Democracy Without the People

[The characterization of our overcomplicated Madisonian system as transcendentally democratic rests on a fundamental amnesia—of a history stretching from the architects of the American republic’s explicit anti-democratic intentions, to the range of exclusions that have structured the boundaries of the demos since, to the more recent debilitation of democracy designed and abetted by the very principled “moderates” to whom the authors appeal for salvation. One might forget, from all these accounts, the Madison of the Federalist Papers who denounced any politics that would give vent to “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project”—the Madison who demanded a “total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity.”

A Trump administration obviously poses serious threats not only to pluralism but also to democracy in the more substantive sense. But his means of threatening democracy are features of the system, rather than contraventions of it. Trump’s rapid-fire series of executive orders—from the Muslim Ban to financial deregulation—do undermine substantive democracy, but not because they upset a delicate balance of power between branches of government or partisan political forces. The “bipartisan consensus” cast as the moral backbone of democracy has vested in the presidency war-making and surveillance powers hidden from public scrutiny, unchecked by democratic debate or accountability. From the War on Terror to the deportation pipeline, to domestic spying, to Wall Street’s guaranteed seat at the economic advising table, Trump inherits a branch of government already well-equipped by his predecessors to undermine democracy. As is already apparent, the President and his crack squad of billionaires and white nationalists will undoubtedly turn these tools to devastating effect. However our critique of Trump, and our determined political resistance to Trumpism, should not rest on venerating an ideal democracy we have never really achieved.

The bone of contention in all these accounts is “populism.”]

Read the full article | n + 1

demos

The Plausible Scenario that We May be Heading to a War with Iran | … and the Significance of Israel

The mainstream media has attempted to frame Donald J. Trump’s election victory as a sort of collusion between Russia and Trump — a scheme allegedly intended to promote an American president who would do Vladimir Putin’s bidding. But the truth is that there is one other country that stands to be the prime beneficiary of Trump’s reign as president: Israel.

Under the Obama administration, the United States had a curious relationship with Israel. In 2011, Obama vetoed a U.N. Security Council Resolution that would have condemned Israel’s settlement expansion. During Obama’s tenure, Israel’s settlement population increased from 500,000 to 600,000. According to Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, no administration in U.S. history has done more for Israel than Obama’s did:

“Our military exercises are more advanced than ever. Our assistance for Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives. We have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself by itself, including during actions [in] Gaza that sparked great controversy.”

In 2016, Obama approved a “record” military package to Israel worth $38 billion, nullifying claims that Obama “abandoned” Israel following the decision to withhold its veto on a resolution marking Israel’s settlements illegal at the end of 2016. As noted by Kerry:

“In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than 1/2 of our entire global foreign military financing goes to Israel. And this fall we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country at any time.” [emphasis added]

However, on the surface, Obama appeared to be at odds with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over one key issue: Iran. The Iranian nuclear agreement reached in 2015 was heralded as a progressive move by some, but Israel completely rejected it and has refused to be bound by the agreement.

That being said, there is something Israel has done throughout Obama’s presidency that has barely attracted a blink from the U.N. Following the outbreak of war in Syria, Israel struck Syria multiple times (for example, during 2012201320142015, etc).

Why is this important? Because Iran and Syria are bound by a mutual defense agreement. In fact, Israel assassinated an Iranian general in Syria in 2015 with little to no outrage from the international community.

isfahan

A Brief History of U.S.-Iran Relations

Iran has been a major problem for the U.S.-Israel establishment for a long time. Iran’s defiant stance and desire to control its own oil supply in the face of U.S. hegemony has been a big issue for decades, as has its proximity to Russia and China. In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, because he nationalized Iran’s oil fields. As noted by the Guardian:

“Britain, and in particular Sir Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, regarded Mosaddeq as a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests after the Iranian leader nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, latterly known as BP. But the UK needed US support. The Eisenhower administration in Washington was easily persuaded.”

After installing a brutal U.S. dictator in the form of Shah Reza Pahlavi, the people of Iran overthrew the Shah in the 1979 revolution and rejected almost all American influence thereafter. Shortly afterward, the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in Iraq to take out Iran in a brutal and bloody conflict that lasted close to a decade, nearly killing off an entire generation. The U.S. knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons, and the U.S. also secretly armed the Iranians to maximize the death toll.

Ever since the Iran-Iraq war came to an end, crippling sanctions and saber-rattling over Iran’s alleged nuclear program have been the go-to mantra for the U.S. establishment. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney prepped the Pentagon for a war with Iran in the early 2000s, but this war never occurred — most likely due to the duo’s lack of credibility after Iraq.

It must also be stated that Iran’s alleged nuclear program has been dramatically overhyped for decades (seriously, Netanyahu was crying wolf over Iran’s program as far back as 1996.)

In 2012, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that elements within both the CIA and Mossad agreed there was insufficient proof to determine whether Iran was building a nuclear bomb, despite “throwing everything they had” at the nuclear program. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s grandiose U.N. speech in 2015 claiming Iran was moments away from making nuclear weapons was contradicted by his own intelligence agencies, who stated Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce nuclear weapons.”

Still, regime change in Iran and Syria has always been the ultimate goal of Israel, even in the face of this intelligence. In 2013, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, told the Jerusalem Post:

“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”

According to the Post, Oren said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaeda.

What does this mean? Exactly what it says: Israel prefers al-Qaeda – the group allegedly responsible for 9/11 – to the current governments of Iran and Syria.

Despite multiple strikes on Iran’s closest ally — and most likely due to Obama’s perceived success in diverting a war and securing an agreement that ultimately benefitted Iran’s rivals in the form of Israel and Saudi Arabia — Obama warned Israel not to surprise him with a direct strike on Iran.

Whether Obama was being sincere or not, on the face of it, this warning was successful in tying Israel’s hands.

The Road to War

 However, Obama’s (somewhat questionable) era is over. What we have now is Theresa May as prime minister of the United Kingdom and Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.

Speaking to Republican policymakers in Philadelphia, Theresa May stated that Britain and the U.S. will no longer invade sovereign foreign nations “in an attempt to make the world in their own image.” However, May also stated that pushing back on “Iran’s aggressive efforts” to increase its “arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean” was a “priority.”

Not surprisingly, as a result of her comments and commitment to the U.S.-U.K alliance, May just secured “100% support” for NATO from President Trump.

When the U.S. and U.K talk about Iran’s aggression in its attempts to spread its influence to the Mediterranean, they are referring to a number of different things. First, bear in mind that as explained above, there is no evidence Iran is building a nuclear bomb. Secondly, according to Colin Powell’s leaked emails, Israel has a stockpile of at least 200 nuclear bombs. Iran is well aware of this, as its former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once stated: “What would we do with one, polish it?’”

Third, it is no secret that Iran’s influence is spreading from Tehran to neighboring Iraq and through to Syria and Lebanon. But this in and of itself is not a crime; building relationships with your neighbors is common sense. Iran’s support for the designated terror group Hezbollah has all but been confirmed, but bear in mind that Hezbollah is one of the ground forces currently battling ISIS – the terror group that Trump singled out as his highest priority.

Finally, Iran has been accused endlessly of backing rebels in Yemen. This rationale has been used to promote an egregious and violent war, courtesy of Saudi Arabia. However, even just this past week, U.N. experts concluded:

“The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture.” [emphasis added]

So, in essence, Iran is not producing nuclear weapons, nor is it backing rebels fighting on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep. This point cannot be stressed enough: despite Iran’s many warranted criticisms regarding mass executions, treatment of women and authoritarian rule, Iran is not doing any of the things the U.S. has accused it of doing as a rationale for a military strike on its people.

Recent Developments

Even so, the United States Congress is currently debating a bill that would “authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.” Congress might actually pass a law that will directly allow the U.S. military to strike Iran, even before there is any evidence that they pose a threat.

In a further attempt to provoke Iran, Trump’s travel ban list includes Iran, a country whose citizens have never once attacked the United States. The list excludes Saudi Arabia, the country that produced almost all of the 9/11 hijackers. Even Forbes admitted that since 1975, no Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks in the U.S. by citizens of the countries included in the ban.

To top things off, at the end of January, the U.K. and the U.S. will take part in operation “Unified Trident,” a joint exercise in the Persian Gulf that will simulate a military confrontation with Iran.

Before taking office, Trump stated he would dismantle the nuclear agreement with Tehran. Trump’s vow to wholeheartedly support Israel raises the possibility of granting Israel the confidence to attack Iran without any prior approval, thereby forcing the U.S. to come to Israel’s aid once the fight escalates.

This implied confidence is very real. Even days before Trump’s inauguration, Israel attacked a Syrian government airport. How often can this happen before Syria and/or Iran respond directly?

In the meantime, Iran is already responding in kind to the Trump administration’s recent policy initiatives. Just this past Sunday, Iran test-fired a ballistic missile, the first known test since Trump took office. While Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated Iran would “never use ballistic missiles to attack another country,” the U.S. has already called an urgent Security Council meeting to discuss the matter. Russia said the missile test has not contravened the U.N. Resolution on the Iranian nuclear accord, signaling where Russia’s allegiance may ultimately lie.

Further, Iranian state-run news site Press TV reported that if parties to the nuclear accord refrain from honoring their commitments, Iran has warned it will resume its nuclear activities to the levels that existed before the agreement was enforced.

Most importantly, according to a report in the local English-language daily, the Financial Tribune, the Iranian government announced it is going to stop using the U.S. dollar in its official statements. There is much speculation that Iraq’s decision to drop the U.S. dollar for the Euro in 2000 prompted Bush to attack Iraq in 2003, so it would be wise to keep an eye on these developments.

According to AlterNet, Trump has assembled a team that is “obsessed with Iran.” Not surprisingly, in response to the Iranian missile launch, the Trump administration has officially put Iran “on notice.” The White House has even used the actions of the Houthi rebels in Yemen as an excuse to make sure the Iranians “[understand] we are not going to sit by and not act on their actions,” but as explained above, even the U.N. has found no evidence of direct Iranian involvement in Yemen.

Where are we headed?

A war with Iran would be the end of the world as we know it. Iran has an enormous ground force, including countless volunteer militias who are experienced in repelling invaders (as Iraq found out the hard way in the 1980s.)

Nuclear powers Russia and China have warned the U.S. countless times not to attack Iran or Syria. Russia was clearly not making idle threats, as in 2015 they put their money where their mouth was and overtly intervened in the Syrian war to defend the Syrian government against U.S.-backed mercenaries. It is not clear if Russia has the ability — or the willpower — to finance another defensive effort in support of Iran, but what Russia has been adept at, in addition to relentlessly dropping bombs, is diplomacy. Take, for example, Obama’s failure to strike Syria in 2013 in part due to Russia’s diplomatic intervention.

China, on the other hand, is less likely to attempt diplomacy with Trump. A Chinese military official has already warned that a Chinese-U.S. war is becoming a “practical reality” under President Trump, and given Trump’s hardline approach to China, it wouldn’t be a stretch to predict who China would side with in this dispute. Further, a Chinese general already previously stated that China would defend Iran even if it meant “World War III.”

Additionally, NATO member Turkey has indicated it may seek to formally align itself with Russia and China, a move that could put Turkey in direct alliance with Iran considering Iran is also looking to formally join this Eurasian alliance.

When will this madness end? In the words of Noam Chomsky, the United States has been “torturing” Iran for 60 years. The intention to take out Iran is still on the table, even with the so-called “anti-establishment” candidate in office.

Clearly, the world cannot continue down this path towards nuclear annihilation. The current industrial war machine must be dismantled.

Unsurprisingly, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a man with vast experience in diffusing nuclear tensions, has warned that the whole world appears to be preparing for war. His message is one that the whole world needs to hear:

In [the] modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war — not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.” [emphasis added]

 

 

This article (America’s Looming War with Iran: What You’re Not Being Told) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Darius Shahtahmasebi and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article to edits@theantimedia.org.

Reckoning with What is Owed — and What Can Never be Repaid — for Racial Privilege

Nietzsche’s “guilt”, whiteness, and what the real cost is to live in the land of another | Oh, and the difference between freedom and liberty

[I once feared buying a house because I didn’t want to be owned. I had saved money with no purpose in mind other than the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Now I’m bound to this house, though I’m still free to lose it if I choose. But that isn’t the version of freedom that interests me at the moment. I’m more compelled by a freedom that would allow me to deserve what I have. Call it liberation, maybe. If debt can be repaid incrementally, resulting eventually in ownership, perhaps so can guilt.

What is the condition of white life? We are moral debtors who act as material creditors. Our banks make bad loans. Our police, like Nietzsche’s creditors, act out their power on black bodies. And, as I see in my own language, we confuse whiteness with ownership.]

 

By the Ones We Left Behind

The Apache Indians are divided into six sub tribes. To one of these, the Be-don-ko-he, I belong.

Our tribe inhabited that region of [Arizona and New Mexico] mountainous country which lies west from the east line of Arizona, and south from the head waters of the Gila River.
East of us lived the Chi-hé-nné (Ojo Caliente), (Hot Springs) Apaches. Our tribe never had any difficulty with them. Victorio, their chief, was always a friend to me. He always helped our tribe when we asked him for help. He lost his life in the defense of the rights of his people. He was a good man and a brave warrior. His son Charlie now lives here in this reservation with us.
North of us lived the White Mountain Apaches. They were not always on the best of terms with our tribe, yet we seldom had any war with them. I knew their chief, Hash-ka-á-í-la, personally, and I considered him a good warrior. Their range was next to that of the Navajo Indians, who were not of the same blood as the Apaches. We held councils with all Apache tribes, but never with the Navajo Indians. However, we traded with them and sometimes visited them.
To the west of our country ranged the Chi-e-á-hen Apaches. They had two chiefs within my time, Co-si-to and Co-da-hoo-yah. They were friendly, but not intimate with our tribe.
South of us lived the Cho-kon-en (Chiricahua) Apaches, whose chief in the old days was Cochise and later his son, Naiche. This tribe was always on the most friendly terms with us. We were often in camp and on the trail together. Naiche, who was my companion in arms, is now my companion in bondage.
To the south and west of us lived the Ned-ní Apaches. Their chief was Whoa, called by the Mexicans Capitan Whoa. They were our firm friends. The land of this tribe lies partly in Old Mexico and partly in Arizona. Whoa and I often camped and fought side by side as brothers. My enemies were his enemies, my friends his friends. He is dead now, but his son Asa is interpreting this story for me.
Still the four tribes (Bedonkóhe, Chokónen, Chihénné, and Nední), who were fast friends in the days of freedom, cling together as they decrease in number. Only the destruction of all our people would dissolve our bonds of friendship.

We are vanishing from the earth, yet I cannot think we are useless or Ussen would not have created us. He created all tribes of men and certainly had a righteous purpose in creating each.
For each tribe of men Ussen created He also made a home. In the land created for any particular tribe. He placed whatever would be best for the welfare of that tribe.
When Ussen created the Apaches He also created their homes in the West. He gave to them such grain, fruits, and game as they needed to eat. To restore their health when disease attacked them. He made many different herbs to grow. He taught them where to find these herbs, and how to prepare them for medicine. He gave them a pleasant climate and all they needed for clothing and shelter was at hand.

Thus it was in the beginning: the Apaches and their homes each created for the other by Ussen himself. When they are taken from these homes they sicken and die. How long will it be until it is said, there are no Apaches?”

geronimo

Photograph by E. Rinehart, 1898

—by Chief Geronimo, as taken down by S.M. Barrett

 

Ian McKellen Reads William Shakespeare | In Defense of Immigrants

Ain’t No Black Snake or Water… | Indian Country and Fossil Fuels

As it seems right now, the leadership -in distinction from the native populus- of a number of native American tribes fear that federal government under Donald Trump will seize chunks of their lands to exploit the lands’ rich fossil fuel resources. Instead of them doing it. It sounds a bit like it is not about the recent native narrative involving honoring and respecting the land. Or the natural balance of things.

Or the wish of, what it would seem, the majority of native Americans living in reservations.

“Alaska Indigenous” posted an article on January 21, 2016, where they talk about the federal government’s coordinated efforts, in 2016, to pave the road to a possible seizure of native lands for their fossil fuel deposits. It goes like this:

Saglutupiaġataq’s [“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun] administration apparently began mobilizing to pursue the privatization of Indian lands as early as October 2016 with the formation of his 27 member Native American Affairs Coalition. The Coalition is chaired by “Cherokee” pretendian Rep. Markwayne Mullin. Like the termination policy of more than 60 years ago, the Coalition contends that impoverished tribes are saddled by federal regulations that stymie self-reliance and prosperity. Tribal lands should be privatized, it argues, so that American Indians can pursue development projects that lift them out of poverty.

Saglutupiaġataq has tapped Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for secretary of the Interior, the federal agency overseeing the Borough of Indian Affairs. Zinke is a known fraudster with little integrity. Scientific American characterizes Zinke as a “mixed bag” with an anti-environment, pro-industry voting record. It is unlikely that he will be a friend to Indian Country or to Alaska Natives.

A few months ago, as I was following news and policy in Indian Country in the southwest, I read about  Donald Trump’s three visits to Navajo nation during his election campaign in 2016. Navajo Times, among other native media outlets, mentioned Trump’s particular interest in energy talks with the Navajo Nation’s leadership. Then Trump won the election, and the Navajo sent a delegation to the inauguration for further talks and to celebrate the Republican victory.

Looking a bit more carefully into what could be seen as an oxymoron (first nations allying with what would -at first glance- seem like the opposite of their native interests), I found out that the Navajo were not the only ones to walk toward that direction. It was also the Mountain Utes, the Cherokee, some Alaskan native tribes, and more. 

The Energy Wealth of Indian Nations | LSU Journal of Energy Law and Resources

The AI article goes on:

Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

Now, you may wonder about how federal government could possibly seize Indian land just like that. Well, let’s see…

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 involved Congress stripping tribes of their lands and criminal jurisdiction. The policy was thinly disguised as an attempt to lift American Indians and Alaska Natives out of poverty by assimilating them into mainstream society. However the real goal was to privatize and ransack American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

From the American Indian Relief Council:

From 1953-1964 109 tribes were terminated and federal responsibility and jurisdiction was turned over to state governments. Approximately 2,500,000 acres of trust land was removed from protected status and 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. The lands were sold to non-Indians the tribes lost official recognition by the U.S. government….Public Law 280 which was passed in 1953 turned power over to state governments to enforce most of the regular criminal laws on reservations as they were doing in other parts of the state. (Federally Recognized Tribes Should Brace for Possible Termination Policy Under Trump

American Indian reservations are federally owned lands held “in trust” for tribes. The “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” referred to in Saglutupiaġataq’s energy plan are largely within American Indian reservations. These lands would need to be sold or leased to private sector corporations by the federal government in order for development to proceed. But first, tribal jurisdiction over those lands would need to be terminated by Congress and vested in states.

H. Rept. 113-263 | NATIVE AMERICAN ENERGY ACT | 113th Congress (2013-2014)

Going back to Trump and his continuous approaches to native American leadership figures before the election:

A group of advisers to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews.

The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations.

The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property.

“We should take tribal land away from public treatment,” said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. “As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.”

Trump’s transition team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The proposed path to deregulated drilling – privatizing reservations – could prove even more divisive. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture.

“Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred,” said Tom Goldtooth, a member of both the Navajo and the Dakota tribes who runs the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Privatization has been the goal since colonization – to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty.”

Reservations governed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended in part to keep Native American lands off the private real estate market, preventing sales to non-Indians. An official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

The legal underpinnings for reservations date to treaties made between 1778 and 1871 to end wars between indigenous Indians and European settlers. Tribal governments decide how land and resources are allotted among tribe members.

Leaders of Trump’s coalition did not provide details of how they propose to allocate ownership of the land or mineral rights – or to ensure they remained under Indian control. (Trump Advisors Aim to Privatize Oil-Rich Indian Reservations | REUTERS)

dapll

 

To Those Who Voted to Kill me | Repealing ACA

[I hope that you have to feel the pain that I have to go through. I could try to be a better person and say that I didn’t wish this on anybody, but at this point, the only way for you to understand the real, heartbreaking pain that millions of Americans like me are feeling is to actually experience it. I want you to know what it’s like to cry yourself to sleep because you don’t know if you’ll be able to access the medications that keep you alive. I want you to know what it’s like to feel guilty about how much your treatment costs, even though you know there’s nothing you can do about it. I want you to know what it feels like when politicians prioritize their hatred of a president and a policy over your literal means to live. I want you to know what it’s like to live in pain and sickness and to have people say that your desire to alleviate that suffering without experiencing complete financial ruin is “entitlement.”

I want you to know the horror, the heartbreak, the pain, and the fear that 30 million Americans losing their health insurance will feel. I want you to fully experience the impact of the suffering that you have inflicted upon us. It’s just too bad that the world doesn’t work this way.]

To the Politicians Who Voted to Kill me | The Huffington Post