Monday, December 24, 2018

Pondering the Fate of Syria and the Will of God

Syria Christian

Pondering the Fate of Syria and the Will of God

All people, religious or not, who care about humanity will take strength from the resilience of the Syrian people in the face of overwhelming odds.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

As Tax Scam Turns One, Critics Say Law Is 'One of the Biggest Transfers of Wealth to Richest 1% in US History'

Massive corporations are "flush with leftover cash" and Wall Street banks are raking inenormous profits. CEOs and the wealthiest Americans are getting even richer. Average workers are seeing crumbs.

That is the state of the American economy on the one-year anniversary of the passage of the GOP's $1.5 trillion dollar tax scam, which Americans for Tax Fairness said on Tuesday will go down as "one of the biggest transfers of wealth to the richest one percent in U.S. history."

"The wealthiest Americans are richer now than they have ever been and are hoarding trillions of dollars."
—Patriotic Millionaires
Contrary to President Donald Trump's soaring promises and outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) characterization of the tax law as a tremendous victory for ordinary Americans in his newly released "docu-series," tax policy experts and progressives argued on the tax law's first birthday that the plan has done virtually nothing for the working class, while making the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations tremendously richer.

"Trump promised his tax cut would give families a $4,000 pay raise. This has not been the case, to put it lightly," Patriotic Millionaires declared in a blog post on Wednesday. "This isn't to say that last year's tax cuts have had zero effect. After all, the wealthiest Americans are richer now than they have ever been and are hoarding trillions of dollars."

"The rich are winning," Bloomberg added in its rundown of the tax law's impact during its first full year in effect.

As if to celebrate the anniversary of the tax plan's passage, massive corporations further rewarded wealthy shareholders this week by rolling out billions more in stock buybacks, bringing the total sum of buybacks this year over $1 trillion "for the first time ever."

"That's money that could have been invested in these companies' workers," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrote of the record-shattering buybacks. "Instead, it went to those at the top."

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), as the richest Americans have seen their fortunes grow exponentially thanks to the tax law, worker bonuses have risen just $0.02 in the year since the plan passed Congress last December.

Highlighting EPI's research, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) wrote on Twitter, "Trump promised that his tax giveaway to the wealthy would put an extra $4,000 into the pockets of middle-class families. He lied."

"Our job: Repeal Trump's tax breaks for the wealthy and rebuild the disappearing middle class," Sanders added.

Patriotic Millionaires agreed with Sanders, arguing that "there's only one way to right this wrong, and that's by repealing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and making our tax code fairer for those who work."'

"A year later, we can safely say that Republicans' tax overhaul was a huge payoff to donors, and a scam for average Americans," the group concluded. "The economy is not better off because of it, and neither are millions of poor and middle-class families who desperately needed real, comprehensive tax relief."

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The first International Conference against US/NATO Military Bases

The first International Conference against US/NATO Military Bases was held on November 16-18, at the Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland. The conference was attended by close to 300 participants from over thirty-five countries from around the world. Speakers representing countries from all continents, including Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, United States, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Poland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Czech Republic, Israel, Palestine, Kenya, D. R. Congo, Japan and Australia, made presentations at the conference.
This conference was the first organized effort by the newly formed Global campaign against US/NATO Military Bases, created by over 35 peace, justice and environmental organizations and endorsed by over 700 other organizations and activists from around the world. What brought all of us together in this International Conference was our agreement with the principles outlined in the Global Campaign’s Unity Statement, which was endorsed by the Conference participants.
The participants in the Conference heard from and shared with representatives of organizations and movements struggling for the abolition of foreign military bases from around the world about the aggressions, interventions, death, destruction, and the health and environmental damages that the military bases have been causing for the whole humanity along with the threats and violation to the sovereignty of the “host” countries.
The participants and organizers of the conference agreed as a matter of principle that while they oppose all foreign military bases, they consider the close to 1,000 US/NATO military bases established throughout the world, which constitute the main pillars of global imperialist domination by US, NATO and EU states, as the main threat to peace and humanity, and must all be closed. The NATO states’ military bases are the military expression of imperialist intervention in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant, financial, political, and military interests, for the control of energy resources, transport roads, markets and spheres of influence, in clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.
The participants in the Conference call upon the organizations and movements who agree on the above to work closely with each other in a coordinated manner as a part of the Global Campaign to organize and mobilize the public around the world against US/NATO military bases.
While we call for the closure of all US/NATO military bases, we consider the closure of bases and military installations in certain countries and areas as needing special attention by the international movement. These, for example, include the Guantanamo US base in Cuba, the US bases in Okinawa and South Korea, the US Base in Rammstein/Germany, Serbia, the old and new US/NATO bases in Greece and Cyprus, the establishment of the new US African Command (AFRICOM) with its affiliated military bases in Africa, the numerous NATO bases in Italy and Scandinavia, the Shannon airport in Ireland, which is being used as a military base by US and NATO, and the newly established bases by the United States, France and their allies on and around the Syrian soil.
In order to continue our joint Global Campaign in solidarity with the just causes of the peoples in their struggle against foreign military aggression, occupation and interference in their internal affairs, and the devastating environmental and health impacts of these bases the participants agreed to recommend and to support coordinated actions and initiatives in the coming year (2019) which shall strengthen the global movement to expand the actions and cooperation while moving forward.
As a step toward this goal, the conference supports the global mass mobilizations against NATO’s 70th anniversary Summit in Washington DC, on April 4, 2919 and respective protests in the NATO member states and worldwide.
We declare our solidarity with the Cuban people’s decades-long efforts to take back their Guantanamo territory, illegally occupied by the United States, and declare our support for the Sixth International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, organized by MOVPAZ for May 4-6, 2019, in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The participants express their most sincere thanks and gratitude to the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) Ireland, for their generous hospitality and support in hosting this historic Conference.
Adopted by the participants at the
First International Conference Against US/NA TO Military Bases
November 18, 2018
Dublin, Ireland

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Worn Out American Dream

This time of year, I remember those I've met, worked with, or been influenced by, who are now spirits flying all over the universe.

I grew up in Oklahoma, home of Woody Guthrie, and soon his hometown I will call home. In Okemah, OK each year for the past 20 years is the annual WoodyFest. An Oklahoma Red Dirt musician I had met through the years there in Okemah. He passed about 2 years ago, but one of his songs sums up why MPD exists.  Enjoy reading and listening to a great soul, Jimmy LaFave.

Worn Out American Dream
by Jimmy LaFave

Isee no refuge for the weary
I see no handouts for the poor
I see no sense of satisfaction

On all the ones who just endure
All the slings and arrows slandered
Against the face of the poor man's dream
Where the rich circle in like vultures
Picking all their pockets clean
Don't you give me your phony smile
Don't you tell me no more rules
How many people will you trample down
Before you're finally through?
Come on face the situation
All the sadness that it brings
Got me lost inside the shuffle of
A worn out American dream
Give me no more TV preachers
Give me no more racist attitudes
Politicians, politicians, I've got nothing left for you
I'm within my global vision
You see, my feelings are my own
The Good Book says the days are numbered
So I'm turning towards my home
Take away your evil money
I won't join in your game
To myself I will be true
To myself I will remain
Come on face your situation
It's just as desperate as it seems
You got us lost inside the shuffle of
Your worn out American dream
I see no refuge for the weary
I see no handouts for the poor
I see no sense of satisfaction
On all the ones who must endure
All the slings and arrows slandered
Against the face of the poor man's dream
All the rich circle in like vultures
Picking every pocket clean
Don't you give me your phony smile
Don't you tell me one more rule
How many lambs must you slaughter
Before you're finally through?
Come on, face the situation
And all the sadness that it brings
You've got us lost inside the shuffle of
Your worn out American dream
You've got me caught up in the madness of
Your worn out American dream
You've got me lost inside the sadness of
Your worn out American dream

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

MPD applauds YOUTUBE

Woman on computer, generic

"Movement 4 People's Democracy applauds YouTube for making not only the right decisions but as a participant in peace and civil rights work," Mark Maxey, National Coordinator said. "The more we remove offensive and hateful speech from the internet, the more the rights of working people advances." 

YouTube removes 58 million videos featuring hateful or inappropriate content

YouTube was once seen as safe space, free from government regulation and censorship.

Key points:

  • YouTube removed 58 million videos that posted hateful or inappropriate content in three months
  • A spokeswoman for the company said a new algorithm will work to stamp out problematic content
  • But those spreading the material are likely to stay ahead of the tech company
But the dark side of the sharing platform has been laid bare in a report that reveals in the past three months, it has had to remove 58 million videos that were posting hateful or inappropriate content.
Catherine Archer, a lecturer at Murdoch University who specialises in social media, said it is the tip of the iceberg.
"I guess it's starting to admit the problem, but the whole point of YouTube was being able to upload a video without being a professional," she said.
"These social media platforms are, more and more, having to realise how hard it is to control the content on their channels."
YouTube said the videos removed mainly had inappropriate adult content or spam, but it did not offer much insight into how it is managing the large amount of hateful or conspiratorial videos.
A spokeswoman said the company, owned by Google, is confident a new algorithm will work to stamp out inappropriate content.
"We've always used a mix of human reviewers and technology to address violative content on our platform, and in 2017 we started applying more advanced machine-learning technology to flag content for review by our teams," she said.
"This combination of smart detection technology and highly-trained human reviewers has enabled us to consistently enforce our policies with increasing speed."
But freelance writer Stilgherrian said the mere size of YouTube makes it virtually impossible to capture every hateful video or abusive content.
He said while the company maintains its technology to pick up such content is becoming more sophisticated, so are the techniques of those who want to spread hatred or far-right propaganda.
"It's becoming more difficult because the 'bad guys' are getting better at disguising it," he said.
"If we look at the political content, it used to be really obvious propaganda videos.
"ISIS used to post its beheading videos, and they are reasonably easy to spot."

It’s up to us to ensure that HR 1 is as bold

Image result for us capitol dome

he U.S. House of Representatives will vote on HR 1 — the most momentous pro-democracy legislation since the Voting Rights Act — early next year.

It’s up to us to ensure that HR 1 is as bold as possible and passes with overwhelming support so that it can be a launch pad for the democratic transformation our country so desperately needs.

Tell your member of Congress: Champion HR 1 to make our democracy — and our country — work for We the People.

Sign the petition now.

HR 1 will drive Big Money out of politics.

If we mobilize for fundamental reform, the bill will:
  • Replace the current, corrupt campaign finance system with one that relies on small donors and public matching funds.
  • End dark money by forcing disclosure of all election-related spending.
  • Call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
That alone would be historic. But it’s not all HR 1 will do.

HR 1 will combat voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering and political corruption.

If we do our job right, the bill will:
  • Enact Automatic Voter Registration and call for restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Counteract gerrymandering so political parties can’t rig congressional districts to favor themselves.
  • Slam shut the revolving door by which lobbyists and corporate lawyers go into government to oversee their old industries, and public officials leave government for high-paying jobs in the sectors they previously regulated.
Between now and the vote on HR 1 in roughly a month’s time, we need to make sure every member of Congress is bombarded with constituent messages.

We need to demand that they not only vote Yes on HR 1, but that they also champion its passage and insist that it contain the transformative measures we need to rescue our democracy.

We need to win — boldly, loudly and overwhelmingly.

Then we take the resulting momentum and push the Senate to support, vote on and pass this game-changing legislation.

No matter how long it takes …

We are absolutely going to win this.

The fight starts right now.

Tell your representative: We need sweeping legislation to save our democracy.

Be a champion of HR 1.

This is our time.


Mark Maxey
National Coordinator
Movement 4 People

Tuesday, December 18, 2018



At The Beginning Of 2019, Congress Will Consider NAFTA II

We Can Stop It And End Corporate Trade

The clock is ticking. On November 30, 2018, leaders from the US, Canada, and Mexico signed the new NAFTA.
Now we must stop it in Congress like we stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Join the next national No New NAFTA call on Tuesday, Dec 18, at 9:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Pacific to learn how we can stop this corporate giveaway and create trade for people and planet.
Trump’s renegotiated NAFTA, which he attempts to rebrand as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), maintains the same failed model as NAFTA and even includes provisions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Rebranding does not change that it favors big corporations at the expense of people and the planet.
Call and email your representatives to demand trade justice now!
To learn more and get involved, register now for the National No New NAFTA call on Tuesday, December 18.
During negotiations, over 1,000 civil society groups outlined negotiation demands for the new NAFTA. Comparing the text to these demands, the agreement falls far short. This agreement should be rejected and replaced with a new model of trade that protects workers, the environment and democracy.
Read our analysis here and visit our website, Trade for People and Planet, to stay updated.
NAFTA-2 has no enforceable labor or environmental protections, maintains NAFTA offshoring of jobs and pollution, encourages dirty energy from fracking and tar sands, and provides new avenues (in the good regulatory chapter) for oil & gas companies to challenge public interest policies that threaten their profits. NAFTA-2 fails to reinforce multilateral environmental agreements included in the last four UStrade deals and fails to even mention climate change.
Like NAFTA, NAFTA-2 is designed for agro-chemical corporations, not small farmers or consumers. In Mexico, over two million farmers left agriculture because of NAFTA, mostly because agricultural export dumping of corn, wheat, and rice from the US at below the cost of production. NAFTA-2 ensures the continuation of this practice, which is one of the main causes of Mexican migration to the US. It also opens new avenues to deregulate GMOs in Mexico.
The proposed agreement threatens consumer health and food safety by limiting food safety inspections and allows food that fails to meet US safety standards to be imported. It does not require Country Of Origin Labeling, dolphin-safe, or GMO labeling.
NAFTA-2 includes new provisions that give pharmaceutical companies ten years of market exclusivity for biologic drugs and protects US-based drug companies from generic competition, driving up the prices of life saving medicines in all three countries.
Register for the National No New NAFTA call here to reject the USMCA and create a new North American Agreement that puts the health of our communities and environment before corporate profits.
We can stop NAFTA-2.
In solidarity,
The Trade for People and Planet Team

An Historic Opportunity To Transform Trade When We Stop NAFTA II

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Donald Trump was right when he said that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the United States and promised to renegotiate it when he became president. However, the renegotiated NAFTA-2 is worse than the original NAFTA and should be rejected.
On December 1, NAFTA-2 was signed by President Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nietos. This started the process of approval by the legislatures of each country.
Our movement for trade that puts people and planet first now has two synergistic opportunities: We can stop NAFTA II and replace corporate trade with a new model that raises working conditions and protects the environment.
No NAFTA -2 from Popular Resistance.
Stopping NAFTA-2
When NAFTA became law on January 1, 1994, it began a new era of trade – written by and for transnational corporations at the expense of people and planet. President George H.W. Bush failed twice to pass NAFTA. During Bush’s re-election campaign, independent Ross Perot described NAFTA as the “giant sucking sound” that would undermine the US economy. 
President Clinton was able to get it through Congress. The Los Angeles Times described that vote as “a painfully divided House of Representatives” voting a 234-200 for NAFTA. A majority of Democrats 156-102 opposed NAFTA. During the debate, protesters were ejected when they showered fake $50 bills that said “trading pork for poison” from the visitors gallery. 
In the 2016 election, President Trump showed he understood what the United States experienced — NAFTA was bad for the people undermining manufacturing and agriculture. People want it repealed. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump had his finger on the pulse of the population.
NAFTA-2 is another trade agreement designed for corporate profit. Trump trade fails to provide enforceable protections for workers or the environment. In this time of climate crisis, it does not mention climate change. It fails to protect the food supply and will result in increased cost of medicines.
Citizen’s Trade Campaign writes, there are positive labor standards “but only if currently absent enforcement mechanisms are added.” As the Labor Advisory Committee states, “Unenforced rules are not worth the paper they are written on.”
The Sierra Club reports NAFTA-2 takes a significant step backward from environmental protections included in the last four trade deals by failing to reinforce a standard set of seven Multilateral Environmental Agreements that protect everything from wetlands to sea turtles. 
NAFTA-2 allows intensely-polluting oil and gas corporations involved in offshore drilling, fracking, oil and gas pipelines, refineries, or other polluting activities to challenge environmental protections in rigged corporate trade tribunals. Trump Trade preserves a NAFTA rule that prevents the US government from determining whether gas exports to Mexico are in the public interest. This creates an automatic gas export guarantee, which will increase fracking, expand cross-border gas pipelines, and increase dependency on Mexican climate-polluting gas.
Food and Water Watch summarizes: “The energy provisions will encourage more pipelines and exports of natural gas and oil that would further expand fracking in the United States and Mexico. The text also provides new avenues for polluters to challenge and try and roll back proposed environmental safeguards, cementing Trump’s pro-polluter agenda in the trade deal.”
NAFTA-2 undermines food safety and health by making it more difficult to regulate and inspect foods. It limits inspections and allows food that fails to meet US safety standards to be imported. NAFTA-2 serves Monsanto and other giant agro-chemical corporations by allowing unregulated GMOs, rolling back Mexico’s regulation of GMOs, and letting chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow keep data on the risks of their pesticides secret for 10 years. NAFTA-2 is designed for agribusiness, not family farmers and consumers.
NAFTA-2 increases the cost of pharmaceutical drugs through intellectual property protections that go “significantly beyond” NAFTA. Trump’s NAFTA-2 gives pharmaceutical companies a minimum 10 years of market exclusivity for biologic drugs and protects US-based drug companies from generic competition, driving up the price of medicine at home and abroad.
All the ingredients that led to a mass movement of movements that stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership  exist to stop NAFTA-2. Citizens Trade Campaign sent a letter signed by 1,043 organizations to Congress outlining civil society’s shared criteria for a NAFTA replacement. The requirements outlined in this letter have not been met.
Just as it became impossible across the political spectrum to support the TPP, we can make it impossible to support NAFTA-2. Democrats are signaling NAFTA-2 is not going to pass in its present form. After Robert Lighthizer met with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi last week, she described NAFTA-2 as “just a list without real enforcement of the labor and environmental protections,” that would be unlikely to pass in its present form. We can stop NAFTA-2.
No Ne NAFTA protest, Fair Deal or No Deal from Green Watch
Defeat of NAFTA-2 Creates the Opportunity to Transform Trade
The defeat of NAFTA-2 will show that corporate trade will no longer be approved by Congress.  Trade must be transformed to uplift workers, reduce inequality, confront climate change and improve the quality of our food and healthcare. The defeat NAFTA-2 opens the space to make transforming trade a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaigns.
President Trump has signaled that he will withdraw from NAFTA to pressure Congress to ratify NAFTA-2. Trump’s threat to withdraw from NAFTA should not be feared but embraced. It will create an opportunity for trade transformation.
A smart presidential campaign will use the defeat of NAFTA-2 as an opportunity to begin a new era of trade transformed for the public good, serving the many, not the few. Politicians running for president in 2020 can put forward a vision of trade that the people will support.
Already, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) has taken initial steps in this direction. In a speech to American University, Warren said she opposed Trump’s NAFTA-2 agreement, challenged the bipartisan embrace of “free” trade, and called for starting “our defense of democracy by fixing” corporate trade. In discussing trade she said, “Wow. Did Washington get that one wrong.”  She described trade as delivering “one punch in the gut after another to workers…” She urged, “We need a new approach to trade, and it should begin with a simple principle: our policies should not prioritize corporate profits over American paychecks.” This is a start, if she adds the environment, climate change, healthcare, food safety, sovereignty and Internet freedom, she will put forward a vision of smart trade that will bring millions to support her.
Warren is not alone, Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), who easily won re-election in Ohio and is considering a presidential run, has been a longtime advocate for trade that lifts up workers and challenged agreements that failed to do so. Brown sent a letter to the president eight days after the 2016 election urging Trump to keep his trade promises. Brown voted against NAFTA in one of his first acts as a member of Congress in 1993 and wrote a book entitled “Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed.” 
Transforming trade, by rejecting corporate trade, creates an opportunity for candidates to turn a negative issue into a positive one. The movement needs to demand candidates put forward a new vision for 21st century trade.
A Vision for Trade for People and Planet
We must put forward the vision for trade we want to see as part of the campaign to stop NAFTA-2. Trade in the 21st century needs to confront multiple crisis issues made worse by trade designed for corporate wealth. Transformed trade needs to focus on the public interest.
Pubic interest includes shrinking inequality within the United States and between nations. It means workers having a livable wage, encouraging worker-ownership of businesses so they grow their wealth not just their incomes. Trade should strengthen the rights of workers to organize, create unions and adhere to International Labor Organization standards.
Trade should aid in preventing transnational corporations and wealthy individuals from avoiding taxes. Trade should end tax havens and require transparency, end banking abroad or locating corporate charters offshore to ensure wealthy individuals and corporations pay their taxes. Countries can negotiate a global tax collected to solve global problems like poverty, homelessness, lack of healthcare and environmental degradation.
There are numerous environmental crises that trade needs to address. Three reports, the dire October 2018 IPCC report, warning we have 12 years to transform the energy economy to prevent climate catastrophe, the November 23, 2018 4th National Climate Assessment, which warned of the serious impacts of the climate crisis and the Global Carbon Project which reported carbon emissions are at record highs, show climate change must be central to trade policies.
International trade needs to be re-formulated to protect the labor, human rights, economy, environment and domestic industry of partner and recipient nations so local industry and agriculture has the advantage over foreign corporate domination. Trade needs to guarantee people their right to public ownership and control of their own resources. Trade agreements must protect the rights of nations to establish stricter standards for health, safety, human rights and environmental protections.