July 27, 2017

Why I have not yet seen Wonder Woman – It’s all about Gal Gadot

via www.hiarpin.com
I am a fan of superhero movies and tv. I have watched just about every movie and series, if not when first out, then on demand. But I have not been able to force myself to go see Wonder Woman. And it is all because of Gal Gadot.

I was looking forward to seeing Wonder Woman. She has always been one of my favorite DC characters. Her history and evolution has been one the most fascinating in the DC universe. I was all set to go see it the first week it was out. But then I started to read about Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman.

For those who don’t know, Ms. Gadot is Israeli, and has served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). That in and of itself might not have stopped me from enjoying the film, I tend to do well at separating an artist from their politics. It was her very public restatement of Israeli government propaganda about Gaza that has put me off. In 2014 she tweeted a photo of herself praying with her daughter along with the following message:

“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards being women and children.”

I am no supporter of Hamas, or any terrorist actions, but let us be clear about what is happening in Gaza. This small strip of land (25 miles x 5 miles) has been invaded 3 different times in the past 9 years. Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli airstrikes and incursions into Gaza. The infrastructure of Gaza has been effectively destroyed and the Israeli blockade has prevented the importation of basic rebuilding supplies like concrete and fuel. Electricity is available for between 2 and 4 hours a day. The hospitals barely function, and many patients with serious issues have been denied permits to transfer to hospitals outside of Gaza. This is the attempted genocide of Palestinians in a collective punishment for the actions of Hamas.

The Palestinian issues in Israel go back to The Nakba, Israel’s original sin. The Nakba was the forced removal of Palestinians from their land when Israel was formed in 1948. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed and almost a million Palestinians were became refugees in bordering countries. Ever since Arabs in Israel have been second class citizens. Today, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank has basically guaranteed that the idea of a “two state solution” will never happen. In order to remain a “Jewish state,” Israel will continue to solidify itself as an apartheid state. Its military will continue to brutalize Palestinians. Its government will continue to incite Palestinians, looking for a response that will, in my opinion, give them a “justification” to try and remove Palestinians from all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Wonder Woman has always been a symbol of strength and independence for women. From the start she has been THE superhero who rarely kills, but uses her brain and her tools to capture the bad guys. She has fought to protect women and children. Now she is tied to a woman who is strong and a fighter and who celebrates the murder of women and children in Gaza.

So when Gal Gadot posts support of the IDF and its role in occupying Gaza and the West Bank, I find it difficult to separate her from her character. I cannot watch her without seeing the brutality inflicted on Palestinians every day. So I have been unable to go see Wonder Woman, and I will probably pass up Justice League also.

January 22, 2017

Millions march against the rise of fascism in the United States

The numbers aren't in yet, but upwards of 2 million people march against the policies and espoused fascism of the newly elected president Donald Trump. While Trump spent his day attacking the media and complaining because his delusional view of the crowds at his inauguration were different than the truth that was reported, millions of people took to streets around the world.

Part of the crowd on 5th Ave

I participated in the New York City March, and it was impressive. I have attended marches for over 40 years, and this was the biggest one that I have ever seen. Reports say that there were 250,000 people. I don't know. What I know is that the street were filled with people. We were people of all ages, from 3 months to very old. While this was a "Women's March" it was a wonderful mix of women and men, from all races and economic backgrounds.

Here are some more of my favorite signs and pictures from today:

Pussy hats in the subway

Yarmulke pussy hats

A family of pussy hats

Without Borders, Without Flags, Solidarity

Our small portion of the 250,000 people in NYC

The marches were great, empowering and re-energizing. However, it is what comes next that is really important. This must become a movement. Not one that just goes out and votes Democratic. It must become a movement that takes on the power structure and fights for the rights of working people. A movement that fight for immigrants, against racism, against xenophobia. A movement that fights to ruling class on all levels for a better life for all.

December 25, 2016

Inter-Imperialist Rivalry - The U.S. shift toward Russia and away from China

It feels like my articles have been bouncing around a bit, but following what the PEOTUS is doing can give a person whiplash. That being said, I believe that it’s time for some background that might help explain a bit of what is going on between the U.S., Russia and China. The idea that we need to look at is Inter-imperialist Rivalry.


The chart above shows the percent of world GDP held by different parts of the world through the last 2000 years of history. It is interesting to note that prior to colonization of Africa and the Americas by Europe, and the enslavement of Africans, China and India were the world’s leading manufacturing powers. But we can see that starting around 1600 AD Europe begins to surpass Asia. Thus is due mostly to riches gathered from colonies in Africa and the Americas and the use of slave labor to mine for gold and grow crops. By the 1800’s the industrial revolution and the control of Asian ports by European countries, had boosted Western Europe above Asia, with the U.S. closing in. 

The idea that we need to look at is Inter-imperialist Rivalry.

1800 – 1913 – Intra-European Rivalries

During the late 1800’s European countries had divided up the world and fighting among themselves for control. The Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War and the Franco-Prussian Wars were the biggest of the dozens of conflicts that took place within Europe between 1800 and 1900. At the same time European countries were also fighting their colonies, with England, Spain and France coming out as the big winners. The resources that these colonies provided helped England and France develop their industrial prowess and helped set up one side of WW I. Meanwhile the United States was taking control of Central and South America and expanding its influence in Asia

1917-1939 – Europe Divides the Middle East

After WW I the industrial powers of Europe needed a consistent source petroleum for fuel and for raw materials. The Middle East, in particular the Saudi Peninsula and Iran became this source. The Ottoman Empire had fought with the Germans and were on the losing side of WWI. England and France stepped in after the war taking direct control of some parts and fomenting nationalist independence movements (Lawrence of Arabia anyone?) in others. Throughout this era, the United States continued to strengthen its hold on resources in Central and South America, while building military bases in Hawaii and Manila to exert more power in Asia.

Post WW 2 – 1945-1970

 The United States was the only major industrial power to emerge from World War 2 with its factories unscathed

This is a key era in figuring out what is happening today. The United States was the only major industrial power to emerge from World War 2 with its factories unscathed. Also, finding that the armies of their colonizers had been greatly weakened by the war, European colonies in Africa and Asia pushed for independence, depriving many European powers of the inexpensive resources. This left the United States in a unique period. While there was a military rivalry with the USSR, and proxy wars around the world, the U.S. was really a uni-polar manufacturing power during this period. This allowed companies in the U.S. to pay salaries that were very high compared to historical amounts, while still maintaining large profits. The ruling class was able to buy labor peace because they were not facing major competition from foreign powers.


When both leaders talk about expanding their nuclear arsenals ON THE SAME DAY, that is not a coincidence, it is a warning to China.

Today we live in a multi-polar world. The U.S., Europe, China, India, Brazil are all major players looking to increase influence and markets. Usually this is done with a veneer of civility, through trade agreements. And the past eight years have shown that the United States has been moving toward a greater tie to Asia and China. The Pacific Rim Partnership meetings have been as important as the G-7 and G-20 meetings in Europe.

But not all members of the ruling class are happy about this development. There are people and companies that want the U.S. to be more confrontational with China. Remember, they were left out when China made a deal with France and Saddam Hussein to develop the Iraqi oil fields back in 2000. According to a paper published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation in February of 2003, France controlled 23% of Iraq oil exports, while the U.S. was barred from the fields. Shortly after this, the U.S. invaded Iraq, removed Hussein from power, and negated all contracts he had negotiated.

It has become obvious that Trump is backed by the section of the ruling class that wants closer ties to Russia and more confrontation with China. We have all heard and read about Russia’s efforts is getting Trump elected. His appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State means that there is no attempt to hide who is making the decisions in this outfit. The U.S. government will be run openly by Exxon oil. The U.S. government will remove sanctions on Russia that have prevented the finalization of $500BILLION deal to develop Russian oil fields, a total about-face from the current U.S. policy.
Trump and Putin will also work together to try and slow or stop China’s expansion. When both leaders talk about expanding their nuclear arsenals ON THE SAME DAY, that is not a coincidence, it is a warning to China. Why? Because China’s response to Trump talking with Taiwan’s leader was to have multiple flights of its nuclear bomber over the South China Sea. China has also been expanding its military bases in the South China Sea. This is a dangerous game of superpower one-upmanship.

So what does this mean for us, the average people of the world? Well, we will probably see more Russian conflict in Eastern Europe, more conflicts with China and less stability in Latin America where China has been expanding its influence. We will see more Russian and Irani influence in the Middle East. This instability raises a greater chance of war. I also think that more people will see through this growing fascism and the need to maintain internal order in the U.S. will bring more and more repressive policies here. So we, the workers here in the U.S. and around the world, need to organize and be ready to fight against this growing tide of war and fascism.

December 11, 2016

Trump's Cabinet - A Neo-Liberal Conservative's Wet Dream

Last month many people, republicans, pundits, people on the street, were criticizing those of us who were protesting against Trump. “He hasn’t even been sworn in yet, wait and see what he does.” Well, he still hasn’t been sworn in, but, looking at his cabinet choices and they give us a pretty good idea of what he plans to do as President. And truthfully, those of us to have been protesting were right. Trump’s administration is shaping up to be an attack on healthcare, education and the environment like we have not seen in the past 100 years.

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education

According to Trump’s website, his plans for education include:
  • Immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice. This will be done by reprioritizing existing federal dollars.
  • Give states the option to allow these funds to follow the student to the public or private school they attend. Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws, encouraging them to participate.
And his choice for Secretary of Education has been a proponent of these goals and more for many years. She is Chairman of the American Federation for Children, and organization whose mission statement is:
The American Federation for Children is the leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs and Education Savings Accounts.
Her view is that traditional public schools are unfixable, and the students should be given vouchers to attend either charter schools or private schools. She is also an evangelical Christian who has said that education reform can advance “God’s Kingdom” saying “to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” according to an article on Politco.com.

As a retired public school teacher I can attest to damage done by charter schools and even by the whole small school “education reform” movement. These “alternatives” have drained top students and money from traditional neighborhood schools. The have cherry picked the highest achievers, leaving those children who need the most help behind in schools that have fewer resources then ever before.


Rep. Tom Price – Secretary of Health and Human Services


According to Trump’s website, his healthcare plans include the following highlights:
·         Completely repeal Obamacare. Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to.
·         Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Contributions into HSAs should be tax-free and should be allowed to accumulate.
·         Block-grant Medicaid to the states.

Tom Price Fits in with this view. The idea of tax credits and health saving accounts are a benefit to the rich but of no real help to poor and working class people who do not have the extra income to invest. He also is in favor of limiting a company’s tax deduction for providing healthcare coverage to its employees.

Finally he is in favor of block-granting Medicaid and Medicare to states, and to cut funding by close to $1 TRILLION over the next 10 years. According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, this could result in states dropping up to 20 million people from Medicaid over the next 10 years. You can read their article here for a very good analysis of this issue.  

Scott Pruitt - Head of the Environmental Protection Agency

Pruitt is a climate change denier. He has written as recently as May that science is far from settled on climate change. More importantly, he is an advocate for sharply cutting environmental regulations for industry and farming.

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote in National Review earlier this year. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”

Pruitt has coordinated multi-state law suits against both federal health care and environmental regulations. According to reports in the NY Times, many of these suits were backed and even written by energy and health companies affected by the regulations. 

What can we do?

The time to sit on the sidelines is over. It is vital that we do all that we can to fight against the attacks that are coming from the Trump government. We must be involved in movements both close to home and nationally. Find those groups that doing things. Organize! Fightback!