Archive | July 4th, 2016

Nazi Forces Impose Punitive Measures against civilians in Hebron

NOVANEWS

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Following the killing of an Zionist girl by a Palestinian child, who sneaked into “Givat Kharsina” settlement, east of Hebron and was killed by Nazi forces, Nazi forces imposed further collective punishment measures against Palestinian civilians in Hebron. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns these measures that fall within the application of collective punishment policy.  PCHR also calls upon the International Community to provide protection for civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and ensure applying its measures.

According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 09:00 on Thursday, 30 June 2016, Nazi forces shot dead Mohamed Naser Mahmoud al- Tarayra (17), from Bani Na’eem village, east of Hebron, after he sneaked into a house in” Givat Kharsina” illegal Jewish Nazi settlement and stabbing an Zionist child to death. After few hours, a large force of Nazi soldiers moved into the abovementioned village and raided and searched a house belonging to al-Tarayra family and questioned the family members. They arrested Mohammed’s father and then took him to a police station in Jewish Nazi illegal settlement of“Kiryat Arba” where he identified his son’s corpse and asked questions about his son’s daily life and family relations.

Following that, Nazi forces closed the two main village entrances, Wadi al-Jouz, east of Hebron, closed with rocks and sand barriers and al-Nabi Yaqeen entrance, southeast of Hebron, closed with an iron gate. Furthermore, they closed another sub-entrance opposite to “Kiryat Arba” settlement to the northwest of Hebron. The closure obstructed movement of over 700,000 Palestinians as well as creating a state of confusion in their daily life.

In a separate development and a new crime of excessive use of force ؤقثشفهىل s cted their movementn  ypass road ad entrance clozed ation in “d the abovementioned village. , on Friday, 01 July 2016, Nazi Border Guard officers killed Sarah Dawoud ‘Atah Tarayra (27), who is from Bani Na’eem village and married to Ismail Youssef Alhajouj. According to PCHR’s investigations, the abovementioned young woman arrived and entered to al- Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City.  At approximately 09:00, she left the Mosque.  Meanwhile, two male and female Nazi Border Guard officers summoned her and took her to a search room near the entrance to the Mosque.

The female Nazi Guard Officer entered the room and was heard shouting at al-Tarayra was heard.  The officer then rushed out of the room, carrying a pepper gas spray. As a result, the other Border officer immediately fired 3 live bullets at al-Tarayra and killed her. PCHR’s investigations show that Nazi forces could have used less lethal force even if she had a knife as claimed by Nazi forces especially that a photo of al-Tarayra was distributed showing traces of pepper gas on her face. Later on Friday afternoon, the Nazi forces closed the Beit ‘Aynoun- Bani Na’im Road, which was the only opened road to Bani Na’im village.

At approximately 15:00 on Friday afternoon, a settler’s car was subject to shooting near al-Majnounah intersection in the Vicinity of “Adoraym” military camp, south of Hebron.  As a result, the car rolled over and the driver was killed in addition to the injury of 3 passengers.  Following this, the Nazi forces decided to take punitive measures against the residents of the city and closed all main and sub roads in the city.

Persisting in applying collective punishment measures on the civilians in Hebron, Nazi Security Cabinet decided to impose a security cordon on the city and withdrew the work permits from the residents of Bani Na’im village; around 2800 permits. The Cabinet also decided to establish a cemetery in order to bury Palestinian corpses rather than handing them to their families and reduce the tax revenues that are paid to the Palestinian Authority.

PCHR condemns the Nazi regime latest measures against the civilians in Hebron that fall within the collective punishment policies. PCHR recalls that those punitive measures came only after three weeks of electing Nazi regime to chair the United Nations Legal Affairs Sixth Committee.  Among other things, the Committee will discuss in its current session the role of rule of law at the national and international levels and the states’ responsibility for the internationally wrongful acts.  This emphasizes that the international community is not serious when it comes to holding the Nazi regime accountable for the crimes committed against Palestinian civilians. However, PCHR calls upon:

1)    The United Nations to provide protection for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt);

2)    The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to oblige Nazi regime to apply the Geneva Conventions in theoPt in its capacity as a Member State to these conventions.

3)    The abovementioned Parties to fulfill their obligations by ensuring the application of the Conventions and by extending their Jurisdiction to account war criminals regardless of their nationalities and the place where the crimes were committed and put an end to their impunity as a prelude to hold the Nazi regime war criminals accountable.

 

 

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MH-17 Probe’s Torture-Implicated Ally

NOVANEWS
By Robert Parry 

A senior United Nations official has accused Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service of frustrating U.N. investigations into its alleged role in torture and other war crimes, even as the SBU has been allowed to guide the international investigation into the shooting down of Malaysia Airline Flight 17 for nearly two years.

On June 29, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic criticized various “armed groups” in Ukraine for engaging in torture and arbitrary detention, adding that “The Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) is also not always providing access to all places where detainees may be kept. … OHCHR (the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights) also continues to receive accounts about torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary and incommunicado detention by the SBU, especially in the conflict zone.

“Torture and threats to members of the families, including sexual threats, are never justifiable, and perpetrators will be held to account sooner or later. … War crimes, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of human rights cannot be the subject of an amnesty.”

In late May, U.N. inspectors called off their Ukraine torture investigation because the SBU denied the team access to detention facilities where human rights groups had found evidence of torture.

“This denial of access is in breach of Ukraine’s obligations as a State party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture,” according to the U.N. statement at the time. Sir Malcolm Evans, head of the four-member U.N. delegation, said: “It has meant that we have not been able to visit some places where we have heard numerous and serious allegations that people have been detained and where torture or ill-treatment may have occurred.”

Yet, the SBU, which is also responsible for protecting state secrets, has strongly influenced the direction of the supposedly Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team trying to determine who was responsible for shooting down MH-17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing 298 people.

Conflict of Interest

Although Ukrainian military units are among the logical suspects in the case, Ukraine was made one of five countries responsible for the inquiry and granted what amounts to veto power over what information the JIT can release. A recent internal report on how the JIT operates also revealed how dependent the investigators have become on information provided by the SBU.

According to the report, the SBU has helped shape the MH-17 investigation by supplying a selection of phone intercepts and other material that would presumably not include sensitive secrets that would implicate the SBU’s political overseers in Ukraine. But the JIT report seems oblivious to this conflict of interest, saying:

“Since the first week of September 2014, investigating officers from The Netherlands and Australia have worked here [in Kiev]. They work in close cooperation here with the Security and Investigation Service of the Ukraine (SBU). Immediately after the crash, the SBU provided access to large numbers of tapped telephone conversations and other data. …

“At first rather formal, cooperation with the SBU became more and more flexible. ‘In particular because of the data analysis, we were able to prove our added value’, says [Dutch police official Gert] Van Doorn. ‘Since then, we notice in all kinds of ways that they deal with us in an open way. They share their questions with us and think along as much as they can.’”

The JIT report continued: “With the tapped telephone conversations from SBU, there are millions of printed lines with metadata, for example, about the cell tower used, the duration of the call and the corresponding telephone numbers. The investigating officers sort out this data and connect it to validate the reliability of the material.

“When, for example, person A calls person B, it must be possible to also find this conversation on the line from person B to person A. When somebody mentions a location, that should also correlate with the cell tower location that picked up the signal. If these cross-checks do not tally, then further research is necessary.

“By now, the investigators are certain about the reliability of the material. ‘After intensive investigation, the material seems to be very sound’, says Van Doorn, ‘that also contributed to the mutual trust.’”

Long Assignments

Another concern about how the SBU could manipulate JIT’s investigation is that the long assignments of investigators in Kiev over a period of almost two years could create compromising situations. Kiev has a reputation as a European hotbed for prostitution and sex tourism, and there’s the possibility of other human relationships developing over long periods away from home.

According to the JIT report, four investigating officers from Australia are stationed in Kiev on three-month rotations while Dutch police rotate in two teams of about five people each for a period of a “fortnight,” or two weeks.

The relative isolation of the Australian investigators further adds to their dependence on their Ukrainian hosts. According to the report, “The Australian investigators find themselves a 26 hour flight away from their home country and have to deal with a large time difference. ‘For us Australians, it is more difficult to get into contact with our home base, which is why our operation is quite isolated in Kiev’, says [Andrew] Donoghoe,” a senior investigating officer from the Australian Federal Police.

The JIT’s collegial dependence on the SBU’s information has not led to a quick resolution of the mystery of MH-17. Almost two years after the tragedy, the JIT has struggled to even pin down where the suspected anti-aircraft missile was fired, bringing down the passenger jet en route between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur. The location of the alleged missile firing was something that U.S. officials claimed to know within days of the crash but have kept secret.

The snail’s pace of the investigation and the curious failure of the U.S. government to share usable data from its own intelligence services have caused concerns among some family members of MH-17 victims that the inquiry has been compromised by big-power geopolitics.

Immediately after the shoot-down, the U.S. government sought to pin the blame on ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and their Russian government backers, a charge that was crucial to getting the European Union to adopt economic sanctions against Russia. But – as more evidence emerged – the possible role of a Ukrainian military unit became more plausible.

According to the Dutch intelligence service in a report released last October, the only anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, capable of hitting a plane flying at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian military.

Twists in the Investigation

After CIA analysts had time to evaluate U.S. satellite, electronic and other intelligence data, the U.S. government went curiously silent about what it had discovered, including the possible identity of the people who were responsible. The U.S. reticence, after the initial rush to judgment blaming Russia, suggested that the more detailed findings may have undercut those original claims.

A side-by-side comparison of the Russian presidential jetliner and the Malaysia Airlines plane.

A side-by-side comparison of the jetliners.

A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the CIA’s conclusion pointed toward a rogue Ukrainian operation involving a hard-line oligarch with the possible motive of shooting down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official plane returning from South America that day, with similar markings as MH-17. But I have been unable to determine if that assessment represented a dissident or consensus view inside the U.S. intelligence community.

Although the JIT also includes Belgium and Malaysia, the key roles have been played by the Netherlands, Australia and Ukraine, with Ukraine’s SBU arguably the most influential party as it feeds the other investigators leads to pursue.

Given the SBU’s legal responsibility to shield Ukrainian government secrets, you might think the question would have arisen whether the SBU would supply any data that might implicate some powerful political figure connected to the regime in Kiev. But there was nothing in the JIT’s update to suggest any such suspicion.

Regarding the SBU’s refusal to grant access to the U.N.’s torture investigators in May, Ukraine’s deputy justice minister Natalya Sevostyanova said the U.N. team was denied access to SBU centers in Mariupol and Kramatorsk, frontline towns in the simmering civil war between the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government and Russian-supported eastern Ukrainian rebels.

SBU director Vasyl Hrytsak said the reason for barring the U.N. team was to protect Ukrainian government secrets, adding: “If you arrive, for example, in the United States and ask to come to the C.I.A. or the F.B.I., to visit a basement or an office, do you think they will ever let you do it?”

[For more background on this controversy, see Consortiumnews.com’sMore Game-Playing on MH-17.”]

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New ‘CIA Officer Whistleblowing’ Video Reeks Of Disinfo

NOVANEWS

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By Brandon Turbeville

Making quite the circuit on the internet landscape is a new video purporting to show a former CIA agent speaking out against the manner in which the “war on terror” is prosecuted and portrayed to the American public. The video has been shared and discussed thousands of times particularly within the alternative media community as evidence that the “war on terror” is one big snowball of bad decisions and blowback.

The video, is a short clip of an interview conducted by AJ+ with Amaryllis Fox, a former CIA Clandestine Services Officer, who makes a number of claims during the three minute clip that range from the reasonable to the absurd. While many alternative media outlets have hailed Fox’s video as “brave” and Fox herself as a whistleblower, it would be wise to analyze her statements for what they are as opposed to praising them simply because they are being presented as “anti-establishment.”

Fox makes a surprising amount of claims for three minutes and she also manages to conflate issues, concepts, and people in a cleverly designed monologue that is clearly scripted for effect.

Fox begins by saying,

If I learned one lesson from my time with the CIA it is this: everybody believes they are the good guy. I was an officer with the CIA Clandestine Service and worked undercover on counterterrorism and intelligence all around the world for almost ten years. The conversation that’s going on in the United States right now about ISIS and the United States overseas is more oversimplified than ever.

Fair enough. Lower level agents of the CIA and most lower level fighters in terrorist organizations or national militaries believe they are the good guys. The propaganda surrounding the “war on terror” is oversimplified. All of this is true indeed. But Fox moves from information easily verified such as the statement above to much more questionable claims. For instance, she says,

Ask most Americans whether ISIS poses an existential threat to this country and they’ll say yes. That’s where the conversation stops. If you’re walking down the street in Iraq or Syria and ask anybody why America dropped bombs, you get: “They were waging a war on Islam.” And you walk in America and you ask why we were attacked on 9/11, and you get “They hate us because we’re free.” Those are stories, manufactured by a really small number of people on both sides who amass a great deal of power and wealth by convincing the rest of us to keep killing each other.

Fox is correct on the latter part of her statement. Much of these stories are indeed manufactured by a small number of people in order to drum up support for foreign invasions and a police state back at home. But who exactly is Fox talking to on the streets of Syria and Iraq that would respond “a war on Islam” to the question of why the United States is dropping bombs on their country? It certainly isn’t the average Syrian as she tries to portray. In fact, if one were to go to the average Syrian on the street and ask “Why is America dropping bombs?” the answer would almost always be centered around Israel. Almost every researcher is aware of this fact but not one time was the word “Israel” mentioned in Fox’s interview. The “war on Islam” line is typically reserved only for the more fanatical religious zealots who make up the so-called “opposition.” So what is Fox suggesting? Is she suggesting that the average Syrian holds the same belief system as the average al-Qaeda fighter?

Actually, that is exactly what she is doing, regardless of whether or not she states it explicitly or not. She continues,

I think the question we need to be asking, as Americans examining our foreign policy, is whether or not we are pouring kerosene on a candle. The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them. If you hear them out, if you’re brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not, you might have made some of the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours. An al-Qaeda fighter made a point once during a debriefing. He said all these movies that America makes, like Independence Day, and Hunger Games and Star Wars, they’re all about a small scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel and outside, technologically advanced invader. And what you don’t realize, he said, is that to us, to the rest of the world, you are the empire, and we are Luke and Han. You are the aliens and we are Will Smith.

Fox is implying that there was a “fundamentalist al-Qaeda” problem before America’s foreign policy was formed. In other words, that the problem existed and that the United States perhaps acted rashly in dealing with it. But the fact is that the al-Qaeda issue never would have existed in the first place had the United States not invented it. Indeed, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other related terrorist organizations are entirely creations of the U.S. government and the NATO apparatus. While Fox may be forgiven for not knowing this little detail, not knowing the difference between a fundamentalist al-Qaeda fanatic and an average Syrian is not excusable. That is, assuming that the mistake is actually a mistake and not an intentional attempt to mislead the audience.

Fox also provides questionable analogies when she discusses the al-Qaeda fighters’ interpretation of Hollywood movies. If the fighter was so convinced that the U.S. is the empire (fair point – it is) and al-Qaeda is the equivalent of Luke and Han, why did al-Qaeda attack the Syrian government? Why did they attack the Iraqi government? Why did they attack the Libyan government? This would be the equivalent of Luke and Han attacking the Galactic Republic while claiming to fight the Empire. It doesn’t make sense. Continuing with the Star Wars analogy, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, and Muammar Ghaddaffi would represent the Republic and those nations’ militaries along with Iraq’s “insurgents” fighting back against the U.S. would be the true rebels. Fox should know this very well.

Nevertheless, Fox concluded her statements by saying,

But the truth is when you talk to the people who are really fighting on the ground on both sides, and ask them why they’re there, they answer with hopes for their children, specific policies that they think are cruel or unfair. And while it may be easier to dismiss your enemy as evil, hearing them out on policy concerns is actually an amazing thing. Because as long as your enemy is a subhuman psychopath that’s going to attack you no matter what you do, this never ends. But if your enemy is a policy, however complicated, that we can work with.

So, again, the question would be “who is Fox actually talking about?” When she references “the people who are really fighting on the ground on both sides, does she mean U.S. forces and terrorists vs the Syrian military? Does she exclude the U.S. military? Her statements simply do nothing to clarify the reality on the ground, only to confuse it.

One good question for Fox would be how the Syrian government should listen to and hear out a “policy” coming from an organization that crucifies women, beheads “heretics,” and seeks to impose Shariah law on a civilized people? How should Syria simply listen to the “concerns” of the United States after the latter power has funded those “subhuman psychopaths” (yes, it is an accurate description) who have invaded their country? Is it possible that the “policy” of the United States and its proxy terrorists is simply wrong? Is it possible that the other sides might not be so willing to have a couples’ therapy session?

While Fox makes a number of good points regarding the fact that the narrative surrounding al-Qaeda and the situation in Syria and Iraq is indeed manufactured by a small number of people in high places, Fox herself makes an incredibly wrong description of the conflict, equating average Syrians and Iraqis with jihadists in terms of their mindset and suggesting that the upsurge of terrorism is a result of blowback as opposed to outright funding and conspiracy to overthrow sovereign states in search of world hegemony.

Fox’s statements simply serve to continue to drag Americans off into the abyss of misinformation surrounding the crisis in the Middle East while claiming to do otherwise. After watching Fox’s video, (notably produced by AJ+ – al-Jazeera, a Qatari news agency that has long been pro-jihadist), we can safely say that Ms. Fox is either misinformed herself or simply good at her job.

 

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The Millennial Generation Is a Perfect Fit for Socialism

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Image result for Socialism CARTOON

Few developments have caused as much recent consternation among advocates of free-market capitalism as various findings that millennials, compared to previous generations, are exceptionally receptive to socialism.

recent Reason-Rupe survey found that a majority of Americans under 30 have a more favorable view of socialism than of capitalism. Gallup finds that almost 70 percent of young Americans are ready to vote for a “socialist” president. So it has come as no surprise that 70 to 80 percent of young Americans have been voting for Bernie Sanders, the self-declared democratic socialist. Some pundits have been eager to denounce such surveys as momentary aberrations, stemming from the economic crash, or due to lack of knowledge on the part of millennials about the authoritarianism they say is the inevitable result of socialism. They were too young to have been around for Stalin and Mao, they didn’t experience the Cold War, they don’t know to be grateful to capitalism for saving them from global tyranny. The critics dismiss the millennials’ political leanings by repeating Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s mantra, “There is no alternative” (TINA), which prompted the extreme form of capitalism we now know as neoliberalism.

But millennials, in the most positive turn of events since the economic collapse, intuitively understand better. Circumstances not of their choosing have forced them to think outside the capitalist paradigm, which reduces human beings to figures of sales and productivity, and to consider if in their immediate lives, and in the organization of larger collectivities, there might not be more cooperative, nonviolent, mutually beneficial arrangements with better measures of human happiness than GDP growth or other statistics that benefit the financial class.

Indeed, the criticism most heard against the millennial generation’s evolving attachment to socialism is that they don’t understand what the term really means, indulging instead in warm fuzzy talk about cooperation and happiness. But this is precisely the larger meaning of socialism, which the millennial generation—as evidenced in the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements—totally comprehends.

Capitalism has only itself to blame, forcing millennials to look for an alternative.

Let’s recall a bit of recent history before amnesia completely erases it. While banks were bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars, the government was not interested in offering serious help to homeowners carrying underwater mortgages (the actual commitment of the U.S. government was $16 trillion to corporations and banks worldwide, as revealed in a 2011 audit prompted by Sanders and others). Facing crushing amounts of debt, millennials have been forced to cohabit with their parents and to downshift ambitions. They have had to relearn the habits of communal living, making do with less, and they are bartering necessary skills because of the permanent casualization of jobs. They are questioning the value of a capitalist education that prepares them for an ideology that is vanishing and an economy that doesn’t exist.

After the Great Depression, regulated capitalism did a good enough job keeping people’s ideas of happiness in balance. Because of job stability, wage growth, and opportunities for mobility, primarily driven by progressive taxation and generous government services, regulated capitalism experienced its heyday during 1945-1973, not just in America but around the world. Since then, however, the Keynesian insight that a certain level of equality must be maintained to preserve capitalism has been abandoned in favor of a neoliberal regime that has privatized, deregulated, and “liberalized” to the point where extreme inequality, a new form of serfdom, has come into being.

Millennials perceive that what is on offer in this election cycle on the part of one side (Trump) is a return to a regulated form of capitalism, but with a frightening nationalist overlay and a disregard for the environment that is not sustainable, and on the other side (Clinton) a continuation of the neoliberal ideology of relying exclusively on the market to make the best decisions on behalf of human welfare. They understand that the reforms of the last eight years have been so mild, as with the Dodd-Frank bill, as to keep neoliberalism in its previous form intact, guaranteeing future cycles of debt, insolvency, and immiseration. They haven’t forgotten that the capitalist class embarked on an austerity campaign, of all things, in 2009 in the U.S. and Europe, precisely the opposite of what was needed to alleviate misery.

But millennials are done with blind faith in the market as the solution to all human problems. They question whether “economic growth” should even be the ultimate pursuit. Ironically, again, it is the extreme form capitalism has taken under neoliberalism that has put millennials under such pressure that they have started asking these questions seriously: Why not work fewer hours? Why not disengage from consumer capitalism? Why trust in capitalist goods to buy happiness? Why not discover the virtues of community, solidarity, and togetherness? It is inchoate still, but this sea change in the way a whole generation defines happiness is what is going to determine the future of American politics.

Millennials understand that overturning capitalist memes to address the immediate social and ecological crises is only the starting point. The more difficult evolution is to reorient human thought, after more than 500 years of capitalist hegemony, to think beyond even democratic or participatory socialism, to a more anarchic, more liberated social organization, where individuals have the potential to achieve freedom and self-realization, precisely the failed promise of capitalism.

To distract attention by pointing to the failure of authoritarian state-driven experiments in socialism is not going to work. Cooperative models not driven by the state have been pervasive throughout history, all through the middle ages for example, or until recently in large parts of the world where capitalism hadn’t yet penetrated. Whenever one forms a spontaneous association to fulfill real needs, whether in a family or community or town, one is embarking on activity that is discounted by capitalism.

In the 19th century, there was the successful cooperative model of Robert Owen, the British cotton-spinner and industrialist, followed in the 20th century with similar ventures by Owen’s counterpart in Japan, Muto Sanji, as well as agricultural, industrial, housing, and banking cooperatives in Australia in the early 20th century, in the Basque region of Spain after World War II, in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, and in Sweden, Canada, Denmark, and elsewhere. Today, many examples of the cooperative model operate in BrazilVenezuela and other Latin American countries, spurred by resistance to the neoliberal model.

The idea is to move beyond money, interpreted in particular ways by capitalism, as the sole means of determining what is valued in human activity. Just because the means of production can be owned collectively does not mean—and indeed should not mean—that the state should be the owner.

In effect, capitalism is losing its future constituency, not just in America, but in other parts of the world as well. It happened among millennials in Latin America in the last decade, as indigenous movements sprouted up, avowing to chart a non-authoritarian path compared to socialisms of the past, all this as the clash between capitalism’s totalizing logic and the health of the planet reached a crescendo.

The current American election is one of the last of the rearguard actions by so-called progressives exploiting the notion that nothing better is possible. This antihumanism, masquerading as pragmatism, asks millennials to buy into the idea that we can only expect the false measures of happiness that capitalism has sold us on.

Cooperation is neither medieval nor tyrannizing; it is rather avant-garde, and it looks like the millennial generation is ready to ride the wave. Millennials are famously optimistic; socialism was designed for just such a breed.

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How Wealth Inequality Exacerbated the Great Recession

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By Sam Pizzigati

Inequality

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / TruthoutInequality doesn’t cause every problem in our world today. Inequality just makes every problem worse.

Big problems especially. Like recessions.

We’ve known for some time that recessions — and depressions — become much more likely when wealth starts excessively concentrating in the pockets of the already rich.

Now we have important new research that adds to this story. The same inequality that gets us into economic messes turns out to significantly slow the clean-up.

The research comes from an international team of economists who’ve just examined how Americans at different levels of wealth behaved economically before and during the Great Recession. What did American households spend, the investigators asked, and what did they save?

The researchers — the University of Pennsylvania’s Dirk Krueger, the University of Stockholm’s Kurt Mitman, and Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis analyst Fabrizio Perri — essentially found what they expected for the period right before the Great Recession. The lower a household’s net worth in 2006, their work shows, the higher that household’s consumption rate.

On this front, no surprise. Poorer households typically spend a higher share of their incomes than richer families. The goods and services their families need just to get by on a daily basis grab most all of their incomes.

Richer households, on the other hand, spend far more total dollars on goods and services than poorer families. But they also make far more. With their pockets overflowing, they can afford to save a substantial share of their incomes.

This dynamic becomes more pronounced in any economy growing more unequal. The wealthier the rich become, the more they save. That’s all to the good, the pals of plutocrats insist. Savings by the rich, they assure us, create prosperity as the rich invest in businesses that create jobs. Everybody wins!

In real life, rising inequality limits most all winning to the wealthy. Those savings that rich people have to invest don’t go to businesses that create good jobs because average people — in an economy that’s concentrating rewards at the top — can’t afford to be good customers.

With job-creating businesses struggling, the rich take their savings elsewhere. They speculate. Enter our bubble economy.

The huge downside to all this: All bubbles eventually pop. The great housing bubble of the early 21st century would pop into 2008’s Great Recession.

So what happened then with the consumption and savings patterns of America’s households? Here’s where the new research from economists Krueger, Mitman, and Perri gets particularly interesting. The trio found a striking “change in consumption expenditures at different points in the wealth distribution” after the Great Recession hit.

Between 2006 and 2010, their research shows, saving rates increased most strongly “at the bottom of the wealth distribution.” How could less affluent households suddenly afford to save more? During the Great Recession, they cut their consumption at twice the rate of more affluent households.

And that behavior made eminent sense. These less affluent households — essentially the poorest 40 percent of Americans — held less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth going into the Great Recession. In 2008, with people losing jobs left and right, these households cut back their spending markedly and started “to save massively” to protect themselves from the shock of job loss.

But what makes sense for particular households, researchers Krueger, Mitman, and Perri make plain, didn’t make sense for the economy as a whole. With the nation’s less affluent spending less, businesses cut back more, and the nation’s economic mess just became messier. The recovery sputtered.

Unemployment insurance, in an ideal world, prevents this sort of downward spiral. Unemployment benefits give families at the economic edge a modicum of security. Households that can count on these benefits to cushion the shock of job loss will continue to consume. Their consumption, in turn, helps a troubled economy recover.

Unemployment insurance in our contemporary United States, unfortunately, remains too spotty to offer any appreciable real security. In the Great Recession, less affluent households felt — with considerable justification — on their own.

If poorer Americans had had unemployment benefit security at the depth of the Great Recession — and, more importantly, if poorer Americans had had a larger share of the nation’s wealth — the nation would have consumed more after the Great Recession hit. The recovery would have been more robust.

Without wealth inequality, as economist Dirk Krueger told one interviewer earlier this month, we still would have had a drop-off in overall consumption during the Great Recession. But that drop “would not have been as large” — and America’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression would not have lasted as long and been as hard.

Still another good reason, as if we need one more, to make America more equal.

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“What to the Slave Is 4th of July?”: James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass’ Historic Speech

NOVANEWS

In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous

In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” He was addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society. This is actor James Earl Jones reading the speech during a performance of historian Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book, Voices of a People’s History of the United States. He was introduced by Zinn.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Today, in this holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5th, 1852, in Rochester, New York, Douglass gave one of his most famous speeches, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” He was addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. This is actor James Earl Jones reading Douglass’s historic address during a performance of Voices of a People’s History of the United States. At the time, James Earl Jones was introduced by Howard Zinn.

HOWARD ZINN: Frederick Douglass, once a slave, became a brilliant and powerful leader of the anti-slavery movement. In 1852, he was asked to speak in celebration of the Fourth of July.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: [read by James Earl Jones] Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour forth a stream, a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

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“No Touching”: Peering Through the Iron Bars of the US-Mexico Border, Families Struggle to Connect

NOVANEWS

By David Bacon

In Playas de Tijuana, on the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the US, Catelina Cespedes and Carlos Alcaide greet Florita Galvez, who is on the US side. The family came from Santa Monica Cohetzala in Puebla to meet at the wall. (Photo: David Bacon)In Playas de Tijuana, on the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the US, Catelina Cespedes and Carlos Alcaide greet Florita Galvez, who is on the US side. The family came from Santa Monica Cohetzala in Puebla to meet at the wall. (Photo: David Bacon)

It took two days on the bus for Catalina Cespedes and her husband Teodolo Torres to get from their hometown in Puebla — Santa Monica Cohetzala — to Tijuana. On a bright Sunday in May they went to the beach at Playas de Tijuana. There the wall separating Mexico from the United States plunges down a steep hillside and levels off at the Parque de Amistad, or Friendship Park, before crossing the sand and heading out into the Pacific surf.

Sunday is the day for families to meet through the border wall. The couple had come to see their daughter, Florita Galvez.

Florita had arrived that day in San Ysidro, the border town a half-hour south of San Diego. Then she went out to the Border Field State Park, by the ocean, two miles west of town. From the parking lot at the park entrance it was a 20-minute walk down a dirt road to the section of the wall next to the Parque de Amistad.

At 11 that morning, Catalina and Florita finally met, separated by the metal border. They looked at each other through the metal screen that covers the wall’s bars, in the small area where people on the US side can actually get next to it. And they touched. Catalina pushed a finger through one of the screen’s half-inch square holes. On the other side, Florita touched it with her own finger.

On the Mexican side of the border wall Catelina Cespedes sticks her finger through a hole in the mesh so that she can touch the finger of her daughter, Florita Galvez, on the other side. (Photo: David Bacon)On the Mexican side of the border wall Catelina Cespedes sticks her finger through a hole in the mesh so that she can touch the finger of her daughter, Florita Galvez, on the other side. (Photo: David Bacon)

Another family shared the space with Catalina and Teodolo. Adriana Arzola had brought her baby Nazeli Santana, now several months old, to meet her family living on the US side for the first time. Adriana had family with her also — her grandmother and grandfather, two older children, and a brother and sister.

The rules imposed by the Border Patrol say that where there’s no screen, the family members on that side have to stay back several feet.

It was very frustrating, though, to try to see people on the other side through the half-inch holes. So they moved along the wall to a place where the screen ended. There the vertical 18-foot iron bars of the wall — what the wall is made of in most places — are separated by spaces about four-inches wide. Family members in the US could see the baby as Adriana held her up.

But only from a distance. The rules imposed by the US Border Patrol in Border Field State Park say that where there’s no screen, the family members on that side have to stay back several feet from the wall. So — no touching.

A boy walks past the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the US. (Photo: David Bacon)A boy walks past the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the US. (Photo: David Bacon)

I could see the sweep of emotions playing across everyone’s faces and in their body language. One minute the grandmother was laughing, and the next there were tears in her eyes. The grandfather just smiled and smiled. Adriana talked to her relatives, and tried to wake the baby up. Her brother leaned on the bars with his arms folded against his eyes, and her sister turned away, overcome by sadness. On the US side, a man in a wheelchair and two women with him looked happy just to have a chance to see their family again.

Some volunteers, most from the US side, called “Friends of Friendship Park,” have tried to make the Mexican side more pleasant and accommodating for families. The older children with Adriana sat at concrete picnic tables. While family members talked through the wall, they used colored markers, provided by the Friends, to make faces and write messages on smooth rocks. Around them were the beginnings of a vegetable garden. Later in the afternoon one of the volunteers harvested some greens for a salad.

Such carefully controlled and brief encounters are the ultimate conclusion of a process that, at its beginning, had no controls at all. Before 1848 there was no border.

Members of the Friends group include Pedro Rios from the US/Mexico Border Program of the American Friends Service Committee, and Jill Holslin, a photographer and border activist. On the US side, another of the participating groups — Angeles de la Frontera, or Border Angels, helped the families that came to the park. “We’re here seven or eight times a month,” said Enrique Morones, the group’s director. “People get in touch with us because we’re visible, or they know someone else we helped before.” Border Angels helps set up the logistics so that families can arrive on both sides at the same time, often coming from far away.

Florita Galvez is on the US side of the border wall between Mexico and the US, and her family on the Mexican side can only see her through holes in the metal mesh. (Photo: David Bacon)Florita Galvez is on the US side of the border wall between Mexico and the US, and her family on the Mexican side can only see her through holes in the metal mesh. (Photo: David Bacon)

Weekend visiting hours, from 10 am to 2 pm, are the only time the Border Patrol allows families to get close to the wall for the reunions. Once a year they open a doorway in the wall. Watched closely by Border Patrol agents, family members are allowed to approach the open door one by one, and then to hug a mother or father, a son or daughter or another family member from the other side. To do that, people have to fill in a form and show the agents they have legal status in the US. During the rest of the year, the Border Patrol doesn’t ask about legal status, although they could at any moment. For that reason, Border Angels tells families not to go on their own.

Such carefully controlled and brief encounters are the ultimate conclusion of a process that, at its beginning, had no controls at all. Before 1848 there was no border here whatsoever. That year, at the conclusion of what the US calls “the Mexican War,” the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico was forced to give up 529,000 square-miles of its territory. The US paid, in theory, $15,000,000 for the land, but then simply deducted it from the debt it claimed Mexico owed it. US troops occupied Mexico City to force the government there to sign the treaty.

The so-called “Mexican Cession” accounts for 14.9 percent of the total land area of the United States, including the entire states of California, Nevada and Utah, almost all of Arizona, half of New Mexico, a quarter of Colorado and a piece of Wyoming. Some Congress members even called for annexing all of Mexico.

On the Mexican side of the border wall, Adriana Arzola brings her new baby, Nayeli Santana, to meet her family living in the US for the first time. Meeting families through the wall takes place every Sunday at the Parque de Amistad, or Friendship Park, in Playas de Tijuana, the neighborhood of Tijuana where the wall runs into the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: David Bacon)On the Mexican side of the border wall, Adriana Arzola brings her new baby, Nayeli Santana, to meet her family living in the US for the first time. Meeting families through the wall takes place every Sunday at the Parque de Amistad, or “Friendship Park,” in Playas de Tijuana, the neighborhood of Tijuana where the wall runs into the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: David Bacon)

The Border Patrol was organized in 1924. Before that, there was no conception that passage back-and-forth between Mexico and the US on Monument Mesa had to be restricted.

At the time, the city of San Diego was a tiny unincorporated settlement of a few hundred people. It was considered a suburb of Los Angeles, then still a small town. San Ysidro didn’t exist, nor did Tijuana. To mark the new border, in 1849 a US/Mexico boundary commission put a marble monument in the shape of a skinny pyramid where they thought the line should go. A replica of that original pyramid today sits next to the wall in the Parque de Amistad. On the US side, the road leading from San Ysidro to Boundary Field State Park is named Monument Road, and the area is called Monument Mesa.

Early tourists chipped so many pieces from the marble pyramid that it had to be replaced in 1894. The first fence was erected, not along the borderline, but around the new monument to keep people from defacing it. The line itself was still unmarked, 50 years after it had been created.

The Border Patrol was organized in 1924. Before that, there was no conception that passage back-and-forth between Mexico and the US on Monument Mesa had to be restricted. The federal government only assumed control over immigration in 1890, when construction began on the first immigration station at Ellis Island in New York harbor. Racial exclusions existed in US law from the late 1800s, but the requirement that people have a visa to cross the border was only established by the Immigration Act of 1924. The law also established a racist national quota system for handing visas out.

Adriana Arzola, her sister and her baby, Nayeli Santana, talk with her family living in the US through the bars of the wall. On the US side, her family has to stay several feet away from the wall, so they can't touch each other through the bars. (Photo: David Bacon)Adriana Arzola, her sister and her baby, Nayeli Santana, talk with her family living in the US through the bars of the wall. On the US side, her family has to stay several feet away from the wall, so they can’t touch each other through the bars. (Photo: David Bacon)

In the 1930s, the Border Patrol terrorized barrios across the US, putting thousands of Mexicans into railroad cars and dumping them across the border. Even US citizens of Mexican descent, or people who just looked Mexican, were swept up and deported.  Trains carried deportees to the border stations in San Ysidro and Calexico, but on Monument Mesa there was still no formal line to keep people from returning.

That changed for the first time after World War II, when barbed wire was stretched from San Ysidro to the ocean. Mexicans called it the “alambre,” or “the wire.” Those who crossed it became “alambristas.” Yet enforcement was still not very strict. During the 1950s and early 1960s, thousands of Mexican workers were imported to the US as braceros, while many migrants also came without papers. In the Imperial Valley, on weekends during the harvest, those workers would walk into Mexicali, on the Mexican side, to hear a hot band or go dancing and then hitch a ride back to sleep in their labor camps in Brawley or Holtville.

In 1971, Pat Nixon, wife of Republican President Richard Nixon, inaugurated Border Field State Park. The day she visited, she asked the Border Patrol to cut the barbed wire so she could greet the Mexicans who’d come to see her.  She told them, “I hope there won’t be a fence here too much longer.”

At the Parque de Amistad, or Friendship Park, in Playas de Tijuana, children and families write on stones the names of other family members they're separated from because of the border. (Photo: David Bacon)At the Parque de Amistad, or “Friendship Park,” in Playas de Tijuana, children and families write on stones the names of other family members they’re separated from because of the border. (Photo: David Bacon)

The wall itself at the Parque de Amistad has become a changing artwork. As the bars rust, they’ve been painted with graffiti that protests the brutal division.

Instead, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986. Although many people remember the law for its amnesty for undocumented immigrants, IRCA also began the process of dumping huge resources into border enforcement. A real fence was built in the early 1990s, made of metal sheets taken from decommissioned aircraft carrier landing platforms. The sheets had holes, so someone could peek through. But for the first time, people coming from each side could no longer physically mix together or hug each other.

That old wall still exists on the Mexican side in Tijuana and elsewhere on the border. But Operation Gatekeeper, the Clinton administration border enforcement program, sought to push border crossers out of urban areas like San Ysidro, into remote desert regions where crossing was much more difficult and dangerous. To do that, the government had contractors build a series of walls that were harder to cross.

On Monument Mesa, the aircraft landing strips were replaced in 2007 by the 18-foot wall of vertical metal columns. Two years later, a second wall was built on the US side behind the first. The area between them became a security zone where the Border Patrol restricts access to the wall itself to just four hours on Saturday and Sunday. The metal columns were extended into the Pacific surf.

A man looks through the bars of the border wall into the US. (Photo: David Bacon)A man looks through the bars of the border wall into the US. (Photo: David Bacon)

In Playas, though, the wall is just a sight to see for the hundreds of people who come out to the beach on the weekend. The seafood restaurants are jammed, and sunbathers set up their umbrellas on the sand. Occasionally, a curious visitor will walk up and look through the bars into the US, or have a boyfriend or girlfriend take a picture next to the wall, uploading it to Facebook or Instagram for their friends.

The wall itself at the Parque de Amistad has become a changing artwork. As the bars rust, they’ve been painted with graffiti that protests the brutal division.

One section has the names of US military veterans who’ve been deported to Mexico, with the dates of their service and death. A deported veterans group comes down on occasional Sundays, with some in uniform. In angry voices, they ask why fighting the US’ wars didn’t keep them from being pushed onto the Mexican side of the wall.

On the Mexican side of the border wall, veterans of US military service who have been deported gather to protest and to remember those who died. Their names are written on the bars. (Photo: David Bacon)On the Mexican side of the border wall, veterans of US military service who have been deported gather to protest and to remember those who died. Their names are written on the bars. (Photo: David Bacon)

 

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Three Comforting Myths About the Declaration of Independence

NOVANEWS

By Ibram X. Kendi

Declaration of IndependenceThe writers of the Declaration of Independence wanted freedom from British oppressors — and the freedom to enslave and oppress. (Image: Pixabay)

“We, the people” seem to enjoy sleeping on our comfortable bed of myths about the United States’ “founding fathers,” documents and creeds. Every 4th of July, we seem to remake this bed of mythology.

It is a bed that comforts our belief in American exceptionalism. It is bed that comforts our belief that the United States is the leader of the free world. It is a bed that comforts our belief that US ideals are inherently good. It is a bed that comforts our belief that the founders of the United States were great men who did great things for us, like creating this great country.

“We, the people” seem to avoid the hard floor of truth. And too often, our historians and memories are hindered by duty, blinded by patriotism and restrained by ideology in splashing water on us, in soiling our bed of mythology, in forcing us to wake up to the complex and sometimes awful truth of the American foundation.

Then again, more and more historians in recent years have forced our memories to wake up from the bed of mythology, especially to the complicated truth of Thomas Jefferson. But as awake as we seem to be about Jefferson’s ugly affairs as a slavemaster — and similar ugly affairs by other “founding fathers” — “we, the people” still seem to be commonly sleeping on the comforting bed regarding Jefferson’s greatest achievement and the most cherished of all the founding documents.

Here are three comforting myths about the Declaration of Independence.

1. The Declaration of Independence is the United States’ cornerstone of freedom.

Before countless sporting events today, Americans will stand more upright than usual. Their right hands will be spread wider than usual over their hearts. Americans will sing louder than usual to the heavens about their United States being “the land of the free.” Some Americans will visit “the charters of freedom” in the National Archives, and read about the “Declaration of Independence” being “the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.” In celebrating the Declaration, Americans are thought to be celebrating freedom, “the cornerstone” of their republic, as a columnist recently described it in a Wisconsin newspaper. Even the leaders of the Confederate states believed this myth long ago, which is why Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens announced on March 21, 1861, that they were building their “new government” on a different “corner-stone” — Black slavery. Freedom from slavery and oppression is considered the single American cornerstone, laid out best in the Declaration. As Louisianan Steve Casey recently affirmed this common belief, “the Declaration of Independence was a milestone in the battle for freedom for all people” against slavery and oppression.

From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, abolitionists incessantly referenced the Declaration to advocate their cause. But its widespread anti-slavery use does make the document anti-slavery. Its widespread freedom use does not make the document the cornerstone of US freedom.

The Declaration of Independence actually heralded the two opposing American cornerstones of freedom: (1) the acknowledged freedom from enslavement and oppression, and (2) the rarely acknowledged freedom to enslave and oppress. That was how Thomas Jefferson and his fellow slaveholding delegates could call “liberty” an “unalienable right” when they enslaved people. That was how these rich white men could chronicle all those “injuries and usurpations” they were suffering from the British, while not conveying that they were similarly injuring and usurping people on US soil who were not rich and white and male.

In fact, these rich white men derided “the merciless Indian Savages” in the Declaration, criminalized rebelling Africans as “insurrectionists” and silenced women. John Adams, who helped Jefferson draft the Declaration, had already sent a letter home to his wife, Abigail, to “laugh” at her strivings for women’s rights. White “children and Apprentices were disobedient” as a result of “our struggle,” Adams said the delegates had been told. “Indians slighted their guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters.”

These “founding fathers” wanted freedom from British enslavers and oppressors — and freedom to enslave and oppress. Indigenous people, African people, women and poor whites contested them from the start, desiring freedom from slavery and oppression. Freedom to enslave and oppress as opposed to freedom from enslavement and oppression — the United States has been ideologically built on these two opposing cornerstones of freedom in the Declaration. That is how both the oppressors and oppressed can complain for 240 years about the other taking away their freedoms.

2. Taxation without representation principally drove this class of wealthy white slaveholders and merchants to declare independence from England.

“‘Taxation without representation!’ was the battle cry in America’s 13 Colonies, which were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament.” Thus begins PBS’ History of America’s Independence Day,” one of online materials for its coverage of the Independence Day celebration known as “A Capitol Fourth.” The history continues, “As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell the early movement toward rebellion. Repeated attempts by the Colonists to resolve the crisis without military conflict proved fruitless.” The 13 colonies then went ahead and severed “ties with Great Britain.”

This popular historical account is as mythical as it is overly simplified. Something else was also decisive in causing the 56 “founding fathers” — who represented a different set of economic interests than most Americans — to declare independence from England. And these two other “injuries and usurpations” were briefly mentioned in the Declaration and have been briefly mentioned during Independence Day celebrations ever since.

In the first, the inability of wealthy slaveholders and merchants to buy and sell goods and services outside of the British Empire caused their businesses to suffer dearly and to be exploited dearly by British firms. That’s why the “founding fathers” chided the British king for “cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world” in the Declaration. That’s why the “founding fathers” rejoiced Scottish philosopher Adam Smith, who condemned England’s trade acts for constraining the “free” market in his bestseller in 1776, The Wealth of Nations. It is still an open question as to whether these rich delegates would have declared independence in 1776 if they could freely and safely trade outside of the British Empire.

It is also an open question if the pro-slavery delegates would have declared independence in 1776 if anti-slavery ideas and usurpations were not sailing from London; if tens of thousands of Africans were not running away from their plantations and setting up their own frontier communities; if runaways were not engaging in bloody insurrections using arms supplied by the British; if Indigenous soldiers were not fiercely defending their lives and lands. Historian Gerald Horne recently made a compelling case that the “founding fathers” declared independence and went to war as a conservative “counter-revolution” to preserve their slaveholding and landed rights from the British and put down the growing slave revolt in 1776. In this sense, the “founding fathers” went to war against the British, indigenous, and African rebels to “effect,” as the Declaration attests, “their safety & happiness.”

3. The statement “all men are created equal” was — and is — an anti-racist idea of human equality.

Americans commonly believe that the United States was “founded” on the “principle” of “equality” and that this founding principle is derived from the Declaration’s “all men are created equal.” As President Barack Obama proclaimed in his second inaugural address on January 21, 2013, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is that star that guides us still.” Republican evangelist and Obama critic Mark D. Tooley concurred in early June. “The Declaration of Independence and its historically revolutionary affirmation of human equality have uplifted and inspired hundreds of millions of people globally of all races and ethnicities.”

“Created” is commonly overlooked in the rush to “equal.” But “created” is the most revealing and historically grounded word in this iconic phrase. Thomas Jefferson wrote during the full-blown Enlightenment era debate on the creation of races, among towering intellectuals like Voltaire, David Hume, Lord Kames and Immanuel Kant. Some intellectuals leaned on Christian scripture and professed all racial groups are the same species with the same creation story, or monogenesis. Their heretic opponents argued polygenesis, or that racial groups are different species with different creation stories. Despite their conflict on creation, both monogenesists and polygenesists tended to affirm Kant’s racist declaration that “humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of whites.”

Americans are hardly taught this intellectual history, thus producing and reproducing the myth that the racial equality debate is a two-sided debate about creation; that the two strains of conflicting racial thought are the racist idea that “all men are created unequal” and the anti-racist idea that “all men are created equal.” In fact, these conflicting ideas have been at the base of two strains of racist thought. Then and now, the more well-known strain of racist thought — based on the creed “all men are created unequal” — segregated the races by nature and imagined a genetic racial hierarchy. The lesser-known strain of racist thought — based on the creed “all men are created equal” — equalizes the racial groups by nature and imagined a behavioral racial hierarchy. These “assimilationists” believed that non-whites have been “made … by time and circumstances … inferior to the whites,” as Thomas Jefferson penned in 1785. Trying to reverse this, these well-meaning assimilationists have spent their reformist lives — and the life of the United States — trying to “civilize” and “develop” the behaviors of non-whites.

Historian Stephen E. Ambrose classed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” as a “perfect sentence.” It is not. A perfectly egalitarian sentence would have ended: “all human groups are equal.” This is the creed of anti-racism. All human groups are biologically and behaviorally equal; they are all on the same level despite their physical and cultural differences. The founding fathers dismissed this creed, stirring from some abolitionists, as fanciful in 1776 — and it has been widely dismissed as nonsensical ever since. “All human groups are equal” had no chance of making it into the Declaration — and over the last 240 years, this anti-racist idea has rarely made it into the mainstream of racial thought.

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Nazi Tzipi Livni refuses police interview in relation to war crimes investigation

NOVANEWS

Nazi Tzipi Livni refuses police interview in relation to war crimes investigation; British Government provide last-minute immunity

Nazi Tzipi Livni

Scotland Yard’s War Crimes Unit transmitted a letter to the Nazi Embassy in London last week inviting Nazi Tzipi Livni to a police interview under caution in relation to her role in Nazi 2008-2009 Holocaust on the Gaza Strip (Operation ‘Cast Lead’). At the time of the offensive Nazi Livni was Minister for Foreign Affairs and a member of the Security Cabinet.

Nazi Livni is suspected of having committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. In 2009, a British judge issued a warrant for her arrest with regard to those suspected war crimes.

Nazi Livni is currently visiting the United Kingdom in a private capacity, to participate in a conference organised by an Zionist newspaper.

Nazi Livni chose not to be interviewed by the police. Despite media reports that Nazi Livni claims to be “proud” of her actions as a member of the Nazi regime, it is notable that she refused the opportunity to clarify her position with regard to the offences she is accused of having committed, to assist the police in their enquiries, and to respect the British legal system.

Instead, she chose to actively undermine due process and the rule of law, and to place herself above the law.

Media reports state that, upon receiving the invitation for interview, senior Nazi officials immediately contacted their British counterparts, in an attempt to classify Nazi Livi’s visit as a ‘Special Mission’ involving diplomatic contacts even though Nazi Livni holds no official position other than being a member of the Nazi Parliament in the main opposition party bloc. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office decision to recognise Nazi Livni’s visit as a Special Mission is a purported attempt to protect her from arrest and prosecution. The British Government needs to answer for this extraordinary interference with due process on the part of the police and DPP.

The granting of Special Mission immunity in this instance is unwarranted, and inappropriate. The Convention on Special Missions states that: ‘a “special mission” is a temporary mission, representing the State, which is sent by one State to another State with the consent of the latter for the purpose of /dealin/g with it on specific questions or of performing in relation to it a specific task.’

There is no evidence that Nazi Livni’s visit satisfied the requirements of the Convention on Special Missions. She is visiting the United Kingdom in her private capacity in order to attend a conference organised by a newspaper. It is reported that a meeting with Government officials has been scheduled only after Scotland Yard’s invitation to interview her, which can only have been a calculated interference in due process on the part of the police, organised solely to facilitate the granting of immunity during her visit here.

The inappropriate last minute grant of Special Mission immunity, and Nazi Livni’s refusal to cooperate with the police, directly undermines the rule of law. Regrettably, this appears to be part of a broader trend whereby Nazi officials suspected of committing war crimes are granted political cover, in order to shield them from investigation and accountability.

War crimes are amongst the most serious crimes known to the international community, and are universally condemned. Since the Nuremberg trials it has been recognised as a fundamental principle of international law that all those suspected of committing war crimes should be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted, irrespective of their political or military rank. By ratifying the Geneva Conventions of 1949 both the United Kingdom and the Nazi regime of I$raHell accepted the obligation to seek out and prosecute suspected war criminals, irrespective of the place of commission of the crime or the nationality of the perpetrator.

Respect for the rule of law demands that these investigations and prosecutions be conducted independently and impartially. If the rule of law is to have meaning, it must not be subject to arbitrary political interference. Nazi Livni should not be able to frustrate the criminal process by being granted exceptional immunity on the basis of either her former political office, or her political connections. It is clear that Nazi Livni has a case to answer. A warrant for her arrest was issued in the United Kingdom in 2009 but withdrawn when it became clear she was no longer in the jurisdiction.

This is not a political issue. It is a matter of justice, of respect for victims’ rights, and of the straightforward impartial application of the rule of law. The British Government should not undermine the rule of law through political interference. What message does this send to the world?

The United Kingdom must not become a safe haven where suspected war criminals can escape justice by means of political interference in the legal system. The British people should not allow their legal system to be abused in this manner. As representatives of the victims, our request is simple: apply the law in an independent and impartial manner.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights represents victims of war crimes and other violations of international law. Among other victim’s families they act on behalf of Abed Rabbu Ashour Ahmed Al-Ghefari who is a Palestinian policeman. His brother Na’im Ashour Al-Ghefari died with more than 60 other civilian police officers and trainees when the police compound in Gaza City was bombed by Nazi Holocaust planes on 27 December 2008 while  a graduation ceremony of police cadets was taking place.

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Okinawa Is Still Being Exploited by the US

NOVANEWS

By Cindy Beringer

A peace activist holds a sign that says "Get out! Marines" as vehicles pass Camp Schwab near Naga, Okinawa, Japan, May 30, 2016. (Photo: Adam Dean / The New York Times)A peace activist holds a sign that says “Get out! Marines” as vehicles pass Camp Schwab near Naga, Okinawa, Japan, May 30, 2016. (Photo: Adam Dean / The New York Times)

A crowd numbering in the tens of thousands gathered June 19 in a stadium on the small island of Okinawa in Japan to demand the removal of US military forces. The other demand of the rally was to end plans by the US and Japanese governments to move a major US Marine base from the crowded center of Okinawa to the pristine Northern coast.

On the same day as the Okinawa protest, similar demonstrations were planned in 41 of 47 prefectures in Japan, including a rally of 7,000 outside the parliament building in Tokyo.

The protest were in response to the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Okinawa woman, Rina Shimabukuro, whose body was found in a forest a month after she disappeared. Kenneth Shinzato, an ex-Marine who worked as a contractor for a private firm at a local Air Force base, has confessed to the crime.

Shinzato took the last name of the Okinawa woman he married and recently became a father. The couple personifies the type of relationship between US military personnel and locals that the Pentagon points to as positive.

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Okinawa is a tropical island only 70 miles long and seven miles wide at its widest point. Its natural beauty, autonomy and history have been marred by numerous US military bases that cover over 20 percent of Okinawa’s total land area and 40 percent of its arable land.

Okinawa was part of an independent Ryukyu kingdom until Japan took it over in 1879, and Okinawans have always felt treated as second-class citizens.

During the Second World War, the Battle of Okinawa was the only land battle to take place on Japanese territory. The Okinawan people were forced to care for injured Japanese soldiers while their homes and many lives were sacrificed, often at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Between 40,000 and 100,000 Okinawans were killed in the battle, many of whom the Japanese forced to commit suicide.

Then came the US occupation. The US-dictated terms of the peace treaty that ended the war barred Japan from having armed forces and stated that the US would maintain its own security forces in Japan. The surrendering Japanese conceded with the understanding that the vast majority of the bases would be on Okinawa.

Tiny Okinawa is home to 75 percent of US bases in Japan. In the 1950s, under the perceived threat from the former USSR, the US built 39 bases in Okinawa, displacing many landowners. Plans to give lump-sum payments for land drew massive protest rallies, and eventually a rental plan was established. Much of Okinawa-owned land was conceded at the end of a bayonet or bulldozer. To this day, not one piece of land has been returned to any landowner.

The Pentagon’s city-sized Kadena Air Base, called the “Keystone of the Pacific,” hosts the biggest combat wing in the US Air Force and has served as a launching pad for wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The base, like many others on the island, places military equipment and landing strips next to the tropical green of farmers’ fields.

In 1972, the US government “gave back” control of Okinawa to Japan, but other than switching from dollars to yen, the US still controls the island with a soft glove over a very heavy fist.

Throughout these years, there were constant and peaceful protests against the US occupation, the theft of land, pollution and environmental degradation caused by the bases, and crimes against Japanese citizens committed by military personnel and US civilians associated with the military.

Other recent incidents involving US soldiers in Okinawa include the rape and murder of a Japanese tourist by a Navy sailor and injuries to two Okinawans injured when a drunken sailor drove down the wrong side of the highway and crashed into oncoming cars.

The murder of Rina Shimabukuro invoked painful memories of the 1995 murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three American soldiers. It was because of massive protests around that crime that the US agreed to move operations from the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to another location.

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Futenma has been called the most dangerous air station in the world due to its location in a densely populated urban area. More than 3,000 people live in what should be a clear zone around the base.

After much wrangling, lawsuits and contractor shenanigans, the noisy, polluting base still hasn’t been moved. With the rise of real or imagined threats from China in the East China Sea, the decision was made to move the base to Camp Schwab in Henoko, a much less populated area in the Northern part of the island, where it would be best positioned to challenge China.

The move goes against the will of the majority of the Okinawan people. It would involve expanding the current base by doing construction on a delicate coral reef and sea grass beds inhabited by dugong, an endangered marine mammal beloved by the Okinawans and protected under Japanese and US law.

Okinawan’s anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, wants the Futenma Air Station to be moved off the island. In terms of military bases, of course, “moving” means rebuilding the base somewhere else. According to the terms of the ever-evolving agreement, the new base must be built before the other base can be closed and returned to civilian use–which, of course, might never happen.

The Japanese central government began work on the new base on October 29, 2015, despite the Okinawans’ strong opposition and political and legal action undertaken by the governor. Onaga has the constitutional right to reject the project under the country’s environmental laws, but that right is being ignored.

The work on the base has not gone smoothly because of large and occasionally violent protests–the violence always being unleashed by the state. On the day construction began, approximately 300 mostly elderly protesters laid down on the ground in front of the gate of Camp Schwab to prevent construction workers from entering. Police dragged away the elderly demonstrators.

Katsuhiro Yoshida, a 70-year-old Okinawan prefectural assembly member, said, “Don’t the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?…This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the US military before Okinawa was retuned to Japan.”

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For more than a year and a half, Okinawa demonstrators have maintained a 24-hour sit-in to try to block construction of the new base at Henoko by preventing government construction trucks from entering the gates. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes the police are able to remove them, often causing injuries in the process.

Peaceful rallies have been the Okinawans’ only weapons against the brutal US occupation as their homes have been stolen, their lands polluted and their citizens beset by crimes perpetrated by the occupiers.

A 2015 article about how the US war in Vietnam was carried out from Okinawa does much to explain the island residents’ complicated relationship with US forces. Okinawa was the largest launching pad for US soldiers going to Vietnam, and the islands and its people were major players in the war, not always willingly.

It was during the Vietnam War that Japan began to negotiate with the US for the return of Okinawa. Reversion in 1972 turned out to be a betrayal for the Okinawans and a great deal for the Americans.

Today, construction on two bases that were vital to the Vietnam War effort is being fought by the Okinawans who fear the US will once again make them complicit in further wars against their neighbors. In the Northern Training Area, where Okinawans helped US soldiers train for jungle warfare, the Okinawans are fighting the construction of new helipads that they feel threaten their safety.

Camp Schwab, the site of the continuous sit-in, was used during the Vietnam War as a secret storage site for nuclear warheads and Agent Orange, a chemical that sickened many US veterans and civilian workers, and left a toxic legacy for the Vietnamese people, while the US denied its existence.

At a recent ceremony commemorating the 71st anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, Governor Onaga called on the US and Japan to revise the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to grant to the Okinawan people the same democratic rights guaranteed to the citizens of both countries.

The rally on June 19 contained contradictory demands to remove all US forces from the island, while making plans to relocate a Marine Air Base. Later, demands were changed to include the removal of all Marines and the hope for a reduced US military footprint.

Today, Okinawans are fighting the expansion and building of US bases because they remember how they were used in the Vietnam War, and they fear being exploited in other US wars in the future. Like photographer Ishikawa Bunyo, the Okinawans believe that “Nothing has changed since the Vietnam War — Okinawa is still being used by the US.”

Posted in USA, JapanComments Off on Okinawa Is Still Being Exploited by the US

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