A Secret and Dangerous New Challenge to Net Neutrality

BATTLE FOR THE NET--Just when you thought the issue of net neutrality had been resolved, it has found a way to resurface -- only this time, without the public consideration that went with the original outcry. Rulings by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protecting access to the Internet without censorship by cable television companies were enacted after more than a year of public hearings and input. 

But cable television companies, led by Comcast, have now managed to put special wording and financial disincentives into a required budgeting bill granting the implementation and protection of the FCC’s authority. The fact that these companies could get consideration attached to such unrelated legislation should be a worry to the public. These special legislative additions have been put forward by elected officials who are paid substantial “campaign contributions” and have fundamentally become employees of the cable television industry. 

The underhanded behavior that cable television companies are willing to use shows that they want to be immune from existing government regulations – measures that have been put into place to protect the general public. The vulgarity lies in the willingness to put the safety and well-being of the entire United States budgeting process at risk for special interests. 

As one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the United States, the cable television industry has shown its willingness to utilize the Congress of the United States in attempting to subvert the authority of a governmental regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect the public from the power of special interests. 

The ability of the cable television net neutrality issue to affect the entire budget of the United States of America is clearly a violation of any good faith effort to allow for public knowledge and input. The fact that these companies can compromise the integrity of the U.S Congress is not something to be taken lightly. The entire future of net neutrality, which was thoroughly discussed for years by the general public and the FCC, is now at risk. 

Simply look and see who is supporting this addition to the U.S. budget and compare that to how much money they have received from Comcast and other cable television companies. It’s no surprise to see a direct correlation between the receipt of such funds and the promotion of potential doomsday legislation that could serve to shut down the entire United States government. 

This information has not been made available nor has it been widely reported by the general media, which cable television controls. During the time that net neutrality was before the FCC there was substantial media coverage. But now, special interest benefits and broad detailed legislation has been hidden within unrelated legislation -- an attempt to block the general public from knowing about changes to an issue they thought was resolved. It is only through net neutrality that I was able to become aware of this attempt to subvert the government by holding it hostage during the budget negotiations. 

A vote is set for December 11 on legislation hidden in the budgeting process that does not relate to the budget. Yet the public is kept in the dark. You should let federal elected officials know your concerns about this secret attempt to kill net neutrality

Net neutrality is necessary in order for all of us to understand how legislation is passed for the benefit of wealthy financial special interest groups that dominate access to media. It ensures an independent analysis. The continuing control of all major media outlets by six corporations is a travesty, subverting freedoms that are guaranteed under the Constitution. 

How many other sweet perks has Congress inserted in the budget for the benefit of their friends and political contributors? This can only be determined by an independent evaluation of how the Congress behaves; it’s clear that existing mass media outlets are no longer truly independent of government. 

These giant corporations rely on the government for their very existence and financial future benefits, especially in matters such as net neutrality – and, in turn, those who serve in government are too often controlled by those who are supposed be regulated.

(Clinton Galloway is the author of the fascinating book “Anatomy of a Hustle: Cable Comes to South Central LA.” This is another installment in an ongoing CityWatch series on power, influence and corruption in government … Corruption Watch. Galloway is a CityWatch contributor and can be reached here.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 -cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

The Day of the Big One: Two Alternative Scenarios

GELFAND’S WORLD--The big earthquake may not come for a hundred years, or it could happen in 2017. The immediate physical effects of a major rupture along the San Andreas Fault are predictable and probably inevitable -- immediate loss of water, electricity, gas, and sewer lines -- but how we respond does not have to be predictably ineffective. There is an optimistic scenario, if only we can consider the realities and prepare for them. The necessary preparation is going to require the participation of thousands of civilian volunteers. It is this latter, civilian element that is somewhat revolutionary. 

In order to get from our current state of blissful ignorance to that of an informed, trained force of volunteers that can function in a disciplined way during an emergency, it is going to take a new organization that will have the trust and cooperation of city agencies. To put it another way, the civilian volunteer force that can be created will need to be able to work with the fire department and the police in the case of emergency, and these departments will need to do their best to oversee the efforts of the volunteers. 

There is a need for one central organization that will be that point of connection between the city agencies and civilians. That  job will be the function (and obligation) of the newly created Emergency Preparedness Alliance. Right now, it's a gleam in the eye of a few dozen longtime participants of the LA neighborhood councils and their like-minded colleagues. It is destined to grow rapidly into a sizable citywide force if we can get our message across. It will add to and supplement some already-existing groups such as those with CERT training and the amateur radio groups aligned with the fire department. 

This column is the second in a series intended to inform you about this plan and how you can participate. 

The background: As many of you know, the city of Los Angeles recently brought in earthquake expert Lucy Jones to consider our vulnerabilities and to advise us as to how we might take precautions. Over the past year, she has been making the rounds of civic groups and neighborhood council alliances, explaining what a major earthquake ("the big one") would do. The earth movement of such a quake would be likely to result in the loss of our running water, electricity, and gas for a substantial length of time. 

How widespread the shutoffs will be, and how long it will take to repair things remains unknown, but a decent sense of preparedness requires that we think about outages that are essentially citywide, and that we contemplate weeks-long intervals prior to recovery of services. We have as examples the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 and Hurricane Katrina, just to mention two. The Northridge quake resulted in loss of natural gas for an extended period. Most electricity was functional within a few days, but there was a part of the city still without electricity after nearly a week. Some people relocated to relatives' houses or lived in mobile homes for weeks and months. 

The Northridge quake involved about 9000 injured people. In a more widespread disaster such as a major San Andreas Fault rupture, southern California might suffer more like 50,000 injured and more than a thousand dead.  

This sounds pretty dismal, but our service professionals -- the fire department, the LAPD, and the city agencies -- have been doing their best to be prepared. They will react properly if and when they have to. They will be coordinated from a single emergency response center that is designed to ride out a major quake and will continue to function, even in the absence of externally supplied water and electricity. 

But there are only so many police and firemen, not to mention trucks and ambulances. For the most of us, it will be the scenario I've characterized as You're On Your Own, aka YOYO, at least for a crucial 3 or 4 days. You won't have a lot of help from the uniformed agencies, because they will be tied up dealing with areas of dense population and mass casualties. 

For most suburbanites, you'll have to ride out the immediate aftermath on your own. 

But this does not have to mean that it's only your immediate family and you. With a little preparedness, your immediate family and your close neighbors will be able to combine resources, help each other, and deal with small issues. The most likely way that this will happen is that you and your neighbors are taught in advance to work together. You can organize as areas of perhaps 4 blocks. 

What's more important, these local organizations will be a part of a network of like organizations, each tied into a regional and citywide response network. Think of it as your block being able to communicate directly with the three surrounding blocks, and those 4 blocks tied into a network that includes the entire city. 

Why is this kind of structure so important? 

Imagine that somebody has a serious but survivable injury such as a broken leg. In addition, imagine that power lines are down in the street, making vehicular travel impossible, and that your regular telephone lines and cell phone towers are out of operation. What can you do to help that injured neighbor? 

Here's what. Your four block grouping will have a designated radio person who will be able to communicate to the authorities that your area has a particular type and severity of injury. The message will be passed up through the proper channels, and this will allow the fire department or other agency to send help as it becomes available. 

It will be important that the medical authorities hear about serious injuries all over the city as soon as possible, so they can make the best use of their resources. This is a way to save the lives of people who would otherwise perish for lack of transportation and care. 

How are we doing so far in forming this alliance? 

As I mentioned in a previous column, we held the first meeting at the city's emergency response center. The keynote address was given by a recognized expert on the El Nino phenomenon. The bottom line is that we can expect lots of rain this year, probably on the order of 30 inches, and this will stress our immediate responders as streets, intersections, and storm drains are flooded. We can expect that the rapid water rescue teams will be needed. We can also expect that mudslides will occur in some of the burnt out areas. 

The coming rainy season will be an exercise for the emergency response structure that the city already has in place, and it will be a chance for our volunteers to do a little on-the-job learning. Luckily, it won't be anything like what we might expect from a major earthquake. For one thing, the heavy rains and their aftermath are the sort of thing that the uniformed services are equipped to handle. 

In this sense, the coming El Nino year is a chance for the new volunteer group to see how the larger system operates without being required to be out in the field tending to casualties. 

There were about 75 participants at the first meeting of the new Alliance. We agreed to meet again on the morning of December 19. Anyone who is particularly interested in attending should contact the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for more information. 

By the way, we have been putting together a citywide group of about 4000 volunteer participants over the past dozen years. They are the board members and stakeholders in the city's neighborhood council system. We should expect many of them to become part of this effort.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])  

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

When Muslims Admired the West and Were Admired Back

VOICES FROM THE SQUARE--Is it right to talk about friendship in a time of hatred? More specifically, is it right to consider Muslim affection for the West when, from London to Boston to Paris and now perhaps San Bernardino, Muslims appear to be saying we hate you?

In trying to make sense of these attacks, security analysts have looked at the social profiles of the terrorists in London, Madrid, Paris, and Boston. But there is no clear pattern to be discerned. There is no pattern of poverty, no pattern of being oppressed, no pattern of poor education, no pattern of training in terror camps.

But it’s clear to me, as a historian, that what the murderers have in common is a narrative. It is a story they share in which the West has always oppressed Muslims, in which the West is inherently and uniformly against Muslims, in which the West is the very opposite of Islam. I’ve traveled to the Muslim world every year for the last 25 years. In my travels and conversations with Muslims, I have heard that narrative a thousand times.

Fortunately, not every Muslim who recounts the legend that “the West is against us” or “the West is the opposite of us” regards violence as the answer. Many opt to simply ignore and exclude Western culture from their lives, even if they have to live in Las Vegas. But there are others who see the answer in a call to arms. Like most acts of political violence—from Nazism in the 1930s to Serbian nationalism in the 1990s—Islamist violence claims justification through stories of oppression. The violent paint themselves as the truly oppressed: They are not so much fighting as fighting back.

But it wasn’t always that way. In my research on the earliest Muslim encounters with the West, I discovered a journal written in Persian by a young student who, with five fellow Iranians, came to London in the early 1800s. The diary reveals that Muslims certainly have lived peaceably in the West in the past—they admired the London of Jane Austen, and moreover, were admired there in return. It wasn’t necessarily an easy moment to arrive in England—evangelical Christianity was on the rise at that time. But even as they faced challenges, their story offers a counter-narrative to the founding myth of Muslim (and non-Muslim) neo-cons that Islam and the West are irreconcilable. Finding Mirza Salih’s diary felt like unearthing a lost testament to coexistence.

Salih came to England with the others to learn the advanced sciences—engineering, medicine, and chemistry—that the country was known worldwide for developing. He wanted to bring the knowledge back to his home country. At the time, Iran was trying to defend itself from the Russians, who had invaded. Reaching London in the fall of 1815, Salih and his fellow students first struggled to make sense of the culture they saw around them. Women went unveiled and mixed freely with men; moreover, they received education and wrote books that men both read and admired.

But through their own curiosity and the good will of their hosts, the young Muslims came to understand, and then admire, this strange land where people did things differently. They overcame their alarm at this strangeness through a commitment to understanding. Rather than regarding the Christians as their enemies, the students saw them as people from whom they might learn, morally and politically, as well as scientifically. It was much harder to be a Muslim in England in 1815 than today: Compared to the hundreds of mosques in 2015, back then there was not a single mosque in the whole country. But the students still found a way to get along by focusing on what they had in common with the people they met. 

One of the most moving scenes in the diary occurred when the students made a kind of feminist pilgrimage to pay respect to the novelist and social reformer Hannah More (photo), the high-minded rival of Jane Austen. As the author of numerous books—some of them huge bestsellers—she appeared to them the epitome of the England that Salih called the vilayat-i azadi, or “land of freedom.” The students praised her learning and library; she gave them signed copies of her books, which they promised to print when they returned home.

On another occasion, they passionately discussed the parallels between Christianity and Islam with the Unitarian minister Lant Carpenter, whom they begged to found a Sunday School for the poor children of his parish. Far from being from narrow-minded promoters of their own faith alone, they saw the value of a Christian education and of Christian values more generally. England’s charity schools were one of the things that most impressed Salih. Through many such encounters, the young Muslims built a different narrative from the Crusades and colonial wars that are only a part of the encounter of Islam and the West.

The fact is that futures are built out of the past. Political and religious violence is based on stories about the past, stories that prompt “fighting back” as the proper response. The same process is true for political and religious compromise. And yet, for Muslims and the West, there are few narratives from which to build such a peaceable future.

This year we’ve been bombarded by stories about people who have been killed in the name of Islam. Even I have personal stories to share about the violence I have seen firsthand all across the Muslim world, from Morocco to Yemen and Afghanistan. But there are enough books about that. There also need to be books about the friendships that are the other half of the historical record. Salih and his friends are important because their story can reassure Westerners that Muslims are not inherently opposed to their way of life; and no less importantly, it can show Muslims how their learned forebears admired and respected Western norms. As a historian, all I can hope to do is show how such coexistence was, and still is, possible.

(Nile Green is professor of history at UCLA and founding director of the UCLA Program on Central Asia. He is the author of The Love of Strangers: What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen’s London and has written numerous books on the history of Islam. This piece originated at Zocalo Public Square … connecting people and ideas.)

-cw

 



CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

Maybe, Just Maybe...

ALPERN AT LARGE--You know, of course, that CityWatch contributors don't get paid, right?  So when we say a few things like "the City of Los Angeles probably has to be sued by its residents for its government to obey the law" or "we need alternatives to the automobile but don't need to persecute those who rely on automobiles" or "affordable housing or transit-oriented development isn't an excuse for overdevelopment" it's not like we've got a conflict of interest.   

So here are a few more thoughts that might go against the grain... 

Maybe, just maybe, creating an environment for worsening car traffic in Los Angeles will pollute the air more, not less--whether via overdevelopment or a lack of parking to access mass transit/alternative transportation, the result is the same. 

Maybe, just maybe, encouraging local overdevelopment and overpopulation (which is what the City of Los Angeles is doing) will NOT result in addressing environmental issues such as climate change as much as will the developing nations of China and India adhering to modern environmental standards. 

Maybe, just maybe, environmental issues (which ARE very important, because we can't really live without a clean environment) aren't the most immediate problem we face, considering that our own adherence to political correctness is preventing us from balancing kindness to foreign/Muslim immigrants with demanding they assimilate to Western ideals...which even many Muslim leaders support. 

Maybe, just maybe, it's not anti-American to suggest that this President isn't up to the job any more than his predecessor, George W. Bush, was up to the job.  Seriously, it's both Constitutional and morally correct to express concern about our leadership ... or lack thereof. 

Maybe, just maybe, we're torn between wanting to embrace Muslims as fellow kind, open-minded human beings versus wondering why so such a prominent minority have frightening beliefs that make us wonder what to believe, and who to trust. 

Maybe, just maybe, we're also torn between being vigorously against persecution of innocent Muslims here at home while wondering why organizations such as CAIR are more interested in damage control (LINK: http://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/13289-cair-asks-president-obama-to-condemn-islamophobia-during-address-to-nation-on-terror.html) than in proclaiming what the rest of us are on pins and needles waiting to hear:  that the horrible husband/wife killers in San Bernardino rot in hell, that they are a stain on humanity, and that they represent the worst thing that ever happened to Islam. 

Maybe, just maybe, the kindness that Americans (who, at this time in our nation's history, are mostly white) show the rest of the world--including acknowledgement of past misdeeds, and of our moral imperative to reach out to those of us less fortunate--shouldn't be attacked but praised.  A "politically incorrect Coke ad" pulled because it (gasp!) showed that we should reach out both to our Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking neighbors to the south (LINK:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziSty_38p6k)?  Really? 

So maybe, just maybe, we can now understand why Americans are (and probably to their own surprise) now flocking to such unlikely individuals as billionaire and reality personality star Donald Trump or socialist Bernard Sanders to refocus on our main issues of the day... 

...which include income inequality, government and big business (or am I just repeating myself?) crushing of the average law-abiding American and a press that is both distracted and living in its own bizarre bubble. 

Maybe, just maybe ...

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected].   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

Illegal Voting Behind DLANC Meeting Cancelation?

DOWNTOWN-Thursday night’s Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (DLANC) Executive Committee meeting was abruptly cancelled. While no official reason was given by DLANC, those close to the situation have indicated that it was due to recent illegitimate Board of Directors’ votes. 

The legitimacy of multiple board votes is in question because of one Board member who is also on the DLANC Planning and Land Use committee -- Robert Newman. 

Newman recently shared on his personal Facebook page that he no longer works for Skid Row Housing Trust, stating that he “left [the] job at Skid Row Housing Trust.” He qualified for one of DLANC’s Social Service Provider seats as an employee of SRHT. Newman has served on this Board since 2012 and is fully aware of the rules that qualify a person for that particular Board seat. It is unclear as to what his motives were for not stepping down. 

Now that multiple grievances have been filed, it must be determined how many DLANC votes were tainted. It appears as though at least two consecutive months of votes, including Letters of Support for various development projects Downtown, will be affected. If a LOS is still desired from the DLANC, these developers (as well as all other projects) will need to go back before the planning committee and then to the full Board. This means it will take a minimum of another two months before the first batch of projects will be able to resume their development plans. 

Letters of Support from a neighborhood council are imperative to fulfill the City’s requirement regarding a project’s potential impact on the community. 

With the massive influx of Downtown development in recent years, this setback exposes just the latest of numerous blunders by the DLANC. 

Countless grievances have been filed over the years and over 50 grievances against DLANC have been accepted by DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.)  Illegal Board meetings have been held in venues which failed to secure lease agreements with the City; there have been matters in which Board members should have but refused to recuse themselves. The DLANC has had many close calls with decertification, a consequence that would instantly bring Downtown development to a screeching halt. 

Adding to all of this is the Skid Row community’s lack of inclusion, something that has prompted the collective effort to create the Skid Row Neighborhood Council. 

A separate grievance, filed at the same time as the others, has resulted in the Skid Row resident director Board seat being empty -- due to the fact that Ron J. Smith has left his job at SRO Housing Corporation. As a manager, he had been provided on-site housing by the company. But now that Smith works for a new company, that housing is no longer available for him, thus making him unqualified for a resident Board seat. 

The timing for this sudden departure is even more interesting because there is a proposed development in Skid Row to convert buildings that were previously used by Salvation Army (photo) to provide housing and services to homeless and formerly homeless. The developer now wants to change it into an adaptive reuse project which plans to provide market-rate, micro-unit housing to students and workforce members -- in the heart of Skid Row! 

Skid Row residents are livid because they currently don’t have any Board representation to represent their voice. 

The question now becomes, will DLANC be forced to hold special elections to fill these new Board seats before it can re-vote on the Letters of Support for all the development projects -- including the ill-timed adaptive housing project in Skid Row? 

If so, this could significantly slow development projects with fast-approaching hearing dates because, by not having a LOS from the local NC, their applications will not be complete and subject to delays which also incur cost increases. 

DONE is already severely understaffed. The last thing they need is all of these problematic issues that warrant priority status in the eyes of the Downtown business sector. And who’s supposed to log-in all the extra hours necessary to undo the current mess at the DLANC? 

One thing’s for sure, this was not the fault of Skid Row; it was not the fault of the residents of Downtown; and it isn’t City’s fault. 

That said, for the sake of NC political correctness, and now that the truth is out, maybe the finger pointing will stop. We need corrective measures!  

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

Terrorism and Partisanship … Deadly Mix

PERSPECTIVE-I occasionally like to go off-topic and cover subjects or events outside of LA or California politics and government. This week, I am compelled to do so. 

The ISIL-inspired act of terrorism in San Bernardino, a city that can be considered part of the greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles, within commuting distance of downtown, would make any other topic an escape from reality. 

The loss of life and injuries cannot be described in any more words than have already be written and said. I cannot begin to express my sadness and anger over the senseless murder of innocent people in the name of an ideology. 

Instead, I’d rather focus on what events such as this exposes about us. 

Our nation has been steadily transformed into a partisan society, conceptually not too different from the sectarian rivalry evident in the Middle East. Whether political or religious in nature, irreconcilable conflict is poison. 

One only needs to follow sound bytes, Facebook posts and tweets from political leaders, and the people who elect them, concerning the string of mass murders in recent years to understand we are heading for our own version of destructive dysfunction. 

Executions, like the event in San Bernardino, have riled up the pro-gun segment. After all, its supporters claim, it is terrorism or mental illness and not assault weapons responsible for the carnage. Ultra-liberals are in denial over the danger of radical Islam. Even our president cannot form the words to acknowledge its culpability. Neither side recognizes the merits of the other’s arguments. 

The fact of the matter is, we allow the sale of military style weapons to almost anyone in the name of the Second Amendment. We also permit too many to enter this country from regions where twisted fundamentalism thrives. 

We should no more allow the sale of powerful weapons to the public than we should permit entry to this country in numbers too great to properly vet. 

Serious gun control is needed now. Mere possession or sale of assault or any semi-automatic weapons should be declared grounds for possible criminal prosecution. A period of amnesty should be granted for all to turn in these weapons – even reimbursing the owners who can provide proof of purchase; otherwise, allow them to surrender the weapons anonymously. 

Likewise, all applicants for entry into the United States for any form of long-term stay need to be investigated in a manner that digs below the surface. It is apparent that the current background checks are not enough. 

Civil records, if they are available, don’t begin to tell the whole tale. An applicants for admission could be squeaky clean on the surface, with no traceable ties to militants. But it’s what in their hearts and minds that counts just as much. Persons who find liberal society a threat to their values are ticking time bombs who can be swayed by radical elements to create mayhem down the road. Sophisticated questioning by FBI-trained personnel, including the use of polygraph tests, must be employed to uncover possible anti-Western leanings. 

That could add months to the already long process that refugees face, but we owe it to all of us living here. 

The United States should be a country that assists those who need protection from despots and persecution, but people coming here must prove themselves worthy of our trust and be in alignment with the facets of an open, liberal society. 

We are not obligated to allow anyone the privilege of residency; we are obligated to protect those who are here.

 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone. They should not be construed to represent the opinions of the VVHA or the residents of Valley Village, individually or as a group. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Photo: LA Weekly. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw                                          

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

 

Tags:  

 

This Thanksgiving, No Place for Refugees at the American Table

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, there has been a crushing backlash against refugees from the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. A cartoon has been circulating on social media showing a Native American man greeting a Pilgrim, saying, “Sorry, but we’re not accepting refugees.” 

As Americans prepare for one of the most popular national holidays, Thanksgiving, which commemorates the support and nourishment provided by the indigenous people to English refugees seeking a better life free from religious persecution, a wave of xenophobia is sweeping the country.

In the U.S. Congress, no less than six separate bills have been put forward to block any federal funding to resettle refugees from Syria or Iraq, and to empower states to deny entry into their “territory.” Imagine if all of a sudden we had 50 “statelets” creating their own border checkpoints, stopping all travelers, looking for anyone suspicious, i.e., any and all Syrians. So far, 31 state governors have essentially demanded this.

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback issued an executive order forbidding any agency of state government from cooperating in any way with Syrian refugee support efforts. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have called for a pause in the Syrian refugee program, with the support of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer.

In Europe, similar policies are being proposed, with an announcement from Poland that it would pull back from the Europe-wide commitment to take in Syrian refugees. Far-right-wing parties in France and Holland have gained traction with their anti-immigrant rhetoric as well.

“It’s both morally reprehensible and factually wrong to equate these people with terrorists,” Peter Bouckaert told us on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. Bouckaert is the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, and has spent the past few months in the Balkans and Greece, closely monitoring the refugee crisis firsthand. “They’re actually fleeing from the terrorists, and they’ve faced horrors of war in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan. Many of them are coming with their families, trying to bring them to safety and a better future in Europe. And they should be welcomed. They will contribute to our society, and they have a right to asylum,” he said.

While the cartoon of the indigenous man and the pilgrim may be humorous, the crisis is not, and the imagery from the wars and the flight of the refugees is numbing. Bouckaert was one of the first people to share the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi after he drowned, lying face down on the sand in the Turkish beach town of Bodrum. Last September, the Kurdi family was trying to reach Greece, just a dozen miles across the Aegean Sea. They bought passage on a smuggler’s small boat, which capsized. Aylan, his brother and mother drowned, along with at least two others. The photos of Aylan’s corpse, first in the sand, then being carried by a Turkish soldier, shocked the conscience of the world. “That is still the reality on the beaches of Europe, two Aylan Kurdis are still drowning every day,” Bouckaert said.

{module [1177]}

A core argument by those who would deny entry to Syrian refugees was a passport found at the scene of one of the suicide bombers in Paris last week. It was a Syrian passport, and contributes to the belief that violent jihadists can enter Europe posing as refugees. “That’s exactly why they left a fake Syrian passport at the scene of their attacks, because they would love it if we shut the door on the people who are fleeing their so-called Islamic caliphate,” Bouckaert explained. “Our most powerful tool in the war against Islamic extremism, are our values. It’s not our military planes and our bombs. The only way we can fight against this brutality, this barbarism, is with our values. And if we’re going to shut the door on these refugees, we’re giving a propaganda victory to ISIS.”

And yet, the U.S., French and Russian response to terror is to pummel the city of Raqqa, considered the capital of the so-called Islamic State, but also home to hundreds of thousands of civilians who will now become terrorized refugees themselves. They will follow the millions who have already fled, only to find they have no place to go. Add to that the refugees from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan: people fleeing for their lives from the wars being waged by the United States.

It has been almost 400 years since that first, fateful Thanksgiving feast in Massachusetts. Xenophobic policies like those threatening to shut out refugees from these wars, if allowed to stand, should serve as a shameful centerpiece at every Thanksgiving table this year.

(Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.)

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 94

Pub: Nov 20, 2015

CW YESTERDAY DEC. 2014: Keeping Hope Alive: A Call to Action

OCCUPY THE FUTURE-As a country and as a people, we have decisions to make - the very same decisions faced by those who came before us: Are we prepared to surrender ourselves to the purposes and rule of arrogant government and corporate alliances, or are we willing to undertake the very hard work necessary to challenge power that has grown beyond conscience and duty to the people?

Read more ...