Russia to provide Belarus with Iskander-M missiles

At the request of President Alexander Lukashenko, in the coming weeks Russia will make available to the Belarusian army Iskander-M missiles. These missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. For their part, the United States have supplied launchers, including 257 bomber planes, and 200 nuclear warheads for decades to several of their allies, notably in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands. and in Turkey. In doing so, they violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which (...)

Alain Benajam passed away

Our administrator, Alain Benajam, passed away on 26 June 2022 at 11:30 a.m. He was one of the founders of our organization in 1994, the chairman of our association in France as from 2012, and represented our friends from Donbass since 2014. He had been an official of the French Communist Party. He worked alongside Nobel physiology laureate Jean Dausset and red billionaire Sylvain Floirat, before founding his own companies. We thank him for his open-mindedness, for his affection and his (...)

The Brutality of “Bulldozer Justice” in India

It looks all too eerily similar as a method: the expulsion of individuals from their home, the demolition of said home and the punishing of entire families.  All excused by a harsh reading of local regulations.  But this method, used by Israeli authorities for years against vulnerable Palestinians, has become a weapon of choice for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.

On June 12, Muslim activist Javed Mohammed, a member of the Welfare Party of India, tasted such retributive justice in witnessing the family home demolished by the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA).  The actions were also inflicted on two other homes belonging to individuals accused of throwing projectiles after Friday prayers.  Similar measures have been implemented in Saharanpur and Kanpur.

As with all such brutal, state-sanctioned BJP thuggery, the measure is given a legal gloss in victimising the occupants.  They are the ones in the wrong, without the valid construction permits, or paperwork.  The PDA insists that Javed was notified on May 10 to have his illegal construction razed by June 9. But this claim was only made in a rude note that demanded he vacate the premises by 11 am on June 12.

Beyond the imputations associated with dubious paperwork, the religious credentials of the victims are what bothers the authorities the most.  They are also the ones deemed in the wrong when protesting the reprehensible conduct of BJP officials, notably in the context of inflammatory remarks made against the Muslim faith.

Such “bulldozer justice”, as it is grotesquely termed, has become fashionable against Muslim leaders accused of participating and stirring protest in response to remarks on the Prophet Mohammad made by former BJP leaders Nupur Sharm and Naveen Jindal.  This month’s protests organised in Prayagraj and Saharanpur subsequently turned violent.  Thirteen police were injured and 300 people arrested.

Law enforcement authorities and the PDA have taken a particular interest in Javed’s activities, arresting him and detaining his wife and second daughter, Somaiya.  Afreen, his firebrand daughter and student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, has also piqued the interest of the authorities for her role in inspiring protest.  Her pedigree as a marcher and organiser was already assured in her role in protests against the nasty Citizenship Amendment Act.

What, then, of the response to such brutal, extra-judicial punishments?  The demolition of Javed’s home and other activists did not exactly see opposition politicians voice concerns about natural justice and the right to shelter.

In fact, outrage against such acts has been in short supply.  Some television networks even went so far as to express delight at treatment they regarded as appropriate against mischief makers who had masterminded protests in Prayagraj.  Rahul Gandhi of the Congress Party preferred to focus on the unwanted attention of the Enforcement Directorate regarding money-laundering claims connected with the sale of the National Herald newspaper.

Added to the specious justification that the homes were illegally constructed, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath would revel in applying the brutal treatment.  His media adviser, Mrityunjay Kumar, showed little reluctance in celebrating the use of the bulldozer and promising more demolitions with this heralded weapon. “Unruly elements remember,” he tweeted, captioning a picture of a bulldozer doing its dastardly work, “every Friday is followed by a Saturday.”

Some members of the legal fraternity have begged to differ.  “Even if you assume for a moment that the construction was illegal, which, by the way is how crores of Indians live” explained former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Govind Mathur, “it is impermissible that you demolish a house on a Sunday when the residents are in custody.”

A number of lawyers have written to the current Allahabad High Court Chief Justice, pointing out that Javed’s home was actually in his wife’s name.  Neither had received earlier notices of illegal construction, as claimed by the PDA, suggesting that due process had been denied.

The courts have become the logical, if only battleground for victims to seek redress.  Challenges have been launched in the Supreme Court, the Allahabad High Court and the Madhya Pradesh High Court, though these cases remain in legal limbo.  The delay in judicial action has drawn criticism from legal commentators, with twelve figures including former Supreme Court and High Court justices urging Supreme Court Chief Justice NV Ramana to uphold its role as “custodians of the Constitution”. “We hope and trust the Supreme Court will rise to the occasion and not let the citizens and the Constitution down at this crucial juncture.”

The nature of judicial intervention in these cases has certainly preoccupied some Supreme Court justices, though they claim to eschew activism.  Supreme Court Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, set to become Chief Justice come November, recently delivered a lecture at King’s College, London observing a “growing litigious trend in the country” that indicated “the lack of patience in the political discourse.  The result is a slippery slope where courts are regarded as the only organ of the State for the realisation of rights – obviating the need for continuous engagement with the legislature and the executive.”

Fearing judicial overreach, Justice Chandrachud accepted that the Supreme Court, while entrusted to “protect the fundamental rights of the citizens”, should not decide “issues requiring the involvement of elected representatives.”  In so doing, the court would deviate from its “constitutional role” and “not service a democratic society, which at its core, must resolve issues through public deliberation, discourse and the engagement of citizens with their representatives and the constitution.”

This noble depiction of democracy is admirable and politically hard to fault in instances where the rule of law reigns in all majesty.  But in cases of executive or legislative overreach, particularly when it comes to “bulldozer justice”, it seems sterile and non-committal.  In the context of such savage retribution, it would only be fitting for the judges to consider that any dialogue between the authorities, the electors and the victims who have lost, and will lose their homes, is at an end.

The post The Brutality of “Bulldozer Justice” in India first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Continuing Damages from Corporate-Managed so-called Free Trade

The great progressive Harvard economist and prolific best-selling author, John Kenneth Galbraith, wrote that “Ideas may be superior to vested interest. They are also very often the children of vested interest.” I wished he had written that assertion before I took Economic 101 at Princeton. One of the vested ideas taught as dogma then was the comparative advantage theory developed by the early 19th-century British economist, David Ricardo. He gave the example of trading Portuguese wine for British textiles with both countries coming out winners due to their superior efficiencies in producing their native products.

Ricardo’s theory drove policy and political power for two centuries fortifying the corporate and conservative proponents of alleged “free markets” (See: Destroying the Myths of Market Fundamentalism) and “free trade.” The theory’s endurance was remarkably resistant to contrary obvious empirical evidence. Whether Ricardo envisioned it or not, “free trade” became an instrument of colonialism, entrenching poor nations in the extraction and exportation of natural resources while becoming almost totally dependent on western nations’ value-added manufactured products. “Iron ore for iron weapons,” as one observer summed it up. Tragically, too often, the weapons came with the invaders/oppressors.

Fast forward to today’s supply chain crisis disrupting the flow of commerce. Why does the world’s largest economy and technology leader have a supply chain problem forcing businesses and consumers to helplessly wait for simple and complex goods to arrive at our shores? Why did we find ourselves in March 2020 desperately waiting on an Italian factory to sell us simple protective equipment to safeguard patients, nurses, and physicians to address the pandemic’s deadly arrival? Answer – the touted theory of comparative advantage embedded in so-called “free trade.”

In reality, there is no such thing. It is corporate-managed trade under the guise of “free trade.” As Public Citizen attorney Lori Wallach asked her audiences, while holding up heavy volumes of NAFTA and WTO trade agreements – “If its free trade why are there all these pages of rules?” Because they are corporate rules often having little to do with trade and everything to do with the subordination of labor, consumer and environmental rights and priorities.

These agreements, secretly arrived at, made sure that they pulled down higher U.S. standards in these areas instead of having them pull up serf labor, polluting factories and consumer abuses in authoritarian nations. Corporate managed trade leads to inherently dangerous dependencies, such as no antibiotics being produced in the U.S., which imports these and other critical drugs from unregulated Chinese and Indian laboratories. The supply chain enchains.

A remarkable take down appeared in a lengthy essay titled “The Idea of a Local Economy” twenty-one years ago by the agrarian wise man, Wendell Berry, who used a larger framework taking apart the so-called “free trade,” under monetized corporate control over governments, a clueless media and academics still indentured to Ricardo theory. He didn’t go after the obvious – that imported products from serf-labor countries are corporate opportunities to make even more profits by keeping prices high. Other than textiles, note the high prices of Asian-made computers, iPhones, electronic toys, Nike shoes and foreign motor vehicles sold to American consumers. This imbalance allows Apple’s boss Tim Cook to pay himself $833 a minute or $50,000 an hour. The markups on these products are staggering, but not as staggering as the plight of Apple’s one million serf laborers in China.

Berry opens up new horizons on  the deception called “free trade” to wit, “Unsurprisingly, among people who wish to preserve things other than money – for instance, every region’s native capacity to produce essential goods – there is a growing perception that the global ‘free market’ economy is inherently an enemy to the natural world, to human health and freedom to industrial workers, and to farmers and others in the land-use economies; and, furthermore, that it is inherently an enemy to good work and good economic practice.”

The farmer-thinker, Berry, listed numerous erroneous assumptions behind corporatist global trade. A few follow:

  1. “That there can be no conflict between economic advantage and economic justice.”
  2. “That there is no conflict between the ‘free market’ and political freedom; and no connection between political democracy and economic democracy.”
  3. “That the loss of destruction of the capacity anywhere to produce necessary goods does not matter and involves no cost.”
  4. “That it is all right for a nation’s or a region’s subsistence to be foreign-based, dependent on long-distance transport and entirely controlled by corporations.”
  5. “That cultures and religions have no legitimate practical or economic concerns.”
  6. “That wars over commodities – our recent Gulf War, for example – are legitimate and permanent economic functions.”
  7. “That it is all right for poor people in poor countries to work at poor wages to produce goods for export to affluent people in rich countries.”
  8. “That there is no danger and no cost in the proliferation of exotic pests, weeds, and diseases that accompany international trade and that increase with the volume of trade.”

A common theme in Berry’s warnings is that monetized corporations, in their ferocious search for profits, destroy or undermine far more important non-monetized democratic values of societies. That, in turn, leads to the suppression of impoverished societies on the ground where people live, work and raise their families.

That is why limitless greed, unbridled, whether formed from Empires or by domestic plutocrats, eventually produces convulsions which devour their mass victims and themselves.

*****

Website: Destroying the Myths of Market Fundamentalism
Website: The Idea of a Local Economy by Wendell Berry

The post The Continuing Damages from Corporate-Managed so-called Free Trade first appeared on Dissident Voice.

USAID and State Department refuse scrutiny of Afghan file

The US State Department and USAID prevented their staff from interacting with Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko (pictured). Both managements advance the argument that the Inspector General's mandate does not include their humanitarian action. John Sopko is a government inspector who has worked for the legislative and executive branches. He was appointed to his current position in 2012 by President Barack Obama. He is currently carrying out multiples audits (...)

Zelensky to replace head of SBU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has decided to dismiss the head of his security service (SBU), Ivan Bakanov. The announcement has been delayed for lack of a successor. Bakanov is Zelensky's childhood friend. He became his producer when Zelensky was an acrobat, and was appointed head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) when Zelensky was elected president. According to his Western counterparts, he is grossly incompetent in the performance of his duties but is committed to (...)

Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist

For some time now, public school superintendents in Pennsylvania, as well as the governor of that state and many others, have been striving to restrict the charter school money grab that has been allowed to run amok in that state for years.

Cyber charter schools in particular, notorious for consistently abysmal academic results and for being even more corrupt than brick-and-mortar charter schools, have come under fire because they receive large sums of public funds that are vastly disproportionate to their needs, functions, and claims. Overhead costs in cyber charter schools, it should be noted, are much lower than overhead costs in brick-and-mortar public schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools, but the flawed funding system essentially treats cyber charter schools like brick-and-mortar schools. Virtual charter schools also provide fewer services and resources than brick-and-mortar public schools, which can be especially problematic for students with special needs. All of this is beside the fact that charter schools have no legitimate claim to public money in the first place because they are not public entities in the proper sense of the word. Charter schools are privatized deregulated schools run by unelected private persons. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not agencies of the state and differ from public schools in profound ways. Charter school promoters, moreover, openly espouse “free market” ideology.

At a recent press conference addressing the siphoning of large sums of public funds from public schools to privately-operated charter schools, Christopher Dormer, superintendent of the Norristown school district, said that, “today is an attack on a law that is broken, with skewed formulas that have resulted in drastic overpayments to charters, with little or no oversight on how those tax dollars are being spent” (emphasis added). Dormer added:

I’ll tell you, it does not cost $14,000 per year to educate a child in a fully virtual environment’, referring to what Norristown pays per student attending cyber charters. In contrast, he said, it costs the district $5,500 to educate a student fully online.

In the Perkiomen Valley school district:

costs for sending students to charters have grown by more than 55% since 2015, said Superintendent Barbara Russell. ‘That takes money away from the students attending in our school district’, Russell said. While the district has its own virtual learning programs, the money it must pay for students to attend cyber charter schools where the accountability looks very different … raises lots of questions’. (emphasis added)

Virtual charter schools in Pennsylvania also exploit the public by self-servingly reclassifying many students as “special education” students just to seize more public funds from public schools that are chronically under-funded. For example:

Bill Harner, the Quakertown Community School District superintendent, said one-third of students in his district who enroll in cyber charters are classified by their new schools as having a disability. “Why are they being reclassified? Because it’s a cash cow,” Harner said. “It’s a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Larry Feinberg, a veteran school board member and director of the Keystone Center for Charter Change, points out that the existing charter school funding system means “fewer resources to pay for things like math coaches, reading coaches, nurses, counselors” in public schools. “The impact is palpable, and it’s real.”

Charter school funding arrangements (in Pennsylvania and elsewhere) are so dysfunctional that they also often force higher property taxes on communities where they exist. Equally worrisome, charter schools also impose huge “stranded costs” on public schools, which are “expenses that school districts can’t recoup when students leave for a charter, because they can’t evenly reduce teachers or building expenses, for instance.”

It thus comes as no surprise that:

More than 430 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have passed a resolution calling for charter funding changes, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Many other examples of antisocial funding arrangements can be given. The issue though is not to determine a “more fair” way to funnel public money to privately-operated charter schools, but rather to discuss and analyze in a serious manner why these outsourced deregulated schools exist in the first place and how to untether them from public funds, assets, facilities, and resources that legitimately belong only to public schools.

Within this, what also needs to be discussed is the neoliberal “starve it—test it—punish it—privatize it” (STPP) formula, whereby thousands of public schools in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have been deliberately set up by neoliberals to fail and close in an unconscionable manner so as to make way for thousands of poor-performing charter schools constantly mired in scandal and controversy.

Two other key points are worth considering. First, like private businesses, cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania collectively spend millions of public dollars every year on marketing and advertising instead of spending this public money directly in the classroom. Secondly, why do charter schools need to advertise at all if so many parents supposedly want to enroll their kids in them and there are said to be long waiting lists to get into them? The neoliberal narrative about school-choice has never computed.

Not surprisingly, while superintendents and public interest advocates in Pennsylvania are seeking broad reforms to the current defective school funding set-up, advocates of privately-operated charter schools are fighting tooth and nail for every single public cent they can seize. They have little sympathy for public schools and their students.

To be sure, major problems caused by funneling public funds to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is a national problem and not unique to Pennsylvania. For more than 30 years, public schools in America have been undermined by these crisis-prone contract schools run by unelected private persons.

“Free market” schools do not advance people, society, or the economy; they mainly enrich a handful of individuals and groups. The commodification of education in a modern society based on mass industrial production is profoundly counterproductive.

See here for a detailed article on the unbreakable connection between government and charter school millionaires and lobbyists. Preventing charter schools from privately expropriating public property is doable and necessary. No one has to settle for such theft of public wealth by narrow private interests.

There are 179 charter schools in Pennsylvania. Cyber charter schools serve the entire state.

The post Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Political Fairy Tale

Once there was a democracy that had lost its way. Two irreconcilable views of government were tearing it apart. The first maintained that a democracy should be about more than creature comforts. A soulless democracy can also have such things. A true democracy, however, was about much more than this.

It has to do with life’s imponderables, the things of the spirit, the sacrosanct nature of each human person as an end in itself, not as a beast of burden to be used, exploited, and then cast aside. It has to do with human rights, equality, care for its poor and children, its sick and aged, ideals and values that make life worth living.

Food, clothing, shelter, and health care for all are also essential, but until that happens, it is not a democracy despite sumptuous dining, costly apparel, and mansions for the few.

What makes a democracy are old-fashioned virtues like compassion and kindness, concern for others and the common good, fairness and decency and social justice, for where there is justice, there is no need for charity.

These ideals cannot be measured for they are the measure of everything else that goes to the heart of what it means to be human and what makes life worth living for: the values that sustain a free people as civilized beings and give their lives joy.

Once a democracy loses its reverence for the human person, no matter what creed or color, ethnicity or lifestyle, it loses its soul, forsakes its humanity, and is already dead — however impressive its GNP. The infallible sign of a true democracy is the deepest concern for morality about every aspect of human existence for people come first, last, and always.

Enter Thrasymachus

Thrasymachus

The second view of democracy mocks at all this. It ignores everyone save the Rich and Powerful for they alone matter since democracy is their slave, ensuring that only they prosper, spending little on the people, but billions on themselves.

The people see this government as waging class war against them, and as more dangerous than any foreign enemy met in the field. One wonders why anyone but the Rich and Powerful would vote for these leaders, since this is their creed:

The world is a slaughterhouse in which the Poor and the Sick, the Weak and the Helpless, the Aged and Children should go to the wall. They are expendable and a burden on the Rich and Powerful, who alone rule the Earth.

Who decides what is moral?

The Rich and the Powerful!

What, then, is moral?

Whatever increases their riches and power!

And the justification for saying this?

Their Riches and Power! Whatever advances their interests is moral, for the law of life is the law of the jungle! There is no objective morality, just the eternal silence of an indifferent universe. 

Thus spoke, in paraphrase, the sophist Thrasymachus and his heirs down the ages in Plato’s Republic, Book One. In essence, this is his case to Socrates in this Dialogue, which has been read and pondered for 24 centuries. It is the argument of “Might Makes Right” that threatens every democracy that ever existed.

How keep Thrasymachus and his kind from coming to power? This is a problem that has never been solved for if the people are enchanted by his sweet-sounding promises, they will make him their leader, and he will destroy their democracy. He lives only in the moment with no thought for tomorrow and cares nothing for the devastation he leaves in his wake.

He and his enablers are Social Darwinians with no concern for the people whom they see as inferior and the world as a jungle of the survival of the Richest. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who prey on the weak. They want luxury for themselves in their gated communities, and penury and misery for others outside their gates. They are psychopaths for their lack of empathy toward those living now and for future generations, to whom they will leave a dead planet.

Books Eight and Nine deal with this Tyrant, who begins as a demagogue beguiling the people because they are oppressed by the Rich and the laws that protect them. They have bribed those in government to ignore the people, who want a Strong Man to lead and protect them.

Enter the Demagogue, who tells them that he alone can help them, be their Savior, and make their Country Great Again. Spellbound, the people make him their Leader, but, once in power, he turns on them and becomes a Tyrant, who stops at nothing to have his own way.

We have seen him before in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany where a free press is silenced and replaced with lies. Americans can see the same thing happening on Fox News.

If Thrasymachus and his GOP enablers come to power in 2024, this is what they will do: Slash health care, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment and Accident Insurance, and food stamps for the poor. How the elderly, grandmothers, grandfathers, the sick, starving and homeless will survive is impossible to say since after shredding this safety net, these GOP leaders will divert those billions to the Rich and Powerful themselves, whose taxes will be lowered while those of everyone else will be raised.

Regulations on gun ownership, consumer protection, workplace safety, pollution, and climate change will all be rolled back, making life for Americans increasingly precarious and our planet unlivable when your children and grandchildren come of age.

Just reflect for a moment what kind of leaders would do this to those they have taken an oath to protect? What kind of human beings would impose such suffering on over three hundred million of their fellow citizens? Once you grasp the scope and magnitude of what will begin to happen in only two years, you will realize the nightmare that will descend on America.

Regarding global warming about which these new leaders will do nothing, only you and other young people can stop this from happening, since those responsible for unleashing this catastrophe will all be dead. The alternative is trying to survive for your descendants on an uninhabitable planet.

Voters in a democracy take pride in electing leaders who will protect and defend them. However, what they forget is that democracy is only an ideal, and ideals change nothing in this world unless there are men and women in government who themselves embody those ideals and are willing to risk their lives to protect them.

Our democracy must be carefully guarded by those you choose as your leaders, especially when it is under attack by a would-be dictator. To prevent this from happening, voters must choose their leaders from the best kind of people, not from the dregs of humanity.

Moreover, there are always those in public office who don’t believe in democracy, but as some of the present GOP politicians at the federal, state, and county levels want to destroy it from within. They merely pose as patriots while depriving millions of their fellow citizens of their right to vote from fear that they’ll vote “the wrong way.”

Americans who fought and died in two World Wars to protect our democracy could never have imagined that only a few generations later America might choose as president an unstable fascist dictator.

Just as incredible is that all three branches of government could collude to do precisely what they were designed to avoid doing by the separation of powers. Not that every Supreme Court justice or member of Congress is guilty of this collusion, but enough of them were and are to enable the former president to undermine these supposedly independent institutions.

We are dealing today with a far different kind of person than once filled the ranks of an honorable GOP party, men and women of integrity who in governing were open to compromise for the good of the country. Today, however, this party has been overrun with ideologues, extremists, and right-wing fanatics, who don’t want to govern in the old-fashioned manner by working with their Democratic colleagues in moving America forward.

They want only to wear down, frustrate, and obstruct their colleagues, refusing to listen, show good faith, or find common ground; fomenting division and hatred, while disillusioning voters, who may want nothing to do with the political process and withdraw from the fray — the ultimate game plan for this new breed of Republican to have the political field all to themselves.

They have already knelt to kiss the ring of this modern Thrasymachus in repudiation of those democratic principles they once espoused. They have hitched their wagon to a wannabe dictator, a Barnum & Bailey Bunkum Artist, who would destroy our democracy by spreading lies for personal gain.

His enablers at all levels of government are political chameleons, alive and well in every age, forever in search of the golden ring of opportunity to advance their own interests. They have shown by word and voting record that they reject the will of the people by their obdurate refusal to enact their wishes into law.

This raises the question of how do we know that we can trust those running for office since there are always voters who want to be lied to, as there are always scoundrels who want to oblige? These same voters long to abase themselves before any charlatan with the chutzpah to proclaim himself their Long-Awaited-Savior who will dry their tears and lead them into Paradise. But what if they follow this “Savior” over a cliff?

In Hitler’s Germany the mantra was, Führer, befiehl! Wir folgen dir bis in den Tod! Leader, command!(We follow you unto death!) How much political thinking in Germany at that time was a blind surrender to communal madness?

It is true because my Führer says it’s true! (And I believe in him because he is my Lord and Savior, who cannot be wrong, who cannot do wrong!) Sound familiar? If America succumbs to this level of infantilism as many do today for Trump, God help us for we are doomed!

Gebt mir zehn Jahre Zeit und ihr werdet Deutschland nicht wiedererkennen.” (“Give me ten years and you won’t recognize Germany”), boasted Hitler to the German people in promising to make Germany Great Again. They gave him twelve — and it was leveled to the ground.

The post A Political Fairy Tale first appeared on Dissident Voice.