Tuesday, March 31, 2015

04-01-15 CALENDAR


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April 1, 2015, Hudson Valley Activist Calendar, Issue #690
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Wednesday, April 1, ALBANY: A lunchtime rally begins at City Hall, 24 Eagle St., at 11:45 a.m., demanding the end of "bomb" (oil carrying) trains, sponsored  by PAUSE (People of Albany for Safe Energy). PAUSE calls on the government "to protect the people from the dangers of bomb trains and to work to end our economic dependence on fossil fuels as we transition to a sustainable energy supply."   Information, ssteub@gmail.com


Oil tanker cruising up the Hudson River.
Thursday, April 2, POUGHKEEPSIE 
(Vassar campus): Crude Oil Transportation in the Hudson Valley is a 5:30-7 p.m. presentation by Riverkeeper's Jeremy Cherson, at Aula in Elly Hall. Up to 5 billion gallons of crude oil are transported through the Hudson Valley annually by train, barge and ship. Spills, explosions and fires — some resulting in the catastrophic loss of life — have occurred elsewhere on this virtual pipeline and it could happen here. The sponsors are the Casperkill Watershed Alliance and Vassar College Sustainability. Campus map, http://info.vassar.edu/visit/maps/ 

Roosevelt, Stalin, Tehran Conference, 1943
Thursday, April 2, HYDE PARK: The FDR Presidential Library, 4079 Albany Post Rd (Rt. 9) will host an author talk and signing at 7 p.m. with Susan Butler, author of  "Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership." Copies of the book will be available for sale. Published earlier this year, the book in one part discusses an extremely important fact about Roosevelt that is  known but to few Americans although it dramatically changed U.S. history from 1945 to now: Until his death that year, this great American president was utterly committed to maintaining close and friendly peacetime relations with the USSR. His successor, Harry Truman, the reactionaries in Congress, and big business essentially launched the Cold War, which at the time was only opposed at home by the progressives and the left. The liberals caved in. Free public event.  Information, (845) 486-7745.

Thursday, April 2, DELMAR: A free public showing of "The Black Power Mixtapes 1967-1975
"
starts at 6:45 p.m. at
 the Bethlehem Public Library, 
451 Delaware Ave. From 1967-1975, a Swedish film crew recorded interviews with major figures in the Black Power movement, creating hours of footage that remained unreleased for decades. In clips, Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton and Angela Davis discuss the movement's evolution. With contemporary audio interviews from leading African American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, this documentary examines the people, society, culture, and style of the era. Recent events, including the Black Lives Matter movement, are a direct result of the failure to address the issues brought forward by the Black Power Movement. Information, (512) 466-1192.


Hebron: International supporters of Palestinians have been harassed.
FRIDAY, APRIL 3, KINGSTON: The Films of Palestine Series presents "Ghost Town: The Hebron Story," 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, 320 Sawkill Rd. This documentary by Ellie Bernstein tells the story of several families living in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Narrated by Martin Sheen, the film follows the rise of Israeli settlements that are destroying any hope of peace in the Middle East. Director Bernstein will also discuss the making of her movie. Sponsored by Middle East Crisis Response  (http://www.mideastcrisis.org) and Hudson Valley Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (http://www.hudsonvalleybds.org.) Information: Jane.toby7@gmail.com or (518) 291-6808.

Saturday, April 4, ROCK TAVERN: The well known anti-drone strike campaigner Nick Mottern will speak on "Resisting Militarism Through Boycott and Divestment" at 4 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern, 9 Vance Rd., just off Rt. 207. Public and free, though a voluntary donation of $5 or $10 is always appreciated.  Information, Verne Bell at  (845) 569-8965.

Monday, April 6, Old Chatham: A free public screening of “The House I Live In” will be screened at 7 p.m. at the Old Chatham Quaker Meetinghouse, 539 County Rt. 13, across from Pitt Hall Road and Powell House. The film concerns the war on drugs, which has been a failure practically, morally, and economically. There are more than 500,000 people incarcerated for drug offenses; billions of dollars are spent annually on narcotics enforcement; treatment is still out of reach for millions of people; and drugs are more available and cheaper than ever before.  There is, however, increasing momentum for drug policy reform from all levels of government and society. Refreshments will be served and a moderated discussion will follow. Information, (518) 766-2992. Directions, www.oldchathamquakers.org.

Tuesday, April 7, NEW PALTZ (SUNY campus): The Departments of Sociology and Black Studies present: "The Problem with Carceral Feminism: Race, Gender and Mass Criminalization," a public lecture by Dr. Beth Richie, Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, Criminology, Law and Justice, and Sociology at University of Illinois Chicago. This free public event begins at 3:30 p.m.  in LC 102. The emphasis of Richie's scholarly and activist work has been on the ways that race/ethnicity and social position affect women's experience of violence and incarceration, focusing on the experiences of African American battered women and sexual assault survivors.  The speaker is the author of "Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation" (NYU Press, 2012), and numerous articles. Co-sponsors include the Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, Native American Studies Program and the Humanistic and Multicultural Education Program. Information, (845) 257-3756.

Tuesday, April 7, NEW PALTZ (SUNY campus):  Progressive Dr. Jill Stein, the 2012 Green Party candidate for president will speak at 7 p.m.
in Coykendall Science Building. Stein says she has "gone from practicing clinical medicine to practicing political medicine because politics is really the mother of all illnesses. If we want to fix the things that are literally killing us, then we've got to fix this very sick political system." Her talk will likely begin from that premise but being an environmental-health advocate she will no doubt touch on environmental as well as many other issues.  Sponsored by Environmental studies.

Wednesday, April 8, POUGHKEEPSIE: The End the New Jim Crow Action Network will meet 6-8 p.m. at the Sadie Peterson Delaney African Roots Library, Family Partnership Center, 29 N. Hamilton St. (Also meets here April 22.) Information, (845) 475-8781, http://www.enjan.org.

Thursday, April 9, BEACON: Crude Oil Transport on the Hudson River is the subject of a 7-8:30 p.m. lecture by Join Riverkeeper’s Jeremy Cherson. The event will be held at Beacon Sloop Club, 2 Red Flynn Drive.

Nermeen Shaikh.
Thursday, April 9, NEW PALTZ (SUNY Campus): “The Mass Media and the Poverty We Cannot See” is the topic of a talk by Nermeen Shaikh, co-host of “Democracy Now, the award winning daily radio, TV and Internet news program. The free public 5 p.m. event will take place in the Old Main Building 1907 Room on campus. Shaikh's talk will focus on how the commercial mass media often trivializes general news, minimizes poverty, slants political news and has been known to function as a virtual propaganda arm of the government in its approach to complex international events. This important talk is sponsored by The Progressive Academic Network, Office of the Provost, Humanistic/Multicultural Education Program, and Departments of Digital Media and Journalism, Economics, Educational Studies, Political Science and International Relations. Information, Nancy Schniedewind, schniedn@newpaltz.edu.  

Thursday, April 9, WOODSTOCK: Middle East Crisis Response, a group of Hudson Valley residents joined together to promote peace and human rights in Palestine and the Middle East, will hold its regular meeting tonight, 7-8:30 p.m. at Woodstock Public Library, 5 Library Lane. (Next meeting April 23, same place.) Information, (845) 876-7906, http://www.mideastcrisis.org.

Monday, April 13, KINGSTON: The End the New Jim Crow Action Network! (ENJAN), a Hudson Valley group dedicated to fighting racist policies of racial profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration (the "new Jim Crow"), meets 6-8 p.m. at the New Progressive Baptist Church, 8 Hone St. (Also meets here April 27.) Information, (845) 475-8781, http://www.enjan.org.

Saturday, April 18, OSSINING: Green Ossining is organizing a public Earth Day Festival at Louis Engel Waterfront Park (adjacent to the train station), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. This year will be solar energy themed, and focused on promoting solar energy in Westchester County through the Solarize program.

Saturday, April 18, 2015, HYDE PARK: The third annual Hudson Valley History Reading Festival will be held 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library, 4079 Albany Post Rd (Rt. 9. In four sessions, beginning at 10 a.m., authors of books on Hudson Valley history will present author talks followed by book signings. Copies of all of the authors’ books will be available for sale in the New Deal Store located in the Wallace Center. Sponsors are The FDR Presidential Library and the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District. Information, http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/publicprograms/calendar.html.

 Up to no good. Count on it.
Tuesday April 21, ANNANDALE ON HUDSON (Bard campus): History Professor Mark Lytle, will speak on "President Nixon, Henry Kissinger and their influence on America in the world," 5–7 p.m. in the Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium. Lytle is the author of six books including "The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring and the Rise of the Environmental Movement" (2007) and "America's Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era from Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon" (2006)." Sponsored by Historical Studies Program; public and free. Campus map, http://www.bard.edu/campus/maps/pdfs/campusmap.pdf

Wednesday, April 22, ALBANY: Today is Earth Day. Beginning 11:45 a.m. at Tivoli Park (Judson and Livingston (where there is parking), is the 2015 Earth Day Bicycle Parade. This year — celebrating institutions with solar panels — participants will ride by the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, the Spectrum Theater and the Dormitory Authority (NYS). The ride will last about an hour, and will end at SASNY, 515 Broadway. Information, ssteub@gmail.com.

Friday-Saturday, April 24-25, NEW YORK CITY: A 2-day conference on a "Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just, and Sustainable World" will take place at Cooper Union in Manhattan, 7 East 7th St. It is organized by Peace and Planet, the group sponsoring the large anti-nuclear protest in New York City on Sunday, April 26. (directly below). Information about this conference is at http://www.peaceandplanet.org/conference-program/.


Sunday, April, 26, NEW YORK CITY: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United States atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it comes at a time when Washington is currently engaged in a huge upgrading of its massive supply of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Join this massive demonstration — an international anti-nuclear protest centered in New York City — againat these nightmare weapons the day before the 2015 nuclear NonProliferation Treaty review conference will take place at the United Nations. The anti-nuke organization Peace and Planet is sponsoring this  protest, which they say will include over 1,000 activists from Japan, including elderly Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings) as well as other activists from around the world and America. Here's the April 26 schedule: 11-12:30: Interfaith Convocation for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Tillman Chapel of the Church Center at the United Nations, 777 First Avenue). 1 p.m.: Rally (Union Square North, East 14th Street, Park Ave. South & Broadway, featuring some great speakers. The Global Wave action will begin in at this time in NYC, followed by the March and move westward to cities and capitals around the world. 2 p.m.: March (Beginning at Union Square North. The route will be posted soon). 3-6 p.m.: Peace Festival (Dag Hammarskjold Plaza East 47th St., 2nd Ave. Together with Genuikyo (Japan Council Against A-and H-Bombs), the demonstration will present millions of petition signatures calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons to UN and NPT Review officials. Much more information is at http://www.peaceandplanet.org. To learn about the dangerous decision by the U.S. to expand the power and reach of its nuclear weapons click on 10-22-14 Activist Newsletter. (This is going to be a very worthwhile event. I can't march any more but I wish someone, anonymously, would march for me. Jack.)



Saturday, March 28, 2015

03-28-15 NEWSLETTER

March 28, 2015, Issue 216
ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
Contact us or subscribe to Newsletter at jacdon@earthlink.net
The April Hudson Valley Activist Calendar is at (click) 04-01-15 CALENDAR
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CONTENTS

1.   Photo of the Month: Cruelty, not entertainment
2.   Antiwar Coalition Marches in Washington
3.   Saudi Arabia Attacks Yemen, Iran Sits Back
4.   The Messages From Israel’s Election
5.   Financial Divide Between Whites and Minorities
6.   Obama Objects But Allies Join Chinese Bank
7.   Putin Declassifies the Crimea File
8.   Obama's Newest Threat To Venezuela
9.   No Chinese "Crackup" on Horizon
10. The Rich Own Our Democracy
11. Books Vs. Killer Drones — 7 Arrested
12. Russia’s Lavrov Compliments Obama
13. Fascist Battalion Fights For Ukraine
14. Pentagon Admits Israel Has Nuclear Weapons
15. Israel Has Nukes, Iran Doesn't
16. U.S. Women on Peace Visit to Both Koreas
17. Majorities Oppose Both Ruling Parties
18. Wisconsin Rightists Seek to Crush Unions
19. Is Need For 4-Year College Overrated?

20. Wall St. Bonuses vs. Low Wage Income
21. Obama Again Tramples on Transparency
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     1. PHOTO OF THE MONTH
                       Cruelty in the name of entertainment

A monkey cowers as its trainer approaches in preparation for a circus performance. The animal has been beaten into learning how to ride a bicycle, to which it is chained. This unfortunate creature will perform to the great delight of children, and the adults will smile. If it falls, another beating will be administered backstage, out of sight. This scene, or something like it,  could be anywhere in the world where circuses are performed. This one is in Suzhou, Anhui province, in China. It is grotesquely unnatural and often painful, for the animal. This sad photo is by Yongzhi Cu.
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2.   ANTIWAR COALITION MARCHES IN WASHINGTON

ANSWER  marches in Washington on anniversary of Iraq war — and to oppose Obama's new wars.
By the Answer Coalition

On Saturday, March 21, a dramatic anti-war assembly rallied at the White House and then wound through the streets of Washington, D.C., delivering symbolic flag-draped coffins to the headquarters of war contractors like Honeywell Corporation, the AIPAC offices and finally the Senate Office Building at the U.S. Capitol.

The action was organized by the ANSWER Coalition and was the culmination of four days of antiwar actions and teach-ins organized by a broad coalition of organizations under the umbrella of Spring Rising – an Antiwar Intervention in D.C. Spring Rising was initiated by Cindy Sheehan and many organizations joined together to organize the series of events, including the ANSWER Coalition, Veterans for Peace, World Can't Wait, CODEPINK, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, World Beyond War, Military Families Speak Out, United National Antiwar Coalition, International Action Center, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and more.

Symbolic coffins were presented to war-profiteer  corporations.
The March 21 demonstration received considerable media attention from national and international media outlets, including CNN, Associated Press, Reuters, Al-Jazeera and a wide range of alternative media. Simultaneous March 21 demonstrations were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and other cities in the Midwest.

Held on the 12th anniversary of the U.S. “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, the groups announced their plans to intensify opposition to the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) request from President Obama, which they describe as an authorization for this and future presidents to carry out endless war and endless bombing in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the Middle East under the pretext of fighting ISIS.

Brian Becker, the national director of the ANSWER Coalition, explained why the antiwar movement was marching in opposition to President Obama's request for congressional authorization for endless war:

“Each of the last four U.S. presidents has carried out the bombing of Iraqi cities and towns. That's 24 years of devastating bombing strikes against a country and a people that has never threatened or harmed the people of the United States. Each U.S. administration has used a different rationale for why the United States must bomb Iraq, with the latest explanation being the need to fight ISIS. But ISIS only exists today because of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Dropping more U.S. bombs on Iraqis will not solve the problems caused by the earlier U.S. bombs. The United States is in fact the primary cause of the fragmenting of Iraq. Endless war is only a prescription for the growth and exercise of a malignant militarism that has come to dominate the foundational political structures of the United States.”
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3.   SAUDI ARABIA ATTACKS YEMEN, IRAN SITS BACK

Yemen youth examines ruins from first Saudi air bombardment March 26.








By Stratfor, March 27

Saudi Arabia's decision to lead a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against Yemen's al-Houthi movement, known as Ansar Allah, may reduce the group's capability but is unlikely to weaken its resolve. On the contrary, if things go bad, the action could make matters worse for Saudi Arabia in its own backyard and strengthen Iran's position as a regional powerbroker as a result.

March 26 was not the first time Saudi Arabia took the lead in projecting military power beyond its borders. We saw this in Riyadh's intervention to crush a largely Shi'ite uprising in Bahrain in March 2011. Earlier, in 2009, the Saudis conducted air and ground operations against al-Houthi positions along their border with Yemen. That said, the overnight and continuing airstrikes in Yemen show that Riyadh no longer relies on the United States to fight its wars. It has also demonstrated its regional leadership by marshaling the forces of nine other allied nations — the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan Morocco and Pakistan, though Islamabad is still in the process of deciding what its role is in the largely Arab task force.

After decades of dependence on the United States for its national security needs, Riyadh has in recent years begun to aggressively develop its own indigenous military capabilities. The shift began in earnest after Iraq fell into the Iranian orbit following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and when Washington subsequently began its withdrawal from the Middle East through 2011 onward. In addition to developing its own national capabilities, Riyadh has focused on working with its Gulf Cooperation Council partners to create a regional coalition to combat the rise of Iranian influence.

So far the Saudis have used only direct military action against pro-Iranian forces within the confines of the Arabian Peninsula, in this case the al-Houthis, the group's tribal allies and the camp of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Elsewhere in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia has acted against pro-Iranian forces by proxy. In Yemen, however, where Riyadh can act in a more direct fashion, Iran's influence is actually quite limited, despite its reaching ambitions. Geographic and financial constraints prevent Iran from providing greater support to the al-Houthis. Furthermore, the group is also classifiable as a Zaidi religious movement that is, from a sectarian point of view, different from the Shiite Islam that the Iranians and most other Arab Shi'ites follow.

Just a week earlier, Shi'ite mosques were attacked
by Islamic State suicide bombers.
(Photo Yahya Arhab/EPA)
While taking whatever assistance they can get, the al-Houthis see themselves as a Yemeni and an Arab force and do not want to align with Tehran, as have Hezbollah, the Iraqi Shi'ites and the Syrian government. The Iranians are also aware that the Saudis have more money, more combat power, better logistics and better proximity to act in Yemen. For this reason, Iran does not expect to add Yemen to its sphere of influence anytime soon.

That said, when Riyadh eased Saleh out of power in the wake of the Arab Spring, the process did not stabilize the situation south of the Saudi border. Rather, it created more chaos in Yemen than before. The failure to create a post-Saleh order facilitated the rise of Ansar Allah as the single largest group in the country, which was a boon from Iran's perspective because it added to the growing regional chaos that its Saudi rivals had to face. It is unclear whether Tehran wanted the Saudis to intervene in Yemen, but now that they are, it works to Iran's advantage if things go badly.


The al-Houthi movement cannot be dealt with entirely militarily: It has too much influence in the country. But the Saudis and their partners hope to minimize their use of force, ideally avoiding a ground offensive, to get the al-Houthi movement to the bargaining table. Their goal is to get those forces, especially those loyal to Saleh, to leave the al-Houthis and for the movement to temper its goal of becoming kingmakers in Yemen's new political system.

It is unlikely that any of these groups will simply give up immediately. The Saudis could increase the pressure but are reluctant to do so because it would risk getting Riyadh sucked into a larger conflict in Yemen, which would fragment the country even more. In addition, jihadists from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and even the Islamic State will exploit the sectarian battleground and gain greater space, making matters worse for Riyadh.

Of course, the Saudi move to lead a multinational military force against the al-Houthis is a cause of concern for Iran. However, Tehran realizes that the fact that Riyadh had to bring together a major coalition to fight a group that is only on the outskirts of Iranian influence is a victory in itself. After all, Saudi Arabia by its own accord is reacting to Iranian interference in the Arab world and not the other way around. 

Ultimately, while Iran is unlikely to establish a serious foothold in Yemen, the fact that Saudi Arabia could still lose control of the country or risk inciting more tensions is still a net benefit.
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4.   THE MESSAGES FROM ISRAEL’S ELECTION


[The following article on Israel's election is by the well-known Israeli writer Ilan Pappe, professor of history and director of the European Center for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter (UK). He is the author of 15 books, many of which concern Israel from a critical point of view. Pappe is a supporter of a single bi-national democratic state, but he does not explicitly call for that in this article. Others, of course adhere to the two-state solution comprising Israel, and West Bank/Gaza, with mutually agreed land swaps if required. Given that the racist far right in power absolutely rejects both visions and the "moderate" Zionists are charlatans, the Palestinians and their friends must devise new radical approaches to the continuing struggle for justice. And as we all know, "No justice, no peace."]

By Ilan Pappe

Those of us who know the nature of the beast could not have been surprised by the results of the Israeli election.

Like many of my friends, I was also relieved that a liberal Zionist government was not elected. It would have allowed the charade of the “peace process” and the illusion of the two-state solution to linger on while the suffering of the Palestinians continues.

As always, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself provided the inevitable conclusion when he declared the end of the two-state solution — inviting us all to the long overdue funeral of an ill-conceived idea that provided Israel with international immunity for its colonialist project in Palestine.

The power of the charade was on show when the world and local pundits unrealistically predicted a victory for liberal Zionism, an Israeli ideological trend that is near extinction — embodied by the Zionist Union list headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

The exit polls compiled by Israel’s finest statisticians reinforced the wishful thinking, leading to a huge media fiasco as expectations of the “liberal” camp’s victory turned into shock and dismay over Netanyahu’s triumph.

It is worthwhile to begin an initial analysis of the Israeli elections with closer attention to this debacle.
An important segment of those who vote for Netanyahu’s Likud Party belong to the second generation of Jews who came from Arab and Muslim countries.

They were joined this time by settler communities in the occupied West Bank who voted as a bloc for Netanyahu. The Arab Jews voted for Likud much more then they voted for Netanyahu. The settlers did so at the expense of their new political base — Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party that promises outright annexation of the West Bank — so as to ensure that Likud would be the largest party in the next parliament.

Neither group was entirely happy with their choice and were not so proud to wear on their sleeves their decision to vote yet again for Netanyahu. That is perhaps why many of them did not admit to the exit polls who they really voted for.

The result was quite catastrophic for all the renowned pollsters. They missed the headline that should have been announced when the exit polls were done — a smashing victory for the Likud in 2015 and a disappointing result for the liberal Zionist camp. The more exciting news was the success of the Palestinian citizens of Israel who united to form the Joint List and won the third largest bloc of seats after the Likud and the Zionist Union.

The three outcomes — an invigorated Likud, a defeated Labor Party (the Zionist Union is a partnership of Labor and Livni’s “Initiative” list) and a united Palestinian representation — can either be ignored by the international community or serve as a catalyst for new thinking on the evergreen question of Palestine.
The victory of Likud, despite the social unrest in Israel over growing economic hardships, and the unprecedented low standing of the Jewish state in the international community, indicate clearly that there will be no change from within Israel in the near future.

Labor, meanwhile, has maximized its potential: it is not likely to do better and hence it does not offer an alternative. The main reason for this is that it is not an alternative. Israel in 2015 is still a settler-colonialist state and a liberal version of this ideology cannot offer a genuine reconciliation to the indigenous people of Palestine.

Ever since Likud took power for the first time after its historic 1977 victory, Jewish voters have preferred the real thing, so to speak, steadily turning away from the paler, liberal version of Zionism.

Labor was in power long enough for us to know that it could not offer even the most moderate Palestinian leaders any deal that would have granted them genuine sovereignty — not even in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which form only a fifth of historic Palestine.

The reason is very simple: the raison d’etre of a settler-colonialist society is displacement of the natives and their replacement by settlers. At best natives can be confined in gated enclaves, at worst they are doomed to be expelled or destroyed.


The conclusion for the international community should be clear now. Only decolonization of the settler state can lead to reconciliation. And the only way to kick off this decolonization is by employing the same means exercised against the other long-standing settler state of the twentieth century: apartheid South Africa.

The option of BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — has never looked more valid than it does today. Hopefully this, together with popular resistance on the ground, will entice at least some of the second and third generation of the Jewish settler-colonial society to help stop the Zionist colonization project.

Pressure from outside and from the resistance movement within are the only way to force Israelis to reframe their relationship with all the Palestinians, including the refugees, on the basis of democratic and egalitarian values. Otherwise, we can expect Likud to win forty seats in the next elections, perhaps on the back of the next outraged Palestinian uprising.

There are two reasons why this approach is still feasible. One is the Joint List. It will have no impact whatsoever on the Israeli political system. In fact, like the Palestinian Authority, the days of Palestinian representation in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are numbered. If a united list can have no impact, and if a disempowered PA does not satisfy even liberal Zionists, then the time has come to look for new forms of representation and action.

The Joint List’s importance lies elsewhere. It can ignite the imagination of other Palestinian communities about the possibilities of unity of purpose. That Islamists and secular leftists can work together for a better future is an example that can have far-reaching implications not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for an increasingly polarized Europe. The Joint List represents a group of native Palestinians who know the Israelis well, are deeply committed to democratic values and have risen in importance among the rest of the Palestinians after years of being marginalized and almost forgotten.

The second reason for hoping that new alternatives will emerge is that despite all its nastiness and callousness, the Zionist settler-colonial project was not the worst in history.
With all the horrendous suffering it has caused, most recently during the summer massacre in Gaza, it did not exterminate the local population and its dispossession project remains incomplete. This does not mean that it will not get worse or that one should underestimate the suffering of the Palestinians.

What it means is that the main impulse among Palestinians is not for retribution but for restitution. Their wish is to live normal lives — something Zionism denied all the Palestinians ever since the ideology’s arrival in Palestine in the late nineteenth century.

Normal life means an end to the discriminatory apartheid policies against the Palestinians in Israel, the end of the military occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recognition of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.

The quid pro quo is accepting the Jewish ethnic group that emerged in Palestine as part of a new, decolonized and fully democratic political dispensation based on principles that would be agreed on by all concerned.

The international community can play a positive role in bringing this vision about if it adopts three basic assumptions. The first is that Zionism is still colonialism and hence anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism but anti-colonialism.

The second is that if it leaves behind the exceptionalism it granted Israel over the years, mainly in the realm of human rights, it has a better chance of playing a constructive role towards safeguarding these rights in the Middle East as a whole.

And finally, we should all be aware that the window of opportunity for saving innocent lives in historic Palestine is rapidly closing — if Israel’s power remains unchecked a repeat of the massacres of recent years is all but certain. It is urgent to forsake old formulas for "peace" that did not work and start looking for just and viable alternatives.

— From the Electric Intifada, http://www.http://electronicintifada.net.
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5.   FINANCIAL DIVIDE: WHITES AND MINORITIES

By Kate Davidson

Among America’s working poor, a significant divide is growing between white families and most minority groups.

Working minority families are twice as likely to be low-income—meaning their total income fell below 200% of the poverty level—as white working families, according to a new report from the Working Poor Families Project analyzing U.S. Census data. And the gap has only increased since the start of the last recession, the study’s authors said.

Minority working families were also disproportionately low-income. Racial and ethnic minorities made up 40% of all working families, but accounted for 58% of working families that are low-income, according to the report.

Young families headed by racial and ethnic minorities are especially vulnerable, the report said. In 2013, 76% of minority families headed by adults ages 18 to 24 were considered low-income, compared with 47% of minority families headed by workers ages 25 to 54.

Of the 24 million children in working poor families, 14 million children–three out of every five–are racial or ethnic minorities.

“This is a moral as well as economic issue that’s defining the fairness of our society,” said Brandon Roberts, one of the study’s authors. “The inequality between hard-working families in America is very real and must be addressed and our state leaders have the power to do so.”

A family is defined as working if all family members 15 years and older worked a combined 39 weeks or more in the prior 12 months, or if the family met those conditions and had one unemployed parent looking for work in the prior four weeks.

The report also found that more than a third of African-American and Latino working families are in the lowest income bracket–which tops out at around $32,000–compared with just 13% of whites and Asian Americans. The disparity is likely due to the fact that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be working in low-paying jobs, such as retail sales, food preparation, health care and housekeeping services, the report said.

— From Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2015
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6.   OBAMA OBJECTS BUT ALLIES JOIN CHINESE BANK


By The Economist

Representatives of some of the countries who are joining the
infrastructure bank. China's President Xi in the middle.

SINGAPORE, March 21: Strategic rivalry between America and China takes many forms. Rarely does a clear winner emerge. An exception, however, is the tussle over China’s efforts to found a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China has won, gaining the support of American allies not just in Asia but in Europe, and leaving America looking churlish and ineffectual.

This month first Britain and then France, Germany and Italy said they hoped to join the bank as founding shareholders. China said other European countries such as Luxembourg and Switzerland are thinking of joining the queue. Yet America has been skeptical about the AIIB. Its officials claim they have not "lobbied against" it, but merely stressed how important it is that it abide by international standards of transparency, creditworthiness, environmental sustainability, and so on.

America’s reservations were certainly taken by officials in the region, however, as admonitions to steer clear of the AIIB. They were enough, at first, to discourage some of its closest Asian allies from joining the initial 21 founding members. Australia, Japan and South Korea all stayed out — though other staunch American friends such as New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand signed up.

The joiners argue that China was going to launch the AIIB anyway; better to be on the inside influencing its governance. The Europeans’ accession is likely to encourage changes of heart among the refuseniks. Australia has already indicated it is reconsidering; South Korea seems almost certain to join.

The AIIB is but one of a number of new institutions launched by China, apparently in frustration at the failure of the existing international order to accommodate its astonishing rise. Efforts to reform the International Monetary Fund are stalled in the American Congress. America retains its traditional grip on the management of the World Bank. The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) is always directed by a Japanese official. Partly for that reason — that the AIIB would amount to a diminution of Japanese influence in favor of China at a time when their relations are fraught — Japan is sniffy about the new bank. Its cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, this week repeated that Japan will “carefully study” the AIIB’s governance standards.





China, flush with the world’s biggest foreign-exchange reserves and anxious to convert them into “soft power,” is building an alternative architecture. It has proposed not just the AIIB, but a New Development Bank with its BRICS partners — Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa — and a Silk Road development fund to boost “connectivity” with its Central Asian neighbors.

Nobody questions Asia’s almost inexhaustible appetite for investment in infrastructure. An oft-cited study by the ADB in 2009 put a number on it: $8 trillion between 2010 and 2020, of which 68% would be for new capacity. As for how it is spent, 51% would be for electricity, 29% for roads and 13% for telecommunications. Among this are many projects that China sees as in its own national interest, and certainly those of its contractors: high-speed railways linking Yunnan province to South-East Asia; ports in Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; a new Silk Road across Central Asia to Europe.

Despite the obvious need, America has, either by design or ineptitude, turned the AIIB into a test of diplomatic strength. That has proved a disaster. Its officials have, anonymously, rebuked Britain for its "constant accommodation" of China — and many observers would agree that they have a point. But that its closest allies have proved so keen to court China’s favor and so willing to flout American views suggests America picked the wrong fight.

China’s triumph is not unalloyed, however. The accession of so many financially strong shareholders to the AIIB will indeed make it more likely that the bank will adhere to the same sorts of standards that govern the World Bank and other international financial institutions. That is good for China’s hopes of getting a decent return on its investment in the AIIB, but less so for any residual ambitions its leaders may have that the bank might become an arm of Chinese foreign policy.

The affair also raises the stakes in America’s increasingly frantic efforts to conclude a trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with Japan and 10 other countries. In his state of the union speech in January, Barack Obama advertised this explicitly as an attempt to counter China’s attempt "to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region.... We should write those rules," he declared. The AIIB fiasco suggests many in the world’s fastest-growing region are not so sure.
—————————

7.   PUTIN DECLASSIFIES THE CRIMEA FILE


Did Uncle Sam mistakenly try to enter the wrong door?
[Some big news came out of the Kremlin recently that you may have heard about from the mass media, but it's doubtful you got the whole story. This article should fill in the blanks. The author is a retired long-term ambassador in the Indian diplomatic corps who has served in a variety of countries. He is now a prolific news analyst.]

By M.K. Bhadrakumar

The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s candid remarks for nearly an hour on the national television March 13, coinciding with the first anniversary of Crimea becoming part of Russia once again, are the first exhaustive Kremlin accounts of the dramatic events last year following the ‘regime change’ in Kiev in February.

Putin divulged some "operational" details, which become nuggets of history. First, he disclosed that the Russian “electronic surveillance services” had specific information that the extreme nationalists who usurped power on Feb. 21, 2014, in Kiev had plans to physically eliminate the former President Viktor Yanukovich. He didn’t mention the CIA as such but it stands to reason that the Americans were in the picture. Putin described how a Russian "helicopter group with a Spetsnaz [special forces] team" eventually rescued Yanukovich and took him to Crimea where he decided to take shelter (before moving to Russia a few days later). Putin’s estimation of the perpetrators of the coup on Feb. 21, obviously based on intelligence inputs, is direct and clear-cut:

"The trick of the situation was that whereas formally the opposition was primarily backed by the Europeans, we knew fully well... that our American partners and friends were the real puppeteers [in the overthrow of the Ukrainian president]. It was they who helped train the nationalists; they helped train the militant detachments, with training both in Western Ukraine and in Poland as well as in part in Lithuania. What did our partners do? They aided and abetted a coup d'état. That is to say, they took action in the form of force. I do not think that this is the way to carry on in the international arena in general and with regard to the nations of the post-Soviet period in particular. After all, these nations are not yet fully formed, fragile and should be treated carefully, their nationhood, their constitution, their legal system. All this fell by the wayside, was trampled on. The consequences have been grave, as you can see. Some agreed, but others do not want to accept this. So, the country ended up split." [Unofficial translation; Kremlin hasn't yet released the official text.]

The bulk of Putin’s 55-minute TV narrative related to the developments leading to Crimea becoming part of Russia. Putin disclosed that in the fateful night of Feb. 22-23 last year, as the U.S.-sponsored coup was unfolding in Kiev, he held a meeting of the top bosses of Russian intelligence and military, and after a night-long session analyzing the events, when they broke up at 7 a.m., Putin gave the instruction and detailed "specific tasks" to "start work on the return of Crimea to being part of Russia," but with the caveat that in the first instance the people of Crimea should have "the opportunity of self-determination."

Of course, one of the first tasks assigned by Putin was that a "closed public opinion poll" be held to ascertain the thinking of the people of Crimea. The Russian intelligence turned in an estimation that three-quarters of the people of Crimea would opt for joining Russia. This is how Putin described the umbilical cord that tied Crimea to Russia through centuries:

“In the minds of the Russian people, Crimea is associated with the heroic episodes of our history. It applies both to the period itself during which Russia acquired these territories, and the heroic defense and then retaking of Crimea and Sevastopol during World War II. Crimea is part of Russian history, Russian literature, art, the tsar family. The whole fabric of Russia’s history is interwoven with Crimea one way or another, that is to say."

The Russian deployment in Crimea during the operation comprised “20,000-odd men fully mobilized and fully armed" in the Russian base in Sevastopol, "43 S-300 launchers, up to 18 Buk launchers, plus other heavy weapons of this kind, including armor." Clearly, from Putin’s words, it emerges that Moscow factored in the possibility that there could be American intervention (given the huge strategic significance of Crimea in terms of the "great game" to evict Russia’s Black Sea fleet as well as the estimated offshore hydrocarbon reserves). American navy ships had, in fact, entered the Black Sea at that time. It appears that the deployment of Russia’s formidable Bastion missile system in Crimea was in particular aimed at sending the message to the Pentagon that the cost of any military intervention in Crimea would be exceedingly high. In Putin’s words:

"Bastion is a defensive system. It is a coastal defense system, for territorial defense. It is not designed to attack anyone. But yes, it is an effective, state-of-the-art, high-precision weapon. For the moment, no one else has this kind of weapon. It is probably the most effective coastal defense system in the world at present. So, yes, at a certain point, in order to make it clear that Crimea is reliably protected, we deployed these Bastion coastal systems there. And, in addition, we deliberately deployed these systems so that they could be seen from space."

In retrospect, the big question that needs to be asked is whether the entire Ukraine crisis didn’t turn out to be ultimately a botched-up "color revolution." The U.S. got their man in power in Kiev to replace the ousted government — Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — but at what enormous cost and of what avail? [Yatsenyuk, or "Yats," as he is known to his Washington handlers, led by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a vocal neoconservative, was Washington's candidate months before the right wing coup last year forced the departure of President Yanukovich.]


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland poses with neo-Nazi Oleg Tyahnybok of the Svoboda Party (left), politician and former boxer Vitali Klitschko (ctr.), and new Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk (right).  Earlier photos showed her at a major overthrow demonstration.
The principal strategic objective of establishing a U.S. military presence in Crimea and vanquishing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet altogether (which Catherine the Great had established in 1783) couldn’t be allowed to succeed.

[The Black Sea is Russia's strategically important maritime entrance to the Mediterranean. Crimea had been Russian territory for centuries until it was bestowed to Ukraine in 1954 by the then leader of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself. Virtually all of Crimea's population at the time was Russian. They were shocked by the unexpected decision but at least they remained part of the USSR in a neighboring republic. When the Soviet Union imploded, Ukraine was no longer a sister state but to many it was a foreign country. In the election before Crimea returned to Russia last year, over 90% of the people voted to secede and return to their original homeland. — J.A.S.]

The present successor regime in Kiev is indeed under American thumb but is unable to stabilize the situation. Meanwhile, the agenda of getting Ukraine into the EU and NATO got frustrated. Ukraine itself is irrevocably split and its economy is in free fall. The IMF’s painful therapy may only aggravate the socio-economic tensions leading eventually to a popular uprising.

The dubious achievements that the U.S. reasserted — its Trans-Atlantic leadership, NATO's emphatic revival, or even that Russia has been "isolated" — are also increasingly debatable. Ironically, Washington's diplomacy will now need to focus on rallying opinion to thwart the major European powers from restoring their disrupted economic ties with Russia. The most awful miscalculation by Washington was in underestimating Moscow’s strong reaction to the capture of power by the Ukrainian nationalists backed by the U.S. Again, contrary to White House expectations that a discredited Putin would be politically weakened because of his actions, his popularity rating in Russia today touches an incredible 86%.

As more and more details get revealed in due course about the American operation to depose the elected Yanukovich government — not only from Moscow but also other European capitals — the Ukraine conflict will become eligible to take its place in history books as a great foreign-policy disaster for the United States in the 21st century and a serious blot on the Barack Obama presidency itself. The Russian intelligence apparatus surely is in possession of very damaging materials to expose the U.S. role, and Putin may have only scratched the surface.
—————————

8. OBAMA'S NEWEST THREAT TO VENEZUELA


Anti-government right wing demonstrators recently in Caracas. Here they are 
dancing on the Banco de Venezuela sign they just ripped down. Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters
By Gloria La Riva

In an ominous escalation against Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order on March 9 outlandishly declaring the Venezuelan government “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Venezuelan leaders immediately denounced Obama’s Executive Order. After all, it is Washington that has plotted against the Bolivarian government for 16 years.

In a national TV address, President Nicolás Maduro charged Obama with “committing the gravest aggression against Venezuela in all its history,” calling his order, “a monster created with the backing of the State Department and the CIA.”

The leaders of Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and other progressive Latin American governments vehemently condemned this latest aggressive move by the U.S. as blatant intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa called the March 9 order “a bad joke,” and “an unacceptable attack on the sovereignty” of Venezuela.

The Cuban government issued a statement reading in part: “The revolutionary government of the Republic of Cuba reiterates anew its unconditional support and that of our people to the Bolivarian Revolution, to the legitimate government of President Nicolás Maduro and to the heroic fraternal people of Venezuela.”

Even the outgoing secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza — no friend of the Bolivarian Revolution — called Obama’s order “very harsh.”

[Democracy Now reported March 20: "The Obama administration is facing criticism across Latin America for leveling new sanctions against Venezuela and declaring the country an 'unusual and extraordinary threat to national security.' On March 14, foreign ministers of the 12-country Union of South American Nations called for a revocation of the sanctions. In a statement, the ministers said: 'It constitutes an interventionist threat to sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.' On March 19, U.S. policy in Venezuela was also questioned during a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington. Representatives from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and other nations all criticized the U.S. approach."]

A protestor throws a smoke grenade during clashes with National Police. (Photo: Manuel Hernandez/Xinhua)

In his March 9 declaration, Obama ordered the seizure of property and assets in the United States of
seven Venezuelan individuals—military and civilian—whom Washington accuses of “human rights violations and abuses,” for detaining or restricting anti-government protesters.



According to the colonial “logic” of Obama’s order, the arrest of extreme right-wing counterrevolutionaries in Venezuela poses an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security.

The ultra-right protesters launched terrorist attacks starting in February 2014, to try to destabilize the Venezuelan government and create a climate of chaos. Some 43 people were killed in the attacks.

To put an end to the violence, the National Guard, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces and the National Police were mobilized to rescue people in neighborhoods who were trapped by massive barricades set up by the right wing, and to arrest the attackers and restore peace.

On Feb. 12 this year, the Venezuelan government defeated a new coup plot that would have included plane bombings of multiple sites in Caracas.

Surviving the U.S.-backed plots is why Venezuela’s revolutionary government has been declared an
“extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy” to Washington.

Shielded protester stands near flames as Molotov cocktails
burn underneath a police water cannon. (Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters)
Obama’s order sanctions the commanders who defended the population over the past year, as well as the prosecutor of the plotters of the recent coup attempt.

The U.S. government portrays the opposition as peaceful protesters abused by the Venezuelan police forces, but many officers and National Guard have been brutally attacked by the gangs.

Prosecutor Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padrón is banned from the United States by the order. She is the national prosecutor who charged Maria Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma Díaz for conspiring to overthrow the government on Feb. 12, 2015, and calling for violence in the streets.

They are currently awaiting trial, along with Leopoldo López, another coup plotter.
Obama’s Executive Order also broadly defines any current or former leaders and supporters of the Bolivarian government as subject to possible sanctions.

It threatens U.S. individuals and entities that have “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of” pro-government Venezuelans currently targeted or to be named in the future.

Venezuela’s government has launched counter-measures in recent days, and more are sure to come. In early March, Maduro ordered the reduction of U.S. Embassy personnel from 100 to 17, the same number of Venezuelan embassy/consulate officials in the United States.

Visas will now be required for U.S. citizens wanting to visit Venezuela. And a detailed description of the war crimes committed by U.S. officials who are now banned from entering Venezuela is available on the Internet. These include George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Maduro announced that he will seek a special “Enabling Law” from the National Assembly on March 10 to give Maduro the power to enact emergency laws, to take swift and effective action to defeat the counter-revolution.

It will be “an anti-imperialist law to prepare us for all scenarios, in order to win,” Maduro said.

— From Liberation News, http://www.liberationnews.org
—————————

9.   NO CHINESE “CRACKUP” ON HORIZON


China is still taking great leap forward.
By Stephen Harmer

David Shambaugh, professor of international affairs and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, is one of a group of several dozen academics and think tank scholars, who, together with officials serving in the U.S. Department of Defense, CIA, State Department, and National Security Council, make U.S. policy toward Asia, and particularly toward China.

For this reason alone, we should be reading and interpreting with alarm Shambaugh’s essay in the March 6 Wall Street Journal entitled “The Coming Chinese Crackup.”

In this essay, Shambaugh presents a veritable “end of days” thesis, presaging — if not predicting (“predicting the demise of authoritarian regimes is risky business”) — a collapse of political authority and administrative control in China and hinting at subsequent domestic and international turmoil. 

 “The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun, I believe,” he declares, “and it has progressed further than many think.… Its demise is likely to be protracted, messy and violent.  I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Mr. Xi will be deposed in a power struggle or coup d’état.”

What [proof] has Shambaugh announcing doom?  It is [President] Xi Jinping’s seemingly ever deepening and broadening anticorruption campaign in which, avers Shambaugh, “he is overplaying a weak hand and deeply aggravating key party, state, military and commercial constituencies.”

Let me say here, anyone who visits for long intervals or lives in China, and, especially, who reads
Chinese publications and listens to Chinese broadcasts — as I do, did for 20 years, and do daily — knows that a sense of dramatic, almost revolutionary, change now permeates the air. 


A number of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's policies have been reversed since he died in 1976, but day after day large crowds from throughout China, and some tourists as well, stand on long lines to enter the mausoleum where his body is on display.
There can be no doubt that Xi’s anticorruption campaign is shaking the very foundations of many institutions, breaking many “rice bowls,” and not just threatening but actually attacking deeply vested interests in all the institutions mentioned by Shambaugh.

I nevertheless absolutely reject his conclusion that I find astonishingly ill informed. The pervasive sense of dramatic change is, I have found, combined in almost all Chinese minds with satisfaction and confidence that the change is urgently needed — indeed long overdue — and in the right direction.  

For this reason alone, the most likely outcome is a much stronger, more legitimate, and more effective
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and government at all levels.

Shambaugh presents five “telling indications of the regime’s vulnerability and the party’s systematic weaknesses.”  They are all easy to dismiss.


China's newly revised law on Protection of the
Rights and Interests of the Elderly stipulates that
family members should be concerned about the
spiritual needs of the elderly and should not ignore 
or neglect them, and those who live apart from them
 should visit often. 
First, he says, “China’s economic elites have one foot out the door, and …are ready to flee.”  But hasn’t this “hedging” behavior been characteristic for generations of rich Chinese families wherever they have had an opportunity, and particularly when that opportunity was the U.S.?  

Shambaugh cites “birth tourism” in Southern California where pregnant Chinese women stay a few months, give birth, and return to China with a U.S. passport-carrying child.  Why is this an indication of doubt about prospects in China rather than a specular risk free investment that will yield free American education, subsidized or free health care for elderly parents, and the rest of the virtually unmatchable benefits of American residence for any family?

Second is that “since taking office in 2012, Mr. Xi has greatly intensified the political repression that has blanketed China since 2009.”  Shambaugh lists as targets of the repression “the press, social media, film, arts and literature, religious groups, the Internet, intellectuals, Tibetans and Uighurs, dissidents, lawyers, NGOs, university students and textbooks.”  He condemns, in particular, the Central Committee’s Document No. 9 that enjoins party members to do battle with “universal values” that challenge the system. 
1986 poster "Studying for
the Motherland."

Shambaugh is arguing that all of this is “a symptom of the party leadership’s anxiety and insecurity.”  

I would reply that there is much less “repression” (and for actually repressive actions, much public support) in what Xi and the party apparatus is doing and much more of traditional, Confucian-style moral and philosophical exhortations, including renewed reverence for Confucianism (which contains many “repressive” elements) itself. 

The paramount priority for virtually all Chinese is social and political stability.  This sensibility is particularly acute now as Chinese society is being stressed by a “new normal” of slower-growth economy. At the same time, Xi is pressing forward with structural systematic reforms with a determination unseen in at least 20 years.  In this sense, it is rational and responsible statecraft and leadership, firmly in China’s political tradition, to enforce a certain focus on messages and themes that positively advance the reform agenda.

The third point is that party members are seemingly uninspired by much in Xi’s positive agenda, like his “China Dream” concept or his exhortation to follow the “mass line.”  I have spoken with a number of CCP cadres who have, with unfeigned sincerity, expressed profound appreciation and understanding toward this agenda. I believe their sincere support to be prevalent within the party. They see Xi’s agenda and approach as a critically needed return to principles for the party.

Fourth, writes Shambaugh, “the corruption that riddles the party-state and the military also pervades   He asserts that corruption is “stubbornly rooted in the single-party system, patron-client networks, an economy utterly lacking in transparency, a state-controlled media and the absence of the rule of law.”

The 1949 revolution brought the beginnings 
  of industrialization and modernization
to China, as this 1960s poster suggests.

Chinese society as a whole.”
  
This statement reveals an astonishing naiveté about how things work in China. Yes, corruption is part of daily life, in the sense that no one seems to work only for their salary if they have an opportunity to negotiate something more on the side. But the economy and society have developed and hundreds of millions of people prospered within this system. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine —given Chinese culture and tradition — a different system.  And, to judge by examples in Taiwan, elsewhere in Asia and, indeed, in the United States, it is highly doubtful that the accouterments of a democratic pluralism that he cites would make any material difference.

Shambaugh’s fifth indicator is China’s economy, which “is stuck in a series of systematic traps from which there is no easy exit.”
  
I have a prediction:  For the remaining eight years of the leadership of Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, and the rest of the CPP Politburo Standing Committee, China will successfully “exit” or at least avoid the “systematic traps” in its economic development path, and will emerge stronger, more prosperous, and more globally engaged and competitive.

This success will have much to owe to the resolute, focused approach being taken by Xi to break down the greatest barrier to development, which is a CCP debilitated by internal corruption and a loss of ideological purpose and vision. 

— From Forbes Magazine Asia, March 10. Stephen Harmer is president of Yangtze Century Ltd. In Shanghai, China., and has 30 years experience providing investment advisory and management consulting services in China and Japan. He speaks both of these languages. The original title was, "Why David Shambaugh's 'Coming Chinese Crackup' Case Is Wrong."

Here’s a visual treat — three beautiful series of several photos each of a China you never knew,
by Kevin Frayer of Getty Images. Enjoy:

First: “Kazakh horsemen hunting with golden eagles in snow-covered mountains” at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/china-kazakh-horsemen-hunting-golden-eagles-snow-covered-mountains-photo-report-1486959
Third: “The Lives of the Muslim Uighur Community in China's Xinjiang Region.”
—————————
10. THE RICH OWN OUR DEMOCRACY




By Sean McElwee, Al-Jazeera

Two new studies by political scientists offer compelling evidence that the rich use their wealth to control the political system and that the U.S. is a democratic republic in name only.

In a study of Senate voting patterns, Michael Jay Barber found that "senators’ preferences reflect the preferences of the average donor better than any other group."

 In a similar study of the House of Representatives, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian F. Schaffner found that, “millionaires receive about twice as much representation when they comprise about 5% the district’s population than the poorest wealth group does when it makes up 50% of the district.”

In fact, the increasing influence of the rich over Congress is the leading driver of polarization in modern politics, with the rich using the political system to entrench wealth by pushing for tax breaks and blocking redistributive policies....
————————

11. BOOKS VS. KILLER DRONES — 7 ARRESTED

Several overesize books (measure against women holding sign) 
decorated the the entrance to Hancock drone base in New York,
until the authorities intervened. 
By Syracuse.com

DEWITT, N.Y. - Seven protesters who tried to block the gates to the 174th Attack Wing headquarters at Hancock Field were arrested March 19 while trying to deliver a giant copy of the United Nations Charter.

Hancock Field is home to a squadron of MQ-9 Reaper drones, which 174th Attack Wing pilots operate remotely on killer missions in Afghanistan.

Members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars showed up at the Air National Guard base at 9:15 a.m. on the 12th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The group said its members tried to deliver the UN charter and giant copies of two other books — Dirty Wars and Living Under Drones.

The protest group said the seven people arrested are Danny Burns, of Ithaca; Brian Hynes, of the Bronx; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse; Julienne Oldfield, of Syracuse; Bill Pickard, of Scranton, Pa.; Bev Rice, of New York City; and James Ricks, of Ithaca.

Rice will be arraigned in DeWitt Town Court because there was a valid order of protection against her from a previous protest at the 174th Attack Wing, DeWitt police said. She will be charged with obstructing government administration, criminal contempt for violating an order of protection, criminal trespass, and two counts of disorderly conduct, all violations and misdemeanors.

A previous order of protection had been issued against Kinane, but he won't be charged with a violation because the Air National Guard officer who obtained the order is no longer stationed at Hancock Field, police said. Kinane was charged with obstructing government administration, trespass and two counts of disorderly conduct.
—————————

12. RUSSIA’S LAVROV COMPLIMENTS OBAMA
Elderly man on way home passes Ukrainian soldiers at checkpoint.
By M.K. Bhadrakumar

Russia has chosen to sidestep the provocative resolution passed with an overwhelming majority of 348 to 48 by the US Congress on March 23 urging President Barack Obama to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. Of course, Obama will ignore it.

However, the Russian assessment rests on more fundamental considerations. In a television interview in Moscow last week, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was optimistic that Obama is unlikely to decide on supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. This is what he said:

“So far, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has opposed supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. They are proceeding from considerations rooted in their overwhelming desire for a political solution, and also from purely pragmatic reasons. They are aware that this could lead to a grave military situation. And the most important thing is the European Union doesn’t want it either. It is not taking its cues from a small, aggressive and noisy group of its member countries that couldn’t care less and are eager to endlessly blame Russia for all the sins in the world, to preserve the sanctions against our country, and so on. As things stand now, a change in the EU position seems entirely unlikely to me.”

The friendly tenor of Lavrov remarks — as friendly toward Obama as circumstances would permit a Russian foreign minister at the moment — would suggest that there might have been Russian-American cogitations on this topic, and Lavrov would have spoken in the light of recent exchanges with Secretary of State John Kerry. Most certainly, an overall lowering of Washington's anti-Russia rhetoric on Ukraine is palpable in the recent week or two.

At a pro-Russia protest in Ukraine.
Indeed, things look more hopeful for the implementation of the Minsk agreement [the 12-point ceasefire]. First of all, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe observer mission has been significantly enhanced and so indeed its wherewithal to be effective and reactive in real time. Russia is robustly pushing the case for an effective OSCE role on the ground and this improves the climate of trust and working relationship among and betwixt the protagonists within the ‘Normandy Four’ (Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine).

Second, Russia, Germany and France seem to be on the same page as regards the imperative need for Kiev to undertake constitutional reforms regarding the status of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk that meet the expectations of the separatists. The "troika" is unlikely to accept Kiev’s recent reform legislation that falls short of the stipulations under the Minsk accord. They seem aware that a flashpoint can arise if the reforms do not go ahead as promised.

Third, there is growing opinion in Europe that the Ukraine crisis is an internal European matter and it is not to be mixed up with the U.S.-Russia relations – that is to say, Europe has specific interests to safeguard. Put differently, Washington’s capacity to create mischief and derail the Minsk agreement is getting reduced.

Meanwhile, the power dynamic in Kiev is shifting. These are early days, but the simmering rift between oligarch President Petro Poroshenko and the prominent oligarch Igor Kolomoisky has surged and it will have far-reaching impact on the ground. Kolomoisky’s private militia has been a key protagonist in the fight against the pro-Russia separatist forces and a law unto itself. Its "withdrawal" from the frontline at this juncture would further tilt the balance of forces on the ground against the ‘war party’."

Suffice to say in this struggle, if Poroshenko emerges on top and goes on to consolidate his authority in Kiev, Moscow will be quietly pleased.

— From Asia Times, 3-25, 15
—————————

13. FASCIST AZOV BATTALION FIGHTS FOR UKRAINE



By Gabriela Baczynska

URZUF, Ukraine (Reuters, March 25) - The far-right Azov battalion, whose symbol resembles a black swastika on a yellow background, is preparing to defend the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine against a widely expected attack by pro-Russian separatists.

The 1,000 strong ultra-nationalist militia has a reputation as a fierce pro-government fighting force in the almost year-old conflict with the Russia-backed rebels in east Ukraine, and is disdainful of peace efforts. [A cease fire has finally been achieved in recent weeks.]

But the radical views of the commanders of a group affiliated to Ukraine's national guard which works alongside the army, and the use of symbols echoing Nazi emblems have caused alarm in the West and Russia, and could return to haunt Kiev's pro-Western leadership when fighting eventually ends.

"We don't like the ceasefire at all. As with the previous ones, it'll only lead to another offensive by the enemy," Azov commander Andriy Biletsky told Reuters while watching artillery drills at Urzuf, on the shores of the Sea of Azov, about 40 km south-west of Mariupol....

 Fascist Ukrainian troops of the Azov Brigade.
.
The Azov battalion originated from Biletsky's paramilitary national socialist group called "Patriot of Ukraine," which propagated slogans of white supremacy, racial purity, the need for authoritarian power and a centralized national economy.

"Patriot of Ukraine" opposed giving up Ukraine's sovereignty by joining international blocs, called for rolling back of liberal economy and political democracy, including free media.

In 2008, Biletsky urged "thousands of young fanatic apostles" to advance its ideas. Local media have reported on several violent incidents in which the group was involved.

Since Azov was officially created last May, it has been involved in fighting on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, a battle for the town of Illovaysk which Ukrainian forces lost last summer and across the coast of the Sea of Azov.

But, since Azov was enrolled as a regiment of Ukraine's National Guard in September and started
receiving increased supplies of heavy arms, Biletsky has toned down his rhetoric. Most of "Patriot of Ukraine" websites are now down or under restricted access. He denied Azov's symbol was a reference to Nazism, saying it was rather a Ukrainian nationalist symbol.

Azov troops receiving government training in artillery fire.
The interior ministry pays the Azov troops, and supplies all military equipment including heavy artillery. In addition Azov is believed to be getting financial support from among Ukrainian super-rich oligarchs....

[Biletsky, along with a number of far right and fascist candidates from other organizations, was elected to parliament after the overthrow of Ukraine's President last year.]

Some Ukrainian politicians have defended Biletsky and his troops as patriots. There is lingering doubt, however, over what role Azov might play when the military conflict ends and whether its members could challenge President Petro Poroshenko and his government or threaten the wider public security.
Biletsky has criticized Poroshenko for losing out on in an information war against Russia and the rebels, and is dismissive of the chances for a negotiated solution to the conflict....
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14. PENTAGON ADMITS ISRAEL HAS NUKES 



By William Grider, March 20, The Nation

After five decades of pretending otherwise, the Pentagon has reluctantly confirmed that Israel does indeed possess nuclear bombs, as well as awesome weapons technology similar to America’s.

Early last month the Department of Defense released a secret 1987 report by the Pentagon-funded Institute for Defense Analysis that essentially confirms the existence of Israel’s nukes. DOD was responding to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Grant Smith, an investigative reporter and author who heads the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy. Smith said he thinks this is the first time the US government has ever provided official recognition of the long-standing reality.

It’s not exactly news. Policy elites and every president from LBJ to Obama have known that Israel has the bomb. But American authorities have cooperated in the secrecy and prohibited federal employees from sharing the truth with the people. [Israel also keeps mum about the bomb.] When the White House reporter Helen Thomas asked the question of Barack Obama back in 2009, the president ducked. “With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don’t want to speculate,” Obama said. That was an awkward fib. Obama certainly knows better, and so do nearly two-thirds of the American people, according to opinion polls....

The newly released report—“Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations”—
describes Israel’s nuclear infrastructure in broad terms, but the dimensions are awesome. Israel’s nuclear research labs, the IDA researchers reported, “are equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.” Indeed, the investigators observed that Israel’s facilities are “an almost exact parallel of the capability currently existing at our National Laboratories.”

The IDA team visited Israeli labs, factories, private companies and government research centers in Israel and relevant NATO nations (details on NATO allies were redacted from the released version). On Israel, the tone of the report was both admiring and collegial. “The SOREQ center,” it said, for instance, “runs the full nuclear gamut of activities from engineering, administration and non-destructive testing for electro-optics, pulsed power, process engineering and chemistry and nuclear research and safety. This is the technology base required for nuclear weapons design and fabrication.”

The IDA team added: “It should be noted that the Israelis are developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level.” So far, The IDA estimated, Israel scientists were about where the U.S. had been in the 1950s in understanding fission and fusion processes.... [see directly below.]

— The author, who has eight books to his credit, is a journalist focusing on economics and politics.
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15. ISRAEL HAS NUKES, IRAN DOESN'T

By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

It has been known for years that Israel possesses a mighty arsenal of nuclear weapons — but as long as both the U.S. and Israel preferred to conceal the truth the impact of this information was diminished. Now that the news is out, it's one more argument for transforming the hyper-volatile Middle East into a non-nuclear region.

The evidence that Israel possessed the plans, tools and knowhow to construct a hydrogen bomb almost 30 years ago is new and important. Today's hydrogen bombs are thousands of times more destructive than atomic bombs. In the 1950s they had almost a thousand times the explosive power of the atomic variety.

Although it has not been confirmed, it is logical to assume that only President Obama had the authority to order the Pentagon to declassify of so extremely delicate a secret that has been concealed by the two nations for decades. The Israeli government has not commented on the disclosure, which took place in mid-February but didn't appear in the U.S. media until recently.

According to Arutz Sheva (Israeli national news) March 25: "By publishing the declassified document from 1987, the U.S. reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel's nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.

"The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu's March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities."

On Feb. 14, a month ahead of the above report, the Iranian news agency Press TV reported: "The
United States has assisted Israel in developing a hydrogen bomb, a move that violated international laws, a declassified report by the U.S. Department of Defense has revealed. According to the 1987 report, top Israeli nuclear facilities were analogous to the Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories which played a key role in the development of U.S. nuclear weaponry."

Iran and other countries and peoples critical of Israel's nuclear arsenal logically assume that the U.S. assisted its bossy protectorate in the Middle East in developing thermonuclear weapons years ago. No proof, of course, but if they had all the knowhow 30 years ago there is certainly a good chance.

The world has no idea how many nuclear weapons Israel has. Estimates range from 75 to 400, with most accounts guessing around 200.

Israel, backed by Washington, has refused proposals from Iran and other countries for creating a nuclear-free region in the Middle East. Instead the U.S. and Israeli focus only on non-nuclear Iran even though U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly maintained since 2007 that the Tehran government ended its nuclear weapons research program in 2003.

Netanyahu and Obama know this, and both benefit:

1.     Netanyahu gains politically by keeping Israeli Jews in a state of existential fear of an Iranian nuclear attack, which guarantees his reelection, especially when coupled with a promise to sabotage the possibility of a two-state solution. In truth, the Israeli leader views the Palestinians as surplus people unworthy of occupying even a tiny remnant of the land Israel has stolen in the name of God.

2.     Obama's imperialist foreign-military policy gains both by weakening Iran with stern (unjustified) sanctions and than promising to gradually remove them if the Tehran government satisfies Washington's demands. To a certain extent this gives the U.S. a modicum of control over Iran, which is why there is some sharp opposition within that country. It is also why Obama told Republicans and Democrats who applauded Netanyahu's opposition to the peace talks that they were joining the "hard liners" in Iran. In the long run Iran will easily survive all this, and they will be supported by China and Russia among others.

Key U.S. politicians have worked for years to launch a regime-change war against Tehran. Vice President Dick Cheney was the biggest cheerleader. He came close but failed. After he left office his successor, Netanyahu, led the cause in Washington as well as Tel Aviv. Just a few weeks ago the Israeli leader was virtually hailed as a substitute president of the United States when he appeared before Congress to subvert the actual president's negotiations with Iran.

 Subsequently it was revealed that Israel spied on the negations between Iran and the Big 5 Security Council members (plus Germany) and passed on secret information to the Republican leadership — an act of lèse-majesté distantly reminiscent of when Louis XV1 of France was ordered to visit the guillotine.

Obama was justly outraged by pipsqueak Netanyahu's crude interjection in American superpower policy, and the disrespect of the presidential office evidenced by virtually all the Republicans and the majority of Democrats who enthusiastically applauded the right wing zealot's pedestrian oration. The White House will huff and puff, but not much more. Netanyahu will be in Obama's doghouse for a few weeks but the U.S. will continue to finance Israel's repressive forces, and protect the colonialist government in the UN and elsewhere.

The entire episode is correctly perceived by world opinion as one more example of America's decline.
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 16. U.S. WOMEN ON PEACE VISIT TO BOTH KOREAS


Korea, Sept. 27, 1950: U.S. military policeman from the 24th Division searches Korean woman
 refugee for possible hidden weapons. (AP Photo).
By Christine Ahn, Women Against Military Madness

One year ago, I wrote to the renowned American feminist author Gloria Steinem asking if she would consider walking with other women across the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea to help bring peace to Korea. She promptly replied, “Yes. My high school classmates went to war there.” 

On May 24, 2015, 30 international women peacemakers from around the world will walk with Korean women, North and South, to call for an end to the Korean War [the U.S. still won't sign a peace treaty] and for a new beginning for a reunified Korea. Along with Gloria Steinem, our delegation includes Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire from Ireland and Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, Patricia Guerrero from Colombia, former U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, and so many more courageous women peacemakers.

North Korean mother who fled to the fields keeps her
children under wraps as she tries to explain her situation
 to a U.S. paratrooper who landed in the area near Sunchon,
 North Korea on Oct. 25, 1950. (AP Photo)

We will listen to Korean women about how war and militarism impacts their families, lives, and dreams and hold international peace symposiums in Pyongyang and Seoul, the capitals of North and South, where we can share our experiences and ideas of mobilizing women to bring an end to the danger of violent conflict. Our hope, as a symbolic act of peace, is to cross the 2-mile-wide DMZ that separates millions of Korean families and bring an end to the state of war in Korea. 

The year 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division into two separate states by Cold War powers, which precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War. More bombs were dropped by the U.S. on Korea in these three years than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II; the deployment of an atomic bomb was even threatened. One year into the Korean War, U.S. Major General Emmett O'Donnell Jr. testified before the Senate, “I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name… There [are] no more targets in Korea.”

After nearly 4 million people, mostly Korean civilians, were killed, fighting was halted when North Korea, China, and the United States representing the United Nations Command signed a cease-fire agreement. All three powers promised to sign a peace treaty within three months, as well as withdraw all foreign troops and introduce no new weapons. While China removed its troops from North Korea within the first few years, Washington still has 28,500 U.S. troops on approximately 100 bases and installations across South Korea. Over 60 years later, the signatories to the armistice have yet to deliver on the promise to sign a peace treaty. 

Continued at http://womenagainstmilitarymadness.org/newsletter/2015/01spring1/korea.html
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17. MAJORITIES OPPOSE BOTH RULING PARTIES

By Lydia Saad, Gallup

Thirty-seven percent of Americans now view the Republican Party favorably and 39% view the Democratic Party favorably, according to the latest Gallup Poll released March 16. This is the only time since Gallup began tracking the party's images this way in 1992 that neither party has achieved at least 40% favorability from the public.

Over the years, Americans' perceptions of the major parties have tended to conform to two patterns. At times — such as in 1992, 1996 and in the post-9/11 years of 2001 through 2005 -— Americans viewed both parties favorably. At other times, the public viewed one party — typically the Democratic Party —much more favorably than the other. This was evident in late 1998 as the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives pursued impeachment proceedings against then-President Bill Clinton, as well as from 2006 through 2008 as President George W. Bush's popularity waned during the Iraq war; in 2009 at the start of President Barack Obama's presidency; and again in 2013 during the government shutdown, when Republicans' favorable rating plunged to 28%.

Except for a brief spike to 51% for the Democrats after Obama was re-elected in 2012, both parties' ratings have registered below 50% since 2010. The descent to sub-40% ratings for both parties marks a new low in an already inauspicious trend.

Republicans' favorable score is down from what Gallup recorded last fall, both before and after the 2014 midterm elections that resulted in the Republicans gaining seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and taking control of the U.S. Senate. Forty percent of Americans viewed the Republican Party favorably last September, and that rose to 42% just after the elections in November before falling in the current survey to 37%. 
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18. WISCONSIN RIGHTISTS SEEK TO CRUSH UNIONS

March 5 big protest in Madison, Wisc., against passage of
Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union "Right to Work" legislation. 
By the Activist Newsletter (based on Labor Notes and many other sources)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his right-wing supporters struck again March 9, passing and signing legislation that made Wisconsin the country's 25th "right to work" state. He shocked Wisconsin in 2011 with laws eliminating virtually all collective bargaining rights for workers in the public sector. Now he’s aiming at the private sector unions.

Walker, who is actively seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, undoubtedly had this ambition uppermost in mind when he pushed for the right-to-work law. Following his victory he sent a fundraising letter to conservative anti-labor funders boasting: “Labor bosses will never forgive me for taking away their power.”

Scott's latest union attack came without warning. The profoundly misnamed right to work legislation was rushed through the legislature in an 'Extraordinary Session' designed to limit debate and shut down opposition.

Right to work laws prohibit both mandatory union membership and initiation fees and dues obligations of agency shops, and permit employees who do not voluntarily pay dues and initiation fees to receive the benefits the union provides. Unions call such people "free riders." Union shops, incidentally, do not force recalcitrant workers to join the union, only to pay their fair share of the union's costs in representing them.

As macroeconomist Dean Baker wrote in Truthout March 16: “In short, the proponents of right to work are fine with almost any demand that an employer wants to make on workers, including pay cuts. Their simple answer is that if you don't like it, work somewhere else.”


Gov. Walker as he signed anti-union bill.
Despite clear evidence that unions improve the income and lives of working families, Gallup reported last year that 71% of the American people back right to work laws, even though 53% say they approve of labor unions. The anti-union forces claim that they simply want workers to have a "free choice" whether or become a member and  pay dues or not . Even a substantial portion of union supporters allow themselves to be deceived about this issue.


For instance, 77% of Democrats approve of unions but 65% admit they would also vote for right to work laws, presumably over the issue of fairness to the worker who opposes joining and paying dues.  Here's some fairness for you:

1.     On average, workers in states with “Right to Work” law earn $5,538 a year less than workers in states without these laws.   
2.     Right-to-Work states spend $2,671 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than free-bargaining states. 
3.     According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 52.9% higher in states with Right-to-Work laws.
4.     Overall, union members earn 28% ($198) more per week than nonunion workers.  Hispanic union members earn 50% ($258) more each week than nonunion Hispanics, and African Americans earn 29% ($168) more each week if they are union members.
5.     78% of private sector union workers have access to medical insurance through their jobs, compared with 51% of nonunion workers.  And 77% of private sector union workers have access to a guaranteed (defined benefit) retirement plan through their jobs, compared with just 20% of nonunion workers. 
6.     Only 2.9% of union workers are uninsured, compared with 14.2% of nonunion workers.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO conducted a lively a noon rally at the capitol in Madison March 5 after Senate passage of the bill but before the Assembly took action. It was impressive but hardly moved the Assembly’s conservative majority, which backed the measure with glee.

As they did in 2011, thousands of workers again descended on Madison to defend their jobs. Participants included plumbers, electricians, and steelworkers; carpenters, nurses, and ironworkers; laborers, machinists, and teamsters; painters, stagehands, and office professionals; grocery, laundry, and sheet metal workers. They drove from places like Adams-Friendship, Oshkosh, and Menasha.

Dressed in hardhats, work boots, Green Bay Packers jerseys, and jeans, at a hastily convened Senate committee hearing Feb. 24, before the vote, they told riveting personal stories of how the proposed law would hurt their families and communities.

It’s not clear what triggered the Walker’s sudden push on “right to work.” Local leaders and activists speculate at least these factors were likely:

First, unions and their allies were making inroads against a possible bill. A coalition of over 400 local construction contractors had come together to oppose right to work and was about to start running TV ads. Small business owners, clergy, family farmers, and community members also were expressing opposition.

Second, pressure from Walker’s financial supporters was building — and right to work was a "thank you," to his conservative funders. Out-of-state corporate interests have been funneling dark money into Wisconsin for years, especially during the recent elections. If he does gain the Republican nomination he will undoubtedly be able to raise over a billion dollars for the campaign, as will be necessary in 2016.


Walker is staking his bid for the nomination on his ultra-conservative record in office, regardless of criticism from key Wisconsin newspapers for his reactionary zeal. In addition to bashing unions, his state budget this year is an extremist wish list for privatization and punishment. He also slashed $300 million from the University of Wisconsin budget, eliminated funds for Wisconsin’s state parks and public broadcasting, and demanded draconian cuts in public school money. None but the rich were spared.

The big money conservatives who finance the Republican nominees are thrilled by his actions. The Los Angeles Times reported the day right to work passed in Wisconsin:

“Walker has jumped into the front ranks of GOP presidential hopefuls over the last several weeks. He has shifted further to the right on such issues as abortion and immigration, closely aligning himself with the views of conservative activist voters he hopes will propel his candidacy.”

An extraordinary further example of his presidential credentials was made manifest at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference when he suggested that that his ability to destroy the Islamic State was obvious because "If I can take on 100,000 [pro-union] protesters, I could do the same across the world."
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19. IS THE NEED FOR  4-YEAR COLLEGE OVERRATED?


It's an acceptance (or rejection) letter. Brace yourself — your whole life is at stake! Or not.
By Robert Reich, March 23, 2015

Last year, 46% of recent college graduates were
 in jobs that don’t even require a college degree.
   The Federal Reserve Bank of New York

 I know a high school senior who’s so worried about whether she’ll be accepted at the college of her choice she can’t sleep. The parent of another senior tells me he stands at the mailbox for an hour every day waiting for a hoped-for acceptance letter to arrive.

Parents are also uptight. I’ve heard of some who have stopped socializing with other parents of children competing for admission to the same university. Competition for places in top-brand colleges is absurdly intense. With inequality at record levels and almost all the economic gains going to the top, there’s more pressure than ever to get the golden ring.

A degree from a prestigious university can open doors to elite business schools and law schools – and to jobs paying hundreds of thousands, if not millions, a year. So parents who can afford it are paying grotesque sums to give their kids an edge.

They “enhance” their kids' resumes with such things as bassoon lessons, trips to wildlife preserves in Botswana, internships at the Atlantic Monthly. They hire test-prep coaches. They arrange for consultants to help their children write compelling essays on college applications. They make generous contributions to the elite colleges they once attended, to which their kids are applying  – colleges that give extra points to “legacies” and even more to those from wealthy families that donate tons of money.

You might call this affirmative action for the rich.

The same intensifying competition is affecting mid-range colleges and universities that are doing everything they can to burnish their own brands – competing with other mid-range institutions to enlarge their applicant pools, attract good students, and inch upward on the U.S. News college rankings. Every college president wants to increase the ratio of applications to admissions, thereby becoming more elite.

Excuse me, but this is nuts. The biggest absurdity is that a four-year college degree has become the only gateway into the American middle class. Also, not every young person is suited to four years of college. They may be bright and ambitious but they won’t get much out of it.

They feel compelled to go to college because they’ve been told over and over that a college degree is necessary. Yet if they start college and then drop out, they feel like total failures. Even if they get the degree, they’re stuck with a huge bill — and may be paying down their student debt for many years. And all too often the jobs they land after graduating don’t pay enough to make the degree worthwhile.

The biggest frauds are for-profit colleges that are raking in money even as their students drop out in droves, and whose diplomas are barely worth the ink-jets they’re printed on.

America clings to the conceit that four years of college are necessary for everyone, and looks down its nose at people who don’t have college degrees. This has to stop. Young people need an alternative. That alternative should be a world-class system of vocational-technical education.

A four-year college degree isn’t necessary for many of tomorrow’s good jobs. For example, the
emerging economy will need platoons of technicians able to install, service, and repair all the high-tech machinery filling up hospitals, offices, and factories. And people who can upgrade the software embedded in almost every gadget you buy.
German technical schools lead to learning
needed skills and to a job with good pay and benefits.

Today it’s even hard to find a skilled plumber or electrician. Yet the vocational and technical education now available to young Americans is typically underfunded and inadequate. And too often denigrated as being for “losers.”

These programs should be creating winners. Germany – whose median wage (after taxes and transfers) is higher than ours —  gives many of its high school students world-class technical skills and apprentice training that have made Germany a world leader in fields such as precision manufacturing.

A world-class technical education doesn’t have to mean young people’s fates are determined when they are 14. Instead, rising high-school seniors could be given the option of entering a program that extends a year or two beyond high school and ends with a diploma acknowledging their technical expertise.

 Community colleges — the under-appreciated crown jewels of America’s feeble attempts at equal opportunity — could be developing these curricula. Businesses could be advising on the technical skills they’ll need, and promising jobs to young people who complete their degrees with good grades. 

Government could be investing enough money to make these programs thrive. (And raising taxes on top incomes enough to temper the wild competition for admission to elite colleges that grease the way to those top incomes.)     

Instead, we continue to push most of our young people through a single funnel called a four-year college education — a funnel so narrow it’s causing applicants and their parents excessive stress and worry about “getting in;” that’s too often ill suited and unnecessary, and far too expensive; and that can cause college dropouts to feel like failures for the rest of their lives.

It’s time to give up the idea that every young person has to go to college, and start offering high-school seniors an alternative route into the middle class.

— From www.robertreich.org. Robert B. Reich is a professor and former Secretary of Labor. His latest book is "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future."
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20. WALL ST. BONUSES VS. LOW WAGE INCOME




By Sarah Anderson

Wall Street banks handed out $28.5 billion in bonuses to their 167,800 employees in 2014, up 3% over the year before, according to new figures from the New York State Comptroller. These annual bonuses represent an extra reward on top of base salaries in the securities industry. These base salaries averaged $190,970 in 2013.

To put these figures in perspective, our just-released Institute for Policy Studies report, “Off the Deep End: The Wall Street Bonus Pool and Low-Wage Workers,” compares the latest Wall Street payout to low-wage worker earnings. We’ve also calculated how much more of a national economic boost would be gained if similar sums were funneled into the pockets of the millions of workers on the bottom end of the pay scale.

The $28.5 billion in bonuses doled out to Wall Street employees doubles the annual pay for all 1,007,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Wall Street bonuses rose despite a 4.5% decline in industry profits. The size of the bonus pool ended up 27 percent higher than in 2009, the last time Congress increased the minimum wage.

The financial industry’s bonus culture, we learned from its 2008 meltdown, creates an incentive for high-risk behaviors that endanger the entire economy. A large share of low-wage earners, on the other hand, spend every workday meeting basic human needs, such as providing food services and taking care of the disabled and elderly.

Low-wage workers in many sectors have united around a call for “one fair wage” of a minimum of $15 per hour. A few cities, including Seattle and San Francisco, have already adopted a $15 minimum wage, more than double the current federal minimum.

The Wall Street bonus pool has grown large enough to lift all 2.9 million restaurant servers and bartenders, all 1.5 million home health and personal care aides, or all 2.2 million fast food preparation and serving workers up to $15 per hour....

— From Inequality.org, March 11, 2015. Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
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21. OBAMA AGAIN TRAMPLES ON TRANSPARENCY


By Common Dreams, March 17, 2015

For the second year in a row, the Obama administration has set a record in rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests, according to new analysis by the Associated Press March 17.

The White House censored or denied access to government data 39% of the time, more often than ever before — and when officials did hand over information, it took them longer to do so, particularly if the files might be newsworthy. Over the past six years, the number of FOIA requests that were granted speedy processing statuses fell from one in two to less than one in eight, AP said.

In nearly one-third of cases, the White House acknowledged that it withheld or censored information unlawfully — but only made that admission when challenged. By the end of 2014, the backlog of unanswered requests reached more than 200,000, an increase of 55%. Meanwhile, the number of staff responsible for responding to FOIA claims was slashed by 9%, or 375 people, to its smallest size ever.

Moreover, the administration also announced it would formalize a rule change exempting the Office of Administration from federal regulations requiring it to respond to FOIA requests. This department handles White House record keeping.

The analysis comes amid Sunshine Week, during which civil liberties watchdogs promote increased government accountability. The AP's findings highlight President Barack Obama's failure to deliver on one of his signature campaign promises to create the most transparent administration in history.



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