Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Donald Trump - An Elite in Worker's Clothing

(Image: pixabay.com)

By David Starr

Donald Trump a savior for workers? And inner cities? That's like saying Pope Francis is the leader of a satanic cult. But that's how Trump is projecting himself.

In a June 2016 rally in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Trump declared that "globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very, very, wealthy. I used to be one of them. Hate to say it, but I used to be one." Used to? Trump hasn't exactly sold off his multi-million dollar fortune and donned a pair of worker's cover-alls.

But Trump praises workers, in this case steelworkers: "The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives on in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape." Yeah, steelworkers with union jobs and good benefits. Isn't Trump, however, against unions?

Trump has even used the Economic Policy Institute-a left-leaning source-to condemn "politicians [who] have pursued a policy of globalization - moving our jobs wealth and factories to Mexico and overseas." But Trump and his daughter Invanka have profitted handsomely from goods produced in their names in other countries, and thus from globalization.

Trump promised the audience that he would make communities hit by globalization recover. And fast. He declared that "the American people [are going to] take back their future." Also declaring, "I'll do it. No doubt about it. Not even a little doubt." Does that mean giving up his overseas investments produced from globalization? Like his other promises, Trump was long on rhetoric and short on substance.

Regarding wages in the U.S., Trump mentioned that they are very low "because there's no competition." Wages are low because of economic inequality. The competition is there, but it's cutthroat: capital is further dominating labor. If it was the other way around, there would be decent pay. Labor would be the priority, and thus the focus would be on achieving better pay. That would mean that workers would share the rewards based on what they produce.

As for inner cities, Trump made a pitch at a rally in West Bend, Wisconsin (which is 95% white). He talked about law and order, calling the events in Milwaukee "an assault on the rights of all citizens to live in security and peace." The riots are the result of a broken system relating to the tense relationship between cops and inner cities.

Trump doesn't see it that way: "The main victims of these riots are law-abiding African-Americans living in these neighborhoods. It is their jobs, their communities and schools that will suffer as a result." The continuation of racist attitudes is one problem along with poverty. But in simplistic terms, Trump blames the "narrative of cops as a racist force." No acknowledgment of the racism itself.

Trump also doesn't acknowledge the justification of demonstrators to protest against racism, saying, he'll listen to the "quiet voices in our society, not the loudest demonstrators."

Regarding economic policies for inner cities, Trump supports the same old formula that both Republicans and Democrats have supported for years on end: neoliberal economics. Appearing on CNN, Boris Epshteyn-senior advisor for the Trump campaign-said that Trump will fix inner cities with investments, revitalizing the economy and tax incentives. Investments to give corporations the advantage, revitalizing the economy for the wealthy to prosper and tax incentives so corporations continue to not have to pay their fair share.

Additionally, Trump is in debt from his businesses to the tune of $650 million. One could imagine what the national debt would be if he were president.

Donald Trump has proclaimed that he is the one to help workers and inner cities. But it won't work. After all, his class interests clash with the class interests of workers and inner cities.

 












Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Libertarian Gary Johnson isn't an Alternative for the U.S. Presidency

(Image: www.keyword-suggestions.com)

By David Starr

Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party may seem like an alternative in his run for president of the United States, but his ideology would be a disaster for the common people.

True, Johnson has taken positions that sound progressive. He supports a woman's right to choose, the separation of church and state, the legalization of marijuana, LGBT rights, opposes the Drug War, opposed the Iraq War and favors a 43% cut in military spending. But on economic issues and government, Johnson is a far right extremist.

Johnson doesn't want insurers to provide birth control, even though healthcare costs continue to rise. The corporate health insurance industry can afford to offer birth control. Profits have soared. Johnson also doesn't want federal funding for stem cell research. But there's a reason why federal funding should be applied. It's called promoting the general welfare. Johnson, in fact, wants to eliminate the fed. For example, he wants to eliminate Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Education. Housing and education would be at the mercy of the "free" market.

So, in typical right-wing, libertarian fashion, Johnson thinks all problems will be solved with the "invisible hand" of the "free" market. How 19th century-like; turning back the clock to where there would be way less government, if at all, no union protection and no environmental safeguards.

Johnson is a friend to the big corporations. He would eliminate corporate income tax and the capital gains tax.  He favors no restrictions on campaign donations (complementing Citizens' United). For trade, Johnson favors no restrictions and no tariffs. He would eliminate barriers to "free" trade. He has claimed that NAFTA is beneficial, although hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs have been lost. Johnson favors for-profit prisons. He doesn't want to raise the minimum wage. In fact, he would abolish it. Slave wages are preferable to him.

And Johnson would privatize Social Security and Medicare, if he could get away with it.

While Johnson implies he is against corporatism, his "free" trade policies would make it stronger.

Oddly, though, while Johnson says he wants to end the fed, he supports federal funding: tax incentives for energy, more funding for the Drug War (although he said this in 2000), federal block grants for crime programs and federal funding for rural health services. So, which is it?

Johnson's record as New Mexico's governor should be viewed as a warning: while there was a budget surplus, Johnson used 750 vetoes-the most by a governor-to, e.g., chop away at much-needed social programs.

According to the Children's Rights Council, New Mexico was the worst U.S. state to raise a child. New Mexico had the highest poverty rate of any U.S. state. And New Mexico had the sixth highest unemployment rate. ("New Mexico governor fails in home state and drugs," Danielle Gonzales, GW Hatchett, 10/14/1999)

Johnson has been associated with GOP operatives connected to the ultra-nationalist Minute Men, vote rigging, English-only fanatics and smear tactics. He has also been associated with the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers formed the Libertarian Party. ("The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics," Mark Ames, nsfwcorp, 24 Hours in America, 11/06/2012)

Johnson's thinking, like his right-wing, libertarian ideology, is grossly flawed. Unfettered "free" trade? For whom to do what? Making the rich richer and the poor poorer. That's how Johnson's policies as president would "benefit" the 99%. In that sense, Johnson IS NOT an alternative.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Pro-Lifers" and Their "Moral" Stand

(Image: pinterest.com)

By David Starr

Anti-abortionists, or "pro-lifers," pride themselves on being moral when it comes to the "A" word, i.e, abortion. They abhor the killing of a baby. But many of them support imperial wars where invading/occupying/bombing takes place in other lands, especially in the "Third World"; and where babies out of the womb-and infants-suffer the consequences. It's as though those children don't count.

Sanctions have also caused suffering among the young, Iraq being a prime example. As a result of the U.S./UN sanctions imposed on Iraq during the 1990s, about 500,000 children died from malnutrition, unsafe drinking water, etc. But I haven't heard any condemnation from "pro-lifers."

A "pro-lifer" would respond by saying, "Since you support abortion, you support the killing of babies." This can be challenged. There have been arguments about when life begins. "Pro-lifers" have said that it begins at conception. Actually, scientists have not concluded on when life begins. They do know that the fertilized egg is implanted in the womb a week after conception. Then there is "Quickening," when the foetus first moves in the womb. This is about 17 weeks after conception. ("When is the Foetus Alive?," BBC, Ethics)

One general view, "that best reflects the reality of the situation, is that there is no one point where life begins. Instead, the beginning of life is a continuous process. It may have a start where there is 'no life' and an end where there 'is life,' but there isn't a clearly defined boundary." ("When Does Life Begin," RationalWiki)

But if there are no brain waves or central nervous system present after fertilization, then there is no human existing.

A few other "pro-lifers" have said that life begins before conception. This can only mean that sperm is viewed as a form of life. If that's the case, then one could say that in the course of fertilization, 1000s upon 1000s of sperm die trying to reach the egg. This prompts the following absurd question: does this mean that reproduction should be illegal because of the death of all those sperm?

I'll bring up another absurd scenario: It's a fact that most males have masturbated sometimes during their lives. Does that mean then that there is the mass killing of sperm; perhaps the killing of half souls?

It could be said that death is a part of reproduction, if one wants to take it that far.

That is not to say that abortion should be the priority. It may have to be used as a last resort, e.g., in the case of rape or incest; if there is danger to the mother; and the threat of over population. (Earth's resources are finite, and I don't think "pro-lifers" would want to see a scenario of mass starvation if the population becomes too big. Or are they just ignoring this scenario?)

But also in the case of having an unwanted child. "Both unintended and unwanted childbearing can have negative health, social, and psychological consequences. Health problems include greater chances for illness and death for mother and child. In addition, such childbearing has been linked to a variety of social problems, including divorce, poverty, child abuse, and juvenile delinquency." (When Pregnancies are Unwanted," Nancy Felipe Russo, Ph.D., pro+choice forum) 

There is adoption as an option, but it is not a cure-all. "Children may feel grief over the loss of a relationship with their birthparents and the loss of the cultural and family connections that would have existed with those parents. There can also be significant concerns about feeling abandoned and [feeling] 'not good enough...'" Adopted children may also suffer from a loss of access to important medical or genetic birth family histories." ("Long-Term Issues for the Adopted Child," Kathryn Patricelli, www.mentalhealth.net)

Further, "[a] study in the Western Journal of Nursing Research found that adoptive parents can experience 'post-adoption depression' when their expectations about the adoption experience aren't met. These parents often report difficulty bonding with the child. [I]n extreme cases, the adoption 'disrupts,' and the child is sent back to the agency or foster home. But "most adoptions work out," with "80 percent placements [making] it to legalization" and "after the paperwork is in, [there's a] success rate [of] 98 percent." ("The Dark Side of Adoptions: Why Parents and Kids Don't Bond," Stephanie Pappas, Live Science) 

Before Roe v Wade, women desperately sought out a way to have an abortion. The procedure was secret with the risk of it being done in unsanitary conditions by an armchair "doctor."  Or it would be self-induced. There was also a danger to the woman. After Roe v Wade, the procedure was/is done under sanitary conditions. Since there will be women who will seek out abortions, it may as well be done under these conditions. Or would the "pro-lifers" rather have Roe v Wade repealed and in turn go back to abortions being done in the back seat of a car, back ally or hotel room?

Then there is the matter of choice. It is a personal matter between husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, and for a woman herself. And no "pro-lifer" has the right to butt in in such a personal matter (unless asked). 

To avoid abortion as an option, the following should be promoted even further: birth control, along with family planning and courses in sex education. Knowledge is the key to understanding the ethics and necessity of keeping abortion legal, despite the stigma that is still prevalent in society.

A stigma imposed by "pro-lifers," who would rather shame a woman considering abortion rather than trying to understand why that option would be chosen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The 2016 GOP Convention - Fear-Mongering, Exceptionalism and Faux Populism

(Image: en.wikipedia.org)

By David Starr

There wasn't much of quality-and more of quantity-in the 2016 GOP Convention. Three celebrities showed up: Scott Baio, Antonio Sabata Jr. (who?) and Duck Dynasty hick Phil Robertson. It wasn't exactly Academy Award material. Sabata actually thought that Obama was a secret Muslim. Then there was Ben carson, who thought that Hillary Clinton was in league with Lucifer. There were vicious attacks on Clinton, like, "Throw her in prison!" and badges being sold with a picture of Clinton that read "Life's a bitch, don't vote for one." She was also called a tramp.

Besides all that, the following are direct quotes from transcripts using examples of speakers at the convention. My responses follow.

 Melania's Lack of Originality

Donald "Demented" Trump's wife Melania gave a speech that partially plagarized Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention. Note the following comparison:

Michelle Obama -

"And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

"And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children - and all children in this nation - to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

Melania Trump -

"From a young age my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and you keep your promise; that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life.

"That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

Along with those Barbie doll-like looks, Melenia doesn't have much of an imagination.

Giuliani Thumps His Chest

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave an impassioned speech on the subject of security. All that was missing were primitive grunts and groans:

"The vast majority of Americans do not feel safe. They fear for their children. They fear for themselves. They fear for our police officers, who are being targeted..."

This state of siege rhetoric is an appeal to fear. Police officers being targeted? Look at cause and effect Giuliani. How many times have nonwhites been targeted by police?

"I am sick and tired of the defamation of Donald Trump by the media and the Clinton campaign. I am sick and tired of it! This is a good man."

Trump's insults to women, Muslims and Mexicans are deserving of a harsh response. They are, of course, sexist and racist. Good man? He's virtually the opposite of that when it comes to the common people.

"We must not be afraid to define our enemy. It is Islamic extremist terrorism!"

Although Giuliani implied that most of Islam is not guilty, I still ask the following question: What about Christian extremist terrorism? Christian fanatics in the U.S. have access to the biggest war machine in the world. And it's been used, more often for the wrong reasons. It's evident that Islamic fanatics don't have a monopoly on terrorism.

"Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran will eventually let them become a nuclear power and is putting billions of dollars back into the world's largest supporter of terrorism."

Who is the world's largest supporter of terrorism? The nation with the biggest weapons arsenal. Democracy has been stepped on repeatedly.

Mike Pence - Mr. Too-Good-To-Be-True

GOP VP pick Mike Pence is a far right politician with such high "morals" that he would push for religion in politics and repeal Roe v Wade. He offered a long speech about values, toughness and how "great" Trump is:

"[Trump] faced 16 talented opponents and outlasted every one of them..."

Talented? The GOP primaries reminded me of the song, "Send in the Clowns."

"You nominated a man for president who never quits, who never backs down, a fighter, a winner."

A man who is oblivious to diplomacy, who is a sadist, a belligerent bully. This is the opposite of how a president conducts affairs.

"Today, while the nation suffers under the weight of $19 trillion in national debt, we in Indiana have a $2 billion surplus..."

How soon Pence forgets. George Bush Jr. inherited a $128 billion dollar surplus from the Clinton administration and wound up wrecking the economy and raising the debt to $10 trillion. This is what Obama inherited.

"When Donald Trump does his talking, he doesn't tiptoe around the thousand new rules of political correctness."

"Political correctness" is beside the point. GOPers use this label to protect racist and sexist language. And Trump sure knows how to use stereotypes.

"The party of Lincoln was founded on equality of opportunity. And during these difficult days, it will be our party and our agenda that opens the doors for every American."

The party of Lincoln is dead. Its death throes started back in the 1870s when it neglected equal rights and became pro-business. Open the door for every American? The GOP is slightly more pro-business than the Democratic Party. That means the billionaire class will have new doors open to them.

Ted Cruz Exercises Partisan Rancor, Praises Exceptionalism

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was given an unwelcome reaction, particularly since he didn't endorse Trump for president. In his speech he talked about exceptionalism:

"Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, "I want to be free."

Exceptionalism is another word for ultra-nationalism. Exceptionalism perverts patriotism. Cruz and the GOPers are not too smart when they equate exceptionalism with freedom.

"We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger even hatred are tearing America apart. And citizens are furious, rightly furious, at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises, and that ignores the will of the people."

Yes, there's been partisan rancor, and the GOP leads the way in using it. And, yes, there's a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises. The GOP, and the Democrats, are both guilty in doing this.

"My friends, this is madness. President Obama is a man who does everything backwards. He wants to close Guantanamo Bay, and open up our borders. He exports jobs, and imports terrorists."

The U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay should not even be there. It was established by threats of indefinate U.S. military occupation of Cuba. And here it has been, indefinately occupying Guantanamo Bay. Exporting jobs? It's the GOP that is in cahoots with some Democrats in exporting jobs, allowing corporations to bail out of the country. Imports terrorists?! Cruz and his partisan rancor.

"Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment, and overwhelmingly rejecting big government."

Cruz is part of the political establishment and is in a party that is as establishment as one can get. Cruz trots out the "big gubberment" stereotype. Government, for all its flaws, has provided for the general welfare of the people. Look it up in the U.S. Constitution Mr. Cruz, in the preamble.

"That was the power of freedom. Our party, the Republican Party, was founded to defeat slavery."

Now it protects wage slavery. The Republicans, and the Democrats, and Trump himself, have profited off of wage slavery worldwide.

Donald "Demented" Trump - Lies and false populism

"I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore."

Over the course of the primaries, Trump has not been honest. His "sympathy" for the 99% in regards to cutting taxes for them is an illusion. Trump, 1%er that he is, will give tax breaks to the wealthy. And perhaps throw crumbs to the "peasants." (That trickle-down thing.) There is Trump "University," one of the biggest scams ever. Here we go again with the politically correct card. Trump doesn't want his insults challenged.

"Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens."

This ties in with his "Mexicans are rapists and criminals" rhetoric. Trump, despite his clarification on the matter, has stereotyped an entire group of people. And his supporters follow that example.

"One such border-crosser was released and made his way to Nebraska. There, he ended the life of an innocent young girl named Sarah Root. But to this Administration, [Sarah] was just one more American life that wasn't worth protecting."

This is a cheap shot. And of course a lie. Obama doesn't want citizen's lives to be at stake. Thus, his concern for gun control in the face of mass shootings over the years. Obama wants to implement procedures that would make illegal immigrants citizens. But GOP has been obstructing this, for fear that many of those potential citizens will vote Democratic; not because they're criminals. Thus, Trump is fear-mongering.

"Not only have our citizens endured domestic disaster, but they have lived through one international humiliation after another."

Trump can't seem to comprehend that the U.S. image in the world has been tattered precisely by its foreign policy maneuvers. The "humiliation" comes from the fact that the GOP, and some Democrats, have initiated conflicts around the globe. Trump's aggressive attitude would make it worse. And many worldwide will think negatively of the U.S. even more.

"I AM YOUR VOICE"

Sounds rather egocentric, as though Trump is presenting himself as a demi-god or savior.

"I have embraced crying mothers who have lost their children because our politicians put their personal agendas before the national good. I have no impatience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens."

Trump tries to present himself as a man of the people. But he is part of the establishment, the wealthy establishment which funds those leaders he's talking about.

"This Administration has failed America's inner cities. It's failed them on education. It's failed them on jobs. It's failed them on crime. It's failed them at every level."

Actually, a lot of this has to do with GOP obstructionism. Almost every proposal Obama has made has been put down by the GOP. Education is a problem because its being virtually starved of funds. The GOP doesn't want funds to go to public education. But an overwhelming majority of people in the inner cities want it. Regarding jobs, there's been an increase in private sector jobs (but many pay a pitiful wage). Regarding crime, this gets back to cops targeting nonwhites, particularly blacks/African Americans.

"Remember: all of the people telling you that you can't have the country you want, are the same people telling you I wouldn't be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, in politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place."

And what kind of country do they want? A regression back to "the good 'ol days?" Trump and his supporters would rather glorify the past than cope with the present. It's a dead vision. And Trump, again, tries to play the man of the people when he says not to rely on elites. He is an elite for chrissakes!

The 2016 GOP Convention was a farce. It pushes the GOP agenda which is a mutation of 19th century-like thinking with 12th century-like thinking, i.e., way less government, no unions, no environmental protections and religious fanaticism.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

By David Starr


The recent shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas testify to how we still have a long way to go to establish good race relations. Of course, it isn't easy, since the United States was born with a defect: Racism.


Today's racism against Blacks/African Americans is an echo of past racism going back to slavery. Today's racism isn't as bad as slavery, but its institutionalized and overt forms still exist.


All the struggles and reforms for equality have preservered, but today the racism that exists threatens them. The "umbilical cord" between past and present racism hasn't been cut. It is evident in the behavior of some police officers, who are conditioned by racist stereotypes and even upbringing. They have become the problem while Black/African Americans continue to endure their racism.


The civil rights movement continues. The protests are a burning reminder that the "fire" of racism hasn't been put out. The protests are so needed. The anger is justified. Civil disobedience still plays a part in the quest to achieve racial equality.


But some people out there aren't listening...or don't care. Thus, it becomes necessary to get their attention, even if it becomes a little inconvenient for them. Racism isn't some minor irritation. It is a systematic and social problem. Some people live in bubbles. They are unaware of the content of issues. If one tries to burst their bubble to wake them up to the fact that we are connected one way or another, they may become offended. But on the other hand, they may wake up and realize the importance of knowing what's going on. Racism cannot be solved in a bubble.


Not meaning to sound overly pessimistic, but the U.S. as an empire continues to decay. It comes from attitudes which are bound to an exceptionalist past. Ultra-nationalists of all kinds want time frozen: They want a revival of the 1890s or 1950s. Forever. Racism, whether they like it or not, has a historical connection to exceptionalism. In the U.S., both go hand-in-hand. The decay emits an overt hypocrisy. Freedom is preached, yet inequality still persists and has grown. All men are created equal? Sometimes that has been a hollow slogan.


Inequality not only encompasses race, but class and gender as well. Class, in fact, is the most neglected of the three. All should be addressed. But sometimes it is difficult to focus on all three. One could be such an emotional driver that it puts the other two in the background. For Blacks/African Americans, race right now takes center stage with these shootings. But despite the circumstances it is very important to focus on all three, and the connections between them.


One way of challenging racism is to reject U.S. exceptionalism. As I alluded to, the latter has been more a perpetrator of racism than otherwise.

It is still possible to achieve a basis for racial harmony. But the struggle continues to evolve to that level.






Saturday, June 25, 2016

Capitalist Rule Takes Its Toll

(Image: www.clipartbest.com)

By David Starr

Much has been said about the consequences of "communism," although the latter hasn't really existed. It could take generations for a communist society to fully develop. After all, we're talking about an epoch here. Death tolls have been estimated under "communism." But what about death tolls under capitalism?

Capitalism has been dominant as an epoch and ideology for over 400 years. And a lot has happened in those years. There's been a revolutionizing of the modes of production, which produces a vast array of goods and services worldwide. But at what cost, especially worldwide?

A major result of capitalist rule worldwide is continuing poverty, labor violations and starvation. Death tolls have been estimated. An article entitled, "Mass killings under capitalist regimes," from Proletariat Wiki, provides an estimate of 156,102,415 deaths, and gives specific death tolls according to region.

Then there are other sources:

Noam Chomsky's article, "Counting the Bodies," published in spectrezine, states that "The democratic capitalist 'experiment' since 1947 has caused more deaths than the entire history of the ‘colossal, wholly failed experiment' of ["Communism"] everywhere since 1917: over 100 million deaths by 1979, tens of millions more since, in India alone."

An Article entitled "The death Tolls of Socialism and Capitalism" published in www.sciforums.com asserts the following with regard to the United States:

"U.S. intervention in Latin America: 6.3 million dead
Invasion of Philippines: 650,000 dead + 1898 war 3 million dead
Afghanistan: 1.2 million dead
Vietnam War: 10 million dead [other estimates are 2 to 3 million dead]
Korean War: 10 million dead [other estimates are 2 million dead]
Yugoslavia: 300,000 dead
Iran-Iraq War (U.S. funding both sides): 1 million dead
U.S. intervention in the Congo: 5 million dead
U.S. Civil War (financial vs land capitalists): 650,000 dead
Native American Genocide: 95 million dead [figures have ranged from 50 million to 100 million dead]
African slave trade: 150 million dead
Indonesian purges against communists [with U.S. help]: 1 million dead
U.S. bombing of Laos and Cambodia: at least 1 million dead
U.S. backed Batista, Pinochet, Metaxas, Saddam, Suharto and various dictators: at least a few million dead"

From poverty:

According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.

From Hunger:

The World Food Programme estimates that 795 million people don't have enough to eat.

As of 1988, according to International Service Agencies in Bethesda, Maryland, about 13 million people die each year from starvation.

In "11 Facts About Hunger," www.dosomething.org asserts that 805 million people go undernourished on a daily basis; in 2010, an estimated 7.6 million children died from hunger; nearly 98% of hunger is in the "Third World."

From disease:

The World Health Organization estimates that in 2012, 6.6 million children died before their 5th birthday; 68% of all deaths were from noncommunicable diseases.

According to the Global Health Policy Center, 3-9 million people died from respiratory infections, 1.3-3.0 million from malaria, 1.8 million from diarrheal diseases, 1.7 from tuberculosis and 0.5 million from neglected tropical diseases.

While capitalism is not responsible for the origins of all these conditions, it bears responsibility for fueling and continuing them. Given the nature of capitalism worldwide, the few have too much while the many have too little.



Friday, June 17, 2016

The Barbarity of "Honor Killings"





(Image: news.wikinut.com)

By David Starr

The beating and burning of 18-year-old Maria Sadaqat in Pakistan is a shocking reminder that in the year 2016, the old practice of honor killings still exist. Pakistan has had a high number of honor killings over the years.

In 2000, the United Nations noted the possibility of 5,000 honor killings every year. This number could be in Pakistan alone. But it is not just a phenomenon happening in Pakistan. Worldwide, honor killings were on the rise between 1989 and 2009. And the killings have continued to accelerate. ("Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings," Phyllis Chesler, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2010.) The Sadaqat murder is the latest of reported honor killings. But most of the killings go unreported. The victims' families do not want the public exposure because it would dishonor them. Plus, there is the possibility of retaliation if the families made the killings public.

Sadaqat's murder is not a typical honor killing, but shows the marks of its brutality. The owner of a school Sadaqat taught at made a marriage proposal for his son to Sadaqat. The son happened to be already married with a daughter. Sadaqat turned down the proposal.

In retaliation, a group of men went to Sadaqat's home, burst into it and attacked Sadaqat. She was beaten and gasoline was poured over her. Eighty-five percent of her body was burned. She died later on. As I said above, most of these killings go unreported. Instead of the perpetrators being charged, they may wind up paying monetary compensation to the family.

In honor killings, relatives usually perform the grisly act. It could be a father, a brother or a combination of relatives, or nonrelatives. Chesler noted that the brutal act consists of "being raped or gang-raped before being killed; being strangled or bludgeoned to death; being stabbed many times; being stoned or burned to death; being beheaded; or having one's throat slashed."

Religion is connected to honor killings as well. A "moral" code is enforced, with a woman's subservience being "legitimate." "Violations" include being too "westernized," getting a divorce or promiscuity.

Statistically, here are some numbers for overall honor killings worldwide:

VICTIMS -
Killed by Family of Origin - 66%
Daughter/Sister - 53%
Wife/Girlfriend - 23%
Other - 24%
Multiple Victims - 17%
Tortured - 53%

ATTACKERS -
Paternal Participation - 37%
Multiple Perpetrators - 42%
("Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings," Phyllis Chesler, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2010.)

Not that I'm making excuses for the attackers, but the Muslim world has been dominated by Western colonialism/imperialism for generations. This has been a real threat. Perhaps there is a fear that the Muslim world be engulfed in westernization, with a loss of culture and identity.

Nevertheless, the practice of honor killing is obviously barbaric and inexcusable. To quell it, more Muslims have to speak out. Some western mores could be adapted without being a threat to Muslim identity. The status of women has to be changed, where equality is a priority.

While not endangering Muslim identity, some old practices must be eradicated that not only degrade women, but take their lives. Maria Sadaqat should be a martyr for this endeavor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Make America Great Again? More Like Make America Hate Again


(Image: pinterest.com)

By David Starr

The rise of Donald Trump has been emblematic of the rise in anger among the white, working class. The latter are threatened by cosmopolitanism, i.e., the changing demographics of U.S. society where the once, all-powerful white-dominated culture is in jeopardy.

Immigration has gone on since day one in the United States and will continue to do so. People of color are increasing in population, although the white population is still the majority.

Nevertheless, a section  of the white population, males in particular, yearn for a time when white dominance was more overt. Donald Trump is a "Great White Hope" to champion a rollback to the "good old days." But as Bob Dylan once sang, "The times they are a changin'."

Trump's position on immigration shows a deranged individual trying to find a "final solution" to illegal immigrants: mass deportation. It doesn't matter how gradual it is. Kicking out illegal immigrants would be oppressive, chaotic and expensive. The American Action Forum published a research report by Ben Gitis and Jacqueline Varas asserting that the removal of all illegal immigrants would "cost between $400 billion to $600 billion and reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by over $1 trillion."

Plus, there is the scenario of police and/or even military forcing immigrants out of their homes and put into detention centers until they are cleared for deportation (or even ignoring detention centers and dumping them off into their own country or another one).

Building a "big wall" would also be a disaster. Writer Stephan Loiaconi reported on the Sinclair Broadcast Group (8/18/2015) that the total cost could be $25 billion. Maintenance of the big wall could cost $750 million a year.

Trump paints Mexico in particular as the villain when it comes to illegal immigration. "For many years, Mexico's leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export crime and poverty in their own country." The rapists and murderers have broken through the red, white and blue gates and are going on a rampage. Above all, this is Trump's view of a poverty-stricken people desperate to escape into more stable conditions.

When it comes to the root of the problem, Trump simply doesn't get it (or doesn't want to). It is U.S./IMF/World Bank austerity measures that are increasing the poverty. This antagonizes violence in the form of drug cartels. But Trump, intoxicated by U.S. exceptionalism, fuels the hate among his supporters against those of their own class, regardless of country.

Trump's attitude toward Muslims has been just as worse. Besides a database system, Trump bragged about having "many systems" to track Muslims. The latter would just as soon wear crescent patches on their clothes. Similar to Mexicans, Trump has demonized Muslims generally. And those among his supporters feed on this to further their own hatred of those who are not "100% American." They lump individuals together into a confined category of "terrorist," "murderer" or "rapist." While it's true that terrorism exists (but that word can be interpreted in any number of ways, e.g., like whose terrorism we are talking about), many Muslims are not crashing planes into buildings and committing suicide bombings.

Trump also shows his disdain for the working class when it comes to healthcare. Trump claims that "the American people have had to suffer under the incredible economic burden of the Affordable Care Act- Obamacare. "[P]redictably [it has resulted] in runaway costs, greater rationing of care, high premiums, less competition and fewer choices." Trump favors "much-needed free market reforms to the healthcare industry."

"Free market" practices have been tried. Before Obamacare, "free market" handiwork has dominated healthcare. After Obamacare, it still does. That's the root cause of the healthcare system being broken; the economic extremes of the "free market." Healthcare is a right, not a commodity to rake in obscene profits. But Trump hates calling it a right. And he manipulates his supporters into hating it as a threat by "big gubberment," although they could benefit from it.

A similar disdain also applies to tax reform. Trump claims he has "four simple goals":

1) "Tax relief for middle class Americans."
2) "Simplify the tax code."
3) "Grow the American economy."
4) "Doesn't add to our debt and deficit."

Trump does have ideas to prevent the 1% from taking advantage of tax loopholes, offshore accounts, etc. But his tax plan is nothing new. An article published in Counterpunch entitled, "If Donald Dump Was President," (10/09/2015) by writer David Rosen, tells how the working class would get shafted again: "[T]he real plan is hidden in the fine print that effectively shifts the overall tax burden. Trump calls for (i) a corporate tax rate of zero (except for businesses that outsource jobs, which would have a 20% tax) (ii) a cut in the capital gains tax rate (iii) repeal the estate tax (iv) impose an import tax" on vehicles made elsewhere, that would be a "35% tax."

Rosen writes that "[a]s a true mouth piece for the traditional Republican Party, Trump has proposed a conventional conservative tax policy that favors the rich, modestly helps the very poor and the screws the middle classes." As a result, "he continues a quarter-century of economic realignment that has seen the tax burden shift to ordinary wage-earners."

But a lot of hate would be reserved for foreign policy. Trump has no problem trying to reassert the U.S. empire's imperialism. Diplomacy is a word that doesn't exist in Trump's vocabulary. Speaking about the Iran deal, Rosen quotes Trump as saying, "They [Iranians] are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we're making on nuclear. We should double-up and triple the sanctions and have them come to us."

Regarding his dealing with Mexico, Trump, rather than talk about illegal immigration, would put down aggressive conditions: Mexico will protest having to pay for the big wall. But "[Mexico receives] $24 billion a year in remittances from Mexican nationals working in the United States. The majority of that amount comes from illegal aliens. It serves as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico. There is no significant social safety net provided by the state in Mexico." So, "Mexico needs access to our markets much more than the reverse, so we have all the leverage and will win the negotiation."

What negotiation? Trump is giving an ultimatum, not exercising diplomacy. And since Trump knows of the effects of poverty in Mexico-and with Mexico being a "Third World" nation dependent as a market satellite-Trump's "proposals" epitomize the cutthroat behavior of U.S. exceptionalism. As I said earlier, he doesn't get to the root of the problem: Mexico's status as a "Third World" nation having austerity measures imposed on it by the U.S./IMF/World Bank.

A preview of Trump's ruthlessness was his dealing with Scotland. Trump, with help from the Scottish government, used and abused his power in trying to build a golf course in "an ecologically valuable, majestic windswept sand dune," as reported by Tim Pelzer ("Lies, Money, Power, and the Vile Trump," 6/04/2013) in the People's World. Pelzer writes that scientists refer the it as the "Amazon rainforest of Scotland" because "of a variety of plant and animal species that it contains."

Trump denied that the golf course would threaten the ecosystem. And he claimed that the project had support from environmental groups. "[But] University of Glasgow scientist Dr. Jim Hansom and a local Green Party representative" refuted this claim. "Trump also falsely argues that the project has local support."

In a display of unparalleled arrogance, Trump, disregarding the needs of the local population, said that he wants to see the ocean instead of wind towers, and that the local residents' houses would have to go because they blemish the view. Pelzer quotes Trump as saying, "The houses have to go because I don't like them."    

Rosen writes that Trump's foreign policy is one "that would make old-style hawks like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz blush." Trump's assertions of torturing people for the sake of it and killing innocent civilians bears this out.

Rather than anti-establishment, Trump is part of the wealthy establishment. From his consistent contradictory stances on the issues to his deranged oratory, Trump is not a champion of the working class. But he uses them to espouse hate.

It's tragic that many Trump supporters are violating their own class interests so they can vent their anger at the wrong target, making scapegoats of those who haven't institutional or corporate power. Not only are they cutting their own throats. They may be dragging the rest of the us down with them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Chairwoman Roberta Lange Violates Rules of the Nevada State Democratic Convention


(Image: shadowproof.com)

By David Starr

After the chaotic happenings at the Nevada State Democratic Convention, the establishment media's reports highlighted the behavior of Sanders supporters, but failed to get to the root of the problem.

MSNBC, e.g., published a report ("Bernie Sanders under fire after Nevada convention chaos, 5/17/2016) by Alex Seitz-Wald stating that "Sanders supporters threw chairs, started fights and booed officials..." This was par for the course in other sources.

The Nevada State Democratic Party also made similar remarks about Sanders supporters. It accused the Sanders campaign of having a "penchant for violence."

While it's true that the convention was a raucous event, the accusations about throwing chairs and starting fights are apparently false. I checked out several videos, some on the Young Turks news site, and found that there was no chair-throwing or fist-fights. What was not highlighted in the media's reports was the behavior of convention Chair Roberta Lange. During a voice vote to see whether to continue to use a voice vote as a convention procedure, Sanders supporters were louder than Clinton supporters, yelling "Nay!" In a display of cynical arrogance, Lange declared the yeas have it and then she heavily pounded her gavel. Sanders supporters were livid, booing the result.

Lange violated two rules of the convention regarding voting and discussion. The result of the vote at the least wasn't clear. Lange then should have taken a vote of standing division (a head count). She didn't. Lange also is required to allow discussion on the issue at hand. She didn't allow that, either.

The "best" was saved for last. Lange wanted to conclude the convention, but Sanders supporters were still outraged by the conduct of Lange. A voice vote was "taken." Lange arrogantly rushed through the procedure. In the face of a loud nay by Sanders supporters to not conclude the convention, Lange again said the yeas have it. She then sarcastically announced that the convention was concluded, heavily pounded her gavel and walked off the stage.

In one of the videos I watched, I could hear a woman yell, "Fucking bitch!" and a man yell, "What the fuck was that!" Sanders supporters refused to leave, seeing what a farce Lange perpetrated.

There was also a problem with the delegate count. Sanders had 1,662 delegates attend while Clinton had 1,695. But 58 of the Sanders delegates were disqualified, the State Democratic Party claiming that they were not registered Democrats because they failed to meet the May 1st deadline. If those delegates were counted, Sanders would have had more delegates present than Clinton.

Bernie Sanders' response to the convention was not apologetic; and it should not have been. The accusation that the Sanders campaign has a penchant for violence was ridiculed by Sanders as nonsense. He said that his rallies across the country have been nonviolent and that he condemns any and all forms of violence. He added that violence was perpetrated against his campaign: shots were fired at his campaign office in Nevada, and the apartment complex where his staff were staying was broken into and ransacked.

The establishment media failing to report the root causes of the chaos at the convention is a cop out. Roberta Lange was not an innocent bystander in all this. While the subsequent threats against her via email were not warranted, Lange nevertheless violated the rules of the convention.

Lange and the DNC are as untrustworthy as the establishment media.