectre of Karl Marx. In his piece, "Marx's Revenge: How Class Struggle is Shaping the World" (published in Time magazine, 3/25/2013), Michael Schuman wrote:

"With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant income, Marx's biting critique of capitalism-that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive-cannot be so easily dismissed."

Marx laid out his dissection of capitalism in his opus, Das Kapital. Included in the book is the subject of class struggle, that continuous back-and-forth between capital and labor in the lowering and raising of wages. When labor successfully bargains to have wages raised, capital will find ways to make up for this by paying lower wages to labor elsewhere. Or capital can hire cheaper labor to replace higher-paid labor.

Although labor laws have existed, and these laws can vary from region to region worldwide in their implementation, labor is on the defensive because of capital's gradual reemergence as a Gilded Age enforcer since the 1980s; in particular, however, with the changing of the international situation during the 1990s, with the dissolving of the USSR. It was proclaimed by conservative Francis Fukuyama to be the end of history, and a glorious victory for capital.  

No longer is that illusion credible. The class war of the 1% is proving to be more ethically bankrupt as economic inequality continues to rise. Something has got to give.

David Starr writes on various issues, both national and international.
 © 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Greece: A People's Backlash Against Austerity

By David Starr

For the past six years, Greece has been pummeled by austerity measures, making it a financial basket case.

This Greek tragedy has resulted in cuts in social programs, privatization and a $360 billion debt. It was inevitable that tens of thousands of Greeks would take to the streets in protest, and voting for the radical left Syriza Party to lead the government.

The new Greek government is now in a struggle with the main perpetrators of austerity, the Troika, comprised of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipas tried to remain positive, saying that "altogether, we can find a mutually viable solution" in dealing with Greece's debts. But he didn't mean continuing the same austerity measures as part of the negotiations. It must stop.

The Troika, of course, has other ideas, or more likely the same ones if it can get away with it. Its bottom line attempts to impose austerity could drive Greece out of the Eurozone. The populations of other Western European countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland no doubt feel inspired by the Greek example, and thus may vote for leftist parties or coalitions. Those countries may also then opt out of the Eurozone if austerity continues.

The monetary conflict between Greece and the Troika has stalled negotiations. Greece wants to renegotiate its debt to the European Union and IMF. The Troika, however, is trying to play "hardball," e.g., refusing to allow Greece to sell government bonds to raise money.

Historically, austerity has been a general failure for the masses in Latin America (where it started), as well as for Ireland, Portugal and Spain. It has weakened workers' ability to bargain for a fair wage and fuels economic inequality. The latter is shown by the top 1% controlling 48.2 % of the world's wealth, according to the credit suisse Research Institute.

Further proof that Greece won't go along with business-as-usual is in the person of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who takes a tough stand against austerity. "Anybody who is tempted to think it possible to amputate Greece from Europe should be careful. It is very dangerous. Who will be hit after us? Portugal? What would happen to Italy when it discovers it is impossible to stay within the austerity straitjacket?"

Varoufakis takes the position that "if you are already in a [financial] hole, stop digging." Stop going further into debt by accepting predatory loans.

Tsipras, Varoufakis and Syriza would accept loans, but not if they are onerous. The goal is to actually get Greece out of debt, not have it further sink into economic quicksand.

David Starr writes on various issues, both national and international.
© 2015

Monday, December 29, 2014

Commentary: The CIA's Sordid Doings


The publicizing of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" was long overdue. For too long, the CIA has gotten away with murder, figuratively and literally. According to the Association for Responsible Dissent, 6 million people died as a result of the CIA's covert operations.

The CIA was created in 1947 (the same time as the National Security Council [NSC]). Within it was the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), a covert entity led by Wall Street lawyer Frank Wisner. In a chronology entitled, "A Timeline of CIA Atrocities," written by Steve Kangas, the OPC had a secret charter which included various methods and techniques used to wreak havoc: "...propaganda, economic warfare, preventative direct action, sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation procedures."

And the CIA hasn't changed, with the blatant examples of torture against al-Qaida suspects (some of whom turned out to be not affiliated with al-Qaida). Methods of torture include sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, being kept in a coffin-size box for hours  and of course water-boarding. (BBC News, "CIA interrogations report sparks prosecution calls," 12/10/2014).

The history of the CIA can be boiled down to the following summary: supporting tyrants, corrupt elections in foreign countries, creating media fronts to spread propaganda worldwide, recruiting U.S. news media outlets and journalists to spread propaganda, and overthrowing democratically-elected leaders. All for the bottom-line of protecting U.S. imperial interests.

The senate report prompted UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, to say that CIA officials and those responsible for torture in the Bush Jr. regime must be prosecuted.

People worldwide would no doubt agree.

David Starr writes on various issues, both national and international 

Commentary: Obama Tries Diplomacy With Cuba


U.S. President Barack Obama's stunning announcement that the United States will take steps in normalizing relations with the Republic of Cuba has reverberated through the halls of the U.S. Congress and worldwide.

And it was a long time in coming. For over 20 years, the United Nation's General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to lift the economic embargo against Cuba. The only two nations that still cling to this Cold War relic are the U.S. and Israel. While there would probably be wild celebrations on the streets of Havana and elsewhere if the embargo was lifted, cautious steps should be taken, especially for Cuba itself.

While the right-wing in the next Congress will object  to Obama's gestures to Cuba, others have seen an opportunity. There is bipartisan support for Obama's intentions to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. Republicans and Democrats want to see Cuba "free and democratic." But this in the bottom line translates into having Cuba as a market satellite again (as with other "Third World" nations).

Before 1959, Cuba was called the "Whorehouse of the Americans." U.S. interests had private monopolies in telecommunications, sugar, nickel, railroads, etc. Cuba was a virtual neocolony.
After the 1959 revolution, Cuba committed the ultimate "sin" (at least in the capitalist world): practicing socialism. Since then, El Bloqueo (or the economic embargo), as Cubans call it, has had a major impact on Cuba's trade relations, and costing Cuba millions in revenue.

The embargo was tightened in 1996 with the Helms-Burton "law," this at a time when Cuba was recovering from its loss of trade with the former communist bloc.  Jorge Mas Canosa, former leader of the Cuban-American Legislative Council, said he wanted to "wreak havoc" on the island nation.

Thus, the reasons that Cuba should tread cautiously, especially in regards to its sovereignty. But at least a U.S. president is finally reaching out to Cuba in a diplomatic way.

David Starr writes on various issues, both national and international

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The recent tough talk from U.S. President Obama against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a similar refrain from Democrats when they are accused by Republicans of being too soft on the "enemy" or "terrorist threat." The Democrats have to show that they can ride higher on the imperial saddle than GOP super hero Ronald Reagan.

At the same time, when not pushed by the GOP, Democrats have attempted a gradual approach to deal with something like the ISIS crisis. They would let negotiations be prioritized. But they only hold out for so long, allowing, e.g., weapons inspections inside a country occur and continue, but then find themselves pushed again by the GOP to end the peace planning and vote for war. The 2003 Iraq War is a prime example.

ISIS, though, doesn't sound like it's ready for negotiations. Given its religious fanaticism, it sounds like it's on par with the Taliban or Al Queda. It has created military carnage, sweeping into Eastern and Central Syria from Iraq (and thus violating Syrian sovereignty). And according to journalist Patrick Cockburn, ISIS leaders dominate the Syrian military opposition.

Given the situation, it would be plausible to ponder a military option. And that's what the Obama administration has done, albeit limited, in the form of carrying out of air strikes. But further U.S. military involvement  will only worsen the situation by fueling Iraq's civil war between ISIS and the Malilki government and Syria's civil war between the "Free" Syrian Army and the Assad government.

U.S. foreign policy objectives are not about prioritizing peace, especially for the GOP. The latter have thought up of convoluted, contradictory and ultra-nationalist rhetoric to bolster their case for full U.S. military involvement. For example, in a YouTube video put out by The Young Turks, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham is shown doing verbal acrobatics when trying to justify U.S. interference in the overall conflict. Host Cenk Urgher gives very appropriate responses.

But as some GOPers attack Obama's position on the Middle East conflicts, others attack him for promoting a military solution. Above all, the GOP "anti-war" oppostion is fed by anti-Obamaism. Blame is also put on Obama for his lack of military "gumption" by, e.g., GOP Senator James Inhofe and GOP Representative Jeff Duncan, and so a war is not wise. But other reasons exist as well, such as feeling remorse for the Iraq War and the taking of an isolationist position.

Obama is trying to sort out the situation, proposing meetings to find ways to deal with the conflict. But playing the role of the world's policeman again won't be wise. Hopefully, Obama will not play cowboy because of GOP pressure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Religion as Totalitarianism (or, More Specifically, Monotheism as Totalitarianism)


by David Starr

The monotheistic beliefs of Christianity, Islam and Judaism are by their respective natures totalitarian. Each belief has a supreme being (although it could be said that it's the same deity)-God, Allah and Yahweh-that harbors jealousy and vengefullness. In turn, no one is allowed to question or criticize the supreme being, and religion itself.

Here are some quotes from the "good" books relating to God, Allah and Yahweh:

"For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." 
--the Bible, Deuteronomy 4:31NIV

"But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God and ever-lasting king; at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and nations shall not be able to abide his indignation." 
--the Bible, Jeremiah 40:28

"As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help." 
--the Quran, 2:216

"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every finger tip of them." 
--the Quran

"The Lord is a man of war, Yahweh is his name." 
--the Talmud, Exodus 15.3

"'You didn't kill enough, 'says the Lord [talking to Saul].' You can't be king.'" 
--the Talmud, 1 Samuel 15

One could say that this is cherry-picking from the "holy" books. But there is much more about the personalities of these gods to create all sorts of contradictions, e.g., God is merciful on the one hand, but vengeful on the other. What we have here are human flaws, imperfections. And yet, we are not supposed to point out these flaws, at least to the true believer. The latter will make up all kinds of excuses for his/her jealous and vengeful god.

This is not to ignore the positive things believers have done, and that they keep their religion strictly personal. But the true believer will go on believing only because of blind faith, and will try to impose that faith. It is assumed that monotheistic gods are still supreme-much less exist-no matter how much common sense and reason is offered to show the obvious.

Historically, monotheism (and other religious groupings as well) has been bloody and oppressive. There is God telling his followers to slaughter neighboring tribes because they don't, or refuse to, believe correctly; the Inquisitions; witch hunts; priests violating young boys; suicide bombers; sexism, racism, and the list goes on.

To clarify, religion is strictly a personal matter. But to try and impose Bronze Age beliefs on a 21st century public and government, and without question or reason, shows a totalitarian nature. In response to this, religion, whether monotheistic or not, must not only be questioned and criticized. It must be opposed.

David Starr writes on various issues, both national and international

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Right-Wing Farce That is Impeachment


Despite the rantings of the discredited Sara Palin, and others among the right, that President Obama should be impeached, a CNN/ORC International poll found that 65% of U.S. citizens do not want impeachment. Only 33% supported it.

With the extreme position taken by the Republicans, the Democrats have taken advantage of it, using it, e.g., as a fund-raising tool. Similar to the government shut down imposed by the Republicans, the Democrats are in a position to show that they are trying to run the day-to-day affairs of government. The Republicans in the meantime look like obstructionists again.

Talk of actual impeachment has been going on as early as 2013. An article in The Hill, dated 12/29/2013, quoted the crazy-eyed Michelle Bachman as saying, "We can have an impeachment hearing in the House and in my mind, the president has committed impeachable offenses."

The Tea Party has naturally got into the act., e.g., put out an online petition supporting impeachment. Among the reasons (with my responses):

• The Obama administration failed to protect U.S. lives from an attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Then Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton created an Accountability Review Board to investigate. In its conclusion, diplomatic security was criticized and 29 recommendations were made to beef it up. This was accepted by the State Department. The right also accused the Obama administration of lying about how the incident took place.

The Tea Party and the rest of the GOP are in no position to judge. How quickly they forget about the Bush Jr. regime having received a warning that there was going to be an attack in the U.S. Then came 9/11. When told of the attack, Bush Jr. just sat in an elementary school classroom looking like a deer frozen in the headlights, rather than quickly excusing himself and doing his job. Then there are the lies that were told to "justify" the Iraq War.

• Use and abuse of the Patriot Act.

 The Patriot Act is itself unconstitutional: according to the American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU), government may search and seize papers and effects without probable cause; jail U.S. citizens indefinately without trial; monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity; and jail U.S. citizens without charge or to confront witnesses against them. The Patriot Act was signed into law by Bush Jr.

• Putting "a bounty on the heads of 22 Navy SEALs aboard a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, sending them "to their deaths." A bounty? The word is misused, creating a melodramatic distortion. A bounty is a reward for anyone who can hunt down and capture or kill a criminal, or "criminal."

It can't be denied, however, that the Obama administration is guilty of violations:

• Signing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows indefinate detention in the U.S.; strips heabeas corpus rights from prisoners in Guantanamo; and blocks most cleared detainees from going home.

• Drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, killing about 2,400 people.

• Contributing to violating the sovereignty of Libya in an unwarranted attack, which allowed religious fanatics to come into power.

• Extending the Patriot Act. (The Republican-controlled House voted 250 - 153 to extend it.)

• Continuing Bush Jr. policies such as keeping the prison in Guantanamo open.

But the right is not only trying to impeach for mainly the wrong reasons, it is doing it as a political ploy. Impeachment is more than anything a tool to use and abuse to kick out the right's biggest opposition: Barack Obama.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Obama's "Abuse" of Executive Orders

(Image: Heather Greene)

It never seems to end. One stupid accusation or statement after another. John Boehner wants to sue President Obama. Sarah Palin wants Obama impeached.
This latest tomfoolery is the result of the GOP accusing Obama of overstepping his grounds with the issuing of presidential executive orders. GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga wrote that in his first two years, "Obama had little reason to worry about legislative opposition to his policies." Quite the contrary, the Party of No tried to block him at every turn with the legislation of issues. Then, "in 2010, the Republicans took control of the House and President Obama's absolute control over the two branches of the federal government came to an end." 
Absolute power. What Obama had was a mandate during that time with the Democrats controlling both the Senate and the House, but didn't take full advantage of it. In fact, his "art of compromise" on many occasions was a surrender to the Party of No. (Now he seems to be a little more aggressive in taking on the Republicans.)
John Hudak, Fellow in Governance Studies, wrote for the Brookings Institution that executive orders are a "common presidential tool" which "gives guidance to the executive branch on how to 'faithfully execute the laws.'" Given the Party of No's intransigence, Obama saw the need to use executive orders "where Congress has stalled on issues."
While the GOP claims that Obama is being a Tyrant, it is the GOP itself that has issued more executive orders, according to Hudak. So far, Obama has used less compared to other contemporary presidents. He has issued 175 so far, compared to George W. Bush Jr.'s 291.
More bizarre claims have come from the right in previous years in the form of an accusation from a Laurie Roth that Obama issued over 900 executive orders "not even through his first term yet." Then another, with Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger accusing Obama of wanting to use executive orders to install martial law. (She later retracted her accusation.)
A FactCheck report dated 9/2012 refuted these dumb-downed claims, stating that at that point, Obama issued 139 executive orders.
And, since Obama is consistently stymied by the GOP, he created a "We Can't Wait" initiative, pushing through executive orders in order to benefit the working class. The GOP, however, can let that wait, forever. Meanwhile, a report published in The Hill, dated 7/2014, states that Obama will continue to pursue "key executive actions" on the issues of immigration, contraception, minimum wage and extending the rights of same-sex couples. If Obama is over-reaching with his executive powers, it is for good causes, unlike GOP's intolerant, bigoted agenda.
The report also states that the GOP will make Obama's "abuse" of executive orders an issue for the 2014 mid-term elections. The real abuse, however, is coming from a bunch of GOP bullies trying to play victim.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Gunofile's Wet Dream


Rove and Koch Groups Heavily Funding GOP

More than ever, money has become the dominant factor in U.S. elections; rather than a sincere debate on the issues.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties are guilty of unregulated campaign spending. There are Democrats, however, who have strongly opposed Citizens United, where corporations are "persons who" can throw billions of dollars into the political hat. But it's the GOP that has fully embraced the Citizens United court decision, donating heavily to ads and campaigns for their political pawns. For them, anything goes, monetarily-speaking.

Republican super PACs spent an estimated $1 billion on the 2012 presidential election and to influence the outcomes of U.S. Congressional campaigns. Specifically, American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS-spawns of Karl Rove-allegedly spent around $300 million.

The two groups combined together to spend $10 million on an advertising campaign, targeting Democrats who don't have a solid position in representing their respective states.

The Koch brothers have surged to the top of becoming one of the biggest contributors to the GOP. In 2012, they allegedly spent $4 million for the GOP on ads and campaigns. In a video about the Koch brothers, Robert Reich lists the entities and consequences of Koch objectives: having front groups, using ad campaigns, using think tanks, attempting voter suppression, bust unions and end campaign finance limits.  
Mike Allen and Jim Vandehai, in their article for Politico, got it right when they wrote, "Republican financial plans are unlike anything seen before in American politics." The Kochs, e.g., revel in unregulated campaign spending, not caring or considering that U.S. elections are being auctioned off to the highest bidder in the process. They have a network of political "non-profit" (for-profit) groups which include Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners.

But due to the political beating the Kochs are getting from critics, other conservatives have gone into hiding, donating to the GOP anonymously, according to a piece written by Matea Gold. Tax exempt groups have set up fronts such as "social welfare" organizations (but conservatives are against welfare) and business lobbies. This allows them to avoid disclosing their donors to the Federal Elections Commission (FCC).
Ana Marie Cox expressed the bottom line when she wrote in her column that "...the congressional agendas of both Democrats and Republicans are often shaped by business, not citizens."

Profiteers are ruining the electoral system. Instead of "one man, one vote," it's many dollars, few voters.

Considering the amount of money GOP donors are dumping into airing ads and funding campaigns, and for a potentially dangerous agenda, this is a matter of quantity, not quality.

But the struggle against this buy out the vote larceny continues

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Much has been said about the Nazi holocaust against the Jews, and rightly so. But then there is the other Nazi holocaust against non-Jews, which hasn't gotten the same exposure.

The following shows other victims of the Nazis:

Blacks - In the German colonies in Africa, experiments were conducted on Africans taken as prisoners from the 1904 Heroro Massacre. The latter left 60,000 Africans dead. (A. Tolbert III, Our African Roots)

During WWI, the French occupied the Rhineland. African soldiers from French colonies were deployed for this mission. Their presence infuriated Germans. Some soldiers married German women. The offspring produced were labeled "Rhineland bastards." (ibid)

The Nazis set up a group called Commission Number 3 with the aim of sterilizing all mulattos in order to "protect the Aryan race." About 400 children were medically sterilized, many times without the parents knowing. (Jewish Virtual Library, "The Holocaust: Non-Jewish Victims" by Terese Pencak Schwartz)

In all, blacks were subjected to persecution, isolation, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration and murder.

Slavs - The Nazis wanted central and eastern Europe as Aryan territory. As a result, Slavs, soldiers and civilians, were targeted. They were one of the most widely persecuted groups of the other Nazi holocaust. The goal was extermination.

Ukrainians - About 3,000,000 Ukrainians and other non-Jews were killed in Ukraine. About 2,000,000 Ukrainians were brought to Germany for slave labor. Again, the goal was extermination. If that couldn't be attained, then expulsion, enslavement or Germanization. (Paul Robert Magocsi, "A History of Ukraine," 1996.)

Poles - The first targets for extermination. About six million Polish citizens were killed, including Jews and Roman Catholics. Hundreds of thousands of Poles were sent to Nazi prison camps.

Soviet Citizens and POWs - During the siege of Leningrad, more than 1.2 million Soviet citizens were killed. Overall civilian deaths, including Jews, estimated at 13.7 million according to a 1995 Russian Academy of Science report.

An estimated 2.8 million Soviet POWs died through starvation, exposure and summary execution [from 1941 – 1942]. This can be compared to the genocide in Rwanda as the “most concentrated mass killing in human history.”

The total number of prisoners taken by the German armies in the USSR was in the region of 5.5 million. Of these the astounding number of 3.5 million or more had been lost by the middle of 1944 and the assumption must be that they were either deliberately killed or done to death by criminal negligence.” (Gendercide Watch, "Case Study: Soviet Prisoners-or-War.")

Romani - Deaths estimated to a high of 1,500,000. (Ian Hancock, "True Romanies and the Holocaust: A Re-evaluation and Overview," 2005.)

Homosexuals - The Nazis targeted homosexuals because they would fail in contributing to producing the "Aryan race." Hundreds of homosexual men living in occupied territories were castrated. Up to 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps. ("Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals," U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.)

Leftists - German communists were among the first people to be sent to concentration camps. The Nazis viciously opposed communism. For Hitler, communism was part of the "Jewish conspiracy." Leftists were hated by the Nazis because of being anti-racist. Summary executions were conducted against communists, socialists and anarchists.

Roman Catholics/Christians - In occupied Poland, 3,000 of the clergy were murdered. One thousand nine hundred and ninety two died in concentration camps. Up to 5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses died in concentration camps. (William Schulman, "A State of Terror: Germany 1933 - 1939." Holocaust Resource Center and Archives.) Thousands of Christian clergy were killed.

It is long overdue to recognize the other victims of the other Nazi holocaust. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Would Tim Tebow Damn Michael Sam to Hell?

(Image: wisconsindailyindependent)

A piece by Cal Thomas on the Foxnews opinion page (5/16/2014) offers up an attempt to view former football star and religious fanatic Tim Tebow as a victim within U.S. society, while gay football player Michael Sam is portrayed as a media darling. Thomas says that if one criticizes a gay person for doing anything at all, one risks "ostracism, suspension or loss of your livelihood."

 Have gays been exempt from criticism? Look at history. Gays have been targets not only of criticism, but of assaults and for murder as well. They've been damned to hell by religious fanatics. Some people who think they have a pipeline to God say, "God hates fags."

It was thus inevitable that a gay rights movement would come into being. Now that it has gained momentum, Thomas says free speech is at risk. He specifically referred to Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeting the message "horrible" when Sam kissed his partner. Jones later apologized. It sounds a bit much, but the gay rights movement has been accepted, and with that is the winding down of stereotypical, homophobic attitudes.

Thomas cites a "cultural double standard" when comparing how Tebow has been treated wrong while Sam is treated right. The former for his fervent religious beliefs. The latter for his gayness. If Thomas is so adamant that gays not be treated special, that's fine. But, religion should have the same treatment, i.e., being questioned and criticized.

Historically, and now, religion has been a dominant force within U.S. society. There hasn't been a rejection of religion like there has been a rejection of gays. Fanatics vehemently condemn homosexuality as a sin because it was written as such in a book created over 2,000 years ago. It's a shame they have to be told that times have changed. Despite the dumbed-down factor, U.S. society has historically evolved when looking at slavery, desegregation, civil rights, and, now, the gay issue.

Tim Tebow is not a victim. Thomas admits that at one time Tebow was a celebrity: "TV ratings spiked, and jersey and other gear with Tebow's name on it sold well..." He is a spokesperson for Nike, Jockey International and TiVo. But Tebow is also a symbol of an antiquated position on religion. More people than before say they have no belief, and the numbers are rising. Through history, religion has gradually become less and less of an influence, even though large numbers of peoples are religious today. Change usually starts small.

The religious right are trying to stop not only change but are trying to impose their religion on others, whether directly or through the back door (for example, through Intelligent Design). Tebow, however, appears not to be vehement about it. Still, the monotheism he has embraced has been intolerant of gays.

Michael Sam did hit a milestone by being the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the National Football League. But Thomas seems to play that down and, instead, views Sam as a double standard. Thomas can't tell the difference between a domineering force like religion and a certain group that has been the target of that force, gays being another "Other."

Thomas is correct in alluding to the idea that no one is exempt from criticism, including gays. But would Tim Tebow condemn Michael Sam to hell? If so, that's par for the course within the religious right. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

NATO Has Got to Go


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has gone far in achieving its mission; in fact, too far. NATO has violated its original purpose: to protect its members of the North Atlantic region from the "commies."

Article 1 of NATO's charter states that it will "settle any international dispute by peaceful means." But it's clear that NATO was designed for defensive purposes as stated in Article 5 and Article 6 for protecting Europe and North America against "an armed attack."  The treaty is geared towards having other "parties" further this objective, as stated in Article 10. In other words, imposing itself on other nations to become a "member" while protecting the North Atlantic area. New members, however, have been turned into virtual market satellites.

There are now 28 member nations in NATO, 11 of which were formerly socialist: Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Thus, rather than its function as a defensive force, NATO has been blatantly expansionist. Its objective to expand to, and over, Russia's borders is also clear. Its actions have spoken louder than its rhetoric.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union the early 1990s has given NATO, and in turn, U.S. interests, a chance to imitate the Gilded Age, with its imperial mindset. It interfered in the Yugoslavia civil war by contributing to breaking up the country with a bombardment campaign. Right-wing nationalists in areas such as Croatia benefitted and in turn declared "secession" from Yugoslavia. NATO's military campaign in Libya, led by Britain and France, gave religious fanatics the opportunity to overthrow leader Muammar Gaddafi. Then there's its involvement in the Afghanistan conflict, deploying troops, 99,000 who are U.S. troops. And now NATO is planning to use psyops (psychological operations) in Ukraine to put forth propaganda favorable to the fascist-influenced government.

The United States has had the leadership role in NATO since its inception as part of the United Nations. The U.S. government has handled accession agreements and ratification procedures. And the United States' objective of imperial domination has had a contributor in NATO. Coinciding with that is to push the model of neoliberal economics, where it looks like Ukraine will be the next victim. But, neoliberal policies have produced economic crises in the U.S. and Europe. Thus, it is a poor example of providing aid to Ukraine.

There is emphasis on freedom, peace and humanitarianism in the NATO Charter. But expansionism is evidently the priority. Max Forte, author of "Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO's War on Libya and Africa," uses the phrase "humanitarian” imperialism:

" can only function by first directly or indirectly creating the suffering of others, and by then seeing every hand as an outstretched hand, pleading or welcoming. We see (or imagine) helpless others, gobbling morsels of food we hand them, brown mouths chugging down water from our plastic bottles, and we feel accomplished. Our moral might is reaffirmed by the physical plight of others. Clearly, the humanitarian relation is not a relation between equals."

With the Cold War ended, NATO should have dissolved years ago, going by way of the Warsaw Pact. But fairness wasn't part of the objective. The current international situation has been a litmus test for NATO in its official role as a defensive force. In the article, "NATO's Core Function is to Advance U.S. Global Interests and Foreign Policy Goals," Kate Hudson makes a point reflecting NATO's failure to live up to its role. "Vigilante-style, [NATO] can ride roughshod over the qualms of the United Nations - and often the restrictions of international law - to assert its own view off peace and freedom."

Hudson also writes that "NATO's last leaders' summit in Portugal in November 2010 took the NATO vision beyond Eurasia, releasing a new strategic concept entitled 'Active Engagement, Modern Defense.' It recommitted to an expansive and interventionist military agenda with projected global reach."

Despite its continuing existence, NATO has outlived its purpose, and in turn its usefulness. It should share the same fate as the Warsaw Pact.

NATO has got to go.

Friday, May 2, 2014


The squawking from the Tea Party about not wanting "socialized medicine" quickly brings up the absurd and blatant contradiction that Tea Partiers themselves receive it in the form of Medicare. But another contradiction that is less known is Reagan Care, in the form of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).

In 1986, EMTALA was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the former U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, an icon of the right. Although Reagan spoke against "socialized medicine" in his earlier years, EMTALA was his crowning contradiction for health care.

EMTALA requires hospitals to provide emergency medical treatment to anyone regardless of status; including illegal immigrants. After all, health care is a fundamental right. To make up for the cost, hospitals are paid by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Medicare program. It also has stopped "hospital dumping," i.e., no treatment because of inability to pay or transferring patients to other hospitals to avoid expensive treatment. 

Obama care does go further to regulate the health insurance industry. For example, according to "Obama Care Facts, dispelling the myths," it would get rid of pre-existing conditions and gender discrimination prevalent in the insurance industry, not being denied health coverage based on health status, not being dropped from health coverage because you are sick, and not placing lifetime limits on coverage. There is subsidized health insurance, but only those who are 400% under the poverty level qualify. (Why not at the poverty level and/or above it?)

With Obama care's individual mandate-one has to buy health insurance or pay a penalty-people could find themselves more between a rock and a hard place considering increasing costs, profiteering and forking out money regardless if one has insurance or not.

But isn't Obama care and Reagan care really the same, ideologically? The health industry still has major influence to maximize profits and increasing costs over health care.

Meanwhile, Tea Partiers are indeed caught in another contradiction. But would they believe that the "Gipper" actually practiced "socialized medicine"? If by some chance they do, they are going to need "emergency treatment" to recover from the shock.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Want to Stop Illegal Immigration? Oppose Austerity, Imperialism, NAFTA and Militarism

There's nothing like hot button issues such as illegal immigration to get the U.S. right riled up. Their state of siege mentality comes right out with strains of racism, militarism and ultra-nationalism accentuating their distaste for "dem foreigners coming to take our jobs away."

Actually, there is validity in what is said about illegal immigration being, well, illegal. But the right prefers a militaristic approach to the problem, and in turn bury their heads in the sand in regards to the actual causes of illegal immigration.

Over the years, there was clamoring for a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border. It came in the form of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, originating in San Diego. It consisted of constructing a steel wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Madre Mountains, according to OneAmerica Executive Director Pramila Jayapal.

Regarding costs, even a border fence would amount to $1.2 million per mile, according to a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey noted that there was an increase of funding for the U.S. Border Patrol which amounted to $3 billion in 2010.

Coinciding with "beefing up" security at the border is the "war on drugs" where militarization has been increased with high-tech weapons and unmanned drones within Mexico.

The right never seems to want to look at the root causes of illegal immigration, and only scapegoat the actual victims.

What are the root causes?

• Austerity: The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), led by the U.S., impose austerity measures on countries. Meaning, to balance their budgets and be free of debt, governments have been arm-twisted into cutting essential social services, and privatizing major industries. This winds up hurting many people who don't have political/corporate power.

• Imperialism: Imperial power gives the U.S. leverage to more or less "call the shots" on international policy. Its leaders and operatives have interfered in the affairs of other nations like Mexico as a behind-the-scenes player; or outrightly. The sovereignty of other nations is violated.

• NAFTA: Fast track legislation was used to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) under the Clinton administration. The result is an unequal relationship of cross-border trade between the U.S. and Mexico. While Mexico isn't allowed to use manufacturing tariffs and agricultural subsidies for its farmers, the U.S. is allowed to maintain its own. "U.S. firms gained access to Mexico's financial, agricultural, energy, textile and manufacturing sectors, But Mexican firms were blocked in their efforts to gain access to the U.S.'s transport, agricultural and textile sectors," Jayapal stated.

• Militarism: When George W. Bush Jr. was in power, he signed a $1.4 billion aid package called the "Merida Initiative," according to professor Justin Akers Chacon. This provided training and equipment to fight the "war on drugs." Obama extended it, providing high-tech weapons, unmanned drones, and U.S. military personnel, CIA agents, etc. Chacon states that this would create "a costly and bloody quagmire." Adding in the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border due to the immigration issue and we have hopelessly unworkable projects like the war on drugs and NAFTA.

The math is simple: The factors above equal poverty and oppression, which equal the people of another country like Mexico becoming desperate or desiring to immigrate to the U.S., which equals the chance for illegal immigration.

There's no doubt that many people would be glad to stay in the own countries if living standards were good. And the latter is a major factor that propels people to immigrate.

For those on the right who oppose illegal immigration: then oppose austerity, imperialism, NAFTA and militarism. Don't blame those without corporate/government power.

David Starr writes on various social and political issues, both national and international.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is the U.S. Supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

Militaristic McCain: U.S. Senator John McCain
with members of the neo-Nazi party, Svoboda
Link to Is the US backing neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Who are the Facsists/neo-Nazis in Ukraine's New Government?

Washington has supported the Svboda neo-Nazi party in Ukaine.
It will no doubt deal with the fascists in the new Ukrainian government.

Link to Who's Who in Ukraine's Semi-Fascist Government

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Paul Ryan IS anti-Democratic
No equality, economically and otherwise, for this GOP elite

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Abolishing the School of Assassins

Recent changes of power in Honduras have revealed the finishing touches of another coup by graduates of the School of the Americas (SOA), now known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation" (WHISC).

Among the culprits are General Fredy Santiago Diaz Zelaya - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces; Vice Admiral Rigoberto Espinoza - Second in Command of the Honduran Armed Forces; Hector Orando Caballero Espinoza - Commander of the Honduran Navy; and General Julian Pacheco - Head of the Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence [Presente!, Spring 2014].

They fall under the leadership of Juan Orlando Hernandez, "sworn" in as President of Honduras in January 2014, aided by a wave of militarism in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Hernandez ultimately owes his fate to the 2009 military coup that overthrew elected-President Manual Zalaya, and the takeover of the branches of government, paving the way for Hernandez' current position of power.

Of course, Honduras is not an aberration when it comes to the SOA/WHISC. The School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) has continuously followed the actions and behavior of SOA/WHISC graduates in their respective home countries. Since 1989, SOAW has held annual vigils in front of Fort Benning, Georgia, where the school is located, for those killed by SOA/WHISC's counterinsurgency tactics.

 Murder, torture, rape, disappearances, extortion, intimidation, etc. have been trademarks of the school, which is nicknamed the School of Assassins.

 SOA/WHISC is operating as a U.S. Department of Defense institute [Wallace and Houston, the San Francisco Chronicle]. Since 1946, the SOA/WHISC has consistently trained military and police personnel for threats, or "threats," against the unequal balance of power between the United States and Latin American countries. Training included anti-communist indoctrination during the Cold War. But today, THE threat is what the military/corporate/government establishment calls terrorism.

There are some familiar names among the school's graduates: Bolivia's Hugo Banzer Suarez, El Salvador's Roberto D' Aubuisson, Guatemala's Efrain Rios Mont (who was on trial for crimes against humanity) and Otto Perez Molina, and Panama's Manuel Noriega.

Since 1946, the graduates of various countries number as follows: Argentina - 931, Bolivia - 4,049, Brazil - 355, Chile - 2,405, Colombia - 8,679, Costa Rica - 2,376, Dominican Republic - 2,330, Ecuador - 2,356, El Salvador - 6,776, Guatemala - 1,676, Honduras - 3,691, Nicaragua - 4,693, Panama - 4,235, Paraguay - 1,084, Peru - 3,997, Uruguay - 931, and Venezuela - 3,250 [Third World Traveler, School of the Americas: School of Assassins].

Resistance against SOA/WHISC continues. Besides SOA Watch's actions, five Latin American nations have have at one time or another refused to send their respective military and police personnel to the school in the last decade: Venezuela, Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Ecuador.

In 2005, the McGovern/Lewis bill was introduced to the U.S. Armed Services committee to abolish the school. It failed by only six votes. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs supported the bill ["Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," Council on Hemispheric Affairs].

Despite this latest coup in Honduras, there is a legacy of resistance in Latin America against the handiwork of the School of the Assassins. And it's not going away anytime soon.

David Starr writes on various social and political issues, both national and international.