Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

Muslims Come to the Aid of Vandalised Jewish Cemetery

February 23, 2017

The election of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain last year has led to a massive growth in racial bigotry and intolerance in both countries. Mike has put up on his blog today a critique of the government’s statement that migration to the UK has gone down. He points out that this is hardly surprising, given that hate crime has risen by 41 per cent. This includes assaults, arson attacks and canine excrement thrown at doors or shoved through letter boxes. He wonders if any of the Tory and UKIP politicos – David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove are really worried about this. It is, after all, not them or their class that’s being attacked, but Johnny Foreigner. Mike reminds us that Jo Cox, a politician, was murdered in a racist attack by Thomas Mair, and notes that the Commons yesterday cheered a move to commemorate the anniversary of her murder with the Great Get-Together, an initiative intended to bring communities together.

But he also remarks that there’s a bit of hypocrisy in their support for it, saying that

It would be hypocritical for them to applaud a drop in net migration fuelled by the same hate that ended Mrs Cox’s life.

The fact that violence is the real reason net migration has fallen means this is not a success for the United Kingdom and Theresa May.

As a nation, we should be ashamed.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/of-course-immigration-fell-after-the-brexit-vote-hate-crime-has-increased-dramatically/

The Young Turks on Tuesday reported the anti-Semitic desecration of about 200 graves in a Jewish cemetery in University City near St. Louis. One elderly lady from the community states that she no longer feels safe after the attack. This is not the only Jewish community has been attacked. So far 54 Jewish community centres have been threatened this year, including 11 in the past week. Discussing the incident, the two presenters, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian, make the point that this hate has partly been unleashed by Donald Trump and his rhetoric and campaigns against Muslims and other groups, with Kasparian mentioning the misogyny in his speeches. They make the point that it is no accident that Trump’s cabinet includes Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and his supporters include Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right. Spencer was interviewed by the left-wing news host, David Pakman, on his show. While Spencer denies being a Nazi, he refused to denounce Adolf Hitler. He said instead that he wasn’t ‘going to play those games’. He did state that the Third Reich was a failure. Which is something, but not the same as condemning it or Nazism. They also note that in his speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump somehow forgot to mention the Jews. Despite his own denial that he is anti-Semitic, Trump was very reluctant to disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Mankiewicz and Kasparian make the point that the people listening to Trump’s hate, and who feel emboldened and encouraged by it, aren’t going to limit their own hatred and attacks merely to the groups he’s selected. So even though Trump has denied that he is anti-Semitic, pointing out that his son-in-law is Jewish, and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him, Trump’s own racist campaigning is responsible for encouraging these attacks on Jewish communities.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has drawn fire for her father’s opponents, as she has tweeted a statement condemning the attack, which points out, quite rightly, that America was founded on religious toleration, and that we need to defend each others houses of worship.

There have also been an attempt by one right-wing journalist to blame the Left for the attack. Wolf Blitzer claimed that the cemetery was desecrated by Progressives. This seems to me to be complete and utter bilge. The Left, by and large, is very anti-racist. This accusation just seems to me to come from that part of the Republican and Libertarian ideologies that think that the Nazis were Socialists, ’cause Hitler put ‘Socialism’ in their name. He did, but only to draw some supporters away from the parties of the Left, such as the Social Democrats, the German equivalent of the Labour party, by making it appear that they were socialists. See the appropriate page in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the nauseating little man, Hitler. And Hitler had to overcome the resistance of the other, founding members of the Nazi party, who bitterly despised Socialism and very definitely did not want their party to be associated with it. It also seems to me that the smear also owes something to continuing attempts to attack the BDS campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This is an anti-racist campaign, supported by very many Jews as well as gentiles. But the Zionist lobby have always responded to criticism of Israeli imperialism and racism by smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. Many progressives as doubtless involved in the BDS movement as part of their general campaign against all forms of racism. But for the Israel lobby and their journalistic supporters, the progressives involved in the BDS campaign and similar movements must be anti-Semites. And from their it’s only a short leap to claiming that Progressives must somehow be responsible for this and similar attacks.

More positively, a Muslim organisation has come forward and raised money for the cemetery’s repair. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist, and one of the four principal organisers of the Women’s March on Washington, set up a website to raise the money. She wanted to get $20,000. Instead she raised $71,000. This is more than is needed for the cemetery in St. Louis, so the money will also be used to help other Jewish communities that have suffered attacks. The website states that it was set up to send a clear message from the Muslim and Jewish communities against such intolerance.

The programme’s hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian state that this shows the best of America, and that people are coming together to defend other victims of intolerance, whether it is over skin colour or religion. Kasparian states that she feels that there isn’t enough coverage of movements and events like this, as quite often the focus is dominated by the negative things now happening. But this makes her feel more positive and hopeful.

I don’t think this is the only incident in which the members of one religion have reached out to aid those from others, which are in need. There have been cases like it in this country, one of the most recent examples being the decision of some Asian restaurants and takeaways in Britain to stay open on Christmas Day to supply meals for the homeless. The Get-Together campaign cheered in the Commons yesterday is only the latest and most prominent of these events and movements. And there will undoubtedly be more of them, as more people come together to tackle the intolerance and Fascism unleashed by Trump and Brexit.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 2

February 15, 2017

Jamaica 1976
Various attempts to defeat Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Honduras 1980s
Arming, equipping, training and funding of Fascist government against dissidents, also supporting Contras in Nicaragua and Fascist forces in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nicaragua
Civil War with the Contras against left-wing Sandinistas after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Philippines 1970s-1990
Support of brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos

Seychelles 1979-81
Attempts to overthrow country’s leader, France Albert Rene, because he tried to turn his nation and the Indian Ocean into nuclear free zone.

Diego Garcia late 196-0s to Present
People of the largest of the Chagos islands forcibly relocated Mauritius and Seychelles so that Americans could build massive complex of military bases.

South Yemen, 1979-84
CIA backing of paramilitary forces during war between North and South Yemen, as South Yemen government appeared to be backed by Russia. In fact, the Russians backed North and South Yemen at different times.

South Korea
Support for military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan, in brutal suppression of workers’ and students’ uprising in Kwangju.

Chad 1981-2
Political manipulation of Chad government to force Libyan forces of Colonel Gaddafy to leave, aided Chadian forces in the Sudan to invade and overthrow Chadian government installing Hissen Habre as the ‘African General Pinochet’.

Grenada 1979-83
Operations against government of Maurice Bishop, and then invasion when Bishop government overthrown by ultra-leftist faction.

Suriname 1982-4
Abortive plot to overthrow Surinamese government for supporting Cuba.

Libya 1981-89
Attempts to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

Fiji 1987
Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada of the Labour Party overthrown as neutral in Cold War and wanted to make Fiji nuclear free zone.

Panama 1989
Overthrow of Manuel Noriega, long-term American ally in Central America for drug trafficking. The real reason to was intimidate Nicaragua, whose people were going to the elections two months later and stop them from voting for the Sandinistas.

Afghanistan 1979-92
Backing of Mujahideen rebels against Soviet-aligned government then Soviet forces.

El Salvador 1980-92
Backing of right-wing dictator and death squads in country’s civil war against dissidents, after first making sure the dissidents got nowhere through democratic means.

Haiti 1987-94
US government opposed reformist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, aiding Haiti government and its death squads against him. However, after he won the 1991, they were forced to allow him back in. They then extracted a promise from him that he would not aid poor at expense of the rich and would follow free trade economics. Kept army there for the rest of his term.

Bulgaria 1990-1
Massive campaign by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International Development to aid the Union of Democratic Forces against the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the Communists.

Albania 1991
Another campaign to keep the Communists out, in which the Americans supported the Democratic Party.

Somalia 1993
Attempts to kill Mohamed Aidid. The motive was probably less to feed the starving Somali people, and more likely because four oil companies wished to exploit the country and wanted to end the chaos there.

Iraq 1991-2003
American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Colombia 1990s to Present
Aid by US to suppress left-wing guerillas.

Yugoslavia 1995-99
Campaigns against Serbia government during break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ecuador 2000
Suppression of mass peaceful uprising by indigenous people of Quito, including trade unionists and junior military officers on orders from Washington, as this threatened neoliberalism.

Afghanistan 2001-to Present
Invasion and occupation of country after 9/11.

Venezuela 2001-4
Operations to oust Chavez.

Iraq 2003-to Present
Invasion and occupation.

Haiti 2004
President Aristide forced to resign by Americans because of his opposition to globalisation and the free market.

For much more information, see the chapter ‘A Concise History of United State Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present’ in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 162-220. I realise that many of the Communist regimes Washington sought to overthrow were hardly models of virtue themselves, and often responsible for horrific acts of repression. However, the US has also sought to overthrow liberal and Socialist governments for no better reason than that they sought to improve conditions for their own peoples against the wishes of the American multinationals. And the regimes Washington has backed have been truly horrific, particularly in Latin America.

So it’s actually a very good question whether America has ever really supported democracy, despite the passionate beliefs of its people and media, since the War.

William Blum on the American Demonization of Iran

February 8, 2017

I bought a copy today of William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything (London: Zed Books 2013). Blum’s a long term, extremely vociferous and very knowledgeable critic of American foreign policy and its allies. He’s been protesting against the country’s assassinations, coups and manufactured wars and other interventions since the Vietnam War, and his website, the Anti-Empire Report, is highly recommended for telling you what the media is not reporting about the global actions of America and its allies.

The book’s chapters deal with:
US foreign policy vs. the world; Terrorism; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice; Human rights, civil liberties and torture; WikiLeaks; Conspiracies; Yugoslavia; Libya; Latin America; Cuba; The Cold War and anti-Communism; the 1960s; Ideology and society; Our precious environment; The problem with capitalism; The media; Barack Obama; Patriotism; Dissent and resistance in America; Religion, Laughing despite the Empire; But what can we do?

It’s a treasure trove of information showing just how unpleasant American foreign policy is, and how the military-industrial complex running it has not only bombed, murdered and exploited people all over the world, it also lies shamelessly and constantly to its own people as well as the world at large. Nearly every page has a telling fact that flips the conventional, establishment narrative right on its head.

The chapter on Iran is a case in point. Blum cites White House aides, journos and diplomats to show that Iran’s nuclear programme was never a threat, despite the hysterical table-thumping by the odious Tzipi Livni and the rest of the thugs now running Israel. Far from it. Over a decade ago, the Iranians were even responsible for negotiating some of the peace deals in Afghanistan, and even approached Bush through the Swiss ambassador for a deal to improve relations with America, in which they promised to give major concessions. Blum writes

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax’. Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? he had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

James Dobbins, Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference in which the parties in the Middle East negotiated the political settlement for Afghanistan, states that it was the Iranians who made sure that democracy and the war on terrorism were included in the Afghan constitution, not the Americans. (pp.104-5). Now that’s very, very definitely something I haven’t heard report on the Beeb. Have you?

But what struck me as urgently important this week was this passage

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by USrael as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle East hegemony. thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case. The left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this ‘threat’ was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, USrael decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline – oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz. Ergo the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy. (Pp. 98-9, my emphasis).

The Americans have been gearing up for a war with Iran for the past decade. But this week Donald Trump’s advisers were banging their shoes on the table for war. An American warship had been fired upon by the Yemeni Houthi rebels. The Houthis are Shi’a, and so backed by Iran. At the same time, the Iranians test fired a ballistic missile that flew 500 miles before crashing. This was, assures Drumpf, a preparation for nuclear missiles. The Orange Generalissimo and his courtiers therefore started talking about a possible attack on Iran.

I’ve blogged earlier this week about how a war with Iran would be disastrous. It also wouldn’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a deeply authoritarian and repressive regime. It would be just another attempt by US-Saudi oil multinationals to grab their oil, just as America and Britain organised a coup against Mossadeq when he nationalised Anglo-Persian Oil in the 1950s.

Iran’s not a threat, and the Iranians were responsible for establishing clauses mandating democracy and denouncing terrorism in the Afghan constitution. This is all about finding a pretext for a new pack of lies to justify yet the invasion and looting of yet another country.

Is Trump Barely Able to Read?

February 6, 2017

My thanks to Joanna, one of the long-time commenters on this blog, for posting this in one of her comments.

In this piece from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and one of his producers, Pat, discuss the considerable evidence that Trump is functionally barely literate. There are clips of Mark Fisher, an American journalist, discussing how he asked Trump if he was preparing for the presidency by reading the biographies of the great American presidents. Trump said something about reading one about Nixon, and another, but Fisher himself doubted he had ever read a book from cover to cover. Trump also said that he had never read a biography, but regretted this. Visitors to Trump have remarked that there weren’t any books on his desk, or on the shelves at his home or indeed anywhere else. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ghost-wrote Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, stated that he didn’t believe Trump had ever read a book since he was in school. Washington insiders have said that The Donald actually has difficulty reading the documents and executive orders placed in front of him. He usually just scans the first page. Further evidence for this comes from clips from a court case, in which the opposition lawyer asks Drumpf to read a lease. Trump’s own lawyer objects to it, and Trump looks it over, remarks on its length, and then proceeds to give a summary of what’s on the page. Apparently, he doesn’t even send his tweets himself. He dictates them to a secretary in the next room, and she sends them for him. There’s also a clip with the writers from the comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in which they talk about how Trump had difficulty reading the scripts when he was guest host. And it’s also been said that the reason why Trump watches so much television, and gets so much of his information from it, is because he can’t or doesn’t read books and papers. There’s also a clip, which shows Trump very obviously not using a teleprompter at one of his rallies. Pakman argues that this isn’t because he’s particularly keen to speak ad lib. It’s because he has difficulty reading what’s on there.

Pakman’s producer, Pat, finally makes the point here that what’s shocking isn’t Trump’s inability to read, but his lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn’t even send away for talking books, so he can hear things read to him.

This is truly astonishing. And frightening. People have been making jokes since forever and a day about the stupidity of politicians, but many have been people of real intellectual distinction. Churchill wrote his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. JFK apparently could write a sentence of Latin with one hand while writing a sentence in Greek with the other. Even Nixon was no intellectual slouch. He was crooked and a monstrous imperialist thug, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of untold millions in the Vietnam War and Fascist coups across the world, and he really wasn’t intellectually capable of being president. But he wasn’t thick either. Bill Clinton was far from stupid, though he was also responsible for some of the worst policies passed by an American president, such as gutting further what remained of the American welfare system after Reagan, quite apart from highly questionable foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, there are a long line of chiefly Republican presidents, who have been suspected of being thick and incompetent. Like Ronald Reagan, even before the poor fellow was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not The Nine O’clock News sang songs about his epic stupidity. There was a long-running sketch on Spitting Image, in which his aides go in search of his missing brain. Then in the early part of this century, he was followed into the Oval Office by George Dubya, who had been an illiterate drunk smashed out of his skull on recreational chemicals. Dubya at least gave up the booze and drugs, and was credited as reading. He still struck everyone as being so stupid, that when one person made up the rumour that he only had an IQ of 85, it was widely believed. And at one point it looked like America would get a female vice-president in the shape of Sarah Palin, who has a reputation for monumental stupidity. One American commenter described his candidacy for the presidency or vice-presidency to a ‘post turtle’. What’s a post turtle? He explained that if you go to the Deep South, ever so often on the roads you see a turtle stuck on a fence post. The turtle’s got no right to be there, doesn’t know how it got there, and you don’t know what moron put it there. And that summed up Palin’s bid for supreme power.

And now we have Donald Trump, a sexist, misogynist, islamophobic Fascist, a narcissistic megalomaniac, who seems unable to read or comprehend the documents put in front of him.

He is massively unfit for office, and the fact that he’s in it points to a deeply troubling strand of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party. The late comedian Bill Hicks used to joke that there was a streak of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it began the same year Reagan was elected. He had a point. Reagan got into power by presenting the image of a down-home ordinary bloke, offering his folksy wisdom in place of the complicated and simply wrong ideas offered by those affecting to be cleverer than the rest of us. And this is a powerfully attractive approach. No-one likes the feeling that they’re being condescended to by someone impressed with their own intelligence, or being treated with contempt. And the right, both in America and in Britain, try to capitalise on this anti-intellectualism. You think of all the times the Tories have tried to persuade the public that you don’t need to know about fancy economic theories to understand the economy, just commonsense household management. Left-wing economists have tried to point out that, in fact, you do need to understand economics as it is definitely not like balancing a household budget. But still they carry on, using the metaphor of household budgeting to justifying cutting services and privatising the NHS.

And now Trump, who appears to be barely literate, is in the White House. Pakman points out that it seems that Trump spoke at the level of a fourth grade schoolboy, not because he was trying to talk to ordinary Americans at their level, but because his reading level is that of a fourth grade schoolboy. It’s been said that politician is the one job that doesn’t require qualifications. Well, intelligence doesn’t guarantee that someone will make the right decisions. But in a complex world, in which power relationships between countries are so delicate that a misstep could start an international incident or even another war, we do need intellectual ability in our leaders and their advisers. We need politicos, who have the ability to obtain the knowledge of world affairs they need, not just from the broadcast news, but from foreign policy documents, even simply from reading the papers.

Trump seems incapable of this, and it puts us all in danger. He really does need to go.

Massive March in Washington DC Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

January 30, 2017

This is a video of the massive march that occurred yesterday in Washington D.C., as what looks like easily tens of thousands, if not a hundred thousand severely normal Americans marched in protest at Trump’s ban on Muslim immigration. The video’s from The Young Turks, and you can hear their anchorman, Eric Byler, stating that this is a kind of ’tissue rejection’. America’s seen the all-White face of bigotry in the mirror represented by Trump’s regime, and doesn’t like what it sees.

The marchers hold up a variety of placards. Several show a female Muslim face wrapped in a chador the colour of the American flag. There are also placards stating that all faiths should be welcome in America. I spotted one, which was by a Jewish person, protesting against the ban based on their experience as a Jew. The marchers can be heard chanting ‘No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!’ And at least one quotes the lines from the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your poor… your huddled masses’. Or words to that effect.

This shows just how many Americans are coming out onto the streets to stop Fascism in their nation.

Scientists and Hackers Back Up Climate Data to Prevent Trump Deleting It

January 30, 2017

Here’s another act of resistance against the Trump regime. In this very short video, Farron Cousins from The Ring of Fire explains how, during Trump’s inauguration, a group of 60 climate scientists and hackers got together to go through the US government’s website to back up all the data on climate change. This information is now stored on servers in Europe. The scientists, technicians and hackers did so to prevent the information from being deliberately purged by Trump. The group intends to compare this with future releases of information on climate by Trump and his cronies in order to prevent him from falsifying evidence against climate change.

Cousins makes very short work of Kelly-Anne Conway’s statements that Trump believes in climate change. Conway is Trump’s spokeswoman, and she’s claimed that he believes in it, as he’s talked about it in the past. Well, no, he hasn’t actually. The only time the Permatanned Duce talked about it, he declared that it was ‘a Chinese hoax’.

Cousins shows how the Republicans not only do not believe in climate change, but they confuse it with weather. Conway apparently says that Trump’s aware that climate change is occurring, because the weather also changes. Cousins shows that while the weather does change from day to day, the climate is rather different. But as he says, the Republicans don’t believe climate change is real, because it still snows, so this obviously disproves global warming.

This is excellent news, as Trump has already shown his determination to expunge and falsify information on climate change through imposing gagging orders preventing officials working for the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing data that does not match the Trump-approved party line.

Other scientists are planning to organise a march on Washington as a protest against Trump’s and the Republicans’ attacks on climate science, evolution and renewable energy.

It’s great that so much is being done to defend climate science from attacks from Trump and the Republicans. And this is just one facet of a general movement by millions of people throughout the world against Trump and his policies.

Jesus in the Food Bank Queue

December 9, 2016

I’ve been attending the Advent course run by one of the ministers at our local church. The theme is hospitality in the Bible and the early church, and the obligation this lays upon modern Christians to live and work for the poor, the marginalised and strangers. Last night one of the texts studied was Christ’s words ‘For as you do to the least of them, you do to me’. Christ made clear that the people, who will be saved at the Last Judgement, will be those who fed, clothed and tended Him when He was in need. By which He meant the poor, the hungry, the sick and the outcast.

He talked about how he had visited a church in Washington D.C. He pointed out that not all of the city is like the White House and the government buildings. Beyond this well-kept, affluent area is are districts of the most desperate poverty. The church he’d visited had maintained a food line for the area’s poor. He stated that these were people, who were forced to use it to make ends meet until their next paycheque came. He was particularly impressed by one of the women serving at this food bank. Every morning she prayed to serve Jesus when she saw him again in the queue that day. She didn’t mean she literally saw Him, but as He was present in the poor peeps, who turned up for their food. It was a powerful, modern application of Christ’s teaching.

He also produced quotations from the Early Church Fathers about the Christian duty to work for the poor, even when personal charity was being undermined somewhat by the institutional charity – hospitals, hostels, orphanages and monasteries of the late Roman Empire after Constantine’s conversion. Hippolytus, for example, advised that every citizen, who was able should build a guest chamber on to their house. And one of the other Church Fathers described one of the hospitals as a city for the poor, by which they could meet the rich as equals.

These are very strong, challenging demands for Christians to practise the charity taught in the Bible, and to seek out, identify with and support ‘the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner’, and bring to their feasts ‘the poor, the lame and the blind’.

Unfortunately, Contemporary neoliberal politics since Thatcher and Reagan has demanded that the institutional care provided by the state should be cut back, with disastrous results. They believed that this would strengthen the Church by forcing people to fall back on private charity. Hence we now have the spectacle of various charities actively seeking out government contracts, and fully supporting the hideous policies of sanctioning and marginalisation that are forcing more people into poverty, misery, starvation and, in extreme cases, death. And the charities themselves are under threat. The figures provided by the Trussell Trust of the numbers of people using their food banks have been attacked by the Tories for the simply reason that they give the lie to their propaganda that austerity – meaning benefit cuts and wage freezes – have somehow made people better off.

I fully support the charities and their workers, who do genuinely work for the poor. One of the most acute accounts of what it is like to work at the sharp end trying to aid those pushed into need by the government’s policies comes from the blogs and vlogs of people working in food banks. I’ve reblogged some of these. But private charity isn’t enough. We need the support of the state, and active welfare policies to empower the poor, disabled and marginalised, including the working class.

As for Theresa May, and her claims to be guided by her Christian faith, before she does so, she should meditate very much on how Our Lord is present in the poor. She may well do so. But I’ve seen no evidence of her doing anything genuinely to alleviate poverty.

TYT Politics on the Historic Unitarian Church Determined to Defend Trump’s Victims

November 17, 2016

This is really heartening. In this video, The Young Turks’ Eric Byler interviews the Rev. Dr. Robert Hardies, the minister of All Souls Unitarian church in Washington DC, on his determination to offer his church as sanctuary to all the groups, who are going to be attacked by Trump now he’s in office – the gays, Latinos, Muslims, Blacks and others. There’s footage of the reverend gentleman preaching, in which he talks about how God, before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, were told to set up cities of refuge, to which persecuted individuals could flee. He describes how in the Middle Ages the church also offered sanctuary for those fleeing secular justice, and so his decision to make his church protect those now threatened with persecution from Trump is part of this tradition. He also talks about his historic church’s own individual tradition of sounding its bell during times of national crisis and celebration, including the ending of the American Civil War.

The Turks, in their blurb for this video, state:

“This congregation will provide sanctuary to all who are vulnerable and oppressed by the incoming administration.”

Rev. Dr. Robert M. Hardies, addressed his congregation at the historic All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington DC on the Sunday following the election of Donald J. Trump to be the United States’ 45th president. TYT reporter Eric Byler ( http://Twitter.com/EricByler ) sat down with Rev. Hardies, who is one of the nation’s most respected gay ministers as well as a leader in the national fight for racial justice, to ask whether his advice to his church would be the same he would offer to the nation. Hardies spoke both of reconciliation and resolve to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

Our response to a comment saying churches should stay out of politics:

“The reality is we are going to be governed either by (a) corporatists plus religious people blinded by partisanship and “white racial identity” or (b) corporatists and people of conscience and compassion whether their inspiration be secular or nonsecular. One of these two coalitions will govern us better. It won’t harm anything to learn about, and have dialogue with religious communities, and, perhaps even learn how to tell the difference.” — @EricByler

Our response to comments from viewers marvelling at the existence of progessive people of faith:

“There have always been progressive and regressive churches. As the abolitionist movement began to take root, circa 1830, many of the churches split over slavery. This is why we have Southern Methodist vs. Methodist, Southern Baptist vs. Baptist, for instance Other churches, like the one seen in this report, were formed for the PURPOSE of fighting slavery and other forms of oppression. The reason why we are SO MUCH MORE familiar with regressive churches in today’s America is that plutocratic interests have worked very hard to annex the churches as amplifiers of their political agendas. They did so in the 1830’s (slave owners) and they did so in the 1970’s and 1980’s (white nationalist corporatists), both times with great success. The progressive churches have continued to exist, but they have not been put in the lime light of corporate media, with the intermittent exception of progressive Black churches, especially during the Civil Rights movement. But they do exist. Two of the best known progressive evangelicals are Rev. Dr. William Barber (whom you probably know) and Rev. Jim Wallis ( http://Twitter.com/jimwallis ) Here is info on Wallis: https://sojo.net/biography/jim-wallis

Their comment about the greater attention given to the regressive churches due to their annexation by the plutocracy is exactly right. A few years ago, a pair of sociologists published a book The Truth About Evangelical Christians, which presented the real picture of the nature of American theologically conservative Christians. They found that, in contrast to the picture presented by the Televangelists like Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson and his appalling 700 Hundred Club and the rest of the religious Right, about half, or over half of American Evangelicals were actually left-wing. In fact, many were even further left than American Roman Catholics.

This is part of submerged, left-wing America, the America of the unseen, ignored masses of liberals and progressives, coming together to challenge the quasi-Fascist beast now squatting in the White House. It’s part of the movement that saw Americans in cities across the US get on to the streets to march together against Trump’s election, and the political and corporate corruption that put him there. Amen to all this.

Alexander Cockburn and the Row Over the Israel Lobby

May 4, 2016

As I said in a previous piece I put up this evening, Mike has reported the suspension of two more Labour MPs for supposed anti-Semitism. They’re the Newport Councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, and Terry Kelly, a councillor for Renfrewshire. Mr Kelly is supposed to have discussed the ‘Jewish lobby’ in the US, claiming that it influenced foreign policy and rigged the Oscars. See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/04/anti-semitism-row-labour-suspends-two-more/

In fact, as I’ve posted several pieces about the subject, it’s perfectly reasonable to talk about the Israel lobby and its very strong influence on American foreign policy without necessarily being either an anti-Semite or even anti-Israel. One of those, who does so is the veteran radical academic and scholar of linguistics, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has said in an interview that one of the right-wing organisations in the America tried to uncover something with which they could smear him a decade or so ago. They were disappointed. After digging around, they found that personally, Chomsky was actually very boring, living in bourgeois American domesticity with his family, and mowing his lawn on Sundays. They therefore had to content themselves with making a sneering remark about his linguistic theories, like he hadn’t properly understood the role of such and such in his transformational grammar. Or some such asinine remark.

Ten years ago there was massive controversy over in the US when Mearsheimer and Walt published their study, The Israel Lobby, in 2006. Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard professor whom the radical journo Alexander Cockburn described as America’s most manic Zionist, went off on a rant and compared it to the anti-Semitic conspiracy text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He was joined by Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post. Cockburn discusses the furore in the chapter ‘The Row Over the Israel Lobby’, in his and Jeffrey St Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate. He points out that the book and its conclusions are entirely unremarkable and not remotely anti-Semitic. He begins the chapter thus:

This spring of 2006 a sometimes-comic debate has simmering [sic] in the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an Israeli Lobby, and if so, just how powerful is it?

I would have thought that to ask whether there’s an Israeli Lobby here is a bit like asking whether there’s a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour and a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. For the past sixty years, the Lobby has been as fixed a part of the American scene as either of the other two monuments, and not infrequently exercising as much if not more influence on the onward march of history.

The late Steve Smith, brother-in-law of Teddy Kennedy and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades, liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got together two million dollars in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in desperate need of money amidst his presidential campaign in 1948. Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his Zionist backers.

Since those days the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to and supported by rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its website the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20 and 125 of the top 250. Given this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy their demands. There have been famous disputes, as between President Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin, and famous vendettas, as when the Lobby destroyed the political careers of Representative Paul Findley and of Senator Charles Percy because they were deemed to be anti-Israel.

None of this history is particularly controversial, and there have been plenty of well-documented accounts of the activities of the Israel Lobby down the years, from Alfred Lilienthal’s 1978 study, The Zionist Connection, to former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley’s 1985 book They Dare To Speak Out to Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S. Israeli Covert relationship, written by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, and published in 1991. (pp.319-20)

Looking at Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book, Cockburn stated that it’s actually unremarkable and really rather boring.

In fact, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt is extremely dull. The long version runs to 81 pages, no less than 40 pages of which are footnotes. I settled down to read it with eager anticipation but soon found myself looking hopefully for the end. There’s nothing in the paper that any moderately well-read student of the topic wouldn’t have known long ago, but the paper has the merit of stating rather blandly some home truths which are somehow still regarded as too dangerous to state publicly in respectable circles in the United States. (P. 322.)

Of the denunciations of the book as anti-Semitic, Cockburn states that they’re actually funny, as the Lobby does exist, the authors weren’t ant-Semites, and even the Washington Post and New York Times have pointed out that the book had a point.

This method of assault at least has the advantage of being funny, because there obviously is a Lobby – as noted above and because Mearsheimer and Walt aren’t anti-Semites any more than 99.9 per cent of others identifying the Lobby and criticizing its role. Partly as a reaction to Dershowitz and Cohen, the Washington Post and New York Times have now run a few pieces politely pointing out that the Israel Lobby has indeed exercised a chilling effect on the rational discussion of U.S. foreign policy. The tide it turning slightly. (P. 323).

Except in 21st century Britain, apparently. It looks very much like another case where someone has confused the Israel Lobby with ‘Jews’. In the case of the accusations against the Oscars, unfortunately there have always been stupid conspiracies about the Jewish influence in show business. Jews have been very prominent in American cinema, as has been pointed out by historians of the American film industry. They’ve stated, however, that this isn’t due to some dodgy conspiracy, but the simple fact that there much less prejudice against them in the entertainment and film industries than there were elsewhere. At times, there have been anti-Semitic accusations levelled because of this, as during the 1930s when Father Coughlin accused the Jewish film moguls of trying to destroy American culture. At other times, the situation has been much more complicated. Private Eye a few years ago ran a story about how the career of US entertainment journalist had been torpedoed after they ran an article, which described the large number of Jews in the film industry as a ‘Jewish mafia’. However, a Jewish author in a later article also used the same words to describe the strong Jewish presence in American cinema, with no complaints.

I very much doubt that there is any kind of Jewish conspiracy to rig the Oscars. But that shouldn’t stop any reasonable discussion of the possible influence of Jewish organisations, or organisations claiming to represent Jews, in such areas. This should be for the same reason that talking about the role of Evangelical Christians in promoting the Satanism scare a few years ago, or describing how, horrifically, many Christians in the Fascist countries during the War were all too willing to collaborate with the Nazis should necessarily make you anti-Christian.

These are very emotive, very controversial topics. Let’s show a bit of common sense and calm rationality before throwing accusations like anti-Semitism around, shall we?

Secular Talk on the Democracy Spring Protests in Washington

April 20, 2016

I don’t know if the media over here have covered it, but last week there was a mass protest – and mass arrests – at the Democracy Spring demonstration in the American capital. 600 people marched against the corporate corruption of US politics from Philadelphia to Washington DC, where they protested on the steps of the Capitol itself. 400 people were arrested, including The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur. It was the largest mass arrest at a demonstration in the nation’s history.

In this video, Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski talks about the protests, and why these people are American heroes. He points out that 90 per cent of the time, the party that spends the most wins the election, and this money comes from corporate donors. As a result, the decisions of the country’s government reflects what their donors want, not what the people of America really want. And the effect on American democracy is devastating. According to polls, the percentage of the American populace, which believes that their government is doing a good job, varies from 9% to 20%. And the way in which the donors’ interests are reflected in official policy, while that of Mr and Mrs J. Public are ignored, can be seen in the following.

Wall Street extensively bankrolls politicos’ campaigns. As a result, the banks were bailed out using the hard-earned tax dollars taken from America’s middle class. And then the banks carried on as before, claiming that they needed all that money spent on them to retain all their talent. The same talent that was responsible for the horrific mess in the first place. Yet if your local shop or laundrette goes under, it most definitely will not be bailed out, ’cause the shopkeeper or small entrepreneur ain’t paid his official bribes to the politicians. And it goes on. ExxonMobil receives millions upon millions in public funding, yet it clearly doesn’t need all that for research and development, as it claims. Similarly, America has a massive military budget, thanks to lobbying from the military-industrial complex.

And the desires of ordinary Americans are being stymied and frustrated. Eighty per cent of the people across the Pond want the minimum wage to be raised. But this isn’t on the table, as the corporate donors don’t want it. Sixty per cent of Americans don’t want there to be cuts to welfare, medicare and education. But the government has been trying to do that for the past six years.

Kulinski points out that Obama is as radical as is possible under the present system of corporate politics. But he’s hardly radical anywhere else. In fact, he’s centre right. And his politics largely reflect what the donors want, not what they American people themselves want or need. Only seven per cent of Americans support the war in Afghanistan. It’s now more unpopular than Vietnam. But thanks to the money spent by the corporations, nobody is talking about pulling out.

For Kulinski, the message is clear that what is needed is get the corporate sponsorship out of politics.

Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLk0jMRTE70

I’ve reblogged it, because yesterday and today I’ve put up pieces from George Monbiot’s Captive State, about how the corporations have corrupted politics in this country. Indeed, one of the pieces I put up today was about how senior managers from the supermarket chains not only lobby parliament and the European Union, but also occupy governmental posts in the very departments that are supposed to regulate them.

Mike today also put up a piece over at Vox Political, commenting on a Vice report about the row that’s blown up in the Labour Party over its refusal to invite McDonald’s to the party conference. The party members making the noise claim that it this is simply due to the party wishing to make a facile gesture at working class morality and solidarity. The reality is that many Labour MPs have done very well out of the largesse of McDonald’s and the other corporate donors. And the restaurant chain has no business turning up at the conference of a party, founded partly to represent the trade unions, when it refuses to recognise them. Read Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/20/what-an-argument-about-mcdonalds-tells-us-about-the-labour-party/

Of course, one of the first things Bliar did when he took power in the Labour party is threaten to cut ties with the unions, if they didn’t jump his way. And his protégés have continued to threaten working class people, supporting the destruction of workers’ rights and cuts to welfare benefits. All in the name of increasing ‘workforce fluidity’ and ingratiating themselves with the predatory middle class.

My guess is that the row over McDonald’s is partly about Corbyn’s leadership, and the fear amongst the Blairite’s that working class consciousness and class war might just come back in. But I think there’s also a fear about what’s happening in America. Britain, like America, has thrown open the doors of government to the corporate rich. Corporate donors funded the parties and took on politicians and senior civil servants when they retired or lost their seats. At the same time, the parties gave donors like McDonald’s what they wanted, and appointed fat cat millionaires like David Sainsbury to government posts. Now people in America are getting upset at that cosy and corrupt relationship. There’s been a news blackout about the protests by the corporate shills in the Land of the Free, and my guess it’s rattling a few cages over here as well. Corporate profits might be hit! Ministers might find themselves without a retirement job! The people just might have a little more power over their masters! And that’s frightening to an awful lot of people on both sides of the House.

Britain desperately needs some of those protests that took place over in America. Before the corporations stamp out freedom on this side of the Atlantic as well.