Archive for the ‘U.S. Domestic Affairs’ Category
The Civil War Returns to New Orleans – An Analysis (10 April 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – History Lesson 1
Cultures do evolve, particularly those aspects driven by technology. However, social attitudes and behaviors often have remarkable stability. This suggests that America’s essentially racist culture cannot be wholly overcome in, say, the years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act – particularly when the effort to fight against American racism has always been half-hearted.
Why would this be so? In an analysis entitled Civil Rights Takes a Hit, posted on 5 March 2013, I made the following relevant observations:
A culture of racism shaped the American way of life since before the founding of the United States. This culture became particularly deep rooted in the southern colonies/states, where slavery became not only an economic institution but one that marked the South’s social character.
In the South the culture of racism was briefly interrupted when, following the Civil War, a short period of “Reconstruction” (1865 to 1877) took place. During this time a U.S. military occupation of the conquered Confederacy suppressed racist laws.
However, after 1877 and the withdrawal of the U.S. army, the southern states almost immediately reverted to a racially dictated way of life, replacing slavery with a regime of laws legitimizing segregation and discrimination against black Americans.
This state of affairs lasted close to another one hundred years, until the 1960s, when a massive movement of civil disobedience known as the Civil Rights Movement, finally led to the outlawing of such racist practices within the public sphere. I emphasize the public sphere because, at the time of the passage of national civil rights legislation, little was done to change racist perceptions and behavior within the private sphere. For instance, no effort was made to mandate the teaching of tolerance in the schools so as to better erode private racist perceptions. The private sphere was left to itself.
Thus, until 1965, with only a hiatus of 12 years following the Civil War, U.S. law validated racial discrimination and segregation as a guide to the citizen’s behavior.
Part II – History Lesson 2
Against the history outlined above we now have 51 years wherein civil rights laws have guided behavior in the public sphere of the United States. However, given the protracted period the opposite laws were allowed to work on the American mind, it can be argued that this is certainly not enough time for the message that racial prejudice is wrong to be fully assimilated in the private lives of citizens. As a result there has developed an unbalanced scenario wherein most white Americans are accepting of racial mixing in public spaces: hotels, bars, schools, shopping centers, the workplace and the like. Privately, however, they are less tolerant and continue to resist such levels of intimacy as racially mixed friendship circles, neighborhoods, or intermarriage.
This continuing divide becomes even more complicated in the U.S. south. A quarter of the U.S. white population identifies themselves as southerners and of those a significant subgroup, perhaps as many as 40%, have never truly reconciled to the notion of colorblind civil rights. Since 1965 they have harbored a simmering resentment of government efforts to force cultural change upon them, even in the public sphere. In order to give a historical underpinning to their resentment they have maintained a sentimental loyalty to Confederate Civil War heroes and symbols (the Confederate flag, for instance). These have become signs of resistance to federal hegemony and emblems of identity which, in some cases, are stronger than those representing the U.S. as a nation.
Part III – Civil War in New Orleans
This brings us to the current struggle in the city of New Orleans. The city, also known as Orleans Parish, has an African American majority of 58.8%. The city council also has a black majority although the mayor is white. Yet, within the city, there are many monuments to those Confederate Civil War heroes so important to the white minority mentioned above. Then, back in December of 2015, the council, at the mayor’s request, voted 6 to 1 to remove the three most prominent of these monuments (honoring Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard), from their outdoor public sites.
This move soon generated a backlash on the part of those local white southerners who never evolved beyond their historical racist orientation. Their reaction against local government efforts to deracialize the city’s public spaces was characterized by angry feels leading to violence. Employees of the contractor hired by the city to prepare the monuments for removal were threatened and the owner of the contracting business had his car destroyed. In the face of this intimidation the contractor withdrew from his deal with the city. Similar threats have been made to companies that might replace the original contractor. Protestors have also sued the city in an effort to keep the monuments in place. All these actions have momentarily halted the removal effort.
It is significant that the effort to prevent the removal of the New Orleans monuments involved violence in tandem with efforts in the courts. That is a tip-off as to the nature of this resistance movement. In response, the reaction of the state of Louisiana has been non-existent, and those respectively of the federal government and the city itself seem subdued. It is likely that the efforts in the courts to prevent removal will lose, and then, if and when New Orleans pushes ahead with its plans, there will be a return to intimidation and violence. At some point government officials will have to have to confront those reacting in this way.
Part IV – Conclusion
Things do change, but at the level of culture they do so slowly. How slow? Well, one could consider the 21st century’s creeping demise of Confederate symbols as a belated chapter in a continuing process set in motion by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
Unfortunately, these symbols and monuments may well go out with a bang rather than a whimper. They are identity markers for those who once were dominant but are now on the losing side of history. The public display of their heroes and symbols constitutes their eroding toe-hold in the public sphere. Another way of assessing this process is to note that these white supremacists are being pushed, irrevocably, back into their tribal private space where resentment and anger have long been the emotional glue that holds them together. Violence on their part is probable.
That probability is a warning that the status and quality of our nation’s private space should concern us all. There are times when progressive changes in the public sphere, like that brought about by the Civil Rights Movement, call for purposeful, if temperate, intervention into the private sphere. I mentioned the teaching of tolerance in the public schools as one example. If you ignore this side of things you make more likely the violent resistance we now witness in New Orleans.
So, as we grapple with the need to regulate banks and pharmaceutical companies, greenhouse emissions and guns, let us give some thought to the regulating of racism and other hateful attitudes through the judicious use of those public institutions that help shape attitudes from generation to generation. Our legal system and its laws are major players here, but there are other venues, such as the public schools. Maybe we should begin this process in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
The Zionists Censor a Textbook – An Analysis (20 March 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Map Censorship
What is the difference between a textbook publisher giving into pressure from Christian fundamentalists seeking to censor the teaching of evolution, and a publisher giving in to Zionists seeking to censor awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine? Neither phenomenon is a matter of opinion or perspective. One act of censorship denies facts established by scientific research. The other denies the documented violation of international law (for instance, the Fourth Geneva Convention) and multiple UN resolutions. So the answer to the question just asked is – there is no difference.
In early March 2016 executives at McGraw-Hill took the extreme step of withdrawing from the market a published text, Global Politics: Engaging a Complex World, and then proceeded to destroy all the remaining books held in inventory. (Did they burn them?) Global Politics, which had been on the market since 2012, was a text designed by its authors to “offer students a number of lenses through which to view the world around them.” Why did McGraw-Hill do this?
Apparently the book was obliterated (this seems to be an accurate description of the publisher’s actions) because, like a biology text that describes the established facts of evolution, Global Politics offered a “lens to view the world” that was judged blasphemous by a powerful, influential and ideologically driven element of the community. Of course, that is not how McGraw-Hill rationalized its action. Instead, the publisher claimed that a serious inaccuracy in the text was belatedly discovered. This took the form of a series of four maps that show “Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to 2000.” The maps are the first set which can be seen at the following link: http://www.thetower.org/3027ez-mcgraw-hill-publishes-college-textbook-with-mendacious-anti-israel-maps/
The maps in question are not new or novel. Nor are they historically inaccurate, despite Zionists’ claims to the contrary. They can be seen individually and in different forms on websites of the BBC and Mondoweiss and are published in a number of history books, such as Mark Tessler’s well-received A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Perhaps what the Zionists can’t abide is lining up the maps together in chronological order.
In truth, the objections reported to have been used by those who pressured McGraw-Hill are historically perverse – the sort of grasping at straws that reflects a biased and strained rewriting of history. For instance, an objection was made to the labeling of public land in pre-1948 Palestine as “Palestinian.” Why? Because the Zionist claim is that Palestine before 1948 was a British mandate and so the land was British and not Palestinian. As their argument goes, “no one called the Arabs [of this area] Palestinians.” Of course, prior to 1948, no one called the East European Jews pouring in at this time “Israelis.” Further, according to those taking these maps to task, the West Bank at this time was controlled by Jordan and so it too was not Palestinian. Obviously, no one brought up the fact that in September of 1922 the British had divided Palestine in two in order to artificially create what is now Jordan. The period after World War I was one of territorial transition, however, in Palestine, the one constant was the persistent presence of the Arab Palestinians.
The Zionists offered many other dubious objections to the maps, which seem to have sent the publisher into something of a panic. It would certainly appear that no one at McGraw-Hill knew enough relevant history to make an accurate judgment on the complaints.
Part II – Running Scared
McGraw-Hill’s response was to “immediately initiate an academic review,” which “determined that the maps in question “did not meet our academic standards.” Who carried out the review? Well, McGraw-Hill won’t say, but insists those who did so were “independent academics.” Just what are McGraw-Hill’s “academic standards”? Well, those haven’t been articulated either. The publisher’s reluctance to elaborate its claims makes their actions suspicious at best.
As Rania Khalek noted in an 11 March 2016 article on the incident in Electronic Intifada, these particular maps, showing the loss of Palestinian land over decades of Israeli expansion, “have the ability to cut through Israeli propaganda that portrays Palestinian anger and violence as rooted in religious intolerance and irrational hatred rather than a natural reaction to Israel’s colonial expansionism, land theft and ethnic cleansing, all of which continue today.” This gives insight into the strenuous efforts made by Zionists to keep the sequenced maps away from any mass market distribution. As it is, they seem to have overlooked this textbook source for some four years. However, once they spotted it, and began “flooding” McGraw-Hill with complaints from “multiple sources,” it took the publisher only about a week to suspend sales of the book.
The next obvious question is why didn’t McGraw-Hill move to change the maps or just remove them? Why destroy the entire inventory? The extreme nature of the publisher’s response remains unexplained but may stand as a testimony to the fact that the Zionist lobby has the same power within the corporate ranks of this textbook publisher as the anti-evolution fundamentalists have over most biology textbooks.
Part III – The Zionists’ Maps
The Zionists who made the claim that the Global Politics maps are “mendacious” do so from a starting assumption that all the land from the Suez Canal to Golan Heights and Jordan River has always been Hebrew-Israeli. On this basis they posit their own maps to make the claim that modern Israel, at least since 1967 and “in the pursuit of peace,” has voluntarily relinquished land rather than illegally taken it. These maps are the second set seen at http://www.thetower.org/3027ez-mcgraw-hill-publishes-college-textbook-with-mendacious-anti-israel-maps/
It is significant that the Zionist maps begin in 1967, a year of major Israeli expansion through conquest. And, of course, the only land concession of any consequence since then is the Sinai Desert. The Zionist cartographical suggestion that Israel has given up Gaza and West Bank land is just a sleight of hand, given Israel’s use of Gaza as a prison colony and continued military control of every inch of the West Bank.
Finally, it is important to note that Israeli school maps are often pure propaganda. For instance, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently carried a story about a map used to teach seventh graders about the country’s geography. The map omits the “green line,” which is recognized internationally as Israel’s eastern border, as well as the majority of the nation’s Arab-Israeli communities. Maybe the Israeli Ministry of Education used McGraw-Hill’s “academic standards” to create this map.
Part IV – Conclusion
Within academia there is the belief that textbooks are not to be subject to ideological censorship. This is a rather naive, but important, ideal. If such texts cannot maintain this level of integrity, the entire educational exercise becomes open to propaganda. Unless McGraw-Hill becomes transparent about its “independent academic review” and offers an explanation as to why it went to the extreme of destroying its inventory of Global Politics, one can only assume that the publisher has no objection to censoring its products in the face of pressure from an ideologically driven group. No doubt the motivation here is fear of controversy and subsequent market losses. In the absence of substantiating information, the whole story of an independent review and academic standards must be dismissed as a cover-up.
The sad truth is that the suborning of textbooks addressing culturally sensitive subjects has become a standard practice. Thus, the process of education is indeed threatened by incessant propaganda. This includes the culture wa.r that swirls around American biology textbooks. It also includes the powerful Zionist drive to literally wipe the Palestinians off the map
Cruelty as a Campaign Come-On – An Analysis (1 March 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Bully Acts Out
As the Republican primary plays itself out, cruelty has become a campaign come-on to voters who say they are frustrated and angry with traditional politics. Frustrated and angry feelings short-circuit critical thinking and create a yearning for the quick emotional release that comes with vengeful speech and acts. Donald Trump has become a master manipulator of this situation.
Trump has the type of personality that lends itself to using such an approach. He is a bully acting out. You can see this when he denigrates his opponents as losers. On the other hand, he is self-aggrandizing, always describing himself as a winner. And, apparently, he has little capacity for self-reflection about his own speech and actions. Some have described Trump as a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder. Whether or not that is how you want to label him, he certainly has no problem publicly promoting cruelty. And, a subset of the American population responds positively to his abusive behavior. Here are a few examples:
Trump tolerates, and indeed supports physical attacks on opponents who show up at his rallies. He sometimes encourages his supporters to violence by saying that he would like to punch protesters in the face. In the summer of 2015 he promised that if members of Black Lives Matter showed up at his rallies, “they would have a fight on their hands. I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself, or if other people will.” That prediction came true in Birmingham, Alabama, in November of last year, when a Black Lives Matter protester, who simply shouted “black lives matter,” was roughed up and insulted during a Trump rally. The next day Trump justified the actions of his supporters. “He [the protester] was so obnoxious and so loud” that “maybe he should have been roughed up.”
At another rally, this one in Vermont on a frigid January 2016 evening, when confronted with protesters, he told his security people to steal their coats before ejecting them. “Throw them out into the cold…. Don’t give them their coats … no coats … confiscate their coats.”
Part II – Muslims and Torture
Those are specific local displays of Donald Trump’s ability to act cruelly and encourage others to do so as well. However, this dangerous trend goes on at a larger scale as well. For instance:
Trump has uses unwarranted generalizations against groups he is suspicious of – generalizations that place group members in the sort of danger that comes with public stereotyping. This is particularly true when it comes to Muslims on the one hand and Mexicans on the other.
Trump appears to lump all Muslims in the same category as those who, to use his words, are “chopping off our heads in the Middle East.” Those who want “to kill us” and “knock out our cities.” Such a generalization ratchets up an already dangerous level of Islamophobia and sets the stage for other publicly proclaimed positions such as the closing of U.S. borders to all Muslims until such time as “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Actually, there are a lot of people in and out of the U.S. government who already know what is going on. However, because the answer to this question has to do with long-standing, special-interest-driven foreign policies, “our representatives” have, for political reasons, never moved to rectify matters. And, its questionable whether Trump as president would respond any differently.
Trump’s generalization about Muslims has apparently helped promote popular acceptance of another particularly cruel and misplaced policy proposal – the revival of the use of torture (often euphemistically called “enhanced interrogative methods”). Thus he has recently proclaimed, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works. Believe me, it works.” This was followed by a typical Trumpism: “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.” Just how does he know this with such certainty? Has he ever tortured anybody in order to get specific information? Has he ever been tortured for information he held? Indeed, did he do any research on the subject before passing judgment?
The truth about the efficacy of torture is just the opposite. It has been known not to work since the early 18th century when Cesare Beccaria and other Enlightenment figures began to publicly call attention to the fact that there was no evidence that torture produces truthful confessions or other trustworthy information. Most professional interrogators since that time, with the exception of the small cadre of CIA torturers gathered around George W. Bush, have concluded that someone being tortured will tell their tormentors anything he or she thinks will stop the pain, regardless of its veracity. Obviously the consensus of expert opinion on this matter means as little to Donald Trump as it did to George W. Bush.
Part III – Mexicans and Mass Deportation
Donald Trump has declared that he wants to deport just about every illegal resident of the United Sates – of which there is an estimated 11.3 million. Though he claims that he would do this “humanely,” the size of such an operation would certainly entail the uprooting of thousands of families and the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of individuals. In other words, it is one of those socio-political operations that cannot help but result in acts of official cruelty and the encouragement of dangerous xenophobic sentiments
Most of the immigrants at risk are people from Mexico who cross the southern U.S. border clandestinely. Trump’s solution is twofold: 1. Build a wall along that roughly 2000-mile border. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” In addition he would add 25,000 new immigration agents and deploy drones to watch the border. 2. Deport all the Mexicans who are illegally resident in the U.S., most of whom, according to Trump, come from the dregs of Mexican society. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems….they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime.” This belies the research that shows that most immigrants are more law abiding than native citizens.
Trump also works on the assumptions that Mexican immigration increases unemployment and holds down wages. However, is this really true? If there is any competition for jobs it would be for underpaid work that Americans, even the undereducated, tend not to want – thus creating the employment opportunities that attracts “illegals” across the Mexican border in the first place.
Part IV – Trump Is Not Alone
The difference between Trump and the other candidates, both Republican and Democrat, is that he openly panders to emotions and fears that generate support for cruel actions and policies. Though other candidates might not act out in this way, they would, if given the chance, prove every bit as capable of initiating cruel acts and policies in the name of “American interests.” Given her actions in relationship to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, we know this is certainly true of Hillary Clinton.
It might well be that most presidents have acted cruelly at some point during their term of office. Take for example President Obama, who, on the one hand, put an end to President George W. Bush’s practice of torture while, on the other hand, initiated an infamous and on-going campaign of drone murder. Nonetheless, the vast majority of presidents have not personally sought to stir up hatred. However, we can all rely on ambitious demagogues and the rightwing media outlets to do this.
Part V – Conclusion
It is important to understand that there is always a subset of any population, including that in the United States, susceptible to the posturing and rhetorical style of a person like Donald Trump (who, by the way, often strikes poses and speaks in a fashion reminiscent of Benito Mussolini). This susceptible subset are looking for simple answers forcefully presented, they have a longstanding resentment of minorities and immigrants, they distrust the political establishment, and they feel disenfranchised. Their feelings and fears mean more to them than the nation’s constitution or other laws. The number of such people becomes larger or smaller depending on economic and social circumstances. However, they never go away entirely – their numbers never drop to zero. In the case of Trump’s appeal to the American public, my estimate is that this number may currently stand at one-quarter to one-third of the adult population.
The Trump phenomenon stands as a powerful reason why it is in the nation’s interest that the government pay attention to issues that hold to a minimum public resentment: issues such as general equality of opportunity, fairness in the market place, tax equity, combating discriminatory practices, the serious problem of special interest influence in politics, as well as the need to enhance social services ranging from unemployment insurance and Social Security to the right to health care and education. Trump’s popularity also stands as a powerful reason why the government must see to the dissemination of accurate information on such issues as immigrants and the economy, the real consequences of “free trade” treaties, the positive and necessary role of regulation, and last but certainly not least, the positive role of Muslims in America. To the extent that both the Republicans, as well as the more conservative Democrats have stood in the way of such things, they have bred the frustration and dissatisfaction that Trump now exploits. Thus they have only themselves to blame for rise of Donald Trump. Of course, that is little solace to the rest of us.
Combating BDS Act of 2016 – An Analysis (17 February 2014) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Congress Moves against BDS
It was bound to happen – an attempt by the U.S. Congress to sanction the attacks on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement already taking place in some states and municipalities. The strategy is to legitimize an increasingly standard approach to undermining the boycott of Israel, an approach wherein the investment of any state funds, including pension funds, in any business or organization that boycotts the Zionist state is forbidden.
Bipartisan pairs of senators – Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) – and Congressional Representatives – Robert Dold (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) – introduced into both houses the “Combating BDS Act of 2016” (S.2531 and H.R.4514). We can be sure that all four of them are doing this at the coordinated behest of Zionist special interests to which they are financially tied. In other words, acting in their official capacity, their behavior on things that touch on Israel-Palestine is a payback for money and other forms of assistance offered by the Zionists to facilitate the politicians’ elections and reelections. Sadly, this is the way the U.S. campaign system works. Unless you are very wealthy, you are constantly scrounging for money. Under such circumstances one’s pathway to success is made easier if you don’t know the difference between ethics and your elbow.
Our four sponsors of the “Combating BDS Act” would, of course, deny any such tainted motives. Rather, they would insist that theirs is an effort to weigh in against anti-Semitism and defend the integrity the “only democracy in the Middle East.” If they really believe this is so, the kindest thing that can be said for these legislators is that they are profoundly ignorant about Israel and its true character. It is also possible that they know the truth about their patron, but really don’t care. It is all about the money.
Part II – Intimations of the Real Israel
For instance, are Senators Kirk and Manchin and Representatives Dold and Vargas aware that the Israeli legislature, the Knesset, recently voted down a bill to include the principle of equality among citizens in the wording of the country’s “Basic Law” on Human Dignity and Liberty? Basic Laws stand in for a constitution in Israel. The bill was introduced by one of the few Arab-Israeli MKs (members of the Knesset) , Jamal Zahalka, who noted that “All constitutions in modern countries begin with stressing the principle of equality amongst their citizens.” That did not matter to a majority of the Knesset who, following inherently discriminatory Zionist ideals, do not believe in equality between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. Yet to Israel’s supporters in Washington the Zionist state remains a “democracy” much like the United States. Such an unquestioning assumption, so wide of the mark, displays a level of closed-mindedness that ought to require intensive remedial critical-thinking training before allowing someone to stand for office.
Are Senators Kirk and Manchin and Representatives Dold and Vargas aware that the Knesset “Ethics Committee” has suspended three Arab-Israeli MKs, including Mr. Zahalka, from participating in legislative sessions because they met with families whose members had been killed while violently resisting Israeli occupation? The aim of the meeting was to assist the families in recovering from Israeli authorities the bodies of their slain relatives. The Israelis refuse to recognize the truism that the violence of the oppressed will eventually reach the level of the violence of the oppressor. Instead, any violent blowback occurring in response to their own violence is conveniently characterized as “terrorism.”
In order for the action of the Arab MKs to make sense to most Israeli Jews and their Zionist supporters abroad, there has to be recognition of the historically established fact that the occupation of Palestinian land is real. This the Zionists will not do, and apparently, part of their deal with the U.S. politicians in Congress is that they too must echo that same denial.
Are Senators Kirk and Manchin and Representatives Dold and Vargas aware that the respected human rights organization Amnesty International has recently released a report accusing Israeli forces of using “intentional lethal force” against Palestinians in situations where such force was “completely unjustified”? Amnesty spokesman Philip Luther asserted that the Israelis had “ripped up the rulebook” by “flouting international standards” when it came to the use of force. For the politicians in Washington who have made their pact with the Zionists, such behavior, if noted at all, is rationalized as self-defense on the part of the Israelis. However, suppression of resistance to illegal occupation cannot not be judged self-defense either legally or logically. Who in Congress is aware of the Fourth Geneva Convention?
There are many other practices and policies of the State of Israel that must be ignored (including Israel’s support of al-Qaeda in Syria) if Senators Kirk and Manchin and Representatives Dold and Vargas are to carry on with clear consciences. But this might be based on a false assumption that these politicians have a conscience to which they pay attention. After all, our system of politics, which all but demands submission to special interests, may well select for amoral personalities.
Part III – Ignoring the Question of Constitutionality
The apparent indifference of Senators Kirk and Manchin and Representatives Dold and Vargas goes beyond Israel’s flouting of international law. It carries over to these politicians’ own disregard for the U.S. Constitution, which each gentleman has sworn to uphold.
Ever since the early 1980s the Supreme Court has regarded domestically initiated boycotts as a legitimate form of political speech. There is little excuse for our four defenders of Israel not to know this. And what are we to say of them if they do in fact know? Only that they, like their patrons, are willing to “rip up the rulebook.” They are willing to act as if what is unconstitutional is, after all, acceptable when it protects the interests of a foreign rogue state on whose payroll they happen to be. Just how long can they get away with this? Is the answer really just as long as the Zionist money keeps coming?
Congressmen and senators tied to Zionist special interests will eventually have to rethink these alliances. Their connection with a state that has no compunction about violating international law has led them to become accomplices in the undermining of U.S. law. Thus, the actions of politicians such Kirk, Manchin, Dold and Vargas act as a barometer indicating the degree to which under-regulated special interests have corrupted the U.S. government. Those involved are walking a path that can lead only to on-going ethical decline and policy failures.
Charles Krauthammer: America’s Conservative Voice – An Analysis (8 February 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Krauthammer Conservatism
Charles Krauthammer is the most celebrated contemporary conservative thinker in the United States. However, let it be known that he is not just a theorist. He is man of political action who wants a conservative in the White House to line up with those already in control of Congress. Thus he supports Republican candidates such Marco Rubio and Chris Christie (Ted Cruz, while a “genuine conservative,” is too “radical,” and Jeb Bush isn’t mentioned at all) as potential presidents who “would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy.” Those are the words of an unapologetic ideologue: what is good for the country is the Krauthammer philosophy of conservatism in control of the government.
What does this mean? For Krauthammer, as for so many other conservative thinkers who have never really evolved away from 19th century capitalist economic theory, conservatism in power means the “reform” of big government, or as he still describes it, “the 20th century welfare state.” Reform essentially means significant downsizing of government in the name of individual “freedom,” primarily in the market place, and, of course, a corresponding cut in taxes for the business class.
There are several things dangerously wrong about Krauthammer’s simplistic approach to “conservative governing.” One is that, in a country like the U.S. with approximately 320 million people (a considerable number of them getting steadily poorer), doing away with welfare state services and regulations seriously risks further impoverishment, increased economic exploitation in the workplace, an erosion of state and local infrastructures, and an explosion in business corruption. While Krauthammer would never agree, it is simply historically untrue that capitalism, without widespread government regulation and significant financial support for basic services, has ever brought prosperity to the majority of any population. The second thing wrong with Krauthammer’s thinking is his apparent inability to understand the difference between inefficiency and government size. Big government is necessary for the social and economic health of big societies. However, increased size does not automatically translate into government inefficiency. The need to monitor the efficiency of all bureaucracies so that they perform their jobs in a smooth and timely fashion is one thing. Downsizing to the point of near dismantlement of necessary government bureaus based on the conservative ideological assumption that they are chronically inefficient and overly expensive dead weight is quite another. The former will make things better. The latter will risk societal collapse.
Part II – Populism and Socialism
Nonetheless, it is this downsizing “reform” of the welfare state that Krauthammer tells us is the answer to the “deep anxiety stemming from the secular (sic) stagnation of wages and living standards that has squeezed the middle and working classes for a generation.” He juxtaposes this ideologically dictated answer against those he believes come from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The former offers “ethnonationalist populism.” Krauthammer tells us what is already obvious, that Trump blames the nation’s problems “on foreigners, most prominently those cunning Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, and Saudis who have been taking merciless advantage of us.” (How anyone can put the Mexicans in with the Saudis is beyond me.) However, while debunking Trump’s xenophobia, Krauthammer fails to mention that it is those conservative ideologues of his own camp who have pushed hardest for the sort of free trade agreements that have allowed Donald Trump to focus on outsiders.
Then there is the phenomenon of Bernie Sanders. As far as Krauthammer’s understanding goes, Sanders is preaching socialism, and the apparent positive response to this baffles him. “It is hard to believe that the U.S., having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th century heyday … should suddenly succumb to its charms a decade after its intellectual demise.” Only from behind the walls of Krauthammer’s conservative ideology can socialism be considered “intellectually dead.” It is certainly alive and politically competitive in western and northern Europe.
Of course, despite Krauthammer’s failure to make the distinction, Sanders is nowhere near the kind of socialist found in the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. In truth Sanders is closer to the prevailing social democrats of Western Europe or even the liberal wing of the Democratic Party prior to the coming to power of the Bill Clinton crowd. And, it can be argued, the success of Sanders’s message is in direct proportion to the failure of Krauthammer’s conservatism to bring lasting economic prosperity and secure social services to the people of the United States.
Nonetheless, Krauthammer cannot see this relationship. For him, Sanders’s ultimate success is unimaginable. “The Dems would be risking a November electoral disaster of historic dimensions” if they nominated Sanders. Actually this might be so, but not because of any real socialist program on Sanders’s part. Rather, disaster would be the product of relentless Republican red-baiting, to the point that the reality of Sanders’s policy proposals becomes irrelevant. Indeed, Krauthammer’s characterization of Sanders may well be the first shot in such a red-baiting campaign.
Part III – Conclusion
Charles Krauthammer’s conservative ideological outlook is every bit as destructive as Trump’s “ethnonationalist populism.” The reality is that Krauthammer’s conservatism has been the guiding light of the U.S. economy since its inception and produced a history of continual booms and busts, the latter coming as ever deeper and prolonged depressions. This went on throughout the late 18th, 19th centuries and into the 20th century, culminating in the Great Depression of 1929. So disastrous was that crash, along with the fact of competition from the young Soviet Union, that there was finally some soul-searching on the part of the smarter capitalists, who then made the effort to rationalize their system. In the U.S. this came in the form of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Franklin Roosevelt brought the necessary regulation and government expansion to semi-stabilize the economy and bring a modicum of security to the common citizen. Depressions were held down to periodic recessions while Social Security, unemployment insurance and other commonsense social programs made their debut.
It is a mark of the ahistorical nature of their ideological worldview that Krauthammer conservatives have been complaining about big government ever since, while apparently forgetting all about capitalism’s original sins. Just to juice up their argument, they throw in talk of “individual freedom” in the marketplace while disparaging other freedoms and rights, such as those relating to healthcare, education, equal opportunity, and gender equality and the like as if they were not part of the mix that should make up a modern civilization.
There is something truly inhumane in the Krauthammer perspective. However, that does not mean that those politicians such as Marco Rubio and Chris Christie who espouse such bankrupt ideas are incapable of winning local, state and national elections. Never underestimate the ignorance and gullibility of conservative-minded voters. For them there will always be the siren song of a Charles Krauthammer. One is reminded of the description of a British conservative politician given by the English philosopher Gilbert Ryle, one that fits America’s celebrated conservative thinker pretty well: “He stood like a light out to sea, firmly beckoning ships on to the rocks.”
BDS in the Crosshairs – An Analysis (9 January 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
Most readers will know that the United States has served as the patron of Israel for decades. Why has it done so? The commonly given reasons are suspect. It is not because the two countries have overlapping interests. The U.S. seeks stability in the Middle East (mostly by supporting dictators) and Israel is constantly making things unstable (mostly by practicing ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, illegally colonizing conquered lands and launching massive assaults against its neighbors). Nor, as is often claimed, is the alliance based on “shared Western values.” The U.S. long ago outlawed racial, ethnic and religious discrimination in the public sphere. In Israel, religious-based discrimination is the law. The Zionist state’s values in this regard are the opposite of those of the United States.
So why is it that a project that seeks to pressure Israel to be more cognizant in foreign affairs of regional stability, and more democratic and egalitarian in domestic affairs, is now under fire by almost every presidential candidate standing for the 2016 election?
That project in dispute is BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, promoted by civil society throughout the Western world. BDS is directed at Israel due to its illegal colonization of the Occupied Territories and its general apartheid-style discrimination against non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular.
Part II – The Candidates and BDS
With but two exceptions, every presidential candidate in both parties is condemning the BDS Movement. Lets start with the two exceptions. The first exception is the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who has taken the accurate position that “the United States has encouraged the worst tendencies of the Israeli government.” She has pledged to use both diplomatic and economic means to change Israeli behavior, behavior which she rightly believes is in contravention of international law and violates human rights.
The second exception is the Republican candidate Donald Trump, who recently told a meeting of Jewish Republicans that he didn’t think Israel is serious about peace and that they would have to make greater efforts to achieve it. When he was booed he just shrugged and told the crowd that he did not care if they supported him or not, “I don’t want your money.” Unfortunately, this appears to be the only policy area where Mr. Trump is reasonable.
Jill Stein gets absolutely no media coverage and Donald Trump gets too much. And neither is in the “mainstream” when it comes to American political reactions to BDS. However, the rest of the presidential candidates are. Here is what is coming out of the “mainstream”:
— Jeb Bush (Republican), 4 December 2015: “On day one I will work with the next attorney general to stop the BDS movement in the United States, to use whatever resources that exist” to do so.
— Ted Cruz (Republican), 28 May 2015: “BDS is premised on a lie and it is anti-Semitism, plain and simple. And we need a president of the United States who will stand up and say if a university in this country boycotts the nation of Israel than that university will forfeit federal taxpayer dollars.”
— Marco Rubio (Republican), 3 December 2015: “This [BDS] coalition of the radical left thinks it has discovered a clever, politically correct way to advocate Israel’s destruction. As president, I will call on university presidents, administrators, religious leaders, and professors to speak out with clarity and force on this issue. I will make clear that calling for the destruction of Israel is the same as calling for the death of Jews.”
Hillary Clinton (Democrat), 2 July 2015: In a letter to Haim Saban, who is a staunch supporter of the Zionist state and also among the biggest donors to the Democratic Party, she said, “I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority, I am seeking your advice on how we can work together – across party lines and with a diverse array of voices – to fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”
Bernie Sanders (Democrat), 20 October 2015: “Sanders’ fraught encounter with BDS supporters who challenged his defense of Israel at a town hall meeting in Cabot [Vermont] last year was captured on YouTube.” Sanders told them to “shut up.”
Part III – The Legitimacy of Boycott
This hostility to the tactic of boycott runs counter to both U.S. legal tradition and the country’s broader historical tradition.
For instance, advocating and practicing BDS can be seen as a constitutionally protected right. It certainly is more obviously protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech than is the use of money to buy elections. Thus, if Zionist lobbyists can use money to buy support for Israel, why can’t anti-Zionists use their free speech rights to challenge that support? It should be noted that, in this regard, most Americans of voting age think it is the Zionists, and not the anti-Zionists, who have gone too far.
According to a December 2015 Brookings Institute poll, 49% of Democratic voters and 25% of Republican voters think that Israel has too much influence with U.S. politicians. Those supporting BDS in the United States might give some thought as to how to use these numbers to uphold their cause.
Then there is the fact of well-established historical tradition. The war for American Independence was build upon a framework of boycott. In November 1767, England introduced the Townshend Acts, requiring the colonists to pay a tax on a large number of items. The reply to this was both a boycott of British goods by many colonial consumers which was eventually followed by a boycott on the importation of such goods on the part of colonial merchants.
Subsequently, Americans have used the tactic of boycott against:
— (1930s) Goods produced by Nazi Germany
— (1960s and 1970s) California-grown grapes in support of the United Farm Workers
— (1970s and 1980s) All aspects of the economy and cultural output of South Africa
— (1980) The Moscow-hosted Olympics of 1980
— Myriad number of boycotts of various companies and products ranging from Nestle (baby formula) to Coca Cola. See the list given by the Ethical Consumer.
The reality is that the tactic of boycott has long been as American as the proverbial apple pie.
Part IV – Conclusion
Apple pie not withstanding, the legal and historical legitimacy of boycott no longer has much impact on the attitudes of presidential candidates or, for that matter, members of Congress. Nor does the fact that the changes the BDS movement seeks to make in Israeli behavior would be to the benefit of U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Instead what the positions of the candidates seem to indicate is that there will be an almost certain attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, coming from the very highest levels of U.S. power, sometime soon after the 2016 elections.
How is it that such a contradiction between national interests and established tradition on the one hand, and imminent government policy on the other can exist? The answer is not difficult to come by. It is just a matter of fact that constitutional rights, historical tradition, and indeed the very interests of the nation, can be overridden by special interest demands. The demands of what George Washington once called “combinations and associations” of “corrupted citizens” who would “betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country” in favor of those of some other “favorite nation.” It is exactly such demands that are now given priority by the politicians in Washington.
This form of corruption will go on as long as the general public does not seem to care that it is happening. And it is sadly clear that the BDS activists alone cannot overcome this indifference. Thus, the politicians can dismiss the Brookings Poll numbers mentioned above. They can shrug and say, So what? As long as that majority does not express their opinion by actively demanding a change in the situation, as long as they are not successfully organized to do so, their opinion cannot compete with the millions of special interest dollars flowing into political campaigns.
In many ways our greatest enemy is our own indifference to the quiet erosion of important aspects of the democratic process. Allowing the attack on BDS only contributes to this disintegration of rights. A combination of localness and ignorance sets us up for this feeling of indifference. However, in the end, there can be no excuse for not paying attention. One morning you will wake up to find that valued rights and traditions are no longer there for you.
Global Warming Redux: Another Ticking Bomb Out of Paris – An Analysis (29 December 2015) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – COP21
Paris was certainly 2015’s center for ticking bombs. The year was bracketed, first in January then again in November, by major terrorist attacks and ended with a December environmental conference which, given its non-binding results, opens the door to even more terror, albeit of a different kind, into the next century and beyond.
The 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, ended in Paris on 12 December 2015. If you are not familiar with the name or acronym, it refers to the latest gathering of nations (195 of them) looking toward a collective decision to limit global warming by slowing the release of greenhouse gases. Following the conference closure there was a short spate of positive reactions that has now been followed by a rather ominous silence.
Until very recently there was a large number of people, mostly business people, lobbyists, and politicians, who denied that human practices, such as the use of fossil fuels, had any significant impact on planetary warming, and some dismissed the idea of warming altogether. These numbers seem to have shrunk, and most of those still adhering to such notions are not often heard in public. This muted opposition helped pave the way for the at once limited and over-hyped result achieved at the Paris conference.
The overall goal of COP 21 was an international agreement that would hold global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, and then reduce the amount of warming even more in the years following. This goal was certainly agreed to in theory, but the conference also left us with no convincing reason to believe that the goal will be met in practice. According to Science (18 December 2015), the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, commitments were indeed made to pursue relevant “technological development,” mobilize “climate finance,” enhance transparency in the reporting of overall greenhouse emissions and have developed nations acknowledge their “legal responsibility” (but “without liability or compensation”) for the damage global warming is doing to poorer nations. All of this is well and good in a half-hearted sort of way, but it should be noted that the entire deal will only go into effect in April 2016 if “55 countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions have formally signed it.” And even if this happens, subsequent follow-through in terms of the reduction of greenhouse emissions is still hypothetical. Thus, as the Guardian newspaper reported (12 December 2015) in a confusing, contradictory way: “The overall agreement is legally binding but some elements – including the pledges to curb emissions by individual countries and the climate finance elements – are not.”
That should be quite sufficient to instill serious doubt about the ultimate outcome of COP21. Nonetheless, reactions were still upbeat. Everyone wanted to find the glass half full. Many climate experts, when asked if there was something about 2015 that made them hopeful, pointed to the Paris conference. Michael T. Klare, writing in Tom’s Dispatch (13 December 2015), proclaimed that as for those advocating the continued use of fossil fuels, “the war they are fighting is a losing one.” The transition to renewable forms of energy is inevitable. However, looking at the next hundred years, no one would say with certainty that the conference’s decisions would actually make a crucial difference. Thus, Andrea Germanos writing in Common Dreams (12 December 2015) quotes commentator George Monbiot in reference to COP21, “by comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”
Part II – Why a Disaster?
The Science article cited above puts the situation in historical context. “The individual national climate plans in the run-up to the meeting could still result in as much as 3.5 degrees centigrade of warming by 2100.” At 3.5 degrees we can expect sea levels to rise anywhere from 3 to 7 feet. Science goes on to explain that “much of the agreement’s promise hinges on the fine print to be hammered out in the coming years. And the provisions for individual nations to curb emissions further – crucial if the world is to limit warming to 2 degrees centigrade or less – has limited legal bite.”
In truth, even the 2 degree goal is insufficient. Those at most risk, such as the Pacific island nations, wanted to hold the line at 1.5 degrees. However, their fate, which in some cases is already terminal, was not deemed important enough to warrant the sacrifices the rest of the world would have to make to meet this demand. This in itself is a very bad sign.
There will, of course, be increasing efforts by environmental organizations, seeking to mobilize mass sentiment, to bring pressure on governments and industries. As one such mass movement leader declared at the end of the COP21 conference, “Now it is time to hold them [national leaders] to their promises. 1.5? Game on” (Common Dreams, 12 December 2015). No doubt such mobilization, like the hope for investment in renewable energy technology, will be very important in the long run. That it can achieve its ambitious goal in the short run is doubtful because there are other, even larger, organizable masses out there who will resist rapid, necessary change.
For instance, there are the inward-looking elements of the populations and leaders of the United States, China and India – the world’s biggest contributors to global warming. In the United States at least a third of the voting population is supportive of the conservative, anti-regulatory Republican Party that currently controls the congressional side of government. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has dismissed the COP21 agreement as “no more binding than any other agreement” on global warming made in past.
China has recently admitted that it has been underreporting its coal burning in recent years. This calls into doubt that nation’s collective will to meet its COP21 pledges. To do so will unavoidably impact economic growth and increase unemployment with all the accompanying political consequences. A major part of India’s pledge to lower and/or compensate for growing greenhouse emissions is the preservation and expansion of the country’s forests. However, approximately “275 million Indians subsist on resources extracted from forests,” including forest wood itself, and past efforts at conservation in this area have led to political unrest and significant cheating through official corruption.
It is not that these three countries won’t make efforts to, say, move to renewable energy whenever and wherever feasible. They will. However, it is both politically and culturally unlikely they will be able to do enough to hold down warming to 2 degrees, much less 1.5 degrees.