Archive | December 30th, 2019

Trump’s Judaism Order Has Nothing to Do With Fighting Anti-Semitism

The man who called neo-Nazis “very fine people” has no business defining anti-Semitism for the rest of us.

by: Sarah Gertler

Memorials outside the Tree of Life synagogue, Pittsburgh. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Memorials outside the Tree of Life synagogue, Pittsburgh. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Trump administration says it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. That’s the gist of a recent executive order that would treat campus calls to boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians as anti-Semitic discrimination on the basis of “national origin.”

Days after the order, the synagogue I most often attend here in Washington, D.C. became another of the hundreds in the U.S. to be vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Swastikas and the word “Jew” were found gouged into its historic doors.

This graffiti isn’t the symbol of the nonviolent boycott movement. It’s the symbol of the neo-Nazis Trump called “very fine people.”

Every mainstream headline I saw about Trump’s recent order seemed to accept that it was designed to combat anti-Semitism. You could almost forget that Trump himself is one of the single biggest dangers facing the Jewish community in this country today.

During his presidency, he’s called rooms full of Jewish people “brutal killers” while making excuses for Nazis after Charlottesville. His former chief strategist was the head of an alt-right website.

Trump has backed white supremacist conspiracies that migrant caravans are secretly funded by Jews, said Jews who vote for Democrats show “great disloyalty,” and — at his Hanukkah party, no less — gave the floor to a pastor who says that Jews are going to hell. Subtle.

And never mind that categorizing Jewishness as a “national origin” hearkens back to anti-Semitic trope that, wherever we go, we’re an “alien people.”

Under Trump, anti-Semitic hate crimes have skyrocketed to historic levels, and it’s affecting us all.

Every time I’m in a large Jewish gathering, I can’t help but think of the massacres in Pittsburgh and Poway and Jersey City. I find myself looking around the room, wondering: Will it happen here at high holiday services, or at this showing of Fiddler on the Roof with my friends?

The man whose presidency forces me to ask these questions is clearly not trying to protect me. So why did he pass this executive action?

The meat of this action is aimed at Israeli boycott movements on college campuses across the U.S. It threatens to withhold federal funding from schools where students organize events linked to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

As a Jewish activist, let me assure you: Boycotting Israel is not anti-Semitic.

It’s been pushed for years by Trump education official Kenneth L. Marcus, who equates boycotting Israel with Holocaust denial. It’s the support of far-right figures like Marcus the president is after. As Trump recently told the Israeli American Council, “You have to vote for me. You have no choice.”

As a Jewish activist, let me assure you: Boycotting Israel is not anti-Semitic.

Aside from the fact that many of those fighting for their colleges to divest from Israel are Jewish themselves, the BDS movement is one of the only available ways to protest the U.S.-backed brutalization of Palestinians that’s continued ceaselessly for decades. This is a human rights issue, no matter your religion.

Shutting down BDS allows Trump to support Israel’s far-right government in systematically abusing Palestinians, secure the support of some politically powerful pro-Israel voters, and convince the public it’s being done in the name of protecting Jews.

It’s not. When Jews and non-Jews alike speak up for human rights and are crushed into silence, no one is safer. When congresspeople who speak up against this are slandered as anti-Semitic, while our clearly anti-Semitic president is not, no one is safer.

As a Jew, I know Trump is not supporting the people who congregate in synagogues to sing, eat, pray, and live. He’s emboldening the ones gouging swastikas into the doors.

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Syrian War Report – December 17, 2019: Assad Sends Warning To US Forces In Syria

The US-led coalition is selling oil looted at oilfields in southern Deir Ezzor to Turkey, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with China’s Phoenix Television. Assad said that “the Turkish regime plays a direct part in selling the oil, previously with Jabhat al-Nusra, later with ISIS and today with the Americans.” The President said that there are no prospects for the US presence in the country and if US troops remain, they will face a popular resistance and “pay the price”.

By South Front 

…from SouthFront

The US-led coalition is selling oil looted at oilfields in southern Deir Ezzor to Turkey, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with China’s Phoenix Television. Assad said that “the Turkish regime plays a direct part in selling the oil, previously with Jabhat al-Nusra, later with ISIS and today with the Americans.” The President said that there are no prospects for the US presence in the country and if US troops remain, they will face a popular resistance and “pay the price”.

Despite Assad remarks, by now US forces had faced little difficulties with their presence in the oil-rich part of eastern Syria. No attacks on US troops by some local resistance or major security incidents of this kind took place during the last few months. However, this may change if the situation in the region escalates.

Over the past week, the Syrian Army has expanded its military presence in northeastern Syria, especially along the M4 highway. The only security incident between Syrian and US troops happened near the al-Qamishli airport, where a Syrian Army unit blocked a US military convoy and forced it to turn around. After this, the US military send reinforcements to the countryside of the city.

On December 15, Turkish President Recep Erdogan repeated his claims that Russia and the United States have not facilitated the complete withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces, from the agreed safe zone area. He claimed that there are still “terrorists” in Manbij and “Turkey is full of resolve on fighting against terrorism”. Mimicking Assad, Erdogan said that the “terrorists”, the term used in Turkey to describe Kurdish armed groups, sell oil to the Assad government.

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Russia and Syria Hold Joint Naval Exercises off Israeli Coast

Pravda: For the first time in history, the naval forces of Russia and Syria hold joint military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea with the aim of enhancing cooperation in the fight against terrorism

The maneuvers will be attended by 10 ships and more than 2,000 Russian and Syrian troops.


Russia helps Syria fight terrorists

Rear Admiral also noted that the exercises are aimed at developing cooperation between Russian and Syrian forces in the fight against international terrorism.

The exercises will involve Russian aircraft from the Khmeimim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia, missile boats of the Syrian Navy and mine defense warships.

Since 2015, the Russian military has been assisting the Syrian army in the fight against terrorist groups fighting to overthrow the government of Damascus.

As part of its anti-terrorism mission, Moscow deployed warships at the Syrian naval base of Tartus and fighters at the Khmeimim air base.

Due to Russian assistance, Damascus managed to regain almost all of the Syrian territories captured by militants in 2011.

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Britain Just Proved It’s People Are Just As Stupid As Our American Cousins

I am both angered and depressed in equal measure by the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister; perhaps the great source of my anger and disenchantment is the British media, especially the BBC. They have displayed such overwhelming bias and carried on a smear campaign against Corbyn and Labour that is unprecedented in British history. The article below does an excellent job of exposing just how biased and deceitful the British media has been.

By Ian Greenhalgh –

[Editor’s note: I am both angered and depressed in equal measure by the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister; perhaps the greatest source of my anger and disenchantment is the British media, especially the BBC. They have displayed such overwhelming bias and carried on a smear campaign against Corbyn and Labour that is unprecedented in British history. The article below does an excellent job of exposing just how biased and deceitful the British media has been. Ian]

Electoral Propaganda: The collective failure of the establishment media and how they peddled lies and smears

Electoral Propaganda: The collective failure of the establishment media and how they peddled lies and smears

This election has been characterised by the worst delivery of disinformation and deception by political parties and their activists and campaigners in history. The Tory propaganda machine excelled like no other. No other election has had military perfected systems of persuasion combined with new technologies to deliver a single message – that the political mainstream opposition was a danger to society at large. It bordered on evangelical extremism – like Cold War propaganda, it told us to beware ‘reds under beds.’

This sad episode was deceitful, manipulative and very obviously persuasive. But this was not just about billions of highly targeted social ads – the mainstream media were complicit. And they were led like children to the Pied Pipers tune. It was, by any stretch of the imagination, unedifying to witness and alarming to see just how many people were charmed by it all.

Over the next weeks, months and years – we will see an unravelling of the propaganda campaign where Boris Johnson’s Guarantee will simply not materialise. Fifty million more GP appointments year, 50,000 more NHS nurses, 20,000 more police officers and a huge educational boost will all end up falling short of and then excused through yet more disinformation. The mainstream media have a lot to answer for as they aided and abetted the most artful and duplicitous Prime Minister in generations to a position of power that will inflict a form of venomous politics, economic outcomes and power grabs never witnessed in Britain.

The power relations between elites, media and the masses in this election – an election defined by the media’s collective failure to deliver honest output is explained here by Callum Alexander Scott.

“Dog doesn’t eat dog,” wrote the award-winning journalist Nick Davies in his 2009 book ‘Flat Earth News’. He was referring to journalists scrutinising other journalists. It has “always been the rule in Fleet Street”, he explained, that “we dig wherever we like – but not in our own back garden”.

This rule was jettisoned back in October when veteran journalist Peter Oborne broke ranks (not for the first time) to criticise his colleagues’ conduct: “From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears”, he boldly proclaimed. As he explained to a visibly uncomfortable and defensive Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News, senior British journalists have allowed themselves to be “gamed, to be managed [and] to be manipulated” by their Downing Street sources to pass on “smears, lies [and] fake news” to the public. Their callousness is “debauching British political discourse”, he added.

A day earlier, in an article for openDemocracy, Oborne had outlined multiple examples of senior British journalists uncritically publishing information that their anonymous Downing Street sources had told them – all of which later turned out to be untrue. Journalists and their news organisations, he wrote, are operating as a “subsidiary part of the government machine […] turning their readers and viewers into dupes”.

Particularly brave was his naming of the negligent journalists and the organisations they worked for, including his own employer the Daily Mail (unsurprisingly, it was soon revealed that he would not renew his contract with the newspaper). For the first time in a while, dog had very publicly eaten dog.

For those unfamiliar with Oborne, he is not your typical media-bashing leftie. He has a long and distinguished career working as a political journalist at various conservative-leaning publications. Admired by colleagues, he’s been described as a freethinker and a maverick who “does not share any paper’s, editor’s or […] publisher’s agenda”, and he had previously resigned from the Daily Express and The Daily Telegraph on matters of principle.

In a more recent article for The Guardian, he described himself as someone who has “voted Conservative pretty well all my life”, yet in his three decades of political reporting has “never encountered a senior British politician who lies and fabricates so regularly, so shamelessly and so systematically” as Boris Johnson. The media, he said, have been letting Johnson get away with it (he has even compiled a dossier of the prime minister’s lies and distortions).

As interesting and important as Oborne’s intervention was, however, perhaps more interesting – and even more revealing – were the reactions of some of his fellow journalists. Those whom he named retreated into self-preservation, defending their failures rather than simply apologising for them and pledging to do better.

The hostility toward him was palpable. A key moment came when he was interviewed by journalist Amol Rajan on BBC Radio 2. Live on air, as Oborne named leading journalists who he said operated as mouthpieces for power, Rajan defensively interjected: “I think that’s out of order.” When the exchange intensified, Oborne accused Rajan of sucking up to power and engaging in “client” and “crony” journalism: “It’s time this system was exploded,” he emphatically declared.

The situation was reminiscent of an occasion back in 2018, when journalist and activist Owen Jones claimed that British journalism is afflicted by a “suffocating groupthink” and is “intolerant of critics”. His claim caused outrage among many of his colleagues, who, seemingly unaware that they were proving his point, collectively berated him via Twitter. “Never has a single tweet caused such consternation among the British commentariat”, wrote journalist Ian Sinclair.

Collective failure

This reluctance to accept criticism and admit what is obvious should, by now, have mortally damaged the already tarnished reputations of these journalists. In the final weeks of the election campaign yet more criticism emerged, as the press regulator IPSO ruled that the Mail on Sunday had falsely claimed that Labour was planning to scrap a tax exemption on homeowners.

In addition, few media outlets reported how a detailed study by a non-partisan group of advertising professionals found that 88% of the Conservative Party’s most widely promoted campaign ads were either misleading or lying. They also found hundreds of Lib Dem ads to be at fault. The number of Labour Party ads they found to be misleading or lying? Zero. How much of the electorate was actually made aware of this?

The 2019 general election is likely to go down in history as a textbook example of when a media system failed to uphold its democratic ideal. We already know from comprehensive academic research undertaken by Loughborough University that coverage of the Labour Party across the press was overwhelmingly negative. The Conservatives, on the other hand, received consistently positive coverage.

“the BBC, with its fabled commitment to accuracy and impartiality, was twice forced to apologise for painting Johnson in a positive light – it has enabled Johnson to get away with a “tsunami” of lies and has been “behaving in a way that favours the Tories”

Of course, this was to be expected from a majority right-wing press owned by billionaires. But even broadcast media, which is obligated by law to be impartial during elections, fell short of its standards, as research by academic Justin Schlosberg has shown. Moreover, the BBC, with its fabled commitment to accuracy and impartiality, was twice forced to apologise for painting Johnson in a positive light – it has enabled Johnson to get away with a “tsunami” of lies and has been “behaving in a way that favours the Tories”, wrote Oborne.

And what was the BBC’s response to the criticism? In an article for The Guardian, the corporation’s director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth, simply denied that there were any problems with its reporting. She brushed the criticism off as just a “couple of editorial mistakes” and condescendingly described accusations of bias as “conspiracy theory”.

As the academic Tom Mills, author of ‘The BBC: Myth of a Public Service’ (2016), pointed out, this kind of failure to engage meaningfully with its critics may well lead to the BBC’s downfall. Of course, in some sense, one can understand why BBC staff and senior journalists refuse to accept criticism: their jobs depend upon their perceived legitimacy as reliable news sources. As the US muckraker Upton Sinclair observed: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” The problem, however, is that these senior BBC staff and journalists simply won’t have a salary to depend on if they continue down the path they’re on. Their sense of self-importance – that they are the only legitimate arbiters of information for the public – is repugnant to citizens across the political spectrum.

Reinforcing the point, Oborne alleged that senior BBC executives told him they believed it was wrong for them “to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics”. The BBC denied this accusation, but if true, the arrogance of those executives’ belief that it’s within their right to withhold such information from the electorate is contemptible – and anti-democratic.

Loss of trust

British politics has been haemorrhaging trust for decades, and, by now, levels are well known to be flatlining. A big reason for this is the consistent failure of journalists to distance themselves from the political classes and serve their democratic purpose of holding them to account. Oborne has documented this. In the 1990s and 2000s, the capitulation of journalists to New Labour’s unprecedented use of information managementPR and spin did wonders to elasticise the truth and encourage the revolving door between media and politics. In many ways, this led to the media’s subsequent failures in the build-up to the Iraq war, its failure to provide sufficient knowledge and understanding of the 2008 financial crash, and its failure to show that austerity was a political choice, not an economic necessity.

Indeed, British political journalism has a lot to answer for. Many of the journalists who presided over the failures of the past decades are still working as gatekeepers and opinion leaders today, and their reluctance to admit to their mistakes and encourage reform of their organisations and practices has left them and the rest of us stewing in their mess. According to last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, when 33,000 people across 28 countries were asked which institutions they trusted to do the right thing, “the media in general” came out as the least trusted in 22 countries (yes, the UK was one of them).

This is partly why so many people have turned to new and alternative media, which, in their infancy, are untainted by the distrust that lingers around legacy outlets. The new generation of journalists working these media have injected a fresh burst of energy and plurality into what had become a stagnant and parochial environment. The failure of legacy organisations to adapt and reform will continue to push people into their hands. But on the flip side, it will also continue to push people into the hands of individual politicians and their parties who can, in turn, push unmediated, unchecked and unregulated information back to them via digital platforms. That will embolden deceitful politicians and parties to lie and misinform. We had a taste of this during the election campaign when the Conservative Party absurdly changed its twitter account to factcheckUK.

In many ways, journalists have now become their own worst enemies: their refusal to accept their failures will almost certainly continue to erode what little is left of their already tarnished reputations and public trust levels

One of the tragedies of this election result is that many senior journalists who always despised Corbyn and the policies he stood for will now attempt to use it as a tool to berate him with, beat back criticism with and vindicate themselves. Together with those centrist and right-wing politicians and commentators, they will say that Corbyn and his supporters are to blame, that they should ‘own their defeat’, and that they should, furthermore, stop blaming the media and journalists. While it’s certainly true that the Labour Party and its activists have some long, hard self-reflecting to do (particularly over the cultural issue of Brexit), that the British media and its senior journalists have nothing to do with the outcome of this election is bollocks.

In many ways, journalists have now become their own worst enemies: their refusal to accept their failures will almost certainly continue to erode what little is left of their already tarnished reputations and public trust levels. Moreover, for all the good they do serve, there is no avoiding the perception amongst much of the public that the media and politicians are ‘all the same’, because, to a large extent, this is correct.

Will Davies has recently commented recently on the ‘Berlusconification’ of British politics, where the once separate domains of politics and media have become indistinguishable: Johnson and Michael Gove are both former journalists, George Osborne now heads the Evening Standard, and so on. The failure of journalists to keep these domains separate goes a long way to explaining the current crisis of legitimacy befalling the media, and the result of this election. Journalists and politicians who ignore this are placing us all in deeper jeopardy as the principle of an independent ‘Fourth Estate’ falls further from sight. Given the scarcity of truth during this general election, one thing can be known for certain: the British media is in desperate need of radical democratic reforms.


Here are a selection of BBC lies and manipulations as pointed out by a vigilant fellow on Twitter:

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Why is ‘Israel’ preventing me from accompanying my mother to chemotherapy?

Israel is punishing human rights defenders for exposing its violations by restricting our movement under the pretense of ‘security.’

By Laith Abu Zeyad 

Laith Abu Zeyad and his mother, Zubayda Khatib, in Jerusalem on March 11, 2018.

Laith Abu Zeyad and his mother, Zubayda Khatib, in Jerusalem on March 11, 2018.

On Sept. 5, I received the tragic news that my mother was diagnosed with cancer. As well as trying to cope with the shock and the unrelenting challenges of life-or-death uncertainty, as a Palestinian living in the West Bank, I also had to worry about something else: Israel’s occupation and its brutal control of all aspects of our daily lives.

When I learned about my mother’s illness, I applied for a travel permit from the Israeli military to accompany my mother to medical appointments at the hospital in East Jerusalem, where she was to receive chemotherapy treatment. For decades, Israel has imposed a permit system restricting all movement for Palestinians, who are required to apply for special authorization to enter Israel and occupied East Jerusalem for any reason, including work, medical care, family visits, and trips to religious, cultural, and archaeological sites.

As in so many cases involving younger Palestinians, particularly men, Israeli authorities denied my permit request for undisclosed “security reasons.” This means that twice a month, when my mom goes to receive her chemotherapy at the hospital — only a 15-minute drive from our home — I am forbidden from accompanying her. I must stay put, in the living room, and wait for updates about how she’s doing over the phone.

Israel’s punishment didn’t stop there. On Oct. 26, when I was heading to Jordan to attend my aunt’s funeral, Israel prevented me from traveling abroad, again for “security reasons.”

Israel’s occupation manages to separate us from our loved ones in life and death, in the most hideous and punitive ways. Now, I can no longer leave the occupied West Bank at all. In the simplest and most definitive terms: I am locked in.

The “security reasons” for which I have been banned have never been revealed to me. What has become increasingly clear, however, is that Israeli authorities are targeting human rights advocates with “security” bans for the role we play in exposing Israeli human rights violations.

When I began working for Amnesty International as the Israel and Palestine campaigner in 2017, I was granted a permit so I could travel to our office in East Jerusalem. But earlier this year, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed his ministry to “examine the possibility of preventing the entry and stay of Amnesty International in Israel.” He made this decision following the release of our report exposing how tourism companies such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb are profiting from Israeli settlements.

The irony is salient, as throughout 2019, I’ve been campaigning on cases of human rights defenders who were either arrested, banned from traveling, or kicked out of the country. In September 2018, Israel arrested Ayman Nasser, the legal unit coordinator of Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, and he is still being held without charge or trial. Prominent Bedouin leader Sheikh Sayyah al-Turi was detained in December 2018 and released last August for his role in the fight for the residents of al-‘Araqib to remain on the lands of their village, which the Israeli authorities have demolished over 150 times.

Earlier this year, Israel prevented Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, from traveling abroad to attend his daughter’s wedding, when Israeli authorities refused to renew his travel document. Palestinian photojournalist Mustafa al-Kharouf continues to face threats of deportation, after having his application for family unification rejected by Israeli authorities.

Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir parts with friends and supporters at Ben-Gurion Airport ahead of his deportation from Israel, November 25, 2019 (Oren Ziv/

Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir parts with friends and supporters at Ben-Gurion Airport ahead of his deportation from Israel, November 25, 2019 (Oren Ziv/

These silencing attempts are not limited only to Palestinian human rights advocates. Last month, Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, who is a U.S. citizen, was deported for his role in highlighting Israel’s human rights violations.

These cases provide concrete proof of Israel’s intensifying war on human rights defenders and civil society organizations. As I campaign for the rights of these brave advocates, I now find myself in the same shackles.

The growing list of human rights defenders who are detained, attacked, denied entry, or facing deportation or travel bans illustrates the heavy price they are forced to pay for carrying out their vital work of protecting and promoting basic rights and freedoms. This list is neither comprehensive nor static. Trends in Israeli policies and practices indicate that the list is likely to continue to grow.

Human rights defenders today are unable to carry out their peaceful work without fear of reprisal by Israel. Activists who dare to challenge Israel’s appalling human rights record are operating in a worsening climate of fear, uncertainty, incitement, and repression.

Third states, particularly those that include human rights protection as part of their foreign policy, such as EU member states, have occasionally condemned such arbitrary measures, but have not taken concrete action. Israeli officials interpret this inaction as a green light to continue intensifying the repression of human rights defenders. Now is the time that they stand up for these rights defenders and make it clear that Israel’s attacks against civil society will not be tolerated.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Why is ‘Israel’ preventing me from accompanying my mother to chemotherapy?

Climate Change Accounting: The Failure of COP25


Prior to the UN Convention on Climate Change talks held in Madrid, the sense that tradition would assert itself was hard to buck. Weariness and frustration came in the wake of initial high minded optimism. Delegates spent an extra two days and nights attempting to reach a deal covering carbon reduction measures before the Glasgow conference in 2020. The gathering became the longest set of climate talks in history, exceeding the time spent at the 2011 Durban meeting by 44 hours.

As Climate Home News noted, Durban still stood out as being worthier for having “produced a deal between countries that laid the foundations for the Paris Agreement.” In stark contrast, “Madrid produced a weak gesture toward raising climate targets and failed to agree for the second year in a row on rules to govern carbon markets.”

The UN Secretary General António Guterres was all lament. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaption and finance to tackle the climate crisis.” He hoped that the next year would see “all countries commit to do what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and no more than 1.5 degree temperature rise.”

The wisdom of COP25 remains similar to that of previous gatherings on climate: politics and environment do not mix well. Big powers and heavy polluters stuck to their stubborn positions, stressing the merits of loose, open markets to solve the problem, notably in terms of reducing carbon emissions; smaller states more concerned by their actual disappearance lobbied European, Latin American and African allies for firmer commitments and pledges.

Australia was also confirmed as one of the chief spoilers, if not outright saboteurs, at the show, noted for its insistence that it be allowed to claim a reduction of its abatement for the 2021-30 Paris Accord. This, went the argument, was due to its own excelling in meeting the 2012-20 Kyoto Protocol period. Previous good conduct could justify current bad and future behaviour. What Canberra offered the globe was an accounting model of deception, exploiting a regulatory loophole in place of lowering emissions. It lacked legal plausibility, given that both Kyoto and Paris are separate treaties.

Former French environment minister Luciana Tubiana was clear about the implications of this idea. “If you want this carryover,” she told the Financial Times, “it is just cheating. Australia was willing in a way to destroy the whole system, because that is the way to destroy the whole Paris agreement.”

Other states were also noted in performing roles of obstruction, including Saudi Arabia, Brazil and the United States. These parties were particular keen to push their differences with other states over Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, a provision dealing with mechanisms and models of trading in emission reductions. Such trade can have a habit of losing validity when put into practice; the issue of transparency remains a considerable problem in such markets.

The US statement at the conference emphasised realism and pragmatism “backed by a record of real world results.” (Real world results tend to exclude environmental ruination for unrepentant polluters.) Market results were primary; environmental matters were subordinate to such dictates. Usual mantras were proffered: innovation and open markets produced wealth, but also “fewer emissions, and mores secure sources of energy.” Despite leaving as a party to the Paris Agreement, “We remain fully committed to working with you, our global partners, to enhance resilience, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.”

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro reconfirmed his climate change scepticism, claiming that the entire issue of COP25 could be put down to commerce. “I don’t know why people don’t understand that it’s just a commercial game.” The Europeans, he suggested, were merely being irksome about cash and meddling. “I’d like to know,” he posed rhetorically to journalists, “has there been a resolution for Europe to be reforested, or are they just going to keep bothering Brazil?”

Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles, known to some as Minister for Deforestation, was similarly keen to place the blame elsewhere. He had demanded, bowl in hand, some $10 billion under the Paris Climate deal to combat deforestation in 2020. All in all, he was not optimistic. “Rich countries did not want to pay up.”

Like Australia, Brazil’s environmental ploy is driven by creative accounting, an attempt to leverage previous supposed good conduct in the climate change stakes, playing accumulated carbon credits from Kyoto to meet those under the Paris arrangements. Using open market rationales, Salles condemned the “protectionist vision” that had taken hold: “Brazil and other countries that could provide carbon credits because of their forests and good environmental practices came out losers.” In an act of some spite, the minister would subsequently post a tweet featuring a photo of a platter heavy with meats. “To compensate for our emissions at COP, a vegetarian lunch!”

Madrid will be remembered for its stalemate on carbon credits and the botched rule book on carbon trading. An effort spearheaded by Costa Rica, including Germany, Britain and New Zealand, to convince states to adopt the San Jose principles, with a prohibition on the use of carbon credit carryover along with other Kyoto gains, was rejected.

COP25 again exposed that degree of prevalent anarchy, if not gangsterism, in global climate change policy. The emphasis, then, is on attempts and arrangements made within regional areas: EU policy on de-carbonised economies (albeit resisted within by such states as Poland), and bilateral arrangements (the EU and China). As these take place, the apocalyptic message led by activists such as Greta Thunberg will become more desperate.

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The Case for a Universal Basic Income


Photograph Source: Generation Grundeinkommen – CC BY 2.0

In a British election campaign overshadowed by Brexit, one important Labour initiative attracted little or no attention. Buried on page 60 of the party’s manifesto was a pledge to introduce a pilot scheme to explore Universal Basic Income (UBI), commonly defined as an unconditional cash transfer to all members of a political community, as a matter of right, without means-tests or work requirements. Giving few details, the manifesto described the program as an innovative way of responding to low pay and job insecurity. It marks the first time a major UK party expressed interest in UBI—though the commitment was echoed by the Green Party, which promised to implement the policy for all residents of the country by 2025.

In May, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell revealed that the Party was considering trial programs in Liverpool and Sheffield, both of which had lobbied for support. But with Labour’s recent election defeat, UBI’s UK prospects limp on only in Scotland, where local parties have been exploring pilot programs in Fife, North Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow City since 2017. Their steering group will report to Scottish Government Ministers on their plan in March 2020.

Unsurprisingly, UBI has attracted hysterical denunciations from the establishment press, replete with confident pronouncements that any such program would prove ruinously expensive and discourage people from working. A Daily Telegraph columnist asserted that poorer beneficiaries might spend “their time getting drunk, watching pornography or taking drugs”. The Financial Times claimed that “rewarding people for staying at home, is what lies behind social decay”.

These lurid fantasies are decisively refuted by empirical evidence from the array of conditional cash transfer programs that have surged worldwide since the 2000s. The success of these programs demonstrates that, as opposed to in-kind transfers or oil and grain subsidies, “just giving money to the poor” has a positive impact on poverty and human capital outcomes. A 2019 World Bank report, “The Changing Nature of Work” concluded that “the available evidence confirms that both a UBI and other forms of social assistance have a limited impact on work incentives”. The Bank released a full book on navigating UBI only this week. There have been 22 UBI-like pilot programs across the world, and more are planned.

The closest model to a sustained UBI program is the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend, a royalty payment program derived from the state-owned and managed Alaska Permanent Fund. The Fund is an investment of oil and gas royalties established by Republican Governor Jay Hammond in 1976 and paid for by mineral companies. Dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund—now worth $65 billion—are distributed to nearly all Alaskan citizens and range from about $1000 to $2000 per year. Strikingly, Alaska had the highest poverty and inequality rates of all US states when the fund was established. Twenty years later, they were the lowest.

The Green Party’s manifesto was more specific about its UBI plans than Labour’s. In the Green vision for UBI, transfers would have been set to ensure that beneficiaries met their subsistence needs. Each adult in the UK would have received £89 per week and each pensioner £178 per week. Lone pensioners, lone parents as well as disabled people would have earned a supplemental payment. The cost of the Green Party’s proposed UBI regime, which included supplements and free childcare, would have been £86.2 billion. Their program would have replaced the existing Universal Credit welfare system, with the exception of the existing housing benefit, and been financed through savings revenue and a carbon tax.

A report on basic income commissioned by the Labour Party laid out their case. According to its author, SOAS Professor Guy Standing, basic income would increase recipients’ agency, health and basic security, as well as reduce poverty and inequality substantially and sustainably. “We are living in an age of economic uncertainty,” he writes, “for which contributory insurance schemes are inappropriate or insufficient”.

The report suggests that a basic income would not require a large increase in direct taxes but could be financed by replacing expensive means-tested benefits, abolishing tax reliefs, converting the existing tax allowance into a payment to every citizen, starting a fund (as in Alaska), and taxing currently untaxed valuables like data. Finally, UBI’s recipients, freed from precarity and uncertainty, would use health services less often and be more productive.

That Britain is in urgent need of such a scheme is borne out by Standing’s evisceration of the Universal Credit system instituted by the Conservative-Liberal-Democrat coalition government in 2010. In its manifold cruelties, the system echoes the infamous 1834 Poor Law in its focus on punishing the poor for being poor. As he concludes, the means-testing, behavior-testing, and attitude-testing that currently determine applicants’ suitability is intrusive, arbitrary, expensive, error prone, and excludes a very high proportion of those who are entitled to benefits. Although touted as a means to encourage otherwise idle applicants to find work, it clearly deters any such urge, as the effective marginal tax rate for the lowest earners in the UK is a staggering 80 percent. As an example of the humiliations inflicted via means and “behavior testing” on those seeking help, Standing quotes a woman who told her doctor: “You want to prove to the state that you’re as ill and disabled and incapable as you possibly can; otherwise, your kids might starve.”

recent press release from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, supports his criticisms of the current welfare regime. Sixty-five percent of the people who came to their facilities for food between April and September this year did so because their Universal Credit welfare benefits were late or delayed. More than ever, people, including those with jobs, rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Demand has increased by 73 percent over the last five years. Whereas in 2012 Belfast had only one food bank, in 2018 there were 17.

Over roughly the same period, from 2010-11 to 2015-16, an Observer analysis reveals that the average income of the richest 10% of Britons from property, interest, dividends and other investments—sometimes called unearned income as it does not derive from work—doubled to £38,000.

Given the consequences of the Tories’ ten years in power, it seems likely that their next five will guarantee yet more food banks, inequality and mean-spirited welfare programs. One imagines that worsening poverty and precarity could dominate the next election as much as Brexit did this year. In that debate, Universal Basic Income will remain one of the few serious solutions.

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Corbyn’s Defeat has Slain the Left’s Last Illusion


Photograph Source: Jeremy Corbyn – CC BY 2.0

This was an election of two illusions.

The first helped persuade much of the British public to vote last week for the very epitome of an Eton toff, a man who not only has shown utter contempt for most of those who voted for him but has spent a lifetime barely bothering to conceal that contempt. For him, politics is an ego-trip, a game in which others always pay the price and suffer, a job he is entitled to through birth and superior breeding.

The extent to which such illusions now dominate our political life was highlighted two days before the election with a jaw-dropping comment from a Grimsby fish market worker. He said he would vote Tory for the first time because “Boris seems like a normal working class guy.”

Johnson is precisely as working class, and “normal”, as the billionaire-owned Sun and the billionaire-owned Daily Mail. The Sun isn’t produced by a bunch of working-class lads down the pub having a laugh, nor is the Mail produced by conscientious middle managers keen to uphold “British values” and a sense of fair play and decency. Like the rest of the British media, these outlets are machines, owned by globe-spanning corporations that sell us the illusions – carefully packaged and marketed to our sectoral interest – needed to make sure nothing impedes the corporate world’s ability to make enormous profits at our, and the planet’s, expense.

The Sun, Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and BBC have all worked hard to create for themselves “personalities”. They brand themselves as different – as friends we the public might, or might not, choose to invite into our homes – so that they can win the largest share possible of the UK audience, capturing every section of the public as news consumers, while feeding us a distorted, fairytale version of reality that is optimal for business. They are no different to other corporations in that regard.

Media wot won it

British supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury, Lidl and Waitrose similarly brand themselves to appeal to different sections of the public. But all these supermarkets are driven by the same pathological need to make profits at all costs. If Sainsbury’s sells fair trade tea as well as traditionally produced tea, it is not because it cares more than Lidl about the treatment of workers and damage to the environment but because it knows its section of consumers care more about such issues. And as long as it makes the same profits on good and bad tea, why should it not cater to its share of the market in the name of choice and freedom?

The media are different from supermarkets in one way, however. They are not driven simply by profit. In fact, many media outlets struggle to make money. They are better seen as the loss-leader promotion in a supermarket, or as a business write-off against tax.

The media’s job is to serve as the propaganda arm of big business. Even if the Sun makes an economic loss, it has succeeded if it gets the business candidate elected, the candidate who will keep corporation tax, capital gains tax and all the other taxes that affect corporate profits as low as possible without stoking a popular insurrection.

The media are there to support the candidate or candidates who agree to sell off more and more public services for short-term profit, allowing the corporate vultures to pick hungrily at their carcasses. The media’s job is to back the candidate who will prioritise the corporations’ interests over the public’s, quick profits over the future of the NHS, the self-destructive logic of capitalism over the idea – socialist or not – of a public realm, of the common good. The corporations behind the Sun or the Guardian can afford to make a loss as long as their other business interests are prospering.

It’s not the Sun wot won it, it’s the entire corporate media industry.

BBC’s role exposed

The real revelation of this election, however, has been the BBC, the most well concealed of all those illusion-generating machines. The BBC is a state broadcaster that has long used its entertainment division – from costume dramas to wildlife documentaries – to charm us and ensure the vast majority of the public are only too happy to invite it into their homes. The BBC’s lack of adverts, the apparent absence of a grubby, commercial imperative, has been important in persuading us of the myth that the British Broadcasting Corporation is driven by a higher purpose, that it is a national treasure, that it is on our side.

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The Woman-Hater-in-Chief


United States President Donald Trump is a racist, a nativist, a narcissist, a bully, a classist, an authoritarian, an eco-exterminist, and a neofascist. Given all that and the front-page impeachment drama sparked by Trump’s arms-for-dirt shenanigans, it can be all too easy to forget that he is also – consistent with all the rest – a malignant woman-and girl-hating sexist. This alone should disqualify from holding the most powerful position in a world that is slightly more than half-female.

In April of 2015, two months before announcing that he was entering the 2016 presidential race, Trump tweeted this about the woman who was widely expected to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2016: “If Hillary [Clinton] can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

This vicious and juvenile comment was, of course, a match for Donald “grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump’s extensive prior history of saying and tweeting demeaning and disgusting things about a long list of females, including Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, Bette Midler, Nancy O’Dell, and Princess Diana along with his own wives, his daughters, and numerous other women and girls (see Jeva Lange, “61 Things Trump has Said About Women,” The Week, October 16, 2018).

During the presidential campaign, Trump referred to news broadcaster Megyn Kelly’s menstruation as follows: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Candidate Trump told a rally crowd that it was “disgusting” for Hillary to have taken a bathroom break during a Democratic presidential debate. He insulted Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s looks, saying “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”

The presidency hasn’t changed Trump one bit. Trump has been the same old woman- and girl-hating sexist pig ever since the oligarchic American political system excreted him into the White House. As U.S. chief executive, Trump has called his onetime extramarital lover Stormy Daniels “Horse Face.” As president, he has referred to MSNBC talk show host Mika Brezinski as “Low IQ Crazy Mika” while tweeting about he refused to let her attend a party at one of his resorts because she was “badly bleeding from a face-lift.” He called his reality television and White House Assistant Omarossa Manigault-Newman “a crazed, crying low-life” and a “dog.” He tweeted that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) “would come to my office ‘begging’” and ready to “do anything” for campaign contributions.

Trump nominated an accused sexual predator, Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court, defending him after Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford courageously called out the right-wing jurist for attacking her. At a rally in Mississippi in the fall of 2018, Trump mocked Ms. Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, casting doubt on her testimony. Trump (who has been accused of sexual assault by seventeen women so far) imitated Ford, taunting her for not knowing the answers to questions such as how she had gotten to the high school party where Kavanaugh accosted her.

Trump rejected multiple allegations of sexual abuse made against Kavanaugh by Dr. Blasey- Ford and other women. He called the charges “a hoax” and apologized “on behalf of our nation” for the “terrible pain and suffering” that Kavanaugh, according to the president, had “to endure.”

Trump later referred to the “#Me Too movement – the rising outrage against sexual assaults on women – as a “very scary time for young men in America.”

Combining racism and nativism with his sexism, President Trump has called the long-serving Black Congresswoman Maxine Waters “a low IQ person.” Earlier this year, he sickeningly told four progressive Congreswoman of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

When advice columnist E. Jean Carroll went public last Spring with the charge that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room 20 years ago, the sexist-in-chief denied the claim by telling The Hill that “she’s not my type.” The implication was clear that Trump viewed rape as about sexual attraction and that he saw some women as worthy of sexual assault by virtue of their looks. It was an old and lethally chauvinist narrative, one that Trump twice in October of 2016 – the same month in which he called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during a nationally televised and not-so “presidential” debate. As Laura McGann explained at Vox:

“In two other instances, he has conflated sexual attraction with sexual assault in his attempt to discredit accusers. Jessica Leeds said Trump groped her when they sat next to each other on a plane. ‘He was like an octopus,’ she told the New York Times. ‘His hands were everywhere.’ Trump’s response: ‘Believe me, she would not be my first choice,’ he said at a rally. ‘That I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.’”

“He dismissed reporter Natasha Stoynoff in the same way. Stoynoff said she fought him off after he pinned her against a wall and kissed her on his Florida estate in the 2000s. She was there to interview him and Melania Trump for People magazine about their first year of marriage.”

“ ‘You take a look. Take a look at her,’ Trump said at a rally. ‘You tell me what you think.’ The remarks are gross, arrogant, and petty. But, more important, they’re an attempt to obscure what the accusations are really about. Trump is not being accused of having consensual affairs with these women. He’s being accused of violence.”

As the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, sexual desire isn’t the prime motivator for sexual violence. “Although sexuality and aggression are involved in all forms of sexual violence,’ the WHO finds, “sex is merely the medium” whereby offenders like Trump “express various types of non-sexual feelings such as anger and hostility towards women, as well as a need to control, dominate and assert power over them,… The hostility, aggression and/or sadism displayed by the perpetrator are intended to threaten the victim’s sense of self.”

“In that sense,” McGann notes, “calling the accuser unattractive is another attempt to humiliate her.”

At his latest fascist-style permanent campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania last week, the president Trump told an adoring Trumpenvolk crowd that U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren “has a fresh mouth.” The meaning of this insult was understood by his audience: Trump was calling Senator Warren an uppity woman who talks back inappropriately to male superiors. (Trump also repeated his mocking racist reference to Warren as “Pocahontas,” a derisive term he fixed on her in 2016 to make fun of the Senator’s claim of Native American ancestry.)

When a woman protester was removed from Trump’s Hershey rally, the president screamed “Get her out” and shamed the security guard who expelled her for being “politically correct” by removing the woman without violence. “Get her out. Get her out,” Trump commanded while his devotees pointed and shrieked at the demonstrator, a courageous young member of the group Refuse Fascism who donned a #MeToo hat and held up a sign saying “Grabbing Power Back.”

“See, these guys want to be so politically correct,” Trump said. Consistent with his long history of urging his supporters and security guards to attack protesters, Trump mocked the security guard for not putting his hands on the woman. “I don’t know who he was,” Trump said. “He didn’t do the greatest job.”

Trump marked the week in which Articles of Impeachment were rolled out against him by using his Twitter account to mock Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old school girl who has become the global symbol of youth’s anger and concern over the climate catastrophe that the ecofascist Trump is doing much to deny and advance.

The painfully narrow Articles came out with the approval of the U.S. House Speaker he demeans with the nickname “Nervous Nancy [Pelosi].”

One can stand (as I do) well to the left of centrist and corporate Democratic politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton and the liberal Elizabeth Warren while also and necessarily deploring the sexist language with which Trump and other right-wing neofascists attack these and other women. (The same goes for race and other identity markers, of course: one need not accept the insipid center-right neoliberalism of Barack Obama, Cory Booker, Deval Patrick or Pete Butiggieg in order to denounce right-wingers’ racist denigration of the first three politicians to denounce right-wing gay-bashing of the last one.)

It’s quite sick, the way this sexist pig of a U.S. president tweets and talks about women and girls. Beyond the sexist and misogynist comments and tweets, moreover, Trump’s political and policy conduct is just as bad, if not worse. The proudly white and male Trump administration has waged a vicious policy war on women’s sexual and reproductive rights and protections. It is packing the federal bench from the Supreme Court on down with jurists who oppose women’s right to an abortion. Trump is on friendly terms with arch-patriarchal right-wing Christian Fascists who would like to remove women from the workplace, deprive them of the vote, introduce mandatory motherhood, and return women to fully subordinate positions in “the home where they belong.”

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Nazi Gestapo: Military offensive only way to end Palestinian resistance in Gaza

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Smoke rises after Israel carried out air strikes over Gaza City, Gaza on 12 November, 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

Smoke rises after Nazi army carried out air strikes over Gaza City, Gaza on 12 November 2019

Nazi Deputy Defence Minister Avi Dichter believes that a military offensive is the only way to end Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza, Quds Press reported yesterday.

Nazi Dichter, who is the chairman of the Nazi Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, former minister of internal security and former head of Gestapo ‘Shin Bet’, said that ‘Israel’ should carry out a military operation in Gaza similar to the one carried out in the occupied West Bank in 2002.

On 29 March 2002, late Nazi P M Ariel Sharon announced the start of the “Defensive Shield Operation” which ended on 3 May. It was aimed at ending the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

The Nazi army mobilised 30,000 troops for the operation, in which it used tanks, helicopters and attack fighters. Up to 240 Palestinians were killed, according to B’Tselem, and over 1,500 others were wounded as the Nazi army invaded most of the West Bank cities.

In November, Nazi Dichter told reporters that “Israel’s political and military leadership need to decide at a certain point to launch a campaign that will destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.”

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