Tag Archives: West

‘Fringe’ candidate Bernie Sanders takes three more states today, totaling 14

File:Democratic Party presidential primaries results, 2016.svg

Wikipedia graphic

Wins in Utah and Idaho on Tuesday and wins in Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii today show progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders strong in the western as well as the northern states. (Sanders’ wins are noted in green on the map above, while Billary Clinton’s are noted in golden yellow.) Note that the difference between Bernie and Billary in the western state of Nevada was only 5.3 percent — and that Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and Missouri were even closer, with not even a 0.5 percent difference between the two candidates in two of those states and not even a full 2 percent difference in the other two. (And note that for all intents and purposes I consider Arizona not part of the West, but part of the South, replete with incredible voter suppression; so fucked up was Arizona’s presidential primary election on Tuesday that we’ll probably never know the actual will of the voters of that backasswards state, since we’ll never know how many of them never even were able to cast a ballot, being unable to stand in line for hours.]) The lower right-hand corner of the graphic above indicates that Bernie won the most votes cast by Democrats Abroad

PredictIt.org, a prediction market website, doesn’t have Billary Clinton winning a state until April 19, when she is predicted to win New York state (which she carpetbaggingly represented in the U.S. Senate for eight years last decade).

Until then, PredictIt.org predicts that Bernie Sanders will win Hawaii today (Hawaii has yet to be called, but I’m confident that it will be called for Bernie), after his wins today in Alaska and Washington state (which have been called for him), and then will move on to win Wisconsin on April 5 and Wyoming on April 9.

Then, admittedly, it should look tougher for Bernie after that.

Again, Billary is predicted to win New York on April 19, and then on April 26, five more states weigh in: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Unfortunately, right now PredictIt.org has Billary winning all five of those states, but that’s a full month away from today, which can be a long time in politics, so we’ll see.

In any event, for a “fringe” candidate, Bernie Sanders thus far is kicking ass.

Note that Howard Dean, who was a political rock star 12 years ago, won only one state in the Democratic Party presidential primary race of 2004, his home state of Vermont (he also won the District of Columbia). In that race John Edwards won two states (North Carolina and South Carolina) and Wesley Clark won one (Oklahoma), while John Kerry won every other state.

Compare Vermonters Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders, and you have to admit that Bernie is doing much, much better than Dean did. (And Bernie calls himself a “democratic socialist”!)

That said, Dean did create the progressive wave upon which opportunist Barack Obama rode into the White House, co-opting Dean’s message with his (bullshit-we-know-now) message of “hope” and “change.”

Obama’s centrist/center-right, largely caretaker presidency has been an unfortunate, eight-year detour for the progressive movement, but Bernie Sanders’ remarkable progress thus far demonstrates, I believe, that if we progressives can’t retake the Democratic Party and take the White House this year, we can accomplish that within a decade or so.

As I’ve noted, Barry Goldwater’s run in 1964 paved the way for Ronald Reagan.

P.S. Real Clear Politics shows that right now Billary Clinton has only a single-digit lead over Bernie Sanders here in my home state of California, which offers more pledged delegates than does any other state (a whopping 475 of them) — and which (along with five other states) votes last in the nation, on June 7 (with the exception of the District of Columbia, which votes on June 14).

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Contexte est tout

On Oct. 1, 2014, the magazine featured Muhammed again.

I’m semi-fluent in Spanish, but know only a handful of words in French. (I’m perfectly OK with that…) So I went to babelfish.com and typed in “Context is everything,” translating it into French. The result, which may or may not be accurate, is the title of this piece.

As I’ve noted, I don’t know much about France, and I’m not a huge Francophile. For every positive thing that we can say about the French, there seems to be an equally off-putting thing that we could say about them. So I have mixed feelings toward the Frenchies, frankly.

Speaking of which, already we’re seeing starkly different depictions of what life is like in France for Muslims, and to be able to comment intelligently on the Charlie Hebdo killings of the past week, we need to understand the context in which they have occurred.

Salon.com’s Andrew O’Hehir, who should know better, essentially white-mansplains in his latest column that Charlie Hebdo was attacked because the “terrorists” hate France for its freedoms! This is the rosy portrait that O’Hehir paints of France:

… Amid its evident difficulties, France remains a peaceful, prosperous and culturally vibrant nation with a relatively well integrated and increasingly secular Muslim minority. (As has been widely reported, one of the police officers killed on Wednesday was a Muslim.) That model of democracy — or perhaps we should say that possibility — is exactly what came under attack from the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Their aim was to pry open that model at a tender spot, expose its contradictions and undermine its stability. …

Again, this is analogous to the post-9/11 bullshit American claims of “They [those “evil” Muslims, of course] hate us because of our freedoms!”

In contrast to O’Hehir’s belle (again: babelfish.com…) portrait of France, left-wing editorial cartoonist and columnist/commentator Ted Rall, who has dual American and French citizenship because his mother is French, and who has spent a lot of time with Muslims in Afghanistan (about which he has written books), writes this of Muslims in France (I present it in whole, because I think it’s important information; emphases in bold are mine [and links are Rall’s]):

This week’s terrorist attacks at the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, leaving 12 dead at the scene and four others killed during the assassins’ attempt to flee two days later has prompted a political crisis in France centered around that country’s Muslim population, and whether it has been successfully assimilated into French society.

To most American news consumers, even those who follow developments in Europe closely, the debate over Muslim assimilation in France is difficult to dissect. This is because the situation there is significantly unlike the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West that Americans have been dealing with in the post-9/11 era.

The first thing that you need to know is that, in France even more than in the United States, assimilation is something of a national religion.

“A French government report has proposed a radical overhaul of the ‘assimilation’ model which requires immigrants to abandon their culture for that of France, including ending the ban on Muslim headscarves in schools and naming streets and squares after notables of foreign origin,” the UK Telegraph reported back in 2013.

“But it has drawn a furious reaction from the country’s conservative opposition, which said it amounted to an abandonment of French culture and secular values. ‘It will no longer be up to immigrants to adopt French culture but up to France to abandon its culture, its values, its history to adapt to the culture of others,’ Jean-François Copé, leader of the UMP main opposition party, said.”

For now, assimilationism stands.

In France as in the U.S., ethnic and religious minorities congregate in certain cities and neighborhoods. In France, however, these ethnic enclaves are viewed less as charming places to grab a meal than as a failure of the state. This is because, when foreigners are granted French citizenship, they are expected – not just culturally, but explicitly told by government officials – to become fully French in a traditional, pre-mass immigration kind of way.

Those who speak foreign languages are pressured to refrain from speaking them in public as much as possible, and to learn French not just enough to get by, but fluently in writing as well as in speech. This attitude isn’t not quite as attenuated as it was 75 years ago, when children who spoke internal non-French French languages like Basque and Breton were beaten by their teachers, but it’s still an expectation shared by both the political left and the political right.

Even today, when the government offers an immigrant French citizenship, he or she is even encouraged to “Francify” their name to a more traditionally sounding French name. So Mohammed might become Michel.

The second thing you need to understand is that France does not offer birthright citizenship, i.e. automatic full benefits as a citizen simply for being born on French territory. Americans take birthright citizenship for granted, though there has been criticism on the right over the possibility that some foreign-born parents might travel illegally to the United States in order to have so-called “anchor babies.”

Perversely, considering how important assimilation is to the French, the country’s lack of full birthright citizenship rights for everyone born in France, or full right of jus soli, has done more to breed alienation, systemic poverty and distrust than just about any other policy. Although I was able to obtain French citizenship (while keeping my U.S. citizenship) merely because my mother is French, there are millions of second- and third-generation illegal immigrants – people who were born in [France], and who may even have French foreign parents, but who have never been naturalized because their grandparents arrived in the country as undocumented workers.

Many of these people live in impoverished suburbs outside major cities which, not coincidentally, have on occasion been the site of violent uprisings. Don’t be surprised if the perpetrators of Wednesday’s horrific mass murder at Charlie Hebdo have their roots in the banlieue (suburbs).

Finally, France has accepted between 3.5 and 5.0 million Muslim immigrants in recent years, amounting to between 5 percent and 10 percent of the population. (This liberal immigration policy recognizes France’s history as colonial rulers of countries like Algeria and Morocco.)

Obviously, the overwhelming majority of these people are like everyone else, just trying to get ahead and make better lives for themselves and their children. But their presence — different clothes, different languages, different food — is jarring for “traditional” (i.e., white, Catholic) Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who yearn for the France of wine, coffee and baguettes. This is the constituency that France’s far-right political parties, like the National Front, are capitalizing upon.

Rall, himself an editorial cartoonist, of course does not support the slaughter of fellow cartoonists, and he has used the occasion of the Charlie Hebdo massacres to point out the plight of editorial cartoonists in the American media (such as here and here).

I give kudos to Rall, not only for telling the ugly truth about France’s other-culture-crushing assimilationism and nationalism — and its resultant Muslim ghettos — but also apparently for pointing out that the “Je suis Charlie” crowd don’t actually give a fuck about editorial cartoonists* as much as they are just using the deaths of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists as a vehicle with which to bash those “evil” Muslims, the perennial “bad guys” against whom the “freedom-” and “democracy-loving” Westerners can compare themselves in order to feel much better about their own hypocrisy, their own deep sins (such as the fact that in modern history the U.S. and its Western partners in war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Israel, the United Kingdom and France, have slaughtered far more Muslims than vice-versa).

Even a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist (who wasn’t present during the massacre at the publication’s offices) himself has called bullshit on the public outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo. Reports the UK’s DailyMail.com:

One of the surviving Charlie Hebdo cartoonists has scoffed at the surge in support for the satirical magazine after the attack, which killed eight of his colleagues and four other victims.

Bernard Holtrop, who was not in the office during the massacre on Wednesday, admitted the publication’s new-found fame was “laughable” and comes from people who have “never seen it.”

The Dutch-born artist reportedly said the provocative weekly had unexpected “new friends” including the pope, Queen Elizabeth and Vladimir Putin.

He told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant: “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends,” and added that most of the support has come from people who have “never seen Charlie Hebdo.”

“It really makes me laugh,” he added. “A few years ago, thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan to demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo. They didn’t know what it was. Now it’s the opposite.” …

Bernard Holtrop is at least one Frenchman I guess I can like, even though that might be because he was born in Holland…

P.S. If I understand the Charlie Hebdo cover above correctly (French is somewhat similar to Spanish), it is positing that were Mohammed to return today, some jihadist would behead him as an infidel. Admittedly, this is in line with my position that were Jesus to return today, those who claim to be his followers would (mostly metaphorically speaking) crucify him as a heretic.

However, again, contexte est tout, and the Charlie Hebdo cover above is much more offensive to your average Muslim than would be a similar depiction of modern-day “Christians” crucifying a returning Jesus, methinks. Also, so-called “Christians” already are in the majority in the West, and so they have a lot of political power, so such a cartoon would not feel as personally threatening to them as the Charlie Hebdo cover above would feel to France’s Muslim minority (which, again, is estimated at 5 percent to 10 percent of the nation’s population).

*Frankly, I don’t know that I’m willing to call Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists “editorial cartoonists,” because the word “editorial” elevates them to a level of discourse that I just haven’t seen in most of their cartoons thus far. Similarly, just as I can’t call Charlie Hebdo a “newspaper” (I call it simply a “publication”), I can’t call what Charlie Hebdo does to be “satire” or to be “satirical,” because to me, satire requires intelligence (in the form of wit), and to me, satire’s ultimate goal is to uplift the body politic. I don’t see that Charlie Hebdo is witty or uplifting.

Charlie Hebdo still has free-speech rights, of course, but, as I’ve noted, after having seen some of its content I’m not going to align myself with Charlie Hebdo. The Ku Klux Klan and the so-called “Tea Party” have their free-speech rights, too, and I’m not on board with them either.

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A Solomonic solution for Ukraine

Take the entirely unscientific poll below!

I am not an expert on geopolitics, or even on world history, but, as loath as I am to adopt the right wing’s concept of “common-sense solutions” (which, interestingly, almost always turn out to be right-wing “solutions”…), it seems to me that you don’t have to have a PhfuckingD to call some shots.

The best solution where Ukraine is concerned is, methinks, a Solomonic solution* — cut that puppy in two.

Crimea, the southernmost, peninsular area of Ukraine (see map below), according to Reuters is “the only part of Ukraine with a Russian ethnic majority, which has often voiced separatist aims.”

Reuters further reports today that

Russian President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament’s authority [today] to invade Ukraine after troops seized control of the Crimea peninsula and pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisted flags above government buildings in two eastern cities.

Putin’s open assertion of the right to deploy troops in a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe creates the biggest direct confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War. …

Yikes.

It seems most fair to me that Crimea go to Russia, since most Crimeans apparently want this. This past week I listened to a Crimean woman interviewed on NPR state emphatically that she and her fellow Crimeans do not want to be part of the European Union (or the West in general), but want to preserve their culture and their language, and thus want to remain with Russia. If she truly represents the majority of Crimeans, then it should be majority rule. That’s called “democracy.”

So Crimea seems easy to me: it’s pretty fucking Russian already, and forcing the Crimeans to remain with an increasingly Westernized Ukraine against their will would be just as evil and wrong as it would be for Putin to try to force Ukrainians who want a Western, and not a Russian, alliance to remain with Russia.

My understanding is that that river that runs right down Ukraine at least metaphorically roughly splits it into very different nations, a pro-Western half and a pro-Russian half. Indeed, a map of the 2012 parliamentary election results in Ukraine looked like this:

File:Ukr elections 2012 multimandate okruhs.png

My understanding is that the pink areas represent pro-Western sentiment, while the blue and orange areas represent pro-Russian sentiment.

Indeed, the major dueling parties in the 2012 Ukrainian election were the pro-Russian Party of Regions and the “Fatherland” Party, which now is headed by the recently-released-from-prison Yulia Tymoshenko (often pictured in her Princess-Leia-like hairdo). I’m pretty fucking leery of Tymoshenko, who, according to Wikipedia, “Prior to her political career … was a successful but controversial businesswoman in the gas industry, becoming by some estimates one of the richest people in the country.”

Hmmm. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had been heavily involved in the oil industry before they stole the 2000 U.S. presidential election, and usually when a filthy rich person (or at least a pro-filthy-rich-people person) rises to power, it smacks of fascism — a right-wing collusion between a government and corporations (usually with nationalistic overtones) — if it isn’t downright fascism, so I’m not hopping on the Tymoshenko bandwagon today.

I mean, “Fatherland” — I can’t help but think of the Nazis when that word is evoked. Indeed, Wikipedia notes of “Fatherland” that “the English word is now associated with the [fascistic] Nazi government of Germany [and usually] not used often in post-World War II English unless one wishes to invoke the Nazis… Prior to Nazism, however, the term was used throughout Germanic language countries without negative connotations…”

I have found the fascistic, unelected Bush-Cheney regime’s term “homeland,” as in “homeland security” and “the Department of Homeland Security” to be chilling enough, to be too close for comfort to Hitler’s “Fatherland,” and now here are Tymoshenko and her supporters touting their “Fatherland.”

Still, even though what admittedly little I know of Tymoshenko gives me great pause, if the northwestern region of Ukraine wishes to be free of Russia and (try to) join the European Union, as appears to be the case, I’m pretty OK with that, as you can’t advocate democracy only when the majority of the individuals in the situation at hand agree with you. (I see the wingnuts here in the United States do that all the fucking time, and I wish that phenomenon on no one else.)

It seems to me that the best solution for Ukraine, the solution with the least amount of bloodshed (including perhaps preventing a third world war…) and the solution that offers the best possible outcome for all parties involved, is for Ukraine to split into two nations.

Again, it is at least as outrageous for the United States and its European allies to try to force the pro-Russia portion of Ukraine to remain with a Western-bent Ukraine if the clear majority of those pro-Russian individuals do not wish to do so as it is outrageous for Russia to try to force the pro-Western portion of Ukraine to remain with a Russian-bent Ukraine if the clear majority of those pro-Western individuals do not wish to do so.

Yes, my proposed solution smacks of East Berlin and West Berlin (although, of course, I propose no wall…) — or, at least, of a messy divorce, replete with the concurrent division of property and the custody battle — and while I’m probably oversimplifying the matter of Ukraine, again, from what I know of it, the best solution seems to be to create two nations from it, and to allow one to remain, if it wishes, with Mother** Russia, and to allow the other, if it wishes and if the European Union wishes, to join the European Union.

*Admittedly, this is an imperfect metaphor, since in the story of King Solomon and the baby, of course only one of the women could have been the infant’s biological mother.

I use the metaphor because Solomon has become a symbol of wisdom, including wise arbitration, and because, per Wikipedia, “The expressions ‘splitting the baby’ or ‘cutting the baby in half’ are sometimes used in the legal profession for a form of simple compromise: solutions which ‘split the difference’ in terms of damage awards or other remedies…”

**Admittedly, I’m much more OK with the term “Motherland” than I am with “Fatherland,” and while the term “homeland” is fairly neutral, because fascists coined the term as it is used in the United States today, I can only think of it as the equivalent of “Fatherland.”

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