Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Coming Israeli Dictatorship?

It has recently been revealed that last Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet has passed new changes to their protocol, giving more power to the Prime Minister. Globes reported last week:

The cabinet today approved changes to cabinet protocol, which broaden the prime minister's powers, giving him greater control over ministers' work.

The 51-page document lists amendments drawn up Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser as part of staff work to facilitate the cabinet's decision-making process. These are the first changes to the cabinet procedures since Israel's independence in 1948, when the original procedures were written.

The amendments are even more significant at this time in view of reports of a possible strike by Israel against Iran within months.

The amendments allow the prime minister to decide, when distributing the cabinet agenda, that ministers absent from the meeting will not be allowed to vote in absentia, which they can currently do, and may only vote if they have prearranged another minister to vote on their behalf.

Another amendment allows the prime minister to change the agenda set by the ministerial committee, and decide whether to hold or to postpone a cabinet meeting "due to special grounds that will be notified to the committee chairman". The problem with this authority granted to the prime minister is that he will be able to submit an issue for a vote several times until it is passed; alternatively, he can remove an issue from the agenda at his sole discretion.

Other amendments state that telephone votes by the cabinet will be signed within 12 hours of the vote, and that the prime minister can shorten this time as he sees fit. He also now has the right to appeal decisions by ministerial committees, and he will also have the right to decide that a cabinet decision against which a ministerial committee has appealed will not be valid until the cabinet again discusses the issue. (emphasis added) [1]

This is quite disturbing as it essentially gives the Prime Minister the power to force his agenda on the entire government. By allowing him to decide what bills are and are not up for votes, he essentially controls the legislative process. He can then ensure that his agenda is given the green light by the Cabinet by shortening the time length of telephone votes, which will have the effect of squashing any opposition by simply forcing dissenting members to make a split decision without having ample time to state their arguments. A potential side effect of this is that the possibility of making a hasty decision that will have horrid short- or long-term effects could potentially increase substantially due to the Cabinet not having sufficient time to consider the consequences of the action(s) that is being proposed.

Many speculate that the reason such changes were made was because of the possibility of a military attack on Iran. This is quite possible, as recently leaked documents [2] show that Israel is in fact planning an attack on Iran. Thus, such new powers would come in handy of Netanyahu to force his pro-war agenda on Israel.

These new changes put Israel's very democracy at risk. Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovic stated that such modifications to Cabinet protocol "disrupt the cabinet's decision-making process and transfer the government's authority to one man - himself" and that ""Fateful political, defense, and socioeconomic decisions are liable to be taken without substantive cabinet discussion as required." [3]

Just like with the United States, any powers the Prime Minister currently has, the next Prime Minister will receive as well. The very fabric of Israeli society is now at risk and a dictatorship may be slowly on its way into existence.


1: "Netanyahu granted more Cabinet powers," Globes, August 12, 2012 (
2: Richard Silverstein, "Netanyahu's Secret War Plan: Leaked Document Outlines Israel's "Shock and Awe" Plan to Attack Iran," Global Research, August 16, 2012 (
3:  Globes, August 12, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stand Strong and Do Not Despair

Stand Strong and Do Not Despair: Some Thoughts on the Fading Student Movement in Quebec

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

As eight of the fourteen CEGEP preparatory schools have voted to return to class, and thereby end the strike which began in February, Quebec is beginning to witness the fading away of the first phase of the student movement, mobilized by the planned tuition increases, and which expanded into a broader social movement known as the ‘Maple Spring.’ As some students have returned to class, they were met with a heavy police presence, no doubt to ensure ‘order’ during such a “dangerous” situation in which students enter school property. After all, Bill 78, which was passed by Jean Charest’s government back in May (now known as Law 12), made student protests on (or within 50 metres of school property) an illegal act.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paul Ryan and The Budget

Given that Paul Ryan has been chosen as the Republican Vice Presidential Nominee and there is much talk about his budget plan, I thought it would be fitting to re-post an excerpt from my article Budget Madness, which was written in May of 2011, about Paul Ryan's budget. (Please note, the endnotes have been re-numbered.)

Currently, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proposed his own personal budget reduction plan which hurts not only the poor, but also the elderly. Yet the Republican-controlled House has approved the bill.

Ryan's plan hurts the poor because the savings "all come from cuts, and at least two-thirds of them come from programs serving the poor. The wealthy, meanwhile, would see their taxes lowered, and the Defense Department would escape unscathed." [1] Ryan's plan hurts those who can least afford it in this current recession. It is quite ironic that the poor are being targeted in this recession because they could quite easily turn to crime if the government leaves them with no assistance as they try and get back on their feet.

The plan also hurts the elderly because in the long-term, the amount that they will be forced to cover will increase their medical payments. Ryan's plan is to "[replace] Medicare with vouchers with which older folks can use to buy private health insurance." It sounds good, yet the vouchers "are linked to the CPI, not to the inflation rate of healthcare expenses (and private insurance costs)." [2] Thus as time goes on, the elderly will be forced to cover more of their insurance plans because the vouchers will cover less and less.

Ryan's plan isn't as good as either the Gramm-Rudmann-Hollings bill or the PAYGO plan. In the GRH bill, the bill created annual targets until the deficit was eliminated and the cuts came mainly from social programs, yet they came from a variety of social programs and it could be amended (with enough support) to include defense spending. Ryan's program looks more like a war on the poor. It also differs from PAYGO in that PAYGO, while it was tough to get items to be budget neutral for nine years, it truly worked for budget neutrality. PAYGO acted as an equalizer rather trying to balance out the budget solely through cuts.

Ryan's budget proposal will not be successful because the economics are completely wrong. By privatizing Medicare, as was stated before, Medicare will become more expensive. "[T]he bipartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that overall health care spending will go up as Medicare recipients are forced to buy private insurance, since private insurance has far higher administrative expenses than Medicare." [3] Besides that, the tax cuts are solely for the wealthy. If Ryan's plan goes through they will experience a $125,000 tax cut (on average) while cuts will be made "not only to Medicare and Medicaid, but also to infrastructure spending and funds for Pell Grants for college tuition—both areas that are crucial to the nation's long term economic performance. " [4] The main problem with Ryan's plan is that it masquerades as a legitimate budget balancing plan, yet in reality is nothing but an effort to aid those who already quite well-off.


1: Ezra Klein, "Why Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan is so flawed," Washington Post, April 11, 2011 (
2: Henry Blodget, "Here's How Paul Ryan's Budget Plan Screws Old People," Business Insider, April 8, 2011 (
3: Jeff Madrick, "Budget Fallacies: Why The Ryan Plan Won't Work," New York Review of Books, April 19, 2011 (
4: Ibid

Thursday, August 2, 2012

PBS And Syrian Propaganda

The ‘objective’ news network PBS has been (and still is) engaging in the media propaganda war against the Syrian government, from perpetuating the myth about Syrian Migs attacking rebel fighters to calling the Syrian rebels “underdogs,” the Public Broadcasting Service is perpetuating the disinformation campaign surrounding the events in Syria.

On July 25th, PBS Newshour host Judy Woodruff interviewed Youssef Amrani, Morroco’s minister delegate for foreign affairs. In the interview, Woodruff bought up the topic of diplomacy, specifically within the framework of the UN Security Council, with Amrani stating that he wanted more sanctions and the like on the Assad regime. When Amrani stated that he thought the UN “should work with the opposition” to find a solution to the crisis, Woodruff responded by saying

Well, that brings me to the question. One of the reasons the U.S. and other countries have been reluctant to get involved, to support the opposition is because they don't know what a successor government is going to look like. We just saw in that report al-Qaida starting to show up among the opposition. (emphasis added)

Such statements are utter and outright fabrications! The US and other countries have been quite involved in supporting the opposition and Al Qaeda is not “starting to show up” in the opposition as Woodruff would like viewers to think, but rather have been there for quite some time.

In regards to the US supporting the Syrian rebels, this was first acknowledged in December 2011 on the site The American Conservative where former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi wrote an article in which he stated that “the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.” Most recently, it was reported on August 1st that President Obama “has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.”

The US government has known that Al Qaeda has been among the Syrian rebels as in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper stated that “Members of Al Qaeda have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups.”

Thus, the US government has been supporting the rebels since late last year and has been working with Al Qaeda (albeit indirectly) to topple the Syrian government, yet PBS seems to be concerned only with spouting lies.

In the same interview, when Woodruff asked Amrani “How can you be sure that the next government won't be as repressive as this government?,” Amrani replied by saying “Listen, we had some experiences in Libya, in Tunisia, in the Maghreb, that were successful.”

It is quite interesting that he cites Libya as a “success” as that nation, after being overrun by US-NATO backed fighters, has been plagued by violence in recent months. It makes one wonder what the minister thinks “success” actually means.

In an interview on July 26th, Judy Woodruff interviewed Kelly McEvers, a journalist from National Public Radio, after she had “just completed a weeklong reporting trip to northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border, where she visited a number of towns currently under rebel control. In the interview, McEvers was asked about the Syrian rebels. After her description of them, Woodruff stated the the rebels were outgunned to which McEvers responded

Exactly. They are so outgunned right now. They're basically operating with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs. 
That's another key component to their sort of arsenal right now. That's how they deal with regime tanks.
But when you talk about a fully equipped army with tanks, artillery, mortars,  
helicopters, and now we have seen jets being employed in this fight by the regime's army, you can see that the rebels are definitely the underdogs here. (emphasis added)

This myth that the Syrian rebels are outgunned is but another fabrication. It was reported on August 2nd that the Syrian rebels were using a captured tank in the battle for Aleppo. This is not the first time this has happened as in February, the International Business Times presented a video on Youtube which showed the rebels using a tank against the Syrian military. The use of fighters jets is also a myth that is based on a single tweet from BBC correspondent Ian Pannell. The magazine The Aviationist did a report on the alleged incident of Syrian air force MiGs attacking the rebels and found that the plane in question was an L-39 “a combat trainer” which “could be used for reconnaissance purposes.” Yet, even if the Syrian regime was using fighter jets on the rebels, the rebels most likely wouldn’t have a problem as they now have surface to air missiles. Despite this evidence, McEvers still feels the need to state that the rebels “are definitely the underdogs.”

Thus, the propaganda campaign of demonizing the Assad regime and praising the US-NATO backed rebels continues with the help of such ‘reliable’ and ‘centrist’ sources as PBS. The psyop against the public continues as the imperialists push ever closer to intervention in Syria.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oppression and Intersectionality

Being oppressed is a struggle that many groups in society face on a daily basis, whether it be racial discrimination because one is Latino or being paid only 70% of what a man makes. Yet, oppression becomes even greater and more complex when one includes intersectionality which is how social, economic, and other categories overlap and intersect in a greater framework of oppression. Rather than discussing this matter from an ‘objective’ standpoint and using examples which one can easily distance themselves from, I will examine oppression and intersectionality using actual people.

I am a gay black man living in New Jersey. At first glance, one might think that while I am oppressed due to my sexuality, that I benefit from male privilege because the United States is a patriarchal society. However, this is where intersectionality comes into play. Ordinarily, in a patriarchal society all males benefit from male privilege, yet when one factors in race, the situation changes drastically. Due to America’s history of consistently portraying black men as a threat to the larger society, I am viewed as a menace to society by my very existence. This can be seen by the fact that when black men (or men of color in general) are gunned down by police even in the most dubious of circumstances, a chorus of voices comes out of the woodwork arguing that the individual in question should have been killed as he was a threat or was potentially going to become one. Thus, not only do people of color who are a part of the LGBT community have to deal with the constant stigma, insults, and oppression from the society at large but they must also deal with the oppression that comes from being a person of color in a white supremacist society.

One of my friends is a Muslim woman. Due to her being a woman, she must deal with the misogyny in American culture, from the intellectual belittling of women (the constant mantra of women being viewed only as ‘emotional’) to the never-ending comparison of women’s bodies to a standard of beauty that exists only in the mind. Yet, she must also deal with the stigma that comes from being a Muslim in a society that is not only quite ignorant of Islam, but also has been taught to hate Muslims and everything to do with Islam. Due to this, she is confronted with Islamaphobic misogyny where she is belittled due to her gender, but also considered as a danger to society because of the stereotyping of her religion. 

While we realize the overlapping of oppression and how it can affect people, there can be instances where a person is oppressed in one way, but has freedoms in others. This is not to say that privilege and oppression cancel each other out, but rather to acknowledge a situation that many find themselves in. One such example is a friend I have who is middle class gay white man. Though he is oppressed due to his sexuality and the homophobia and stereotypes that come with being gay, there is a major difference between himself and LGBT people of color. Other than his being gay, American society essentially rolls out a red carpet for him as he benefits from being a white male in a patriarchal society that favors whiteness.

Viewing oppression through the lens of intersectionality is empowering as not only does it give us a different manner of examining oppression and exploring ways to combat it, but this type of view also can potentially create new alliances between oppressed communities and thus create greater coalition of those working together to fight for their freedom.