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UPDATE 1-Brazil's Odebrecht will agree this week to $2.1 billion fine, paper says

Reuters Us Markets - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:28
SAO PAULO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Brazilian engineering group Odebrecht SA is close to signing a leniency agreement with prosecutors under which it will pay around 7 billion reais ($2.1 billion) in...

UK uses 'Autumn statement' to prepare economy for "new chapter"- May's spokeswoman

Reuters Us Markets - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:28
LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Finance minister Philip Hammond is using his first detailed policy announcement to help prepare the British economy for "a new chapter", a spokeswoman for Prime Minister...

BRIEF-Internet Gold Golden Lines qtrly loss per share $2.51

Reuters Us Markets - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:23
* Internet Gold Golden Lines - consolidated loss for Q3 of 2016 totaled nis 41 million compared with net income of nis 236 million reported in Q3 of 2015

UPDATE 2-Infineon lifts profitability target on car sector hopes

Reuters Us Markets - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:23
* Fourth-quarter operating profit 280 mln euros (Adds CEO, CFO, analyst comment, background, updates shares,)

BRIEF-B Communications qtrly loss per share $2.29

Reuters Us Markets - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:22
* Net loss for Q3 of 2016 totaled nis 27 million ($7 million) compared with a net profit of nis 259 million in Q3 of 2015

Civilians flee as Shi'ite groups close in on flashpoint town west of Mosul

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:11
ERBIL/BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled Tal Afar as Shi'ite paramilitary groups close in the Islamic State-held town on the road between Mosul and Raqqa, the main cities of the militant group's self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Europeans Call on US Leaders to Curb Hate Speech

Who What Why - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 05:57

The European organization that monitored the US elections and gave the process a less than stellar report card now has raised concerns about the growing incidence of post-election hate crimes.

Michael Georg Link, who directs the democracy and human rights arm of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), issued a statement on November 21, asking all “political leaders” to “deliver the clear message that there is no place for hate crimes in the United States.”

Link stated that hate crimes can destabilize a country’s security by sending the message to certain groups that “your kind are not wanted here.” Such crimes, Link observed, “undermine social cohesion.”

All political leaders, Link added, “have a responsibility to counter racist and xenophobic discourse with messages of tolerance and inclusion.”

Before the election, Link’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) sent an unprecedented number of election observers — more than 300 — to monitor the US election process. The observers, who released their preliminary report on November 9, found that the US performed adequately on technical points, but failed democracy in more systemic ways.

They noted that nearly 50 million Americans were deprived of the right to vote because of their status as accused or convicted felons, their absence on voter registration rolls, or their residence in US territories such as Puerto Rico, whose citizens are barred from voting for president.

While the observers did not find evidence of a “rigged election” nor encounter the hostility they feared, they raised serious concerns about the “intolerant rhetoric” that marred the campaign. (See our report on their earlier findings.)

The OSCE is not the only group to be alarmed by hate crimes in the US.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has reported a post-election surge across the country, targeting African Americans, immigrants and Muslims. As of Nov. 21, the SPLC had received complaints concerning 700 incidents of hateful harassment or intimidation.

SPLC President Richard Cohen told USA Today that, post-election, there has been “a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election.” Cohen attributed the increase to white supremacist groups elated by the election results.The number of incidents, SPLC notes, has been declining as more time has elapsed since the Trump victory.

Interviewed by 60 Minutes, President-elect Donald Trump was asked about the reports of hate speech and other intimidation post-election. He initially downplayed the number of incidents. He then pronounced himself “saddened” to hear the news that his supporters were harassing Latinos and Muslims.

“If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it,” Trump said.

The president-elect has not said anything further about the issue, although he has tweeted several times to scold the cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton for engaging Vice President-elect Mike Pence in a discussion of diversity and democracy.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from graffiti 1 (Victoria Brownworth / Twitter), graffiti 2 (Hatewatch / Twitter) and graffiti 3 (Nathan Arceneaux / Twitter)

The post Europeans Call on US Leaders to Curb Hate Speech appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

Iran warns of retaliation if U.S. breaches nuclear deal

Reuters US Politics - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 05:54
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Extending U.S. sanctions on Iran for 10 years would breach the Iranian nuclear agreement, Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Wednesday, warning that Tehran would retaliate if the sanctions are approved.

Why I’m teaching women to resist hijab grabbers

MiddleEasteye - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 05:44

Within days of Trump’s election, we developed a self-defence technique to turn the fear of growing hate crimes into action

South Korea, Japan agree intelligence-sharing on North Korea threat

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 05:42
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea and Japan signed a military intelligence pact on Wednesday to share sensitive information on the threat posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear activities, the South's defense ministry said.

Trump’s Campaign of Militarization

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 04:07

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

President-elect Donald Trump’s authoritarian style and personality, which attracted an overwhelmingly authoritarian following, is manifesting itself in the selection of his national security team.  The appointment of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the national security adviser is particularly worrisome because of the general’s lack of experience in strategic policy and his controversial stewardship as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  More recently, we have learned that general officers are being given consideration as secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security.  Trump is putting at risk the Constitution’s support for civilian control of the military as well as decision-making in the use of force as well as national security policy in general.

What is at stake in this case is the deepening cultural divide between the military and civilian worlds, particularly the increased militarization of national security policy that has taken place over the past two decades.  the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have catered to the military, and have appointed too many general and flag officers to positions that should be in the hands of civilians.  President Obama was particularly guilty in this regard, rewarding general officers with ambassadorial positions and naming a retired marine general to the post of national security adviser.  The general, James Jones, was a poor fit in terms of both management and substantive support, and was soon forced out of the White House.

With the exception of the first appointment to the post of director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, all of Bush’s and Obama’s intelligence stars have been general and flag officers, and during this period we have witnessed a signficant decline in the production
and usefulness of strategic intelligence.  Obama also demonstrated too much deference to the military when he retained Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, as his own in order not to create concerns about reform of the military within the Pentagon.

On the basis of my experience at the National War College, where I was on the faculty for 18 years, I believe the all-volunteer military has drifted too far away from the norms of American society, in inordinately right-wing politically, and is much more fundamentalist than America as a whole.  The “Republicanization” of the officer crop is well established and recognized.  As far back as 1997, senior Defense Department officials, including then secretary of defense, William Cohen, a Republican serving in a Democratic administration, warned about a “chasm developing between the military and civilian worlds, where….the military doesn’t understand…why criticism (of the military) is so quick and unrelenting.”  Others have noted a “gap” in values between the armed forces and civilian society, which could threaten civil-military cooperation as well as the military’s loyalty to civilian authority.

The imbalance in civilian-military influence is more threatening to the interests of the United States over the long term than developments in Afghanistan.  President Richard Nixon’s ending of the draft created a professional military, and the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 created regional commanders-in-chief (CINCs) who expanded the martial reach of the United States in the post-Cold War world.  CINCs have become far more influential than U.S. ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state.  Presently, the Department of Defense is far more influential in national security decision-making that the Department of State.  The Act also created a powerful Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and during the Desert Storm war in 1991 the chairman often ignored the secretary of defense and personally briefed the president on war plans.  It is noteworthy that the Act passed the Senate without one vote in opposition.

There is no more important risk in political governance than making sure that civilian control of the military is not compromised, and that the military remains subordinate to political authority.  In the 1990s, the Pentagon ignored President Clinton’s efforts to get the Joint Chiefs to think about military engagement in Afghanistan; more recently, the Pentagon has dragged its heels in response to President Obama’s efforts to finally disengage from Afghanistan.  During a delicate period in decision-making regarding withdrawal from Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal—whose Army nickname was “The Pope”—demonstrated his contempt for civilian leadership, which led to his dismissal over the opposition of Secretary of Defense Gates.

Fortunately, the president recognized the McChrystal affair as a challenge to civilian control and leadership.  Unfortunately, President-elect Trump believes that military leaders—particularly those who were criticized by President Obama—should hold key positions in the Trump administration.  The New York Times’ David Brooks, who is now calling for patience in judging the early actions of Donald Trump, minimized General McChrystal’s remarks as mere “kvetching.”  With the possibility of increased defense spending, a return to the worst of the global war on terror, and increased militarization of the defense and intelligence communit

Once Upon a Time in America

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 04:00

Artwork from book cover | America at War with Itself

Moscow.

Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election in the US, unexpected by the majority of political commentators, initially caused a shock followed by a wave of comments. These comments reflect the bewilderment of the experts and ideologues in the face of the new reality, the meaning of which they refuse to understand.

Liberals, both Western and Russian, are now panicking. All of a sudden, these people realized the undemocratic nature of the American indirect election system, which they were accepting at face value before the voting took place. Even before the last vote was counted, they announced that since Clinton won the popular vote, Trump’s presidency cannot be considered legitimate.

They organize mass protests against the election results, which, by their own admission, did not contradict constitutional rules. These people conveniently forgot how meekly they accepted falsifications which helped Clinton deny the nomination to her opponent Bernie Sanders. While being resentful of the Electoral College system, they call on the Electoral College members to ignore the will of the voters in their states, and to vote for Clinton, since Trump is “unfit to serve”. A petition addressed to the electors initiated by the liberals gathered more than three million signatures. This is not only an unprecedented open call for a coup d’état, but also a cry of despair.

The conservatives, on the contrary, are elated. But here not everything is as straightforward as it might seem. Russian journalists belonging to the nationalist camp are somewhat confused. Although they advertised Trump for several months, his victory was not only unexpected, but also struck a blow at their worldview, since according to it Trump just could not win. The more correct his ideology was from the point of view of a Russian conservative, the fewer chances he had to achieve success in the corrupt liberal America.

The victory of an outsider, who opposed the establishment and the financial capital, proves that democracy exists in the US, even if it is limited by the size of the candidate’s bank account. But acceptance of this fact shatters the whole propagandist concept. Our conservatives did not criticize the power of money, they rather criticized the power of the liberal media establishment propped up by the might of the deep state, which decided not to allow a Trump presidency. Now they have to admit that either the deep state does not exist, or it is not as potent as they were trying to prove…

The Democratic breakthrough in the US is a bad example for a Russian man in the street, since the thesis: “everybody else has the same or even worse”, was always an excuse for our own deformities. Now, it turns out, the others, the hated Americans have it better. Not much better, but one can see the difference…

Turns out that, in the Russian ideological context, Trump’s victory undermined both dominant discourses: the liberal one (defeat of Hillary Clinton destroyed the idea of America’s progressive values, which we must follow), and conservative (about an insidious liberal plot which does not allow a “good guy” to win in a fair election).

And what about the left?

It is hard to stay away from gloating while pointing out that “Rabkor” was among a very few publications which wrote about the possibility of Trump’s victory. Sometimes it makes sense to be in the minority.

But, alas, the majority of the commentaries in Russia and US are amazingly similar. As a matter of fact, one can find only two most common interpretations. On one hand, a universal catastrophe generated by the uprising of the uneducated, wild and terrible monster rednecks (“white males” according to the liberals who use this term to characterize all unpleasant people irrespectively of their gender or skin color) is being prophesized. We are being told that Trump’s administration will crash the economy, initiate mass repressions of women and homosexuals, round up Mexicans into concentration camps, initiate Muslim holocaust, inflict terrible suffering on blacks, and, in the long run, will destroy the healthcare and the planet by its anti-environment actions.

On the other hand, we are being promised that nothing new will happen; that the US and the rest of the world will resume moving in the same direction after a four year break. We just have to survive this unpleasant time.

The paradox is that these two scenarios merge: we will have four years of apocalypses, and then – business as usual.

Alas, the authors of such prognoses are mistaken again. There will be neither apocalypses, nor return to the past.

Trump’s victory is not a result of an unpleasant coincidence; it is a result of a systemic social-economic crisis due to the fact that the current capitalist model of development is completely exhausted. It is not that the system will collapse because of the Trump’s success, but rather his success is caused by the collapse of the system.

It is impossible to return to the trajectory of global liberalization. If this way was still effective and had a future, the Republican candidate would not have stood a chance of winning. While going against the majority of the press, all of the Washington D.C. elite, cable channels, popular journalists, experts, and official ideologues, against the apparatuses of both parties, against the official right and liberal left, he won precisely because their time has gone, their methods and strategies stopped working. The public opinion was just a reflection, albeit a delayed one, of the changes in the economics and the real world.

What the consequences of this victory will prove to be is a different issue.

The stories of impending totalitarian repressions to which Trump will subject women and various minorities are just absurd and false propaganda by liberals, who used it to try scare the American public, but only succeeded in drawing themselves into a state of panic hysteria. The limitations on immigration will indeed take place, and this would without a doubt result in an increase of the popularity of the new president among African Americans, Latinos, and all poor people in general, since they are the ones who lose from the competition with the illegal immigrants (as opposed to the privileged white upper middle class who profit from the cheap labor of the illegal aliens). Mexican unemployed workers, instead of having to risk lives while crossing the border into the US, and making a living by drug trafficking, will get an opportunity to make decent money building a multi-kilometer  wall between the two states. Construction companies will get contracts; the infrastructure will grow.

A similar wall, just a virtual one, created by the protectionist trade policies will protect America from the influx of Chinese products promoting growth of national production and job creation. The transatlantic and transpacific partnerships, so vigorously opposed by the left, will be buried. The interventionist plans of the Democratic administration, which constantly expanded US presence in the Eastern Europe and the Middle East, will be at least postponed.

And, even if the hopes that the new American government will completely abandon the policies of interference into the internal affairs of independent countries turn out to be exaggerated, the extent of this interference will certainly decrease.

Does this mean that Trump presidency will be a blessing for the world?

It would be ill-advised to make such a statement. The turn in the US policies we are witnessing will cause a lot of problems and conflicts, but not the ones that the liberal journalists are trying to scare us with. It will give a start to the important positive shifts, but not the ones that our conservatives are dreaming about.

Protectionist defense of the American market combined with large-scale construction projects in line with the recommendation of John M. Keynes will stimulate growth in the US, even if these projects will be ridiculous and meaningless (just like the huge pit that Keynes ironically suggested to dig in England to overcome the economic depression). But American growth will not pull other economies out of the crisis; on the contrary, it will exacerbate their difficulties. The only countries that might somewhat benefit are the US neighbors: Mexico and Canada. Transnational corporations will have to move the production closer to the consumer markets.

Western Europe is doomed either to repeat the US measures or risk plunging into a deep recession.

The world crisis will only deepen outside the US. China’s chances to compensate for the partial loss of the American market by yuan devaluation or expansion in other directions are very slim. Following the US lead, other countries will be forced to protect their own production. Chinese crisis will decrease the demand for Russian natural resources, demonstrating, yet once again, the terrible consequences of the deindustrialization implemented in our country. Oil prices already dropped in the aftermath of the US elections.

It is anyone’s guess how fast the turn will happen in the Western Europe, and how high will be the price to pay. Brexit showed the way, but it did not become a European trend yet, since European bureaucracy, carefully structured and layered, is an even greater impediment for the political and social changes than the American establishment.

It still may happen that it will be Russia controlled by oil tycoons that will stand as a last bastion of economic liberalism. But even here the positions of the ruling class will be weakening under the pressure from the new realities of the world markets. The objective change in the balance of the forces inthe society will sooner or later not only allow the opportunity for change, but will also cause the realization of its necessity, just like it is happening in the USA and Europe.

In the meantime, none of the American social problems will be solved. Trump, not only is not getting ready to solve them, but also, it seems, has no idea they exist, thinking sincerely that creating a few million jobs and somewhat increasing the salaries will suffice. However, the combination of the economic growth with unsolved social problems is the surest recipe for a revolution.

If President Trump will succeed in solving the economic problems, if he will be even partially successful in fulfilling his promises and plans, it will not cancel the urgency of a large scale social modernization, including creation of universal and affordable healthcare and education systems, extension ofthe trade union rights, and expansion of the public sector. On the contrary, the economic growth will make these demands more convincing and popular, and will strengthen social movements advocating for the reforms.

Trade unions, workers’ movements and wage-earners feel much more confident in the conditions of the economic growth. The conflicts will not be fading away, they will grow.

The question is: will Trump be able to realize his economic program even partially? The block of financial capital, Washington political establishment, and corrupt liberal left intelligentsia, unbreakable in its unity, will fight his protectionist policies. Political influence of this block is based on the fragmentation of the society, promoted by the ruling class, with the enthusiastic support from the left in the last 30 years. All attempts at social solidarity were eradicated by dividing the society into numerous vertically organized and competing “minorities”, which could be manipulated in order to implement policies benefitting the elites. The 2016 election demonstrated that this situation is changing.

Both Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and voting for Trump, demonstrated, the last one to a higher degree, that the lower classes of the society are willing to consolidate, independently from the appeals of the self-proclaimed “defenders of the minorities”.

An African-American laborer realizes that he has much more in common with a “white male” laborer than with a privileged liberal smugly reasoning about the need for political correctness. A single mother fighting for survival understands how alien are the interests and the views of a feminist who distributes multimillion gender related grants among her friends and clients.

A spontaneous surge in solidarity generated by the Sanders campaign did not end after the Vermont senator capitulated. These were his followers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and other traditionally Democratic states who decided the outcome of the election by refusing to vote for Clinton or by giving their vote to Trump. The Latino votes predetermined Trump victory in Florida. Bernie Sanders sensed this new reality well when he, after all politically correct qualifications, offered to collaborate with the winner.

After the progressive Senator’s capitulation to the liberal establishment, his social base did not follow him, they followed Trump.  Now the Senator does not have a choice but to follow his social base.

The 2016 elections signified the collapse of the politics of political correctness, and created the preconditions of its substitution by the politics of solidarity. The hysterical reaction of the liberal circles in the USA confirms that even if they do not realize the scope and significance of the ongoing process, they feel intuitively that the earth is shifting under their feet. They can continue to scare each other and the minorities for a while by the imminent repressions by the new administration, but they themselves clearly understand that this is false.

An active work is needed in order to create the preconditions for a new progressive movement in the USA. This movement, provoked by the Bernie Sanders campaign, is already a reality of the American life, but it will only reach a success when it will realize that their interests are the exact opposite and are incompatible with the interests of the left liberal elite, who are aligned with the Democratic Party. The split will be hard and painful, but it is necessary.

With respect to Russia, the American lesson is very simple. If the left movement seriously aspires to play a role in real, not imaginary, politics, it has to break decisively with liberal illusions and the corresponding discourse.

Immigration: Marine Le Pen Sets the Political Agenda in France

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:59

Photo by Rémi Noyon | CC BY 2.0

The first round of the French presidential election is five months away, yet France is already in political turmoil. There are several reasons. First, François Hollande, the incumbent president, is so weak and discredited that some expect him to pull out of the race altogether. This would be an unprecedented move for a president in office.

Second, Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, is going from strength to strength. She is consistently polling at more than 20% of the share of the vote (against 17.9% in 2012) and seems guaranteed to make it to the second and decisive round of next year’s presidential elections. What’s more, Le Pen’s rise has been directly affecting her opponents across the political spectrum.

Rather than pushing back against her ideas, mainstream politicians have opted to emulate some of her key policy proposals. This is not a question of a left and right divide. Most high-profile politicians of all stripes have embraced Le Pen’s agenda: they promise tough law-and-order solutions; they constantly talk about “national identity”; they defend “republican values under the threat of Islam”; and they promote an exclusive if not discriminatory brand of secularism (laïcité). Last but not least, they insist that immigration, the FN’s pet topic since the 1980s, has to be curbed.

Anti-racist associations apart, the French public has shown little support in general for economic and political migrants. There have been situations of tension, in Calais notably, between migrants and the local population. In an October 2015 poll, 67% of the French population declared that family and housing state subsidies should only apply to EU migrants and 61% would like the government to scrap medical assistance for illegal migrants.

A September 2016 poll showed that 62% opposed welcoming in Europe migrants and refugees who sail to the Italian or Greek coasts. Notably, the level of support for migrants has decreased across voters of all political inclinations

The key question to ask on immigration, especially in the light of the Brexit vote, is: are there signs of the aversion to non-European migrants and lack of support for refugees extending to EU migrants?

Unlike in Britain the French population has not tended to direct its anger at EU workers. There could be a practical explanation. Tony Blair’s government enthusiastically opened up Britain’s borders to eastern European workers from 2004, the year of accession of 10 new member states. France, instead, restricted dramatically the conditions of access to its internal markets. Since then, the French government has fully adopted EU legislation, although it has never “caught up” with Britain on the number of eastern European migrants who work and live there.

A majority of French and British voters share the same dislike for EU bureaucracy, its byzantine legislation and the feeling of loss of “sovereignty”, which has to be “regained”. In France, there are also similar issues of racism and xenophobia, but these tend to focus on French citizens of foreign descent, notably from former colonies in North Africa.

So, for the moment, no mainstream politicians in France challenges the principle of free movement in the EU. Discussing Brexit in the British press recently, Nicolas Sarkozy warned Theresa May that no European government could agree to grant the United Kingdom free access to the single market if Britain does not accept free movement.

For a majority of French politicians, immigration is a problem, but it is essentially an extra-communitarian one. Manuel Valls, the prime minister, stressed the importance for Europe “to take urgent action to control its external borders… otherwise our societies will be totally destabilised”.

Despite a steady increase in Euroscepticism in France, the underlying principle of free movement of people across the EU remains broadly undisputed. Apart from in one telling area. There is growing evidence of opposition towards EU migrants and the notion of freedom in what has become known as “social dumping”. This relates to “posted workers”, employees sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis. Those EU workers do not integrate in the labour market in which they work.

Hence, “social dumping”, where foreign service providers undercut local service providers because their labour standards are lower (in terms of pay and social protection). Interestingly, the most staggering attack against posted workers has come not from the far right, as one would expect, but from the radical left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an MEP, a presidential candidate in 2012 and running again in 2017, has singled out posted workers in a speech at the European parliament last July. He declared that “posted workers took the bread out of French workers’ mouths”. Part of the French left was stunned by words that could have easily been uttered by Marine Le Pen.

It is undeniable that economic migration in France and in the UK has been, in some circumstances, poorly planned and has put a strain on public service provisions (schools, nurseries, hospitals). But still the prevailing view in France would be that EU migrants themselves are not responsible for the situation.

Our governments, it follows, have let people down by underinvesting in public services, by decisions they have taken in the first place: in 2004, the decision to enlarge Europe and the dismantling of the welfare state.

Economic migrants have become a convenient scapegoat, but by launching unprecedented austerity policies our governments have created a situation in which national states cannot cope with the sudden influx of EU workers at times of economic recession.

Sarkozy and Le Pen aim to take away immigrants’ rights and social protection that might not even be reallocated to nationals because of further spending cuts. But, at least for the moment, they don’t have EU migrants in their sights.

A New Human Rights Movement Stirs from Below

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:59

Photo by Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0

One of the unforeseen results of the 2016 U.S. election could be the emergence of a broad new coalition committed to anti-racism, immigrant rights and the tolerance of all faiths, creeds and liberties. In other words, a unified force dedicated to the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights and other bedrocks of governance.

A glimpse of the incipient movement was evident at an Albuquerque rally, dubbed “A Gathering for Unity and Support,” held the evening of November 18 on the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus and organized by the Southwest Organizing Project, the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, the local Muslim community, Justice for Jacquise Lewis (a young African American man who was murdered at an Albuquerque park in 2014, but whose identified white killer was never charged), and other organizations.

Illuminated by the glow of luminarias ringed by marigolds scattered on the ground, scores of people stood in the chilly air outside the UNM bookstore for a speak out on post-election racial and ethnic attacks and policies expected to gush forth from Washington next year.  Master of Ceremonies Shakir, a member of the Muslim faith, introduced Father Frank Quintana, who donned Muslim dress and headwear to the applause of a diverse crowd.  In a firm voice, Quintana explained the historical precedence for his new attire. “My Christian forefathers in Europe took to wearing stars of David in solidarity with Jews..,” the priest said.

A woman member of the UNM Muslim Student Association thanked the community for showing support after a Muslim student reportedly had a hijab torn from her head at the Albuquerque campus recently. Taking the cue, a male member of the Sikh community spoke about a conversation he had with his daughter about supporting Muslims. The little girl, he admitted was a bit confused by the issue.

“Are we Muslim?” she asked her dad.

“No, we aren’t but we are,” the man replied to his daughter.

“Whether it’s the Hispanic community or the Muslim community, we stand with you,” he said to the evening rally, eliciting a hearty round of more applause.

Like other places in the United States, Albuquerque has experienced reports of hate crimes since the November 8 election. In addition to the Muslim student who had her hijab snatched from her and a second student of the same faith who reportedly suffered an attack, swastikas were found spray painted on the UNM campus. Separately, FNS heard a story in which an African-American woman was verbally accosted with the N-word in a commercial parking lot in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho and told that people like herself would now have to leave.

Nationally, the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported 701 hate crimes between November 9 and November 16, mostly within two days of the November 8 election. The SPLC classified the incidents as follows: Anti-immigrant (206), anti-Black (151), anti-LGBT (80), swastika vandalism (60), anti-Muslim (51), and anti-woman (36). The scenes of aggression included: K-12 schools (149), businesses (129), universities and colleges (114), streets (82), private property (72), and driving (42).

“We are keeping track of anti-Trump incidents as well, which rose from our last report from 20 to 27,” the Alabama-based civil rights advocates stated.

A flash of the rancor that swept over the land was briefly captured at the November 18 Albuquerque speak out when a young man on a bicycle began yelling at rally goers and spit at a group. Outraged, several people in attendance chased the man away before the confrontation worsened. The local police, who were quick to stand down a November 9 anti-Trump demonstration with the deployment of a riot squad, were nowhere in sight. At UNM and in Albuquerque, mobilizations are mounting against racism and in defense of immigrants.

On November 16, hundreds of students organized by the Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan and other groups staged a walk-out against racism and hate crimes, in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and in support of declaring UNM a sanctuary for undocumented students, a demand that’s gathering momentum on more than 100 other U.S. college campuses nationwide, according to assorted media reports.

An estimated 200 high school students from Albuquerque Academy also staged a walk-out around similar issues, chanting “Not my president.” In his weekly message also posted November 16, UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah addressed the charged events on campus and off, noting he is an immigrant who came to the U.S. 35 years ago from a polarized country where citizens “stopped talking to each other, and soon, discussions that used to take place in cafes, churches and mosques, were replaced by gun fights and bombings…”

In response to the on-campus surge of hate crimes, Abdallah said an attack on one was an attack against all. “They fly in the face of every American value that I was taught when I immigrated. We cannot become numb to the warning signs of closed-mindedness, and of mindless hatred,” he wrote.

The university official called on the campus community to display its better instincts, assuring that “No one should be made to feel unwelcome or unsafe because of who they are, what they think or how they vote…” Besides reminding readers of UNM counseling and departmental resources available to people feeling “threatened, despondent, angry and alone,” Abdallah said the university will sponsor a big teach-in in early December aimed at deciphering the implications and dimensions of the November 8 election.

On November 18, faculty members delivered a letter to UNM President Robert Frank signed by at least 995 people that condemned “discrimination, marginalization and, violence against any community member.” Posted by Albuquerque media outlet KOB, the letter called for protecting undocumented students who attend New Mexico’s largest institute of higher education.

On the same evening, a diverse crowd of Muslims and Christians, Sikhs and Jews, Asians and Native Americans, Blacks and Whites, Chicanos and Mexicans, young and old, and students and non-students, spoke out about the past, present and future. A man decked out in a spotless suit and wearing Anonymous’ trademark Guy Fawkes mask walked around passing out red roses while signs held above the crowd proclaimed, “Thank you for being part of our community” and “Resist Islamophobia.”  At one point, people hugged each other at the urging of MC Shakir. “We can’t let hate separate us anymore,” he intoned.

Cesar Gonzalez, Albuquerque South Valley youth worker, described the fearful and angry emotions of young people he works with in the wake of the election. “The majority of Albuquerque is full of barrios, where people speak Spanish, for many generations or they just came here,” Gonzalez said. He implored the public not to stereotype immigrants or residents of low-income, hardscrabble communities like the “Deep West Side.”

UNM student Isis Lopez said she turned 18 last year and just voted in her first election. Expressing a feeling of “loss” at the outcome, Lopez nevertheless said it’s important to make a difference at the local level because “change doesn’t come from the top.”

Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico read  a statement his group published in the Albuquerque Journal that called on the president-elect to reverse course on his pledges to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and institute “aggressive surveillance programs targeting them,” deport undocumented residents, restrict a woman’s right to abortion services, reinstate waterboarding, change libel laws, and restrict freedom of expression. Pledging the “full firepower” of the ACLU, Simonson vowed, “We all stand ready to fight.”

Mariana Cena Mendez of Albuquerque’s El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos spoke about the post-election mood in the local immigrant community, which is busy developing strategies in defense of the undocumented.  “I’m so proud for New Mexico, because we didn’t vote for Trump (Hillary Clinton won New Mexico and the Democrats took back the State House)….this is truly what democracy looks like. I’m so proud of you all.”Cena said.

As the first real hints of winter descended on the Duke City, the nighttime rally proceeded in the pedestrian walkway outside the UNM bookstore, which is built on a section of old Yale Park, a popular hangout of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s youth counterculture. In recent weeks, the space has been reinvented as a free speech plaza of sorts, witnessing multiple demonstrations on issues ranging from the November election to Standing Rock, North Dakota, where the Indigenous Lakota people and their allies are attempting to halt an oil pipeline under construction by Energy Transfer Partners.

Following the November 9 election protest, demonstrators left placards across from the bookstore scrawled with messages like “Abolish the Electoral College” as well as quotes from historical figures and thinkers such as Frederick Douglass and Kahlil Gibran. Many a passerby paused to ponder the words.

Hope Alvarado, member of the UNM Kiva Club and the Red Nation, is a young Native American activist who’s been active in the pro-Standing Rock movement and other causes. Though the U.S. government recognizes a degree of Native American sovereignty,  Alvarado contended that colonialism still holds sway after 500 years, evidenced by “FBI handcuffs,” fracking, planned pipelines, and presidential power over the tribes. The UNM activist led the crowd assembled on November 18 in a chant that has become the anthem of the fight against the DAPL: “Water is life! Water is life! Water is life.”

Alvarado’s definition of the Standing Rock struggle as essentially one of “human rights” was dramatically played out the evening of November 20 as police moved against anti-DAPL water protectors attempting to remove a barricade put up by authorities that the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) said restricts access to residents. The police reportedly used water cannons, rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and concussion grenades.

In reports posted November 21 and 22 on Censored News, the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council said 300 injuries were the “direct result of excessive force by police over the course of 10 hours.”  Twenty-six people were injured so seriously they had to be evacuated to area hospitals, the Council said. The unleashing of water cannons in sub-freezing temperature caused “hypothermia in the majority of patients,” the health workers added. A 21-year-old woman named Sophia Wilansky could lose an arm and hand after being hit by a concussion grenade, according to the latest report.

“The Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the North Dakota State Patrol and the Governor of North Dakota are committing crimes against humanity. They are accomplices with the Dakota Access Pipeline LLC and its parent company Energy Transfer Partners.., the IEN said in a statement… “If President Obama does nothing to stop this inhumane treatment of this country’s original inhabitants, he will become an accomplice. And there is no doubt that President Elect Donald Trump is already an accomplice as he is invested in DAPL.”

Along with immigration and border issues, Standing Rock looms as among the big contested arenas where the course of the nation-and world-will be defined in the coming year.

Artists in Trump World

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:58

Photo by Angela N. | CC BY 2.0

Man, that guy from Hamilton was over-acting!

This is why a lot of us have never felt comfortable with Broadway shows.  It was great to see that actor go after Mike Pence at curtain-call, but his technique was fingernails-on-blackboard bad.  In theater parlance it’s called “indicating”—like, when you say “all of us…ALL of us,” and you make an exaggerated arm-sweep gesture to clobber everyone over the head with the ALL-of-us-ness of it. When you attack the Mike Pences of this world—and I hope it happens every day, a thousand times—it should not be in those mellifluous, operatic tones.  It should be harsh, raw, gutty, and unforgiving…

…like Green Day at the American Music Awards.

I never liked punk rock.  I came of age as a musician in an era when proficiency was admired—Mike Bloomfield,  Sonny Rollins, Merle Haggard—not as an end in itself, but as one vital weapon in the armory.  I liked much of The Clash’s stuff, but the Sex Pistols/Ramones thing always left me cold, so Green Day has never been on my playlist.  But seeing them chant “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” Sunday night was absolutely exhilirating.

The Hamilton and Green Day incidents—along with Alec Baldwin’s caricature of Trump on SNL—are the first Fort Sumter shots of a civil war that will last four years, like the first one.  (Trump has a good chance of dying in office from natural causes—he’s a morbidly-obese 70-year-old man who never exercises, subsists on McDonald’s and ice-cream, and is prone to impotent rage—but I’m afraid Pence is around for the long haul.)  How should actors, musicans and writers—what Shelley called “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”—express their rage, disgust, and rebellion against this Fascism With A Sunlamped Face?

I respect Steve Van Zandt’s contary opinion—that everyone should be welcomed into the house of art, and that the rage should be expressed in the art itself, and not by ad hominem attacks on a specific audience member.  If he’d never done more than write and produce Sun City, the great anti-apartheid anthem, Van Zandt’s earned a voice in this debate.  If I understand him correctly, he’s saying that we should fight and win these battles within the art, and not on its periphery.  But I think he’s wrong here, because Pences and Trumps never play fair with art iself.

Case in point: the theme song to Celebrity Apprentice was “For the Love of Money,” the wonderful Holland-Dozier-Holland composition performed by the mighty O’Jays.  Few popular songs have ever been as agressively anti-Donalad-Trump as that one, whose lyrics actually include the line “money is the root of all evil.”  But when Trump and his producers adopted it as their theme, they simply cut that line out, leaving a six-second gap in Eddie Levert’s vocal that no-one seemed to notice.  (Happily, the O’Jays have since taken out a cease-and-desist order preventing any further Trump use of the song.)

In Trump World, you can distort a work of art into its exact, Orwellian opposite simply by snipping out a lyric that offends you.  So it won’t be enough to attack these sick frauds with our music, our books, and our plays.  We have to attack them with our entire being—fighting clean whenver possible, but fighting dirty when needed.  Letting them know that whenever they come to us for escapist entertainment they are likely to feel our rage instead.

To paraphrase Che Guevara, we must “create two, three many Green Days.”

No Trump!

No KKK!

No fascist USA!

Taking On “Pipeline Enemy #1”

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:57

Back in September, 350.org’s Jamie Henn accurately predicted that Canadian pipeline behemoth Enbridge was “turning itself into Pipeline Enemy #1 in North America.” [1]

Commenting on Enbridge’s plans to invest $1.5 billion in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and to buy Spectra Energy for $28 billion, Henn said the merger “directly connects” the Standing Rock Sioux fight against DAPL in the Midwest with the battle to stop Spectra Energy’s fracked gas pipelines in the Northeast, putting Enbridge at the center of “some of the highest profile climate [and water protection] fights in the nation.” [2]

That includes Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where Indigenous and other activists are challenging Enbridge’s Line 5, an ageing pipeline which carries oil beneath the Straits of Mackinac, threatening the area’s drinking water and fisheries. [3]

From DAPL to Spectra to Line 5, Enbridge is embroiled in the major pipeline battles of North America, but in these last days of November, the focus on Enbridge will increase even further.

That’s because by November 25, the Trudeau government will decide whether to approve Enbridge’s massive $7.5 billion “renewal” of the Line 3 pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, allowing it to expand to 760,000 barrels per day (bpd) and switch from carrying light crude oil to tar sands diluted bitumen (dilbit). In April the National Energy Board, Canada’s federal regulator, set 89 conditions for the segment that runs from eastern Alberta to Gretna, Manitoba, near the Canada-U.S. border. Line 3 “would funnel oil into Enbridge’s crown jewel, the mainline system that collectively carries three million barrels a day into the U.S.” [4]

Also this week, the Trudeau cabinet will accept or reject Enbridge’s contentious Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which has been fought for more than a decade in western Canada. As CBC News reported, “The Federal Court overturned the former Harper government’s acceptance of that project earlier this year, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues must now decide whether to push ahead with further Indigenous consultations or drop approval for the project.” [5]

DAPL, Spectra Energy, Line 5, Line 3, Northern Gateway…and next week, a major court challenge to another Enbridge pipeline – the company’s Line 9 reversal – is set to take place at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Supreme Court Case

On November 30, the Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation’s challenge of the National Energy Board’s approval of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal. Since December 2015, the ageing pipeline has been reversed and restarted to carry tarsands dilbit at increased capacity and pressure, cutting across every river and tributary flowing into Lake Ontario. [6] Line 9 (from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec) passes under the Thames River, upstream from the First Nation’s reserve in Ontario. Line 9 is fed by Enbridge’s massive mainline pipeline system that extends from the Alberta tar sands through the U.S. Midwest.

Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Leslee White-Eye says that Enbridge, the NEB, and Canada “provided no consultation on the proposed project despite our assertion that our Aboriginal and Treaty rights are being impacted.” [7]

The Federal Crown has argued that the duty to consult can be conducted by a third party – like the National Energy Board or Enbridge – but First Nations lawyers do not agree, calling for “nation to nation” consultation as their Constitutional right.

APTN National News reported that the Nov. 30 court case will “essentially settle an argument: Does the National Energy Board (NEB) execute the Crown’s duty to consultation with Indigenous communities through its public consultation process? A First Nation in Ontario [Chippewas of the Thames First Nation] and an Inuit community [Clyde River] in Nunavut argue it doesn’t. ‘No crown actor, including a tribunal exercising delegated authority, can make a decision that ignores or is contrary to the Crown’s constitutional obligations to Aboriginal Peoples,’ the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation state in their statement of facts filed with Canada’s highest court.” [8] The Supreme Court is hearing both cases together as they deal with the same issue of consultation.

Band Councillor Myeengun Henry notes that when the pipeline was put in 40 years ago, the Chippewas of the Thames weren’t consulted and didn’t consent to it then, and still haven’t been consulted and don’t consent to Enbridge’s latest decision to reverse flow direction and put through more oil. [9]

Enbridge’s Line 9 is an ageing pipe, built of sub-standard materials, which will be used to sometimes carry a product (dilbit) that it wasn’t designed for, at a greatly increased capacity and pressure, and after a second reversal of flow direction since being built in 1975. For these reasons, pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz (president of Accufacts Inc.) has stated that the probability of the reversed Line 9 rupturing is over 90% in the first five years of operation. [10]

Letter of Solidarity

On September 1, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Leslee White-Eye wrote a letter of solidarity to Dave Archambault II, Chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

She wrote: “We are Anishinabek Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes. We stand in solidarity with your people’s struggle with the Dakota Access Pipeline and in strong opposition with you to any encroachment of inherent rights this pipeline may have on your people. We, too, are battling at the Canadian Supreme Court level over a recent decision by the National Energy Board to approve Enbridge Inc. application to reverse the flow, increase the volume and allow heavier bitumen to travel through our territories in 40 year old pipelines. To date, the Federal Crown has provided no consultation on the proposed project despite the Chippewas’ asserting their Aboriginal and Treaty rights would be impacted. The Line 9B pipeline crosses the Thames River which runs through the Chippewas traditional territory and provides a source of drinking water to the First Nation.” [11]

The small First Nation has been conducting crowdfunding campaigns and their supporters have been passing the hat at various fundraising events for several years during the court hearings. Band Councillor Myeengun Henry told the Toronto Star, “The problem is, if we should lose this [Supreme] court case, we’re going to be subject to Enbridge’s [court] costs, too. This is a huge risk for our nation. But we’ve got to this point, and we’re not going to stop now.” [12]

To appreciate the courage involved in this “huge risk,” it’s important for readers to know that not only are the Chippewas of the Thames up against one of the biggest corporate giants in North America, but “pipeline enemy #1” is being represented in court by the biggest law firm in the world, Dentons.

Getting to Know Dentons

Dentons Canada LLP – Counsel for Enbridge Pipelines Inc. in the Supreme Court case [13] – is part of the giant law and lobbying firm Dentons, which reportedly has “close ties” to Donald Trump. [14] According to The Intercept, one of Dentons’ clients has been the Super PAC called Make America Number 1, a primary PAC that was supporting Trump’s candidacy. [15]

Trump confidant Newt Gingrich serves as a senior advisor at Dentons, along with a host of other powerhouse names such as Howard Dean (former – and possibly future – chair of the Democratic National Committee), Gordon Giffin (former U.S. ambassador to Canada, long-time director of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.), Jean Chretien (former Liberal prime minister of Canada), Gary Doer (former Manitoba premier and former Canadian ambassador to the U.S.), James Moore (former Canadian Industry minister), and Stephen Harper (former Conservative prime minister of Canada).

Dentons announced in September 2016 that Harper had joined the firm, noting that the relationship would be a “strategic affiliation,” while Harper remains chair and CEO of his own consulting company. His role at

Dentons is to “provide clients with advice on market access, managing global geopolitical and economic risk, and maximize value in global markets.” Defeated in the Autumn 2015 Canadian federal election, Harper officially resigned as a Member of Parliament in August. [16]

Just hours after the U.S. election, Dentons released a post-election prediction document containing “Trump Cabinet Possibilities,” and noting: “Tribal opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline may prove to be a difficult early test for the Trump Administration’s handling of Native issues. It seems likely that the Trump Administration will find itself at odds with tribes on energy and natural resources development issues, increasing the potential for litigation over existing and future oil and gas leases and the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribes.” [17]

Spirit in Dark Times

In the midst of dark times, Aboriginal peoples are truly inspiring and leading the way as water protectors, showing tremendous courage in every way.

Chippewas of the Thames band Councillor Myeengun Henry stated in October with regard to the Nov. 30 Supreme Court case: “Well, I’m more positive now than ever before. The Canadian government has acknowledged that they didn’t consult with First Nations. What we’ve been seeing in the news recently is that the laws that dictate the National Energy Board process are being exposed. The National Energy Board is full of oil executives who basically make the hearings a formality and all of this is starting to come to light in Canada. I think we stand a really good chance of winning this case.” [18]

Nonetheless, they are going to need money (www.gofundme.com/chippewas) and prayers (if you’re the praying type).

Chief Leslee White-Eye says, “We want to be working with all Canadians on water protection and the fossil fuel industry and nation-to-nation relationships with First Nations in Canada. The [Supreme Court] decision is going to have considerable impacts either way. This really does matter. How we raise our children to value water.” [19]

DAPL, Line 3, Spectra Energy, Line 5, Northern Gateway, Line 9: ”Pipeline Enemy #1” is involved in all of them. The next few days are going to be crucial.

Footnotes:

[1] “Enbridge Spreads Tentacles to Acquire Spectra, Creating ‘Pipeline Enemy #1’,” Commondreams.org, September 6, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Brian Bienkowski, “From the Sioux to the Sault: Standing Rock spirit spreads to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” Environmental Health News, November 21, 2016.

[4] John Paul Tasker, “Ottawa to decide this week on Enbridge’s biggest pipeline project,” CBC News, November 20, 2016.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Joyce Nelson, “Reversing Enbridge & Big Oil’s Pipeline Plans,” Counterpunch, December 18, 2015.

[7] John Riddell, “Chippewas of the Thames Need Your Help,” Tar Sands Resistance, October 19, 2016.

[8] Kenneth Jackson, “Upcoming Supreme Court case could force Ottawa to overhaul consultation with Indigenous communities,” APTN National News, October 12, 2016.

[9] Alex Ballingall, “Chippewas of the Thames protest pipeline,” The Toronto Star, October 20, 2016.

[10] Joyce Nelson, “NEB limits public input at oil pipeline reversal hearings,” CCPA Monitor, October 2013.

[11] Chief Leslee White-Eye, Letter to Dave Archambault II, September 1, 2016.

[12] Ballingall, op. cit.

[13] File No. 36776, In the Supreme Court of Canada (On Appeal From the Federal Court of Appeal) Between: Chippewas of the Thames First Nation (Applicant) and Enbridge Pipelines Inc., the National Energy Board, Attorney General of Canada (Respondents), February 15, 2016.

[14] Lee Fang, “Donald Trump May Select an Architect of Bush’s Torture Program to Run CIA,” The Intercept, November 11, 2016.

[15] Ibid.

[16] The Canadian Press, “Stephen Harper takes job at international law firm Dentons,” September 12, 2016.

[17] “US Election Insight 2016,” Dentons.com., Nov. 10-11, 2016.

[18] Meg Borthwick, “Chippewas of the Thames take Line 9 to court,” rabble.ca, October 26, 2016.

[19] Council of Canadians, “London chapter organizes fundraiser for Chippewas of the Thames Supreme Court challenge,” November 20, 2016.

Buying Silence: Why So Many Democrats are Mute About Standing Rock

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:57

After weeks of calling for the United States Government to provide the efforts of water protectors at Standing Rock to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, Bernie Sanders finally has some company in the United States Senate joining him in that call.

In a November 21 letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) called on the Department of Justice to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors after water cannons were used on them by North Dakota State Police and Morton County Sheriff’s Office as a method of crowd control in sub-freezing temperatures, risking the lives of hundreds of people.

“Video of the incident appears to show that the water cannons were not simply being used for fire control, or even crowd control, but were often directed at small crowds or even individual protesters. Combined with the onset of wintry weather, water cannons are extremely dangerous and potentially lethal weapons, and I urge you to investigate their use on protesters,” he wrote to Lynch. “Native American populations have struggled for decades under the complex burden of historical trauma, and I have witnessed and admired how these communities have turned to their cultural foundations to build strength against that burden. These tactics against protesters exercising their Constitutional rights threaten to add another layer of trauma to these communities. I urge you to do everything in your power to prevent further escalation of violence.”

The response from the Department of Justice and Obama Administration to what has been occurring at Standing Rock has left a stain on the end of President Obama’s second presidential term. Despite visiting the Standing Rock reservation in 2014 and affirming his commitment to Native American rights, his administration has remained neutral amid reports for weeks of abuses towards the water protectors.

Several weeks ago, attack dogs were used against water protectors. Journalists were arrested for reporting on the ground at Standing Rock. Rubber bullets have been a commonly used form of weapon against the unarmed, peaceful water protectors. This past Sunday, not only were water cannons used in freezing temperatures, but a 21-year-old Williams College graduate is now at risk of losing her arm because she was hit by a concussion grenade used on the water protectors.

Most politicians have remained silent or neutral on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who has claimed to be Cherokee, said she opposes the pipeline when questioned by a supporter, but has avoided making any public comments on the issue. Hillary Clinton issued a neutral, meaningless statement after protesters sat in her campaign headquarters demanding action. Since her defeat to Donald Trump, she has refrained from devoting any effort to addressing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Democratic Party leaders in the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, have ignored the issue.

This is likely because the Dakota Access Pipeline is being funded by some of the most prolific donors to the Democratic Party. Sunoco Logistics Partners is set to acquire Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline, while Sunoco will oversee its operation. The owners of the company primarily consist of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has been one of the top recipients of campaign donations from Wall Street, and he has encouraged Wall Street firms to spread their donations to other Democrats. After the 2008 economic recession, Schumer received 15 percent of Wall Street donations to the Senate in 2009, nearly twice as much as any other Senator. “Wall Street welcomes expected Chuck Schumer promotion,” read a CNN headline from 2015 immediately following Reid’s announced retirement.

Phillips 66, who have financed 25% of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, is primarily owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s holding company. Buffett actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton this past presidential election, and has made large donations to Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats over the past several years.

In December 2015, congressional leaders rescinded a 40-year-ban on oil exports, increasing the potential profits the Dakota Access Pipeline could yield its investors if government officials don’t intervene. Based on their slow reaction so far, and the Democratic Party establishment progressively favoring its corporate and wealthy donors, that window of opportunity for the Obama Administration and top Democrats to step in before Trump enters the White House is rapidly closing.

We’ve Become a Nation of Comedians

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:53

“If Jesus Christ were to come back today, people would not crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, hear what he had to say, and then make fun of it.”

–Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

If Carlyle thought we were wallowing in self-satisfied snarky humor back in the mid-19th century, he would positively flip his powdered wig over what’s available on cable TV today. If I see one more slap-stick impersonation of Donald Trump and his hair, one more comedian “doing” his version of Trump’s pomposity, or one more groaning send-up of Trump’s speechifying, I’m going flip out myself.

In no way is this to suggest that humor is unworthy of us or is inappropriate when applied to politics. No one is advocating the abolition of political humor, or urging people to take to the streets in protest of it. After all, humor is good; humor is salutary, it’s refreshing, it can serve not only as a tonic but, as Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain can attest, as an inspiration.

What we’re saying is that just as “bad money” tends to force out “good money,” crap humor—facile, reflexive, ain’t I the cat’s ass humor—tends to force out genuine “wit.” Mort Sahl and John Stewart have been euchred by jackasses like Andy Dick and pompous faux-philosophers like Bill Maher. (Has there ever been more of an “applause whore” than that guy?)

But here’s the frustrating part. Humor, especially mindless, in-your-face, tabloid, E-Network-style humor, has become the currency of the “cool” Left. Wicked humor is now the Left’s idiom of choice. Everybody is now a comedian. Again, it’s not that hip jokes are inappropriate, disrespectful, or unworthy of us. Far from it. In a word, they have simply become boring. In another word: fangless.

Granted, this sourpuss view could be the result of context and simple arithmetic. Given the emphasis on mirth that began in the early 1980s, with the explosion of comedy clubs, cable TV, comedy specials, comedy concerts, the emergence of literally hundreds of brand new stand-up comics, to say nothing of “open-mic” nights down at the local pizza parlor, maybe we’re just burnt-out. Maybe the paradigm of the “stand-up” comedian is exhausted.

Not only do most political comics not seem inventive or particularly funny, they don’t seem the least bit “dangerous.” There’s no risk involved for these people. The days of Lenny Bruce being arrested and thrown in jail for subversion and obscenity are long gone. Indeed, a man or woman comic can stand in front of an arena audience today and defiantly refer to President-Elect Trump as “that dumb motherfucker” and be greeted with cheers. Not exactly Oscar Wilde, but we get the point.

Makes you pine for the days of post-Weimar, pre-Nazi Germany, when “edgy” political humor still mattered, when cabaret comedians dared mock the ascendency of that charismatic screwball Adolf Hitler. Not only were those incendiary times, but the attendant comedic material was exceedingly risky. As risky as Lenny Bruce doing his nightclub act.

Obviously, once Nazism took hold, you didn’t see those people on stage anymore. Too dangerous. And of course, there were no stand-up comics in the USSR under Stalin. They didn’t exist. (“Ladies and Gentleman, please give it up for Shecky Ivanovich”) But we not only have them in the United States, we have too many of them. They’re as ubiquitous as Starbucks, and as annoying as expansion baseball teams. Enough already.

Back on the table: Israel's bill to silence Muslim call to prayer

MiddleEasteye - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:53
Language Undefined

Bill to mute mosques to go forward after amendment that ensures Jewish Shabbat siren unaffected, parliamentary speaker's office says

Disrespecting the American Imperial Presidency

Counterpunch - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 03:52

When the dust settled on the Nov. 8 election, we learned that a completely unpredictable, egomaniacal, narcissistic buffoon would inherit the White House and the vast powers that go along with it. This deeply offended many people who see Donald Trump’s racist and misogynistic rhetoric as “unpresidential.” Liberal New York Times columnist Charles Blow summed up this view: “I respect the presidency; I do not respect this president-elect.” That the president-elect should not be respected is a given. But why should we respect the presidency?

The Imperial Presidency of the United States has evolved over the last century to the point that the executive holds certain powers that can be considered dictatorial. Arguably, the most consequential decision in politics is to wage war. The Constitution specifically reserves this right for Congress. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, directs the wars that Congress declares. However, starting with Truman’s intervention in the Korean War in 1950 and continuing with invasions of Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombings of dozens more countries, the President’s ability to unilaterally initiate war with a sovereign nation has been normalized. Congress has not declared war since 1941 despite the fact the U.S. military has intervened in nearly every corner of the world in the years since.

In recent years, George W. Bush assumed the power to kidnap, torture, and assassinate any individual, anywhere in the world, at any time, without even a pretense of due process. Upon replacing Bush, Barack Obama legitimized Bush’s kidnapping and torture (by refusing to prosecute the perpetrators or provide recourse to the victims) while enthusiastically embracing the power to assassinate at will. Noam Chomsky has said this represents Obama trashing the 800-year-old Magna Carta, which King John of England would have approved of.

Can there be anything more dictatorial than the power of a single individual to kill and make war at will? While American presidents thankfully do not have the power to unilaterally impose taxes, pass legislation, or incarcerate without charges inside U.S. borders, the illegitimate authority they do possess to carry out unrestrained violence across the world is unquestionably a dictatorial feature.

There has not been a single American president since World War II that has not exceeded his constitutional authority by committing crimes that would meet the standard by which officials were convicted and executed at the Nuremberg trials.

Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 to imprison Japanese Americans in concentration camps was a flagrant violation of the Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Truman’s firebombing of Tokyo, nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and invasion of Korea violated provisions of multiple treaties that are considered the “supreme law of the land” per Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

Eisenhower’s use of the CIA to overthrow democratically elected presidents in Iran and Guatemala, as well as the initiation of a terrorist campaign against Cuba, violated the UN Charter, another international treaty that the Constitution regards as the supreme law of the land.

Kennedy was guilty of approving the creation of a mercenary army to invade Cuba, as well as covert warfare in Vietnam. Johnson massively escalated U.S. military involvement in Vietnam with the introduction of ground troops, which he fraudulently justified through misrepresentation of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Succeeding Johnson, Nixon waged a nearly genocidal air campaign against not only Vietnam but Cambodia and Laos, killing hundreds of thousands of people, destroying ecosystems across Indochina, and leaving an unfathomable amount of unexploded ordnance, which continues to kill and maim hundreds of people each year.

Ford covertly supported the South African invasion of Angola and overtly supported the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Carter continued supporting the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, as well as providing financial and military support to military dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador. Reagan oversaw the creation and operation of a terrorist army in Nicaragua, sponsored military dictatorships throughout Central America, and directly invaded Grenada.

Bush the Elder invaded Panama and Iraq. Clinton oversaw sanctions in Iraq that killed as many as 1 million people, carried out an air war that indiscriminately pulverized civilian targets from 15,000 feet in Serbia, and bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that produced medications for half the country. Bush the Lesser invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama continued both of those wars, as well as dramatically expanding the drone assassination program in as many as seven countries.

So I beg to differ with Blow and anyone else who claims the presidency deserves respect. Any institution or position that permits such illegal and immoral actions unchecked should be eradicated and replaced with some alternative that does not.

Liberal Clinton defender Matt Yglesias argues that from a historical perspective, Trump is uniquely dangerous. “(P)ast presidents,” Yglesias writes, “have simply been restrained by restraint. By a belief that there are certain things one simply cannot try or do.”

It is hard to take such vacuous proclamations with a straight face. As we have seen, every single American president since at least WWII has engaged in serious violations of international and domestic law to cause death, destruction and misery across the world, from murdering individuals without due process to unleashing two nuclear bombs on civilian populations in a defeated country that was seeking to surrender.

When Trump assumes the presidency, he will inherit a frightening surveillance/military/incarceration apparatus that includes a targeted killing program; a vast NSA domestic and international spying network; a death squad (the Joint Special Operations Command); and an extralegal system for indefinite kidnapping and imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay.

Partisans see a problem only when the presidency is in the “wrong” hands. If Obama is at the helm, liberals are fine with unconstitutional mass surveillance or killing an American citizen without charge or trial every now and then. Conservatives trusted Bush to warrantlessly surveill Americans, but were outraged at the Snowden revelations.

Principled opponents recognize that no one should be trusted with illegitimate authority. The hand-wringing and hyperventilation by liberals about the dangers of a Trump presidency ring hollow and hypocritical.

American presidents long ago became the equivalent of elected monarchs, beyond the democratic control of the those they purportedly serve. The occupant of the office is able to substitute his own judgments and whims for a universally applicable set of laws and limits on the exercise of power. It is what Dolores Vek describes as “actually existing fascism.” Both parties have contributed to it, the media has normalized it, and the public has accepted its creation and continued existence without rebelling against it. It’s time to stop treating the presidency itself with respect and start actively delegitimizing it.

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