Obama Calls to Democrats to Vote For Them Are Ignored As Senate Goes Back to Republicans

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Attends Election Night Gathering

After the Senate and gubernatorial elections, in which Democrats lost the control of the Senate and several state governorship to Republicans, some are asking what it all really means. How significant is it that the Senate goes from the control of the Democrats to Republicans? How will it change or affect people’s lives? If you listen to the victory speeches of those who get more votes than their opponents – sometimes by a mere one or two percentage points – you’d think a brand new era is about to begin in the country and that Washington is about to be changed, completely and forever. It’s like a basketball team winning a game by scoring a shot in the last second and then proudly proclaiming this was a historic and significant win that changes everything! Interestingly enough, they all admit that “Washington isn’t working”, and everyone who gets on the podium, after his or her victory, promises to change it, claiming that a new era has just dawned, just because he or she managed to get some more votes than his or her rival. Media personalities, like Chris Mathews of MSNBC, keep telling us about “the sanctity of the vote” and how it’s what “democracy” is all about. The losing candidates graciously give a concession speech and tell us that this is democracy, which we must respect, accept and embrace with all its consequences.

Democracy is usually defined as the rule of the majority. It sounds simple enough, but often, simple sounding concepts are not so simple, within the realities and complexities of human societies. The rule by the majority, in theory, often changes, in practice, to the rule by a minority – a very small minority at that – who can convince the majority to vote for them and thus becomes “democracy” in name, only. Convincing the majority, through lies, false promises and misrepresentations, to vote for a representative, who does not represent them, is not real democracy. At the very least, that’s not the intent or purpose of democracy. The fact that a government, which is wholly owned and controlled by a class of rich and powerful individuals, organizes elections isn’t necessarily democracy and doesn’t necessarily mean rule of the majority. The (class) nature of those in power has much more to do with the outcome – as to whether it is fair and it can be called democracy or not – than organizing and counting votes. The voice of the majority matters only if it benefits the majority. If the voice of the majority only benefits the minority, then there is something terribly wrong with the process. Ends may not necessarily justify the means, but are usually a good indication for their fairness or rightness. At the end of the day, what matter are people themselves –  their lives, their needs, their problems and issues and their future – not just the process or some abstract principle we are told we must accept as the right way. The fairness of the process should be judged by the fairness of its outcome. A drug company can’t claim its drug should be consumed because they followed kosher methods in developing it, even if it kills those who use it. A democracy that leaves a tiny minority in charge of making laws that benefit them only is not democracy.

Elections in capitalist societies are one of two varieties: they are either fake and fraudulent, as is the case in underdeveloped societies ruled by a dictator, who uses fake elections to legitimize his kingdom or permanent “presidency”, or it’s made into some kind of game, a competition, like a sporting event, where candidates compete with one another, based on their appearance, their personalities, their connections, and, most importantly, their financial prowess. People’s lives and future, and in fact, the future of the planet and issues of war and peace, are thus made to depend on the result of a superficial competition, affected and determined by a number of superficial factors that neither have anything to do with people’s or society’s needs, nor with truth and justice. People go and vote and then wonder: what happened? Why does nothing change? Eventually, that question needs to evolve into: “why our votes don’t change anything?”  Maybe then, the process itself, which is sold to people as “democracy” will be put under the microscope, as it should.

Elections can and often are manipulated, candidates can and often do misrepresent themselves and often make promises they cannot or never intend to deliver. Even the act of counting the votes is subject to so-called “irregularities” and “fraud”. People’s lives should not depend on how well a candidate runs and manages his or her campaign, how many people in high places he or she knows, how many campaign workers he or she can afford and whom he or she can hire to lead the campaign. People’s lives and future should not be up for sale. Democracy, as defined as the rule of the majority, only has meaning with an informed and aware population.

Even the very act of governance and law making in a capitalist society, after the votes have been counted and candidates have taken their offices, is defective and fraudulent, subject to manipulation by “special interest” groups and their lobbyists and through the sheer power of money, and therefore have nothing to do with people’s real issues and problems.  The vast majority of candidates, who “win” and take office, know and care nothing about the people they pretend to represent. Not only often, but regularly, those representatives are handed the written laws already written for them by corporate bosses and lobbyists and without any change or even as much as understanding the issue or its consequences, they bring it to the legislative body and push it through, making it law.

A judge of a political system is how well the lower classes and the disenfranchised are represented. This is where the system really shows its crude and unjust nature. Instead of empowering the powerless and giving voice to the voiceless, those at the bottom of the society are ignored and left powerless and voiceless, despite their large numbers and despite the fact that they ARE the majority. It’s not a surprise that rich white males are vastly over-represented and dominate the political scene, with women and minorities and especially the poor grossly underrepresented. The political and governing process, as well as, the economic results, speaks volumes of the power, influence and dominance of the privileged sectors of the society. This can’t be democracy, no matter how you massage it and present it.

The corollary to the unrepresentative bodies of the Congress, whose main job is to give the rule of the minority the look and feel of a majority rule is the corporate media, which is tasked with convincing working people that their vote makes a difference, that whatever policies are enacted are really theirs because they have the “power of the vote”. They’re even told that if things don’t go their way, it’s their fault, if they didn’t vote! And those who did vote are told fair is fair. Their side lost fair and square! Speaking of the media, the only sensible thing that was uttered last night was by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, who said: “People ask me: ‘so what’s going to happen now’, as if the Senate was a functioning body”. Actually, the Senate does have a function, just not for the ordinary people. The Empire State building lit up last night with red lights, instead of blue, to indicate a Republican win.  So, it wasn’t totally meaningless.

But, as meaningless as the Senate changing hands might end up being for people, nothing beats the TV networks’ panels of political pundits and talking heads, in spewing out nonsense, which start a day before the elections and continue, for days after. The media of a society says much about the political process it operates in. Shallow and meaningless media coverage of elections, complete with statistics and odds and forecasters, as if it’s a horse race, is a good fit for superficial elections it covers.  But, it doesn’t just “cover” meaningless elections; it also covers the truth about a system that makes such fraudulent and shallow media possible, in the first place, which in turn makes the continuation of the system itself possible, through lies and deception. A media this corrupt can only exist and thrive in an equally corrupt economic system, which produces and uses such media. In this dialectic, they both need and reflect each other, perfectly well.

A system that’s designed to keep the corporate Empire and their owners in power, with all the wars, devastation and injustices it causes overseas and the poverty it leaves people in at home, is not real democracy. The only way real democracy can rule is by the presence and participation of an informed and politically aware population, who don’t just passively vote after watching politicians’ ads on TV, but have an organic relationship with their leaders, who rise through and with the help of the people, by tirelessly fighting for and along with them and gaining their trust, through struggle, and who, with the help of the people, fight side by side with them to wrest power from the small minority of super wealthy and powerful, who hold the state power and govern for their own interests. That would be real democracy.

New Provocation in East Jerusalem Reveals Frustration and a New Sense of Urgency by the Zionist State to Finish the Job

IMG_4300-1.JPG
Everyday brings news of new atrocities in occupied Palestine! For two months, we witnessed a most barbaric and brutal massacre of a besieged and defenseless people, who had nowhere to run and no way to defend themselves, resulting in the execution of over 1200 people, including over 500 children. Then, as soon as the truce, signed in Cairo, Egypt, put a temporary pause on the massacre, came news that Israel is building thousands of new settlements, in West Bank. Then, came the provocation in East Jerusalem by closing the Al-Aqsa mosque to Palestinians, clearly meant to provoke a reaction in order to pass more draconian laws, limiting the movements of Palestinians, to put more of them in jail, to demolish more of their homes and to create new Jewish settlements for the ultimate goal of cleansing the land of all Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu said as much, recently, making his plans clear. Not only Netanyahu, but many others in government have made their intention for ethnic cleansing clear and their actions speak for themselves.

RT reported yesterday that in response to the recent unrest in East Jerusalem, a new law just passed increases the penalty for throwing rocks at soldiers or police, including at police cars, tenfold, to 20 years in prison. Haaretz reported that as a result of intense pressure from settlers, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued a “directive that bans Palestinian workers from traveling on Israeli-run public transportation in the West Bank”. Palestinian workers are already required to carry bio-metric ID cards ready to show to authorities when asked for, but now, they have to return to the West Bank, through various crossings, which will take them much longer to get home.

None of this is really new, at least not the intent and strategy. The whole purpose of establishing Israel, as a Jewish-only and settler state, has been to cleanse the land of Palestinians and settle Jews on the cleansed land. Israeli officials, from the very beginning to today, have always made their intentions clear. Neither are the massacres anything new, which are committed every few years, for a variety of excuses, which are easy to find from an occupied people since one way or another, the occupied will resist.

Incidentally, no amount of unevenness and disparity between the Israeli army and those who resist it makes US officials stop the narrative that Israel is fighting for its survival and that it “has the right to defend itself”. Apparently, the occupiers have the right to defend their illegal occupation, but the occupied don’t have the right to defend themselves against the occupation, against ethnic cleansing, against massacres, incarcerations, torture, including of children, and against genocide. It’s like saying: the rapist has the right to defend himself against the one being raped by severely beating her, if she ever throws any punch or kick. The US policy is not just one sided or gravely biased towards Israel. It’s completely upside down. Israel is not in a struggle for its survival. Palestinians are. Israel is not the one being threatened with annihilation. The Palestinians are. Palestinians don’t have the ability, the means or military power to threaten Israel. Israel has both the ability and the intention to wipe out Palestinians and is actually doing everything to make that reality. Palestinians aren’t the ones occupying Israel Or Israelis. It’s Israel that’s occupying Palestine and its people.

Israel is not surrounded by hostile states. It has some of the most loyal and strongest allies as neighbors. Egypt has closed its border with Gaza to help enforce the siege of Gaza and has created a buffer zone. Jordan is another strong and loyal ally of US and Israel and so is Saudi Arabia. After ruining Iraq and making it ungovernable, the only neighbor that’s left that’s not an ally is Syria, which is now being devastated by Islamist terrorists, including ISIS and loyalists to Al Qaeda and Salafi and other Islamist fundamentalists, who have been armed and funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, US, Britain and Israel to overthrow the Syrian government. Already, more than 200,000 Syrians have been killed, many in the hands of ISIS terrorists and over 2 million have been displaced. So, it’s not Israel that needs “to defend itself”. No one is threatening it and no one could. Israel is the only state in Middle East with nuclear weapons, while all the attention is on Iran, which is probably next in line to be devastated.

A colonial settler and apartheid state is built on occupied land and engages in an outright ethnic cleansing of the occupied people and when the latter resists, it goes on a massive attack with heavy weapons, fighter jets, attack helicopters, navy warships and tanks, as if it’s fighting a strong and heavily armed military. It carpet bombs residential neighborhoods, apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, ambulances and even UN shelters meant to provide shelter to children and all we hear from our President and his cabinet is: “Israel has the right to defend itself”, and the Senate approves and the President signs $225 million more in direct military aid to Israel. Isn’t that saying to Israelis: we support what you’re doing? And TV networks recite Israelis’ statements that THEY are in an existential fight!

But, the US complicity and aiding and abetting with the genocide isn’t new, either. What is new and different from years past and the main point I want to raise here is the sense of urgency Israeli officials are feeling to “finish the job” and achieve their goal of an Israel, without Palestinians. The process of ethnic cleansing has already reached a point that, much to the chagrin of “liberal” Zionists, has already made the “two state solution”, advocated by them, impossible. The hawkish and extreme actions of the Israeli government have already made that “solution” untenable, through aggressive land grabs, displacements and settlement building that have all but removed that as a viable option. That boat has long gone and just as well, since it was the wrong boat, to begin with.

It’s important to understand that the idea of the “two state solution” was advanced not for Palestinians, to end their suffering or to free them from brutal occupation, discrimination and apartheid, but for Israel: to make the apartheid state more feasible, more attainable and more legitimate in the eyes of the world, while at the same time, delegitimizing any continued Palestinian resistance. The two state “solution” would maintain the state of Israel as a Jewish-only state, keeping Palestinians out, would accelerate and legitimize driving as many of them out of the Jewish-only territories as possible, not even allowing them to visit relatives, should any of them be left behind, would deny Palestinian refugees their right to return to their homes, would keep the wall of segregation between the two peoples, would give total control over all borders, waters, airspace, the trade, the foreign policy, etc. to Israel and grant to Palestinians some disjointed pieces of land, all surrounded, interspersed and controlled by Israeli military check points, as their new “state”. That’s what “liberal” Zionists hope will save Israel, as a Jewish state, in the long run.

Needless to say that would solve nothing. The reason should be obvious: because it would not attain a just solution snd as long as there is no justice, there won’t be a lasting peace. The only just solution that is also feasible and sustainable in the long run, is a solution which is not based on racism, segregation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing or displacing people based on their religion, race or ethnicity, and that is to dismantle the apartheid state of Israel and establish a secular and democratic state in all of Palestine-Israel, with equal rights for all, regardless of their race or religion or ethnicity, where foreigners with the “right religion” are not paid to come and settle in homes, built on stolen land and cleansed of those with the “wrong religion”.

That should be obvious and would be obvious, had it not been for intense and decades long US propaganda, keeping the American people in the dark as to what really is the problem. It’s impossible to be for a just and lasting solution, without understanding the problem, which is the occupation and ethnic cleansing. To make sure people don’t understand it, they’re told these people can’t get along, or it’s complicated, that there is no easy solution or that this has been going on for ages, which is not true. It started in 1947-1948, with the European Jews going to Palestine to create a “Jewish state”, after they would drive out the Palestinians.

So, how do the Israeli policy makers see the future of Israel? Are they sanguine about its prospects? Do they see the Zionist dream coming true or falling apart? The reason it’s important to know how they view the prospects and future of the state is that it better reveals their mindset and explain and possibly even anticipate their actions. I believe what their recent increased aggressiveness and shameless barbarism reveals is a sense of urgency, which usually shows frustration and nervousness about failure. I believe that the reason for this nervousness is that they sense that the world opinion is finally shifting and turning against the Zionist project. A potent indication of this trend is the successes of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction). Although Israel had undertaken massacres many times before, two interrelated things made the recent one different: it was, by all accounts, a more desperate attack – which are always more ferocious – and it was the most visible, thanks mainly to social media, which illicit the most indignation and condemnation worldwide, which was more than in the past, not just because it was more ferocious, but because it was more visible, whereas the ones in the past were committed largely without people the world over finding out about them. But, as I said, ferocity shows desperation. The ferociousness and barbarism that originated from and showed frustration and desperation, in turn made the Zionist dream even harder to achieve, which then increased the level of frustration and desperation, even more. This is a two sided coin because on the one hand, it points to the failure, in the long run, of the inhuman, racist and genocidal Zionist project, and on the other, it promises more savagery, more brutal massacres, more provocations, more curtailing of Palestinians’ rights, more incarceration, more draconian laws and accelerated home demolitions, settlement building and displacement. We have already seen these put in high gear, as mentioned at the beginning of this piece.

What needs to happen as a counterweight to this heightened aggression is an heightened awareness by the public and increase in direct action, including the demand to cut all aid to Israel, as well as active participation in the BDS movement. Indeed one reason for their nervousness is that the movement is winning victories. What makes our liberating work hard is that the superpower’s corporate Empire and its strong allies in Europe, such as Britain, France, Germany, as well as Canada, are behind the ongoing genocide. The work is hard, but, for inspiration, we have the Palestinian people and their resistance against incredible odds, making the “David vs. Goliath” an understatement. We must understand that this fight isn’t just for the Palestinians, but also for ourselves. It not only is for justice, democracy, progress and lasting peace, but also for ourselves to have the money that’s spent on wars and massacres, used instead on people and meeting their needs.

What is #GamerGate All About?

IMG_4299.JPG
Normally, I wouldn’t comment on a subject having to do with games or gaming since I’m not a gamer and never have been and know nothing about it. What made me decide to write this piece is not any newfound interest in playing video games, but a recent controversy (or “scandal”), within gaming cybersphere, that broke out into the open and into the society at large and revealed some ugly and disturbing, though not at all surprising, reality, within its culture.

I don’t want to bore the reader with the details of what happened – news networks have done that, already. Suffice it to say that the ex boyfriend of a female gaming developer, Ms. Zoe Quinn, accused her of having a relationship with a gaming journalist, who writes reviews for a gaming site called Kotaku, for the purpose of getting a good review for the game she developed, “Depression Quest”. It turned out there was no such review, but, he went on, nevertheless, to post details of his own prior relationship with her to discredit her. Somehow, this accusation caused some men within the gaming cyberspace to begin a campaign of attack, under the hashtag campaign called #GamerGate against her and all women within the gaming sphere, with some men going as far as making threats of physical violence against her, which led her to leave her house out of fear of getting hurt or killed. The participants of the #GamerGate campaign claim that their “cause” is about journalistic integrity with some distancing themselves from the threats of the more extreme members, though most of their comments are sexist attacks against women.

The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group for US developers, released a statement (reported by BBC), saying: “Threats of violence and harassment are wrong.” Oh really? Nice to know! I wonder how much time and effort the Association had to put into formulating and composing this courageous and controversial statement, which they felt compelled to undertake, at the risk of potentially damaging their bottom line. But, hey, you have to do the right thing even if it hurts you, right?! Sarcasm, aside, I think Ms. Quinn was being too kind calling their statement “milquetoast”.

My point from relaying this isn’t just to report it, which anyway has already been done. Reports of events that take place in the world are useless and pointless, if all we get from them is that such and such thing happened, as disjointed and isolated events, without understanding their historical, social and political context or meaning and without connecting them to larger trends and realities around us. We have no use for such pieces of information, if all we find out is the information itself, devoid of any context and learn nothing from it. That’s usually how we’re fed information about events taking place. Hardly ever is there an analysis beyond the 10 second sound bites and tidbits of isolated information, stripped of any social and historical meaning. And when there is any report at length and within a larger framework, it’s generally when the status quo and their media wants us to form a particular opinion about something or someone because their interests call for it, such as preparing us for war against another “brutal dictator”, who must be stopped. Nor would I claim, as news reporters often do, to be unbiased. There is no such thing or such a person as unbiased. We all are biased. It just depends where or rather on which side our biases are.

Now, to my main point, which as Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist media critic who writes for Feminist Frequency blog says, the gaming industry is rife with sexism and misogyny, full of stereotyping and objectifying of women, reducing them to sex objects to use for men’s pleasure, calling them “whore” and treating them like trash. What a surprise, heh! So, what was your position again, dear Entertainment Software Association? You’re against violence? Is that why you let developers create games that encourage violence and misogyny?

But, as important as it is to know that that’s what’s happening in that so called industry, it’s not enough. We must also search for solutions. To do that, we must go to the source and see what causes such prejudice and hate towards half the human population. You see, when a socioeconomic system is driven by what’s profitable rather than what’s right, what’s just or what’s needed, it will latch onto any established and prevalent mindset to exploit it for profit, no matter how reactionary, how unjust, how destructive or harmful it is. Take the environment, for example. It matters not, what the environmental consequences of an enterprise are. What matters is the bottom line. Same with the food industry, which literally, though slowly, is killing people, while siphoning off huge amount of money and channeling them into the coffers of drug industry and insurance companies to deal with the consequences. A profit based system won’t try to discourage bad behavior or prejudices or culture, but will, instead use it for profit and will thus encourage and perpetuate it, instead of helping to eliminate it. It doesn’t bother our friends at the Association, who say they’re against violence, that their so called entertainment software promotes violence against and harassment of women. What matters is the profit margin. That’s hardly a good yardstick to measure civility and culture or the the means for advancing understanding, equality, progress and social justice.

Male Chauvinism and the Struggle for Economic Justice

After I posted a video on my Facebook page showing a woman walking down the streets of New York and being harassed by men, a white dude, who had somehow ended up in my friends list (not anymore, I should add), made this comment:

“women love to be harassed like that as long as the guy is in their financially and socially targeted market.. now let’s take a not so attractive girl from lower class neighborhood to a nice and wealthy one and have some good looking guys trying to flirt with her and watch her reaction”.

Naturally and understandably, two female friends, who were also commenting on the video, felt insulted by his comment, which incidentally, got one “like” and that was by another white man. The reason why I mention the fact that they were white is that a certain chauvinistic and egotistical mentally exists among many white men, which is not present in that same way among men of other races and that mainly has to do with the overall chauvinistic and aggrandized mentality these white men have, which cuts through both race and gender, giving them a sense of “my type of people (male and white) is the best and knows the best”. The way this mentality exhibits itself in the gender arena is not quite the same, as say, with African American or Hispanic men. The racist/sexist package these white men carry around with them, besides the foul smell it spreads around wherever they go, has a unique quality to it that you can’t find among other races. Many of these men, not surprisingly, end up going into the military or join the police force or both.

Besides the type I just described, there is also a group of these male chauvinistic men, who consider themselves progressives and even leftist! The guy, who made that comment above, justified his position – supposedly trying to sound leftist and analytical – like this:

“is it [the problem] ‘Men’ or maybe deeper underlying issues that come with poverty whether culturally, socially or financially”.

What we must understand is that using the issue of class and class conflict or class oppression or the issue of poverty or capitalism to sweep sexism and male chauvinism under the rug or to put it on the back burner or to make light of it because there are “more pressing class issues”, is neither leftist, nor Marxist, nor even progressive.
This is not a moral issue. Nor is it the fact – from pragmatic point of view – that without women no fundamental change is possible, but rather, it’s the essence of being progressive or being on the side of social justice and progress and equality.  It is the prerequisite for creating a better and more just society. How would it sound if someone were to advocate socialism in the 1800’s in the South, while at the same time advocating keeping blacks as slaves? That’s how absurd the proposition that women can continue to be harassed or that they “love to be harassed”, while we try to uproot the unjust system of capitalism is. Indeed, the issue of sexism is analogous to racism: one historically privileged group enjoying superior power and benefits, but most importantly, possessing a mentality of being in fact “superior”, which makes them look down on and discriminate against another group, who is not of the same type – having the same skin color, gender, etc. This is separate from class and deserves its own struggle, no less. A social movement cannot move forward and galvanize people for social justice and progress, if its proponents have such reactionary and prejudiced mentality.

The Rich, the Poor and the Role of Religion

IMG_4273.JPG
Like so many others, I, too, was deeply touched and saddened to see this picture, showing this little boy working. As I read through many of the comments on Facebook – there were about 2,400 of them – I was touched once again; this time, by the overwhelming sympathy for the child and outrage at the kind of world we’ve allowed to be built around us and at the magnitude of the injustices and cruelty that’s going on in our world. The expressions of empathy for the child and anger and disgust at a system that forces people to make their children work at such young age gives me hope about my fellow humans and makes me feel not alone. One woman even gave her phone number and asked anyone who knows the boy to contact her so she could send him money.

This reminded me of the time when I posted the picture of a little boy in Gaza crying because he had lost his mother to Israeli bombing of their apartment building, which Obama repeatedly defended, as his job required, by saying “Israel has the right to defend itself”. A woman wrote in her comment: “I wish I could bathe him, feed him and hold him in my arms making him feel loved until he falls asleep in my arms”. That, too, brought tears to my eyes. It didn’t take much, of course, after seeing pictures of the devastation and dead children with survivors crying.

But, as I read through dozens of the comments about this little boy who has to work at such young age, I noticed that so many people were asking God to help him, to have mercy on him or to bless him. Some took a slightly different approach and said that “God will help him”. This is when I realized, once again, as I have many times before, about the power of religion as a pacifier. When you believe that some omnipotent and omniscient being with an infinite wisdom and best judgement will right the wrongs and take care of the needy and remedy injustices, and that if there is something wrong with the world, there is a reason for it that we mortals can’t understand and that we should leave things to His infinitely wise and sound judgement, then, there is no need for our action. It makes us feel better that it’s not our job to make things right or to fight against injustices. And when we feel better after we were just outraged and touched, we don’t have the urge to act anymore.

I’m not naive. I don’t expect the billionaires and multimillionaires who are benefiting from the economic system that leads to such atrocities to try to change the system. In fact, I expect them to try to prevent change at all cost, which they promptly and smartly do by employing demagogues like Obama to pacify minorities while he goes to war in several countries for the rich who put him in office, so they can get even richer than they already are. Religion has no vital role to play with them. Money is their religion and money is what they use to buy Heaven and Earth, promising to the poor a good blessed life in the “other world” because this one has already been spoken for and it’s officially and legally theirs. Fair is fair: this world is theirs and the next belongs to the poor. And here is where the real power of religion exhibits itself: that the poor buy it!

Cuba’s Role in Fighting Ebola and the Reaction of Empire’s Newspapers

Cuban-DoctorsCuba’s Role in Fighting Ebola and the Reaction of Empire’s Newspapers

Asking other countries to do more to help stem the spread of Ebola, John Kerry, US Secretary of State, mentioned Cuba on Monday as an example of what others could do and praised the small island nation for sending hundreds of doctors to provide badly needed care to people of West Africa. New York Times, in an editorial dated October 19 and titled: “Cuba’s impressive role on Ebola”, wrote: “Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus”. But feeling like it just committed an unspeakable crime praising Cuba, it quickly added: “Cuba’s contribution is undoubtedly meant, at least in part, to bolster its beleaguered international standing.”

Washington Post, in an article titled: “In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above in weight”, wrote on October 4: “While the international community has been accused of dragging its feet on the Ebola crisis, Cuba, a country of just 11 million people that still enjoys a fraught relationship with the United States, has emerged as a crucial provider of medical expertise in the West African nations hit by Ebola. On Thursday, 165 health professionals from the country arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join the fight against Ebola – the largest medical team of any single foreign nation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And after being trained to deal with Ebola, a further 296 Cuban doctors and nurses will go to Liberia and Guinea, the other two countries worst hit by the crisis.”

“Cuba’s universal health-care system enables such an export. The country nationalized its health care shortly after its revolution, ending private health care and guaranteeing free health care in its constitution. The results have been widely praised. In 2008, evaluating 30 years of Cuba’s ‘primary health care revolution,’ the Bulletin of the World Health Organization pointed to impressive strides that the country had made in certain health indicators. ‘These indicators – which are close or equal to those in developed countries – speak for themselves,’ Gail Reed noted, pointing to a huge reduction in number of deaths for children under five years old and Cuba’s high life expectancy of 77 years. “… by 2008, it was training 20,000 foreigners a year to be doctors, nurses and dentists, largely free of charge.”

“Ebola isn’t the first time that Cuban health workers have been sent to deal with a global disaster. Even back in 1960, immediately after the revolution, Cuba sent doctors to Chile to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and the practice has continued for decades since. In 2005, Cuba even offered to send medical workers to the United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (they were apparently rebuffed).

“Reuters reports that Cuba currently has around 50,000 health workers working in 66 countries. Israel, a wealthier country with a similar population, caused controversy this week when its Defense Minister rejected requests to send medical workers to Ebola-struck countries”. After publishing this article, the Post added an update online saying: “though the Foreign Ministry has since announced it would in fact send medical crews.”

Yes, Israel is wealthier than Cuba because it receives about $4 billion from the US each and every year which given its small population amounts to tens of thousands of dollars for each Israeli each year, and the only thing Israel exports is war. In stark contrast, Cuba remains blockaded by the US. As I wrote in a recent piece, while Israel was giving weapons and arms to the apartheid regime of South Africa, Cuba sent 25,000 troops to defend Angola against South African aggression, after Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. US and Israel continued to have close relations with South Africa till the very end.

After writing these facts about Cuba, on October 20, the Post, too, must have felt like a traitor talking about Cuba in such good terms. So, it tried to make amends. In an editorial titled: “Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people”, it tried hard to find reasons to attack and discredit Cuba. So, what did they come up with? A car accident in which two opponents of the government were killed, which according to Post, must have been planned and orchestrated by the government, even though those individuals had been left free to voice their opposition to the government for years – Mr. Payá, one of the two killed in that accident, in fact, had been active since 2002, to Post’s own admission. If the government wanted to eliminate them, they could have done it long time ago. The Post says the Cuban government has not done a thorough investigation and demands “a credible investigation” into the accident. It goes on to say that “When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case, they got no answer. Nothing.” Nothing, they emphatically repeat!

I’m really out of words to describe their hypocrisy! I don’t think that word does justice. When was the last time Washington Post condemned Israel for not responding to queries made by the UN Human Rights Commission, or by any human rights organization, not about a car accident which causes the death of two people, but massive war crimes and massacres of over a thousand defenseless Palestinians at a time, including women and children? Where is their protest about Israel breaking down doors and taking away “dissidents” and jailing and torturing them, including children as young as 13? Where is the demand for “a thorough and credible investigation”? A few days ago, an Israeli settler ran over a 5 year old Palestinian girl, killing her. He continued to drive and went home and “Nothing”, as the Post put it. Nothing! And that wasn’t even the first time. Israeli settlers routinely do that. They also burn olive trees Palestinians depend on for survival? What about atrocities committed by the “friendly” government of Saudi Arabia, where the government beheads its opponents every day?

So, what is it about Cuba that bothers these organs of the Empire so much that even when they report on Cuban doctors helping Africans, which they have been doing even long before the outbreak of Ebola, they mix in some unwarranted and ridiculous attack to reduce from the unwanted positive impact? They’re quick to point out that its GDP is not high or that it’s a poor country, but compared to what nations, the US, Germany, Britain or France? If Cuba were to loot dozens of nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it too would have been much richer now, not to mention the fact that it’s been under US economic embargo ever since they kicked Empire’s multinational corporations out of their country. And therein lies their real dismay with Cuba. That’s what really bothers them about Cuba: because it won’t let these giant corporations exploit their workers like they do in other countries where they pay poverty wages and fire them when they’re not profitable to them; that is if they survive at the job.

And what about “democracy” and “human rights” that these papers complain about in regards to Cuba? What makes Cuba deserving of criticism when Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and so many others who enjoy good relations with the US are off the hook and not subject to bashing by Empire’s papers? Simple: Cuba doesn’t allow the CIA to recruit and bribe people to organize a revolt and overthrow the government, as they do and have done in so many countries, the latest being in Ukraine. Cuba doesn’t allow provocateurs to create the grounds for a CIA coup as they did in Iran in 1953, in Guatemala in 1954, in Congo in 1960, in Chile in 1973, to mention just a few, not to mention regime change through war.

When speaking of democracy and human rights, there are three things that hardly ever get mentioned:
1. A small nation “in the backyard” of the Empire which has been a target for regime change for 55 years with its leaders targeted for assassination and its opponents constantly contacted and incited by the CIA to commit sabotage, does not have the luxury to be complicit or cavalier about the activities, associations or plans of such individuals. The same is obviously not true the other way around: Cuba is not and never has been trying to do regime change in the US, so the latter does not have the same political pressures, as Cubans do. Moreover, the Cuban government does not have the same powerful propaganda, deception and mind control machinery as the US.
2. The US does have its own dissidents and is not softer on them at all – not by a long shot. Cuba can try to be tough on its dissidents, but can never, ever, top the US, which sentences a young whistle blower (Chelsea, formerly Bradley Manning) to 35 years to prison and out of fear of facing a similar faith, another young whistle blower (Edward Snowden) is forced to leave the country and live in exile. Another dissident (Mumia Abu Jamal) was framed for murder and has been in jail for 32 years. Another political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in jail for 32 years, too. His crime? Fighting to free his homeland of Puerto Rico from US occupation which annexed it in 1898. Rivera never committed any violent act against anyone. Originally, he was sentenced to 55 years for “seditious conspiracy”; later another 15 were added for a total of 70 years, due to an alleged escape attempt. Leonard Peltier, a Native American who fought for his people’s rights is also languishing in a US jail for life. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was on the FBI list of individuals to be eliminated, was followed, pursued and spied on by the Bureau which ultimately played a role in his assassination which was mentioned in the civil lawsuit brought by his widow.
3. The US has the most massive and broadest spy program in the world spying on its own people, reading their emails, listening in on their phone conversations, viewing their posts and photos sent to friends. It also inserts agents into anti-war, environmental and other social justice organizations to spy on their members. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, police attacked, beat, arrested and brutalized peaceful demonstrators and the CIA was collecting information on the activists. And this is a nation that has absolutely no need to worry about a superpower next door trying to recruit its people to overthrow the government.

Speaking of prisoners, the US stands alone among all nations of the world for having the largest prison population: 2.2 million, most of them from poor working class and minority backgrounds and many incarcerated for years for nothing but possession of drugs. The disparity between treatment of African Americans compared to whites within the American “criminal justice system” is so egregious that deserves to be heard by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The issue of keeping innocent men in Guantanamo Bay and force feeding them through their noses is the icing on the US human rights cake.

Besides “human rights” which the Empire and its papers have no right to even mention, let alone boast about, but astonishingly do regularly, another issue that they like to use to condemn “unfriendly” nations with is “support for terrorism”. One of the two governments of US and Cuba sponsors, supports and engages in acts of terrorism against other nations, regularly. Guess which one! Not a hard guess, at all. One of these governments has been holding 5 nationals of the other in prison for life for nothing, but notifying local authorities about terrorists (Google “The Cuban 5”, referring to 5 Cubans imprisoned in the US). And, one of them has given refuge to terrorists who have engaged in acts of terrorism against the other, including blowing up a passenger airplane which led to the death of all its passengers. Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles was recruited by the CIA and helped with the Bay of Pigs Invasion of US marines into Cuba. He received training at Fort Benning, and from 1964 to 1968 was involved with a series of bombings and other anti-Castro covert activities. After migrating to Venezuela in 1968, Posada became involved in various terrorist activities in the region, He was convicted in absentia in Panama of involvement in various terrorist attacks and plots in the Americas, including 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 78 people. Yet, he was allowed to move to the US without facing justice. So much for being against terrorism!

Is Cuba perfect? Of course not! But, one must ask the question: why the double standards about Cuba? As with so many other things and so often, it’s about economics. As they say: follow the money. Cuba does not open its doors to imperialism to come in and exploit its workers, as they do elsewhere wherever it reigns free and uninhibited, ruining the local environment, working their workers in unsafe conditions, assisting brutal dictators to stay in power and to keep wages low and paying little or no taxes, while they make a killing and take their resources cheaply, making themselves richer and keeping the subject people poor. But, we don’t have to examine their neoliberal and imperialist policies overseas to understand the nature and objectives of these corporations. Just look at what they do within the US itself. They’ve busted just about all labor unions in the last 50 years. They control all politicians and the political process, they literally buy elections and have done away with just about any governmental regulation and oversight and most of them pay little or no taxes and keep pushing for wars that are profitable for them. The results speak for themselves: wealth and income inequality is at an all-time high and so is the poverty, and to pacify people, police brutality and violence, especially against minorities, reigns supreme. Empire’s papers that attack Cuba while staying silent about friends like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan and others don’t like the fact that US corporations can’t get their hands on Cuba. They don’t like the fact that Cuba is not a capitalist society with foreign banks and corporations like Exxon-Mobile, Monsanto, Bank of America and others getting rich off their people. So, their concern isn’t about the Cuban people. Before one criticizes Cuba for its socialist economy, one must first ask: how is US capitalism working out for millions of Americans?

Cuban socialism has made tremendous strides in meeting its people’s needs, has provided free healthcare and education to the entire population, has close to zero unemployment, and provides secure retirement for life and guaranteed housing to all. Its infant mortality rate is in line with rich and developed industrial nations of Europe and its people’s life expectancy is one of the highest. And when there is a natural disaster like hurricane, which happens often in this island, they actually move people in the thousands to shelters until the danger has passed, unlike in the US where they leave the poor to die and let them become homeless.

Yes, Cuba is not perfect, but it’s much better than many others, including those in the same continent and others throughout Asia and Africa. But, whether it’s human rights or care for the poor, both domestic and in other nations, or in providing healthcare or financial security or dealing with disasters, the US has absolutely nothing over Cuba and indeed can learn much from it. The Empire’s papers like Washington Post can and will continue to try to demonize Cuba to keep the truth from the American people and keep them deceived, but the truth won’t stay hidden forever.

What the Future Holds for the American Middle Class

Writing for Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus describes a thesis put forth in a new book titled “Average Is Over,” by an “economist”, named Tyler Cowen, who teaches “economics” at Virginia’s George Mason University. In it, Mr. Cowen “predicts” that Americans’ real wages will continue to go down, jobs lost during the last big recession, also known as the Great Recession, won’t be coming back, inequality between rich and poor will increase, the middle class will disappear and a new underclass will be created. I, for one, am a believer in Mr. Cowen’s ability to predict. He’s the type of person who predicts rain when it’s already pouring cats and dogs! Fortunately, Mr. Doyle is alert enough to point out that that’s how things are now. Good catch!

But, Mr. Cowen doesn’t just predict the obvious. He goes on to say that inequality isn’t a bad thing. I agree: inequality only looks bad from one side of the equation! He reminds me of an abusive spouse who insists there is nothing wrong with his marriage! Inequality will increase and that’s OK, he says: “I don’t think we know the causal relationship between inequality and happiness,” he tells Mr. Doyle during an interview. Those at the bottom “might even be happier in a middle-classless future”. And, once again, Mr. Doyle “corrects” him by saying: “The American dream isn’t only of success for a few high achievers; it’s about an economy that supports a healthy middle class and opportunity for the striving poor”.

I find it rather amusing to hear someone still talk about “the American dream”! Makes you wonder if he’s a fool or he thinks we are. He correctly points out that Mr. Cowen’s prediction is already a reality and then laments that it’s not “the American Dream”! It’s like listening to a fully grown man complain that Santa Claus didn’t bring him a nice gift, this year!

He ends his piece for LA Times with: “New ideas, anyone?” Well, for starters, how about pointing out the source and cause of the growing inequality and the creation of a poor underclass? Or is that off limits to our economics professors and LA Times writers? Is the situation which keeps getting worse for working people not related to the fact that the class of wealthy capitalists has usurped all the political power out of the hands of the wage earners, has busted the vast majority of labor unions and pretty much owns the politicians and in fact the entire government, which it uses to its advantage to make itself even richer at the expense of workers? So, I ask again: Are they really dumb or do they think we are?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers