Palestine

Israel Is Lying About Palestinian Rights Groups Being 'Terrorist' Affiliated

By Yuval Abraham, Oren Ziv, Meron Rapoport, The Intercept

A secret document distributed by Israel to justify its terrorist designations of six prominent Palestinian human rights groups shows no concrete evidence of involvement in violent activities by any of the groups. The designation of the Palestinians groups, which was met by international outrage from defenders of human rights, was announced on October 22 by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Gantz cited alleged links between the groups and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, a left-wing Palestinian political party with its own military wing.

Despite the severity of the declaration, Israel has yet to publicly present any documents directly or indirectly linking the six groups to the PFLP or to any violent activity.

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woman holding sign that says the american dream is a nightmare

Goodbye, America: Why I'm Leaving

By Guy Saperstein, Scheerpost

My wife and I have spent sixty years fighting for social justice in America and trying to be good citizens, me as a civil-rights lawyer who litigated — and won — the largest race, age, and disability employment discrimination cases in American history, and my wife as a teacher, social worker, healthcare activist and philanthropist. I retired at fifty-one, having built an enormously lucrative practice, never losing a case as I pursued legal restitution on behalf of clients who had gotten the short end of the stick.

I was the very embodiment of the American Dream. But over the decades, I’ve become convinced that America is in terminal decline and that the battle for justice and equity is hopeless. The reasons are multiple.

woman holding sign that says the american dream is a nightmare
Credits: Badlyricpolice

America once led the world in innovation. No more. We don’t even have one mile of high-speed rail, unless you count Disneyland. China has 30,000, and counting. Which country do you think is prepared to prosper in the next century?

We can’t even keep our roads repaired. America’s roads are a mess, many as bad as any Third World country. In fact, that is what America is becoming — a Third World country.

The battle is lost. America is in terminal decline and nearly 75 million Americans seem to be willing to pull it down further. How can it be that so many millions voted for a man who failed in everything he ever tried—a man who started more than a score of businesses and every one failed, who cheated repeatedly on three wives before each marriage failed, who is despised by even members of his own family, who went out of his way nearly every day to show that he is a racist and a sexist, a man who has been caught, according to the Washington Post, in more than 30,000 lies in just the four years he was president, who cheated at nearly everything, including golf, how is it that such a man is held up as a paragon of virtue by nearly half of the electorate? Something has gone seriously off the rails.

I can no longer bear the chest-thumping triumphalism of the No-Nothing Party. I can’t stand the self-congratulatory promotion of the hoary notion of American exceptionalism. People who think America is the greatest in all things are people who simply have never been anywhere else. America is not now — and has never been — a representative democracy and won’t be in my lifetime and probably not in yours, either. Biden won by 7.3 million votes — a smashing win, right? — but if just 43,000 votes in a few states had switched, Donald Trump would still be president today. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom could have received 49% of the vote in the recall election and have lost and some Republican hack could have received 18% and won. And because each state has two senators, 18% of the electorate elects 51% of senators. Explain that to Cleisthenes.

We now have an active right-wing attack on voting itself, much of it racially motivated, but imperiling us all. And then, alas, we have the filibuster, which has almost made America ungovernable.

I want out. I’m tired of waking up to some crackpot ranting that COVID is a hoax, or vaccines don’t work, or masks are an assault on freedom, or that the 2020 election was stolen and Joe Biden is not really President, or that January 6 was just a peaceful gathering of fun-loving people.

While Trump has been diminished, we are surrounded by his supporters — Americans who voted for one of the most despicable men who ever strut upon the American stage, most of his supporters continue to believe — with no evidence — that he won. Most prefer superstition to science, many would apparently rather die than wear a mask or take a vaccine, and tens of millions believe cockamamie conspiracies. These people are not going away.

This woebegone predicament is likely to get worse. Moreover, our priorities as a nation seem perilously upside down. We spend more than twice the amount for healthcare as any developed nation and get the crappiest healthcare system in the world because the medical Establishment — mainly the drug companies — has Washington in its pocket. And that includes Biden.

We have among the worst economic disparities in the world — which are getting worse — a hollowed-out middle class, money overwhelming politics, and even the Democrats unable to do anything about any of this.

We are exiting Afghanistan, which is good, but the forces of the American imperium, which includes many Democrats, are actively bemoaning the fact that Afghans might actually rule Afghanistan. We still have a military budget almost ten times bigger than any other nation on earth and nearly 900 military bases girdling the globe. China, the big bogeyman, has none. China is taking over the world at amazing speed because they are strategic, not just belligerent. If you think the expensive debâcle of Afghanistan and Iraq will mean any rethinking of American foreign policy or scaling down our massive defense apparatus, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The forces of imperial expansion in America are robust and thriving despite the defeats of the past half-century.

If I were a young man, I might stay, but after fifty-plus years of social struggle, I think I have a right to take a rest, enjoy my success and have some fun with my family. America’s downward slide is terminal, and I do not have the energy or influence to have a major impact.

I’m moving to France, which has a vibrant middle-class, a real labor movement and twenty times less violent crime than America.

I say: Goodbye America; you won’t be missed.

Guy Saperstein founded a law firm in Oakland which became the largest plaintiffs civil rights law firm in America, in the process successfully prosecuting the largest race, sex and age discrimination class actions in American history. Guy also prosecuted False Claims Act cases against Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. regarding satellite surveillance systems, and against Raytheon, Boeing and TRW regarding the sham National Missile Defense Program. A former president of the Sierra Club Foundation once described by Bill O’Reilly as “a member of the nefarious Left-Wing Mafia,” he is the author of “Civil Warrior: Memoirs of a Civil Rights Attorney.”


Richard D. Wolff

The Decline of Empire Leads To Increased Risk of Conflict

By Prof. Richard D. Wolff, Brave New Europe

[“The American Empire will not be destroyed by another nation, but from the enemy within — unbridled capitalism.” To us the meaning is quite simple. Real patriotism requires us to see beyond the current system and help usher in new ones. — Progressive Hub]

The U.S. wars lost in Iraq and Afghanistan showed imperial overreach beyond what even 20 years of war could manage. That the defeats were drawn out for so many years shows that domestic politics and the funding of the domestic military-industrial complex were, more than geopolitics, the key drivers of these wars. Empires can die from overreach and sacrificing broadly social goals for the narrow interests of political and economic minorities.

Richard D. Wolff

The United States has 4.25 percent of the world’s population yet accounts for about 20 percent of global deaths from COVID-19. A rich global superpower with a highly developed medical industry proved to be badly unprepared for and unable to cope with a viral pandemic. It now wrestles with a huge segment of its population that seems so alienated from major economic and political institutions that it risks self-destruction and demands the “right” to infect others. Refusing to accept lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates in the name of “freedom” mixes a frightening stew of ideological confusion, social division, and bitterly rising hostility within the population. The January 6 events in Washington, D.C., showed merely the tip of that iceberg.

Levels of debt—government, corporate, and household—are all at or near historical records and rising. Feeding and thereby supporting the rising debts is the Federal Reserve with its years of quantitative easing. Officials at the highest levels are now discussing the possible issuance of a trillion-dollar platinum coin to have the Fed give that sum in new credit to the U.S. Treasury to enable more U.S. government spending. The purpose goes far beyond political squabbling over the cap on the national debt. The goal is nothing less than freeing the government to inject still more massive amounts of new money into the capitalist system to sustain it in times of unprecedented difficulty. The Fed learned that today’s capitalism needs such quanta of monetary stimulus thanks to the three recent crashes (2000, 2008, and 2020) witnessed by the capitalist system. A desperate empire approaches a version of the Modern Monetary Theory that empire leaders mocked and rejected not very long ago.

Extreme inequality, already a distinguishing feature of the United States, worsened during the pandemic. This inequality fuels rising poverty and rising social divisions among the haves, the have-nots, and the increasingly anxious think-they-haves. Attempts by employers to recoup the profits lost to the pandemic and to the capitalist crash during 2020 and 2021 have led many to impose additional squeezes on employees. This has led to official and unofficial strikes that continue amid a reawakening labour movement. On an individual level, the rate of workers who have been quitting their jobs has been hitting record highs.

Attempts by employers to recoup profits lost over the last two years also show up in the ongoing inflation besetting the empire. Employers set prices for what they sell. They know the Fed has juiced up the potential purchasing power by flooding markets with new money. Demand, pent up by the pandemic and the economic crashes, will help, at least for a while to support inflation. But even if temporary, the inflation will further worsen income and wealth inequalities and thereby set the U.S. up for the next crash. On top of this new century’s three crashes (2000, 2008, and 2020), each worse than the one before, another crash, which could be still worse, could challenge the capitalist system’s survival.

Fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts: the signs of climate catastrophe—not to mention its fast-climbing costs—add to the sense of impending doom provoked by all the other signs of empire decline. Here too, the tiny minority of fossil fuel industry leaders has succeeded in blocking or delaying the social action needed to cope with the problem. Empires decline when their long habits of serving minority elites blind them to those moments when the system’s survival requires overriding those elites’ needs, at least for a while.

For the first time in over a century, the United States has a real, serious, ascending global competitor. The British, German, Russian, and Japanese systems never reached that status. The People’s Republic of China now has. No settled U.S. policy vis-à-vis China has proven feasible because of internal U.S. divisions and China’s spectacular growth. Political leaders and “defense” contractors find China-bashing attractive. Denouncing China serves as popular scapegoating for many politicians in both parties and as support for an ever-increasing defense spending by the military. However, major segments of large corporate business have invested hundreds of billions in China and in global supply chains linked to China. They do not want to risk them. In addition, for decades, China has offered one of the world’s lowest-cost, better educated and trained, and most disciplined labour forces coupled with the world’s fastest-growing market for both capital and consumer goods. Competitive U.S. firms believe that global success requires their firms to be well established in that nation with the world’s largest population, among the world’s least-costly workers, and with the world’s fastest-growing market. Everything taught and learned in business schools supports that view. Thus the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed former President Donald Trump’s trade/tariff wars and now opposes President Joe Biden’s hyped-up programme of China-bashing.

There is no way for the United States to change China’s basic economic and political policies since those are precisely what brought China to its now globally envied position of being a competitor to a superpower like the U.S. Meanwhile, China is expected to catch up to the United States with equality of economic size before the end of this decade. The problem for the U.S. empire grows, and the United States remains stuck in divisions that preclude any significant change except perhaps armed conflict and an unthinkable nuclear war.

When empires decline, they can slip into self-reinforcing downward spirals. This downward spiral occurs when the rich and powerful respond by using their social positions to offload the costs of decline onto the mass of the population. That only worsens the inequalities and divisions that provoked the decline in the first place.

The recently released Pandora Papers offer a useful glimpse into the elaborate world of vast wealth hidden from tax-collecting governments and from public knowledge. Such hiding is partly driven by the effort to insulate the wealth of the rich from that decline. That partly explains why the 2016 exposure of the Panama Papers did nothing to stop the hiding. If the public knew about the hidden resources—their size, origins, and purposes—the public demand for access to hidden assets would become overwhelming. The hidden resources would be seen as the best possible targets for use in slowing or reversing the decline.

Decline provokes more hiding, and that in turn worsens decline. The downward spiral is engaged. Moreover, attempts to distract an increasingly anxious public—demonizing immigrants, scapegoating China, and engaging in culture wars—show diminishing returns. Empire decline proceeds but remains widely denied or ignored as if it did not matter. The old rituals of conventional politics, economics, and culture proceed. Only their tones have become those of deep social divisions, bitter recriminations, and overt internal hostilities proliferating across the landscape. These mystify as well as upset the many Americans who still need to deny that crises have beset U.S. capitalism and that its empire is in decline.

BRAVE NEW EUROPE is a not-for-profit educational platform for economics, politics, and climate change that brings authors at the cutting edge of progressive thought together with activists and others with articles like this.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Leaks Show Tech Giant Is Worse Than We Thought

Alex Shephard, The New Republic

Speaking to Recode earlier this year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made his case for Facebook. “I think if you look at the grand arc here, what’s really happening is individuals are getting more power and more opportunity to create the lives and the jobs that they want,” Zuckerberg told Casey Newton. “And to connect with people they want. And to connect to the ideas that they want and to share the ideas that they want. And I just think that that will lead to a better world. It will be different from the world that we had before. I think it will be more diverse, I think more different ideas and models will be able to exist.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Credits: Anthony Quintano

But Zuckerberg suggested that a problem remained. By empowering individuals, Facebook was disrupting a hierarchy that had existed for generations: “My concern is that we’re too frequently telling the negative sides of it, from the perspective of the institutions that may be not on the winning side of these changes.” For the last several years, Facebook had been besieged by a narrative that its products were making the world an uglier and divisive place. Here, Zuckerberg inverted the critique: The real victims of Facebook’s rise weren’t its users but a number of dusty institutions that were raging as their power was being redistributed to the people. In this version of events, Facebook wasn’t just empowering its users, it was liberating them.

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F-35

Why Is Military Spending Increasing When We Can't Afford Anything Else?

By Lawrence Wittner, History News Network

Although critics of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan to increase funding for U.S. education, healthcare, and action against climate catastrophe say the United States can’t afford it, there are no such qualms about ramping up funding for the U.S. military.

This May, the Pentagon asked Congress to fund a $715 billion budget for fiscal 2022—an increase of $10 billion over the previous year.  Together with another $38 billion requested for military-related programs at other government agencies, this would bring total U.S. military spending to $753 billion.

But from the standpoint of most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress, this was not enough.  In September, by an overwhelming margin, the House passed a $768 billion military spending bill.  When the Senate votes, it is likely to raise that figure, for two Senate Committees have already approved $778 billion for U.S. military programs—a 5 percent increase over the preceding year.  These actions were taken despite the fact that, except for military spending at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, current U.S. military spending, after adjusting for inflation, is the highest since World War II.

F-35
Credits: Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II#/media/Archivo:F-35A_flight_(cropped).jpg

Indeed, even without any increase, annual spending on the U.S. military would be more than double the proposed $350 billion annual spending on the Build Back Better plan.

But isn’t this massive military spending necessary to prevent Chinese aggression?

China, although recently quite assertive in world affairs and repressive toward internal dissent, has not been at war with another nation since 1979, when it fought a brief but bloody conflict with Vietnam.  Furthermore, even though China has engaged in a military buildup in recent decades, its military spending increases have often lagged behind those of the United States.  In 2020, China’s military spending rose over the preceding year by 1.9 percent, whereas U.S. military spending increased by 4.4 percent.

Furthermore, if Chinese aggression isn’t already deterred by the current level of U.S. military spending, it’s hard to imagine that increased funding for the U.S. military will be more effective.  After all, the United States is currently the biggest military spender in the world, accounting for 39 percent of the global total.  China, the number 2 nation in military expenditures, spends only a third of that amount.  When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States has 5,500 nuclear warheads to China’s 350, providing the United States with an almost 16-to-1 advantage.

Given the enormous superiority of current U.S. military power, is more really useful?  Indeed, isn’t increased U.S. military spending actually counterproductive—provoking China to engage in an expensive and dangerous arms race with the United States and squandering U.S. tax dollars that could be spent more productively?  Wouldn’t both countries be better served by an agreement between them to freeze military spending at current levels and to transfer responsibility for the enforcement of international security to a strengthened United Nations?

Why, then, is U.S. military spending increasing?  One reason is an inflamed nationalism—the widespread assumption that, as U.S. politicians like to say, the United States is “the greatest country in the history of the world.”  This belief in the superiority of one’s own nation, shared by people in many lands, is played upon by demagogues like Donald Trump, who talk glibly of “America First” and send their audiences into rapturous chants of “USA, USA.”  In these circumstances, citizens of powerful nations slip easily into what U.S. Senator J.W. Fulbright once called “the arrogance of power”—the assumption that their country should play a dominant role in world affairs.  Little wonder, then, that many members of Congress, although skeptical of the necessity for rising military budgets, tamely vote for them lest they be portrayed as “soft on defense.”

But this is only part of the story, for, although many Americans support ramping up U.S. military spending, most Americans don’t.  A July 2020 opinion survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that only 23 percent of U.S. respondents favored increasing U.S. military spending, while 66 percent either favored maintaining the current level (38 percent) or cutting it (28 percent).  A February 2021 Gallup Poll revealed similar opinions.

A more powerful driver of military spending increases lies is the enormous influence of self-interested corporate contractors.  These private companies work hard to ensure that the U.S. military budget—and thus their income—keeps rising.  Over the past two decades, U.S. weapons makers have spent $2.5 billion on lobbying, employing over 700 lobbyists per year to sell new, immensely expensive high-tech missiles, warplanes, warships, and other implements of destruction to the U.S. government.  Most of these corporate lobbyists have moved through a revolving door of jobs at the Pentagon, the National Security Council, Congress, and other key agencies.  Indeed, four of the past five U.S. Secretaries of Defense have come from one of the top five arms contractors.  Military contractors also lavishly fund major think tanks and, of course, make very substantial campaign contributions to friendly politicians—an estimated $285 million over the last two decades.

Such investments have paid off handsomely, enabling military contractors to rake in roughly half of the Pentagon’s lavish annual spending.  Since fiscal year 2001, U.S. weapons manufacturers have secured $4.4 trillion in U.S. government contracts, with a quarter to a third of all Pentagon contracts in recent years going to just five major weapons companies:  Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.  In fiscal 2020, Lockheed Martin alone received $75 billion from the Pentagon.  Furthermore, enormous Pentagon contracts are also handed out to military logistics, reconstruction, and “security” corporations.

In response to these pressures, the U.S. government all too often bypasses other approaches to international security—including forging cooperative agreements with other nations and strengthening multilateral institutions—while increasing its military spending to new, outlandish levels.


Workers at Paizo unionize

Paizo Is The First Table Top Role Playing Game Company To Get a Union

Charlie Hall, Polygon

[Many are calling this month ‘Striketober‘ in honor of the many strikes breaking out across the country: John Deere (Midwest) Mercy Hospital (New York), Kellog’s (Michigan) to name a few. Those traditional industries are seeing a return to good old-fashioned strikes. In contrast, the role-playing game (rpg) industry workers at Paizo have scored a first: the first RPG game company to have their union recognized by management. It might be that the U.S. really is on the edge of a union power surge. If so, we’ll cover it here. — Progressive Hub]

Workers at Paizo, publisher of the Pathfinder and Starfinder tabletop role-playing games, have formed a union. United Paizo Workers (UPW) was created with the help of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which has been working these last few years to organize labor in the video game industry. This represents a first for the tabletop role-playing sector, which is currently not served by organized labor in any major way.

“Paizo is one of the largest tabletop roleplaying publishers in the world, producing more than 10 hardcover books annually, along with numerous digital adventures and gaming accessories,” UPW said Thursday in a news release. “Paizo also runs some of the most successful living campaigns in tabletop gaming history, with regular players in more than 36 countries. However, despite this success, Paizo’s workers are underpaid for their labor, required to live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis.”

Workers at Paizo unionize
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Kyrsten Sinema

Fundraising Terrain Dictates Politics In The Democratic Party

Ryan Grim, The Intercept

[Ryan Grim, like others, is trying to understand how Sen. Sinema’s mind works. What is she after? But there’s a larger point in play. For decades, the connection between wealthy donors and the responsiveness of our political institutions to these donors was pretty clear cut. The rise of small dollar donations in politics is changing the rules of the game. Grim argues that Sinema represents the past. How do we get to the future? — Progressive Hub] 

Kyrsten Sinema might be on the young side for a senator — less than half the age of some of her colleagues — but she represents the Democratic Party’s past. Think of her and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as the dead hands reaching out of the grave, grabbing at the party as it tries to move on from them. They might have managed to claw back spending on the Build Back Better Act, but the reality that their time has passed is clear. And the way you can measure this most directly is in terms of dollars.

For Sinema in particular, her approach to the negotiations — to push against social spending and tax hikes on the rich and corporations — has cost her badly in the polls at home and hasn’t had much of an upside when it comes to campaign cash. Her model of politics is outdated, though it has been the dominant form for most of her life.

Kyrsten Sinema
By US House office of photography https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Kyrsten_Sinema_(cropped).jpg
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Rikers Island

Rikers Island Is a Case Study in The Disaster of Criminal Justice Reform

Kelly Hayes, Truthout

This crisis embodies the violence of a murderous system that is re-legitimized through reforms, any time its true character becomes too visible, like a shapeshifting monster in a horror film. It never stops consuming life,” says Kelly Hayes. In this episode of “Movement Memos,” Hayes digs into the crisis on Rikers Island, why people are dying, and why this isn’t a story about understaffing, but rather, a story about a system that cannot be redeemed.

 

Rikers Island
Credits: Matt Green https://www.flickr.com/photos/imjustwalkin/7654279260/in/photostream/
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Sen. Joe Manchin

Senator Manchin Is In The Pocket of Big Coal

Daniel Boguslaw, DemocracyNow

As Senator Joe Manchin demands Democrats drop critical climate funding to replace coal- and gas-fired power plants with renewable energy sources, investigative reporting into the financial dealings of Manchin reveals that he has profited over $4.5 million from investments in West Virginia coal companies since he became a U.S. senator.

Investigative journalist Daniel Boguslaw, who looked into the network of coal companies that Manchin and his family has owned and held stock in over the decades, says Manchin’s voting record in Washington shows him “prioritizing a dying industry that he’s making millions of dollars off of.” The report also finds that Manchin’s family coal businesses have grim records of pollution, safety violations and death.

Sen. Joe Manchin
Credits: Third Way Think Tank https://www.flickr.com/photos/thirdwaythinktank/8663085279
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Customs and border protection building, CBP

Biden Will Keep Two of Trump's Radical Border Patrol Measures

Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept

After months of delay, a Senate committee held a confirmation hearing Tuesday for President Joe Biden’s pick to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, who signaled his support for two of the Trump administration’s most controversial border enforcement measures.

Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus praised the utility of Title 42, a sweeping Trump-era public health order that authorizes the rapid summary expulsion of migrants and asylum-seekers without an immigration hearing, and said he would support some expansion of the wall at the southern border.

Customs and border protection building, CBP
Credits: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers https://www.flickr.com/photos/usacehq/6878291094/in/photostream/
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