Monthly Archives: April 2017

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now

Note: Trump’s mission in almost every instance is more rights for big business at the expense of individual Americans. And that’s making America “great”? I think not! Below is an excerpt from “InfoWorld” followed by an explanation from Free Press about Net Neutrality.  

Heather Gray
Justice Initiative International
  

Now that Trump has taken office and is adorning his cabinet with fellow millionaires and billionaires, net neutrality is on the chopping block. The principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally is all but dead. With net neutrality, Amazon, for example, can’t cut a deal with Time Warner to make its website come up faster than Walmart’s. For all the talk of being for the common man, this administration won’t stand in the way of big businesses making deals.
What the end of net neutrality means for you
By Andrew C. Oliver,  InfoWorld

Jan 26, 2017  
 
Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now

Free Press
April 2017

Activists inside the FCC April 2017

The Federal Communications Commission’s historic Net Neutrality rules keep the internet free and open – allowing you to share and access information of your choosing without interference from companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

This victory came thanks to the millions of activists who fought for a decade to protect the open internet. But right now this win is in jeopardy: The Trump administration and new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai want to get rid of Net Neutrality.

What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online.

Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks – and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.

Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment – relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.

How did we get strong Net Neutrality rules?
In May 2014, then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a plan that would have allowed internet service providers to discriminate online and create pay-to-play fast lanes.

Millions of you spoke out – and fought back.

Thanks to the huge public and political outcry, Wheeler shelved his original proposal, and on Feb. 4, 2015, he announced that he would base new Net Neutrality rules on Title II of the Communications Act, giving internet users the strongest protections possible.

The FCC approved the new rules on Feb. 26, 2015.

But ever since then opponents have done everything they can to destroy Net Neutrality. And Chairman Pai – a former Verizon lawyer – is moving fast to destroy the open internet.

Who’s attacking Net Neutrality?
Big phone and cable companies and their lobbyists filed suit almost as soon as the Net Neutrality rules were adopted. Free Press jumped in and helped argue the case defending the FCC – and on June 14, 2016, a federal appeals court upheld the open-internet protections in all respects.

Meanwhile, industry-funded Net Neutrality opponents in Congress have done everything they can  to dismantle or undermine the rules. Legislators have introduced numerous deceptive bills and attached damaging riders to must-pass government-funding bills. So far Net Neutrality activists have defeated all of these attempts to sabotage the FCC protections.

Why is Net Neutrality crucial for communities of color?
The open internet allows people of color to tell their own stories and organize for racial and social justice. When activists are able to turn out thousands of people in the streets at a moment’s notice, it’s because ISPs aren’t allowed to block their messages or websites.

The mainstream media have long misrepresented, ignored and harmed people of color. And thanks to systemic racism, economic inequality and runaway media consolidation, people of color own just a handful of broadcast stations. The lack of diverse ownership is a primary reason why the media have gotten away with criminalizing and otherwise stereotyping communities of color.

The open internet allows people of color and other vulnerable communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform.

And without Net Neutrality, millions of small businesses owned by people of color wouldn’t be able to compete against larger corporations online, which would deepen economic disparities.

Activists outside the FCC April 2017

Why is Net Neutrality important for businesses?
Net Neutrality is crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open internet to launch their businesses, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach customers. We need the open internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation.

Net Neutrality lowers the barriers of entry by preserving the internet’s fair and level playing field. It’s because of Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive online.

No company should be allowed to interfere with this open marketplace. ISPs are the internet’s gatekeepers, and without Net Neutrality, they would seize every possible opportunity to profit from that gatekeeper position.

Without Net Neutrality, the next Google or Facebook would never get off the ground.

What can we do now?
Chairman Pai wants to replace the agency’s strong rules with “voluntary” conditions that no ISP would ever comply with. Pai unveiled his plan in a closed-door meeting with industry lobbyists in April 2017 and intends to move on it soon.

The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to clamp down on dissent. If we lose Net Neutrality, it will have succeeded.

Millions have already taken a stand to defend our rights to connect and communicate. Take action now and join the fight.

Israel, Oil, Syria – It’s a War for Oil The Major Media is Not Reporting about this Scandal

 

By Heather Gray
April 11, 2017
Justice Initiative International
Are you having trouble making sense of the Syrian conflict and the recent bombing by the Trump administration? As in, what is really going on here?

It is likely a “war for oil!

The players in this Syria debacle reported by the media seem to be Syria, Russia and the United States, when the major player is likely Israel.

Also, rarely mentioned in the news regarding the tragic events in the past few weeks, is that in 2015 Israel reported findings of huge oil reserves in the occupied Golan Heights. Therein lies the critical lynchpin of it all.

Source: yournewswire.com

Ever since it was claimed or illegally occupied by Israel and away from Syrian control after the 1967 war, the Golan Heights is disputed land.  Against international law, Israel continues to attempt to claim the land. Here is a brief history of some issues regarding the legalities of occupied land and extraction of resources:

Unlike the other, costlier Israeli oil exploration program, offshore, the drilling in the Golan is cost effective. So far, Afek has spent about $2.0 million in drilling with funding from private sources, and with the entire program falling well within budget. As technically and financially sound the discovery in the Golan might be, such activities could face legal problems as the area of Golan Heights is still technically Syrian territory and considered “occupied.”

This suggests that the exploitation of mineral reserves in the occupied Golan Heights would violate international law. As a precedent, Singapore successfully sued Japan in the International Court of Justice for having exploited Singapore’s oil resources during World War II. (Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.)

International law establishes that an occupying power can operate already existing and operating oil fields first used by the sovereign country under its control. However, the authorities and the law are in absolute agreement that the drilling of new wells, let alone fracking, by an occupying power is illegal. (Profit Confidential)

A review of the cast of characters involved in it all is also telling, regarding the likely recent motivations of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Trump, as well, to undermine and oust the Syrian government.

Without doubt, undermining and overturning the Syrian government serves Israeli interests. After the oil find, and invariably side-stepping the United Nations and international law, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had attempted to encourage President Obama to acknowledge Israel’s right to the Golan Heights. Obama did not work. Now, Netanyahu is seemingly doing the same with Trump and is probably making progress. It appears Netanyahu is of the opinion that if the U.S. is on Israel’s side, regarding Israeli claims to the occupied land, that a major hurdle will have been overcome. The UN Security Council, however, would still need to address the issue.

Regarding the UN and Israel, however, Trump did state the following that certainly expresses his views regarding his hostility toward the UN and support for Israel:

“The UN is not a friend of democracy, it’s not a friend to freedom, it’s not a friend even to the United States… and it surely is not a friend to Israel… I will veto any attempt by the UN to impose its will on the Jewish state… When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one… We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”  – Donald Trump

In this article are the following topics – much of it citing direct sources: (1) Oil Find in the Golan Heights (2) What Syria Planned Regarding the Oil in the Golan Heights (3) Genie Energy and the listing of the Strategic Advisory Board of Genie Energy (4) Rising Tensions between Israel and Syria, and (5) About Children.

Before going further, however, it is important to note that, since WWII, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance.” Most of it is for military purposes. Here is the December 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service:

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $127.4 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. (Congressional Research Service)

Oil Find in the Golan Heights

Israel’s Exploration of the Golan Heights: Transconflict

Below is an article from UPI in 2015 regarding the oil find – and yes, Dick Cheney is referred to here:

Major reserve discovery confirmed in Golan Heights

Leadership of company behind the find seen as close to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

By Daniel J. Graeber

NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 9, 2015 (UPI) — Genie Energy, a company with headquarters in the United States, confirmed it made a major discovery of oil and natural gas in the Golan Heights.

The New Jersey-based company said data from exploratory wells drilling into the area confirm what it said were “significant” quantities of oil and natural gas.

“We remain optimistic given the results to date,” Genie Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Howard Jonas said in a statement. “We are now working diligently to determine the production costs and total quantity of the resource.”

The company’s Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas, drilled into a column of reserves about 1,150 feet thick, about 10 times larger than the global average.

Genie said it lacks evidence to determine if the reserves in the Golan Heights can be technically or economically produced.

The Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water Resources awarded a drilling permit to Genie for territory in the southern Golan Heights in 2013. The company at the time estimated the reserve potential in a 150-square-mile southern portion of the Golan Heights was high.

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had served as an adviser to Genie. In a profile published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Genie CEO Jonas was described as one of the primary campaign supporters and U.S. allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel annexed the southern part of the Golan in 1981, though the United States and most of the international community don’t recognize the claims to sovereignty. Syria still claims the Golan and demands its return. (UPI)

In 2016, after the oil find, Netanyahu stated that Israel will never return the Golan Heights to Syria:

Jerusalem (CNN) Israel’s Prime Minister has declared that the Golan Heights will remain permanently under the country’s control, during Israel’s first Cabinet meeting held in the territory.

“The time has come for the international community to recognize reality, especially two basic facts,” said Benjamin Netanyahu during a Cabinet meeting Sunday.

“One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.” (CNN)

What Syria Planned for the Oil in the Golan Heights

Below is an excerpt from an article entitled “Israel exploits Syrian chaos to plan looting of Golan oil” regarding the Israeli exploitation of the Syrian resources and what has been the Syrian government’s plan for the oil.

Looting Syria’s resources

The Golan plateau was occupied by Israel during the 1967 WarUN Security Council resolution 242and several other resolutions since have called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territory and condemned Israel’s actions there.

These have included: annexation and imposition of Israeli law in 1981, an action the UN Security Council declared “null and void.” Israel has also transferred its own population into the area for the purpose of colonization and the use of the territory’s resources for its own economic interests.

The Golan’s fertile land and water resources have been a strategic interest for Israel and now its energy potential may bring huge financial rewards.

Despite international criticism, Israel’s inherently discriminatory and exploitative policies inside the Golan continue without sanction. Israeli ministers have voiced their desire to capitalize on the destabilization of Syria as an excuse to cement Israel’s illegal hold on the territory.

Whilst Israel continues to exploit the natural resources of the territories it occupies, the international community continues to do nothing to enforce its decisions as the occupation of the Golan verges on reaching the 50-year milestone.

The Syrian government had planned to build a pipeline across the Middle East into Lebanon and the Mediterranean for the European markets. It had signed agreements with Iran and Iraq towards this end.

With Syrian oil reserves in decline and the country in chaos, the government has no capacity to challenge the current Israeli exploitation of the country’s Golan resources.

It seems likely therefore that Israel will have a free hand to loot Syrian oil from the Golan, backed by the West. (The Electronic Intifada)

Genie Energy and the Listing of the Strategic Advisory Board of Genie Energy

The oil exploration in the Golan Heights at the behest of the Israel, and reported in 2015, was conducted by the Afek Israeli Energy Company whose interests are held by the U.S. based Genie Energy. Below is information about the company from its website:

Genie Energy is comprised of two divisions: Genie Retail Energy and Genie Oil and Gas:

Genie Retail Energy

Genie Retail Energy is a leading independent supplier of electricity and natural gas to homes and small business in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern United States.  The key to Genie Retail Energy’s success is our commitment to consumer choice. We offer a variety of plans that empower consumers.  Genie Retail Energy brands include IDT Energy and Residents Energy.

Genie Oil and Gas (GOGAS)

GOGAS is an oil and gas exploration company focused on producing clean and affordable transportation fuels from the world’s oil and gas resources.  GOGAS utilizes technologies that will help to preserve the quality of ground water, reduce carbon emissions, and minimize impacts on local landscapes.

GOGAS contains Genie Energy’s interests in Afek:
Afek holds an exclusive petroleum exploration license covering 396.5 square kilometers in Northern Israel. The Company believes, based on its preliminary analysis and interpretation of data from its ongoing exploratory drilling program and other geological data, that its exploratory license area contains significant quantities of conventional oil and gas.

The listing below, of the influential Strategic Advisory Board of Genie Energy, speaks for itself! The board members, many well known in the American political and economic arenas, are more than likely weighing in on many of the decisions regarding Syria itself as well as the Golan Heights legal issues. Given the sizable findings of oil in the Golan Heights, the company stands to make huge profits.

Taken from the Genie Energy website, those serving on the Genie Energy Strategic Advisory Board are the following:


Michael Steinhardt (SAB Chairman)

Noted Wall Street investor and Principal Manager, Steinhardt Management LLC. Founder Steinhardt, Fine, Berkowitz & Co., and noted philanthropist.

Richard Cheney

46th Vice President of the United States. Vice President Cheney also served as President and CEO of Halliburton Company and U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1989 to 1993.Marry Landrieu

United States Senator from Louisiana from 1996 to 2014. Senator Landrieu served as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. In her capacity as chair, she sponsored and passed the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Bill. The bill fosters partnerships focused on developing resources such as natural gas and alternative fuels, on the academic, business and governmental levels.

Rupert Murdoch

Founder and Executive Chairman of News Corporation, one of the world’s largest diversified media companies. News Corporation’s holdings include Fox Entertainment, Dow Jones and Company, the New York Post, HarperCollins and significant media assets on six continents.Bill Richardson

Governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2011. Mr. Richardson has served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1997-1998), Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration (1998-2001), Chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Jacob Rothschild, OM, GBEChairman of the J. Rothschild group of companies and of RIT Capital Partners plc. Chairman of Five Arrows Limited. Lord Rothschold is a noted philanthropist and Chairman of the Rothschild Foundation.

Dr. Lawrence SummersCharles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University. Dr. Summers served as the 71st Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton and as Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama.


R. James Woolsey

Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 to 1995 and as Under Secretary of the Navy from 1977 to 1979. Mr. Woolsey is co-founder of the United States Energy Security Council and is Chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Regarding the oil find and the Assad government, two of the board members – Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch – were referred to in the 2015 Profit Confidential article entitled “Genie Energy Stock – Golan Heights Oil Discovery Could Shake Middle East Politics:”

Here’s the Bottom Line on Israeli’s Oil DiscoveryThe fact that Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch invested in attempts to search for oil in the occupied Syrian territories suggests they support the overthrow of the Assad government in Damascus.


In that sense, the oil discovery in the Golan will not in itself alter crude prices. But the related geopolitical concerns suggest tensions in the Middle East will increase. This should help in boosting the cost of oil in the short and medium run.

Rising Tensions Regarding Golan Heights Oil, Syria and Israel
Some have noted that it is highly unlikely that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people. Progress had been made by the US and Russia regarding Syria. Trump had said earlier he would not go after Assad or encourage overturning the Assad government. The question was/is “Why would Assad initiate a poison gas assault on his own people to essentially commit suicide?” It makes no sense. So the question remains who or what was responsible for the gas assault? Trump, inappropriately, did not insist on an investigation but instead presumed the guilt of Assad.Did Israel play a role in the Syrian gas assault? Some have questioned if that might be the case but there has not been an investigation, as yet, as mentioned.

Also, just before the U.S. bombing, tensions between Israel and Syria had been increasing, as reported by CNN, as well as from Al Jazeera:

Rising tensions

(CNN) March 19, 2017

Friday’s (March 17) encounter was the most serious clash between Israel and Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war six years ago. Tension between the two countries de-escalated as the conflict progressed, but the threats have increased between the two countries in recent months, along with Israel’s reported strikes.


An airstrike near Palmyra would be one of the deepest inside Syria since the beginning of the fighting….

Israel carries out air strikes inside Syria

(Al Jazeera) March 17, 2017

The Israeli army says its aircraft have carried out several strikes inside Syria, prompting Syrian forces to retaliate with ground-to-air missiles, one of which was intercepted.


Thursday night’s attack was one of the most serious incidents between the two countries, which remain technically at war, since civil war broke out in Syria in March 2011….
And further, in addition to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s widely reported meeting with Trump in February 2017, Trump also “secretly” met with Yossi Cohen, the head of Mossad (Israeli Secret Service), in December 2016 as reported by “The Times of Israel“. We are not to know, but probably the issue of the Golan Heights was discussed.

Mossad Director Yossi Cohen briefed the Trump staff members on the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, terror threats and the Palestinian issue, Ynet reported Saturday. The report did not say when the briefings took place.
Yossi Cohen, Mossad chief, speaks at a committee meeting in the Knesset on December 02, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)


About Children

There are no innocent players in the mix here. It appears that the concern and outrage about the tragic death of Syrian children, who had been exposed to the deadly gas, was presented as a major catalyst for Trump ordering the launching of Tomahawk missiles against Syria. This bombing by the U.S. was done, even though there was never an investigation regarding who the culprit was that instigated this tragedy.

Nevertheless, if Trump wishes to express concern about children – and he should – then he also needs to look at the Israeli record of killing Palestinian children to also express concern and alarm at Israel for its “apartheid” system and violent treatment of Palestinians. From 2000 to 2017, the reported number of deaths of Palestinian children, thanks to Israeli aggression, was 2,150 as reported by “If Americans Knew.”

“The majority of these [Palestinian] children were killed and injured while going about normal daily activities, such as going to school, playing, shopping, or simply being in their homes. Sixty-four percent of children killed during the first six months of 2003 died as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks, or from indiscriminate fire from Israeli soldiers.” – Catherine Cook

 

See the graph below:


Summary

Given the oil find in the Golan Heights and the desire by Israel to own and control it all, it is fairly clear that Israel has a vested interest in both overturning the Syrian government and to install a more compliant government that will serve Israeli interests and perhaps sway international law in its favor.

Especially given the oil find, Israel also has a vested interest in changing the international law regarding the Syrian right to the Golan Heights and to ease any restrictions on Israel extracting the oil for its exclusive use.

To repeat, for all intents and purposes, the U.S. appears to be engaged in a “War for Oil” against Syria to serve the interests of Israel.

 

End the Assault on the Middle East by the United States

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

by Heather Gray

April 9, 2017

Justice Initiative International

I need to state forthrightly that I am heartbroken by the aggression of the U.S. and Europe in the past and currently in the Middle East and the recent bombing by the Trump administration against Syria. In my opinion, what Trump has done has solved nothing except to make us all more vulnerable everywhere in the world. As Martin Luther King would say, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Greed

And we can’t look at all this totally as military initiatives as being the problem. Greed plays a central role here as well. Regarding the U.S. missiles against Syria:

“Fifty-nine tomahawk missiles launched from an aircraft carrier hit their target. At $1.59 million a piece, the attack cost the Defense Department $93,810,000.” (Yahoo Finance)

The U.S. Defense Department used $93,810,000 million in this bombing? These are U.S. tax dollars being used to destroy and kill Syrians. Did Congress approve this huge expenditure and bombing? No, it did not!

I am convinced that when violence takes place anywhere in the world – domestically or internationally – board members of military industrial companies go their board rooms, open a bottle of champagne and celebrate because they know they will be able to advance their profits and receive more U.S. tax dollars as a result. Their goal is not peace but war both domestically and internationally as it is this that is contingent on their profits.

The U.S. military industrial complex receives more tax dollars than any other segment of the U.S. budget. And yes, while Congress did not approve this bombing it has been approving this decadent budget. We are caught in a bind! And, one would think, the military industrial complex has to justify its budget by supporting violence by the U.S.!  From the 2015 budget the military gets 55% of the U.S, tax dollars.

Act of War

Regardless of the official definition, to me the act of killing people by drones or missiles in another country is an “act of war”.

I am also convinced that if the reverse was true and that some other country was killing Americans by drones or missiles on American soil, Americans would say the same. This is war.Can you imagine American’s response if the same kind of thing was done on American soil? As in, drones killing American civilians and tomahawk missiles killing and destroying American facilities? Can you imagine Americans not expressing concern or wanting to do something about this violence?

Again, did Congress play a role in making a determination about the recent strike against Syria as required by the Constitution? Absolutely not! I had foolishly thought that the President and the Pentagon served at the behest of Congress and that they were mostly not independent actors in this scenario. I had always assumed, perhaps foolishly, that “war” was to be determined by Congress and not the president or the pentagon. Here is the clause from the U.S. Constitution:

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the power to declare war, in the following wording:

[The Congress shall have Power…] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…(Wikipedia)

Presumption of Innocence?

“In the coming days the American people will learn that the [US]Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib.” Former DIA Colonel Patrick Lang

There are also presumptions in the United States regarding justice that people are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty.In many states, presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is also regarded as an international human right under the UN‘s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which has to collect and present enough compelling evidence to convince the trier of fact, who is restrained and ordered by law to consider only actual evidence and testimony that is legally admissible, and in most cases lawfully obtained, that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If reasonable doubt remains, the accused is to be acquitted. Under the Justinian Codes and English common law, the accused is presumed innocent in criminal proceedings, and in civil proceedings (like breach of contract) both sides must issue proof. The same principle is recognized by Islamic law. (Wikipedia)

So it appears the United States apparently and sadly pays no attention to this concept in international and increasingly domestic police aggression as well. I know we’ve all noticed lately the increased violence by domestic police and their “killing” of suspects rather than “arresting” suspects. The presumption here is “guilt” rather than “innocence” that is contrary to our understood policy in America. So the police are playing the role of judge and jury? Everyone is vulnerable under these circumstances.

And this attack on Syria by Trump and seemingly against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because of the poisonous gas assault on civilians, was neither investigated nor proven as fact that al-Assad was indeed responsible.

There has to be Another Way – Another Policy Directive or Diplomacy Maybe? Possibly Even Compassion?

Surely, there can be more humane initiatives and negotiations that can be arranged and encouraged. And yes, perhaps looking for something humane rather than ruthlessly killing people with drones and other weapons. There has got to be another way.

Negotiations maybe, as Obama was wisely doing and did with Iran? Can we not have more negotiations with Middle Eastern and western leaders overall on how to both resolve and end this violence and end the lack of respect of the Islamic religion?

And in particular, can we not end the huge amount of U.S. tax dollars going to the military industrial complex and instead use this money for domestic needs such as education, health, domestic small farmer and urban agriculture, as just a few examples.

Can we not seek alternative renewable energy initiatives and end this reliance on oil and coal that destroy our climate and lead to increased violence and competition for these resources?
Many of us are heartbroken by the desolation and suffering of the Syrians and others in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and other countries in the region. Trump, then, bombs them and complains about children being killed in Syria and does not allow the refugees into the U.S.? To say this is the ultimate of hypocrisy is an understatement. This militarized response, in my opinion, gets us nowhere. It becomes a vicious cycle and everyone loses in the end.
Many are also no longer willing to sit by and accept this violence without recourse.Many throughout the world and in the U.S. are no longer willing to allow the military industrial complex in America to use our hard earned tax dollars to reap huge profits through the development and use of decadent weapon systems at the expense of Syrian children, our own children here in America, our immigrant children and countless lives lost in Middle East and around the world.

I am also reminded of author Karen Armstrong and her book the “The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions” or the Axial Age 900 to 200 years before Christ, when there was excessive violence in the world as there is today. The likes of the Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu and others at the time basically agreed that there had to be something else rather than this violence. There has got to be a better way forward. Almost all of them recognized that what was needed was “compassion” and not just compassion within their own group but what was particularly important was compassion outside their group. This concept should be enshrined in the United States Constitution.Many of us seek peace and an end to this violent aggression in the Middle East and an end to U.S. violence altogether in the region or anywhere else for that matter.

And, believe it or not, many also seek compassion, even and especially in U.S. government’s international and domestic policies.

Below is the “Charter for Compassion” launched in 2008.

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others-even our enemies-is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings-even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

A Compelling Case for Cooperatives

The following article was taken from an interview with Ray Marshall by Heather Gray for the Federation/LAF’s 25th Anniversary in 1992. Dr. Marshall served as the Secretary of Labor under President Jimmy Carter. As an economist Dr. Marshall shares his insight on the economic needs of individuals, communities and nations and, importantly, the different levels of democracy and how cooperatives can serve to strengthen democratic institutions.
by Heather Gray
Interview with Ray Marshall
Pepper farmers in South Georgia

How do you make it possible for low income Blacks and low income whites in the mountain areas to improve their income? I can’t think of an institution better suited to that than a co-op. Co-ops are the best people development institutions you can have. With cooperatives you deal with all of it – you are involved in the leadership development, people have to learn to run co-ops, work with people, learn to make plans, meet and set goals, marshal resources.

I have always been interested in rural development in the South. It’s not well understood outside of the South that there’s a connection between economic independence and political independence – that people didn’t have economic independence if when they voted they lost their jobs or got kicked off the plantation. The whole reason for forming cooperatives is to give people economic independence so that they could have independence in political and other matters.

In our early organizing work in the South we learned a lot about how the economy works – particularly how the federal government works. We couldn’t get help from the federal government for low income farmers because they were biased toward large farmers. Most of our financial institutions were set up to help those who didn’t need help and to take money out of our rural areas and not to put it pack in. We need institutions like the Federation/LAF that understand the conditions of rural America and are controlled by the people there. Nobody, for example, can better understand the problems of the small farmers in Georgia and Mississippi than the farmers themselves.

Cooperatives are very important because if we’re going to make our political system work in this country we have do it from the bottom up. I’m an optimist about that. All over the world you see democratic institutions sprouting up and we need to strengthen our democratic institutions here. The basic evolution is that first you have political institutions that are controlled by the people and not special interest groups – that’s political democracy. After workers get the right to vote then you have industrial democracy which means worker participation in the work place. That’s collective bargaining. Most countries have taken that further than us. Then there’s social democracy where you have safety nets – a minimum level of welfare services. Every industrial country in the world is more developed in social democracy than us in, for example, health care and education. Finally, there’s economic democracy where individuals and not special interests control their economic institutions. Economic democracy strengthens all other forms of democracy. If you have economic democracy then people can’t intimidate you when you vote.

America would be better off with a strong cooperative movement. Most countries that are having trouble economically are those that are weak in economic democracy. The main economic developmental strategy in the United States is to keep people’s wages and income down. That’s a loser and you wouldn’t want to win it. Most other countries know that a much better approach is to try to compete by improving productivity and quality and that means more efficient institutions. A co-op can be one of the most efficient institutions you can put together because it’s controlled by its members who have a vested interest in achieving their own objectives.

Conservatives, Technology & Science in the Trump Age

by Heather Gray
April 5, 2017

“Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals.”  Margaret Mead

Overview

Oppressive conservative movements anywhere in the world, especially what we’re seeing presently in America under Donald Trump and his cohorts, could partly be a response to challenges of traditional authority resulting from technological changes and the capitalist/conservative elite’s hostility toward democratization and scientific research that challenges their behavior, exploitation and profit making.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “democratize” as to make (something) available to all people: to make it possible for all people to understand (something)” and that is precisely what some of the new technologies have done. Some technologies, in fact, are “inherently democratizing” by providing the masses throughout the world with access to information that has not been easily obtainable in the past. Invariably, however, the result is a series of threats from the conservative sector.

Some scientific research – as in climate research – has also been beneficial for the masses and the environment resulting in policies to protect us all from the ravages of the corporate world that in turn also threatens the capitalist elite’s interests.

Trump has thus far, and not surprisingly, taken the capitalist approach and critique against these advances largely for the sake of profit.

The Printing Press and Information to the Masses

Let’s start with the printing press and it’s huge impact on finally disseminating information and ideas to the masses as well as opportunities to share ideas. Prior to its advent, books were available primarily to the elite and the church leaders. In the 1400s the printing press changed all of that as the people finally had access to books and ideas overall and could finally express themselves in meaningful and informed ways with each other. They no longer had to listen to, solely, the King, feudal lords and church leaders as through this new technology – the printing press – the masses were finally learning new ideas altogether and expressing themselves. And yes, as a result, they organized, which ultimately led to the French Revolution that challenged the ruling elite.

In other words, the printing press helped to “democratize” the society and opened up vastly new and exciting opportunities for all, that the ruling elite, of course, did not care for in the least. With the printing press, the elite no longer had control over the “message” they wanted to convey to society – messages that served the largely non-democratic exploitative interests of the elite.

Recreated Gutenberg press at the International Printing Museum, Carson, California

The printing press was invented in the Holy Roman Empire by the German Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, based on existing screw presses.,,,,  


In Renaissance Europe, the arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication which permanently altered the structure of society: The relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities; the sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class. Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its peoples led to the rise of proto-nationalism, accelerated by the flowering of the European vernacular languages to the detriment of Latin‘s status as lingua franca. In the 19th century, the replacement of the hand-operated Gutenberg-style press by steam-powered rotary presses allowed printing on an industrial scale,while Western-style printing was adopted all over the world, becoming practically the sole medium for modern bulk printing.
(Wikipedia)
Margaret Mead (Getty Images)

Since the printing press, we have continued to witness a vast array of new communication technologies that have also had considerable impact on the world overall.

Technological Changes, International Democratization and Enlightenment at Work

New technologies have provided opportunities for the masses to have access to extensive information and to make new contacts throughout the world as never before. The democratization process in many ways has become world-wide rather than country focused.  The printing press, and the more recent personal computer in the 20th century coupled with the internet are prime examples of how this has been accomplished over time. These technologies have opened up enormous opportunities for individual growth and exploration. Change can be liberating!

These few examples are perhaps perfect scenarios of the “enlightenment” at work.

The Enlightenment (in the 1700s) included a range of ideas centered on “reason” as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance,  fraternityconstitutional government, and separation of church and state.(Wikipedia)

But all of this is seemingly also not without a societal cost and threats from the right wing. It is generally agreed, as mentioned, that the enlightenment in France advanced thanks to the printing press, and led to the French Revolution in 1789 in which the enlightened philosophers and informed masses challenged the authority of the French king and his feudal followers. A new paradigm of democratic control was in the offing.

One view of the political changes that occurred during the Enlightenment is that the “consent of the governed” philosophy as delineated by Locke in Two Treatises of Government (1689) represented a paradigm shift from the old governance paradigm under feudalism known as the “divine right of kings.” (Wikipedia)
Thomas Paine, copy by Auguste Millière, after an engraving by William Sharp, after George Romney, circa 1876 (1792)

As Thomas Paine said of the French Revolution, it’s mission was “democratizing” and that the model for us all in the world should be that:

“…all men were equal and any non-equaliser such as money, power, prestige or titles, were wrong. He felt that governments should reflect social equality.”English History

Another important factor to consider here is that when something new presents itself – new ideas, new technology, new religion, etc. – there is a tendency for sectors of the society (i.e. religious leaders, scientists, professionals generally) to cling even more to the older methods and values.

As was true in the French Revolution, the powerful elite in our contemporary life never want to give up power and rarely do they want an “informed” populace as, instead, they want to be the ones to control the messages and information the people receive. We are witnessing this behavior with Trump.

The Structure of Scientific Revolution, Denying Science and Marxian Thought

Thomas Kuhn describes the threats to the established hierarchy and thought in his renowned book “The Structure of Scientific Revolution“. He says that when Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier and Einstein, for example, were advancing their new scientific theories, “Each of (the new theories or paradigms) necessitated the (scientific) community’s rejection of one time-honored scientific theory in favor of another incompatible with it.” Many leading scientists generally refuse, at first, to accept the new paradigms and attempt to undermine those advocating the change. Kicking and screaming, scientists will ultimately accept some of these new theories but it takes a while.

Today, however, the findings are that the majority of climate scientists in the world agree that human activity is impacting climate change:

(April 2016) Almost 16 years after Harvard researcher Naomi Oreskes first documented an overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, a research team confirmed that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening.

The study, published Tuesday, brought together 16 scientists, including seven authors of consensus studies that documented similar conclusions over the years despite varying research approaches. While reaching this so-called “consensus on consensus,” authors concluded that scientific agreement on human-caused climate change is “robust” with a range of 90 to 100 percent, depending on the question and methodology. (Think Progress)

Somewhat along the line of the Kuhn theory, Trump, and those in his administration, choose not to accept the huge body of domestic and international scientific research indicating that human activity has impacted climate change.

Perhaps Trump’s antagonistic views on climate research is more of a Marxian assessment.

Marx noted that people are “treated differently for profit”, as in with the implementation of slavery for the profit of white slave owners. But there always needs to be a “cover” – a rationale to justify the behavior. The cover was, for one, the Biblical tale of the “Curse of Ham” as the religious camouflage for their oppressive treatment of Africans; then they also used Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest“, etc. The interesting point that could be made here is that slave owners likely knew that what they were doing was wrong or, at the very least, they realized they needed a “cover” to justify their behavior.

So, too, Trump or those around him also need a “cover” regarding their opposition to climate research. To say Trump and others know what they are doing is wrong might be stretching it as it suggests a conscience of sorts that seems to be lacking with this group. Their “cover” is simply and profoundly the “denial” of decades of vast years of research on climate change findings indicating that human activities damage our climate. Parallel to the slave owners, Trump is making decisions and using”denial” as a weak “cover” to benefit profit-making entities or capitalists that then will continue to exploit the environment along with compromising the health of all of us in the world.

Trump’s behavior on climate issues is a prime example of Marx saying that we (being the masses in the US and the world) are being treated differently for the profit of the other.

Summary

Perhaps right out of the Kuhn and Marxian models, neoconservative movements in America are attempting to entrench and/or expand power for their own benefit rather than that of the masses.

Needless to say, the technological changes also provide opportunities for conservatives to strengthen their own conservative information output as well. So it works for both sectors.

But from the progressive or human rights scenario, the conservative elements are attempting to reverse advances made by a century of technological changes and the accompanying liberation of mass information. Trump is attempting to do this, for one, by threatening the end of net neutrality; cutting to “0” the finds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, etc. They will want to continue to challenge the new and expansive technology, particularly if it’s liberating and empowering for the masses and threatens traditional authority and/or the conservative authority overall.With his critique of our media and/or scientific findings, virtually every day Trump is trying to control the information, we, as the public, receive. He wants to control the messages altogether and marginalize our media whose primary mission, as the fourth estate, is to keep the people in our democracy informed of activities of the other three estates, being the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Democracy requires an informed populace! Media is not there to serve the interests of the executive branch, as Trump would like, but to serve us, the people.

What is encouraging in America, however, is the huge response and critique by millions of Americans regarding these attempted efforts by Trump to undermine our media, climate research, health care, environment, immigration rights, education etc. to, then, benefit the 1%.

Nevertheless, if we understand this dynamic of attempts to control our information by the present government and corporate elite, the better we can act against these assaults on our freedom of thought, information and health. To repeat Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals.”