“Race”: a Political Weapon: Capitalism, “Scientific Racism” and Class Solidarity

NOVANEWS

by LUCIANA BOHNE

“The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.”

— US Census

According to a widely circulated statistic, the police kill a young black man every twenty-eight hours in America. Without doubt, the police have a problem with race. Moreover, the justice system appears to have a problem, too, as proven by the Grand Jury’s failed indictment of Darren Wilson in the killing this summer of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The failed indictment does not mean that Wilson is innocent; only that he will not be brought to trial. This is a terrible perversion of the path to justice. It suggests deliberate prevention of trial on the nearly 100% certainty that Wilson would be found guilty if tried. I am disturbed, however, by the well-intentioned flagellants among the white, non-racist community virtually calling for “America’s” white male blood, metaphorically speaking. I am disturbed because this is the wrong response to the judicial outrage in Ferguson. We should be calling for ruling-class blood, not dividing ourselves into blacks and whites. Isn’t this division a benefit that our divide-and-rule oppressors hardly deserve? Let us not play with the cards in their deck.

To begin with, is “America” racist? Real, existing Americans voted for a black candidate for president, one, moreover, who ticked off only the “African American” category on race in the US Census of 2010. In choosing the less privileged racial group than white, Obama adhered to the principle of “hypo descent,” which the US has traditionally used to determine the race of a child born of a mixed-race union. We have a black political class in the Congress; a black Supreme Court justice; two blacks have been secretary of state (one a woman). We have not one institution in which blacks don’t figure more or less prominently. Mixed marriages have been legal since 1967. In 2008, about 14% of all first marriages were mixed race; 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics, and 31% of Asians were interracially married.

Nonetheless, racism persists in the black communities, mainly among the poor. We know that black Americans suffer oppression and injustice at a rate far greater than that of any other group. According to the 2010 US Census, 38.2% of black children lived in poverty, the highest rate of any group. According to the Institute of Medicine in 2002, more than 4 million black Americans died prematurely between 1940 and 1999 because of health-care disparity and, at least in part, physicians’ prejudice. 26% of 34 million black Americans live below the poverty line. There seems to be something definitely racist about American institutions. Let us not even mention the appalling incarceration rates of black men. Thus, pointing to the white man in the street or in your bed as the culprit is a little myopic. Does he run the police, the courts, and the Pentagon? Racism is not an individual psychosis, specific to generic “white man.” Racism is the weapon of the powerful. They invented “race.” The psychotic history of that invention is inextricably tied to that of capitalism and imperialism.

The age of capital gave us “scientific racism.” This pseudo-science twins American racism to its European original. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, a naturalist, proposed, based on “observation,” that blacks slept more because their minds were empty. Indeed, the 18thcentury into which the US was born developed the discourse of race, mainly as a justification for colonial imperialism. Francois Bernier, French physician to Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, is considered the first thinker since classical Greece to have classified people by race. Aristotle, of course, classified as “barbarians” those races, which lived outside thepolis—the Greek city-state, organized around written laws. In 1684, Bernier published Nouvelle division de la terre par les différentes espèces ou races qui l’habitent (“New Division of the Earth according to Different Species or Races which Inhabit it”). The 18th century continued the discourse of “race,” as a scientific category. Botanist Carl Linnaeus color-coded people by races—red (H. sapiens americanus) , white (H. sapiens Europeans) , yellow (H. sapiens asiaticus), and black (H. Sapiens afer). According to Linnaeus, the European breed was the superior of the four.

The science expanded to become the propaganda for European and American imperialism. The alleged superiority of the European and the Euro-American was the result of no neutral science. As European imperialism took off in the 18th century and Euro-Americans “pacified” the native nations, science came up with all sorts of studies to prove that the looters of the world were on a “civilizing mission” to lift up the inferior races of the world from their obscurantist primitivism. Resistance was met with genocide in the Americas. Samuel J. Morton (1799-1851), American and Scottish educated physician and natural scientist, may well be the father of “scientific racism.” He founded the discipline of ethnography and advanced the theory of phrenology. According to Morton, size of brain mattered, whites possessing the largest cranium; blacks the smallest (or vice-versa if evidence contested). The abuses of the pseudo-science of “craniometry” was historically researched by paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man, just as the theory resurfaced in The Bell Curve, a racist apology for the Reagan administration’s attacks on the welfare state by blaming black poverty on poverty of black intellect.

In keeping with the politicized science of the day, the first American census (1790) categorized people by race, but the categories have changed twenty-four times since then. Today, the US Census defines race as a social construct and provides a dazzling array of choices and permutations, making the category practically null. You can be an African American of European descent with a Hawaian component and a Native American culture. Scientifically, of course race does not exist. Genes cannot identify race. The human Genome Project has proven that biologically we are a single human race (“species” would be more accurate). Go tell it on the mountain because pernicious elements in American society continue to use race as though there is more than one.

The truth is that racism is a powerful tool of social control and an arm of US expansionist propaganda. Racism is political. Superficially reforming existing institutions cannot eradicate it. It must be made clear who the promoters of racism are and for what purpose they promote it. Racism is the legacy of colonialism and slavery, but this does not explain why it persists so fundamentally in American institutions today. Unless one is prepared to call the US imperialist. Imperialism impoverishes people abroad by stealing their resources, under developing their industries, destroying their labor unions, their laws for environmental protection, and flooding their markets with goods they once made themselves. It impoverishes people at home. The wars for expansion cost, and the people pay.

Look at the US: has it not been third- worldized? Is it not, therefore, likely that at a certain point the people will rise up, go on strike, boycott, sabotage, interfere with profits? Very likely. But not if they are racially divided and racially afraid. Enter racism—the imperialist’s trump card. Let’s have two, three Fergusons. Let white racists hit and run. Let non-racists beat their breasts. Let the police put on a horror show. Let black separatism rise; they can be picked off like the Black Panthers were. Let’s have separatism by all means: white non-racists fighting racism on white turf; blacks on black turf. Separate but equal, ha-ha. Let there be race war so the class war can go on.

But we have an alternative: class solidarity in resistance.

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Stop Police Officers from Killing Our Children: Bring the Murderers to Justice

NOVANEWS


by JERALYNN BLUFORD

After the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, I couldn’t watch the news. I couldn’t bear to see Lesley McSpadden’s—Michael Brown’s mother’s—face. Her eyes were my eyes. I remember when I looked like that; when I felt like that.

My son, Alan Blueford, was shot by an Oakland police officer on May 6, 2012. He had just turned 18. Officer Miguel Masso and his partner had stopped Alan and two friends as they were walking down 90th St. The boys were racially profiled; the officers never arrested them, but they tossed one of Alan’s friends against a fence, twisting his arm behind his back; they threw the other friend onto the curb. Alan saw this abuse and knew he was not under arrest, so he ran. Officer Masso had on a lapel camera, but he turned it off and chased my Alan for about five city blocks, then took out his gun. Accounts diverge here: either Alan was shot once, stumbled into a driveway, and was shot twice more while lying on his back, or he stumbled into a gate, fell into the driveway and was then shot three times. Either way, the officer stood over him and shot him, center mass. According to multiple witnesses, Alan screamed “I didn’t do anything!” One of the bullets went through his armpit, proving his hands were up at the time. His last words were “Why did you shoot me?”

After Alan died, people said I was strong; they didn’t see how broken I really was. They didn’t see how I couldn’t eat, how I could barely stand. People had to hold me up because my knees would buckle. The only time I could even speak was when I spoke about my son. And I realized how important it was to speak, and to keep speaking.

Members of the community formed the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition to help us obtain the truth. We shut down the Oakland City Council to demand answers; we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland to seek justice for my boy. We later founded the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland, a place where people can come together to raise awareness about police brutality and heal as a community. It’s a lively, healthy environment where we share music, art, food and stories, and talk about how to take action. OnDecember 20th, Alan’s birthday, we have a canned food and toy drive to serve our community. We have also started the Alan Blueford Foundation where we will eventually offer scholarships, healthcare outreach, and support groups. Oakland is suffering, and we want to make a difference. We want to give our children hope. Everyone deserves hope.

That’s why we must use this moment, when the nation’s attention is focused on police violence, to make real changes. That’s why I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC December 9 and 10 with a group of mothers to share our stories—our sons’ stories—with legislators and the Department of Justice. Together, we will be loud and forceful. Together, we will tell our lawmakers that the system has to change, that we have to stop protecting these officers who are killing our children without cause.

I’ll never get my son back, but if I raise my voice along with the voices of other mothers who have experienced unbearable loss, perhaps we’ll be able to help save the lives of other mothers’ children, and bring our children’s murderers to justice.

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Why Not Jail for Corporate Criminals? : When Regulation Fails to Restrain Corporate Villainy

NOVANEWS

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Some corporate criminologists, like John Braithwaite, believe that the most effective way to attack corporate crime is with the regulatory pyramid model of enforcement — with compliance programs at the bottom of the pyramid, followed by regulation and then criminal prosecution at the top.

University of Maryland School of Law Professor Rena Steinzor has spent much of her career trying to make regulation work.

But now she sees the bottom of the pyramid crumbling.

And she has written a book arguing that the pyramid ought to be flipped on its head — and we

ought to focus on corporate criminal prosecution.

Get rid of deferred and non prosecution agreements.

Criminally charge corporations and their top executives.

The book is just out and it’s titled — Why Not Jail?: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction(Cambridge University Press, December 2014).

“The bottom of the pyramid is crumbling away,” Steinzor told Corporate Crime Reporter last week.

Why not reconstruct the regulatory bottom of the pyramid?

“I’ve been making that argument for more years than I can count,” Steinzor said. “I have shifted my focus because I don’t see reconstruction of the bottom happening anytime in the foreseeable future.”

What makes you think that reconstruction at the top is going to be any more fruitful?

“Criminal investigations scare people to death,” Steinzor said. “And when you are able to bring it home to managers who are responsible for creating these conditions, you will really make them pay attention and change the relentless cost cutting, the reward of speed no matter what hazards are encountered, the browbeating of employees to cut corners on safety.”

“I base a lot of this on my own personal experience. When I was in private practice, one of the main things we did was compliance audits. And anyone in private practice will tell you this is true. I was amused this morning to be reading an article by lawyers who represent food companies. And they were saying — tell the client about criminal prosecutions and they want you to come in immediately and check their compliance.”

“We used to write a memo every August — and this was at a time when there were many investigations of publicly owned utilities. And they would hire a team of lawyers and engineers to come in and straighten out their situations. And when we went in, we often found dangerous conditions. Any industry lawyer knows that nothing motivates compliance programs better than the possibility, however remote, of a criminal investigation.”

“It’s a class issue. If you are a white collar executive, the last thing you need is the FBI rolling into your driveway.”

Steinzor completed her book before Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney in West Virginia, announced the indictment of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Was Steinzor surprised by the indictment?

“I was not surprised,” Steinzor said. “We were delighted. He is a bad guy. But he is not an exception. He’s just the worst example along a continuum of this kind of behavior.”

“Blankenship is a good first case,” Steinzor said. “He was obsessively controlling of what went on in the Upper Big Branch mine. There were such fundamentally bad practices there. They allowed coal dust to accumulate. They did not monitor for methane. Their ventilation system was terrible. Parts of the mine were flooded at the time of the accident. All of these problems had come to the attention of the regulator. They had been cited for these incidents hundreds of times. Then this terrible explosion happened. Twenty nine people were killed in an explosion that moved two miles in all directions throughout the mine. There were grotesque outcomes. People were found blown to bits, impaled on walls and ceilings. It was just horrific for everyone who had to go in there afterwards. And the families were just waiting and watching as the U.S. Attorney climbed the corporate ladder. He made it very clear that is what he was doing.”

“The U.S. Attorney is a son of West Virginia coal country. And so is Blankenship.”

What was it about the Massey case that made the Blankenship indictment possible?

“The grit, determination and courage of the U.S. Attorney, Booth Goodwin,” Steinzor said. “I give him a lot of credit. He also has Steve Ruby working for him — and he is undoubtedly extremely hard working and relentless.”

“Blankenship himself is like a character out of a John Grisham novel. He’s kind of ludicrous. He has been such a loud mouth for so many years. He has pranced about the countryside, advertising himself as a boss who was ready to ignore everything but production. He was profiled in Rolling Stone under the headline — The Dark Lord of Coal Country. He made Goodwin’s job easier.“

“The families have been calling Goodwin’s office repeatedly over the past couple of years, urging him to indict Blankenship. There was a lot of popular support for this indictment.”

“The circumstances were ripe. The prosecutor had grit. And the defendant is a blowhard who has been mocking the value of miners’ lives for a long time. It was a perfect storm.”

The former environmental prosecutor David Uhlmann wrote an article for the New York Times in December 2011 titled – For 29 Dead Miners, No Justice. Uhlmann was upset at the time with a non prosecution agreement with Alpha Natural Resources. Could the U.S. Attorney have been justified in cutting that kind of deal if it meant cooperation from the company to get to Blankenship?

“I don’t think so,” Steinzor said. “He may have gained the cooperation of the company. Although, Blankenship was not working for Alpha. He retired with an $86 million golden parachute. I don’t necessarily see the two things as related. They might have given the Justice Department documents, but surely they would have had to do that anyway. Conceivably, some of the executives that Alpha hired were encouraged to turn on Blankenship. But I am hesitant to endorse this kind of non prosecution or deferred prosecution agreement in almost any context. It is eroding our perceptions of what is appropriate.”

“A deferred prosecution agreement says you are allowed to pay what essentially boils down to a civil penalty. And if you misbehave again, you can be charged criminally. That almost never happens – although the Justice Department now has become sufficiently embarrassed about how it almost never circles back to repeat violators that it is now starting to reinvestigate some of those settlements in the financial area.”

“Of course, it has come under heavy criticism for settlements such as HSBC, which was laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels. Your readers are certainly aware of all of those examples. But this is not a good practice. These deals have skyrocketed under Obama. And it should be ended. I would just point to the work of Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, and Ralph Nader, who have written extensively on this issue. And I agree with them.”

In death cases, Steinzor says she prefers that local and state prosecutors bring manslaughter charges.

“Manslaughter charges because I don’t believe executives go to work intending to kill other people,” Steinzor says. “Although there is a fine line between intending to kill someone and creating circumstances that are so dangerous that their deaths become inevitable.”

“But yes, I wish state and local prosecutors were far more active. At the Center for Progressive Reform, we have written a manual for state and local activists to advocate changes that would make workers safer. And one of the things we advocate is enhanced criminal authority for local prosecutors. Generally, the federal government cannot prosecute for people killing people. They did it in the BP case, using the Seaman’s Manslaughter Act. But it is unusual.”

“There is a tremendous mismatch of resources between the corporations and the prosecutors. Prosecutors have enormous legal power. It is political in the sense that local prosecutors are motivated by people’s outrage in response to this kind of episode. There is a lot in it for prosecutors to pursue. People are furious about all of this, especially bank wrongdoing, which is much better publicized than these other episodes.”

“Local and state prosecutors could get a lot of benefit by focusing on these cases.”

“The big cases we have been talking about — the Gulf Oil spill, Texas City, Massey Energy — these were investigated very thoroughly afterward,” Steinzor says. “There are hundreds of thousands of pages of reports, which I have spent a lot of time reading — they provide the evidence that I think a prosecutor would need. But I don’t know what the problem is. These reports set forth the evidence that you need, just like the Valukas report should get you started on a criminal investigation of General Motors.”

“There is an argument that says that it is counterproductive to do criminal investigations because you want to make everyone feel comfortable so they can share with you what the root causes were. The minute prosecutors come along, everybody clams up. Therefore, criminal prosecutions are counterproductive if you want to get the problem fixed. And this is a thread that runs throughout the literature and in the public debate.”

“For example, several members of the Chemical Safety Board have taken this position and I strongly disagree with it because I do not see any evidence that if you publish a detailed report on root causes that the corporations respond in any kind of responsible way — see for example, BP. What you end up with is sacrificing your opportunity to create an incentive to motivate people. But there is that argument. That and the argument — don’t mistreat white collar criminal defendants because then street crime defendants will be mistreated. Those are the two arguments made against criminal prosecution that are raised by people in the middle and to the left end of the spectrum.”

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Terror Games: Just Say No

NOVANEWS

by JOHN K. WHITE

People maiming and killing people for other people’s entertainment is not my idea of fun. I’ve never been high on the theatrics of war or blood sport, but the ultra-violent is everywhere now, on the nightly news, extreme sports, and our 3D big screens with action-toy tie-ins. One wonders how much cruelty we can stomach as we munch our popcorn and eat our twizzlers. Is this modern art meant to imitate life?

In A Clockwork Orange, we had the indiscriminate killing of Alex and his droogs, considered so brutal and susceptible to copycats that its director Stanley Kubrick had it banned in his native Britain. Imagine a producer today turning down box-office because of the possible social consequences. That would only spur them on to more.

But with films today we don’t just kill, we kill with new and improved video-game precision, as if commanding our own personal drone strike. Grunted Rambo knife thrusts, Arnie Uzi sprays, even Helen Mirren machinegun humour, fresh from her Best Actress accolades, are not enough now to shock a desensitized crowd.

I only just saw The Hunger Games at home on free TV, presumably timed to get everyone ready for the newly released third instalment. The gut-wrenching terror is worse, not so much for the gore which eventually comes, but because of the constantly implied violence from the outset. I had a knot in my stomach the whole time and had to tune out before the end. Tarantino bloodletting is emotional fluff by comparison.

If there’s an Academy Award for most original killing, I’m guessing the producers want it. Not that they need it, the sales are through the roof. More than $1.5 billion and counting. Is our culture losing? – Let me count the ways. I have to say I don’t understand why we watch. In this case, there is a better way to stop the madness. A strategy that works.

Harold Bloom noted about another unlikely warrior who struggles with a trusty sidekick to beat impossible odds: “The physical and mental torments suffered by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza had been central to Cervantes’s endless struggle to stay alive and free. … Don Quixote is a mirror held up not to nature, but to the reader. How can this bashed and mocked knight errant be, as he is, a universal paradigm?” He is if we live in a me-first, win-at-all-costs world.

Indeed, I saw myself in The Hunger Games. Not the brave Katniss who offers herself in “tribute” for her sister and then appears not to engage in the cruelty of killing others in their kill-or-be-killed “game.” Not her fellow combatant Peeta, who offers up the only rebellious thinking: “They don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me” line. He seems to be the only one who understands he will not live, but wants to go out on his own terms. Not the drunken mentor, who has seen the horror too many times. I could be that drunk, like so many others in the face of intolerable pain.

No, sadly I am the bourgeois audience, with all my fluff and frills, looking every bit as ghastly as a puffed-up King Louis or Marie Antoinette. I have it all and yet I do nothing. I’d like to think I’m not bourgeois, but the spectator is the only archetype I can truly identify with in this film. I applaud the choice of female protagonist – we don’t have near enough in our culture – but I can’t identify with her as a killer. I am best as spectator. I have held up a mirror and seen my own apathy.

There is one character missing though in this contrived and manipulating movie, essential to give us hope: the rebel. Katniss is not a rebel. We want to think she is, but she participates in the same killing as all the others. We are tricked into thinking she isn’t violent, when in her first kill she cuts down a branch to let a killer bee’s nest fall on her prey. A passive kill. Death at a distance. It isn’t a knife to the gut or a hatchet to the back – that we couldn’t approve – but the results are the same: a cruel killing and death.

It’s no good to say the killing is in self-defence. It’s not. Kill or be killed in a limited context is permissible to all but the most idealistic, but the “killers” here are prisoner children, some more mature than others with fully formed consciences. Odd that none of them object.

Indeed, the only authentic action is to object, to refuse to play. You will still die, but the game will end and there will be no more entertainment. More importantly, the annual cull will end (and hopefully the sequels!). Any victory means the death of 23 others. A refusal to play by all is the only way to real victory.

Sure, this is easy to say, not so easy to do. One can’t easily stop the machinery of Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain, or the Taliban’s brutal oppression of woman with a word. Though I would prefer the bravery of Sophie Scholl and Malala Yousafzai to the reluctant acquiescence of Katniss. These are the names that should roll off our tongues.

In his groundbreaking book The Evolution of Cooperation, Robert Axelrod asked “Under what conditions will cooperation emerge in a world of egoists without central authority?” – if you will, a mathematical version of a state of nature, as in William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Golding’s book works through this problem to varying degrees of success, although in his day there were no high-tech video-game sales to spur on the carnage. Nor was the violence seen as entertainment.

Axelrod goes on to show how non-zero-sum games instead of kill-or-be-killed zero-sum competition is a better way when contrary individual actions appear as enticing strategies. One such non-zero-sum game, The Prisoner’s Dilemma, was proposed in 1950 at the RAND Corporation to advise the U.S. government on nuclear defense policy, not least how to rewire and maintain the command structure of a computer network after a nuclear strike. Out of their work on systems of interaction came a concrete example of how cooperation can benefit those whose interests are interdependent – in particular, two thieves who are caught and whose punishments are intricately tied to how they cooperate while separated in police custody. The best result is not to betray the other. You win by not gaming.

Insurance and unions are also good examples of a non-zero-sum sharing, which limits the excessive (or minimal) occurrence to a few of its members to ensure that all receive in good times and in bad. Insurance minimizes individual loss and gain by pooling risk and is a forward-thinking idea to promote or secure balance in uncertain times, e.g., hurricane damage, decreased rainfall that reduces crop yield, market turmoil. Unions or groups protect the individual from excessive abuse. There are many examples from health care to unemployment insurance. That is, if the intent isn’t to purposefully pit citizen against citizen. Life is not a competition where the team with the greatest GNP wins.

Culling the flock appears in many dystopian stories, but if we were to examine our own world with the same lens, wouldn’t we see our own dystopia in how badly our poor are treated and how violent we have become? In Time After Time, a variation of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, the Jack the Ripper character gleefully says while watching a panorama of killing as he clicks through the channels of 1980s-era television, “I belong here completely and utterly. I’m home. Ninety years ago, I was a freak. Now, I’m an amateur.” Sadly, the morlocks are everywhere now.

Most of us are amateurs. We watch. We sit on the sidelines and root for one person to kill another. Of course, it is difficult to expect 24 people condemned to death to cooperate, but why not? That’s how revolutions begin. By taking up a common cause. Perhaps “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is too arcane, but refusing to be terrorized is not.

I read (sorry, I couldn’t watch more) that at the end, Katniss and Peeta try to circumvent the entertainment purpose of the game by conspiring to kill themselves, though by that point the damage is done. Had they cooperated at the beginning with all the others, they could all be victorious and the next generation could reap the rewards of their heroic actions. Not unlike all those who have died for a cause, early rebels and heroes of our own society.

It’s hard not to hear about “building a better place for our grandchildren” in a presidential speech these days, as if we can continually postpone our responsibility, our rebellion. The better place is now. Say no to the junk. Use less. Reduce. Enact a more permanent Buy Nothing Day – an internal General Strike against life as a game. These are the weapons of the rebel – saying no to those who terrorize, whether by fear or economic control.

It’s time we all took up the common cause and stopped being spectators. We do have a choice.

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Spaces of Hope: To thrive, Radical Movements Need Radical Spaces

NOVANEWS


by ARUN GUPTA

Standing outside the Ché Café, wedged in a hillside on the University of California San Diego campus, David Morales says “the radicals there terrified me” the first time he visited in 1987. Just 18 years old, he was bewildered by the political and music scene alien to his experience growing up in San Diego, a bastion of conservatism that’s a major port for the U.S. Navy and sandwiched between the massive Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to the north and the militarized border with Mexico to the south.

Morales quickly warmed to the “incredible mix of cultural expression from students and youth,” and fell in love with the Ché Café’s eclectic music shows that spanned reggae to punk rock. He met his future wife at the shed-like café, and years later he says “we buried our eldest son’s placenta in the eucalyptus grove” on the far reaches of the café grounds.

After graduating from UCSD in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, the 45-year-old Morales’ focus shifted to his family, and he would only “show up now and then to an event” at the space. Now he’s a fixture once more at the Ché Café along with other old-timers and a slew of youth because the UCSD administration is on the verge of booting out the collective that’s been running the café for 34 years.

Claiming there are safety concerns about the condition of the buildings, the administration is close to securing a five-day notice to vacate after months of maneuvering to squeeze both funding and student support. Café supporters dispute the claims, pointing out that in April the university’s own facility inspector concluded that that the space “is looking good in terms of safety” other than “one minor item [of concern]” next to the main building.

Monty Kroopkin, who matriculated to UCSD in 1970, is the in-house expert on the collective’s decades-long battles with the administration. He says the three-building facility was established in 1966 and originally known as the Coffee House Express, or C.H.E. for short. In 1979, after the administration tried to turn it into a faculty club, the students gained control and established the Ché Café—changing the meaning of the acronym to “Cheap Healthy Eats.”

Since then the collective has been fending off attempts by the administration to shutter the cafe UCSD officials have invoked health and safety issues repeatedly, going so far as to change the café’s locks in 2000 before supporters occupied it, forcing the administration to back down. That’s why Kroopkin, Morales and others are concerned about the looming eviction order but are not yet hitting the panic button.

The threat of closure has generated an influx of supporters. Ché Café recently delivered a petition with 14,000 signatures asking the administration to halt the eviction and negotiate a new lease. While the administration claims the facility is used by many outsiders (which is also true of the high-profile and independently operated La Jolla Playhouse that’s on campus), students occupied an academic hall on November 24 in support of the Ché Café and to oppose planned tuition increases of 28 percent over the next five years in the entire University of California system.

The Ché collective is growing as well as members meet regularly to formulate responses to the administration’s moves. When I popped by on a warm Sunday afternoon in mid-November they were discussing a university decree that they halt programming, the cultural lifeblood and business model of the café. Before the meeting a handful of us gathered outside as Morales’ youngest daughter and two friends race around the patio, past a stenciled painting of an AK-47 emblazoned with the slogan, “No Gods No Masters.”

To those who’ve found a home in the Ché Café, it represents radical possibilities. In 2003 Trevor Stutzman found in the Ché an all-age venue steeped in San Diego’s “rich music history.” He says at age 15 he was “exposed to a real alternative, a non-hierarchical worker collective. It affects you the rest of your life and how you see the world.”

While Stutzman attended college elsewhere, he’s been a regular at the café that is “a bridge between the community and university.” The others nod in agreement. Kroopkin adds that the café’s existence raises the question, “Is the university’s role to serve its ‘clientele’ or is it to serve the broader community?”

The one-story wood buildings are splashed with radical-history murals by painters like Victor Ochoa and Mario Torero whose works are also found in San Diego’s famed (and contested) Chicano Park. Morales guides me through the eucalyptus grove, where he’s “watched owls make love,” to the organic vegetable garden in back. There I meet Jeanine Webb, who is studying toward a doctorate in poetics at UCSD and has been a collective member for three months.

Webb laments, “There are so few radical spaces left on University of California campuses.” She argues the administration’s plan is to remove “student spaces that provide a place where free thought and culture can exist because they don’t support the neoliberal profit motive and have ‘uncontrollable’ aspects inherent to them.”

Kroopkin says over the years the university has been hostile to the Ché Café and the three other student-run cooperatives on campus: the General Store Co-op, Groundwork Books, and the Food Co-op. He explains that they are the only student-run and cooperatively organized entities at the university with their own revenue streams, bank accounts, payroll and insurance. “They are legally autonomous,” Kroopkin says. “Not even the UCSD student government is autonomous, unlike the UCLA or Berkeley bodies.”

That is the heart of the conflict, says Webb. Spaces like Ché Café don’t fit into the corporate university, which is why she says the administration wants to “sanitize” them. It’s hard to disagree. What’s happening in the University of California system and Ché Café is a microcosm of U.S. society.

Over time, as the market has extended its tendrils into all parts of daily life, radical spaces have disappeared in much of U.S. society. In the late 19th century agrarian grange halls and entire utopian communities were commonplace. Decades later labor temples, radical coffeehouses, theaters, publishers, bars and bookstores had their heyday along with socialist and communist halls and camps. Radical spaces remain in many college campuses as do union halls and cultural spaces but they are all under siege, save perhaps those hosted by progressive religious outfits.

Radical spaces in workplaces, public squares, churches, schools, and neighborhoods are breeding grounds for social movements of every stripe. Factories have been a primary site of struggle since the industrial era began. Karl Marx argued capitalists would be their own undoing: bringing workers together under one roof would enable them to realize their common interests as a working class and overthrown the capitalist system. While that prediction of solely a worker-led revolution seems unlikely to come to pass in an era when production has been outsourced through technology and fragmented around the globe, movements are unmoored without space to incubate, grow and survive.

Occupy Wall Street would not have existed without seizing common space in dozens of cities, enabling everyday life to be reimagined. After Occupy took root in the fall of 2011, I would stand on the steps overlooking Zuccotti Park, just a stone’s throw from the New York Stock Exchange, and watch as hundreds of people clumped in knots exchanged ideas, food, books, technology, art, media, medical care, counseling, clothing, shelter, emotions and more. Not one exchange was mediated by money, which was in sharp contrast to the fevered consumption all around in Manhattan. Different political and social forms were fermenting, especially ones where the market held far less sway than is normal in daily life. However, it never recovered once it lost those spaces no matter how much activists told themselves, “You can’t evict an idea.”

As powerful and widespread as the recent protests have been against the failure to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed Black teen Michael Brown, outbursts in the street can’t replace spaces where community and trust is built, leadership and organization developed, and vision and strategy debated and implemented.

The reason so many radical spaces have closed down is the same reason Ché Café is imperiled: money. Recently one of the most storied alternative spaces in the country, New York City’s Brecht Forum, shut down. A popular education institute and theater, the Brecht cited financial difficulties as the reason for packing it in after nearly 40 years, but some sources within the organization indicated there was a political decision to turn down substantial funding that could have saved it because it would have likely meant shifting its organizational form or vision.

An activist space in Brooklyn known as The Commons is filling some of that role by providing classes in left history and politics. Its funding model is based on the investing savvy of its politically minded owner who purchased the building years ago in a depressed area that has gentrified, like much of the city. There’s nothing wrong with politically minded philanthropy as the radical left needs all the help it can get.

Another space taking shape elsewhere in Brooklyn is aiming to be a comprehensive community resource while adapting to market realities. Ana Nogueira and McNair Scott are the principals behind the Mayday Community Space. I worked with the two for years at the New York City Indymedia Center, which got off to a roaring start in 2000 when a left-leaning hactivist donated a midtown office space to the group of media makers.

Noguiera is a former producer at Democracy Now! and half of the team that made the award-winning film about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Roadmap to Apartheid. She says her inspiration for Mayday comes from “one of my formative experiences as a teenager: seeing a show at the Wetlands Preserve and discovering a whole world of environmental activism.” During its 12-year run, Wetlands was located in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan and fused live concerts with environmental activism, but was steamrollered by gentrification in 2001.

Nogueira says she hopes Mayday Space “plays a similar role, drawing people to music shows and introducing them to movements,” while facilitating “affordable space for people to use in a city where rents are super high.”

To do that they’ve formed two separate entities: a for-profit bar, “where you come in, put down money, and get a drink,” and a separate nonprofit community space. The bar has investors who will receive a share of profits. Nogueira says up to 25 percent of the profits will go “to front-line activist groups who need quick infusions of cash.” She explains it’s meant for groups that don’t have the time to apply for grants. They’ve batted around ideas like helping fund a protest called on short notice or support needed after a nonviolent direct action.

“Our investors support this vision and mission of sustaining a community space in Bushwick and a rapid-response activist fund,” Nogueira says. The bar will also subsidize the community space. It got a test run this summer before the People’s Climate March after Avaaz and350.org paid Mayday’s landlord $20,000 for three months use of the space.

Nogeuira says, “It was amazing to see the place come to life. We couldn’t have picked a better inaugural event. People from across the city saw there was a space that could be a resource and it introduced us to the Bushwick community where we’re located. It introduced the space to movements we want to be connected to, and they got to see what the space could be. And it was a dry run on how to manage a dozen volunteers, create a safe space for everyone, and keep it open for 20 hours a day.”

They already have a well-known tenant in the form of Make The Road, an immigrant-focused workers center that has successfully agitated for workplace rights and against wage theft in many cases. Nogueira says, “Make The Road is going to host workshops on adult literacy, English classes, and citizenship education in the Mayday Space. We are going to complement that with Spanish classes, tenants’ rights workshops, and legal workshops such as workplace rights and know your rights workshops.”

The five-member Mayday collective is serious about serving the community, mainly comprised of low-income Puerto Rican and Mexican families. Tenants’ rights is one of the best tools to slow down the maelstrom of gentrification that’s been unleashed on Bushwick by the HBO show, Girls, which is set there. Nogeuira says local groups planning to do workshops in the space include Bushwick Copwatch and Families Against Police Violence. Other projects in the works include starting a rooftop farm with youth in the community and cooking classes

Nogueira says one important role the Mayday space will serve is nurturing movements and linkages they can’t yet envision. “We hope it will facilitate movement building across issues and be a neutral ground to meet where people can cross pollinate. We’ve seen that happen already through the climate organizing where people also ended up discussing police brutality, what’s happening in Ferguson, and NSA spying.”

That’s precisely the kind of role Ché Café has played through its history, says Monty Kroopkin. Its crowning achievement was serving as an organizing hub for the student campaign in the eighties that pressured the University of California to divest more than $3 billion of investments from companies doing business in South Africa. Nelson Mandela singled out the UC students’ role in helping topple apartheid when he visited Berkley, California, in 1990 after gaining freedom.

No one knows what the future holds for spaces like the Ché Café and Mayday, but their mere existence is a beacon of hope for movements and activists whether old or new.

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Kerry says any Iran strikes against IS ‘positive’

NOVANEWS
US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a press conference. — AFP/File

BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday welcomed any Iranian military action against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as “positive” after the Pentagon said Tehran had carried out air strikes against the group.

Kerry, hosting a meeting of an anti-IS coalition in Brussels, said international air strikes were finally stopping the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, but said it could take years to defeat them.

A top US military officer, General David Rodriquez, also warned that IS had set up training camps in eastern Libya, although he said they were not an immediate target as activity there was “very small”.

Kerry told the Brussels meeting of officials from 60 states in the coalition that a campaign of around 1,000 strikes had made a “significant “impact on the Sunni extremist IS group, which declared a caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq in June.

“Our commitment will most likely be measured in years,” he told the meeting at Nato headquarters, adding that the partners would “engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail”.

But, in a sign of the deepening complexity of the regional conflagration, Syria’s Iranian-backed President Bashar al-Assad criticised the Western and Arab air strikes for having no effect.

‘Understanding’ with Iran’

Kerry denied there was any military coordination with Iran after the Pentagon said that Iranian F-4 Phantom jets — acquired from the United States before the 1979 Islamic revolution — had deployed against IS fighters in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province.

He suggested, however, that there was an understanding between mainly Shia Iran and the US to tackle a common threat.

“If Iran is taking on (IS jihadists) in some particular place… and it has an impact, then it’s going to be net effect (that) is positive,” Kerry told a press conference after the meeting.

In Washington, US defence officials said the Iranian air raids were part of a pattern in which Iranian or American military advisers have carved out separate spheres in Iraq.

“There’s a tacit understanding we’re not going to operate in the same space. And they’re not targeting American forces,” a defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The coalition issued a statement saying that the militant group’s “advance across Syria and into Iraq is being halted,” and that Iraqi and Kurdish forces were reclaiming territory.

They also agreed to develop a “multifaceted” strategy to combat the IS group, including stopping the flow of foreign fighters, cutting finance and “delegitimisation” of its powerful, social media-driven brand.

Kerry is due Thursday to attend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s ministerial meeting in Basel, Switzerland, which will focus on international terrorism and the Ukraine crisis.

EU justice ministers will also meet separately in Brussels to discuss ways of improving the legal battle against jihadists.

Shifting alliances

The United States launched its first strikes against IS in Iraq in August.

In late September the strikes were extended to IS targets in Syria, involving the United States as well as a number of allies.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain are taking part in the air strikes in Syria. Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are participating in Iraq.

But Syria’s Assad — whose main backers are Tehran and Moscow — hit out at the Western powers that had until months ago been focused on his removal from power in a civil war that has killed around 200,000 people.

“You can’t end terrorism with aerial strikes. Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential,” he said in this week’s edition of French magazine Paris Match.

“That is why there haven’t been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient.”

The US has carried out the vast majority of the strikes against IS, which is estimated to number around 30,000 jihadists and is accused of atrocities including rape, crucifixion and the beheading of Western hostages.

The Syrian conflict has created a constantly shifting patchwork of regional alliances, the most unlikely being that of Washington and Tehran.

Iranian forces have been active on the ground in Iraq assisting Shiite militia and Baghdad government units, but this was the first time the United States had said the Iranian air force was taking part.

Tehran refused to confirm or deny the air strikes against IS.

“There has been no change to Iran’s policy to provide support and advice to Iraqi officials in the fight against (IS),” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.

Posted in Iran, USA0 Comments

The Biggest Scandal in America Is Its Controlled Press

NOVANEWS
Global Research
us-ukraine-media-control.si

How many Americans know that the current regime in Ukraine was installed in a very bloody February 2014 coup d’etat, that was planned in the U.S. White House, and overseen by an Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, and run by the CIA, and carried out for the White House by one of Ukraine’s two racist-fascist, or nazi, political parties, whose founder and leader still controls Ukraine though not officially, even these many months after his coup, and which nazi party has been up to their elbows since then in a genocidal policy to exterminate the people in the region of Ukraine that had voted approximately 90% for the man whom Obama and those nazis overthrew in February? (Click onto that link, and to the more-detailed evidence that’s linked to there, in order to see the ultimate documentations of this entire horrific history, because it is history now, even though the American public were never informed about it while it was news — while and when it was happening, which it still is.)

And how many Americans know that one of the two main suspects in the bringing-down of the Malaysian MH17 airliner over Ukraine on July 17th has been given veto-power over the report that is to be issued from the official ‘investigation’ of the black boxes and other evidence in the case?

The ongoing hiding of all of this from the American public is perhaps even more stunning to the present writer than is the bloody American policy (including Obama’s personal role in it) itself.

Virtually all of the ‘news’ editors and producers — the ‘news’ executives, in America’s press — know, and have known all along, that these things are the case, because they’ve been receiving many news-submissions on them, with full and entirely credible documentation each time, ever since February, and have not made any of these facts public; they’ve not published this reality, when it was news, though they are supposed to be news-organizations.

I know this because I am one of the many independent investigative journalists who has been reporting in detail on these matters, throughout this time-period, and whose reports have been submitted to virtually all U.S. ‘news’ media — mainstream and alternative news, liberal and conservative news, Republican and Democratic news. And, with the exception of only about a half-dozen obscure but admirably authentic news-sites on the Internet (which is just a small fraction of the “alternative news” sites), all of this solidly documented information (just click on the links and you’ll see it documented there) has been intentionally withheld, from the American public, by virtually the entirety of the U.S. ‘news’ media.

Was the rigid control over a nation’s press more rigid and more universal in the Soviet Union, or in Nazi Germany, than is the case in today’s United States? One should not simply assume that it was, or that it wasn’t, but instead recognize how extremely far from being a democracy today’s United States has, in fact, become. This is the most shocking realization of all, because it’s the most suppressed news of all — news about the news-suppression by the ‘news’-media.

Regarding that charge of news-suppression in America: among the ‘news’ media to which these news-reports have been regularly submitted and yet never published, have also been specialized ones, such as fair.orgmediamatters.org, and Foreign Policy magazine; and yet even they refuse to report these realities about U.S. foreign policy and its cover-ups, and about the controlled U.S. ‘news’ media — in neither specialized field (neither press-reviews, nor international policy) is it being reported. And, of course, it’s not broadcast in any U.S. national media. That’s how dire the condition of what used to be American democracy has now become.

The biggest news-story of all is thus the one that is, and that will inevitably be, the most suppressed news-story of all: the news-suppression itself. It extends from the major ‘news’-media to the alternative and even to the specialized ‘news’-media.

Edward Snowden, the former CIA and NSA employee and then contractor who went public about the U.S. Government’s violating the 4th Amendment and other U.S. Constitutional provisions regarding Americans’ right to privacy and so forth, addressed on October 20th, a class at Harvard Law School, and he spoke about the impossibility of democracy to exist if there is not informed consent from the public of what the Government is doing, and of what the authentic aims of the Government are in what it is doing and intends to do. He necessarily had to speak from an undisclosed location, because the U.S. Government wants to imprison him (if not worse). He raised the extremely serious question as to whether, and the extent to which, a government can lie to its public and still be a democracy.

That’s the question. How can the public have a government representing informed consent, if the ‘news’ media are constantly, and systematically, lying about the most important things, and covering up that government’s worst, most heinous, crimes? Yet, this is what Americans have today.

The United States is thus no longer a model for any country except for a dictatorship. How likely is it that America’s press will let the American public know this now-established fact?

Something’s wrong — and it’s not people such as Edward Snowden.

For yet another of the many examples of U.S. news-suppression, click here. This interview, 13 years after the news-event, was relegated to C-Span, not aired on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, or cable-news channels.

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Farrakhan To African-Americans: ‘Let’s Die For Something’

NOVANEWS
Louis Farrakhan

 

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told African-Americans that it’s time to die for a cause, while referencing Ferguson.

Farrakhan warned of retaliation two days before a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

“The young – they are God’s children and they are not going down being peaceful. Watch now, because once it starts, it’s on,” Farrakhan told a crowd at Morgan State University in Baltimore. “You may not want to fight, but you better get ready. Teach your baby how to throw the bottle if they can.”

The Nation of Islam leader stated that we are going to “tear this God damn country up.”

“We gonna die. Let’s die for something,” he told the audience. “See, now when my Muslim family here, Imams and my Christian family – in this book, there is a law for retaliation. The Bible says an eye, a tooth, a life. See now, as long as they kill us, and go to Wendy’s and have a burger and go to sleep, they gonna keep killing us. But when we die and they die, then soon we gonna sit down at a table and talk about – we tired. We want some of this earth. We tear this God damn country up.”

Farrakhan’s words came before last week’s violent protests where dozens of buildings and businesses were looted and burned in Ferguson following the grand jury decision. Hundreds of protesters were arrested around the country.

Wilson resigned from the Ferguson Police Department over the weekend. He served less than three years and did not receive a severance package.

Wilson wrote in his resignation letter that his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow.”

His lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, told The Associated Press that Wilson decided to step aside after police Chief Tom Jackson told him about the alleged threats on Saturday.

“The information we had was that there would be actions targeting the Ferguson (police) department or buildings in Ferguson related to the police department,” Bruntrager said. He said Wilson, who had worked for the department for less than three years, and the city were already discussing an exit strategy, acknowledging that Wilson staying on as an officer there would be impossible.

Many have criticized the authorities’ handling of the case, but Knowles said no leadership changes were in the works. Asked if he would resign, Jackson said flatly, “No.”

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said Wilson’s resignation was not a surprise.

“It was always believed that the police officer would do what was in his best interest, both personally and professionally,” Crump said. “We didn’t believe that he would be able to be effective for the Ferguson community nor the Ferguson Police Department because of the tragic circumstances that claimed the life of Michael Brown Jr.”

Wilson has spent his career as a police officer, first in neighboring Jennings, then in Ferguson. Bruntrager said it’s all he’s ever wanted to do.

“In terms of what it (the resignation) means, it means at this point he doesn’t have a paycheck,” Bruntrager said. “He has no income so he’ll have to make some decisions pretty quickly.”

Wilson fatally shot Brown in the middle of a Ferguson street after the two scuffled inside Wilson’s police SUV. Brown’s body was left for more than four hours as police investigated and angry onlookers gathered.

Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him. Wilson told the grand jury that he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting and a separate investigation of police department practices. It isn’t clear when those results will be announced.

The White House said President Barack Obama will hold meetings on the Ferguson situation Monday. A Cabinet meeting will focus on his administration’s review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to law enforcement agencies. Meetings with civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and others will focus on ways to build trust and strengthen communities.

After the grand jury’s decision was announced, 12 commercial buildings in Ferguson were destroyed by fire. There have been well over 100 arrests at St. Louis-area protests in that time.

Knowles said there hasn’t been a cost assessment of the damage in Ferguson yet, and he promised residents and businesses that the city will do all it can to seek financial help.

“We are committed to rebuilding our city,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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One week after Ferguson, the New York police officer who killed Eric Garner avoids indictment

NOVANEWS

Eric Garner

A grand jury in New York declined Wednesday to indict white police Officer Daniel Pantaleo on criminal charges in the chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes in July.

Observers across the country responded with outrage. Garner’s death had been clearly ruled a homicide by a city medical examiner in July, and chokeholds have been against New York Police Department policy since 1993.

+ The civil rights division of the Department of Justice is investigating the case.

+ Protesters are demonstrating across New York (and the country) in the wake of the grand jury decision.

+ Eric Garner’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — are so much more than a plea for air.

+ What Eric Garner’s death reveals about America, in 9 tweets.

+ Everyone needs to read New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s heartbreaking remarks on Garner and the NYPD.

+ Liberals and conservatives were divided over Ferguson, but they appear united behind Eric Garner.

+ America’s police killing problem is worse than you probably imagined, but the FBI doesn’t even keep track the right way.

CrimingWhileWhite brilliantly destroys American law enforcement’s racial double standard.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Hungary fuming after McCain calls PM Orban ‘neo-fascist dictator’

NOVANEWS
U.S. Senator John McCain (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)U.S. Senator John McCain (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)

Hungary’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the US envoy after US Senator John McCain called Prime Minister Viktor Orban a “neo-fascist dictator.” Washington is incensed with Orban for seeking closer ties with Russia.

The US charge d’affaires, Andre Goodfriend, will be asked for an explanation for McCain’s comments.

“The Hungarian government … rejects the words of Senator John McCain regarding the Hungarian prime minister and the relationship of Hungary and Russia,” Levente Magyar, state secretary at the ministry, told national news agency MTI, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile the country’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said: “Hungarian citizens … articulated a very clear opinion that everyone ought to respect,” referring to the victory of Orban’s center-right Fidesz party in parliamentary, European and local elections.

Appointing soap opera producer & Obama donor Amb to sends wrong message to Putin’s – floor remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NotivjdFjhA&feature=youtu.be …

McCain’s comments came in a highly charged speech at the US Senate on Tuesday, where he hit out at President Barack Obama’s appointment of Hollywood producer Colleen Bell as the new US ambassador to Budapest.

“I am not against political appointees… I understand how the game is played, but … [Hungary] … is on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator getting in bed with Vladimir Putin, and we’re going to send the producer of ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ as the ambassador,” he told the Senate, Reuters reported.

The US State Department however does not share Sen. McCain’s hawkish view.

“I think it’s no surprise that there are a number of views Senator McCain has espoused that we don’t share,” Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department told reporters. “As an Administration, I would put that in this category, of course.”

Harf went on to defend Washington’s choice in appointing a new ambassador to Hungary saying, “we believe she will be a very good ambassador, [and] are happy she’s been confirmed.”

Last month, AFP reported Orban as saying that Hungary’s relations with Russia have become“entangled in geopolitical and military and security policy issues.” The PM said that the US was retaliating for Budapest’s willingness to endorse the South Stream gas pipeline, as well as a deal that would see Russian firm Rosatom develop Hungary’s nuclear power.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (AFP Photo/Attila Kisennedek)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (AFP Photo/Attila Kisennedek)

Under a deal worth up to €10 billion, Rosatom will build a 2,000 megawatt addition to Hungary’s state-owned nuclear power plant, MVM Paksi Atomeromu. Russia is Hungary’s largest trade partner outside of the EU, with exports worth $3.4 billion in 2013. It is highly dependent on Russian energy.

“We don’t want to get close to anyone, and we don’t intend to move away from anybody. We are not pursuing a pro-Russian policy but a pro-Hungarian policy,” Orban said, adding that expansion of the nuclear plant was the “only possible means” to lower dependence on external energy resources.

Orban has been highly critical of US and EU sanctions imposed on Russia for what he says is Moscow’s“perceived role” in the conflict in Ukraine. Speaking in August, he said the measures are like “shooting oneself in the foot.”

“The sanctions policy pursued by the West, that is, ourselves, a necessary consequence of which, has been what the Russians are doing, causes more harm to us than to Russia,” Reuters quoted Orban as saying on the radio.

Posted in Europe, USA0 Comments

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