Monday, November 13, 2017

How Avi Shlaim moved from two-state solution to one-state solution

from Mondoweiss 11/11/17
Avi Shlaim

Jadaliyya has posted an excellent interview with the British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, in which Shlaim states that he is an “Arab Jew” because he was born in Iraq and describes the long history of Jewish-Muslim coexistence in the Arab world before the rise of Zionism in the 20th century.

Palestinians, Shlaim says, were not the only victims of Zionism.

[T]here are other victims of Zionism—the Jews of the Arab lands. There was a Jewish community in Iraq which had been there for two and a half millennia, and had no wish to leave. It is only because of the rise of nationalism in the twentieth Century that peaceful coexistence was no longer possible.

Shlaim has no faith in Donald Trump’s ability to resolve the conflict. Trump is only listening to Netanyahu. Shlaim points out that President Obama promised to treat Palestinians fairly in Cairo in 2009 and did not follow through at all, but failed to pressure Israel, instead increasing aid. When will U.S. establishment voices begin to echo this truth:

The American-sponsored peace process, which began in 1991 after the Gulf war, is all process and no peace. It is a charade. It is pretence. It is worse than a charade because the peace process gives Israel the cover it needs to pursue its aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.



Shlaim is proud of his Israeli background, including his serving in the Israeli armed forces in the 1960s. He used to be for partition, but today he has given up on the two-state solution. He describes his progress as he observed Israel’s steadfast refusal to allow a Palestinian state.

I was a proponent of a two-state solution for most of my life because there can never be absolute justice for the Palestinians. I believe that the creation of the state of Israel involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians but I don’t want to go a step further and say that Israel should be dismantled in order to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I accept the reality of Israel within its original borders, I accept the legitimacy of Israel within its original pre-1967 borders.

Edward Said described the two communities as two communities of suffering. We have to take into account the tragic history of the Jews as well as the suffering of the Palestinians. The two-state solution seemed to be not a perfect solution but a reasonable solution. The PLO by signing the Oslo Accords gave up the claim to 78 percent of Mandatory Palestine in the hope that they would get an independent Palestinian state on the remaining 22 percent, on the West bank and Gaza. So I supported the two-state solution but Israel under both Labour and Likud governments continued to expand settlements. This is incompatible with a two-state solution.

The settlements represent land-grabbing, and land-grabbing and peace-making don’t go together, it is one or the other. By its actions, if not always in its rhetoric, Israel has opted for land-grabbing and as we speak Israel is expanding settlements. So, Israel has been systematically destroying the basis for a viable Palestinian state and this is the declared objective of the Likud and Netanyahu who used to pretend to accept a two-state solution. In the lead up to the last election, he said there will be no Palestinian state on his watch. The expansion of settlements and the wall mean that there cannot be a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. The most that the Palestinians can hope for is Bantustans, a series of enclaves surrounded by Israeli settlements and Israeli military bases.

So a two-state solution is no longer a viable option and that is why I have become a supporter of the one-state solution, a single state with equal rights for all its citizens. Ideologically, I don’t have any problem with a one-state solution. Ideologically, it is very attractive, it is a noble vision of two communities living in harmony in one space with equal rights for all its members. But, I am not naïve enough to think that the one-state solution is a realistic prospect because there is no support for a one-state solution in Israel. And if pushed really hard I think Israel would withdraw to the wall on the West Bank and annex whatever bits it wants of the West Bank. It would annex the main settlement blocks in Ma’ale Adumim, and the whole area around Jerusalem, and it would do so unilaterally rather than have a one-state so I am not in the least bit optimistic that the one-state solution is a viable proposition. But this is where I stand and I blame Israel for eliminating the alternative of a two-state solution.

Note that the one-state solution is the idealistic alternative, two peoples sharing sovereignty democratically. And if you object that it is not realistic, alright– but neither is two states.

Shlaim also endorses BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, saying that it frightens Israel and it is the only hope Palestinians have of making progress globally.

BDS is a global grass-roots movement which has been gathering support at a very impressive pace and it has had a large number of successes with major companies divesting from Israel. It has also had considerable impact on public opinion throughout the world, delegitimising the Israeli occupation. The Israelis take it very seriously. They have formed a unit with a budget of GBP 40 million in order to fight BDS by launching personal attacks on individuals and delegitimising them rather than engaging with the arguments of BDS. And it seems to me that there is now hope that western governments will change their policy of support for Israel….

So going back to BDS, there is no hope for the Palestinians to bring about the end of occupation through the support of western governments or the UN, the only hope that the Palestinians have is through BDS.

That is not to say that in the foreseeable future BDS could bring about an end of the Israeli occupation. But that is the only hope the Palestinians have of making progress.

It’s amazing that these simple straightforward ideas are not reflected in the U.S. discourse. Though I would say that progressive Americans readily accept these ideas, and that is why the Democratic Party establishment is today running scared of these ideas entering the mainstrea

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Roger Waters Slams Trump and Israel, Lauds BDS and Black Lives Matter at Desert Trip


Donald Trump's face appears on massive video screen above the stage with 'Charade' across it as Waters performs the Pink Floyd song 'Pigs (Three Different Ones).'

The Associated Press Oct 10, 2016 8:16 PM
 

Roger Waters performs at Desert Trip music festival at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California U.S., October 9, 2016.
Mario Anzuoni, Reuters



Roger Waters sets the record straight: I hate apartheid, not Israel


Roger Waters made his feelings about Donald Trump and Israel abundantly clear during a politically-charged performance at the Desert Trip music festival Sunday night.

The 73-year-old singer-songwriter also denounced war and addressed the Black Lives Matter movement in his 2.5-hour set that closed out the three-day classic rock concert in Indio, California.
Waters blasted the Republican presidential candidate in music and images. Trump's face appeared on the massive video screen above the stage with the word "Charade" across it as Waters performed the Pink Floyd song "Pigs (Three Different Ones)." Subsequent images showed Trump wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood.

Meanwhile, a parade-sized balloon shaped like a pig floated above the audience. It had Trump's face painted on the side with the words "Ignorant, lying, racist, sexist pig." And in case that wasn't straightforward enough, giant letters flashed across the big screen reading "Trump is a pig."
Waters followed up with "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," during which 15 school-age children came onstage wearing T-shirts that read, "Derriba el muro" — Spanish for "Take down the wall."
While other Desert Trip performers mentioned the presidential election, Waters was the only one who brought up the Black Lives Matter movement in front of the overwhelmingly white audience. As he performed "Us and Them," the big screen showed pictures of protest signs. "White silence is violence," read one. "I cannot believe I still have to protest this (expletive)," another said.
Waters told the crowd that he's been working with wounded warriors in Washington, D.C., and brought a young American veteran who lost his legs onstage to play lead guitar with the band on "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."

"Working with these men has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life," Waters said. He dedicated the song to all victims of war and violence.
His set also included "Time," ''Money," ''Wish You Were Here" and "Dark Side of the Moon."
The former Pink Floyd frontman waited until near the end of his performance to voice his support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
"I'm going to send out all of my most heartfelt love and support to all those young people on the campuses of the universities of California who are standing up for their brothers and sisters in Palestine and supporting the BDS movement," he said, "in the hope that we may encourage the government of Israel to end the occupation."
Before closing with "Vera" and "Comfortably Numb," Waters told the audience, "It's been a huge honor and a huge pleasure to be here to play for you tonight."

The Who took the stage earlier Sunday and rocked through hits from their discography for just over two hours. Frontman Roger Daltrey grinned and danced with guitarist Pete Townsend, who bantered with the audience.
"We love you for coming to see us," he said, dedicating "The Kids Are Alright" to "the young ones" in the crowd.
The Who's set also included "My Generation," with Daltrey stuttering the vocals just right, "You Better You Bet," ''Eminence Front," ''The Acid Queen" and "Pinball Wizard."
Townsend said "I Can See for Miles" was the band's first hit in the United States, back in 1967.
"Such a long (expletive) time ago," he said with a laugh. "We were 1967's version of Adele or Lady Gaga or Rihanna or Bieber."

It's been 49 years since then, but the rockers maintained their classic sound and trademark moves: Daltrey swung his microphone cord around anytime he wasn't singing, and Townsend exaggerated his windmill move as he strummed.
"Roger and I are so glad to be out here at our age," Townsend said. "And I couldn't do it without Roger."
After seeing Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones on Friday, Neil Young and Paul McCartney on Saturday, concertgoers deemed the event a success. While there were some traffic snarls and shuttle-bus issues on Friday, things smoothed out by Sunday, and many attendees said they'd come to Desert Trip again if they liked the lineup.
Held at the same venue where Coachella takes place each spring, Desert Trip aimed at an older and more moneyed crowd than other music festivals, earning it the nickname "Oldchella."
The event repeats next weekend.


read more: https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/1.746984

Saturday, October 28, 2017

‘A legal shield for the Palestine movement in the U.S.’

from +972
Posted On October 18, 2017

Pro-Israel organizations are increasingly using the law to target Palestinian solidarity groups in the United States. Dima Khalidi, head of Palestine Legal, speaks with +972 Magazine about the ‘Palestine exception’ to free speech, and what her organization is doing to fight back.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of a Kansas public school teacher who, as a condition for taking her job, was required under a new state law to declare that she would not engage in boycotts of Israel. The law is just one in a growing list of measures in recent years aiming to counter the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States.

Political boycotts in the U.S. are meant to be stringently protected under the First Amendment. “The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support,” Esther Koontz, the Kansas teacher, said about her lawsuit.

That’s not necessarily the reality these days, however. “It’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right,” says Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal.

Established in 2012 in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Palestine Legal has been one of the key players holding the frontline against efforts to suppress BDS activity and speech about Palestine across the U.S., from state legislatures to university campuses. Khalidi and her staff responded to 650 such incidents between 2014 and 2016.

Just last month, Palestine Legal responded to false legal threats sent to activists and professors by a group called “Outlaw BDS New York,” which accused them of violating an anti-BDS law that never actually passed the New York State legislature. Along with its legal work, the organization also tracks anti-BDS laws in all 50 states (21 have already enacted such laws) and at the federal level.

I spoke with Khalidi last month about Palestine Legal’s work and to hear her perspective on the various threats to – and signs of hope for – Palestine activism in the U.S., including BDS. The following was edited for length.

Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi (Courtesy photo)
Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi (Photo courtesy of Palestine Legal)
How and why was Palestine Legal created? What compelled the need for its existence?

“The idea started with conversations among lawyers and activists who were thinking about what we could do legally on Palestine in the U.S. This was in the context of largely unsuccessful attempts – including by CCR, where I interned and co-counselled – to seek accountability for Israel’s violations of international law through domestic and international legal mechanisms.

“This was also happening in the context of a rise in Palestine activism after the 2008-2009 Gaza war – a mobilization that we hadn’t seen in decades. And at the same time, there was an escalation in the backlash against that movement: 11 students at the University of California, Irvine were being criminally prosecuted for protesting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., and the Olympia Food Co-op was being sued for passing a resolution to boycott Israeli goods.

“What I kept hearing from people was the need for help: that talking about Palestinian rights, and challenging Israel’s actions and narrative, opened people up to a huge amount of risk, attacks, and harassment – much of it legal in nature, or with legal implications.

“So with the support of a handful of people – including the instrumental vision of the legendary human rights lawyer Michael Ratner, who passed away last year – I established Palestine Legal. Our work is meant to provide a legal shield for the Palestine movement, to protect and expand the space to advocate on this issue. As an organization dedicated to movement lawyering, we don’t consider ourselves part of the movement per se, but as supporting the movement’s efforts to challenge the status quo, whatever their tactics.”

That can be a tricky distinction to make – being part of a movement versus supporting a movement.

“It is a tricky balance. Movement lawyering requires us to recognize that it’s not the lawyers that lead or dictate the movement, even if we personally disagree with their tactics or know they’ll land people into trouble. All our staff are deeply political people with their own activist and personal histories, but we try to step back from that role and focus instead on responding to the legal needs of activists on the ground.”

File photo of a pro-BDS protest outside Target in Chicago. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)
File photo of a pro-BDS protest outside Target in Chicago. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)
Does Palestine Legal only deal with the right to boycott, or does it also address the substantive content or arguments of the BDS movement itself?

“We always go back to why people are motivated to speak out and engage in BDS, which are central to why we have the right to do it. Boycotts are a means for people who don’t necessarily have access to power to take collective action in order to influence change – as was done with the civil rights boycotts, boycotts of apartheid South Africa, and boycotts for farm workers’ rights. The U.S. Supreme Court itself recognized this as a legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment in 1982.

“In this case, the goal of boycotts is to achieve justice, freedom, and equality for Palestinians, who have been continuously dispossessed of their land, livelihoods, dignity, and agency for over seven decades. Those opposed to Palestinian rights try to claim otherwise; so it’s imperative to the legal argument that we return to the key issues that describe the Palestinian experience.”

This isn’t the first time in U.S. history that the right to boycott, or free speech in general, has been suppressed. Why is there still a “Palestine exception” to these rights today? What lessons do you take from the past when dealing with your cases?

“When we talk about the Palestine exception, it’s not to say that it’s the only exception. You can look at the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War, when people were forced to sign loyalty oaths and were subjected to witch hunts and blacklists. The response to that McCarthyist era was an eventual strengthening of First Amendment jurisprudence, which now provides better legal protections against ‘compelled speech,’ for example. This is also true of the Civil Rights era, when states tried to issue new laws to stop certain kinds of protests, and to use existing laws to indict people for boycotting – hence the Supreme Court ruling that recognized political boycotts as a right.

“Still, it’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right. We see all kinds of bogus justifications for strangling Palestine advocacy: it’s anti-Semitism, it’s support for terrorism, it’s propaganda, it’s discriminatory. Our position is to step in and say there’s no exception here. Talking about Palestine is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to protect: it’s a dissenting view from what the vast majority of our politicians and officials espouse, and it is speech that the government most wants to censor, so it must be vigilantly protected.

“Another part of the reason why Palestine feels different is that the attacks pervade all aspects of our lives today. The backlash can be online (look at outfits like Canary Mission, which profile and harass people); from employers (look at Steven Salaita, fired for tweeting critically about Israel’s war on Gaza); from donors; from institutions (look at the students censored or punished at Fordham University, University of California-Berkeley, or at the Missouri History Museum). This is because there are influential domestic groups and individuals that are doing everything in their power to shield Israel from scrutiny on every forum, and to ensure that the U.S. continues to unconditionally support Israel.”

The head of a major Israel advocacy group was quoted in 2016 saying to BDS activists: “While you were doing your campus antics, the grown-ups were in the state legislature passing laws that make your cause improbable.” What do you take from that? Why is more of the anti-BDS backlash today coming in the form of legislation?

“That quote says a lot about the political dynamics in the U.S. On the one hand, you have an intersectional grassroots movement that’s driven by students and youth. On the other hand, you have a well-resourced and well-connected constituency that’s deeply entrenched in state and public institutions. The way that Israel lobby groups are successful in pushing such blatantly unconstitutional laws, and the way university heads face (and often succumb to) pressure from advocacy groups, alumni, donors, and state officials, further illustrates this top-down approach.

“There’s a growing and visible alliance between Zionist groups in the U.S., the right-wing Israeli government, and far right groups in the US. They believe that they can dictate the discourse on Israel-Palestine, and get around the First Amendment problem, by pandering to Islamophobic sentiment; by conflating nonviolent resistance with terrorism; and by undermining the motivation and rights of the entire Palestine movement. Even many in the Democratic Party and self-described “progressives” blindly support these agendas.

“At the same time, we’re seeing groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) offering different paths. There’s an enormous pushback to the more established right-wing Jewish organizations – and that’s exciting. But at the moment, those organizations still have the ability to drive the narrative from above. We have a long way to go; but in the long run, it’ll become untenable to ignore a powerful and growing grassroots movement.”

In Israel we have an anti-boycott civil law and now another law to deny entry to foreigners who partake in BDS. The right wing seems to think that legislation is an effective way to achieve its goals.

“Indeed. Dissent becomes the exception the more authoritarian the regime is, and we see signs of this in both the U.S. and Israel as forms of protest are being punished. It’s also telling that the language in Israeli laws is showing up in anti-BDS legislation in the U.S., such as the phrase ‘Israeli-controlled territory’ to refer to West Bank settlements. It just goes to show that we’re dealing with the same forces – and ultimately, that translates into advocating for those same things domestically. How can you be for equality in the U.S. when you defend Israel’s discriminatory laws and apartheid policies? It doesn’t add up.”

Anti-Semitism is routinely charged against Palestine activism. How do you address those accusations?

“We’ve had success with this legally on some levels. One of the tactics advanced by pro-Israel groups is to codify a redefinition of anti-Semitism which encompasses the ‘three D’s’: delegitimization, demonization, and double standards toward Israel. You can imagine that any and all criticism of Israel can basically fall into those three categories. But when these things go to court or even government agencies, a clear distinction is made between discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin, versus criticism of states and state actions.

“For example, the U.S. Education Department received complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, claiming that universities are tolerating hostile anti-Semitic activities by allowing groups and events that criticize Israel. The Education Department dismissed the complaints and said that this is political speech, and that just because it might be offensive to some, it doesn’t mean that it’s harassment or discrimination.

“Moreover, the vast majority of Palestine advocates are unequivocal about their opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. When we put these matters in the context not only of free expression, but also that the Palestine movement opposes all forms of oppression – that’s when we’re able to make the most impact.”

File photo of a pro-Palestine rally in downtown Boston. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)
File photo of a pro-Palestine rally in downtown Boston. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)
Do all the attacks feel coordinated or concerted?

“Undoubtedly. We see the same two dozen Israel advocacy groups engaging in the same tactics around the country, accusing activists of being threatening, violent, and anti-Semitic for engaging in Palestine activism.

“But it’s also clear that not all those groups agree on tactics. Some, like David Horowitz and Canary Mission, who publicly name and blacklist Palestinian rights advocates as ‘Jew-haters’ and ‘terrorist-supporters,’ are seen as going beyond the pale even among Zionist groups that actively engage in suppression in other ways. There are also disagreements about pursuing anti-BDS legislation, and about imposing the new definition of anti-Semitism mentioned earlier.

“But ultimately, the more ‘extreme’ tactics serve the same purpose as the others: they want to make it so costly to engage in Palestine advocacy that people just become exhausted, give up, and stay silent. I don’t think these tactics are going to work: more and more people are seeing that they can be successfully challenged, more people are learning about the horrors of Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and more people are refusing to stay silent about those policies and the U.S.’s role in enabling them.”

The ACLU recently came out in defense of the right to boycott Israel. How do you reach out to audiences that aren’t your conventional supporters, including those in the American mainstream?

“Palestine is still a lightning rod and there’s still a reluctance to come out on this issue. That said, the more egregious the measures against Palestine advocacy, and the more they attack our fundamental freedoms, the more we see the likes of ACLU being compelled to speak up – even though they still claim neutrality on the underlying political and human rights issues. We’ve worked in several states with ACLU chapters and other groups that typically wouldn’t be willing to step up publicly on these matters, and we’re now seeing them do so because of what’s at stake.

“Steven Salaita’s case is an example of this: when he was fired for tweeting about the 2014 Gaza war, it sent shock waves across academia. Thousands of professors around the U.S. pledged to boycott the university, and a dozen departments voted no confidence in the chancellor. That’s when you see more people being willing to step into the fray, saying that this is dangerous beyond just the matter of Palestine advocacy — that this threatens all our basic rights to dissent and to debate the most important issues of our time.”

What are your thoughts on the future of your work, and on Palestine advocacy in the U.S. in general? What new strategies are you considering?

“We feel like we’ve been on the defensive and putting out a lot of fires over the last five years, which also seem to be coming faster and faster. There’s no doubt that we’ll continue to help those who are under attack; but we’re also thinking about more proactive ways to tackle some of these issues.

“Our lawsuit with CCR against Fordham University – which refused to grant club status to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) because some considered their views too “polarizing”– is an example. The attack on SJP aims to make Palestine activism so radioactive that universities won’t even allow such student groups to form – so it’s crucial that we prevent this from happening. We have a long way to go in enshrining a new narrative that views Palestine advocates as forces for freedom and justice, and their advocacy as protected political expression – but we’re on our way.

“Regarding legislation, our role is to explain to activists and the public what these laws do and don’t do. This is important because one of the main purposes of the legislation is to make people believe that Palestine advocacy is prohibited or criminalized – and that really isn’t the case with most of these laws. So it’s critical to make sure that activists aren’t scared off from their work, but instead feel empowered to confront its challenges.

“There’s also no question that grassroots mobilization has been successful in impacting the political arena, though we hear less about it. Look at the failure of legislative initiatives in states like Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland, and Montana. These victories are because of groups like the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Muslims for Palestine, JVP, church groups, and the US Palestinian Community Network. Anti-BDS measures have ultimately strengthened the networks of Palestine advocates across the country, and these coalitions outlast the lifespan of a bill. We believe that the power of these grassroots movements is what will effect change – and that’s what Palestine Legal aims to bolster.”

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

rip Fats Domino

Photo

Mr. Domino performing in 2007 on NBC’s “Today” show. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press
Fats Domino, the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer whose two-fisted boogie-woogie piano and nonchalant vocals, heard on dozens of hits, made him one of the biggest stars of the early rock ’n’ roll era, has died at his home in Louisiana. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his brother-in-law and former road manager Reggie Hall, who had no other details. Mr. Domino lived in Harvey, La., just outside New Orleans.

Mr. Domino had more than three dozen Top 40 pop hits through the 1950s and early ’60s, among them “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t It a Shame,” “I’m Walkin’,” “Blue Monday” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans.” Throughout he displayed both the buoyant spirit of New Orleans, his hometown, and a droll resilience that reached listeners worldwide.

He sold 65 million singles in those years, with 23 gold records, making him second only to Elvis Presley as a commercial force. Presley acknowledged Mr. Domino as a predecessor.

“A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Presley told Jet magazine in 1957. “But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that music like colored people. Let’s face it: I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”

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John L 7 minutes ago
Oh no, not Fats...ain't that a shame...thanks for the melodies, often sweet and hot in one.RIP
cheryl 9 minutes ago
He's the kind that never wears out!
Sally 44 minutes ago
True blue. Heart songs. Soul rhythms. Thanks Mr. Fats Domino. RIP.
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Short and rotund, with a big, infectious grin and a love for ornate, jewel-encrusted rings, Mr. Domino was an easygoing performer; even in plaintive songs his voice had a smile in it. And he was a master of the wordless vocal, making hits out of songs full of “woo-woo”s and “la-la”s.

Working with the songwriter, producer and arranger David Bartholomew, Mr. Domino and his band carried New Orleans parade rhythms into rock ’n’ roll and put a local stamp on nearly everything they touched, even country tunes like “Jambalaya” or big-band songs like “My Blue Heaven” and “When My Dreamboat Comes Home.”

Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. was born on Feb. 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children in a family with Creole roots. He grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he spent most of his life.

Music filled his life from the age of 10, when his family inherited an old piano. After his brother-in-law Harrison Verrett, a traditional-jazz musician, wrote down the notes on the keys and taught him a few chords, Antoine threw himself at the instrument — so enthusiastically that his parents moved it to the garage.

He was almost entirely self-taught, picking up ideas from boogie-woogie masters like Meade Lux Lewis, Pinetop Smith and Amos Milburn. “Back then I used to play everybody’s records; everybody’s records who made records,” he told Offbeat magazine in 2004. “I used to hear ’em, listen at ’em five, six, seven, eight times and I could play it just like the record because I had a good ear for catchin’ notes and different things.”

He attended the Louis B. Macarty School but dropped out in the fourth grade to work as an iceman’s helper. “In the houses where people had a piano in their rooms, I’d stop and play,” he told USA Today in 2007. “That’s how I practiced.”

In his teens, he started working at a club called the Hideaway with a band led by the bassist Billy Diamond, who nicknamed him Fats. Mr. Domino soon became the band’s frontman and a local draw.

“Fats was breaking up the place, man,” Mr. Bartholomew told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2010. “He was singing and playing the piano and carrying on. Everyone was having a good time. When you saw Fats Domino, it was: ‘Let’s have a party!’ ”

He added: “My first impression was a lasting impression. He was a great singer. He was a great artist. And whatever he was doing, nobody could beat him.”

In 1947 Mr. Domino married Rosemary Hall, and they had eight children, Antoine III, Anatole, Andre, Anonio, Antoinette, Andrea, Anola and Adonica. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

In 1949 Mr. Bartholomew brought Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records in Los Angeles, to the Hideaway. Mr. Chudd signed Mr. Domino on the spot, with a contract, unusual for the time, that paid royalties rather than a one-time purchase of songs.

Immediately, Mr. Domino and Mr. Bartholomew wrote “The Fat Man,” a cleaned-up version of a song about drug addiction called “Junkers Blues,” and recorded it with Mr. Bartholomew’s studio band. By 1951 it had sold a million copies.

Mr. Domino’s trademark triplets, picked up from “It’s Midnight,” a 1949 record by the boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield, appeared on his next rhythm-and-blues hit, “Every Night About This Time.” The technique spread like wildfire, becoming a virtual requirement for rock ’n’ roll ballads.

“Fats made it popular,” Mr. Bartholomew told Rick Coleman, the author of “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ’n’ Roll” (2006). “Then it was on every record.”

Photo

Fats Domino in 1956. Credit Associated Press
In 1952, on a chance visit to Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio in New Orleans, Mr. Domino was asked to help out on a recording by a nervous teenager named Lloyd Price. Sitting in with Mr. Bartholomew’s band, he came up with the memorable piano part for “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” an early rhythm-and-blues record to cross over into the pop charts.

Through the early 1950s Mr. Domino turned out a stream of hits, taking up what seemed like permanent residence in the upper reaches of the R&B charts. His records began crossing over into the pop charts as well.

In that racially segregated era, white performers used his hits to build their careers. In 1955, “Ain’t It a Shame” became a No. 1 hit for Pat Boone as “Ain’t That a Shame,” while Mr. Domino’s arrangement of a traditional song, “Bo Weevil,” was imitated by Teresa Brewer.

Mr. Domino’s appeal to white teenagers broadened as he embarked on national tours and appeared with mixed-race rock ’n’ roll revues like the Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars, presented by the disc jockey Alan Freed at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Appearances on national television, on Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan’s shows, put him in millions of living rooms.

He did not flaunt his status as an innovator, or as an architect of a powerful cultural movement.

“Fats, how did this rock ’n’ roll all get started anyway?” an interviewer for a Hearst newsreel asked him in 1957. Mr. Domino answered: “Well, what they call rock ’n’ roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans.”

At a news conference in Las Vegas in 1969, after resuming his performing career, Elvis Presley interrupted a reporter who had called him “the king.” He pointed to Mr. Domino, who was in the room, and said, “There’s the real king of rock ’n’ roll.”

Mr. Domino had his biggest hit in 1956 with his version of “Blueberry Hill,” a song that had been recorded by Glenn Miller’s big band in 1940. It peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts and sold a reported three million copies.

“I liked that record ’cause I heard it by Louis Armstrong and I said, ‘That number gonna fit me,’ ” he told Offbeat. “We had to beg Lew Chudd for a while. I told him I wasn’t gonna make no more records till they put that record out. I could feel it, that it was a hit, a good record.”

He followed with two more Top Five pop hits: “Blue Monday” and “I’m Walkin’,” which outsold the version recorded by Ricky Nelson.

“I was lucky enough to write songs that carry a good beat and tell a real story that people could feel was their story, too — something that old people or the kids could both enjoy,” Mr. Domino told The Los Angeles Times in 1985.

Mr. Domino performed in 1950s movies like “Shake, Rattle and Rock,” “The Big Beat” (for which he and Mr. Bartholomew wrote the title song) and “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In 1957, he toured for three months with Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, the Moonglows and others.

Well into the early 1960s, Mr. Domino continued to reach both the pop and rhythm-and-blues charts with songs like “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” “I’m Ready,” “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” “Be My Guest,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans” and “My Girl Josephine.”

He toured Europe for the first time in 1962 and met the Beatles in Liverpool, before they were famous. His contract with Imperial ended in 1963, and he went on to record for ABC-Paramount, Mercury, Broadmoor, Reprise and other labels.

His last appearance in the pop Top 100 was in 1968, with a version of “Lady Madonna,” the Beatles song that had been inspired by Mr. Domino’s piano-pounding style. In 1982, he had a country hit with “Whiskey Heaven.”

Although he was no longer a pop sensation, Mr. Domino continued to perform worldwide and appeared for 10 months a year in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s. On tour, he would bring his own pots and pans so he could cook.

His life on the road ended in the early 1980s, when he decided that he did not want to leave New Orleans, saying it was the only place where he liked the food.

He went on to perform regularly at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and in 1987 Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles joined him for a Cinemax special, “Fats Domino and Friends.” He released a holiday album, “Christmas Is a Special Day,” in 1993.

Reclusive and notoriously resistant to interview requests, Mr. Domino stayed home even when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 as one of its first members. He did the same when he received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1987. In 1999, when he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, he sent his daughter Antoinette to the White House to pick up the prize.


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COMMENTS
But he was often seen around New Orleans, emerging from his pink-roofed mansion in the Ninth Ward driving a pink Cadillac. “I just drink my little beers, do some cookin’, anything I feel like ” he told The Daily Telegraph of London in 2007, describing his retirement.

In 1953, in Down Beat magazine, the Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler made a bold-sounding prediction that turned out to be, in retrospect, quite timid. “Can’t you envision a collector in 1993 discovering a Fats Domino record in a Salvation Army Depot and rushing home to put it on the turntable?” he wrote. “We can. It’s good blues, it’s good jazz, and it’s the kind of good that never wears out.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.lign: left;" trbidi="on">

Friday, October 20, 2017

What Is Behind the Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation?



By Ramzy Baroud
Egypt's enthusiasm to arbitrate between feuding Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, is not the outcome of a sudden awakening of conscience. Cairo has, in fact, played a destructive role in manipulating Palestinian division to its favor, while keeping the Rafah border crossing under lock and key.
However, the Egyptian leadership is clearly operating in coordination with Israel and the United States. While the language emanating from Tel Aviv and Washington is quite guarded regarding the ongoing talks between the two Palestinian parties, if read carefully, their political discourse is not entirely dismissive of the possibility of having Hamas join a unity government under Mahmoud Abbas' direction.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments in early October validate this assertion. He did not categorically reject a Hamas-Fatah government, but demanded, according to the Times of Israel, that "any future Palestinian government must disband the terror organization's (Hamas') armed wing, sever all ties with Iran and recognize the State of Israel."
Egyptian President, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, too, would like to see a weaker Hamas, a marginalized Iran and an agreement that puts Egypt back at the center of Middle East diplomacy.
Under the auspices of the Egyptian dictator, Egypt's once central role in the region's affairs has faded into a marginal one.
But the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is giving el-Sisi a window of opportunity to rebrand his country's image which has, in recent years, been tarnished by brutal crackdowns on his country's opposition and his miscalculated military interventions in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.
In September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly conference in New York, el-Sisi met Netanyahu publicly for the first time. The exact nature of their talks was never fully revealed, although media reportspointed that the Egyptian leader has attempted to sway Netanyahu into accepting a Hamas-Fatah unity deal.
In his speech at the UNGA, el-Sisi also made a passionate, impromptu appeal for peace. He spoke of an 'opportunity' that must be used to achieve the coveted Middle East peace agreement and called on US President Donald Trump to "write a new page of history of mankind" by taking advantage of that supposed opportunity.
It is difficult to imagine that el-Sisi, with limited influence and sway over Israel and the US, is capable of, single-handedly, creating the needed political environment for reconciliation between Palestinian factions.
Several such attempts have been tried, but failed in the past, most notably in 2011 and in 2014. As early as 2006, though, the George W. Bush Administration forbade any such reconciliation, using threats and withholding of funds to ensure Palestinians remained divided. The Barack Obama Administration followed suit, ensuring Gaza's isolation and Palestinian division, while it also supported Israel's policies in this regard.
Unlike previous administrations, Donald Trump has kept expectations regarding the brokering of a peace agreement low. However, from the outset, he took Israel's side, promised to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and appointed a hardliner, David Friedman, a Zionist par-excellence, as US ambassador to Israel.
No doubt, last June, Trump signed a temporary order to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv, disappointing many of his pro-Israel fans, but the move is by no means an indication of a serious change of policies.
"I want to give that (a plan for peace) a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem," Trump said in a televised interview recently. "If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it'll lead to ultimate peace in the Middle East, which has to happen."
Judging by historical precedents, it is quite obvious that Israel and the US have given a green light to Palestinian reconciliation with a clear objective in mind. For its part, Israel wants to see Hamas break away from Iran and abandon armed resistance, while the US wants to get 'a shot' at playing politics in the region, with Israeli interests being paramount to any outcome.
Egypt, being the recipient of generous US military aid, is the natural conduit to guide the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation component of the new strategy.
What strongly suggests that powerful players are behind the reconciliation efforts is how smooth the entire process has been so far, in complete contrast with years of failed efforts and repeated agreements with disappointing outcomes.
What primarily seemed like another futile round of talks hosted by Egypt, was soon followed by more: first, an initial understanding, followed by a Hamas agreement to dissolve its administrative committee that it formed to manage Gaza's affairs; then, a successful visit by the National Consensus Government to Gaza and, finally, an endorsement of the terms of national reconciliation by the two most powerful Fatah bodies: The Fatah Revolutionary Council and the Central Committee.
Since Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority (PA), the latter endorsementadvocated by Mahmoud Abbas was an important milestone needed to push the process forward, as both Hamas and Fatah readied themselves for more consequential talks in Cairo.
Unlike previous agreements, the current one will allow Hamas to actively participate in the new unity government. Top Hamas official, Salah Bardawil confirmed this in a statement. However, Bardawil also insisted that Hamas will not lay down its arms, and resistance to Israel is not negotiable.
US-Israel-Egyptian power play aside, this is, indeed, the crux of the matter. Understandably, Palestinians are keen to achieve national unity, but that unity must be predicated on principles that are far more important than the self-serving interests of political parties.
Moreover, speaking of - or even achieving - unity without addressing the travesties of the past, and without agreeing on a national liberation strategy for the future in which resistance is the foundation, the Hamas-Fatah unity government will prove as insignificant as all other governments, which operated with no real sovereignty and, at best, questionable popular mandates.
Worse still, if the unity is guided by tacit US support, an Israeli nod and an Egyptian self-serving agenda, one can expect that the outcome would be the furthest possible one from the true aspirations of the Palestinian people, who remain unimpressed by the imprudence of their leaders.
While Israel invested years in maintaining the Palestinian rift, Palestinian factions remained blinded by pitiful personal interests and worthless "control" over a militarily occupied land.
It should be made clear that any unity agreement that pays heed to the interest of factions at the expense of the collective good of the Palestinian people is a sham; even if it initially 'succeeds', in the long term it will fail, since Palestine is bigger than any individual, faction or a regional power seeking Israel's validation and US handouts.
- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is 'The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story' (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

How Gore, Kerry and Clinton Put Trump in Office



OCT 11, 2017TD ORIGINALS
How Gore, Kerry and Clinton Put Trump in Office

Amidst the hellish chaos of the Donald Trump catastrophe, it’s more essential than ever to understand how he got into the White House and who put him there. Then we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

In her recent blame-everybody-else-while-doing-nothing screed, “What Happened,” Hillary Clinton fingers James Comey, the Russians and Bernie Sanders.

But, in fact, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry put this madman in office.

This trio of multi-millionaire corporate Democrats won the presidential races of 2000, 2004 and 2016. Then they lay down, said hardly a word and did even less as they let George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump rule the land.

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All three presidencies were stolen by stripping large numbers of black, Hispanic, Asian-American and young citizens from the voter rolls, and then electronically flipping the vote count. In 2000 and 2016, the thefts were finalized by the Electoral College.

Along the way, the United States House, Senate and a thousand state, federal and local offices also have been flipped. The Supreme Court has come along for the ride.

The impacts—eight years of George W. Bush and an eternity of Donald Trump—have been somewhere between catastrophic and apocalyptic.

We will recover only if we do what the corporate Democrats have not: Face up to how our entire electoral system has been become a sham and then change it.

Let’s start with Al Gore and Florida 2000.

In 2000, Gore was duly elected president of the United States. He won the popular vote nationwide by more than 500,000 ballots. Later, independent assessments showed he rightfully won Florida, which would have given him a majority in the Electoral College.

Officially, Gore lost Florida by 537 votes. In its infamous 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision, the Supreme Court stopped the recount that might have given Gore the presidency. The deciding vote was cast by Clarence Thomas. Gore, as a U.S. senator, had voted to put him on the bench.

But then-Gov. Jeb Bush, George’s brother and son of the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, actually prevented the legitimate citizen votes that would have won Gore the presidency. In shifting Florida from Gore to George W. Bush, Jeb Bush used a wide array of strategies perfected by their father at the CIA for overthrowing Third World regimes that American corporate interests deemed inconvenient. Florida 2000 was the logical follow-up.

As Greg Palast reported, Jeb used the ChoicePoint computer program to strip some 90,000 mostly black and Hispanic citizens from the voter rolls. As reported by activist Bev Harris, some 20,000 votes were electronically bounced around in Volusia County and elsewhere. At critical points on election night, they kept Bush2’s chances alive.

About 50,000 votes were tallied for the great consumer activist Ralph Nader in Florida 2000. Corporate Democrats still scream at him for daring to run at all. That pubic assault has shifted the focus away from how the election was actually stolen while undercutting America’s most effective corporate critic. In the perennial war waged by corporate Democrats against social democrats, this has been the new millennium’s centerpiece.

But had Nader not run, and had all who voted for him tried to vote for Gore, Bush still would have become president. With computerized stripping of the voter rolls, and electronic flipping of the vote count, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris showed that a governor and secretary of state can take any reasonably close statewide vote and engineer whatever outcome they want.

Until very recently, Al Gore never publicly challenged the existence of the Electoral College, which was originally formed in part to empower slave owners. He was the fifth presidential candidate to rightfully win an election but lose the White House.

After 17 years, Gore still has not confronted publicly the issue of Jeb Bush’s stripping the voter registration rolls or flipping the electronic vote count. Gore has never used his considerable public persona or immense personal wealth to open a public dialog about that election’s corrupted outcome—or to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Indeed, while presiding over the U.S. Senate as vice president, Gore crushed a legitimate challenge to Florida’s stolen Electoral College delegation that put the GOP in the White House.

Gore has since got a Nobel Prize for his work on climate change. But his actions were the first inconvenient steps to a Trump administration now making climate chaos infinitely worse.

Four years later, John Kerry followed suit.

In Ohio 2004—as in Florida 2000—the voter rolls were stripped and the electronic vote count flipped. This time, the prime perpetrator was GOP Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, today a member of Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Working with Bush2, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, Ohio’s first African-American secretary of state unleashed a veritable barrage dirty tricks to take the Buckeye State—and the presidency—away from John Kerry.

In Democratic urban strongholds and college towns, precincts were riddled with chaos that was distinctly lacking in rural Republican regions. Incorrect addresses were posted on the state’s official website, and polling stations were shorted on voting machines. While Blackwell spread confusion about the weight of the paper stock required for ballots, he refused to send usable ones to precincts short on voting machines. As a result, thousands of Ohioans—many students and people of color—simply could not vote.

Official letters were also sent to “ex-felons” threatening criminal prosecution if they dared to vote, even though ex-felons can legally vote in Ohio and many who were threatened weren’t ex-felons anyway. At least 300,000 citizens were stripped from the voter rolls, nearly all in heavily Democratic urban areas. Some absentee ballots in southern Ohio were sent out missing Kerry’s name.

In some Democratic strongholds, voters who pressed Kerry’s name on touchscreen machines saw Bush’s name light up. Some who chose Kerry saw that their choice had disappeared by the time they got to the end of the ballot.

There was much, much more, which Bob Fitrakis and I have documented in “How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election,” at freepress.org.

On Election Day, Bush and Rove made one trip out of Washington, D.C.—to check in with Blackwell. They made no public appearances and didn’t bother with Ohio’s GOP governor, Bob Taft.

At 12:20 on election night, despite mass chaos and huge lines (up to five hours long) in Democratic precincts, CNN showed John Kerry winning Ohio—and thus the presidency—by 4.2 percent of the vote. The projected margin was well over 200,000 ballots.

Somehow, a “glitch” stopped the tally. The “problem” was in a server in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the email accounts of Karl Rove and the national Republican Party also resided. They were all managed by Michael Connell, a Bush family high-tech consultant running Ohio’s vote count under a no-bid contract from Blackwell. [Editor’s note: Connell died in a small plane crash in Ohio in 2008, after recently being subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit alleging vote rigging in the 2004 Ohio election.]

When the flow resumed at 2 a.m., all was flipped. Bush somehow won by 2.5 percent—a 6.7 percent shift. Scholars such as Ron Baiman deemed this change a “virtual statistical impossibility.” Bush’s Blackwell-approved Ohio margin was a beyond-improbable 118,000-plus votes, much of it from three southwestern counties riddled with chaos.

Kerry’s staff was thoroughly briefed on the likely fraud. At noon the next day, with 250,000 votes still uncounted, Kerry conceded. Then he went windsurfing.

Kerry has yet to say a public word about what happened in Ohio 2004, or in other states that year where election theft was blatantly obvious. The fraudulent tactics the GOP “test marketed” in 2004 have been used full force right through the “Trump triumph” of 2016, flipping an untold number of critical elections along the way.

Like Gore and Kerry in 2000 and 2004, Hillary Clinton was the designated winner in 2016. And like them both, she has said and done nothing about the third theft of the U.S. presidency in the first five presidential elections of the new millennium.

Clinton won the national popular vote by at least 2.9 million, despite a massive Jim Crow vote-stripping fraud perpetrated by GOP governors and secretaries of state in about 30 states. Parallel to ChoicePoint in Florida 2000, they used a program called Interstate Crosscheck, spread by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. As reported by Greg Palast, Crosscheck stripped voter rolls on the pretext that citizens were double-registered, even if their names did not match from one state to the other.

Palast estimates that at least 1 million voters were denied their ballots in this way, most of them likely Clinton voters who were black, Hispanic, Asian-American, Muslim and young. As featured in Palast’s book and movie “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” Kobach chairs the White House commission aimed at stripping registration rolls in upcoming elections. Clinton mentions Kobach briefly in “What Happened,” but offers no meaningful discussion of how his Jim Crow disenfranchisement campaign might have turned the 2016 outcome—or how to prevent it from happening again.

Clinton also briefly mentions the Electoral College that cost her the White House, but—like Gore and Kerry—gives no indication she plans to do anything significant about abolishing it.

She also fails to explore the fact that she won the exit polls in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—more than enough to give her an Electoral College victory. In all those states, the official vote count was deeply tainted with massive registration stripping and widespread electronic flipping.

But she harshly assaults Green candidate Jill Stein, echoing Democrat party-line attacks on Nader.

Trump’s total alleged margin in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania was under 100,000. As in Florida 2000, Clinton counts Stein’s votes and complains that had they all gone to her, she could have won.

But she never mentions that she stiffed Stein’s attempts to investigate the obvious fraud in all three states. As Palast has reported, more than enough Wisconsin voters were stripped from the registration rolls using new photo ID requirements to flip that key state to Clinton. In lawsuits filed on behalf of the Stein campaign, Bob Fitrakis has established that Wisconsin also failed to provide transparent electronic voting machine source codes, as required by law.

In Michigan, where Clinton allegedly lost by about 10,000 votes, some 70,000 ballots were recorded without a presidential preference. In the face of obvious manipulation, Clinton has never questioned the absurd presumption that tens of thousands of Democratic voters in Detroit and Flint would slog through long lines and official abuse to cast ballots without marking a choice for chief executive.

In fact, Clinton killed Stein’s attempt to force a recount in Michigan. When a judge ruled Stein lacked standing, but that Clinton had it, Clinton’s lawyers refused to support the recount. They also stonewalled Stein’s investigations in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

None of this is mentioned in “What Happened” or in Clinton’s public appearances. The candidate who rightfully won the 2016 election never mentions the obvious stripping and flipping that defined her losses in the three states that put Trump in the White House. Like Gore and Kerry, she has never indicated anywhere that she intends to do anything to stop this from happening again.

Clinton does, however, famously attack former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians for allegedly derailing her campaign at crucial moments.

Comey’s announcement of an investigation of her emails did, in fact, put a crimp in Clinton’s campaign. She still won the popular vote and the exit polls in the five key states that could have won her the Electoral College.

The Russians may or may not have hacked our electronic voting machines. But it’s abundantly clear, 17 years after Florida 2000, that those machines can be hacked with ridiculous ease, and that the likeliest culprits will always be local officials whose access is universal, quick and predictable.

The Russians may or may not have also released emails showing that Clinton’s cronies on the Democratic National Committee wrongfully sabotaged the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Again and again, Clinton contemptuously assaults Sanders for his allegedly lukewarm support of her candidacy. But she completely ignores the massive grass-roots social democratic uprising that continues to make him America’s most popular politician.

Instead, she locked up her boring, uninspired candidacy behind the mighty fortress of corporate Democrats who seem to fear the social/green democrats to whom the party must ultimately belong if it’s ever again to take power. She let her personal hatred of Vladimir Putin convince even many of her followers that she might well spark a new Cold War with Russia.

Thus, she still misses and disses the activist nation that nominated Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, helped him survive the GOP’s strip-and-flip assaults, and thus escape the Electoral College death trap.

In 2016 the grass-roots “Hope and Change” tidal wave segued into the “Sandernista” uprising. It became the most powerful grass-roots movement for eco-social democracy in modern U.S. history. The latest incarnation is now in a desperate struggle to take the Democratic Party back from the “Clintonista” corporate elite that has gutted it. Its agenda is to turn the party into a force for peace, social justice and ecological sanity that can actually win elections.

Had Clinton lowered herself to embrace it, she might well have overcome a thoroughly corrupted electoral system and kept Trump out of the White House.

But as of now, there is no indication that either she, Al Gore or John Kerry are awake to the power of that movement, or to the need to confront an electoral system that strips millions of citizens from its registration rolls, flips electronic vote counts, and has used the Electoral College twice in this century to elect the likes of Bush and Trump as president.

With the corrupt remnants of the Clintons’ corporate-owned Democratic Leadership Council (which Hillary praises in “What Happened”) still in control of the party machinery, more than a thousand federal, state and local offices have slipped to the Republicans since 2000. Much of that clearly stems from grass-roots disgust with a party run by a dull, tone-deaf corporate cabal whose agenda on war, trade, welfare and more, is often indistinguishable from that of the GOP.

But much also has to do with the death grip Republican governors and secretaries of state have on the electoral apparatus. In 2016 and 2018, six U.S. Senate seats went to Republican candidates who lost in the exit polls, a virtual statistical impossibility. With those races went control of the upper House—and the Supreme Court.

Trump’s federal commission on “voter fraud,” headed by Kobach, with Blackwell by his side, is escalating the Jim Crow assault on our voter rolls. Easily hacked electronic voting machines guarantee flipped outcomes. The Electoral College still lets small red states deny the duly elected presidential candidates rightful access to the White House.

The reforms we need to our electoral apparatus include universal automatic voter registration, transparent poll books to guarantee duly registered citizens can actually vote, a four-day holiday for voting, easily accessible polling stations, and, above all, universal hand-counted paper ballots, to stay where they are cast in translucent containers with clear chain of custody until they can be tallied in full daylight, with open national oversight.

We also need an end to gerrymandering, the death of the Electoral College and an end to corporate money in campaigns.

All this seems beneath the corporate Democrats. But without such reforms, it’s a sad illusion that the Congress can be retaken in 2018, or that the GOP rampage through state and local legislatures can be reversed.

As for 2020, with the current electoral claptrap, a progressive presidency is almost certainly out of reach.

It will be up to the grass-roots sequel to the Sandernista movement to end this nightmare.

If “What Happened” and their timid inaction are any indicator, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore still don’t get it. That they opened the door for Donald Trump will be their most profound collective legacy.

“Truth!” shouts Jack Nicholson at the end of the legendary film “A Few Good Men.” “You can’t handle the truth!”

Until they can, these three biggest losers—and their moribund corporate Democrats—are destined for the scrap heap of history.

The sooner, t

Friday, October 13, 2017

Anti-blackness and the core logic of Zionism

from mondoweiss
Devyn Springer on October 12, 2017

Students for Justice in Palestine and the African Students’ Association at John Jay College in collaboration with Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter and City Colleges and CUNY RSCC hold a Die-In/Vigil in solidarity from Ferguson to Palestine as racism, injustice and human rights violations are being committed against people of color. (Photo: John Jay SJP)


In 2012, Pulitzer Prize winning Black author, Alice Walker, came under fire by Zionists when she refused to allow her internationally acclaimed book The Color Purple be translated, published, and sold by an Israeli publishing company. When asked about her decision, Walker compared what she’d seen on her multiple trips to Palestine to the Jim Crow south that she grew up in, stating, “the unfairness of it is so much like the South. It’s so much like the South of 50 years ago, really, and actually more brutal, because in Palestine so many more people are wounded, shot, killed, imprisoned.” Following this decision and her statements, outrage flowed as the Anti-Defamation League and other Israeli-backed organizations issued a statements against her. Several journalists, including Alan Dershowitz, referred to her as “bigoted,” and compared her choice to use her book to support the BDS cultural boycott to “the moral and legal equivalent of neo-Nazi author David Duke disallowing his books to be sold to Black and Jewish readers.”

The underlying assumption in the overwhelmingly angry responses to Walker’s decision to support BDS were ironically simple: she is ignorant, and doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Lambasted by writers and pro-Israel activists alike, the common notion dwelling underneath the responses and critiques is the assumption of Black people’s ignorance, inferiority, and lack ability to relate to Palestinians. By invoking the notion of the Jim Crow era South as a proper comparison for Israeli apartheid, Walker is making a concise comparison on violence: state violence and structured violence. During Jim Crow, much like Palestine, Walker describes having to use different walking paths than white citizens, not being allowed in certain stores and restaurants, and segregation as an extension of structured violence. Along with this similarity, we know that Jim Crow was a time of extreme police brutality and police presence, a condition easily related to the experiences of Palestinians under constant threat of violence from Israel’s military occupation.

Then once again, in 2016 and 2017, we have watched as a new wave of high profile Black leaders have come under fire for their choices to support the BDS movement. Most notably, rappers Princess Nokia and Lauryn Hill, and several NFL players cancelling tour dates within Israel. Following an open letter cosigned by several activists including Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Marc Lamont Hill, Alicia Garza, and Jasiri X, NFL players announced they refused to go on the propaganda tour of Israel. Noting Apartheid violence, segregation, and propaganda manipulation as some of these reasons, one football player stated he wants to “see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives. I want to be a voice for the voiceless, and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.”

Much like what occurred with Alice Walker’s high profile support of BDS, the NFL players were met with harsh criticism and, unsurprisingly, the assumption of ignorance as a basis for their refusal of participation. Atlanta Jewish Times writer Michael Jacobs called the open letter to the NFL players rife with “emphasizing false parallels between Palestinians and black Americans.” He then continues to use coded language with purpose of insinuating ignorance, stating that several of the NFL players “fell for” the “anti-Israel propaganda.” What about their decision assumes they they “fell for” anything, rather they learned and were educated on the human rights violations of Israel, and the collectives struggles Palestinians and Black Americans similarly face, and made their own decision to pull out of the trip.

What we see is a clear pattern, whether it is local rabbis blasting Black Lives Matter activists as “ignorant” for including support of BDS in their demands, Zionist white feminists attacking the women’s movement for standing against Zionism, or the coded language against Alice Walker and NFL players that assumes they simply ‘don’t know what they’re talking about.’ The pattern is the use of anti-Black rhetoric and, in turn, anti-Blackness in whole, to perpetuate the assumption of Black ignorance to silence and belittle Black BDS advocates.

The idea that Black people, particularly Black Americans, can be elaborately educated on global politics and the intricacies of the Palestinian conflict seems foreign to them, because anti-Blackness is an inherent result of Zionism. To assume that folks like Angela Davis and Alice Walker, Black women who were raised in the Jim Crow South, surrounded by church bombings, segregation, police violence, and systemic poverty are unable to make clear connections between their experiences and those of Palestinians is nothing less of a racist assumption of ignorance.

The latest in this trend of anti-Black rhetoric as a means of Zionism comes from director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) Robbie Friedmann, whose recent article is an anti-Black assault on the praxes of intersectionality and Black activism masked underneath a defense of BDS and the GILEE program. GILEE is a law enforcement exchange program, which writer Anna Simonton describes as a “Georgia-based program that has sent thousands of American law enforcement officials to Israel for counter-terrorism training.” Conjuring a fear-mongering tone in the beginning of the article by evoking remembrance of the famous September 11th terrorist attacks, his first mistake is stating that this was the “worst terrorist atrocity in the world’s history.” Given the context of the conversation Friedmann is putting forth on policing and Black activism, it seems dubious to position the events of September 11th as the “worst terrorist atrocity in the world’s history” despite the Transatlantic Slave Trade, systemic lynchings and police killings, Black church bombings, and dozens of other actions which call for us to redefine the notion of terrorism and the word’s use altogether. One must ask: in framing his piece with such a statement, is he setting up to invalidate and challenge Black and Palestinian oppression, respectively?

He then continues to describe terrorism in the following paragraphs in great;y opinionated detail, slipping into islamophobia to paint the anti-Semitic rants of a singular person as the voice of majority Muslims around the world. The purpose of this terrorism discussions seems to be nothing more than setting up to compare BDS to a form of terrorism, much like Republican state Senator Leah Vukmir’s reference of BDS as “economic terrorism,” and Marco Rubio’s “economic warfare” comments from last year. This positioning, which is espoused throughout the duration of the article, is purposefully steeped in facetious language, and while Friedmann mentions criticism of Israel are “valid,” not once does he list any of those criticisms or their magnitude.

The second portion of Friedmann’s piece rests solely on the same anti-Black rhetoric that was used against aforementioned Alice Walker, the NFL players, and countless other Black people who have publicly supported the BDS movement. Referring to the GILEE program, he states: “In Atlanta, as in other cities, BDS is focusing on cutting the ties between local police and the Israel Police through the efforts of a coalition of pro-Palestinian groups joining forces as strange bedfellows driven by “intersectionality.”” True to the nature of anti-Blackness, this statement is tied to the assumption that Black activists lack to intellectual agency to come to Palestine-related conclusions ourselves. I was in the room last year when Activists from the Black organizing coalition ATLisReady decided to demand an end to the GILEE program, and I can tell you with certainty it was a swiftly supported decision we’d all naturally come to agree on. We were not persuaded by any form of anti-Semitism, nor mesmerized by some ”pro-Palestinian group” as Friedmann vaguely claims; we were educated on the ways the IDF create, reinforce, and sustain violence against both Palestinians and Israelis of color. Many in the room had been to Palestine before and witnessed the police violence with their own eyes, and many of us had experienced police violence in some form here, in Atlanta, and the connection became unavoidable.

What becomes clear when proponents of Zionism and the GILEE program argue against Black activists demand their cities cut ties with the program is the extent to which anti-Blackness actually is a core result of Zionism, even for those liberal Zionists who claim to be progressive. It would be an ahistoricism to argue that US policing has not always been a constant antagonism to the Black identity, with our criminalization dating back to the slave patrol origins of policing in the US. Thus, this criminalization has been one one of both rhetoric and actions, the former often leading to the ladder; terms like ‘terrorist action’ and ‘counterterrorism’ which the GILEE programs boasts have historically been used against Black people to justify police oversight and violence. Our mistrust of the GILEE program does not lie in anti-Semitism or lack of understanding, to the contrary, it lies within our positional similarity to the violence enacted against Palestinians, and how our material conditions let us know the same violence will be used against us. To argue with this is to deny both the history and current conditions of police brutality, and to essentially slap us in the face while claiming to care about ‘human rights’ and ‘safety.’

Friedmann also manages to purposefully misconstrue intersectionality in the process of his argument, saying Palestinians and Black people are “strange bedfellows” driven by intersectionality. This seems to be in line with the recent trend of Zionists attacking intersectionality, the theory turned praxis first created by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the ways oppressive structures are interconnected and cannot be examined separately. In June of this year Fern Oppenheim of the Brand Israel Group named “intersectionality” and coalition-creating on campuses as responsible for young Jewish people’s waning interest in Israel, stating they need to “deal with intersectionality” by “hiring conservative professors to offset the toxic culture” of diversity-building on campuses.

Because intersectionality calls for us to examine the commonality and interconnected nature of oppressive systems, it becomes antithetical to the core logic of Zionism, which assumes Israel, as well as oppression within Israel, stands independent of other structures. Along with this logic, we are taught in such an unquestionable way that the oppression that Palestinians face also stands independent of structures of racism, islamophobia, and settler-colonialism, not relative to the oppression that Black Americans may face, and not similar to the experiences of others. This is because the reality of Palestinian oppression intersecting with the oppression of others around the world is frightening to the Zionist movement, as it marks an unavoidable full acceptance of pro-Palestinian politics into major movements all around the world.

Furthermore, the constant conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism has recently been used as a gaslighting bedrock to continue the dismissal and misuse of intersectionality. In March of this year, Benjamin Goldstone wrote “It’s Time For Intersectionality To Include The Jews,” a piece in which he builds the bulk of his argument on the false notion that intersectional movements have been manipulated by anti-Zionists to “exclude Jewish issues from pro-justice movements.” To date, all organization-coalitions that have been created in Atlanta, for example, have featured various Jewish and Jewish-led groups, including Jewish Voices For Peace and Interfaith Peace Builders. Moreover, movements which claim to be intersectional identify structures of oppression based on identity and challenge them through coalition organizing, and the bulk of work underneath intersectional movements has been addressing issues of racism, religious bigotry, and where the two collide. Anti-Semitism, as a form of ethno-religious bigotry and prejudice, certainly falls underneath the confines of racial and religious oppression, so at what point has this exclusion occurred? Excluding the marginal, few anti-Semitic intersectional activists that this exist and hold power, this seems to be an inflation of intersectionality’s lack of room for Zionism, not Jewish people.

Gladstone doubles down on the misconceptions, stating:

“Finally, it must be emphasized that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, although not one and the same, are inextricably linked. It is not enough for pro-justice activists to accept Jews on the condition that we are docile, individualistic, American, and at their mercy […] When activists condemn ‘Zionists,’ they are more often than not, consciously or unconsciously, drawing on a Soviet tradition of leftist anti-Semitism that uses the term ‘Zionist’ as a code for Jews in general. Most American Jews feel attached to Israel and believe it has a right to exist, and therefore are vulnerable to the exclusion of Zionists from pro-justice action. Hatred of “Zionists” is wielded again and again as a mechanism for excluding the activists and institutions that are more representative of American Jewry from the intersectional conversation.”

I agree with Gladstone that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are inextricably linked, but only to the extent that anti-Zionism will always be silenced and dismissed due to empty cries of anti-Semitism so long as the conflict exists. And while Gladstone’s red-baiting use of drawing on Soviet-era examples and assumption that “Zionist” is used interchangeably with “Jewish” may seem sound, it falls flat of truth, and still exists within the same space of anti-Blackness that denies Black people our own agency and ability of information. When Black organizers and activists say we are against Zionism, we are not Soviet rhetoric nor perpetuating subconscious anti-Semitic dogma; we mean exactly what we say, and the assumption that we unknowingly are saying something otherwise is offensive. This assumption, and the larger assault on intersectionality as a whole, should be seen as misogynoir, as the intersectional movement is overwhelmingly lead by Black women, and intersectionality itself is a framework for praxis created for Black women.

Jaime Omar Yassin wrote recently, that “If gender is shared by all racial groups, feminism cannot be Zionist, just as it cannot be neo-Nazi—feminism that doesn’t have an understanding of how it intersects with racial and ethnic oppression is simply a diversification of white supremacy.” If Yassin is correct, then the Zionist assault on intersectionality, just like the assault on Alice Walker’s “Democratic Womanism,” is no different—it is just a new manifestation of anti-Blackness and misogynoir, tucked away within purposefully misreading and misuse of theory. As these many examples show, Zionism is a logic of anti-Blackness, with specific forms of misogynoir that accompany it, which doesn’t accept the agency of Black people who own valid critiques of its function.




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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pollster: Abbas would lose in elections, Fatah still safe

PALESTINE PULSE

Daoud Kuttab October 10, 2017


ARTICLE SUMMARY
Based on recent polling, should President Mahmoud Abbas decide to run for re-election, his chances of winning would be slim, while Fatah would fare better in legislative elections.
REUTERS/Eduardo MunozPalestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the 72nd UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 19, 2017.
Khalil Shikaki, leading Palestinian pollster and director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), has told Al-Monitor that based on current polling, the Fatah movement would do well in parliamentary elections, but that President Mahmoud Abbas would not win. According to Shikaki, the only Fatah leader at present who could win an election is Marwan Barghouti, who is serving a long sentence in an Israeli prison.

Shikaki said polling data reveal that Abbas’ troubles go back to 2014. According to the PCPSR's most recent poll, conducted Sept. 14-16, and surveying 1,270 West Bank and Gaza residents, the PCPSR reported, “67% of Palestinians want President Abbas to resign and only 31% are satisfied with his performance.” If a presidential election was held between Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, the Hamas leader would receive 50% of the vote compared to 42% for Abbas. Like Abbas, Haniyeh would also lose to Barghouti, who would garner 59% to his 36%. In parliamentary elections, Fatah would garner 36% of the vote, while Hamas would come in second, with 29%, with third parties winning a combined 10%.

Shikaki believes that if the ongoing attempt at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas succeeds, Abbas’ fortunes could improve, but only slightly. “Instead of two-thirds of polled Palestinians wanting him to resign, maybe the percentage will be closer to 60% or 55%,” he said. “There is still strong frustration with the performance of President Abbas among the majority of Palestinians.”

The pollster does not believe that Palestinians' frustration only relates to the punitive measures that Abbas has applied against Gaza. Rather, he said, “There are three reasons for this frustration. In addition to Palestinian anger over the reduced support to Gazans, there is frustration that his rule is becoming more autocratic and at the same time that Abbas is weak in standing up to the Israelis.”

Abbas has repeatedly said that he does not plan to run for president, but according to Shikaki, only Barghouti fares better in head-to-head competition against Hamas’ Haniyeh. “All other Fatah leaders — including every member of the Fatah Central Committee — are seen as too connected to Abbas, and not independent from him, and therefore they don’t fare any differently from Abbas in polls.”

Shikaki believes that if Abbas is definitely not running for re-election, he should “move quickly to provide an opportunity for a new leadership to emerge that will be seen as independent from [him] and will be able to forge a different direction and strategy for Palestinian independence.”

While Abbas’ numbers are not encouraging, consecutive polls indicate that support for Fatah remains more or less stable. The movement Abbas leads would fare better in parliamentary elections. “Their numbers are stable in the West Bank, but Fatah will need to do something about [Mohammed] Dahlan in Gaza,” Shikaki said.

Dahlan, who was expelled from Fatah, is likely to split the faction's vote in Gaza, which could spell trouble for the movement there, Shikaki contends. “A lot of work will be needed to improve Fatah’s position in Gaza,” he said. “The reconciliation could help Fatah, but the years of Hamas rule have left their mark, and the Fatah movement is weak and not unified.”

After 10 years of total control over Gaza, Hamas has agreed to a wide range of measures allowing the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza and unify the divided Palestinian community. New elections are part of the agreement. The younger generation constituting the majority of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank is largely indifferent and apathetic toward current leaders, but Shikaki says there is no organized alternative to the long-standing factions.

“As of now, there is no sign that anyone outside the two established groups, Fatah or Hamas, will be able to put forward a candidate with a credible chance of winning the presidency or has a list that could win enough votes and can impact the balance in the Palestinian Legislative Council,” Shikaki said.

The position of the Palestinian electorate as assessed by Shikaki is similar to the results of other recent public opinion polls. A poll published Sept. 6 by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC) reflected this high degree of apathy and produced similar negative results for Abbas but relatively better results for Fatah at the parliamentary level. The JMCC poll, conducted Aug. 13-21, showed “an unprecedented increase in the percentage of those who do not trust any political faction, reaching 42.8%.”

If general elections were held and Abbas did not run, the JMCC poll found, Barghouti would receive the most support. According to a JMCC press release, “26.1%, said they would vote for Marwan Barghouthi — 25.8% in the West Bank and 26.7 % in Gaza — while 12.1% said they would vote for Ismail Haniyeh — 9.3% in the West Bank and 16.7% in Gaza. Another 7.7% said they would vote for Mohammed Dahlan — 1.5% in the West Bank and 18% in Gaza.”

The JMCC findings differ slightly from the PCPSR poll for head-to-head results between the Fatah and Hamas leaders. “If Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh ran, 34.8% said they would vote for Abbas, while 27.0% would vote for Haniyeh,” the JMCC poll found.

Although the polling results do not look so good for the current Fatah leadership, it is unlikely that the leadership will indefinitely delay elections, especially since they have for years been demanding that elections take place. The most likely scenario will be for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to test the waters by conducting municipal local elections in Gaza. (Municipal elections were held in May on the West Bank, but not in Gaza.) Another factor will be whether Hamas plans to nominate one of its high-profile leaders to compete for the presidency. Winning control of the executive would be a major burden for Hamas, so it is doubtful that the weakened movement, with few regional sponsors, is of a mind to even consider nominating a candidate for president and again assuming the challenge and liability of governing.

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Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/palestine-polls-presidential-elections-abbas-fatah.html#ixzz4vDdP6rYD

Monday, October 9, 2017

FBI Terrorism Unit Says 'Black Identity Extremists' Pose a Violent Threat



Sam Levin
October 7, 2017
The Guardian

Leaked report, citing concerns of retaliation over ‘perceptions of police brutality against African Americans’, prompts fears of crackdown on activists



An FBI report describes a likely ‘increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement’. , Michael Sohn/Associated Press ,


The US government has declared “black identity extremists” a violent threat, according to a leaked report from the FBI’s counter-terrorism division.

The assessment, obtained by Foreign Policy, has raised fears about federal authorities racially profiling activists and aggressively prosecuting civil rights protesters.

The report, dated August 2017 and compiled by the Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, said: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Incidents of “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement”.

The FBI’s dedicated surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners.

“When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”

The document has emerged at a time of growing concerns about Donald Trump’s links to the far right and white nationalists, and increasing anxieties about his administration’s efforts to further criminalize communities of color and shield police from scrutiny. Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists have continued to face harsh prosecutions and close federal monitoring.

The FBI did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Friday, but defended its tracking of “black identity extremists” in a statement to Foreign Policy, claiming the “FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights”.

The FBI’s report noted specific cases of recent violence against police, most notably Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old shooter in Dallas who killed five officers and said he was targeting white people and law enforcement. Black Lives Matter – a movement protesting the disproportionate killings of black citizens by police in the US – had no ties to Johnson or other targeted killings of police and has condemned those shootings.

The number of police officers killed on the job also remains a fraction of the number of citizens killed by officers each year, and statistics suggest that more white offenders than black offenders kill officers.

The new FBI report said “BIE violence” peaked in the 1960s and 1970s “in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks”, adding that possible indicators today for “BIEs posing a violent threat to law enforcement” include “violent anti-white rhetoric” and “attempts to acquire illegal weapons or explosives”. BIE appears to be a very new term within law enforcement, Foreign Policy noted.

Elsa Waithe, a comedian and activist with Black Lives Matter, said she feared the FBI’s classification could deter people from joining protests and further “criminalize anyone who is already in the movement”.

She noted that she often wears a “black power” button and could easily see the FBI labeling her as a threat as a result: “The term ‘black identity extremist’ is so vague on purpose … If I wanted to do a picnic for black folks, is this now some sort of terrorist activity?”

But law enforcement threats would not discourage her, she said. “This changes nothing. For some people, this means we fight harder.”

Some reports have suggested that the Trump administration has also pushed to focus counter-terrorism efforts solely on Islamist extremism and no longer target white supremacist groups. The president further faced significant backlash in August for saying there were “very fine people” on both sides of a neo-Nazi rally where a civil rights activist was killed by an alleged white nationalist.

The FBI document seemed to be aligned with far-right figures who have increasingly called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group, some comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan, noted Tajsar.

DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, likened the “black identity extremist” monitoring to the FBI’s highly controversial domestic counterintelligence program known as Cointelpro, which was used to target political groups and activists like the NAACP, Martin Luther King Jr, socialist and communist groups and anti-war protesters.

“We knew that we were likely being watched,” said Mckesson, who has spoken out about being monitored by the US government and FBI. “This is confirmation that the work of social justice continues to threaten those in power.”


Sunday, October 8, 2017

The End of Empire

by Chris Hedge on Truthdig



The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt, which does not seem likely, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two. The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states. Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,” by “a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg” that will “forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire.”

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and cyberwarfare, we are being rapidly overtaken by the Chinese. “In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while China’s would triple and come close to surpassing America’s in 2030,” McCoy noted. China became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world’s leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world’s manufacturing for a century. The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World.” It found that the U.S. military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and “it no longer can … automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.” McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire—the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback. They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. They insisted that the bold and quick military strike—“shock and awe”—would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted, this “unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy.”

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation’s few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” McCoy writes. “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystique—a mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation—seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire. The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat. America’s high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.

The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists. We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military’s penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair. The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election—a reaction to the corporate coup d’état and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country—have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy. Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide. We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the myth of human progress.

“The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit—witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium’s rubber lust in the Congo, British India’s opium commerce, the Third Reich’s rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.”

When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, “empires become brittle.”

“So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq],” he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

“For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness,” McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls “insubstantial issues” will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance—wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites—will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes if we do not wrest power from those who rule the corporate state.