Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Shameful Statistic

Polls - New Hampshire, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas

NH 1 / New England College Poll

CNN / ORC Poll

American Research Group Poll

University of Massachusetts / 7 News Poll

Suffolk University Poll

Quinnipiac University Poll

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Poll

CNN / ORC Poll

Quinnipiac University Poll

Rasmussen Poll

On A Roll

Political cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

The Most Expensive Congressional Campaign On Record

The numbers above were compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (and reported in the Wall Street Journal). They got the information from campaign spending reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). This doesn't represent total election spending, because the spending for presidential elections has been subtracted ($2.6 billion in 2012, $2.8 billion in 2008, $1.9 billion in 2004, and $1.4 billion in 2000). This represents only the projected amount spent by candidates, parties, and some outside groups on congressional campaigns.

It also doesn't include much of the dark money spent (mostly by outside conservative groups such as those funded by the Koch brothers). That's because money spent on so-called "issues" ads does not have to be reported to the FEC. This is money spent saying where a particular candidate stands on one or more issues -- without mentioning his/her opponent or the fact he/she is running for election. It's obviously meant to affect the election, but is a devious way to do it and avoid reporting the spending (or who donated the money).

As you can see, without even counting the dark money, the spending for this congressional election easily outpaces any past electoral spending for congressional races. It comes in at a whopping $4 billion dollars. Since there are 468 members of Congress running for election (33 senators and 435 representatives), that means an average of $8,547,009 was spent on each congressional race -- although I'm sure the bulk of that spending was on the 33 senate races.

This is a ridiculous amount of spending on our congressional elections -- and it shows just how easy it would be for the super-rich to buy an election. Any candidate that's not rich would have to get a massive amount of small donors or a few rich donors to fund his electoral attempt, and it's far easier to sell out and get those few rich donors.

We need to change the way we fund elections in this country, even if it means passing a constitutional amendment. Personally, I think it is time for the public funding of elections.

Zombie (Monica) Reappears

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

Blue State / Red State

It is just a fact of American politics that some states are blue and others are red -- that is that some states are pretty reliably Democratic and others lean heavily toward the Republicans.

The Hill did a study of each American state and placed them on a continuum from the bluest to the reddest state (using the voting trends and history of each individual state -- including votes in recent presidential elections, breakdown of congressional delegations, the parties of the last three governors, and control of state legislatures).

They found that the bluest state is Washington, and the reddest state is Alabama. Using their findings, I list below the 15 bluest and 15 reddest states in the United States.

1. Washington
2. Minnesota
3. Oregon
4. California
5. Rhode Island
6. New York
7. Massachusetts
8. Maryland
9. Michigan
10. Wisconsin
11. Maine
12. Illinois
13. Hawaii
15. Vermont

1. Alabama
2. Alaska
3. Idaho
4. Kansas
5. Mississippi
6. Nebraska
7. Oklahoma
8. Utah
9. Wyoming
10. South Carolina
11. Texas
12. North Dakota
13. South Dakota
14. Arizona
15. Georgia


Political Cartoon is by Ben Sargent in the Austin American-Statesman.

The Right-Wing War On Democracy In The U.S.

(This caricature of economist Paul Krugman is by DonkeyHotey.)

Republicans like to mouth concerns about our democracy, but that is just to hoodwink American voters. For a long time now they have been actively fighting against our representative democracy. They think political power should rest with a special class of people -- rich white people (preferably men). They believe the poor, the working class, minorities, and women are not capable of ruling, and they have instituted economic and electoral policies that favor the rich. In short, they want to replace our representative democracy with a plutocracy (rule by a wealthy class).

Here is how economist Paul Krugman puts it in his column for the New York Times:

. . . the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

In fact, the very success of the conservative agenda only intensifies this fear. Many on the right — and I’m not just talking about people listening to Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about members of the political elite — live, at least part of the time, in an alternative universe in which America has spent the past few decades marching rapidly down the road to serfdom. Never mind the new Gilded Age that tax cuts and financial deregulation have created; they’re reading books with titles like “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” asserting that the big problem we have is runaway redistribution.

This is a fantasy. Still, is there anything to fears that economic populism will lead to economic disaster? Not really. Lower-income voters are much more supportive than the wealthy toward policies that benefit people like them, and they generally support higher taxes at the top. But if you worry that low-income voters will run wild, that they’ll greedily grab everything and tax job creators into oblivion, history says that you’re wrong. All advanced nations have had substantial welfare states since the 1940s — welfare states that, inevitably, have stronger support among their poorer citizens. But you don’t, in fact, see countries descending into tax-and-spend death spirals — and no, that’s not what ails Europe.

Still, while the “kind of politics and policies” that responds to the bottom half of the income distribution won’t destroy the economy, it does tend to crimp the incomes and wealth of the 1 percent, at least a bit; the top 0.1 percent is paying quite a lot more in taxes right now than it would have if Mr. Romney had won. So what’s a plutocrat to do?

One answer is propaganda: tell voters, often and loudly, that taxing the rich and helping the poor will cause economic disaster, while cutting taxes on “job creators” will create prosperity for all. There’s a reason conservative faith in the magic of tax cuts persists no matter how many times such prophecies fail (as is happening right now in Kansas): There’s a lavishly funded industry of think tanks and media organizations dedicated to promoting and preserving that faith.

Another answer, with a long tradition in the United States, is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions — government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.

A third answer is to make sure government programs fail, or never come into existence, so that voters never learn that things could be different.

But these strategies for protecting plutocrats from the mob are indirect and imperfect. The obvious answer is . . . Don’t let the bottom half, or maybe even the bottom 90 percent, vote.

And now you understand why there’s so much furor on the right over the alleged but actually almost nonexistent problem of voter fraud, and so much support for voter ID laws that make it hard for the poor and even the working class to cast ballots. American politicians don’t dare say outright that only the wealthy should have political rights — at least not yet. But if you follow the currents of thought now prevalent on the political right to their logical conclusion, that’s where you end up.

The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win.


Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

Celebration of Ignorance

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is This The Representation You Want ?

Should Our Top Tax Rate Be About 85%-90% ?

If you are rich, or a right-wing worshipper of the rich (like most Republicans), you may have spewed your coffee all over your keyboard after reading my headline -- but it is a serious question. And there is a serious new economic paper, written by Dirk Krueger of the University of Pennsylvania and Fabian Kindermann of the University of Bonn, that says all citizens (including the rich) would be better off if the top tax rate was between 85% and 90%.

Now this doesn't mean the rich would pay that percentage on all of their income -- only on the portion of their income that exceeds a certain level. The current top tax rate is 39.6%, but that rate only applies to income earned above the level of $406,750 ($457,600 for a couple). The money under that level is taxed at the same rate as those who make less than that amount. In other words, the top tax rate, whether 90% or 39.6%, would only apply to less than 1% of the population.

Those on the right will say such a high tax rate would be disastrous for the economy, and discourage high earners from making money. Not true. Note on the chart above that there have been extended periods in our recent history when our top tax rate was much higher. From the mid-1930's until the early 1980's our top tax rate was between 90% and 70% -- and those were some of the most robust periods of growth this country has experienced.

It was not until the Reagan administration that the top tax rate was lowered, as a part of the GOP's "trickle-down" economic policies. It was supposed to spur economic growth and benefit all Americans, but it didn't. It It only helped the rich, and created the biggest wealth gap since before the Great Depression. And that wealth and income gap, in combination with other "trickle-down" policies, was the primary reason for the Bush recession (which most ordinary Americans are still struggling to recover from).

I know raising the top tax rate to 85% or 90% is politically impossible at this time. The "trickle-down" lies about taxation are still believed by too many economically-ignorant people. But I do think a couple of things could be done with taxation that would help this country a great deal. The first would be to raise the top tax rate to somewhere between 45% and 50%. The second would be to eliminate the lower capital gains tax rate, and have everyone pay the earned income tax rate (regardless of how they earned their money).

This would provide much-needed revenue for the federal government, and it would slow the growth of the wealth and income gap (and combined with a substantial raise in the minimum wage, could even stop the growth in that gap).

We need to stop pandering to the rich in this country, and institute some economic policies that would be beneficial to all Americans. And while we're at it, it certainly wouldn't hurt to eliminate the subsidies and tax breaks that keep corporations from paying any taxes (even though they make huge profits).

Early Halloween

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

U.S. Still Aligned With Rogue Nations On Death Penalty

There's some good news and some bad news for those who oppose the death penalty -- and both are illustrated in the charts above. The good news is that support for the death penalty has dropped over the last 20 years (from 80% in 1994 to 63% in 2014). The bad news is that a significant majority of Americans (63%) still support the death penalty, and that support has leveled out over the last few years.

Why do Americans support the death penalty? According to the Gallup Poll, the primary reason is a religious one -- that the Bible calls for "an eye for an eye". This is a terrible reason. No secular nation (and the U.S. is a secular nation based on a secular Constitution, regardless of what many evangelicals want to think) should ever be in the business of killing people for a religious reason. But that's the reason quoted by 35% of those who support the death penalty.

The second most popular reason (quoted by 14%) is that the death penalty saves the state money. These people simply don't understand the economics involved. The truth is that when you consider all the court costs for a death penalty trial, and the continuing costs of many years of appeals, the death penalty is actually more expensive to the state than keeping a person in prison for the remainder of their life.

Another 14% say the death penalty is appropriate because "they deserve it". It's hard to argue with that, because many who receive that penalty do deserve the harshest penalty they can get for the horrendous crimes they committed. But if killing is wrong for an individual, can it be right for the state? Isn't the taking of a life a terrible crime whether done by an individual or the state.

Unfortunately, most people in the United States still like the death penalty -- in spite of the fact that we have undoubtably executed some innocent people (and will again in the future), or that we have an unfair justice system (that treats whites and the rich more fairly than minorities and the poor). We Americans are a bloodthirsty lot when it comes to punishment.

And it doesn't seem to bother us at all that in supporting the death penalty we are alienating ourselves from all the other developed nations, and aligning ourselves with rogue nations -- nations that we generally dislike and distrust. The nations using the death penalty the most (besides us) are China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

I wish I could say this country is on a path toward banning the death penalty, but that is just not true. It looks like it will still be quite a while before the U.S. finds that moral path.

The charts above were made from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between September 25th and 30th of 1,252 adults and between October 12th and 15th of 1,017 adults, and it has a margin of error of about 4 points.

Hands Up

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Green Party's Alice Slater Discusses Nuclear Weapons

Recently, Green Party Shadow Cabinet member Alice Slater (pictured) was interviewed about the state of nuclear weapons in the world by Rossiya Segodnya of RIA NOVOSTI. The text of that interview is printed below. For me, the position of the Green Party on nuclear weapons is the only political party position that makes sense.

China's first nuclear test took place 50 years ago. How would you assess the current situation with the nuclear weapons in the country? Does it represent any potential danger?
Alice Slater: Every country’s nuclear bombs represent a danger to the world. It is estimated that there are 16,300 nuclear bombs on the planet with all but a thousand of them in the US and Russia. China is estimated to have about 250 of them. China is the only country among the NPT signers who has promised not to be the first to use them. But essentially, just the possession of a nuclear arsenal is a form of use. When a bank robber walks into a bank and points a gun at people, even if the gun is never shot, it is still being used by the robber to bully and intimidate. That is what the possession of nuclear weapons means, by any country possessing, them, even China with its modest arsenal. 
Is it true, in your view, that possessing nuclear weapons increases the country’s diplomatic credibility on the international arena? Do nuclear weapons provide important security benefits to China and generally to the countries possessing nuclear weapons?
Alice Slater: It is an illusion to think that there are any security benefits to possessing nuclear weapons. We are learning now of the  many near-accidents with airplane crashes carrying nuclear weapons, misplaced missiles flown unknown to distant bases carrying unaccounted nuclear weapons, missing and lost nuclear weapons in the US. Undoubtedly similar situations exist in Russia. Perhaps not in China since they never built the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that the US and Russia competed with to show who was stronger, when it actually made us weaker and more vulnerable to accidents, hazardous waste issues, not to mention possible miscalculations. We were very lucky not to have experienced an accidental nuclear war.  While laboring under the illusion that nuclear weapons provide security, it isn’t so for the major nuclear powers. Of course the fact that Saddam Hussein wound up in a hole in the ground and Muammar Gaddaffi in a sewer pipe after they gave up or were forced to turn over their nuclear technology, may give cause to isolated nations like North Korea to cling to their nuclear “deterrent”.
Do you think it is important to continue the development of nuclear weapons or should the countries work on its elimination?
Alice Slater: With the planet facing catastrophic climate change, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis, forest fires, from the excessive carbon emissions from the industrial age, we can little afford to spend our national treasures of money and intellectual power on nuclear technology - both for weapons and power. The nuclear waste lasts 250,000 years and we don’t know how to safely isolate it from the environment for that inordinate length of time.  It is now reported that the US is contemplating expenditures of one trillion dollars over 30 years on its nuclear arsenal, laboratories, and delivery systems, with $300 billion budget for the next ten years. Russia and China, as well as India and Pakistan, have also been announcing new expenditures on this destructive and useless technology. Perhaps Asia can lead the way towards nuclear disarmament. The West is now caught up in a new cold war, having failed to contain NATO as promised to Gorbachev when the wall came down in Berlin and having expanded the missile program into eastern Europe after the US walked out of its Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.
Given the current political situation in the world, is there a risk that any of Nuclear-Weapon States will use the weapons against another country? What are your estimates in this regard? What country could it be?
Alice Slater: I don’t think any country would deliberately use nuclear weapons first, but we can’t be lucky forever on accidental launch or misjudgments. The world remembers Russia’s Colonel Petrov, in the Soviet bunker who disobeyed orders when a radar blip indicated a nuclear attack from the US and it was only a Norwegian weather satellite that had gone off course. We could have had a nuclear holocaust had he not done the right thing. We also came very close to miscalculating the presence of nuclear weapons during the Cuban missile crisis. We shouldn’t continue to push our luck! Some wise country, or group of countries should take the lead and start the talks for elimination under monitoring, verification and a tight timeline.
Do you think any nuclear threat from Iran exists and what is your personal view on Iran’s nuclear program? Is it peaceful?
Alice Slater: Iran is no more of a threat than other countries. Once you have the enrichment technology, you have the capacity to make the bomb, just as North Korea did. Every nuclear power plant is a bomb factory and the sooner we phase out nuclear power and rely on the abundant, clean, free energy of the sun, wind, water, geothermal we will all be safer, less poor, and may actually have some peace on earth. Over 400,000 people marched in NYC this month to make the links between poverty, war, and climate catastrophe. If Russia could put a man on the moon, surely it can work to end destructive technology and lead the way to a 21st century free of nuclear and fossil fuel. 
China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States are  officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the Non – Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Three states - India, Israel, and Pakistan - never joined the NPT and are known to possess nuclear weapons. What other countries could potentially possess nuclear weapons or facilities to create such weapons?
Alice Slater: Any country with a nuclear reactor has the capacity to develop a bomb.  Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, were on the way to making bombs and changed course. Japan has the capacity and every now and then its generals say it should use its tons to enriched plutonium to make bombs.   Brazil is enriching plutonium. We are planning to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia but they won’t give us assurances that they won’t enrich uranium. 
How can you describe relations between China and the United States in the nuclear weapons development sphere?
Alice Slater: I don’t know if the US and China even discuss nuclear weapons. The two main players are the US and Russia. Right now there is a push from the military industrial complex and the unregulated corporations to make an enemy of Russia over Ukraine. We should be clearing up the events that occurred in the Ukraine as the corporate dominated media in the US doesn’t report events accurately and Russia is being blamed by our government and press without evidence. We still don’t know what happened. Some members of Civil Society called for an investigation, but nothing has happened. I think Russia should bring this up in the Security Council and in the First Committee of the UN that is meeting this week and next week.   Let’s get all the facts out on the table.   
Finally, Russia and China should come to the meeting in Vienna on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons this December.  India and Pakistan came to the last two in Mexico and Oslo which the p-5 boycotted. This is the time for China and Russia to join the Asian nuclear weapons states and call for a treaty to ban the bomb, just as we’ve banned chemical and biological weapons. It would give the Western states pause, and empower civil society to press more effectively for nuclear disarmament in the US, UK, and France, as well as in the five European states that are part of NATO’s nuclear sharing - Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Netherlands and Spain.  

Relatively Speaking

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And The Rich Get Richer

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All War Is Evil

Senate Polls In Iowa And Georgia

Monmouth University Poll

WXIA / SurveyUSA Poll


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

4 Out Of 10 Have No Confidence In U.S. Banking System

I have repeated often on this blog about how the Republican economic policies (Trickle-Down) tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich over all other Americans -- and resulted in the largest income and wealth gap since before the Great Depression (and that gap is still growing). These policies gave the rich huge tax breaks (and most of them now pay a lower rate than middle class earners), gave corporations huge subsidies (including tax breaks to help them off-shore U.S. jobs), and damaged the power of unions.

But those policies also did something else. They deregulated the financial industry -- and the giant banks were quick to take advantage of that by selling junk bonds and other worthless financial gimmicks. They made huge profits by taking advantage of consumers, and swapping the worthless stocks and bonds. But this financial bubble couldn't last indefinitely, and it burst in the latter part of 2007.

While the huge wealth and income gap set up the conditions for the Great Recession, it was this bursting of the banking bubble that triggered it. But instead of reaping the disaster from their ridiculous actions, most of the giant banks were bailed out by the taxpayers in the final year of the Bush administration. They survived, while the American people took the hit -- losing trillions of dollars and millions of jobs.

Did the giant banks learn from their mistakes? No. They have gone right back to playing the financial games that got them (and the country) into trouble in the first place -- and sadly, the government is letting them do it (with the congressional Republicans blocking all attempts at financial reform).

That's why I was not surprised to see the results of this Rasmussen Poll (done on October 16th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of 3 points). It shows that only 12% of the public has a great deal of confidence in the U.S. banking system, and another 41% have at least some confidence in that system -- while about 41% say they have no confidence (and another 6% don't know what to think).

Actually, I think the banks are lucky that 53% have at least some confidence, considering the fact that no real changes have been made that would prevent another financial disaster -- and they have returned to their same old financial tricks.


Political Cartoon is by Bob Engelhart in The Hartford Courant.

The Richest Members Of Congress

Roll Call publishes an report each year listing the richest members of Congress. The charts above show the 15 richest members of Congress in each party -- and as you can see, both parties have some very rich senators and representatives. This should not be surprising since it either takes a wealthy person to run for the Senate or House (or someone with access to some rich friends).

The richest member of Congress by far is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California). He has three times the wealth of any other member of Congress.

It should come as no surprise that Congress made itself richer this last year -- no doubt to the laws they have passed that favor the rich over everyone else. In 2012, it took a wealth of $6.7 million to make the list of 50 richest members of Congress. But last year that figure rose to $7.4 million. Here are some interesting facts about the 50 richest members of Congress:

All of them are white.
82% of them are men.
18% of them are women.
30 of them are Republicans.
20 of them are Democrats
35 of them are in the House of Representatives.
15 of them are in the Senate.

Roll Call normally just publishes the richest 50 members of Congress -- but this year they published the wealth ranking of every member of Congress. You can go to the Roll Call website to see where your own representative and senators ranked.

NOTE: For my fellow Texans, here are your senators.
452. John Cornyn has a negative net worth of $0.13 million.
144. Ted Cruz has a positive net worth of $1.59 million.

And for my fellow residents of House District 13 in Texas.
466. Mac Thornberry has a negative net worth of $0.19 million.

Cornyn and Thornberry have negative net worths because their debts exceed their assets.

RIP Ben Bradlee

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Chomsky On The Failure To Solve Israeli/Palestinian Crisis

The picture at left is of Professor Noam Chomsky (Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The photo is by Duncan Rawlinson, and was found on Wikipedia.

Last Tuesday, Professor Chomsky gave a speech to 800 people in the United Nations General Assembly hall. That speech was about the Israeli-Palestinian situation -- and it was the best explanation of what has been happening over there that I have ever read or seen. If you really want to know what is happening there, and why peace seems impossible, then I urge you to go over to Democracy Now and read or listen to the whole thing.

Here is some of what Professor Chomsky had to say:

Many of the world’s problems are so intractable that it’s hard to think of ways even to take steps towards mitigating them. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not one of these. On the contrary, the general outlines of a diplomatic solution have been clear for at least 40 years. Not the end of the road—nothing ever is—but a significant step forward. And the obstacles to a resolution are also quite clear.

The basic outlines were presented here in a resolution brought to the U.N. Security Council in January 1976. It called for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border—and now I’m quoting—"with guarantees for the rights of both states to exist in peace and security within secure and recognized borders." The resolution was brought by the three major Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, Syria—sometimes called the "confrontation states." Israel refused to attend the session. The resolution was vetoed by the United States. A U.S. veto typically is a double veto: The veto, the resolution is not implemented, and the event is vetoed from history, so you have to look hard to find the record, but it is there. That has set the pattern that has continued since. The most recent U.S. veto was in February 2011—that’s President Obama—when his administration vetoed a resolution calling for implementation of official U.S. policy opposition to expansion of settlements. And it’s worth bearing in mind that expansion of settlements is not really the issue; it’s the settlements, unquestionably illegal, along with the infrastructure projects supporting them.

For a long time, there has been an overwhelming international consensus in support of a settlement along these general lines. The pattern that was set in January 1976 continues to the present. Israel rejects a settlement of these terms and for many years has been devoting extensive resources to ensuring that it will not be implemented, with the unremitting and decisive support of the United States—military, economic, diplomatic and indeed ideological—by establishing how the conflict is viewed and interpreted in the United States and within its broad sphere of influence.

There’s no time here to review the record, but its general character is revealed by a look at what has happened in Gaza in the past decade, carrying forward a long history of earlier crimes. Last August, August 26th, a ceasefire was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And the question on all our minds is: What are the prospects for the future? Well, one reasonable way to try to answer that question is to look at the record. And here, too, there is a definite pattern: A ceasefire is reached; Israel disregards it and continues its steady assault on Gaza, including continued siege, intermittent acts of violence, more settlement and development projects, often violence in the West Bank; Hamas observes the ceasefire, as Israel officially recognizes, until some Israeli escalation elicits a Hamas response, which leads to another exercise of "mowing the lawn," in Israeli parlance, each episode more fierce and destructive than the last. . .

The pattern is very clear. And so far, at least, it appears to be continuing. The latest ceasefire was reached on August 26th. It was followed at once by Israel’s greatest land grab in 30 years, almost a thousand acres in the Gush Etzion area near what’s called Jerusalem, Greater Jerusalem, about five times the size of anything that Jerusalem ever was, taken over by Israel, annexed in violation of Security Council orders. The U.S. State Department informed the Israeli Embassy that Israeli—I’m quoting it now—"Israeli activity in Gush Etzion undermines American efforts to protect Israel at the United Nations," and urged that Israel shouldn’t provide ammunition for "those at the [United Nations] who would interpret [Israel’s] position as hardening." Actually, that warning was given 47 years ago, in September 1967, at the time of Israel’s first colonization, illegal colonization, of Gush Etzion. Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg recently reminded us of this. Little has changed since, in the last 47 years, apart from the scale of the crimes, which continue, without a break, with constant U.S. support.

Well, as for the prospects, there is a conventional picture. It’s repeated constantly on all sides—Israel, Palestine, independent commentators, diplomats. The picture that’s presented is that there are two alternatives: either the two-state settlement, which represents an overwhelming international consensus, virtually everyone, and if that fails, there will have to be one state—Israel will take over the West Bank, the Palestinians will hand over the keys, as it’s sometimes said. Palestinians often have favored that. They say then they will be able to carry out a civil rights struggle, maybe modeled on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, fight for civil rights within the whole one state controlled by Israel. Now, Israelis criticize that on the grounds of what is called "the demographic problem," the fact that there will be too many non-Jews in a Jewish state—in fact, pretty soon a majority. Those are the alternatives that are presented, overwhelmingly, hardly an exception.

My own opinion, which I’ve written about repeatedly—without convincing many people, apparently, but I’ll try to convince you—is that this is a total illusion. Those are not the two alternatives. There are two alternatives, but they’re different ones. One alternative is the international consensus on a two-state settlement, basically the terms of January 1976. By now, it’s virtually everyone—the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic States, includes Iran, Europe, Latin America—informally, at least, about everyone. That’s one option. The other option, the realistic one, is that Israel will continue doing exactly what it is doing right now, before our eyes, visible, with U.S. support, which is also visible. And what’s happening is not a secret. You can open the newspapers and read it.

Israel is taking over what they call Jerusalem, as I mentioned, a huge area, maybe five times the area of historic Jerusalem, Greater Jerusalem, big area in the West Bank, includes many Arab villages being dispossessed, destroyed, bringing settlers in. All of this is doubly illegal. All the settlements are illegal, as determined by the Security Council, advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. But the Jerusalem settlements are doubly illegal, because they’re also in violation of explicit Security Council orders going back to 1968, with the U.S. actually voting for them at that time, barring any change in the status of Jerusalem. But it continues. That’s Greater Jerusalem. There are then corridors extending to the east. One major corridor extending from Jerusalem almost to Jericho, virtually bisecting the West Bank, includes the Israeli town of Ma’ale Adumim, which was built largely during the Clinton administration, Clinton years, with the obvious purpose of bisecting the West Bank—still a little contested territory, but that’s the goal. There’s another corridor further to the north including the town of Ariel, partially bisecting what remains. Another one further to the north including the town of Kedumim. If you look at the map, these essentially break up the West Bank into pretty much cantons. It looks, from a map, as though a large territory is left, but that’s misleading. Most of that is uninhabitable desert. And that’s separate from what I mentioned before, the slow, steady takeover of the Jordan Valley to the east—again, about a third of the arable land, the country.

Israel has no official policy of taking it over, but they’re pursuing the policy in the way that has been carried out now for a hundred years, literally—small steps so nobody notices, or at least people pretend not to notice, establish a military zone. The Palestinians who live there have to be displaced because it’s a military zone, no settlement allowed, and pretty soon there’s a military settlement, Nahal settlement, and another, then, sooner or later, it becomes an actual settlement. Meanwhile, dig wells, dispossess the population, set up green zones—a large variety of techniques which have, by now, reduced the Arab population from about 300,000 in 1967 to roughly 60,000 today. As I mentioned, that essentially imprisons what’s left.

I don’t think Israel has any intention of taking over the Palestinian population concentrations, which are left out of this, these plans. There are analogies often made to South Africa, but they’re quite misleading. South Africa relied on its black population. That was 85 percent of the population. It was its workforce. And they had to sustain them, just like slaveowners have to maintain their capital. They tried to sustain the population. They even tried to gain international support for the bantustans. Israel has no such attitude toward the Palestinians. They don’t want to have anything to do with them. If they leave, that’s fine. If they die, that’s fine. In standard neocolonial pattern, Israel is establishing—permitting the establishment of a center for Palestinian elites in Ramallah, where you have nice restaurants and theaters and so on. Every Third World country under the colonial system had something like that.

Now, that’s the picture that’s emerging. It’s taking shape before our eyes. It has so far worked very well. If it continues, Israel will not face a demographic problem. When these regions are integrated slowly into Israel, actually, the proportion of Jews in Greater Israel will increase. There are very few Palestinians there. Those who are there are being dispossessed, kicked out. That’s what’s taking shape before our eyes. I think that’s the realistic alternative to a two-state settlement. And there’s every reason to expect it to continue as long as the United States supports it.


Political Cartoon is by Rick McKee in The Augusta Chronicle.

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