Bombing siege of Sinjar, Iraq

Sinjar, Iraq (Reuters) Nov 13 2015

This is Sinjar, a city in northern Iraq near the Syrian border–reportedly a stronghold of ISIS for the past year & a-half & now under bombing siege by “US-led forces” & a land assault by Kurdish forces. One only hopes US bombers are coordinating with Kurdish ground forces. That cannot be assumed.

The bombing siege in Iraq includes Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, The Netherlands, & UK. (In Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, & UAE bombers are also deployed.)

According to the US Pentagon, as of November 3rd the US-led forces have flown an estimated 61,288 sorties over Iraq & Syria–with 7,871 bomb strikes in Iraq & 2,720 in Syria. What were the other 50,697 sorties doing?

The total cost of anti-ISIS operations from August 8th to October 31st was $5 billion ($11 million a day). For all that expense, the Pentagon claims it took out 13,781 targets: 126 tanks; 354 Humvees; 561 staging areas; 3,956 buildings; 3,930 fighting positions; 232 oil infrastructures; 4,622 other targets.

So now the questions begin because the story isn’t adding up. First of all, who’s arming ISIS with all that heavy equipment? How are they delivering it? Shouldn’t they find the supply routes & shut them down? Just how damn big is ISIS? Here we thought it was a paramilitary force & now it turns out they’re like a small nation armed to the teeth.

We’re told ISIS is a “Wahhabi & Salafi jihadist extremist terrorist group.” So why is Saudi Arabia bombing them? We’re told it has strongholds in Libya & Afghanistan. How did that happen under US-NATO occupation? And last but not least, what happened to Al-Qaeda? Have they outworn their usefulness to the US? So many questions; so few answers. So much Pentagon treachery.

The most imperative political responsibility of our generation is to rebuild the international antiwar movement to put an end to these monstrous wars.

US out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, & everywhere else it is.

(Photo by Reuters

FEMEN puts clothes on for winter protests

Good to know that FEMEN activists, usually attired only in knickers & heavy makeup, actually wear parkas when protesting in a Ukraine winter. They were once the darlings of leftist men who heralded half-naked protesters as the vanguard of women’s struggle against oppression. Perhaps the fellows could contact FEMEN & tell them their 15 minutes of fame is now in overtime. And we should tell the fellows that ogling is not a revolutionary virtue.

Onward sisters! Let’s get away from these fools!

Haim Saban: Israel’s man in Hollywood & U.S. politics

Banderas & Saban Nov 12 2015

Haim Saban (on the right) is a guy we should all get to know since he plays quite a pivotal role in US politics. He has dual citizenship with Israel & calls himself a one-issue guy whose mission is to influence US politics favorably toward Israel by donations to political parties, setting up think tanks (i.e., propaganda machines), & controlling media outlets. Since he’s a billionaire whose politics correspond with those of the US government, he’s been quite successful at all that.

He made his fortune as a producer of children’s television in Hollywood. Power Rangers is just one of his many productions. He now owns Univision, the main Spanish-language network in the US. From that perch, he can do a lot of damage to Palestinian justice among Latino Americans–& he intends to.

His financial contributions to the Democratic Party & to the Clintons go back decades. He’s poured millions of dollars into the coffers of both Clintons & the Clinton Foundation. That partly explains her shameless groveling in the love letter to Israel that she published last week titled “How I would reaffirm unbreakable bond with Israel–& Benjamin Netanyahu.” She said “The alliance between our two nations transcends politics” & claimed Americans believe “Israel is more than a country–it’s a dream.” When big money is at stake, no sentimental drivel is too unseemly for this war criminal without an ounce of human compassion. Even Obama hasn’t stooped that low.

Our man Saban is the prime mover behind Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 that operates 15 regional offices in the US & Panama. They claim their purpose is charitable support to IDF soldiers & veterans. For the ninth year in a row, under the aegis of Saban who has connections in Hollywood & the entertainment industry, FIDF sponsored a gala fundraising event (on Nov 8th) in Beverly Hills for film industry moguls & movie stars & other elite moneybags. The event raised $31 million. A similar FIDF event at the same time In NYC raised $24 million. The regional offices all held fundraisers that raked in several million more.

This year 1,200 people showed up in Hollywood including Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (who plays a central role in organizing support for Israel among Evangelical Christians); actors Mark Wahlberg, Liev Schreiber, Antonio Banderas; Gene Simmons & Jason Alexander (both longtime Zionists); Paul Marciano (of Guess Jeans); Gabrielle Giffords (former Arizona congresswoman) & her husband Mark Kelley, (NASA astronaut); Serge Azaria (Joie designer); & Michael & Susan Dell (owners of Dell computers).

All of the nearly $60 million raised for FIDF is tax-deductible although the programs it sponsors are associated with the Israeli military & are not just a charitable adjunct to it. Consider what would happen if the Indian or Pakistani militaries (both US allies) or the Japanese or Ukrainian governments or any other regime set up tax-exempt front groups in the US to raise money. They would be legitimately denied nonprofit status.

The tax-exempt status is one way we know the politics of Saban & the FIDF are in accordance with US policies for Israel & the Palestinians. They are not driving US government policies so much as profiting from it & strengthening its hold in Hollywood. The money they raise is a propaganda supplement to the billions the US Pentagon dishes out to Israel for armaments.

Good to know all this; unwise to be daunted by it. It only makes our work of building BDS, the boycott of Israel (barcode beginning 729) more imperative. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Ask the Vietnamese about the impregnability of US military might. The Palestinians have stood alone against all this for nearly 68 years. It’s time for the big battalions of international solidarity to arrive.

Photo is Antonio Banderas the dope on the left & Haim Saban on the right.

Charles Dickens never imagined the miseries of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism

Filipino homeless kids (Jay Directo:AFP:Getty Images) Nov 12 2015

Poverty & homelessness in the age of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, eclipses all the misery described by Charles Dickens. There was never a golden age of capitalism since it’s a system based on inequality but how did it come to this–that millions of children & elderly around the world are abandoned like stray animals?

These children are in a park in Manila, Philippines where thousands are being driven out of slums to make room for resorts & upscale malls. But it could as well be Brazil, the US, Russia, Nigeria, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Greece, Spain, Hong Kong, & every other country.

One can hardly imagine the trauma & terror visited on these small children but one thing is certain: they do not deserve this treatment as human beings. Our commitment must be to making this world suitable for them to come of age in, to live & love in. Nothing less is acceptable.

(Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images)

The grotesque discrepancies of capitalist inequality in Hong Kong

Joseph Lau (SCMP from Forbes) Nov 12 2015

You can write long-winded tracts, heavy on the abstraction, to explain what’s wrong with capitalism. Or you can keep it simple & to the point. This guy is Joseph Lau, a Hong Kong real estate developer worth nearly $12 billion. Lau & his brother own umpteen-millions of dollars in apartments & other holdings in Hong Kong. Under those buildings, tens of thousands of working people & their families live in cramped, squalid quarters & wire cages because they can’t afford housing.

Lau, whose fortune is partially based on bribery & money laundering, just spent $48.4 million on a blue diamond & $28.5 million on a pink diamond for his 7-year-old daughter. She already owns a $9.5 million blue diamond he bought for her when she was only one.

But what price his largesse. One in five people in Hong Kong live in poverty: in a population of 7.2 million people, that’s over 1.5 million people living destitute.
Over 300,000 children do not get enough food every day–nor do one in three seniors. Over 52 percent of homeless are seniors. There are only an estimated 1,500 homeless people sleeping rough every night because Hong Kong uses loudspeakers at hourly intervals to clear out areas where they sleep; adapted water-sprinklers to target homeless people in park areas; sprays corrosive antiseptic powder to cause itching & landscapes areas to prevent anyone from sleeping there.

Confronted with that damning information, all we can say is “justify that, bucko!”

(Photo of Joseph Lau by SCMP from Forbes)

Dalton Trumbo, the U.S. government, & Hollywood politics


“Trumbo” is a newly-released film based on the life of Dalton Trumbo, one of Hollywood’s most successful screenwriters in the 1940s who was blacklisted with other screenwriters in the 1950s during the McCarthy witch-hunt. The film is based on a 1977 biography by Bruce Cook which is considered hagiographic.

I’ve not read the book nor seen the film so cannot review the merits of either. But I listened to an interview on PBS with Bryan Cranston, the actor who plays Trumbo. Cranston seemed to have a sense of the contradictions of Trumbo’s character. He was an immensely wealthy guy who had a brief relationship to the Communist Party in the 40s when it had long been a political mess. Apparently he had one of those rah-rah for the workers complexes.

But he also had some character because when called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, he insisted on his First Amendment right to free speech & refused to answer questions about his politics or to incriminate others in Hollywood. Ten (known as the Hollywood Ten) were sentenced to six months to one year in prison for contempt of Congress. Trumbo served 11 months. They were then all fired by the studio bosses & blacklisted for a few years but continued to write under pseudonyms.

Trumbo was indeed a contradictory guy politically during the extremely contentious period of WWII & after his return from political exile. He was the screenwriter for the 1944 film “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” a laudatory film about a retaliatory US bombing of Tokyo. He was also the screenwriter for the 1960 abomination “Exodus” about the myth of Israel’s foundation which portrays terrorist death squads driving Palestinians from their lands as freedom fighters. “Exodus” was a dreadful film & no testimony to his talents but it has a done a lot of damage as propaganda.

The film “Trumbo” isn’t likely to give much insight into the McCarthy witch-hunt which was a hell of a thing to go through even for a kid. It cast a pall over everything–especially in a household like mine where my right-wing mother got caught up & saw communists behind every liberal impulse. It was the hey-day of conspiracy thinking.

What’s important, less about Trumbo than the era, is understanding the role Hollywood plays in US politics–almost as an adjunct to the State Department–& the role the US government plays in Hollywood. Many insist Jews run the film industry & this explains the Zionist bias in so many films. There may be a preponderance of Jewish studio heads but that is not what’s driving the politics. We need to get straight that it isn’t Jews driving the pro-Israel politics in film so much as Zionists (of whatever religion or ethnicity) whose right-wing politics give them preeminence in the film industry. Essentially sycophancy to state power has its own rewards.

The US government came down like a ton of bricks on Hollywood during the Cold War & punished those it considered errant–even fairly conforming guys like Trumbo because he wouldn’t buckle on the Bill of Rights. That political environment prevails in Hollywood. If you want to work, you toe the State Department line–& the line today requires pro-Israel sentiments. In many regards, it’s not that different from many occupations where being a radical or gay can get you canned. Except that it’s the handmaiden of state power.

(Photo is poster of “Trumbo” film with Bryan Cranston.)

Netanyahu & Obama’s little good cop/bad cop routine to cover for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians

Netanyahu (REUTERS:Carlos Barria) Nov 10 2015

Perhaps this photo of Netanyahu in Washington, DC today should have a caption contest but he would so not fare well. He’s either picking his ear wax or giving the kookoo sign. In other photos he appears to be forcibly restraining unseemly noises. None of which go well with his customary deranged look. His only qualification for public office seems to be the psychotic qualities so apparent in his demeanor.

Media tells us he assured Obama he remains committed to a bantustate solution for Palestinians & tried to mend acrimonious relations with Obama about the Iran deal. Are we expected to keep buying this diplomatic charade? How long will they play the American people for stupid?

Obama knows damn well what Israel’s intentions are in Gaza, East Jerusalem, & the West Bank. He knows about the carpet bombing & blockade of Gaza, the targeting of small children, the extrajudicial executions in the West Bank & East Jerusalem, the incarceration of little kids for stone-throwing, the violent settlers who torch mosques & homes, the vandalism & expropriations of Palestinian lands.

Obama knows all about all that because the Pentagon bankrolls it to the tune of billions of dollars every year without batting an eyelash. The diplomatic charade is a good cop/bad cop scenario, a little psychodrama played out for affect. To the US, Israel is not a place where Jews can be free from persecution but it functions as an armed fortress against democracy in the Middle East–& democracy in the Middle East is a direct threat to US economic & military control of the entire region.

Our response to all this diplomatic treachery is to continue defending Palestinian self-determination by building the hell out of BDS, the boycott of Israel (barcode beginning 729).

(Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Mary Scully for President & Alice Bach for Vice President 2016

It’s not an issue to me that my non-socialist friends don’t “like” the FB wall of our presidential campaign. I don’t mind that people don’t agree with my politics as long as they let me live in peace & don’t personally give me the brushoff for my ideas. I’ve never gotten used to being shunned for my radicalism.

But I must admit it does annoy me that most US socialists won’t even do a like on a FB wall. I don’t take it personally but see it as part of a great problem which has plagued the socialist movement for over a 100 years: an inability to break ranks with their own circle, to think for themselves, to be bigger than their prejudices. It’s called group-think & doesn’t represent the highest achievements of political thought.

All that got put in perspective big-time when I saw that several people from Afghanistan, Kashmir, Gaza & the West Bank liked our campaign. It was a proud & heartening moment to see that.

International solidarity is a hallmark of our campaign so it was also thrilling to see “likes” from Ireland, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico, the UK, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Qatar, UAE, Lesotho, Romania, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Norway, Tunisia, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Nigeria, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Puerto Rico–& of course the US.

Thank you all so much.

From colonialism to homelessness for Indigenous Hawaiians

Honolulu beach  (AP Photo:Jae C. Hong) Nov 10 2015

The colonial history of the US in Hawaii is not evident in tourist brochures but changing the status of the archipelago from a territory to a US state in 1959 did not alter its character as a US colonial settler state. Quite justly, many Native Hawaiians consider it illegally occupied & they stand on solid ground in international law.

The first European contact with Hawaii was in 1778 by Capt. James Cook, a British navy explorer. At the time of his arrival, the population is estimated between 250,000 & 800,000. Over the course of the next century, sailors, traders, missionaries, & freebooters nearly wiped out the entire population with infectious diseases they introduced including syphilis, smallpox, influenza, measles, tuberculosis. By the time the US invaded & took over Hawaii in 1893, the native population was down to 40,000 people. Shades of Christopher Columbus!

Native Hawaiians have sustained all the depredations of colonialism including racist denigration & outlawing of their language, land expropriations, forced Christianization, economic & political marginalization. Hawaii has been confiscated for plantation agriculture, military bases, posh resorts, golf courses, & upscale malls for the annual $15 billion tourism industry.

Today only 10 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents are Native Hawaiians. Thousands unable to afford living in their own homeland have been forced into diaspora–with many congregated in California, Las Vegas, & elsewhere on the US mainland.

While Hawaii records record numbers of well-heeled white people moving there, it also now has the highest rate of homelessness of all US states with an estimated 8,000 people sleeping rough every night. Forty-percent of the homeless are working people who cannot afford the sky-high rents when the average two-bedroom apartment is $1,800 a month.

Hawaii needs at least 27,000 affordable public housing units by 2020 but state officials only set aside money for 800 units this year & are planning to use shipping containers to house the homeless–like they were crates of tomatoes rather than human beings.

At least 20 Hawaiian cities have made it illegal to feed homeless people in public, have banned camping, sleeping in cars, begging & loitering in public spaces, & are dismantling homeless encampments. In other words they are criminalizing poverty & homelessness rather than addressing the problem.

This is a photo of the famed Waikiki Beach in Honolulu on the island of O’ahu. A homeless man is sleeping there while two tourists take a morning stroll. In 2014, after tourists complained about too many homeless people near the beach, the city banned loitering on sidewalks.

Housing is a human right. That’s the immediate question. But in the long-run, US colonialism in Hawaii will have to be addressed to the advantage of Native Hawaiians.

(Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

Young Kashmiri man shot dead at Srinagar protest while Modi blithered

Gowhar Ahmed Dar:Kashmir Nov 9 2015

This is 22-year-old Gowhar Ahmed Dar, an engineering student from Srinagar killed when Indian police opened fire & shot tear gas at those protesting the occupation of Kashmir during Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Saturday. Media reported young Dar was killed when a tear gas shell struck his head but he was in fact killed by a bullet.

The area was on martial law lockdown to prevent the “Million March” called by independence groups to protest the occupation during Modi’s rally which hundreds of Kashmiris were forced to attend. Under Indian occupation, protesting is not a democratic right–which is always a dead-giveaway to tyranny (like Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem & the West Bank). Police called the protesters a “stone-throwing mob” to justify the assault on unarmed protesters.

The death of Gowhar Dar brought thousands more into the streets & at the university campus. It will also likely increase violent repression by Indian police & paramilitary thugs making international solidarity an imperative.

People around the world are inundating social media with messages condemning the Indian repression & occupation & expressing condolences for the death of Gowhar Dar. You can join the groundswell at ‪#‎IAmGowharDar‬.

Photo is Gowhar Ahmed Dar. May he Rest In Peace.