Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Calendar

12-01-14, Hudson Valley Activist Calendar, Issue #686
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FOR THE LATEST NEWSLETTER, click  12-23-14 Newsletter
Editor’s note: Local activism always slows down in December and January — a combination of cold weather, campus vacations and holidays. But there probably will be more events announced. Check back in a few days. We update each calendar online as new events are announced until the next full calendar is posted. The additional items will begin with this mark: √√.

                                   Black lives matter!

 Denounce the Grand Jury Decision not to 
indict the cop who murdered Eric Garner.
CITY HALL, THURSDAY, DEC. 4, 2:30 P.M. (420 B’way.)
In solidarity with Eric Garner, Michael Brown, 
and all victims of police brutality.


Tuesday, Dec. 2, NEW PALTZ: A protest opposing construction of the Pilgrim Pipeline starts today at 4 p.m. at the intersection of  Rt. 299 (Main St.) and South Putt Corners near the NYS Thruway bridge (park in the NE corner of the ShopRite lot, near the Sunoco station). The proposed oil pipeline from Albany, NY, to Linden, N.J., is encountering criticism from residentcs of both states in proximity to the project. Pipeline construction by Pilgrim Pipeline LLC could have negative effects on the environment and public health and safety, passing through highlands, open spaces and densely populated communities. The sponsors are New Paltz Climate Action Coalition and Protecting Our Waters, and they say: “Send a strong message to the NYS Thruway Authority that the pipeline should not be allowed on a Thruway easement. If you can, please bring signs and banners.”
 Information, (845) 255-9297 or (845) 255-7711.

Wednesday, Dec. 3, 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 Dec. 17.) Information, (845) 475-8781,

Friday, Dec. 5, KINGSTON: The Films of Palestine Series presents “With God On Our Side,” 7-8:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, 320 Sawkill Rd. This documentary examines the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians.. A discussion will follow this free film. Wheelchair accessible. Sponsored by Middle East Crisis Response and Hudson Valley Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Information,, (518) 291-6808.

√ Friday, Dec. 5, MILLBROOK: The Emmy Award-winning environmental documentary, “Green
Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time,” will be screened at at 7:30 p.m in the Cary Institute auditorium, located at 2801 Sharon Turnpike (Rte. 44). We’re told: “Green Fire explores the personal journey that led conservationist Aldo Leopold to establish his land ethic, which inspires us to see the natural world as a community to which we belong. His vision, popularized in his book, “A Sand County Almanac,” revolutionized the conservation movement and still resonates today. The film will be followed by a Q&A with Leopold scholar Curt Meine. This free public event is offered in partnership with the Dutchess Land Conservancy. Information,

√ Saturday, Dec. 6, ALBANY:  Grannies for Peace is holding a Holiday Vigil and Action:  “No to War and No to Violent Video Games,” Noon--1p.m., Vigil at Corner of Wolf Road and Central Avenue (near Sears at Colonie Center), from 12 noon-1p.m., followed by walk through the mall 1-1:30 p.m.  Women Against War,

Saturday Dec. 6, NEW PALTZ: Today is Amnesty International’s annual “ Global Write for Rights,” an event where people each write the same letter opposing a variety of human rights abuses. Amnesty’s Mid-Hudson chapter is hosting this at Cafeteria, 58 Main St., 1-4 p.m. Information, Ilgu Ozler,

Monday, Dec. 8, 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 Dec. 22.) Information, (845) 475-8781,

Massive Climate March in NYC in September.
√ Thursday, Dec. 9, NEW PALTZ (SUNY campus): Following up on the massive  worldwide climate actions in September,  a public meeting titled, “The People Are Still Marching” will discuss  “Combating Climate Change: Steps & Solutions,” will begin at 6:30 p.m. in CSB Auditorium. 6:30pm. Campus map:

Thursday, Dec. 11, 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. Information, (845) 876-7906,

Sunday. Dec. 14, GOSHEN: A “Symposium on Public Banking for New York State will be held at 2 p.m. in Goshen United Methodist Church, 115 Main St. Speakers include Scott Baker, NYS Coordinator of the Public Banking Institute; Mike Krauss, chair, Pennsylvania Project; and Walt McRee, active in Pennsylvania and N.J, co-host and producer of “It's Our Money, with Ellen Brown.”  Sponsors are the New York Public Banking Group; Democratic Alliance; Orange County Peace and Justice; Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern; Westchester People’s Action Coalition (WESPAC); The Pennsylvania Project. Information, (845) 986-0062.

√ Tuesday, Dec. 16, TROY: Renowned Indian historian Vijay Prashad will speak on the topic of  "The War Against the Planet" at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Community Center, 313 10th St. Prashad is chair South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, and the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut. He has authored 15 books, including his most recent (2013), “The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.” Sponsored by the James Connolly Forum. A $5 donation is requested ($2, students, unemployed). Information (518) 505-0948.

√ Thursday, Dec. 18, SCHENECTADY: Two short Iranian films — “Videotape” (14 min.) and “Dead End” (48 min.) — will be screened at Proctors, 432 State St. The evening also features instrumental international live music performed by Kori Soron, a photo exhibit by Afshin Katanchi, and Persian tea and sweets. Cost $10. Information from Women Against War.

√ Wednesday, Dec. 17, CATSKILL:  Greene County employee members of CSEA (Civil Service Employees Assn.) have not received a raise in five years and believe this is unfair, especially since county legislatures recently approved $10,000 raises for the Sheriff and the County Clerk. The Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation says: “Please join us as we ask our elected officials to have a heart and support our efforts in receiving a fair contract!” People will gather 12 noon-1 p.m. at Greene County Office Building on 
Main St. A second gathering will be 5-6:15 p.m. at the building’s Water St. entrance. Information, HVALF, (845) 527-5554.

√ Thursday, Dec. 18, SCHENECTADY: Two short Iranian films — “Videotape” (14 min.) and “Dead End” (48 min.) — will be screened at Proctors, 432 State St. The evening also features instrumental international live music performed by Kori Soron, a photo exhibit by Afshin Katanchi, and Persian tea and sweets. Cost $10. Information from Women Against War.

√ Friday, Dec. 19, NEW PALTZ: If you haven’t seen the film "Joyeux Noel” (Merry Christmas), we suggest that you attend the free public screening at 8:15 p.m. in Elting Library, 93 Main  St. This film tells the true-life story of the spontaneous Christmas Eve truce declared by Scottish, French and German troops in the trenches of World War I. Enemies leave their weapons behind for one night as they band together in brotherhood and forget about the brutalities of war. A truly powerful, must-see film. Directed by Christian Carion. This event is sponsored by New Paltz Neighbors For Peace

 √ Saturday, Dec. 27, NEWBURGH: “Amazing Grace,” an inspiring 32-minute documentary about creating and performing a musical inside of a women's prison, will be screened at 1 p.m. in the Newburgh Free Library Auditorium, 124 Grand St. This musical is by members of Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York State’s only maximum security prison for women. The project grew out of a writing class for inmates led by RTA facilitators. The women were asked to write autobiographical pieces, and wrote such interesting stories that over a dozen of them were turned into songs. A discussion will follow, led by Anne Lloyd, director and RTA facilitator of the project and Michael Minard, musician and composer who wrote the melodies.  Free, but a $5 good will donation welcomed. Sponsored by Exodus: Newburgh Extension, The Presbytery Prisoner Partnership in cooperation with Rehabilitation Through the Arts, and the Newburgh Free Library. For information, Verne M. Bell, (845) 569-896.

FOR THE LATEST NEWSLETTER, below this item or  11-24-14 Activist Newsletter

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

12-24-14 Activist Newsletter

November 25, 2014, Issue 210
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The Hudson Valley Calendar is at (click) December Calendar

1A. Hudson Valley Protests Brown Decision
1.   Quotes of The Month Paul L. Robeson
2.   Our Newsletter is Read Worldwide
3.   The Election and Beyond
4.   “Life In The Circle”
5.   2.5 Million Homeless Children in U.S.
6.   The Age of Vulnerability
7.   Africa is Bigger Than You Think
8.   Russia, Germany & Ukraine
9.   Bombing and Blaming Muslim Countries
10. Marissa Alexander’s Plea Deal
11. Leslie Feinberg, Presente!
12. Dilma Rousseff Wins, Neoliberalism Loses
13. Climate Groups Prepare for UN Meeting
14. Palestinians are Right To Resist
15. Don’t Ask How to Feed the 9 Billion
16. Angry French Farmers Protest Government
17. Syria’s Ruin
18. Belgium Protest Against Austerity

                                   1A. HUDSON VALLEY 
                        PROTESTS BROWN DECISION

                                                       Poughkeepsie. (Photo by Fred Nagel.)

                                Kingston, N.Y. (Photo by Donna Goodman)

By Donna Goodman

Demonstrations protesting the grand jury’s refusal to indict a Ferguson, Mo. police officer for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, took place in hundreds of U.S. cities and towns. Several were mounted in the Hudson Valley, including in Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, Kingston, and Albany, N.Y. on Tuesday, Nov. 25.

In Poughkeepsie activist Fred Nagel reports 500 people assembled in front of the Dutchess County Jail chanting “No justice, no peace!” and then rallied at nearby Malcolm X Park. (See top photo.) The report noted that “A large contingent of Vassar College students participated, bringing racial diversity to the rally.” The End the New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN) initiated the event.

In New Paltz some 200 SUNY students mobilized quickly after the 9 p.m. Monday announcement of the jury’s decision and marched through campus and the village. According to Kris Vargas of the Black Student Union, which organized the campus march: "The demonstration started with a Facebook post, and in literally 40 minutes the protest grew. We emphasized peaceful protest and had a quick 'know your rights' session before the march." Vargas noted that there was a good mix of people, with black and white students marching together.

In Kingston 75 people attended a rally and vigil in front of City Hall, also sponsored by ENJAN. The most prominent signs read: "Black Lives Matter" and "Don't Shoot." Students led chants such as "Black Nation on the Rise. Educate, Agitate, Organize!" and "Racist violence has to stop! Prosecute the killer cop!" Local activist Jamie Levato said, "These demonstrations bring people in and inspire people who are driving by. We need to change the way policing is done. People have to force the change to happen." (The bottom photo is of SUNY New Paltz students and faculty who also joined the Kingston event.)

Odell Winfield, the founder of ENJAN, which has members in three Mid-Hudson towns, said: "This battle is another one in a long line. When we talk about mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline, we can prove it. Blacks in the U.S. constitute 10% of the population and 50% of people who are incarcerated."  ENJAN is actively engaged in a Ban the Box campaign, which would prohibit potential employers from demanding that job applicants check off a box indicating whether they've ever been arrested.

1.   QUOTES OF THE MONTH, Paul L. Robeson (1898-1976)

Paul Robeson was a black American singer and actor kown throughout the world as a fighter for civil rights and equality in the United States. He was an outstanding football player when at Rutgers Univ., then had an international career in singing, as well as acting in theater and movies. He became politically involved in opposition to the Spanish Civil War (during which he sang for anti-fascist loyalist soldiers). His advocacy of anti-imperialism and socialism, support for the Soviet Union and criticism of the U.S. government resulted in being blacklisted during the repressive anti-communist McCarthy era. Ill health forced him into retirement but he remained until death an advocate of left-wing political causes.

·      The essential character of a nation is determined not by the upper classes, but by the common people, and that the common people of all nations are truly brothers in the great family of mankind … And even as I grew to feel more Negro in spirit, or African as I put it then, I also came to feel a sense of oneness with the white working people whom I came to know and love.

·      When I sang my American folk melodies in Budapest, Prague, Tiflis, Moscow, Oslo, or the Hebrides or on the Spanish front, the people understood and wept or rejoiced with the spirit of the songs.

·      I do not hesitate one second to state clearly and unmistakably: I belong to the American resistance movement which fights against American imperialism.

Paul Robeson as Othello, 
 with Uta Hagen (1943–4).

·      In Russia I felt for the first time like a full human being. No color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington. It was the first time I felt like a human being.

·      To be free... to walk the good American earth as equal citizens, to live without fear, to enjoy the fruits of our toil, to give our children every opportunity in life--that dream which we have held so long in our hearts is today the destiny that we hold in our hands.

Here are two songs by Robeson:

Watch a documentary biography of Paul Robeson, “Here I Stand,” including
video of the infamous right wing racist riot against Robeson in Peekskill, N.Y.:

By the Editor

We just learned how to obtain information about what countries our readers are in from Goggle’s Blogger. Following is a listing of hits on the Activist Newsletter for two years, from Oct. 1, 2012, to Oct.1, 2014. (A hit is a one viewing.) We had no idea that more than a handful of readers were in other countries, and to discover these totals is very gratifying.

Country                Read Newsletter

United States                        70,745
Russia                                      5173
Germany                                  4314
Ukraine                                    3534
France                                      3169
Slovenia                                   2205
United Kingdom                      2149
China                                       1578
Netherlands                              1312
Poland                                        807  

Total                                      95,065


Finally, a depiction of where the two-party system actually stands.

By Jack A.Smith, Editor

The American people tend to view the Republican and Democratic parties as near polar opposites, but this is far from true. Indeed, they are clearly more united on the fundamentals underpinning U.S. society than they are at odds.

The heated legislative and political battles that characterize both parties, which are fought bitterly every two and four years in national elections and throughout the 50 states, are taking place within a much larger context of agreement between the right/far right Republicans and the center right Democrats.

We will touch upon this matter after discussing the recent trouncing of the Democratic Party in the Nov. 4 midterm elections, and posing this question: “Why are the Democrats so unpopular at a time when it was obvious that reactionary Republican obstructionism virtually paralyzed the political and legislative process?”

Compounding the GOP victory, a post-election Nov. 6-9 Gallup Poll revealed that the Democratic Party’s favorability rating among the American people was at its lowest point ever, 36%, compared to 51% just after the 2012 election that returned President Barack Obama to office for a second term. The Republican post-election tally was 42% this year compared to 28% — the lowest rating ever for either party — just a year ago in October after shutting down the Federal government for 16 days.

Fewer voters historically turn out for midterms, but this year that total was the lowest in 72 years — 36.6% of those eligible to vote at a time when the Democratic Party knew it was in trouble and made special efforts to get out the vote. It didn’t work. The result was not only that the Republicans gained control of the Senate and increased their large margin in the House but now also dominate over 60% of governorships and state legislatures.

Aside from the ideological right and left and those who closely follow politics, the great bulk of American voters — who far outnumber the ideologues and buffs — often possess little knowledge about politics, history, foreign affairs and the inner workings of national government, and are manipulated by the corporate mass media and political parties.

Those who control the levers of American society neglect to provide the masses of working people with a thorough understanding about the realities of American society because an enlightened citizenry would undoubtedly demand significant social change if the truth were known. The political parties are well aware of the consequences that might ensue if they heeded Thomas Jefferson’s famous words of 1820, and they will have none of it: “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.”

Far from educating, the contending parties invested billions of campaign dollars miseducating potential voters with endless stultifying, simplistic and deceptive negative attacks on the opposition.

Wall Street, the banking system, corporations and those who possess great wealth paid for this election and assuredly will be recompensed several fold in legislation, tax rebates, and favors from Congress and the White House. According to Demos, the liberal political policy organization:

“Democracy has at its heart a basic promise: Citizens have an equal voice in deciding who represents them. This promise went unfulfilled again in 2014. Large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Candidates alone got 84% of their individual contributions from large donors.... Just 50 individuals and their spouses accounted for more than a third of the total money raised by Super PACs this cycle.  Many candidates, including some whose individual contribution totals reach into the millions, report receiving few or even no dollars in contributions from small donors.”

Both parties received about the same amount of cash, with the Democrats slightly ahead on the national level. Many thought that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing virtually unlimited campaign contributions would principally harm the Democrats but that’s not the case. The two parties are thriving financially, while what’s left of democracy may have received a fatal wound.

The Democratic campaign was largely defensive, with most of its congressional candidates attempting to distance themselves from their own president. The apotheosis of this humiliating situation was when Democrat Alison L. Grimes, unsuccessfully running against Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, declared she disagreed with Obama and wouldn’t admit to having voting for him.

Viewing the election results and the disinclination of Democratic candidates to make a show of support for President Obama, Stratfor’s George Friedman wrote Nov. 17: “The president is no longer battling for the center but is fighting to hold on to his own supporters — and is failing to do so.”

There are several reasons for the sharp drop in Democratic electoral support this year, but it is not a shift to the ideological right/far right. It primarily was far more a rejection of the center right unwillingness of Obama and the Democratic Party to mount a significant fight-back against the economic and social tribulations increasingly afflicting the American working class, middle class and of course the poor.

In recent years working families have experienced drastic unemployment, underemployment or the fear of job loss; wage stagnation; widespread foreclosure of homes; mounting inequality; family insecurity; fear that one’s children won’t make it to the middle class; continual wars; political gridlock; startling examples of brutality by militarized police forces; runaway climate change, and more. And today’s Democratic Party, as opposed to a few center left reform years in the 1930s and 1960s, is pathetically ill equipped to defend these constituencies against the accelerating rampages of the U.S. neoliberal version of capitalism.

Combine this with the fact that voters are provided with only two viable (electable) parties, both right of center in varying degrees. Thus, the way for many people to register a serious protest is not to vote or to vote for the other party as punishment. The purpose of such a system is for power to change from one party to the other every several years so that over time a perfect equilibrium is achieved for the maintenance of capitalism.

A number of progressive and left commentators have noted the role the Democrats played in their own defeat, such as Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration: “What the President and other Democrats failed to communicate wasn’t their accomplishments. It was their understanding that the economy is failing most Americans and big money is overrunning our democracy. And they failed to convey their commitment to an economy and a democracy that serve the vast majority rather than a minority at the top. The midterm elections should have been about jobs and wages, and how to reform a system where nearly all the gains go to the top. It was an opportunity for Democrats to shine. Instead, they hid.”

He suggested they should have “come out swinging. Not just for a higher minimum wage but also for better schools, paid family and medical leave, and childcare for working families. For resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act and limiting the size of Wall Street banks. For saving Social Security by lifting the cap on income subject to payroll taxes. For rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, and ports. For increasing taxes on corporations with high ratios of CEO pay to the pay of average workers. And for getting big money out of politics, and thereby saving our democracy.”

Bill Fletcher, Jr., an educator, writer, unionist and board member of Black Commentator, declared: “ The Obama Administration has not led in a progressive direction.... Though the economy has improved, the condition for the average working person has not. Yes, unemployment is down but we are still dealing with structural unemployment that is weighing on everyone. The damage from the foreclosure crisis is far from over. And the rich are the ones who are benefiting from the improved economy.  To turn any of this around masses of working people need to be organized to fight for a division of the wealth.  Yes, that means building and supporting labor unions. But when the President does not make that a clarion call-except when speaking with union members — he has no answer to the public that is asking for their share.... Race, as always, was a factor. The Republicans had sufficient codes to make it clear that race was an issue in the election. 

Robert Borosage of the
liberal Campaign for America's Future noted issues that should have been, but were not, on the Democratic campaign agenda: “There is a populist majority waiting to be forged. Majorities will rally for full-employment economics, for fair taxes on the rich and the corporations, investment in rebuilding the country and educating the children, strengthening retirement security, making college affordable, lifting the minimum wage, curbing CEO excess, empowering workers, guaranteed paid family leave, paid sick days and paid vacations, balanced trade to make things in America again, taking on the corruption of our politics by big money, investment in new energy and innovation that will create jobs and more.”

Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic blog, argued: “For the most part, Democratic candidates shied away from [the issues that most Democrats think really matter] because they were too controversial. Instead they stuck to topics that were safe, familiar, and broadly popular: the minimum wage, outsourcing, and the “war on women.” The result, for the most part, was homogenized, inauthentic, forgettable campaigns.”

During the next two years the Republicans will block all progressive legislation, but given the paucity of anything progressive in the last almost six years that won’t change much. During those years, as liberal economist and columnist Paul Krugman correctly observed, the Republicans engaged in “obstructionism bordering on sabotage.” The GOP will try to ram through reactionary bills but may not cause too much damage. The Democrats hold over 40 votes in the Senate, enough to block many bills, (except when there are defections by their conservative bloc), but Obama has a veto. At the same time Obama is expected to compromise on certain right wing bills, such as a tax cut for rich corporations, and possibly much worse.

The GOP will continue to support Obama’s expansion of wars, not only in Afghanistan where the White House just intensified America’s war commitment, but probably will work with the president to actively seek the military overthrow of the Syrian government, and to send larger numbers of U.S. troops to fight against the Islamic State. Professional warhawk Sen. John McCain is expected to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee, giving much him greater authority over wars and the Pentagon budget. In foreign policy the Republicans will support moves to exacerbate America’s new cold war with Russia and increase U.S. military arms and support to Ukraine.

Obama will spend part of the remainder of his term dwelling on his so-called legacy, trying to partially make up for the first six years with efforts to portray himself as something of a liberal now that he is a lame duck with considerably diminished powers. He routinely ignored or criticized party liberals and brushed aside the Congressional Progressive Caucus since taking office, much to the chagrin of millions of his voters who expected “change they could believe in” from what turned out to be a conservative presidency. Of a sudden he’s issuing a few executive orders that he could have implemented five years ago and adopting more populist rhetoric. 

Despite much political sound and fury and sharp differences between the two official parties they are clearly more united on the fundamentals underpinning U.S. society than they are at odds, as we suggested at the beginning of this article.

For one of many examples, both uphold an essentially failing model of capitalism that prevails in the United States — failing in the sense of fulfilling the needs of the great majority of people.

Noting that the United States is “home to the worst inequality among the advanced countries,” progressive pro-capitalist economist Joseph Stiglitz, a past recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, recently described America’s harsh form of capitalism as being “designed to create inequalities. This fact was made abundantly clear during the financial crisis, when we socialized losses but allowed the banks to privatize profits, extended largesse to the victimizers but did little to help the victims who were losing their homes and jobs.” Earlier this year Stiglitz wrote, “an economic system that fails to deliver gains for most of its citizens, and in which a rising share of the population faces increasing insecurity, is, in a fundamental sense, a failed economic system.”

In this regard, liberal Robert Reich wrote Nov. 17: “Capitalism is a tough sport. If those at the top are winning big while the bottom 90% is losing — too bad. That's the way the game is played.”

This “failed system” — where for instance 2.4 million children in the U.S. were homeless at some point last year — is the economic project of choice staunchly supported by both the Democratic and Republican parties, neither of which is prepared to propose graduating to the people-friendlier social democratic form of capitalism that prevails in much of Europe, much less building toward the considerably more egalitarian socialism.

Both parties are quite willing to tolerate the extreme class inequality for the masses of people that has been gathering momentum in the U.S. for nearly four decades — accelerating, it is useful to point out, during the eight years each of Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush and the nearly six years, so far, of Democrat Obama.

During these 22 bipartisan, post-Cold War years, (1) the military budget has skyrocketed in a series of unnecessary, stalemated or lost wars against far weaker opponents; (2) the two parties joined in deregulating key aspects of government controls on Wall Street, the banking system and corporations; and (3) the disproportion of wealth and poverty has reached and is exceeding Golden Age proportions, as you will see in the next paragraph:

The U.S. is the richest country in the world, but about half its population of 319 million people are low income or poor. These people generally have very little, if any, wealth (i.e., assets over liabilities). Indeed, the bottom 90% of the U.S. population, including the working class and the entire middle class as well as low income and poor, possess only 25.6% of private national assets. The top 10% own the rest, in these proportions: Those in the 90 to 99 percentile own 34.6% of the assets. The top 1% enjoys 39.8% of America’s assets. And within that 1%, the top 0.01% has grabbed 11.1% of the assets. This most powerful one hundredth of one percent includes 16,000 families who own $6 trillion in assets — equal to the total wealth of the bottom two-thirds of American families combined.

Despite these realities, or more properly because of them, the Democratic and Republican parties still propagate the falsehood that America is a “classless” society of “opportunity for all.” They trumpet the glories of free market fundamentalism even as the economy and its benefits stagnate for the majority.

Regarding political donors, the top 0.01% was responsible for 40% of campaign contributions in the 2012 elections and at least that amount in 2014.  All told, about $4 billion, nearly all from big contributors, was spent on this year’s election and both parties received fairly equal amounts. All this money buys sufficient influence for the wealthy and corporate donors to basically control federal and state elections, thereby maintaining the socio-political parameters established by the ruling elite within which the political game must be played. Even as they fight over various issues, the Democratic and Republican parties operate well within these constraints.

Here are a few of the rules guiding those parameters: The two contending and colluding parties are in basic concord on these key issues:

·      Foreign policy, U.S. global hegemony, constant foreign military interventions and wars, enormous military budgets;
·      Allegiance to an increasingly laissez-faire brand of capitalism, and neoliberal globalization;
·      Servile loyalty to Wall Street, the banking system, and corporate power;
·      Plutocratic rule (government controlled by the rich) in place of democracy, though this is concealed from the people;
·      “Free” elections — so cherished in national myth and external propaganda — that are in fact dominated by the wealth of the 1% billionaires and their millionaire cohorts;
·      The existence of massive privacy-destroying surveillance at home and abroad;
·      Acceptance of economic and subsequently social inequality and a huge permanent underclass as the price multimillions of workers and their families must pay for the privilege of living within free market capitalism;
·      Virtual elimination of major new social programs for the people.

What have the Republican and Democratic parties accomplished in recent decades to modify a type of capitalism that has particularly abused the working class, lower middle class and portions of the middle class?

They have only made things worse because each has moved further to the political right over the last four decades. A few decades ago the Republican Party included a substantial moderate wing and was considered a right/right-center party, and the Democrats had a strong liberal sector and were a center/center left party, but those days are gone and are not coming back.

Obviously, from a formal left perspective, today’s center right is preferable to right/far right when confined in a two-party system. However, such a distinction contains compromising content beyond intense surface differences when each party’s principal obligations are to (1) maintaining the existing socio-economic system by catering to its financial and corporate institutions and its wealthiest beneficiaries; (2) sustaining its global imperialist structure of economic and military domination; and (3) presiding over the increasing immiseration of the majority of the population as wealth and privilege increasingly accumulate for the upper classes.

These two parties, working in tandem with degrees of power alternating every few years, have jointly produced the economic, political and social situation that exists in the United States today — a system where the cherished concepts of democracy, equality and privacy rights are decaying before our eyes, the plight of working people is getting worse, and war has become a permanent condition of society. And since each party continues to gravitate further to the right the chance the Democrats will execute a significant left turn is most dubious.

A left turn, however, is an absolute necessity to resolve these problems and more that afflict American society — most certainly including the developing climate crisis and the ever-present possibility of nuclear war — and it will only come from outside the 1% -controlled two-party system.

By The Activist Newsletter

By the Activist Newsletter

Homeless people (above) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, living in unused drainage pipes. Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated and poorest countries, though it has its millionaires. Of its population of 155 million people, 26% (40.3 million) live below the national poverty line of $2 per day. Almost a million people are Homeless. In addition, child malnutrition rates are currently at 48%, in conditions tied to the low social status of women in Bangladeshi society. This extraordinary photo by Faisal Azim is titled “Life in the circle.” It won the Atkins City Scape award 2014.

Child's drawing, from the National Center for Family Homelessness.
By Jon Queally

The annual levels of homelessness among children have never been higher in the United States, according to a new comprehensive report released Nov. 17.

Prepared by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the report — “America’s Youngest Outcasts” — shows that with poverty and inequality soaring in recent years, approximately 2.5 million children in 2013 found themselves without a roof over their head or place to call home at some point during the year. That number equals one in 30 American children nationally, and constitutes an 8% increase over the previous year.

"Child homelessness has reached epidemic proportions in America," said Dr. Carmela DeCandia, director of the NCFH, in a statement. "Children are homeless tonight in every city, county and state — in every part of our nation.”

Based on federal and other available data and broken down by state, the analysis shows that homelessness among children varies widely depending on geography. The report includes an index ranking based on four basic criteria: (1) the extent of child homelessness, adjusted for population; (2) general well-being of the children; ( 3) risk for family homelessness; and ( 4) state policies designed to combat the problem. Ranked from 1-50, the states with the best scores were Minnesota, Nebraska and Massachusetts. The worst states for homeless children were Alabama, Mississippi and California.

The report cites the major drivers behind the crisis, which include: (1) the nation’s high poverty rate; (2) a lack of affordable housing across the nation; (3) the continuing impacts of the Great Recession; (4) racial disparities; (5) the challenges of single parenting; and (6) the ways in which traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families.

According to a fact sheet released alongside the study:

Research shows that homeless children are hungry and sick more often. They wonder if they will have a roof over their heads at night and what will happen to their families. Many homeless children struggle in school, missing days, repeating grades, and drop out entirely. Up to 25% of homeless pre-school children have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation; this increases to 40% among homeless school-age children.

The impacts of homelessness on the children, especially young children, may lead to changes in brain architecture that can interfere with learning, emotional self-regulation, cognitive skills, and social relationships. The unrelenting stress experienced by the parents may contribute to residential instability, unemployment, ineffective parenting, and poor health.

Dr. DeCandia notes that federal policies seeking to address the problem of homelessness among veterans and other chronically vulnerable adults have showed that improvements can be made, but says specific federal action to fight child homelessness has not been adequate to address the growing national crisis of homeless youth.

“Living in shelters, neighbors’ basements, cars, campgrounds, and worse — homeless children are the most invisible and neglected individuals in our society,” she said. “Without decisive action now, the federal goal of ending child homelessness by 2020 will soon be out of reach.”

— From Common Dreams, Nov. 17, 2014 (


By Joseph E. Stiglitz

Two new studies show, once again, the magnitude of the inequality problem plaguing the United States. The first, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual income and poverty report, shows that, despite the economy’s supposed recovery from the Great Recession, ordinary Americans’ incomes continue to stagnate. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, remains below its level a quarter-century ago.

It used to be thought that America’s greatest strength was not its military power, but an economic system that was the envy of the world. But why would others seek to emulate an economic model by which a large proportion — even a majority — of the population has seen their income stagnate while incomes at the top have soared?

A second study, the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2014, corroborates these findings. Every year, the UNDP publishes a ranking of countries by their Human Development Index (HDI), which incorporates other dimensions of wellbeing besides income, including health and education.

America ranks fifth according to HDI, below Norway, Australia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. But when its score is adjusted for inequality, it drops 23 spots – among the largest such declines for any highly developed country. Indeed, the US falls below Greece and Slovakia, countries that people do not typically regard as role models or as competitors with the US at the top of the league tables.

The UNDP report emphasizes another aspect of societal performance: vulnerability. It points out that while many countries succeeded in moving people out of poverty, the lives of many are still precarious. A small event — say, an illness in the family — can push them back into destitution. Downward mobility is a real threat, while upward mobility is limited.

In the U.S., upward mobility is more myth than reality, whereas downward mobility and vulnerability is a widely shared experience. This is partly because of America’s health-care system, which still leaves poor Americans in a precarious position, despite President Barack Obama’s reforms.

Those at the bottom are only a short step away from bankruptcy with all that that entails. Illness, divorce, or the loss of a job often is enough to push them over the brink.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) was intended to ameliorate these threats —  and there are strong indications that it is on its way to significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans. But, partly owing to a Supreme Court decision and the obduracy of Republican governors and legislators, who in two dozen US states have refused to expand Medicaid (insurance for the poor) — even though the federal government pays almost the entire tab — 41 million Americans remain uninsured. When economic inequality translates into political inequality — as it has in large parts of the U.S. — governments pay little attention to the needs of those at the bottom.

Neither GDP nor HDI reflects changes over time or differences across countries in vulnerability. But in America and elsewhere, there has been a marked decrease in security. Those with jobs worry whether they will be able to keep them; those without jobs worry whether they will get one.

The recent economic downturn eviscerated the wealth of many. In the U.S., even after the stock-market recovery, median wealth fell more than 40% from 2007 to 2013. That means that many of the elderly and those approaching retirement worry about their standards of living. Millions of Americans have lost their homes; millions more face the insecurity of knowing that they may lose theirs in the future.

These insecurities are in addition to those that have long confronted Americans. In the country’s inner cities, millions of young Hispanics and African-Americans face the insecurity of a dysfunctional and unfair police and judicial system; crossing the path of a policeman who has had a bad night may lead to an unwarranted prison sentence —or worse.

Europe has traditionally understood the importance of addressing vulnerability by providing a system of social protection. Europeans have recognized that good systems of social protection can even lead to improved overall economic performance, as individuals are more willing to take the risks that lead to higher economic growth.

But in many parts of Europe today, high unemployment (12% on average, 25% in the worst-affected countries), combined with austerity-induced cutbacks in social protection, has resulted in unprecedented increases in vulnerability. The implication is that the decrease in societal wellbeing may be far larger than that indicated by conventional GDP measures – numbers that already are bleak enough, with most countries showing that real (inflation-adjusted) per capita income is lower today than before the crisis – a lost half-decade.

The report by the International Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (which I chaired) emphasized that GDP is not a good measure of how well an economy is performing. The U.S. Census and UNDP reports remind us of the importance of this insight. Too much has already been sacrificed on the altar of GDP fetishism.

Regardless of how fast GDP grows, an economic system that fails to deliver gains for most of its citizens, and in which a rising share of the population faces increasing insecurity, is, in a fundamental sense, a failed economic system. And policies, like austerity, that increase insecurity and lead to lower incomes and standards of living for large proportions of the population are, in a fundamental sense, flawed policies.

—From Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, was Chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. His most recent book, co-authored with Bruce Greenwald, is “Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress.”


By Vox and The Economist

Most maps you see are based on the "Mercator projection," so named for Gerardus Mercator, who came up with it in 1559. The Mercator projection is excellent for sailing, as it shows constant bearing as a straight line. But it’s terrible for estimating the size of large masses of land — particularly when they’re close to poles. Under the Mercator projection, for instance, Africa looks to be about the same size as Greenland; it’s actually 14 times larger. The Economist — building on work by Kai Krause — made this graphic showing Africa’s true size: bigger not just than Greenland, but than China, the United States, India Mexico, Spain, Japan, and Western and Eastern Europe put together.
[How bad are relations between Russia and Germany? The New York Times Nov. 17 reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “abandoned her traditionally cautious tone... castigating Russia for its actions in Ukraine, for intimidating sovereign states in Eastern Europe and for threatening to spread conflict more broadly across Europe.” Actually, relations are relatively stable.]

By Stratfor, Nov. 21, 2014

Chancellor Merkel and President Putin.
Germany wants to maintain its ties with Russia, avoid more significant EU sanctions on the Russian economy and ensure that a cease-fire is maintained in eastern Ukraine. Though German leaders will continue to censure the Kremlin, as long as Russian-backed separatists do not significantly expand the territories under their control in Ukraine, Germany will avoid taking concrete measures that would further harm its commercial and political relationship with Russia.

Berlin values its highly pragmatic relationship with Moscow. Because of Germany's geographic position on the North European Plain, Berlin has historically formulated its foreign policy with both Russia and France in mind. Germany's relationship with these two powers shaped both major conflicts of the 20th century. Today, Germany's imperatives include maintaining its close relationship with its neighbors to the west and keeping European markets open to trade, while also safeguarding its close commercial and political ties with Russia to the east.

A new round of significant economic sanctions on Russia would harm German businesses and the EU economy as a whole. Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed Russia publicly for facilitating some of the fighting in Ukraine, she has recently advocated adding individual separatist leaders to the EU sanctions list rather than extending sanctions that affect Russia's economy.

The German government is influential in the European Union and also in Kiev. Berlin will play a central role in determining the level of much-needed financial aid and political support Ukraine will receive from the European Union. Moreover, key members of the pro-Western alliance in Kiev have longstanding ties to Germany and German institutions. But deep economic ties with Russia mean Berlin also needs to maintain good relations with Moscow. These relationships motivate Germany to continue acting as a mediator in efforts to alleviate tensions in eastern Ukraine.

By Glen Greenwald, The Intercept

Barack Obama, in his post-election press conference Nov. 5, announced that he would seek an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from the new Congress, one that would authorize Obama’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria — the one he began three months ago. If one were being generous, one could say that seeking congressional authorization for a war that commenced months ago is at least better than fighting a war even after Congress explicitly rejected its authorization, as Obama lawlessly did in the now-collapsed country of Libya.

When Obama began bombing targets inside Syria in September, I noted that it was the seventh predominantly Muslim country that had been bombed by the U.S. during his presidency (that did not count Obama’s bombing of the Muslim minority in the Philippines). I also previously noted that this new bombing campaign meant that Obama had become the fourth consecutive U.S. President to order bombs dropped on Iraq. Standing alone, those are both amazingly revealing facts. American violence is so ongoing and continuous that we barely notice it any more. Just this week, a U.S. drone launched a missile that killed 10 people in Yemen, and the dead were promptly labeled “suspected militants” (which actually just means they are “military-age males”); those killings received almost no discussion.

To get a full scope of American violence in the world, it is worth asking a broader question: how many countries in the Islamic world has the U.S. bombed or occupied since 1980? That answer was provided in a recent  Washington Post op-ed by the military historian and former U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich:

“As America’s efforts to 'degrade and ultimately destroy' Islamic State militants extent into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Destination: Yet another Muslim country.
“Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.”

Bacevich’s count excludes the bombing and occupation of still other predominantly Muslim countries by key U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, carried out with crucial American support. It excludes coups against democratically elected governments, torture, and imprisonment of people with no charges. It also, of course, excludes all the other bombing and invading and occupying that the U.S. has carried out during this time period in other parts of the world, including in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as various proxy wars in Africa.

There is an awful lot to be said about the factions in the west which devote huge amounts of their time and attention to preaching against the supreme primitiveness and violence of Muslims. There are no gay bars in Gaza, the obsessively anti-Islam polemicists proclaim — as though that (rather than levels of violence and aggression unleashed against the world) is the most important metric for judging a society. Reflecting their single-minded obsession with demonizing Muslims (at exactly the same time, coincidentally, their governments wage a never-ending war on Muslim countries and their societies marginalize Muslims), they notably neglect to note thriving gay communities in places like Beirut and Istanbul, or the lack of them in Christian Uganda. Employing the defining tactic of bigotry, they love to highlight the worst behavior of individual Muslims as a means of attributing it to the group as a whole, while ignoring (often expressly) the worst behavior of individual Jews and/or their own groups (they similarly cite the most extreme precepts of Islam while ignoring similarly extreme ones from Judaism). That’s because, as Rula Jebreal told Bill Maher last week, if these oh-so-brave rationality warriors said about Jews what they say about Muslims, they’d be fired.

But of all the various points to make about this group, this is always the most astounding: those same people, who love to denounce the violence of Islam as some sort of ultimate threat, live in countries whose governments unleash far more violence, bombing, invasions, and occupations than anyone else by far. That is just a fact.

Those who sit around in the U.S. or the UK endlessly inveighing against the evil of Islam, depicting it as the root of violence and evil (the “mother lode of bad ideas”), while spending very little time on their own societies’ addictions to violence and aggression, or their own religious and nationalistic drives, have reached the peak of self-blinding tribalism. They really are akin to having a neighbor down the street who constantly murders, steals and pillages, and then spends his spare time flamboyantly denouncing people who live thousands of miles away for their bad acts. Such a person would be regarded as pathologically self-deluded, a term that also describes those political and intellectual factions which replicate that behavior.

The sheer casualness with which Obama called for a new AUMF is reflective of how central, how commonplace, violence and militarism are in the U.S.’s imperial management of the world. That some citizens of that same country devote themselves primarily if not exclusively to denouncing the violence and savagery of others is a testament to how powerful and self-blinding tribalism is as a human drive.

By Mid-Hudson WORD

Free Marissa!
(Drawing by Jawaan Burge)
Marissa Alexander, the African American woman who was facing 60 years for firing a warning shot in the presence of her abusive ex-husband, has accepted a plea deal  Nov. 24, which would sentence her to three years in prison. The sentence amounts to time served plus 65 days — followed by two years' probation  while wearing a surveillance monitor.

According to the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign (“The plea deal is a relief in some ways, but this is far from a victory. The deal will help Marissa and her family avoid yet another very expensive and emotionally exhausting trial that could have led to the devastating ruling of spending the rest of her life in prison. 

“Marissa’s children, family, and community need her to be free as soon as possible.  However, the absurdity in Marissa’s case was always the fact that the courts punished and criminalized her for surviving domestic violence, for saving her own life.  The mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years, and then 60 years, just made the state’s prosecution increasingly shocking.  But we have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense.”

— To contact Mid-Hudson WORD to receive occasional reports about women and feminism, email


By Preston Wood
(Author’s note: Because Leslie Feinberg, a prolific writer, preferred the pronouns “she/zie” and “her/hir” we are using those pronouns in this article.)

Leslie Feinberg, 'Transgender Warrior.'
Leslie Feinberg, pioneer transgender revolutionary, author and activist, has died at the age of 65. Hir life-partner of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, was at hir side in their home in Syracuse, N.Y. Hir last words, Pratt writes in an eloquent tribute and eulogy in the Advocate Magazine, were this: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Born in Kansas City, MO, Sept.1, 1949, Feinberg grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. Hir biography, posted on “Transgender Warrior” website, describes hir roots as “coming of age as a young butch lesbian in the factories and gay bars of Buffalo, N.Y. in the 1960s. Throughout hir life, she identified as an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist.”

Hir writings on the super-oppression of transgender people came at a time when voices of solidarity and support for transgender people were few and far between. The impact of hir theoretical development of transgender liberation as a Marxist concept has affected and guided the transgender movement, the LGBTQ movement, academic circles all around the world, and the broader movement for justice. Hir writings and activism have contributed immeasurably to the growth of the transgender movement.

Hir acts of solidarity in support of oppressed people around the world, for Palestine, Cuba, political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Native Americans — plus so many more — have provided a basis for increased working-class solidarity throughout the progressive movement.

Feinberg’s first novel, “Stone Butch Blues,” published in 1993, struck a chord with hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and others dealing with a hostile and often violent society, a society with zero tolerance for anyone stepping out of bounds regarding sexua,. In addition to çl orientation or gender identity.

Selling in the hundreds of thousands, the ground-breaking work has been translated into many languages. It captured, in real terms, the realities of people pushed to the edge of society, forced to go underground just to live: transgender people, gay people, lesbians, queer people, street people — all forced to deal with all the complexities of gender and sexual issues in a violent, homophobic and transphobic world. “Stone Butch Blues” remains a classic today.

It was Feinberg who pointed out, in numerous essays, that in many ways transgender people were in the leadership and on the front lines of rebellions that erupted in the LGBTQ communities in the early days of the modern LGBTQ movement.

At the Stonewall Inn rebellion in New York (1969), the Black Cat Bar uprising in Los Angeles (1967), the Compton Cafeteria uprising in San Francisco (1966), transgender people, those who faced the most violence and hatred, were often the most courageous and effective leaders in those battles for justice. Years of developing tactics and strategies to outsmart and outmaneuver the endless brutality and violence of the cops, transgender people had the skills to lead, and did so.

While engaging in countless struggles as a member of the Workers World Party, and as a managing editor of Workers World newspaper, Leslie Feinberg contributed greatly to the development of a theoretical Marxist material view of the new modern LGBTQ movement, focusing primarily on the role of transgender individuals in history and researching transgender movements and communities both before and after the advent of class society.
Feinberg was unique in that she was perhaps the first to show that it is theoretically necessary to include the rise of oppression of transgender people in any analysis regarding the historical roots of the oppression of women and homosexuals with the rise of class society, and concurrently, the state.

Feinberg’s works include “Lavender & Red,” a series of writing on the links between socialism and LGBTQ history; “Transgender Warriors: Making History;” “Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue;” and the novel “Drag King Dreams.”

Diagnosed with Lyme disease and other multiple tick-borne infections, Feinberg endured many decades of suffering, both from the effects of the devastating illness, from lack of scientific research and effective treatments, and also from the bigotry of the U.S. healthcare system towards transgender people, who are systematically denied full access to care due to discrimination and transphobia.

In hir blog, Feinberg outlines the brutal ways that the capitalist healthcare system excludes millions from care, and resorts to prejudice and anti-science to justify inaction on a multitude of afflictions that are left undone because they don’t enrich the capitalist health care monolith.

In spite of failing health, Feinberg continued to write and work. “I had hoped to write much more,” she writes in hir blog, “how the ruling classes have historically used already existing prejudices to deny the scientific resources and individual aid that epidemics require. I had wanted in particular to write more about institutionalized racism, women’s oppression and other barriers to health care, about the infamous “Tuskegee experiment” and the AIDS epidemic.”

Minnie Bruce Pratt, in a moving tribute to hir lover, best friend, and comrade, referred to the necessity for the two of them to marry, in order to protect their relationship. Feinberg was estranged from hir family by their hostility, and Pratt had lost custody of hir sons as a lesbian mother. Feinberg stressed, Pratt recounts, “… that state authorities had no right to assign who were or were not hir loved ones, but rather that she would define hir chosen family, citing Karl Marx who said that the exchange value of love—is love.”

Leslie Feinberg, presente!

— Preston Wood is a member of the Central Committee of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
— From Liberation News, 11-17-14 Nov 17, 2014


Dilma Rousseff giving her joyful reelection speech.
[Following is an analysis of the recent reelection of Dilma Rousseff as president of Brazil. Here's a word about Dilma, as she is known: She was born in December 1947 and embraced socialism during her teens. After the 1964 Brazilian fascist coup d'état, which was supported by the United States, Rousseff joined anti-dictatorship left groups, then a Marxist urban guerrilla organization. Captured at 22 in 1970, according to the New York Times, “she spent three years behind bars, where interrogators repeatedly tortured her with electric shocks to her feet and ears, and forced her to be suspended upside down naked, with bound wrists and ankles.” Some of her torturers still live free in Brazil.

By Pepe Escobar

Sun, sex, samba, carnival and at least until the World Cup hammering by Germany, the "land of football." And don't forget "vibrant democracy." Even as it enjoys one of the highest soft power quotients around the world, Brazil remains submerged by clichés.

"Vibrant democracy" certainly lived up to its billing as President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker's Party (PT) was re-elected Oct. 26 in a tight run-off against opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB). Rousseff won 51.6% of votes in a runoff against centrist opposition leader Aecio Neves, who won 48.4%.

Yet another cliché would rule this was the victory of "state-centric" policies against "structural reforms. Or the victory of "high social spending" against a "pro-business" approach — which implies business as the privileged enemy of social equality.

Exit clichés. Enter a cherished national motto: "Brazil is not for beginners."

Indeed. Brazil's complexities boggle the mind. It starts with arguably the key, multi-layered message a divided country sent to winner Dilma Rousseff. We are part of a growing middle class. We are proud to be part of an increasingly less unequal nation. But we want social services to keep improving. We want more investment in education. We want inflation under control (at the moment, it's not). We support a very serious anti-corruption drive (here's where Dilma's Brazil meets Xi Jinping's China). And we want to keep improving on the economic success of the past decade.

Rousseff seems to get the message. The question is how she will be able to deliver — in a continental-sized nation suffering from appalling education standards, with Brazilian manufacturing largely uncompetitive in global markets, and with corruption run amok.

Brazil is now mired in dismal GDP growth (0.3%). Just blaming the global crisis doesn't cut it; South American neighbors Peru (3.6%) and Colombia (4.8%) are definitely going places in 2014.

And yet the numbers are not that shabby. Job creation is up. Unemployment is down (only 5.4%). Investment in social infrastructure is picking up. From 2002 to 2014, the minimum wage more than tripled. GDP per capita is up, reaching roughly $9,000 while the Gini coefficient of social inequality (2012 data) is down.

Industrial production is back to the same level before the 2008 financial crisis. Brazil paid all its debts to the IMF. The proportion of debt in relation to GDP is falling — reaching only 33.8% in 2013. Workers have more purchasing power — and even with rising inflation, that mirrors better income distribution.

Social programs have benefited 14 million families — roughly 50 million Brazilians. [Brazil’s population is 201 million.] These policies may arguably be derided as too little, too late Keynesianism. But at least that's a start - in a nation exploited by immensely ignorant, arrogant and rapacious elites for centuries.

Rousseff'’s first stint as president may also be blamed for too many concessions to big banks (extremely profitable in Brazil), powerful agribusiness interests and Big Capital. What happened, in a nutshell, is that the center-left Workers' Party swung to the center — and was compelled to make unsavory oligarchic alliances. The result is that a significant section of its social base — the metropolitan working class, now heavily indebted to sustain its brand new consumer dream — ended up flirting with the right as a political alternative.

Add to it the PT's not exactly brilliant management skills. True, the fight against poverty is a lofty ideal. But in such an unequal nation, that will take at least until 2030 for really serious results. Meanwhile, serious planning is in order — such as building a high-speed rail between the two megalopolises, Rio and Sao Paulo (the Chinese would do it in a few months). And seriously tackling Brazil's oligopolies; banks, corporate media, construction/real estate conglomerates, the auto industry lobby.

Unlike the U.S. and Europe, neoliberalism in Brazil has been repeatedly knocked out at the ballot box since 2002, when Lula [Luiz Inácio da Silva] was first elected president. As for the "social democrat" opposition, there's nothing social, and barely democratic, about it. The Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira’s pet project is turbo-neoliberalism, pure and simple.

[From the Activist Newsletter: It must also be pointed out that leftist Lula, who served two terms and groomed Rousseff as his successor and backed her reelection, was not above placating Washington a number of times and putting the breaks on the ambitions of his left wing supporters.]

Team Neves had everything going for them. Their key constituency was in fact 60 million mostly angry Brazilian taxpayers — over 80% living and working in the wealthier southeastern seaboard. Life is tough if you are a Brazilian salaried professional or the owner of a small and medium-sized enterprise. The tax burden is on a par with the industrialized world, but you get virtually nothing in return.

No wonder these irate taxpayers are desperate for decently paved roads, urban security, better public hospitals, a public school system they can send their children to, and less red tape and bureaucracy — which add to the nefarious, universally known "Brazilian cost" (as in no value for money). These are not Workers' Party voters — although some of them were. What they want is galaxies beyond the everyday tribulations of the new, large lower middle class created by the social programs first implemented by Lula.

Yet with a mediocre candidate like Neves — he even lost in his home state, where he was governor — neoliberalism does not need enemies.

Neves predictably billed himself as the dragon who would slay what Wall Street derides as "statism" —cutting government spending and "liberalizing" trade, code for privileging corporate U.S. interests. At the same time Neves has never been able to capture the vote of an overburdened black woman in the favelas.

With Neves, Brazil's future finance minister would have been Arminio Fraga, a slick operator who, among other things, ran high-risk funds in emerging markets for George Soros and is also a former president of Brazil's Central Bank. Some of his shenanigans are detailed in More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite, by Sebastian Mallaby. Fraga would have been the point man of a Soros-inspired government.

Fraga is the proverbial Wall Street predator. With him at the Finance Ministry, think JP Morgan controlling Brazil's macroeconomic policy. The road in fact was already paved by PSDB's eminence, former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who met with key global investors — via JP Morgan — in New York last month.

Dilma, a young women on trial.
Fraga was keen on destroying the Lula and Rousseff administrations' "hyper-Keynesian bet on demand" and replace it with supply, via a new "capitalist shock." Predictably, his prescription was amplified by the enormous echo chamber of conservative Brazilian media, and drowned everything else.

And as perception is reality, contamination ensued — pressuring public spending downwards, installing major confusion among private investors, and leading Western credit rating agencies to confirm the supposed lack of credibility of the Brazilian economy.

Brazil is slowly but surely moving from the semi-periphery to being closer to the center of the action in international relations; because of its own regional geopolitical relevance and mostly because of its leading role among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, who at times act in concert on certain issues). This is happening even as Washington could not give a damn about Brazil — or Latin America for that matter. U.S. Think Tankland, by the way, abhors BRICS.

Politically, a victory for the Cardoso/Neves neoliberals — a ghost of the social democracy they once practiced — would have thrown Brazilian foreign policy upside down; not only against the way the historical winds are blowing, but also against Brazil's own national interests.

As Rousseff argued at the UN last month, Brazil is trying to fight a global crisis marked by increasing inequality without provoking unemployment and without sacrificing workers' jobs and salaries. As ace economist Theotonio dos Santos stressed the decadence of the West still exerting substantial influence over the Global South via their extensive network of collaborators, he also went one up; the key fight, as he sees it, is to control Brazilian oil.

Dos Santos is referring to Brazil's top corporation, Petrobras, currently mired in a bribery scandal — which must be fully investigated — that obscures the Holy Grail: the future revenues from "pre-salt" oil — named after the billions of barrels of oil capped by a thick layer of salt lying several miles below the south Atlantic floor. Petrobras plans to invest $221 billion up to 2018 to unlock this treasure — and expects to make a profit even if oil trades around $45 to $50 a barrel.

Politically, in a nutshell, Rousseff's narrow victory is crucial for the future of a progressive, integrated South America. It will reinvigorate MERCOSUR, the common market of the South, as well as UNASUR, the union of South American nations. This goes way beyond free trade; it's about close regional integration, in parallel to close Eurasia integration.

And starting in 2015, Brazil may be on the road to renewed economic expansion again, largely boosted by the fruits of "pre-salt" and compounded with accelerated building of roads, railways, ports and airports. That is bound to have a ripple effect across Brazil's neighbors.

As for Washington and Wall Street, the Empire of Chaos is certainly not happy about the election results.

— Pepe Escobar is a regular correspondent for Asia Times, where this was first published Oct. 27. He is the author of “Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War,”(Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and “Obama does Globalisatan,” (Nimble Books, 2009).

By Rachael Boothroyd, TeleSUR

Delegates from environmental groups from around the world gathered on the Venezuelan island of Margarita earlier this month to prepare for the Dec. 1-12 UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru. The event was coordinated by the Venezuelan government in a bid to take the “voice of the people” to the conference.

Over several days, movements and activists put the final touches to the “Margarita Declaration” that includes a comprehensive set of proposals on how to address climate change and was presented to 47 ministers from different countries across the world on Nov 6. Many activists say the document includes a critique of capitalism that is lacking from the UN talks. The conference slogan was “Let's change the system, not the climate.”

The official name of the annual UN meeting is the Conference of Parties, of which the December meeting will be the 20th. The COPs have been consistently criticized by environment activists for excluding social movement voices while giving a platform to business representatives of corporations such as Shell and McDonald's. Many NGOs walked out of last year's Warsaw COP in frustration.

Jamie Peters, activist with Push Europe, told TeleSUR English: “We've been having these negotiations at the UN for two decades and they've not worked, they've not reduced temperature rises. So this is a change of direction actually, to give a platform to social movements from around the world.”

Beverley Keene, from Jubilee South Network, said: “They are just stalling for time when there is no time…. They are not looking to change the system as the movements are.”

The next COP will take place in Peru in December, where the Margarita Declaration will also be discussed. Activists say Venezuela's declaration  will play a pivotal role in trying to steer the talks in a more radical direction, before a new global treaty is hammered out in 2015 to replace the current Kyoto agreement.

Pix Israel wall resist & Israel kids resist

Arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers are becoming commonplace in theWest Bank.

[Journalist and author Gideon Levy, the long-time columnist for the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, is one of the most profound Jewish voices in Israel in support of Palestinian rights. During last summer’s war on Gaza, he was forced to resort to bodyguards to protect him from right wing violence. Here is his Oct. 26 column. The preface to this article read “Faced with a reality in which Israel is strong and the United States is in its pocket, it is the duty of Palestinians to resist the occupation. The only question relates to the means.”]

By Gideon Levy

Imagine you're the Palestinians — perhaps residents of East Jerusalem. Forty-seven difficult years are behind you; a big, depressing darkness lies ahead. The Israeli tyranny that dooms your fate declares arrogantly that everything will stay like this forever. Your city will remain under occupation "for ever and ever." The defense minister, second in importance in the government that subjugates you, says a Palestinian state will never be established.

Imagine you're Palestinian and your children are in danger. Two days ago, the occupation forces killed another child because "he lit a firebomb." The words "Death to Arabs" were sprayed near your home. Everywhere you turn, a soldier or Border Police officer may shout at you. Every night, your home may be invaded brutally. You will never be treated like human beings. They'll destroy, humiliate, intimidate, perhaps even arrest you, possibly without trial.

There are close to 500 administrative detainees, a record number in recent years. If one of your dear ones is arrested, you will have difficulty visiting him. If you succeed, you'll get half an hour's conversation through a glass window. If your dear one is an administrative detainee, you will never know when he'll be released. But these are trivia you grew accustomed to long ago.

Maybe you've also grown accustomed to the land theft. At every moment a settler can invade your land, burn your plantation or torch your fields. He will not be brought to trial for this; the soldiers who are supposed to protect you will stand idly by. At any moment, a demolition order or random eviction order may appear. There's nothing you can do.

Imagine you're the Palestinians. You can't leave Gaza and it's not easy to leave the West Bank, either. The beach, less than an hour's drive from your West Bank home, is beyond the mountains of darkness. An Israeli can go to Tierra del Fuego, between Argentina and Chile, much more easily than you can go to the beach at Ajami [near Jaffa].

There are no dreams, no wishes. Your children have a slim chance of accomplishing anything in life, even if they go to university. All they can look forward to is a life of humiliation and unemployment.

There's no chance that this situation is about to change anytime soon. Israel is strong, the United States is in its pocket, your leadership is weak (the Palestinian Authority) and isolated (Hamas), and the world is losing interest in your fate. What do you do?

The Palestinian side of Israel's infamous separation wall.
There are two possibilities. The first is to accept, give in, give up. The second is to resist. Whom have we respected more in history? Those who passed their days under the occupation and collaborated with it, or those who struggled for their freedom?

Imagine you're a Palestinian. You have every right to resist. In fact, it's your civil duty. No argument there. The occupied people's right to resist occupation is secured in natural justice, in the morals of history and in international law.

The only restrictions are on the means of resistance. The Palestinians have tried almost all of them, for better and worse — negotiations and terror; with a carrot and with a stick; with a stone and with bombs; in demonstrations and in suicide. All in vain. Are they to despair and give up? This has almost never happened in history, so they'll continue. Sometimes they'll use legitimate means, sometimes vile ones. It's their right to resist.

Now they're resisting in Jerusalem. They don't want Israeli rule, or people who set live children on fire. They don't want armed settlers who invade their apartments in the middle of the night, under the Israeli law's protection, and evict them. They don't want a municipality that grants its services according to national affiliation, or judges that sentence their children according to their origin. They also go nuts when the house of a Jewish terrorist is not demolished, while the house of a Palestinian will be torn down.

They don't want Israel to continue tyrannizing them, so they resist. They hurl stones and firebombs. That's what resistance looks like. Sometimes they act with heinous murderousness, but even that is not as bad as their occupier's built-in violence.

It's their right; it's their duty.

By Mark Bittman, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2014

At dinner with a friend the other night, I mentioned that I was giving a talk this week debunking the idea that we need to grow more food on a large scale so we can “feed the nine billion” — the anticipated global population by 2050.

She looked at me, horrified, and said, “But how are you going to produce enough food to feed the hungry?”

I suggested she try this exercise: “Put yourself in the poorest place you can think of. Imagine yourself in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. Now. Are you hungry? Are you going to go hungry? Are you going to have a problem finding food?”

The answer, obviously, is “no.” Because she — and almost all of you reading this — would be standing in that country with some $20 bills and a wallet filled with credit cards. And you would go buy yourself something to eat.

The difference between you and the hungry is not production levels; it’s money. There are no hungry people with money; there isn’t a shortage of food, nor is there a distribution problem. There is an I-don’t-have-the-land-and-resources-to-produce-my-own-food, nor-can-I-afford-to-buy-food problem.

And poverty and the resulting hunger aren’t matters of bad luck; they are often a result of people buying the property of traditional farmers and displacing them, appropriating their water, energy and mineral resources, and even producing cash crops for export while reducing the people growing the food to menial and hungry laborers on their own land.

Poverty isn’t the only problem, of course. There is also the virtually unregulated food system that is geared toward making money rather than feeding people. (Look no further than the ethanol mandate or high fructose corn syrup for evidence.)

If poverty creates hunger, it teams up with the food system to create another form of malnourishment: obesity (and what’s called “hidden hunger,” a lack of micronutrients). If you define “hunger” as malnutrition, and you accept that overweight and obesity are forms of malnutrition as well, than almost half the world is malnourished.

The solution to malnourishment isn’t to produce more food. The solution is to eliminate poverty.
Look at the most agriculturally productive country in the world: the United States. Is there hunger here? Yes, quite a bit. We have the highest percentage of hungry people of any developed nation, a rate closer to that of Indonesia than that of Britain.

Is there a lack of food? You laugh at that question. It is, as the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler likes to call it, “a food carnival.” It’s just that there’s a steep ticket price.
A majority of the world is fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, some of whom are themselves among the hungry. The rest of the hungry are underpaid or unemployed workers. But boosting yields does nothing for them.

So we should not be asking, “How will we feed the world?,” but “How can we help end poverty?” Claiming that increasing yield would feed the poor is like saying that producing more cars or private jets would guarantee that everyone had one.
And how do we help those who have malnutrition from excess eating? We can help them, and help preserve the earth’s health, if we recognize that the industrial model of food production is neither inevitable nor desirable.

That is, the kind of farming we can learn from people who still have a real relationship with the land and are focused on quality rather than yield.

The best method of farming for most people is probably traditional farming boosted by science. The best method of farming for those in highly productive agricultural societies would be farming made more intelligent and less rapacious. That is, the kind of farming we can learn from people who still have a real relationship with the land and are focused on quality rather than yield. The goal should be food that is green, fair, healthy and affordable.

It’s not news that the poor need money and justice. If there’s a bright side here, it’s that it might be easier to make the changes required to fix the problems created by industrial agriculture than those created by inequality.

There’s plenty of food. Too much of it is going to feed animals, too much of it is being converted to fuel and too much of it is being wasted.

We don’t have to increase yield to address any of those issues; we just have to grow food more smartly than with the brute force of industrial methods, and we need to address the circumstances of the poor.
Our slogan should not be “let’s feed the world,” but “let’s end poverty.”

— Mark Bittman writes (mostly) about food for the Times Opinion pages, and is The Magazine’s lead food columnist. He is the author of “VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00,” “How To Cook Everything,” and our favorite, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” — 996 pages of meatless recipes.
By the Activist Newsletter

France was gripped by a series of protests throughout the country by farmers on Nov. 4-5, organized by farm unions. Tens of thousands of farmers took part. In many protest locations tons of rotten vegetables and manure were dumped near government buildings.

One cause of ire is that farmers have been confronted by falling prices because Russia retaliated to a series of U.S.-UE sanctions by halting imports of farm goods from Europe. Also, France has started enforcing a 1991 EU directive aimed at curbing nitrate pollution, which forced tens of thousands of farms that previously used manure as fertilizers to undergo costly infrastructure upgrades to comply.

The farmers hold the government responsible for their plight. In Dijon, farmers burnt an effigy of French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal. In Marseille, they threw apples at riot police; in Avignon, rotten pumpkins were dumped in the street.


This family is one of a million Syrian refugees to find relative safety in Lebanon. But when fighting broke out recently in the Lebanese town of Arsal they fled with their belongings back toward Syria. That’s when this Reuters photo was taken. We don’t know if they made it.
By Vijay Prashad

LEBANON: A small village in the upper elevations of the borderlands between Syria and Lebanon 
awaits the slow drop in temperature. Jabhat al Nusra fighters [the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda] who had been stuck in these upper redoubts fear the winter. They are already cut off from their supply lines and hemmed in by the Syrian and Lebanese armies, as well as by Hezbollah’s fierce determination to prevent their further movement into Lebanon. It is mid-October and alongside the road, just outside the village, sit six al Nusra fighters. They are all young, in their early twenties. Each has long hair and a beard — a Jesus look that does not match the various guns that are near at hand. One of them, Mohammed, with a Kalashnikov in his lap, is Lebanese. He has a college degree and has been with al Nusra for at least a year.

In early October, a week before this encounter, al Nusra fighters who had been encircled in the Qalamoun Mountains along the Syria-Lebanon border broke into Nabi Sbat, east of the Lebanese town of Baalbek. They clashed with Hezbollah fighters, who pushed them back into the hills. The sound of mortar fire and gunfire shook the valley. Hezbollah’s checkpoints are hidden in the hillsides of this undefined border. More such clashes are to be expected as al Nusra fighters try to reopen supply lines. Hezbollah officials say they are confident that they will be able to protect the roadways that link the Bekaa Valley, where the town of Baalbek is the great jewel, to Beirut and the coastline. [Hezbollah is a powerful Lebanese Shi’ite militia, aligned with Iran.]

Mohammed does not dispute Hizbollah’s skilled ferocity. He says that the Hizbollah fighters are much more difficult to tackle than those of the Lebanese or Syrian armies. But the war has made this young man from a moderate family in the Akkar region weary. His eyes sparkle as he speaks, but there is already iron in his soul. “If I had a job,” he said, “I would not do jehad.” I ask him about Al Qaeda, the parent organisation of Jabhat al Nusra. He speaks idealistically, but is not versed in scripture or in the ideological squabbles between the jehadi groups. “I was trained in engineering,” he says, as if in apology. What gets him going is not Al Qaeda or al Nusra, the formal colours of his outfit. He is enamoured of the battlefield successes of the Islamic State (I.S.). Its sheer audacity impresses him. They care for nothing—not for borders or for the old order. Mohammed likes that. It excites him.

Across the battlefields of America’s War on Terror have emerged groups that speak for the youth—the Taliban (students) and al-Shabab (the youth). In many parts of the Arab world, those under thirty comprise close to three quarters of the population. This “youth bulge” comes alongside a colossal failure to provide jobs for these young people, many of whom are not only unemployed but also unemployable. There is no credible agenda to tackle this serious problem of joblessness. An International Labour Organisation study from 2013 (“Rethinking Economic Growth”) found that youth unemployment in the Arab world stands at 23 per cent, compared with a world average of 14 per cent. If jobs do come, said Mohammad Pournik of the United Nations Development Fund, they are secured through bribes or favours (wasta). “The real issue is the need for jobs with social dignity,” said Pournik, “rather than jobs that come at the expense of dignity.” Groups such as al-Shabab and al Nusra attract young men whose dignity has been offended in their failed search for a better life.

Mohammed thoughtfully answers my questions about al Nusra, his family and his future. He thinks that the money for al Nusra comes from the Persian Gulf countries. He is right. People like the Qatari national Khalifa Muhammed Turki al-Subaiy collected vast amounts of money that they handed over to conduits such as Ashraf Muhammad Yusuf Uthman Abd al-Salam, who is currently in Syria with Jabhat al Nusra. Mohammed does not tell me much about his family for fear that this will help the authorities identify him. But of his future, he is measured. His expectations are minimal. A mediocre formal education in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli came alongside the fulminations of a cleric in the city’s many mosques. It was from the latter that he found his way in the world.

An hour’s drive from the mountains, in a cafe in Beirut’s Hamra district, sits a group of young students. People across the city wonder how long it will take for al Nusra and the I.S. to seize their city. Some worry about the presence of al Nusra fighters in the Shebaa Farms towards the south of Lebanon. War games are the necessary tonic. If al Nusra attacked Lebanon’s south, this would draw Hizbollah fighters to defend the area. Such a move would weaken Lebanon’s defences in the north, opening it up to an Islamist assault. Others disagree. Hizbollah is well prepared to tackle both an assault in the south and the north. Yet others worry about an Israeli intervention. There is always the worry of an Israeli assault. Israeli aircraft frequently fly in Lebanon’s skies in a show of force. These worries are not idle.

Two young women say that if the I.S. enters Beirut, they will take up arms and fight. They have no training, but a great deal of determination. Rumours are afoot that the various sectarian factions—not too far removed from their own internecine battles—have opened up their arsenals and distributed weaponry. Lebanon is worried, but prepared. It will not fall easily. This is a land that has withstood and defeated an Israeli occupation as well as survived its own 15-year-long civil war. But nerves are frayed. Acts of violence against Syrian refugees are a sign of the frustration. There is an unwarranted suspicion that the refugees harbour jehadi groups. Lebanon’s government has now decided to no longer allow Syrians into the country, where there are already more than a million refugees to add to the four million Lebanese.

Not far away, in the Metro al-Madina theatre, a band called al-Rahel al-Kabir (The Great Departed) runs a popular show that mocks the I.S. and its caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “Oh master,” they sing, “you will lead God’s servants to an abyss like no other.” In Beirut, famous for traffic jams, al-Rahel al-Kabir praises al-Baghdadi for trying to reduce the traffic by blowing up human beings. It is uncomfortable satire. Jokes are legion against the I.S.’ decrees. One suggests that cow udders must not be allowed to be visible. “I swear to God,” goes one of the songs, “if I was a cow, I would be wearing a bra.” This is gallows humour that often needs little more from the artists than embellishment. The raw material from the territory of the I.S. is tragically absurd (such as the decree against diapers).

Mouataman al-Baba is a Syrian businessman who is in a hurry. He wants to inform the Europeans that there is no possibility of creating a new armed, moderate Syrian force to take on both the I.S. and the government of Bashar al-Assad. In other words, al-Baba believes that the entire conceit of the United States’ policy—to bomb I.S. and to create a new moderate Syrian group—is an illusion. It is simply not possible. He does not know the U.S. He believes that the Europeans are more rational and would be more willing to hear his message.

We are sitting in Beirut near the old Green Line that divided the city during its civil war. Al-Baba speaks with the credibility of a man with an insider’s knowledge who has moved away from his earlier commitments. In 2011, al-Baba financed the purchase of arms for the Syrian rebels near Damascus. He threw himself into the Syrian uprising, using his money and his contacts. In early 2012, al-Baba wrote to the United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan saying that people like him were ready to pay for the revolution. They wanted no Gulf Arab money to come into their fight. “We have a network to help and support people,” he wrote. But Gulf Arab money and influence swept into the rebellion, he now admits. Al-Baba soured of the endeavour. He fled Syria that summer. In November 2012, he published an essay called “Syria and the Raped Revolution”. The revolution is over, he wrote. The jehadis have taken it away from the Syrian people. Voices like that of al-Baba were not heard over the din. When he was with the revolt, the studios of al-Arabiya and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) welcomed him. When his views changed, he could not get on the air. His Syrian voice was no longer of interest.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh, a Syrian dissident who had become an important voice of the rebellion after 16 years in Syrian prisons, went underground in 2011. He fled to his native city of Raqqa, which fell to the I.S. in March 2013. In an open letter, “Farewell to Syria, for a while”, written in October 2013, Saleh wrote that his city had been taken over by “the spectres of horror of our childhood, the ghouls”. The situation in Raqqa, Saleh writes, is deplorable. It was hard to watch “strangers oppress it and rule the fates of its people, confiscating public property, destroying a statue of Haroun al-Rashid or desecrating a church, taking people into custody where they disappeared in their prisons”. He fled Syria for Turkey. In December 2013, Saleh’s wife, Samira al-Khalil, the well-regarded communist, was abducted in Douma (near Damascus) along with her comrades Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada and Nazem al-Hammadi from the Violations Documentation Centre. The kidnapper was most likely Jaish al-Islam, a Saudi-backed group that hopes to become the “moderate” army of the Western imagination. The whereabouts of the four activists are unknown. Their fate is as uncertain as that of the beloved priest of Deir Mar Musa, Paolo Dall’Oglio, who went to Raqqa in July 2013 to negotiate with the I.S. That he was kidnapped is known. Beyond that is silence.

Endless cups of juice and plates of biscuits come between al-Baba and myself. We are talking about the barbarism that has taken hold of Syria. Al-Baba has six cell phones on the table before him. He wants to create a network against the encroachment of the jehadis into his beloved Syria. Al-Baba is not alone, and he knows it. There are many Syrians who are horrified by what has happened to their country. People like al-Baba do not see themselves as responsible for the emergence of the jehadis. They wanted a more just and free Syria. The Syrian government had blocked the space for their ambitions. It was not capable of genuine reform. Into the breach came Gulf Arab money, pushed along by a naive West, suggests al-Baba. This is what ruined Syria.

My mind wanders to the al Nusra fighters who are sitting on the side of the road, polishing their Kalashnikovs. Their future had been sidelined. They were not seeking democracy or human rights, or free markets. What they wanted was dignity. They have found something in this struggle, and will not so easily withdraw from it, aerial bombardment or not.

— From Frontline, India's National Magazine, 11-14-14
— Vijay Prashad is Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, and the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut. He has authored 15 books, including his most recent (2013), “The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.”
Workers and police clash om streets of Brussels.

By Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams

More than 100,000 workers took to the streets in Brussels, Belgium on Nov. 6 to protest austerity cuts and free-market reforms that are set to cut vital social services, freeze wages, and raise the retirement age.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up the protest, which saw laborers and other low-wage workers marching peacefully through downtown Brussels to mark the start of an anticipated month-long campaign against the country's newly elected center-right government.

The actions will culminate with a nationwide strike on December 15.

"They are hitting the workers, the unemployed. They are not looking for money where it is, I mean, people with a lot of money," one worker, Philippe Dubois, told the Associated Press.

Belgium's recently elected coalition, which shuts out the Socialist Party for the first time in decades, is made up of three pro-business parties and the centrist Christian Democrats. The coalition said it was forced to institute these new free-market reforms in order to comply with the European Union's budget restrictions.

But residents and other politicians disagreed. Former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, a Socialist Democrat, told Reuters UK, "I share the concern of the people and the measures of the government are unjust."