Archive | July 1st, 2016

Naziyahu demands expulsion of Palestinian MK Zoabi from Knesset

NOVANEWS

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Palestinian Information Center 

NAZARETH – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Wednesday afternoon regarding the possible expulsion of Arab MK Hanin Zoabi from the Knesset.

Netanyahu’s demand came following Zoabi’s condemnation of the continued Israeli crimes against Palestinians and calls for lifting Gaza siege.

“With her actions and lies she crossed every line and she has no place in the Knesset,” Netanyahu claimed.

Earlier on Wednesday Zoabi caused an uproar on the Knesset floor when she strongly condemned the Israeli forces’ videotaped attack on Turkish activists who were killed during their participation in Freedom Flotilla in 2010. The murderer has to pay compensation for the families of Turkish victims, she said during a debate discussing the newly-signed deal between Israel and Turkey. Zoabi considered the deal as a “murder confession.”

Zoabi demanded the Israeli government issue an apology both to the “political activists” aboard the Mavi Marmara, on which she sailed in solidarity, and to herself, from those who “incited against [her] for six years.”

During the debate, Israeli MKs tried to physically attack Zoabi following her address. Several MKs began shouting and moved toward the podium to complain. “Come hit me! Come hit me!” Zoabi shouted to the MKs who were pointing and yelling at her.

As MKs mobbed the stage, Zoabi shouted “they murdered” and “shut up” repeatedly. When Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) asked her to apologize, Zoabi said: “The Israeli soldiers who murdered are the ones who need to apologize! You need to apologize!”

The Joint List strongly denounced the attack, considering it a “fascist assault.” It added, “The racist and bloody attack against Joint List MKs has notably escalated, calling for an end to the continued incitement against Arab MKs and Hanan Zoabi in particular”.

In May 2010, a flotilla of six ships headed to Gaza but Israeli navy forces intercepted and boarded them and forced them to dock in Israel after brutally attacking the passengers. Nine of the Turkish activists were killed during the attack.

Zoabi’s comments came a day after Israel signed a deal with Turkey to restore ties, after years of frosty relations exacerbated by the flotilla attack. The deal stipulates that Israel would pay Turkey $20 million in compensation to families of the victims.

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After Brexit: Reckoning With Britain’s Racism and Xenophobia

NOVANEWS

By Laleh Khalili

A woman reacts during a referendum results party at the Lexington pub in London, June 23, 2016. A record number of registered voters were expected to decide whether Britain will leave the European Union. (Andrew Testa / The New York Times)A woman reacts during a referendum results party at the Lexington pub in London, June 23, 2016. (Andrew Testa / The New York Times)

Theoretically, there was a progressive case to be made for Britain exiting the European Union via the referendum held on June 23, 2016. But the campaign for Brexit — the infelicitous name given the political process — was, from the very first, fought on the grounds of xenophobia and racism. Moreover, what has transpired in Britain since the Leave campaign won has only shown how easily the veneer of civility and conviviality can be peeled back to reveal the virulence of racism and xenophobia seething under the skin of British social life.

Britain was never a part of the eurozone. Therefore, the extensive austerity measures that its Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition government of 2010-2015 put into place, and that the Tory government of 2015 ratcheted up, were its own doing. That said, the austerity measures emanating from the more financially powerful EU states — Germany and France — and imposed upon and massively affecting the economies of countries such as Greece and Portugal were on the forefront of every British progressive’s mind before the EU referendum. It is possible to be a member of the EU and not part of the eurozone monetary sphere — as is the case with the UK, alongside Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

The EU itself is a massive bureaucratic mechanism, institutional machine and ideological apparatus devised to facilitate the movement of capital, goods, services and people across its internal borders. The free — or relatively unrestricted — movement of goods and capital without encountering tariffs or protection barriers has resulted in the further consolidation of the power of the big manufacturers in Europe as well as unfettered growth in and institutional protection of the financial and banking sector. The EU legal bodies legislate around or regulate some of this free trade, but generally decide in favor of big business over trade unions.

The EU’s “empire of free trade” has been the target of the ire of both the right and the left.

The EU’s “empire of free trade” has been the target of the ire of both the right and the left; the right is incensed over the regulations seen to hamper businesses (especially environmental and health-and-safety regulations as well as the human rights charter) and the left is incensed over the unaccountability of the EU officials and its rigid neoliberal stance. This undemocratic power exercised by distant Eurocrats is the plausible basis of a progressive criticism of the institution.

But what has distinguished the EU free-trade pact from other free-trade pacts — notably the North American Free Trade Agreement — is the relatively unrestricted movement of people across internal European borders to seek jobs or residency elsewhere in the Union. And it is this free movement of people that has triggered a long festering xenophobia at the heart of British society.

Britain’s insularity has been punctured throughout its history in moments where the need for migrant labor has trumped the Little Englander aversion toward foreigners. One such moment was the post-Second World War reconstruction era when the devastated country needed people to aid in the reconstruction of the national economy (much like the rest of Europe). The importation of guest workers from the colonies, followed by decolonization and the migration of former colonized subjects to the metropole have triggered virulent xenophobic and racist responses in Britain. That the British political classes have refused to reckon with the country’s colonial legacy and their steadfast refusal to acknowledge the racism interwoven in its institutions have only exacerbated this xenophobia and racism.

The most prevalent cliché of post-referendum analysis has been that the vote for exit should be read as a “working-class revolt.”

This xenophobia takes different shapes according to the historical moment, but neoliberal policies have only ever intensified these sentiments. Migrants are today blamed for taking up places in housing and schools, burdening the country’s publicly-funded universal health system and weakening the working class. Scant attention is paid to how, beginning with Margaret Thatcher’s scorched-earth neoliberalism, policies of privatization and austerity — during both feast and famine — have led to a degradation of national life, a diminishing of social mobility and a growth in inequality in the UK.

In the 1990s, under the reign of Tony Blair’s New Labour, Thatcher’s policies continued in new guises: the fiercely beloved National Health Service (NHS) was funded, but often via public-private partnerships that have in fact burdened the NHS with serious debt and crumbling infrastructures, while enriching private investors and developers. Instead of preserving unused schools, local councils were encouraged to sell off their school buildings in the 1990s, again benefiting property developers who turned these attractive Victorian structures into high-end housing without anticipating the acute future need for school buildings and school places. The sale of social housing, which had been a pillar of Thatcherite policy of privatization, has been exacerbated by wholly inadequate construction of new affordable housing and no effort to replace the stock of social housing lost under Thatcher.

The privatization of the efficient national rail, electricity, phone and water infrastructures has been a boon to profiteering private firms, while the basic transport and utility infrastructures have deteriorated, and their costs — especially of commuting — have become exorbitant. The replacement of manufacturing jobs with service jobs, the destruction of the mining and shipping sectors, and the weakening of trade union protections — particularly in the more militant sectors — have also had massively detrimental effects on vast swathes of Britain’s industrial areas.

More than two-thirds of Asian voters, nearly three-quarters of Black voters and 70 percent of self-identified Muslims voted to remain in the EU.

It is no matter that the Tory Party (under its official name the Conservatives) is ostensibly a party of both fiscal and social conservatism, that the Liberal Democratsare ostensibly a party of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, and that Labour is a self-avowed socialist party (though subjected to neoliberal reforms under Tony Blair, New Labour moved to the center as did many other social democratic parties in Europe). In the face of rising popular discontent with this abasement of social life in the UK, it has been easier for politicians across the political spectrum to displace the blame for these policies to vulnerable migrants rather than to acknowledge the role not only of the Conservative (Tory) Party (and for a while, its Liberal Democratic coalition partners), but also of the Labour Party in bringing about this turn of events. In this regards, Labour has been wholly complicit in pandering to xenophobic sentiments in order to deflect blame from New Labour policies.

These policies of austerity and attendant anti-migrant sentiments have occurred in the context of ever more intense hysteria around the question of “terror.” We live in a time of legislations on radicalization, particularly the absurdly authoritarian “Prevent” laws, practices of surveillance not only of Muslims, but also of “suspicious” talk in schools, universities, hospitals and public places, and counterterrorism operations. These government measures — and particularly the Prevent legislation, which makes it mandatory for school and university teachers to spy on their students and any public official to look out for signs of “radicalization” among Muslim youths in particular — have led to criminalization of entire communities, and an increase in the sense of vulnerability among British citizens and residents of Muslim origin.

This convergence of anti-migrant xenophobia and Islamophobic racism has now become the most recognizable feature of politics in Britain and have shaped successive election campaigns. Parliamentary elections, especially since 2010, have often pivoted around the question of migration. Although in the 2015 elections, Nigel Farage’s right-wing anti-immigration and Eurosceptic party, UK Independence Party (UKIP), only secured one seat in the parliament, he nevertheless picked up millions of votes and Farage managed to define the discourse around migration. So much so, that in pandering to UKIP’s base, David Cameron announced the EU referendum.

The vote seems to have legitimated an extraordinary outburst of attacks against migrants.

The London mayoral election, held a scant eight weeks before the EU referendum, was another example of this ignominious turn. The campaign between Labour’s Sadiq Khan, a liberal Muslim leaning toward New Labour, and the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith, until then best known for his environmental campaigning, showed the extent to which even the more ostensibly liberal members of the Tory Party would appeal to this seam of racism and Islamophobia in order to win votes. This all came to a head with the referendum, where all other issues faded into the background and migration and anti-Muslim sentiments (the latter of which does not have a logical relation to the EU in any case) became the central axis around which the referendum pivoted.

Although the outcome was not really foreseen, and although the end result of the referendum was fairly close (52 percent for Leave; 48 percent for Remain), the win for Eurosceptics took even Leave voters by surprise.

The most prevalent cliché of post-referendum analysis has been that the vote for exit should be read as a “working-class revolt.” Setting aside the unspoken assumption that this rebellious working class must by definition be white, the post-referendum exit polls actually indicate the “working-class” characterization of the Leave vote is inaccurate. It is true that a higher percentage of working-class voters voted for exit than did upper- and middle-class voters — 46 percent versus 64 percent. But once turnout by class was taken into account, the numbers looked different. As Ben Pritchett’s calculations (along with his caveats about the turnout numbers including anomalies) have shown, the far greater turnout of the middle and upper classes, versus the working class — 90 percent versus 52 percent — meant that in absolute numbers, a far higher number of middle- and upper-class voters (around 10 million voters) actually voted to Leave the EU than the working class (approximately 7 million voters), many others of whom abstained from voting.

This degradation of migrant worker rights will only accelerate the race to the bottom for all workers.

Lord Ashcroft’s exit polls showed that if voters thought that multiculturalism, feminism, social liberalism, the environmental movement and immigration are forces for ill, they voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. The same polls showed that while 53 percent of voters who described themselves as white and 58 percent of those who described themselves as Christian voted to leave the EU, more than two-thirds of Asian voters, nearly three-quarters of Black voters and 70 percent of self-identified Muslims voted to remain in the EU.

Only hours after their win, the Eurosceptic leaders had already backpedaled on some of their most major promises. Nigel Farage claimed that he never agreed with the claim — emblazoned on the side of a campaign bus used by Eurosceptic leaders — that the £350 billion weekly payments formerly paid to the EU would actually be used to fund the NHS. Iain Duncan-Smith’s weaker claim was that only after the EU agricultural subsidies (to the Tory heartlands) were replaced would any leftover funds be divided between the NHS and other needs. The irony was of course that many of those agricultural heartlands had been in receipt of more handouts from the EU than other places in the UK.

Claims that the UK fisheries could benefit from a post-EU deregulation were similarly walked back. Even on migration, which had played such a decisive and divisive role in the referendum, the Eurosceptic leaders were already tempering their claims. These retreats from promises have been so blatant that the Leave campaign has simply wiped the archive of all their opinion pieces and documents from the web.

Even more astonishing is how the Leave camp seems not to have planned at all for an eventual exit. There is no certainty as to when — or even whether — Article 50 (a provision of Treaty of Lisbon which provides for EU member countries leaving) will ever be invoked, setting into motion two years of negotiations that will allow Britain to unravel its legislations, trade arrangements, migration processes and regulations from the EU.

In a coming recession, ultranationalist ideologies will find a fertile soil.

Perhaps the most worrying fallout of the referendum vote, however, has been the extraordinary spike in violence against migrants and non-white British citizens and residents. Although many — if not most — of those who voted for Leave did not do so out of xenophobic or racist reasons, the vote seems to have legitimated an extraordinary outburst of such attacks against migrants — especially those from Poland– and non-white British citizens, residents, and visitors.

There is very little that promises an abatement of such racism. The immediate economic fallout of the Leave vote will only exacerbate the sense of economic uncertainty, possibly leading to a recession. The weakening of the pound will inevitably lead to a rise in price of imports (which will be exacerbated by the implementation of tariffs once the UK leaves the EU). Massive losses in the stock market have wiped vast amounts off pensions, giving yet more alibis to the state and private pension providers for reducing what is available to retirees. Rating agencies’downgrading of UK’s ability to borrow will lead to higher borrowing costs for the UK government and a growth in UK deficit, which of course provides an excuse forfurther austerity measures and an increase in taxes (which Tory governments of course will not levy against the corporations or the richest earners). The revocation of EU protections for migrant workers means that while the UK will continue to see migration from the EU countries, these workers will not be protected from the worst depredations of unscrupulous employers. As labor studies scholar Roland Erne has argued, this degradation of migrant worker rights will only accelerate the race to the bottom for all workers, both migrant and British. Nor will parliamentary politics in England provide any respite.

Already, politicians from Scotland and Northern Ireland (both of which voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the EU) are talking of a second independence referendum and a reunification of Ireland, respectively, in order to remain in the EU. The rump state that would remain if such fragmentation occurred would likely have a much strengthened Tory government and a Labour Party that would have difficulty winning.

In a coming recession, with intensified inequality, rising poverty and stalled social mobility, under a Tory government which has no stakes in egalitarian social policies, racism and xenophobia, right-wing populism, ultranationalist ideologies, even fascism will find a fertile soil. The horrifying racist and xenophobic attacks of the last week are haunted by the “rivers of blood” racism of yesteryears. In a now notorious 1968 speech, the Tory MP Enoch Powell promised rivers of blood to a country in which migration had led to “the Black man [having] the whip hand over the white man.” UKIP’s Nigel Farage has never hidden his admiration for Enoch Powell, and even the anti-immigrant views of many in the Tory Party are shaped by Powell.

The long and brutal history of British colonialism and empire lies at the heart of so much British insularity and racism. The deep roots of this racism will likely influence the politics of tomorrow, as it has already done that of today. To counter such a bleak future, mass mobilization is necessary — and any form of progressive mass mobilization has to recognize that class politics are always articulated through a politics of race. Reckoning with Britain’s racism and xenophobia across time, place, parties and social classes is the necessary first step in such mobilization.

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Senate Clears Way for Puerto Rico Bill: “The Ultimate Neocolonialism”

NOVANEWS

By Sam Knight

(Photo: Peter Dutton; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Peter Dutton; Edited: LW / TO)

Legislation that would allow the government of Puerto Rico to restructure its debt cleared the final major hurdle before a critical deadline later this week.

The bill passed a cloture motion in the Senate on Wednesday, by a 68-32 vote. The maneuver means the legislation, now, can not be delayed indefinitely.

Though most Democrats voted for it, some blasted the legislation for creating an unelected board to oversee public finances on the island — a development that will likely encourage harsh austerity measures, with technocrats unaccountable to Puerto Ricans set to make crucial decisions.

Dems also took exception to provisions exempting Puerto Ricans from recent Labor Department rules that expand overtime pay eligibility. They also hit out at the bill, for carving a loophole in federal minimum wage laws, for inhabitants on the island under the age of 25.

“No” votes from Senate Dems included those cast by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the only other lawmaker in the upper house to endorse his campaign in the Democratic primary: Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton in the primary, also voted “no.” So too, did Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading progressive who is rumored to be Clinton’s top choice for Vice President.

Overall, Democrats and party caucus members were split 32-12 in favor of the measure.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had talked earlier this week about attempting to hold up the bill, if it wasn’t amended. Obstruction would have required the support of at least 40 other senators.

Time, however, was a major factor. Puerto Rico will default on $2 billion in debt payments by Friday, if laws preventing it from restructuring public debt aren’t changed. The House, which already approved of the bill, is in recess until next Tuesday.

States are currently afforded the rights to restructure government debt and markets for municipal debt under their jurisdiction. The dearth of the same privileges for Puerto Rico were noted by Democratic senators this week.

“Basically, four Republicans, who likely believe in strong austerity programs will be indefinitely running that island for the indefinite future,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Tuesday, on the floor of the Senate. Sanders was referring to the fact that the board will have seven members.

“Would my friend from New Jersey agree that this is colonialism at his worst?” he asked Menendez.

“Oh, absolutely,” Menendez replied. “I have called this legislation the ultimate neo-colonialism that we as a Congress would be passing. It treats the citizens of Puerto Rico like subjects, not like citizens.”

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court reaffirmed, by a 5-2 vote, that Puerto Rico is not allowed to restructure its municipal debt — worth roughly $20 billion.

“The [Bankruptcy] Code’s pre-emption provision has prohibited States and Territories defined as ‘States’ from enacting their own municipal bankruptcy schemes for 70 years,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority.

In 1984, Congress exempted Puerto Rico from Chapter 9 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy under federal law.

Puerto Rico is currently facing about $72 billion in debt and another $43 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

The administration has for months been calling on Congress to pass legislation that would enable Puerto Rico to refinance its debt.

“There’s an immediate crisis in Puerto Rico. It’s not a future crisis,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in March, before the House Financial Services Committee.

Lew noted then that there were “big payments due in May and July.”

Puerto Rico missed the May payment, which was worth about $370 million.

Not only is the July payment much larger, it is also, as Lew noted Monday, “constitutionally prioritized.”

“In the event of default, and if creditor lawsuits are successful, a judge could immediately order Puerto Rico to pay creditors over essential services such as health, education, and public safety,” he remarked.

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Immigration Officials Making Secret Deals With Private Prisons to Lock Up More Mothers and Children

NOVANEWS

By Sarah Lazare

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement public relations officials prepare for a visit by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at a new detention facility specially designed to imprison migrant women and their children as their deportation cases move through the courts, in Dilley, Texas, Dec. 15, 2014. (Jennifer Whitney / The New York Times)US Immigration and Customs Enforcement public relations officials prepare for a visit by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at a new detention facility specially designed to imprison migrant women and their children as their deportation cases move through the courts, in Dilley, Texas, December 15, 2014. (Jennifer Whitney / The New York Times)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is striking deals with private prison companies to lock up a “guaranteed minimum” of mothers with their children in euphemistically-termed family detention centers.

The 2009 congressional mandate for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep a minimum of 34,000 people minimum locked up at any given time is already well-established. But a new report by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Detention Watch Network reveals that this federal quota rests, in part, on aggressive deals with companies in the business of locking up families.

“Guaranteed minimums, which appear mostly in ICE contracts with private contractors (though some exist with local governments), guarantee that ICE will pay for a minimum number of people to be detained at any given time,” states the report, whose lead authors are Dawy Rkasnuam and Conchita Garcia of Detention Watch Network. “Because the government seeks to avoid paying for detention space that isn’t being used, guaranteed minimums are essentially local ‘lockup’ quotas that influence ICE’s decision-making about immigration enforcement, whether or not people will be released, where people will be detained, and ultimately, who will profit or benefit from their detention.”

According to the investigation, which based its findings on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, such local quotas are “even more widespread than previously reported, covering at least 24 detention facility contracts,” accounting for at least 12,821 of the 34,000 beds established by the national quota. Ninety-three percent of those beds are in privately-run detention facilities.

Critically, such arrangements are confirmed in two of the three remaining “family detention center” contracts in the United States: the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas and the Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania.

Since 2014, the mass detention of families in these prison-like facilities has been a foundation of the Obama administration’s immigration policies toward refugees from Central America, many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty worsened by US policies. The human rights violations at these camps have been condemned by human rights organizations and the bipartisan US Commission on Civil Rights, and some have compared them to Japanese internment camps.

Karnes, in particular, has been the site of repeated hunger strikes over inhumane conditions, including nearly free labor, lack of legal representation and contaminated drinking water. In 2014, some women detained at the prison alleged that guards sexually assaulted them.

“Almost all guaranteed minimums are found in facilities that contract with private prison companies, and ICE actively collaborates with these companies to keep details of their contracts secret,” said Ghita Schwarz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a press statement about the new findings. “The public should have a full understanding of how ICE rewards and incentivizes profiteering off the detention of immigrants.”

According to the report’s authors, numerous questions remain. “Due to ICE’s lack of transparency and the resulting unavailability of data, it is currently unclear what percentage of detention facilities are subject to guaranteed minimums, what the costs of guaranteed minimums are, and the degree to which they influence ICE’s practices in controlling the pipeline into and out of detention,” they write.

Yet, one thing is clear: profits are soaring for GEO Group and CCA, the two largest private prison companies in the United States. Both boasted to their shareholders recently that revenues are spiking, thanks in part to the windfall from locking up families.

“At first the Obama administration said they were locking up families to deter people from crossing,” Cristina Parker, organizer with the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet. “Then when a judge said that was unconstitutional they changed their rationale and said it’s for national security, which is a thin argument. Seeing on paper that they have a quota that directly benefits private prisons underlines that family detention is really driving revenue and profits.”

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Uptick in Bombings Comes as Turkey Drifts Toward Islamist, Authoritarian Rule

Funerals have begun in Turkey for some of the 42 people killed in a triple suicide bombing Tuesday targeting Turkey’s main airport in Istanbul. The attack also left 239 others injured. Authorities said three attackers arrived at the airport’s international terminal by taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire. The airport is the 11th busiest in the world. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkey’s prime minister said the initial probe pointed to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or Daesh. A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press the three suicide attackers were nationals of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Earlier today, Turkish police raided 16 locations in Istanbul and detained 13 people on suspicion of involvement in the attack. Turkey has seen an uptick in bombings since last year, when the United States began using Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to carry out bombing raids in Syria and Iraq targeting ISIS strongholds. We speak to Koray Çaliskan, associate professor of political science at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Funerals have begun in Turkey for some of the 42 people killed in the triple suicide bombing Tuesday targeting Turkey’s main international airport in Istanbul. The attack injured more than 230 people. Authorities said three attackers arrived at the airport’s international terminal by taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire. The airport is the 11th busiest in the world. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkey’s prime minister said the initial probe pointed to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or Daesh. A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press the three suicide attackers were nationals of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Earlier today, Turkish police raided 16 locations in Istanbul and detained 13 people on suspicion of involvement in the attack.

Turkey has seen an uptick in bombings since last year, when the United States began using Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to carry out bombing raids in Syria and Iraq targeting ISIS strongholds. Tuesday’s attack came just one day after Turkey restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a six-year rupture.

On Wednesday, I got in touch with Koray Çaliskan, associate professor of political science at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul. We reached him at his home by Democracy Now! video stream and asked him to respond to the attack.

KORAY ÇALISKAN: It’s really sad that this happened. We know that there is a threat of international terrorism, but unfortunately this threat got materialized more in Turkey. In the last 12 months, we saw 17 bombings that costed the lives of 294 people, wounded 1,009. Not even a single official left office, resigned. And the Islamist authoritarian AKP government did not accept that there was a security breach in Turkey.

Remember that these three ISIS terrorists entered Istanbul airport passing a security check with hand grenades, AK guns, Glock guns, and then they entered the airport building after the first security check and began to shoot at people during and after the second check. This is a great problem, and I believe, because Erdogan decided to be a president in a presidential system — as you know, Turkey is a parliamentary regime — they have not been working well to take care of security measures and also take aim at the heart of terrorist organizations.

One of the most important sources for open source security and intel, intelligence, is Twitter and Facebook and internet correspondence, right? In Turkey, Twitter is blocked right now. Facebook is blocked. We can’t talk to each other through Twitter. We can’t talk to each other through Facebook. Why? Because the government and Erdogan himself do not want people to criticize them, criticize their weakness.

I’ll give you another example. We had another unfortunate bombing in Brussels a few months ago, you would remember. It took Belgian authorities to open the airport six days, because they studied every security breach in that airport and fixed them and opened the airport. Six weeks — six days, excuse me. In Turkey last night, only six hours after the bombing, despite the unacceptable security breach in the gates of the airport, the government decided to open the airport. It costed 41 lives. Not even a single elected official resigned or forced to resign.

Nothing really works in this country. The economy is going bad. Democracy, we lost it. Technically, Turkey is a competitive authoritarian regime ruled by Islamists, authoritarian Islamists. In terms of security, you see what’s going on. No one really feels secure in this country anymore. And because of the Kurdish question and the increasing terrorist activities of PKK, the government doesn’t know what to do, other than bombing people, other than using military means, other than shutting down Twitter, other than doing what authoritarian leaders do, from North Korea to Syria, from Russia to Turkey.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the warnings, Professor Çaliskan, the warnings that had come in a few weeks ago of something like 30 or so ISIS fighters coming over the border from Syria? The Turkish government very much understood this, the possibility of an attack during Ramadan, and especially in these last days when people are traveling.

KORAY ÇALISKAN: There has been intelligence about it. And, unfortunately, we hear about intelligence regarding what’s going to happen in Turkey from either US Embassy or French Embassy or German Embassy. Our government doesn’t tell us anything about it. The US told about possibility of bombings and that there has been — there have been close to 30 terrorists entering Turkey, planning attacks. We didn’t hear anything from our government.

This happened before. The last bombing in Istanbul was in Istiklal Street, very close to Gezi Park. And German Embassy asked German schools to be emptied, told their citizens to not to go to Istiklal Avenue and around it. Less than 24 hours later, we had a bombing in Istiklal Avenue. Our government didn’t tell anything, because, first, in their mind, if they warn people, they think that people will think that they are not doing their job properly. But on the contrary, if they warn us, if they take intelligence seriously, we would think that they are doing their job. Right now, no one really thinks that they are doing their job. They are just shouting at journalists, academics, intellectuals, for criticizing them.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you again about the timing. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a restoration of ties with Turkey, including increased cooperation in oil and gas production. This is what he said.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] Israel has reached an agreement of a strategic significance to the state of Israel, to security, to regional stability and the Israeli economy. … The gas field Leviathan can supply both the Egyptian market, which we intend to work with, but Leviathan can also supply the Turkish market and the supply of gas via Turkey to Europe. This is a strategic matter for the state of Israel. This matter could not have been advanced without this agreement, and now we will take action to advance it.

AMY GOODMAN: You have the re-establishment of ties between Turkey and Israel this week, and also Turkey seeing an uptick in bombings since last year, when the United States started using Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to carry out bombing raids in Syria. Well, on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke after the deadly attack on the airport in Istanbul.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We are still collecting information and trying to ascertain what happened and who did it. And I won’t comment further on it, except to say that this is daily fare. And that’s why I say the first challenge we need to face is countering nonstate violent actors, for a host of reasons.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Çaliskan, can you respond to both Kerry and also the re-establishment of ties with Israel, if you think these issues are related?

KORAY ÇALISKAN: I don’t think the bombing in Istanbul is related to Turkey’s establishing of the diplomatic relations with Israel and Kerry’s comments, for two reasons. First, you can’t — you don’t have time to respond that fast, if you’re a terrorist organization, two days after Israel and Turkey announced that. Two, in the last 12 months, there have been 17 bombings, Amy, in Turkey. You’re talking about one bombing, one terrorist attack, every three weeks. This is another threat. There is a war against Turkey that President Erdogan and the government of Islamist authoritarian AKP do not take seriously.

On the issue of rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, I think it is very sad that Turkey stepped back from its principles, its foreign policy principles. They said that they were against the blockade, the embargo of Palestinians, and they legitimized the blockade itself by agreeing to give the aid to Israel so that it can distribute the aid to any Palestinian anytime it wants. They got the money for the families of nine people the Israeli Defense Forces killed in international waters, thus violated international law. And Turkey accepted that they won’t be sued in Turkey or they won’t be taken to court in international justice system. This is a disgrace.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the Israeli military attack on the Mavi Marmara, that was trying attempt to break the blockade of Gaza.

KORAY ÇALISKAN: Yes. So, that’s why, for two reasons, they are not related. I believe what Erdogan is trying to do is that he realized that he has been making a lot of mistakes. Russian planes were bombing ISIS, and they downed a Russian plane, with no legitimate reason. And they had to apologize from Russia. And in Turkey, they say that they didn’t apologize; they just said they were sorry, as if that was a substantive difference. They are planning to pay for the downing of the plane, and they are planning to get the money from Israel.

I don’t really understand what principles are changing here. On the one hand, they are criticizing the military coup d’état in Egypt; on the other hand, they are willing to make peace with them. On the one hand, they pretend as if they have principles; on the other hand, they do their best to violate those principles. I think they are losing control of foreign and domestic policy because of one reason: Erdogan’s dream of becoming a president of a presidential system.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor, earlier this year, more than a thousand Turkish academics signed a peace petition. Several of them were jailed. Can you talk about Erdogan government’s reaction to dissenting voice and how that relates to the climate of terror in Turkey right now?

KORAY ÇALISKAN: Of course. I signed that letter, too. First, it was signed by more than 1,200 academics. When Erdogan called us terrorists or voices of terror, 1,000 more academics signed it. Since then, more than 100 academics lost their jobs. They were fired from public and private universities. Four academics were jailed for more than a month; they are free right now. And many academics are being prosecuted, just because they criticized AKP’s handling of Kurdish question. This is another move of Erdogan to silence civil society in the country. He silenced the media. The most important editor-in-chief in the country, Can Dündar, was about to be killed, less than two months ago, after Erdogan targeted him. A fascist just began shooting at him, and the journalist’s wife prevented him from taking aim at Can Dündar. So the press is being silenced. The academics are being silenced. How can academics, who have PhDs from states, Europe, Turkey, accept to be terrorists? What Erdogan does is to do what all authoritarians do: If there is — if he is being criticized and if he doesn’t agree with academics or journalists, he accuses them of being with terrorists.

He has another strategy in addition to that. When you criticize him, he considers it as an insult or libel against the president. I have a court case. My next hearing will be in September. And I — the prosecutor general wants me to be jailed by eight years, three months for writing a tweet criticizing Erdogan. And the tweet didn’t even mention his name. So, imagine, there are hundreds of court cases like this. He is winning them. He is making money out of them. People are being in jail.

But what we see, unfortunately, is the following: Turkey is leaving democracy, and United States is just watching it. You cannot have a secure world with authoritarian leaders. Remember what happened in Cold War: We were at the brink of a nuclear war. And right now, world democracy is being threatened by poverty, mostly organized by capitalism, and by terrorism, mostly organized by organizations like ISIS. There is only one way to deal with this double threat: democracy now.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid to be making comments like that, speaking to us from Istanbul, where you teach?

KORAY ÇALISKAN: I’m not afraid, because my job is to tell the truth. I don’t tell the truth, I don’t do my job. How am I going to explain this to my children and to my students in the future? Am I afraid? I think right now intellectuals in Turkey are not afraid. They are concerned about their colleagues. They are concerned about Turkish democracy. But we will continue to tell the story of democracy, freedom, equality and liberty.

AMY GOODMAN: Koray Çaliskan, associate professor of political science at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. We were speaking to him at his home.

When we come back, we go to the home of Wayne Barrett in Brooklyn, New York. He has been following Donald Trump as an investigative reporter for decades. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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Will New York Get an Anti-Muslim Blacklist?

NOVANEWS

By Sofia Arias

Image result for ISLAMOPHOBIA CARTOON

When Donald Trump made the outrageous suggestion last November that Muslims be required to register in a national database, his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton criticized his “shocking rhetoric” and told a crowd in Nashville, “At some point, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is that the kind of country we are?”

Seven months later, Clinton has answered her own question with her silence about a horrible “Terrorist Registry” law that passed the New York state Senate with the support of Democratic lawmakers in her home state.

The New York State Terrorist Registry Act, which passed 45-16 in a state Senate almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, is more sweeping than anything previously proposed. It would place anyone remotely suspected of being a terrorist on a publicly available list without any form of due process — with photos, addresses and other information available on the Internet to employers, friends, community members, landlords, the media and anyone else who cares to look.

The bill’s language about who is meant to be put on the list is inconsistent. Some parts claim only those who are “already convicted” will be included, while others explicitly state that the more than 1 million people listed on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database — as well as anyone else identified by the Department of Justice or CIA — will be subjected to this blacklist.

***

The horrible history is rarely discussed, but the federal government’s “terror lists” — under both Republican and Democratic administrations — have been little more than excuses to round up many thousands of innocent Muslims and Arabs.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, more than 200,000 Arab and Muslim men aged 16 to 64 who were in the country on nonimmigrant visas were interviewed under oath, fingerprinted and photographed under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).

Arun Kundnani recounted the story of one of these men in his book The Muslims Are Coming! Mohammed Rafiq Butt had come to New York from Pakistan to work as a waiter in Jackson Heights, Queens, but after 9/11, some of his neighbors called the police, saying they thought he looked suspicious.

As a result, he joined other foreign nationals who were held without charge. The FBI passed him on to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which detained him for overstaying his visa, and Rafiq Butt died of a heart attack after being taken to a New Jersey jail.

Then there is the “no-fly list” — which has ensnared hundreds of thousands of Americans without cause, often for no reason other than having a “Muslim”-sounding name.

The 2013 lawsuit Tanvir v. Lynch involved four American Muslims who found themselves placed on the list in retaliation for refusing to work as an informant for the FBI by traveling to Pakistan or Afghanistan, attending particular mosques or frequenting online discussion forums to “act extremist.”

As Awais Sajjad, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, put it: “I do not want to become an informant, but the government says I must in order to be taken off the no-fly list. How can the government tell me that the only way I can see my family again is if I turn my back on my community?”

The case was dismissed in federal court, and the plaintiffs were removed from the no-fly list — but they were denied the ability to seek further damages for losing their jobs, being separated from their families and being shunned in their communities.

***

Although the “Terrorist Registry” bill in New York was proposed by a Republican state senator, it is consistent with both parties’ attempt to use the killing of LGBTQ Latinos at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to push for greater demonization of Muslims.

Hillary Clinton called for the country to return to “the spirit of 9/12” — which for American Muslims and Arabs meant unlawful detentions, arbitrary arrests, wiretapping and FBI visits to work and home, along with general demonization and hate crimes. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo echoed this call at a vigil for the Orlando victims outside the historic Stonewall Inn, vowing to “do what we did after 9/11.”

Meanwhile in Congress, although most mass shootings have been committed by white, native-born Christians, Democrats made the Islamophobic “no-fly list” the cornerstone of their gun control push that culminated in a “sit-in” by House members that included Rep. John Lewis, who himself was once mistakenly put on the list.

Liberal darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren claimed that Republicans were choosing to “sell weapons to ISIS” if they refused to support the proposed legislation, while California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pushed for the legislation to adopt the Terrorist Screening Database, an expansive list with almost 1 million names arbitrarily added to it, without any due process.

To make it clear who was being targeted, Feinstein tweeted that she wanted to close the “terror gap” in order to “keep guns from terrorists, not average Americans” and that “our proposal would stop foreign nationals who want to kill Americans from being able to buy guns.”

There has been some criticism from liberals that congressional Democrats’ focus on the “no-fly list” in their current gun control push will lead to more profiling of Muslims. But there has been little discussion of why this list continues to even exist, much less demands for the Obama White House to scrap it, along with the rest of the “war on terror.”

Instead, Democrats continue to receive the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t trying to be racist from many progressives.

Indeed, the “Terrorist Registry” bill that passed the Senate without much fanfare last week had been unanimously approved by the seven Democrats and eight Republicans on the state Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Veterans and Military Affairs back in February 2015 — a full nine months before outrage poured in from all quarters when Donald Trump raised a similar proposal last November.

***

The passage of the “Terrorism Registry” legislation by the state Senate — and the scant attention it received in the media — signals just how much political ground has been lost under eight years of a Democratic administration that has largely continued the post-9/11 policies of George W. Bush.

“If the war on terror was the stuff of high-profile debates about war, torture and surveillance in the Bush years,” Kundnani writes, “under President Obama it became a matter of bureaucratic routine, undramatic and unopposed.”

As frightening as many of Trump’s racist declarations are, what is scarier is that most of them are a reflection of policies that already exist under a liberal president.

From Obama to Clinton to Cuomo to Feinstein to Warren, the Democratic Party has led the “war on terror” for the past eight years, and its doubling down on Islamophobia shows that no matter what happens in November, dark days lie ahead for Muslims and everyone else.

Indeed, they are already here. If the “Terrorist Registry” becomes law in New York — a liberal state with one of the largest Muslim populations in the country — it will be the testing ground for passage and implementation of similar measures in other states.

It’s unclear what chances the bill has to pass the New York State Assembly, which is more dominated by Democrats — some of lawmakers told New York Daily News that it was unlikely the legislation would be approved. But the Daily News article came out on June 10, two days before the Pulse massacre — and before Democrats around the country embarked on a strategy of being tougher on “terrorism” than Republicans.

We shouldn’t put any faith in politicians of either party to do the right thing. We have to organize in New York and around the country to reverse the tide of Islamophobia, the “war on terror” and increased repression.

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U.S. State Department Officials Call for Strikes Against Syria’s Assad

NOVANEWS

Image result for U.S. State Department NAZI LOGO CARTOON

Editor CEC asks: Why are anonymous public employees allowed to campaign for war on taxpayer’s dime?

The US is perpetual nudged toward war by non-elected career retired military officers.  In this case its the State Department, where Hilary Clinton was in charge for six years, and that sponsors an outlet for employee to voice objections to official policy, while remain nameless through some sort of “dissent” organization, set up in their department.  

I always thought federal employees had to stay mute on political issues and policy for this very reason?  The obvious question is, who set up this anonymous lobby with taxpayers fund, and who is leading it to agitate a public outcry for war…wars that we who pay the public servant dissenters?

According to the Wall Street Journal story,President Barack Obama has balked at taking military action against Mr. Assad, while Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has promised a more hawkish stance toward the Syrian leader. Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he would hit Islamic State hard but has also said he would be prepared to work with Russia in Syria.” In this story a group of State Department officers are calling for military strikes against the Assad government. 

Yahoo news adds its editorial position to a New York Times story:  “The dissent document was transmitted internally in a confidential form and since has been classified, said officials who weren’t authorized to discuss such material and insisted on anonymity. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both quoted from the document Thursday, saying they had seen or obtained copies. The Journal said the document called for “targeted air strikes.” The Times also quoted a section urging a“judicious use of stand-off and air weapons” to advance the U.S. diplomatic effort led by Secretary of State John Kerry. [Ed.-CEC]

U.S. State Department Officials Call for Strikes Against Syria’s Assad

June 16, 2016 10:12 p.m. BEIRUT—Dozens of State Department officials this week protested against U.S. policy in Syria, signing an internal document that calls for targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.

The “dissent channel cable” was signed by 51 State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy in various capacities, according to an official familiar with the document. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the cable, which repeatedly calls for “targeted military strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the near-collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.

John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said the “Dissent Channel” is an official forum that allows employees to express opposing views. State Department regulations expressly prohibit retaliation against any employee who uses the channel to voice disagreement.

The full of the story: 

 

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Standing Up For Palestinians on Al-Quds Day

NOVANEWS

Sign-Gaza.Innocent.Blood.On.Our.Hands-2x4-aAl Quds-02-2016Sign-Choose.Life.Not.War-24x48-b-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On July 1, 2016 Al-Quds Day rallies will be held around the world on July 1, 2016 to show support for Palestinians living either under a brutal military occupation in Israel or in forced exile around the world. If you live near a city that is hosting a rally to show support for Palestinians, we urge you to attend (see additional cities below).

We Hold These Truths will be joining the rally in Tempe, Arizona (see the list of other cities below where Al-Quds Day rallies are planned).

In Arizona:

What: Al Quds Day Rally

Where: Downtown Tempe, AZ at NW corner of Mill & University (map)

When: Friday, July 1, 2016 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Why: The day of Quds is an international day of taking up the cause and giving a voice to the oppressed people around the world. Join us as we gather in solidarity with the oppressed people around the world from Yemen to Bahrain to Palestine.

Al-Quds Day events will also be held in these cities:

UK

USA

Canada

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Standing Up For Palestinians on Al-Quds Day

‘Brexit’ and the Democracy Myth

NOVANEWS

Exclusive: A referendum like Brexit can be a satisfying moment for an angry populace to vent its frustrations but “yes or no” answers to complex questions can be dangerous for democracy, explains Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare

There’s a theory going around that referenda are the ultimate in direct democracy. There’s something about masses of people voting for or against some major issue that causes would-be populists to go weak in the knees. But the theory is pure myth, as the Brexit debacle shows. Rather than raising democracy to a new level, referenda often drag it down.

The classic example occurred in the early 1850s when Napoleon III, nephew of the more famous Napoleon I, engineered back-to-back plebiscites that allowed him to institute a dictatorship for nearly 20 years. Instead of democracy, France got the opposite – political prisoners by the thousands, foreign adventures, and a disastrous war with Germany.

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

More recently, there is California’s system of “initiative and referendum” that was supposed to usher in a glorious age of progress back in 1911, but has instead allowed an endless parade of conservative business interests to manipulate state politics and bend them to their will.

There’s also a long-forgotten 1973 referendum on Northern Irish independence that, as the LondonIndependent’s estimable Patrick Cockburn recently pointed out, “did nothing except exacerbate hatred and convince the losing side that they had no alternative except violence.”

There’s also the 2005 U.S.-engineered constitutional referendum in Iraq that, according to Cockburn, “turned out to be one more stepping stone towards civil war.”

There’s last June’s farcical Greek referendum on the European Commission’s budget bailout proposals in which a resounding 61-39 no vote somehow provided the Syriza government with a mandate to say yes to everything the E.C. demanded.

And now there’s Brexit in which a 52-48 vote in favor of leaving the European Union has left the United Kingdom’s political classes feeling dazed and confused. Scotland, which voted heavily in favor of staying put inside the U.K. in 2014, is once again pushing for independence as a consequence of Brexit, while Sinn Fein, which is also pro-E.U., is calling on Northern Ireland to leave the U.K. and join up with the republic to the south (possible consequences unanticipated by many Brexit supporters).

Ultra-rightists are, meanwhile, pushing for similar leave-the-E.U. referenda in Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Slovakia and Poland, suggesting that the great E.U. sundering may have only just begun. It’s a massive snafu that has apparently left many “leave” supporters with a serious case of buyer’s remorse.

Democratic Breakdown

But how did this happen? Brexit is a milestone in an ongoing process of democratic breakdown taking place on both sides of the Atlantic. Britain has all the symptoms of the disease in its final stages, not just advanced income polarization and a runaway financial sector, but a privileged political class that is increasingly detached from the masses below and a Parliament that is increasingly unrepresentative.

Flag of the European Union.

Flag of the European Union.

Fifty or 60 years ago, for example, 90 percent or more of the British electorate voted either Conservative or Labour. The percentage has fallen to just 67.3 percent as of last year thanks to the rise of smaller parties like the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, but the duopoly still winds up with 85 percent of the seats.

Even though Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron commands a solid parliamentary majority, he heads up what was in fact a minority government backed by just 36 percent of the electorate. Conversely, the upstart U.K. Independence Party took home 13 percent of the vote in 2015, yet wound up with just one seat out of 650. If Cameron was weaker than he appeared, UKIP was stronger.

For those who despise UKIP and the right-wing xenophobia it stands for, this was a result they could live with. But it was unsustainable. Desperate to keep UKIP out and thereby preserve his own parliamentary majority, Cameron made his pact with the devil by agreeing to hold a referendum on the subject of the E.U.

Out of touch with popular opinion, the Prime Minister figured that he could have his cake and eat it too by portraying himself as a down-home populist while resting secure in the belief that the status quo would prevail.

Needless to say, he miscalculated. By shutting UKIP out, he provided it with an extra-parliamentary field from which to mount an assault on Westminster’s two-party dictatorship. The offensive succeeded beyond all expectations, resulting in one of the most stunning political upsets in the U.K.’s post-World War II history.

Now consider what might have happened had Parliament been more representative. With not just 13 percent of the vote but 13 percent of the seats, UKIP might well have succeeded in maneuvering the Conservatives, with their large Euro-skeptic wing, into adopting an explicit anti-E.U. stance. But even if UKIP had prevailed, chances are it would not have done so for long.

Parliament would have been forced to thrash the issue out in full, and if it still voted to leave, it would always have the option of reversing itself at some later date. Once the battle had been fought, the Remain camp might eventually have emerged all the stronger by virtue of its long march through the trenches.

Addressing Reform

But this would have required thoroughgoing constitutional reform aimed at rendering Parliament more equitable. Constitutional reform was once a hot topic in Britain, but it suffered a long and lingering death under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Instead of wrestling with the problem democratically, Cameron opted for a pseudo-democratic referendum.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands after a joint White House press conference on Nov. 12, 2004. (White House photo)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands after a joint White House press conference on Nov. 12, 2004. (White House photo)

He thought it was an easy way out since the vote was sure to go his way. Now that it hasn’t, politicians are searching desperately for a solution. But short of a miracle, one is unlikely to be found.

None of this is to say that Brexit is incorrect. With the E.U. turning into an iron cage of neoliberalism and bureaucracy, powerful arguments can be made both pro or con. But a referendum is a disaster because it leaves the British people with no obvious recourse.

If the decision turns out to be wrong, then, short of a revolutionary transformation of British politics, it deprives the people of the ability to correct their own error. It robs the people of their own sovereignty, presuming such a thing can be said to exist in Britain’s antiquated constitutional system.

Oh those silly Brits with their bewigged judges and outmoded monarchy! Aren’t Americans lucky that they’re so much more up to date?

But American are not. Take Britain’s sclerotic political institutions and multiply them by a hundred and you may begin to get an idea of how politics have fallen in the two-century-old oligarchical republic known as the United States.

Where to begin? There’s a Senate that is perhaps the most unrepresentative major legislative body on earth, one that grants equal representation to lily-white Wyoming and to multi-racial California even though the latter’s population is some 67 times greater. There’s a House of Representatives that, thanks to the miracle of gerrymandering, has come under a semi-permanent Republican dictatorship.

There’s an Electoral College that not only exaggerates the clout of Wyoming, Montana, and other under-populated Western states but forces presidential candidates to concentrate on winning over half a dozen swing states while ignoring the rest. There’s gridlock that now extends not just to Congress but to the Supreme Court. And there’s a political class that is far more detached and corrupt than anything poor little Britain has to offer.

Founding Flaws

These are all products of structural errors that the supposedly infallible Founding Fathers put in place. It’s not necessarily their fault. After all, they were practical politicians wrestling with problems that were all but overwhelming. But the one of the worst things they did was to create an amending clause in Article V that requires approval by two-thirds of each house plus three-fourths of the states to change so much as a comma.

An artist's rendering of the Constitutional Convention in 1787

An artist’s rendering of the Constitutional Convention in 1787

Again, it wasn’t necessarily their fault since a tight restriction on constitutional change was necessary to seal the package and see it through to ratification. (An obvious exception was the so-called “Bill of Rights,” the first ten amendments that were demanded by some critics of the Constitution and were promptly ratified.)

But more than two centuries later, the amendment process is a disaster. Whereas the three-fourths rule allowed four states accounting for as little as ten percent of the population to block any constitutional amendment in 1790, today it grants total veto power to just 13 states accounting for as little as 4.4 percent.

Given today’s partisanship and the quasi-mystical view of the Constitution as some sort of divine document, the barriers to change are all but insurmountable. This is why – not counting the 27th Amendment regarding changes to compensation of members of Congress, which was written in 1788 but not ratified until 1992 – there have been no constitutional amendments since 1971, a 45-year constitutional dry spell exceeded only by the dry spell that preceded the Civil War (another time of bitter political infighting – over slavery and the balance of power between the federal government and the states).

In today’s political environment, the three-fourths rule locks in the Founders’ errors and makes the simplest correction impossible. Take the Second Amendment, 27 words dating from 1791 that everyone claims to understand but which are in fact indecipherable.

If no one knows for certain what a “well-regulated militia” means, what it has to do with “the right to bear arms,” or even whether “bear arms” means a personal right to carry a gun or was meant by the authors to state the right of citizens to participate in a militia, then the obvious answer is to issue a clarification.

That’s what happens when a journalist turns in copy that is muddled and unclear or when a government agency issues a regulation that doesn’t make sense. But since no one would have any problem coming up with a list of 13 rural states unalterably opposed to tampering with what they regard as holy writ, it’s impossible.

Dante’s Inferno

So, like characters in Dante’s Inferno, Americans are condemned to argue for all eternity about a problem that no one can fix. The same goes for the institutional structures of the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, and the Electoral College.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in an MSNBC interview.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in an MSNBC interview.

Given Article V’s powerful bias in favor of the status quo and today’s political dysfunctionall are unfixable as well. Americans have done to themselves what the British have done with Brexit. They’ve locked in their own impotence not once, but many times over.

This is why the Yanks are even angrier nowadays than the Brits. Their leaders remind them nonstop that they are the most powerful people who have ever lived, that their country is the greatest on earth, that they are the envy of the world, blah blah blah. Yet democracy is squelched, government is at a standstill, the economy is turning sour, and conditions for a growing portion of the population are plunging downhill.

Yet there seems to be nothing the people can do about the problems because the Founders failed to provide adequate tools. So they sit and steam and then vote for a latter-day Napoleon III who bills himself as an anti-politician who will knock sense into the system from outside.

Though many political experts tell us that Donald Trump can’t win no matter how angry the American electorate seems to be, the experts also dismissed the chances of Brexit prevailing in the U.K.

Posted in UKComments Off on ‘Brexit’ and the Democracy Myth

Global Terror Database World-Check Leaked

NOVANEWS

The terrorist database used by global banks and intelligence agencies World-Check has reportedly leaked online.

The mid-2014 version of the database contains some 2.2 million records and is used by 49 of the world’s 50 largest banks, along with 300 government and intelligence agencies.

The Thomson Reuters database is accused of falsely designating citizens and organisations as terrorists. Banks have used this data in whole or in part to shutter accounts, effectively locking people out of vast swathes of the global banking system.

Established security researcher Chris Vickery found the database and told The Register it is still exposed online after he disclosed its location to Thomson Reuters.

“As far as I know, the original location of the leak is still exposed to the public internet,” Vickery says. “Thomson Reuters is working feverishly to get it secured.”

Thomson Reuters says it will provide citizens and organisations information about their designation on individual request. Alerts are not issued to known contacts of those affected when terrorist designations are assigned, however.

A high profile public disclosure of the database beyond the original leak could be reckless: World-Check contains sensitive information on citizens regarding their alleged criminal histories and terrorist links.

Thomson Reuters requests that banks and other customers use multiple sources alongside World-Check and requests that the secretive database not be cited in any public decision-making materials.

The organisation rejects accusations that World-Check is a controversial service.

Read more: Global terror database World-Check leaked

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