Of Empires and Colonies: Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States”

Having just finished watching on Netflix the 12-part documentary by Oliver Stone, “Untold History of the United States” (2012), I find myself amazed. At risk of coming off as conceited, I am amazed at myself and at my many history teachers: for how did I, having studied Western history at the highest quality grade schools, university, graduate schools, and law school, having been an exceptional and curious student, and having continued to study such topics as history and politics well past my academic years, not know so much of the essential information gifted us in this documentary (and its companion 700-page book) by famed film-maker Mr. Stone and co-author Peter Kuznick, an American University historian?

More so, I am mind-blown by this masterwork which gives viewers an eagle-eye view of the complex flow of facts and events that mark the bloodiest century in human history: the 1900s. By no means will I attempt to outline its grand story here, but I will share a few of my observations with the hope that it might encourage you to immediately watch the entire documentary, if not read the book as well.

Mr. Stone, who narrates the series, certainly provides editorial comments along the way, and frankly I appreciate that he does so explicitly, for historians too often try to hide their bias. I do not wholly agree with Mr. Stone’s views, though I do share his frustrations with the social injustice, oppression, deceit, and truly insane bloodletting of the last century’s many wars – which continue today, as we all know.

What I found most disturbing are some of the basic facts made evident in this bingeable, A-level production of the major and indisputable events of the last 100+ years, not even counting the important tangents and commentary that Mr. Stone shares with us and which so many critics have protested since its airing in 2012.

First, empire is the way of the world. It always has been. Consider the Roman Empire, the Ottoman, the Persian, the Mali, the Zulu, the Mayan, the Aztec, the Cherokee, the British, the Spanish, the French, the Russian, the Chinese, and the American. We, the people of the world, have been in the middle of the great power-grab since time immemorial.

The reason for this is simple: only with the natural resources and cheap labor of conquered nations can wealthy countries afford to have all the conveniences and luxuries they need and want. Look at all we enjoy in the USA: cars, homes, clothes, food, entertainment, doctors, lawyers, schools, and our sprawling infrastructure. There is a price for all this: Empire.

Most crucially, I learned this frightening and perhaps nihilistic fact from watching this series: if any one nation sits back and refuses to participate in this imperial struggle for power, influence, resources, land, and workers, if any one country truly dedicates itself to pacifism, then surely it too will be conquered.

It’s important to realize that not all conquerors are the same. Certainly, all empires are vicious in their military efforts to dominate a target nation. But once the war ends, some will treat the colonized better than others. Now of course, I’m speaking of modern times here, for prior to the 1900s, it seems that all empires treated their colonies in a most cruel manner. Think about how modern China treats Tibet, how Russia treats Ukraine, or how Israel treats Palestine. They’re brutal regimes.

The contemporary USA plays a most unique role in the world, for while it is surely plagued by economic inequality, greedy monopolistic corporations, violence, a prison-industrial complex, police brutality, racism, sexism, corrupt politicians, a drug epidemic, lack of quality education, limited true access and use of health care, environmental pollution, traffic and public transportation problems, and other serious issues … nonetheless, it truly might be the best country in the world. It’s not that the USA is perfect but rather that the other nations of the world are either in terrible chaos or simply lack the full spectrum of American advantages.

Given the choice between corrupt local rulers and foreign intervenors, the people of developing nations seem to clearly prefer the lifestyle offered to them by developed nations, especially the USA. Witness the surge of immigration to the EU, Canada, Australia, and the USA by citizens of developing nations, or observe the joy with which they greet new employment opportunities at wealthy corporate offices, mines, and factories that land in their localities, regardless of how low the wages seem in comparison to a wealthy nation’s standards. It is this corporate colonialism – born of free trade agreements – that is welcomed around the world, whereas military actions that sought to force an empire’s corporations’ entry into the developing world were so aggressively opposed.

Consider that the Japanese refused to surrender after the USA dropped the first nuclear bomb on August 6, 1945 on their nation at the end of World War II. Even the second nuclear bomb dropped 3 days later was arguably not the reason Japan surrendered. Rather the Japanese decided to give up to the Allies only when Russia turned its attention on Japan, attacking it from the West that same August of 1945 after a few months of rest after defeating the Nazis in Europe. With Russians attacking from the West and Americans attacking from the East, only then did the Japanese realize their war was finished. Even more so, consider how aggressively the Vietnamese fought the USA for roughly two decades, refusing to stop fighting no matter how much the Americans destroyed every square mile of their tiny nation.

Yet when wealthy corporations came knocking a few years later in both these countries, as in many developing nations around the world, the people of these nations were quite ready for the capitalism and cultural mitigation that they fought so hard to keep out. One could certainly argue that such nations demanded self-determination. But self-determination does not mean much when your nation, hosting one foreign company at a time, becomes economically if not culturally dependent upon and in awe of foreigners from wealthy nations.

So what to do, then, to fix the mess on both sides, in the empires and the colonies alike?

First, it seems incredibly foolish for any nation to go to war against the USA, not only because it is a superpower that can bring untold levels of military punishment for decades upon a foe, but more so because accepting the role of US colony, or “protectorate” or whatever euphemism is popular at the time, has so many political and economic benefits. Why resist, when truly billions of people in every nation on Earth yearn for US citizenship? Why resist, when fighting will only result in hideous genocide?

Secondly, the USA needs to keep out of such wars in the first place, and rather needs to focus on mutually beneficial trade agreements and diplomacy. Yet given the fact that so many foreign nations are run by “bad actors” or “evil doers” intent upon genocide, corruption, terror, and mayhem on a worldwide level, it seems inevitable that the USA will need to engage militarily with such developing nations. When it does so, however, it should be as part of a community of UN Security Council allies. Such wealthy, imperial nations with relatively strong and well-intentioned political and economic systems should be closer allies of the USA, though the current Trump administration does not understand that at all. This is not to say that China, Russia, and other Security Council nations are not plagued by serious problems such as those detailed above in regards to the USA, but that relative to the same systems in developing nations, these wealthy countries are doing much better – as sad as that is to say.

In short, we need the wealthy nations of the world to step up their game in terms of battling such ills as corruption, pollution, civil rights, discrimination, and so on, so that the citizens of developing nations (e.g., in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South Asia, etc.) will have an easier choice when presented with the option between local warlords and dictators on the one hand or some measure of colonization by the world’s wealthiest nations on the other hand.

Regardless, citizens of developing nations should not fight and should rather immediately surrender when faced with the intrusion of wealthy countries. While this is obviously a very alarming statement to make as I full well understand, it’s key to consider how many millions die brutal deaths when a tiny nation tries to stand up to a bully behemoth.

And finally and most importantly, the wealthy nations should work together to form a more progressive and fair world. This is exactly what rulers like Germany’s Merkel, France’s Macron, Canada’s Trudeau, and even Japan’s Abe are doing, and nations like the USA, China, Russia, and the UK need to follow suit. Hopefully with the powers of the vote and public protest, the citizens of these problematic empires can help set their countries – and the world – on the right path: a path of substantially less consumerism by wealthy nations, global efforts to reduce the population via healthy and free birth control options, universal health care, environmental stewardship, civil rights, access to quality education, employment opportunities and/or universal basic income, global collaboration rather than imperialism, and dare I say, world peace.

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Will Farmers or 3rd Party Repair Shops Sue John Deere for Allegedly Contractually Prohibiting Unlicensed Tractor Repairs?

In the last couple years, tractor manufacturer John Deere (formally Deere and Co.) has allegedly been limiting the ability of purchasers of its tractors to independently work on these tractors or from having any third party parts & repair providers work on said tractors unless they are licensed by John Deere to do so. As reported by various media organizations, it is alleged that John Deere might be using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) provisions to make such claims – an act which is typically applied to digital hardware and software companies and which arguably was created for only such purposes rather than for what Deere might be hoping. Also Deere’s alleged actions would seem to be a questionable extension of the 9th Circuit’s holding in Vernor vs. Autodesk, which essentially holds that when software companies sell their software they are actually selling the purchaser a limited license to use the software rather than selling all rights to the software itself. That holding makes perfect sense in the context of digital products such as online software downloads and even in the DMCA’s extension of this holding to hardware whose primary purpose is to run software, such as computers, smartphones, and digital music players.

Deere’s alleged extension of such laws to its tractors has apparently much upset the farmers who have purchased these products because not only can these farmers allegedly not repair these tractors themselves but they can’t even allegedly take them to their local 3rd party repair shop to have them fixed when they break down. Instead they allegedly have to take them to licensed Deere repair providers who might cost significantly more.

Farmers responded in various ways to Deere’s alleged limitations. Most importantly, the US Copyright Office was petitioned to create an exemption in the DMCA for land vehicles, including tractors; and the Copyright Office did just that thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since tinkering on your own tractor is potentially no longer a violation of US Copyright law, in an ugly response to this new exemption Deere allegedly created a new purchase agreement to close this door via contractual limitations whereby tractor purchasers would allegedly promise to not work on the tractors themselves or hire non-licensed parties to do so.

As reported by boingboing.net on 3/22/17: “Deere responded immediately to the Copyright Office ruling by amending the EULA for its tractors to prohibit any such modification, third party repairs, etc, and made farmers click through the EULA and “agree” to it in order to start up their tractors. Now, farmers find themselves in desperate straits. Not only does Deere gouge them on repairs (“$230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize [a user-swapped] part”), but the repair shops can be far away or busy, and thus a half-million dollar tractor can sit immobilized while a farmer frets about getting his crops in. To add insult to injury, the new Deere EULA makes farmers indemnify the company against “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.””

Another response has been far more edgy: Deere tractor purchasers have been allegedly resorting to questionable 3rd party software to hack into and repair the Deere equipment. Some farmers of course are no longer buying Deere products and instead choosing companies without such alleged restrictions. State legislators in a few states like Nebraska have introduced “fair repair bills” to counteract such allegedly restrictive purchase agreements like Deere’s.

The bigger question is whether any new litigation will challenge Deere’s actions in court for possible violations of antitrust law, consumer law, and/or contract law. Such allegedly restrictive provisions that might be in the Deere purchase agreements might arguably be considered monopolistic, limiting of free trade, an unfair business practice, and/or an unconscionable contract term.

I would love the opportunity to speak with farmers who have purchased Deere tractors to review their purchase agreements with Deere and to determine whether Deere has claimed any breach and sought damages from any tractor purchasers who allegedly violated the purchase agreement. It would also be interesting to review whether Deere’s alleged restrictions might have impacted 3rd party tractor repair shops who presumably might have lost business as a result. It certainly sounds like a possible class action lawsuit might be facing Deere and Co. in the short term to rein in such alleged actions.

–  Ali Ebrahimzadeh

 

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The Corruption Report: US Political Corruption at the Local, State & Federal Levels

“Downpresser man, where you gonna run to? Downpresser man, you can’t bribe no one. Them no want no money. Them run’f money. That money gets funny.” – Peter Tosh, “Downpresser Man”

We don’t spend our days thinking about corruption in the United States, especially when so much mass media focuses our attention on corruption and threats to democracy elsewhere, in the lands of our perceived enemies. As of late, we have been attending to the allegedly unprecedented problematic actions of President Trump and his administration, with the subtext to such reporting focusing on the isolated if not humorous nature of any such oddities of Mr. Trump. The Trump administration’s corruption is by no means humorous or unprecedented. Corruption is an epidemic in the United States: all we need do is read to discover its nefarious layers.

This page is a resource on corruption in the US political system at various levels, including local, state, and federal government; among senior members of the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches of government; and among everyday judges, prosecutors, and State Bar administrators and staff.

As one example, you can see from various resources noted here (especially items 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 18, and 19) that the levels of corruption in the State of California may be the highest in the nation, with notoriously high levels of perceived corruption at the executive, legislative, and judiciary level including among its federal and state court judges, criminal prosecutors, and most infamously the California State Bar itself. The California State Bar has repeatedly performed quite poorly in state audits and even had its CEO fired in 2014, who in turn immediately filed a major whistleblower lawsuit alleging grievous corruption in the California State Bar. Similarly extremely high levels of corruption are detailed about New York, Massachusetts, and Washington DC, as noted in these various reputable sources.

It is our civic duty to know what our government is doing. For many unfortunate people in our nation, such reading material is a too familiar synopsis of what hell they have personally experienced at the hands of biased, bullying, and corrupt government officials at all levels of government. Knowledge is power. With action at the voting booth, we can begin to make a difference. Speak out. Resist. We all deserve a true democracy – nothing less.

 

California: 

1.

a. LA Times article 5/13/16: “Audit rips California’s state bar for shady finances and bloated salaries”. The California State Bar is “bedeviled by conflict & controversy” “inefficient & political” “shady finances & bloated salaries”.

“The agency charged with regulating California’s attorneys has failed to give a transparent view of its finances while its top tier of executives have enjoyed more generous salaries than the governor and attorney general, according to a scathing state audit released Thursday.” Id.

“The organization has long been bedeviled by conflict and controversy, with lawmakers publicly excoriating the agency for being inefficient and overly political. In recent years, internal strife has grabbed headlines beyond legal trade papers.” Id.

“The bar’s accounting practices were also criticized, with auditors knocking the bar for violating its own financial control policies and mis-classifying funds that have restrictions in how they are spent. Such errors distort how lawmakers and bureaucrats assess the organization’s financial status, the audit stated.” Id.

b. LA Times 4/27/17: “Big changes are needed at UC — starting with the Kool-Aid-drinking Board of Regents”

“Veteran State Auditor Elaine Howle essentially found that UC has been poor-mouthing and demanding more tax dollars while secretly hoarding many millions, paying extravagant executive salaries and smacking students with higher tuitions. She specifically targeted the office of UC President Janet Napolitano, the former U.S. Homeland Security chief and Arizona governor. Some excerpts from the stinging 167-page report released Tuesday:

  • Napolitano’s office “accumulated more than $175 million in restricted and discretionary reserves that it failed to disclose to the [UC Board of] Regents and created undisclosed budgets to spend those reserve funds.”
  • “It received significantly more funds than it needed” over a four-year period, “and asked for increases in future funding based on its previous years’ over-estimated budgets rather than actual costs.”
  • “Its budgets were inconsistent and misleading … making it difficult to compare budgets from year to year.” The UC president’s office “compensated its executives and administrative staff significantly more than their public sector counterparts” in state government and at the Cal State University system.
  • Napolitano’s execs “intentionally interfered” with the audit by “inappropriately” forcing revision of campuses’ statements about the president’s office. The statements were initially critical, but were rewritten to make them positive.

Napolitano played it cool. Like the experienced politician she is, the UC president welcomed the “constructive input.” But she denied there was anywhere near $175 million hidden away. It was mostly all committed to various programs, she said.”

SF Chronicle 5/3/17: “Emails raise questions about Napolitano’s testimony on audit”:

“The office of University of California President Janet Napolitano directed administrators at UC campuses to reveal their confidential responses to a state auditor’s survey, according to emails obtained Wednesday by The Chronicle that call into question the accuracy of Napolitano’s testimony to state lawmakers about why her office interfered with the probe.”

“But numerous emails between Napolitano’s staff and officials at several of UC’s 10 campuses show that the president’s office did far more than provide initial guidance. The emails show that campus officials arranged to show their responses to Napolitano’s staff “as requested.” They show her staff “checking in” with campuses to see when they could see their responses. And they show campus officials apologizing in cases where they sent their responses to the auditor before showing them to Napolitano’s staff. In one such case, UC Santa Cruz pulled its responses back from the auditor — apparently at Napolitano’s request.”

““Per your conversation with (campus) Chancellor earlier today, we have already started the recall process of the State Audit Survey,” Ashish Sahni, a UC Santa Cruz associate chancellor, told Napolitano in a November email copied to the president’s top staff members and to campus Chancellor George Blumenthal.”

c. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice Aug. 2016: “Failure after Farrell: Violence and Inadequate Mental Health Care in California’s Division of Juvenile Justice”

“In 2003, after the media and juvenile justice advocates exposed decades of physical and sexual abuse, dangerous working conditions for staff, capitulation to gangs, and multiple youth suicides, the Prison Law Office (PLO) sued the CYA, which was renamed to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in 2005 (CJCJ, 2013). This lawsuit, Farrell v. Kernan1 (“the Farrell lawsuit”), forced DJJ to improve conditions within its facilities. As a result of Farrell, in 2004, the Alameda County Superior Court of California issued a consent decree that required DJJ to implement six remedial plans2 overhauling its safety, health, mental health treatment, sex behavior treatment, disabilities services, and education systems. After twelve years of oversight, in February 2016, the court released DJJ from the lawsuit, stating that it had satisfied a majority of the consent decree’s mandates, though acknowledging two remedial plans had not yet been fully implemented.

Despite the dismissal, data show that DJJ is far from reformed: violence, gang culture, and poor mental health care are continuing problems. Analyses of court documents monitoring Farrell’s two remaining remedial plans— the Safety and Welfare Remedial Plan and the Mental Health Remedial Plan—reveal that DJJ continues to be a dangerous and traumatic place that fails to provide adequate mental health treatment, therapeutic services, and evidence-based programming for California’s young people.”

d. Slate 5/28/15: “You’re All Out: A defense attorney uncovers a brazen scheme to manipulate evidence, and prosecutors and police finally get caught.”:

“In 1989, in an infamous interview with 60 Minutes and an explosive piece in the Los Angeles Times, former jailhouse snitch Leslie Vernon White demonstrated how he fabricated the confessions of other inmates, then leveraged them for reduced sentences. The White revelations led to a grand jury investigation that revealed that jailhouse snitches often lied, and that police and prosecutors—knowing they were lying—used them anyhow. L.A. has since enacted significant reforms of its jailhouse informant policies. Not so Orange County. And both the scope and scale of the Orange County shenanigans are remarkable.”

“After further investigation [in the 2011 Dekraai case], Sanders claimed that a branch of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department called “special handling” would deliberately place jailhouse snitches in cells next to high-value inmates awaiting trials, with instructions to collect confessions, a practice that is unconstitutional.”

“Together with his law clerks, Sanders spent a year unearthing and then reconstructing a tranche of 60,000 pages of records indicating that the county sheriff’s office routinely used and coordinated with those informants to get around the constitutional prohibition on eliciting incriminating statements from defendants who had lawyered up and should not have been interrogated. The sheriff’s department has admitted that mistakes were made. The DA’s office claims there was nothing coordinated or systemic going on. But Judge Goethals disagreed, finding that the new revelations called into question the integrity of the entire Orange County District Attorney’s office.”

“In an explosive moment following a hearing last year, Sanders revealed that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has maintained a massive, secret, 25-year-old computerized record-keeping system called TRED. These TRED documents were full of potentially exculpatory data, but the agency officials had systematically refused to turn any of them over, or even acknowledge their very existence, to defense counsel.”

“But evidently the Orange County informants were deliberately moved to be closer to high value targets, they taped their conversations, and the records of much of this conduct were then hidden. As Dean Erwin Chemerinsky explains, the Constitution limits the use of jailhouse informants to situations in which statements are made voluntarily to cellmates, not orchestrated and recorded by jailhouse officials, all of which makes the interaction too much like an interrogation. The 1964 Supreme Court case Massiah v. United States bars the government from eliciting incriminating statements from a defendant after the right to counsel has kicked in.”

e. NBC Bay Area 7/23/13: “California Superior Courts in Crisis: Budget cutbacks in Sacramento have forced layoffs and prompted longer and longer backlogs at Superior Courts throughout California. Many court officials worry the problem could get worse, delaying and even denying justice for thousands of residents.”

“In all nine Bay Area county Superior Courts, the Unit found longer delays in processing and scheduling of civil cases on their calendars. For example, in San Francisco, a stipulated civil divorce that used to take between a month and six weeks now takes up to five months to turnaround. In Sonoma County, it now can take up to eight months just to get a family law matter put on the court’s calendar. In Alameda County, it can take nearly a year and a half just to complete an uncontested divorce. The reason: years and years of budget cuts to the court system, the third branch of government, by the state legislature in Sacramento.”

““It’s bad,” said the Honorable Robert Foiles, Presiding Judge of San Mateo Superior Court. “There’s an old saying: justice delayed is justice denied. And we’re delaying justice.””

 

New York:

2.

a. PolitiFact  9/19/16: “Yes, New York has more corrupt officials than any other state”:

“From 2006 – 2015, the Missouri researchers identified 28 corruption cases dealing with state officials in New York. Include 2005, and that number rises to 30. That puts New York first for the number of public corruption cases, followed by Pennsylvania, where 24 cases have been filed over the past decade. New Jersey ranks third with 12 corruption cases. Look further back, and New York State has topped the list since at least 1986, Milyo said. “Historically, New York has struggled with corruption and continues to do so,” said Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity. “While measuring corruption is a challenge, I think it’s fair to say that New York remains one of the most corrupt states if not the most corrupt state.” The corruption in New York State is likely rooted in culture, Rodgers says.” Id.

b. “Albany was since the 19th Century, and continues to this day, a cesspool of corruption. You want to get anything done in New York State, you gotta pay somebody. You gotta pay some elected official, right, to get the go-ahead. That is how things are done in New York.” – Columbia University Professor and Author David Eisenbach speaking in Amazon.com 2017 documentary “American Playboy”, Season 1, Ep. 5., minutes 3 and 4.

c. New York Times 5/3/16: “The Many Faces of New York’s Political Scandals”: “In the past decade, more than 30 current or former state officeholders in New York have been convicted of crimes, sanctioned or otherwise accused of wrongdoing.”

 

Massachusetts:

3.

a. Center for Public Integrity 11/9/15: “Massachusetts gets D+ grade in 2015 State Integrity Investigation”, including a “D” grade for “Ethics Enforcement Agencies”:

“Massachusetts’ lowest scores came in the public records, judicial accountability and lobbying categories — all F’s. It earned a D- in civil service and executive accountability, four additional Ds for legislative accountability, state budget process, pension transparency and ethics oversight.”

“Judges are appointed for life in Massachusetts. Currently, an 82-year-old is among those presiding over appellate cases, having been recalled to the bench from retirement. The public is legally barred from reviewing their performance reviews, expenses and correspondence. The vast majority of state judges aren’t required to issue written findings, a mandate reserved for the roughly two dozen appellate jurists in Massachusetts. The Judicial Conduct Commission, mandated to investigate errant judges, lacks any enforcement power.  It reports directly to the final arbiter for discipline — the judges of the state’s highest court.”

b. WBUR news, Boston, MA, 4/19/17: “More Than 20,000 Drug Cases Compromised In Dookhan Scandal Are Dismissed”

More than 20,000 prior drug crime convictions are to be dismissed in Massachusetts due to a state lab chemist, Annie Dookhan, who tampered with drug lab results to concoct false convictions for the District Attorneys Offices statewide. Id.

“”Five years and millions of dollars have been spent, countless staff hours,” said Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the state’s public defender agency. “But we’re here today because of the insistence and hard work of attorneys who would not give up, and quite frankly, would not accept what was being sold as a much smaller crisis.”” Id.

“When officials were first notified of a problem at the now-closed Hinton drug lab, they said it involved a single incident of bad testing. After state police took over the lab from the Department of Public Health, Dookhan admitted to falsifying thousands of drug tests and went to prison for three years.” Id.

“”Each time the DAs fought us tooth and nail,” said Benjamin Keehn with CPCS. “The question is, I think, why are we as a Commonwealth addicted to the criminalization of drug addiction?”” Id.

c. Slate 10/29/15: “Crime Lab Scandals Just Keep Getting Worse: How many people are in jail based on faked data?”:

“In Massachusetts it doesn’t even end there. Only a few months after Dookhan’s conviction, it was discovered that another Massachusetts crime lab worker, Sonja Farak, who was addicted to drugs, not only stole her supply from the evidence room but also tampered with samples and performed tests under the influence, thus tainting as many as 10,000 or more prosecutions. Records show Farak used cocaine, crack, or methamphetamines daily or almost daily while she was at work, as well as ketamine, MDMA, ecstasy, phentermine, amphetamines, LSD, and marijuana. Farak pleaded guilty and served 18 months behind bars.

But in April, Massachusetts’ highest court found that state law enforcement officials had never fully investigated the scope of Farak’s wrongdoing, retesting only 10 samples of her work. And based on new discoveries by defense lawyers, the extent of Farak’s drug abuse now appears far greater than was initially alleged. Officials at the time of Farak’s arrest claimed she had tampered with the drugs she tested beginning only in July 2012, and only after she had tested each sample. That is now in serious doubt.

Retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis was appointed by Attorney General Maura Healey to examine the Farak case after the April ruling, and he is tasked with determining the real scope of wrongdoing from the Farak case. Among other things, Velis’ investigation is now looking into allegations by several defense lawyers that the attorney general’s office under then–Attorney General Martha Coakley deliberately withheld evidence that the Farak scandal was much worse than it let on.

Two defense attorneys, Luke Ryan and Rebecca Jacobstein, subpoenaed Farak’s medical records to see if their clients had been affected and found that her drug use and theft had extended all the way back to 2004, eight full years before the state claimed it began. They contend that this new evidence warrants a review of all 29,000 samples Farak claimed to have tested during her career. They also claim the government concealed this “smoking gun” evidence from defense attorneys. […]

Over the past decade, crime lab scandals have plagued at least 20 states, as well as the FBI. We know that one of the unintended consequences of the war on drugs has been a rush to prosecute and convict and that crime labs have not operated with sufficient independence from prosecutors’ offices in many instances. Their mistakes ruin lives. Years of deliberate falsification have ruined thousands of lives. We also know that there remains almost no reason for a prosecutor’s office to admit error and that the cost of fixing those errors can become prohibitive. So what do we do when a scandal infects hundreds or thousands of prosecutions? If Massachusetts is any indication, even three years later, we still don’t do all that much.”

 

District of Columbia:

4.

a. Washington Post 6/9/12: “D.C.’s political corruption has deep roots”:

““What you have is serial criminality, bad judgment and stupidity,” said council member David A. Catania (I-At Large). “That is the trifecta that is undermining our government, and what’s sad is the instability of it all. These past few years, it’s one after another, and the collective gag reflexes of the population have been expired.””

b. Washington Post 10/26/16: “How do you ‘rebrand’ D.C. when the public thinks it’s ‘corrupt’ and ‘arrogant’?:

“Hatch said a survey found that when the public was asked what words it associated with people from Washington, the three top answers were “corrupt,” “educated” and “arrogant.””

 

20,000 Public & Private persons convicted in USA for Political Corruption in a Decade.

5. Harvard University Center for Ethics: “Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States: Some Results from the Corruption in America Survey” (2014):

“According to the Justice Department, in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.”

Based on Harvard University’s 2014 surveys of state news and investigative reporters, California executive government is thought to be among the most corrupt in the USA, the legislative government of CA even more corrupt, and the CA judiciary is thought to be the single most corrupt of all US states.

 

The Wikipedia Lists of Federal, State & Local Corruption:

6. Wikipedia: “List of federal political scandals in the United States”

 

7. Wikipedia: “List of American state and local politicians convicted of crimes”

 

8. Wikipedia: “List of United States state officials convicted of federal corruption offenses”

 

9. Wikipedia: “Impeachment investigations of United States federal judges”

 

The DNC Leak of 2016:

10.

a. Rolling Stone 7/25/16: “DNC Leak Shows Mechanics of a Slanted Campaign”

“This was problematic at the very least because large sums of money were going to the DNC that came from donors who in many cases had already given the maximum amount to the DNC.” Id.

“What’s patently obvious from these emails is that there was virtually no distinction between DNC and Clinton campaign officials when it came to the handling of this media problem. They were all on the same team, working in tandem to try to talk down the likes of Vogel and Emery. Meanwhile, the Sanders campaign is treated as an enemy.” Id.

“As was the case with DNC officials teaming up to look for a negative “narrative” about how Bernie Sanders “never got his act together,” and pondering the possibility of a negative story about his religion, the DNC actively searched for a negative angle on the Sanders reaction to the Politico piece within hours after its release. They focused on the use of the term “money laundering.”” Id.

“[It] shows that the primary season was very far from a fair fight. The Sanders camp was forced to fund all of its own operations, while the Clinton campaign could essentially use the entire Democratic Party structure as adjunct staff. The DNC not only wasn’t neutral, but helped with oppo [sic] research against Sanders and media crisis management.” Id.

 

b. The Huffington Post 8/17/16: “Debbie Wasserman Schultz And The DNC Favored Hillary Clinton Over Bernie Sanders. Where’s The Outrage?”:

“If anything can be considered a “smoking gun” regarding these violations, it’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s new job. The former DNC chair’s new occupation is highlighted in a Fortune piece titled Wasserman Schultz to Have a New Role in Clinton Campaign:

Hillary Clinton is thanking her “longtime friend” Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the Florida congresswoman’s decision to step down as chair of the Democratic National Committee. Clinton says that Wasserman Schultz will serve as honorary chair of her campaign’s 50-state program to help elect Democrats around the country.

Facing a Congressional fight with Tim Canova this month, Schultz represents the epitome of establishment politics. The fact she was forced to resign from the DNC, and now works directly for Hillary’s campaign, speaks volumes.” Id.

 

Corrupt US Governors:

11. NPR 1/22/14: “From Statehouse To Big House: A Guide To Governors Gone Bad”

 

12. ABC News 1/31/13: 4 “Out of Previous 7 Illinois Governors Went to Prison”

 

Corrupt US Presidents:

13. The Atlantic 11/6/16: “From Whitewater to Benghazi: A Clinton-Scandal Primer”

 

14. Merry Jane 3/27/17: “A Brief History of Nepotism in the White House”

 

15. Insider Monkey 1/17/17: “10 Most Corrupt US Presidents in History”

 

Corrupt Judges:

16. US Courts (uscourts.gov) “2010-2012: Complaints Against Judges – Judicial Business 2012”

This internal audit by the US federal court system shows the following facts:

Between 2010 and 2012, 4227 complaints were made against US federal court judges. Of those, only 1821 had been fully processed by the time of this 2012 study. Id.

Of those 1821 processed complaints, only 1 resulted in remedial action and 10 resulted in some undefined “other action”, resulting in 1810 out of 1821 complaints being withdrawn or dismissed without any punitive action. Id.

That’s 99.4% of processed complaints against US federal court judges being essentially tossed out by the reviewing judges. In other words, when federal judges review citizens’ complaints about other federal judges, 99.4% of the time, they find that the judges acted properly. Id.

 

17. USA Today 7/28/14: “Immunity lets bad judges off hook for bad behavior”:

“There has to be a point where there is no immunity for judges. When we’re told that certain government officials are off limits — it undermines public confidence in government”.

“Over the last several decades, federal courts nationwide have consistently ruled against plaintiffs who tried to sue judges for civil damages over decisions they made or misconduct issues. The courts granted immunity to judges under the guidance of the U.S. Supreme Court”.

“The high court essentially has held that anything a judge does in his or her capacity as a judge is covered under the immunity clause.”

 

18. The Guardian 10/18/15: “Corrupt justice: what happens when judges’ bias taints a case?”

“Judges in local, state and federal courts across the country routinely hide their connections to litigants and their lawyers. These links can be social – they may have been law school classmates or share common friends – political, financial or ideological. In some instances the two may have mutual investment interests. They might be in-laws. Occasionally they are literally in bed together. While it’s unavoidable that such relationships will occur, when they do create a perception of bias, a judge is duty-bound to at the very least disclose that information, and if it is creates an actual bias, allow a different judge to take over.” Id.

“But court critics say that one reason judicial violations are common is because they frequently go unpunished. When litigants ask a judge to back away because of a conflict, they risk being told no, then face possible retaliation, so many don’t bother. If a litigant or an attorney files a complaint with an oversight body, there’s only about a 10% chance that state court authorities will properly investigate the allegation, according to a Contently.org analysis of data from 12 states.” Id.

“The analysis shows that a dozen of these commissions collectively dismissed out of hand 90% of the complaints filed during the last five years, tossing 33,613 of 37,216 grievances without conducting any substantive inquiry. When they did take a look – 3,693 times between 2010 and 2014 – investigators found wrongdoing almost half the time, issuing disciplinary actions in 1,751 cases, about 47%.” Id.

California, which created the first judicial disciplinary body in the country in 1960, had a dismissal rate of 98%. It did not suspend or remove a single judge in 2013 or 2014 and acted just once over the last five years, removing a sitting judge in 2012.” [Emphasis added.] Id.

New York’s CJC, for example, is prevented by law from disclosing whether anyone has complained about a judge, discussing specific allegations, revealing what evidence might have been presented or what steps, if any, it took to investigative. When conduct boards do act, the sanctions usually amount to an admonishment that may be embarrassing but costs the judge little.” [Emphasis added.] Id.

“Judicial discipline at the federal level is almost non-existent. A Contently.org examination of the most recent five years of complaint data shows that 5,228 grievances were lodged against federal jurists between 2010 and 2014, including 2,561 that specifically alleged bias or conflict of interest. But only three judges were disciplined during those years and each got the mildest rebuke on the books: censure or reprimand. None was suspended or removed.” Id.

“But a culture of judicial impunity extends far beyond Long Island’s county courts. Indeed, even the US supreme court has been tarnished on this issue. [Emphasis added.]

Justice Steven Breyer owned $215,000 in health-care stocks when deciding on the legality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012. Justice Samuel Alito’s portfolio included $2,000 in stock in The Walt Disney Co. in 2008, the year the court heard Disney, FCC v. Fox Television Stations. And perhaps most famously, justice Antonin Scalia has participated in the Bush v. Gore case, even though his son Eugene’s law firm represented one of the parties. In another case, Scalia remained in the panel despite having gone on a duck hunting trip with former Vice-President Dick Cheney while he was being sued to reveal the details of secret meetings he held with oil company executives in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After his vacation with Cheney was revealed, Scalia scoffed at the suggestion he was compromised and defended his decision to remain on the case. “I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned,” he said in a 21-page memo. “If it is reasonable to think that a supreme court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined.” But Sen Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat, implored Scalia to withdraw. “Instead of strengthening public confidence in our court system, Justice Scalia’s decision risks undermining it,” he stated.

In fact, US supreme court justices enjoy a special privilege: they are the only judges exempt from the federal Code of Conduct, which demands judicial impartiality and prohibits a jurist from presiding when he or she has “a personal bias concerning a party to the case”.” Id.

 

Corrupt Prosecutors:

19. Counterpunch 10/7/16: “Above the Law: On the Prospects of Prosecutorial Reform”

“Prosecutors are a dangerous bunch. They are protected by obscure legal doctrines that grant them absolute discretion for the cases they bring and almost absolute immunity for their conduct in prosecuting those cases. As a result they are free to deceive judge, jury and defendant. They can hide evidence, fabricate evidence, distort facts, engage in cover-ups, pay for perjury, threaten witnesses, lie in summation. They can frame the innocent at will. Among the reasons they lie and cheat is that the public demands toughness against criminals, a toughness signified by convictions, the more the better. More convictions justifies bigger budgets; more convictions means job security. Among the products of this hard work is that the United States now has the largest prison population in the world.” Id.

“In 2014, Judge Alex Kozinski, a justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, noted in an opinion that Brady violations [i.e., where Prosecutors violate the requirement to turn over all exculpatory evidence to defense counsel] “have reached epidemic proportions in recent years.” Kozinski cited as a random sampling some 27 separate federal and state criminal cases between 2003 and 2013 in which prosecutors were found to have broken the rule.” Id.

“The Center for Prosecutor Integrity reports that less than 2 percent of cases of prosecutorial misconduct over the past 50 years resulted in any public sanction. From 1997 to 2009, a mere 1 percent of California prosecutors facing formal misconduct charges suffered any professional consequences.” [Emphasis added.] Id.

“That there are no real punishments for prosecutors, no matter how bad the misconduct, is entrenched in U.S. law. The Supreme Court in Imbler v. Pachtman (1976) ruled that individual prosecutors acting in an official capacity cannot be held liable by the defendants they wrongly convict. Prosecutors, said the court, are insulated “absolutely” from civil litigation.” Id.

“Prosecutors routinely overcharge to strike fear into a defendant, overwhelm defense lawyers’ resources, and produce extreme leverage to force a plea and avoid trial. An estimated 95 percent of all criminal convictions in state courts are the result of plea bargaining – a process, Davis notes, “controlled entirely by the prosecutor.” (And the information prosecutors use to force pleas is exempt from the Brady rule.) Jed Rakoff, a US District Court judge, writes that the “prosecutor-dictated” plea bargain system creates “such inordinate pressures [that it has] led a significant number of defendants to plead guilty to crimes they never actually committed.”” Id.

 

20. Slate 7/10/15: “Prosecution Is About Locking Black People Up”

“Earlier this week a new report from the Women Donors Network revealed that 95 percent of America’s elected prosecutors are white.” Id.

A former NYC Prosecutor discuss his experiences with the Brooklyn DA’s office:

“I saw the inner workings and the politics that go into prosecution and law enforcement, and how things actually get done. I saw the conversations that judges have with prosecutors; I saw the conversations that prosecutors have with cops; I saw the political things that go into the prosecution of crime. From a personal standpoint, it corroborated what I always knew about the system, which is that it’s innately flawed.” Id.

“I thought that because of who I was, because of the street and academic smarts that I had, I was able to do some things that were more in line with justice. But with the overwhelming culture of law enforcement and prosecution work, it was like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. In the long run, I didn’t think it was worth it, so that’s why I left.” Id.

“Most people are of the law-and-order mindset. And they don’t look at the sociopolitical reasons for why certain communities are the way they are and how certain people get arrested. They just don’t do that.” Id.

 

“[We] are then talking about an estimated 20,000 persons, or more, who are in prison for crimes to which they pleaded guilty but did not in fact commit.”

US Federal Court Judge Jed Rakoff, NY Review of Books (2014)

 

Corrupt Criminal Justice System: 

21. NY Review of Books 11/20/14, by SDNY Federal Court Judge Rakoff: “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty”

“The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.” Id.

“In actuality, our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.” Id.

“In 2013, while 8 percent of all federal criminal charges were dismissed (either because of a mistake in fact or law or because the defendant had decided to cooperate), more than 97 percent of the remainder were resolved through plea bargains, and fewer than 3 percent went to trial. The plea bargains largely determined the sentences imposed.” Id.

“While corresponding statistics for the fifty states combined are not available, it is a rare state where plea bargains do not similarly account for the resolution of at least 95 percent of the felony cases that are not dismissed; and again, the plea bargains usually determine the sentences, sometimes as a matter of law and otherwise as a matter of practice. Furthermore, in both the state and federal systems, the power to determine the terms of the plea bargain is, as a practical matter, lodged largely in the prosecutor, with the defense counsel having little say and the judge even less.” Id.

“One thing that did become quickly apparent, however, was that these guidelines, along with mandatory minimums, were causing the virtual extinction of jury trials in federal criminal cases. Thus, whereas in 1980, 19 percent of all federal defendants went to trial, by 2000 the number had decreased to less than 6 percent and by 2010 to less than 3 percent, where it has remained ever since.” Id.

“Against this background, the information-deprived defense lawyer, typically within a few days after the arrest, meets with the overconfident prosecutor, who makes clear that, unless the case can be promptly resolved by a plea bargain, he intends to charge the defendant with the most severe offenses he can prove. Indeed, until late last year, federal prosecutors were under orders from a series of attorney generals to charge the defendant with the most serious charges that could be proved—unless, of course, the defendant was willing to enter into a plea bargain. If, however, the defendant wants to plead guilty, the prosecutor will offer him a considerably reduced charge—but only if the plea is agreed to promptly (thus saving the prosecutor valuable resources). Otherwise, he will charge the maximum, and, while he will not close the door to any later plea bargain, it will be to a higher-level offense than the one offered at the outset of the case.” Id.

“But what really puts the prosecutor in the driver’s seat is the fact that he—because of mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines (which, though no longer mandatory in the federal system, are still widely followed by most judges), and simply his ability to shape whatever charges are brought—can effectively dictate the sentence by how he publicly describes the offense.” Id.

“How prevalent is the phenomenon of innocent people pleading guilty? The few criminologists who have thus far investigated the phenomenon estimate that the overall rate for convicted felons as a whole is between 2 percent and 8 percent. The size of that range suggests the imperfection of the data; but let us suppose that it is even lower, say, no more than 1 percent. When you recall that, of the 2.2 million Americans in prison, over 2 million are there because of plea bargains, we are then talking about an estimated 20,000 persons, or more, who are in prison for crimes to which they pleaded guilty but did not in fact commit.” Id.

 

Corrupt Police Officers

22.

a. Alternet 1/20/17, “Even Cops Say Police Aren’t Held Accountable for Their Misbehavior”

“[The] overwhelming majority of cops, 72 percent, said that “poorly performing officers are not held accountable” for bad behavior. The evidence is in countless stories from communities of color whose accounts of oppression and police abuse have, historically and today, been ignored. More recently, the proof is in acquittals and mistrials despite documentary evidence of cops criminally gunning down unarmed black citizens. The criminal justice system’s refusal to hold cops accountable is echoed at the departmental level, a fact confirmed by police officers themselves.” Id.

b. Wikipedia: “Black Lives Matter”

c. The Guardian 1/8/17: “Young black men again faced highest rate of US police killings in 2016”

“Young black men were again killed by police at a sharply higher rate than other Americans in 2016, intensifying concerns over the expected abandonment of criminal justice reform by Donald Trump’s incoming administration. Black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year, according to data collected for The Counted, an effort by the Guardian to record every such death. They were also killed at four times the rate of young white men.” Id.

““The FBI has been embarrassed by work of investigative journalists that have clearly done a better job gathering this important data,” said Tim Lynch, the director of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute’s project on criminal justice. “I expect the bureau to show some improvement, but considering its past work on this subject, that’s not saying much.”” Id.

“The Counted found that a plurality of killings by police in 2016 began with attempted traffic or street stops by officers. Almost 29% of deadly incidents last year developed from police trying to pull over a vehicle or approaching someone in public, including some potential suspects for crimes.” Id.

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Precedented: Mr. Trump Fits Perfectly into US History of Elitism, Nepotism, and Corruption.

We hear it over and over in reference to Mr. Trump – enough times that people are saying it’s the word of the year: unprecedented. But in fact, there’s nothing unique happening here when you think about it. Mr. Trump is accused of various wrongs: special interest politics, worrisome (if not treasonous) foreign connections, nepotism, mixing Church and State, racism, elitism, hypocrisy, and dishonesty.

US history is replete with examples of Presidents committing exactly such wrongs. Consider the slave-owning history of the Founding Fathers, not to mention the support provided by even modern Presidents to nations routinely committing grievous human rights abuses and genocide and employing slave labor practices. Think of the explicit racism, sexism, and elitism of the original US Constitution and how many Presidents upheld such intense discrimination over this nation’s nearly 241 year history. Remember, while you’re complaining of Mr. Trump’s connections with Mr. Putin and his extrajudicial killings of enemies of the People, that Thomas Jefferson maintained similarly controversial connections with France and its bloody revolution, as have several US Presidents who cooperated with and aided genocidal leaders of various nations whose interests aligned even temporarily with our own. Moreover, there’s nothing new about nepotism in the White House either, which blighted major appointments under Presidents Adams, Grant, Kennedy, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.

And consider the fact that for decades the US Capitol Building, where Congress meets, was used as a Church on Sundays, and the podium of the Speaker of the House was used as the minister’s pulpit. Despite the fact that it violates the underpinnings and explicit language of our Constitution’s Establishment Clause, our Presidents have mixed Church and State since the beginning, not just since Mr. Trump’s “Muslim Ban”. The US Capitol, built by slaves, even has a fresco at the top of its famed dome depicting George Washington as a Jesus-like God seated with angels and Goddesses all around him, and it’s unapologetically named “The Apotheosis of Washington“. Ben Franklin even makes an appearance in this warped view of Heaven in a neighboring fresco dedicated to Science. Throughout our history, Presidents have vaunted their devout Christianity, so what’s so different about Mr. Trump laying claim to the Bible as his favorite book?

Let’s remember that Mr. Trump is precedented indeed. US Presidential and Constitutional history is a bloody continuum of elitism, racism, sexism, nepotism, hypocrisy, and deceit. By continuing to think otherwise, we are simply letting ourselves be fooled. It’s time to wake up to history and do something about it. The mid-term elections will take place in 2018, and the Trump administration is working hard to further defeat democratic values. We cannot let that happen. Presently, Mr. Trump is seeking to turn heels on his popular “America First” pre-election platform and throw us further into Middle Eastern conflict with Syrian regime change now on the table: a policy that may well lead to more ISIS-like groups filling the power void, more civilian deaths on top of the 1,000+ killed so far by the Trump Administration, and an even more massive Middle East refugee crisis.

With few tools at our disposal, we must use them maximally and wisely: Protest, resist, vote, and support businesses that reflect your politics. Most importantly, let’s not make Mr. Trump into some sort of lightning rod. The corruption and anti-democratic actions of US politics is a much bigger story than our current President. Our resistance efforts should be similarly multi-pronged.

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Anti-Father Gender Bias in Child Custody Court: A Saga of Parental Alienation, Child Abuse & CoParenting Failures.

There are various recent articles disputing the fact that gender bias plays a role in child custody decisions in California Family Law Courts. The arguments are based on singular attorney narratives about particular clients or general opinions, or they’re based on unscientific interpretations of vague and/or unsubstantiated statistics as analyzed by people with irrelevant credentials. The governmental bodies do not make it easy to criticize their work-product when they refuse to release regular or timely reports on child custody decisions in their courts.

In California, the only official report that one can find after substantial searching is issued by CA Family Court Services, and it is entitled “Visitation with Children: A Followup of Court Mediation Clients.” This report was released about 23 years ago in November 1994 based on a time-lapse study in 1991 and 1993. It provides the statistics noted in the following paragraph. First, it’s important to understand two basic definitions: “physical custody” refers to where the kids live, while “legal custody” refers to decision-making powers regarding the kids’ day-to-day lives.

In the sample size of 1000+ families that used California court-based mediation, this study found that children in these families spent overnight times only and exclusively at their mom’s home 58% of the time, exclusively at dad’s home 18% of the time, and overnights split in some fashion at both parents’ homes 21% of the time with the majority of such split time spent at mom’s home and a true 50/50 split of overnights occurring only about 4% of  the time. Id. at 2, 3.

Further, 76% of these kids spent most of their time with only 1 parent, obviously mainly with mom. Id. at 3. And 69% of the time, mom maintained sole physical custody of the kids, regardless of court orders. Id. at 7. California Family Law Courts awarded sole physical custody to moms 49% of the time, to dads 12%, and joint physical custody 24% of the time. 15% of the time, court orders didn’t discuss physical custody or made alternative arrangements undisclosed in the study. Thus, when joint physical custody is ordered, as we can see from the other statistics above, the majority of such physical custody is granted to moms, with equal time-shares accounting for only about 4% of the time.

As for legal custody, moms were awarded sole powers 35% of the time, dads 4% of the time, and joint legal custody was awarded 46% of the time by the courts. Id. at 7. Given that physical custody was awarded to moms most of the time, one can infer that mom exercised de facto legal custody in line with the percentage of time that the kids spent at her home rather than in line with the court-ordered legal custody percentages. One can reasonably conclude that it doesn’t seem likely or necessarily practical that moms would call their estranged ex’s to confer about day-to-day decisions about the kids when the kids were spending the majority of the time at the moms’ homes. Such “legal custody” decisions may include the schools the kids attend, after-school activities, selection of doctors, events in which the kids participate, clothes and other things purchased for the kids, and people with whom the kids regularly interact.

When the children spend the majority of time at one parent’s home, it shapes their lives along the lines drawn by that parent. When this is happening 76% of the time as noted in the study, this can certainly negatively affect the child’s relationship with the other parent, i.e., more often than not with dad. There are several books written by developmental psychologists and psychiatrists discussing how kids need to have both parents equally in their lives and how the lack of equal time with dads is an epidemic in our culture with substantial negative implications on all of us. Yale University professor and psychiatrist Dr. Kyle Pruett, who wrote a seminal book on the issue of “Fatherneed”, had this to say on the subject in a May 7, 2000 interview with The New York Times:

“Q.: Are men that important in the well-being of their child’s lives?

A.: An involved father does change children in a positive way. Children raised with a father who plays a role in their daily life stay in school longer. They are less involved in the juvenile justice system. They tend to marry later and tend to have their first sexual experience later. When they do marry, they stay married longer. They have fewer job changes over the course of their lives. They have stronger problem-solving skills. They do less gender stereotyping. The other side of this is what does having children do for men? Men who have been involved as fathers live longer. They die much less frequently from accidents and from suicide. Their overall health is slightly better. They are better workers. They tend to stay in their intimate relationships longer. There is something very sustaining of a physical and emotional nature when involved in the life of your child.

Q.: How serious is the issue of absent fathers?

A.: Deadbeat dads get an absurdly large share of media coverage in terms of absent paternity. For every one of those guys that shows up on a post office wall there are thousands of men doing the best they can. It may not satisfy the State of Connecticut but if they are involved in the life of their child, their kids are going to feel he did his best. We have to be careful about the political stuff. The way to get children out of poverty is not by making fathers pay. If all the fathers in the United States paid their child support you still would not have enough money to lift vast numbers of children out of poverty. There is a little too much enthusiasm for punishment and retribution, and not enough clear thinking about what those families really need. The fathers need jobs, help getting over their shame, support in reconnecting with their children, and the mothers need support in allowing them to return to nurturing interactions with their children.” Id.

As an attorney dedicated to human rights, I aggressively support the rights of children to have two good, healthy parents in their lives. I strongly oppose the unethical practices of child custody lawyers who foment discord between parents to prolong litigation. I encourage amity between litigious parents whenever possible, seeking practical rather than vengeful resolutions to child custody disputes. This serves not only the interests of clients and their children but also of our society.

Judges, lawyers, therapists, mediators, and parents too often suffer from bias in their actions: this much is clear from the statistics noted above. Dads are not just walking away from their kids: they are being pushed away by our system. The language reflects this: “mothering” a child has the connotation of caring for a child, whereas “fathering” a child connotes impregnating a woman. Our cultural infrastructure emphasizes this gender bias as well. We see parenthood and home-making associated with moms in tv shows and ads more than with dads, who are primarily associated with professional and “breadwinner” roles. For example, maternity leave is culturally far more acceptable than paternity leave. A 2014 Fortune magazine article reported that “University of Oregon sociologist Scott Coltrane said a longitudinal study of 12,000 individuals found men suffered lower lifetime wages to a similar degree as women when they took time away from work to care for children, whether as leave or as a part-time schedule.” The article also stated that “[o]nly 12% of U.S. employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management offer paid paternity leave”. Id. It’s not that dads don’t want to be involved in their kids’ lives: “A whopping 99% of men […] surveyed felt that companies should offer paid leave to new dads”. Id. But when taking an extended paternity leave has serious negative consequences on keeping your job and getting a promotion, men simply can’t take the risk. Thus, in 2016, the Chicago Tribune reported that “[r]esearch from Boston College in 2011 found 16 percent of U.S. men took no leave after the birth of a child, and 60 percent took a week or less.”

While there are unending examples of gender bias in our culture, the impact of such bias in the Family Courts is most damaging to children. The resulting Parental Alienation Syndrome has been found to be tantamount to child abuse. Edwark Kruk, Ph.D, states in a 2013 article in Psychology Today,

“There is now scholarly consensus that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala, 2010), and it is a largely overlooked form of child abuse (Bernet et al, 2010), as child welfare and divorce practitioners are often unaware of or minimize its extent. As reported by adult children of divorce, the tactics of alienating parents are tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment of children, including spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness (Baker, 2010). For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous and unworthy parent. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented; low self esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. Self-hatred is particularly disturbing among affected children, as children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent, are led to believe that the alienated parent did not love or want them, and experience severe guilt related to betraying the alienated parent. Their depression is rooted [in] feelings of being unloved by one of their parents, and from separation from that parent, while being denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent, or to even talk about the parent. Alienated children typically have conflicted or distant relationships with the alienating parent also, and are at high risk of becoming alienated from their own children; Baker reports that fully half of the respondents in her study of adult children who had experienced alienation as children were alienated from their own children.” Id.

So, what to do?

First off, if you’re trying to co-parent with a narcissist, California social worker Linda Esposito offers some sage advice in a 2015 Psychology Today article where she recommends that you curtail unnecessary contact with the other parent, draw firm boundaries, keep cool to avoid conflicts, set a good example for your child, nurture your child’s independence, don’t bad-mouth the other parent, and keep it real – coparenting can’t happen with an abusive ex. Id.

Legally, a parent facing false accusations of child abuse or neglect can file a motion for sanctions against the defamatory parent and seek increased custody rights based on such abuse of process. It’s important to bring expert testimony into such Family Court proceedings.

Finally, whenever possible, negotiating for peaceful and healthy child custody resolutions are best, as they can mitigate the emotional damage to all parties involved. Despite all the shallow language of CA Family Court services and related child custody statutes, staying out of court can often be what is truly in the child’s “best interests.”

 

For great resources on the importance of Fatherhood, see: National Fatherhood Initiative

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Extensive Research: Women Initiate Domestic Violence More than Men, Men Under-report It.

Domestic violence against men is often under-reported. Further, multiple studies demonstrate that in Intimate Partner Violence (“IPV”), women are more often the initiators of physical violence. Expert testimony that provides such crucial information is necessary to overcome the bias against men in domestic violence cases and related restraining order matters, especially where men are claiming self-defense or filing for protective orders against abusive women. Social workers and judges are often skeptical of such claims by men, and it’s time we bring science into the courtroom to end such systemic gender-based discrimination against men.

 

1. “Analyzing data gathered from 11,370 respondents, researchers found that “half of [violent relationships] were reciprocally violent.  In non-reciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more that 70% of the cases.” Out of all the respondents, a quarter of the women admitted to perpetrating the domestic violence and, when the violence was reciprocal, women were often the ones to have been the first to strike.  In addition, an analytic view of 552 domestic violence studies published in the Psychological Bulletin found that 38% of the physical injuries suffered in domestic violence disputes were suffered by men.” See: http://bust.com/general/9702-women-more-often-the-aggressors-in-domestic-violence.html, based on a 2007 report in the American Journal of Public Health published here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1854883/, which states:

“Methods. We analyzed data on young US adults aged 18 to 28 years from the 2001 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which contained information about partner violence and injury reported by 11 370 respondents on 18761 heterosexual relationships.

Results. Almost 24% of all relationships had some violence, and half (49.7%) of those were reciprocally violent. In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases.” Id.

 

2. “”Domestic violence is often seen as a female victim/male perpetrator problem, but the evidence demonstrates that this is a false picture.”

Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09.

Similar or slightly larger numbers of men were subjected to severe force in an incident with their partner, according to the same documents. The figure stood at 48.6% in 2006-07, 48.3% the next year and 37.5% in 2008-09, Home Office statistics show.” See: https://amp.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence. Also see the original 2010 report from the UK non-profit, Parity, here: http://www.parity-uk.org/RSMDVConfPresentation-version3A.pdf.

 

3. “Sophie Goodchild reported in a 2000 Guardian piece on a study showing that women were actually more likely to initiate violence in relationships, writing:

The study … is based on an analysis of 34,000 men and women by a British academic. Women lash out more frequently than their husbands or boyfriends, concludes John Archer, professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire and president of the International Society for Research on Aggression.

… Professor Archer analysed data from 82 US and UK studies on relationship violence, dating back to 1972. He also looked at 17 studies based on victim reports from 1,140 men and women…. [H]e said that female aggression was greater in westernised women because they were “economically emancipated” and therefore not afraid of ending a relationship.” See: https://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/19133-women-more-likely-to-commit-domestic-violence-studies-show.

 

4. “When people see a woman being abused in public, they tend to be quick to react. People will even put their own safety at risk to try to protect a vulnerable victim. Unfortunately, when the victim is a man, people not only do not react — they often find it humorous.

About 40 percent of domestic violence is suffered by men, but the issues has never gotten the attention it deserves, for various reasons.” See: http://www.liberalamerica.org/2014/05/29/watch-what-happens-when-a-woman-abuses-a-man-in-public-video/

 

5. “As a general rule, men tend to underreport [sic] both their violence against their female partners and their female partners’ violence against them. By contrast, women tend to over-report both the men’s violence against them and their own violence. The couples in the study were also given tasks by the study’s monitors, such as planning a party or discussing a problem with their partner, and were filmed and observed by the OYS [Oregon Youth Study] during those tasks.

As in many studies of IPV [i.e., Intimate Partner Violence], the OYS found that much IPV is bidirectional (meaning both are violent), and in unidirectional abusive relationships, the women were more likely to be abusive than the men.” See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glenn-sacks/researcher-says-womens-in_b_222746.html, which reports on the 2009 research report of Dr. Deborah Capaldi, Ph.D., who is based in Oregon, entitled “From Ideology to Inclusion 2009: New Directions in Domestic Violence Research and Intervention,” “presented by the California Alliance for Families & Children and co-sponsored by The Family Violence Treatment & Education Association” at “an IPV conference in Los Angeles June 26-28 [2009]”. Id.

 

6. “Research showing that women are often aggressors in domestic violence has been causing controversy for almost 40 years, ever since the 1975 National Family Violence Survey by sociologists Murray Straus and Richard Gelles of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire found that women were just as likely as men to report hitting a spouse and men were just as likely as women to report getting hit. The researchers initially assumed that, at least in cases of mutual violence, the women were defending themselves or retaliating. But when subsequent surveys asked who struck first, it turned out that women were as likely as men to initiate violence—a finding confirmed by more than 200 studies of intimate violence. In a 2010 review essay in the journal Partner Abuse, Straus concludes that women’s motives for domestic violence are often similar to men’s, ranging from anger to coercive control.” See: http://time.com/2921491/hope-solo-women-violence/.

“Violence by women causes less harm due to obvious differences in size and strength, but it is by no means harmless. Women may use weapons, from knives to household objects—including highly dangerous ones such as boiling water—to neutralize their disadvantage, and men may be held back by cultural prohibitions on using force toward a woman even in self-defense. In his 2010 review, Straus concludes that in various studies, men account for 12% to 40% of those injured in heterosexual couple violence. Men also make up about 30% of intimate homicide victims—not counting cases in which women kill in self-defense. And women are at least as likely as men to kill their children—more so if one counts killings of newborns—and account for more than half of child maltreatment perpetrators.” Id.

“For the most part, feminists’ reactions to reports of female violence toward men have ranged from dismissal to outright hostility. Straus chronicles a troubling history of attempts to suppress research on the subject, including intimidation of heretical scholars of both sexes and tendentious interpretation of the data to portray women’s violence as defensive. In the early 1990s, when laws mandating arrest in domestic violence resulted in a spike of dual arrests and arrests of women, battered women’s advocates complained that the laws were “backfiring on victims,” claiming that women were being punished for lashing back at their abusers. Several years ago in Maryland, the director and several staffers of a local domestic violence crisis center walked out of a meeting in protest of the showing of a news segment about male victims of family violence. Women who have written about female violence, such as Patricia Pearson, author of the 1997 book When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, have often been accused of colluding with an anti-female backlash.” Id.

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Resisting Brother Trump is Futile

A version of this article was published on March 31, 2017 in the San Francisco Chronicle.

 

April 4, 1984 is the day that Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984, commenced his revolt against Big Brother and the Party. In solidarity with this dystopian antihero and to punctuate a resistance to Pres. Trump, over 100 theaters nationally will play the film 1984 this April 4th.

But what’s the point? “The rule of the Party is for ever,” as O’Brien, a Party elite tells Winston.

We just witnessed the futility of our election system, the powerlessness of our voice, and the meaninglessness of our alleged choice between the “lesser of two evils”. For all our downtown marches’ sound and fury, for all our pink hats and cardboard signs, what does it all mean?

Are we not living in Orwell’s world, after all?

Continuous War

There, 3 fictional superpowers – Oceania, Eurasia, and East Asia – control the planet and are at constant pointless war with each other’s weakest allies, colonizing villagers and ostensibly vying for the cheap labor of Africans, Indians, and others in what we call the developing world. Rather than have any principled basis or aim at truly destroying the opposing “mega-state”, the continuous war is waged only to consume the time and energy of the people who create the weapons and goods needed for war so that their efforts are literally blown up in battle rather than being used for publicly enriching social services. By keeping the people poor, ignorant, sickly, and tired from working long hours, the power-elite in 1984 seek solely to maintain their own power for its own sake. 

“The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed.” – George Orwell 1984.

Here in 2017 USA, the billionaire class has taken control of our government and creates policies that benefit the 1% while cutting services for the 99%. We spend about a fifth of our budget on defense-related expenditures, lack universal healthcare, and our public schools and infrastructure are deeply underfunded. We’ve been involved in questionable military conflicts for decades against opponents who we demonize in the media and seemingly are never able to defeat. Thus, our wars continue without any end in sight.

In 1984‘s interminable wars, the Party fabricates enemies and boasts of its indomitable power on the battlefield in order to discourage any thought of rebellion among its own denizens. Consumed by fear of the enemy as portrayed by the media, which is entirely Party-controlled, the citizens in 1984 eagerly yield to Party leaders any notions of self-determination. Independent thinking is forbidden by the Party. There is nothing to learn but Party loyalty, intense patriotism, and aggressive xenophobia, engendered in the populace through the media, regular public hate ceremonies such as “hate week” and “two minutes of hate”, and early training of children to be Party loyal even to the point of turning in their parents for “thought crimes”, meaning any disloyalty to the Party even in thought.

While the USA is not yet like Orwell’s “Oceania”, we are taking frightening steps in that direction. Remember, by way of an illegal and baseless war against Iraq in 2003, we created the power vaccum in the Middle East that led to ISIS. In 1953, we toppled the democratically elected and humanistic leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, then helped usher in a dictatorial monarchy under Shah Pahlavi, who then we replaced in the 70s by supporting the current regime of the Ayatollahs that now holds the Iranian people in its crushing fist – a regime who we view as our mortal enemy. This is the American pattern of continuous war, with all our fist-pounding, boastful red-lines in the sand, and attendant über-patriotic and racist jargon issued forth in so-called newspaper pieces, frightening 8 o’clock tv-news headlines, and terabytes of social media commentary. We too encourage our youth to see soldiers as heros and war as the place where heroes are made. What after all is Junior ROTC, the Boy Scouts, and all the war-hero movies and military recruitment commercials but the indoctrination of the youth to fight and die for the Party? Yes, surely, “God is with us”: but remember, while the WWII Allies said exactly this, the Nazi soldiers had those same words bronzed on their belt buckles: “Gott mit uns”. Today still those not touting the Party line, like Bernie Sanders, are outcasts, as revealed by the Wikileaks’ #DNCleaks email exposé last Fall. It is Mr. Trump and his supporters, with their hate tweets, that have won power.

Or rather, is it us who, out of fear of ISIS and “those who hate us”, have coweringly yielded power to the truncheon-wielding war-hawks by failing to foment any sort of effective opposition to the elitist electoral college system and the campaign finance laws supported by the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United which together make any notion of “free and fair elections” in our so-called Democracy seem like Orwellian “Doublethink”? How can we bring Democracy to other nations through drone wars that leave dozens of innocent villagers dead for the sake of one Yemeni or Iraqi enemy combatant? How can we give the world’s oppressed a Democracy that we don’t truly possess in the first place, being oppressed by the lack of significant choices in our politicians and by our sham elections here at home?

Continuous Surveillance

Seeking out “thought criminals”, the Party’s surveillance of the populace is constant, not only via Party spies, informants, and “thought police”, but also via “telescreens” which are the Party’s indomitable audio-video cameras constantly recording in every room of every house and on every street in every city. While there are certainly criminals in 1984, there is no law but loyalty, there are no Due Process rights to know the charges against you and to receive a fair trial, and punishments for any sort of disloyalty, even unconscious mutterings in your sleep caught by the telescreens, are severe. Torture, extrajudicial killings, and mass deportations to hellish lands are the Party’s modes of punishment.

This should sound terrifyingly familiar to us in a post-Snowden and post-Wikileaks world. What with video cameras on every street, in every office building, in our homes, in our cars, and in virtually every hand, on bike helmets, and on shirt lapels, we are not only being constantly monitored but monitoring and reporting on ourselves. And, like Megyn Kelley, Milo Yiannopoulos, Amy Schumer, and scores of not-famous folks, people are punished for differing opinions by public scorn, death threats, lost jobs, bullying, and the like. While we have not yet begun to outlaw thoughts and opinions in the USA, people are routinely sentenced to torturous prisons without the kind of Due Process protections that they deserve, as evidenced by the documentary phenomenon 13th. Our for-profit prisons have formed a new slave class. With over 97% of criminal defendants accepting questionable plea bargains and foregoing trials, what does a Due Process right to a fair trial really mean anymore when people cannot afford quality criminal defense representation? And Mr. Trump has stated in recent months that there’s nothing problematic about “waterboarding” and other CIA torture techniques, that we should use torture to “fight fire with fire”, that we should bring back CIA black sites, that we should fill the highly controversial prisons at Guantanamo Bay with “bad dudes”, and that we should “bomb the hell out of” ISIS-held territories despite the fact that doing so would illegally kill exponentially more innocent civilians (e.g., as regularly occurs in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and as documented in the film “The White Helmets”). Further, Mr. Trump, seemingly in lockstep with Orwell’s Party, is determined to deport millions of Mexican immigrants and keep them out with a giant border wall and to ban Muslims from entering the USA. Mr. Trump’s fans fervently love many or all of these ideas and remind one of 1984’s proles who turn out en masse to gleefully watch public executions of enemies of the state. Such killings are not simply extra-judicial, for the law is what the Party says it is. Based on his executive actions, aggressive rhetoric, and Cabinet picks, it seems clear that Mr. Trump wants exactly this level of authority. Worse, it appears that we have given it to him.

Alternative Facts

The Party creates history at whim, having elite members constantly fabricate and re-edit events in the lives of individuals and society in order to reflect the Party’s ever-changing perspective on any issue or entity at any given moment. Similarly the Party creates science itself on the premise that if we all believe something to be true, then it is: and the Party ensures that all people think what the Party wants them to think, be it that the Earth is the center of the universe, that the Earth is only as old as human beings, that there is no such thing as gravity, and that 2 + 2 = 5. “Doublethink” is a central Party tenet defined as knowing something to be a lie but believing it anyway out of Party loyalty; but when employed by enemies, it is defined simply as evil deceit. For example, the Party’s war department is called the Ministry of Peace, the torture and punishment department is the Ministry of Love, and the censorship and fake history department is The Ministry of Truth.

Is this not the same upside-down logic that accompanies Mr. Trump’s Cabinet picks, where our federal departments will now be led by billionaires who have made it their life’s work to oppose the very laws and principles of such departments? Is doublethink not what Mr. Spicer and Ms. Conway call “Alternative Facts”, such as the notion that Mr. Trump won the popular vote if you discount the alleged 3 million illegal votes, that Mr. Trump’s inauguration was the most attended in history, that Climate Change is a myth, that Planned Parenthood kills scores of fetuses days before they’re born, that he has “a lot of respect” for the Clintons, that he is not violating the US Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, that the Muslim world and Mexicans wish Americans ill, that the Keystone Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline will create tens of thousands of jobs, that he’s the most compassionate, least racist, least sexist, and least anti-Semitic person you’ll ever meet, and so on? Is this propaganda machine not precisely why Mr. Bannon, the masterful media manipulator of the fascistic movement euphemistically known as the “Alt Right”, has become Mr. Trump’s chief strategist? What’s happening here, people? We’re not what we tell ourselves that we are: the “land of the free” is doublethink.

A Nation Divided

In 1984‘s cold, grey, and loveless world, Winston Smith’s main act of revolt is falling in love with a woman. The Party forbids passion, love, and even a sense of community. The Party sees sex as being solely for procreation for the Party’s exclusive benefit. In Orwell’s fictional hellscape, women are largely submissive, used for birthing, and hold seemingly no positions of power. Compounding such sexism, there is a clear caste system. Class distinctions are stark with only 2% of the people belonging to the ruling “Inner Party”, 13% to the “Outer Party”, and 85% to the “Proletariat” class. While people are given the impression via exams they take at 16 years-old that they may move upwards from one class to the other, there is no real upward mobility possible.

“For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims.” – George Orwell 1984.

In 2017, we are halfway there. Love is still a revolutionary act. Our dating apps, porn sites, and social media apps are separating us, making face-to-face interactions feel awkward, and challenging long-term loving relationships. Unethical social behaviorisms such as flaking, radio silence, no-shows, infidelity, and ghosting are now entirely common. People still manage to get together long enough to procreate, partly motivated by the corporate media’s materialistic hoopla of wedding culture magazines, Rom-Coms, party planners, ecstatic birth celebrations, and the related retail smörgåsbord. But imminent separations and child custody disputes are just as much a common albeit shame-ridden way of American life.

And yes in 2017 we are dealing with gender disparity, glass ceilings, and obstacles to parenting time, planned pregnancies, and prenatal care, especially now with Mr. Trump’s attacks on abortion, Planned Parenthood, and women in general. The January 21st Women’s March on Washington underscores this problem. It’s deeply disturbing to say so, but the evidence of our President’s sexism is ample. Consider his ghastly performance in/after the GOP debate moderated by Megyn Kelly, his nearly all-male Cabinet poised and ready to cut back on gender-equity policies, and his self-confessed predilection for sexual assault. Mr. Trump is a 1984-era boor.

As for 1984’s stark class distinctions, remember Occupy? We are the 99%. And before you claim that upward mobility is a cornerstone of the American Dream, dream on. Not only is it rare for people to climb the socio-economic ladder, but even worse the poor in the USA have become poorer over the last several decades while the rich have become ever wealthier.

The Boot on the Face, Forever

As an Inner Party member tells Winston, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.” It is this militant boot that movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March on Washington are struggling to throw off. Without regard to mass protests, Mr. Trump advances, and we appear powerless. We abide, despite ephemeral acts of civil disobedience. We acquiesce, though half of us cast a ballot every few years for the lesser of evils. Mainly, we’re tired, we work to pay off our mounting bills, we drink, we buy guns, we cheer over new marijuana laws, we watch our “telescreens”, and we type out messages on our phones to each other that ultimately fall into the oblivion of the “memory hole”, as do we.

“War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength,” wrote George Orwell in 1948, pointing out the absurd hypocrisy that the Party uses to dupe the people and to which almost all of them patriotically succumb. Go see 1984 this April 4th, if only to honor the memory of a revolutionary forbear who, surviving the era of Messrs. Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, knew too well what the likes of Brother Trump, Brother Tillerson, Brother Bannon, Brother Sessions, Brother Kushner, and Sister DeVos are up to. Who knows, it might even make a difference.

 

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Argo’s Iranophobia and the Destabilization of Iran for Oil Profits and Regional Domination

At the start of the film, Argo, a narrator tries to recount decades of 20th Century Iranian history in the span of a few sentences, all of which are historically accurate until she says that the majority of Iran in the 1970’s was opposed to the Shah’s “westernization” of Iran and welcomed the return to a more “traditional” government under Ayatollah Khomeini. From all reports, it appears that the people of Iran had little say in the matter before Khomeini was foisted upon them by the USA and Britain. After Khomeini’s acquisition of absolute control over the Iranian people, mobs were often either paid or forced to show absolute allegiance, love, and respect for their leader, or else.

It’s ridiculous that Argo, which disturbingly won an Academy Award for Best Film in 2013, tries to represent to the American public the majority opinion of 1979 Iranians in any particular way simply based on some anti-Shah Iranian media reports from the late 1970’s and similar news video footage of Iranians parading in the streets chanting for the ousting of the Shah and praising Khomeini.

US history is finally clear on the fact that the CIA paid mercenary Iranians to cause riots and protest the leadership of Iran in 1953 when the USA subversively overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with the monarchy of the Shah in order to promote the USA’s own oil interests in the region. Of course, the US administration in 1953 internally justified its own shameful actions as promoting democracy in Iran, whatever that means.

Though Argo seems arrogantly confident in doing so, it is simply not possible to ascertain the public opinion of most Iranians during the so-called Islamic Revolution in 1979 because of the widespread chaos, fear, violence, and oppression which marks that time period in Iran’s history, and because Iran was such a culturally and economically diverse society at that time with dozens of different ethnic groups, a few major disparate political ideologies, and at least 3 main strata of socio-economic status. And despite the ostentatious wealth of the Shah especially in comparison to the borderline poverty of the majority of Iranians then and now, Iran’s general economy, government, and infrastructure was enjoying relatively widespread historical success under his rule. Further, in consideration of the fact that the rule of the Shah was far more populist than that of Khomeini and his progeny who continue to rule over the country and squash numerous efforts at popular uprisings seeking basic human rights, it seems a far-fetched notion for Argo to insinuate that the majority of Iranians sincerely supported Khomeini during the years of the so-called Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Such a subtle but severely problematic premise at the start of Argo sets up the innocent viewer to believe that the terrorist, militant, and sociopathic Iranians depicted in that film (and in so many other Hollywood films from 300 to Not Without My Daughter) who are holding the Americans hostage during the 444-day Hostage Crisis and supporting the ensuing bloody dictatorship of Ayatollah Khomeini are somehow representative of the majority of people in Iran. When dealing with the current hot-button political and military climate that hovers over Iran nowadays, where Iran is consistently being targeted by the USA and some of its allies as the next Middle Eastern nation to invade, and where American public opinion supporting the invasion of Iran is necessary prior to that impending next war for oil, it is particularly irresponsible for the film-makers of Argo to so publicly foster even more negative opinions about Iranians and Iran, which has already been deemed the centerspoke of the “Axis of Evil” by former President George W. Bush.

In fact, rather than being a revolution at all, the so-called Islamic Revolution in Iran seems to have been just another multinational and successful effort at  gagging the Iranian people, reducing the importance of an ancient civilization’s profoundly influential culture to the singularity of its oil resources, and then robbing Iran’s historical landscape of that very resource for the military and economic benefit of its takers – and we all know who that is.  Thus, far more than a coup d’etat, the so-called Islamic Revolution of Iran seems really to have amounted to the Iranian Rape.

Of course, this century-long plunder of Iran’s oil resources, of the precious natural environment, and of the Iranian people and their culture themselves could not have been and could not continue to be so successfully executed without the assistance of Iranian political, military, and so-called theological insiders who — similar to African tribal leaders that helped capture and sell their own countrymen in exchange for blood money from foreign slave-traders during the African holocaust of the 1700’s — sell out their own People for a price. While Iran’s leaders have historically benefited in money and power from the enormously profitable oil-trade with outside foreign superpowers like the USA, Britain, Russia, France, and China, the majority of the people of Iran have become more poor and disenfranchised under their self-serving leadership.

Democracy is something that Iranians have seen functioning at the national level only for two years in their entire political history. Iran democratically elected populist leader Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1951 who immediately ousted foreign oil corporations from Iran in order to empower the Iranians themselves to take full control and retain full financial benefit over their own oil resources. His primary interest was to uplift the poor majority in Iran rather than to further the wealth divide between the haves and the have-nots. Mr. Mosaddegh initiated a panoply of social welfare programs meant to bring social democracy to Iran. Yet he refused to bend to foreign powers and their corporate interests in Iran. Thus, through the efforts of the British secret service and the CIA, these same foreign powers removed Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed a puppet monarchy under Shah (“King”) Reza Pahlavi in Iran. The Shah clearly understood that his role was to facilitate foreign corporate interests in Iran rather than oppose them. He complied and benefited personally and financially, yet he further divided the minority wealthy from the majority poor in Iran.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, to be sure. When the Shah became too greedy, the USA insisted that he abdicate and leave Iran as is documented by this January 9, 1979 ABC News broadcast. As noted in this historical ABC News Broadcast, in early January 1979 the USA knew that if the Shah gave up the throne in Iran, either a powerful, conservative, anti-American regime under Khomeini or some resurgent populist Iranian government would take power in Iran; and yet at that time, the USA urged the Shah to give up his rule of Iran. As discussed above, America had already done its best to successfully remove from power in 1953 the populist Iranian government of Mossadegh, and it is now historically clear that a democratically elected populist leader opposing foreign oil interests was not going to be an option again for Iran once the Shah was deposed in 1979 – leaving only one other option: Khomeini.

Then, as seen in this New York Times timeline of front page articles from that time period, in mid-January of 1979 the Shah of Iran abdicated the throne and sought refuge abroad. As seen in the same New York Times timeline above, in early February of 1979 Khomeini lands in Iran aboard an Air France flight from Paris, and he immediately establishes the Islamic Republic of Iran whose policies endure to this day and which have been the most powerful internal influence on Iranian and Middle Eastern politics and foreign relations since that time. Clearly, US interests have been the dominant foreign influence on the region all the while.

While the USA has acknowledged its role in the overthrow of Mosaddegh and the establishment of the Shah’s rule in Iran, as noted in President Obama’s 2009 speech to that effect, it is very concerning that the USA has denied the notion of its involvement in the installation of Khomeini as Iran’s ruler in 1979. Though from the ABC News and New York Times articles linked above, it is clear that the USA knew that Khomeini had a strong chance of taking control of Iran if the Shah were deposed, that the USA was intensely opposed to another iteration of a populist and democratically elected administration similar to that of Mossadegh regaining power in Iran (as the USA had toppled such a government 26 years earlier in Iran), and yet knowing all this the USA nonetheless insisted that the Shah give up his power over Iran. Then two weeks later, on February 1, 1979 Khomeini arrives in Iran aboard an Air France plane with strong US and British support after being exiled for 14 years, mainly in Iraq: a country against which Khomeini’s regime immediately began to fight a horrible war for 8 years from 1980 to 1988, further bringing chaos and destabilization to the Middle East’s two main petroleum powers. There has been much suspicion and speculation by Iranians and academic scholars about the actual reasons for the US’s initial support of Khomeini as well as for Khomeini’s true motivations in bringing so much destruction and destabilization to Iran and Iraq; yet such opinions are generally cast aside as conspiracy theories.

The USA claims that Khomeini took control of Iran because he was welcomed by the Iranian people who were disgusted with the Shah’s greedy and oppressive monarchy. Stating a contrary opinion that is espoused by some, noted scholar, researcher, and author William Engdahl writes in his 1992 book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, that the USA conspired with Britain to install Khomeini as the leader of Iran in order to purposefully bring chaos to Iran, specifically to destabilize the oil industry, economy, and politics of Iran which had become more powerful, modern, and stable under the leadership of the Shah. Engdahl seems to argue that by destabilizing Iran, the USA and Britain along with their Big Oil companies capitalized first on the exponential rise in the price of oil and later increased their own oil holdings in the various balkanized regions of the Middle East such as Afghanistan and Iraq that they knew would become destabilized like falling dominoes by the chaos the USA and Britain had created in Iran.

As written by New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis on March 12, 1979, a month after Khomeini arrived in Iran with US and European support to take over as the country’s dictator, “None of this [i.e., Khomeini’s severe human rights violations that he was immediately and institutionally committing against the Iranian people] should have been any great surprise. Ayatollah Khomeini had put his views on the record with unusual forthrightness. He said he wanted Iran to be governed strictly by the laws of Islam, and he meant it.”

It is undisputed that the world’s major oil companies have made trillions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil reserves since the destabilization of Iran in the late 1970’s. Have a look at the skyrocketing of British Petroleum’s stock prices since the late 1970’s, for example.  Or similarly, look at the same chart for Exxon Mobile since the 1970’s. Destabilization of the main oil-producing nations in the Persian Gulf, primarily Iran and Iraq, has been excellent for business for the main British and American oil companies that rely on the petroleum reserves there. It is also clear that the USA has become a major political force in the Middle East, counting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Israel as its main allies and holding increasing military and political power and influence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.

The question that remains to be answered is how the USA acquired this power in Iran’s destiny. And further, what are the USA’s plans with Iran? As history tells us, that may be a question of whether the current leadership of Iran plays ball with Big Oil or not. Insofar as Iran’s leader, Mr. Ahmadinejad, is still in power, perhaps he’s not as big a thorn in the side of the USA as is touted. Similarly perhaps Khomeini retained his power over Iran for 10 years — despite early reports (such as this outstanding March 12, 1979 New York Times article) and later historical accounts of his regime committing genocide against Iranians, war crimeshuman rights abusestorture, sanctioned rapes and beatings, kidnapping of children, and other atrocities — because ultimately he served the bottom line of American and European oil interests in Iran. Khomeini maintained absolute power over Iranians for a decade until he died of natural causes at age 86 in 1989, and his form of government and political principles have been retained by the ensuing leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran to this very day, 34 years after Khomeini came into power and was named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” for 1979.

There is and has been for centuries so much ignorance, racism, hatred, colonial designs, and military aggression directed towards Iran by mainstream American and European peoples. Given this fact, far more disheartening than Argo‘s utter failure to research and report the real and vital history surrounding the Iranian Hostage Crisis that lasted from November 1979 to January 1981 (nevermind the film’s other script-flipped historical inaccuracies), as an Iranian-American attorney deeply interested in upholding democracy, justice, ethics, and the law I am saddened that our US government, media, and schools and colleges have done such an egregiously poor job of bringing the facts to life, clarifying the American role and intentions in the Persian Gulf, and setting aright the damage our nation has caused the good people of Iran.

As discussed in this article, the USA has helped monarchs and dictators like Shah Pahlavi (and his father, Reza Shah) and Ayatollah Khomeini take and keep control of the nation while wresting power away from a democratically elected, populist, and humanitarian leader like Mosaddegh. Even in the last 4 years, aside from a few eloquent but empty words at timely press conferences by President Obama, the USA has hurtfully turned its back on the courageous protestors in Iran’s Green Revolution who fomented widespread public outcry and stalwart demonstrations to demand fair elections, democracy, and justice in Iran rather than continued oppression, human rights abuses, violence, and corruption all at the expense of the Iranian people.

Indeed, Iranians are people, not terrorists. I am Iranian. We love to eat, dance, we appreciate art and music, and we love to make friends. We celebrate the first day of Spring as our New Year! We love to have picnics, play games in the park, and have barbeques. We even love to bake cookies! We are comedians, teachers, artists, musicians, business owners, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, laborers, farmers, and so on who have contributed so much to the world. We are regular people, just like the rest of humanity. We love, we feel pain, we laugh, and we get bored. We drive cheap cars and we drive expensive cars, we dress shabby and we dress chic. We cannot be stereotyped in any certain way, regardless of how much the media puts us into a tiny and ugly little black box. That’s not us, and it never was. There have been despotic leaders in Iran who have given us a bad international reputation, and I’ve discussed this here in this article.

As shouted in the streets by the millions of brave Iranians who have protested the current oppressive regime in Iran, what Iran needs and wants is democracy – the right to choose its own leaders. And Iran needs education, health care, environmental protections, labor rights, women’s rights, family rights, and other progressive and humanitarian essential rights. So you see, the USA is not so different from Iran because we need those very same rights here!

The only real political difference between the USA and Iran is that Iran has had a string of particularly terrible leaders, and those terrible leaders have remained in power because they have served a purpose for the king-making nations of the world. It’s time to rethink this model. As they say, regime change starts at home. For this reason, I vote for an American leadership that puts human rights over the quest for oil, corporate interests, and global domination.

 

Suggested Reading:

John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of Childhood

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

 

Suggested Links:

Iran’s Child Soldiers

Maz Jobrani on Iran and the Axis of Evil

 

 

 
Please read the crucial Terms of Use pertaining to your use of this website, disclaimers, and other necessary information on my Terms of Use page.

Governing by Khutzpah: Israel and the Outdoor Prison called “Palestine”

Now that the United Nations Security Council has issued a written condemnation of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has expressed outrage at the member states of the Security Council and especially towards the USA and Pres. Obama for allegedly tacitly supporting the vote despite formally abstaining. Keep in mind, however, that the UN resolution is tantamount to a finger-wagging and has no real effect on Israeli foreign relations or domestic governance. As stated this week in Israel’s Ha-Aretz newspaper, “The resolution adopted by the Security Council will have no practical ramifications for Israel. The resolution doesn’t include any coercive measures or define sanctions for those who violate it, except for a mechanism by which the United Nations’ secretary general will submit a report on the state of settlement construction to the Security Council every three months.” Mr. Netanyahu’s intense censure of the USA comes despite the fact that we are the biggest donor of military and private aid to Israel, donating billions of dollars each year in weapons and cash, especially during the Obama administration: Your tax dollars hard at work. Yet by making a mountain of this recent UN mole-hill, Mr. Netanyahu does his best to ensure that its closest foreign allies in the Security Council dare not make any more serious moves against Israel’s continued policies and actions regarding the Palestinians.

Little is known about the history of Palestine and Israel in the United States, and this article seeks to remedy that by providing a summary of the history and events that have transpired in Palestine – with as much verifiable and objective sources of information as possible.

Since 1994, Palestine has generally been described as a semi-autonomous territory of Israel, with its official land area consisting of the Gaza Strip and roughly a quarter of the West Bank. While the eastern half of Jerusalem consists of nearly one million Palestinians, thus forming a quarter of the nearly four million Palestinians in Palestine, Israel officially controls Jerusalem as its own capital. To truly appreciate the complex nature of this irregular geographic definition, one must consider the history of Palestine – a history that is fundamentally rooted in border disputes, foreign interests, and bloodshed.

A Summary of the History of Palestine

Palestine is located in the Sinai Peninsula, a region of semi-arid land between the Red Sea to the South and the Mediterranean Sea to the West. Palestine is surrounded by Arab nations with whom it shares its turbulent history: to the North lies Lebanon and Syria, to the East lies Jordan, and to the Southwest lies Egypt.

With a land area of 5,860 square kilometers, the West Bank lies in the northeastern section of Israel, upon the western bank of the Jordan River, where it also borders the nation of Jordan. Narrowly situated between Egypt and Israel, the Gaza Strip lies upon the far eastern border of the Mediterranean Sea and has a land area of 378 square kilometers. Of this total land area of about 6,238 square kilometers, less than a quarter of it is controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Israeli-approved governing body of Palestine. Israel strictly controls the remaining portion of this land area. For example, since 1967, Israel has created settlements of its own in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, filling them with about a quarter of a million Israeli settlers who, in graven contrast to neighboring Palestinians, enjoy all the benefits of one of the strongest economies, protected by one of the strongest military regimes, in the Middle East. Further, Israel controls virtually all the modes of transportation in and out of Palestine, holds the key to all borders, strictly limits the PA’s ability to nurture foreign relations of any type, and forbids the PA from creating a military force of its own. In 2003, in violation of the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel commenced the building of a great wall of sorts along the borderline between the West Bank and Israel “proper,” and in so doing, has greatly changed and infringed upon the territory traditionally demarcated as the West Bank. Much like Israel’s recent aggressive control of the Palestinian border has damaged the already ailing Palestinian economy, this physical barrier has further robbed Palestinians of equitable access to land and water, food sources, health care, and employment opportunities. As a result, Palestinians are ever more beholden to Israel as their source of food, water, shelter, and safety.

Although the once-rich soil of Palestine had traditionally been used by Palestinian farmers and shepherds for agriculture and livestock-grazing, over fifty years of Israeli-led military attacks against Palestinians, Israel’s destruction of the territory’s landscape, and Israel’s paralyzing blows to the Palestinian economy have more than simply eroded the topsoil and destroyed the practicality of subsistence farming. Today, most Palestinians who are employed – about half of the workforce is unemployed – hold low-level jobs in the agricultural, construction, manufacturing, and service industries. While farm work is the major form of employment for Palestinians, most of the farms employing them are located in Israel “proper,” and to a lesser degree, in the surrounding Arab nations. As a general rule, Palestinians are far too poor to own their own companies or lands.

Due to the Israeli government’s suffocation of Palestinians’ access to free trade, their free use of land and water, their free movement within and outside of their reserved territories, and their freedom from constant armed Israeli attack, more than half of Palestinians live below the poverty line of US$2 per day, more than half are refugees from the Israeli war machine, more than half are youth under the age of eighteen, and more than half are illiterate.

Since 1987, Palestinians have risen in mass revolt against Israel’s efforts to destroy them. This Palestinian revolution is called the Intifada, or uprising. It has come in two waves, now referred to as the First Intifada of 1987 and the Second Intifada of 2000. In the name of nationhood, both sides have committed thousands of murders, and the fighting continues because neither Israel nor Palestine is willing to compromise on crucial issues. In 1994, Palestine was granted partial self-governance by Israel as a result of negotiations between the PA President, Yasser Arafat, and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, both of whom received the Noble Peace Prize for their efforts. The PA, with its eighty-eight member Legislature, President, and Judicial Body, was born as a result of these negotiations. Its nascent political structure is still too disheveled to appropriately handle the crisis into which it was born. Although it has been attempting to clarify its Basic Law, to draft a Constitution, to delineate the powers of its Judicial Body, and to barter peace with Israel, the PA is itself embroiled in political turmoil between its various factions, ranging from the moderate to the extreme. Such a delicate lawmaking process is only further hindered by the constant military violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Palestine from the Ancient Period to the 20th Century

Precariously situated between the continents of Africa, Europe, and Asia, this ancient crossroads of diverse nations seems to never have known the peace that multiculturalism is truly capable of spawning. There was one not so brief exception, however, to this grim view of history. Between the Sixth and Fourth Centuries BC, the Persians ruled this region with respect and support for the varied array of people living there. The Persian kings rebuilt the Temple of Solomon that the previous Chaldean warlords had destroyed, and they helped foster an intellectually appreciative climate which, among many other academic and cultural pursuits, promoted the writing of the Torah. This example of peace serves as a pristine historical lesson in the restorative potential of compromise and collaboration – virtues which seem to be dreadfully lacking in the periods of time before and after this particular era of Persian rule.

Archeological evidence proves that people have inhabited the Sinai Peninsula as far back as 200,000 BC. Evidence of agricultural and artistic pursuits notes that a substantially sized community of human beings lived in this area around 12,000 BC. Jericho, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, is considered by most archeologists to be the oldest continually-inhabited city on Earth, with evidence of farming, herding, and craftmaking dating back to 7,000 BC. Between 5,000 BC and 2,000 BC, various tribes settled and clashed in this region, starting with the Assyrians and Akkadians, and the Amorites and Canaanites. The Jewish faith commenced with the birth of the line of Abraham at about 1,800 BC, which over the next few centuries, splintered into the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel, who strayed almost entirely from the precepts of the Jewish faith and who battled for dominion over the region. This taut struggle between the Hebrews was exacerbated by the influx of Greek Philistines at around 1,200 BC. Such divisive tribal fighting eventually led, in the Eighth Century BC, to the destruction of all local power by the foreign Chaldean invaders, who took military advantage of the havoc in the region to broaden the reach of their own empire. The oppressive Chaldean grip on the peoples of the region lasted until the Persians wrested power from them in the Sixth Century BC. As noted, the next two hundred years of Persian rule liberated the Hebrews, Philistines, and even the Chaldeans, from cultural oppression.

In 300 BC, Alexander the Macedonian, also known as Alexander the Great, entered the region at the head of vast armies with the singular focus of spreading Hellenism to the world. Though Greek did become the principle language of this region for centuries to come as a result of Alexander’s invasion, the stability of the region that existed under Persian rule was utterly vanquished – thus, lending much support to the ancient credo that states, “it is much simpler to destroy than it is to create.” Over the next nearly two millennia, the Sinai Peninsula became enslaved to foreign interests battling for control over the region with all the bloody elements of political, military, and economic warfare, thus signaling to the world that the Sinai Peninsula is a region of pivotal importance – a geographic key to throw open empirical fancies onto the stages of three empires – Asia, Africa, and Europe. Power hungry empires followed in the footsteps of Alexander. The Romans came in the First Century BC; the Arabs followed in the Seventh Century AD; the Romans returned – now aided by the French, English and Germans – with the Crusades in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries AD; the Arabs regained control in the Fourteenth Century; and finally, the Ottoman Turks added the region to their list of conquered peoples in the Sixteenth Century, and held such dominion until the Twentieth Century, when European re-ascendancy over the region’s affairs became certain during World War I. Certainly, history shows us that multicultural appreciation for minorities did not exist in the Sinai Peninsula during those two bloody millennia.

Neither did multiculturalism seem to exist in Europe, for it was this very lack of minority rights in Europe that led to the Jewish Zionist movement of the late Nineteenth Century – a movement that would soon collide with the interests, rights, and very lives of the Arabs of the Sinai Peninsula.

Palestine in the Twentieth Century

After World War I, with the Treaty of Versailles, Palestine was granted its long sought-after independence from the Ottoman Turks in 1919, and thus the nation of Palestine was born. Its sad fate, however, was sealed two years earlier. In 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, which voiced support for the Jewish Zionist movement – a policy that sought to assist Jews, particularly those in Europe, to migrate en masse to the Biblical Holy Land in and around Jerusalem. Moreover, the Zionist movement activated the 1896 dream of its German Jewish founder, Theodore Hertzl – a dream of “a land without people for a people without a land.” The obvious problem with this fancy bit of propaganda was the fact that the Sinai Peninsula was home to a large Arab population – a people, indeed, who would look harshly upon further European despoiling of their independence. In the 1920’s, tens of thousands of Jews started to migrate to Palestine. By the end of this decade, Palestinians began to understand that Zionist immigration into their country would continue despite their laws to the contrary. Violence erupted between the Palestinian Moslems and the Jews in 1929, when a skirmish over the holy site of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem boiled over into a major street riot. This initial confrontation over control of sites held sacred to Jews and Moslems alike marked the beginning of tensions that would carry forth to the present.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, fleeing from Nazism and general European anti-Jewish fervor, European Jews began to illegally migrate to Palestine in ever-larger numbers, tripling the number of Jews that lived in Palestine before the commencement of the Zionist exodus, and quadrupling the amount of land owned by the Jews in Palestine. The European Zionists’ purchasing power over the Palestinians was not the only factor involved in helping the Zionists to buy huge quantities of Palestinian real estate. Since their immigration, the Zionists realized that they would have to fight for their right to stay in Palestine. They began to form large and aggressive street gangs using thug-like activities to intimidate and destroy Palestinians at every opportunity. Two of the most powerful Zionist terrorist groups were the Stern gang and the Irgun gang. In order to send a clear message that anti-Zionist policies would receive violent responses, regardless of their state of origin, in 1944 these Zionist gangs killed the British High Commissioner after he expressed support for the Palestinians’ rights to limit Zionist immigration; in 1946, the gangs bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, a hotel that hosted various diplomats whom Zionists perceived as hostile to their cause; and in 1948, as part of the Deir Yassin massacre, these Jewish gangs killed 254 Palestinians. Meanwhile, Zionists in the USA lobbied US support for their continued migration into Palestine and defended the Jews’ right to a homeland via careful alliances with the media and academic intelligentsia.

These combined political, economic, and military tactics worked to drive Palestinians out of their own lands. By 1948, after the Deir Yassin massacre and related threats of further violence against the Palestinians by the Zionists, 750,000 Palestinians fled their own nation, leaving behind all their real and most of their personal property, and sought refuge in the neighboring Arab countries, especially Jordan. The Zionists claimed victory. As a response to the Zionist’s terrorizing methods, and even more so, in order to reverse the flow of Palestinian refugees into their lands, the nations of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt declared war on Israel. By the end of this Arab-Israeli War, the well-funded Zionist forces occupied 78% of Palestine, ceding the West Bank and the eastern half of Jerusalem to Jordan and the Gaza Strip to Egypt. On May 14, 1948, Israel declared statehood, and the short-lived nation of Palestine was destroyed. Sealing their unchallengeable dominance over the region, that same year, the Zionists murdered the United Nations mediator Count Sweden who was deployed by the UN to help bring peace and safety to the region. Further, immediately after declaring statehood, Israel issued laws appropriating all the real and personal properties that the Palestinians left behind in their escape from Zionist violence, thereby vastly multiplying Israel’s wealth and real estate holdings in what was once Palestine.

Between 1948 and 1967, Israel declared Jerusalem its capital, it continued its attacks on Palestinians living in UN refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and it repeatedly defied UN resolutions reprimanding Israel for its violence. Feeling unprotected by the international community, frustrated Palestinians began to mobilize into armed groups, such as Fateh and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and used similar tactics as the Zionist gangs in prior decades. Violence between Israel and Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip escalated to the point of war.

On June 5, 1967, in a preemptive surprise attack against a poised offensive movement of troops by Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, Israel commenced the Six-Day War. By June 10, Israel had defeated the three Arab nations, and had reclaimed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as its own. As a result, 325,000 fearful Palestinians fled these Occupied Territories and sought refuge in Jordan, Egypt and Syria. As for the lands and properties abandoned by Palestinians fleeing their homes in the Territories, Israel appropriated these and established Israeli settlements in their place.

The clashes between Israelis and Palestinians only worsened after this War. In 1969, Zionists set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the most holy Moslem sites in Jerusalem. Similar acts of violence were used by both sides of the confrontation; however, Israeli military, political and economic clout dwarfed Palestinian efforts. Despite numerous documents issued by the UN and the international community, not one nation stepped forward to assist the Palestinians in their military struggle against Israel. In the 1990’s, when hundreds of thousands of Zionist Jews migrated to Israel after the fall of the Communist bloc, and when 370,000 Palestinian refugees from Kuwait returned to the Occupied Territories and to Jordan after the First Persian Gulf War, the tension between Arabs and Jews naturally increased.

Palestinian resistance, left without effectual international support, eventually devolved into violent revolution, namely via the First Intifada of 1987 and the Second Intifada of 2000, caused by the Israeli Prime Minister’s surprise visit to the rebuilt Al-Aqsa Mosque – a show of great disrespect for Moslem’s rights in Jerusalem and a dashing of any pretense of Palestinian claims to partial-sovereignty in that holy and much-disputed city. In response to these Palestinian uprisings, Israel has faithfully pursued what in 1988 it aptly named its “Iron Fist Policy,” a fierce course of action that includes a host of human rights violations against Palestinian revolutionaries and their ideological supporters in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and in any other part of Israel. The official Israeli policy includes measures such as the “breaking of bones” that Israel publicly promised Palestinian detainees, mass arrests and minimum administrative detentions without trial, explosive home demolitions of suspected “enemies of the State,” strategic assassinations, and extreme methods of general warfare.

Such a dehumanizing level of oppression of Palestinian’s basic human rights has attracted much vocal and written international support, in addition to over four billion US dollars of aid earmarked for immediate relief and rebuilding efforts in Palestine. Unfortunately, due to the disheveled structure of the new PA and the long standing war-torn status of Palestine, little of the international relief funds are effectively useable. Further, the vocal support lent by the international community has not been backed by any actions aggressive enough to dissuade Israeli occupation and destruction of Palestinian life. Despite the limited autonomy granted to Palestine after the 1994 peace accords, and despite internationally-bartered peace negotiations leading to the 2003 Roadmap, true independence for Palestine, the end of Israeli occupation, and a resolution to armed conflict in the region – indeed the very aims of the Roadmap – are, in the eyes of Palestinians, far-fetched hopes so long as Israel is effectively permitted by the international community to fearlessly employ hostile tactics against Palestinians.
As it stands, Israel continues to deprive Palestinians of their rights to healthy food, land, air, water, shelter, safety, free movement, free expression, free worship, and among many others, the simple right to live in a homeland which Palestinians and their ancestors have held precious for thousands of years. To justify its actions, Israel states that like the United States in its mission against Al-Qaeda and the nations that President George W. Bush has named the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – Israel is a “freedom loving nation” fighting terrorist Palestinians in a war meant to bring democracy via a two-State solution. Palestinians retort that they are not terrorists, but rather that they are freedom fighters, and are striving to overthrow a colonial regime directly headed by Israel and supported by the USA and Great Britain, whose oil interests in the Middle East arguably guide their necessity to find a sure foothold in the region from which to wage political, economic, and military warfare on all who hinder their access to such natural resources. The truth of this dialectic remains clouded in the eyes of the international community.

Meanwhile, what remains clear is that Palestine is falling, and Israel is on the rise. In about 2004, one journalist embedded in Palestine captured a translucent image of this crisis on a brief video, which received little air time in the media of the USA. The video shows an Israeli soldier with an M-16 chasing a young Palestinian boy, who seemed to be less than ten years old. After being chased by the soldier for a couple of minutes through part of a village that had been dessimated by explosives, the boy stopped, bent down, picked up a rock, turned around, raising the rock fiercely over his head and aiming at the soldier. Through the video, which was taken at some distance, one could see the boy yelling “Allah-u Akbar,” which means “God is great” in Arabic. The soldier stood his ground and aimed his rifle straight at the boy’s chest, but he lacked the moral surety to shoot. Instead, he turned around and started running in the direction from which he came, and the boy gave chase. This image of the boy with a rock in his hand chasing a fully-equipped adult Israeli soldier shocks the conscience. The reality, however, is that this scene depicts the actual differences in power between the two sides fighting this decades-long war. The typical Palestinian “soldier” is a slingshot-armed boy – poor, hungry, and tormented. Not only does this stand in stark contrast to a typical Israeli soldier, but this odd pairing of foes also clearly spotlights a frighteningly explosive situation to which the international community has failed to adequately respond.

Sources:

1. The United Nations at www.palestine-un.org
2. EUROPA: European Commission External Relations at www.europe.eu.int
3. Human Rights Watch at www.hrw.org
4. Al-Jazeera Online News Service

 

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Please read the crucial Terms of Use pertaining to your use of this website, disclaimers, and other necessary information on my Terms of Use page.

Je ne suis pas Charlie: Hate Speech amidst “Freedom” Rhetoric

Acts of violence and murder are abhorrent, from terrorism to war, the death penalty to the violent torts and crimes of daily life. This note is not about the subject of violence per se, but given the 2015 attacks against the French satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, this preface is crucial.

The attacks on the Parisian magazine bring to the spotlight the otherwise taken-for-granted principle of free speech. It seems when people talk about their rights to free speech, they believe they have the right to say whatever they want whenever they want.  Clearly that’s not true. In the United States, free speech is limited by laws prohibiting defamation of character (e.g., libel and slander), words that incite imminent violence against other specific persons, or obscene speech, as well as restrictions on the rights of students in public schools and rights of speech on private property. Yet what remains legal in the United States, in contrast to laws in Europe and Canada, is what is typically called hate speech – that is, speech that incites hatred, discrimination, or racism based on ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. In France and in other EU nations, such hate speech is outlawed by the Press Law of 1881, the Pleven Act of 1972, the Gayssot Act of 1990, and the law of December 30, 2004 creating the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination and Equality (HALDE). In 2011, world famous Christian Dior designer John Galliano was punished under these laws when he made various pro-Nazi remarks – he was nearly jailed for such violations.

Of course, free speech and political critique are alive and well in France and other nations with such hate speech restrictions. Like any law, these hate speech laws certainly require refinement to ensure they are not over-reaching or enforced with bias. Sadly in France, where anti-Islamic sentiment is ever-increasing according to various news reports and statistical surveys of its populace, hate speech against Muslims is often overlooked by the authorities or even worse sanctified as the exercise of free speech. For example, despite their years of aggressively racist cartoons that make Galliano’s 2011 comments pale in comparison, the Charlie Hebdo magazine members were lionized as free speech activists by French President Hollande and millions of French supporters after the January 7, 2015 murderous attack by armed gunmen on their Paris headquarters.

Thus by the acts of the terrorists who attacked the magazine, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists have been made into martyrs of free speech. We can and should condemn the acts of the terrorists, but it is simply too much to applaud the efforts and speech rights of a racist organization such as Charlie Hebdo. I cannot imagine the same being done if the meeting-houses of the KKK, Aryan Nation, or NAZI party were to be attacked by gunmen. Certainly just because they are comedians of a sort does not mean they can’t also be acting like racists: Michael Richards (aka “Kramer” from Seinfeld) proved that to be true in his infamous 2006 standup routine where he shouted the N-word several times at the audience. It is even more problematic since the actions of Charlie Hebdo in publishing such racist images as these is actually in violation of the French hate speech laws, and their hate speech has been financially rewarding enough to pull them from the brink of financial ruin since such anti-Islamic images are particularly popular in France: a country where according to a Spring 2014 Pew Research Poll about 27% of French citizens hold negative opinions of Islam and Middle Easterners, and where the Islamic face veil, the hejab, is illegal. As the largest minority group in France and the historical target of racism there, Muslims need the protection of France’s codified hate speech laws, but the nation’s willful failure to protect French Muslims from such hate speech is clear, disappointing, and frightening.

Clearly if the same hate speech against Muslims as has been exhibited vigorously for years by Charlie Hebdo and others were to target those of African or Jewish descent, disabled people, or homosexuals, the public outcry and legal sanctions would be stern as recent French history has shown. Certainly we would not expect to see the French President speaking publicly in support of such discriminatory speech as has done in the case of Charlie Hebdo, particularly since Pres. Hollande has a legal mandate to uphold French law rather than excuse or applaud its violation.

In short, the USA and all the world’s nations stand to benefit from intelligently drafting and fairly enforcing laws that restrict and punish hate speech whilst upholding free speech to ensure that political, social, and artistic creativity flourish and racism and illegal discrimination are eradicated from the public domain. Laws rationally banning public hate speech can be drafted and should be drafted, for nobody can doubt the power and efficacy of the pen. Surely we can all learn this lesson from the martyred artists of Charlie Hebdo, may they rest in peace.

For example, such a hate speech law was drafted and recommended to all member states by the United Nations in the International Convention on the Elimination of A ll Forms of Racial Discrimination as follows [note: a “Convention” is also another word for a law]:

“In the light of the provisions of the Convention and the elaboration of its principles in general recommendation No. 15 and the present recommendation, the Committee recommends that the States parties declare and effectively sanction as offences punishable by law:

(a)All dissemination of ideas based on racial or ethnic superiority or hatred, by whatever means;

(b)Incitement to hatred, contempt or discrimination against members of a group on grounds of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin;

(c)Threats or incitement to violence against persons or groups on the grounds in (b) above;

(d)Expression of insults, ridicule or slander of persons or groups or justification of hatred, contempt or discrimination on the grounds in (b) above, when it clearly amounts to incitement to hatred or discrimination;

(e)Participation in organizations and activities which promote and incite racial discrimination.”

Yet as it has done too often with other honorable laws suggested by the United Nations (e.g., the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc.), the United States objected to such a law, stating in part:

“Banning and punishing offensive and hateful speech is neither an effective approach to combating such intolerance, nor an appropriate role for government in seeking to promote respect for diversity.  As President Obama stated in a speech delivered in Cairo, Egypt in June 2009, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.  In fact to do so can be counterproductive and even raise the profile of such ideas.  We believe the best antidote to offensive and hateful speech is constructive dialogue that counters and responds to such speech by refuting it through principled arguments, causing the hateful speech to fall under its own weight.  In addition, we believe government should speak out against such offensive speech, and employ tools to address intolerance that include a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach, education, and the vigorous defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.”

Basically, the USA refuses to ban hate speech because it believes that the remedy to hate lies in free dialogue. That is a seductive point indeed, but it does not hold up so well when tested.

For example, in response to such notions, when Canada’s Supreme Court outlawed hate speech in the seminal 2013 case of Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. William Whatcott et al., the Court’s opinion succinctly justified its ruling by stating that hate speech effectively shuts down dialogue and ultimately leads to the disenfranchisement and attack of susceptible minority groups that hate speech targets.

The Supreme Court of Canada beautifully argued its point as follows:

“The objective for which the limit is imposed, namely tackling causes of discriminatory activity to reduce the harmful effects and social costs of discrimination, is pressing and substantial.  Hate speech is an effort to marginalize individuals based on their membership in a group.  Using expression that exposes the group to hatred, hate speech seeks to delegitimize group members in the eyes of the majority, reducing their social standing and acceptance within society.  Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members.  It can have a societal impact.  Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable groups that can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide.  Hate speech also impacts on a protected group’s ability to respond to the substantive ideas under debate, thereby placing a serious barrier to their full participation in our democracy. […]  Political expression contributes to our democracy by encouraging the exchange of opposing views.  Hate speech is antithetical to this objective in that it shuts down dialogue by making it difficult or impossible for members of the vulnerable group to respond, thereby stifling discourse.  Speech that has the effect of shutting down public debate cannot dodge prohibition on the basis that it promotes debate.  […] The benefits of the suppression of hate speech and its harmful effects outweigh the detrimental effect of restricting expression which, by its nature, does little to promote the values underlying freedom of expression.  Section 14(1)(b) of the Code represents a choice by the legislature to discourage hate speech in a manner that is conciliatory and remedial.  The protection of vulnerable groups from the harmful effect emanating from hate speech is of such importance as to justify the minimal infringement of expression.” [Emphasis added.] Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. Whatcott, 2013 SCC 11, [2013] 1 S.C.R. 467.

Enough said.

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