Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category


It’s official. Donald Trump is now, undeniably, in bed with radical Islamists: the Saudi government. That government is essentially ISIS with oil. (Not incidentally, rich Saudis, including members of the Saudi royal family, provided essential funding to ISIS during its initial years.)

Following his love fest with Turkish president and Islamo-fascist thug Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Donald Trump just approved one of the biggest arms deals in history with the Saudi Islamo-fascists. He just approved a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi regime.

So, what will the arms be used for, what purposes? Exactly what kind of policies does our “ally”pursue?

Under Saudi Sharia law, Human Rights Watch reports that “adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian—usually a husband, father, brother, or son—to travel, marry, or exit prison.” Under the Saudi regime, women can’t even drive.

Of course, given the regime’s radical Islamist (Wahabi) orientation, there is no freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia; mere criticism of the theo-fascist regime can, and does, land people in prison for more than a decade.

Nor is there freedom of conscience in Saudi Arabia. Merely being an atheist is grounds for execution, though the more usual punishments are imprisonment and/or torture (flogging) that can result in permanent physical damage.

And, yes, Saudi Arabia judicially murders a large number of people; it has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Saudi crimes extend beyond Saudi Arabia’s borders. In addition to helping to finance ISIS and providing 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, the Saudis currently commit war crimes in Yemen, including bombing funerals, hospitals, and other civilian targets, and “double tap” bombing, in which the Saudis bomb the same target shortly after first hitting it, in order to kill and maim rescue workers.

These are the Islamist monsters Trump just armed to the teeth.

Actions speak louder than words, and despite Trump’s anti-Islamist rhetoric, his actions betray him. He’ll stir up hatred against powerless refugees, but he kisses the cheeks (both kinds) of oil-rich Islamists.

If you oppose radical Islam, you oppose it. And you support those Islamists oppress. You don’t sell $110 billion in arms to one of the worst Islamist human rights violators on earth.

Donald Trump is an utter hypocrite.

(Of course, all recent U.S. presidents and their administrations have been equally hypocritical. Here’s a rogues gallery of some of the guilty.)

Barack Obama, who sold the Saudis $60 billion worth of arms.

 George W. Bush, who allowed approximately 50 members of the Bin Laden family to leave the U.S. immediately after 9/11, without allowing the FBI to question them.

Bill Clinton, whose foundation received more than $10 million of Saudi money.


Homeland Security Graphic -- cops assaulting Statue of Liberty

–from our friends at Peace Supplies


There seem to be two explanations for Donald Trump’s attacks on the courts, media, and objective reality: 1) He’s a whining, self-pitying baby who simply can’t stand it when he doesn’t immediately get his own way; 2) He wants to pull a full-Stalin by undermining the institutions that stand in his way — the judiciary and free press — and by creating a false reality in which his followers simply accept his bald-faced lies and self-contradictory statements while ignoring abundant and immediately presented contradictory evidence.

These two explanations are not mutually exclusive; both are probably correct.

So, what do we have to look forward to from Trump and his Republican enablers?

  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without anything approaching an adequate replacement. Trump and the congressional Republicans will almost certainly take their cues from the insurance industry and big pharma, making healthcare less available and more expensive for the vast majority of people. Probability: Virtually certain. 7-stars-72

 

  • Assaults on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Congressional Republicans will push for “entitlement reform” (never mind that people paid for these things through payroll taxes), which will amount to at the very least reduction in cost-of-living increases for Social Security and reduction of benefits for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, and more stringent eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients. Probability: Virtually certain.
    7-stars-72

 

  • Full-scale privatization of Social Security and Medicare. The more ideological (read Ayn Rand worshiping) Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, will push hard for this. If this happens, they’ll likely sell it by leaving a weakened Social Security system and Medicare in place for those over 45 or 55, and privatizing both for those under those age limits. This would result in not only younger people losing those benefits in decades to come, but also resentment among them at paying for benefits for older people which they themselves won’t get. Probability: All too possible. 
    4-stars-72

 

  • Increased voter suppression. The Republicans have used entirely manufactured scare stories about “massive voter fraud” at the ballot box, while providing no evidence whatsoever of it, to push through restrictive laws in states across the country that make it more difficult to register to vote (e.g., among the elderly without photo ID and the poor who don’t have cars who’d have to travel to get state ID) and to cast ballots (restricting early voting). This has resulted in the disenfranchisement, at minimum, of hundreds of thousands of voters, and more likely millions of voters. Now, the Republicans seem poised to do this on a national scale. They’re unpopular (look at their approval ratings), desperate to hang onto power, and are very obviously willing to do anything to retain it, including betraying America’s (supposed) democratic principles. Probability: Very, very high. 
    6-stars-72

 

  • Use of a terrorist incident to suppress civil liberties. The chance of Trump creating a “false flag” terrorist incident are low, simply because of Trump and accomplices’ overall incompetence and the outright loathing the intelligence agencies have for Trump; they very probably wouldn’t allow him to get away with this. On the other hand, if there’s continued instability in the Trump Administration, and continued appointment of the grossly incompetent to decision-making positions, it’s all too possible, in part because Trump is playing into ISIS’s and Al-Qaeda’s hands through his fear-mongering rhetoric and Muslim ban. If there were a major terrorist incident, we can expect demonization of all critical voices and opposition movements, legislation restricting freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. Probability: Likely under 50/50, but only because of the professionals in the intelligence agencies. 3-stars-72

 

  • Worsening economic inequality. Trump’s economic policies overall, basically trickle-down economics (or as Jim Hightower puts it, “tinkle-down” economics), will result in continued and worsening economic inequality. Lowering taxes on the rich and corporations will do nothing to create new jobs, because demand creates jobs, not “job creators.” When low- and middle-income people receive more money, they spend almost all of it on food, consumer goods, utilities, and services — they have to. This creates jobs. When the rich receive more money, they spend it on stock buybacks, real estate (among other things, driving up the cost of housing), and luxury goods, such as yachts. This creates very few jobs. And this is the direction in which billionaire, entitled-heir Trump is headed. Probability: Virtually certain.
    7-stars-72

 

  • Continued scapegoating, fear-mongering, and demonization of all opposition. The Clintons, Barack Obama, and the other corporate Democrats paved the way for Trump’s success through their betrayal of those who elected them, through their abject servility to the corporate elite; this resulted in long-simmering anger among working and middle class people. Trump has taken full advantage of this anger and will continue to do so. Probability: Certain. 7-stars-72

 

 


Fidel Castro

 

by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

It’s time to speak ill of the dead.  It’s been time for nearly a century. Since 1918, the left in both the U.S. and Europe has had a dictator-worship problem. First it was Lenin; then it was (yes) Stalin; then Mao; most recently the dictator of choice has been Fidel Castro.

To illustrate the depth and nature of this problem, let me recount an incident from Cuba in the 1960s. In the 1970s, a maoist friend told me about his experiences there as part of a Venceremos Brigade a decade earlier. (Venceremos Brigades were bands of American leftists who traveled to Cuba to work in the cane fields in support of “the revolution.”) At one point, Fidel himself showed up where they were working in the fields. My friend told me that the reaction of his fellow brigadistas was like that of 14-year-olds at a Beatles concert.

Anarcho-Syndicalist ReviewSince then, the American left in large part has continued to idolize Castro and his Stalin-admirer cohort, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, overlooking their  crimes. We’ll get to those crimes shortly, but let’s first speak of Castro’s, and his “revolution’s,” achievements. During his half-century reign, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party achieved the following:

  • The literacy rate in Cuba in Cuba went from approximately 70% (figures vary) in 1959 to an estimated 96% today, thanks to the Cuban government’s literacy campaigns and universal education for those aged 6 to 16.
  • Cuba has universal, free medical care. One example of its success is that infant mortality in Cuba fell from 37.3 per 1,000 live births in 1959 to 4.3 per thousand today. (In contrast, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is 5.8 per 1,000 live births today.)
  • Higher education in Cuba is free for most Cubans.
  • There is remarkably little street crime in Cuba.
  • Every Cuban adult is guaranteed a low paying job, with pay averaging about $20 a month.
  • The Castro regime did show that a Latin American regime can defy the United States government (and the corporations it serves) and survive.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, consider this:

  • Freedom of speech does not exist in Cuba, nor do the other freedoms listed in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Since its inception, the “revolutionary” Castro regime has jailed opponents for exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly. Human Rights Watch notes: “Many of the abusive tactics developed during his [Fidel Castro’s] time in power – including surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and public acts of repudiation – are still used by the Cuban government.”
  • All media outlets (newspapers, magazines, book publishers, radio stations, television stations) are controlled by the Castro regime, and access to the Internet is tightly restricted.
  • Cuba is a one-party state.
  • In its first four-plus decades in power (ending in 2003), the Castro regime executed hundreds if not thousands of its political opponents. Amnesty International estimates that that regime executed 216 political opponents between 1959 and 1987. Other estimates run up well into the thousands.
  • The Cuban government maintains a surveillance network in every neighborhood in Cuba, the so-called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs — more accurately, Committees for the Defense of the Regime), which not only spy upon residents, but have considerable control over their lives. As an example, The CDRs can ban political dissidents from even applying to institutions of higher learning.
  • One of the first things the Castro regime did when it took power was to destroy independent unions, either jailing or driving into exile unionists who opposed its takeover. For over half a century, all unions in Cuba have been controlled by the government. (See Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Frank Fernández. Full disclosure: I translated and edited the book.)
  • There is no workers’ control, no workplace democracy in Cuba. All workplaces are tightly controlled by government apparatchiks.
  • The Cuban government denies its citizens the right to travel, the right to emigrate. Since 1959, over 1.5 million Cubans have fled the country (current population 11 to 12 million). At least hundreds of thousands fled on rickety boats and rafts, and at absolute minimum thousands of men, women, and children died in the crossing. The actual figure is likely well up into the tens of thousands. No one really knows.

Since Castro’s death last week, the American left has, by and large, continued to sing Fidel Castro’s praises. To cite but one example, a few days ago Amy Goodman, on her generally excellent “Democracy Now” broadcast, devoted a full hour (bar the first few minutes devoted to news) to Castro. There were a few seconds (considerably under a minute) near the start devoted  to generalized mention of the repressive nature of the regime, but there was no mention whatsoever in the rest of the hour of any of the crimes listed above. It was largely a love letter to Castro.

One might mention that many antiauthoritarian Latin American leftists and anarchists deeply resent the largely uncritical support given Castro (and until his death Hugo Chávez in Venezuela) by the American left. They see it as a betrayal of principles — and themselves — and consider it utterly hypocritical, especially when coming from those who loudly proclaim their allegiance to human freedom, human rights — in the United States, but not Cuba (or Venezuela). They believe that the typical leftist refrain, “Well, we wouldn’t want that repressive system here, but the Cuban people are better off for it,” is grossly patronizing to those who are the victims of repression and those who struggle against it.

They have a point. If you believe in human freedom, in civil liberties, you believe in them everywhere, and you support all those struggling against repression. You’re either for freedom of speech or against it. You don’t make excuses for repressive regimes because you know “what’s best” for the people in those countries, because you know better than the Cubans (or Venezuelans) struggling against repression. If you make excuses for authoritarian regimes, if you don’t stand against repression everywhere, please don’t pretend that you have principles, please don’t pretend that you’re anything but a political apologist, a political hack.

If you think a one-party state, suppression of civil liberties, government control of the media, suppression of independent unions, replacement of capitalist bosses by “Communist” bosses, secret police, prisons, executions, a network of neighborhood informers, militarism, and a personality cult are a good tradeoff for the Cuban people in exchange for free health care, free higher education, and a guaranteed low-paying job, by all means support the Cuban dictatorship, and continue to sing Fidel Castro’s praises.

 

 


We put up our 1,000th post about three weeks ago. Since then, we’ve been looking through everything we’ve posted, and have been putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the ninth of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science Fiction, HumorMusicInterviews, AtheismEconomics, Science/Skepticism, and Addictions lists, and will shortly be putting up our final “best of”: Religion.

Here, we’ve folded three categories (Anarchism, Libertarianism, and Politics) into this post because of the relative paucity of posts on Anarchism and Libertarianism. We hope you’ll enjoy at least some of these posts.

Anarchism

Libertarianism

Politics


wendell phillips

“The time to assert rights is when they are denied, the men to assert them are those to whom they are denied. The community which dares not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves.”

–Wendell Phillips, “Mobs and Education”

* * *

Quoted in The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations


Here’s a post from one of our favorite sites, Slashdot:

Mark Zuckerberg has decided to keep billionaire VC Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board of directors. The decision comes after weeks of controversy over whether it was appropriate for billionaire Thiel, who recently admitted to secretly funding a campaign of third-party lawsuits to bankrupt Gawker Media (more relevant but paywalled link), to remain on the board of a company that now plays such a powerful role in publishing. From a Gizmodo report: At Facebook’s annual shareholders meeting today, every board member was up for re-election. The decision was made by shareholder vote, but ultimately fell to Zuckerberg, who controls more than 60 percent of the total voting power on the Facebook board.