• Phyllis Bennis: Violating International Law in Gaza

    water systems damaged in Gaza
    Numerous water systems and wells have been badly damaged in the airstrikes, limiting the water supply to the people of Gaza. (Photo: flickr / cc / Mohammed Al Baba/Oxfam)

    As Israel’s assault claims the lives of hundreds of Palestinian children, there’s no doubt that it’s a form of collective punishment.

    As Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip rages on, ceasefires come and go. Most last just long enough for Palestinians to dig out the dead from beneath their collapsed houses, get the injured to overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals, and seek enough food and water to last through the next round of airstrikes.

    “There is nothing left but stones,” Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer quoted an old woman saying as she searched desperately through the rubble of what had been her home.

    Casualties are soaring. By late July, Israel had killed more than 1,200 Palestinians, at least 73 percent of them civilians including hundreds of children. Fifty-six Israelis, almost all of them soldiers, have died too.

    July 28 poll shows 86.5 percent of Israelis oppose a ceasefire. Yet we continue to hear that Israelis want peace.

    It’s true that at least some of them do. An Israeli protest in Tel Aviv brought 5,000 people into the street. That’s good — though a far cry from the 400,000 who poured into the streets to protest Israel’s invasion of Lebanon back in 1982.

    And when a young Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and tortured to death — burned alive — in Jerusalem after the bodies of the three kidnapped young Israeli settlers were found, many Israelis tried to distance themselves from the horrific crime. “In our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed.

    But in fact, there is a place for those who call for murder — at the highest political and military levels of Israeli society.

    Meet Ayelet Shaked, a member of the Knesset — Israel’s parliament. She belongs to Israel Home, a far-right party in Netanyahu’s governing coalition. She issued on Facebook what amounts to a call to commit genocide, by deliberately killing Palestinians, including women, children, and old people.

    “The entire Palestinian people is the enemy,” Shaked posted. “In wars, the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

    The Knesset member went on to say that the mothers of Palestinians killed should follow their dead sons to Hell: “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

    Her language reminds me of a chapter in our own history — the genocidal Indian Wars. U.S. military leaders had called on their troops to wipe out all the Native Americans andCol. John Chivington was asked on the eve of the Sand Creek Massacre about killing Cheyenne children. “Kill and scalp all, big and little, nits make lice,” he replied.

    Shaked’s comments also echo the words of an Israeli colonel who testified under oath at the wrongful death trial of Rachel Corrie, a young U.S. peace activist killed by an Israeli soldier driving an armored bulldozer in Gaza. “In a war zone there are no civilians,” said the military officer — who was responsible for training Israeli soldiers to serve in the occupied territories.

    There’s no question that Hamas’ primitive rockets violate international law. They can’t be accurately aimed at military targets. But that doesn’t justify Israel’s violation of its own obligations under international law as the occupying power in Gaza.

    Israel has the region’s strongest military, the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Middle East, and the unconditional backing of the United States. Its assault on Gaza violates the Geneva Conventions. Israel is imposing collective punishment against all Gazans, attacking hospitals, and using disproportionate force.

    Israeli officials know full well that the best way to protect their citizens is to implement a real ceasefire — a breakthrough that would require opening Gaza’s borders. Some of them also know the best way to keep their citizens safe long term is by ending the occupation altogether. Problem is, not enough of them will admit it.

    U.S. taxpayers also have a stake in this conflict because Washington keeps sending Israel billions of our tax dollars and refuses to push Tel Aviv to stop violating international law.

    For real peace, both of those things must change.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

    Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.  Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A PrimerUnderstanding the U.S.-Iran Crisis: A PrimerEnding the Iraq War: A Primer, and most recently Ending the Us War in Afghanistan: A Primer. If you want to receive her talking points and articles on a regular basis, click here and choose "New Internationalism." You can find her on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/PhyllisBennis



  • The Three False Premises of the Ryan Poverty Plan (TalkPoverty.org)

    Stephen Pimpare at TalkPoverty.org performs a critical analysis of Congressman Paul Ryan’s so-called “poverty plan.”

    You won’t want to miss it:

    So what’s so bad about Paul Ryan’s thinking about poverty?

    First, there’s nothing new in it. He offers block grants, cuts to programs, new work requirements, school vouchers, regulatory repeal, more money to faith-based initiatives, and privatizing social services, presenting us with little more than fresh marketing for tired ideas that — when tried in the past — made people’s lives worse, not better. Even the proposals that might seem promising are badly designed — like his way of expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.  With the possible exception of his proposals to reduce some mandatory minimum sentences — which advocates of all stripes have been agitating for for decades — it’s old wine in old bottles.  Why should we treat it as newsworthy or innovative?

    There’s a deeper problem with Ryan’s approach beyond the details of his proposal.  The foundation itself is rotten: the project is built upon three fatal, false premises.

    Read the full analysis here at CommonDreams.org



  • NCR: Conservatives Squawk Over Pope’s Tweet on Inequality

    From the National Catholic Reporter:

    Another week, another communications controversy for Pope Francis?

    That’s how it was looking after a three-word tweet from Pope Francis — in Latin — about inequality left some conservatives dazed and confused over Catholic teachings on economics. They were still digesting last week’s news about the pontiff’s call to an Argentine woman that left them wondering whether Rome was going wobbly on the sanctity of marriage.

    The latest dust-up began routinely enough, with a Monday morning post to Francis’ Twitter feed that said: "Iniquitas radix malorum."?

    "Inequality is the root of social evil" is how the English translation ran, and that tracked closely with other language versions.

    Honestly, have these people read the prophet Amos? How about the teachings of Jesus Christ?

    Try Matthew 19:21 -

    Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    Adding that because many of these "conservatives" call themselves Christians.



  • Video: President Obama Torpedoes a Loaded FOXNews Question

    From our friends at Occupy Democrats:

    BRET HENRY: President Obama, as you grappled here with all these national security challenges, I have two questions. One, back home we’ve learned that 40 military veterans died while they were waiting for health care, a very tragic situation. I know you don’t run the Phoenix Office of Veterans Affairs, but as Commander-in-Chief, what specifically will you pledge to fix that?

    And, secondly, more broadly — big picture — as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now. And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine. And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.

    Here’s I think the general takeaway from this trip. Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger; I can say that unequivocally. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia have never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute. As recently as a decade ago, there were great tensions between us and Malaysia, for example. And I think you just witnessed the incredible warmth and strength of the relationship between those two countries.

    We’re here in the Philippines signing a defense agreement. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago there was enormous tensions around our defense relationship with the Philippines. And so it’s hard to square whatever it is that the critics are saying with facts on the ground, events on the ground here in the Asia Pacific region. Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?

    My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.

    So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal. And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops. Well, what do you mean? Well, you should be assisting the opposition — well, we’re assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria. Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.

    In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. Russia has never been more isolated. A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them. And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world. And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia. Well, what else should we be doing? Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say. That’s not what we mean. Well, okay, what are you saying? Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more. Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?

    The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don’t know. But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us.

    But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy. And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.

    And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.

    A full, complete, thoughtful, reasoned response.



  • Video: Vermont Approves Single-Payer Health Care: ‘Everybody in, nobody out’

    From our friends at Occupy Democrats regarding the state of Vermont adopting a single-payer health care system where all hospitals will operate as not-for-profits:

    The program will be fully operational by 2017, and will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money for the ACA given to Vermont, and a slight increase in taxes.  In exchange, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, copay’s, hospital bills or anything else aimed at making insurance companies a profit.  Further, all hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit.

    This system will provide an instant boost the state economy.  On the one side, you have workers that no longer have to worry about paying medical costs or a monthly premium and are able to use that money for other things.  On the other side, you have the burden of paying insurance taken off of the employers side, who will be able to use the saved money to provide a better wage and/or reinvest in their company through updated infrastructure and added jobs.  It is a win-win solution.

    Win-win indeed.

    This, by the way, is precisely the way Canada moved to a single-payer health care system: state by state.

    And now it’s our turn.

    Thank you, President Obama!



  • Rand Paul’s Cliven Bundy Says People Think He’s Racist Because Martin Luther King Jr. Didn’t Finish His Job

    Cliven Bundy
    Cliven Bundy

    Well, now I know who Cliven Bundy is, and I wish I didn’t.

    And, for the life of me, I don’t understand why he’s getting so much attention.

    Bundy has been allowing his cattle to graze on federally-owned lands. The feds don’t want that to happen any more. Bundy used an “ancestral rights” argument, likening his treatment to the way Native Americans were treated by the United States.

    This man is a real tool.

    Here is part of a CNN interview where he blames Martin Luther King Jr. that he, Bundy, can’t say anything he wants, like the N-word, calling black men “boy,” etc.

    Watch as he moves from offensive to more offensive.

    And, until he came out with his racist comments, Senator Rand Paul and other members of the GOP adopted him as their new love child.

    Watch the interview and cringe:

    H/T: http://www.politicususa.com



  • KKK Forms Neighborhood Watch in Fairview Township, PA

    Here’s something you don’t see every day.

    From Think Progress:

    After a string of local break ins, a Pennsylvania chapter of one of America’s largest hate groups is taking matters into its own hands. On Monday, the Ku Klux Klan established aneighborhood watch to monitor criminal activity in Fairview Township, Pennsylvania.

    According to the imperial wizard, Frank Ancona, the task force was developed to complement existing police efforts — and people in the town have purportedly called on the KKK to do what local authorities aren’t. In the past two months, there have been more than nine alleged vehicle break ins, including a few at a local FedEx. A burglar also attempted to steal from a home in the area.

    “It’s just like any neighborhood watch program. It’s not targeting any specific ethnicity. We would report anything we see to law enforcement,” Ancona told PennLive. “We don’t hate people. We are an organization who looks out for our race. We believe in racial separation. God created each species after its kind and saw that it was good.”

    The last line tells all. I’ll repeat that:

    “We don’t hate people. We are an organization who looks out for our race. We believe in racial separation. God created each species after its kind and saw that it was good.”

    So some of us are of a different species?

    Watch out if you’re of the wrong “species” in Fairview Township.

    And rest well:

    To draw attention to the KKK’s efforts, members have passed out fliers to promote the new endeavor. For instance, one flier assures Fairview Township residents that they can sleep soundly knowing that the KKK is wide awake.

    This is not a joke.



  • Take Action: Sign Jeff Merkley’s Petition – Disclose the Big Money!

    From , Jeff Merkley U.S. Senate candidate from Oregon:

    Ever since the Supreme Court’s outrageous Citizens United decision, corporate spending on political campaigns has skyrocketed.

    But much of that spending never gets disclosed anywhere. We have no idea who is attempting to influence our elections.

    Republicans in Congress may have blocked action, but the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has the power to do something about it. They can create a rule that requires corporations to disclose to their shareholders (and thus, to the public) whether and how much they are spending to influence voters.

    But so far, the SEC has opted to do nothing. That’s not OK.

    Sign our petition and tell the SEC it’s time to stand up and take action.

    If we’re going to fix our democracy, we have to make sure that voters know who is trying to pick winners and losers in our elections.

    Jeff Merkley

    Sign on!



  • The Science of Arousal and Rape: Popular Science

    Worth your time to drop over here and read this article.

    An excerpt:

    Rape is not always violent. Some survivors surrender to protect themselves or their loved ones. Some are intoxicated, drugged, physically or mentally incapacitated, or in a position without power. Some (doubly horribly) are children. Rape does not always include penile penetration. Some rapists are married to their victims. Some rapists are women. Some women rape men. And sometimes, in the middle of an act that is always a violation, a rape survivor will experience increasingly intense physical sensations leading to climax – an orgasm.

    Judges, juries, prosecutors, all in the legal system need to be aware. An orgasm during rape does not imply consent. In fact, it only makes the shame greater.

    Worth your time.



  • On Conservatives and Safety Nets: Robert Reich

    Robert Reich on conservatives and safety nets:

    Conservatives don’t like safety nets because they allegedly make people lazy and careless. But what about safety nets for top executives who fail? Yahoo’s recent decision to pay its chief operating officer $96 million for 15 months of work before firing him is just the latest example of handsome rewards for failure in corporate suites.

    At least safety nets for the poor help those in need. Safety nets for corporate executives give them no reason to work hard because even when they fail they can vastly increase their wealth. One way to discourage these is to prevent corporations from deducting generous executive severance payments from their taxable incomes. What do you think?

    So, what do you think?