Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

Trump’s Election and the Curious Relevance of Today’s Prayers

November 9, 2016

Some of the prayers used in last Sunday’s service, and which were used again today in the mid-week service at our local Anglican church were strangely relevant, coming today after Trump’s election victory last night. They were set down in the prayer sheets used by some Anglican churches for services where there is no Holy Communion.

The theme for today’s service was ‘Govern the Hearts and Minds of Those in Authority’. There was the reminder that political leaders owe their positions to God, and then prayers for the Almighty’s grace and intervention in cases

‘where leaders are corrupt and freedom is crushed’;

‘where minorities are blamed and persecuted’;

and ‘where nations go to war against each other’.

I realise that this is probably just coincidence, and that many of these themes are quite common in the prayers offered by the mainstream Christian churches. But they are very relevant to the recent American election. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are massively corrupt. Trump was siphoning some of the donations, which were supposed to go to his campaign fund into his private account. The WikiLeaks material also shows that Hillary Clinton also regarded her campaign funding and donations to the Clinton Foundation as a for-profit, business enterprise.

As for the blaming of minorities, Trump’s campaign is based, like that of the Republicans generally since the start of their vile ‘Southern Strategy’ on stoking up the fears of White Americans against Blacks and other non-White minorities. There’s also a very strong element of anti-feminism in Republican ideology. Much Republican rhetoric is against women working outside the home, and in the most extreme cases very hostile against women’s political activism. Ann Coulter, one of the most extreme and bonkers of the Repugs, has said that women shouldn’t have the right to vote. The Young Turks also showed a segment on their show, of a woman telling one of their reports that the Almighty didn’t want a woman as president. Trump’s a misogynist, and his stance has been consistently anti-immigration, and specifically against Mexican and Muslim immigration to the US.

This has drawn the usual Nazis, the KKK and the Alt Right out of the stones underneath which they’ve been hiding. The Klan endorsed Trump last week in their newsletter. It must be said to Trump’s credit that he denounced their endorsement, stating that he didn’t want it. Despite this, there is a very strong Fascistic element at his rallies. And one Nazi group came out last week to state that they were going to act as poll observers, to make sure there was no electoral fraud. They were going to target Black and other ethnic minority neighbourhoods. This looked very much like an attempt to intimidate Black voters from exercising their democratic rights, as these nutters were threatening to turn up to the stations carrying guns. The election has also been Democrats and Republicans conspiring to wipe voters off the polls, who might happen to vote further left than they wanted. 121,050 voters in New York City, who would otherwise probably have voted for Bernie Sanders, were deliberately omitted by two of the parties’ apparatchiks, one of them a Republican, and one of them a member of Hillary’s team. Quite apart from other attempts, up and down America, to stop the poor, students and Blacks from voting by fixing the polls so that they were also excluded from the electoral rolls.

As for nations making wars on each other, the rhetoric at this election has been increasingly belligerent. Trump couldn’t work out why America doesn’t use its nuclear arsenal, which shows that he really shouldn’t have his hand on the nuclear button. And Shrillary seemed all set to start another war with Russia, not just over the Ukraine and Syria, but because she personally blamed them for the embarrassing leaked emails. Plus the fact that we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the American military wishing to extend the wars and chaos further.

Atheists and religious sceptics will have to indulge me, but I think today’s prayers were a very clear message from the Almighty about the corruption, persecution and warmongering in today’s politics, and both of the candidates in the US election. But particularly Trump.

More on the Real Reason behind Western Intervention in Syria

November 2, 2016

A few days ago I put up a post about a piece from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, in which Seder commented on a piece in EcoWars and Politics magazines by John F. Kennedy, which gave the real reasons behind the calls for western intervention in Syria and attacks on Russia for human rights abuses in the killing of civilians in their own attacks on the militants fighting Assad.

As you might expect from our mendacious governments, it has nothing to do with any real concerns about human rights. It’s all about overthrowing Assad, isolating and weakening Russia, and securing a massive gas pipeline that the Qataris proposed nearly a decade and a half ago. This is planned to go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. The Saudis, Jordanians and Turks were all in favour of it. Syria refused, on the grounds that they didn’t want to hurt their Russian allies. The moment Assad refused, the Americans and their allies, including ourselves and the French, began to plot Assad’s overthrow. An international alliance was set up called The Friends of Syria Coalition, or some such, a name which Seder rightly described as ‘Orwellian’, in that it meant precisely the opposite of what it said, in the same way that in Orwell ‘war=peace, and freedom=slavery’. This alliance was to campaign internationally for Assad’s removal. The CIA paid ¬£60 million to Barada, a TV station in this country, to run propaganda pieces imploring the Syrian people to overthrow Assad. At the same time, the Saudis and other hardline nations began funding, equipping and training the various jihadist splinter groups, ultimately descended from al-Qaeda, to start a civil war. And the Saudis and other nations also told the Americans that if they invaded Syria, like they had Iraq, they’d also pay for it.

Since I put the original piece up, I’ve got a few more pieces of very relevant information about it from Michelle, one of the great commenters here, passing on comments from David Croswell, who clearly knows much more about this than I do. Michelle writes

Hi Beastie,

I agree with you on the importance of this piece, I put this out on Google plus Friday and received an interesting comment from another googlepuser David Croswell on Dore’s comments he said:

“Mostly right.
The gas field involved is the `South Pars’, the largest in the world.
There are only two countries that have access to this, and they are Qatar and Iran.

Syria is Iran’s number one ally in the Middle East, which is why you see an Iranian military supportive presence in Syria.
So, Assad’s veto on the Qatari pipeline wasn’t simply `for our friend, Russia’.

However, Iran and Russia have a cosy relationship, also, and are working in coordination, with Iran handling the Islamic public relations aspect in the central Asian nations, and, with their gas programme, now extending pipelines to Pakistan and India in the opposite direction to Europe, developing their market there.

So, this shows another factor to the U.S. aspect: In their ongoing campaign to isolate Iran to place it in a more vulnerable position, it is necessary to kick out the prop of their number one Middle Eastern ally, Syria.

In their intent to regain what they once had for next to nothing in Iran, the fourth largest oil production on the planet (Iran was where BP got started, which is why we always find the UK riding along), they’ll also have possession of the South Pars gas field.

Of course, isolating Russia financially and geopolitically, along the way, is a major goal.

So, all and all, the west are not the forces of goodness and niceness … at all.”

When I took a look at the Eurasian gas pipeline a few years backs I downloaded this map (December 2013) European LNG Gas Investment map 2012 development plan ENTSOG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6VgQqAmD1nQR1BZVzlMYkNKZzg/view?usp=sharing

The map shows the gas artery that should run through Syria as well as some large gas fields, the most recent map keeps to the same plan: http://www.gie.eu/download/maps/2016/ENTSOG_SYSDEV_2015-2016_1600x1200_online.pdf

and then later added this comment:

Hi again Beastie, the conversation/comments have continued from David Crosswell on my post, he also said:

“The Syrian fields in the Golan Heights are already being exploited by Israel, with Murdoch and Cheney being two major beneficiaries roped in, in order to horse-shoe support from the U.S./UK support base.

Also, the gas fields off the Gaza are being siphoned off, with American help.

This is what it’s all about.
Wars are not fought on principle any more, but for corporate profit, so the contention that the U.S. is an oligarchy is not at all far-fetched….”

I replied: “Wars have always been fought for power and profit, empires and their trading companies have been carving up peoples and their nations for centuries, hence their armed forces were just as much corporate employees then as they are now.

In the UK there is also a military recruitment crisis so the UK government is using non-subtle techniques to recruit amongst children still at school:

http://www.forceswatch.net/news/pushing-ahead-cadets-schools

REF to comments: https://plus.google.com/+MichelleThomassonShell/posts/UpzfvWxhjq3?sfc=true

This adds much more information on the geopolitical manoeuvring here. And none of this is to our credit. We and the Americans have always been desperate to get our mitts on the Iranian oil industry. It was the reason we and the Americans sponsored a CIA-funded coup in Iran in 1958, which toppled the democratically-elected Iranian prime minister Mossadeq, and led to the installation of the Shah as the country’s absolute monarch. The Shah and his secret police, SAVAK, were so brutal that the Shah’s rule ended in a popular uprising in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which placed the mullahs and the Ayatollah Khomeini in control of the country. And one of annual holidays proclaimed by the new, theocratic regime celebrates the nationalisation of the oil industry.

The Neocons would love to invade Iran as well, and made plans to do so. The Iran regime is brutal and deplorable, but nevertheless it does contain a democratic element and is still freer and more liberal than the Saudis. It should be left to the Iranians to choose what form of government they wish to live under. And after the horrors created by the invasion of Iraq, no-one should have any illusion that any puppet regime created by the West after an invasion of Syria or Iran would be any better for the peoples of those nations. Assad’s Syria is a Fascistic state, but it’s secular nationalist, not theocratic, and definitely more liberal than Saudi Arabia. All that would result from another western invasion of these nations is yet another repeat of Iraq: the mass privatisation and looting of state industries to American and western multinationals, particularly the oil industry; more sectarian violence; killing, racketeering, prostitution and lawlessness by the ‘peace-keeping forces’, particularly the mercenaries; massive economic damage and sky-high unemployment due to the imposition of free-market capitalism; and a sharp decline in women’s status and opportunities. Women in Iraq before the invasion could have careers outside the home, and felt safe leaving work in the evening. That has all gone. As has the free education and health care that the regime also provided. If these also exist in Syria and Iran, you can expect them to disappear as well if the west invades.

The information about the Israelis’ exploitation of the oilfields in the Golan heights – taken from Syria – and Gaza also seems to me to be very relevant to the current attempts by the right, the Israel lobby and the Blairites to smear decent critics of Israel as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. These slanders are risible, as so many of those libelled as such are anti-racists with a proud record of fighting against racism and anti-Semitism. The Jewish people smeared have included many, who are active members of their faith and community, and who had family murdered by the Nazis – real anti-Semites – in the Holocaust.

Much of this slander is because pro-Palestinian activists are having an effect in raising opposition to the Israeli colonisation of the West Bank and the dispossession of the Palestinians. This is notably true in the case of the BDS movement, which has many Jewish supporters. This movement urges people not to deal with or purchase goods from Israeli businesses located in the Occupied Territories. So far, a third of the Israeli businesses set up there have been forced out, thanks to this campaign. And the Israel lobby has gone ballistic. New York City council recently condemned it at a meeting as an anti-Semitic hate group, despite the fact that many of its supporters present at the meeting were Jews, including six rabbis.

Now it seems that oil is also a factor here as well, and the Israelis’ determination to exploit this in the territories they have seized from other nations.

This is disgusting and outrageous, but I doubt it will ever be reported by a mainstream TV or broadcasting channel. We need to do what we can to stop our governments destroying more lives – those of innocent Syrians, as well as our own brave young people – just to make the petrochemical companies even more rich and bloated than they are already.

The protesters against Gulf War I were right: ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or BP, Esso, Gulf or anyone else.

Voter Registration and the Campaign of Disenfranchisement and Intimidation against Working Class and Black Voters in Florida

February 1, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written another excellent piece on how the Tories’ changes to the system of electoral registration has left many Labour supporters unable to vote. Which is precisely why they were introduced in the first place. Nevertheless, there is still enough time to register until three weeks before the elections.http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/01/electoral-registration-change-delivers-advantage-to-conservatives-lets-level-the-odds/ Hope Not Hate have also been running a campaign, in concert with the trade unions, to encourage everyone disenfranchised by the voting reforms to register: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/vrdrive/

Don’t be fooled. This was one done deliberately so that the young, the working class and ethnic minorities – the groups least likely to vote Tory, wouldn’t get the vote. The reforms are similarly to those introduced by the Republicans in America to exclude those groups. Again, the pretext was to stop voting fraud. But some of the Republicans were so blas√© about the real reasons for the reforms, that they brazenly admitted it. One Republican congressman from the American Deep South actually stated, on American news, that they did it to attack the Democrats, the party in America that traditionally attracts these voters. The Young Turks did a piece on this about half a year ago, which I put up on this blog.

And when all else fails, the Republicans will go back to more traditional methods of crookedly securing an election win: abuse and intimidation of the voters at the election booths. They did this way back in Florida, in the election that narrowly secured Dubya his first term in the White House. Everyone remembers the presidential election in that state for the controversy over the way the voting machines worked, and how the various marks punched into the ballot papers were interpreted. All the fuss about ‘pregnant’ and ‘hanging’ chads. What wasn’t reported was the way working class, and particularly Black voters, were wrongfully harassed and thrown out of the voting booths after being told, again wrongly, that they had no right to vote. Jeffrey Sinclair wrote an entire chapter on the scandal, What You Didn’t Read About the Black Vote in Florida’, in the book he and Alexander Cockburn wrote about the current dire state of politics and political journalism in America, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate.

Among the incidents they uncovered was a case where a man, who was taking his family to vote in his car, was stopped by the cops and told that he couldn’t take that many people down to the voting booth without a chauffeur’s licence. he was forced to go home. By the time he got to vote, it was too late.

Another man was refused entry to polling station on the grounds that he ineligible to vote, as he was a convict. Again, another lie.

And there was a massive campaign against Black and Hispanic voters, where tens of thousands were turned away before they could exercise their democratic rights at the polls. Details of this vile debacle were gather by the NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a five hour hearing. Election workers demanded to see the IDs of Blacks coming to vote, but made no such demands of Whites. Haitians coming to vote were told that they need to forms of identification. Police roadblocks were set up around the Black neighbourhoods in Tallahassee. The cops also sought to intimidate Blacks coming to vote by asking them if they were criminals. Some polls were moved without notice from their official positions, and the polls closed early in Black neighbourhoods. A number of Black college students were sent away after being told that they couldn’t vote, even though they had registered in the summer. Many others were also given the excuse that they couldn’t vote, because they weren’t on the rolls. They later found out that they were. Stacey Powers, the news director of a local radio station in Tampa Bay, and a former policewoman, said that while visiting a number of local polling stations on the day she saw Blacks being refused entrance to the polls on the grounds that their names weren’t on the lists. When she informed them that they had the right to vote, as long as they signed an affidavit, she herself was thrown out. Charles Weaver, the publisher of a local newspaper in Fort Myers, the Community Voice, said he saw poll watchers threatening voters by saying that they knew where they worked, and were going to get them fired. In one of area, Duval County, which has a functional illiteracy rate of 47 per cent, those asking for help with their ballots were insulted by the election workers as ‘dumb’ and ‘retarded’. About 2,000 recent Haitian immigrants were prevented from voting because of the complexity of ballot papers and the fact that there no interpreters made available, who spoke their native Creole French. In other areas, which did have translators and interpreters, these were told not to talk to speak to them. If they did, they were thrown out. Other Haitians were threatened with deportation.

And when these stunts didn’t work, there was always deliberately obstructive bureaucracy. One woman and her husband, who had moved to Florida from NYC, did not receive their elections cards, despite having registered in time and making repeated enquiries. After being repeated stonewalled, the woman left the offices of the registration authorities, unable to vote.

Across Florida, more than 187,000 votes were declared invalid. Over half of these were from Blacks. 12,000 people were denied the right to vote, on the ground they were former criminals. Nearly all of them were Black, and nearly all of them were no such thing. 8,000 of these maligned people did manage to re-register, but 4,000 didn’t bother. The list of supposed ex-cons was compiled Database Technologies, a subsidiary of ChoicePoint. This company has also been under investigation for misusing information taken from state computers. Its CEO, Rick Bozar, made a donation of $100,000 to the Republican National Convention.

Adding insult to injury for all this was the complete indifference of the election authorities and the Democrats, who would have benefited from the disqualified votes. The Justice Department did not do anything to investigate the charges, despite the fact that the Attorney General is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act. And Jesse Jackson was told by his bosses in the party to stop mentioning the issue after he’d complained about it for two days.

St. Clair compares the whole charade to the demonstration election held in the South and Central American US client states, when they were under the control of US-backed Fascist dictators. These used to hold ‘demonstration elections’ to show that they were democracies. Just before the elections took place, the death squads swooped to arrest or kill any potential troublemakers. After the opposition and the poor were duly cowed, the election took place, the ruling Nazis re-elected, and western observers went back to report how everything was normal, peaceful and democratic there under the benign rule of El Colonel or whoever. It wasn’t quite that bad in Florida, but nevertheless, the Republicans and their official collaborators used fraud and intimidation to get back in.

It’d be tempting, but wrong, to see this as simply something that could only happen in America. The problem is the Tories have taken so much of their policies and campaign strategies from America, that I’m afraid there’s a real danger that they’ll start importing their dirty tricks as well. They have, after all, taken on their campaign to disenfranchise British Blacks, other ethnic minorities and the poor through copying the Republican registration reforms. I would not like to put it past any of them not to try something like this. Remember Stalin’s line: It’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.

Make sure you’re registered to vote, and be very careful to make sure there are no dirty tricks in your area. And if there are, inform the proper authorities and every available civil rights and, if you’re Black or Asian, anti-racist organisations. They may not try a stunt like this at the election, but they should be ruthlessly exposed if they do. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

New York, 1975, Margaret Thatcher and the Coalition’s Britain: Same Script, Different Actors

January 19, 2014

I’ve started reading Anthony Marcus’ Where Have All the Homeless Gone: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis (New York: Berghahn 2006). Marcus is an anthropologist who did his Ph.D. research from 1989 to 1994, first examining the causes of the 1988 riots in Tompkins Square Park, and then as a staff ethnographer on a social work project intended to improve the chances of the mentally ill being able to get into and retain housing. Marcus’ informants were a group of fifty-five Black men, none of whom saw themselves as homeless. The book is an examination of the reasons why homelessness was a major issue in the decade from 1983 to 1993, but then suddenly dropped out of American consciousness. From being one of the most discussed and important political issues, it has vanished and become almost invisible, despite the fact that the numbers of the homeless are still rising. Marcus makes a number of fascinating and observations in his book the situation and perception of the homeless in New York. He makes it very clear that Reaganite economics is behind much of the poverty, and particularly blames ‘American Thatcherism’ for its rise. The book is mainly about the failure of the Democrats’ campaigns to end homelessness, however.

One of the important points Marcus makes is that much of the failure to tackle homelessness in US is due to the ethnographic construction of the homeless. Marcus describes how, when he was doing his research, he became increasingly confused about who ‘the homeless’ actually were. Did it include people, who only slept on the streets for a few nights a week, but at other times were in shelters, or slept at girlfriends’? What about the people, who were given space in a storage area, like a cupboard, basement or upper landing in a building for a janitor, in return for which they worked off the books cleaning or performing other jobs. Furthermore, many of the men he studied, like their White counterparts, could be described as ‘bohemian’ rather than conform to the traditional image of homelessness. These were men from middle class backgrounds, sometimes college educated, who viewed homelessness as merely a transient phase before getting themselves off the streets and into permanent, fixed accommodation. One man described himself as a poet. He notes that quite a few of the homeless in New York were college and university graduates, who were left homeless after leaving uni, and who were forced to move around, sleeping at friends’. Get ready, Britain! This is your future! With the rise in tuition fees, and many graduates now forced to find work at lower paid, menial jobs, for which they are overqualified, such as stacking shelves at Tesco or serving in McDonalds, I have absolutely no doubt that this will come to Britain soon, if it already hasn’t done so.

What struck me most of all was the similarity between the comprehensive destruction of New York’s advanced welfare system after the City Went bankrupt in 1975, and the situation in modern Britain. Here, like New York nearly forty years ago, the Coalition is demanding the destruction of our remaining welfare state under the guise of combatting the nation’s debt.

New York City suffered an acute fiscal crisis in the 1970s, which culminated in the City defaulting on its loans in 1975. The then president, Republican Gerald Ford, declared that he would veto any bill intended to bail it out. The government then placed New York City under the control of the Municipal Assistance Corporation in exchange for granting it the right to issue bonds to pay off its debt. The Municipal Assistance Corporation was a consortium of bankers and businessmen given the task making sure the City stayed solvent. Marcus then describes the consequences of this decision:

‘Their version of making the city financially solvent involved the beginnings of a larger ideological project that would sweep the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of the world during the 1980s. The New York City welfare state that provided free tertiary education, a comprehensive public health system, a version of the “dole”, and many other social programs that had brought New York City derogatory nicknames like Moscow on the Hudson and the Soviet Republic of New York City would be no more. As the US Secretary of Treasury, William Simon, testified in October of 1975 about the federal aid program that had been offered to New York City to address its fiscal crisis, it should be “so punitive, the overall experience made so painful, that no city, no political subdivision would ever be tempted to go down the same road”. Tens of thousands of layoffs, scores of thousands of job eliminated through “attrition” in the public sector, often disastrous reductions in health, firefighting, policing, education, and social services, and a tremendous breakdown in public morale followed. …. There is hardly a New Yorker who lived in the city at this time who does not have some memory of a family member thrown out of work, a favourite teacher in high school saying goodbye to his or her class, or some kind of deterioration in city living.’ (p. 37).

This had a disastrous effect on the lives of Marcus’ informants:

‘Many of my informants traced the origins of homelessness to the New York City financial crisis of 1975. They were from families that had depended on the vast New York City welfare state for everything from education and housing to jobs, summer recreation programs, and health care. Even informants who had been young children during the dark days of 1975 could remember adults around them panicking as mass layoffs and budget cuts changed their lives and forced them to scale back their expectations. I had informants who had grown up in New York City who remembered their first experiences of housing loss after a parent was laid of 1975. They talked about going from being “middle class black folk” to being poor. For most of them it meant a brief period in a welfare hotel followed by a move to a poorer, more marginal neighbourhood. Sometimes it merely meant moving to a smaller apartment and sharing a bedroom with younger siblings.’

Elsewhere Marcus described how this led to a massive decline in the quality of housing as whole neighbourhoods were left to become derelict, and the transformation of these areas during the boom in the late 80s and early 1990s when these areas became gentrified. This was the period when New York City’s economy and workforce went from being working class, blue collar manufacturing and industrial, to white collar, based on the financial and IT sectors.

The parallels to the British experience are strong and obvious. Margaret Thatcher, when she was in office, used the financial crisis the country had experienced under Labour as a pretext for a wholesale attack on the British welfare state. Now, 39 years later, Cameron, Clegg and the Coalition are doing the same. They have, however, much less excuse for doing so, as despite their rhetoric the crisis is not the result of overspending by Labour, and the debt is actually much lower than it has been for 200 of the last 250 years. This has not forced the Tories and their Lib-Dem satellites changing their tune, however. It’s exactly the same script, but with different actors.

Or if you want to put it crudely, ‘same sh*t, different +++holes’.