Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Hollywood raises money for a foreign army

If Americans Knew | January 4, 2018

Once a year, some of the biggest names in Hollywood get together with prominent leaders in business and politics, to raise millions for charity. Some of the celebrities attending this year’s event were Gerard Butler, David Foster, Joanna Krupa, Katharine McPhee, Paul Reubens, Melissa Rivers, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

With performances by Seal, David Foster, and Gene Simmons, the night was truly star studded and spectacular.

In total, 53.8 million dollars were donated (http://iakn.us/2Ct0p68), including 16.6 million by Oracle co-founder and CTO, Larry Ellison, 6 million by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, 5.2 million by GUESS co-founders, Paul and Maurice Marciano, and 5 million by host, and entertainment mogul, Haim Saban.

Past attendees to this event include Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Larry King, and Barbra Streisand.

So what is this worthy cause that garners such glamour and generosity? Feeding the hungry? Curing disease?

No. The purpose of this event is to raise funds for a foreign army.

That’s right. While our own United States veterans are barely scraping by, holding bake sales to afford medical treatments, these celebrities contribute mountains of cash to the Israeli Defense Forces, commonly as the IDF. This is the very same IDF who are responsible for killing over 2000 Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 17 years (http://iakn.us/2CqzLe1). The same IDF who have displaced over 5 million people from their homes (PDF link: http://iakn.us/2F0Hlhk), while destroying hospitals, schools, businesses, and places of worship by the tens of thousands. And the same IDF who repeatedly attacked the USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34 American servicemen and wounding another 174 (http://iakn.us/2Au3aCp).

Now, you may not think that 53.8 million dollars is a lot of money these days, but that is in addition to the more than 10 million dollars of American foreign aid given to the state of Israel every single day
(http://iakn.us/2CUL0N4).

And the kicker is that for these millionaire and billionaire celebrities, these charitable donations – that support a foreign army – are tax deductible (http://iakn.us/2m0n9En).

And it’s not just Hollywood getting this tax break. The “Friends of the IDF” claim to have over 150,000 loyal supporters across 20 chapters throughout the US and Panama (http://iakn.us/2Ct0p68).

—————

Original Article: Los Angeles gala raises $53.8 Million for Israeli soldiers [videos]

https://israelpalestinenews.org/

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , | 18 Comments

Jacob Hacker Rises Again to Stop Single Payer

By Margaret Flowers | Health Over Profit for Everyone | January 5, 2018

In the American Prospect article linked below, The Road to Medicare for Everyone, Jacob Hacker is once again working to dissuade single payer healthcare supporters from demanding National Improved Medicare for All and use our language to send us down a false path. Once again, he comes up with a scheme to convince people to ask for less and calls those who disagree “purists”. Hacker calls his “Medicare Part E” “daring and doable,” I call it dumb and dumber. Here’s why.

Hacker makes the same assertions we witnessed in August of 2017 when other progressives tried to dissuade single payer supporters.

He starts with “risk aversion,” although he doesn’t use the term in his article. Hacker asserts that those who have health insurance through their employers won’t want to give it up for the new system. Our responses to this are: there is already widespread dislike for the current healthcare system; people don’t like private insurance while there is widespread support across the political spectrum for Medicare and Medicaid; there is also widespread support for single payer; and those with health insurance can be reassured that they will be better off under a single payer system. It is also important to note that employers don’t want to be in the middle of health insurance. Healthcare costs are the biggest complaint by small and medium sized businesses and keep businesses that operate internationally less competitive.

Next, Hacker brings up the costs of the new system and complains that it will create new federal spending. He points to the failures to pass ‘single payer’ in Vermont and California. First, it must be recognized that the state bills were not true single payer bills, and second, states face barriers that the federal government does not, they must balance their budgets. Hacker ignores the numerous studies at the national level, some by the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office that demonstrate single payer is the best way to save money. Of course there would be an increase in federal spending, the system would be financed through taxes, but the taxes would replace premiums, co-pays and deductibles, which are rising as fast as health insurers can get away with. Hacker proposes a more complex system that will fail to provide the savings needed to cover everyone, the savings that can only exist under a true single payer system.

Hacker also confuses “Medicare for All” with simply expanding Medicare to everyone, including the wasteful private plans under Medicare Advantage. This is not what National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) advocates support. NIMA would take the national infrastructure created by Medicare and use it for a new system that is comprehensive in coverage, including long term care, and doesn’t require co-pays or deductibles. The system would negotiate reasonable pharmaceutical prices and set prices for services. It would also provide operating budgets for hospitals and other health facilities and use separate capital budgets to make sure that health resources are available where they are needed. And the new system would create a mechanism for negotiation of payment to providers.

Finally, Hacker tries to convince his readers that the opposition to NIMA will be too strong, so we should demand less. We know that the opposition to our lesser demands will also be strong. That was the case in 2009 when people advocated for the ‘public option’ gimmick. If we are going to fight for something, if we are going to take on this opposition, we must fight for something worthwhile, something that will actually solve the healthcare crisis. That something is NIMA. We are well aware that the opposition will be strong, but we also know that when people organize and mobilize, they can win. Every fight for social transformation has been a difficult struggle. We know how to wage these struggles. We have decades of history of successful struggles to guide us.

One gaping hole in Hacker’s approach is that it prevents the social solidarity required to win the fight and to make the solution succeed. Hacker promotes a “Medicare Part E” that some people can buy into. Not only will this forego most of the savings of a single payer system, but it also leaves the public divided. Some people will be in the system and others will be out. This creates vulnerabilities for the opposition to exploit and further divide us. Any difficulties of the new system will be blown out of proportion and those in the system may worry that they are in the wrong place. When we are united in the same system, not only does that create a higher quality system (a lesson we’ve learned from other countries), but it also unites us in fighting to protect and improve that system.

Hacker succeeded in convincing people who support single payer to ask for something less in 2009 and we ended up with a law that is further enriching the health insurance, pharmaceutical and private healthcare institutions enormously while tens of millions of people go without care. Now, Hacker rises again to use the same scare tactics and accusations that he used then to undermine the struggle for NIMA. This is to be expected. The national cry for NIMA is growing and the power holders in both major political parties and their allies in the media and think tanks are afraid of going against the donor class. Social movements have always been told that what they are asking for is impossible, until the tide shifts and it becomes inevitable.

Our task is to shift the tide. We must not be fooled by people like Jacob Hacker. We know that single payer systems work. We have the money to pay for it. We have the framework for a national system and we have the institutions to provide care. Just as we did in 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid were created from scratch, and without the benefit of the Internet, we can create National Improved Medicare for All, a universal system, all at once. Everybody in and nobody out.

We know that we are close to winning when the opposition starts using our language to take us off track. “Medicare Part E” is not National Improved Medicare for All, it is a gimmick to protect the status quo and convince us that we are not powerful. We aren’t falling for it. This is the time to fight harder for NIMA. We will prevail.

Read Jacob Hacker’s article in the American Prospect here.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

China to Build Second Foreign Naval Base, This Time in Pakistan

Sputnik – 05.01.2018

China is planning to build its second foreign naval base in Pakistan following the ribbon cutting ceremony for its first overseas base in Djibouti last July.

Sources close to the People’s Liberation Army have confirmed to the South China Morning Post that a Chinese naval port is being built at a strategic location on Pakistan’s southern coast.

“China needs to set up another base in Gwadar for its warships because Gwadar is now a civilian port,” Zhou Chenming, a Chinese military analyst, told the South China Morning Post on Friday. “Gwadar port can’t provide specific services for warships,” Zhou said; hence the need for a new base.

Gwadar is less than 50 miles east of the Pakistan-Iran border and sits in Balochistan Province, where fiercely independent Baloch nationalists have waged guerrilla wars against both the Pakistani and Iranian governments. “Public order there is a mess,” Zhou said.

“China and Pakistan have found common ground in terms of maritime interest in the region,” Pakistani analyst Sheikh Fahad says. “Gwadar port can be used for joint naval patrols in the Indian Ocean, further increasing the naval outreach of China and Pakistan in the region. Gwadar port will increase the countries’ naval movements and further expand defense cooperation, especially in the naval field,” Fahad noted.

In mid-December, Lawrence Sellin, a retired US Army Reserve colonel, reported for the Daily Caller that high-ranking Chinese and Pakistani officials had met in Beijing to discuss future projects.

Last June, a Pakistani diplomat said China’s help was needed as an “equalizer,” pointing to the naval base as all-but-inevitable. “Previously it was the US and Saudi Arabia… Now it’s China,” the diplomat told NBC. A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman later dismissed the report as “pure guesswork,” but now it seems the port will, in fact, be built.

Experts have noted that India is keeping a close eye on the development of China-Pakistan relations. “China finds it very useful to use Pakistan against India and ignore India’s concerns, particularly on terrorism issues. That has created a lot of stress in the relationship between Beijing and Delhi,” Rajeev Ranan Chaturvedy, a researcher at the National University of Singapore, told SCMP.

But “Indian naval capabilities and experience in the Indian Ocean region are fairly good — much better than Pakistan and China,” Chaturvedy said.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , | 8 Comments

Daesh declares war on Palestine’s Hamas resistance movement

Press TV – January 5, 2018

The Egyptian wing of Daesh Takfiri terrorists has released a new execution video, declaring war on the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement based in Gaza.

The video, released Wednesday, purports to show the execution of a man who Daesh claims cooperated with Hamas’ armed wing.

“Never surrender to them. Use explosives, silenced pistols and sticky bombs. Bomb their courts and their security locations, for these are the pillars of tyranny that prop up its throne,” said one of the militants in the video.

The Egyptian wing of Daesh, known as the Sinai Province, is notorious for its brutal massacres, including the Sinai 2015 plane crash which killed 224 passengers and mass killing of over 300 people at a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the deadliest attack in modern Egyptian history.

The video comes as Hamas has been cooperating with Egyptian security forces to restore stability to Sinai, which borders Gaza.

In October, the Palestinian resistance movement arrested four senior Daesh terrorists in Sinai.

In July 2015, Daesh released a video saying that it would overthrow Hamas “tyrants” for their perceived lack of religious rulings in Gaza.

Takfiri groups such as Daesh have never attacked Israel despite operating close to Syria’s borders with the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel is widely believed to be supporting terrorists in Syria by launching airstrikes against various targets there from time to time.

Meanwhile, the US and its allies, which have been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria, have repeatedly been accused of providing logistic support and air cover for Daesh terrorists.

Daesh, however, lost all the territory under its control in Syria and Iraq late last year.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

The Real Problem With US Elections Isn’t Russia

By Roger Harris | CounterPunch | January 5, 2018

It’s over a year since the presidential elections. Yet some folks seem ever more obsessed about possible Russian influence; what with revelations of Moscow gold spent on Facebook ads for clickbait showing adorable puppies and the outing of alleged Kremlin operative Jill Stein. With the hindsight of history, we can now look back at what some Democrats have called the crime of the century and see how it could have been averted.

What a crime it was! After all, the US is the one that is supposed to have a monopoly on “democracy promotion” in other countries. Our government most recently endorsed the fraudulent re-election of the incumbent in Honduras, who was a product of a coup backed by the Obama administration. And let us not forget Bill Clinton’s well timed loan to good ole Boris Yeltsin in Russia. The WTO should fine Russia for unfair practices and infringement on the US concession.

For, as Obama proclaimed, we are an “exceptional” nation with correspondingly exceptional electoral practices. Where else are corporations considered people and spending obscene amounts of cash to influence politicians protected as free speech? Our press is free to anyone who can afford to buy one. We wouldn’t want rich and powerful foreigners competing with our domestic plutocrats, unless they represent such bastions of zealotry as Saudi Arabia or Israel.

Looking beyond the myopia of the Washington consensus, the most outstanding fact about the 2016 US presidential election was not who won… given the alternative.

No, the most outstanding fact of that election and of elections in the US in general is that close to half of the adult population doesn’t vote. Only 55% of the electorate cast ballots in the hotly contested 2016 presidential race, and that was considered a great achievement. Compared to other developed nations, the US is among the ones with the lowest voter turnouts… and for good reasons besides the unpalatability of the proffered candidates.

It is not for lack of nifty ideas that the US has low voter turnout. Any number of measures could be instituted to increase voter participation in US elections: making election day a national holiday, eliminating voter identification laws, allowing registration on election day, automatic voter registration (AVR), and even making voting mandatory.

The political will to increase voter participation is lacking by the two major parties lest their duopoly be challenged. The consequence is that few measures are enacted to increase political participation, despite lip service to the contrary. Meanwhile plenty is being done to suppress the vote.

What if everyone voted?

Yes, what if everyone voted? The answer is that our politics would look very different than what we have now. For this deep reason, the two-party duopoly wants to keep voter participation low for fear the populace would make the wrong choices. It is an open secret that the Democratic National Committee preferred suffering a Trump victory over allowing even such a compliant progressive as Bernie Sanders getting a shot at the Oval Office.

A group of disproportionately powerful people exist in most societies. These rich and powerful in the US are the ones who have the highest class consciousness. They are called the ruling class. One of their means of exercising power is through the two major political parties.

This ruling class is not monolithic, so they have two political parties to work out and represent differences within their class. As Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere observed, “The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.”

While leaders in each of the two parties like to win, their fundamental loyalty is to their class as seen in Al Gore’s refusal to contest the Florida election results in 2000. Likewise, John Kerry admitted he took a fall for his class in 2004. The Democrats, in both instances, chose to accept defeat rather than give the appearance to engaging in uncomely intra-class conflict.

Viable third parties are needed if other class interests are to be represented. Ralph Nader – and he should know – cites measures restricting participation of third parties in the US:

+ Gerrymandering, which ensures that very few incumbents are at risk in one-party districts. Of the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, only 33 to 40 were considered contested in the 2016 election.

+ Restricting participation in debates. The national debates are controlled by a private non-profit corporation.

+ Setting prohibitive ballot access laws, obstructing third party candidacies. Each state has its own arcane rules making it difficult for a new party to mount a national campaign. The de facto one-party state of California with its “top two primaries” regularly has the bizarre spectacle of two Democrats running for the same office in the general election with all other parties barred from the ballot.

+ Also instituting proportional representation and ranked choice voting (see links for explanations of how these measures would work) would encourage people to vote third party because the spoiler dilemma would be removed.

But most of all, the exorbitant expense of engaging in almost any electoral activity is what limits political access to those who can buy it. If the best that money could buy from the two-party despotism – a cold $2,386,733,696 in 2016 – was a Mr. Trump, we should all be promoting third parties.

Which is the lesser evil?

The problem is not just Trumpism but a more fundamental one of class rule. Barring a challenge to class rule, we’ll at best only get a more mannerly, genteel representative of the rich from the Democratic Party, who will be better at selling their class agenda than the current reigning barbarian.

The idea of relying on the Democratic Party is a seductive interim measure, especially since no third party presently even comes close to contesting for state power. Somehow the Democrats feel in some subjective way to be better than the Republicans. And anyone seems better than Trump.

But reflect for a moment. If the choice is always the lesser evil, then the time for a third party challenge to rule by the rich is never, and the US will continue to spiral into greater evil.

Which of the two major parties is the lesser evil is becoming less clear by the day. It’s an unenviable choice between Clinton threatening to “totally obliterate” Iran with a population of 80 million or Trump’s more recent pronouncements to “totally destroy” North Korea with a population of 25 million. Barbara Lee, considered the most liberal Democrat in Congress, tweeted that dialogue between the presidents of the US and Russia amounts to treason.

The so-called “defense” budget funds the US empire abroad and is used as an excuse for not sufficiently supporting social programs at home. Yet instead of challenging Trump’s already dizzying $54 billion proposed increase to that bloated budget, 60% of the Democrats voted in the $80 billion increase.

Bernie Sanders’ admonition about accelerating inequality resonated with many. Yet neither party of the rich is willing or able to address an alternative to what, for most Americans, has amounted to forty years of neoliberalism, resulting in stagnating wages, deteriorating health and education services, and creeping insecurity from wars abroad and the surveillance state at home.

Obama presided over the greatest income redistribution to the rich in US history. His quantitative easing (QE) policies gifted trillions to the affluent, vastly increasing income inequality according to such cheerleads of neoliberalism as Forbes, Bloomberg, and Brookings. Now just three American tycoons have a greater combined wealth than the entire poorest half of our citizenry.

No wonder more potential voters identify as independents than either Republicans or Democrats. While not widely publicized, polls consistently show a majority of Americans want a choice that is independent from the two-party duopoly.

Fighting Phantoms

The Democrats continue to fault phantom Russians, unable to accept that Clinton’s presidential loss was consistent with the other Obama-era losses of 11 governors, 13 Senators, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats/30 state legislative chambers.

Russian sources purportedly spent $100k on Facebook ads, though most ads appeared after the 2016 election. To put $100k into perspective, that amount is 0.004% of the total spent on the election.

But let’s give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt and assume their constituency is as easily and cheaply duped as claimed. What happened? Comparing the Romney-Obama run to the Trump-Clinton race, the usual number of Republicans in certain key Electoral College states went to the polls in 2016, while the Democrats lagged in participation compared to 2012.

Assume for a moment that there’s hard evidence backing up the Democrat’s alibi for losing the 2016 presidential sweepstakes to the most unpopular rival in history. Then increasing voter participation in the US would go long way to flooding out any ostensible Russian meddling. To activate the electorate, we need more attractive candidates who represent the majority of Americans. And to achieve that, we need political parties that represent the interests of working folks and not just the rich.

Roger D. Harris is on the State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Western Arrogant Doublethink on Iran

Strategic Culture Foundation | 05.01.2018

If the shoe were on the other foot, one can imagine the absolute outcry in the Western media. If social protests were to break out in the United States or Europe, and Iranian leaders issued interfering calls in support of those protests, there would be mouth-foaming denunciations of Tehran for “mischievous meddling” in others’ sovereignty.

Yet over the past week, this is exactly what Western governments and news media have been doing in regard to public protests in Iran.

The US government has taken the lead with President Trump labelling the Iranian authorities a “brutal and corrupt regime”.

European governments have been a little more circumspect in their statements, urging the Iranian authorities to be “restrained” and to “allow peaceful protests”.

Nevertheless, European leaders are subtly shoring up the American narrative that the street demonstrations across Iran are a righteous democratic cause against an oppressive regime. That was the implication in statements made by Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron. This week, the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian cancelled an official trip to Tehran. Such moves represent an unacceptable attempt to undermine the Iranian authorities.

Images carried by American media, in particular CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post, of protesters holding up clenched fists have sought to simplify the events in Iran as a “good-citizens-versus-bad-regime” scenario. Notwithstanding that the protests have been relatively small and the grievances are mainly about economic concerns – not a rebellion against state institutions.

By contrast, Russia called on foreign states to back off making prejudiced comments on the Iranian disturbances. Moscow said the events in Iran were an internal political matter for Iranians to resolve without foreign countries interfering.

The irony of Western doublethink is rich. Over the past year, there has been a recurring theme among Western governments and media of “foreign interference” allegedly in their political affairs. Russia has been the focus of these allegations, even though there is no evidence to support such claims. The ever-so pious Western governments and media have no such reservations about “foreign meddling” when it comes to their brazen rush to pile into Iran’s internal politics as shown this week. Or in the forthcoming Russian presidential elections.

Western interference is not just limited to pejorative statements on Iran’s protests. The US State Department has openly admitted that it is communicating via social media with anti-government protesters. This active involvement by Washington is a repeat of similar outside agitation during the so-called Green Movement disturbances in Iran back in 2009. As mentioned above, one can imagine the hue and cry in Western capitals if Iran, or Russia, or some other foreign state, was agitating anti-austerity demonstrations in Washington, London and Paris.

Iranian authorities have sound reason to suspect that Western interference may be even more sinister. The protests – while largely peaceful – have included what appears to be an organized violent element. At least one police officer was reportedly shot dead and police stations have come under armed attack. The rapid escalation of violence and burning of public property suggest a subversive agenda. Comparisons have been made to the way protests in Syria in 2011 were exploited by Western powers for an agenda of regime change which led to all-out war in that country.

For now, the demonstrations in over a dozen cities across Iran appear to have subsided. They have been replaced by much larger public rallies in support of the government and President Hassan Rouhani, as well as the country’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The economic grievances that sparked the initial protests last week are real enough. Iranians are reportedly enduring hard economic times with soaring inflation of basic living costs and high unemployment among the youth population. But this is a political challenge for the Iranian government to overcome in response to their nation’s grievances.

Ironically, however, it illustrates another aspect of Western doublethink. Western media have reported – with upside-down logic – that President Rouhani “has failed to deliver on economic improvements”. But that “failure” is largely due to the US and Europe not fully implementing the nuclear accord signed with Iran in July 2015, which was also signed by Russia and China and who are abiding by the treaty. That internationally binding accord obliges the end to decades of Western-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.

While the Europeans have begun normalizing economic relations with Iran, not so the Trump administration. Washington has in fact increased the financial blockade under the tendentious pretext of Iran’s alleged “support for terrorism”. Trump has repeatedly threatened to rip up the 2015 nuclear accord. Washington has also intimidated European states, companies and banks from engaging fully with Iran.

The European Union needs to show more backbone towards the US and tell Washington that the nuclear accord is a legal mandate to lift economic sanctions off Iran. Iran’s economic problems are directly related to the bad faith that Western states are showing with regard to the UN-approved nuclear deal. Washington’s policy towards Iran is a continuation of decades of US-led aggression towards the Islamic Republic ever since its 1979 revolution against the American-backed stooge regime of Shah Pahlavi.

The readiness shown by the US and Europe to interfere in Iran’s internal problems is nothing but arrogant doublethink. Get over it.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 2 Comments